Baily, the ship’s carpenter, reluctantly sat up in his hammock, nearly missing his head on the wooden beam that stretched across the cramped quarters. As usual he was in a foul mood and didn’t want to work in the Captain’s cabin building more shelves. As he got to his feet a big black cat shot between his legs like a blinding flash in pursuit of an enormous rat.
“You devil!” he squawked while pulling his shirt on. “Startles me every time” he grumbled to himself as he trudged up the stairs and onto the deck. The blinding sun made him swear an undecipherable oath as he pulled his tricorn hat down over his brow. Seagulls screams told him they were getting near land. He didn’t have time to eat. The captain expected him at eight bells and he knew the penalty if he wasn’t there on time. The whip. Just the thought hurried his pace.
Jason the cook was sitting on a stool peeling potatoes (it was early in the voyage and the ship’s food supply was still well stocked) when a black cat sauntered in with a grin. Jason smiled because he knew Lucifer had recently dined on a rat. He stopped peeling long enough to pet the huge cat who was brushing up against his legs.
Lucifer was Jason’s cat. He paid good money for him at the last port because he was special. He was a polydactyl cat. His front paws both had eight toes each which he used to his advantage in catching prey. His prior owner said he was retiring from the sea and needed the money. A prized cat like Lucifer could make life a lot easier on the whole crew. Food containers were rarely breeched because the wily feline never stopped hunting. Day and night. But, for reasons Jason couldn’t understand most of the crew, and the captain, seemed to fear him. Some, like Bailey, just hated Lucifer and would have gladly killed him if he didn’t think the crazy cook would cut him up into shark chum. He’d seen Jason fight with a butcher knife when two pirate ships tried to capture their ship the USS Ohio near Port au Prince, Haiti. His eyes were glazed with blood lust as he lopped off pirate limbs with such savagery his own mates gave him wide berth in battles. No. It was best not to antagonize the cook.
Sailors in the 18th century were a superstitious lot. So it was no surprise that the crew aboard the USS Ohio thought a black cat brought bad luck, unlike the British and the Irish who wanted black cats and considered them good luck. The fact that it’s name was Lucifer didn’t help. It was also common knowledge among the crew that if a ship’s cat fell, or was thrown overboard it meant trouble. The act would summon a terrible storm to sink the ship and that if the ship were able to survive, it would be cursed for nine years. So no one bothered Jason about his black cat. Only Bailey dreamed about killing Lucifer.
Daniel had the devil to pay. He was caught stealing another man’s gold chain and given the worst task aboard the ship. The devil was the ship’s longest seam in the hull. He was given pitch to caulk that seam while squatting in the filthy bilges. He’d already received a good flogging – ten lashes – and endured the stinging saltwater thrown on his bloody gashes. The task could take days, but he couldn’t come up until it was completed. His moans of pain echoed eerily in the semi-darkness as Lucifer watched him with his curious yellow cat eyes. The lone candle flickered, almost going out, before returning to a steady glow that caused shadows to frolic in the filth. Then Lucifer came up to him confidently and asked, “Do you believe in God?“
Harry and Spencer we’re enjoying a rare moment of rest by the scuttlebutt – a water barrel with a hole cut in it so that sailors could reach in and dip out drinking water. Rumors about what happened to their mate Daniel were rife among the crew and even officers. After a day of paying the devil the bosun’s mate had came down to check on Daniel. He let out a gasp of horror and vomited when he saw him. Daniel’s eyes were gone. Plucked out and sitting on his lap. His hair had turned from brown to pure white. He was peacefully chewing on his right arm, exposing bone as he ripped off gobbets of flesh. Nearby, Lucifer was curled up and watching the bosun’s mate scream for help.
