Sunday, October 25, 2015

by Todd Travis © 2015
Mundt still couldn’t get over the fact that these kids were hunting for Bigfoot. Fucking Bigfoot! It was like a joke, but nobody was laughing, they were dead serious. Mundt was busting to talk to someone about it, but Grady had his pilot’s headphones on and wouldn’t be able to hear him anyway, and the kids were stuffed in the back of the twin-engine seaplane. Mundt glanced back at them.
Two young men, one big, strapping and bearded, named Sam. The other, small with a boyish face but balding terribly even this early in life, named Billy. And then there was the girl. Gwen, she was called. She was a looker, even in hiking boots, jeans and a flannel shirt. Grady had winked at Mundt when they loaded all their electrical gear into the plane at pickup, especially when she bent over.
The girl nudged her companions and pointed out of the plane. Mundt followed her gaze. Down far below in the Alaska wilderness, a big mama grizzly shepherded two young cubs by a river. The kids smiled in awe at nature’s creatures doing their business. Mundt snorted, he had seen it before, many a time. He leaned back and shouted over the engine noise.
“Where we are now, it’s most likely that that river below ain’t never been fished or even touched by a human. Hardly any people this far in, just us and the animals!”
“It’s beautiful and perfect!” Gwen shouted back.
“We love it!” Sam the big one said. The little one just closed his eyes and looked queasy. He’d better not barf in the plane, Mundt thought.
Graduate students, that’s what they’d said they were, Mundt remembered. Post-doctoral graduate students or some shit, whatever that means. He’d discussed it with Grady, who’d wondered how a person could be a student if they’d already done graduated, and Mundt honestly didn’t know. As long as they had the cash and paid up front, then that’s all that mattered. But he looked forward to what Boyle had to say when the kids finally told him what they were on about.

“Bigfoot?” Boyle said to them. “Fucking Bigfoot?”
“Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, the missing link, all of the above,” Sam said. “That’s what we’re here for. We’re going to prove he exists.”
“Fucking Bigfoot?”
The kids just grinned and kept unloading their gear.
The seaplane had landed in the small lake near the log cabin lodge where Boyle and his idiot brother Duke lived, and they piled their stuff up on the small fishing dock. Duke helped them as best he could, goggle-eyed at Gwen. Boyle, big, bearded and round like the many neighboring mountain bears, just stared at Mundt and Grady in disbelief.
“I know, it’s somethin’, ain’t it?” Mundt said.
“Son, I’ve lived in the shadow of one Alaska range after another for most of my life,” Boyle said. “An’ I ain’t never seen me no Bigfoot.”
“New species are discovered every day,” said Billy, the small one. “Alaska is bigger than the next three largest states in America put together, and it’s got more unexplored territory than anywhere else in North America. There are vast reaches that man has barely seen, much less explored.”
“Don’t tell me about Alaska, I know Alaska, I been all over and never seen a single sign, not a footprint, not a hair, nothing. He don’t exist.”
“He does. We’ve seen him,” Gwen said and that stopped all of them.
“You did? Where?”
“Hey, easy with that!” Billy said as Duke, unloading gear from the plane and still gawking at Gwen, dropped the container he was carrying. Sam slid over and caught it right before it hit the deck. The kids all exhaled a sigh of relief.
“Fuck,” said Billy. “That was close.”
Duke mewled, angry at being yelled at.
“Sorry,” Sam said. “But this is particularly valuable to us.”
Duke, with a cleft lip and a lazy eye, growled at them, unable to speak but clearly furious. The kids took a step back. Duke was even bigger than Boyle, and Boyle was a large man.
“Knock it off, Duke,” Boyle said. “Get back to the lodge, get the kitchen straightened out and the food set. Go on, now.”
Duke looked down, shuffled off, mumbling. Boyle turned back to the kids.
“Don’t mind my brother. He’s retarded an’ gets upset easy, but he’s harmless.”
The kids glanced at each other, not quite believing that. Boyle hawked and spit into the lake.
“Well, I guess it don’t matter why you come here, as long as you got the deposit in cash, like we agreed.”
“That we do,” Sam said. He unzipped a fanny pouch, pulled out a fat roll of hundreds and counted out three thousand dollars. “Half now, half when we’re done, right?”
“Works for us.”
“And you’ll take us up Brooks Range tomorrow, first light?” Billy asked.
“That’s what we agreed to, I believe. Grady and Mundt will get all this stuff inside for you, you go on into the lodge, Duke’s got some chow waiting on the stove; he don’t look it, but he’s a damn good cook.”
The kids hesitated a second, then did as directed. Sam kept the plastic container he’d caught, Boyle noted, and held onto it like it was filled with gold. The men watched them troop on inside, in particular Gwen. Mundt moaned a happy moan.
