Table of Contents
Chapter 6 – You are here!
6. A Shit End to a Shit Date
Nick floated beneath the churning water, trying not to imagine what manner of nasty was surrounding him. In addition to the human waste, there was the idea of sharing a pool with giant turtles. Putting aside their murderous intent, turtles were inherently disgusting creatures. Even with his breath held, Nick imagined that he could smell the sickly stench. His lungs burned with the exertion of staying on top of the thick currents below, but he waited to surface. Once he did, he was going to have to make a quick exit from the water or face mortal peril on a variety of different fronts. His chief concern was swimming for his life while trying not to inhale shit or get an eye infection; the turtles were manageable.
Nick took a last moment to reflect on the evening and what had led him to that point. He thought of the tidy room that sat empty back at the rehab facility and all the money he had blown to purchase it. The alcohol was quickly fading from his system, and with its exit, shame came storming in. It was a tidal wave of emotion, washing over him and encompassing every inch of his body. A part of him wanted to sink to the bottom of the muck and drown. It would be poetic in a way.
Nah. What’s life without a few mistakes? It was the one salient life lesson his master, Henry, had ever taught him. Most of his writing was about avoiding venereal disease from various half-humanoid creatures, but this one lesson had stuck. They were fighting a werewolf in an old village and Nick had missed his shot at a critical moment. As a result, a woman was mauled to death in front of them. Henry took his shot seconds later and didn’t miss. That night, deep in their cups, Nick’s master found the single kind bone in his body. Everyone makes mistakes, kid. The only thing that counts is next time.
Miserable old drunk. Nick stifled a laugh at the irony. Alright, live or die, let’s do this. Nick kicked with every ounce of energy he had left and broke for the surface. The calm, muted nature of the water disappeared in an instant, replaced by angry hissing and thundering footsteps. Nick opened his eyes for a flash, looking for the metal rungs of a ladder. He found them, closed his eyes tightly and swam toward it. His arms churned blindly, propelling him forward.
When his hands clasped the ladder, he recoiled slightly. Finding his grip, he pulled himself up hand over hand, counting his luck that he hadn’t already been eaten. Maybe the second turtle got full and fucked off. He thought of the muscly siren and wondered if the creature had gone to finish the job. Pushing the thought aside, Nick pulled himself over the lip of the platform, coming face to face with the horrifying ass end of a giant, mutant, snapping turtle. He stood, his right leg barely able to support any weight. There’s no way that wound isn’t infected. A fantasy of a traditional peg leg filled Nick’s vision, but was quickly batted away by the violent whipping of the turtle’s tail.
Right, work to do. Nick moved around the edge of the creature, careful to avoid both it and a plunge back into the water below. Every few seconds, the turtle let out a horrible hiss mixed with a gurgle. Huge, oozing mounds had formed on the creature anywhere Nick’s arrows had struck. The avocado worked, he thought, thanking Cass for at least having the presence of mind to complete the fiction she was selling. Nick looked around for his crossbow and couldn’t find it. Likely lost to the shit pool. He said a silent eulogy for the weapon.
“Poor creature. Were you just going to leave it to die?” Cass stepped out from behind the turtle, edging past its head. She held a dagger in one hand and the launcher in her other. With a calculated motion, she swung the dagger down on the turtle’s head. The hissing stopped, replaced by a final gurgling exhale.
Nick felt his attraction blossoming again and shoved it down. “It would have never worked between us.”
Cass laughed and removed her dagger, wiping the blade off on her pantleg. “For more reasons than you know.”
“Oh, come on, you can’t tell me it was all fake.” Nick sincerely hoped it wasn’t but was only talking to stall for time. Talk longer, live longer. That was one of his own platitudes that he tried repeatedly to beat into James. Most people had trouble killing someone mid-sentence. On the off chance that Cass wasn’t one of them, he was no worse off either way.
Cass advanced with the knife. “Not even in your wildest dreams.”
“Ouch.” Despite the obvious mortal peril, Nick felt wounded.
“Don’t worry, you won’t have much time to be hurt about it.”
