The Wild Hunt
Do your worst.
Do your best.
Just… PROVE IT.
Now, where were we again?
I know for sure where we are not.
We are not at someone’s Mom’s backyard slumber party. We are not behind the gates of The Brain’s 65,279 acre Neverland Snail Ranch. We are not inside Zion’s concussion. He could be thinking of us, but we can’t be sure.
Not until July 30th when he’s heard from for the first time.
We are not smoking cigs in the back of an Impala getting ready to climb the Moontower. We are not walking down the long, winding road to redemption that almost put HOTv out of business.
I know. The nerve.
Rather, we find ourselves in a park. This park just so happens to be surrounded by lush forest. A forest park, if you must. The tall trees, fresh air, and the sweet smell of mother nature easily eases one’s mind with… ease.
There’s also a pretty sweet campground for activities. Which, is exactly where our little tale within a tale begins.
That said, a cool breeze whisks through the surrounding leaves. It’s the type of sound that can put you to sleep almost instantly. Wood crackles within the campfire underneath the soft light of a full moon. A small group, known to few outside direct connections, sit on intentionally circled logs placed around the controlled blaze. The flames light the area enough to see flags reading ‘Troop Negative Zero of The Scorpion Boy Scouts of America’ fluttering in the wind. Unbeknownst to most of them, they all gathered in these woods to not just get away, but maybe gain some perspective on a certain Game of War looming in the very near future.
Whether they like it or not.
For now, they share lame jokes and awkward chit chat while roasting their marshmallows to make s’mores.
There’s even hair on a stick being passed around.
Nice way of saying no one is eating it.
The hair that is.
Sadly, we need to clarify these types of things.
Chalk up another win for 2019.
Steadfast, one of the young troopers feverishly gobbles s’more after s’more. You’d think he has a date with the juvenile electric chair the way he’s outpacing the pack. The rest are leaning forward, intently listening to their newly appointed Scout Leader.
“… and just be diligent. I know it’s tough with what you learned from the last guy. I do. But say you really like it. It will work. I know. I’m COOL. I fool people all the time.”
That’s right. Troop Negative Zero’s new Big Brother is the righteous Maestro of COOL, Cool Jiles.
These kids might have a chance of getting a job after all. Get it? A job.
Tough joke to swallow, considering the prior Troop Leader.
You know the guy.
He, who has not won yet.
You’ve heard of him.
At least one of you.
He’s the lynchpin of the Carnival de Grandiose!
If you ask him.
The Maestro is 97red clad, head to toe. He has a protective net over his pristine, golden hair. The insects/Arachnid apparently like the product. And of course the shades are on. He doesn’t mind wearing them at night.
He’s lecturing, and these impressionable minds are actually listening.
For the moment, he is also the only adult there.
Jiles: Trust me, my newly adopted Junior Bandits. That’s how you talk your parents into seeing the show. It’s a baseball game with a free Carnival after! Like I told you, we have an attraction for everyone. So please, be sure to tell all of your friends and bullies, too. Any questions?
With eyebrows raised, Cool Jiles scans his audience for inquisitive faces. The aforementioned, young fever eater who has ransacked the rest of the marshmallows and now transitioned to the hair on a stick, let’s call him Trooper Robert, abashedly asks a question between licks of hair.
Trooper Robert: Please excuse my treacherous tone, Maestro. But, I’m confused. How did The Beast, the one who will remain nameless, get to The Carnival? You said he came against his will?
A friendly smile touches Jiles’ well kempt face.
Jiles: It’s okay. I forgive you. I guess it’s scary story time, my newly minted Jay Bee’s.
All the scouts perk up. If they had a blanket, best believe they would be pulling it in close.
Jiles: Now listen. The tale of The Beast’s capture is not a pleasant one. When you get home, and for some reason you can’t sleep at night, don’t go crying to Mommy and Daddy that the Maestro told you a scary story. You do that, you’re out of the club. No questions. No second chances. Out. Back with Scorps.
The troop gasps. Their fear is real. The tension that filled the air quickly turns to dread. Haunting images of cooking endless amounts of steak creep into their collective consciousness.
They are Junior Bandits now.
They will persevere.
The fire crackles loudly, catching a Trooper who hasn’t opened his mouth this entire time off guard and causing him to let out a _peep_ through zipped lips.