The incident left all hands on board shaken. When Daniel’s condition was brought up to the captain he crossed himself and walked away without commenting. When they got to port a day later, Daniel was dead. The ship’s surgeon had sawed off his infected right arm but it was too little, too late. The ship’s log recorded seaman Daniel Phillips died from an infection from a self-inflicted wound. There was no mention of plucked-out eyeballs. Or his white hair. They stayed in port for two days unloading cargo and onloading new cargo. During that time one of the sailors deserted. A mate of his said he feared Lucifer more than getting strung up on the yardarm for desertion.
His work finished in the captain’s cabin, Bailey was below decks working on the wooden gun carriage that had been cracked in the last battle when he heard something, “You’re next,” a silky voice assured him. He gripped his hammer tighter and called out, “Show yourself, coward!” There was a rustling among the small oak barrels that held gun powder. Piles of rags and cannon swabs near them shifted with unseen movement. A sudden cold wind blew past him. The normally stifling hot gun deck seemed to cool down a few degrees as he listened for more movement.
“I’m not afraid of you Lucifer!” he screamed, sure now that the cat was indeed the devil.
A dark pall fell over the entire crew, with the exception of Jason who went about his normal day, content with the companionship of his cat.
A feeling of foreboding kept everyone nervous. As the days turned to weeks the crew’s fear’s were palpable. Strange little incidents were happening daily. Rope knots would inexplicably come loose causing close calls for sailors climbing the rigging. A bad case of “the trots” affected half the crew who squatted below decks over wooden pails for a week. Moral got lower every day. Rumors about Lucifer were passed around in hushed whispers. Meanwhile, Bailey had enough. His hate for Lucifer was white hot. It burned his brain and his patience, causing him to formulate a plan to kill the demon feline. He had to wait weeks, but the opportunity finally came.
He pulled out the wooden cage to capture Lucifer with from its hiding place. It was solidly built to hold the black devil captive long enough to throw him overboard. Everyone below deck was asleep so Bailey was careful not to make any noise. When he got to the base of the stairway leading to the main deck, he positioned the cage on it’s side with the door propped open with a piece of string leading to his hiding place by the scuttlebutt. Inside the cage was a live rat Baily had caught the day before. Using tough twine, he made a halter for the rodent that was tethered by a nail on the side of the box. The rat was on a short string stopping it from scurrying away. He waited for an hour before Lucifer struck! It was over in an instant. Bailey pulled the cord and the trapdoor came down on the startled cat who had the rat in his mouth. Dropping the half dead rodent Lucifer screeched so loud it woke everyone up. The sounds coming from Bailey’s box were blood curdling.
Moving swiftly he went topside and threw the box into the calm sea. Jason, who was asleep in his own little cubby was locked inside that night by Bailey. By the time he battered the door down Bailey had returned to his hammock. No one knew why the cook was rampaging around the room and what caused the screeches that woke them up.
A day passed before Jason decided something bad had made his cat howl like a lost soul, and the crew was complicit. The first thought that came to mind was he’d poison all the bastards. That way he’d be sure to get the perpetrator of Lucifer’s disappearance. It turned out that he didn’t have to do anything about it.
A terrible storm come up from the north causing massive waves that battered the ship like a toy for hours before it broke apart and sank with all hands on board.
With the exception of Jason who clung to a wooden box.
Miraculously, the seas were calm the next day when a ship came by and Jason was spotted by a sharp-eyed sailor. He clutched the wooden box securely to his chest as they helped him get in the row boat. Once on deck of the ship, the USS Vermont, Jason opened the box and pulled out Lucifer. To a man, the crew crossed themselves.
A thick sea fog crawled up onto the shore and billowed out along the ragged coast like a creature from native folklore. Confused seagulls called out to one another as the rain increased in intensity. A lone figure blindly staggered through the slushy sand on the coast.
He was the only survivor from the “Wild Countess” a pirate ship that was shattered asunder by a terrible storm at sea two days prior. His clothes hung in rags off of his frail body as he limbed along the beach trying to find his way inland and possible shelter. The gods were angry at Sir William Treacher, who was once a respected member of the English Court before turning to piracy as a profession. If it wasn’t for the damn storm he’s still be sailing the high seas in search of easy prey.
