Besides the fact I was going to be the main dish, dinner was smelling wonderful. The thing foraged some wild onions and garlic, which smoldered in a pile next to me. It had bound my arms and legs with some wild grasses and placed me on his makeshift rack.
He brought back another bundle of herbs and tossed them on the fire. The inconsiderate monster left my face right in the path of the smoke. Though it smelled delicious, it was also making it hard to think, and even harder to breathe.
Pete grabbed the back of my neck and started ranting in my ear. “Not such a powerful wizard now, are you? Now just think, had you gone willingly, this probably would have all been over by now.”
“Fuck you,” I muttered through a mouth-full.
“You filthy pig,” Pete said. “You know what wizard! I could probably distract him until administration got here–and really I don’t know what’s taking them so long–but I don’t think I’ll do that. Not after what you did to me.”
I tried cursing him but that only made things worse. Pete was back to old man Pete and he sort of chuckled as I screamed. “Calm down wizard, calm down. All that fussing and fighting isn’t going to help you anyway. You know what though you should hope that he gets to you before they do, violating the Ritual of the Sacred Fire, is a grievous offense. I can only imagine how Administration would handle you.” He let go of my neck and as he turned to walk away his peg leg kicked a pile of hot ash in my face.
“Sir,” Pete called. “Excuse me Sir. Really ah you must speed this up, at once. The Administrators will be here any moment and I would hate to see you run into some trouble with them.” Howl. “Yes, I understand Sir, take as much time as you want, forgive me. I just want this to meet an end favorable to all parties, that’s all.” Howl. “Fine Sir, fine Sir. No reason to get short with me. I tell you Administrators–” There was a loud snapping sound of a large tree being broke at its base. Out of nowhere, the roar of a large engine was heard behind us.
Pete looked around the scene, stupefied. “Please Sir, stop this now. Take this man and run. I am sure you could enjoy him as is, no real need to roast right?”
The Wolf howled in response. “Please Sir,” Pete begged, “they will hurt you Sir. You must run now. I promise I will bring you another in his place!”
A loud air horn filled the woods. “Oh God Sir,” Pete cried. “Please, now, go. They are almost here!”
The wolf continued to sit on the large tree next to his wood pile. He sniffed the air, searching for the approaching men. A long strip of spittle meandered down to the ground.
I started to feel a bit of relief, until the wolf hopped up and came for me.He examined me for a second, and then put me back on the rack belly side up. Not quite done I guess.
The heat exploded on my back, and then went icy cold, as I felt all my skin tightening to the fire. I realized instantly that the wolf must be some sort of Chef, because he allowed the fire to die down enough, that he was going to cook me low and slow. A perfect option for such a gamey animal like a human being.
It wasn’t low enough though and I began screaming out in agony. I stopped screaming when I was blasted by a large spotlight from the hill above where we were standing. I tried to jerk my head this way and that, but with all the binding and the rack, all I could do was make out the shadows of Pete and the Wolf as they scrambled around the campsite.
“Run,” Pete urged. “Please run, dammit friend, they are here. It’s too late. I’m sorry old boy, but I can’t stick around for this.” I heard the rapid, thud, thud, thud, that told me he went running for the forest.
All I could do is close my eyes and listen as the wolf began marching around. There was a pop and a blinding flash, when I opened my eyes again he was gone, and the only thing lightening the space was the dying fire. I tried to wiggle and move, and get out off the restraints but they were on so tight. I even tried to bite with my teeth but it was pointless. I was a roasting duck.
An ear piercing tone filled my head, and a voice rebounded off the trees. “Attention, Creature of the Night, you’re in violation of Administration Code 822. 822 establishes that no magical creature shall exit their designated area. You are also in violation of Code 966. 966 establishes that no magical creature shall have any contact with other extra-dimensional entities. Submit now or face lethal force.”
The wolf let out a hawkish screech as a response. I didn’t need to be some sort wolf whisperer to translate that it meant bring it on. An object went whistling through the air, and made a hard thunk as it sank into a tree. A pin prick of heat exploded on my leg and I look down to see a feathered dart. A warm, pleasurable tingle emanated from the spot and I watched everything that happened through an enveloping narcotic fog.
I realized that the announcement and the flash had obviously been a distraction, because now a thousand laser beams started cross sectioning the world.
I finally found him again, laying against the tree trunk, taking cover. His claws had dug deep into the ground. His muscles rippled across its neck and back. It looked like his whole body was eating the dirt, merging into it. It was clear he was preparing a counter attack for the approaching men.
The smoke in my eyes reminded me that I was dangling over a roasting bed. In the dope haze, I reflected that the drug they hit me with must be quite strong, since I no longer felt any sensation of hot or cold. This was alarming even in my fractured state. I tried to yell again, but choked on all the stuffing.
