(Work in Process title!)
Final editing just isn’t fun… But it’s going well. Like shooting, where trigger time equates to increased skill and accuracy, time on a keyboard equates to increased writing skill. So we are getting there, slowly, painfully… word by word…edit by edit…
Anywho – here’s the intro to ‘The Greatest Magnificent Seven/Planet of the Apes/Jurassic Park Combo you will ever read’.
Enjoy the violence.
And give feedback. I don’t give a hoot about my feelings, what’s more important is to churn out a solid, good quality, and entertaining product.
PS – WordPress has a new blog editor, and it stinks. So there may be some funny spacing and whatnot. (But any grammar errors are mine unfortunately.)
Circling buzzards made the killing field easy enough to find.
The soldier’s bodies were scattered for a half mile across the open prairie. Mangled, crushed, gnawed on. They’d made a running fight of it, but were slaughtered anyway.
A dozen men. Armed with the finest weapons and equipment since the War Between the States. Trained and experienced in fighting Indians, rustlers, and outlaws.
For all the good it did them.
All I could find was a couple of dead apes and a single wounded triceratops.
Sending them out had been the Lieutenants decision. I didn’t blame him. He didn’t have a choice. But with the loss of these men, our low chances of survival dropped even further.
Turning my horse around, I touched heels to his flanks, leaving the weapons and gear for the Indians. They were going to need them.
As for me?
My name is Jedidiah Huckleberry Smith.
And I’m probably going to die as well.
Two weeks earlier.
Smith Ranch, Wyoming Territory.
The heavy axe burst through the wood with a satisfying thunk, sending small chips and splinters flying as the sawn log split into two almost equal pieces. The twin chunks toppled off the large stump as I dropped the axe and rested on the handle.
Tearing a leather glove off with my teeth, I pushed my soaked mop of unruly black hair out of my eyes and blinked as I fought the stinging sensation of sweat trickling into my eyes. My horse Carbine, a beautiful dun gelding, stomped his feet, impatient that he had to stay harnessed to the wagon while waiting for me to finish chopping firewood. Ignoring him, I stretched. As my back arched, I felt the familiar tugging from the decades old scar tissue that crossed my upper back and shoulders, traveling around my sides.
Jamming my hand back into the glove, I pick up one of the two chunks and set it upright. Swinging the axe over my shoulders, I slammed the angular blade down with far more force than necessary. The explosion of chips as the fractioned log burst did nothing to ease the hot anger that boiled up from within. The scars were a constant reminder of the singular day that changed the course of my life, and ultimately led me to where I was now. Living in isolation on a small cattle ranch, a fugitive from justice, a former outlaw… a damaged man. And somewhere out there, someone owed me a debt of blood. Someone who alluded me for decades. Someone who very may very already be dead, and not by my hand. I wasn’t sure which was worse, him being alive, or being killed by someone else.
I swallowed hard and forced myself to take deep breaths. That was an old story. This was me now. For two years I’d begun to put down roots here. And for once in my life, I was actually invested in something good and solid.
Looking around the pasture, I was pleased with the amount of work I’d accomplished today. It was hard work, but rewarding. Cutting down trees and chopping it into firewood was the hard part, the rewarding part was blowing the stumps up with dynamite. My ears still rang.
In the distance, storm clouds were gathering above the Granite Mountains and making their way towards me. It looked like a real dozy. Tossing the axe into the wagon, I threw a few more pieces of split firewood into the back and climbed into the seat. Carbine looked over his shoulder at me, I could tell he was displeased. He was pulling double duty today as my mare, Elsa, was lamed in the barn.
Slapping the reins on his back, my tan horse leaned forward and began pulling the wagon to the house. My spread wasn’t that big, but if my small herd kept growing, I’d need to hire some ranch hands on. I wasn’t exactly a people person and I preferred my solitude, so I’d put that off for as long as possible. Carbine reached the house and I stopped him, quickly strapped a canvas sheet over the firewood, and turned him loose in the corral beside the barn.
As I bent over to lock the gate behind my horse, Carbine snatched the hat off my head and trotted off, the black battered Stetson dangling from his teeth. He dropped it a dozen yards away and pranced around it, flipping his black mane and tail happily.
