Sometimes in the initial draft of a movie screenplay the main character will die at the end of the film—only to be preserved later, during the re-writing process. One notable example is First Blood, where Stallone's main character, John Rambo, was initially slated to die at the end of the flick. It's hard for the writer to let go, especially after developing an affection for a character.

We've lost a couple of good ones along this journey. We may lose a few more too (no spoiler alert, but definitely a teaser). The fifth and final segment (at least "final" for this venue) was definitely the most challenging to write, although I can't quite put my finger on the reason it was so difficult. I can tell you it took gobs of time to try and get it right.

I placed these characters in quite a predicament and, although I have had my own challenges in the gym, I've never experienced anything tantamount to a Bighorn attack, and for that, I suppose I can be thankful this New Year.

Thank you for reading this and special thanks to those of you who shared various parts on social media. I enjoyed writing it tremendously. If you haven’t yet read the early parts, I recommend reading in order.

Best regards — Erik

PART 1: The Prowler and the Comanche 

PART 2: The Mace and the Jedi 

PART 3: Spud Straps and Sledgehammers 

PART 4: AMG Brabus and the Ripsnorters

This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


Jesus H. Christ,” Chris yelled, as two of the Bighorns stalked from the rear of the facility into the area where we stood—an area surrounded with thick steel training implements. Jesus H. Christ,” he repeated.

Chris lifted his sledgehammer and sidestepped into the center of one of the Collegiate Power Racks. To attract the Bighorns’ attention, he began to bang the head of the weapon into one of the rack’s vertical posts—11-gauge steel.  

the best collegiate rack

His positioning fostered the image of a shark biologist, studying powerful creatures while hoping the cage would prove formidable enough to withstand the onslaught of several Great Whites, should such protection become necessary.

Over here!” He yelled. I’m right over here.” Chris turned to Mo and me, Get to the bathroom while I distract these fuckers. It's your only chance.”

Where the fuck is Will?

Mo sprang forward in an athletic stance and raised the tomahawk in preparation for an offensive attack. The throwing tomahawk had been Owen's weapon of choice, and now it was hers. She was neither going to yield without a fight nor was she going to allow Chris to stand alone.


I ran to one of the dumbbell racks, grabbed a fifty-pounder and launched it, like a shot put, in the general direction of the predators.


Will floored his truck in reverse. He headed toward the gym in a rescue attempt, which felt ill-fated in his heart-of-hearts. The tires spun, kicking up loose gravel and stones where the asphalt had worn away. At first, the Bighorns held their ground, but after he had mowed down the first few, the herd began to part, deftly springing out of harm’s way.

Yeah, you like that?” Will screamed. He gazed into the review mirror and continued to accelerate the truck.

When he reached an open area of asphalt, he slammed the brakes and prepared to shift into Drive to improve his control over the vehicle as he approached the facility. The Bighorns were drawn to the roar of the truck’s engine and, perhaps, the loud shrieks as some of their numbers were violently extinguished.

As Will shifted his gaze from the rearview mirror to the front windshield, he could barely believe his eyes. The surrounding herd had grown exponentially. The Bighorns numbered in the hundreds.

Time to go for fucking broke,” he said.

Will snatched the last Bud Light out of the cupholder, complete with Jets’ koozie, and took another sizable gulp. Without a second thought, he tossed the entire empty works to the passenger-side floor.

He removed the hunting knife from the sheath he’d earlier wedged under his front leg and set the blade between clenched teeth—easy reach, yet keeping his hands free, like a pirate preparing to climb a mast.


As much as Alex enjoyed driving the Brabus, and he loved the vehicle, shooting Bulls provided an adrenaline rush Alex hadn’t felt since plowing over defenders en route to scoring touchdowns. After his first kills while driving, he elected to leave the driver’s side window open. Alex continued to potshot Bulls in concert with Steve. He continued to hone his one-handed shot with the short-barreled shotgun, as he navigated around abandoned vehicles.

Steve spied two approaching from the right when the vehicle was only one hundred yards from the driveway to the facility.

Two at ten o’clock,” Steve yelled. You’ve got the angle.”

