The hunt was on. Like a moon circling a planet, Djara kept a safe distance from the beast while patiently stalking and observing it’s every move for days.
In the course of her young life Djara had become a renown hunter. She was a superstar in the Milky Way Galaxy where hunters from different world’s gathered to share stories and techniques. Her reputation for bagging exotic game was well-earned. She had yet to find a quarry that eluded her and didn’t end up in her vast collection.
It was a harsh planet filled with strange creatures and endless jagged mountains surrounded by forests so thick sunlight couldn’t penetrate their canopies. Unbothered by the rugged land Djara made her way through the dense forest using her night vision glasses. All the stories she ever heard were true. The beast was eight-feet tall and had four powerful arms that sprouted from a massive hairy torso.
Hunters seldom returned after stalking the creature. There were some hunters who saw it firsthand and ran for their lives, only to be broken with fear and unable to ever hunt again when they returned. And there were those who died gruesome deaths for their efforts.
Flen’s grizzled features tried to crack a smile, but the effect looked more like a grinning death’s head than an attempt to be jovial. He was in a good mood. Someone was hunting him and they didn’t know that he knew. It was always like this. A game of life and death. Flen was exiled to the nameless planet eons ago for crimes long forgotten. Back in his world, before he ran afoul of the law, he was a bounty hunter. Some said he was the best one on the planet Druin.
Killing was a hobby for Djara. The only one she had. Because she was raised and spoiled by wealthy parents, she always got what she wanted. The best weapons instructors, and the latest high tech weapons were hers from an early age. She was sixteen when she went out on her first big game hunt. Since then she had become a skilled tracker and a crack shot.
The day finally came when she saw her chance. It was a clear shot. The beast was standing on a ridge line totally exposed 200 yards away. An easy shot. Instead of going for center mass she decided on a quick kill head shot. The laser rifle’s blue beam streamed in the same second as the quarry suddenly dropped out of sight! She wasn’t sure if it was a hit, or not. A cold feeling came over her and she involuntarily shuddered. This had never happened before.
She climbed up to the ridge line where the beast was a moment ago and looked down the other side hoping to see a body. Nothing. It dawned on her that she was in trouble. This quarry was turning the tables on her.
She would have been amazed to see how fast he moved when he plunged all the way down and into the forest below minutes before. He was already flanking her as she weighed her options.
By the time she decided to go down into the forest the sun was sitting and Flen was following her like a big cat closing in on its prey. Like a great cat, he played with his prey. He sensed she was better than most and decided not to underestimate her. It was this kind of caution that assured Flen of success since he stalked the first hunter who came seeking him for their trophy collection. He had no illusions. The hunters would keep coming until one day he died of old age, or carelessness. He was a universal target for so many years he lost track of time.
It was Djara’s hunter’s sixth sense that alerted her that she was in danger. She stopped walking and held her ray rifle closely. The beast was near. She saw a fleeting movement. The narrow space between each tree barely afforded a brief glance. But she knew the moment of truth was near.
Flen had no weapons. He always got by with his sheer brute strength and size. His speed is what made him the most dangerous. His ability to be on his prey in a blink of an eye was terrifying to his victims.
A dreadful recognition slowly dawned on Djara. The “beast” was a hunter just like her. She wasn’t facing a dumb creature who had been lucky thus far. It was a skilled hunter operating in his own terrain.
Her fate was sealed. Holding the ray rifle with one hand, she unclipped her last resort weapon – a grenade – and pulled the pin out just as Flen’s four arms wrapped around her!
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.
It wasn’t that Alto Morelli didn’t believe the best revenge was served cold, but at times he was sick and tired of waiting for his chance.
How long had it been since the bastard killed his brother Joey? Two, three years? It seemed like forever. But you can’t just knock off a Mafia capo and expect to live…unless you wait until just the right moment and no one can trace it to you. Rule one for successful revenges; live to tell the tale.
Alto was an independent contractor. He hired out his gun, but never his loyalty to many of the denizens of the underworld in 1932. The press referred to his kind as a “Hit Man.” But very few people in New York, New Jersey, or Chicago knew that he was one. Mostly Mafia crime bosses and leaders of other gangs like the Irish Mob.