Swearing, I crawled through the creaking rails of the corral and picked the hat off the ground. I considered smacking him with it but he kept his distance, instead I slapped it against my leg a few times to knock the fresh dirt and slobber off.
Figures. I’ve two horses, one lame and the other an asshole.
I watched him happily trot into the pole shed attached to the side of the barn. That was his favorite spot to stand in the shade and spend the night. Even with the big storm coming in, I wasn’t concerned, the walled sides and shingled roof would protect him.
As a light rain began to fall and the distant rumble of thunder grew closer, I pulled the axe, saw, and a small crate of leftover dynamite from the wagon and hauled them to the barn. The doors were closed, and as usual, stuck shut. I kicked, swore, jerked, and tugged on them before I finally got one open. They were wretched things, big and stout, as all things in the west needed to be. But they were a constant aggravation. I swear they were going to be the death of me.
The barn itself was a great big thing. A story and a half tall, with a wide opening down the center and several stalls along the side. It was big enough to hold over a dozen cattle or horses with room to spare. Hay was kept in the loft, gradually added to through the short summer in preparation for keeping my herd and horses alive in case of a long, hard winter.
Dropping the tools at the end of the barn beside the small back door, I stopped by Elsa’s stall to check on her and feed her an apple. It had only been two days since I noticed her favoring her right leg. Hopefully, the swelling would go down soon, and she would be alright. Unlike Carbine, she was a good horse.
I gave her a good scratch on her withers before jogging through the light rain and onto the porch of my small one room ranch house. Stopping, I turned and watched the swirling gray clouds grow darker. It looked like we were in for a big one. I looked beside my feet and shrugged. My saddle sat next to the rocking chair where I’d mended some stitching yesterday. But I wasn’t about to drag it through the rain to the barn now. It’d be fine here tonight.
Lightning split the distant sky, and I waited for the thunder to reach me. The storm was still a ways off and just getting started. Knocking the dust from my boots, I stepped inside the house to settle in for the night.
The terrified scream of a horse jerked me awake and out of bed.
A couple of long strides and I was peeking through the cross shaped firing port in the thick wooden shutter.
With the storm blocking most of the moonlight, visibility was limited.
It was times like this when I was thankful I didn’t sleep naked. I jerked my boots on over bare feet and slung my gun belt around my cotton threaded drawers.
The weight of the Colt Peacemaker was reassuring and balanced by a nine-and-a-half-inch Bowie knife in an oiled leather sheath on the opposite side.
From above the door, I took down a well-worn Winchester 1873 rifle and worked the lever, jacking a cartridge into the chamber.
I stood still, listening for any noises.
There was nothing but the gentle patter of falling rain on the roof.
Lighting a lantern, I slid the bar off the door, and stepped into the storm.
It was raining harder now, and I regretted not grabbing my slicker.
The cold rain plastered my hair to my scalp. I shuddered as trickles of water ran down my bare chest and back before soaking into my underwear.
I moved across the yard as the trees swayed in the wind and the open barn door squeaked on its hinges.
Lightning flashed across the sky and several long moments later the rumbling thunder washed over me.
Holding the lantern in front of me, I saw the top rail of the corral was knocked off while the one underneath lay splintered and broken on the ground.
I inspected the damage and the area around it. No sign of blood or struggle, just hoof tracks leading away towards the forest at a run. It was obvious Carbine broke through the fence, but why? This storm was bad, but we’d been through far worse together.
Lightning flashed again, closer this time. The boom of thunder hit me a split second later as the wind picked up. I shivered as rain trickled down my spine. The heavy barn door thumped as it bounced against the vertical board siding.
A couple of soft thuds came from inside the building and I held still, uncertain of what I’d heard. I took a few steps towards the barn. Another thud, followed by a crunching, like branches being stepped on. Then what sounded like a snort and a tearing noise, then more crunching.
I shook my head, uncertain of what I was hearing. The trees nearby were groaning and cracking in the heavy wind, obscuring other noises. I tried to listen again and could make out nothing in the noises of the storm and repeated thumping of the door.
A handful of steps and I was at the barn entrance. Since I was out here, I figured I may as well check on Elsa.
Rain dripped heavily down from the angled roof, putting a sheet of falling water between myself and the inside of the barn. A hard wind gust hit me, and I staggered before leaning into it.