“Hate it when she leaves, but I love to watch her go,” Mundt said.
“Goddamn, I wish I had that swing in my backyard,” Grady said.
“I don’t even need fries with that shake, I’ll take that shit straight up,” Mundt said. “With a spoon and a straw.”
“You think the big kid is hitting that shit?” Grady asked.
“If he ain’t, then he needs his head examined,” Mundt said. “Or his balls.”
Boyle spit again. “What’s the word?”
“Word is good,” Grady said. “Went down according to schedule, they was right on time, waiting on the road by themselves as directed. Anxious to do this thing, I guess. So it’s on now?”
“Looks like it. Get their cockamamie gear on inside.” 
Mundt grinned at Boyle. “Bigfoot, huh?”
“Fucking Bigfoot.”

“You SAW Bigfoot, you say?” Boyle asked after dinner had been served and eaten. The kids were spread out in front of the fireplace, checking their gear and equipment. Sam messed around with various cameras and Billy, of course, was on a computer, tapping away. Gwen puttered with her smartphone.
“We sure did,” Gwen said. “I can’t get cell reception or access my email here.”
“And you won’t, ’cause of the mountain range,” Boyle said. “Only thing that works up here is a satellite phone. You got one of those?”
Gwen glanced at the boys. “Afraid not. But we can handle it. How do you reach anyone, if you get into trouble?”
“Got the ham radio, we get on that if there’s an issue. But usually there ain’t. We steer clear of bear trouble and shoot the wolves if they mess with us. Other than that, the biggest danger is a bull moose during mating season; you don’t want to get in the way of a bull when his blood’s up, among other things.”
Grady and Mundt giggled at that, for their own reasons. Duke sniffed around the equipment, investigating. Sam gently took a camera away from him. Duke hissed.
“Quiet, Duke. So where’d you see Bigfoot?” Mundt asked.
“Himalayas, last year,” Sam said. “We were there for a month and near the end, caught a glimpse of him in a snowstorm.”
“You sure it was Bigfoot? Probably just another lost mountain climber.”
“It was him. Seven feet tall, covered in fur … we saw his prints, too. No boots,” Billy said. “It was definitely him. But our equipment and cameras had frozen, we had nothing, no proof that we actually saw him.”
“This time we’re going to prove it,” Gwen said.
“If you saw him there, why not go back there, why come here?”
“It was on the Chinese side of the mountains,” Sam replied. “We can’t get back in there; we have a visa issue. He won’t show up on the other side, he avoids people. But we got enough data to track him. And we know he’s also here, too.”
Boyle shook his head in disbelief. Gwen smiled.
“I know, it’s a stretch, but trust us, he’s here.”
“Then tell me, missy, why me and my brother have lived her for a lot longer than you’ve probably even been on this earth, and we ain’t never seen hide nor hair of him?”
“He doesn’t want to be seen.”
Boyle snorted and batted that away with his hand.
“No, seriously,” Gwen said. “We’re speaking about a primate, much like a gorilla or us, but a very smart one, an animal that can travel great distances quickly and can smell as well if not better than a canine. One who can problem solve, who can see and smell humans from miles away, who can reason for itself how to stay out of sight by sticking to territories where it knows it’s safe. We see this in gorilla bands in Africa. These primates are smarter than gorillas, they know how to identify threats. They know how to cover their tracks.”
“They work as a community, too, much like a lion pride,” Sam said. “They hunt and migrate and communicate with each other.” 
Boyle stood up, went to the cabinet and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. “So how do you know he’s up here?”
“We did a data stream on migration patterns and likely habitats,” Billy said. He turned his laptop around so they could see the colored map on the screen. “They migrate, and, according to the data and soil samples you collected and sent to us, this is the most likely area they’ll be found this time of year.”
“Them? More than one?” Grady asked.
The men all rolled their eyes and Mundt laughed. “Hear that, Boyle? You and Duke done been neighbors with some hairy monsters straight outa the seventies.”
“Harry and the Hendersons!” Grady said.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Billy said. “They leave people alone, unless—”
“Look, junior, I ain’t afraid of nobody or nothin’ up here, understand? Let me show you something,” Boyle opened up a cabinet and took out a gleaming black rifle with a scope. “You know what this is? This is a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic assault weapon. You recognize the name, right?”
“That’s what was used at Sandy Hook,” Gwen said.
“Exactly right. I’ve killed bear, moose and a pack of wolves with this thing. Don’t matter what kinda animal or monster it is, this thing will mow them down.”
“You mind, uh, putting that away?” Billy asked.
“Why? Make you uncomfortable?”
“Yes, it does,” Gwen said. “We don’t like guns.”