The other thing about Alto was no one knew what his last name was. Only his brother Joey knew it, and he was dead now. His killer, Johnny Dancer, was a capo for the Bonnano crime family in New York. He was also a paranoid schizophrenic who surrounded himself with bodyguards at all times. Johnny knew there were plenty of people out there who wanted to see him dead…for a whole host of reasons.
Still, it was hard to wait. Alto was a man of action. At times he felt like a coward, taking so long to extract his pound of flesh because he wasn’t ready to die doing it. It felt like he was desecrating Joey’s memory at times. He shook those thoughts off and forged ahead looking for the perfect opening.
The bible said there was, “… a time for everything, a season for every activity under the heavens.” That encouraged him because he was a Catholic, even if he didn’t go to confession.
Faith in that quote kept him going. He knew there would be a season to kill, and his family burden would be forever lifted.
The season to kill finally arrived when Alto’s paid snitch in the Bonnano family told him Johnny and two of his rich friends were going upstate to the Catskills for a weekend of fishing and hunting. He gave Alto the directions, who thanked him and then shot him point blank! No witnesses. Number Two rule of survival.
Hunting season in the Catskills. How appropriate.
When Alto arrived at the hunting lodge he took his time sizing up how many occupants were there. He quickly spotted Johnny and what he took to be his two rich friends. Not far away were two alert-looking bodyguards watching the three men eat a meal outdoors on the open porch.
It took a few more hours before he discovered the other two bodyguards who were patrolling the perimeter of the lodge. Six people who he had to kill, but it was worth it to get Johnny. He was already envisioning where he would dispose of the bodies afterward. No one would ever know what happened.
His inner survivor briefly questioned if this was the right season, after all the odds were against him. Then he focused upon the task. He waited until late at night, past midnight, and snuck up on the first guard outside the front door, slitting his throat neatly and professionally.
The second guard was nodding in a chair in the living room. He looked up in time to see Alto for a moment, then a hand went over his mouth while his throat was slashed open. Then Alto cautiously went into the first bedroom. Saw someone in a bed. Went right over, checked his face briefly in the light of the full moon streaming through the window. Another guard. Slit his throat.
He went to the second bedroom. This time the sleeper was one of Johnny’s pals. Slit his throat. The next room had the other pal. Slit his throat. That left Johnny and one guard. Was that guard in Johnny’s bedroom? He opened the last bedroom door slowly. Inch-by-inch. His keen ears attuned to any sound.
Then he heard a click! Without thinking he dropped down to the floor as the shotgun blast tore into the door! Alto pulled his .45 Colt Automatic out and fired from the prone position in the direction of the blast! A man screamed and collapsed directly across from him. Then another shotgun blast hastily fired over his head from the right near the bed! When he rose up Johnny was trying to reload, but was fumbling with the cartridge.
Instead of immediately killing him Alto jumped up and rushed him, knocking the old twin-barrel shotgun aside as he grabbed his neck with one hand and hit him alongside the head with the pistol in the other. He stood over the bleeding and semi conscious man and considered how he wanted to kill him.
He thought about when he found his brother, just before he died, and how badly he suffered. His tormentors took a drill to both his hands and feet. They pulled out all of his teeth. There were numerous burns and cuts from head to toe. They blinded him with a hot poker and cut his tongue out.
In the end, he took Johnny outside for a short walk from the lodge and tied him to a tree. Then he cut him from sternum to groin so his guts leaked out while he was still alive. He stayed long enough to listen to and savor his screams which deteriorated to moans as his lifeblood soaked the base of the tree.
Two novice hunters heard the screams. They followed them through the forest. Both were teenagers and eager to find the source. Suddenly something big burst through the undergrowth and they both panicked and fired their rifles!
Alto spun around when one of the shots hit him in the chest, falling to the ground heavily. His last thought made him grin at the irony, “There’s also a season for dying.”
“Here’s one!It’s plain to see this animal is half rabbit and half antelope,” Long Tom Silver assured the greedy easterners who eyed the tintype photo and looked around at the vast prairie.
“Come gentlemen! Where is your sense of adventure? These creatures are all over the Western plains. Their meat is an exquisite treat! With your fine rifles you can shoot all you can eat.”