Jiles: Huh, vocal chords confirmed.
The Cool states very matter-of-factly.
Jiles: Okay, little ones, here we go…
The Begotten Champion of COOLYMPUS leans in toward the listeners, pulling a flashlight out from behind his back and shining it up toward his face from below his chin. The initial reflection off the mirror tint of his shades knocks a nearby tree down. Luckily, it only fell on Scorpion Boy. He passed out battling a case of the hair sweats earlier.
Similar to meat, just more choking and gagging.
Also, if a tree falls on Scorpion Boy in the middle of the woods and no one hears it– as evidenced by everyone sitting around the campfire’s REFUSAL TO BAT AN EYE, not that you would know if Jiles did, but he didn’t…
DOES ANYONE HEAR IT?
The little boy with zipperlips probably witnessed it, but he’ll never tell.
The COOL continues on.
Jiles: The night was cold. The clouds covered the sky. Every so often, a break in them would allow a glimmer of moonlight to illuminate the thick air below. Dense fog engulfed all. It stunk of animal feces.
The Maestro’s nostrils singe in agony. The smell is one he won’t shake anytime soon.
Just wait until he gets a whiff of Mandell’s bloody armpit inside the cage. Might get PTSD.
Jiles: This horrid, Mongoloidian stench meant one thing. The Beast’s belly was empty. And because The Beast’s belly was empty, it growled. And it howled, like ten lobsters trapped inside of a small pot of boiling water!
The Philly native mimics the shrill death cry of the lobster. It is spot on, causing the troop to let out their own shrieks and huddle closer together.
Myth. The lobster part. They don’t make any noise.
Still though, the death cry was shrill as fuck.
Jiles: The Beast was hungry. Hungrier than Bobby S’mores.
The COOL inches a touch forward, acting as if he were about to reveal how much his sunglasses cost.
Like there’s any price you could place on them.
Jiles: As such, there are certain things you can take for granted about the Carnival’s hungry Beast. He will prowl alone, desperate to feast on the warm innards of the weak and feeble. AND YOUNG.
Some of the scouts huddle closer, anxiously peeking over their shoulders from time to time.
Jiles: He is aimless, blinded by his rabid hunger. And, well, he’s starving. He, hun_garr_reee.
Lord COOL eases back, scratching at his chin while remembering the tenacious events of the hunt.
Jiles: All these add up to The Beast being easily lured. However, the trapping part… not so easy. You see Jay Bee’s, during this thirst for the flesh, he also enters his most murderous of moods. His fangs sharpen; able to slice through reinforced fencing with little effort. His strength and intellect reach levels rivaling the primordial man. His fury… knows no road.
One little nerd Trooper, clearly housing a calculator in his shirt pocket, snarkles.
Jiles: If The Beast were to grab a hold of you with his mouth, consider yourself a Scorpion steak. Done.
Keeping it simple here for the intended audience.
That’s not the Junior Bandits, either.
The troop collectively nods. Sadly, they know all about the old guard’s fetish, and why they always went to Outback and not Pizza Hut for their badge ceremony.
Jiles: But alas, the Carnival was coming to town. And with a plethora of sideshow acts, it needed something different. Only a Beast, and nothing less, could make it complete. And not just any Beast. It needed THE Beast. The Kostoffian Nightmare. The Gigantic Gemini. The eater of young boys souls!
Look it up.
Jiles: Fear not! If there was one man brave enough to enter The Beast’s den and bring him home to the Carnival de Grandiose!!! If there was one man with the wherewithal, and the stones to pull off such a feat!!!
Sliding in like Collingswoth, enter the other newly appointed Troop Leader.
Doozer: It was me! The Doozer Abuser! RARRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!
The six foot, three inch co-lead scout appears out of thin air with his arms raised to scare the shit out of an unsuspecting Bandit Scout Troop. He’s dressed head to toe in Game Warden gear. From the camo, high tech rubber boots, to his forest green pants and button-up, Doozer took it to the nines. He excitedly reaches into one of the nine cargo pockets he has on his person and pulls out a plastic bag of white treats.
Calm down, Hollywood.
Doozer: Here’s more marshmallows, kids! Eat up!
Trooper Robert quickly reaches out, eager to get his fill yet again.