Sir William was not a religious man, despite feigning to be one for most of his life. So he had no supreme being to pray to. He cursed his fate and kept walking through the driving rain.
The island that Sir William walked on was New Guinea but he didn’t know that. All he knew was that he hoped the inhabitants -if there were any – were friendly.
The village chief, Loo Kaupa, patiently listened to the eager young messenger Vihaan Tali, tell his tale. The excited young man was reporting that he saw a stranger on the beach and he was a white man. This was big news. It had been a long time since white men visited their island. Chief Loo Kaupa had to strain his memory to recall when the last time it happened. His chief advisor, and oldest man in the tribe, Ewanga-Goiba Ani, said it was a special event – just like the last time many moons ago when five sailors had washed up upon their bountiful shores.
Other elders in the thatched hut buzzed like bees remembering encounters with the white men and their wisdom. Some talked about the white man’s ability to navigate by the stars and to read the heavens for their position. Some pointed out other amazing technologies they shared, like the mangled telescope which stood in a place of honor in the chief’s hut. Alongside of it were two pairs of spectacles whose power of magnification awed the simple natives. A map of the world was proudly displayed upside down on another wall. No doubt about it, the tribe had benefited from the visitors and treated them like valued guests.
Sir William cursed when he stumbled again. His legs felt like leaden weights and he was hopelessly disorientated. He was hungry and thirsty. Finally he sat down on a boulder. The rain stopped as suddenly as it started. Steam rose from the ground as he looked around in disgust.
“Damn me eyes if this isn’t a poor turn of events,” he grumbled out loud as he emptied sand from his shoe. Nearby at the tree line that Sir William hadn’t discovered yet, two natives watched him with wide-eyed curiosity as the fog slowly dissipated under the sun’s warm embrace. They were instructed to observe him and not reveal themselves.
After an hour Sir William worked up the energy to walk to the tree line that was revealed between wisps of stringy fog that doggedly clung to the ground. When he found a running stream he collapsed beside it and greedily drank the fresh cool water until he involuntarily vomited. As he lay recovering on the river’s bank he saw a wild pig dash through the underbrush. The sight heartened him. There was at least one meat source on the island. He suspected that he’d find eatable tubers and berries to supplement his diet. His spirits raised as he relaxed by the stream and listened to the calls of exotic birds overhead.
Sir William’s first instinct was to run when he saw the heavily tattooed chief Loo Kaupa emerge from the dense undergrowth to greet him. The chief’s face was painted in a fierce grimace but he was smiling and holding up one hand as he approached. Even more reassuring, the chief was speaking in broken English.
“Ahoy, Englishman!” he called out merrily.
With a sigh of immense relief Sir William hailed the chief and smiled broadly. His luck had finally returned.
On the way to the village other natives joined them. Some had dead wild pigs on wooden slings, while others had baskets of red and black berries. It was a festive group that hummed native tunes as they traveled further inland. Sir William’s thoughts turned to how he could exploit the naïve natives as he followed them into an enclosed compound.
Chief Loo Kaupa proudly ushered Sir William into his spacious hut and called for drink and food to be laid out on a long wooden table in the center. Naked and nubile young women brought in baskets bearing various eatables, from reptiles to mystery mushes whose smell made ones eyes water.
When two brawny naked young warriors brought in a whole roasted pig everyone enthusiastically clapped. Especially Sir William whose mouth was watering at the sight. It was a memorable night where everyone got drunk on the villagers favorite fermented coconut concoction.
A week later chief Loo Kaupa announced that Sir William would have the honor of taking messages to the villagers loved ones. It seemed a bit odd that the villagers themselves couldn’t visit their loved ones but Sir Will’s mind was fogged with the excesses he was indulging in.
Beautiful young women were selected to sexually please Sir Will for six straight days. On the seventh day chief Loo Kaupa informed him that he was a “long pig.”
“What’s a long pig?” Sir William hesitantly asked.
