Chapter 19:

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Slashers


Marilyn opened the door. In the office was a pot-bellied man with a grey combover and a cigarette in his mouth. His eyes were sunken, like he hadn’t slept in days.Bookmark here

The man’s voice was the rasp of a life-long smoker. ‘Jesus. I can’t believe I’ve fallen so low that I have to ask degenerates like you for help…. I’ll cut this short since I probably don’t have that long to live. I’m the Houston Hogs Coach, and I’m in trouble. Pigskin…. He used to be my star quarterback, the best I ever had. I was counting on him carrying the team to the Mega Bowl back in the day. On the night of the finals, though, he collapsed and died while trying to score what would have been the winning touchdown. The cause was internal bleeding he’d received over the course of the championships, unbeknownst to myself and everyone else.’Bookmark here

The Houston Hogs Coach took a drag on his cigarette. ‘That’s the official story, anyway. The unofficial story is myself and several other members of the team knew about his condition early on. Pigskin started acting screwy one day, so we took him to the doc for a head scan. Brain damage. We all kept quiet about it because we were relying on him to win the Mega Bowl an’ all. Had we gone public, the higher-ups would have taken him off the field for good…. Well, it all worked out in the end.’Bookmark here

He laughed sourly and took another drag on his cigarette. ‘Recently, Pigskin came back from the damn dead and started slaughtering everyone who knew about his condition years back. He killed Stan the Team Captain and all the rest, and now he’s coming after me…. I won’t ask you to save my life for my sake—Jesus knows I’m a bad man—but I still have a family who would very much like to see me come home tonight.’ The Houston Hogs Coach showed them a photograph of him with his wife and two little boys.Bookmark here

Marilyn smiled and shrugged. ‘Thanks for the info! No promises!’ She shut the door in his face.Bookmark here

Puck raised her bladed hockey stick above her head. ‘I’ll kill Pigskin! I’ll use my Zone Special!’Bookmark here

Over the last week, the Blue Nasties and the Lonely Hearts had been putting into practice what Colonel Ripper had taught them during the combat training. He had described the Zone as a tulpa, a magical manifestation of a slasher’s psyche which allowed them to use supernatural abilities in the real world. Using the Zone while untrained granted a slasher the ability to cut through near anything and become nigh invulnerable, but it came at the expense of what Colonel Ripper called ‘uncontrolled Zone weirdness’. However, if a slasher befriended their Spirit Beast, they could learn to control their Zone and create Zone Techniques in return for human sacrifices. Bookmark here

The highest form of Zone Technique was the Zone Special, an ability which had the potential to destroy armies but required at least one thousand human sacrifices. The higher the quantity of human sacrifices, the higher the quality of the Zone Special. Over the past week, the Blue Nasties had all gained Zone Specials and dozens of Zone Techniques by going to war with the American Mafia. The Lonely Hearts, on the other hand, had just gained Zone Techniques by preying on the innocent (they'd been too preoccupied with dating to fully commit to getting stronger). Bookmark here

Jack put his hand to his chin. ‘Puck’s Zone Special is suited for a fight like this.’Bookmark here

Puck grinned and hugged Jack. ‘O Captain! My Captain! I’m so sorry I ever doubted you! You’re not stupid! You’re smart! Smart and handsome and brave!’Bookmark here

Jack blushed.Bookmark here

Marilyn scowled and separated them. ‘Keep in mind we can only use one Zone Special for Pigskin. We still have the rest of the Big Five to deal with after this.’Bookmark here

Mezu stood up and sheathed his zanbatō. ‘We’ll need a plan to fight a yokai like Pigskin, a good one.’Bookmark here

Sam opened her arms. ‘Group huddle!’Bookmark here

They all went into a group huddle except for Billy the Cameraman, who just stood there silently like he always did.Bookmark here

*Bookmark here

‘I can’t believe that I agreed to this,’ said Puck.Bookmark here

The Blue Nasties and the Lonely Hearts were standing on the football field of the Texas Monument Football Stadium dressed in blue Houston Hogs football uniforms. The Houston Hogs Coach was behind them, tied to a chair in front of the field goal with his mouth taped shut. The opposing team, the red uniformed Dallas Diamondbacks, were actually death row inmates brought in from Dominguez State Jail. The surging audience consisted of thousands of news network reporters and camera operators. The noise was deafening.Bookmark here

A slasher wearing a ballistic missile as a helmet walked up to Jack. ‘I just want to say how grateful I am to be given this opportunity, sir! I won’t let you down, Mr Lumberjack!’Bookmark here

Jack patted the slasher on the shoulder. ‘No problem, Warhead! You’ll do fine!’Bookmark here

The Blue Nasties and the Lonely Hearts only made up ten people for what was supposed to be an eleven-man team, so they recruited this maniac. Bookmark here

Puck sidled up to Jack and Mezu. ‘Guys, are you sure this is going to work?’Bookmark here

Jack tapped the side of his head. ‘Trust the plan.’ Bookmark here

Mezu nodded. ‘All warfare is based on deception.’Bookmark here

‘O-okay,’ said Puck.Bookmark here

In all honesty, she hadn’t been paying much attention during the planning stage. She'd been too stoked about getting to kill Pigskin and had just ended up daydreaming about all the accolades she’d get afterwards. News cycle after news cycle on America News Network and Jackal News, interviews in The Slasher Times, an invitation to the legendary Slasher Ball held by famed English lord-turned-socialite slasher Count Harlequin. The glamour of it all made her cold dead heart burst into flame!Bookmark here

A giant white wolf walked into her line of sight and snarled in her face. It was Fenris, her Spirit Beast. ‘DON’T LOSE THE SCENT, RUNT. REMEMBER, THE LONE WOLF DIES, BUT THE PACK SURVIVES. IF YOU TRY TO FELL THIS BOAR ALONE IN SOME PUP ATTEMPT TO COMPETE WITH THAT COYOTE FOR THE ROLE OF ALPHA FEMALE, YOU WILL ONLY GET YOURSELF AND THE REST OF YOUR PACK EATEN. WORK WITH THE PACK TO SUBDUE THE PREY AND THEN BITE DOWN QUICKLY WHEN THE NECK IS EXPOSED.’Bookmark here

Puck pouted. ‘Fine…. But don’t call me runt!’Bookmark here

‘RUNT.’ Fenris turned her head away and walked out of Puck’s line of sight.Bookmark here

Where did she get that attitude from?Bookmark here

Marilyn’s voice came down from the commentary booth as an echo. ‘Greetings, my lovelies! This is Marilyn Fox from America News Network, and I’ll be your opening commentator for the Blood Bowl! I want a nice dirty game tonight! Plenty of hair pulling, biting, fish-hooking, eye gouging, and striking below the belt! Oh, it looks like the man of the hour has arrived! Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for, Pigskiiin!’Bookmark here

At the other end of the football field, from the darkness of the Dallas Diamondbacks entrance, Pigskin emerged. Bookmark here

The crowd went wild. Bookmark here

The guy was a giant! Bigger than even Colonel Ripper! His skin was disgusting too, blackened with what looked like third-degree burns. He was wearing a Houston Hogs football uniform like them, only it was black and tattered instead of blue and new. His eyes glowed orange like lava, and long, bloody warthog tusks protruded from his football helmet.Bookmark here

Suddenly, Puck wasn’t so keen about going toe to toe with the guy. Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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