BIGHORN — Spud Straps and Sledgehammers

TAGS: beast crew, The Mace and the Jedi, The Prowler and the Comanche, bighorn, erik eggers

column-gray-032715

If you haven’t yet read parts 1 and 2, I strongly recommend reading Part 1: The Prowler and the Comanche and Part 2: The Mace and the Jedi, in the following order.

I had the good fortune to be able to attend a wedding in Connecticut this past September, as one of the core members of the Beast Crew was tying the proverbial knot. The reception was a lot of fun. Aside from putting on a sweating exhibition—even my forearms were perspiring (it was humid in my defense), I was able to sit with several great friends, many of whom provided significant inspiration for characters in this series. At that time, EliteFTS had only released the first part and the reactions were interesting. We had a lot of fun laughing about it. One friend even expressed mild concern his character wasn’t involved in the story more. Just wait, I thought, you have no idea what’s in store.

I’d flown into New York the prior day and my parents retrieved me from the airport. We drove straight from LaGuardia to dinner in Connecticut. The early dinner conversation revealed my parents had read The Prowler and the Comanche too.

“We read your story. Do you need to use so many F-bombs?” They asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I think when the shit is hitting the fan and monsters are leaping out of the woods people tend to drop the F-word.”

I thought about their comment, though; thought about it a lot, in fact. I even conducted a little research. I word-searched Part 1 and found six instances of the dreaded F-word—all can be attributed to the first person narrator—that foul-mouthed son of a bitch. In Part 2 I found nine instances of the F-word but there was a more even distribution between Will and the first person narrator, Erik. In this, the third installment, there are seven instances, with the narrator, again swearing like a sailor.

I mentioned the story and this conversation to the young woman who cuts my hair. Although I don’t know her well, she’d agreed to read it and provide an independent opinion. Four weeks later I sat back in her chair and as she fired up the electric razor, she offered laughing, “I read your story. Your parents were right. There are a lot of F-bombs.”

Oh well—what can you do?


This 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.

***

When Will and I proposed the idea of sleep, the rest of the crew thought the idea was preposterous—at first.

We’re not going to be able to sleep with those things outside. Jesus Christ—we’re in real danger. 

I don’t think I’ll ever sleep again, Mo expressed, but she was wrong and they were mostly wrong—they were exhausted, not only from the psychological impact but also from the hard training that preceded the insanity. Despite the surrounding danger, most were forced to succumb to the biological need. A night of heavy deadlifting has always been the best cure for insomnia.

deadlift the beast

At 2 A.M. Jon woke and walked into the front room where I’d been keeping watch. He couldn’t stay asleep and wanted to check on me. He moved slowly, stretching his back and was in obvious discomfort from spending time on the rubberized gym floor. Jon’s black T-shirt brandished the words “Get Fat Yo!” The letters, illustrated as though they were made of donuts, under normal circumstances would’ve made me smirk.

“How you holding up?” he asked, wiping his eyes and cracking his neck.

“I’m okay,” I said. “You, on the other hand, are looking a little dainty this morning. You gonna make it?”

“I’ll make it,” Jon said. “Just thinking about Jeff. I just can’t believe—“ Jon paused and shifted his train of thought. “I wish they would stop testing the doors and move on. I’m hoping they are nocturnal.”

“You need a minute or two?” Jon asked. “I can take the watch if you’d like.”

I walked up the few stairs to the single restroom the facility supported—just a toilet, no shower—walls plastered with both motivational and sexist pictures from random magazines.

I relieved myself, flushed and stood at the sink for a moment staring at my reflection in the dirty mirror. I looked like hell. There was swelling across the bridge of my nose, surrounding the deep gash that would soon be infected and would leave a pronounced scar, yet scar tissue was the least of my worries. I thought about the line from Palahniuk’s Fight Club.

I don’t want to die without any scars.

Despite the wear, I recognized the face. It was somehow older than I remembered and there were too many flecks of old age in the beard and mustache—gray symbols of life slowly ebbing away, without leaving enough behind to show I’d been here. I’d failed to leave my mark when I had the chance and now I was already getting soft, or at least softer—softer and weaker.

I’m half the man I used to be.

