Malthus was a hunter. A great one for sure. But the leopard didn’t often work alone. He was a human that could transform into a sleek and powerful hybrid between a human and leopard. Yet he was surrounded by other purebred leopards in his home. They were almost like his very own team of spies; he could communicate with them in a way not even he could understand. It was as if their thoughts were cut and pasted into his mind, without any words or actions. They were his only friends in a world that found him to be one of its worst enemies. He sat in the back room of his house, painting a self portrait of his human self, the world famous Duncan Presley. An artist, a poet, and a musician, he was very well-learned in the arts. Angol, one of the big cats that floated around the house brushed up against him.
“Not now, Angol, I’m busy.” Duncan said, annoyed with how his picture was coming along. The leopard purred quietly and left the room. Duncan worked slowly and carefully, trying not to miss any details from the picture he snapped while looking at himself in a mirror. Finally he gave up, and dropped his paintbrush onto the newspaper he had laid out on the floor. He effortlessly changed into his leopard form and admired himself in the bathroom mirror, taking on a few different poses he thought might work well for another picture. He sighed and dragged himself into the living room, flopping down on the couch. All five of the cats were there, and they surrounded him, each trying to get his attention. Malthus struggled to lay down in the mess, and found that Angol’s body made an excellent pillow. His physical features resembled that of an African Leopard, but his fur was almost whiter than a Snow Leopard’s. As he closed his eyes he wondered what in the world gave him the ability to change back and fourth from Malthus to Duncan at will. He was one person and he knew that, but it gave him good reason to feel schizophrenic, especially considering each of his forms led very different lives. The cat was a thoughtful philosopher who came on as a bloodthirsty killer. While the façade he put on wasn’t entirely false, his thoughts were much more evident to those who knew him well. The human side was the master artist, the romantic poet who caught the attention of all who read his work. He was also sex symbol of America, one that every girl wanted for their own. Even with all of that, Malthus personally hated being human; there was nothing but the stupidity and cruelty of humanity associated with being human. As an animal, not only was he allowed to be as free of a spirit as his heart desired, but he was stronger, faster, and needn’t concern himself with pitiful human affairs. He much preferred the name Malthus as opposed to his real name, Duncan. The one reason was simply his belief that it sounded so much cooler and more intimidating.
The doorbell jarred him from his peaceful nap. He grumbled under his breath and went to the door. He opened it to find another like him; a hybrid animal. But this was not just any person. This was his arch enemy, who had wanted to kill him for so long that Malthus couldn’t remember what the reason for his aggression was. This was the first time he’d seen Jango the Hyena in several years.
“Hey O’Malley, remember me?” He leapt forward and stabbed Malthus, despite his attempt to dodge the attack. He felt his vision blackening. He looked down, seeing the last thing he would before collapsing: a tranquilizer.
“Wake up, Malthus.” He heard a voice echo through what sounded like a large hall. He shook the fuzz out of his head and focused his eyes. He felt shockingly hot. He looked around and found bright lights all around. The intensity caused him to squint. “Now the fun begins, my friend.” He was certain this voice was that of Jango’s.
“Where are you?” Malthus shouted, but it was to no avail. All he heard was his rival’s voice over a loudspeaker.
“You’ll find that you’re tightly bound to that chair you’re sitting in right now. You can get free, at a cost.” He heard. “Given the power of those heat lamps, you’ll likely start to feel blisters forming in a half hour or so. All you have to do is free your arms and your leg and get out of the chair. Not hard right? Better hurry, you’ll be dying in an hour, and I’m sure at the halfway point you’ll be really tired…” The voice cut out and Malthus was alone. He looked around again. There was a rough black steel shackle on one leg that was getting terribly hot quickly. Near his stomach sat a knife, which looked as if it were going to come down and attempt to remove his masculinity. His legs were tied to the sides of the chair legs, leaving him wide open if the knife were to be thrust down by the mechanism holding it in place. His arms were restrained separately behind him, and as he brought them forward to free them, the knife lowered. Oh, that was crafty. He had to lose one of the most vital parts of his body if he wanted to live. Even so, he’d likely go into shock and die anyway. The knife only went down to a certain point then stopped. It was probably a threat right now; if he actually freed himself, however slowly, it would thrust down with a wicked chop. He sometimes found he regretted not wearing clothes, but he knew it wouldn’t make much of a difference now. He gazed at the shackles on his hands, and found that once he reached forward far enough, they would snap open. He swore under his breath and tried to think. It was extremely difficult under the heat from the lights. How could he free his hands and avoid being neutered? He examined the knife closely, the shackle on his leg really starting to burn. If it came down exactly at the angle it was at, it would come down and would likely just circumcise him… that wouldn’t be much less painful.