Frustrated with the pounding wind and cold rain, I raised the lantern and ducked through the sheet of water and into the barn.
I took two steps inside and skidded to a stop.
My heart skipped a beat.
I’d walked up behind a monster.
Growling, it swung its head over its shoulder and glared.
The creature had a thick, heavy head, almost reptilian in appearance. Something dangled from its clenched teeth. Dark liquid dripped from its jaws onto the dirt floor. Black eyes reflected the lantern light, giving off a sinister appearance. Two bony ridges started above the slanted nostrils, growing larger as they ran along its head and flared out above the eyes before ending at the top of its skull. Small bumps and ridges ran down the back of its neck onto its spine.
Its large, thick tail was raised slightly into the air, tapering to a point, close enough I could have reached out and touched it. Muscular and powerful hind legs held the rear end up, while the front arms dug claws into Elsa’s body.
She lay ripped open, her entrails strewn amongst the shattered boards of her stall.
Shocked, I realized it was her hind leg that dangled from the beast’s mouth. Broken shards of bone glistened amongst the torn flesh.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. My mind couldn’t comprehend what was in front of me.
The barn door thumped behind me in the wind.
The creature dropped the severed leg with a wet thud and snorted softly, tilting its head to the side as it studied me. It sniffed, as though trying to figure out what small creature would dare approach it so boldly.
We stared at each other in the glow of the lantern, when a heavy gust of wind slammed the door shut behind me with a loud boom.
That broke the magical moment.
I flinched as the monster roared, the noise assaulting my ears and revealing rows of large curved teeth coated with blood and bits of flesh. The stench was overpowering and nauseating. Droplets of blood and pieces of Elsa flew from its mouth, splattering on my chest and face.
I turned and ran, slamming face first into the door.
It didn’t open. It was stuck. It was always stuck.
I shoved again, throwing all my weight against the rough boards.
Screaming in rage, I stepped back and kicked in a last-ditch attempt to force it open.
The creature turned to face me, its tail slamming into the center beam with an audible crack.
The building shuddered.
Frantic, I looked for a way out. The windows along the stalls were too narrow to fit through. The only other exit was a door behind the monster at the far end of the barn.
The creature lunged for me, mouth agape and teeth bared.
Diving to the side, I dropped the lantern and it burst, spewing flaming oil as I rolled away.
The monster’s mouth snapped shut where I’d been a moment before, and the creature jerked back, hissing, as it recoiled from the small explosion of flames.
Kneeling, I looked at the beast as it glared at the rapidly spreading flames.
The panicked moment of terror and surprise over, it was time to fight back.
Jerking the stock to my shoulder, I squeezed the trigger, sending a 200-grain bullet into the beast’s chest. Instinctively, I shucked the lever and fired again.
I had ten rounds and I intended to use them all. I worked the rifle, peppering the beast with bullets.
Roaring in pain and anger, the creature lunged.
I lurched out of the way, tripping and slamming the side of my head into the roughhewn boards of a stall.
The rifle flew from my grasp.
I rolled in desperation as it swiped its clawed arm at me. Pain flashed hot across my chest. Only the stall saved me as it took the brunt of the blow and showered me with splinters.
I tried to put more distance between us, scrambling backwards and away. Blood trickled down my chest. I pushed concern aside. If I didn’t die in the immediate future, I’d worry about it later.
The beast turned after me, its tail slashing through the smoke and slamming the stuck door open. But now, the monster stood between me and the entrance as the breeze fanned the flames.
The interior of the barn became a flickering smoke-filled haze as the fire spread quickly behind the beast. The flames licked the sides of the stalls and along the door jam.
Smoke wafted around the monster and it was illuminated with dancing flames. Blood oozed from puckered holes across the front of the beast.
I carefully stood, bracing myself for another lunge or swing of its arms.
The monster watched, dark eyes flicking as they followed my movements. It rose on hind legs, the thick tail dropping to the floor, and front arms spread with claws extended. The gaping maw of bloodied jagged teeth was open.
I could taste its rotten breath in the air.
The beast reared back, its mouth opening impossibly wide as it prepared to lunge.
This time, I was ready.
I drew my pistol and fired from the hip.