Jiles: Not you, Slim Boone Pickens. You’ve had enough!
Trooper Robert frowns.
Doozer turns to Jiles.
Doozer: Oh, I caught us all some dinner, too. HUGE lake trout. You wouldn’t believe the fight this monster put up! Zigging and zagging! SO HARDCORE.
The Dooze grows a childish grin across his face.
Doozer: I named him Crash.
Jiles bites back a laugh.
Jiles: Har. Har. And just what do you think you’re doing anyway, Dew_zore? Last I checked, you were the one who arrives with dessert at the end when everyone has already had their fill. Don’t go confusing our Junior Bandits. It goes like this. I talk. Then you talk a little, if any. Not much. Then, I talk A LOT more, and you get to drop the mic. It’s been that way since day one.
Doozer: And look what that has gotten us.
The COOLYMPIAN grits his pearly whites.
Jiles: Fine. For the sake of the troop, to show them how a real man should behave… yes, Doozer and I were both the brave ones I just spoke of. We, the Egg Bandits, your new beacons of hope, were the only men brazen enough to enter the DEN of THE BEAST.
Doozer: And, if we are being completely honest with you, MY Junior Bandits, your former loser of a Troop Leader was there, too.
Into the wind and under his breath, an unheard jilted mutter.
Jiles: For fu– sakes.
Doozer: Not that we hang with him on the regular. He’s what you would call, an opening act. Can’t have him mingling with us eggin’ folk. Not until he proves himself anyway.
An enlightened snicker escapes from the troop. They’ve just found out why they have more badges than their former Scout Leader.
Jiles: On a side note, Dooze. I think he’s got a crush on one of Hollywood’s robots. The new one with the wire bristle mustache who can compute to the nineteenth decimal and burn a steak in under three seconds. What’s its name again?
Intently, Doozer ponders. He is old. It takes a few moments to open the memory cabinet.
If only a website existed???
Doozer: Robo Snail 6000?
More lengthy pondering, this time from the other Scout Leader. He’s a pothead.
Jiles: Hmmm, I think it’s Robo Savage, actually.
Doozer: You sure?
Jiles: Yeah, I’m talking about the lame model. The guy you’re thinking of is Hollywood’s tag team partner. Equally lame and robotic, so easy to confuse.
Seeing the light, The Dooze gets off the train and catches up to the conversation.
Doozer: Oh… yeah. You know what? You might be right. Just the other day I overheard Scorps asking to check its oil. I thought he was just being nice and paid no attention to it.
The Dooze’s shrug is met by a headshake from The Cool.
Jiles: I saw the two of them carrying on during the intermission with Mandell. Robo Savage was the Tin Man. Scorpion Boy was The Lion. Mandell was The Scarecrow. It was weird.
The wanna be Game Warden squints in concentration.
Doozer: He does have the outfit for it. Mandell, that is. I guess Robo Savage fits the bill, too. Internally wise anyways. And Scorps, well… Scorps is gonna Scorps. Either way, what was so weird about it?
The Cool almost loses his shades, but quickly counts back from ten in his head. Calm, he explains.
Jiles: Well, you see they were all squeezed together, warming up on a bench. Each of them was lapping their own bag of popcorn. Thing of it was, they were eating out of the other’s bag. Not their own. And it looked like there were holes cut into the bottom of each bag. And their arms were vigorously jerking for the extra buttery kernels at the bottom.
The Maestro raises his eyebrows and opens his eyes wide as if to telepathically communicate a message that might not’ve been scout friendly.
Jiles: That’s why I thought it was weird.
Doozer: You know, that is weird. Scorps is more of a hair guy, or so I’ve been told.
Jiles: That’s eggsactly what I thought.
Trooper Robert: Again, pardon my treachery sirs, but The Beast?
Jiles: Oh, you’re all still here. I forgot– never mind. Yes, The Beast! The lure and capture of the Carnival de Grandiose’s deadliest of catch! Doozer, tell them about it. You were there. Don’t forget about the bait.
You can see the trepidation all over Doozy’s face. He accepts his role formally by taking the flashlight from Jiles’ outreached hand.
The flashlight shines upward from below Doozer’s chin. The shadows cast upon his face send shivers down the Troops’ spines. Even Maestro COOL looks scared right now, but that’s probably more to do with him gawking at Trooper Robert licking the hair on the stick.