Boyle smiled at her a moment, then put the weapon away. “You’re the guest, so I’m happy to oblige. After all, I guess we’re gonna be witness to a scientific breakthrough, maybe even get our names in the paper. If you think that this’ll be that big of a deal. Will it?”
“That and more,” said Sam, brightening up at the mention of it. “This will be epic, I mean, we’re talking about inconvertible proof of the missing link between man and ape! The implications are beyond what we can comprehend. Just what it will do to the anti-evolution arguments alone is significant, but think of what else we can learn from him.”
“New species are discovered every day, especially in the deep waters of the ocean,” Gwen said. “And with each discovery, mankind makes significant scientific strides forward in understanding our natural world.”
“Discovering a primate this close to us, biologically, the possibilities are staggering. This could be a tipping point in understanding the true nature of ourselves,” Billy said. “Of who we are as humans, in fact.”
Mundt and Grady glanced at Boyle, hiding their smiles. Duke nosed around Billy’s computer, tapping at the buttons.
“Please don’t, uh … don’t do that,” Billy asked him.
“Duke, get off that. Lemme ask you. If these Bigfoots are so good at not being seen and staying away from people, how the hell are you gonna catch them on camera?”
The three kids glanced at each other, grinned.
“We have a way,” Sam said.
“Well, what is it? If we’re gonna be going out on this trek with you, don’t you think we have a right to know?”
The boys looked at Gwen, who nodded. Billy pulled out a plastic bag with a piece of bark in it.
“What’s that, a piece of tree?”
“More than that. A scent.”
“A scent of what, of Bigfoot?”
“In a fashion, yes.”
“That’d be a cool new perfume,” Mundt giggled.
“We got it in the Himalayas, an old Tibetan man there told us how the only time he saw the Yeti was when they prepared to mate,” Sam said. “That was the only time they’d come out where they could be seen and that’s when we saw him. We got this from the tree where we saw our Yeti, identified the scent on it, took it to the lab and Billy …”
“I synthesized it,” Billy said. “Made it pure and strong.”
“We’re going to scent a tree, plant our cameras and catch Bigfoot on film,” Gwen said. “We’ll prove he exists once and for all.”
“He don’t,” Boyle said.
“He does, I’m telling you—”
“He don’t exist, because if he did, I’d have seen him by now. This is fool’s gold,” Boyle got up, took a swig of whiskey.
“Come on now, Boyle,” Grady said. “Let’s let the kids go plant their cameras and have their fun. I’d like to catch me a Bigfoot, I would.”
“Yeah, Boyle, I’m with Grady, it’s only another day,” Mundt said. “Let’s catch a monster!”
“Wait,” Gwen said. “What do you mean, ‘it’s only another day,’ what—”
“Nah, this Bigfoot nonsense is bullshit, I ain’t waiting until tomorrow, let’s do this now,” Boyle reached into the cabinet and pulled out the rifle. “On your feet, boys.”
“Do WHAT now, what are you—”
“I said, ON YOUR FEET. Now,” Boyle aimed the rifle at them. “Empty those pockets.”
Sam and Billy stood up, shocked, eyes darting around. “You’re robbing us?”
“No, genius, I’m robbing myself. Of course I am. Pull out that money pouch, big boy, and your wallet, too. You too, junior.”
“This is nuts,” Sam said. “You can’t be serious.”
Boyle stepped forward and jammed the barrel of the rifle into Sam’s abdomen. The air went out of him and he collapsed to the floor. Grady pulled the pouch off of Sam and took his wallet, chuckling.
“I dunno, Boyle, I really kinda wanted them to find Bigfoot,” he said.
Gwen couldn’t move, just sat there, frozen. Duke rooted through their equipment.
“Duke, leave that shit be, it’s expensive and we can probably get a pretty penny for it, but not if it’s broken.”
“We told our university where we were going, we have receipts from you for the lodge stay and guide tour,” Billy said. “People knew that we were coming here.”
“Yeah, but nobody knows that you GOT here, now, do they? Your bus left you by the side of the lake, all by your lonesome. Nobody saw Grady land to pick you up, nobody saw you with us. What Grady’s gonna do is, he’s gonna tell the state police that you didn’t even show up. In fact, he’s gonna call your university on Monday morning to complain about it. No one can prove you were here; far as we’re concerned, you disappeared by that lake before Grady got there. This is the Alaskan wild; people disappear here all the time. Take the boys outside.”
Grady and Mundt yanked Sam to his feet. Duke grabbed Billy by the arm.
“Wait,” Gwen said. “What are you going to do to them?”
“If I were you,” Boyle said, “I’d be more concerned about what’s gonna happen to me, not them. Don’t worry about them, missy. Worry about you. We ain’t had a nice-looking girl like you up here for quite some time. You do as you’re told and you may get to stay alive for a bit longer than them.”
