a Price for Every Head (Complete)

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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RingWraithsAnonymous
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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by RingWraithsAnonymous » Sun Jun 23, 2019 1:05 pm

Once again thanks for all the support, it means a lot. Now for two matters of business:

As far as the backstory of the antler beasts as you call them, I might hint at something sometime in the future, I haven't decided for sure yet on if I will or what said backstory would be for sure.

The second one is the matter of the length of this tale. I started it with the intention of 12 chapters. Somewhere I mentioned that there would be 13 instead. At this point I can say for sure that I'm not going to be able to finish out the story in 13 chapters. It wasn't an intentional thing, but different aspects that I assumed early on wouldn't take very long ended up taking up more than I thought they would. At one point I ended up with one plotted chapter turning into four. I don't know how long it will be for sure yet, but you can rest assured that you don't have to worry about a rushed, crappy ending for this story.

So let me know what you think, enjoy, thanks for taking the time to read this story, and as always: thank you for the support.



Chapter 11: On the Other Side of the Other Side

Soon after crossing the threshold and entering the other side of the other side of the fence, Scott began to relax. Not by much, but he definitely felt safer than he did in the dead areas of the National Park.

"Where's this lake you mentioned? I don't see it." Victoria said.

Scott looked over at her, "Up ahead. We'll be there shortly."

At that his companion nodded.

Scott's fears may have cooled down, but he was still nervous about the situation. There were a lot of variables involved. He didn't know who, if any, of his old friends were still around. Rangers were a capable group, but they weren't any more invincible than the rest of the world. He also didn't know how the people he'd pissed off so long ago would feel. Some forgave him, he was sure, but how many? How many still held grudges over the ugliness of his last few days at the Ranger camp? Many blamed him for the problems that came about.

Then there was also the ever present wild card of the woman walking at his side. Something about her had been nagging at him, but he wasn't sure what. When he had read the list of the targeting hunters that long week or two ago, there had been a name that he didn't recognize: her's. To be honest, nothing had jogged his memory as to who she was. Probably just a new hunter, but it was still odd that he hadn't heard about it at some point. New hunters on the scene usually were a subject of interest.

Pondering on it wouldn't do much good though, he decided.

As they followed the path that wound through the trees and boulders, they noticed that they were slowly going down in elevation as well. This wasn't all that surprising though, given that they were heading toward a lake. Scott looked up at the purple sky as the sun hung low, and began to see where campfire smoke dissipated high above them.

"How come we didn't see the smoke until recently?" Victoria asked, almost as if she'd been reading his thoughts.

"The hills," he answered, "They campfires are down at the shore. The entire lake is framed by hill sides and trees. Besides, they don't ever start the fires until it's almost dark. Kinda hard to spot smoke in the dark."

"Fair enough." She said.

Soon they got to the last of the trees, and they were greeted by the lake shore about a football field away. The distance from the inner fence to the shore wasn't very far, probably half a mile. That distance stayed consistent for the entirety of the Ranger's camp, meaning they had somewhere between four and five miles worth of safe shoreline.

The lake itself was large, the opposite shoreline disappearing by the hills and slopes of the many inlets in the distance. As it was, those were tinged blue from how far away they were. Beyond those were the mountains, even fainter on the horizon. The sun was beginning to disappear over said mountains. An island sat out in the middle, covered with trees.

The forest was beginning to quiet down and go to sleep. At least, what little of it that was alive was.

At the shore was an old lakeside cabin, though it didn't appear to be in use. The windows were all broken, the dock next to it was in disrepair, and the roof badly needed new shingles. Vines climbed up the walls, and a sapling was growing through the boards of the raised porch, it's boards rotten.

"Okay... Where the hell are the Rangers?" she asked.

Scott only replied with, you ask a lot of questions, you know it?"

"I- what?"

"You heard me."

"I did, but that doesn't answer my question."

"Well, the simple answer I guess to the question of 'where the hell are the Rangers' is that they aren't here."

"Okay... so where are they?"

"Patience is a virtue. Or so my mother told me as a kid."

"Will you stop being so damn cryptic?" she pleaded.

"Alright alright." Scott said with a smile. "We gotta wait here for a bit. Most of the Rangers will already be at the camp. There are a few though, that aren't. One of those will be the one that was talking to us in the woods. The guy at the gate will stay here though. Poor bastard probably got drawn for guard duty tonight."

"Isn't it risky to have one guy on guard duty?" she asked.

"Oh it's quite simple actually. Since most of what would try to get through the gate at this time of day won't be making much if any noise, he can sleep through the entire night if it's a peaceful one. He'll wake up if shit gets iffy. Rangers are light sleepers like that."

"Okay... So what happens after we wait? Where do we go."

"For a hunter you aren't picking up on this very fast. Look at where the smoke's coming from."

Scott watched Victoria look up at it billowing into the sky. She then slowly traced it down to the island.

"So we're going to the island? How?"

"There's gonna be a few kayaks under that porch. You know how to paddle a kayak, right?'

"Kind of." She said.

"Hopefully your paddling ability will be better than your observation skills." he remarked, sitting down.

She sighed and sat down too, "Sorry about that. I haven't been thinking straight since-"

"The mine. I figured. How long have you been hunting?"

"A couple of seasons." she said, "Took my first job in November."

"So you're the new kid on the block then? Well there's a lesson you need to drill into yourself. No matter how scared you get, no matter how much shit goes down, never let yourself stew in it. If that hadn't been campfire smoke, if it had been the gleam from a sniper's scope, you'd be dead. I get what happened with the mine, I do. The first time is always horrible, but you can't get in that state of mind ever again. Do you get me?"

"Yes..." she said, "So what about you? How long have you been hunting?"

Scott shook his head, "A while... four- no wait, sorry -five years." he finally answered.

"Damn. You must've been through a lot."

"Haven't we all?" he said, before changing the subject. "There's been something bugging me about you. The fact you haven't been hunting very long at the very least answers why I hadn't heard your name before, but why? You look like you should be in college. How old were you when this all started anyway? Eleven? Twelve?"

"Thirteen." she told him, "I'm twenty now."

"Exactly. You should be able to do something other than hunt. Just about every farm town around here requires people you're age to learn a trade of some sort. So why the hell aren't you a seamstress or a doctor or a farmhand or something not nearly as horrible as this. I didn't want to be a hunter, none of the others I knew wanted to. I did this because I had... people to take care of, and sadly enough killing people was my only marketable skill. The world I grew up in didn't prioritize trades. Hell, I spent most of my adult life in the navy before this shit happened. So why would anyone choose to be a hunter?"

Victoria stared at Scott for a long time, not saying anything. Eventually she sighed and started talking.

"I was fifteen around the time the stories of those things started coming out of the forest. Sixteen when the fence was put up in our area. It was around then my town got attacked. Bandits, a large group of them, had been chased from across the state line by the feds. This was before they had much of a presence here, so once they were out of their hair they didn't really care. I'm sure you remember."

"That I do. I was hired along with five other guys to hunt them down. I was still a greenhorn then."

"Anyways," She continued, "My town was one of the first one's hit. Silver Springs."

"I remember that town." Scott said, "Two of the six hunters that got hired died in the town square right before my eyes. Scared me shitless. Only three of us made it out."

"Sounds about right. They were taking everything we had. Killed any of the men that resisted. Raped the women that did so. Those and the ones they thought were pretty enough. Like I said, I was sixteen. My family was dead, the bandit's in my house. I was in the garden, escaping out the back gate. One of those monsters found me..." she said, her voice trembling

"Oh God..." Scott said, "That's-"

"He was killed." she said, "Before he had a chance to do much more than stick a knife to my throat and tear at my shirt, a man with a rifle a lot like your's shot him three times in the back of the head."

"Well, I'm glad he didn't do anything to you. That was probably Chris, we had matching rifles for a while."

But she continued, "He got me out of there. As we slipped out the back gate, he grabbed me by the shoulders. And as I stared at his blood stained clothes, and the bullet hole in the bill of his Ford racing cap, at the bruise around his eye, at the blood flecks in his beard, he told me to hide in the creek bed until morning." she paused, letting it sink in. "You saved my life, Scott Owens. It was so long ago, at least it feels like it, but I'll never forget your face. I feel bad about almost shooting you, didn't recognize you with all the other shit going on, but it didn't take long to piece it together. Why else would I follow you on some stupid suicide mission into the forest?"

Scott was silent, staring at the girl as his mind traveled down memory lane. He relived the scenes from that horrible town in his mind. He relived the two hunters, having been captured, getting stoned to death in the town square as he hid and cowered in fear. He relived his best friend getting stabbed from behind with a machete, the pair gaping in horror at the crimson blade that had seemed to materialize from his chest. He relived throwing a pipe bomb into what had been a bank, and the pieces of the people inside littering the street soon after. He relived getting shot in the left shoulder in that town park. He relived finding a man trying to attack a teenage girl in the back yard of a house. A red haired teenage girl.

She sighed, "I became a hunter because of that. Because if you hadn't saved my life, I'd be dead. I became a hunter because I wanted to be that person. I wanted to be able to stop what would've happened to me from happening to another scared girl like I was. I wanted to be that symbol of hope that you were for me." she took a deep breath, and stood up "Now, I don't see the point in waiting on some Ranger to show up so we can cross the lake."

"They'll be a little pissed if we just show up without an escort." Scott said.

"From what's been hinted at they'll be a little pissed at you even being there. What more can it hurt?"

"So you became a hunter because of me?" Scott asked.

"Sure did."

"Sorry I was such a bad influence." Scott told her, looking at the newly sunless sky, lit only by the twilight "Looks like the day ran away from us. We might as well wait, that Ranger will be here any minute."

"Any minute?" A feminine voice quoted from behind him. Scott turned around and saw a female Ranger, the same one that had been talking to them earlier. She had brunette hair pulled back into a bun, and wore an autumn camouflage shirt. Face paint was smeared across all of her face except for her ears and neck. It was also on her arms. She wore camouflage pants as well, and a pair of moccasins masked her footsteps perfectly. A compound bow was at her side, and a quiver of arrows poked over her shoulder. "What if there aren't enough kayak's for three people?" she then questioned

"I know you keep extras. I may have been gone for the last five years, but that doesn't mean I don't know how you guys operate." he told her.

She sized him up, "I see you ditched the moccasins." she said.

"Never wore them. There wasn't really a standard outfit during my stay."

"Why would you have Ranger gear?" Victoria asked.

"Oh so you don't know?" the Ranger asked, "He hasn't told you about Scott Owens the Deserter?"

