You guys . . . Just . . .you guys.
I've been in a really bad writing slump lately and then out of nowhere, I get this urge to write . . . this.
This was conceived long ago, before the Dangerous Series trilogy, so I know outright this story's going to be ridiculous.
BUT YOU KNOW WHAT, HONEY BADGER DON'T GIVE A SH*T.
Here you go. You have been warned.
Step, step, step, step. Turn. Step, step, step, step. Turn.
Kurt sighed exasperatedly. Patrol on the night shift had to be one of the most boring things he has ever had the displeasure of doing.
But hell, someone has to do it, he reminded himself. He adjusted his rifle, checked his pockets for spare ammo (yep, still there) and kept on with his relentless task of walking back and forth across the stupid terrace of the Emerald City Palace.
Up ahead, at the tower, was Theris, leaning on his ornate spear, stifling yet another yawn.
"Evening," Kurt said without a second's hesitation. Theris grunted in reply. It was hard to tell in the dark, but Theris still looked like he had crawled out of a dust cloud and found an abandoned Gale Force uniform. Kurt sighed. Slob as always, that man.
"Anything yet?" Theris muttered.
"Not yet," Kurt said. "How's the new recruit doing?"
Kurt gestured over to the young boy at Theris's side. He was barely eighteen, and he still had a childish naivety about him. The kid was clutching his own rifle with shaking hands, and regarded the dark world around him with wide, fearful eyes.
"About to piss his pants," Theris smiled. Kurt gave him a disapproving scowl. "What?"
"You can go ahead on patrolling the West side. I'll take the new recruit from here."
Theris rolled his eyes. "Party pooper." But, he did what he was asked.
"You'll have to forgive Theris there," Kurt said to the recruit. "He can be a bit much."
The kid nodded. "Yes sir," he said in a voice barely above a whisper.
Kurt laughed. "Hey, kid, we're the same rank. No need to be so formal. The name's Kurt."
"Yes, s-I mean, Kurt." the kid stuttered
"Alright, what did Theris tell you?"
The kid tightened his grip on his rifle. "He says the Animals like to go out in the night and hurt people. Even kill."
Kurt slapped a hand on his shoulder. "Listen, don't mind Theris, he's just trying to spook you. The Animals aren't any more dangerous than the people you meet in the streets. Even the more dangerous ones like Lions and Tigers. They won't hurt anyone, got it?"
"Yes s-Kurt," the kid stuttered. He shook his head. "I'm sorry. I'm just all jittery. To be honest, I don't like the night shift."
"No one does," Kurt nodded. "But it's boring as hell, ain't nothing to worry about. First day's tough, y'know, but after that, it's smooth sailing from here on out. By the way, I never did catch your name."
"Oh! It's Frederic. Frederic Kunnings," he said.
"Pleasure to meet you," Kurt smiled.
"Likewise," Frederic said with a tiny grin.
"Now, I'm sure you've been given the rundown of how guard duty goes. Just stand here, look professional, and try not to fall asleep. Simple, really."
"And if anyone attempts to break in, sound the alarm and attack the intruder," Frederic quickly added.
"That, too, but we've been lucky. No attempts have been made on our King ever since he took office."
"But still," Frederic trailed off.
"But still," Kurt nodded. He knew all too well of some of the people's discontent with their new king. But he was appointed directly by the Wizard, and no one was daring enough to challenge the decision of the great and powerful Wizard of Oz. Personally, Kurt didn't mind the king. In fact, their new king was quite responsible and took his role very seriously, and had recently made several aggressive fronts to deal with the economy. Improvements were obvious, to those who were willing to look past the king's less than human appearance.
"Why do you think people hate him so much?" Frederic wondered absentmindedly. "It's not like he's done anything bad."
"He helped kill the Wicked Witch of the West and is hailed as a hero," Kurt acknowledged. "But he isn't like us. And I guess people are afraid of him."
"Afraid?" Frederic asked.
"People fear what's different, it's only natural," Kurt explained. "I mean, have you ever seen a talking scarecrow before?"
"No . . ."
"People don't know what to make of him." Kurt said. "But I'm sure the people will learn to like him in time. Just gotta warm up to him I guess."
Frederic nodded, and turned his attention back to his duty. It was pitch black, and as silent as a grave. There was no wind, there was no sound of crickets chirping or owls hooting or anything. The silence was chilling, even for Kurt. It was like the shadows were waiting for something. Waiting to attack.
Kurt shook his head. Now he was getting paranoid. He had to be alert, but he couldn't let his doubts and fears get the best of him. Yet he couldn't shake the feeling that something was horribly wrong.
Both Kurt and Frederic jumped, turning around and facing behind them. Kurt held his breath, his ears pricked for the slightest noise.
"Theris?" he called out. Silence answered him.
"Probably nothing," Kurt said out loud. "Dear Oz, even I am getting spooked."
No sooner did he speak those words did a horrible, blood-curdling scream shatter the night.
Kurt spun, and began to run. The scream had come from the West side, where Theris was stationed. Heart pounding deafeningly in his chest, Kurt raced as fast as his legs could carry him to the West side. Frederic, slower and eyes wide with terror, followed him.
A lone torch on the stone floor was their only light, and it was slowly growing dimmer by the moment. But the sparse flames revealed a nightmarish scene. Theris was sprawled against the floor, arms and legs bent at impossible angles, with a fresh pool of blood surrounding him and staining his filthy green uniform red.
A horrible beast towered above Theris's mangled body. Hellish yellow eyes pierced the darkness, into Kurt's very soul. He could feel those eyes burning into him, and all he could do was stare back, frozen with fear.
"Run," Kurt whispered. "Frederic, run!"
Frederic took a step back, then another, and before he knew it, he was running in the opposite direction, away from the monster. He dared to look back, and saw Kurt charging the beast, gun raised, and roaring a deafening battle cry at the top of his lungs. Frederic rounded the corner. There was a gunshot, a loud growl, a heavy wet snap of jaws, and then silence.
Frederic stopped in his tracks and turned around. Darkness encompassed him in a suffocating hug. He couldn't find his breath and he could feel his lungs cry out for air. He had to move, he had to move, he had to move . . .
A shadow darker than the night emerged from beyond the corner. Yellow eyes emanated from the beast, and fresh blood dripped from its muzzle riddled with dagger-like fangs. A deep grow rattled from the monster, and it took a step closer to Frederic. And another. It inched its way closer and closer yet Frederic could not make his body move.
The beast let out a thunderous roar, and Frederic screamed, throwing his arms up in front of him. He waited for the attack. He waited for the teeth to sink into his flesh, for the claws to tear at his skin.
It never came.
He opened a single eye. The beast was gone. Like the shadow it was, it disappeared without a trace.
Frederic, once again, found his breath. "I'm . . . I'm alive," he whispered. He could feel a giddy laugh rise up within him. "I'm alive!" he practically shouted. He laughed, laughed at how he cheated death. He laughed how he stared the Devil himself straight in the eye and lived.