The four dandies looked at one another. The train they just got off let out a robust whistle and rolled down the tracks into the horizon. Long Tom had their horses and gear ready.
“I gotta tell you boys, there were a lot of applicants for this hunt. But like I said in the newspaper advertisement, only four men would be selected for the hunt of a lifetime. You boys made the grade.
“One last thing,” Long Tom said. “I’ll be requiring my fees for this expedition now.”
The men didn’t looked surprised. It was what they all agreed on. Each handed Long Tom a sack of gold coins.
He took each one with a smile and gave a word of advise, “You boy’s should make a day camp. Jackalopes only come out at night,” he suggested while pointing his horse south towards Mexico.
Stit stood still when he saw the rippling movement beneath the ground. His well-trained hunter eyes stared at it, determining the length and approximate width.
A big one.
Hunting the deadly Stuners for their hides was a desperate way to make a living, but Stit had no choice. It was all he knew. One bite would stun it’s victim, regardless of it’s size. Then it swallowed it’s prey whole. The underground terrors topped out at 60-feet long with six-foot wide bodies that glistened like diamonds when exposed to the suns of Nusa, a dying desert planet.
He was among the last of the bipeds on Nusa. The rest of the survivors walked on four, or more, legs. His species was once dominate before the nuclear wars and the resulting mutations that led to fierce predators like the Stuners.
Because of climate change over the centuries, the Blood Plains red sands crawled across the planet like an infection. It was there brave hunters sought the Stuners for their valuable hides. Their meat was vile and poisonous.
For a hunter to be successful he had to pierce the beasts’s eye to strike the tiny brain behind it that kept it alive. Any other wounds were useless. It didn’t feel pain. It was the ultimate killing machine on Nusa.
Feeling confident that he knew where the head was, Stit held his 10-foot long steel spear at the ready as he approached. Suddenly the head thrust through the ground’s cover and burst out into the glaring suns, it’s majestic and deadly worm-like head raised to strike at him. At that moment, Stit threw his spear at the monster’s right eye!
Skinning a Stuner is almost as hard as killing the creature because of it’s enormous size. Stit spent two nervous cycles stripping the shimmering scales and praying to the dark gods that another one wouldn’t show up before he finished. They ate their own kind.
It took all of his strength to load the skin onto the sleigh he brought with him. He slipped into the harness and began his trek to get off the Blood Plains before his blood mingled with the burning sands. After two more grueling cycles he finally saw the caves. Home. With each tired, but victorious, step he could hear his heart beating. His prize would keep him fed and entertained for 100 cycles before having to return to the Red Plains. The hide glowed brightly in the dark tunnels. Not that he needed it to see. His eyes, like the others were adapted to the dark tunnels.
By the time Stit got to the great community hall he was exhausted, but elated. As he watched the officials unravel the hide to measure it, his stomach growled. He was hungry. His rations were used up a cycle ago.
Watching the judges smile he sighed in relief. Good times were ahead. The hell with the Red Sands!
He tried not to think about returning to the Red Plains.
The wolf hunkered down and watched two men set their deadly traps in the snow. He was the leader of a local wolf pack. It was his job to kill, or turn, intruders away.
He followed them back to their camp. That made two sets of trappers. Each unaware of the other. He turned back to the first camp he discovered. The trappers saw him. Shot and missed. Gave chase. The wolf led them right by where the other two men set traps.
One of his pursuers screamed as he stepped into a trap!
Avery’s passion was to kill (and mount) rare and endangered animals.
He would go to any length to hunt one for his private collection. There was never a question of morality with his hobby. He was unencumbered with a conscience. Free to think independently. He was a self-made man, an inventor who earned millions from the many patents he owned.
It took two years for his private museum to be built near his favorite mansion in Blue Sky, Colorado. He took out his previous kills that were in storage and displayed them in natural-looking scenes. He spared no expense in lighting and stage craft for each animal. He looked forward to sharing his private museum with his fellow hunters who thought nothing of laws when it came to the chase.
As he inventoried his collection he realized that he was missing a key animal. The endangered mountain gorilla. In particular, a silverback gorilla. So, he went on his computer and started to make arrangements for a hunt in Rwanda. He’d have to call all of his connections in Africa to arrange such an illegal hunt.
