This is what I hate about dying…
Having to hear those last words…
“That’s it?” asks a soldier. “That’s all there is to it? We got this freak our first time out?”
“Your first time out. I’ve been chasing this one for a long time. I can tell you a hundred tales of my near misses with the infamous Pink Bull…”
Who is this hard-ass hunter who has to capture or kill … me?
At thirteen Bea Boyd loved to kick ass as much as play with it so her parents enrolled her in athletic programs for productive use of her energies.
Early on she was tagged “Butch” Boyd and teased by anyone foolish enough not to see that she could –and would- wrap them around a pole.
An exceptional athlete, she was preparing for the Olympics when attacked and beaten by a hate gang.
Nine months later, healed, she enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Six months in she was recruited by a Special Ops unit for training as part of an elite strike force. She agreed to join under the condition she be allowed to change her name to Bobby Boyd and be addressed as a man.
He was not trying to be deceptive; he wanted to be identified by others as he identified himself. He was simply a transgender person who wanted to be recognized for who he was. Done. They call him Smashlete.
An Olympic level runner, jumper, boxer, pistol marksman, skier, ice skater, football player, equestrian and swimmer wearing a 360-degree visual feed helmet with
alerts to the presence of humanoids within 795 feet that also fires electric bolts at rear targets, and that amplifies and transforms his voice for a grating, threatening tone. His pistol shoots photon quanta with grenade-level explosive power in case he needs to take on tanks single-handed.
Smashlete and three soldiers follow a trail across Guatemala starting in the black sand beaches near Champerico, where unique footprints are found leading inland. Between random sightings and a few blurry pictures the party traces their prey to the edge of Lake Atitlan. Did he swim across it?
Who knows? The limits of my aquatic skills are uncertain. All Smashlete knows is that I escaped Costa Rica from Punterenas, and somehow made it to Guatemala before another sighting was picked up. That would be a swim of around 400 kilometers. From there, any inland routes to avoid detection are dense jungle, but local guides help identify traces of a large, unusual creature making its way east from Atitlan.
I walk into a lonely bar on the coast of Guatemala near Puerto Barrio where weary fishermen occasionally drift in for beer. Although the night is warm I wear a long coat and a large-brimmed hat pulled firmly down over my ears.
While drinking I lay low in a corner booth, but glances in the mirror tell me eyes are watching.
The waitress asks, “Where’s the party?”
I offer her a confused expression.
“Uh, the make-up,” she fumbles. “I thought…maybe…”
“Oh yeah,” I say. “Forgot I had it on. In fact I’m running late. Thanks.”
I leave before drawing more attention.
I don’t care to reveal that I was born in a genetic experiment hidden behind dummy corporations before it was physically struck by disaster. It was dedicated to building “stronger” humans and a stronger humanity. The organization fell apart amid policy controversy; and we creatures got loose. I was suddenly free and roaming the Caribbean.
The sturdy backpack I use can withstand the elements thanks to its aluminum-laced fabric. The label “Polymerase”is starting to crack and fade from ocean acidity, but the meager contents are safe and dry as I swim near Grand Cayman.
When I dive to pass through the Cayman National Marine Park I pass a tour sub, astonishing passengers.
A dolphin swings by, the two of us communicate with some clicks and grunts, then I grab a fin and get towed the rest of the way.
A mile from shore the dolphin mysteriously darts away, ditching me. The sun sets as I dive down looking out for any possible incoming danger.
The sun rises as I awaken ashore along a quiet stretch of beach where a few bikini-clad horseback riders are wading their way through the surf. They see me at a distance and ride away quickly.
My new freedom has taken me into a world where everyone is used to being alike. Everyone out here seems to want to be just like everyone else. They all look the same! I came from a village of wondrous diversity where no two friends were the same kind of human, but here…
Unwelcome or not I have to eat.
Peppers, plums and mangoes are snatched from quiet gardens.
My stomach and my backpack are stuffed when a dog chases me up a tree. Barking draws out the owner of the land with a shotgun.
I gather my wits and leap from the tree, crossing the distance back to the beach faster than shots can be aimed accurately without hitting the dog, who is in pursuit. I manage to unleash one of my powerful Pink Bull farts, causing the dog to yelp and turn back.
I go into the twilight waters leaving the alienation of land behind.
I thought the outside world would be better – we all did. But maybe me and the other runaways from Polytown were wrong. Maybe we were better off back then, together. It was so chaotic when the revolt suddenly happened. Where are they now?
In an hour I tire of swimming and want a beer. I reach the western shore of Jamaica making it to the secluded crest of Half Moon Beach to rest before pulling my “disguise” – a coat and hat -from my back pack and hiking a little ways inland where I spot a tiny shack actually labeled “Cold Beer Joint” as if the universe is answering its thirsty child.