Nick looked at her posture and realized she was right. There was going to be a fight and it was going to happen quickly. Every step he took backward led him nowhere other than the sewage pool likely hiding the missing turtle. He did a quick mental calculation and decided dying by knife was better than being eaten alive by a creature with no real teeth. Satisfied with the choice, Nick gritted his teeth and made his best effort at a charge.
Cass recoiled, but only for a second. She recovered fast and drove the knife forward catching Nick between the ribs and driving the blade home.
There are two rules about knife fights. One, don’t get into a knife fight, especially if you don’t have a knife of your own. Two, when you do get into a knife fight, accept that you’re going to get stabbed at least once. Henry’s words echoed once more in Nick’s head as the curved blade struck his rib and slid across his side, leaving a deep gash. The pain was immediate and overwhelming. He pushed forward all the same, not wanting to lose his momentum. There were only so many times he was going to be able to pull this trick before the knife did permanent damage.
Warm blood poured down his side and he felt nauseous, but otherwise, he guessed nothing vital had been hit. Nick tried not to think of all the bacteria on his clothing and just pictured a clean recovery room instead. Adrenaline flooded his body, and the wrenching pain became a quiet whimper mixed with the discomforting notion that something in his body had gone terribly wrong. Fighting through it, Nick brought his fist up under Cass’s chin and landed a fierce blow that sent her toppling backward.
The knife clattered to the ground.
Nick’s momentum caused his wounded leg to buckle and he fell. In a sign of how dire his situation had really gotten; he didn’t feel anything beyond the ringing impact of his skull against the concrete. The sensation was odd, but not painful. God, I hope this knife wound isn’t worse than I thought. Even the thought sounded slurred. The knife wound was definitely worse than he thought. It was difficult to tell if the ground had gone slick from the wave of sewage or his own blood.
Nick fought through the pain and grabbed the knife off the ground. Inch by inch, he crawled toward the slowly-dying turtle, using its bulk as a shield. Cass recovered and got to her feet. Instinctively, Nick slid the dagger beneath his leg in an attempt at conealment.
“Really? How stupid do you think I am?” Cass stood a good six feet away and pulled a second, shorter dagger from her waistline. “How good of a shot do you think I am from this distance? I may not kill you on the first try, but I’ve got spares.”
Nick pushed himself to a seated position, his back against the mighty, stinking turtle. The beast gave a great gurgle in response but didn’t move beyond a lackadaisical death shudder. Poor bastard might still be alive. Giving up on stealth, Nick put the dagger in his hand and held it out like a toy lance. “Come on and fight me like a man.” He regretted the words the second they left his lips.
Cass gave a cold laugh. “Well done, using your last words for casual sexism. I’ll make sure to get you a plaque at the old boys club.” Cass pulled her hand back to throw the dagger.
A blinding, white spotlight shone through the sewer grate. “Cass, put the knife down, this isn’t you.”
Nick recognized the voice immediately. “Sean?” Must be losing more blood than I thought.
A silhouette of a man that certainly could have been Sean appeared in the grate. “We’ll deal with you in a minute, Nick. Cass, put down the dagger and get out of there. It’s for your own safety.”
Cass laughed again a let out a high-pitched siren wail. It shook the walls and sent waves through the water below.
“God, how many times do I have to warn you not to do that?” Nick tried to back up into the turtle more, but the response to the wail was immediate.
The second turtle shot out of the water just to Cass’s left. Immediately, a wave of gunfire came from the grate, grazing the creature’s shell, but making no real damage. The creature advanced on Cass with surprising speed. It was smaller than the first by a considerable margin, but still staggering in size.
Cass waited for her moment and lodged the dagger in the creature’s neck when it got close enough.
The turtle hissed in pain, but managed to bite down on Cass’s leg, shattering the bone with an audible crunch.
Nick tried to stand, to go help her, but the world was growing fuzzy at an alarming rate. His arms and legs were heavy, weighed down by an invisible force.
The grate exploded, falling into the water with a heavy splash. A rope fell down from above and several people in riot gear slid down it, firing automatic rifles, crossbows, and all manner of other weaponry at the turtle.
Cass grabbed another dagger and stabbed at the turtle repeatedly, sending up great gouts of blood with each consecutive strike. Her wailing scream cut off the gunfire, preventing any other sound in the room from being heard.
