The previous story portions:
The saga of blazing guns, ferocious dinosaurs, and hairy barbaric savagery continues with Part FIVE.
(Honestly, at this rate, I’m going to post the entire book online before I get published. But that’s what happens when you write something, you want to share it.)
Here. We. Go.
A pair of apes on trikes caught the corner of my eye as they splashed through the river into the canyon.
I turned the telescope on them. Large birds, identical to the ones chased earlier by the big-headed dinosaur, were draped across the backs of the mounts. Brown feathered bodies bounced with the heavy steps of the trike until they stopped before the caves. Leaping down, apes untied the birds and effortlessly hoisted them across their shoulders. Carrying the corpses, they moved along the base of the cliff towards a small stand of trees.
A distant chirping drifted to me, intensifying as the apes entered the trees with their load. Peering through the gaps of leaves and branches, I could make out an outcropping of rock jutting from the canyon wall, creating a natural overhang. Beneath it was a large cage woven from thick branches that reached from the ground to the bottom of the bulge, with a gate near the center. Small black claws reached through the woven gaps, grabbing and shaking the cage as the things inside tried to get out.
One of the apes leaned a makeshift ladder against the fence and climbed to the top of the overhang, carefully avoiding the grasping claws. He opened a portion of the fence as the other passed the dead birds up. The chirps hit a feverish pitch as the bird’s bodies were shoved through.
Apparently, trikes weren’t the only tamed creatures in the canyon.
I watched the apes feeding the unknown animals for a few moments longer before deciding I’d seen enough. I needed to get back to town and let the Sheriff know, and figure out just what in the hell we were going to do about the tunnel.
I began to push back away from the edge, then stopped as an odd thumping noise reached my ears. Unnoticed, a pair of apes had moved beside the large slab of obsidian rock and were beating their chests with a fist. Others noticed and stood, copying the motion while facing the rock formation, adding to the dull thudding. Within moments the entire canyon was reverberating with the rhythmic pounding as it spread through all the apes.
The two that started the beating, stopped abruptly followed by the rest.
All the apes began moving to the strange rock formation. The ones wrestling threw tanned skins over their nakedness, while others stacked spears and lay down bows, and the apes cooking pulled meat away from the fire.
More of the apes poured from the caves in a steady stream. There was well over two hundred of them now standing around the circle of stone. But none of them stood inside the towering slabs of granite, leaving the area around the raised rock platform clear. I watched them through the telescope, in awe at the sheer number of them. Far more than I would have expected, and more were coming from the cave still.
A giant black-haired ape stepped from one of the cave entrances. Sensing something different about this one, I turned my glass on him.
He stood a head taller than the scattering of apes that hurried around him. The right side of his face was hideously scarred. The wound ran from chin to temple and twisted the side of his face into a grimace that exposed a large canine in a half snarl. He wore a simple waist belt and loincloth with a black handled knife tucked into a sheath. As he stepped forward, apes quickly parted before him.
Reaching the stone platform below the altar, he motioned towards the caves.
I swore viciously as a pair of apes stepped out with an Indian held tightly between them. The apes began hooting and calling in deep, rough voices. No doubt calling out insults to the captive.
The man’s chest was bloodied. His long black hair stringy and hanging over his face. He was naked, but he still had fight in him. Kicking and struggling he tried to pull away, and one of his guards slugged him in the stomach with a large fist. He convulsed and legs pulled up as he tried to double over against their grips. Vomit dribbled from his mouth. The apes dragged him through the crowd. Surrounding apes slapped and punched him about the head and body as he passed by.
The sound of their jeering joy and laughter at the man’s torment drifted to me. His feet dragged as he was hauled limply up the stone platform. I felt my face flush hot in anger.
Then I watched, horrified, as the guards dumped him on top of the obsidian slab. The crowd’s hooting grew louder as he thrashed weakly against the two stronger apes. With an almost dispassionate interest, they stretched his arms apart and lashed him down horizontally to the rock with leather cords. Their task finished, the guards stepped off the stone platform and disappeared into the crowd.
The black scarred ape stepped before the Indian captive.
