Near Human

by Element of Power

Chapter 6

Thanking them, he left the cave, pulling the cart behind him.


E - 30 walked across the clearing, encountering less and less Diamond Dogs. A few watched him leave, but the majority ignored him as they worked. One of them licked his hand as he passed. It would have almost been cute if they weren't built like gorillas. And could speak.

While it had been a nice distraction, the real prize was that he now had all the metal he needed, as well as a source for the uncertain future. The metal, he knew, would prove to be his salvation.

"With this, I won't even need to find the horse creatures. I can stay safe in the woods. Or, well, as safe as you can be in the woods." The edge of the clearing came up, and the little blue bird was still there. It looked like it hadn't moved from its spot on the branch since he left It, staring at him as he pulled his bounty behind him. As soon as E - 30 got close though, the bird flew off, disappearing through the tall trees.

The man had no time to think about it, as he had to keep moving. He couldn't keep living in trees, especially with his newly gained items. Another problem he faced concerned his "great escape" from the castle.

'It's only been a day and a half,' he thought, 'So they could still be chasing and searching for me. I have to keep moving. But, where?'

The only thing he was familiar with was that little bird that had been following him. Unfortunately, it had flown off in a hurry. 'Maybe it's going somewhere important... or it's just a bird.' At that point, it was his only option, though a bit shaky. He hauled his cart, following the direction the blue bird had gone. 'At least this way, I'm not just wandering.'

He stomped through more shrubbery, this time with his cart behind him. The whole time, it continued to be a nuisance, and got caught on everything it could find. A tree root. A rock. A mudhole. Another rock. It was almost impressive.

"I swear I'm going to smash this thing." He muttered to himself as it caught on another root. He yanked the cart forward, dislodging it. At that point, he was paying more attention to the annoying cart rather than searching for some form of sanctuary the bird might have. "That bird is the only lead I've got."

Thirty minutes later, he was still moving forward with a struggle. It was almost like things got in his way on purpose, just to stop him. On top of that, the sun once again set, letting moonlight shine through the forest. With the newfound darkness, all the little traps that slowed him down, were practically invisible. And bigger somehow.

Apparently, they were deeper too. The stain on his life that he was dragging sank into a pit of mud. It was much deeper than the others, the mud pushing past the wheels and almost spilling into the box of the cart, and yet, it was still sinking. Acting fast, he pulled the cart back onto solid ground. "Great. The whole thing's caked in mud." Shortly after he said this, he heard a snap.

Even though he was new to this forest, it was obvious that the sound could be very bad. Leaving his crusty cart, he searched all around with his eyes, letting them search for any signs of heat or motion. For a few minutes, he didn't find anything, like it vanished. Just as he was about to give up, he heard another snap. He was ready this time, and caught some motion close by. The suspect didn't give off any heat though, so when it stopped moving, he lost sight of it.

'What... is it?' He took a step forward. He needed to check to see what exactly it was. Before he could take another step, he heard a low growling. In front of him, the creature appeared to his eyes again, giving off vibrations from its growl. The situation was quickly becoming dangerous. This time, the creature came forward, still growling. First, its eyes appeared, glowing green orbs in the dark. More of its body left the darkness, and the moonlight revealed the shape of a wolf.

The animal approaching him looked just like the statue he saw earlier in the forest. The fur of a normal wolf was instead replaced with wood, twisted and rotting in some places. In other places, moss grew over the wood, creating a false image of fur. Its paws carried extended wooden claws, sharp and jagged hooks. Just below its unnatural eyes, its mouth was filled with equally sharp teeth.

The abomination stalked closer, gaining more and more courage. With each step it took, E - 30 moved backward, unnerved by the creature's appearance. He moved back more, and his back touched the rough bark of a tree.

Seeing this, the wolf growled deeper, before rushing forward. "NO!" E - 30 shouted, before kicking the beast. It went flying, going about 15 feet before smashing into a tree and falling to the ground. It got up shakily, careful about the new cracks in its body.