Scott scoffed, "I'd hardly call leaving for my family's safety a matter of desertion."

The Ranger smiled coldly. "Many will disagree with that statement Scott. You should know that all too well."

Victoria interjected, "If we're going to the island, we should probably get started before it get's dark."

The Ranger extended an open hand to shore, that emotionless smile ever present, "After you doll face."
If you think about it everybody lives in the same place: somewhere between the Empire of the Penguins, and the Kingdom of the Elves.

My Fiction on ZS:
a Price for Every Head
Dead Memories
the Bigger Monster
the Flesh Eaters
the Watcher

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by bodyparts » Sun Jun 23, 2019 3:10 pm

Wow great chapter! Thanks! Just so you know, this story running a bit long, is not going to hurt my feeling at all! Oh hey nobody died in this chapter. Thanks again!!

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by idahobob » Sun Jun 23, 2019 7:50 pm

Damn, that was good! Needs MOAR!
People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by 91Eunozs » Sun Jun 23, 2019 8:10 pm

Nice date...thanks!
Molon Latte...come & take our coffee order
Doctorr Fabulous wrote:... It's fun to play pretend, but this is the internet, and it's time to be serious.
zengunfighter wrote:... you don't want to blow a tranny in the middle of a pursuit...
woodsghost wrote:... A defensive gun without training is basically a talisman. It might ward off evil, but I wouldn't count on it.

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by DAVE KI » Sun Jun 23, 2019 10:51 pm

A very good chapter and kinda eye opening also. Very will done.
Is it just me or does anyone else think RingWraithsAnonymous could give Ponyboy a run for his money?
"We'll Fight Them, Sir!, Until Hell Freezes Over, And Then We'll Fight Them On The Ice! Sir!

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by RingWraithsAnonymous » Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:31 am

To Bodyparts: Yeah, nobody died the last couple chapters. We'll just have to see how long that lasts I suppose.
To DAVEKI: Pretty generous to say I'm as good as Ponyboy when all I've got's a short and then this :lol: I'm flattered.
To all: Let me know what you think, enjoy, thanks for taking the time to read this story, and as always: thank you for the support.


Chapter 12: Old Friends

As they paddled across the lake, Scott watched the night sky overhead darken until it was almost pitch black. The smoke and the island drew ever closer. He could just make out the silhouettes of the two women in front of him in their kayaks.

Knowing them, the Rangers probably had boats stashed all along the coastline, maybe even a few canoes.

They circled around part of the stone beached island until they reached a dock of sorts. It was lit by a pair of lantern's hung from the end posts. Beyond that was a path that lead through the trees. The women got there before he did, and each tied up their boats. Victoria wasn't nearly as quick about it as the Ranger was though. Not that it mattered.

Soon it was Scott's turn, and he followed their lead while the pair waited on him. He was done fairly quickly, and was soon standing with them.

"So how is this gonna go?" Scott asked.

"I guess you should've thought of that before you came here." the woman said.

"Yeah, well... is Harry still around?"

"Yes, actually," the Ranger replied. "He is. I'll take you to his tent if you wish."

"Just..." Scott started, "Tell him to meet me here."

She raised an eyebrow, "I'll see what I can do." the Ranger then grabbed one of the lanterns and walked off down the trail.

Victoria spoke up a few minutes later, "So who's Harry?"

"An old friend. I figure he's my best shot."

She nodded, and they stood there for a minute in silence. It wasn't long before lantern light returned, and Scott eyed the trail, waiting.

Out of the trees came a tall, broad shouldered man about 6' 2". He had a messy cut of brown hair on his head, and a large scar above his right eye, which was forest green. He wore similar stuff to the Ranger that had taken them to the island. He didn't have a bow with him however, but there was a still a rather large blade in a sheath on his belt.

"Harry." Scott said plainly.

The tall man smiled, "Man, has it been a while." He walked over and gave him the quick hug of long lost friends, and Scott figured things were going well. Harry then punched him in the nose hard enough to make Scott land on his back. Victoria drew her revolver and had it trained on Harry with wicked speed.

"The fuck man!" Scott exclaimed while holding a bloody and broken nose. He saw that Harry was still standing there, not continuing the attack.

"Ma'am," Harry said without looking away, "I'd appreciate it if you'd lower the gun."

"Do as he says," Scott told her, standing up. The palm of his open hand caught a few drops of blood before Victoria took of her bandanna and handed it to him. "Thanks," he said, holding it to his nose to keep from bloodying up his clothes any more than they already were.

Harry seemed relieved he wasn't about to get shot anymore. "Didn't know you had a thing for gingers."

Victoria glared at him.

"She's my new hunting partner," Scott lied, "Last one got ate. Now, can we talk like civil people or are you gonna knock me on my ass again?"

"Oh fuck off." Harry said, leaning against a tree, "You know, when you left I had to clean the latrines out for two weeks? You know how much shit I got cause I was best pals with Scott Owens? Huh? It sucked ass man, it really did."

"You know damn well why I left." Scott told him.

"Yeah well, I guess you're right on that one." Harry said with a sigh, "So what did you want to see me for?"

Scott murmured, "God I don't want to do this," he then said, "I need some help."

Harry paled, "With what?"

"The Governor. I need to kill the Governor and I need the Rangers' help. Not all of them, oh no, but I need-"

"You can tell whoever hired you to piss up a rope. You aren't getting any help here."

"This isn't a job." Scott said, "I just need to kill the Governor."

"Why Scott, why!? Why the hell would you even consider-"

"His men firebombed my house. They killed a bunch of my friends. They killed Maddie. He has to go."

A look of understanding came over Harry's face, "Damn... I feel sorry for you, really, but I'm in no position to get you what you need, but-"

Scott had heard this one before.

­"-I can easily see Trevor getting you what you need. He's definitely going to want a favor or three though."

"How would Trevor do me any good?"

"He's in charge now."

"'In charge'? What happened to Shaun?" Scott asked.

"He's dead. Died less than a year after you left. Ironically he died because of the reason you left: the wendigos."

"Wendigos?' Victoria asked.

"You gave the nasties a name?" Scott asked.

"Yeah. Anyway, go see Trevor. Hell, I'll take you to him."

"I dunno if that's such a good idea, what about-?"

"Oh don't worry. Most of Shaun's old followers are out fence duty any how. Besides, we've grown four times bigger since you were here. We number a little over one hundred strong these days. Most of those people don't even know you. They might've heard your name maybe once or twice, but most wouldn't know what you look like."

"I dunno, the Ranger that brought me in was a bit of a bitch."

"Oh, don't mind her. She's one of Shaun's. I doubt you remember her."

"Just having two strangers show up will bring too many questions as is." Scott said apprehensively.

"Nah, it'll be fine. I'll just say you're an old friend that needs to speak to Trevor."

"Cool... so are we good?"

Harry nodded, "Of course. Wouldn't've hit you like I did, but I've been waiting for payback over them damn latrines for five years now. Had a little too long to stew over it. Come on, let's go on out there. I figure you've got Trevor to see."

---

They had walked through the Ranger camp and to the far side of the island, which wasn't but a football field and a half across. They had gotten weird looks, but Harry's excuse worked for most. Scott hadn't seen the brunette and was glad.

He hadn't eaten since the day Terrance had died, and that was a little over two days prior. As they had passed the fire pits, his stomach had roared. He had things to do first though, people to talk to.

As they approached the tent, he asked, " Where did you manage to get so many people? I knew you had newcomers when the fences came up but I didn't know it was this many."

Harry chuckled, "Yeah, it was simple really. When we were building the fence, we'd ask and see if anybody wanted to join from each town."

"Yeah, I know that. You didn't have but maybe one taker per town though."

"That's true, but there is a lot of fence. Enough to wrap around the entire park. Well, most of it anyway. We cut a couple of corners in places."

"I know that too... You call them wendigos, huh?"

"Yeah. Seemed fitting. We gave the zombies a name... why not give the other ones a name too?"

"I see your point." Scott said as the came up on the tent.

Victoria had been silent thus far, and was just fine with being that way.

Harry stopped in front of the tent, "Trevor!"

"What do ya want, Harry?"

"You've got visitors from Outside."

"Do I now? I'm guessing they didn't send a letter in the mail first?" He joked.

Harry rolled his eyes, "Are you gonna see them or not?"

"How many are there?"

"Two."

"But I've only got one more camp chair!" he stressed with fake worry.

"Oh my God." Harry groaned, "Fine, you can have the ugly one. I'll keep the pretty one company."

Victoria gave him the side eye and sighed.

"What if I don't want the ugly one?' Trevor said, "What if I want the pretty one?"

"Just talk to the man! Please!" Harry shouted.

Laughing came from inside the tent for a couple minutes, and Harry waited while Scott snickered at him and Victoria turned to hide a smile.

"Sure, why not? Was mostly just going over bullshit patrol notes anyway." Trevor's voice replied.

Scott realized he still had the bloody bandanna in his hand. Thankfully the bleeding had stopped, but he wasn't sure what to do with it.

"You want this back," he asked Victoria.

She took a step back and put her hands up, "You can keep it."

He dropped it in the bushes and put a hand on the tent flap, then as an afterthought said "Now, you kids don't be doing any hinky stuff okay? I want you back before your curfew, understand young lady?"

At the mention of 'hinky stuff' Victoria gave him the bird and he laughed his way into the tent.

The tent was rather large, about five feet wide and ten feet long, with vertical walls. A cot sat in one corner, and in the other a attache case. A table sat in the middle, and a man with a mild bald spot (a feature not there last time Scott saw him), light brown hair, and a goatee was bent over in a camp chair facing Scott, shuffling through sheets of notebook paper and maps. It seemed as if he didn't even notice Scott. On Scott's side of the table was an empty camp chair. What stuck out to Scott the most though was the wendigo skull sitting on a pile of notebooks.

"Sit down." Trevor said, still engaged in his work.

Scott did so and waited for a minute, his face feeling like shit.

"Yes! Found it," Trevor said, still hunched over. He stopped and set the procured scrap of notebook paper off to the side, "Sorry I kept you waiting, I-" A look of recognition dawned on his face.

He sat there, frozen for a minute mid sentence before he tentatively asked, "Scott? Is that you?"

"Yeah."

Trevor's brow furrowed. Scott eyed the four parallel scars that ran down the right side of his face, and at the missing earlobe.

"You look like hell." Trevor told him, "Who kicked your ass?"

"Only half the damn bi-county area."