A guttural chant began, followed by single clenched fists once again beating in unison. I felt it within my chest, as my heart seemed to pound in rhythm.
Sweat dripped from my brow, and the glass fogged. Quickly, I wiped the eye piece clear and looked back through the telescope.
Someone in the teeming mass of hairy apes was passing up a misshapen bowl. Green smoke wafted from whatever crazy stuff burned inside. The black ape accepted the bowl and laid it carefully beside the squirming man on the slab.
The scar-faced ape drew the blade from the sheath at his waist. It was obsidian, with a dark handle. The Indian hocked a wad of spit at him in defiance. In return, the ape casually palmed the man’s face and slammed his head backward against the stone. His body went limp.
My jaw clenched, and I ground my teeth so hard I thought they might crack.
I didn’t know what to do.
I didn’t know what I could do.
Laying the knife gently on the black altar, the scarred ape cupped his hands around the smoldering bowl and raised it into the air as the chanting and pounding ceased.
The canyon was eerily quiet as he lowered the bowl and breathed in the green smoke.
For a long moment, nothing happened.
Then the bowl dropped from the ape’s hands, shattering on rock. The black ape shuddered and braced himself against the altar. He twitched, violently, jerking his head from side to side. Knees bent and wobbled, threatening to collapse underneath him.
Whatever was in that bowl wasn’t your ordinary peyote.
Suddenly the giant ape threw himself upright, thrusting out his chest and raising clenched fists at the sky. He roared, an ugly, harsh, inhuman sound as the other apes joined in. The thumping noise of hammering fists against chests began again with a fevered violence. The pounding was louder and harsher this time. There was no rhythm. Just a mass of noise that echoed and assaulted my senses.
The Indian awoke. Bewildered and groggy, he twisted and turned on the black rock.
The scar faced ape scooped up the knife and plunged it into the man’s belly.
I wasn’t prepared for the sudden violence and almost dropped the telescope as a high-pitched scream of agony pierced the air. The chipped obsidian knife slid upwards easily and stopped once it reached his rib cage. The man kept screaming in horror, staring wide eyed at his gaping wound along his stomach. The savage ape set the knife down and reached into the cut, amongst the vitals, and under the rib cage. The shrieking ended with a twist and rip, as the ape pulled out the man’s heart.
Raising the organ in his fist for all the apes to see, blood ran down the ape’s black fur arm and splattered onto the altar.
Hundreds of throats roared in satisfaction.
The scarred black ape savagely took a bite out of the heart. Blood oozed from his mouth. Swallowing, he hurled the remains into the crowd.
Apes pushed and shoved each other for it. One hairy monkey began pummeling another to the ground with both fists as others kicked and fought to get the chunk of human flesh.
A hand suddenly held it aloft victoriously above the thrashing apes, a bloody chunk of raw meat coated with dirt. Roaring, he bit off a chunk and hurled it across the crowd where the scene was repeated, again and again, until there was nothing left but apes fighting each other around the circle of stones while the scarred ape leader watched on in satisfaction.
Saying I was in shock was an understatement. Horrified was more like it. But furious…. absolutely.
Slamming the telescope shut, I slid my rifle before me and braced it into my shoulder. I found the black scarred ape at the altar and guessed the distance.
Common sense told me that my position would be given away once I fired, but I didn’t care. Every single one of these hairy men-monkeys needed to die. But I’d satisfy myself with just taking their leader’s life.
Carbine stamped softly from the tree line, but I tuned him out and slowed my breathing. Concentrating on the gentle rise and fall of the sights, I began taking up the slack in the trigger.
I was about to smite a giant, evil monkey with 350 grains of cast lead and vengeance.
Carbine snorted loudly, interrupting my concentration.
Annoyed, I rolled to the side to see what he was upset about.
A spear point shattered on the sweat soaked rock where I’d lain a moment before.
The ape stood towering over me. His large brow furrowed in frustration at his missed stab. Another monkey grabbed Carbine’s reins and was rewarded a vicious bite to his shoulder by my horse. He screamed, and Carbine twisted, kicking the ape in the chest and sending him sprawling.