As I retreated, I shot all five rounds from the Peacemaker. Each bullet hit a little higher than the last as I rode the recoil and worked my shots up its body. The final round clipped its left eye and blew out part of the creature’s eye socket.
The beast snarled and thrashed its arms, pawing at the ghastly wound.
But the damn thing simply would not die.
Turning to run, I tripped over Elsa’s remains. Blood, organs, and rendered flesh squished under my weight. My hand went into her intestines. Gagging, I slipped and stumbled off her corpse into a stall.
The rough sawn boards gave me a moment of concealment, but I had no illusion about their usefulness as protection.
Flipping the barrel of the revolver up, I rotated the cylinder and dumped the empty shells. With gore covered fingers, I began to reload, carefully feeding cartridges into the empty chambers, one by one. Each turn of the cylinder made a quiet snick that I prayed the monster didn’t hear.
Lightening crashed nearby, temporarily overwhelming my senses with the painful crack of electricity.
I froze, my fingers grasping a cartridge still in my belt loops.
The barn was silent, except for the crackle of flames, and a low rhythmic hissing.
Smoke drifted into the stall, burning my eyes and lungs. I stifled a cough.
Claws gripped the wood rail above me suddenly and I cringed as it splintered and broke. The beast leaned forward, searching the barn with its good eye. Blood trickled onto my face and bare shoulders.
I only had two cartridges loaded. Fearful of making a noise, I eased the gate shut over the cylinder, wincing at the tiny click. I tilted the barrel upwards and pointed it under the monster’s jaw.
Claws dug into the rail, showering me with dust and splinters as I began to take up the slack on the trigger.
The beast jerked back out of sight.
I gave a small sigh of relief.
Violently, I was catapulted forward onto my face as it rammed its head through the stall behind me.
Teeth snapped shut as I scrambled away and rolled onto my back. The beasts head jutted through the shattered boards, snarling and snapping as it strained to get me.
Holding the pistol tightly with both hands, I fired between my knees and into its head.
The bullet hit and skimmed along the thick skull, gashing open a flap of thick skin and exposing a slit of pale bone. The monster jerked at the pain and my remaining shot punched into a shoulder with no noticeable effect.
I screamed in frustration and rage, resisting the temptation to hurl my empty pistol at its bloodied face.
The beast wrenched its head back and forth, struggling to pull through the jagged broken wall. The boards, bent inward from the creature’s intrusion, were still firmly nailed to the thick posts of the stall, and pushed against the back of the monster’s skull. The boards tightened as it fought to free itself. The foul creature hissed and snapped forward at me again.
I shoved my pistol into its holster and crawled out into the open room and around Elsa’s mutilated remains.
The smoke was harsh. I coughed and hacked as it threatened to suffocate me. Looking past the thrashing tail, I saw my rifle near the entrance with flames licking around the barrel. Desperate for a loaded weapon, I dove for it. Sliding across the packed dirt floor, I scooped up the rifle. The metal was hot to the touch, the stock singed black, but at least the rounds hadn’t cooked off from the heat yet.
The beast roared, grabbing and ripping at the broken boards trapping its head with its claws. Its tail thrashed, flinging tools and equipment across the floor and into the flames.
Bits of burning hay from the rafters above fell between us.
The large front door stood open behind me, but a raging inferno was between me and my escape.
My only option was still the small door in the far end. And in my desperation for a loaded weapon, I foolishly made the horrible mistake of putting the monster back between me and my exit.
With a mighty jerk, the creature pulled itself free and backed into the cracked center post.
The center of the barn crashed down, stopping a mere handful of feet above the beast, supported by broken and creaking beams. Flames whooshed higher from the air entering through the shattered roof, fanning them to towering heights as rain poured in and fought to quench them.
Amidst the flames and smoke, I looked at the bloodied harbinger of death and terror before me.
Blood oozed from the monster’s wounds, bits of splintered wood embedded in its flesh, and one eye was a gaping ruin seeping blood from the mangled socket.
I racked the lever and savored the snick of the action closing on a fresh round. I didn’t know how many bullets were left in the tube. Four? Five?
Didn’t matter. If I was going to be eaten, it’d be amidst a small scattering of brass.
The creature charged with a roar.
Adrenaline and fear gave speed to my hands. I jerked the barrel up and short stroked the action, firing faster than I ever had before.
My aim was true.