Trevor laughed, but soon his face bore a sober look, "I heard about your wife. It's late but I'm sorry for your loss."

"Thank you."

"How did she die?"

"I dunno. She just, just got real... sick one day and... she wasn't all there toward the end. There are worse ways to go in this world."

"Amen. You like my paperweight?"

"How the hell did you end up with it?" Scott asked.

"Got into a fight with one of the wendigos shortly after you left, actually. Stayed out a little too late I guess. Bastard took part of my ear, and my right leg below the knee, but I think you can guess which one has the other's skull sitting in his bedroom."

"You lost part of your leg?!"

"Eh, it's fine. I got a metal peg leg thing now. Even has a crude foot. Only reason I won that fight though was because of losing that leg."

"Oh really?" Scott said dubiously.

"Oh, yeah. Bastard tried to swallow it whole and almost choked to death. That was the only way I got him to hold still long enough to stab him with my machete!"

They shared a laugh, then Trevor continued, "Not that I'd be up for anything like that anytime soon. A crossbow misfired, shot me in the calf about a week ago."

"Damn. Good thing it didn't kill you."

"Yeah..." He then asked, "What brought you here, Scott? It's nice to see you and all, but I get the feeling you didn't go through hell just to say high and get spat at by some of Shaun's old lackeys."

"I didn't. I need help."

"Ah shit, not again." Trevor muttered, staring up at the ceiling, "I can't tell you how many radio calls I've gotten from town leaders pissed off cause they don't think their fence is getting as much treatment as the others, 'How come we don't see your men on patrol?' 'How come we pay you so much if we aren't even threatened' 'Can you send some men to help with...' oh God they get on my nerves some times. Please tell me you weren't sent by one of them assholes."

"I wasn't. No, what I need is help getting somebody killed."

Trevor scoffed, "We aren't hunters, but if you needed help bad enough you came to us, I figured the least I can do is hear your offer. Did a target run through here? Are you looking for someone hiding out at one of the campsites?"

"No. I need help assassinating the Governor."

"No. Nope, and I'll tell you why. We've got a good deal going. We're on an island in the middle of the most dangerous place in the state. We have a good enough DMZ to send the Koreans into a panic attack. People pay us quarterly to maintain that very same DMZ. We don't get fucked with. We never have shortages. And most importantly, the government doesn't have it out for us since we take care of what would be a massive headache of theirs. If suddenly we just out and raid Brandon, suddenly we're getting gassed and bombed!!! I ain't too keen on that shit, I'll have you know."

"I don't need much. What I need is enough of a distraction I can get in and peg his ass. I worked security for him briefly. I know the layout of his building. Of his penthouse. Of his damn bedroom. I know exactly where to get in and out. I know where I could snipe him. Hell, your people don't even need to see much action. What your people can provide however, like I said, is a distraction. A couple of your men or women could get in there, set a couple of bombs on timers or something in the slums, stealth out, and nobody would've known you were there. What makes it better for you is that the feds will think it was the Insurgence!! It works perfectly in your favor."

"Two things. First, there is still way to much risk involved. Second,- wait, actually, three things -but second, is where exactly do you think these bombs are gonna come from? Third: What the hell do I get out of the deal?"

"Okay. Those are fair points. Like I said, it doesn't even have to be a bomb. It could be a couple of molotovs if you want, I know you got the old whiskey bottles, gas, and rags for that. As for the third one, I don't have a clue. I figure you've got something I guy like me could take care of. Maybe a rival or some one that wants your job. I've been known to make things look like accidents."

At that point a female voice full of distraught from outside said, "Trevor, we have a problem!"

"What is it dear? Come inside."

Dear?, Scott wondered.

A black woman entered the tent with a worried look on her face, "Becca's group came in. They said they got held up by a herd. By the time they- ah fuck it! The short version is she got a hurt leg, and that slowed them down even more and she got separated from them by wendigos! They said she managed to get up a fire tower though, but that she's pinned down."

Trevor stood up abruptly, "They said what!!!" he took a few deep breaths, "Okay. If it's wendigo's after her, we'll send a rescue team tomorrow morning. Which fire tower?"

"They said the one by the overlook." the woman said bleakly.

"But that's-" Trevor paled, "That's less than a mile from the nest."

"Okay," Scott interjected, "First off, who are you." he said, pointing to the black woman, "Second, who is Becca, and third, what the hell is 'the nest'?"

"I'm Monique," She said, "Trevor's wife."

He shook her hand and introduced himself as Scott, to which she raised an eyebrow. "That Scott?" She asked Trevor, who nodded, "I've heard a lot of stories about you from this guy. Most of them good, or at least not bad."

"Oh really?" Scott asked.

Trevor ignored my comment, "Becca is well," he lowered his head, "my other wife."

Scott's eyebrows shot up to the ceiling, and he looked to Monique, "And how do you feel about this?"

"I'm fine with it, actually." She said, "Becca and I were already pretty good friends anyway."

Scott looked back at Trevor and smiled, "Damn man, you got it going on." He was still very surprised by this development, but whatever floated their collective boats Scott guessed.

"The nest," Trevor said, "Is where most of the wendigos congregate. There are other gatherings of them, sure, but we've seen groups numbering in the dozens in that area. Only one man's been to the heart and made it out alive, and he was in a group of twelve people. He said they sleep most of the day away in and around a crash air liner, close to one of the Grand Lodges they had. We don't go anywhere near the nest. They must've panicked and accidentally gotten into their turf."

"Okay, so we still go in, just hit it mid day."

"You don't understand," Trevor said, "There are always at least a handful up. If enough of them make enough racket to grab the others attention... you could easily have a hundred wendigos on your trail."

"So we're just going to leave her for dead!" Monique said with anguish.

Scott had an idea. An absolutely, don't-bet-your-fucking-money-on-it-kind of terrible idea, but an idea none the less, one that would solve both their predicaments.

"I'll do it." Scott said, "Give me a map and enough food for the trip and I'll save your wife." he told him.

"I'll come too." Monique said, and Trevor voiced the same thing.

"Trevor... no." Scott told them, "Trevor, before you get indignant, I know how bad it hurts to have someone you care for that much facing death without being able to do anything about it, but you gotta trust me on this. Monique, while sharing you with Becca, isn't married to her, and- not trying to dismiss your feelings for her either Monique -doesn't have feelings as strong for her as you do. Ignoring your handicap, you could lose your cool, which is completely understandable, but in a place as dangerous as you claim this is, is intolerable. There's also the problem of you're recovering from a leg injury. I'm not going alone though. I'll take Monique with me, and Victoria- she's my new partner, last one died -with me if she wants. Hell, I'll take Harry too if he'll be willing."

Trevor stewed on it a moment, "You're right," He said with a mixture of fear and shame in his voice, "If you do this... if you save her... I'll give you all the damn Rangers you need, whenever and as often as you want."

Scott nodded. "It's settled. I'm travelling to the nest of the wendigos at dawn. How long will it take?"

"It's a day and a half there." Trevor said, then to himself, "Goddamnit I wish I could go."

Monique gave him a kiss and a hug, "It's okay baby. We all have our limitations."

"Do you know where Harry would've taken Victoria?" Scott asked him, "I need to see who I can count on to watch my back."

---

Scott stepped out of the tent and headed toward the camp fires, where no doubt people would still be having dinner and laughing over the stories of the Ranger's who'd just gotten back from their week long patrols. Soon the smells of cooked food and the sounds of conversation reached his ears. Scott reached the area with the fire pits, saw about 40 people,- at any given time at least half the Rangers were out patrolling the fence -and looked for the pair of hopefully allies. A trio of Rangers got up and walked over to him.

One was the brunette. The other two were men, one an asian with wavy hair, the other a short white guy with a shaved head. He recognized both of them as Nicolas and Ralph. Both of them were Shaun's men, and there was a time Shaun wanted me dead.

"Well well," Ralph said, his bald head gleaming in the fire light. "I'm I seeing ghosts, or is that Scott Owens, here of all places!"

"I'm looking for my friends," Scott said.

"'Friends'?" Nicolas said, "Last I knew you got your friends killed, or did you forget what happened to Shaun's brother? Deserter."

Scott swallowed. At that point there were a few other Rangers watching to see how things would go down, "Shaun's brother got himself killed. What killed him was the reason I took my family out of this hell. You got a problem with that you can piss up a rope!" he shouted.

More heads were watching with interest, about half at this point. Scott started to walk past, and Ralph pushed him back on his shoulder, snickering with overly white teeth. The brunette bitch was smiling too.

Scott looked over their shoulders and saw Victoria walk over before Harry could say anything.

There they are.

Victoria, behind all three of them, asked, "Scott, is there a problem."

The men turned around, the woman rolled her eyes. Nicolas said, "Looky here Claire, Scott's got him a new girlfriend. Since, y'know, his wife's dead."

"Don't bring her up." Scott said, "Victoria, let's go. I need to talk to you and Harry."

"Not so faaast. Heh." Ralph said, "Victoria is it?" He asked, putting a hand on her waist, "You really should reconsider being with this douche bag," he then told her, pointing a thumb at Scott, "He has a history of getting people killed."

She spat on him, "Don't touch me asshole."

At that point everybody was watching the action.

Ralph wiped saliva off his cheek with disgust. He grabbed her by the shoulder. "Listen here girl-"

She smacked him in the face hard enough he spat out blood, the sound of the slap echoing out across the lake. The crowd reacted immaturely with "Oooooh!" Nicolas got in her face, and before he could do jack shit Scott spun him around and decked him. At that point it was mostly silence, punctuated with an "Awww shit!" right before Nicolas got up and grabbed Scott by the collar of his shirt.

A four more Rangers that were sitting together stood up, one of which I recognized as Nicolas's and Ralph's friend. All six feet and two inches of Harry stood up and shouted, "If anybody touches either on of them, I'll beat all of your asses, and you know it!"

There was a tense silence, and they sat back down. Nicolas let go of Scott. Ralph simply scoffed and shook his head, "Words are one thing from halfway across the camp, why don't you come over here and talk like that!?"

Harry responded by beginning to walk angrily over. A panicked look over took the short bald man and he made a break for it into the trees, genuinely concerned that he was about to have the tar beat out of him. Harry stopped when he disappeared from sight, and stared at Claire and Nicolas.

"Go on." he told them, then sterner, "You want some too?"

They backed down and sat with their pals.

"Now," Victoria asked, "What is it you wanted?"

"Remember that favor you mentioned Trevor might want out of me Harry?" Scott asked him.

"Yeah? Why, what is it?"

