The second part of my adult sci-fi/western novel The Wulf and the Tiger. This follows directly on from the last part. Please bear in mind it’s a first draft work in progress.
He tensed, closed his eyes, there was a small thuk and the pressure of the gun fell away.
He opened an eye, then both. The two men in front of him were looking around wildly, pistols in their hands. The man who had been about to pull the trigger on him was laid on his arms in the sand. A fine breeze was picking up and throwing the grains to stick to the blood.
This time he saw the arrow; it whistled in and went through the eye of the beardiest. And before he knew what was happening he had charged forward into the man remaining, headbutting him to the ground. He straightened and stamped on the man’s fingers, kicking the gun away, then kicking down hard on his neck. He put all his weight on one foot, crushing the man’s windpipe, then hopped his tied wrists over one leg, so his hands were now hooked around his crotch. He quickly switched feet before the man could draw a breath, and did the same movement with the other leg.
With bonded double fists he made to punch the man out, but by the looseness of the neck and the open eyes it seemed the man was dead.
He sat down, unsure of what had just happened. He wasn’t a fighter, but he’d just gone for a man with a gun. He could have waited; why get in the way of his mysterious saviour and his arrows?
He’d gone for a man and he’d killed him in a matter of movements – movements he’d never made before. What was worse, he didn’t feel like he thought he would, those times when he’d lay in bed and wonder what it would be like to kill another human. He tried to summon the shock, the numbness or hysteria, the overpowering guilt and regret, the anger . . . none of it came. It was though there was a new part of him, a part that dominated and reacted to the murder with a mere shrug of the shoulders.
He looked at his hands. A new part of me? I’m all new parts. His hands were red, not just the rawness around the ropes but everywhere, a deep, dark red with even darker nails. It wasn’t a dyed red, or a sunburned red. It was a skin colour red, a red like blood.
He looked up, and stared. His archer was a she, a woman – that much was obvious right from the get go. He didn’t think he’d seen anyone like her, except possibly as some kind of fantasy art back on . . . back in . . . back where he came from. She was an Amazonian: that was his first thought. He was taller in this new body, he could tell, but she was taller still. Not freakish in height, but enough to balance the sumptuousness of her caramel body with the aura of dominance. A long black bow hung around her, a stretch of black string kept tucked away in the shadows of her cleavage.
She raised one dark eyebrow at him, then, as he continued to look on dumbly, she stepped over to the man he had felled.
‘Yes,’ she said simply, returning to him. ‘Cat got your tongue, Jay?’
That’s my name. Or rather, that’s the name of this body. Jay . . . Jay Wulf. The name came to him, tumbling up from somewhere inside.
‘Who are you?’
‘Fuck off,’ she said. She sat down. ‘I know you have a dog’s eyes Jay, but this is taking the piss even for you. You look like you’ve never seen a Savvi before.’
Taking the piss. His brain was immediately translating into the most recognisable of forms, slang and all. Learning American.
‘What’s a Savvi?’ he said.
‘I’m Savvi, dick.’ Her eyes narrowed as there was no sign of recognition. ‘Sav. What’s the matter with you? You get hit on the head again?’
‘I take it we’re supposed to know one another.’
‘No shit. Oh for crying out loud. I’m not hanging around for all this.’
She stood up. ‘I’m going.’
He offered his hands up pitifully. ‘Can you at least cut me free?’
She hesitated, then shook her head. ‘I’m not getting that close to you.’
‘You’ve got knives all over you, just pass me one . . . gently.’
The woman who called herself Savvi, or Sav, laughed. ‘You really must have hit your head if you think I’m going to give you a blade.’
He wanted to weep, but it seemed Jay’s body had little time for such things, and he resorted to falling to his knees and putting his head in his hands.
‘Aw, poor baby,’ she said.
‘I’ve only been here a few minutes,’ he said into his hands. He tried to make it sound self-pitying to earn some sympathy, but it didn’t work with his new voice; he just sounded frustrated. ‘And already I’ve barely escaped dying, killed a man who was probably going to kill me, and now left for dead by a . . . a woman who . . . by my own saviour, who, who won’t listen to me,’ he finished lamely.
She rolled her eyes. ‘What rubbish. I’m not leaving you for dead, there’s all manner of sharp rocks you can cut your bonds on. Then you’re free to go back to town, or wherever you want. The key word you used is “saviour”. I really should stop saving your life, it’s getting to be quite a bad habit.’ The words dripped silkily from the kind of lips that could swallow a man up but would never stoop to kiss his ass.
He watched her walk away from him. He didn’t know if she was swaying or he was. He could smell blood on the breeze.
She picked up speed, and soon she was running over slope and scree, arrows lightly quivering. He marvelled at the way she moved, like she was half elf half . . . panther. Her ebony form seemed to fade in and out of the rocks, the black and brown of the straps and scraps of her clothing the perfect camouflage. Her black hair lay as still as a dark pool, and crossed the land like a shadow of a great bird.
I wonder how many men have spent too long looking at her, he wondered, and not at her arrows and knives.
He rose suddenly. ‘Wait,’ he cried out. ‘WAIT!’ My new favourite word.
‘I’m still not gonna fuck you!’ Her voice sailed back at distance, before she was lost to him.
He stood still, bewildered. Who am I?!
Jay Wulf. That’s who I am. That’s who I am in this world. I’ll find out more about me, what kind of person I am, but I’m starting to get an idea.
I’ll find out everything. Where I am, who I am, who she is, and what the fuck happened to me.
And how to get home, and back to my old body, said a smaller voice in him.
‘Steady on,’ he said, feeling the strength in him like a second sun. Overhead the pure lilac sky was carrying away a single coupling of indigo clouds. ‘Let’s not be hasty.’