Billy caught Gwen’s eye and they exchanged a look. As the men started to haul them out, Billy stomped on Duke’s foot, causing the bigger man to howl in pain. Billy followed that up with an elbow to Duke’s nose, breaking it.
Gwen grabbed the rifle in Boyle’s hands and tried to pull it away. He held on tight but it wasn’t easy, Gwen was a lot stronger than she looked.
Mundt shouted, pulled a knife and swiped at Billy. Billy caught the bigger man’s wrist and yanked him forward. Mundt flew headfirst into the wall with a hard conk.
Sam grabbed at Grady, trying to wrestle with him but was obviously no match and Grady kneed him in the gut. Sam fell down on his hands and knees just as Billy turned back around. Billy went into a karate stance and attacked Grady, kicks and punches flying.
Boyle twisted the rifle out of Gwen’s grip, pushing her backward on her ass. Boyle turned, surprised upon seeing that Billy was kicking the living shit out of Grady. He brought it to a quick end by the butt of his rifle, delivered to the back of Billy’s skull. Billy landed on the floor next to Sam.
Mundt, Grady and Boyle stood over the two younger men, panting.
“Tough little bastard, ain’t he?” Mundt said. “Thought the big one would be the problem, not the runt.”
“He cheated, used that karate shit,” Grady said.
“Well, now you know better than to underestimate him,” Boyle said, glancing back at Gwen, still on the floor.
Sam crawled to his feet, made a move for the pistol. Duke grabbed him by the hair, landed full on top of him with an arm around Sam’s neck. Duke squeezed until Sam’s eyes bulged.
Billy fired a kick up at Boyle’s crotch, landing hard. Boyle grunted in pain and all three men responded by stomping hard on Billy, who managed to lash out with one more kick before he covered up.
Billy’s last kick connected to the plastic box that Sam had guarded jealously. It slid over next to Gwen. As they stomped on him, Billy’s eyes connected with Gwen’s. She nodded to him just before Billy lost consciousness. Finally they stopped.
“Son of a bitch, you fucker!” Boyle caught his breath. “Keep that pistol on him, he moves, shoot him in the kneecap. Don’t kill him, not yet. And don’t you even think about moving, missy,” Boyle swung the rifle around to Gwen, who froze. 
Grady picked up the pistol and aimed it at the unconscious Billy. Mundt leaned down to check Sam, still in Duke’s grip. 
“Boyle, this big one here’s dead. Duke done squeezed the life outa him.”
“He should consider his ass lucky.”
“Oh no, no Sam …” Gwen tried to crawl to Sam. Boyle stopped her.
“I said DON’T MOVE, missy, and I mean it. Mundt, keep an eye on the girl. Duke, let that one go now. Let him go, I said. You all right? Come here.”
Duke dropped Sam’s body, got up and loped to Boyle, mewling about his nose. Boyle cleared the blood away, checked it out. “Broken but you’ll live. Grab the little one there, hold him tight but don’t kill him, not yet. And watch his feet, he knows shit with his feet.”
Duke nodded and did as he was told, picked Billy up and got him in a tight full nelson. Boyle grabbed Billy by the hair and shook him.
“Wake up! Wake up, you little bastard.”
Billy, his face a bloody mess, opened his eyes and slowly got his bearings. Looked over Boyle’s shoulder at Gwen, still on the floor, tears in her eyes.
“You cheeky little fucker, putting up a fight and making a mess of my place. This after we even let you kids have a nice last meal an’ everything.”
“Yeah … about that … the food ... sucked,” Billy said. Mundt and Grady laughed.
“He does have cheek, this one.”
“Not for much fucking longer. We was gonna make it quick for you and your pal, bullet to the back of the skull, no pain, no fuss, no muss. But you done pissed me off and you hurt my brother to boot, so now you’re gonna die slow and hard. My brother here is gonna tie you to a tree outside and let you bleed. The wolves will smell it and come feast on your ass. You’re gonna die watching them eat you from the feet up. Take him out!”
Duke and Grady dragged Billy toward the door. He looked at Gwen.
“Gwen …” Billy said. “I love you.”
“I know, Billy. I love you, too,” Gwen said before he disappeared out into the night. Boyle snorted, crouched down near her, his rifle slung easy in his hands.
“He your boyfriend, the little guy?” he asked.
“What do you think?”
“Woulda thought you’d hooked up with the big fella here, not the little fish.”
“Sam is … was gay, and there’s a lot more to Billy than people think. If not for that gun, he would have kicked all your asses.”
