Author: Joshua Strittmatter | Banner: Landon Soto
Even through the howling wind that permeated the frigid atmosphere, all of the Columbia River Gorge could hear the distinct bugling of two bull elk as they circled one another, their dark eyes piercing daggers as one threatened the other to back off before things got ugly. The larger bull, a proud old beast with antlers nearly as long as a grown human and strands of old fur hanging loosely off a thick mane, pawed the ground with his left hoof as he roared once more, kicking up puffs of snow to become one with the snowstorm that raged around them. The younger bull neither bellowed back nor backed down, pawing the snow in his own display as he swung his antlered head from side to side.
Not too far away, a small harem of cows stood in a good-sized clearing, some grazing on any visible grass while others watched the spectacle, waiting for the victor to be decided.
The wind seemed to howl along with the older male as he bugled again, a final warning to the youthful bull that opposed him. The young one, desperate to earn his place this year and pass on his lineage, roared right back as he pawed the snow aggressively… … …
… … …and the howls of the wind were drowned out by a thunderous ruble that shook the mountains themselves.
The antlered ungulates ceased their mating rights stand-off to look out over the cliffs, ears perked and alert. It didn’t take long for them to spot a massive shape moving through the gorge, half-obscured by the masses of snow that fell from the overcast sky. The herd of elk backed a good distance away from the cliffs as they watched the blizzard-masked colossus continue to tromp through the Columbia River, the beast looking all the more intimidating being seen from such a distance.
While most of Oregon’s local fauna were busy searching for and attracting mates, some had already mated themselves. A deep, low-frequency roar echoed from the throat of the male MUTO, the prehistoric giant testing his echolocation skills against the snowstorm he waded through. While the storm did not hinder his physical prowess in the slightest, he was having a bit of trouble seeing ahead. The MUTO let out a series of dolphin-like clicks that echoed throughout the mountains, attempting to communicate with his mate from a distance. Sure enough, after a few seconds a deeper set of clicks greeted his unseen ears. Knowing he wasn’t lost, the male called out once more as he kept wading in the direction of the response, his smaller set of arms clutching his recently-acquired gift–a nuclear plant reactor.
The MUTO was grateful to be able to wander this land in peace and quiet rather than be constantly assaulted by its former inhabitants. For reasons the MUTO did not know, this particular region had been largely devoid of human contact for quite some time. The roads were no longer filled with moving vehicles, and most of the houses and towns seemed abandoned.
But in their place, life was flourishing here more than ever.
Taking a brief moment to shake all the snow off him, the male continued along his way, the earth shaking with every step. Slowly recognizing the terrain around him, the MUTO finally turned left and stepped out of the freezing water. Piercing the mountain face with his hooked claws, the male effortlessly climbed the massive hill to the top, where he finally caught sight of his objective.
Turning her head in his direction, the female MUTO called affectionately to her mate, who clicked back as he flapped his wings and landed a close distance away from her. Leaning her head down to his level as she walked towards him, the female grumbled gently as she nuzzled her devotee, who purred in kind before reaching down to clutch the nuclear reactor in his jaws. Taking notice of this gift, the female took it and trudged back to their nesting area, where she began to dig out a spot where she could place the reactor. A place where she would eventually lay her eggs before covering it up with dirt and earth to keep them safe from snowy days such as this. The kaiju couple would reproduce in time, but now was no such time. They would at least wait until it got a little warmer before the process of egg-laying could begin.
One task done with, the male spread his wings, preparing to take a quick run back to the abandoned plant he had found the reactor at, when he felt the ground vibrate. At the same time, a faint boom reached his ears, one that sounded akin to a bomb going off.
A human bomb.
The female noticed too, and her face contorted in a snarl. Another boom, another vibration in the ground, and the MUTOs exchanged glances. It appeared as though the destroyers had found a way to locate them after all.
Not wanting to waste his energy fighting the damn pests, the male’s right claw began to glow. Rearing it above the ground, he then slammed it back down to emit an electromagnetic pulse that rapidly spread for miles, shutting down anything electric in its path. The pair sighed with relief. Good, that should take care of–
Suddenly, the pair were alert once more, more so than they had been before. The electromagnetic pulse of a MUTO wasn’t just a weapon against electrically-based foes, it had another evolutionary use–it amplified their echolocation. Because of the use of the pulse, the radioactive predators could now detect the signals of other lifeforms in the vicinity.
Detect one they did. And, from what they could tell, a very large one at that.
