Synopsis: In the mutant wastewilds of post-holocaust Australia, Great White Hunter-type Jon Gustafson gets himself kidnapped by an angry, giant mother wombat, whose child he shot. He learns to control the creature by manipulating nerves at the base of her neck, and goes on a destructive rampage that leads him to the pitiful desert settlement of New Sodom. There Gustafson meets his match in the form of a giant mutant aardvark and his child master, Barney. After a fierce charge, Barney’s aardvark (improbably named Gomorrah) captures Gustafson-with his tongue and zips the GWH down his throat with a resounding snap. The day is saved, but Gomorrah quickly dies of indigestion. And so on...
of the Last of the Great White Hunters Strikes Back!
by Steve Schlich
Don’t look. There’s something pulpy and disgusting in the bushes over there. Something quivering like a half-dead catfish nailed to the skinning board. All right, peer at it through your splayed fingers if you must. You are still a kid. But don’t get too close; don’t touch. See? It’s still moving, still alive.
“Barney... Barney?” A woman calls you from the village. You ignore her. The time is twilight; the smudge of sun that blurs across the sky is disappearing below the desert’s horizon. A sudden wind devil whips gritty sand into your face. It will be cold here soon, bitterly cold.
You turn to go home.
But the slimy thing in the bushes gurgles again, and you stop. Watching your majestic friend’s post-death spasms all day long has been difficult enough. Gomorrah saved you and the pitiful remains of New Sodom from an ugly end, and was rewarded with one himself. Can you bear to witness the expulsion of yet another bubble of foul gas from the giant aardvark’s body?
Yet something inside you screams that this noise is not the mere dissipation of gas. Something inside tells you that this slimy sound, this sludging putrescent movement, comes from the great belly of your dead mutant friend. And if the creature lying broken in Gomorrah’s belly still lives—
You search the ground and come up with a fist-sized chunk of rusty metal, unidentifiable except that it probably came from a car. The sounds from Gomorrah’s stomach increase in frequency and volume. Something glistens in the fading light, a momentary twinkling amid the soft rustling of bushes pitted against animal hide by the wind.
You hurl the chunk of metal at the noise with all your might and run to the village for safety.
You awaken feeling sluggish, conscious yet somehow detached from your body. Your limbs don’t respond. Nor do your eyes. You sludge around in a womblike sac. Am I being reborn? Did I die, you wonder. And then: Who am I?
Gustafson. You are Gustafson; that much returns. But... the focus of your passions... fauna steak? Finger stalks? Finger steaks! They had been overcooked: far too dry and hard. And cold.
No, it doesn’t sound right. You try to move again. It is very hot in here. You tingle, though you can’t say where. Radiation, wasn’t there something about Radiation? Like what it was? Not enough of the past comes back.
Pain, PAIN!! The echo of a single blow resounds through your being. A rough, cold, gritty object has joined you in your womb. It hates you, and you hate back. The object runs at its edges, melts and merges with you and the fluids surrounding you. There is power at work here, great power: You focus it into a tight, coherent point of energy and train it on your surroundings.
The walls of the sac weaken and tear, trailing strands of muscle and fiber like tatters as they fall to the ground. The fluid which nurtured you floods to the ground and soaks in quickly. You sense the trail of a small human with your eye of energy, and you follow it toward New Sodom.
At last he answers your call. You prepare to scold him harshly, but as he runs to you, you see abject terror in his eyes. He’s running as if his life depends on it. You slip a shard of mirror from the one untorn pocket in your dress, look at yourself and straighten your hair. You put the mirror away, smooth the wrinkles and tears in your grimy dress, and take him in your arms as he reaches you.
“Barney, my God! What’s wrong?” Numberless visions of catastrophe dance crazily through your head. What nameless horror has he seen now? Will this world ever allow children to be what they are?
“Gomorrah!” he chokes out between breaths. “Alive!” The thing he ate is alive! He clutches you in terror.
Now that is plainly impossible. You watched with your own eyes as Gomorrah captured and swallowed the madman who called himself Gustafson. You heard the snap of his body entering Gomorrah’s cruel, long mouth. There could be nothing left of this Gustafson but a pulpy mass of organic jelly. But... in this age, what was truly impossible? Only the past.