“Yeah, but I did have a gun, now didn’t I?” Boyle hawked and spit. “So the big guy was queer, was he? Hear that Mundt?”
“Hear it, can’t believe it. Fucking queer.”
“His name was Sam and he was a lot better person than either of you.”
“Don’t do him no good now that he’s dead, does it? Drag that piece of shit outa here, don’t want him stinking up the place.”
Mundt nodded, grabbed Sam’s body by the feet and dragged it out the front door. Boyle poked at Gwen with the barrel of the rifle, edging her shirt open slightly at the collar so he could see more skin.
“You know, you’re a right pretty girl. It don’t have to end that way for you, you know. You be nice to me and the boys, we’ll be nice to you. Take care of the place, take care of all of us, there’s no reason you can’t make it outa this, long as you’re reasonable.”
“Bullshit. You’re going to kill me eventually. You’ll have to. I’m not stupid, you know. I saw you murder two men, you can’t leave me alive, I’m too dangerous.”
“There are good ways to go and ugly ways to go, so maybe you should think about that, Miss Smarty. Cooperate and your limited stay here with us may be less painful than it could be.”
Grady, Mundt and Duke trooped back inside and shut the front door, tight.
“Where’s the little guy at?” Boyle asked.
“Tied up on the pine at the edge of the meadow. Won’t be nothing but scraps left of him come morning, if that,” Grady said.
“So who gets to go first, we draw straws?”
“No, we’re not drawing fucking straws. I go first,” Boyle noticed the container on the floor near Gwen. The latch was undone and the plastic box opened. He used the barrel of the gun to check it out. The box was empty.
“What was in this?”
“What was in what?”
“Don’t get smart with me, what was in this fucking box?” Boyle grabbed her face with his free hand, squeezed. Gwen simply stared at him, defiant.
“Want me to search for it, whatever it is? Should we play hide and seek?” Boyle released her face and felt the pockets of her shirt, enjoying the feel of her body. “You like that, do ya?”
Grady and Mundt grinned. Duke just watched, mouth open in anticipation.
“Oh yeah, it’s hot, real hot,” Gwen said, her voice flat and unemotional. “You sure know how to romance the ladies, where did you learn these sweet moves of yours, did you get them from watching moose fuck?”
Boyle didn’t say anything for a moment, just glared. Grady whistled.
“Oh my, she has some lip on her, don’t she?” Mundt said. “Oh my goodness, this is gonna be fun.”
Boyle kept searching with his free hand, felt the pocket of her jeans, found her left hand, which was clenched tight.
“Whatta you got there, bitch? Open the hand. Open it,” he pried her fingers open. The hand was empty.
“It’s not in that hand,” Gwen said. “It’s in this one.”
Gwen brought her right hand out from behind her body and hit Boyle in the temple with it before he could react. The glass vial she held broke upon impact and cut his brow. Liquid flowed out over his face and chest.
Boyle gave her a backhand across the face and she fell down on her back.
“Oh shit, it’s on now,” Grady said.
“What was that shit? What was it!” he demanded.
“Cologne,” Gwen said. “You needed it.”
Boyle tossed his rifle to Mundt and began beating Gwen in a fury with his fists, pummeling her on the head and body.
“Easy there, Boyle, easy!” Mundt said. “Don’t damage her too much, not before the rest of us have a chance at some fun!”
“He’s right, Boyle, this is what she wants, to piss you off!”
“Well it goddamn fucking worked!” Boyle grabbed Gwen by the hair and hauled her to her feet. He tore her shirt off, ripping it to shreds in the process, all the while cursing a blue streak. He put his hands around her throat and choked her.
“What was that shit, woman, what did you throw on me!”
Grady sniffed. “Holy Jesus, I don’t know what it was, but it sure stinks. You smell like rancid cougar piss.”
“It’s an improvement,” Gwen whispered.
Boyle shook her. “You wanna go out ugly, do ya?”
Gwen giggled, “You said … ugly,” and then couldn’t stop giggling. “Ugly!”
Boyle bellowed in a rage, picked her up and tossed her, like a rag doll, into one of the nearby bedrooms. She landed hard on a lumpy bunk bed. He followed her in there, unbuttoning his shirt and showing an ample gut.
“Been working out, have you?” Gwen said.
“You fucking bitch, you’re gonna be sorry.”
The other men crowded in the doorway, angling for a look at the festivities.

Billy shook his head to clear the cobwebs out of it. He slowly became aware that he was lashed to a tree near the woods. He could see the lodge in the distance, just barely. There was only the one dim light on inside the building and there was no moon, so everything outside was dark and shadowed. He struggled against the bonds but they were far too tight and he was too weak from the beatings. He could hear the scuffle inside, however, and his heart broke.
Then Billy realized that the shadows in the woods were moving.