Flapping his wings, the male MUTO fluttered onto the peak of the hill to overlook the gorge, searching for the potential threat.
The search was not a long one.
Through the haze of the raging blizzard the male spotted a figure moving through the mountains on the other side of the river. The beast was bipedal in nature, and parts of its body seemed to give off a crimson glow. A ridiculously long, squirrel-like tail swung behind it as it moved, and its footsteps sounded akin to bombs going off. The female climbed her way to the peak and took in the sight of the newcomer. A wave of intimidation washed over them, something about the mere outline of the creature holding an aura of unease. Both nuclear parasites could sense the high levels of radiation emanating off the creature, and the same idea clicked in their minds.
This beast could make a far more suitable breakfast for their future offspring, and quite possibly themselves as well.
The male bent low to make sure the beast didn’t see him, trying to find the right moment to take flight and ambush the passer by–but was somewhat caught off guard when the beast suddenly stopped dead in its tracks. The male didn’t know what that meant, but he had a hunch they hadn’t gone unnoticed. The glowing behemoth stood still as a statue, its crimson glow lighting up the area like a giant lamp.
And then it turned in their direction.
Once more, a feeling of unease set in on the MUTO pair. It was all but clear this beast had noticed them. Perhaps the male’s EMP had given them away?
A powerful roar unlike anything they had ever heard resounded from the glowing monster, drowning out the howl of the wind and sending all fauna scurrying for shelter. The MUTOs both took a step back, the oppressor slightly more visible now due to a decent decrease in snowfall.
A hideously scarred, sickly burnt dinosaurian with tiny arms that barely reached beyond its axe-shaped sternum, and three rows of glowing red dorsal plates weaved in the shape of maple leaves running down its musculature-exposed back. A round, salamander-esque head watched them blankly with two beady eyes that seemed too small for the skull, with a mouth permanently baring several uneven rows of crooked teeth.
The reptilian behemoth took a step forward, its bomb-like footstep seeming to emanate its unnatural nature. Its beady eyes fixed on them in a truly eerie fashion, the tumorous saurian reared its ugly head back and roared a second time. It didn’t matter to the MUTOs what that cry meant, their species were hardwired to take a sound like that as a challenge.
And like always, they accepted.
Rearing onto her hind limbs, the female MUTO flailed her six limbs and roared her own battle cry at the mutated dinosaur, her smaller mate spreading his wings and copying the motion. Digging her scythed claws into the earth, the female bellowed and charged at the intruder, the male taking flight behind her.
Godzilla, the nuclear spawn of humanity’s sins, stomped sluggishly in a straight line in a seemingly mindless fashion.
As the female neared, Godzilla suddenly stopped, his body held stiff as the nucleovore slammed her massive body into his sternum. The irradiated reptile dug his feet into the ground as he was pushed back from the hit, his eyes slowly looking down at her. Snow and dirt kicked up into the air as the MUTO took the opportunity to charge again, raising her claws and bringing them down on Godzilla’s scarred flesh. The monster king screeched in visible pain as glowing, radioactive blood spurted from the wound. Satisfied with this turn of events, the female lifted her right claw as she prepared to bring it down on Godzilla’s head.
With a roar, Godzilla suddenly turned his body quicker than the MUTO thought him capable, slamming his overgrown tail into her chest. The impact rippled through the predator as she was sent careening several hundred meters away, slamming into a mid-sized mountain. The female wailed as she found herself tangled amidst her own limbs, trying hard to right herself.
The bomb-like footsteps of Godzilla echoed through the gorge as the burnt behemoth shambled slowly towards the downed parasite. But as he moved, the King of the Monsters sensed another presence coming at him from behind and reacted immediately.
Before the male MUTO could land on his target, Godzilla’s tail suddenly whipped and smacked him in the side of the neck, flooring him. Thankfully, the male landed on his belly and found it not too difficult to get to his feet. The diminutive parasite cursed himself as he stood to face Godzilla, unable to comprehend why the saurian had known he was behind him. Regardless, he had diverted his attention away from the wounded female, giving her more time to recover.
Flapping his wings, the MUTO took to the sky as he began to circle the monster king like a hunting hawk. Godzilla was still as a corpse, minus the constant swaying of his tail, but the MUTO got the feeling he was paying attention to him in more days than one. As he flew, the male’s claws began to glow, the radiation building up within. In a way he hoped would take the atomic reptile by surprise, the MUTO suddenly dove down towards Godzilla.
And clapped his claws together, triggering the EMP.