The Virunga Mountains, Western Rwanda
Rwanda’s largest National Park, Parc Nacional Volcans, is a haven for rare and endangered mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. It’s home to five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains.
Deep in the forest there roamed one particularly large and intelligent Silverback gorilla. He was the leader of a troop of 50 gorillas. At six-feet tall and 500 pounds he was unopposed by males from other troops. Like most gorillas he could eat 40 pounds of food a day.
He preferred to eat vegetation such as wild celery, shoots, roots, fruit, tree bark and tree pulp, but had no problem eating small animals and insects in a pinch. The lordly Silverback spent his mornings and evenings eating. The middle of his day was spent napping or playing with other gorillas. Submissive gorillas groomed him until he sent them away.
The dominate Silverback and his troop claimed a territory of 16 square miles. This Silverback however, was like no other because he was highly intelligent and had the thought process of a man. He spent his life watching humans from afar and quickly determined they were dangerous when they carried certain objects that made a loud bang and killed up to a long distance. Without their weapon, he realized, they were practically helpless. Years of observation taught him a lot about hunters and the local natives. Under his leadership, none of his troop had fallen prey to the professional big game hunters. He taught them to avoid men at all costs. The big Silverback often felt lonely with his complex thoughts, but members of his troop always cheered him up.
It was raining the day that Avery showed up with two guides at the foot of the Virunga Mountains. They pitched a tent and waited for the rain to stop. When the rain subsided a blue bird with a purple comb, and a yellow and orange beak, cried out in alarm. Other birds picked up the cry and carried it deep into the jungle.
The big Silverback knew what the birds were saying. Danger. Men nearby. He got up from his nest of leaves, cutting his nap short, to investigate. Before he left he warned his troop not to come in contact with the deadly men. Then he plunged into the forest in search of the enemy. It was dark before he discovered their camp. They had barely penetrated the vast forest’s interior. There were two tents. A lantern glowed inside one of them. He could see there was only one shadow inside. Then someone merged from the other tent. A Rwandan guide. He started walking directly towards the Silverback’s concealment. He stopped just short of the tree the Silverback was hiding behind, opened his cargo shorts, and relieved himself. The smell of the warm piss suddenly enraged the Silverback who roared and went after the guide! The man tripped just outside his tent and screamed! The Silverback pounded his ham-sized fists into the guide’s face and torso. In his blind rage he sank his fangs into the man’s neck.
Another guide popped his head out of the tent, saw the angry gorilla and ran for his life. Avery stepped outside of his tent with a high-powered rifle just as the Silverback slammed into him!
The power of the charge sent Avery flying backwards a few feet. The Silverback pounded his chest and roared in rage as Avery, still on the ground, pulled his pistol out and shot him! The Silverback felt a flash of pain in his chest and realized he had to run away. Avery fired five more times at him as he tore through the bushes. Two of the bullets hit him. One in his right arm. The other in his back. His blood pumped out rapidly as he lumbered through the thick undergrowth and vegetation deeper into the interior. He knew he’d made a fatal mistake in confronting the camp.
Avery bent over and tried to get his breath as his chest pounded in pain. He suspected he had broken ribs. It didn’t matter though, he told himself. He was going to get that Silverback. It would be the crown jewel of his collection. When the other guide returned he helped wrap Avery’s torso with Ace Bandages. He had to double the guide’s fee for him to go on. Despite the pain Avery was insistent. He’d get his trophy.
Two of the young males in the Silverbacks’ troop found him sitting down with his back against a tree. They immediately knew something was wrong and chattered fearfully while picking at his wounds. Their wails of alarm attracted other members until soon the whole troop surrounded him. Some of the females cried and hugged their offspring as they sensed the severity of the Silverback’s wounds. Finally he was able to get enough strength to stand up and called for the troops attention. He called one of the larger males over to him. The Silverback had discovered this male was as smart as he was. Sparing no time he instructed the male to lead the troop into new territory. Further into the vast mountain network. The male accepted his role and herded the troop away, leaving the Silverback to die alone.
It took two days for Avery to stumble across the dying Silverback. He looked at him defiantly and showed his teeth as Avery raised his rifle to finish the job. Then a pack of angry mountain gorillas, led by the smart male, swarmed over him and the guide! They were flung around like rag dolls until they quit moving.