Suddenly I was awash in a wave of melancholy and for a brief moment, I thought there was a chance I would lose my composure.

You can do this. You can do this. Don’t pussy-out now. You can do this.

I put my face in my hands and pulled myself together. I craned my neck and inadvertently found myself looking up at the ceiling. I’d forgotten about the hatch door which provided roof access. A series of two-by-fours had been nailed to the wall created a crude ladder allowing access to the hatch but I’d never messed with it.

Could they leap high enough to get on the roof?

With my emotions under control, I ambled back down the stairs and told Jon I was fine minding the door for the rest of the evening and hopefully, we wouldn’t have to ask him to take a shift the following night. I didn’t want to think about being trapped in here for the second night, never mind the possibility of being imprisoned longer than that.

I’d said before that I would live in the gym to reach my goals but that was twenty years ago and, even then, when I was my hardest, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

“Hey man,” Jon started. “About Judith—”

“Jon,” I interrupted. “Go try and get some sleep.”

JUDITH

Judith laid on the floor next to Owen quietly giggling. She hadn’t slept all night and was trembling with excitement. For the first time since her experiment, with the smell of blood thick in the air, she felt alive.

She’d been listening to Owen’s labored breathing for most of the evening and had decided she would add another to her list. It would be easy but there would still be a rush and she clamored for the rush. She longed to re-experience the sweet nectar of life, which for Judith, was to serve as a host for the angel of death once again.

Owen’s respirations grew progressively weaker. After Jon returned, from the front room, Judith watched carefully to make sure he eventually fell asleep. She made certain they were all asleep before she made her move.

You’re all going to die.

Judith stealthy climbed on top of Owen, pinning his shoulders to the ground with her knees. Using both her hands and full weight, she covered his mouth and nose. His body convulsed but only briefly. The blood loss had left him compromised and even sans Judith’s intervention, it was unlikely he would have lasted another day. Had he been healthy, despite her formidable strength, the fireman would have bucked her off in an instant.

His eyes had flashed open once but only briefly. There was no sign of recognition. His grip on the tomahawk gave for the last time and he was gone.

Uncontrollably shaking and perspiring, Judith crawled back to her spot on the floor. She worked to control her respiration rate and once it was normalized she repositioned herself in the back corner of the gym, as far from her victim as possible. No one noticed any of her movement.

Exhaustion had overcome all.

MELANCHOLY MORNING

Morning came but there was no light—no sun.

The discovery of Owen’s passing left all of us with a feeling of despair but coupled with an unexplainable lack of daylight, it was almost unbearable. First Jeff, now Owen—we were all in serious jeopardy and our resolve was tested. We needed to continue to cultivate the will to survive.

“Jesus H. Christ,” Chris said. “There’s no light. There’s no fucking daylight, man.”

“We’ll figure it out, Chris. We’ll figure it out,” I repeated—speaking not to Chris but to myself.

You can do this. You can do this. We can do this.

After shrouding Owen’s body in the back corner of the gym we spent some time gathering the gym implements that could potentially serve as weapons. We had the mace, a couple of sledgehammers, an assortment of heavy chains (including Spud Spotting Straps), Texas Power Bars, rope, and straps. Mo had adopted the tomahawk as her personal weapon of choice.

man down

“I was hoping for daylight this morning—I guess I’m going to have to make a run in the dark,” Will said. “If I can get to my truck, worst case we’ll have a couple of real weapons and best case maybe I can use my truck to get us all the hell out of here. We’re going to need food soon and, as we’ve already seen, this place isn’t exactly impenetrable.”

“Your truck is near the top of the hill,” Jon said. “It’s at least two hundred yards from here and your calf is a mess. I just don’t see it.”

“I’m fine,” Will said. “Three of us will make a run at it. Maybe Chris, Jon and I.” Will looked to me, “You stay back with Mo and Judith.”

“Nah, I don’t like that plan. I’ll go with you,” I said. “Chris will stay back to protect Mo and Judith. You, Jon, and I will go.”

Chris pulled me aside and said, “Listen, I love you. You know this—but you’re slow as shit. You know, as much as I don’t want to go out there, I’m the best guy for the job. I think I give us the best chance to make it to the truck.”

