So this where the latest escape artist is coming through, I've never been to this park before. I hate to think what I'm gonna get this time. My tires squeal as I bring my bike to a stop far faster than it would like. I spot a bum sleeping under a group of trees. As I walk closer he stirs. He looks at me through a slit in the scarf he's wrapped around his head.
"Spare change guy?"
I spare a grin instead, "What's coming through today, Urb?"
"We're not sure," he shrugs. Without the rain, I notice a clattering sound as he moves.
"Dusty ain't sure what's coming through the rift?"
"Ha-ha, I like you. Unlike most mortals, you've got a sense of humour. Though Death hates it when you call him that.
No, not even the shrouded one himself can tell. It's a whole mess of the buggers trying to rip a hole outta there. You may get more than one beasty coming through," he chuckles along with the sound of rattling bones.
"Why can't Dusty deal with this kinda crap?"
"He is. Every second of every day for as long as he rules the realm of death, he's keeping everything away from the rest of the worlds. He's gotten a hell of a lot better at it. Literally. The place has never been more full, though this means it keeps getting harder and harder to deal with."
"So then, what am I in for today?"
"I guess you could call it a marathon. You gotta keep fighting till the rift can close. About eight hundred years ago was the record breaker. It took an entire year and a half in this world before those rifts closed. Figures that about one in four of all the worlds we were dealing with were at some kind of major war or another. Our gates were flooded with souls. I never thought it would end. In nearly every realm, our Stalkers, Agents, and Lowers were working around the clock along with us having to keep recruiting. It was so bad, we had high level Stalkers sneaking into Death's Realm to rest."
I light up a smoke. I always wonder if it's going to be my last.
"I like this job. Always something new to deal with," I take a long draw, "How long till the Cage is ready?"
"About enough time to finish your cigarette."
"Where is the rift this time?"
"About a hundred feet behind me, there's some terrain this time so I suggest you scope it out."
"You do your job and I'll do mine," I say walking past Urb.
I see the Cage and take a look at what I'm going to have to fight in, maybe for the next couple weeks or more. I'd never heard about Marathons before, though I'm hardly an old hand at this job. Trees, some of them tightly packed, a couple large rocks, nothing out of the ordinary. I hope the creatures coming out of the rift are confused by the surroundings. Makes it easier for me to deal with them.
I take the last draw of my smoke, spit it into my hand, crush it out in my hands and pocket the butt.
"Let me in, Urb"
Inside the Cage, I see the rift slowly opening. There's limbs with scales, fur, all with claws, a wing even, all trying to widen the rift and get out first. I draw my sword, this time a one to one Japanese replica, and throw my sheath as far behind me as I can.
The first head pulls it's way through. A dog like creature with almost human proportions doesn't hesitate to run at me. I easily dodge it's swipes and run my blade through it's neck. As the corpse falls, I see the next thing, a snake looking creature with bright orange fur, slither out of the rift. It rears back and breaths fire. I slice through the flames with my sword and cut the creature's head off. Something seems to ooze out of the rift while the snake-thing twitches and tries to bite my ankles with what life it has left. The ooze forms into an upright shape with four arms, no legs, and no face. I slash off it's arms, but they fall to the ground and become part of the creature again. I cut off the head, dice the torso, but it reassembles behind me. It's arms flow into one and I barely manage to avoid it crushing me. The blow of the thing leaves a hole in the ground more than big enough to be my grave. I see two more creatures, sabre tooth tiger like creatures but bigger, drag themselves out of the rift. Their hackles rise and they sprint past me toward the ooze creature. The ooze shapes it's arms into a blade and manages to slice a leg off one of the tigers. The other tiger pounces on the ooze and bite's it in what looks like it's neck, but the ooze just reshapes itself behind the tiger and forms it's arms into a club again. It's about to strike as the cat with a missing leg bowls it over. I notice green smoke where the blood of the injured cat splashes on the ooze. I run back to the snake thing's body and cut it length-wise. There's a strange slurping sound as I drag the filleted body toward the ooze. I swing it over my head and the snake lands, guts first on the ooze. A muffled wail resonates from the creature as it bursts into thick cloud of smoke. When the smoke clears I see the two big cats standing over three new corpses. The rift grows smaller and smaller as the two creatures approach me. They both have blood streaking their fur, but the wounds have already healed. Even the cat with the missing foreleg has stopped bleeding. They stop about ten feet in front of me and regard me with a remarkable intelligence.
"Death," I yell.
The clean, oblong rift appears and the god of death glides through. The hackles of the big cat's rise again. I shoot them a quick glance and they slowly calm down. The god approaches the injured cat and waves his hand. The cat growls and regain's it's normal stance. It looks down at the leg it lost and it's eyes widen. It walks toward death with all four legs and lays down in front of the god. Death motions for the two cats to follow him through the rift.
"You've done well," he says to me before he passes through the rift, "Call my right hand if you wish to have an upgrade."
The cats both turn to look at me before following the god through the rift back into the realm of death.