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A short sci-fi horror story by Chuck Keyes
County Sheriff Duke Barton unhooked the microphone from the dash mounted radio and spoke into it. "Lucy, please come back on my destination, I was out of the truck fetching a cup of coffee?"
Sheriff, you're needed out at the old Groggier ranch, up on the north pasture where Global Energy is drilling for oil."
"What's the problem? Global has their own security guards in place."
"Duke, the caller was extremely frantic, screaming he works for Global at the Groggier ranch drill site, and he needs protection. I asked him who he needs protection from, but the cell phone connection died."
"Alright, Lucy, we're on our way."
"Sheriff, a Global worker screaming for protection seems mysterious to me. What do you think it's about?" asked Deputy Karlyn Robishaw."
"I don't know." Duke took a sip of his second early morning cup of coffee. "Maybe some younglings have been messing around with their oil rig."
"How far away is the Groggier ranch?"
"About sixty miles."
"Damn!" sparked Karlyn.
"I told you when I hired you, we cover a large area of cattle ranch country."
"Do you always personally train your deputies during their first six weeks on the job?"
"Yup, and if they don't meet my qualifications, I give them the boot."
Karlyn gave the sheriff a pretty smile. "I've been riding with you going on a week now. How am I doing?"
"Too early to tell."
"Do you have different qualification standards for the sexes?"
"Nope! I believe a woman officer can be just as tough as a man."
"I agree!" Karlyn took in a mouthful of her coffee and swallowed. "Have you noticed any problems about me?"
"To be honest, just one."
"Oh, and what is it?"
"You're too damn attractive, and it may give you some trouble when arresting the male rednecks around here."
"Do you think they'll try to take advantage of me cause I'm pretty?"
"Well, Sheriff, when one of those rednecks gives me any trouble, he's going to find the end of my boot temporarily lodged up his ass."
Duke chuckled. "That'll be a good approach to end a bad situation."
"I been meaning to ask you," said Karlyn, "is your name, Duke, actually written on your birth certificate?"
"Yup, Duke is my real name."
"Do you have a second name?"
"My middle name is Wayne."
"Duke Wayne Barton. Don't tell me…your father named you after his western movie hero."
Duke chuckled while he turned onto Copper Street, heading toward the Northeast Territory Highway. "That's what everybody thinks, but it was actually my mother who named me after her western motion picture hero. When my ma was about ten years old, she watched 'True Grit' with her parents at the now torn-down Mohawk Drive-in Movie Theater, and today she has a collection of every John Wayne movie that's been released on VHS and DVD."
"I like my name, and I'm as tough as the name represents."
"Yeah, everybody has been warning me about you."
"I may be tough, but I am fair, and you if stay on track, you'll be okay in my book of rules."
"That's good, cause I like working in law enforcement."
"But you're a beautiful enough to marry a doctor or a slick lawyer who'll support you for the rest of your life."
"I have no plans of being a parasite that leeches onto a man to be supported for the rest of my life. I love my freedom as an independent woman. Like most female parasites, they don't even realize they're parasites, and thirty to forty years down the road when their souls belong to their devilish husbands, they'll be miserably enslaved until the day they die of old age. When I meet the right man, I'll enter the hot sex relationship as being an independent woman who will never become a trapped parasite."
Duke shook his head. "Karlyn, you are an unusual woman who sparks my interest in more directions than one."
"So tell me, sheriff, you’re a damn good looking man in your early thirties, so why are you still single?"
"I haven't found the right woman who'll accept me as a beer drinking, hard-hitting sheriff who can't be molded into their perfect fantasy man!"
"Oops…I hit upon a touchy subject. I'm going to shut up for now and take a beauty nap." Karlyn half tilted her seat back and nodded off to dreamland.
Karlyn abruptly woke up when the truck bumpily speed over cattle guard rollers while entering Bill Groggier's north pasture, heading toward the Global dill site tower.
Duke drove up to an office trailer and parked behind a dually pickup with the driver's door left open. "This oil rig has been here for while, which means they drilled deep," said the sheriff. He open his driver's door, stepped down onto the ground, and stared over at the oil rig.
Karlyn jumped out of the cab and ran around the Sheriff's truck to join Duke. "Do you see a problem?"
"No problem for us, but a costly one for Global Energy. They never struck any oil, so they're in the process of packing up this rig to move it to another drill site. I figured by now technology would've given them an advantage to finding oil, but it's still a poker game. Come on, let's go talk to the foreman."
They walked over to the office trailer, climbed three steps up onto a metal platform being used as a front porch. Duke pulled open the door, stepped inside, and looked around to see no one sitting at the desks.
Karlyn followed the sheriff inside and eyed the interior. "Damn, what a mess, how can anyone work in here?"