The turtle, pouring blood from a series of increasingly mortal wounds, doubled down on its attack. With the last of its effort, it drove Cass to the ground. Briefly, it lifted its head, releasing her.
Nick felt a sudden swell of hope. Come on Cass, get out of there.
Cass used the moment to try and back away, but she barely managed a shimmy. Her right leg was mangled beyond repair.
The turtle lowered its head, opening its jaws and biting down just above Cass’s hips. Her eyes went wide, filled with sudden fear and realization. She tried to scream, but the sound choked off in her throat. Her body went limp.
Nick barely heard the staccato thump of gunfire. The last thing he felt before the world went completely dark was a profound sense of loss. This has to be the worst date I’ve ever been on. He almost laughed, but his body went slack before he had the opportunity.
The recovery room was just as white and pristine as Nick had imagined it. Profound thirst gripped at his dry throat. Careful to shield his eyes from the blinding light, Nick looked for a nurse call button. He couldn’t find one and tried to call out instead. “Nurr—” was all he could manage. His throat felt raw and abused. So, they had to intubate me, that can’t be good. With a weak hand, Nick lifted the bedsheet to look down at his sides. A series of white bandages crisscrossed his abdomen, covering all evidence of his healing or lack thereof. On the bright side, they weren’t soaked with blood.
“Oh good, you’re awake.” Sean stood in the doorway, propped against it like a high school coach about to give a pep talk.
“Oh god, I’m in Hell.”
Sean laughed. “Well, at least your sense of humor is intact.” His eyes were full of kindness and creased with a bad night’s sleep.
Nick wanted to rage against the patronizing niceness but couldn’t find the fire he needed. “How long?”
“Only a day or so. You’re lucky we got to you when we did.”
“How did you manage to do that?”
Sean clucked his tongue. “I’d say a magician never reveals his secrets, but I’m just a rehab shrink, right?” There was a subtle raise of an eyebrow, but that was the end of the biting sarcasm. “We bugged your clothing when you got here. It’s a security precaution when we’re dealing with people who run into the woods in the middle of the night. I think you know as well as I do that there are a lot of things waiting on the edge of that barrier that would do our patients harm.”
Nick nodded, feeling immense pain in the motion. “And Cass?” his voice choked at the mention of her name. Despite what she had done, the fire inside was still lit.
Sean shook his head. “I’m not sure how a siren got into our facility. That’s on me for not screening better.” He softened, seeing the lingering question. “We tried to save her, but by the time we fought off the final beast, it was too late.”
A cold lump of fear and sadness settled in Nick’s chest. Shame filled every pore and fiber of his conscious being. “Why are you here?”
The bright light caught a twinkle in Sean’s eye as he came to sit down next to Nick. “Because I see myself in you.”
Even the mere thought of a scoff sent pain shooting through Nick’s ribs. He winced.
Sean chuckled. “You deserve that. Look, you might not believe it, but I used to hunt monsters with a revolver in one hand and a bottle of Jack in the other.”
“Probably couldn’t aim worth shit.”
“Better than you might think, but that’s not the point. This might not be your bottom, but it could be. Take this as an opportunity, get back up, and let’s do the work. You took down a mutant turtle by yourself tonight. That makes you one of the greats. So, why don’t you try to live to remember that?”
There was a trap in Sean’s words, there had to be. Nick turned the sentence over in his mind.
“There’s no trap here.”
Creepy psychic bastard.
“When the nurses release you from that bed, you can either go back to your room at the facility or leave free and clear. The choice is yours.”
Nick thought about James. The kid had been more than crystal clear; it was him or the bottle. Apprentices these days, thinking they can run your life.
“Just think about it. You’ve got some recovery time to mull things over.” Sean stood and moved for the door.
Thank you. Nick wanted to say the words out loud but couldn’t manage them.
Sean nodded like he had heard them anyway and left.
The room spun at the concoction of pain meds flowing into Nick’s arm. He put his head back on the pillows. Start new tomorrow. Exhaustion flooded his limbs, and he closed his eyes.
That is it for Love, Rehab, and Mutant Turtles! I had a blast writing this story, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. Please, if you liked it, let me know and share it around. SHARING IS CARING, and it’s about the only way to help indie authors get noticed. If you want more free content, check out My Library!
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