As usual, here is your warning that this story has cursing, sex (not graphic), innuendo, and violence. It’s my Rated-R action adventure called Derailing Bedlam. This is the fourth outing (third official) for Cassidy and Lloyd, so feel free to click on one of the two covers to see how it started. Each one is 99 cents!
“Why did you leave the rifle behind?” Pika asks, his face as red as his hair. The veteran hunter scratches a scar that runs down his nose, the contact causing him to sneeze onto his sleeve. “This is a hunt, you idiot. Do you know how dangerous it is out here? I’ve lost three sons, two daughters, and my wife to these creatures. If anybody around here knows how one mistake can cost you your life then it’s me.”
“No fair pulling out the dead family backstory!” Lloyd shouts before Cassidy puts a hand over his mouth. Refusing to be quiet, he uses his tongue to make a space between her fingers. “I don’t like guns because they aren’t any fun. You also told me that a paintball gun would only make the animals mad. So, I made a compromise. This bolt gun can do some nice damage and the nail gun isn’t too shabby. By the way, why are you wearing a rodent infestation? Are those little guys running around your jacket supposed to be bait?”
“They’re pets,” the hunter replies while turning to lead the party. He checks his map to make sure they are going to an area that he has meant to check for the last two days. “Like me, these are called Pika and they’re all over the surrounding forest. I’m studying them to figure out why they’re the only critters that are incapable of becoming carrier beasts. With any luck, they hold the cure for the cerveau tuerie. Lost far too many people to that disease, so I want it wiped out as soon as possible.”
Cassidy jogs to catch up to the hunter, her steps more careful than normal due to the uneven terrain. “I have a question. Why are we out here? Seems it’d be smarter to stay in Great Falls and only leave for supplies. There’s only eight of you, so I can’t see these hunts making much of a dent in the populations. Not unless there’s something you’re not telling us. Is there a reason Montana is carrier beast central?”
Pika startles the mercenary when he swiftly raises his rifle and fires into the trees. His apprentices are still aiming when a dead raccoon falls into the bushes. The corpse continues to foam at the mouth and smells of rotten meat, which is already attracting flies. Signaling for the six men and women to put on their gloves, Pika leads Cassidy and Lloyd away. Instead of talking, he takes out binoculars and constantly scans the area for more carrier beasts. With their teacher standing guard, the apprentices go about digging a hole for the raccoon and toss the body in when it is two feet deep. After a brief game of rock-paper-scissors, one of the hunters takes a container of liquid nitrogen off her belt. She pours enough in to freeze the corpse and destroy the diseases inside before they fill in the hole.
“We discovered that frozen bodies don’t carry the disease, but it’s not something that works on the living,” Pika explains as they continue through the woods. He suddenly turns to the right and heads for an incline, which is covered in loose stones. “I don’t have a good answer for your question. Rumors are that Montana still has a lot of open space and forests compared to other areas. The mountains make for good hiding places too. I think it has more to do with there being a plague bog along the entire northern border. Within the first year, the locals thought it would be smart to pile all of the dead there and try to get the Canadians to change their mind out of . . . disgust? Not really sure what the plan was, but Montana’s neighbors began sending their dead too. Now, we have the largest plague bogs in the country. Wouldn’t surprise me if all of these carrier beasts wandered through the north and caught something. Many believe that they come entirely from plague bogs considering how toxic those areas are.”
“That wouldn’t explain why states without plague bogs have carrier beasts too,” Cassidy says, her hands tightly gripping her Tommy Gun. Looking down at the weapon, she wishes she had gone with her gut and taken one of her rifles. “Sorry, I know this isn’t the time or place to about this. Both are problems and I don’t care too much about how they came about. My only concern is surviving them. So, how far out do we go?”
“I’d rather know what kind of predators we’re facing,” Lloyd chimes in from the back. A sound to his right causes him to turn in the other direction and fire three nails into the bushes. “I thought it was a trick. You know, the whole movement from one direction and an attack from the other. Seriously, what’s out here that can eat my face in one bite? Seen the wolves and bears, but I know there has to be worse out here. We talking lions? Leopards? Koalas? Oh god, please tell me you don’t have platypuses here. Feel like it should really be platypi, but the English language is a strange invention.”
Pika pushes through the others and grabs the serial killer by the collar, the hunter refusing to flinch at the feel of the bolt gun against his groin. “Try it, dipshit, and you’ll have to survive out here alone. You think you’re tough because you survived cannibals? At least those are human and you can talk to them. They also need time to kill you, so that gives you a chance. Carrier beasts are a different level of nightmare. Animals that normally travel alone will attack in groups. Some will hunt you down for a single bite and leave while you die from whatever disease they’re carrying. These creatures are angry at humanity and they want us to be eliminated. So, stop cracking jokes and take this seriously.”
“This would be where I say something silly, but I get the point.”
“Good to see that you can be reasoned with.”
“I do have one question though.”
“It better be about the hunt.”
“Well, is that a lynx or a bobcat?”
Following Lloyd’s gaze, Pika spots the gray and white cat standing on a boulder further up the incline. The hunter is about to raise his gun and fire when he hears movement from the bushes on both sides. Expecting to see glimpses of other lynxes, he is unnerved by the quick peeks of black and yellow. Whistling to his apprentices, Pika calls for a retreat to an area that has fewer places for the predators to hide. More noises emerge from all around them, each one coming from a different type of animal. The sounds continue to grow louder until a trumpeting call silences the carrier beasts and sends them running out of the area. Only the lynx remains while the hunting party watches leopards, cheetahs, moose, otters, and all manner of creatures sprint into the distance.