When I get there a handful of U.S. college kids are hanging out. I have no money and ask the owner behind the bar if he might exchange some beer for fresh Guatemalan fruit, or perhaps I could do some work in exchange for a beer? Something requiring muscle, since I’m very strong?
The owner is a bit unnerved, has no work for me, wants no fruit, and suggests that I move along. But the students overhear it all and ask the weird stranger to help them with their 5th pitcher. I get a mug from the wall – to the owner’s consternation – and join the students.
Drunk, the students are incredulous at discovering a pink-skinned, waterproof Pink Bull beneath the floppy hat and tightly-drawn coat.
“What are you?”
“Where were you born and raised?”
“Can you take off your hat?”
They want to take pictures but I object in a friendly way, and the students comply – with the exception of one boy, who covertly sends a Pink Bull photo into the social media universe.
“Freak!” yells a girl who yanks off my hat when I’m tipping back my glass. All of the students’ cameras come out. My horns showing, I know it’s time to go.
Outside and across the road I’m running for the ocean on power-grip feet supported by spring-power legs when three ultra-light aircraft bear down on me.
Each drops a smoking cylinder in my path rendered to weaken my muscle strength when I inhale the gases released.
Seeing that my path to the beach is an incline, as my legs weaken I roll foreword then curl up into a cannonball, or, as I yell out defiantly, “Cannonbull!” and roll quickly across the remaining grounds until halting in the sand.
I leap to my feet but fall, limp. Struggling to reach the water before the aircraft circle about, I drag, crawl and will myself across the sand and into the black night waters.
Only when submerged do I realize that I’m too limp-limbed to swim. As I sink in the darkness time passes and I know that after fifteen or twenty minutes I will drown.
But focusing my concentration, my resiliency lies in having the strength of four men, amazing aquatic prowess for a humanoid, a twelve minute tested lung capacity under duress, and one concussion-proof brain.
I pull out of the muscular stupor and swim to the star-canopied surface of the Caribbean Sea.
A dolphin appears, offering me a ride – but where to?
Our starlit crossing seems endless as ever more flat-waved water lies ahead until finally, the silhouette of an offbeat island grows on the horizon.
I reach some barren shore and head into a grove of small trees and bushes.
Smashlete’s helmet signals a digital warning inside his goggles. A powerful humanoid heartbeat has been detected within 795 feet and closing. Unaware of their trap, I charge through the jungle at top speed.
Just as Smashlete is alerting his crew by phone, I mow down one of them in my path by accident. My speed is so great that I’m upon the next crewman just as a pistol is being drawn. The quick crewman gets off a shot that nicks me in the head, shooting off my left horn. But I lope on with the new goal of smashing them.
Smashlete intercepts me at high speed, rolling us violently until we come to a stop with Smashlete on top, pummeling me with his fists. I toss him off effortlessly, stand up dazed, and run away on these powerful legs and feet, bounding.
Smashlete lands on his feet and immediately churns after me, struggling mightily until he actually tackles me.
Face to face and alone on the cliff, we have our reckoning.
We lock grips and I, being stronger, get behind Smashlete, restraining him, and explaining that I only want his promise that he’ll stop hounding me.
But I’m in the perfect position for the use of Smashlete’s rear-firing lightning darts. Two bolts zip from Smashlete’s helmet to strike both sides of my chest, burning me, with smoke rising from the wounds.
I toss Smashlete aside, reeling. Two soldiers are running toward us.
Wounded, cornered and fighting for my life, I summon a rage I’v never known before.
I tuck my head and charge forth, sprinting with the intent of ramming Smashlete with a crushing head-butt into a tree. Unable to dodge the attack quickly enough, Smashlete draws his photon quanta pistol with grenade-level explosive shells. He fires one shot directly in my path. No time to evade.
The explosion is so close that the blast knocks Smashlete himself out.
With that, Pink Bull is gone. My mighty, shredded form, pooling in blood, heaves a final breath let out with a gentle hum. Now this is what I really hate about dying…
Your thinking goes on for some time after your body stops working. Neurons keep firing for about 12 to 15 minutes sometimes. And your hearing is one of the last things to go. You stop feeling any pain or pressure after about twenty seconds. The eyes, if left open, dry out quickly and blur badly within four to five minutes. They stare in one direction, of course. But the hearing picks up some of the last traces you’ll ever taste of the experience called life, as your remains lie helpless and written off among those still living.
“That’s it?” asks one of Smashlete’s soldiers, stunned to see it over so quickly. “That’s all there is to it? We got him our first time out?”
Smashlete sounds almost nostalgic. “Your first time out. I’ve been chasing this one for a long time. I can tell you a hundred tales of my near misses with the infamous Pink Bull. But don’t you ever call him a freak again or I’ll rearrange your face. This man deserves our respect…
“He was one of a kind.”