Everything was in slow motion, like a movie. I watched the wolf’s skin and muscles ripple, covered with dirt, as the soldiers began to surround him. Even in the thick dope fog, I saw it was a horrible idea, and exactly what the wolf wanted. Digging into the ground, made getting a shot of him impossible. I could feel him growling through the ground and up the sticks that I was roasting on.
The armed men looked like any militarized tactical force you may have seen on the news, or maybe even rolling down you’re street. All black clothes and helmets. They were special only in that they wore silver insignias on their chest body-armor, looked like an grey octagon with a chrome snake crawling through it, but it was hard to make out in the dark and in the dope.
They were about twelve feet out on the wolf and they stopped like someone has paused the game. I tried to force myself to think. I really needed to get down from this fire. I could smell myself roasting and I was about to throw up.
Three men broke off of the group and approached the wolf. One of the men put a dot right on the hump of its back, which was the only thing not covered in dirt, looked like a boulder resting against the tree. I could tell they were confused. I tried to yell out to the guys, showing them with my eyes and all that, where is he is at, but they were ignoring me, just looking like assholes, right at the ground.
A giant shadowy tentacle came shooting out of the dirt. It latched on to one of the men’s ankles and pulled him down. One of the other two fired, but it it ricocheted of the tree and went flying back into a section of men encircling the mess, causing them to dive to the ground. Like an octopus the wolf snatched another man and dove back in the dirt. All hell breaks lose. The last guy began firing chaotically screaming for help. Horrible ripping and dying sounds came from the wolf’s hole, and the perimeter of men exploded with confusion.
It was strange watching the men switch from approaching geared up and organized, to trapped and unprepared. Men took off their helmets, screaming at each other directly. Half the group was ordered forward to try to retrieve the wounded men, but then stopped. They all had their hands to their helmets and arguing with whoever was giving them orders. They looked visibly frustrated shaking their heads, raising their hands, pointing at the rippling dirt pile. The muffled tears and screams stopped.
I passed out for a second, into that torturous purgatory of blankness she liked to put me in, way back in my running days. It’s even worse now though, because its empty silence allows my mind to run clear. I know that I am in deep, deep trouble. I’m mad at my wife. I want to yell for her, but of course that is an entirely unattainable goal.
Honestly, in this horrible uncanny situation how can I be pissed at her? There are no excuses though, that’s my issue. How could she have fallen asleep? I was sure that was what happened. She saw the look of fear and dread in my eyes. She had read all this. She had seen the change. She knew.
The sound of some demonic woodchopper being fired up brought me back to LaLa-Land. Still the same slow-motion haze though. All nastiness had exploded. The main fire had been tossed, amber piles of it were scattered everywhere, a body smoldered next to me, another dripped empaled on a large limb.
I realized they’ve made the always important to decision, to switch to real bullets, which are bouncing off of and tearing through the woods around me. The bullets whip by and I have the terrible suspicion I have been shot, and just can’t know for sure because I am half-cooked (in more way than one).
I look around trying to find the monster, but his hulking mass is gone from the ground. It looked like someone has emptied out a truck load of pumpkin guts in its place. The perimeter had been scattered. Six men huddled in a group on the other side of the fire.
I started groaning. They looked at me for a second but went back to their conversation.
“We won’t make it thirty minutes for reinforcements.”
“Boss says wait, we wait.”
“With this fucking thing out here, are you serious?”
“They know what it is. They say wait; we wait.”
“Watch it soldier. You knew what “Goon Squad” was all about before you signed up. You knew the risks.”
“Tell that to those guys,” the man said, gesturing towards the fire and the tree.
I started to jerk around. Not giving a damn if I fell right into the fire. Better that and roll away and die, then jut slow bake my way there like this.
“What should we do about him Sir?” Another man asked.
“Leave him be for all I care.”
“Nah better pull him off there, level three priority.”
“Level 3 priority, bullshit.”
“That’s enough Adams!” A man yelled. “One more word out of you and I will have you removed and stripped. Brown and Mueller get him down now!”
The men used the wild grass binding to pick me up like I was nothing. They set me down on the ground and another man produced a large knife and cut me free.
“Give this guy some fucking pants would ya,” the man said. Then he was in my face, smiling. “Hello Sir. I am Lt. Daniels. You have a bit of explaining to do.”
A man tossed a pair of pants in my face. I tried to grab them, but it was like moving through honey.
“Ah shit,” Daniels said, “we hit him with the sleepy juice. Fucking Christ boys, we sure fucked this one up. Someone help him get his fucking pants on and let’s hit him with the epi-pen before we lose him too.”
The rolled me over jabbed me in the thigh and went back to ignoring me. I laid there eyes closed, trying to catch my breath. They talked like I wasn’t there.
“I don’t think that thing is done,” one man said. “He hunted the men that ran. Alvarez, Johnson, I saw those two booking it like that, goddamn fools!”
