The house stopped shaking. It was another one of those calm before the storm type moments. I remained on guard and could feel the Other Than tense in the heavy silence. My senses were on hyper-drive, battle-ready, as Ares would have called it. I heard my breathing, the other me breathing, cannibal Moxie breathing, and someone else was breathing in the room with us. I focused on this fourth presence and realized it was the room.
I watched the walls, and with every inhale, they drew inward. With every exhale, they pushed out just the faintest bit. I swallowed hard. It was an audible sound in the silence. My eyes drifted upward to the mounted gods’ heads. They looked down on us with fresh streams of drool running from the lips of their unclosable mouths.
The floor beneath our feet bucked up and slammed down, throwing us all off balance. We staggered to regain our footing as it did it again and again and again. We rolled around, violently slamming into the walls and tables as the floor lifted and dropped.
I finally had enough and demanded, “Enough, little girl! Emma, you come stand before me, and face me!”
“Why?” she asked, giggling. “Haven’t you ever played chess before, Mr. Death? Don’t you know you send in the pawns before you obtain the queen?”
I looked at the Other Than, our gazes locking as I asked, “Pawns?”
Similar looks of understanding slid onto our faces, the Oh moment. She meant the other cannibal gods still lurking. Minus cannibal Artemis, whom I just killed, and cannibal Moxie, who was loyal to this world’s Than. They would not factor into her pawns. That was when cannibal Nemesis dropped onto my back from the ceiling. Cannibals Eros and Dinlas smashed through the floorboards, grabbing the Other Than and cannibal Moxie.
I spun around and staggered about the room with the monstrous version of my older sister clinging to my back. She held fast with her knees and put me into a chokehold. I cried out in pain as her sharp, serrated teeth dug into my right shoulder. I snarled and unfurled my wings, shocking her into releasing her bite, but her stranglehold around my neck grew tighter. I flapped my wings and flew backward into the wall, slamming her into it as hard as I could. The wall was so weak we broke right through it.
We smashed through into a kitchen. Like most of the house, it was in a state of decay and ruination. I flung cannibal Nemesis from my back and skidded across the floor into the leg of a rusting metal table. She rebounded and raced at me, snarling on all fours like a beast. I was quick to recover myself, and as she lunged I ducked, making a diagonal slice with my scythe. She sailed over me, landed on her feet, and turned to face me. I rose from my crouch and spun to confront her. I saw the deep cut I had made. It ran from her left shoulder across her top half in a diagonal line. She took a step and paused with a perplexed look on her face. The top half of her torso slid off, killing the warped version of my sister.
I stepped over her and back through the hole into the dining room to regroup with the Other Than and cannibal Moxie. I had my scythe at the ready as I came through, only to find that Other Than had disemboweled cannibal Dinlas, and cannibal Moxie held the top part of cannibal Eros’ head. She playfully waved it back and forth, showing it to me like some trophy she had won.
“All right, so who is next?” I asked.
“Mother,” the Other Than said weakly.
I closed my eyes and winced as I felt our mother’s presence behind me. I turned and saw Nyx, Goddess of Night, snarling like a dog. Long strands of saliva hung between her massive sharpened teeth. Her wings flung open, and she lunged at me with her arms outstretched, mouth open in a growl. I retreated backward, stumbled over the body of cannibal Eros, and fell to the ground. She flew, raining hot spittle down on me. I watched the rest in slow motion. Our growling, snarling mother flew forward, and the cannibal Moxie jumped out of the way. The Other Than sidestepped and raised his scythe, bringing it down on her neck. Nyx’s head hit the ground and rolled as her body hit the wall. She fell to the ground flopping like a fish, her wings flapping as the nerves died.
I rose slowly to my feet, unable to look away from our mother’s dying body. The house shook again as Emma let loose another animalistic scream of rage. The three of us sprinted out of the room and down one of the infinite hallways. Emma’s howls followed us as we ran past doors at a maddening pace. Similar to the breathing, the walls flexed with her cries, and the floor behind us rose in a massive wave, pursuing us as we fled.