“You can win if you play by the rules of my little game. We’re going to see how good you really are. The sharp object before you will fit into your body well.” The voice boomed from the loudspeaker. Malthus was amused for a second, as his mind voyaged back to his teenage years, thinking of the last part of Jango’s sentence with his mind in the gutter. Then an idea hit him. He suddenly thought of the most beautiful women his mind could imagine, and what it would be like to make love to them. He closed his eyes and focused hard, arousing himself with the images. He yanked forward on the arm shackles, freeing his hands and forcing the knife to drop instantly onto the chair. He felt a bit of pains and saw a trickle of blood in his right leg, but otherwise he had just successfully masturbated to pretty much save his life. He looked and saw the knife was close to a millimeter away from his testes. Just in case he was being watched, he acted severely hurt and let out a yelp of extreme pain. He heard something on the loudspeaker that sounded like pure joy coming from Jango. He grabbed the knife off of the chair in front of him and managed to use it to pick the lock on the shackle on his leg. His eye caught a glimpse of a handsaw nearby. Jango must have expected him to saw off his leg to completely free himself. Yikes. He saw that he’d developed a first degree burn on his leg where the iron had been. He got up and left the room through an open door. There were loudspeakers wired throughout the corridors as well as in the room that he had been held in.
“Oh, I guess I underestimated your extreme resourcefulness? No matter. It took its toll, I can tell. We’ll meet again soon.” Malthus opened a door on the side of one of the halls. Jango sat in the room with lots of audio equipment set up.
“Nice try Jigsaw, but your traps suck. You shoulda put the key in my skull so I had to dig out my eye exactly like in Saw 2. That’s where you got this whole deal from, no doubt.” Malthus said, slightly amused. Jango jumped out of his chair in surprise.
“Okay, all right, you’re an illusionist. You make it seem like I’m in control even when I’m really not, I can buy that.” Jango said. Although he was cowardly and underhanded a lot of the time, he still could match Malthus blow for blow. Thus even amidst his utmost surprise, there was no fear, but instead a feeling of intense frustration and anger. “This time though, I’m in control. Tomorrow we meet at midnight at the Golden Gate Bridge. I challenge you to an AON, Malthus.” An AON was an abbreviation for an All or Nothing Hunting Challenge. Basically, the two Hunters involved took thirty or however many paces away from each other and turned around to fight to the death. The killing of your rival was what made it and All or Nothing competition. These were fairly rare among normal Hunters, as most disputes were settled on sporting challenges, such as catching prey, and losses were paid with money or other material goods.
“What’s the price?” Malthus asked.
“The winner takes the head of the loser. Take it or leave it.” Malthus shivered inside at the thought. He wasn’t sure he wanted to take on a best described dirty, cheating, bastard like Jargon and bet his head on a victory. “Everything goes, save the first thirty paces, firearms and explosives.”
“No guns?” They both knew a violation of the rules would give cause to all other hunters to kill the cheater. Just as well, technically an impartial referee had to be present in all death matches. Such handy formalities, Malthus thought. “I don’t know.” He said.
“You’d readily decline a challenge and disgrace yourself like that?” Jargon said with great shock in his face again.
“You broke the rules. If I were the type I’d take your balls for a loss in this challenge, but thankfully for you I’m not that type of guy.” Malthus added. “Doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it. I’m going to pay you back for this by winning. I accept.” He had a fifty-fifty chance of winning the bout, but it was better than nothing. “Who’s to watch it?”
“I’ll call right here and now.” He whipped out a device similar to a cell phone that was used solely to contact other hunters. While only one number was dialed to make a “call” each individual number was dialed for a specific purpose. In addition to this, each hunter in the Hunter’s Union had a five digit number assigned to them as their own specific contact number. It was a well-oiled and well organized machine for such a bloody business.
“Hello?” Jango said. He had dialed a number that would specifically call up a Hunter who was also a certified match referee. “Yeah, this is Jango. I need someone tomorrow night at the Golden Gate Bridge… yes… yes… All or Nothing… yes…” He could be on top of Malthus strangling him to death right now. He thanked God for rules. Jargon hung up.