Guy beside him chimed in. “Yeah, I saw those two, Stanley and Drop Dick too, but I didn’t know half the guys–”Rowdy Squad” substitutes–”
“That’s fucking right,” Cpt. Daniels said, “knew we were dicked when I saw that. Fucking guys going on sabbatical. I tell you this shit always happens when the Captain calls his down-time.”
“What are we going to do if it comes back?” One of them redirected.
“We’re not going to be here boys,” Daniels said. “Pack all this shit up, we’ll circle the area, try to get eyes on that fucking thing. Wait for reinforcements to get in here and clean this shit up. I’m not dealing with this mess.”
There was a rustle in the bush which set all the men to their weapons. “Grab the level three, now!” Daniels yelled. Two of the large men came and grabbed me by my arms-pits and dragged me to a gurgling Humvee.
Two men clutched their weapons in the back of the vehicle. I was shoved in between them. “Howdy,” one said.
Daniels popped his head in. “Keep on eye on this one boys.”
“Yes Sir,” the men said in unison.
There was round of rifle fire. Daniels ducked his head back out the door and slammed it shut.
One of the guys began bouncing his legs like crazy.
“Calm down Jack,” the other one said. “We’re riding with the Captain himself. Ain’t no way that thing is gonna get the Captain.”
“Fuck that you redneck,” said wild legs. “You see what that fucking thing did to them? Killed half the goddamn squad we need to go, now!” There was more firing, and then a large explosion.
“Fuck this,” wild legs said. “I’m getting us out of here.” He went to open the door.
Howdy cocked his weapon and shoved it in the man’s ribs. “Stay right where you’re at their Jack. Slowly, get your hand off the door there. No big deal right, calm down. No one saw nothing. You know that sort of talk is insubordination. Sector 9’s the last place you’d want to go AWOL anyway right? Look at all those bastards that ran tonight? I bet they all got picked off, one by one.”
There was a howl, and the front doors were ripped open. Captain Daniels dove in the passengers seat. An awful chunk was missing from his forearm, but he showed no signs of awareness of that fact. A young looking soldier fell into the driver’s seat. His faced was caked with blood. Daniels took a canteen from the floor and poured it on his face, with his other dirt and block soaked hand he tried to wipe the driver’s face off and then set him back up. “Drive,” he ordered the man.
The driver tried to wipe the gore from his face with his sleeve, but it was a disgusting mess too. He snatched the bottle from the Captain’s hands and poured it on his face again. This time using a semi-clean thumb to scrape the gunk off with one hand. Then he hit the gas, and the truck went peeling off.
The howl was louder than ever. We had enraged the thing now, I was sure of that. He would love the chase too. I felt like a can of sardines, just waiting to be liberated.
“This shit,” Daniels screamed. “I tell you, not worth the pay boys, not worth the fucking pay. A goddamn werewolf can you believe that?” He whacked the driver with the back of his hands. “What’s you’re name son?”
“Michael,” the driver said.
“Did a damn good job Michael,” Daniels said. “Got us out of there. We were fucked.”
“Yes, sir,” Michael said. You could tell he was barely listening. His eyes kept on a relay from the road to his mirrors. Road to the mirrors.
“Yep, you seen some shit tonight boys,” Daniels said. “I’ve only seen one other wolf, myself, that was right when I started with Goon Squad. Was an abominable snowman type son of a bitch. Found him high in mountains of Sector 10. Fucking no one knew how they got there. That’s the real son of a bitch of this whole situation. Administration doesn’t know shit. Tell you nothing can move between sectors without their gates, but then shit like that happens. Or shit like this asshole back here?”
It took me an extra moment to realize he was referring to me. “No offense,” Daniels said, turning around to face me. “I bet this bastard’s got no clue what’s going on. Look at him boys?”
Howdy and shaky legs began to look at me very closely. “Yep,” Daniels said, “these levels 3s are in a state of shock you see. Being torn between the two worlds. Can you believe this asshole is back laying under his blanky, on his comfy bed, while we’re out here dealing with this shit? Where you from man?”
I tried to talk, but the word weren’t coming out. These new revelations shocked me. I tried to speak, but it just came out as an incoherent mumble. “See that shit,” Daniels said. “Fucker can’t speak.”
With two quick movement, the captain popped the latched of his ceiling and tossed the section off. He went blasting up the new hole and it looked like he was going to fly out to. “Yep, think we ditched her boys. Lucky bastards. I don’t see any sign of that thing–not that it’s the easiest goddamn thing to see.”
He flopped back into his seat. “Keep that thing floored Michael. I tell you went to stop.” Daniels turned back to me. “Now listen here you sorry bastard, don’t you go sneaking off on me now, you understand? Not til backup arrives and you get debriefed. Explain everything that happened out here, you understand? We are going to ride this thing out together, right?”
I had no clue what he was talking about, but I nodded in assent.