Inside the lodge, Boyle mounted on top of Gwen on the bed and held both of her hands tight above her head, but it was difficult to do anything more than that as she bucked wildly and fought back. He couldn’t even get his pants off, or hers, it was like trying to hold a python still. She spit up at him and he cursed her.
“She’s a wild one, she is,” Mundt said.
“Get me some damn rope,” Boyle grunted. “We’ll tie her up and have our fun.”
Grady looked at Mundt, who looked at Duke. Duke huffed and went into the living room for the rope. Gwen continued to buck and bite at Boyle.
Then the lights went out and, except for the fire in the fireplace, it got real dark real fast. The men went on immediate alert.
“The generator, somethin’s got to it,” Mundt said. “It’s stopped.”
Boyle looked up. “It was that damn kid, I told you to tie him up tight!”
“We did, Boyle, there’s no way he got loose, I’m telling you—”
Grady stopped when he heard the noise. They all heard it. Someone very big and heavy walked across the roof of the lodge, and all the beams creaked.
“That’s more than one person,” Boyle said. He jumped up off of Gwen and snapped his fingers at Grady. Grady tossed him his rifle and Boyle chambered a shell.
“Keep an eye on her,” he said. Grady pointed his pistol at her.
Mundt went to the cabinet, took out a shotgun and handed it to Duke, then took out another rifle for himself. They all listened to the creaks and footsteps above.
“Jesus, it sounds like a whole gang up there,” Mundt whispered. “There ain’t nobody around for a couple hundred miles, who the hell could it be?”
Gwen laughed from the bedroom and couldn’t stop.
“Shut up,” Grady said.
Suddenly something pounded on the roof and walls of the lodge, on each and every side. The whole building shook as the men crouched down.
“You really want to know what I threw on you?” Gwen said. “Lab-purified Sasquatch spunk. You’re officially in season, fat boy, so get ready, this is going to get real ugly for you.”
A large hairy hand broke in through the window, grabbed Duke by the throat and hauled him right out. It happened so fast that the other men had no time to react until Duke screamed from somewhere out in the night.
“Duke!” Boyle ran to the window. “Duke!”
A face popped up in the window, but it wasn’t Duke’s face; it wasn’t even human. It was the large, hairy face of a half-man, half-beast creature with large intelligent eyes. Boyle screamed, raised his rifle and fired. By the time he did so, the creature was gone. Boyle stuck the barrel out of the window and fired more shots out into the night.
“Duke! What’d you do with my brother, you fuckers?!”
Another hairy hand reached up, grabbed the barrel of the rifle and twisted it. Boyle fell back, pulling the weapon inside. The barrel was now bent upward, rendering it useless. More windows shattered and the walls shuddered as blows hammered against them. Dust fell and wood splintered. Grady and Mundt fired wildly at the walls and windows, screaming in terror.
Boyle ran to the cabinet, pulled out another rifle. Loaded up another clip. After a moment’s thought, he picked up a flare gun, too. The lodge shook and the beams creaked as the beasts outside beat on it. 
“Get to the back, get to the back!” Boyle screamed, backing away from the front door. Mundt joined him, reloading.
Grady grabbed Gwen and hauled her out of the bedroom. He stepped a little too close to a window, however, and a large hairy hand shot in and grabbed him by the arm. With a little twist, the Bigfoot hand tore Grady’s arm right off his body just as easy as a man tearing off a chicken wing. Blood poured out in a geyser. Grady shrieked and fell, pawing at the stub on his shoulder where his right arm used to be.
Gwen crabbed away as Grady died, but not before she caught a glimpse of the face in the window. It regarded her curiously before it disappeared.
Something pounded on the front door. Boyle and Mundt fired at it, drilling bullets through the wood. Silence descended for a moment. Then the pounding continued.

From where he was tied to the tree, Billy couldn’t see much of anything; everything was still covered in darkness now that the lodge’s generator was out. But he could see the large moving shadows, and he could tell that they were tearing down the lodge, piece by piece. One wall collapsed, then another. The shadows were stamping the building right into the ground.

Beams and walls fell, covering everyone in dust. Gwen crawled under a nearby table, hiding from the falling debris. “We’re sitting ducks in here,” Boyle said. “The whole place is coming down on our heads!”
He slung the rifle over his shoulder, loaded a flare into the flare gun and then grabbed a can of kerosene. “We make for the plane, right? We get open ground on these fuckers and water to our back, then we can open up on them. Grab extra clips. Let’s go!”
Mundt and Boyle loaded up with as much ammo as they could carry. The booming continued as the whole structure of the building swayed. 
“Ready?” Boyle jerked his chin toward the back door by the kitchen, and Mundt, pale with fear, nodded in agreement.