The floor was at our heels and closing in as we dove through the nearest door. The wave rolled past us. We sat on the floor of a decaying library, catching our breath. I stood, while the Other Than gathered cannibal Moxie into his arms, hugging her close as they cowered on the floor. I went to a bookcase covered in dust and cobwebs, reached my hand through where a pane of glass should have been and touched a book. It collapsed into a pile of grayish-white ash on the warped bookshelf. I know what you’re thinking, everything I touch dies, but it wasn’t me this time. The books were just that old.
I wiped the book dust from my hands and turned my attention to the couple on the floor. Cannibal Moxie sat in Other Than’s lap with her arms wrapped around his neck, and her head resting against his shoulder. His arms were wrapped around her waist, and they had stopped shaking. The sight of the two lovers brought a smile to my face, and I felt hope that this could be me someday. That maybe, I could find someone to touch and be close with, just as these two creatures had. I would have pursued this line of thought more, but I was interrupted.
“Peek-a-boo, I seee yoouuuu,” Emma said from nowhere, the you became a deep, distorted growl.
The three of us tensed, and the two lovers rose to their feet as I marched over to join them in the center of the room. We stood back to back in a triangle pattern, waiting to see which of the cannibals would appear. Perhaps Emma herself would come and confront us now. I faced the doorway, Cannibal Moxie faced the window, and the Other Than faced the bookshelves. We didn’t have to wait long, as what I thought were the last three cannibals came barging into the room from various directions.
Cannibal Urania crashed through the window, showering the room with broken glass. Cannibal Moxie lunged for her, and they grappled, rolling around on the floor. Cannibal Hestia came through the bookcase. The Other Than screamed and raced to meet her, which left the cannibal Asteria, the Starry One, my friend on my world. She stood in the doorway, growling low, and charged at me as I advanced on her. She fell to her knees as my shoulder rammed into her stomach. She made no further move to defend herself, simply closed her eyes as I swung my scythe, severing her head from her shoulders. Her body fell over, twitching.
It was over so quickly. It was as if these cannibal gods realized we could end them and their suffering, and they were taking us up on the offer.
“It’s as if they sacrificed themselves to us,” the Other Than said, looking down at the body of the cannibal Hestia.
“I had the same thought,” I confessed.
Cannibal Moxie grunted her agreement while holding the top of cannibal Urania’s head. She wrapped herself around the Other Than’s arm, clutching her new trophy. He smiled at her, and they proceeded to Eskimo kiss, making happy humming noises.
“Was that all of them?” I asked.
As soon as the question was out of my mouth, she flew in through the open window. The cannibal Nike, Goddess of Victory. How does one beat the Goddess of Victory?
She landed in front of us, snarling with her lance in hand. The Other Than ran at her, scythe poised to attack. She dodged the swiping weapon with the grace of a dancer and, in one motion, used the lance to sweep Other Than’s feet out from under him. He hit the ground hard, and the impact knocked the wind out of him. While she crouched, I believed her distracted, and I made my move. A swift booted kick to my chest defeated me. Her foot caught me center mass, and I hit the ground, sailing across the floor to the doorway.
She rose and lorded over the Other Than, raising her lance, intending to impale him. She brought it down, but he rolled out of the way. It left her kneeling, holding onto the lance which had gone deep into the floor and gotten stuck. The miss infuriated cannibal Nike. She roared and snarled, trying to pull the lance from the ground, and that’s when the cannibal Moxie leaped onto her back.
Nike flailed as Moxie wrapped herself around her. Once she was securely on the back of her adversary, she threw a forearm around Nike’s throat in a chokehold. Nike howled indignantly, and Moxie made her move. It was lightning quick. She thrust her free hand into her open, screaming mouth. Slipping her fingers between the spaces of cannibal Nike’s teeth, Moxie got a good grip, and yanked. With a wet ripping, sucking noise, the top of Nike’s head came off in her hand.
Cannibal Moxie let the body of Nike go, allowing it to fall to the floor with a thump. Golden ichor pooled on the floor. The body of cannibal Nike twitched as Moxie put one barefoot on the center of her back. Raising the top of cannibal Nike’s head high, in a two-handed gesture of victory, the cannibal Moxie let loose a victory cry.
“She’s gorgeous!” the Other Than proclaimed from the floor.
I merely groaned from the doorway.
That was all of her pawns. Now it was time to bring on the little monster.