The Creeper’s of McCall Ridge
Grover left the ruins of the battlefield behind him and trotted up the ridge until the moans of the creepers had been drown out by the sound of crunching leaves under his boots and the noise of the friction between the pants legs on his overalls. It had been a long day for him; an emotionally draining day and he needed to find shelter before the sun went down and he was left in the dark with the creepers hot on his trail. He knew the soldiers would still be out there as well but figured they wouldn’t be in search of him. Most likely they would assume that the air strike had been successful and the two hillbillies had been killed. In reality, there had only been one. Ernest. Grover leaned against a tree and rubbed a final tear from his eye, promising himself he would not shed another tear for his brother. He would replace his sorrow with rage and kill every one of the men around the lake for what they had done.
Grover took a deep breath and stared into the sky. Several white clouds had begun to mix with darker clouds with the promise of rain; even more reason to find shelter he thought to himself. He reached into the front pocket of his overalls and found his last cigarette that had somehow survived the action with the creepers as well as him cramming several full magazines of ammo around it, and lit it with a nickel plated lighter his father had carried in Vietnam. He took a deep drag from the tobacco and exhaled as he stared at the skull and cross bones on the lighter.
“Fear No Evil.” He read aloud. A sentence that felt fitting for the world he was living in.
There was movement. Grover froze. He had just caught a slight glimmer of a sapling shaking to his left. There is no way them creepers have caught up with me already. Is there? Grover raised his rifle and aimed in the direction of the movement while the half-smoked cigarette dangled from his cracked lips. Show yourself maggot! He shouted in his head. I will blow your head off! He seen movement again and slowly raised his thumb to the selector lever to switch the rifle from safe to fire and placed his finger on the trigger. He watched as the shambling creeper pushed its way through the underbrush and began to bend small saplings as it walked. Oddly, the creeper had a rifle slung over its shoulder. The creeper, bald and dressed in a red flannel shirt and blue jeans, stopped walking, and pulled a pipe from its pocket and began to pack tobacco in it. Grover lowered his rifle. It wasn’t a creeper, thankfully. But he didn’t know if this man was friend or foe.
“Hey old man!” Grover shouted.
“Hey dummy! Did I kill you? Hey wake up!”
Grover slowly opened his eyes and stared into the face of the man who had shot him. Grey stubble bristled across his chin and his neck that held two homemade necklaces that dangled inches above Grover’s face. One was made of string and a handmade wooden cross and the other was a mixture of dead birds with their feet tied to a brown piece of leather looped around the man’s neck. Instinctively, Grover reached out to choke the man but he was just as quick as he was when he pulled his rifle and dodged the attack.
“Hey, calm down there big fella! Sorry about your melon. Thought you was one of them soldier boys. I think you will live though.” The old man said as he began to laugh.
Grover rubbed his forehead, now felling like someone had hit him with a splitting axe, and found where he had been shot. A small round pellet was firmly lodged in his the skin and most likely in his skull as well.
“Did you shoot me with a BB gun?”
“You shot me with a BB gun?”
“You hard of hearing youngin’. I said yes dummy!” The old man shouted and then began laughing. “Hey get up. The invaders are coming up them there hills. We need to get out of here. I figure you can stay with me fer a bit if you like. At least until things cool down. I assume you was with them fella’s that shot up that convoy?”
Grover stood with the help of his rifle and looked down the hill and could see that the creepers were coming his way. “The invaders?” Grover asked.
They reached the home as the sun was dipping its face behind the western horizon. It was a small shack, not much smaller than the place that Grover and Ernest had called home before the soldiers had burned it down and stolen their belongings. The old man stopped a few yards short of his home and laid his bag on the ground and began to scan the trees.
“What are you looking for old man?”
“Bluebirds.” The man said in a tone as if Grover should have known the answer.
“Bluebirds?” Grover looked up into the oak and pine trees that surrounded them. The slight wind pushed the branches and leaves in a gentle manner as above them the final dark clouds of rain gathered to dump their water on the dying land below.
“Yep. Hate them suckers. They is evil.”
“Bluebirds? You think bluebirds are evil?”
The old man looked at the ground and then back up at Grover. Then he looked at the pellet stuck in Grover’s forehead and started laughing. “It is hard fer me to take you serious when you have that BB stuck in your head.”
Grover raised his finger to his head and began to pick at it but it wouldn’t budge.
“Looks like I am stuck with it. Thanks to you.”
“You’re welcome. Anyway, yes bluebirds are evil. They are the reason we are in the mess we are in.”
“What. With the creepers?”
“You call them creepers? Never heard them called that before. Yet, I haven’t really talked to many folks since the invasion started.”
“The invasion. Gee whiz boy, where you born this stupid or did you have to work at it?”
“What like Russian’s or something?”
“Don’t be silly. Why would the Russian’s do this? I mean like aliens.”
“Aliens? Then what are the bluebirds in this grand scheme of things.”
“I told you. They are evil. They are the vessel of the alien plague that has taken hold of this country. Those little grey men figured if they could wipe us out with it then we would be easier to take over!”
It was Grover’s turn to laugh. He laughed so hard his head felt as if the pellet in his head as going to shoot from his forehead. When he looked up the old man was pointing his pellet rifle at his face.
“You find something funny friend?”
“Uh-, no. I just find it hard to believe that a well-coordinated bluebird and alien attack would be the reason for the world to end.”
The old man raised his rifle and shot into the air at an enemy Grover could not see and waited. A small blue dot emerged and then plummeted to the earth and landed with a soft thud onto the pine needles and leaves. The old man picked up the small bluebird and then dug several small nails from his bag.
“What are you doing?”
“The invaders do not like bluebirds. For one reason or another bluebird’s make them stay away. I guess they assume that this area is already infected and they move on.”
The old man began to nail the bird to the tree facing the direction the creepers would be approaching.
“That one little bird is going to turn back all them folks?”
“Most of them. I have more of them birds on trees around here so we should be fine tonight. Let’s go eat.” The old man said happily.
“What is your name anyway old man?”
“Tim. Tim Preacher. But you can just call me Preacher.”