“They’re special offerings to please the gods,” the chief beamed happily.
Sir William’s heart quickened and he dropped the wooden gourd he was drinking from as several strong warriors edged closer to him while the chief was speaking.
“The Great Spirit Father is honoring you tonight above all others. As a long pig, your sacred flesh will be consumed by everyone in the village this night, allowing you to carry messages to their beloved ancestors.”
Sir Will’s scream of horror rose to the heavens as the warriors closed in around him with long knives.
Polis sat on a bench and watched the frothy tide recede leaving tons of plastics and other pollutants in it’s crimson wake. A three-legged man awkwardly scuttled along on mountains of trash that were once sandy beaches as far as the eye could see. His bald head and upper body were red from exposure to the harsh sun, and his three legs gave the illusion he was a crab searching for food.
Polis had been hired to put on a Post Mortem Party by leaders of the ruling tribe – the Skull clan – based in The City. They had looked for him for years. Hoping to employ the legend. When a clan member found him, purely by chance, in the crumbling ruins of an ancient native American city carved into sandstone hills, he wasted no time in asking him if he would honor the Skull Clan with his presence and a Post Mortem Party.
Polis was famous in an apocalyptic world where only the strongest survived. For decades humans ate their alien attackers because there was no other meat source. A constant state of alien incursions contributed to the food supply. The great irony being if the aliens quit attacking mankind would starve someday.
When that day came, the last vestiges of civilization crumbled and were replaced with a newly formed cannibalistic societies worldwide.
The last taboo was broken as people split off into tribes and occupied the skeletons of cities long destroyed. There was no world governments. No United States of America. No Europe. No Russia. No China. No India. No Pakistan. No South America governments or a Canadian government.
Technology had suffered to the point there was no longer an internet, radios, televisions and washing machines. No dish washers. No electricity. No automatic coffee makers or alarm clocks. No power saws, or motorcycles. No cars. No buses. No trucks. No planes or trains. No running water. No 7-11 liquor stores (which were among the last businesses to disappear in early 2076).
Polis didn’t have laws to live under. He roamed the world catering Post Mortem parties because it amused him. There was precious little entertainment in his daily survival routine.
He was a tall, heavily muscled killing machine who’d spent his entire life hunting everything from the last Grizzly bears (2092) in North America, aliens (three different species), and human beings since the aliens quit invading the earth. He was ruggedly handsome with a full beard and long flowing raven black hair with two silver streaks down the middle. When he smiled his pale blue eyes gleamed with wicked mirth. When he was serious, or mad, his eyes turned into twin beacons of concentrated energy that crackled when he blinked. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on him, and his sculpted body looked like a statue of an ancient Greek god.
Polis was the mastermind who came up with the Post Mortem parties. The parties also served as his calling card wherever he went, and he was treated with respect. He could travel freely under the circumstances and seldom worried about someone hunting him. The parties were done with varying themes depending on the group he was catering too.
This San Franciscan tribe who just hired him had high expectations. They wanted to be challenged on just how the victim died. He would provide clues that eventually led to the answer. His reward for a good party was always the rarest cuts of meat, and sex with whatever females he wanted from within the group. His libido was still strong despite the fact he was pushing 50 years-old.
Beside the main course of meat, there were vegetables that varied in the areas he went to. String beans and corn were the two most cultivated as far as he could tell. They were grown in every place he traveled. But some tribes grew squash, potatoes, and even harvested wheat for bread.
Hunting meat meant a tribe had to go outside their own population and stalk wanderers and other tribes to stock their larders. Human jerky was the most common way it was preserved for future consumption. There were some tribes that had chefs who could cook up wonders with internal organs and special body parts like heads and buttock steaks. They usually held an honored position in the tribe. When someone like Polis arrived the tribe could count on some much needed entertainment. As a famous wanderer he also brought news from other areas which he always gladly shared with his hosts.
