Stand 23-VIII | Anniversary Week #2

CW: Graphic descriptions of gore.

Pity The Dead.

I ran.

Not fast, and not well, but I ran. I assumed Paladin would be coming for me, so I turned in the opposite direction of the retreating crowd and began hobbling that way.

She didn't come after me, though.

I jerked as I heard the thunderous crunching of concrete behind me, and spun awkwardly around, expecting to find the golden behemoth directly in front of me. As I did, though, I realised the sound was somewhat diminished, and then my eyes caught up with my ears and I saw that Paladin had landed directly in the middle of the police officers.

The crowd screamed and surged away, and a few of the officers did as well, but the majority of them turned their firearms on her and began firing. It was hard not to notice, though, that she had landed in a gap in the middle of the officers, forcing them to turn inwards. Why had they been-


“There was no gap.”

I began sprinting backwards. Stupid, stupid. I’d made more distance to cover for myself.

Bullets pinged off of Paladin, causing her to cower and recoil. In a few places, sprays of blood spurted out where a piece of flesh was near the surface, but other than that, she seemed unharmed. A fact that she quickly seemed to realise, as she paused, and stopped cowering. The police kept shooting, but now, without the fear factor, it was about as effective as shooting a brick wall with paintballs.

She roared triumphantly, swiping at the closest officers with her paws. Blood splattered, but their body didn’t go anywhere; it just dropped to the ground in two halves.

I stared at the… corpse, feeling curiously numb. I wanted to vomit, but I’d done that earlier, and now it’d just be bile. Had that officer had a family? What had their life been like?

“Had they been expecting to get bisected when they clocked on this morning?”

I laughed. It wasn’t funny, but. I laughed.

Paladin swiped again, splattering a few more officers. The blood coated the gold, giving it an orange hue as the light shone through. The rest of the police began running away, splitting in different directions, but she seemed to take it almost as a challenge, and began moving, trying to hit them with her paws and wings. She couldn’t move fast while doing it, though, so she only managed to get a few more.

The moonlight reflected oddly off the blood.

Paladin roared and began lumbering after the largest group of police, but I was getting close now. I yelled, waving my arms, trying to get her attention. Wait. No sound was coming out. I tried again, and this time managed to get my throat working.

She paused, or… froze. Can she recognize me? Slowly, she turned around to face me. If she had a face anymore, I somehow knew it would be furious.

“Yeah, that’s right,” I said, the words sounding weird and distant to my own ears. “It’s me! Come and get me, you giant gold turd!” I didn’t stop running as I did it, though, and by the time she’d turned properly, I was only a few meters away. She roared in my face, the noise feeling like it was rattling my brain, and I roared right back, and hit her as hard as I could with my one good hand.

Even weakened like I was, I was still tearing through concrete like it was plasticine. So I was expecting the blow to do serious damage. I’d never intentionally hit anyone with it before, which would be something to think about later.


She staggered back a few steps, and the golden light seemed to have dented slightly, but that was it.

I stared, a little dumbstruck, and she snarled and swiped me with the flat of her paw, sending me flying.

I landed next to one of the bodies that had been split in half, the blood on the ground immediately beginning to soak into my clothes. She was still alive, somehow, blood spilling out of the ragged tear below her waist. I could see inside her stomach, and a pool of liquid that had spilled onto the ground that looked like its contents. Her chest was heaving, and she seemed to be trying to say something, but couldn’t get it out. Her gaze was wide, terrified and pained. Then her chest stopped moving. The light in her eyes winked out.

I sat up slowly. Stood up. Body hurt, check. Soul hurt, check. Nothing new there.

Paladin was staring at its own bloody paw, almost curiously. Maybe it didn’t know what blood was. Maybe it didn’t know what death was.

I couldn’t really bring myself to care.

I began walking towards it again. It didn’t seem to notice, turning the dirtied paw back and forth. I hit it, in the same place as before, and this time the golden light cracked, beginning to ooze that same liquid as before.

It hit me again.

I got up again. Harder, this time. It was paying attention now, though, and charged me. I dug myself in to the ground, braced, and punched. I went flying backwards, but it was stopped in its tracks, the cracks spreading.

One of my ribs broke. My vision whited out when I tried to get up, and I found myself on the ground again, missing a few seconds of consciousness. I gritted my teeth, rolled over, and got up that way instead.

“This isn’t sustainable.”

Shut up.

“You’ll go down before she does.”

Shut up.

“We need to find another-”


The ooze was pouring from the cracks now, evaporating before it hit the ground. As I watched, though, the flow began to slow, as the cracks began to slowly close.

No! I took a step forward, but stumbled as my rib flared with pain. I need to… oh god, it hurts so much.

“Push through it. Think. I know it’s hard, but think. Find a way to end this, without ending yourself.”

How? She’s stronger, faster. Less injured. She can apparently heal.

As if on cue, the station platform above us gave an alarming groan.

I looked up at it.

“That’ll do.”

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