"Yup, cluttered it is," voiced Duke as he stuck his index finger inside a half filled cup of coffee to learn it's still warm. "They're somewhere nearby." He strolled outside onto the metal platform to again, stare over at the oil rig. The morning Texas sun is climbing higher in the clear blue sky, and the scorching rays are starting to beat down like Thor's hammer. "I don't see any signs of life on the rig."
"Maybe they're all in one of those truck trailers," said Karlyn.
"It's highly unlikely the crew is hanging around in one of the storage trailers. This dually pickup is running."
He jumped off the platform and strolled over toward the dually. Karlyn followed him, then she quickly circled around the sheriff and the dually to look inside the open driver's door. She let out a scream that would've made any horror movie scream queen proud of her. After the scream, she pulled her thirty-eight out of her holster, and then she heaved up her breakfast stomach contents onto the red clay-packed ground.
Duke opened the passenger's front door to see the remains of four people, two sitting on the front seat, and two sitting on the back seat. The only thing left of them are their bloody skeletons and numerous bits and pieces of unrecognizably innards. "It looks as if these people were attacked by Parana, but that's impossible. Whatever attacked them, ate their clothing too. Karlyn, are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm okay. I've never seen anything so damn gruesome. I'm sorry for screaming and spewing."
"Hey, a little of my early morning fried egg sandwich came back up, but I swallowed it! You had better go call in for backup while I examine what's left of these bodies." He removed a silver pen from his shirt pocket and used it to poke at the grisly remains of the front passenger. I don't see any signs of a chemical acid, he thought. In spite of the disgusting smell, Duke moved in closer to get a better view. To his surprise, he can see hundreds of small teeth marks on the bones. While he was in the Army Special Forces, stationed in the South American jungles, he saw Parana bites on soldier's legs; however, it's a myth that a large group of Parana can rapidly eat all the flesh off a man, leaving behind just his skeleton.
"Duke, six of your deputies and two ambulances are on their way, but we're not going to see them for a good hour," announced Karlyn. "Have you learned anything here?"
"From what I've determined, these four people were attacked and eaten by scores of creatures with a bite similar to Parana. Look here, the creatures even took bites out the leather seats, and over here is a silver belt buckle, which means they ate the rawhide belt."
"My good God," Karlyn said while nervously looking around. "What kind of land creatures would do something like this, and how do we fight them?"
Duke calmly shrugged his shoulders. "If we encounter them, I guess our only course of action would be to run like hell."
A creature wiggled its way out of a h*** in the leather seat. It sprang up towards Duke's face. He saw it from the corner of his eye, and his hand snapped up to grab the creature before it sank it's teeth into his flesh.
Karlyn's blue eyes bulged.
"I caught the damn critter in midair," Duke proudly shouted. He held it up to look at it. "It's a big ugly ass worm!"
Karlyn boldly moved closer to gaze at it. The pale white worm is almost a foot long, about three inches in diameter, with a wide mouth, and two round yellow eyes. Its vigorously thrashing about, trying to free itself from Duke's grip. "The damn creature is strong," voiced Duke. "It must've burrowed into the seat, and the other worms left it behind."
"It's a wormster!"
"Is that what their called? I've never seen one prior to now."
"I made the name up," sputtered Karlyn. "This is the first time I've seen one. They must be invading aliens from another planet."
With all his muscular might, Duke squeezed the worm behind its head. After a long moment, it became limp and motionless.
"Is it dead?"
"I sure do hope so." He carried the worm over to his sheriff's truck and laid it on the hood for a more detailed visual assessment. On the worm's underside, he can see rows of moveable sticky spines, giving it the ability to crawl vertically. He used his pen to pry open its mouth so he can closely look at its razor sharp teeth. "I'm reckoning this creature is an alien, but not from another planet."
"Than where did it come from?" asked Karlyn.
Duke pointed down at the ground. "I'm thinking it came from deep underground, and from what's left of those four bodies, I'd say there's a large herd of these carnivorous worms slithering around, hunting for food." He laughed for a moment.
"What's so humorous at a scary time like this?"
"I just realized your imaginative name you gave the creature is derived from the word monster, which makes wormster a befitting name."
"Thanks…oh s***, Duke, look! The wormster is gone," screamed Karlyn.
Sure enough, to Duke's surprise, the creature he thought he had killed is no longer on the hood. He and Karlyn swiftly backed away from the truck while eyeing the ground. Suddenly, the wormster charged towards them from under the truck, rapidly slithering along the ground with its mouth open. With lightening speed, Duke drew his forty-five from his holster and fired one shot, exploding the wormster's head. "It's dead now," Duke voiced as he holstered his gun. "It's hard to believe I didn't kill it when I crushed it! It's a durable creature, which it must require to survive in an underground world." He waved his hand. "Come on Karlyn, let's go check out the oil rig."