Always a controversial subject, Polis would discuss the subject of human mutants. During the last world war in 2058 nuclear bombs blossomed across the planet leaving behind radioactive areas that would last a million years. For decades human beings tried to avoid those toxic areas. Not everyone was successful and those that weren’t and still lived, birthed monsters that often resembled walking nightmares. Some had heads of animals long ago extinct. Extra limbs were common. Some barely resembled humans. These mutants were not on the menu of any tribe because it was feared their meat was poisonous.
Polis watched the three-legged man bend over and pick something out of the endless trash heap. He idly wondered if the rumors were true about mutant meat, but had no intention of finding out first hand.
Breaking out of his reverie, Polis stood up and stretched his powerful muscles much like the great cats that once roamed in Africa, before walking back from the pier to the main street. He had three days to prepare the party.
As he boldly strolled down the street he could see murky figures flitting in and out of the ruined buildings on either side of him. The dark shapes moved along with him, keeping pace and murmuring in the shadows of long forgotten banks and clothing stores. The smaller ones were children and he could hear their high voices rising in alarm as they stayed close to the adults. The sun was slowly setting and the shadows grew longer as Polis looked for a place to spend the night.
Years ago, when he visited this area he met a man and woman who befriended him when he was injured from a wound inflicted in a knife fight with a mutant who had three arms, three hands, and three knives. Min and Ord didn’t live with any tribe, somehow staying out of everyone’s reach while going about their own lives. Both were fearlessly independent, choosing a lifestyle with few friends. He recalled his amazement when instead of killing him for food, they carried him back to their hideout and treated his deep knife wounds, sewing them up with red thread. They recognized who he was, and treated him with respect.
If memory served they lived near an old Wal Mart store (it’s sign having miraculously survived for over a century) that had been partially overgrown with vegetation migrating from the nearby park that still had a bronze statue of a sailor with no name on it. He walked up to the statue and made two quick bird calls and waited for a response. When he turned around they were standing there staring at him. For a moment he wondered if they remembered him, but when Min smiled he knew they did.
“Long time,” Ord observed.
“Yup.” Polis drawled in his favorite western accent.
“Good to see you Polis. What brings you back?” Min asked as her tongue teased her lips lightly and provocatively.
“You can take the blindfold off now,” Ord advised.
Polis peeled the rag away, blinked, and stared at a cave entrance. It was Ord and Min’s lair. He followed them in. They all walked in the darkness for a couple of minutes before Ord stopped and lit a torch that was mounted on the rock wall. The sudden bright light cast shadows that twisted and danced in the damp cave like frolicking fairies.
The trio moved in silence as the tunnel snaked through the bowels of the mountain until they stepped into a small cavern that had multiple entrances and exists. A crude bed, two chairs and a table made it Ord and Min’s home. Polis noticed numerous wooden crates stacked in neat rows next to an old fashioned bank safe. It’s door was closed. How something that massively heavy ended up down there briefly puzzled Polis, but his attention was drawn away to the table where Ord had laid out a large map made from human skin.
“See here?” Ord asked. “We know where all of the tribes are located for miles around.”
“Happy hunting grounds,” Polis observed with a wry smile.
“Knowing you, a post Mortem Party is in the offing. It’s the only thing Min and I can think of that would bring you back here,” Ord said.
Polis studied his two friends for a moment before replying.
Ord was a tall lean man with muscles that wrapped around his arms and legs like snakes. They seemed to quiver even when he stood still. His eyes were somewhere between black and brown with yellow dots in the center. His thin lizard-like lips concealed a long tongue that darted in and out when he spoke, causing him to lisp. An old scar stretched from his forehead to the corner of his upper lip. His breeches were made from a collection of old animal furs, as was his jerkin. He wore a dagger in a leather scabbard that hung from the rope around his waist.
