The man-thing didn’t so much crawl out of the subway tunnel, but rather shuffled, hunched over so his chest practically dragged on the ground. He was eating something, black and furry, clutched in his deformed hand – a hand that almost seemed to be put on backwards. When he heard the pair approach him, he stopped eating and raised up slightly on his knees, eyes wide. His ragged kilt/loincloth barely covered his mangled legs. Was one heel attached to his hamstring? Sam heard a gun click. The man had tossed the meal away and was now posturing at them - a blood-smeared face set defiant. His other arm was a crude, sawed-off shotgun. And it was pointed right at them.
“Ya smell like food,” he said, “Where is it? Give it to me.”
“Or what?” She said, “You’ll shoot me?”
“Damn righ’ ah will,” his gun quavered, “Ya got somethin’ on ya. Meat or fish.” He took a long drag of air through his dirty nostrils. “Or woman,” he said with a lusty gleam in his eye. “Ya’ll give it to me.”
Mara chuckled slightly, “No. I won’t.”
Sam had drawn his own gun, the revolver he could cock with one hand. He aimed the barrel at the burnout with his left hand, while balancing on his crutch with the right.
Mara didn’t turn to him, but ground through her teeth, “Sam. No.”
“I got this,” Sam responded in a husky whisper from behind her, gun arm over her shoulder, lips pressed close to her ear.
“No. Sam. No.”
“Stop!” The burnout yelled shrilly, “Stop the talking talking. Stop! Too loud!” He screamed. A loud BOOM echoed through the station. The recoil flung the man-thing backwards onto his twisted hand. He cried out.
Time slowed. Mara shoved her hip into Sam as the 10 gauge slug barreled straight into her chest. Sam’s weight shifted to the right, where his leg was not. His left knee buckled and the crutch tilted with him toward the floor.
He pulled the trigger.
The bullet went low, hitting the burnout in his working leg, which he had stretched out in front of himself to counterbalance his fall. Sam crashed to the hard tile of the station floor, the gun skittering out of reach. The burnout yowled. Sam grunted.
Mara, on the other hand, had not fully lost her balance and was staggering back into a true standing position. She lunged at the monstrosity, grabbing his shotgun arm.
The gun went off again, this time the slug skimmed Mara’s face, leaving an angry red trail drawn on her cheek. She wrenched. The thing’s noises turning into an uncontrolled howl of agony as Sam could see his arm twisting back unnaturally. A grinding reverberated through the air, like claws on concrete. Sharp pops resonated through the pit of Sam’s stomach. With one final crunch Mara had ripped off the burnout’s shotgun arm. Sam blinked as the world reset itself.
The howling began to die to a whimpering mewl, as the thing looked at his bare stump. Blood, the consistency of grape jelly, flowed out of the wound almost languidly. The man, the animal, dug the stump deep into his side as he undulated backwards in fear. Pivoting on his fused knee, he loped and scrambled down the subway tunnel pulling himself along with his free leg and gnarled arm.
When he was finally out of sight, Mara turned to him and offered a shaking hand. She drew several quivering breaths as Sam stood. A fiery gash on her cheek oozed blood slowly, and Sam stared at it in confusion. This doesn’t seem right, he thought.
Mara gasped and looked down.
Sam’s eyes followed hers and he stared longer, unease and understanding growing in the pit of his stomach. He touched her chest, directly over her heart. His fingers came away crimson (Definitely not right) and his eyes met hers. Mara paled, realization crossing her features.
She drifted backwards, almost too slowly…also too quickly.
“NO!” Sam cried, reaching out for her hand. The red liquid painted streaks on her forarm, palm, and fingertips as she fell.
His fist closed around a coarse blanket. He was sitting bolt upright, blinking in confusion at the blackness in front of his eyes. His mouth worked uselessly, trying to grab a breath that wasn’t there. His heart thumped.
A groan sounded next to him. “It was just a nightmare, Sam,” Trent’s voice, heavy with sleep, echoed in the darkened room. A hand patted his knee. “Go back to sleep.”