"Is walking around here wise with a horde of wormsters hunting for food?"
"After eating four people, hopefully their bellies are full."
Karlyn followed the sheriff over to the house size portable oil drilling rig. They climbed up onto the metal platform and noticed two more dead personnel. "Karlyn, please stay here and keep a lookout while I investigate," ordered the sheriff. He continued across the platform, bending over to look at the gory skeletons. After examining the bodies, Duke carefully inspected the partially dismantled oil rig. He smiled to see that the well has been recently capped, thus preventing the surface arrival of any more wormsters.
The sheriff strolled across the platform over to Karlyn's side. "Everything okay?"
"If I'm not hysterically screaming, than everything is okie-dokie."
"The two dead workers are exactly like the four victims we found in the truck. Most everything was consumed except their bones. I found a log sheet hanging up over yonder on a clipboard. They drilled to a depth of seven hundred and fifty feet before giving up. Instead of black gold, the only thing these oil workers struck was death."
Unexpectedly, Karlyn's expression twisted into terror.
Duke spun around to see many hundreds of wormsters slithering towards them from across the oil rig platform. "S***! I don't have enough bullets. We need to run like scared bucks!"
Karlyn unclipped her taser gun from her belt and placed it against a metal truss, electrifying the platform, and the wormsters began to make a hissing noise as they quickly retreated. Many of them coiled their worm bodies and sprang up off the platform onto the ground.
Duke and Karlyn jumped down onto the ground and ran toward the truck, climbed up in the cab, and slammed the doors shut.
"Karlyn, your quick thinking just jumped you up to the top of my deputy evaluation rating. Now we know the wormsters don't like electricity."
"I had to do something," said Karlyn, "and I figured most all living creatures don't like to be electrified."
Duke started the truck to give them air-conditioning. He silently sat there in thought while the interior of the cab cooled down. "What I don't understand is how the wormsters surprise attacked the four workers who were sitting in the truck. It's as if the workers sat there and allowed themselves to be eaten."
"When you opened the wormster's mouth, did you notice any fangs?"
"No, but a poison that paralyzes their prey would explain the four skeletons in the truck."
Three police vehicles and two ambulances lined up next to sheriff's truck. Duke opened his door, looked around at the ground for a moment, and then he stepped out to meet with his six deputies and the four ambulance attendants. "Duke, hold the door, I'm getting out on your side," sputtered Karlyn.
The sheriff gathered everyone together in a grassless open area next to the vehicles. He explained the wormster situation to skeptical expressions. "Look, I know this wormster horror show is a giant pill that's hard to swallow. Before you all start thinking my brain has been deep fried in crazy oil, lets amble over to the Global truck and take a look-see at the four skeletons."
After everyone eyed the victims, they all became wormster believers, and they also became very nervous about being outside.
"Deputies, the Global workers were in the process of dismantling this oil rig," announced Duke, "in which they commonly pull in extra personnel to help pack up the equipment. From the number of vehicles parked here, I'd say we're missing four or five workers. Todd and Mitch, stay here and guard the ambulance attendants while they tag and bag the meatless bodies. Come on, deputies, let's check out the grounds and trailers for the missing workers."
Over the next half hour they found three more victims on the grounds, not far from the storage trailers, each have been viciously devoured by the wormsters.
With flashlights in hand, they began to climb up into the last truck trailer. The hot morning sun has been beating down on the trailer, making the temperature within near unbearable. Deputy Noah Sterlin took the lead inside the trailer. "Here's another skeleton," Noah announced. Unbeknown to Noah, a wormster is coiled around the victim's bloody spinal cord. It sprang up and bit into Noah's arm. He began to scream in agonizing pain. The sheriff reached out and grabbed the wormster, yanking it from Noah's arm, along with a chunk of flesh. He threw the wormster hard onto the trailer's wooden floor, drew his gun, and fired one round, hitting the wormster's hideous head.
Within a few minutes after being bit, Noah dropped to the floor, screaming that he cannot move his arms and legs.
Noticing blood flowing from Noah's bite wound, Karlyn pulled a pink handkerchief out of her pants pocket and used to apply pressure.
Duke shook his head while displaying a dark expression. "How utterly horrifying it must've been for the victims. To have their limbs paralyzed after the first wormster bite, thus being conscious to watch their bodies being eaten. This explains why the four victims in the truck sat there without trying to run away."
Two of the deputes picked up Noah and carried him to one of the ambulances.
The Sheriff and Karlyn climbed back into the truck's cab. "So when the wormsters bite they do inject a poison into their prey," uttered Karlyn.