He smiled "Let's just say I want you guys' help with it. I'll fill you in after some food."
Last edited by RingWraithsAnonymous on Thu Jun 27, 2019 6:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.
If you think about it everybody lives in the same place: somewhere between the Empire of the Penguins, and the Kingdom of the Elves.

My Fiction on ZS:
a Price for Every Head
Dead Memories
the Bigger Monster
the Flesh Eaters
the Watcher

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by DAVE KI » Wed Jun 26, 2019 9:34 pm

Now that is what I call a really great update.
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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by 91Eunozs » Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:33 pm

Nice update, and I dare say the best entry of this tale to date!

Since it’s so good, I’ll point out a couple things... First a couple typos:

Looks like you already fixed the “I’ll take you to his ten” vs. tent with a rewrite...in fact there are some nice details I don’t recall from when I started to read this last night. Still one more though:

Well well," Ralph said, his bald head gleaming in the fire light. "Am I seeing ghosts, or is that Scott Owens, here of all places!" ...vs. “...I’m I...” and lose the period at the end...redundant with the text.

There was one more “your vs. you’re” typo but now I can’t recall where it was nor find it, so it must have already been cleaned up (or I’m a shitty proof reader! :lol: ).

The only other passage that sticks a bit for me is this one:

Monique gave him a kiss and a hug, "It's okay baby. We all have our limitations."

It’s your story, but I think “...but we all have our strengths.” Or maybe “...but we all have our role to play, and yours isn’t running and gunning in the field any more.” Or something to that effect works a lot better for a wife’s loving and respectful advice to her husband.

Just my $0.02... great update.
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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by RingWraithsAnonymous » Sun Jun 30, 2019 2:04 pm

To Eunozs: yeah, last chapter had a lot of typos. My usual proofreader wasn't able to look over it before I posted, and they pointed out a lot of stuff wrong when I posted it so... I guess I know not to post without having them look over it first in the future.

Just letting you know this one's a bit short. Let me know what you think, enjoy, thanks for taking the time to read this story, and as always: thank you for the support.


Chapter 13: the Journey Begins

Scott and Victoria sat near the dock shortly before dawn. They were waiting on Harry and Monique to arrive, then they would leave together in a canoe.

Preparations for the journey had already been made. They'd each been given a map, though Victoria was the only one that knew nothing about the area. Scott's knowledge was limited however, and neither of their companions had been in the hot zone, so the maps would prove to be handy. They'd also been given six days of food. Hopefully they'd only need the three days worth it would take to get there and back, but as everybody knew these kind of journeys had a tendency to go shit sideways real fast.

Scott's nose was sore, but with the help of a mirror he'd set it shortly after dinner. This wasn't his first time having to set his nose though, so he did a decent job.

"So you used to be with the Rangers?" Victoria asked.

"Yeah, I guess." was Scott's reply, "Back then they weren't 'the Rangers', there was no fence, no wendigos to worry about... there were still a lot of zombies in the area though, some refugees that decided to hide out in the national park, others were people that came in after that got bit over time. Hell, we were no different then. A couple of us worked here, actually. I know I did for a little bit.
The thing you gotta remember about those days is that back then we were just people. Like I said, none of us were what the Rangers are now. For a while things were going good. We lived on the island then too. There were still animals and wild greens too, so we spent a lot of time hunting and foraging. For a couple of years things weren't great, but we were relatively safe.
Then we weren't.
I was out hunting..." he said "for deer," he then clarified before continuing "with a buddy of mine at the time. You've heard talk of 'Shaun's people' well this buddy was his kid brother Austin. This was back when everybody got along, too. Anyway, we were out in the hills, hunting. It was getting dark, so we decided to head back. Then we saw the very first wendigo.
Nobody had a name for them then. Hell, we didn't even know they existed till one of them... Austin didn't make it. At first they thought we'd eaten the wrong kind of mushrooms out in the woods and that he just died some other way and I just didn't realize. It was still horrible, but not as bad as I thought. We went back to find his body that next morning. It was mauled like nothing we'd ever seen. We didn't find a body, we found pieces. Then the wendigo attacked us.
There was no disputing I saw it then. But then the accusations changed from 'you were high on drugs' to 'you left my brother for dead'. Sides were taken. My friends stuck up for me. Shaun's wanted me dead, calling me a traitor and shit. We started to see more of the things. People were dying. I had a family that I needed to keep safe. So I left... and almost nobody took it well at the time. 'I was leaving them when they desperately needed people', they said. 'We needed to stick together'...
Yeah, I basically said fuck that. I left the park in a hurry, got my family out. Mary... she died shortly after. It was just me and Maddie. Well, you pretty well know what happened after that."

"Damn. Sounds like a mess."

"It was." Scott told her. "This is totally off topic, but fuck it, I'll ask anyway. You want to be my new partner? You seem to have an aptitude for this stuff, I know you've got my back, and there's an opening... so how about it?"

She laughed, "If I live long enough to see an empty field, sure. Why not?"

"With that sorta thinking, why not start today in case we don't make it?"

"Eh, why not?"

---

The day went by almost too uneventfully. They found a few zombies, a couple of swarms too, but nothing they couldn't handle or skirt around. As it grew dark, they headed for a park ranger station to stay the night.

"You think the wendigos will get in here?" Victoria asked as they stood in the parking lot.

"I doubt it." Harry said, "So long as we don't give them a reason to show up, we'll be fine."

"Hell," Monique said, "So long as we find a room without any windows and keep quite we'll be fine. They don't spend too much time looking for things they don't think are there. Most likely they'll have found some zombies to munch on and not even come near here."

"They eat zombies?" Victoria said with slight disgust.

"Better them than us." Scott told her.

They entered the building with caution. All the windows had been smashed at some point, glass shards littering the reception area. A lone zombie stood in there with it's back to them. Harry drew his compound bow and fired, the arrow stuck in it's skull to the fletching, the front half of the shaft sticking out of it's forehead. He unscrewed the arrow head, pulled out the shaft, then put the arrowhead back on.

They continued cautiously, not finding much in the rest of the building. After searching the building they went around the perimeter to make sure there wasn't something nasty hiding around the corner. As it turned out, there wasn't. There was however, a ladder at the back that provided roof access.

"We could sleep up there." Victoria said, "I don't think they can climb, can they?"

"Were the question 'can they climb trees'," Harry said, "Yes, absolutely, but seeing as the question is 'can they climb ladders', no. The only reason they can climb trees is 'cause of their claws. Claws only serve to get in the way when it comes to ladders. So I guess what I'm saying is we'll be safe up there."

"What if it rains?" Monique asked.

Scott looked up at the sky, "I don't know about that, but it looks pretty damn clear up there. We should be fine for the night."

---

"Today was too quiet." Victoria whispered to Scott.

He nodded, though she couldn't see it in the dark. Nobody was asleep yet, though everyone was getting there, "It's gotta stop raining sometime." He mused, "Though you're right. It seems too calm, given how the last week and a half has gone for me. For you too I'm sure, given I found you hiding out in the woods.

"I think I found you." She said.

"Fair enough."

"Shut up." Harry muttered, "I want to go to sleep."

Soon enough they were all asleep, though it was anything but a good one. It seemed all of them had nightmares.

---

It was morning, and Scott stood up on the roof.

He was alone.

He began to panic, and looked around. There wasn't a sign that anybody had been there but him. He hastily climbed down the ladder and looked around. No tracks either. No blood. Nothing.

He turned around, and saw a horrible sight up in the closest tree.

Bodies had been skewered through it's branches. Harry and Monique were up there. Victoria was up there. So was Trevor.

He began to tremble and raised his rifle. Shit wasn't right.

He looked back at the tree and saw more bodies. There was Terrance. Bessie and Chris. Robin. Salvador. Maddie.

Tears streamed down his eyes in horror. They all had smiles on their faces.

The following was carved into the tree:

YOU KILLED THEM

---

Scott gasped awake. It was dark, and quiet. He could hear his companions breathing, and began to slowly calm down.

"It's just a nightmare." he told himself.

A wendigo howled in the distance.
If you think about it everybody lives in the same place: somewhere between the Empire of the Penguins, and the Kingdom of the Elves.

My Fiction on ZS:
a Price for Every Head
Dead Memories
the Bigger Monster
the Flesh Eaters
the Watcher

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by DAVE KI » Sun Jun 30, 2019 7:41 pm

That was a good post! Gotta admit you did have me though at " Harry and Monique were up there. Victoria was up there"
"We'll Fight Them, Sir!, Until Hell Freezes Over, And Then We'll Fight Them On The Ice! Sir!

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by idahobob » Mon Jul 01, 2019 7:55 am

Nightmares......I just hate those damned things!

Keep 'er a comin'. :clap:
People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by 91Eunozs » Mon Jul 01, 2019 1:09 pm

DAVE KI wrote:
Sun Jun 30, 2019 7:41 pm
That was a good post! Gotta admit you did have me though at " Harry and Monique were up there. Victoria was up there"
Me too!

Great update...thanks.
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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by bodyparts » Wed Jul 03, 2019 12:17 pm

great update indeed!! is it too soon for MOAR!

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by RingWraithsAnonymous » Wed Jul 03, 2019 7:16 pm

Dang, didn't think the nightmare scene would go over so well. And no Bodyparts, not too soon for more. Was already gonna post an update when I saw your comment. Let me know what you think, enjoy, thanks for taking the time to read this story, thank you for the support, and thanks for sticking with it guys. Hopefully this tale won't have a let down ending. Okay, quit twisting my arm moar zombies! I'll shut up now so you can read what you came to read.



Chapter 14: the Dead Wilderness

Scott woke up at dawn on the roof of the Ranger station. This time however was for real, and thankfully enough nobody was skewered through tree limbs like meat on kebabs. The group had a breakfast of dried goods and canteen water before heading out into the dead wilderness once more.

They were making fairly good progress. Once more there was a sense of things being too quiet, with only a handful of zombies even see by late morning, let alone slain. Up ahead was a bridge that crossed the Yellow Gorge. At least, that's what the signs said.

When they got there they found it. It was about twenty feet across. The bridge, on the other hand, was down at the bottom like a destroyed LEGO structure. Sixty to seventy feet down at the bottom. As to why it was called the Yellow Gorge... none of them really knew. To be honest, the name seemed kind of stupid.

"Now what?" Harry asked.

"We have two options," Monique said, "We can find a way to cross. Or we can hit up the other bridge about 20 miles south of here."

"That last one's out of the question." Scott told them, "We'll lose too much time."

