by Rob Strangman
Down here, it felt at home.
Slowly it shuffled back and forth. The moans of the dying echoed around it. Footsteps from others of its kind sounded in the distance. Dimly it was aware of these things, its only companions in the darkness of the underground dungeon. If it had been truly alive once, it did not remember that life. It only remembered the darkness. It hungered, to be sure, and the ones that lay dying on the dungeon floor helped give it sustenance. As long as it didn't intrude near the dying ones lying near the the others, there would be no fighting over the food.
Food, it was always plentiful. Every so often, bright light would pierce the darkness of the dungeon. A panel on the ceiling would open and fresh meat would be dumped in. The light and sound would always bring it and the others running... shambling as fast as they could, at least. But even though food was plentiful, sometimes it was not won without its share of hardship. The stronger ones would usually shove their way to the front of the pack, their bulbous heads pulsating as they reached for the screaming food. If one wasn't careful, there might only be scraps left to dine on once the stronger ones were done. But this did not happen often.
Then there were the bats to contend with. Vicious things, the bats were. Sometimes they would latch onto its back, or its head, and it would take quite an effort to dislodge the bloodthirsty things. But eventually they would leave, fly back to their places on the ceiling and sleep.
A dim memory crept through what brain the thing had. The time the long, hungry red thing had dropped down from the other side of the dungeon, where the ladder was. It had eaten several of the thing's kind before being dispatched by the stronger ones. The thing hoped that no more hungry things would ever come down from the ladder. The thing might not comprehend life the way more intelligent creatures did, but it did comprehend the idea of food. And it did not want to end up as a meal for the hungry things.
As the thing crouched down near a squirming piece of meat, a noise caught its attention, followed immediately by light. More food was coming. It looked up, and saw a body tumble through the panel in the ceiling. It landed with a thud seconds later. Slowly it stood, aware that the others were already shuffling its way.
The body lay there, unmoving. This was something in the dim recesses of its consciousness that the thing found to be... unusual. The food that was usually tossed in would make noise, would thrash about, try to escape. Maybe this one was already dead. If that was the case, so be it. It had no qualms about eating dead food at all.
Then it saw something that stopped it in its tracks. Something was happening that perplexed what little of the thing's brain existed. A ghostly white thing, hovering in the air.
Then the white thing was gone, vanished into nothingness. And just like that, the thing forgot that it had ever been there. It began to shuffle toward the food again. It could hear one of its kind close behind. If it moved quickly enough, perhaps it would get the best parts. If it made it before the stronger ones did, that was almost assured.
But then, something happened that made it stop for a split second.
The food was standing.
It wasn't making a sound. It wasn't trying to get away. It did not scream, or thrash, or cry out. In fact, it was now walking, heading directly toward the thing. Steadily. Purposefully. The thing puzzled over this for a second.
This had never happened before.
Regardless, it was still food. The thing lurched toward it, seeing for the first time how pale its face was. Like the skulls the thing would sometime see after they spent years in the dungeon.
None of that mattered to the thing now. It was hungry. It needed to eat.
It reached for the food, which was less than a foot away.
That was the last action the thing took before the food lashed out with a clenched fist. Before the thing could even begin to begin to fathom what was happening, the food's fist shattered its skull and pulped its brain, obliterating its dim consciousness. What was left of the thing staggered backwards, then began to dissolve. Within seconds, it had collapsed into a puddle of slime and blood.
After that, it was like it had never existed.
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