Humanity has been reduced to a single city. Dense, choking jungle extends forever on all sides, and twelve outposts serve as the first line of defense against the monstrous denizens of the wilds. Out of all of the stations, however, one stands out as a veritable hell on earth: Outpost Eight.
A grim, mysterious story focused on worldbuilding, suspense, and action. I hope for this to be a long-term project, so check back often for updates.
“I just don’t get why they only send scum out here.” Ben asked, slowly walking beside one of his fellow soldiers, gesturing out towards the Outpost as he spoke.
“Careful who you call scum, buddy. I got sent here over unpaid gambling debts, I’m not some thief or murderer like the rest of you.” his companion said, his bearded face briefly illuminated as he lit the cigarette dangling from his lips.
Ben looked at the older man with scorn, shaking his head as the pungent odor of the smoke blew his way. “Come on Jim, you know you’re not supposed to smoke on duty. The commander said the scent attracts them.”
Jim laughed, taking a long pull from his cigarette before blowing more of it in the shorter man’s direction. “What, worried that the Stalker is going to jump from the shadows and drag me off? That the Rumbler will come barreling through the jungle to knock us from the wall? Or maybe-”
A sudden, bone-chilling howl pierced the humid night air. The gambler dropped his cigarette and fumbled for the standard-issue rifle slung over his back, the rookie nearly falling from the wall-walk in surprise. The younger soldier managed to catch his balance and dropped to a kneeling position right on the edge of the fifteen foot drop to the ground below, saving himself from injury by mere inches. The wailing howl went on for nearly a full minute, full of anger and hunger like some huge, starved wolf being held back from a meal, before cutting off as abruptly as it began.
“Or maybe the Howler will take notice.” Ben said quietly, his voice shaking as he stared out into the dense jungle foliage, eyes peeled for any sort of disturbance or movement amongst the heavy greenery.
Jim’s cigarette lay smoldering on the ground between his feet. Neither one dared to move yet as the Howler’s cry seemed to echo out across the vast jungle. After a few tense minutes of holding their breath in the darkness of the outer wall, the older man finally relaxed his white-knuckled grip on his weapon. “The Howler never crosses the Ravine, it probably just found something to hunt out there.” he said, somewhat unconvincing as he kept his gaze trained on the jungle, eyes flitting back and forth as Ben did the same.
Ben glanced around nervously, not entirely comforted by his partner’s assurances about a mysterious jungle monster’s territorial preferences. “But... don’t other attacks seem to happen after the Howler… well, howls? I thought the commander said something like that when I got here.” he asked, wiping away a bead of sweat that had been trickling down his temple as the pair had stood frozen. He pushed a few locks of his messy brown hair out of his eyes and stood up straight, his knees sore and protesting after having dropped to the concrete floor so suddenly. “I’ll call for backup, just in case. Tav is probably on his way already… Jim?”
The soldier went quiet as he looked around, turning in a slow circle and looking back and forth along the dark walkway, a sense of dread creeping over him causing goosebumps to rise on his arms. The gambler was gone, the cigarette between where his feet had been still glowing and letting off a lazy curl of smoke as it lay abandoned on the concrete wall-walk, but the man himself was nowhere to be seen.
“Jim?” the rookie called out again, louder this time as he stepped up to the back edge of the wall and looked out towards the dim lights and utilitarian buildings that made up Outpost Eight, wondering if, and hoping that, the man had gone to search for backup alone. His thoughts were quickly interrupted by another abrupt, blood-curdling scream in the jungle - this one far closer, maybe only thirty feet from the wall - and this time it sounded more…
“Jim!” Ben cried out, scrambling to the edge of the wall to search for his friend, frantically raking his eyes across the thick foliage in the hopes that his partner had simply fallen from the wall somehow. His panicked eyes caught movement out in the darkness, and as he peered closer he realized that the older soldier had suffered a fate far, far worse than a short fall.
In the darkness of the jungle, the Stalker dragged the unconscious gambler through the underbrush, it’s lithe, black, chitinous form silently retreating into the jungle as it’s barbed, forked tail wrapped itself around Jim’s neck. As the creature vanished from sight into the foliage of the jungle, the Howler once again began to wail in the distance, this time, however, the howl was one of victory and savage joy.