"Well how are we getting a hurt girl across here then?" Victoria questioned, "We'd have to go around then."

"That's true," Scott agreed, "But let's not extend this trip anymore than we have too. Besides, I don't like the idea of having to camp at the side of this gorge tonight. Between a rock and a hard place is even less acceptable than having to go around.

"Alright then," Harry said, "What do you propose?"

Scott walked carefully to the edge of what was left of the bridge, which hung about five feet over the edge, three feet of which was safe enough to stand on. He looked down into the gorge, then at both banks of it. He found their new bridge.

"Down there," he told them, pointing about ten feet below them. "See that tree?"

They did. It was less tree and more log though, about two feet wide. It was lodged in between their bank and the far one, having fallen off the far bank and snapped, getting stuck in the process. The other half was down in the bottom of the gorge, sitting in the stream of water inside. The spot it had fallen out of left a divet in the bank, making the slope less steep. On their bank they had plenty of tree roots to use as handholds.

In any event, it wasn't exactly appealing.

"I don't know about this." Victoria said nervously.

"Oh come on," Scott teased, "You went down the one, remember?"

"Yeah but if I remember right 'the one' was only twenty feet deep. This is twice that, maybe even three times as deep!"

"Three times sounds about right." Harry agreed.

"Let's do it." Monique declared, putting a foot over the edge of the bank and starting down.

Harry followed, and Victoria was down right before Scott. By the time he was halfway down their bank, Monique was at the mid point of the log, making slow but steady progress.

After she was across and climbing up the far bank, Harry got the stones to do the same.

"Go on," Scott said to Victoria gently, "It'll be fine. I know it's cliche, but don't look down. It actually does help.

She swallowed, took a deep breath, and did what he recommended. By the time she was halfway across, Scott decided to go on ahead. First though, he took only a couple of steps out, and stomped a few times. With no reaction out of the log, he felt confident in crossing, for he just wanted to get this whole ordeal over with.

Harry slid back down the far bank to the log, and tried again, making it on his second try. Victoria was three quarters of the way there, with Scott quickly gaining, when they two of them felt something shift underneath them.

"Hurry!" Scott urged, close on her heels. She did so the best she could, but nerves were starting to get the better of her. They were almost to the other side when the floor fell out from under them.

"Grab hold!" Scott yelled, shoving her into the embankment right before the two of them fell to their doom. She managed to do as he ordered, but when she turned around he was beginning to hurtle downward.

Scott screamed. His base instinct very clearly yelled "You fuck up!!!" as he saw the log tumble out from under him, bouncing off the narrowing gorge banks below. He frantically grabbed at the bank for the next twenty feet, not able to find anything to get a hold of as his descent started to grow faster. He dug his hands and feet into the somewhat loose dirt, trying to slow his fall. He slid down the bank like that for another twenty feet, his shoes full of grit and his hands bloody. His left hand rammed into something- a large rock, protruding about a foot out - and his grip with that hand gave out. He had slowed down though, and when he hit it's companion five feet further down and a foot to the right he was able to grab hold with both hands. He had slid down forty five feet or so, and the stream below him was a good twenty feet away still.

His limbs hurt like bloody hell. He was around two stories from the bottom and four from the top. He had dirt in his shoes, in his pants, in his shirt, in his mouth. Somehow though, he was still alive and his rifle was still with him. Those last two facts were the most important in the world at the moment.

"OH MY GOD!!!!!" Victoria's voice screamed, "OH MY GOD HE'S DEAD!!!!"

"My hands are, but the rest of me disagrees!!!" Scott shouted back.

"What the hell, dumb ass!?!?!?" Harry said, "No way you survived a fall to the bottom!!!"

"I'm not at the bottom!!!" Scott informed them, "I'm somewhere on this bank!!! You got any god damn rope!?!?!? I could use some!!!"

His feet swung beneath him, his arms growing tired. He managed to get a food hold, then another, and eventually he was standing on the large chunk of rock sticking out of the bank of the gorge, holding onto it's neighbor five feet up and a foot to the left to keep his balance. From here he could tell that there were a lot of crushed skeletons down at the bottom, along with the bridge rubble. Some of them were zombie, he was sure, but how many others were down there cause they ended up like him, but less fortunate?

"Here it comes!!!" Harry hollered. The end of the rope fell down, extending just a couple of feet past his feet.

"Damn I'm gonna be sore tomorrow." Scott told himself. "I'm sore now for that matter." Then so the others could hear him, "You ready?!?!?!"

"Start climbing!!!"

He slid the rope through his belt loops in case he couldn't keep hold, tied it off in front of the button on his jeans, and began the arduous task of pulling himself up. Or rather tried to. His hands just couldn't do it.

As they pulled him up, he held onto the rope so he wouldn't tip upside down and fall out of his pants. Now that would be an embarrassing way to die. Go up to heaven or down to hell and when others asked, 'How did you go?' only for you to answer 'I fell out of my pants.'!?!? What a lame death story to tell.

It took a while, but he eventually collapsed up on their side of the gorge. He crawled over to the edge and spit into it's depth, before crawling a few feet away and staring up at the sky.

Victoria looked downward at him and smiled, "You're a hell of a survivor, you know it?"

"Nah, just don't want to visit the Devil yet's all."

"I knew that was a bad idea." Harry muttered, and Scott laughed weakly.

"You guys coming?" Monique asked, untying the rope from the tree they'd used as an anchor.

"Give me a minute. I'm too old and too tired for this shit." Scott told her.

---

Shortly after lunch the fire tower was in sight. They were at the top of a hill, and it was only the next hill to the west.

"Is that our spot?" Victoria asked.

"Yeah," Monique said a touch nervously, "According to the map and what the others said anyway.

Scott stared out at it, shielding his eyes from the sun with his bandaged hand. It had to be six or seven, maybe even eight stories tall, which wasn't uncommon for fire towers. "Hey Victoria, check it out on your scope, will you?"

"I got binoculars." Harry said, "No need to get your rifle shouldered just yet."

They all watched him as he used the mentioned binoculars to look at the tower only a hill away.

"She's up there, all right." Harry said, "I'm pretty sure she's alive. Not moving a whole lot though, but if what they said about her being hurt was correct then that makes sense."

"What's got me worried," Scott said, "Is that given how dangerous this area is supposed to be, how come we ain't hardly seen shit on our way down here?"

"Not so fast there." Harry said, "If you had let me finish, you would've been delighted to know that there's a group of about twenty milling around at the stairs at the bottom of the tower."

"Why haven't they gone up yet if the person we're trying to save is up there?"

"Umm... it looks like they're feeding on something." Harry told her. "Yeah, they're chowing down. Not sure what on, but their getting their due fill."

"Well then," Monique said, "Let's get on with it. You guys," she said, pointing at Scott and Victoria, "You watch our backs with those rifles. Don't shoot anything unless you have too though."

"Yes mom." Scott said sarcastically, "This ain't my first rodeo."

---

They stood behind some boulders, watching the zombies only twenty feet away. As it turned out there were fifteen, and they were eating a wendigo. In between the boulders and the dead was a chain link fence. The gate was wide open though, and there were a few other holes in the fence. Not that it would matter to either group down there, below the tower.

"I thought wendigos ate the zombies, not the other way around." Victoria said.

"If you'll look," Harry began to explain, "There are a couple of arrows in that antlered motherfuckers chest. Becca probably killed him last night. Zombies will eat anythings dead body, be it man, animal, or wendigo. Only thing they don't eat is plants and themselves."

"Well?" Scott inquired, "You gonna shoot those things with your bows or not?"

Harry rolled his eyes and took the first shot, Monique not too far behind. The zombies weren't sure where the shots were coming from, and thus simply stood there and got mowed down. About halfway through a few shots came from above.

When they were done Harry began to retrieve arrows.

"Becca! Is that you?" Monique hollered.

There wasn't much of a response, and a worried sick Monique began to charge up the stairs that circled the frame of the tower all the way up to the room at the top.

"Go with her," Scott told Victoria, "Don't let her fall of and kill herself. If that turns out to not be this Becca... do to them what you did to me when we met out in the woods."

"Scare the shit outta them?" she said.

"Yeah."

---

Thankfully enough, it turned out to be Becca. Her voice was hoarse from slight dehydration, and as such she hadn't yelled down to them. There was a bigger issue though.

Her leg was broken. Scott had been hoping it had only been sprained, but alas things were worse. They'd splinted up her leg, but it was still going to be slow going, "At least I'm alive," she'd remarked with a bitter laugh, "That's gotta count for something?"

Scott looked at the place the tall blonde had spent the last two nights. The ranger station at the top of the fire tower was dusty, and hadn't been in use for a while from the looks of it. Becca had had enough emergency rations to get her through though, and they'd packed enough rations to include her on the return trip, so food wasn't a concern, thankfully.

Scott was standing outside the ranger station and was out on the catwalk that surrounded it, staring into the wilderness. From above it still looked green thanks to the tree leaves. Even if the ground was crushed up leaves, it wasn't like he could tell from where he was. From up here, the apocalypse might as well not have happened. From up here, he hadn't had to shoot people for bullets. From up here, his family could still be alive and well, back at their two story house only twenty miles away from the park.

But sadly, none of those were true.

He stood there, staring out into the hills, into the valley some distance away, at the Grand Lodge Hotel in the distance poking through the trees in between them and the Yellow Gorge, and at the mountains faint on the horizon. He'd lived in that town outside the national park for a year before the zombies came, but he hadn't once gone to see the mountains north of there. He hoped that one day that would change, but he doubted it ever would.

"You doing okay?" Victoria asked him.

"Honestly? No." he said with a chuckle, "When we get back to the Ranger camp, I'm gonna spend the next week in one of those tents."

"You need to not scare me like that."

"Like what?"

"Like you did when you fell. I thought you died."

"I'm glad you care."

"Oh, it's not that I care," she joked, "It's just that I haven't gotten a paycheck out of you yet."

"Kids these days." he said. He thought back to when he was in college. That was- goodness he almost hated to think about it -almost fifteen years ago now. He'd quit to get a job the day he'd found out Mary was pregnant.

Despite some of the difficulties he had in those days that seemed oh so trivial up in that tower, those had been good days.

Better days than the ones he found himself in at the moment.

Harry poked his head out of the door at them, "Come on guys. We asked Becca if she wanted to stay here for the night and she said no, so we're getting a move on. We've got enough daylight to cover a few miles. We're angling to go straight for the next bridge over the gorge though. It'll cut a few miles off."