“It’s all right, all right,” you reassure him, honing he can’t hear the doubt that tinges your words. He must want to believe you, despite the evidence of his own eyes. He calms down. You wash his face and push a bowl of lukewarm gruel into his hands. He eats ravenously.
You eat, but it doesn’t quell the deep in inner fear. Your mother takes your sudden outward calmness for what she most desires. But you know, and you can almost hear the pasty sludge-pile that Gustafson must now be following your trail. You eat to calm your mother, and maybe in her peace you can find some of your own. But... you know.
Time passes, and your mother nods herself to sleep in a corner of the room. Do you dare go outside, go back? Will you have to? The sounds of a crowd gathering at the edge of town draw you to the door. Mother doesn’t stir as you glance back at her. Out you go.
The moon has only partly risen. The crowd remains in shadow as you hurry toward it. You slow to a walk suddenly, and as a voice cries out in gurgling pain, you halt. The line of light between the moon’s illumination and the earth’s deep shadow passes you, advancing inexorably toward the crier—and toward the reason for his cry.
Behind you, another voice cries out: Mother. You are frozen in place: you can move neither backward nor forward. The line of moonlight reaches the crowd.
Your power is all you have now. You have touched the extremities of your body with it; you have seen yourself. You are a blob. Subhuman, radioactive gelatin. But you have power. You find the village, find a victim, and burn him.
More victims gather. You will be only too happy to oblige them. But you are looking. Looking for the Finger Steak, for the kid. When you find him....
You slide yourself across the ground, leaving (you sense) the trail of a giant slug. How strange it all is: You fall on the man you have burned and focus your energy, your hatred on him. He melts and merges with you. You are stronger; you move on. There are many more victims.
Finger Steak, the Barney. You consume the last of your victims and turn to face him. You don’t release the power just yet. You don’t want to burn him too quickly. You wait to make sure he sees you, that he knows you’ve seen him.
You sludge toward him slowly. Those that get in your way are burned. Suddenly a figure runs up wildly to Barney and pushes him away. The figure faces you, and you throw out a burning beam of force.
You wake up and find Barney gone. You pull the shard of mirror from your dress and examine yourself, patting down your grimy hair before you leave the hut. A crowd has gathered at one end of town, and the timbre of their voices does not sound reassuring. You grip the shard of mirror in your hand, ready to slash any threat to your child, and go outside.
Barney is there, some yards in the distance. And farther down, illuminated by pale moonlight at the edge of town, is a horror. It moves slowly and messily up the boulevard toward Barney, sowing death and destruction as it progresses. You run to Barney and throw him aside and prepare to meet his tormentor with your will and your pitiful shard of mirror.
An intense beam of light shoots out from the center of the slimy blob that stands before you. The beam strikes your mirror, and by a miracle of coincidence and divine intervention, reflects back into the blob. The putrid mass is reduced to a steaming gas that the wind carries off into the desert as you watch.
You slump, finally safe in the knowledge that the evil is destroyed forever.
You lie on the ground, expecting to die, and instead see the death beam meant for you reflect off your mother’s mirror and burn the beast instead.
You want to cry, but you’ve forgotten how.
All Rights, including copyright (c) 1981, written by Steve Schlich by owned by Jon Gustafson
FOREWARNING: Those of you who haven’t read the first two editions of this saga of death warmed over are in trouble. You all are, come to consider. Ye Editor Jon bid himself into ownership of this story—then unwritten—at the MosCon IV pre-con money-raising auction. For the third year in a row. I don’t know what he paid for the piece ((And I’ll never tell. Ed.)) but since the topic he chose was more GWH exploits, I assure you the sum was too low. I’ll sell a story next year as always, but I’ll write no more on this subject. Be forewarned, Jon.
AFTER WORDS by Jon Gustafson
Well, I guess I’ve been about as thoroughly killed as possible now, and Steve’s off the hook for any more Great White Hunter stories. Hut he’s not off the hook for other things, folks, so stay tuned for further oddities in future issues of PESFAzine.