Min was a lithesome woman whose smile could steal souls. Her perfected sculpted body was covered with a jumpsuit made from leather and colored scraps of cloth. A small silver dagger was trucked into a belt of cracked brown leather. Her smooth well-tanned skin concealed the corded muscles beneath. At only five-foot five, she was a diminutive figure next to Ord’s seven-foot frame. Her jade green eyes twinkled with secret knowledge. Her pixie-like face was unblemished. Like Ord, she was also an efficient killing machine.
“You’re right my friends.I have a contract with a tribe here.“
“Which one would that be?” Min asked innocently.
“The Skull Clan,” he calmly replied.
She looked over at Ord and they simultaneously offered to help him out if he needed them. Their eagerness amused him. They could make things more entertaining. But why? What was in it for them? They were also predators, so he could understand why they might have volunteered. Hunting for meat was both a pastime and a necessity in this cruel world. Still he asked them,
“Why do you want to help me?“
“Because it sounds like fun and we haven’t had any Skull Clan meat in years. If Min’s memory is right they had a special spicy taste unlike the other tribes,” Ord explained.
“One other thing,” Min added, “They’re the most powerful tribe in this area and have numerous warriors who are fierce fighters.”
“Is that so? Polis asked. “Why don’t you show me where they live on this map of yours?”
Skullton the Great grabbed his terrified minion by his throat with one arm, lifted him off his feet, and shook him like a leaf. His powerful bronze arms and naked upper body gleamed with sweat as he questioned him.
“Why don’t you know where Polis went? I sent you to keep track of him you maggot!” he roared.
“I tried…” he wheezed before passing out.
The leader of the Skull Clan was not happy. That meant no one was happy as he tromped through the compound looking for his wayward son who should of reported to him a day ago. He’d sent him on a scouting mission to see how close the new tribe that was reported to be in the general vicinity was. Lut was his only offspring and he expected total obedience and loyalty from him. Someday Lut would lead the Clan and continue to expand it’s power east of their current home. Today he’d be satisfied with him just showing up with some news.
The newly arrived Snake tribe had traveled for months, from what use to be Texas, to the West Coast. To their new home in the San Francisco area. Along the way they raided other tribes for meat and killed any wanderers they came upon. In hard times they didn’t hesitate to eat one of their own for the good of the community. Their leader, Geronimo, came from a legendary line of warriors. It was he who accepted the challenge his tribe had to take on. Their hunting grounds weren’t producing enough meat for everyone. It was time to move on and go west according to the tribes elders. He had proudly led them on the trek.
Now they were in a new home. One that had to be quickly fortified before enemies could attack them. He organized work gangs that salvaged building materials from the ruins that were once cities and small towns.
As the Snake Clan’s warriors and their wives built up a wall around a large perimeter, others cleared patches of land to plant corn. It was spring time. They worked franticly to be safe and ready for the hard winter ahead. That meant sending out small hunting parties for meat which would need to be cured and stored away. It was one of those hunting parties that caught Lut’s attention from his perch on the second floor of what was once a multi-level mall. His pale blue eyes followed them. His face was blank. Focused on the three hunters as they passed below him. News! Now it was time to report back to his father.
Polis looked down from the tree limb he Ord, and Min, were on and watched a lone figure work his way around a group of three men. He was going in the opposite direction. Alone. Turning to Ord and Min Polis asked them to stay put.
“This is my kill.”
They nodded. Understanding.
“We will watch your back. Good hunting,” they chorused.
Polis was already working his way down the tree and a moment later he disappeared off into the direction the lone man had gone. He paced himself in the pursuit fully aware that he would need all of his strength and cunning to catch his prey. His plan was to render his prey unconscious because he didn’t want any marks on his body. He didn’t want to use his hatchet, or machete. Much too easy for his hosts to identify. He slowed his pace down as he instinctively knew he was getting near his quarry.
Lut was loping along toward the tribal compound and thinking about what he would say to his father when something suddenly tackled him and drove him to the ground so hard he couldn’t breath! He saw a pair of pale blue eyes before losing consciousness. Polis had choked him into submission without killing him. After tying his hands and feet, he threw Lut over his shoulder and headed back to where he left Ord and Min. He was curious if they had any novel ways of killing without detection. He wasn’t sure if they played with their food or not. If not, he had plenty of options.