Afterwards the gorillas covered the dead Silverback in leaves, as the smart one, their new leader, instructed them.
As It Stands, this tale is in recognition of the endangered animals on our planet.
Truman’s dream came from an ancestral memory of when humans walked the earth. Before the great morph, and the changes in their anatomy that forced them to live under the sea.
He saw people walking in deserts, forests, mountain trails, and paved streets in massive cities. They were all able to breathe the sweet air they took for granted. It was before the gills started showing up in babies. Before fingers and toes were routinely webbed. It was in a time before mankind unleashed dooms-day bombs that nearly destroyed the planet and it’s inhabitants.
He didn’t question his dream. As usual, he just wished it was longer.
The ocean was a dangerous place, but twisted evolution made it even worse. When the first humans were forced to be water-dwellers they were confronted with monstrosities in the dark depths and quickly preyed upon. But as millions of humans morphed and banded together, they learned how to survive the terrors in seas across the planet.
Truman’s job in the colony he lived in was to provide food. He and many other “gatherers” constantly sought plants, and small forms of sea life, like crabs, lobsters, and oysters to feed the colony’s five thousand inhabitants. It was a daily job. A way of life. Part of the tapestry of their city under the sea.
After bringing back his daily quota, Truman spent most of his time exploring. Sometimes his friends came with him and they found ancient shipwrecks replete with artifacts in gold, silver, copper, and precious stones like diamonds and rubies. They would study them and admire how light danced through the diamonds as the lighting above beamed down through the depths and passed through them. They’d spend hours trying to figure out what the corroded pieces of metal were. Especially the massive metal tubes scattered near some wrecks. Without disturbing the artifacts they’d go back to their city. They were useless in the world Truman lived in.
The dreams started when he was eighteen years old.
The early dreams were like going to a school and learning simple lessons. As the years passed by, the messages became more complex and would puzzle him for days afterward. In the last year his dreams became a tour of another age. He saw humans with varied skin colors, but without scales like his. They built fantastic machines that flew in the sky and rumbled across the earth. They erected architectural wonders all over the world.
Truman jealously guarded his secret dream life. It was a wonderful escape from his dull existence. People would just laugh at him, and he didn’t want that. His temper could lead to getting him kicked out of the colony. That was a scary thought.
In the dream a man appeared and asked Truman questions. The odd thing was he was able to answer him! He temporarily felt a wave of nausea and then they were both standing on a beach. Truman started to panic when he realized he was out of the water, but the strange man reassured him it was okay. And, it was. Somehow he was able to breathe. He looked up and down the beach. It seemed endless. Turning away from the water he saw sand dunes leading to a garden. He knew what a garden was. He learned that lesson early on in his dreams.
“Do you want to explore?” the man asked.
“Can, I?” Truman hesitantly asked.
In spite of himself Truman woke up. His heart was still beating fast with anticipation. “Damn!” he muttered out loud.
Picking up his corral spear and knife, he slipped out of the common sleeping room and went in search of food. He was daydreaming and not paying attention when the mega shark appeared directly ahead of him! As fast as he was, there was no way he could out swim the massive creature. It’s four eyes, and the two tentacles that grew from its misshapen head with eyeballs on their ends, looked at him hungrily. He’d never been cornered before by a monster this large before. It’s sheer size was a horror to behold. He cleared his hunter’s mind and held the spear up and planted his web feet firmly. He held on as it pierced the largest eye on its head! The beast thrashed in agony and churned the water around so strongly he was flung to one side. His survival instinct urged him to swim in the opposite direction as fast as he could. It was an hour before he felt it was safe to come out of the cave he found in his flight. Despite what happened, he couldn’t go home yet and began looking for food.
The stranger came to him in his dream that night.
They were on the beach again. He was able to breathe air again. “How?” he asked.
“Those plugs in your nostrils and ears.”
“Can we go to the garden?” Truman wondered.
“Yes, of course. Follow me.”
As they walked through the beautiful garden with lush fruits hanging from trees, Truman asked where the animals were? The stranger smiled and said, “The construct isn’t complete yet. I have a lot of work yet to go. I’m reconstructing another age.”
“Where is this?”