Boyle gave the door a great kick to open it. Mundt poured gunfire outside, just missing the big fast shadows dancing by. Boyle heaved the kerosene can through the open door and it landed on the ground nearby. He brought the flare gun up fast and fired it at the kerosene. They both ducked as the can exploded and lit up the night.
Howls echoed outside and the pounding on the lodge heightened. Boyle and Mundt jumped to their feet and ran through the back door just as the ceiling came down. Gwen screamed under the table as she was buried by it.
The men made it out by the burning circle of flames and opened fire at the shadowed figures just on the edge of the light.
“Take that, you fuckers, take that!”
They both ran hard for the lake, for the seaplane, firing madly into the darkness. Something threw one of their canoes at them. It flew through the air and hit Mundt in the legs, breaking both knees. He fell to the ground, screaming in pain. Boyle fired in the direction the canoe came from, cursing.
Boyle paused to change a clip. Stopped when he looked toward the lake. The light from the fire reflected the tall shadowed figures standing between him and the plane. There were a lot of them. More than he had bullets for. Their eyes glittered in the dark. 
“Holy mother of God,” Boyle said under his breath as he backed away.
“Boyle, don’t leave me here, please!” Mundt howled. “Boyle! No!”
Boyle turned tail and ran away from the eyes as fast as he could, firing into the night, headed for the woods. Mundt’s screams echoed until they were finally cut off short and abruptly. Boyle hit the tree line and just kept on going in a full panic.

The table Gwen crouched under creaked and cracked under the pressure, but held up. She couldn’t see a thing, but heard something tearing at the beams and logs that covered her. Something was trying to get in at her. Gwen turtled up, hands over her head, and made herself into a small ball, holding her breath.
Wood shrieked as it was ripped up and tossed aside. Giant hands enveloped Gwen, who kept herself curled up, and carried her away. She held her breath, not daring to look, hoping her possum act would work, but part of her was taken by the fact that the large hairy arms cradled her like a baby. She felt a big hand caress her hair.
She decided she was going to open her eyes, after all, and if this was going to be her last moments on earth, she’d go out finally seeing what she came here to see. But before she could do so, she felt herself lowered gently to the ground.
When she opened her eyes, she found herself looking at Billy, beaten and bound to a tree, but awake and very conscious. Billy couldn’t take his eyes off of who’d brought Gwen to him. She turned and there they stood.
There wasn’t much light to see from the fire, but there was enough. They stood well over seven feet tall and were covered in hair of differing colors, some brown, some black or grey. Huge hands and bare feet. Their faces just as had been described in many a legend, but for the eyes, which were oddly human.
The one who had carried her crouched down so that he was eye-level with Gwen. Gently took her right hand in his, brought it to his nose and inhaled deeply. He looked to her, then pointed a finger at Billy, as if asking a question.
“Yes. I’m with him, yes. Him, not the others, not them,” she said. “I’m with him.”
The Bigfoot pondered that, took another deep sniff of her hand and then released it. Stood up and, in an instant, disappeared into the shadows once again.
Gwen ran to Billy, embraced him and then worked on loosening his bonds. By the time he was free, they were completely alone. They made their way toward the seaplane and its radio.

Boyle ran as hard as his lungs would allow, disappearing into the deep brush and cover of the forest. He stopped and listened, his breath coming in shallow hitches. A shadow nearby moved and Boyle opened fire on it. Stopped and listened. Nothing.
He turned and took another step, only to see another Bigfoot before him, not twenty feet away. He opened up on it with his assault rifle. But it disappeared into the brush before he could hit it. They were too quick.
He heard movement behind him again, and he turned and fired there, too. Unnerved, he began running again, firing randomly into the woods.
“Come on, you fuckers! Show yourselves! I’ll fucking kill all of you!”
Boyle ran and ran until there was nothing left in his tank and he had to stop. He put his back to a big tree and pointed his weapon out into the darkness.
“Bring it, motherfuckers! Bring it!”
A large hand reached around the tree and grabbed the stock of the rifle and delicately took it from him like an adult taking a bottle away from a baby. Boyle bolted away from the tree and pulled a buck knife out of his belt.
He backed away as the shadows behind the tree moved and grew in size. Boyle screamed at them and brandished the knife. Another large hand from behind him plucked the knife out of his in an instant. Boyle whirled around again.
At that moment, the moon moved out from behind the clouds and Boyle could see, in the meadow and forest before him, how many of them there were. There were well over a hundred, and they had him surrounded.
He howled as they picked him up, smelled him and tore his clothes off. He fought back but it was no good, they were too strong and he was helpless. It wasn’t until they laid him down, face first, stretched out over a large rock, that he realized that they weren’t going to kill him, at least not right away.
