The Creepers of McCall Ridge
Ernie kicked the door open the shed and walked directly to the back of the dingy shake; a man on a mission knowing exactly what he was looking for. While Ernie began to pull items from under the shop table, Grover watched intently from the hanging door.
“So, what you building brother?” Grover asked in a sing-song voice.
Ernest slammed a large six foot long cylinder on the table and began taping wires to the top. “Remember how we used to tape together sparklers when we were kids and blow holes in dad’s yard?”
Grover began to laugh, “Oh, yeah I remember. And, no matter how many times the old man would threaten us with beatings for doing it he was always out there with us the next time we would do it laughing with us, wasn’t he?”
“Well I am making something like that. But it doesn’t have sparklers and we are going to need a bigger hole.”
“This is going to be awesome.” Grover giggled.
“Yes sir it is. I just hope there is enough acetylene left in this tank to do what we need it to. Find me a couple of batteries.”
“When did you become Mr. MacGyver?”
“Hey, you watch a couple of Discovery Channel shows and you pick up a few things. I can’t help it if I tried to expand my mind and you spend your time destroying yours with cartoons.”
Grover began shuffling through scattered tools and other discarded items around the shop looking for anything that held a battery source and then shouted “Found some!” as he held up a dingy plastic flashlight.
“Those will work, I think. Ok, help me carry this contraption. We can hide a piece from the lake. I figure them old boys are probably still camped down there. We see if they are, we plant our friend here, then we get them to go where we want them to, and BAM! We get my dog back and your machine gun.”
“Don’t forget my Skynard records.”
“And your Skynard records.”
Murray Lake, the 250 acre lake the brothers had fished since they were boys was now a large barren pit of mud with the stench of rotting fish and creepers rising into the mountain air. Ernie and Grover had hid their device under some dying brush and leaves alongside the gravel road and had hid behind a fallen oak tree. The soldiers that had destroyed their home had followed a pattern as Ernie had assumed they would and had returned to the same position they were in when they had initially been attacked. They were sitting in a circular perimeter roughly 300 yards from where the brothers hid amongst the dead leaves and branches of the fallen oak.
“Them dummies set right back up in the same spot?” Grover whispered to Ernie.
“I believe they are used to fighting them creepers. Creepers don’t think brother. You can do the same thing over and over again and not suffer the consequences. I don’t think that they are setting there waiting for us though. We still don’t know why them mongoloids blew up our fishin’ hole.”
Grover began shaking his head, “True.”
The brothers continued to lie in the warm noon sun as they watched the soldiers move about their day as if there was not a worry in the world. Several creepers tried to shamble into their perimeter but were quietly dispatched with either an ax or knife blade quietly to the head. Grover began to shift back and forth nervously and aim his rifle at a soldier standing on the hood of an armored vehicle holding a rifle. Grover watched the man through his scope. He was dressed in a mixture of traditional camouflaged uniform that a soldier would wear but topping his head was a black bandana bearing a white skull and crossed bones emblem.
“Stay calm brother.” Ernie whispered.
“I am. That’s the dude that was screaming about us wanting a war.”
“Yeah, I know.”
In the distance Ernie could hear a rumbling that caused Grover to tap his leg to see if he was hearing the same thing. Ernie simply nodded his head but continued to scan through his rifle scope looking for the source of the noise. The soldiers in the small camp began to move with a purpose and run around gathering their gear. The soldier with the skull bandana jumped from the hood of his truck and opened up their perimeter. From the far side of the road Ernie watched as a large crane followed by another two armored trucks sped up the gravel road and into the small perimeter of the vehicles next to Murray Lake.
“What in the world do they need a crane for?” Grover almost shouted.
“I don’t know but I am a thinkin’ that we are about to find out why they blew that dam though.”
“Well that stinks.” Grover said as he rolled over, now resting his back on the scaly gray bark of the oak. Ernie did the same and pulled a cigarette from a crinkled pack and handed it to his brother.
“Well, them folks have our stuff and they destroyed our house and our favorite fishin’ hole. I mean those fools have taken everything from us that the creepers haven’t in 24 hours, man. I was really looking forward to some payback but now we are going to have to wait. I hate waiting.”
Grover lit his filter less cigarette and then handed it to Ernie.
“Quite the quandary.”
“Quite the what?” Grover said with a raised eyebrow. “Speak ‘merican man, we are in ‘Merica.”
“We can still hit them. I say we bury our little present for them, make them come to us, and get a little payback. We can still find out what they are looking for later.”
“You think they will hang around after we hit them?”
It took over an hour to bury the canister in a way that the gravel road did not look like it had been tampered with. Ernie was very pleased with his handy work as was Grover. Ernie had explained to Grover that the device needed to be on the gradual turn so that when the soldiers drove their vehicle along the road, even if there was something for them to see, it would be harder for them to notice it with it being on the turn rather than being on the straight stretch. After burying the device, Grover had found a slight rise in the ground that he hid behind and waited patiently. Ernie slipped back through the wooded area until he reached the edge of the tree line. The crane had begun raising its boom as if it was getting ready to work. He fought the urge to wait and see what the crane operator was going to pull from the depths of what was left of Murray Lake. But, he had promised Ernie action and he knew that no matter what happened in the next minutes the soldiers would still be working to retrieve whatever was in the now empty lake.
