Filth ( A Chuck Wendig Challenge)

Posted: April 2, 2015 in Fantasy
Tags: , , , ,

So this week was all about filth as a response to the brouhaha that exploded over the Clean Reader App. So the idea was to write about filth. Or filthily. Or filthily about filth.

The story after the cut contains bad words and violence. I suppose I could have worked sex into it as well, but in retrospect it is probably just as well I didn’t.

Filth

“Remind me why we’re down here again?”

Scouse and I were up to our hips in sewage, pushing through an old section of the sewers that crisscrossed under the old city. We were somewhere under the Nobles’ District. And don’t think for a moment that just because it was the noble’s emptying their bowels here that it smelled any sweeter. But then, that’s what the masks were for. Scouse carried an electric light, and we each carried a short, hooked spear. They were useful for clearing out blockages, not to mention defending ourselves from other things down here worse than the collected shit of the city.

“Boss Man says a blockage is reported down here. So we’re here to see what’s causing it.”

“Seriously?” Scouse slipped a bit, sinking a bit deeper into the sludge. The masks did help a bit with the smell, but they weren’t foolproof. It hadn’t rained for about a week, either, which meant the sludge was starting to thicken. In another week or so, you’d be able to cut slices of it off.

I chuckled. “Why else would he send us down here?”

Scouse paused, jamming his spear into the muck in front of him. He lifted a bit of blockage out of the way. “I was hoping some noble had dropped their prized, jeweled cock ring into the latrine and Boss Man tapped us too to fish it out.”

“Huh. You ever know that to happen?”

“Nope.”

“Didn’t think so.”

We moved on a bit more, trying not to slip as we pushed through the collective shit of the city. Get that stuff into your hair and it’d take a week of washing to get the smell out.

“You smell that?” Scouse stopped, holding the light up a little higher.

“Yeah.” Even through the mask I caught the acrid tang in the air. “Magic?”

“Probably.”

“Shit.” Fucking basement magicians liked to dump any experiments that didn’t work down into the sewers. What they didn’t think of was the other pissant wizards who also liked to dump failed magical experiments down into the sewers. I don’t know what they thought happened to all of the shit (literal and metaphysical) they shoved down the drain, but all of it ended up down here, mixing together into Hell’s own stew. And guess who the lucky fuckers were what got to deal with it all?

Scouse jammed his spear into a nook in the wall and hooked his lantern over it. Fumbling in the satchel he wore cross-wise, he pulled out a string of charms and looped them over his head. I followed his example. Not to say that the charms would be much more protection that nothing at all, but better safe than sorry.

“Ready?”

“Fuck no, are you?”

Scouse chuckled. “Good, me either. But here we go.”

He grabbed the lantern and his spear and pushed on. It took me a bit to notice at first, what with the lantern and all, but the walls were glowing with a faint yellow-green light.

“Are you seeing this Scouse?”

“I am,” he hissed back. “Be quiet, I think I hear something up ahead.”

I started to curse, but bit it back and strained my ears instead. The masks made it hard to hear, and the random bloop bloop bloop of escaping gasses.

Scouse doused the lantern and passed it back to me. There was enough light coming off the walls now that all it was doing was giving away our position. He slipped forward with a movement particular to sewer workers. You didn’t really pick your leg up. Instead, you shuffled one foot forward slowly, then brought the next up just as slow. It was arduous to be sure, but you didn’t make as much noise, and it helped you keep your footing in case there was a sudden drop you weren’t expecting.

I still couldn’t hear whatever it was that had Scouse spooked, but he adjusted the grip on his spear, looping its tether around his wrist.

“Fuck nuggets.” Scouse stopped at an intersection in the sewers. They way in front was partially blocked by a collection of garbage someone or something had piled in the direction we wanted to go. “Think we can go around?”

I peered down the tunnels. “Not a prayer, unless you want to spend the next few days down here.” I pointed with the business end of my spear. “We want to go through there.”

“That’s what I was afraid of. Come on, give me a hand.”

I found a rusted hook and looped the lantern’s handle over it. Together, using the hooks on our spears, we started clearing the blockage out. It was slow going work, and not near as quiet as either of us would have liked. Most distressing to the two of us, someone had built the blockage on purpose. And nobody in the Rightful Guild of Sewer Workers would have done such a thing. And Guild members were the only ones that were supposed to be down here.