“Look, I hear you—I’m no spring chicken but I can move when I need to. You—you’re young. You have your whole fucking life ahead of you, which is why I can’t watch you walk out that door. Not yet. Please don’t fight me on this. We’ve got enough shit to worry about.”

“I don’t know, Son,” Chris said as he glanced at the floor. “This is such a mess. I can’t think straight.”

“Stay back here with the girls for me—because I am asking you to. I’ll make it back here. I promise I’ll make it back.”

PREPARATION, PREPARATION, PREPARATION

When the time was right Will and I called for everyone to gather in the front room so we could talk through the situation together and see if anyone had any additional thoughts to help devise a strategy to work our way to safety—presuming safety was, in fact, achievable—presuming safety still existed in this world.

“I agree with your plan,” Mo said. “We have to try. If we wait and do nothing, those things will eventually overcome us.”

We affirmed we’d make a break for Will’s truck—we’d attempt to retrieve some weapons and hopefully the truck as well.

***

“Should we stretch before we head out?” Jon asked.

“Contraindicated,” Chris said.

“Yeah, I know,” Will agreed. “But old habits die hard and before I made a run on the football field, I always stretched the old hammies, so I’m not going to stop now. Throw me that blue lotion. I need to lube up the calves. Plus I heard those Bighorns hate this shit.”

“Yeah, they hate analgesics,” Chris said. “Especially horse analgesics.”

“Jon, you should put some sweat socks over your forearms for extra protection—you know, like you did at your first strongman competition for the Stones Event when ALL the other competitors were either using heavy sleeves or duct tape and tacky,” I said.

Jon laughed. “That shit almost worked.”

“Yeah, almost,” I said. “At least for one stone. Good thing you killed it in the Tire Flip.”

“Fucking purple sweat socks,” Will said. “Damn, my calf is feeling loose now. After we blow out of here, I may just run a couple forties.” Will ran in place, bringing his knees high.

“I may join you,” Jon said. “Forties in the dark or better still—hill sprints.”

We’d decided we would make our attempt at 10 A.M. We needed to set a definitive time to make sure we were all equally focused and that we all completely understood the task at hand and explicitly what we were trying to accomplish—setting the time helped crystalize the plan.

“Okay, fortunately for you guys, this isn’t my first rodeo,” Will said. “Here’s how we are going to play it. I’m out the door first, followed by Jon and then Erik.”

We nodded in unison.

“Once we get outside I will stay in the middle; Jon, you will stay to my left and Erik to the right. We are going to move as a unit as quickly and as quietly as we can toward my truck.”

“You’ve got the keys, right?” Jon asked.

“I’ve got the keys,” Will said. “If any of the unfriendlies show up, we will work as a unit to fend them off but, and this is critical, we will continue moving in the direction of the truck. Everyone on the same page?”

“What if we get surrounded?” I asked.

“Then we’re FUBAR, aren’t we?” Will asked rhetorically. “Listen—in the event we get surrounded we stay as close together as possible with our backs facing each other so we can parry attacks coming from all directions but, and listen, because this is important, to the extent possible, even if we become surrounded, we should still continue in the general direction of the truck. If we can make it to the truck, we may be able to level the playing field.”

“How do we handle the one we know is close by?” Jon asked. “The one that keeps testing the overhead.”

“We’re going to time it,” I said. “As soon as we hear that impact, we’re going to make our break and hope its recovery time after hitting that door will give us an extra second or two.”

“Agreed,” Will said. “I think that’s a good idea. I have to imagine it takes a few beats for it to get its bearings again.”

At 9:55 A.M. we were up and ready to go. Will brandished his trusty mace. He’d already utilized it to smack one of the Bighorns and had some success, so despite its weight, it felt like a good weapon of choice.

BIGHORN 3

Jon and I chose a combination of weapons. We both had sledgehammers as our primary and we draped Spud Suspension Straps around our neck as a secondary. The Spuds are a combination of heavy strap and chain and could both be whipped around to cause damage or, alternatively, could be utilized to strangle one of the beasts.

Mo and Chris made their rounds and hugged each us in unison. Judith was nowhere to be found.