They were closer than Alex expected, but he managed to blast the first right in the muzzle, sending chunks to splatter into the darkness. The second bull, however, was quicker and managed to strike.

With an explosive thrust, its jaws clamped on the barrel of Alex's shotgun. Alex refused to release the weapon, despite the strain on his forearm. The monster powerfully craned its neck from side-to-side, yet Alex continued to drive while attempting to shake the trailing monster loose.

Alex,” Steve yelled.

Oh shit.

Steve quickly popped through the sunroof of the Brabus and flattened himself out on the roof of the moving vehicle like a sniper. He took aim at the engaged Bull.

Hang on Alex,” Steve yelled. I’ve got you covered."

Shoot away from its fucking head,” Alex called. I want to keep my arm.”

Steve fired his shotgun into the beast, sending it cartwheeling off the side of the road. Alex was able to retrieve his arm and weapon.

"Holy shit," Alex exclaimed, as stretched and flexed his forearm inside the vehicle.

Still intact.

Thanks, man,” Alex said. You saved my skin.”


“I’m over here fuckers,” Chris continued. He drew one of the two Bighorns toward his defensive position inside the power rack; he resumed banging the sledgehammer's head against the vertical post.

Although the dumbbell I’d thrown had grazed the rear bighorn in the hip, the blow was not enough to impact its predatory focus. It remained trained directly on Mo and her raised tomahawk.

A little closer,” she whispered. Her entire body tensed as she prepared to strike a blow.

The lead Bighorn snapped at Chris’ head. However, the power rack's vertical post foiled the attack. The monster clamped down on the post, ripping at the steel with its shark-like rows of teeth—seemingly indifferent to the fact that it missed the intended target. It was determined to tear away at the rack. The effort was futile. The frame's built-in weight storage held sixteen forty-five-pound plates. While empty, the implement was virtually immovable, but with an additional 720-plus pounds, a forklift could barely test it.

The beast released its bite temporarily, pulled back, and rammed its head, horns first into the post—the impact was formidable, but the rack held firm.


With the truck now in Drive, Will once again began to plow through the herd of Bighorns. The pack had become so thick that despite the vehicle's power, it was unable to obtain appreciable speed.


Two of the monsters leaped and landed in the rear bed of Will's truck. One smashed its horns through the rear window and stretched into the cab to reach Will. Its jaws snapped and slobber sprayed from its impetuous maw. The rancid dribble further dampened the back of Will’s neck.

I can’t stop. If I lose all my momentum, it’s over.

Without removing his foot from the gas pedal, Will turned and slashed at the monster with the heavy hunting knife. The first strike split the Bighorn's nose horizontally in two. The animal released a horrific shriek but was otherwise undeterred. The hungry jaws continued to reach for Will.

Damn, these things are relentless.

Will lifted the knife as high as the Truck’s confines would allow. With all of his might, he slammed the blade into the center of the bighorn’s skull. The sharp blade penetrated several inches beneath the surface, and the creature fell limp, leaving its torso half inside and a half outside of the cab.

Will turned forward and slipped the blood soaked blade between his clenched teeth again. His eyes alternated between the rearview mirror, where a second Bighorn began to penetrate the cab while two more jumped into the rear bed.



As the Brabus reached the crest of the driveway leading to the facility, Steve turned to Alex and asked, Should we announce our arrival?”

Yeah,” Alex said. His arm was fully recovered from the earlier close call. Are you locked and loaded?”

Yes sir,” Steve replied. "Are you going to want more firepower up there?"

"Yeah, hand me the AR-15 with the high capacity magazine."

"Take this one," Steve said.

Okay, let’s roll,” Alex said, as he stowed the weapon nearby.

Alex turned on the external speakers and sent AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill piercing through the woods.


Chris was prepared. The third time the Bighorn clamped down on the power rack, he swung the sledgehammer down hard. He struck it on the head and sent it crashing to the floor in a heap. Yet, even with one eliminated we had lost ground. In his peripheral vision, Chris saw three more enter the rear of the facility.

Jesus H. Christ.

