A Bitter End

Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story
Jacobson pressed the pistol into the palm of her hand and wrapped her fingers around it, making his intentions clear. Ashley clenched the pistol in her fingers, mindful of the trigger and looked up, meeting the startling blue eyes with a hopeless look of confusion.

“Jacobson, you know I can’t-” he shook his head, ever the mute man, and motioned for the exit of the building, where Ashley knew the chimera was waiting for her, ready to rip her limbs apart for a snack. Her fingers shook as she checked that the magazine was in place, making sure that everything was ready before creeping towards the door.

She could hear the great beast on the outside, roaring its challenge to the sky and she knew that there was no one else in the city who had the equipment to take on the beast. They were the only ones, and Jacobson couldn’t aim to save his life (or the life of the city). It was up to her, it was always up to her, but she couldn’t risk her life again, not like she had in the past.

“I can’t do it, Jacobson,” she said, letting the pistol fall to her side with a sigh, leaning against the wall next to the door. She stared at the floor with a dejection filling her heart. She hadn’t the skill to go against a chimera, it had been years since she had been out in the fields, and even more time since she had fought a true monster.

The soft tap of Jacobson’s foot against the ground was the only sound in the room besides Ashley’s labored breathing, and his rough hand fell upon her shoulder in a comforting manner. She looked up at him, and he pointed to her chest, to the locket that rested against her collarbone. He pulled it up from under the shirt, as he always did, and opened it, showing her the picture, taken of her daughter only a few months prior when they had been on a short trip to the beaches of southern California.

“I suppose there is a point to what you’re doing,” she said. “There always is.” He closed the locket in his fist, careful with the old piece of metal before pressing it against Ashley’s heart, looking deep into her eyes. She had never found herself more grateful for his inability to speak, his refusal to learn any kind of communicative language other than writing. His eyes spoke louder than words ever could. “You watch after her, okay? If I don’t make it out of this alive, you raise her to be brave and strong.” Jacobson nodded and gave her a salute, a playful look in his eyes as he stepped away.

Ashley pushed through the doors, the smell of smoke and charring flesh hitting her nose almost immediately. Her hand came up to her face and she took a moment to push away the bile rising in the back of her throat before she turned and assessed the situation.

There was panic in the streets, people rushing about in a mass, tripping over each other. Even other monster hunters were running. Elves ducked into alleys, faeries danced along on the rising winds, and a few pixies had come out to see what the fuss was about before taking their sudden retreat back into the depths of the city sub-levels. The chimera was wreaking havoc, buildings lay in rubble and she could smell the death in the air.

Making sure the pistol was cocked, Ashley began her approach towards the chimera, dodging frightened citizens, reminding herself the entire way that she was doing this for her daughter, that there would be nothing left for her if she didn’t fight.

Screams rang in her head as she hid in the shelter of a building, trying to soothe her racing heart and hurried breathing before ducking back into the crowds. Leveling the pistol in front of her, she took aim and fired one of the bullets for the chimera. It struck the beast in the side, making it turn and roar at her.

Ashley stood her ground and fired another shot, taking a step back from the recoil she was given, braced for an attack. The chimera rushed for her, lion’s maw opened to crunch her between pointed teeth. Ashley drew in a breath, extended the arm with the pistol and pulled the trigger.

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