“Be safe and good luck,” Mo whispered in my ear. “Get us the hell out of here.”

John rolled the tire away from the door and the now weakened door jamb.

Chris draped his arms around my shoulders but looked down at the floor remaining silent.

“I’ll be back,” I said.

THE STAND

10 A.M.

Slam—into the commercial overhead door.

“Ready,” Will said. It wasn’t a question—more of a command. “I’m breaking on the next one.”

Will was out the door like a cannon, brandishing the mace with bad intentions. Jon followed, as we discussed, and I brought up the rear, only pausing a split second to make brief contact with Chris; my eyes said—I can’t believe we’re fucking doing this.

As I stepped through the door and into the darkness of the day, I felt like a reluctant skydiver on a maiden jump.

I can’t believe we’re doing this.

Only five steps away from the door, one of them hit Jon.

“Jesus,” Will screamed.

Jon was moving against the side of the building like a shadow. The Bighorn’s attack was comparable to a motorcycle crashing into him at high speed, pinning him against the wall—that’s the most accurate description of the attack—it's the only description that does the collision justice.

“Noooooooo!” I howled. “Jonnnnnnnnn!”

The impact of Jon’s body against the building cracked the wooden siding and the Bighorn’s teeth, jaws fully extended—almost unhinged, burrowed into Jon’s ribcage. Blood began to flow from Jon’s mouth and when I saw the look on his face, I thought of the movie character, Quint, the grizzled shark hunter in Jaws, when the behemoth shark clamps on his torso and pulls him off the ORCA into the depths of the sea.

“Jon,” Will groaned. “Jesus, Jon.”

Jon let the sledge drop from his hand, yet he somehow remained coherent.

So much for the plan.

“Get to the fucking truck,” I yelled. “No choice now.”

Will reluctantly turned and hobble-sprinted alone into the darkness.

I wasn't sure what to do. I couldn’t hit the Bighorn with the sledgehammer without tearing Jon’s ribs apart.

I was preparing to whip the Spuds around its neck when Jon grabbed the monster by the horns. In a display of strength, the likes of which I’d never seen, despite spending substantial portions of my life around the strongest men in the world, Jon began to forcefully extricate its jaws from his bloody torso, while concurrently twisting its head.

“Ready,” Jon said through crimson lips. “Gaaaaaaaa—“ He screamed as he continued to strain and twist.

“Now!” Jon yelled, as he fully disentangled the beast’s still snapping jaw from his body. At that moment, I brought the hammer down on its skull as hard as I could—extinguishing the Bighorn for good.

There was silence but only for a moment.

“Look out,” Jon said, as his eyes tracked on something to my rear.

I turned to see another Bighorn ripping toward me at unbelievable speed. I was doomed to join my friend plastered against the side of the building—two broken bloody pulps.

Suddenly the 600 pound tired was rolled between the Bighorn and I—Chris had joined the fray despite my protests.

Despite the formidable tire, the monster’s attack was still powerful enough send me careening into the building, however, the width of the tire separated us and prevented its jaws from reaching my flesh. I couldn’t move other than to hand my sledgehammer to Chris. He promptly brought it down on the Bighorn’s head. Another death-blow that sent the monster reeling onto the pavement.

“I told you to stay inside,” I said to Chris.

“Yeah, you’re welcome for saving your fucking life,” Chris responded.

“Thanks, Cocksucker.”

I turned to tend to Jon. He’d slumped to the ground against the building and was fading fast.

“Jon, we need to get you up,” I said, dropping to my knees next to him. “We need to get you safe.”

“Safe? You see me out-muscle that monster?” He whispered. “That shit wasn’t dainty.” He smiled and grimaced.

“No sir, not at all—not dainty at all you fucking Yeti,” I said. “Let’s get you up and back inside.”

“No,” Jon said. “I just need to rest here for a while. You guys get back inside. If you’ve got a Yeti Imperial Stout hidden in the office, I’ll take it.”

“I’ll need to check the fridge,” I said. My eyes welled with tears.

“What do you think?” Chris asked.

“Will?”

“I don’t know. I think he might have made it.”

TO BE CONTINUED

spud-inc-products

Loading Comments... Loading Comments...