Monday, 4 July 2011

LOST IN THE WILDERNESS - Creeping Crawlers

Jack opened his blurry bloodshot eyes and groaned, trying to make sense of where he was. 

Tree boughs rattled overhead and there was a breeze on his cheeks and parched lips but there was also a stench, like foul fetid mud or... He had a flash recollection of a day in his youth; his dad opening up a new shop that used to be a butcher's. The smell in the empty freezer at the back of the shop was the same that he could smell now. 

When he turned his head he saw why. 

There were burst cadavers all around him, covered in blood; their clothes shredded, flesh torn and eaten. Jack gasped, trying to scramble up, but the agony set in and he realised how badly wounded he was. The Ghouls had mauled him and dragged him here. The semi-conscious memories were seeping through now: cackling braying hairless creatures carelessly hauling him through foliage and over rocks, oblivious to his grunts of pain.

They'd dumped him here for eating later. This wasn't just a cave mouth he was in. It was a pantry. 

Jack hauled himself up then staggered, catching hold of the stone wall. Jenson, the guy he'd met in the cabin in the woods when the Ghouls attacked, was lying nearby. He did his best to lift him but both of them needed time to recover. They were far too injured to get out of there alone. 

All they could do was call for help and hope they managed to regain their strength enough to escape.

Two hundred yards away, Nazi knocked back a slug of vodka from his hip flask and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "You hear that?"

Grace, the latest cooze he'd picked up, giggled from where she was sitting behind him on his Harley and said, "Sort of like someone calling out?"

Sparky, Mike and Skipper pulled to the side of the road behind him on their bikes when they saw him parked up. "What's going on?"

"Not sure yet. Someone calling for help maybe. But I want to check it out."

"Why bother?"

Nazi grinned, cocked his machine gun and said, "Can't you read my mind?"

They split into two groups, Sparky and Skipper looping round to the right, breaking off the road into the marshland; Nazi, Grace and Mike going straight in between some wide expanses of water.

It was Sparky and Skipper who saw the bugs first.

Coming out of the undergrowth, the Blood Roaches scuttled towards them, one after another, their hard shells gleaming in the dull foggy light; their incisors clattering. Both bikers swung their machine guns into position and let fly, ripping the bugs to pieces; laughing as the tough little bastards shattered under fire, splattering the leaves behind them with stinking ichor.

But as the first died, more crept out of the bushes and rose from the musty swamp. Sparky and Skipper reloaded and fired again but this time they didn't laugh.

When the third wave came and the third reload they only smiled nervously at one another before letting rip.

Not far away, Nazi led the others through the swampland toward the calling voices. He was sure there were two of them now and he grinned with relish at what this would mean to them.

When the crap that was happening had started to go down; when the dead had started getting up and killing; he'd known exactly what it meant for society. And what it meant for him. Now life was just a matter of taking what he wanted and getting out alive. It was kind of simple. And even simpler after they'd found the abandoned army truck and its juicy contents. He stroked the barrel of his machine gun, loving the sense of power it gave him.

Then he saw the Swamp Maggots coming up from the surface of the murky water to his left.

"There! Blast them!"

He and Mike threw machine gun fire into the giant slug things, tearing them into juicy chunks that sank back out of sight. Screaming in flouncy panic, Grace shot off blasts from her magnum pistol but even she managed to kill one of them.

More bugs came, drawn to the sound, but the three of them easily kept them at bay.


Then the numbers grew and the reloading time started to take its toll. The bugs got closer before they could be eliminated, blocking off the way ahead and slithering now only a few feet away from their legs, acidic juices flowing from their blood-red maws.

"Keep it focused!" bellowed Nazi, sweeping his gun across the closest ones. "We're going to win this, don't worry! Just keep firing!"

Then the bushes burst open behind them and he realised just how desperate their situation was as a pack of Ghouls, alerted by the gunshots emerged: two Ghouls holding rusty blades with slavering animalistic jaws, and two massive  Ghoul Hounds bounding ahead of them.

It was suddenly an impossible situation.

Nazi and Mike did their best to prioritise but they were surrounded. Shooting the Ghouls meant ignoring the bugs and vice versa. 

Grace continued to fire blindly, her arm up to shield her eyes, but one of the Ghouls Hounds leapt off the ground and slammed into her, knocking her backward until she slammed into the marshy ground right in front of a pair of pulsating Swamp Maggots. 

She screamed as one slithered up onto her bosom and started to dissolve her breasts. Then the screaming stopped as the other one wallowed onto her face and released its acidic pre-digestion discharge. 

Nazi gaped in shock at his girlfriend's writhing body. He didn't care much whether she lived or died - it wasn't that - but her death meant they were all at risk. The invulnerability he'd imagined he had with a machine gun in his hands suddenly seemed far too ethereal. 

Then his magazine clicked empty and he realised it was even worse than that. 

To his side, Mike screamed in rage as the ghouls leapt at him, knocking him down. One hacked a long gash in his belly and the other broke the front of his head open like a shattered easter egg.

The bugs were squirming round Nazi's legs, and he desperately tried to reload while the Ghoul Hounds prepared to pounce, already knowing he didn't have time. 

In the cente of the swamp, Jack and Jensen struggled through the folliage surounding the cave mouth and dropped down the slope into the marshwater, supporting one another as best they could. 

They were still battered but enough time had passed to let them gather their strength. They looked round, expecting to see some kind of guard in place to prevent their escape but there was nothing. All the bugs had been drawn to the gunfight. Without even knowing they had been saved, Jack and Jensen hobbled out of there, through the murk and sludge, helping one another on when they had to. 

All they could think about was getting clear, getting to dry land and getting safe. Since this had started, both of them had gone from one terrifying encounter to the next. They needed a respite. 

Or they needed better weapons... 

From the bushes near the sight of the ambush, Sparky and Skipper watched the Ghouls and bugs devouring their friends. Grace and Mike's body were already half gone and Nazi had disappeared completely. 

Their spirits fell and then their hearts hardened. 

This wouldn't have happened if they hadn't heard the cries for help. Their friends wouldn't be dead. 

"There," said Sparky, pointing. 

Several hundred yards away, unnoticed by the Ghouls, they saw two men moving in the opposite direction. 

"It was them. They musta been the ones calling out." 

Skipper nodded. "Well let's get after them," he said. "Those bastards are going to pay for this!"

The two men got up, shouldered their weapons and started to creep after their quarry, circling round the ghouls and the maggots and their grisly meal.

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