When Boyle finally figured out what they were really going to do to him, he screamed in horror and wished fervently for death.
Death occurred eventually, via internal bleeding, but was a long time coming.

On behalf of Halloweenpalooza, thanks so much for agreeing to participate. Lets start with some quickies:
Favorite color: Green
Favorite horror flick: Hmmm, tricky. I have so many. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, most likely. But the original HALLOWEEN still really holds up
Dogs or cats: I like 'em both. When it comes to domestic pets, I go both ways. Don't care for hamsters, though.  
Male or female friends: Same as above.
Guilty pleasure: THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS.
Favorite Halloween candy:  popcorn, yo!
Have you ever carved a pumpkin: I remember blowing them up with firecrackers.
Favorite monster: Werewolf!
1.      What was your best Halloween ever?  
I have a lot of good ones, but I'd say the year we put up a haunted house as part of our church youth group and scared the kids so bad they peed would be a high point.
2.      What do you think influenced you to write? 
Is writing everything you thought it would be? Stephen King, when I was a kid, was the first influence. And yeah, it is. The only thing that's challenging is that I prefer to take my time, and I can't keep the same pace as he or Patterson or those guys. My pace is more along the lines of Thomas Harris, a book every couple years.
3.      With so many authors out there, what do you bring to the picnic table? How would you describe your work?
Dark horror and dark humor. Thorne is probably a lot closer to me than I'd care to admit, but the thing I like about him is, despite the fact that he's kinda an asshole at times, is that he's got a real wit. “It’s for you,” Nola called to Frank from behind the bar. “Looks like folks think this is your office.”
4.      Could you please quote a small excerpt from any book that you think best exemplifies you?
Oh man. Oh man. Oh man.
5.      What scares you? Have you had any encounters with the supernatural? 
Starbucks scares me. And yeah, but not at Starbucks. I saw a ghost or two when I was a kid, I'm pretty sure. And that's all I'm ever gonna say about that.
6.      Why do you think investigating the paranormal has become so popular?     
We wanna know what's on the other side, of course.
7.      Would you be up for a ghost hunting session? What do you hope youd find?
I did that when I was younger, and I'm past that now. Anything we'd find we'll eventually find at the end, anyway.
8.      What is it about the power of the written word that has the ability to scare us so profoundly? 
You can reach right into someone's guts with the right words.
9.      If you could channel one master of horror thats passed, who would it be and what do you think the result of your collaboration would be?
Poe. He actually kinda invented the detective novel here in the US, and I'd love to write a real procedural with him.
10.   Whats next for Todd Travis?
I'll be traveling over the holidays, working on my newest novels, I'm working on two Thorne / Kane novels, and letting them cook... I'm taking my time. I know folks are anxious, and I surely appreciate their support... I just want to get the books right, first.  
Todd Travis's interests include conspiracy theories, the poetry of Michael O'Donoghue and pop music and movies of the 80s. He is single and moves around a whole lot. His current whereabouts are at this time unknown. He doesn't like cable news, views cellphones with suspicion and don't even get him started on email. He also believes poker is not a sport and therefore should never be allowed on ESPN.
He is the author of the thriller CREATURES OF APPETITE, the horror novel SEX, MARRY, KILL and the horror collection THE LIVING AND THE DEAD. More books are on the way. You can contact him via a Facebook fan page that a friend set up for him.
Sign up on Todd's Amazon author page to be notified when his next novel is launched. More Thorne and Kane coming in 2015.
FIVE ecopies of Todd Travis’ CREATURES OF APPETITE!
To win: go to the Official FB Event Page; find the post announcing  today’s giveaway; and comment, “I WANT TO WIN” in that post and you just might!!!
creaturEs of appetite
For fans of DEAN KOONTZ, JAMES PATTERSON and THOMAS HARRIS, a tale of snowbound terror and suspense:
They call it the Heartland Child Murders.
Everyone else calls it a nightmare.
Locked doors don’t stop him.
He leaves no trace behind.
He only takes little girls.
His nickname…

The Iceman.

A deranged serial killer roams wintry rural Nebraska targeting little girls with a demented purpose that no one can fathom.
Special Agent EMMA KANE, a former DC cop and damaged goods now with the FBI, is assigned to baby-sit burned out profiler JACOB THORNE, once the best in the business but now said to have lost his edge, as they both fly to Nebraska to catch this maniac.
Thorne is erratic, abrasive and unpredictably brilliant, but what he and Kane find in the heartland is much more than anyone bargained for, especially when the Iceman challenges them personally, where it hurts most.
The clock is ticking and a little girl’s life is on the line.
And maybe even more with that, once they find out what he’s really up to.


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