Ernie raised his rifle and took aim through his scope. He found the soldier with the skull and cross bones bandana walking the perimeter of the vehicles. Slowly he took a breath in, let out half a breath and squeezed the trigger sending the hot lead from the barrel, screaming across the open field, over the dead grass, over the now empty lake, past the cable of the crane and into the exposed neck of the soldier before he could hear the shot. Immediately Ernie chambered another round and placed his cross hairs onto a soldier standing next to the man that was now flopping on the ground and squeezed off another shot. This time the bullet slammed into the soldiers shoulder, destroying bone and muscle, sending him backwards.
Grover had heard the first shot and had alternated between standing and kneeling as he tried to wait patiently. This was a hard task for him to accomplish. Several more shots rang out and concern spread across his face. Ernie had told him to stay put, no matter what. Though it had been simple instructions, he was worried about his brother and wanted to run to his add. Relieved, he watched as Ernie darted between oak and pine trees across the gravel road from where Grover was hiding.
With his head held low, Ernie kept a steady pace as he trotted along, every few paces glancing backwards to ensure that the armored trucks were still following him. Machine gun fire ripped through the humid noon air around Ernie and crashed into the trees sending bark shattering around him. Ernie screamed in shock and fell to the ground, disappearing from Grover’s field of view.
“Ernie!” Grover shouted over the incoming fire.
The two gunners were focusing their fire on his brother and had not spotted Grover, nor had they spotted the device the two had placed in the road mere feet in front of them on the slight curve in the road. Grover watched, once again in relief, as Ernie slowly slide from behind the cover of some low lying brush and waved at his little brother as if he hadn’t seen him in years and then pointed to the road.
The first vehicle past over the prepped area without incident. Grover frowned and looked at Ernie who just shrugged his shoulders at him. The second truck drove over the Ernie’s creation and perfectly made pressure plate, and was lifted off the ground. The blast created a huge fire ball that lifted the rear wheels of the armored truck off the ground and the slammed it back to the charred earth, leaving both rear tires churning black smoke. The blast caused the first truck to halt. The gunner stopped firing and looked back at the burning vehicle.
Ernie took this time to raise his rifle again and fire another well aimed shot at the gunner facing away from him and watched through his scope as the round entered just below his left ear, causing his head to jerk at an awkward angle and then disappear into his vehicle. Grover was doing the same from the opposite side of the road. The soldiers from the burning truck were opening their doors trying to escape the burning hell that Ernie had created only to be met by the flying lead that Grover was sending their way from the safety of the short hill he had been placed by Ernie only 75 feet from the road. In a panic, the first truck turned their truck around and sped away through the woods, around Grover’s position and then back onto the road leaving their comrades behind. Grover had stopped firing and listened to the truck engines fade into the distance as they made no attempt to stop. From inside the vehicle he could hear the moans of the wounded and the crackling of the fire from the burning tires. A radio cracked to life inside the truck and he heard voices.
“Hey Grover?” Ernie shouted from across the road.
“Couple scratches. I will live. Them folks dead in there?” Ernie shouted again as he stood up from behind the bushes he had been hiding behind.
“Dead-ish. Think they are trying to talk on their walkie talkies or something.”
“Well don’t let them do that!” Ernie shouted as he came running towards the burning truck.
“Why not?” Grover said with his arms out.
Ernie opened the driver’s door and found the man dead with a large hole in the side of his face. The man in the passenger seat was near death but still breathing and holding a hand mike that looked like a telephone to his ear, blood streaking down his pale face.
“Yes. I said send in the birds and wipe this place clean.” The man muttered as he let the phone shaped mike slide to his lap.
Grover trotted next to Ernie and looked into the rear of the truck and could see that the gunner was lying in the rear of the truck not moving either.
“Doesn’t look like this truck has our stuff in it. Good thing too. Your stupid idea would have caught it all on fire. Even that dumb dog of yours. What do you think he meant about, send in the birds?” Grover said mocking the dying man’s voice.
Ernie began to notice over the ringing in his ears the moans of the creepers around them. Grover could see the look of concern on his face and began to scan the area around them as well. Shambling between trees and around bushes the brothers watched as creepers began to make their way to the sound of the explosion from across the state. The explosion had worked like a dinner bell. Just like the one on the lake dam. Their moans rose into a chorus that drown out the crackles of the fire around the armored truck.
“Okay. Do you have another magic wand to get us out of this brother?” Grover asked.
Ernie quickly counted his rounds and found that he had two left; Grover had one.
“No magic wand. We are goin’ to need us a miracle I believe.”
Thunder struck above them, a crash that shock the ground underneath them and caused the two to dive to the ground. Grover rolled and tried to run only to be met by a wall of creepers, their arms held out in a welcoming manner hoping to grip his flesh in their yellowing teeth. He yelped and then turned to run back to Ernie only to find that he was gone. Where he had been standing was now just a patch of road with twenty creepers shuffling towards Grover. Before he could shout for his brother, Grover caught a glimpse of giant bird streaking through the canopy of the trees. It was as if the world was moving in slow motion.
The bird was huge and dark in contrast to the bright blue midday sky. It was flying low and without a sound until it fired. It was not a giant bird but a military aircraft. Grover watched in horrific slow motion as large caliber bullets tore through the branches of oak and pines trees in white and yellow streaks and impacted in straight lines amongst the creepers slowly walking towards him. Rounds churned dirt and through the bodies of the dead and then Grover’s heart stopped. Locked in hand to hand combat with several creepers was his brother Ernie. Behind him the bullets streaked, ready to collide with him, and no way for him to shout a warning in time. The world around Ernie exploded into a mass of body parts, leaves, dirt and rock while Grover’s world was left with the moans of the creepers, the screams of jet engines and the silence of the forest.