Skullton the Great had temporarily forgotten about his wayward son, and was supervising the construction of a grand thirty-foot dining table in honor of Polis and the entertainment he was going to provide the clan. Shullton wanted seating for Polis, six of his favorite wives, and his entourage of syncopates for the evenings festivities.
Having Polis visit was considered a good omen. His legendary status would bring more honor to the House of Skullton, and send a message to the world about how mighty their clan was.
“Idiots! What’s taking you so long? You don’t even have legs on it yet! This table had better be done before our honored guest arrives!”
Turning away from the frightened craftsmen he lumbered toward the marble columns that still stood in the middle of the compound, remnants of a grand government building that was destroyed in the 21st century. His space, both headquarters and private, was constructed from salvaged marble walls surrounded by reinforced scrape rebar and concrete. It was an impregnable lair for the Clan’s leader, with only two doors. One entrance. One exit. Both heavily guarded by two mute Ebony black warriors with spears, ready to sacrifice their lives to protect their liege lord.
The Great Skullton nodded at the sentries as he entered the room. Waiting for him on a luxuriously restored couch was his first wife, Tem, wearing a diaphanous gown that did little to conceal her well-oiled curves. In a sign of his pleasure he grunted while untying the knot that held his breeches up.
Geronimo and three of his warriors were hunting for food when they stumbled upon Ord and Min sitting at the base of a mighty tree. The ensuring fight was vicious and quickly bloody. Ord was fighting hand-to-hand with Geronimo who pulled a long wicked knife from his belt. Ord broke away for a moment and drew his short sword before rushing the smaller man.
Min was fighting for her life against three warriors who had surrounded her with knives and hatchets. Her spear and nimbleness leveled the playing field however. Instead of throwing the spear she charged one of the warriors, catching him enough off guard that she was able to plunge her spear into his heart, pull it out and wheel away in time to avoid a slashing knife from the second warrior! The third armed warrior, hoping to catch her off-guard charged her from the side. She had just enough time to turn her spear on him. He impaled himself with his momentum. The third warrior stood back for a moment and snarled curses at her before turning and running away.
When turning to see how Ord was fairing in his fight with Geronimo she was horrified to see her companion repeatedly stabbed in the chest. He was still alive and on his knees when Geronimo severed his head with his broad-bladed knife. He held it up briefly before spotting Min who was charging him with a blood-curdling yell! Laughing, he dropped the head and waived his bloody knife back and forth preparing to meet her desperate charge head-on!
When Polis returned to the tree with Lut over his shoulder, Ord and Min weren’t there. He wasn’t too worried however. They could just be out hunting. He unceremoniously dropped Lut on the ground and stretched his shoulders. The guy was heavier than he looked he thought while idling massaging his sore shoulder. When Ord and Min didn’t appear before it got dark he knew something was amiss.
Time was running out before he had to deliver the meat to the Skull Clan for the Post Mortem party. When Lut started to wake up he covered his mouth with his hand and using the other one he dug into the soft loam around the tree, grasping a handful of the dark soil. With ruthless efficiency he removed his hand and shoved the soil into Lut’s mouth with the other. Then he held his jaw closed until his body stopped spasming. Prying open his still warm jaw he used two fingers to scoop out as much soil as possible. Taking a rag from his ditty bag he used it to wipe the tongue clean. Then he poured a little water from his canteen into the corpse’s slack mouth. Satisfied that no evidence had been left behind he rolled the body into his traveling blanket. He sat it up next to him at the base of the tree and leaned back hoping to get some sleep before day break.
