“Explain to me why we’re hiding in somebody’s old, abandoned crap-shack, son.”
Neil R. Ghost (age twenty-eight) had never imagined that he would find himself in the situation that he was in presently. Sitting on a patch of rotted floorboards, with his back to the equally rotted door, he was regretting some of the decisions he had made with his life. However, there was no time for introspection, as his companion, a field researcher by the name of Kevin Starnes (age nineteen), replied, “That would be because of Two-Sixty-Nine, sir.”
“Yes, and what exactly is Two-Sixty-Nine?”
Quickly checking a paper from the sheaf of files that he was holding, Starnes read, “The files aren’t very clear, as no one’s been able to catch the thing so far, but this one says, ‘What has been determined is that the large creature was roughly humanoid with distinct moose-like features. The creature was described in a wide range of attributes, as with many cryptids, although all reports indicate the creature is bipedal with two arms, moose-like antlers, and a towering stature.’”
“So, basically, what we’re looking at here is a moose man?”
“And we haven’t tried just shooting it, or drugging it, or anything like that?”
“Well, we opened fire with the tranquiliser darts when we found it, but then it just started chasing us. We ran back the way we came, right past your research team, and then scattered.”
“And that’s how we ended up here. Fantastic. I’m going to go urinate in the corner now, before I have a chance to actually get the piss scared out of me, eh.”
Trundling over to what he assumed to be the corner of the dank former dwelling, Neil went about his business with gusto, humming a jaunty tune as he relieved himself. Turning his head just enough to keep an eye on both Starnes and the door, Neil inquired, “So, as long as we’re here, do you think you could tell me why there were multiple research teams sent to investigate this thing? I mean, maybe an armed Mobile Task Force would be able to handle a man-eating monstrosity better than a bunch of nerds in lab coats and hiking gear.”
”Well, technically speaking, with the dentition of a moose, it’s highly unlikely that Two-Sixty-Nine would be able to properly consume any kind of meat, much less human flesh.” Unfortunately, this was all that Kevin Starnes had a chance to say in reply: a particularly large hoof impacted the opposite side of the door, splintering the damp wood, and driving itself through four tenths of his spinal column, five ribs, and several of the more important organs in his thoracic cavity.
Bursting through a previously unnoticed back door into the twilit woods, wang in hand, Neil ran as fast as he could manage from a grisly array of odours, and what he was sure would be an embarrassingly moose-related death. Hastily repackaging his groin-bound goods, he tried not to focus on the approach of the oddly-proportioned creature, its swift hooves making dull thuds in response to the moist squishing of his feeble-by-comparison footfalls on the mossy, rain-damp ground. Cursing with what little breath he could muster, it came as somewhat of a surprise to the other people in the pit when he fell in with an astonished “Assnugget cuntface.”
Neil R. Ghost had found the rest of his original research team. Well, they had found him, but no one was about to play semantics. He had, in fact, been pulled into a hollow formed by the roots of a long-dead cedar, by one Doctor Owen Hamilton (age thirty-nine), and silenced with a hand over the mouth from researcher Andrea Barclay (age thirty-two), two of his initial five-man group of scientists and researchers. The three waited for Two-Sixty-Nine to pass overhead before even breathing.
Once they could no longer see its shadow, Barclay pulled her hand away. “Where is researcher Shekhar?” she demanded in a hoarse whisper.
“Beats the piss out of me,” Ghost replied softly. “Is Doctor Tjaard dead?” Catching a shallow nod from Hamilton, he continued, “Right. Either of you have a gun?”
“Just this thing,” Hamilton said, motioning to a not-very-new rifle at the edge of their hiding place. “Though judging from the past few hours’ experience, I’d say it’s not going to do much good.” Before he’d even finished the sentence though, Ghost had grabbed the gun and leapt out of the pit.
“Hey you,” Ghost yelled. “You smelly, belligerent pile of crap, come on over and kick my face in. Hard target to miss.” He didn’t have to shout; Two-Sixty-Nine had only passed the hiding place by twenty-five metres, and it had excellent hearing. It lowered its head to charge as Ghost raised the rifle, and after only four of the familiar thudding hoofbeats, there was a resounding crack, and the long-hunted moose man fell, a slow trickle of red running down its muzzle.
“Congratulations, you’re a hero now,” Ghost quipped, passing the warm weapon to Hamilton. “ And if you tell any of the investigating Foundation personnel anything else, I’ll have you dropped like Rancid McGee out there.”
“Is it dead?”
“Nope. Your average moose has a pretty thick skull, but I don’t think I could’ve cracked that one even if I’d wanted to, eh.”
“Alright then. Doctor Barclay, call the base monitoring station, if you would.”
Two hours later, Hamilton was driving a rented subcompact, Ghost in the passenger seat, down one of those long stretches of boring woodland highway that traced the mainland. The trip had progressed in utter silence until a muted crackling from the dash mounted two-way radio snapped them both from their torpor. From what they could gather, the U-Haul truck that the Foundation had rented as an impromptu transport for the unconscious Two-Sixty-Nine had crashed. None of the crew that had gone with it, including Doctor Barclay, had been heard from, and it was to be assumed that the creature had escaped into the surrounding woodland.
“You know, Hamilton, I hope they had the sense to actually secure the thing. With rope or chain, preferably.”
“I have the niggling feeling that they didn’t, Neil.”
“Me too, eh. You know, I saw it kill Starnes. I don’t think it even planned on eating him or anything. It just wanted him dead.”
“Do you want to turn back and finish it off?”
“Fuck no. Get me an elephant gun and a bottle of whiskey and we’ll talk.”
“Why did you shoot it? You knew about the skull, but why take the risk?”
“I’m sure you want me to tell you that I was overcome by a sudden swell of bravery, or that having so many of my teammates brought down made me angry enough to unleash my inner Rambo, but honestly? I was just fed up with its shit, and the smell. Let a properly equipped team deal with it.”
“Back to base, then. Do you think the Foundation’s going to consider this a huge loss?”
“As long as we don’t have anything to contain, the Special Containment Procedures Foundation isn’t going to give a shit, eh.”
“I guess the first drink’s on Barclay.”
“And the last one’s on Starnes.”