Scott popped his knuckles, cursing himself immediately after for forgetting about his tore up hands, "Let's get to it then." he said, then to Victoria after Harry left, "I still say this trip's been too quiet."

"Let's hope it stays that way."

---

It wasn't a quiet trip anymore.

They sprinted down the path. Harry was carrying Becca in his arms so she wouldn't slow them down. Up ahead was the Grand Lodge Hotel. Right behind them was a massive herd of zombies.

Scott usually liked it when he was right. This wasn't one of those times.
If you think about it everybody lives in the same place: somewhere between the Empire of the Penguins, and the Kingdom of the Elves.

My Fiction on ZS:
a Price for Every Head
Dead Memories
the Bigger Monster
the Flesh Eaters
the Watcher

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by 91Eunozs » Thu Jul 04, 2019 12:16 am

Nice... like the pace of the story; and the updates! The urgency of their plight comes through in the writing...well done on this chapter.
Molon Latte...come & take our coffee order
Doctorr Fabulous wrote:... It's fun to play pretend, but this is the internet, and it's time to be serious.
zengunfighter wrote:... you don't want to blow a tranny in the middle of a pursuit...
woodsghost wrote:... A defensive gun without training is basically a talisman. It might ward off evil, but I wouldn't count on it.

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Post by idahobob » Thu Jul 04, 2019 9:05 am

Whoa! From the frying pan to the fire!

Good story! :clap: :clap:
People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by RingWraithsAnonymous » Sun Jul 07, 2019 6:33 pm

Not much to say this time around, except that the chapter having two titles will make sense after reading into it a bit. Let me know what you think, enjoy, thanks for taking the time to read this story, as always thank you for the support, and once again thanks for sticking with it guys.

Chapter 15: Preyed Upon
Chapter 15: FRESH MEAT

The zombies followed, ever in pursuit. Relentless in their hunger as they followed the five survivors running up and down the hills of the park.

Becca felt like shit. She was grateful that Harry and Monique had come after her, the strangers as well, but she was a burden at the moment, and that bothered her.

Harry wasn't about to let Becca die. His arms were beginning to burn, so he threw her over his shoulder and ran with her in a fireman's carry. But above all, he'd rather be eaten alive than face Trevor's wrath at them coming back only to here that Becca died cause Harry couldn't keep going.

Monique was in a state of panic as they neared the Yellow Gorge. She wasn't sure why, given that she'd been in this same position so many times. Habit maybe? In any event, she wasn't doing great.

Scott charged ahead of the others. They needed to lose the zombies if they were to get anything done. Becca was slowing them down. Without her, this whole situation would be a simpler one. Problem was he wasn't about to ditch her, not when the entire reason he was out in these woods was because of her.

Victoria tried her hardest to remain composed, but seeing that many zombies... she still wasn't used to seeing groups this big. There had to be a couple hundred, maybe more, marching along behind them. Had they been one organism, the closest thing they could've been described as would be the snake of death. She laughed at the thought of anything being called the snake of death, but her sense of humor evaporated rather quickly as they ran around tree trunks toward their destination.

The group charged ever forward. They could barely hear over the growls, rasps, moans, and groans of the creatures behind them. They found a trail and followed it, knowing it would lead to the Grand Lodge.

"We need to do something with her!" Scott shouted, talking about Becca.

"We aren't abandoning her!" Monique yelled sharply.

"I'm not suggesting we do!" He said as the three story building came in sight.

The Grand Lodge looked rather like an over sized Lincoln Log cabin, except for the English Ivy growing up the sides. It was the only green to be had that wasn't high in the sky at the tops of the trees. Rust poked through where the sun bleached paint had chipped, on cars still in on the cracked pavement of the parking lot seven years later.

"Then what are you suggesting?" Victoria asked.

"Don't I get a say in this?" Becca demanded.

"They're getting closer!" Harry shouted.

"SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!!!" Scott roared, silencing them all "Into the building and I'll explain!" He shouted as he made a break for the double doors. The glass had been smashed out long ago, but at some point somebody had nailed boards over it so it could still serve as a barrier. The zombies were only fifty feet away as the others came in after in. The main lobby was rather large, with wood paneling and granite floors.

"Okay, what's the play?" Victoria asked as Scott looked behind them at the dead then forward through the main doors that led to the rest of the building.

"Whoever's backpack still has the most food in it, we need to leave it with Becca somewhere. Somewhere the zombies won't get her."

"Just put me in one of the rooms." Becca suggested, "I'll just lock the door and keep quiet. You'll come back for me right?"

"Yeah." Scott said, "Don't worry about that. Let's go!" He then urged.

They entered the main area as the zombies reached the front doors and began pounding on them. The center was a large open air courtyard twenty feet wide and sixty feet long. Rooms lined the right and left walls. Stairs on either end of the right and left walls led up to an upper walkway that led to the second floor rooms. The same stairs also led up to an upper walkway on the third floor. A roofed catwalk in the middle of the second and third floor walkways went across to the other side like sky bridges. In the middle was a large patch of overgrown grass with a few trees. At the far end were glass double doors to a large dining area.

Scott took this in quickly and heard the boards snap behind them as the zombies entered the building through the broken doors.

Scott rushed toward the left set of stairs and charged up them, the others close behind. He stumbled once but recovered rather quickly, getting off at the second floor. He began trying doors, each one locked on that side. He went up to the third floor, the zombies pouring into the courtyard.

"We need to hurry, Scott!" Harry shouted.

"Give me a minute!" Scott replied angrily. He found a door on the third floor that would open. Becca was quickly set inside, and Monique threw her bag in.

"Good luck guys." Becca said. Monique gave her a quick hug. Scott turned around to see what they needed to do next. The zombies were following them up the stairs. The first few were at the far end of the third floor walkway. The catwalk was in between them.

"Let's go!" Scott ordered, running forward.

He unslung his rifle and took a few quick shots at the closest zombies, two out of the three shots hitting their mark. Harry shot a few arrows down the way too as Victoria and then Monique got to the third floor catwalk. The boards creaked miserably as Harry and Scott charged across as well. They were about halfway across when the zombies reached them. They formed a long snaking trail as each zombie simply followed the ones behind it. The snake of death as Victoria jokingly considered it, entered through the lobby, went up the stairs, then onto the catwalk. A long dead skeleton leaning against the wall at the end of the catwalk had a hatchet clutched in it's arms. As Scott ran past he grabbed it.

The zombies apparently were too much for the poor, weathered wooden catwalk. As they grew near to the four they chased, the middle began to bow. By the time Scott and the others were at the stairs closest to the dining area, the catwalk snapped, and the zombies fell through it, then the one below, hitting the ground on the bottom in a mass of undead, dead undead, splinters, and broken boards. When Scott reached the bottom he darted into the dining area before the undead that were massed in the bottom knew what was happening.

The four went through the tables and chairs and into the kitchen. From there they went through the back door. They closed it behind them. and ran into the trees about twenty feet away.

They stood there for a minute to regain their breath. They had lost them. They all breathed sighs of relief. They'd have to get Becca back somehow, but she had enough food that they had time to plan that out. It was going to work out.

The back door slammed open and an endless stream of zombies came out.

They hadn't lost them.

The four with beating hearts charged off into the woods. This was going to be a long day.

---

The wendigo could smell them. The rotten meats. FRESH MEATS had no doubt drawn them close to it and it's pack mates' hunting ground, but that mattered little now. The FRESH MEATS were no where to be found, but more food than the wendigo had seen for a few days now was less than a quarter light's stalk away. FRESH MEAT was good, but rotten meat was still tasty.

---

It was hours later. They'd been zig zagging through the lows in between the hills, trying to outrun the dead. Problem with the living is that they tire. Problem with the dead is that they don't. They group had gained little ground.

They heard the howling in the distance, the tell tale sign of the wendigos. It wasn't quite sundown yet, but around here it seemed that was early enough. Scott shuddered. The howls grew closer, and soon they caught fleeting glimpses of the creatures at the tops of the hills.

"We're fucked." Harry declared grimly.

"They aren't here for us." Monique told him. "Look."

She stopped and stared behind her. The others did the same.

The zombies were still approaching, but they began to slow down. Then the ones in front turned around, trying to push their way through the zombies behind them.

"What's wrong with them?" Victoria asked, "They seem almost scared."

"That's cause they are." Harry told her.

There was a series of roars as about a dozen of the wendigos descended from the hills, having boxed in a large number of the dead. Fangs and claws tore into undead flesh.

It would've been a gruesome sight, but the four weren't watching anymore. They'd taken the opportunity to flee, seeing that both threats were gone.

They needed to circle back to the Grand Lodge. They headed up the nearest hill to get a better view.

---

The wendigo relished in it's feast alongside it's pack mates. It was tearing into a leg, eagerly devouring the rotten meat. It looked up and saw four FRESH MEATS. It's pack mates had cared little about them, instead focusing on the rotten meats.

Had the wendigo thought along the lines of a FRESH MEAT, it would've doubted that the rest of it's pack had even noticed the four FRESH MEATS.

But it didn't think along the FRESH MEAT spectrum. Instead, it's thoughts laid with the thought of a rarity in it's existence: FRESH MEAT. Sure, rotten meat was good, but FRESH MEAT was a rarity, one that tasted oh so good.

It licked the gore from it's teeth and lips and snarled, breaking away from the others. If it was careful, it would surely be able to snag some FRESH MEAT.

So long as it was careful.

---

Once at the top, they scanned the surrounding hill sides. Ignoring the carnage bellow as the pack of wendigos feasted, they eventually found a trail. They hiked over to it, and then followed it until they found a sign.

Harry pulled out the map, and he and Monique studied it for a bit.

"We might just make it after all." Victoria told Scott.

"Maybe." He said, "Maybe."

"We've got it!" Harry told them, "We know where we are know. It'll be a bit of a detour, but we know some caves we can camp out in for the night. We just need to follow this trail for a bit longer and we'll get there.

With that they were off, agreeing they'd eat once there. A few howls were heard off in the distance, but once they got to the cave they'd be safe. Scott's hand clenched the handle of his new hatchet tighter with each howl though.

There was a sign up ahead. It told them there was an overlook of the Tar River Valley, and further down the trail, the caves Harry had promised. As they approached the overlook there was a rather loud howl.

"We better hurry." Scott said, "That sounded close."

They soon reached the overlook. It was quiet impressive. A rock wall about four feet tall kept one from walking over the edge and going down an almost sheer drop, almost three hundred feet down, according to the plaque. Trees still grew along the side of the slope regardless though, meaning that if one did fall there would hopefully be something to catch you.