After moving a bit of wood, something long, bloated, and gassy floated up to the top of the sewage. Something had nibbled on the softer bits, but there was enough left to tell it had been human once. Male too, though the most identifying parts of the anatomy had been turned to rat shit most likely.

“I wish people would stop using this as a place to dump bodies,” Scouse muttered. “Disrespectful is what that is.”

“Disrespectful to who? The deceased or us?”

Scouse tilted his head and peered through the foggy lenses of his mask. “Both,” he replied after some deliberation.

“Fair enough.”

We worked a bit longer, sending the corpse downstream. Eventually the filters would pick it up, if the other scavengers down here in the muck and filth didn’t get to it first. Officially, we weren’t supposed to deal with corpses beyond freeing them up if they got stuck somewhere. Fine by me.

“Want me to take lead?”

“Be my guest. But we’re getting close.”

I had to stoop down to get through the tunnel, the top of head brushing against the damp stonework. “Not getting paid near enough for this,” I muttered.

I came out in a larger chamber, and the first thing I noted was the sewage level had dropped off dramatically. Where before it had been waist high, it was now down around my ankles. The illumination had gotten bright too. Not blinding, by any means, but more street level at dusk. The acrid stench of magic had grown stronger, and strange purplish growths grew up from the muck. The ground underfoot felt spongy, and I tried hard not to think what I might be stepping on.

“Ever see anything like that?” I asked.

“No.”

“Me either.”

The chamber branched out in three directions before us. I picket the middle passage, not the least because the glow was brightest there. We emerged into another chamber, smaller than the first. The muck was gone completely now, except for a film on the ground that sucked at our boots. I choked back bile as I surveyed the space. Bodies on hooks hung from the low ceiling. Flies buzzed around the rotting carcasses, and blooms of the purplish growths erupted from lesions in the meat. The carcasses looked distressingly human. I used the spear to push them out of the way, thinking we weren’t getting paid near enough to deal with this and how were we supposed to get a member of the Undertaker’s Guild down here to deal with disposal.

“This… this isn’t good.”

“You think, Scouse? There’s another passage this way.”

“We should head back.”

“And tell Boss Man what? We got scared off by a bunch of corpses? He’d have us back working the filters before we got two words out.”

Scouse shook his head. “Ain’t worth it. I’m heading back.”

“And I’m heading deeper.” The passage I’d found was even narrower and shorter than the last one, making me bend almost in half to get through. If anything came down it, I wouldn’t be able to turn around, and if anything came up behind I’d have no way of knowing. Something, some morbid curiousity maybe or self-destructive impulse made me keep going.

The first thing I noticed when I emerged into the chamber was the stench. The acrid tang of magic burned in my nose. I snorted, trying to get rid of it, but it stuck there like a match. The second was the distinct lack of muck. The floor was scrubbed to the stone, though it glowed with the same yellow-green light from the other tunnels. My stomach flipped and twirled, and I couldn’t help but think the light was part of the reason.

Something sat in the middle of the otherwise empty chamber, a flesh colored shifting mass of limbs, mouths, eyes, and mouths.

“What the fuck-” Scouse started to say. I hadn’t heard him come up behind me, though I was glad for his presence.

“Fresh meat!” the mass of flesh shrieked and screamed from a dozen mouths. Hands and talons bubbled up to the surface, propelling it along the ground with a terrible speed.

“Run!” I shouted at Scouse, ducking into the passage. The sorcerous creature was five times the size of a man, so it must have started smaller and been trapped in the chamber. The good news was that we could get away.

I stumbled, nearly sticking myself with my own spear, before coming out into the meat chamber.

“Boss Man has got to hear about this,” I gasped as Scouse barreled after me, slamming into the sides of meat, and sending clouds of purple dust up into the air.

“Damn strai-” he said, his words choking off. I spun on my heel. A fleshy tentacle wrapped around his neck, and another, a clawed hand sprouting from it, grasped his ankle, pulling him back.

“No, no, no,” Scouse gasped. Helpless, I watched as the monstrosity tore his mask from his head. Scouse’s face turned purple and green as he struggled to get free, but more limbs grabbed him, then the whole oozing mass was there with us, consuming him, mouths biting through his protective leathers to the flesh beneath.

I did the only thing I could.

I ran.

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Comments
  1. I really enjoyed that! Seriously, that was a good one.

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