FOREWARD FROM PESFAZINE: Each year, the members of PESFA hold a summer pot-luck and auction: the pot-luck for fun and the auction to raise money for MosCon... just in case. Last year, I bought a story from Steve Schlich (run in PESFAzine #5) titled "The Last of the Great White Hunters". This year, I also bought a story from Steve... must be the ego, I guess, since both stories feature yours truly... which just came in the mail the other day. So, for your amusement arid amazement here is:
Last of the Great White Hunters Strikes Back!
by Steve Schlich
SYNOPSIS: Jon Gustafson, aging and haughty wastewild expedition guide in what used to be called Australia, killed in reflex the man-sized cub of a giant mutant mother wombat. Mom quickly arrived and, to the hunting party's horror, replaced her loss with Gustafson. He was last seen whimpering as she stuffed him into her pouch and made for the outlands.
The Story Continues ....
The settlement of New Sodom sparkled on the edge of the atomic wastelands like a shard of broken glass in a deserted street gutter. Random patches of tent canvas, parachute silk and mutie hide formed an awkward blanket of shelter beneath the grimy blur of the sun. They had been sewn together and stretched across a framework of two-by-fours and rusted car bodies to define New Sodom's main drag.
Technology was not in evidence here. No one dragged anything down this crude boulevard but his own emaciated carcass.
Two small boys played in the sand patch at one edge of town. The time was mid-afternoon, just after the heat of the day had crested. The wind whipped a chalky cloud of glowdust past the boys and down New Sodom's decrepit thoroughfare
The boys closed their eyes and pulled dirty shirts over their noses and mouths as the dust cloud passed them, then resumed their play. It was a grim game of Drag the Body, played with fist-sized red ants for tokens. Youth had been stolen from the eyes of these children, eyes full of sad wisdom and experience and (lessons well learned) cruelty.
"This one's not dead yet," the boy holding the ant complained. "Look, he's still twitching:"
"What's it matter, Arnie?" asked the other. "You pulled all his legs off."
"He's not dead, dummy; you can't drag a body that's not dead!"
"You can too," Barney told him angrily. He was losing what little patience he had. "A body's a body, dead or alive."
"No, there's a difference!" Arnie felt the sting of Barney's words, but he knew he was right and he couldn't articulate what was so clear in his mind. A moment later he lost his chance to try, as the ground shook with sudden rumbling force.
The boys had been taught to run from such noises. Run to safety, as if there were such a thing as safety from the earth opening up beneath you. But the disturbance, this rumbling that doubtless signified a new wound opening in the tortured land, was so close and so massive that the children froze like animals caught in a bright searchlight.
Great twists of the coilbush that had been so carefully weeded from their play area cascaded down on the two. Knots of suckweed, ripped from the ground with frenzied force, followed. Vegetable teeth snapped at the boys' flesh weakly as the plants bled their lives out their broken stems. Cold, black terror gripped the children as a huge form occluded the blotch of sun in the sky.
The thing that stood before them was incredible. It made Barney think of his own great hairy friend Gomorrah, a thing he had imagined to be unique. Now came the terrible proof that it was not.
Before them stood a giant furry creature, eyes big and. round and wild, with a man perched on its neck. The man wore a dusty white expedition outfit, pants puffy at the thighs and tight where they disappeared into his high‑top engineer boots. He smiled maniacally.
"Fahnestalk," the man croaked. The creature he rode shifted its awesome weight and yawned threateningly, revealing dirty teeth the size of Arnie's legs. The boys stared, froze like ice.
"Fahnestalk," the rider said again, his voice dusty and ominous as the wastelands. "Where is he?"
The question thawed Barney. "Who is Fahnestalk?" he asked back, expecting the answer to be that he/it was yet another great mutie beast like the one this man rode. Or perhaps another man riding another beast...
"Don't play games with me!" the man bellowed. "I'm Gustafson! I came back! Fahnestalk and his friends, they left me to die! But I came back instead. I won!"
Arnie broke into a run for the shelters. Gustafson's creature tracked him with its huge claws, responding to seeming commands from its rider. The man controlled the beast from his perch? It must be. The wombat's giant paw closed around Arnie and tightened to a fist suddenly, instantly turning the child into messy meat pulp.
Gustafson worked his monster's neck. She dropped the mess and reached for Barney. The child did not move. In a moment he was suspended in the monster's grasp, at eye level with the madman who rode it.
