The temperature steadily decreased as the pair made their way across the charred landscape. Oddly enough, the sludge-rain actually helped insulate them from the cold, like a disgusting yet effective coat. It wasn’t raining hard enough to completely impede their progress, but walking on the sticky ground was still a hassle.
Jade tried wiping some of the goop off her clothes, but just succeeded in transferring clumps of the stuff to her hands. “Of all the places we could get stuck, it had to be a demonic hell forest. What genre would you call this anyway? Horror? Dark Fantasy?”
Fat Solomon, who by this point looked like a black-muck covered snowman, simply grunted.
“I should have figured this would happen. We never get sent anywhere warm. Heck, I’d take a hundred beach-murder-mysteries over this any day. Just something simple. Get there, clean up, and take a well deserved vacation.” Jade almost tripped on a root that had been torn out of the ground. “What about you, Fats? If you could be trapped in one genre, what would it be?”
Fat Solomon thought silently for a bit. “Erotica.”
“Somehow, I’m not surprised.”
“That one where all the men had died out. Wouldn’t mind being stuck there.”
“Tell ya what. We make it out of this one and I’ll leave you there myself. Hope you die from sexual overexertion.”
“Everyone’s gotta have a life goal.”
Jade was about to respond when a large creature stepped out from behind the husk of a tree. Its bulging, exposed muscles sagged under the weight of the accumulated rain, and the javelin it held in one hand was dull and warped. Time and weather had done their toll on the Minotaur, though even in its weakened state it cast an imposing silhouette against the sky. It froze, and then slowly turned towards the two detectives. If it had a head, it would have been looking straight at them.
“Well, well,” said Jade. “I didn’t think we’d find it that fast. You want to do the honors, or should I?”
“All yours,” said Fat Solomon.
Jade cracked her knuckles. “Damn right.”
The Minotaur charged. Even with the unstable ground, it was about twice the speed of a high-powered train, and just as large. It roared and pulled back the javelin, but before it could throw, Jade calmly took out a .455 Webley-Fosbery Revolver, set her sights, and pulled the trigger.
The Minotaur exploded.
A chunk the size of a small car sailed inches past her face and almost caught Fat Solomon as it bounced.
“Jesus!” yelled Fat Solomon. “Watch it!”
“Stop being such a baby,” said Jade as she holstered the revolver.
Fat Solomon kicked a piece of Minotaur that was still steaming. “Since when do these things go down in one shot?”
“Beats me. Maybe I’ve just gotten better.”
“Maybe this whole place is just wacko.”
“Whatever. I’m not complaining. Anomaly down. That’s half the mission right there,” said Jade. “Let’s head out. I think I can see the forest’s edge.” She began walking, careful not to step in Minotaur pulp.
Fat Solomon didn’t move. “Half?”
Jade turned around. “Yeah. Half. We have to get home, don’t we?”
“You weren’t talking about the kids?”
Jade laughed. “What? No! I couldn’t care less about some misplaced brats.”
Fat Solomon raised an eyebrow.
“Don’t give me that. I’m not going soft on you, I swear. I know our mission parameters, ok? Access the portal, eliminate the Anomaly, get the hell out. Finding the kids was an excuse to get to the portal, nothing more. Now, are you going to stand there like a schlub, or are you going to help me find a way to leave this ass-crack of a dimension?”
With that, Jade turned around and stomped away, muttering.
Fat Solomon shrugged. “Just checking.”
Just past the remnants of a ruined stone tower, Fat Solomon stepped out of the forest. He looked around at the mass of landscape that spread out before him and frowned.
If the forest had been any indication, he had guessed the rest of the place wasn’t going to be sunshine and rainbows, but the amount of devastation that the land was in went far beyond his expectations. Plumes of fiery magma shot out from the charred and rocky ground in the distance, occasionally breaking through the ash black clouds that blanketed the region. The remnants of a few villages dotted the otherwise sterile plain but the only life that could be seen was small packs of wild creatures too far away to clearly make out.
Rising above it all, just on the edge of the horizon was a giant white dome, casting off an almost blinding light.
He found Jade standing at the edge of the hill, staring at a small mound of dirt. A wooden cross made of gnarled branches had been placed on top.
Jade turned away. “Nothing. Let’s go. Gotta be something remotely human around here.”
Fat Solomon watched her and then glanced back at the grave.
The rain didn’t show any signs of letting up. He shoved his hands in his pockets and followed Jade down the hill.