Mo finally launched her attack and aggressively swung the tomahawk at the head of the nearest Bighorn. The strike was a valiant effort but a near miss. As the creature launched its counter-attack, I quickly grabbed Mo around the waist and yanked her away from the snapping jaws.

“We’ve got to get the hell out of here,” I screamed.

And go where?” Mo asked. “We’re surrounded.”

“We’ve got to get to the roof.”

"It's over," Mo said. "Let's stand our ground."

I pulled her over to the stairs and shoved her up toward the bathroom.

It's not over.

Chris resumed striking the sledgehammer against the power rack to command the attention of the ever increasing pack.

Are you nuts?” I screamed. Get the hell over here. It's futile.”

You go,” he said. Get Mo to the roof. I’m going to buy you some time.”

Over here fuckers,” Chris yelled.


Will’s right eye began to twitch uncontrollably as he continued to switch his gaze from the front to the rear of the vehicle. As the masses of Bighorns continued to slow his progress, they began launching attacks at the passenger and driver's side doors. The second monster to penetrate the cab tore apart the driver's side headrest as it advanced closer to Will.

As Will prepared to engage the animal to his rear, a Bighorn launched its skull into the front passenger side window, shattering the glass inward.

Will was forced to remove his foot from the gas to fend off multiple attacks.

"Time to kiss it goodbye."


As the Brabus cleared the crest of the hill, its headlamps and searchlights illuminated the parking lot below. There were more Bulls packed together than Alex or Steve had ever seen. They were swarming all over a smaller truck—Will's truck.

"Holy shit," Steve yelled. "Is that Will's truck?"

"Damn right it is," Alex said. "We've got to get down there, and we've got to do it in a hurry."

He floored the vehicle, and 700 horses roared to life.

"It's clobbering time," Steve screamed. "Look out below!"


I shoved Mo into the bathroom and slammed the flimsy door shut behind us.

"Now what?" Mo asked. "Now what?"

"Up," I said. "No choice."


Will slashed at the beasts with the hunting knife and his sheer will to survive. The front driver's side window was now compromised, and he was surrounded by a sea of foul spittle and teeth.


Steve stood through the sunroof and sprayed the pack with his own AR-15. Some of them fell away, but there were so many.

Alex adjusted the Golight to focus on the inside of Will’s truck.

"Steve, get back inside," Alex said. "Will's in the truck, and I don't want you to shoot him by accident."

"He's alive then?" Steve asked.



Mo popped through the hatch onto the roof, and I followed behind. I poked my head back down inside and screamed, “Chris! Chris! Get up here now!"

"What the fuck?" Mo said as she saw the parking lot illuminated as a large vehicle approached.

"Will," she screamed.


"What do I do?" Alex asked. "What do I do?" The question was rhetorical, but Steve answered anyway.

"Ram it."


the beast gym

Chris grabbed the Monkey Chinning Bar and performed a muscle-up to position himself atop the power rack. The facility was teaming with Bighorns now, and he felt like a rat on a sinking ship. They filled the gym, and the pack snapped at his heels with ferocity.

At least they got to the roof.


 Will was forced to slouch down on the passenger's side floor—his final retreat. He'd suffered several bites, but none were fatal—yet. He continued to brandish the hunting knife, inflicting his own damage, but there were too many of them.


Alex decided he would take Steve's advice. He'd gone with Steve's hunches in the past, and each time they had emerged the better for it.

"Hold on, Kid," Alex said. "You might want to buckle in for this."

Buckle your chinstrap, Brother.

Steve nodded and fastened his seatbelt.

"Go for it," he said. "It's now or never."


Mo peered into the parking lot and had a fifty-yard-line view of Alex piloting the AMG Brabus into the side of Will's truck.

The force of the blow sent the truck tumbling as it rolled into the side of the building. Bighorns were expelled everywhere. Bodies were ejected from Will's vehicle, including his own, which flew through the rear window and skidded across the pavement before falling limp.

"Erik," Mo yelled. "Will is in trouble."


I didn't hear Mo's cries or the crash. My focus remained on Chris. My head stayed ducked through the roof's hatchway, into the facility, as I continued to scream for him.