---

The wendigo had been careful to stalk it's FRESH MEAT. It watched the FRESH MEATS gather around the stones. Down at the bottom, the wendigo knew, was very close to home. Very close.

Oh yes, the wendigo had been very careful. It wasn't high on the pecking order- low enough it didn't even have any mates -so it rarely got to have FRESH MEAT. It had accidentally let loose a hunting howl, but suppressed any others. Hopefully it's prey didn't notice.

It spied on them at the edge, before the long fall down to home. The wendigo licked it's lips as it peeked out from behind a tree. They all stared over the edge for a minute, the FRESH MEATS. One by one they walked away from the edge and began to walk away. One lingered too long. One of the male FRESH MEATS.

It had one of the noise makers. The ones the wendigo had seen only three times, but it still knew what they did. They caused pack mates to die a bloody mess after enough of the loud barks that they made.

It didn't want to chance that, but oh what an opportunity this was. The last FRESH MEAT went to join it's pack mates- did FRESH MEATS have packs? -and still none of them knew it was there. Waiting.

It didn't want to chance the noisemakers, oh no, but when would it get an opportunity for FRESH MEAT like this? Most of the time other FRESH MEATS fled like rotten meats when it or one of it's pack mates attacked one of them.

It's prey was about to escape. It's mouth was dripping with promise.

The wendigo would be eating good tonight.

---

There was a loud roar, and from behind them a wendigo burst out from behind the a tree.

It rushed it's prey. It charged at them, roaring. Saliva dripped from it's long fangs. It's claws and the tips of it's antlers reached out. It's black eyes gleamed at him. Long shadows from the setting sun darted over it's skin.

It lept and tackled it's chosen meal as Scott swung at it with his hatchet. The hatchet blade stuck in it's shoulder as it's claws began to pierce it's meal's flesh at the shoulders.

The momentum of it's jump took both it and it's prey careening backward.

And as they sailed over the edge wall Scott swung at it again with the hatchet, this time hitting it in the neck.

Scott didn't realize he and the wendigo had gone over the edge until he heard Harry shout his name and felt that weightless feeling just before plummeting.

He had the feeling he wasn't going to be as lucky as he had been at Yellow Gorge.

He had the feeling that this might very well be the end.
If you think about it everybody lives in the same place: somewhere between the Empire of the Penguins, and the Kingdom of the Elves.

My Fiction on ZS:
a Price for Every Head
Dead Memories
the Bigger Monster
the Flesh Eaters
the Watcher

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by bodyparts » Sun Jul 07, 2019 9:03 pm

:vmad: what noooo !! that is just rotten !!!! :vmad:

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by idahobob » Mon Jul 08, 2019 8:19 am

Oh shit! :ohdear:
People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by 91Eunozs » Mon Jul 08, 2019 11:27 am

Dang! Talk about a cliff hanger!

Well, over the cliff and hope to find something to hang onto anyway...
Molon Latte...come & take our coffee order
Doctorr Fabulous wrote:... It's fun to play pretend, but this is the internet, and it's time to be serious.
zengunfighter wrote:... you don't want to blow a tranny in the middle of a pursuit...
woodsghost wrote:... A defensive gun without training is basically a talisman. It might ward off evil, but I wouldn't count on it.

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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by RingWraithsAnonymous » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:40 pm

Let me know what you think, enjoy, thanks for taking the time to read this story, and as always thank you for the support.


Chapter 16: Ouch

As that weightless feeling kicked in just before free fall, both Scott and the wendigo knew that they'd fucked up. The wendigo knew this for obvious reasons, as it and it's prey were about to die, and a hatchet was also buried into it's neck. Scott knew this because he should have seen it coming, or so he told himself. He should've been on his guard.

But alas, Scott wasn't on his guard that fateful moment before he and the wendigo had gone sailing over the edge.

The pair both uttered screams of panic, and the observers on the overlook uttered screams of horror at the sight that unfolded.

As the faces of his companions disappeared from view, before the first second of falling had even gotten halfway done, Scott was pulling the hatchet out of the creatures neck and preparing to strike again. If he was going to die, dammit he wasn't dying alone.

Before he could do so, his back slammed into a tree. The wendigo, who had previously been digging it's claws in, let go of Scott and went to the left of the trunk, while Scott went to the right. In doing so it ripped one of the straps on his pack, and it went sideways off into the bushes. Scott very soon lost track of the wendigo's- and his backpack's -trajectory, as he was more concerned on his own.

Very quickly he landed on another tree trunk twenty feet down, his right arm in between the tree and him. It made a horrid sound, and pain shot up all the way past his shoulder and into his neck and back as one or both of the bones in his forearm broke.

He was still screaming, but now it was a blend of terror and agony, a cocktail of bad emotions to have to deal with.

He grabbed onto the trunk with his other arm, but it slipped off almost as quick as it got a hold. So far his fall had yet to stop. It had slowed yes, but stopped... hardly.

He wasn't sure on distances anymore. He bounced the side of his head of a tree branch and began to go head over heels in the air. He skidded off the side of the cliff with his back, and with nothing to push off of, he couldn't turn himself around to dig in with his toes and left hand. His left leg slammed into a tree foot first, and his knee cap got forced somewhere it very well was not supposed to end up.

At this rate he would break his neck before he got halfway down.

But this was not the end of his story. Scott hadn't been through this much bullshit only to die out in the fucking woods without completing his job.

The slope lessened a little. Not by much, but enough for his fall to begin to slow.

He landed on a his back on a boulder a broken man, but miraculously still alive. His fall had ended, at least for now. Above him he could see tree trunks and green leaves. The overlook was blocked from view by them. He began to slide off, and frantically tried to grab onto something with his left hand and stop his slide with his right foot.

In this he failed.

And so he slid off the boulder. He bounced off another rock a short while later, and went spiraling into a tree branch. The back of his head slammed into it, and his eyes rolled into the back of his head.

---

Back at the top, Harry, Monique, and Victoria heard Scott scream his way down the cliff side for a solid three, four, maybe five seconds. Until it abruptly stopped, only the faint echoes from the hills and the valley giving any sign a man had been screaming. There was still the faint sounds of something crashing through the trees, but that was it.

The wendigo was in sight, stuck in some tree branches fifty feet down. It's neck had snapped, and it's limbs were limp.

"SCOTT!!!!!" Victoria screamed.

Unlike at the Yellow Gorge, nobody screamed back. Her cries echoed back to her.

Harry didn't know what to do. Ten seconds ago this had been Scott's expedition. Harry and Monique had just been tour guides. Monique was still staring over the edge, a blank expression of shock and fear chiseled on her face. Silent tears streamed down Victoria's face. Harry figured they were close, given that she was Scott's new partner. Had there been more going on under the surface that neither one of them had let on about?

Harry shook his head. None of that mattered then. What did matter then, was the fact that they'd made a lot of noise, and night was falling. Fast.

"We need to leave." Harry said, "Now."

"No." Victoria said, "No. He needs us."

"He's dead." Harry informed her.

"No. No no no no no." Victoria sobbed.

"He's right, girl." Monique told her softly.

"I can't leave him." Victoria said pitifully.

"Tell ya what: We'll search for him tomorrow. Crack of dawn, promise."

"Wait just a minute-" Harry started.

"Do you want to just leave his body down there for the wendigos to eat?" Monique demanded.

"Well... no."

"Okay then. We can't spend time on him now, but he deserves a proper pyre. He earned it."

Harry had to agree with that. Scott Owens, pain in the ass he'd been at times, was one of the best friends he'd had, "Alright. Tomorrow, Victoria and I will hit up the trail that'll take us down there. Monique, you need to go get Becca and haul ass to camp. We can talk more on it at the caves. Right now though, we all need to haul ass. Let's get a move on."

---

Scott opened his eyes some time later. His whole body was in pain, but it was concentrated on his head, his right arm, and his left knee.

He had no clue where it was, but wherever it was he could see a full moon up in the sky, and it was windy. A dark patch without stars in the sky indicated clouds were rolling in.

He wiggled his toes. The joints hurt, but they moved.

He then tried moving his ankles. A sharp pain in his left one told him that that was a terrible idea. Probably sprained.

He bent his right knee, then tried to bend his left one. Tried. Nothing doing. His backpack was gone, he knew that much. He fumbled with his pockets with his left hand. He didn't remember what all he'd hurt, but he knew his right arm was out of commission. He found a flashlight and turned it on.

First thing he noticed was that it was way too bright, and his eyes and head hurt more. He blinked a few times. He saw leaves, and branches. That meant he was up in a tree somewhere. He had know clue how high up on the cliff he was though, which would probably prove to be a problem later on down the road.

He shined it down at his leg to see what the problem was. His leg was kicked out at a weird angle. Nothing unnatural mind you, just something that on it's own would've been uncomfortable. But wait, there was more! There was a bulge to the left of where his knee was in his jeans.

His knee cap was on the side of his leg.

His breathing got faster. He'd seen this happen before back when he played baseball. Well, he saw it happen once. His teammate had had the same problem Scott was having at that very moment. What was it he'd done? Scott knew his teammate had done something to alleviate the problem, at least temporarily.

He soon remembered, and gritted his teeth in preparation for what had to be done.

He leaned forward a bit, which was a terrible idea and his body told him so. He grabbed his lower leg, and painfully moved it to where his leg was sticking straight out on the main trunk of the branch he rested in. What he needed was loose pants or no pants to reduce interference, but he wasn't going to get that up in the branch of his tree. The longer he dilly dallied, the worse the pain got as his brain realized exactly how bad his leg was fucked up. His knee- if it could be called that at that point in time -was starting to try and jerk the floating knee cap back into place. It wasn't getting anywhere on it's own though, so Scott did was he needed to do, and quickly slid it back into place.

He screamed; it clicked in. It didn't make any audible noise, but he felt it. The pain eased a little, but his knee immediately swelled up. It still hurt like a bitch.

He turned off the light, stuffed it in his pocket so it wouldn't fall out, and laid back down into his cradle of tree branch and twig and green summer leaves. He then did the rest of the body test, moving his hips, his back- though it told him to take a big fat 'fuck you' pill by refusing to move after that -his shoulders, his left arm, and his neck.

Other than just general, horrid pain, so far his only major injuries were a sprained ankle, a formerly dislocated knee, and a broken arm.

And most definitely a concussion.