One of the apprentices snaps and rushes down the incline, his fear making him ignore Pika’s calls. The others watch as the young man reaches the bottom and is grabbed by a thick trunk, which is followed by the rest of the elephant that lumbers into view. Having been hidden among the thick trees, the massive animal is covered in brown blotches and hardened puss surrounds one of its cataract-covered eyes. It bites the hunter’s head, but spits out the foul tasting meat before hurling the rest of the body away. The carrier beast sniffs at the air and tries to climb the incline, but its tender feet are incapable of gaining a solid hold on the pebbly ground. It trumpets and bellows in rage, which prevents it from giving up on reaching the sources of the strange smells that have captured its attention. The elephant eventually slips and falls onto its side, the sound of cracking ribs making it cry out in pain.
Sure that the larger animal is blocking the escape path, the lynx hisses and starts towards the hunters. More of the wildcats come out of the bushes and drop from the trees until there are fifteen on the ground. Only a few of them look diseased with patches of fur missing and the occasional coughing up of blood. The other carrier beasts reveal their true nature when their heads abruptly shiver or a limb randomly kicks out. A litter of kittens appears at the top of the incline, the animals hairless due to being born sick. Their mewls mix with the growls and hisses of the hungry adults, which causes the hunters to snap out of their shock and begin firing into the advancing pride.
Half of the lynxes are killed before they rush forward and leap into the tightly packed group of humans. Ducking and rolling to the side, Cassidy avoids the attack and does her best to take them out without hitting her companions. Two of the apprentices go down and roll into the bushes where more of the predators are waiting. With the quarters being too close for shooting, Pika stabs with the bayonet on his rifle. The wounds do very little to slow the lynxes down, their threshold for pain increased by a constant agony. Their red and black blood flows slowly out of the wounds, the ichor filling the air with the stench of decay. The expert hunter can only watch as another student is killed when a wildcat drops from the branches and bites the young woman in the jugular.
“To hell with this!” Lloyd shouts before charging the struggling elephant. He jumps over its trunk and lands on its head in order to fire several bolts and nails into its eye. The large body twitches from the destructive barrage, but it goes still after a few seconds. “I was hoping to get it angry enough to stand and have it attack the lynxes. Still, now we can run like properly spanked bitches.”
“I’ll cover everyone for a bit,” Cassidy says while the others hurry to climb over the dead elephant. She walks backwards while unloading on the lynxes, the ones in the trees easier to pick off than the ones on the ground. “Come on, you fucking bastards. Be afraid of the big loud thingy and run away. I’m running low on ammo here! How are you doing back there? Can I stop now?”
Lloyd and Pika come rushing back, the two men using their weapons to swat the lynxes out of their path. Confused by the change in direction, Cassidy turns around in time to see that an enraged moose has managed to climb over the elephant. Two of the apprentices are stuck to the carrier beast’s antlers and there is blood splatters on its front legs from where it trampled the third. Black and orange snot fall from the animal’s nose as it grunts and calls out in rage at the humans it wants to kill. Cassidy raises her weapon, but it clicks empty at the same time the moose finishes getting over the elephant. With the lynxes scattering, she is able to run backwards while detaching the magazine and swinging the weapon into a holster on her back. Hurling the useless container at the moose’s head, the mercenary whirls around and hurries to catch up to the others.
Coming over the rise, Cassidy spots Lloyd and Pika sprinting towards a pile of rocks that are next to a leafless oak tree. She dives off the path in time to avoid getting hit by the charging moose’s antlers. Running through a large patch of thorn bushes, she can hear the large animal crashing after her. The painful barbs hurt both of them, but the carrier beast is slowed down as it gets tangled in the plants. Smaller animals run away from the noise, their bodies nothing more than blurs darting in every direction. A mouse bangs into the mercenary’s ankle and tries to scramble up her leg, but a large thorn catches it by the hindquarters and it is torn from her clothes. With a bellowing call, the moose finally shakes its head and its antlers pop off along with the two corpses. The pain that rockets through the animal’s body makes it even angrier and it thrashes about, the seeping blood flying everywhere.
Breaking into the open, Cassidy moves as fast as she can even though her legs are aching and her right cheek is burning from a deeply embedded thorn. She reaches the pile of stones as Pika removes the pin from a lever that is bolted to the tree. The moose gets free of the bushes as the mercenary clambers toward the lowest branches where her friends are waiting. Loose rocks dislodge themselves beneath her feet and she nearly falls as the carrier beast slams into the crumbling stack. With a shout, Cassidy leaps for Lloyd’s outstretched hand and swings a few inches over the moose to hook her legs onto a branch. With everyone safely in the tree, Pika pulls the lever and a very small explosion goes off in the middle of the stone pile. It is enough to send the heavy collection tumbling onto the beast, which bellows as it is crushed.
“So, what do we do now?” Cassidy asks as she makes herself comfortable. Looking around, she sees that there are no other trees nearby and the lower trunk is covered in tarred branch stumps. “This is some kind of haven, right? You just rush up here, knock down the only way out, and wait to be rescued. Please tell me I’m right.”
Pika pulls out a candy bar and sighs at the sound of wolves howling. “More or less. This is an escape spot in case a hunt goes wrong. Obviously, this one went very wrong. As far as being rescued . . . Maybe your friend with the veil will do something. In reality, we try to survive the night when most of the carrier beasts are active and then try to make a run at dawn. What do you keep looking for, buddy?”
“Just thought I heard something,” Lloyd replies while he stares at the upper branches. “What color is a koala again?”
“Shut the fuck up, Lloyd,” Cassidy mutters, her brow furrowed as she continues pulling thorns out of her skin.