Doozer: So on this night.
He looks around slowly.
Doozer: On this cool, breezy night.
Jiles creepily fades off, out of the flames ambient reach, into the darkness.
Doozer: The Beast was on the prowl. He scoured the land to and fro, looking for a fowl.
The COOL quickly pops back into the light, waving his hands.
Jiles: No. No, no, no! You can’t rhyme the rest of the story. I didn’t rhyme my part. Plus, we are going for scary here, remember? Keep to the script, old man!
The Dooze spins his cohort around and pushes him back out of sight. He turns to the troop and brings the flashlight back into position.
Doozer: Soon The Beast could no longer stand his hunger. He was desperate. With barely enough willpower to keep hunting, he suddenly smelled something that tickled his nose with glee. The aroma of pan fried, fresh fish — very similar to the ones I caught tonight — instantly instigated his saliva glands to fill his mouth.
The whites of each scouts eyes could be seen against their fire glimmered faces.
Doozer: The Beast looked up to the full moon over his head and took one big breath through his nose. He grinned, knowing where to find his fish.
The Maestro suddenly jumps out of the shadows on the other side of the site, scaring the shit out of the troops. Two of them, wearing matching hot pink and neon green wristbands leap into each other’s arms.
Jiles, whose surprise landing found him near chunky Troop Robert, takes a seat on the log next to him. Possibly feeling bad about the comment earlier, he offers him some freshly cooked Crash.
Obviously disappointed that it’s not more marshmallows, Robert takes the olive branch and scarfs down the entire thing.
Bones and all.
Doozer almost drops the flashlight in disbelief.
Doozer: Uh… wh-where-
The fraggled Dooze grabs at his collar and stretches it a bit while clearing his throat.
Doozer: The, uhm, Beast… uh-
He shoots a glare toward his co-lead. Time for plan B.
Doozer: The Beast, upon reaching the source of the fishy scent, witnessed a gathering he was not anticipating. The urge for the fish suddenly vanished out of thin air, but a stronger urge now called his name.
In the most treacherous of tones yet, young, treacherous Trooper Robert hisses back at The Maestro while rubbing the back of his arm.
Trooper Robert: What the heck was that? It hurt!
JIles: Just needed a quick body fat check, little buddy. Wanna make sure you live a nice, long, traitorous life.
As The Dooze continues the tale, the Maestro slinks off into the darkness yet again. Not before a Stevens-level eye for detail would notice The COOLYMPIAN dropping a tiny, shiny metallic object on top of a nearby stump.
As he dropped the pin, what appears like a liquid dropped onto his windpants. Just feeling the impact and knowing what happened almost causes JIles to give up his cover with a shriek. Then he realized he wore 97RED for a reason.
Doozer: The scent of blood put The Beast’s into a boil. His wererage escalated into a level never seen by anyone who lived to tell the tale.
To the fright of all the Troops, and the trapped and now coming somewhat to Scorpion Boy, a shrill howl reverberates throughout the forests.
Doozer: The Beast shouted out his final warning to his future victims with a skin-curdling howl. It was a matter of moments before he attacked.
Seeing his audience on the edge of their logs, The Dooze builds suspense with a drawn out scan of each shivering troop.
Doozer shouts in order to scatter the scared Junior Bandits around the fire as a large, dark mass jolts out from the shadows behind him. The quick moving figure immediately pounces toward the shiny, pin-like object Mr. JIles previously sat on a stump.
A canvas springs from underneath the leaves on the ground and snatches whatever monster leapt out of the woods, yanking him some twenty feet in the hair.
The first one.
Jiles: WE GOT HIM! I can’t believe it worked again! I guess you can’t teach an old werewolf new tricks!
Relieved, The Maestro starts to tomahawk dance like a Native American around the fire, all the while victory chanting to The Beast hanging above him.
Peace pipe time.
Slowly, and cautiously, The Troop starts to make their way back. They gaze up at the net hanging above them. They can not believe it. They can not process it. To them, it is like seeing an alien.
Coincidentally that is how most people feel.
They are too young to realize they were the bait.
Doozer: Attention, Junior Bandits. For THAT is how we caught The Beast!