Godzilla, fazed by the sudden attack, did not counter as the parasite landed upon his neck with a screech. Instantly the MUTO noticed that the flesh on Godzilla’s back and neck was far softer than his surrounding skin and began to stab his claws into it in repeated bursts of blood.
Snow vaporized out of existence as the behemoth’s blood flew into the air. Godzilla had dropped his earlier composure and was now thrashing like a wrangled crocodile, screeching in agony with each strike. Unsatisfied, the male hooked his claws deeper to establish a firm grip on his prey, then lunged down and snapped his mandibles over one of Godzilla’s dorsal plates. The intoxicating taste of radioactive blood and marrow filled the male’s mouth, driving him into a frenzy.
Shaking his head like a hungry wolf, the MUTO didn’t take long to rip off the protrusion in yet another crimson spray, and Godzilla’s thrashing grew more intense. The parasite lunged down to take another bite, but as he did so he felt something slam hard into his back. The wind temporarily knocked out of him, the male gasped after the hit only to feel yet another strike which made him dizzy. Realizing the attacker was the dinosaur’s oversized tail, the scythe-limbed amphibian flapped his wings and leaped off before the third hit could be dealt.
But as he tried to veer away, he cried out in indescribable agony when Godzilla sank his crooked teeth into his back leg. The abominable beast ignored the nuclear-rich blood flooding his teeth as he yanked his head to the side, smashing the MUTO against the earth in a spray of snow and ice. Snarling, Godzilla yanked the opposite way, continuing to beat the parasite against the ground like a ragdoll.
The winged kaiju wailed in distress as the prehistoric reptile savaged his left leg, scraping its jagged teeth against the bone beneath his elephantine skin in sprays of new blood. The male flapped his wings as hard as he could, but it was no use. Godzilla’s jaws were like a bear trap, the wounds getting worse as his grip got tighter.
A booming cry of rage caused Godzilla’s left eye to look behind him, his phased array radar detecting another intruder. The atomic leviathan instinctively swung his tail, but the jaws of the recovered female MUTO caught it and bit down into the burnt flesh. With a hard yank, the female sent the screeching Godzilla toppling to the ground, releasing his grip on the male.
The winged parasite panted in exhaustion as he tried to stand, but his wounded limb trembled profusely, and he collapsed on all fours. The female chirped gently as she hooked her smaller set of arms around his shoulders and hoisted him to his feet, occasionally lowering her head under his body to keep him up. The male gazed fondly at his beloved savior, chittering his gratitude to her, who responded in kind by nuzzling his smaller head.
As the pair took a moment to pause their reunion, they both caught a glimpse of a startling sight.
Godzilla had his back turned to them.
And he was walking away.
The MUTOs bellowed in unison, letting the mutant know they were not finished with him. The female was angrier than ever seeing the abomination flee like a coward when it had so nearly murdered her mate, and such an offense would not go unpunished in her eyes. With a gorilla-like charge, the female circled around the scarred nightmare and stopped to face him a few hundred meters away, blocking his path.
The female lowered her head and charged with all her might, predicting correctly when her enemy swung his tail like last time. Jutting her head up, the MUTO bit into the offending appendage and tossed it groundward, pouncing upon the reptile’s upper torso. Straining with her hind legs while hooking his flesh with her limbs, the female continued to push Godzilla back as he thrashed his head from side to side, screeching aggressively. Godzilla grabbed unto her with his tiny hands in a vain attempt to push her back, his claws only delivering minor scratches to her ebony armor.
The titans snarled and roared at one another as they struggled, Godzilla slamming his tail into the ground in an attempt to halt the MUTO’s advance. But all this did was enrage the female into lunging forward and biting down on the mutant’s shoulder. A deafening shriek boomed from Godzilla’s muzzle.
Had the irradiated reptile still possessed eyelids like he once did, he would’ve narrowed them.
Opening his jaws wide, the cancerous behemoth lunged and bit down as hard as he could upon the MUTO’s neck, a spray of blood bursting from the cruel injury. The predator howled in agony as Godzilla bit down harder, her scythes sinking deep into the mutant’s charred flesh in return.
Another set of scythed limbs plunged into Godzilla’s unarmored back, eliciting a cry of surprise. The male MUTO let loose a battle cry as he joined his beloved in battle, ignoring his damaged hind limb. Hooking one of his limbs in the roof of Godzilla’s mouth as the reptile screamed in pain, the male brought his other scythe down into the top of the monster king’s head, plunging it through the bone. Agonized cries were heard for miles from the irradiated reptile, birds and other animals sent fleeing as his pitiful screams echoed like a tortured soul in Hell.