“Morgan.” he said. Malthus knew Morgan’s name. He was a lizard man, one who resembled a cross between a normal crocodile and Godzilla, although he was only seven feet tall. As with many other hunters, Malthus had never seen Morgan’s human identity.
“I’ll be seeing you tomorrow.” Malthus said, and then took his leave.
Once home, he thought about the awkward confrontation.
“I should’ve killed him on the spot. It’s not sport or rule guided with that son of a bitch. Just kill the other guy.” Malthus spoke to Mya, another leopard who was lying on the couch next to him. It looked at him apprehensively.
“I know, I really really should’ve taken care of him. I could always tell Morgan right before we fight tomorrow…” Mya tilted her head. “You’re right. No proof. Crap.” He wished to have someone who could at least talk back to him. It was somewhat lonely being the only half-breed in the house. He had longed for a relationship with a woman, but he knew it would never last, so he didn’t bother trying. He sluggishly rose from the couch and went to bed without a second thought. The next morning he changed back into Duncan, put some clothes on and went down to the local gym. He spent the first half of the day exercising, readying his mind and body for the battle for his life. In the afternoon he made purchased more expensive arrows for his bow, hammered out iron tassets to protect his upper legs and lower torso, intending to prevent any cheap shots from Jargon. He pieced together a breast plate and a light helmet. It was all light enough to still allow him enough movement to evade attacks and projectiles from Jargon. When that was all ready, he checked his one-hundred dollar, custom made Samurai sword for sharpness. Just in case, he grabbed his 1911 handgun in case Jargon decided to break the rules and shoot him. At last everything was set, and he was ready.
At the stroke of midnight, Malthus sat atop one of the supports on the Bridge, waiting for his foe. Morgan showed up moments later, but Jargon took ten more minutes to arrive.
“You’re late.” Morgan the lizard said.
“I’m sorry, I woke up late.” Jargon replied. Using the supports to clamber back down to the ground, they climbed down and started thirty paces in opposite directions. Once they finished, Morgan called out, “FIGHT!” Malthus took in the sight of a few other Hunters spectating the fight, and quickly drew out his bow and an arrow. In the dark he saw a knife hurdling toward him. He rolled sideways into a crouch, took aim, stretching back the bow as far as he could, then he released it. It missed its target, soaring harmlessly past Jargon. More knives came his way and he had to put the bow on his back and sprint for his life. One of the knives clipped him in the back of the leg, but luckily didn’t stick causing him to stumble a bit. He circled around and closed in on his foe, missing with a swipe of his sword. He rolled through it and turned to face his foe once again. More knives went airborne, but he dodged them with little effort. Suddenly Jargon was approaching on his left side, and he just barely had time to block the overhead blow that would have easily ended his life. They traded blows, the sparks flying from their blades and lighting the night. Malthus evaded a stab to his stomach by mere inches, and slashed horizontally. Jargon ducked and tripped him to the ground. He saw his enemy try to drive the sword into his chest, but Malthus Jargon’s knee as hard as he could, forcing him to cry out in pain and go flying in an awkward way over top of him. They both scrambled to stand again, and Malthus slashed downward, expecting to catch him off guard. Jargon parried the blow, knocking the blade from his grasp. Then followed an off balance overhead swing at Malthus, but it wasn’t set up properly by Jargon, and it was slow enough for Malthus to stop the blade over his head with a hard clap. He felt it digging shallowly into his hands, but the pressure stopped when he fired off a quick kick between Jargon’s legs, dropping him onto his back. He had dropped his sword, leaving it suspended in Malthus’s bloody hands. He flipped it around and jabbed it into the heart of his enemy. Jargon screamed, half from the pain, but the other half from the terrible defeat that would condemn him to death even if he survived the stab.
“That’s payback.” Malthus said quietly. He backed away from Jargon.
“We have a winner!” Morgan announced loudly, yet solemnly. “The battle is over!” This was more of a command to tell Malthus to stop attacking. For honor purposes only, he beheaded Jargon. He wouldn’t have wanted his greatest foe to leave him dying in the street to suffer until it killed him.
At last, it was over. His hands throbbed painfully, and so did his leg, with every step he took. Blood dripped from his fine white fur. It hurt, but at least he had lived to die another day, and the traffic jam on the bridge had seen it. The other hunters had seen it. That was more than enough. Malthus hoped his life would never have to involve anything like this battle ever again.
© 2009 Child Prodigy
Causes Éric Gaughan Supports