I bet that hurt, but not as much as this.
With my freehand, I drew the Colt and shot the ape standing over me. He didn’t give in to the wound as the bullet punched through his belly, instead jerking the spear back and preparing to thrust with its shattered tip.
This time, I shot him through the center of the chest where his heart should have been, and he collapsed in a twitching heap.
As the other ape painfully crawled onto all fours, I carefully put a bullet through his skull and dropped him.
So much for the element of surprise.
Flipping back over, I realized the canyon had gone quiet. The multitude of apes had stopped beating their chests, and were staring at my position. I felt hundreds of eyes upon me.
Surprise monkeys, I have weapons of fire, thunder and lead. Fear me.
Scar-face pointed a thick, blood coated finger in my direction and bellowed a command.
The crowd went wild as apes began pushing, shoving, and running in different directions. Some ran back into the caves, others towards stacks of weapons, and most rushed towards the cliff below me.
Swearing, I yanked the rifle up and quickly shot at the ape leader as he turned away. The bullet missed and hit the Indian’s corpse instead. The evil black ape disappeared among the frantic swarming mass of his followers.
There went my chance at killing their leader. But at least the Indian was already dead. He probably would have forgiven me anyways, all things considered.
If there was any doubt as to where my position was before, the gun powder smoke from the Sharps that drifted over the canyon made it abundantly clear. But I figured I could slay a few more of them before I needed to get out of dodge.
Working the action on the rifle, I randomly selected an ape splashing through the stream in my direction and pulled the trigger. The rifle boomed again satisfyingly, and the ape pitched forward and thrashed in the water as another puff of gun smoke blew out to join the other.
I grinned evilly.
This was like shooting monkeys in a barrel.
Rising to a knee for a better field of fire, I fired into a small band of apes headed for the trikes. Another boom, and this time an ape dropped while the one beside it screamed and fell, clutching her side.
One bullet, two wounds. My sort of math.
The herd of trikes, stirred up by the gunfire and excitement, were proving hard for the apes to throw harnesses and saddles on. Dust stirred as the dinosaurs shuffled in confusion, making it harder for me to pick out targets. But the two trikes that rode in earlier were still harnessed and ready to go. As an ape tried mounting one of them, I fired. The shot was low, and hit the trike. It bellowed in pain and side stepped, shaking its horns and knocking the would-be rider off.
Apes were running for the canyon entrance now, trying to circle around and catch me from the rear. I ignored them. I’d be long gone by the time they reached my location.
An arrow zipped by, fired from an ape standing in the stream, and landing somewhere in the forest behind me. My aim was off, and I put a bullet through his leg as a large, hairy hand slapped the top of the edge.
Shocked that one of the apes reached me so quickly, I frantically worked the outdated reloading mechanism of the Sharps.
The big female monkey pulled herself over the edge. I cocked the hammer back and fired from the hip, the muzzle mere inches away from her face. Unsupported, the recoil of the rifle almost knocked it out of my hands. I managed to hang on to the gun as the bullet punched through the ape’s throat with a spray of blood.
At such a short distance, her flat face was filled with sparks of burning powder. Blinded and wounded, the ape clawed at her face and throat before toppling backwards and falling, yellowed canines bared in a silent scream.
Peeking over the edge, I saw her body twisted and broken amongst the rocks and a multitude of others clinging to the rocks below. Some stopped and stared at the corpse, others climbed faster. None of them looked happy.
From the canyon floor, more apes picked up bows and arrows whistled by me, thudding into the trees and ground nearby. One hit beside me, shattering the shaft on the rock and pelting me with splinters. It was time to go.
I ducked and scrambled away from the cliff edge. Reaching Carbine, I slammed the telescope shut and into the saddle bags before leaping into the saddle. From behind came grunts and hoots as apes began reaching the top of the cliff. Smacking his flanks with the barrel of my rifle, I let him lead as I twisted in the saddle and fired at the apes behind me. I managed to make one duck before losing sight of them as Carbine charged amongst the thick trees.
Within seconds, we were lost in the forest.
To be continued…
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