---

"I know Trevor doesn't like us using the radios too much, but call the camp anyway when you get to Becca." Harry told Monique. The wind howled outside, and he continued, "The two of you won't make it back to camp in under a day, especially with her hurt. Ask for a group to come get or meet you guys somewhere. Also, tell them what the deal is with me and Victoria. Can you do that?"

"Yeah, sure." Monique said quietly. She couldn't see Harry, but she was pretty sure he was as shaken as she was. "What about her?" She then asked.

"I don't know." Harry said truthfully, "I really don't. She obviously looked up to him a great deal. Hell, cared for him a great deal too. You know how it is."

"I'm still here." Victoria said quietly, "Just because I'm not talking doesn't mean I'm not here."

"Sorry." Harry said. He listened to the wind howl outside. "Smells like a storm. This is gonna be a hell of a night. At least we've got shelter."

---

Scott didn't have shelter. The wind had kept him from drifting off again. With as much pain as he was in, he was surprised he had the capacity to go to sleep. Hell, it might not have been sleep, it might've been unconsciousness he toyed with... or death.

The wind was picking up, and the branch was beginning to rock. Thunder cracked in the distance, and the sky lit up. It was weather like this that made him wish he still had his hat.

It wasn't raining... yet. The air had that scent to it though, the one that came before a summer thunderstorm, the one that you forget about until you smell it once more.

The wind blew, and the branches around him creaked. There was a loud crack from above him, and very quickly a branch sailed ten feet to his right. Something landed with a loud thud up somewhere past his feet, making the branch shake terribly.

Lightning flashed, and for a brief moment the outline of something just absolutely terrible appeared. Then it vanished, and thunder echoed across the valley.

Scott took out his flashlight, turned it on, and pointed at the mystery object.

It was the wendigo. It's head sat at a weird angle, and dried blood stained it's mouth, nose, and fangs. It's eyes had glazed over, and it's limbs looked in worse shape than Scott's did.

"Yeah... That's right... fuck you you motherless bastard." Scott said. He spat at it, but the wind blew his saliva away and off into the sky. Scott laughed, "That's right!" He shouted, looking over at the storm clouds and lightning forks. "Fuck you too!!!"

The storm said fuck you back, and rain came a few minutes later. Scott merely laughed, his body aching, his mind delirious, and his spirit broken.

His determination, however, was anything but. He was not about to let himself die on the side of that cliff.

---

The rain pounded outside the cave. Victoria and Monique were asleep. Harry was not.

He sat up on the rock floor. He had first watch that night, and had been watching the storm outside. It started out as a light rain, but now, almost thirty minutes later, it wasn't at all light. The torrential downpour and howling winds outside didn't surprise him too much: they were due for another storm by then. First one of the summer season.

He sat there, and looked away from the almost pitch black rainstorm outside. He looked up at the ceiling.

"God, please let his soul rest peacefully."

---

Scott's soul was doing the opposite of resting peacefully at that moment. At the moment he was clinging to dear life at the branches with his good hand. Good hand. It was ironic, given how much the fall down Yellow Gorge had torn up his hands, but somehow 'good hand' was still accurate.

He had rolled over onto his stomach shortly after the storm started so he wouldn't get his face rained on, but oh what a painful process that had been. It was well worth it know though, as he white knuckle gripped the wood holding him up. Both of his legs were wrapped around the trunk of the main branch as well, though his left leg protested severely. He told it to grow a pair though: this was life or death, not playtime at the city park.

The branch swayed underneath him and creaked. Lightning flashed in the distance. His clothes were soaked through. The wendigo's face was stuck in a twisted, evil grin directed at Scott.

He was hungry, in pain, terrified, soaking wet, terrified, probably dying, lonely, terrified, and most of all sick to his stomach. He reluctantly wrapped his broken arm around the branch and screamed in pain.

Thankfully no bone had pierced the skin, but a broken bone is still a broken bone. Once again he reminded himself though that he was not about to just die on the side of that cliff.

He missed his rifle. He wasn't sure where it had ended up, but without it all he had was a blade tucked away in his thoroughly drenched boots.

Lightning flashed, really close, and thunder boomed so loud he vibrated. He opened his eyes and looked around. More lightening flashed, and he saw it.

It was up near the end of the tree branch. It had to be soaked, just like him. He wasn't entirely sure how the sling was still hanging onto one of the branches off the branch Scott was on, but by God, that was his rifle!

There were two things he was certain off at that very moment. First was that he was not about to let himself die on the side of that cliff. Second was that he was not about to let his rifle blow off the tree and end up at the bottom of that cliff.

It blew in the wind. It was in a precarious spot, but Scott had to get it. He'd die trying, and for two reasons. First off was that if it blew away to sail of into the Wild Blue Yonder, he would be defenseless in a forest were he was at the bottom of the food chain. Second was that that was the rifle Mary had bought him for his twenty fifth birthday, only a year and a half before up had become down.

Given that the picture he had in his pocket of his wife and daughter was undoubtedly soaked, that rifle might very well be the only thing he had left from either on of them.

He began to claw his way down the slick branch. The wind tore at him, the rain drove into him, the branch tried to bolt out from under him, but slowly he made his way to it. He reached for it, and missed. He got a little closer. He reached again, and missed. He got a little closer. He reached for it, thinking 'third times a charm' and just barely missed it.

The wind got to it before he did, and it dropped

In a desperate attempt, he went to catch it mid air. He grabbed it by the barrel and it threatened to slide from his hand right around the time his balance threatened to fail him. He fell backwards on purpose, landing on the branch and pulled the rifle up into his arms.

His extra magazines might be gone, but he still had 17 bullets in the one he had in the mag well.

He began to slide over to the right. He slung the rifle over his shoulder, and pulled himself up by the skin of his teeth.

He sat there, triumphant. He had no clue what he would do next. He had no clue if he would survive tomorrow. What he did know, was that he was not about to die on the side of that God damn, motherfucking, cursed cliff.

Lightning struck the tree up the cliff about seventy feet. A loud, booming crack after the deafening thunder echoed across the Tar River Valley.

Lightning struck again somewhere behind him, but it light up the cliff side for a brief moment, and Scott watched as that tree came tumbling down toward him.

"Scott Owens is not about to die on the side of this cliff!!! GOD DAMMIT I AM ALIVE YET!!!!!" he roared in defiance.

He scrambled over to the trunk of his tree and grabbed hold, his knee cursing him all the way. The broken tree came rolling down toward him, and it smacked into the upper braches of the tree Scott was in partial-root ball first and above Scott by about five feet, the trunk slamming into the main trunk of the tree Scott was in, praying for dear life that he would survive the next two minutes. Defiance tends to leave when you almost get decapitated by a tree.

The tree he was in leaned away from the cliff. He watched the softened ground around it begin to crack in the light of another lightning strike. He held on tighter than he had all night as the rain softened embankment gave way, and both trees went tumbling down the cliff.

Scott screamed as up lost meaning and his world went tumbling down the cliff. Somehow, despite his screaming left leg and right arm, despite his near broken state of mind and his drained body, something in him allowed him to push through it all and hold onto that damn tree. It seemed to go really fast there for a bit, then the two tree pile mixed with a small landslide smashed into more trees, and very soon it wasn't a small landslide.

Now it seemed as if the entire cliff, refusing to let Scott live, was following him until his inevitable demise. In reality it wasn't the entire cliff, and the logical part of Scott knew this, but the illogical 'oh fuck' part of Scott was beating the logical part to a pulp with a sledgehammer.

The slope became not as steep as the two locked together trees tumbled along. Scott was flung off, his rifle with him as, unbeknownst to him, he reached the bottom of the cliff. He landed at the edge of the landslide. Lightning flashed, and he looked up in the brief flash of light to see the scar in the cliff side that had been left from the landslides passing.

He looked up at the edge of the cliff, at the top then at the sky as rain pelted his face. He laughed, "That's right! Fuck you all!!! Scott Owens LIVES!!!!!"

He heard the gurgle of water some distance behind him, and he reached for his flashlight to find it missing. He cursed, and tried to get up.

He couldn't. His body was done. Finished. KOed. The man physically couldn't go on anymore. He collapsed in the mud on his back, and blacked out.

---

Scott woke up. There was a silence over the forest. It was still dark, but he could see the moon and stars. The storm was over.

He still couldn't move, but he took consolation in that he had his rifle at his side should things get weird. He felt something... odd... at his foot. A pressure of sorts. Was there something on it?

He looked, the moonlight illuminating the area enough to make limited details out. A zombie was chewing on his foot. Or more accurately, it was trying to chew through his boot.

"Fuck you!" He hollered, and the zombie looked up and rasped. It scrambled forward toward him, and Scott pulled his rifle from behind him with his left arm, an unnatural feeling. He then shot at it without even aiming, given how close the range was. It's corpse landed on him, and bits of brain matter rained down on him shortly after.

He waited, expected to hear more moans and groans in the distance, or howls in the night, but there wasn't any. He was alone...

Except for that stupid Wendigo corpse, who now severely mangled, was somehow still close by, if about ten yards away this time instead of ten feet. It's antlers- or rather antler, as the left one was currently missing -gleamed in the moonlight.

Scott looked away and stared up at the moon, waiting for sunrise to come and for him to be well enough to get up and make his first move.

Most importantly of all however, was the fact that he didn't let himself die on the side of that cliff.
If you think about it everybody lives in the same place: somewhere between the Empire of the Penguins, and the Kingdom of the Elves.

My Fiction on ZS:
a Price for Every Head
Dead Memories
the Bigger Monster
the Flesh Eaters
the Watcher

idahobob
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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by idahobob » Wed Jul 10, 2019 8:36 pm

My gosh, I dunno if Scott's predicament can get any worse........can it?
People who are rather more than six feet tall and nearly as broad across the shoulders often have uneventful journeys. People jump out at them from behind rocks then say things like, "Oh. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

DAVE KI
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Favorite Zombie Movies: WWZ though nowhere as good as the book.
Location: The Great State of (cough cough)Oregon

Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by DAVE KI » Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:17 pm

Don't know bob,but that boy was born under a dark cloud.
"We'll Fight Them, Sir!, Until Hell Freezes Over, And Then We'll Fight Them On The Ice! Sir!

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91Eunozs
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Re: a Price For Every Head

Post by 91Eunozs » Thu Jul 11, 2019 12:46 am

Dang! Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

When’s he gonna get around to splinting that arm?
Molon Latte...come & take our coffee order
Doctorr Fabulous wrote:... It's fun to play pretend, but this is the internet, and it's time to be serious.
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woodsghost wrote:... A defensive gun without training is basically a talisman. It might ward off evil, but I wouldn't count on it.

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