"Where is Fahnestalk?" he shouted at the boy. "The others! Where do they live? Tell me!"
"Not here," Barney said with simple finality. "Nobody by that name lives around here."
At this, Gustafson flew into a rage. Barney felt the paw that could crush in an instant tighten around him. But no, Gustafson's crazed hands were beating on the monster's neck now, and the big creature jerked spasmodically. Barney was thrown like a baseball and landed roughly on the mutie hide roof of the nearest shelter.
Gustafson's tirade slacked a bit and the monster he rode lurched forward drunkenly. The impact had knocked Barney's wind out of him, but he picked himself up and ran just the same. Gustafson's monster waded into the first row of shelters, splintering wood and metal alike, ripping tent fabric like wet paper.
Distractions removed, Gustafson and his monster wombat made short work of New Sodom. It was not the first sorry settlement he had come upon since gaining control of his gargantuan captor. He dug his fingers deeper into the flesh of mother wombat's neck, where he had discovered her nerves of control lay pulsing. He squeezed. The mutant seized a chunk. of car body wrapped in tent canvas and heaved it into the desert.
The job was half completed when a rumble not of Gustafson's making interrupted him.
A shape loomed at the far end of New Sodom's dusty main drag, and Gustafson flashed on a quick mental images Brontosaurus, that ageless/brainless monster of sheer volume. The shape in the distance fulfilled every dimension of that prehistoric lizard, and more. He urged his beast forward to meet the challenge.
The distance between them shranks one hundred seventy feet, one hundred sixty, one hundred fifty .... At last, the thick dirty air allowed details through. Gustafson did not like what he saw, It was no dinosaur, but a goddamn anteater! A snippy voice in the back of his head corrected him, " Aardvark, stupid; can't you tell them apart?"
He couldn't and at this moment he didn't much care.
A tiny shape was poise at the spot where Gustafson supposed the mutie's neck and vulnerable nerves to be. At a hundred forty feet, he guessed it to be the kid riding jockey. At a hundred and twenty feet, he saw he was right.
"Out of my way, kid!" he yelled. "I'll rip your anteater apart and you with it!"
One hundred feet. Lord, that creature was beginning to look big: Gustafson pinched a neck nerve savagely and his mutie smashed a car body flat. "Back off:" he screamed, but his bravado cracked and faltered in his voice. Ninety feet and the anteater wouldn't stop growing.
"Save us, Gomorrah! Save us!" Barney shouted, and the monster lumbered forward as if driven by the words alone. Eighty feet. Seventy feet. Perspective seemed to stabilize. Sixty feet. Gustafson could see that his mutie and the kid's would meet at eye level. But mother wombat was up on her haunches. The kid's monster stood on all fours. Could he hope to win this battle?
Yes, of course! The thing was just a stupid anteater, with nothing but a thirty‑foot nose between him and those huge claws. They were bigger weapons than mother wombat's claws, but she would have plenty of time to slash up that nose before those claws could ever reach them...
Fifty feet, forty feet. The animals saw each other now, and it was all Gustafson could do to keep his under control. The anteater (no, aardvark, stupidhead!) kept coming. Thirty feet, twenty! Both sides halted and held their ground.
"I'll kill you!" Gustafson screamed.
"Now, Gomorrah, now!" the boy shouted. The creature raised its long snout as if tracking on the crazed man's words, and snaked out something that looked like a thick, gooey conveyor belt.
It happened in an instants the anteater's tongue shot put and traversed the twenty feet to Gustafson before his mutie could raise a paw. A sticky black band of muscle closed around the Great White Hunter and ripped him screaming from his perch on the wombat's neck.
The monster sucked its tongue back into its mouth, the blob acquired on the end of it snapping like a burr at the end of a bull whip before it disappeared inside. Mother wombat, her guidance suddenly removed, yielded to terror at her outsized opponent and fled. She destroyed a straight line of shelters to the nearest patch of open ground.
Gomorrah danced a victory dance that shook the shelters still standing.
It's a cruel world, though. Almost two-thirds of New Sodom lay in ruins and would take months to rebuild. The remains of Barney's playmate Arnie never were found. That was just as well. But less than twenty-four hours after its victory, New Sodom's fairy god-aardvark Gomorrah died of indigestion.
You can't win 'em all.
All Rights, including copyright (c) 1981, written by Steve Schlich by owned by Jon Gustafson