To Geronimo’s surprise Min didn’t throw her spear at him. She held on to it instead and jabbed at him. He expertly parried her thrusts looking for a quick opening. She surprised him again when she backed away a few feet and launched her spear at him! Only a highly trained warrior could have done what Geronimo did, turning at an angle so the spear wouldn’t hit him squarely. It still sunk into his right rib, making him howl with pain and anger. Min turned and ran, never once looking back. She was from a long line of survivors and was fit enough to run for hours. She’d fight again some day under her conditions. For now, she had to put as much distance between her and her attacker as possible.
Polis was already awake when the sun rose in the eastern sky, promising another hot day in hell. Lut’s body had already begun to smell and would only get worse as the day wore on, forcing him to take it to a nearby stream of brackish water to clean it up a bit. Peeling off the clothes he winced at the smell of shit and piss, odors he’d never gotten use to when preparing meat. On completion of his arduous task he rolled the body back up in the blanket.
“Going to have to get a new one,” he idly thought while walking towards the Skull compound.
After pulling out the still quivering spear, Geronimo was trembling with rage. He’d survive the physical wound, but his pride wouldn’t. A woman almost killed him. Making it even worse was she was the first time any meat had ever gotten away from him! The thought was so humiliating he decided not to tell anyone about his encounter with Min. He’d wait for the dark gods to give him his revenge.
The Great Skullton studied the newly constructed table with an expressionless face. The craftsmen stood nearby nervously awaiting his approval. They sighed in relief when he only grunted non-committedly and nodded at them.
He was pleased. Everything would be ready when Polis arrived. His musicians were preparing a new song praising the Great Skullton and his amazing achievements.
There was a dozen side dishes of hard-to-find vegetables and loaves of course grain bread. The center of the huge table was raised a foot higher so that meat could be grandly displayed and seen by all. Everyone attending would be wearing their best dyed human skin jackets and breeches. He had already donned his scarlet human skin cape edged with human hair, and made from the bodies of several of his enemies. It was accentuated by his darkly bronzed bare chest and the thick golden chain around his neck. He knew he looked every bit the leader. A man to be revered and feared.
Polis came within view of the Skull Clan compound. He shrugged Lut off his shoulder and stretched. The sun was slowly settling in the Western sky when he picked Lut up and resumed his journey. It was semi-dark when the guards called out to him after seeing his approach.
“Whoa! there stranger!” one of the sentries challenged.
Polis stopped at the main gate and laid his load down.
“You’re expecting me!” he shouted. “I am Polis!”
The guards instantly turned accommodating and happily hailed their expected guest and threw open the main gate to greet him.
“Two of you pick this meat up and be careful not to bruise it,” Polis said in a voice use to getting results. “No peeking either. It’s the star attraction for the night at a Post Mortem party that will go down in Skull Clan legends.“
COMING SOON – BOOK TWO
of the Polis Chronicles
Polis and Min’s story continues in this man-eat-man dystopian world where there are no rules and only the strong survive.
They crossed over to the Texas border on a moonless night. Six immigrants hailing from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador bearing backpacks. The coyote, who name was Carlos, urged them to move faster.
“Estoy exenuado!” a young man from Guatemala complained.
“Seguier avanzando!” Carlos warned him not to stop.
The four men and two women who followed Carlos were silent after that, not wanting to anger the coyote and be left to die in the Rio Grande Valley’s harsh environment.
Just before daylight Carlos led them to a wooden shack that was almost entirely concealed by clusters of small barrel cactus and honey mesquite. The one room shack was just big enough for the tiny group.
“Descansa y duerme,” he advised the immigrants, knowing they would need all the rest they could get, because the next night was the most perilous part of the journey.
The next night the moon crept up over the horizon like a silver ball as Carlos looked out the one window in the shack. A full moon. How could that be, he wondered? He checked the almanac, and the national weather service. It was supposed to be a quarter moon tonight!
His perfect record of delivering his cargo to a safe haven on the other side of the border was going to be ruined. He hoped he wouldn’t get a bad reputation. There weren’t too many jobs for werewolves these days.
As his body morphed into a mass of muscle and hair he briefly felt sorry for the group. Then he let out a howl!