“Somewhere between reality and the renaissance of the earth,” the stranger explained.
“Have I died? Or, am I still dreaming?”
“Dreaming…but some day…”
Truman bolted upright and looked around the room. It was almost empty. Only a few sleepers remained. Once again he was disappointed that he wasn’t still dreaming. The stranger sounded so encouraging. He knew something special was happening and wanted to be part of it. Sighing, he got up and started his day.
Months passed by without The Dream. Truman was distraught. He no longer explored or hung out with his friends. He gathered his daily quota of food, then went off to be by himself.
The dream came back one night.
The stranger, whose white beard was longer than the last time he saw him, appeared weary, but satisfied.
“The construct is nearly finished. Are you ready for a new life?”
“Yes!” Truman quickly answered.
“You still have the blood of the first man I created. And the soul of a good man. Now I give you the body of a true man,” the stranger said. “Welcome to paradise…Adam II.”
When the Tranker triplets processed a kill nothing went to waste.
The brother’s, and the couple that adopted them, ran a small inn offering food and a place to sleep for weary travelers hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The rude log structure they lived in was two stories high and nearly a hundred years old. Once upon a time, the whole Tranker family lived there with other extended members of the family. But after the terrible slaughter of 1936, the only members left alive were the triplets, Bob, Barry, and Bradley.
The boys were taken in by a distant cousin and her husband after their parents, aunts and uncles were butchered like pigs one warm summer night. They decided to turn the house into a bed-and-breakfast. The boys were eleven years-old during this transition in their lives. The new man in the house, and their stand-in for a father, was Uriah Jones, a hard-drinking hunter who was also a crack shot. His wife Ellie was an excellent cook and house-keeper. She maintained a garden of vegetables, did housework, cooked meals, and assigned chores to the boys every day. There was always wood to be chopped and water hauled. The pigs and chickens had to be fed and cared for. The cow milked every morning. The two-acre wooden fence that formed a perimeter around the house and barn, was constantly in need of repair. There was no shortage of work for the triplets, who were sturdy mountain boys accustomed to hard labor.
With Uriah as a teacher, the triplicates became crack shots and excellent hunters. With Ellie’s help they learned how to cook a great meal, and to grow fertile gardens of vegetables and melons. The years passed peacefully and they were able to make a good living. Travelers came and went without incident.
The boys each had their own hobbies. Barry learned how to make long-lasting candles from animal fat that he fashioned into unusual shapes. Bob, who was the best hunter among them, was best at butchering kills. He made an art out of it. Bradley was the best cook, making simple mouth-watering meals that never failed to please people. Uriah and Ellie were as proud of the triplets as if they were their own.
Uriah and Ellie had a lot to be thankful for. When they had to flee Signal Mountain, Tennessee ahead of the authorities they weren’t sure where to go. If it wasn’t for one of Ellie’s cousins they would have never known about the “family tragedy” and the need for someone to raise the surviving triplets after that terrible night of slaughter. When Uriah arrived in the Blue Mountains the first thing he did was to challenge all the best shots in the valley. None of them ever realized they were competing against a WW I Army sniper with a record amount of kills in his company.
It didn’t take long for Uriah and Ellie to fit in comfortably with the small community. The boys however never strayed from the inn, and refused to go to local square dances and shindigs for the holidays. None of them were comfortable around people, but they all managed to treat guests well enough because there were seldom complaints. They all felt more at ease hunting in the rolling hills, forests, and meadows near the inn.
Truth be told, most of the locals weren’t very comfortable with the triplets. They felt sorry for them, but were also slightly uneasy around them. Dark rumors traveled along the local gossip line for years…rumors suggesting the boys might have committed the gruesome murders themselves. There was never any evidence of that, according to the Sheriff. But the rumors were persistent, as they tend to be when they’re sensational. It didn’t help that the triplicates were anti-social. One of them, Barry, had a lazy left eye that seemed to spook everyone. Superstitious folk claimed it was an evil eye.
Fall was making its mark and the leaves on the trees were a carnival of brilliant colors when a stranger from Tennessee showed up at the inn one day. He was a tall thin man whose baggy suit hung on him like a scarecrow. Barry watched up walking up the road, suitcase in hand and clutching his fedora against the blustery wind. Folks didn’t usually come to stay at this time of year and Barry frowned at him as he approached the porch. Just then Bradley, the most social of the triplets, came out the front door and greeted the stranger jovially.