Throwing her head forward, the female tossed Godzilla to the ground with a shriek. The male flapped his wings and veered off to avoid getting crushed by the fallen giant.
Then, as one, they attacked.
Roaring in unity, the MUTOs descended on the crippled dinosaur with the ferocity of wild dogs. Raising and throwing their limbs down, the titanic couple skewered the scarred reptile over and over, each stab earning a spray of red and a howl of pain. Again, and again, Godzilla’s body was pierced by a new grisly wound, the predators’ scythes puncturing muscle and bone in horrific displays of prehistoric power. At one point Godzilla snapped his jaws at the male, only for the winged cretin to avoid and the female to yank him away by the roof of his mouth. As the female cut a new laceration through his upper jaw the male flapped high above them both, scythes raised.
And then he flew downward, claws piercing the monster king’s back with all his might.
While the angry predators continued to hack away at their downed quarry, their attack slightly slowed when two peculiar sights caught their eyes. First, the saurian’s injures were healing at a rapid pace, even ones that would’ve been fatal for any other lifeform. Second, Godzilla’s back had begun to change color; once a bloody crimson, it had now begun to shift to a more pinkish shade, and brightening further still… … …
Deep within the wounded behemoth, another phenomenon was beginning to take place. His DNA, which possessed eight times the genetic information of human beings, began to change. Adapting. Evolving.
Roaring defiantly, Godzilla lashed out with his tail, only for the female MUTO to bite down on it.
But before she could make another move, the King of the Monsters yanked his tail to the left, sending the eight-legged predator falling to the ground. As the male flew just out of reach of Godzilla’s snapping jaws, both parasites witnessed the effects of the monster’s DNA adaptation beginning to take shape.
Godzilla stood to his full height, steam billowing off his glowing back as his body adapted. Bone snapped and shifted loudly as the beast’s arms began to shift. Muscle split before regenerating to accommodate with the growing humerus’, threading along as Godzilla’s arms began to stretch. The mutated reptile grunted in pain as the radius and ulnas lengthened, the bones thickened in size, while the claws became sharper and slightly curved, the fingers a bit longer. All the while burnt, exposed muscle regenerated over the bones to add the strength needed to function. Barely any skin formed over the lengthened appendages, leaving musculature and veins still exposed.
The parasites stepped back, shocked at what they were seeing. Godzilla had actually grown his arms in size in mere seconds, right before their very eyes. Millions of years of generational change, of evolutionary adaptation, all accomplished in ten seconds! What a monster!
The female MUTO charged from the front, the male from behind, but Godzilla was ready this time. The male prepared for a swing, but instead the evolved beast lifted his tail upwards and brought it down like a club, bashing him to the ground and knocking the air out of his lungs. The female neared, but with his newly grown limbs Godzilla thrust his palms into her shoulders, stopping her short.
Releasing a dominating roar, Godzilla began to push the female back, digging massive trenches in the snowy earth. The female tried to lash out, but abominable mutation lunged like a viper and sank his ugly teeth into her shoulder. On and on Godzilla pushed and shoved with no hindrance, until finally the warring beasts reached an old landmark that had gone unvisited for more than a year now: Larch Mountain.
Taking a moment to release his toothy grip, Godzilla reeled back before lunging in and biting down a second time, this time on the MUTO’s neck. The parasite bellowed painfully as the scarred dinosaur shook his head like a frenzied shark, his teeth tearing through the elephantine skin. The female tried to skewer the mutant with her chest set of arms, but Godzilla’s left hand grabbed hold of them, holding them in place. With her free limbs the predator wrung in to stab the saurian in the back, but this did not stop the assault, and the female wailed helplessly as Godzilla repeatedly mauled her neck.
Larch Mountain, once a tourist attraction revered for its beauty and outstanding view of the five great Cascades, was now a murder scene stained with the blood of an ailing giant. The female’s cries began to weaken, and her struggles dampen as Godzilla still pressed on his savage attack. As the parasite’s limbs began to fail and her bellows softened, the angry reptile bit down harder than ever before, hoisting her body upwards and, turning his body around, tossed her weakened form into the side of the Larch Mountain peak.
A familiar cry boomed from the side, followed by an electromagnetic wave that washed over the land. Godzilla briefly stopped in his tracks, fazed by the sudden occurrence–and let out a shriek of surprise when the male MUTO slammed into his side, immediately hooking his claws around Godzilla’s neck before yanking them to the side, slashing his throat.