"Apparently!" Duke slowly nodded his head. "I'd like to know how many wormsters there are and how quickly they reproduce."
"Now I'm more worried because you look worried."
"I'm looking worried cause I'm looking at the big picture. These wormsters couldn't have been active at a depth of seven hundred and fifty feet underground. Without prey to feed on, they would've died. I'm thinking they were in a state of long-term hibernation."
"So do you reckon the oil drilling had somehow activated them?" asked Karlyn.
"Yes, and for all I know the last time they slithered upon the surface of the earth was when the dinosaurs mysteriously became extinct." He slid the truck's shift lever to the drive position and pressed down on the gas pedal.
"Where are we going?" asked Karlyn.
"We're going about three and a half miles across the pastures to the Groggier ranch. I need to warn old Bill Groggier and his son's family about the wormsters."
"What are we going to do about killing off these evil wormsters?"
"We," he said along with a chuckle. "As soon as I figure out what to say to convince the bigwigs I'm telling the truth, then I hope they move in the military to kill off the damn wormsters."
The truck climbed up over a sharp knoll to a level pasture dotted with fresh skeletons of numerous devoured cattle. "Damn…for the wormsters to eat an entire herd of cattle means they must be multiplying a thousand times faster than rabbits."
"Yes, there must be thousands of wormsters," voiced Karlyn. "The pasture is literally covered with their feces."
"Yup, I can see all the worm s*** scattered about."
Off in the distance they can view the ranch growing larger as they approach. "Duke, look at the ranch house," said Karlyn, "something doesn't seem right."
The sheriff continued speeding towards the large two story house.
Ten minutes passed by and the sheriff noticed that all the ranch house windows are a pale white. He let up on the gas pedal, slowing down to a stop. "Holy s***, the house is chuck-full of wormsters."
"Oh my God," cried Karlyn, "I can see the wormsters piled up against every window."
"They're probably piled up to the ceilings."
"Why are they in the house?" asked Karlyn.
"A few years back, old Bill Groggier had a massive air conditioning system installed in his ranch house, and I reckon the high noon heat has forced the wormsters to take advantage of the coolness."
"They don't like our Texas midsummer heat."
"Will you look at that," muttered the sheriff.
"Damn Bill is again breaking the law by illegally hording gasoline. I warned him that the next I catch him he'd be doing some prison time! He must have a thousand gallons stored in that plastic tank mounted on his trailer bed."
"Duke, Bill, and his son's family have most likely been reduced to skeletons."
"Gasoline!" Duke and Karlyn said at the same time, along with highlighted expressions formed from having a good idea.
Duke backed his truck up to Bill's gas trailer. He jumped out of the cab and lowered the trailer down onto the ball hitch. He climbed up on the gas trailer with the gas nozzle in hand. "Okay, Karlyn, you know what to do." Duke began to soak the house and ground with gasoline while Karlyn closely circled the truck around the house.
"Okay," yelled the sheriff. He quickly disconnected the hitch, jumped into the cab's driver's seat, and rolled down his driver's window. "Karlyn, you light the road flares and hand them to me one at a time. Traveling at a high speed, Duke circled the ranch house while throwing out the ignited flares, and then he sped off to a good distance away from the burning house. They watched the house flame up into an enormous bon fire. The fire's extreme heat trapped all the wormsters within. They both cheered while listening to the wormster's tough worm bodies loudly explode like grenades filled with compressed innards.
In silence, for over the next hour Duke and Karlyn sat in the truck, side by side, while watching the Groggier ranch house burn.
"The wormsters loved our modern air conditioning so much that it was the cause of their demise," voiced the sheriff, and then he realized his arm is tightly wrapped around his female deputy."
"I reckon so," said Karlyn. "We may have just saved the human race from being forced to the bottom of the food chain."
Duke chuckled. "It's all in a day's work, my dear."
Duke drove around the burning house twice to make sure none of the wormsters survived. Up close they could see how intense the fire was.
He sped away from the smoldering house.
"Where we going, back to your sheriff's office to write a horror report?" asked Karlyn.
"I reckon after saving the human race from invading wormsters, we deserve the rest of the day off."
"So what are we going to do?"
"I reckon since you're an independent woman, and I'm an independent man, that we need to do some serious bonding. So I'm planning to take you out for a nice steak meal with a fully loaded baked potato, and after our late lunch, I'm going to rent us a fancy hotel room."
"What the hell are we going to do in a fancy hotel room? Are you planning to give me an oral deputy training exam?"
Duke pulled the truck over and shot Karlyn his most handsome smile. "I reckon there will be some heated oral activity."
Karlyn giggled as she wrapped her arms around the sheriff and their lips met in a passionate kiss."
© November 2011