E - 30 moved forward, fists raised. "Alright, let's go." He ran forward, before being rammed into the ground by an unseen force. Lifting his head, he saw another wolf, in a ready stance next to the damaged wolf. "Okay, two on one." He got to his knees, then heard another growl. This one didn't come from the two, but from the sides of him.

All around him, wooden wolves emerged from the darkness, each one jagged, angry, and sporting glowing green eyes. Growls emanated from each of them, claws scraping along the ground.

"I... might need some help." Cornered, he quickly tried to remember what his capabilities were. The wolves kept creeping closer. Getting an idea, he strained, trying to tell his body to do what he wanted. Finally, it worked. Looking down, he heard a series of clicking, and saw his hand transform into a very sharp machete. He raised his sword arm. "Okay, now lets to this."

The wolves responded by leaping at him, all at once. Their claws were aimed all over his body, preparing to tear him apart. The world slowed down to him, as he slashed his blade at the beasts. It passed through limbs and bodies like butter. Time speed back up as the affected wolves fell to the ground in pieces. The remaining wolves that he missed hit their target, latching onto him.

They proceeded to claw and bite at his body, tearing some of his clothes and scratching his metallic body. Every time he would rip one off of his body, another would take it's place. 'I can't do this!' He was quickly being overpowered. The wolves were now starting to do some serious damage, as the previous scratches dug deeper.

His blade was doing nothing to them at close range, making it ultimately useless. As he struggled to stay standing, he desperately tried to think of something that would be a better weapon against the deadly logs.

His eyes widened. 'Wood...' His machete retracted back into his damaged arm, before changing into a nozzle. Activating it, he blasted a wave of fire to the attacking animals. Many of them were directly hit, catching fire. They ran back, yelping at the flames burning away their bodies. Seeing their weakness, all of the wolves backed up, wary of his flammenwerfer. Gritting his teeth, he growled, "Burn."

He let loose another torrent of fire, making the wolves scatter. Those that weren't on fire glared at him, trying to find an angle on him. All around them, other wolves fell apart, killed from the fire that ate away at them. He fired a continuous stream, aiming to kill the rest. At this point, the wolves knew they couldn't touch him anymore. Any of the wolves that were alive ran away, merging with the distance shadows of the forest.

Surprisingly, the trees and foliage around his didn't catch fire. 'Good, I don't want to start a forest fire.' The fire on the dead wolves died down, only leaving embers. He breathed a sigh of relief. Retracting his weapon, he noticed just how much the wolves damaged him. His shirt was torn in multiple places, revealing gouges in the metal on his body. His arms weren't spared either, where rows of metal were ripped apart, revealing machinery beneath them.

'It doesn't make any sense. Were they really that sharp, sharp enough to go through metal? A few days ago I jumped down a freaking mountain!' He puzzled. He thought it would take more to damage him, but it seemed like he was wrong. "There's definitely something abnormal about those wolves. I need to stay away from them, if I want to live."

Then, his head jerked to the side. "The metal!" He rushed over to the mud caked cart, stepping over piled of burned wood wolves. He leaned over the side, grabbing one of the chunks of his bounty. It still had a bit of rock in it, but it was fairly pure.

"So, what do I..." as soon as he said it, he felt a tingle across his body. Emerging from the tears in his body, thousands of tiny specks crawled up to his hand. They surrounded the material, coating it. Then, the metal started to get smaller. Once it was completely gone, they went back to the damaged parts of his body. Some grouped together and merged, making them bigger and more detailed. He could see that they were spider-like drones, getting to work on repairing him. Once they arrived at the damaged parts, they started welding the material into it, slowly spreading it until the holes closed up. This happened all over his body, rips and tears slowly closing up. Once there was only one hole, they all swarmed to it, crawling inside before repairing it behind them.

E - 30 stood their, completely surprised at what he just experienced. "Well, at least I'm fixed." While it was weird, he could appreciate how fast they got it done. Now, he was back in good condition. He grabbed the handles of his precious cart, and pulled it forward.

In the sky, he could see the sun emerging from the horizon, still fast. "Great, I didn't get to sleep." He groaned. Now that it was daylight, he continued to trek forward, trying to ignore the fact that the cart was still getting caught on things, and that he could feel some of the drones moving around in his body.