“How kin I hep ya mister?”
“Lookin fer a place to stay for a couple of days,” the stranger replied while sitting his suitcase down on the wooden porch.
“I reckon we’ve got a spare bed, and a meal. You got cash?”
“Sure do.” He pulled out his wallet and peeled off some bills. “Will that do?” he asked.
Bradley took the proffered money, and nodded. “Room upstairs to the right. Got a buck’s head mounted above it.”
He picked his suitcase up and stepped inside as Bradley held the door open for him.
“What’s yer name stranger?” Bradley asked him as he started up the stairs.
There was a pause, then Bradley said, “Mine’s, Bradley. My brother Barry is on the porch, and my other brother Bob is out hunting for tonight’s dinner. Our folks are in town, but they’ll be back tonight.”
I reckon so, we un’s all look-alike cause we’re triplicates.”
When Uriah and Ellie got home late that night, Barry was still sitting on the porch despite the chilly night.
“You okay son?” Uriah asked.
“We got a border upstairs,” he grumbled.
“So? We uns always have boarders. Ya know that Barry. Git along. Git some sleep now.”
“Don’t like ’em…” Barry’s voice followed Uriah and Ellie to bed.
The next morning.
As usual, Ellie was the first one up in the house making coffee and breakfast while it was still dark outside. Shortly thereafter, Uriah came into the kitchen and sat down at the head of the table. He was sipping his coffee when he heard someone coming down the stairs.
“Must be our new boarder,” he told Ellie.
When Darren stepped into the kitchen, Ellie dropped a plate in fright and Uriah rose up from his chair in alarm. The tall thin man reached under his baggy jacket and pulled out an old navy Colt revolver.
“I knew I’d finally catch up to you two murdering thieves! When you robbed that hardware store in Signal Mountain you killed my pa, but only wounded me! I’ve been hunting for you for a long time!”
Uriah lunged at Darren who leveled his gun and fired at him point-blank! Ellie tried to pick up a knife to defend herself with, but Darren shot her in the head first! It was over in moments. The acrid smell of gun smoke mingled with the freshly cooked rolls on the kitchen counter and the bacon burning in the frying pan.
The gunfire woke up the triplets who slept in the second bedroom downstairs. By the time they ran out of their room Darren had fled. The triplicate’s tortured howls of grief sounded like wounded wolves! The only two people in the world they trusted were brutally executed. Murdered while they slept nearby.
The triplicates knew the area like the back of their hand, and split up after agreeing to a preordained meeting spot at noon. Each had a hunting rifle. They all were expert trackers. It was just a matter of time before they found their quarry.
Barry bagged Darren less than a mile from the cabin in an open meadow. He was limping along and never saw the bullet coming. Barry tied a rope around his ankles and drug his body to the meeting place. When Bradley and Bob showed up they complimented him.
“Good shootin’, brother,” they chorused.
The three brothers took Darren’s corpse back to the barn and hung it from the heels with meat hooks. Bob got his butcher knife and began carving the body up into meaty slabs and hunks. Barry and Bradley built a fire and put a 55 gallon drum with water in it over the flames. Bob tossed gobbets of flesh into the barrel until all that was left was bones and globs of body fat carefully trimmed off the meat. Bradley took the fat and stored it with his candle making supplies. After 24 hours there was nothing left of Darren but boiled meat, which they froze. His bones were ground up into a powder by Bradley.
Nearly two days passed before the brothers agreed to contact the sheriff. When he came out with his deputy he immediately noticed that rigor mortis had set in on the victims, and they smelled real bad! Pinching his nose with one hand, the sheriff indicated they should step outside with the other. As usual the brothers spoke in dull monotones and a minimum of words while being interviewed. They told their story and said the killer got away. The following investigation increased the suspicions of some locals who whispered the boys did it again, and murdered in cold blood like so many years before.
With no evidence, they were exonerated by the law, but not by the locals who feared them. The triplicates got their revenge against Darren, and re-discovered their taste for human flesh. A taste they all developed, and hadn’t satisfied since they murdered their entire family all those years ago!