It’s stupid for sure but at first I thought it was part of the ride. It makes more sense than the truth. I thought there was some kind of switcheroo and the cave was just another part of the roller coaster, like one of those rides were you go through a tunnel and there’s screens that project a video of a canyon. I’m sure they have a name for that in the theme park game but I don’t know what it is. It was like a mine cart ride at a cowboy theme park is what it was. Just some tracks in a cave.
I even still believed that it was part of the ride a little when we came to the end of the track, got out, walked out of the cave and we were in a forest. I thought maybe it was some kind of IMAX dome or holograms on walls or something. Part of me knew it wasn’t that, part of me knew it was real because the air was too . . . different. And the sun. The light wasn’t something you could fake. Somehow part of me knew it was somewhere else.
There was even still a tiny voice of doubt once I saw them. The orcs. There was a sliver of my brain that was shouting desperately that they were actors in really, really, really good prosthetics and costumes. Really, really, really, really good ones. And that Martialla wasn’t really shooting them, it was special effects, blanks in her gun and squibs with fake blood. It was a performance all for my benefit. It was part of the show. The whole thing, the abandoned park, was just a theme itself for a fantasy realm park. You pretend to come to a another world. Showing off for the new boss.
But that voice was wrong and I knew it. When I saw them I knew it was all real. I don’t know if aliens exist or if they do exist if people will ever encounter them, but if that ever happens I know what those people will feel when they stand in front of alien lifeforms for the first time. I felt it. Something in the bones tells you that what you’re looking at it something else, something other, something unlike you. It shakes you up.
When we came out of the cave two of them, the smaller ones – and by smaller I mean they were built like NFL linebackers – were squatting poking at some small furry creature with a stick. The third one, the bigger one, was sleeping slumped over on a side looking like a small mountain.
One of the duo had his (her?) back to us but the other one spotted us and its eyes, which were bright red like in an old-fashioned photo where people look like vampires because of how bad cameras used to be, those eyes rolled like a shark’s eyes. Or like I was told shark eyes work in Jaws by Quint because I have no idea how shark eyes really work. The backside of those eyes was a pale pink that looked like uncooked beef.
The eye-roller jumped up so quickly the other one fell backwards in surprise, they both started pitching a fit and shouting in a language that sounded like the rattling of a muffler mixed with a squelching sound like walking on wet carpet. The big one that had been sleeping jumped up, quick as a cat, throwing off a leathery looking tarp that had been used as a blanket. I wonder if it was playing possum because it had some kind of twisted killing tool that looked like a shoe-horn with teeth ready to go.
Not that it mattered much when Martialla planted her feet and blasted him in the chest. Seeing the size of these things her pistol didn’t look ridiculously huge to me anymore. Especially when the big one didn’t even go down with that first shot, it charged at her with a T-Rex roar which made blood spray out of its chest like lung-air was whistling out of the hole. She shot it two more times and stumbled to the ground right at our feet where she stepped up and shot it again right in the head.
I stood there frozen while all this went on, although I don’t think it even took three seconds. Next thing I know someone hits me in the face with a stick. It took me half a second to realize one of the smaller orcs had shot at arrow at me and somehow it got deflected and spun around end over end to smack me right across the nose. I used the other half of a second to realize that if that hadn’t happened and the arrow had flown true I would have just been SHOT IN THE FACE WITH AN ARROW AND KILLED.
I had stood there and I watched Martialla strap on armor and load guns and I think put a grenade on her belt, and I just waltzed in there with nothing. Somehow this was just dawning on me. In my defense I had assumed she was insane and nothing was going to happen.
I saw the other small orc aiming a crooked bow at me and I dropped to the ground, too hard as it turns out as I knocked the wind out of myself. While I was lying there feeling like I was going to die anyway because I couldn’t breathe an arrow stuck into the ground close enough that I could have licked it if I wanted to. Which I did not. To be clear.
When I tried to run away more I found out that the arrow had pinned my hair to the ground. It was probably only a couple of seconds before I was able to loosen the arrow and rip my own hair out enough to get free but when you’re terrified for your life a couple of seconds is a long time. While I was stuck facedown I heard more gunshots. People say guns sound like thunder but that’s wrong. It’s more like the sounds of a car crash.
When I finally scrambled free it was just in time to see a FOURTH even bigger orc clobber Martialla in the face with a long stick with a rock on the end like a murderous croquet mallet. This clobbering was done from the back of a massive boar which it was riding like a horse. The way she fell I was sure she was dead.
I’m just a singer. I don’t know anything about fighting. In that moment, as much as I wanted to run for the cave, I knew that if I did I was going to die. I don’t know how fast boars are, other than they’re faster than I am. Ignoring every fiber of my being telling me to run I plucked a knife off the belt of the now second biggest orc and stabbed it into the flank of the boar. In my mind it would rear up and freak out and throw the rider.
Instead it didn’t seem to notice that I had done anything.
The rider did. He turned to look down at me and did something with its mouth that I think was a smile and gravel-voiced at me something like “Boca rocaca kaigen.”
Somehow I didn’t hear the shot. I just saw Martialla laying on her back with another gun in her hand, face a bloody mess, as the mounted orc stiffened for a moment, first sliding and then tumbling sideways off the boar-back to land directly on the crown of his head. His neck breaking? I heard that. That sounded like a thunderclap.