A screech of pain ripped from the abomination’s jaws, but pain was merely a mild distraction for the nuclear giant.
Godzilla’s back was now glowing a bright purple, the radiation flowing through his body catching the MUTO’s attention. The male could see the entire process, his senses able to detect occurrences that human beings could not see. And it mesmerized him.
A fatal mistake.
By the time the male recognized the extreme buildup in energy, it was too late; a volley of violet laser beams erupted point blank upon him. The male barely had any time to scream as the volley cut into his flesh like a dozen hell-forged knives through melted butter. With one swinging motion of his back, Godzilla sliced the beams to the left, one of the lasers swinging clean through his neck.
The male’s cry was cut short as the atomic volley steered away, his head no longer a part of his body. As the once mighty predator fell, so did his body parts. The wing, the limbs, the torso, all of it. One by one, the lacerated remains crashed to the snowy earth, ending with the disembodied skull, its light still glowing and its jaw still twitching from the reactions of a brain that didn’t know it was dead yet.
Then the light faded, and the jaws fell limp, never to move again.
Godzilla’s back was still glowing, his body facing towards the only living opponent left: the female MUTO, who was too weak to even acknowledge the demise of her mate. Nuclear-rich blood still flowing from her savaged neck, the wounded colossus strained weakly to push herself to her feet, pitiful wails exhaling from her throat.
Godzilla, his head facing the ground, opened his mouth, distending his jaws like a snake, while his throat began to glow a ghostly purple… … …
A shockwave burst of glowing, violet gas exploded from the saurian’s mouth, flowing in a continuous wave that pushed the MUTO to the ground. But unfortunately for the parasite, that would not be the worst of it. An orange flash sparked in the back of Godzilla’s throat… … …
… … …and the stream of gas combusted, thus a stream of atomic fire was born.
The female bemoaned as the superheated flames washed over her, burning her ebony skin to the bone in seconds. Burnt flesh fell off in strings of glowing embers, a putrid odor permeating the air as the waves of ionized gas spread out with horrific speed, wiping out entire sections of forest in the blink of an eye. Snow evaporated, trees burned to the core, and the nuclear firestorm continued to eat away at the MUTO’s flesh. Muscle and skin withered away and vaporized, bone was charred black, and the female MUTO fought with every fiber of her being merely to stay awake.
Suddenly, Godzilla’s flames began to condense and narrow, their color changing from orange to a bright purple that matched the glow of his dorsal spines. As the MUTO watched, the fire blast transformed into a thin purple beam of atomic photons, much like the ones the beast had launched from its back to slay her mate moments earlier.
The MUTO was helpless as the radioactive abomination lifted his head to her level, the condensed atomic ray welding effortlessly through her chest like a supersized blowtorch. Before she knew it, the beam pierced through her heart and out her body, cutting a deep hole through Larch Mountain and exiting out the other end. With all the air left in her system she cried out in loss, now hoping more than anything that she would be with her mate soon. Her vision beginning to go dark and her burnt muscles giving out for the last time, her wish was granted as with a final wail, the parasite expired, falling to the burning earth and disappearing beneath the fires of Godzilla’s rage.
Rearing his head skyward, Godzilla continued to spew his atomic beam into the snowy heavens, minute by minute expending all his excess nuclear energy. No longer could he control the flow, he was stuck letting loose the energy within. Now, his only option was to let it all out until he was spent.
As minutes continued to pass, Godzilla’s heat ray began to weaken in power, growing thinner and thinner, changing color to orange, then shrinking in size… … …until finally, it dissipated in a puff of flames.
An exhausted roar left the giant’s throat as his head began to hang low, the crimson glow in his scars beginning to dim. His energy was completely spent, and his body was beginning to shut down. Turning around, the King of the Monsters barely covered fifty meters before finally a mix of exhaustion and internal temperature finally overtook him. His fanged skull finally dropping and the glow fading from his body, Godzilla froze in place. For once, Godzilla was greeted by a warm presence that did not intend him harm, nor bring more pain into his life. It was the soothing feeling of his muscles relaxing, his pain ebbing away like an afterthought, and his mind going to the realm of dreams.
It was the company of sleep, and Godzilla embraced it welcomingly. Eventually he would reawaken, and he would continue to wander about this cruel, yet beautiful world while he continued about his grueling battle for survival, but for now the irradiated colossus put those thoughts into the back of his dormant mind. For now, he would sleep.
His sole gateway to peace.
Winner: Godzilla (Reiwa)