Episode 1- Dead Plains Drifters

Page 11

canyon pursuit

Bryce gunned the engine. The car pitched forward in the water, turbulence burbling up behind them like the wake of a speed boat. The chopping sound of machine gun fire echoed off the narrow canyon walls.

"Don't you dare shoot my car," Bryce wailed as he pushed the car even faster, dodging rocks in the river.

The troll appeared to have the same concern, shouting indiscernible curses behind them. He wanted the car back in one piece.

The river curved, more rocks rising in their way. Bryce negotiated the turns and dodges as if he were a pro at driving an amphibious car. Unfortunately, the troll's jeep wasn't just keeping up. It was passing them. Eddie slumped down in his seat, peering over the door as the troll came alongside them on the bank, grinning wickedly as he passed.

"We're dead," Eddie said.

"There's gotta be something we can do," Bryce said, his eyes fixed on the river ahead. "We need a weapon."

"You've got your stun batton," Eddie suggested.

"Yeah, and they've got guns. We need something better."

Eddie looked around the car. They had soda, beer, potato chips, dill pickles, candy bars, pretzels. "I can't think of anything."

"Well climb back and look in the trunk." Bryce suggested.

They hit a rock and lurched sideways. "Are you crazy?" Eddie snapped.

"It's either that or we die. If you can..."

He trailed off. As they finished the curve in the river, the canyon widened ahead.. At the center, a high, narrow cliff bisected the river.

"Ha!" Bryce exclaimed. "This is how we get away." He pulled the car-boat to the left side, edging away from the side with the troll.

Cornelius saw it too. He roared as his bank drew him ever further to the right, away from his prey. He barked an order to his companions. The girl in the back jumped back up to her gun perch. She turned the huge weapon towards them, but before she fired it, they darted into the left fork, the cliff face obscuring them.

Eddie sighed. "We made it?"

"That won't put them off for long. We need to find a way off this river and out of this canyon. If there's a good place to hide, that might help too."

The river curved to the left. Beyond it, a breathtaking sight awaited them. Bryce and Eddie both gazed up in wonder.

"What is it?" Bryce whispered.

"Some kind of temple?"

the temple

Hewn out of the rock of the cliff face, an elaborate complex of carved stairways, archways, pillars, windows and statues extended from its broad marble stairway at the riverbank to the top of the cliffs nearly a hundred feet above. The elaborate rooms and passages hid shadows that hinted at untold depths. A huge space in the center featured a gargantuan statue. In one hand, the figure held a globe--a rough imitation of the Earth. In the other, a stone rat stood on its palm, sitting on its haunches, staring up at the one holding it as if with reverent awe. The figure wore a cloak, his face obscured by its hood.

The temple appeared to be deserted. Pebbles and dust peppered the bottom stairway. A jagged crack followed up one side of the stone complex, and one level had collapsed where the supporting pillar had cracked at an angle.

the statue

The ancient splendor of the place hypnotized them. How long had it taken to build, Eddie wondered. How many generations had toiled on this cliff, and how long had it been abandoned?

A bellowing gargle of a laugh jarred him out of his reverie. Ahead the river grew shallow, and the jeep waited directly in front of them. The troll sat behind its wheel, grinning so wide he could practically taste his ears. The girl stood behind the machine gun, not aiming at the car, but ready to shoot.

"How the hell..." Bryce exclaimed.

Eddie saw their mistake. The cliff that had separated the river into two courses was only an island. Beside the temple, the river joined back into one body. The troll had cut across and waited for Bryce and Eddie to drift into him.

Bryce didn't hesitate. He cranked the wheel to the left. Water splashed as it banked, showering the troll and his companions in his wake. Eddie caught a glance of steam rising from the troll's now scowling face. The convertible hit the bank, jumped onto land and continued away. The bank was broad enough for him to turn back around. Gunfire erupted behind them, and the mud beside Eddie exploded as if a row of tiny land mines had gone off.

"Maybe we should just--" Eddie began.

"No, we are not letting them have this car."

tunnel

They passed the temple stairs. On the far side, Eddie spotted a tunnel hewn into the rock. "Bryce!" he shouted, pointing. "Tunnel!"

Bryce cranked the wheel, driving into it. The tunnel was narrow with barely enough clearance for the little convertible. Bryce chanced a glance over his shoulder and sparks rose from the door handle as it grinded into the wall. "Dammit!" he shouted.

The tunnel didn't go far. It curved to the left, then abruptly stopped at the base of an underground stairway. "Shit!" Bryce shouted, hitting the steering wheel repeatedly. "Shit! Shit! Shit!"

"We've got to leave the car," Eddie said, opening his door.

"It's my car. They aren't getting it."

"They'll kill us. They'll torture us." Eddie imagined being dumped head first in a bath of boiling lye while Bryce...

Lye bath... .

Eddie recalled the steam that rose from the troll's skin from the river water. He had the beginnings of an idea. "We need to go," he said, grabbing a bag of salt and vinegar chips. "Where's the pickle jar?"

"What the hell you want with the pickles?"

"Trust me. I have a plan. And get your shock baton too. We need every weapon we can get."

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page published 6/1/2016