Inside the building, I could hear nothing, but the scrambling of clawed feet, the snapping of jaws, and the impact of horns into cold, unfeeling steel.


Chris stood atop the rack—his last bastion of safety. The ceiling allowed no further retreat. He briefly thought of diving, headfirst, for the stairs leading to the bathroom, but quickly discerned, in a best-case scenario, he'd fall at least five feet short. It was over—just a matter of where they would ultimately take him.


Mo jumped off the roof.


Alex and Steve emerged from the undamaged Brabus and immediately laid down heavy gunfire.


I dropped back down into the bathroom of the facility. My left foot landed in the toilet, but my ankles were mercifully left intact. With Mo on the roof, or so I'd thought, I wasn't leaving Chris behind.


Mo landed on the undercarriage of Will's truck, which faced skyward—its wheels continued to spin. She hit the pavement in a controlled tumble and ran to Will as Alex and Steve continued to provide cover.

"Mo, can you drag him to the Brabus?" Steve asked as he eliminated a Bull that came within several feet of where she stood.

Mo didn't waste time answering. She grabbed Will by his bloodied shirt and began to drag him toward their vehicle.

When she reached Steve, he handed her his weapon and forcefully heaved Will into the backseat of the truck.

Like a well-drilled team, Steve jumped in the backseat with Mo. Alex pulled himself back into the driver's seat and slammed his door shut. In an instant he had the vehicle moving again, knowing its momentum was the best weapon against the Bulls.

"Is anyone else still inside?" Alex asked.


I ripped open the bathroom door and peered into the facility to witness Chris’ leap from the power rack into a sea of Bighorns. He caught my eye as he reached the apex of his flight. The look on his face said, fuck it—I tried.

Without thinking, I dove for him, and we both hit the floor in the middle of the pack. I grabbed him and pulled him toward me. We awaited the inevitable.

Teeth dug into my meat of my upper back as there was an explosive impact between something and the overhead door.

This door can stop a six-hundred-pound grizzly bear. That's what the installer had suggested.


It couldn't stop the Brabus 6x6.

Alex slammed the vehicle through the overhead taking a calculated risk.

It effortlessly plowed through the door, and when the impact with the first Collegiate Power Rack slowed its forward progress, Alex smartly hit the brakes. The vehicle lurched to a stop with Chris and I huddled under the front bumper, inches away from the imposing tires.

The impact had sent dozens of Bighorns were sprawling. Those that remained physically intact stampeded out the rear of the facility.

Steve hopped out of the truck wielding a shotgun in his massive fists. He commenced a clean-up of the surrounding area and eliminated any Bulls showing signs of life. He moved with the precision of a Terminator.

Alex extended his big hand in front of my face. I looked up to see him standing there—a big grin poked through his thick beard.

"Hey, Old Man—are you going to make it?" He asked. He pulled me to my feet, while Mo attended to Chris.

I hugged Alex and thanked him. "You came to get us—you big son of a bitch," I said. "Thank you. Thank you."

I turned to Chris. He was bloodied and hurt, but he was very much alive. I grabbed him by the neck and pulled him toward me.

Thank God.

"Will?" I asked Mo, placing my hand gently on her shoulder.

"He's in the truck," she said. "He's badly hurt, but he's still breathing."

"Steve," Alex called. "Get your ass back over here. We're going to need that ammunition later."


We piled into the Brabus. I sat in the passenger seat next to Alex as we pulled out, leaving the facility behind, once and for all.

Alex accelerated the vehicle through what remained of the herd. Their numbers had dissipated as they ran for the protection of the thick woods.


We pulled up to the main road without a plan.

Alex stopped and glanced over to me.

"Food and water," I said. "That's all I've got for you. Food, water, and maybe bandages."

I reached back and grabbed Mo's hand.

It's going to be alright.

"How's Will doing?” I asked.

"He's strong," she said. "Like all of us—he's going to make it."


Together we drove into the darkness of the new day. Our powerful desire to persevere fueled only by our devotion to each other and the hope of reuniting with loved ones.

THE END (for now)