But the monstrosity soaked up the remaining rounds without pause and reached for me, mouth gaping.
In desperation, I shoved the rifle in front of me and wedged it horizontally into the creatures open mouth. The teeth clamped down, narrowly missing my hands. The gun stock splintered and broke. Hot, rotten breath bathed me as the beast pushed me backwards towards the raging fire.
I screamed as the heat became unbearable and let go of the gun, diving aside before it pushed me into the blazing hot inferno.
The beast’s head thrust into the flames. I heard it sizzle and pop as the skin and raw wounds burned. The creature tried to roar around the rifle jutting out from each side of its mouth. A flailing arm backhanded me and flung me like a rag doll.
I hit the ground with a heavy thud.
Forcing myself up, I ran around the struggling creature to the rear of the barn, dodging the bundles of flaming hay raining down around me.
The monster thrashed on the ground, slamming into broken stalls and beams as it tried to dislodge the jammed rifle from its mouth.
The front of the barn shuddered under the impacts. The weakened structure threatened to collapse at any moment.
The barn had become a hellfire with a demon trapped inside, roaring in pain and anger behind me. Smoke swirled around the beast, as rain dripped through the broken roof and fought the spreading flames.
I reached the back door and saw my tools beside it. Something ugly welled up inside of me.
This thing had eaten my horse, destroyed my barn, and tried to kill me.
I grabbed the axe.
This thing was going to die.
I paused when I saw a small marked wooden chest with rope handles. Jerking the lid off, I looked at the leftover cardboard wrapped sticks of dynamite.
This was more like it.
Grabbing a blast cap, I jammed it onto the explosive. Twisting the fuse around my fingers, I tore it off short.
The monster knocked the rifle out of its mouth and came for me again. Blood and saliva dripped onto the floor, sizzling in the flames, as it stalked forward. Slower this time, more cautious, more enraged. It jerked its head aside as a bundle of burning hay fell in front of it.
Using a nearby flame, I realized I’d broken the fuse off too short when it ignited and burned quickly towards the blasting cap. I tossed the stick back in the box, kicked it across the floor towards the beast and ran out the back door into the rain.
The fire rose high into the air behind me as the barn was consumed.
Stumbling to my knees, I pushed up from the rain soaked ground and ran for the house. Shelter seemed so far away.
Behind me came a bestial roar followed by heavy thuds.
I dared a backwards look.
The beast ripped the small door off its hinges. Claws grabbed the frame and tore pieces away as the creature fought to get through the opening. The wall screeched and shuddered as boards snapped and broke.
Shoving its head and shoulders through the opening, the monster roared at me.
The dynamite blew.
The explosion hit me like a train, driving the air from my lungs and slamming me against the ground.
For a moment, everything went dark.
Then I became acutely aware of pain. I blinked. Everything hurt. The gash across my chest stung. My lungs and throat felt like they were on fire. Dozens of small scrapes and cuts covered my singed body. My underwear was in tatters. I coughed. The pain almost consumed me.
Bits of flaming debris were scattered throughout the yard. A pitchfork was embedded in the ground beside me, its broken handle on fire.
What remained of the barn shuddered then collapsed in on itself in a shower of sparks and flame.
The beast lay near me. Blood ran from its many wounds and mingled with the rain. The rear legs and tail were shredded and mangled from the explosion.
But still, it lived.
The hellish beasts single remaining dark orb glared, reflecting the dancing flames. Snarling, it weakly stretched a forelimb towards me, sharp claws open and reaching.
My battered body responded sluggishly as I drew my Colt. I pointed the trembling barrel at the beast’s face, and pulled the trigger.
The pistol was empty.
I dropped the useless gun and with thick, fumbling fingers grasped the handle of my Bowie.
The claws that reached for me suddenly clutched at the wet soil and with a violent spasm, the beast shuddered, before giving a final rattling breath and laying still.
It was finally dead.
Lighting danced across the sky as the storm raged on above me and I embraced the pain and darkness.
I woke hacking and coughing, with a pounding headache and soaked to the bone as a light rain continued to fall about me. My empty pistol lay beside me, wet and gleaming in the early rays of the morning sun that peeked through the retreating storm clouds.
The monster was dead before me. Its single eye dulled and gray.
