Matt continued to pretend oblivion. He showed no response to the words. Maynard was standing over him now, looking down. Matt could see his face, but was careful not to focus on him, not to make eye contact.

“Now we got to go again, boy," said Maynard. He was looking at Matt's body as if appraising it. “Now you come here, people are going to know I'm here. People come round, see the hounds and take us all away. So now we all got to go back in the van and find a new spot. But not before we fix you up so you don't bite and fight and run. You won't be a pretty hound,” Maynard grunted these words as he lifted Matt back up, hoisted him over his shoulders, “but you'll do."

Matt was dumped onto a table that almost broke under his weight. The table was cluttered with tools, a nightmare workshop. The only thing Matt could identify, that was close enough to his face to be seen in his peripheral vision, was an gas powered chain saw. There were others beneath him, pressing into the meat of his back. Matt struggled to control his breathing and trembling, tried to be still.

“Did I club you too hard, neighbour?" Maynard paused for a moment, leaned close to Matt and sniffed deeply, before continuing. “Did I jostle your little brains about? We’ll see shortly. The blade will wake you up. Nobody sleeps through the blade."

Either convinced of Matt’s unconsciousness or unconcerned with any threat of resistance that Matt might pose, Maynard turned away and began to fumble with something on the floor. Matt seized the opportunity and felt around the table for any potential weapon. His hand danced across a rubber grip, a handle of some sort. Without knowing what he was holding, Matt swung in a blind arc over the table and down onto Maynard. It took four savage blows before the large man sagged and dropped, and another two more before Matt knew it was the back end of a claw hammer.

Maynard writhed on the floor shrieking, his hands pressed to the front of his head in an attempt to hold his face together. Blood poured from him like a squeezed sponge. Matt paused, not sure what to do. He crouched on the table, breathing hard. He wasn't sure how badly he'd injured Maynard, and he certainly wasn't ready to try to pass the “hounds."

He eyed them now, pale forms twitching in the shadows. They glared back at him, haunted eyes in dark sockets. Maynard was still struggling and bleeding on the floor but his screams had weakened to a pathetic moan.

One of the pitiful creatures was slinking towards the table, eyes darting between Matt and Mynard. She was emaciated, ribs showing clear through her almost translucent skin. Her flesh was a textured terrain of scars and wounds. The gnarled stumps of her arms and legs made wet slapping sounds as she cautiously crawled closer. Her hair hung in limp black tangles over a face that was so scarred and warped by pain that he could hazard no guess at an age. She might have been a child.

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