Metal in the Moonlight
“You know your work-ethic is going to be the death of you someday, right?” Gabriel didn’t bother to look up from his work to see who it was that was talking to him from the roughed out door-frame. “Only if the job is done,” he confessed with a grin. Everyone on the crew liked to pick on Gabriel for his dedication to what he considered to be his hallmark. Like his grandfather before him he strived to hold himself to two simple standards. If something was worth doing then it was worth doing right. And you never leave a job until the task is finished.
Where everyone else on the crew was already long gone to go unwind at The Rat Hole, what served as the local pub, Gabriel refused to leave the job site just yet. They had been building on to an old colonists housing unit for a local couple. But secretly it was for their son that Gabriel was now diligently driving nails in the growing gloom.
The bashful boy had approached Gabriel before obediently following his mother to leave for their trip out of town. He had heard the whispered stories of pets vanishing along with the occasional wanderer before the dawn and worried over his own beloved beast. Gabriel kindly consented to craft him a secure storage for the precious pet and waived good bye.
It was for this lone reason that he was still hard at work, his day not yet ended even as the sun had left the sky. The family wouldn’t be back for a few days; by all arguable logic he only really needed to ensure his task was complete before then. But it just wasn’t in him to pack up and leave without finishing what he had already began.
He had promised the kid that he would do the job, and to him that meant that it would be done before he left. As he drove the final nails into the wooden frame he took a moment to appreciate the clean and functional creation. It was solid; there was no doubt about it. A finely crafted thing that should serve the job of keeping the child’s companion sheltered nicely.
The job was finally complete but the hour was growing late. Much too late to be able to join the rest of the crew for drinks Gabriel wagered. So he decided as he packed up his tools to instead head for home to get some rest. The walk would do him some good anyways; the transports typically stopped running hours ago. Most of the city shut down with the setting of the sun.
His weary feet carried him down the sidewalk towards his house under the flickering night lamps. “Someone should really take the time to repair some of these things,” Gabriel told himself as he wondered just how hard it was to keep such tech fully functioning. Surely it couldn’t be too terribly difficult to perform some kind of routine maintenance on them.
Perhaps it was the exhaustion, or the combination of the late hour and occasional failing light but Gabriel thought he heard the strangest sound. It almost sounded like some kind of primal growl or howl. He had to be more tired than he thought, why in all of space would he be hearing something like that?
But the sound was getting closer, the noise becoming clear and directed from behind him. “What the…” Gabriel muttered and turned to investigate the curious clatter. Awaiting his eyes was a sight that his mind struggled to make sense of. It was some manner of fur covered creature that at first moved frantically on all four legs before rising up onto its hind limbs to glare hungrily at him. At the ends of its muscled arms were vicious claws that gleamed in the dim lights. A pair of piercing gold eyes gazed down at him from over the monster’s muzzle. And a snarl of sinister sharp teeth dripped with saliva that eagerly anticipated the taste of a fresh meal.
The brutish beast savagely swung a pernicious paw violently aimed at Gabriel. Instinctively the tired tradesman jerked his right arm up to try and shield himself from the blow. But the flesh proved a feeble match for his fearsome foe and pain exploded in answer. So much pain, Gabriel discovered that his vision was failing him and the world seemed to be turning a shade of red.
His right arm still reeled in a tidal wave of torment and refused to respond as he tried to reach for his hammer. He needed something to try and get this thing off of him, to find a way to get to safety. Another burst of agony heralded a blow that tore into his ribs and chest. Breathing instantly became a monumental challenge that made Gabriel question if there could be any safety from this predator.
Cool stone collided with his cheek as Gabriel slipped from his feet to fall to the waiting ground. Defiantly he reached out for a grip with his left arm and tried to crawl as best he could to escape form the nightmare. Everything had begun to feel so very cold and distant to the point that he almost wasn’t sure what the feeling was in his left leg. Turning slowly to look back he quickly understood as he caught sight of terrible teeth chewing.
A scream escaped him and quickly fell silent as another swipe of claws ripped across his face sending it back to the sidewalk. His vision completely failed him as the last thing he could see was his own hammer splattered in blood laying in the moonlight. As consciousness started to retreat along with it a soft voice drifted up to tug at him.
“Hold on,” it pleaded with an edge of concern mixed with authority. “Just hang in there; you are going to be alright. Help is on the way!” Everything had become disconnected; Gabriel could only hear the muffled sound of the stranger’s voice now.
“Come on, I need you do something for me – I have a job for you; you have got to try and hold on. You do your job and I’ll do mine, deal?” Deep down Gabriel no longer had the understanding left to grasp what was happening. But some basic part of him seized on that sole notion; that he had a job to do. And if he had a job left to do there was no way he was going to leave without finishing it.
“Appreciated,” the voice remarked noticing that Gabriel’s pulse struggled to keep from weakening any further. Gabriel wasn’t sure what could be done to save him considering the shape he must be in. But if he was asked to do his best to hold on then that is exactly what he was going to do. Besides, at least he had already completed his project for the boy he admitted to himself. Seemed like an unusual thought at the time but Gabriel figured perhaps the pet would be safe. If anything could keep something safe from such a monster.
Gabriel found thoughts of monsters and protection trying to dominate his mind as he fought to focus on his assigned job of clinging to life. Somehow the darkness behind his closed eyes deepened to claim him and Gabriel realized he had no idea what was happening around him anymore. All he could do was drift amid dreams as a decision came to him. Someone needed to make things safe if such creatures could threaten everyone. And if there was any way he could then he was certainly going to take up the task.