Beyond the creature, all that remained of my barn was a tumbled mass of burnt timbers and rubble amongst small residual flames that hissed in the rain. A thick gray smoke drifted from the pile of ash.
Bits of smoldering wreckage and charred debris lay scattered around me.
Picking up my gun, I stumbled across the yard to the house, wide-eyed at the destruction and giant beast I had slain. Slamming the door shut behind me, I lowered the door bar and dropped to the floor, my back pressed against the wall. If more monsters lurked outside, I didn’t know if a barred door would stop them. But it was comforting, and right now, I felt like a kitten could finish me off with a single blow.
I dumped the spent brass from my pistol onto the floor. Pulling fresh cartridges from my belt, I reloaded. The gun, while smeared with the same sticky blood that coated me, would still function and that’s all that mattered.
Stripping out of my boots and tattered underwear, I left them in a heap in the middle of the room and crawled naked into bed. My pistol I laid on the small table beside me.
Lying there, I stared at the exposed rafters in disbelief.
Elsa was ripped apart, Carbine was missing, and the barn burnt to the ground because of an ungodly creature. My mind tried to convince itself that none of it was real, but the pain and blood smeared across my body proved it was all too real.
I closed my eyes.
When I woke several hours later, I felt like I had been shot at, missed, shit at, and hit all over.
My joints were stiff. The cut across my chest was a congealed mass of blood and ash. Small nicks and cuts covered me. My singed hair stank horribly. Moving gingerly, I opened the shutters, squinting at the sunlight as my eyes adjusted. The yard was just how I remembered it from last night. Full of burnt debris with a giant mangled corpse near the jumble of ruination that had once been my barn.
The inside of the house looked like someone had been murdered. Blood and ash was smeared from where I’d fumbled my way inside. The trail led from inside the door, up against the wall, and across the floor to the scattered pile of bloodied clothing.
Sighing, I pulled pants on and stepped outside in my bare feet.
Carbine trotted around the side of the house, head and tail held high, as if proud that he’d left me to die. He snorted and pranced, keeping his distance from the smoldering remains of the barn and the monster’s carcass.
Leaving him to wander around, I began to clean myself up.
I washed away the crusted scab over my chest and got a good look at the cut. Unfortunately, it was deep enough to warrant a few stitches. I downed a couple slugs of whiskey and bit down on a stick before drizzling some across the wound. Tears rolled from my eyes at the burst of pain from the alcohol. Then I stitched it shut, screaming through clenched teeth as thread pulled the torn flesh together.
The stitches looked horrible, but they would hold.
As I wiped away the rest of the grime, and looked in a shaving mirror, I realized just how beat up I was. In addition to all of my other ailments, I had two black eyes and a nice goose egg bump on my head.
I looked like hammered crap.
After cleaning myself up the best I could, I rocked in a chair on the porch, staring at the remains of the beast.
Even dead, it was frightening to behold.
Large and powerful, corded with muscle under its thick tan hide. The undamaged eye that had been so menacing last night was now glazed over, but the teeth and claws showed the creature’s lethality.
Then there was the barn, which was destroyed.
Luckily my saddle survived. Leaving it on the porch last night had been a blessing. But the cost to replace the rest of my gear and tools lost in the fire would be staggering.
Not to mention Elsa. She’d been a good horse.
And somewhere in the ashes were the remains of my rifle.
At least I had a spare, an old Spencer Repeating rifle. Twenty years past its prime, it was something of an outdated oddity now. Chambered in .56-50, it fired a hard-hitting round that worked well enough when I hunted buffalo.
It would do if more beasts came calling.
Right now, it was fully loaded and within arm’s reach.
I whistled for Carbine and managed to harness and saddle him without too much pain.
The Sheriff needed to know about this. More of these monsters might be lurking around. I got lucky, anyone caught in the open, unprepared, would be a goner. The hard part would be convincing him.
Luckily, I had a big corpse.
Picking up the small axe I used for splitting kindling, I collected my proof.
Afterward, I slid the Spencer into the leather saddle scabbard. My vest pockets were full of loose rounds for the rifle and the loops in my belt were filled with .45 cartridges for the Peacemaker. I wanted to be ready for anything. If I had more dynamite, I would have stuffed it into the saddlebags as well.
Easing myself up in the saddle, we rode towards town.