So back in July, Bill from The Gamers Lounge Podcast ran a competition for people to submit stories to him under the title of Mystery Battle Report.
Now I jumped at the chance, not because of the very generous prize reward, but because I wanted to see what sort of story I could tell having no previous direct involvement in the setting's world, creating characters, events and settings off the drop of a hat.
Now the story that follows is my entry. It's a first take with ZERO editing, and part of the point was to tell the story of what happened when the 'camera' wasn't taking photos, all the while tying the camera into the story as well.
NB: In the months that have passed I have been writing a lot of stories, and I don't think this is anywhere near my best work at all, but I have found out that unfortunately despite sending it to Bill back in July it was never received. I can only assume there is a word or two that flagged it up for his email and so it was never received.
So without further adieu I bring you:
The Massacre at Evergreen Falls
Hidden by an enormous shadow a series of gears shifted and cranked into place as two large metal riveted doors opened allowing a small sphere to almost float away from the darkened maw. The sphere was kept afloat by a series of small spinning wing-like structures and it quickly left the shadow into vibrant blue sky.
Ahead the sphere could see a small settlement and it approached it's target with great speed. If anyone had seen it, they would have seen the sphere stop in mid air a good thirty or so feet away from the settlement as it opened revealing a long scoped camera and with an audible snap [PICTURE1] immortalised the image of the settlement into it's memory.
The settlement of Evergreen Falls was quiet, as Conroy Hickman stalked the town's perimeter. Around him was a small band of outlaws that Hickman had lead for the past three years, times were beginning to get difficult for Hickman's gang and he knew that this job would be either set them up for the rest of the year, or leave them with nothing but the shirts on their back, and that would be if they were lucky.
Evergreen Falls was a small town with an even smaller population. It was named after the lush grass that covered the settlement in response to the mineral-rich river who's banks the town was built on.
Hickman took a long drag on his cigar and he looked around him. On top of a near structure two of his gang members were getting the lay of the land with their scoped rifles [PICTURE2]. Hickman knew this was pointless; the posse was so short of supplies they couldn't even scrape together enough bullets, but his snipers were as good as any hunter when it came to scoping a site out before a big job. Hickman gestured to Filbert his nephew to report back to him.
Filbert was only a kid, just old enough to know his way around a girl, but what he lacked in experience of the fairer kind he made up with talent and accuracy with his rifle. Filbert gestured back to Hickman [POCTURE3], a series of hand signals and shrill bird whistles. Each signal revealing the town to be empty; devoid of any sort of law enforcement or even civilians.
Beside Filbert stood a boy not much older than Filbert was; he wore a dark-grey, wide brimmed hat and held aloft his six shooter as sweat poured from his brow.
"This is a bad idea dude" whispered the older boy to Filbert.
"Relax" Reassured Filbert "Everything's goin' to be fine, Uncle Roy's gottus out of tighter spots than this!"
The older boy re-adjusted his hat and prepared himself. He's seen these sort of jobs before. Everything seems nice and quiet when out of nowhere BAM a shot to the back of the head.
From behind there was an audible snap, [PICTURE4] and the older boy spun on his heals staring down the barrel of his revolver. Ahead was yet more of the nothing he had seen all day, no people, no tumble weed, not even a damned coyote, none the less he was sure he had heard something.
Hickman gestured back to his nephew before giving another gesture to another member of his gang and as one they moved further into the settlement. With every step Hickman grew more and more cautious. He could see that there was no sign of current habitation, but most of the buildings looked like they had only been recently made empty and on more than one occasion a member of his gang would stop to investigate what looked like a pool of blood or a broken shop window.
"This ain't lookin' good boss" called out one of the gang members, but Hickman carried on before confidently replying "We're here for the loot, boys! Remember that! Whatever happened to these guys, ain't none of our business".
Ahead of the group stood the town's bank, it was a small and unimposing sight compared to what the gang was used to and a pale shadow compared to the first job Hickman's Boys pulled off back at First National. For a brief moment Hickman looked down at his hands clutching old and beaten revolvers, he knew that likewise he and his gang were also pale shadows of their former selves.
As one the gang formed around the back door to the Evergreen Falls Exchange, just an in and out job, and with all the town nowhere to be seen this would be even easier than they thought.
The sound rang out amidst the silence and the kid in the dark grey hat spun around.
"There it is again!" He shouted out, the sound of panic clear in his voice.
Hickman heard the noise as well and tried to calm the kid, until that was he saw his first sign of life in the town. He squinted at first, the bright light of the midday sun making it hard for him to work out if he was seeing what was really there.
Running towards the gang in torn tattered clothing was a man, his arms flailing widely in the air and he shouted something in audible. There was another loud CLICK [PICTURE6] but this time no one noticed.
The man was running as fast as his injured legs could carry him, blood poured from open wounds and he was near to loosing consciousness. It appeared to Hickman that it must have been pure determination alone that carried this man forward.
"Get... Away!" Shouted the man, the exhaustion clear from his voice "get... Away...Dead... Dogs!" The man continued before collapsing on the floor.
"Dogs?" Questioned Filbert to no one in particular as he pushed the doors to the Evergreen Exchange open wide. He was quickly silenced when from inside the building a series of deep growls began to erupt.
Hickman was one of the first to see them, six large hounds, each one about the size of a man but it was not their size that caused him to grow speechless.
The hounds' bodies were covered in a myriad of modifications; from strips of flayed skin revealing raw oozing muscle below, to entire limbs replaced with mechanics and wires. Their eyes glowed a fluorescent green in the darkness of the exchange and for the brief moment Hickman allowed himself to take in his surroundings he noticed illuminated by this unholy of glows the mutilated bodies of what he could only assume was the townspeople of Evergreen Falls.
"Damn it" Hickman muttered under his breath "no job is worth this shit".
It was in that moment that the hounds pounced at once as if commanded by a presence unknown by Hickman and his boys.
From afar a small sphere kept watch as the augmented beasts tore entire limbs from the gang members and split open throats with equal aplomb and high in the bright blue sky floated another structure large enough if it wanted to blot out the sun.
On the underside of this structure an antenna array picked up the image feed transmitted from the sphere which in turn was transmitted via a series of wires to a central control room which presented these images in a magnificent blue hue to a man sat comfortably surrounded by the smoke of his latest, and possibly favourite of cigars.
The man looked over the feed as still of data rolled in. He saw his pet dogs as they disembowelled some kid with a rifle. The kid was no older than his own boy, but he would have to just accept the collateral damage.
The man knew that he could have had sound streamed as well as images, but he thought that doing so would perhaps be a step too far. With hindsight however he regretted that decision as he watched Conroy Hickman creeping along the floor towards the open doors and the spherical camera floating just within view. Conroy Hickman, the man who had challenged him to cards. Conroy Hickman, the man who had cheated at that same game in order to win.
The man in the chair sat back and smiled. He had told Hickman that he would get his revenge, and now thanks to his elaborate plot he would have his revenge. The man's smile cracked into a grin as he saw Hickman's chest heave it's last and grow silent.
Pushing some buttons he moved his sphere away from the sight of the massacre and positioned it above a nearby house before taking one last photo for luck [PICTURE7]. He would send these images to the local paper, they would lap it up, he could see it now "The Massacre at Evergreen Falls; a story about how the loveable rogue Hickman lost his mind, murdered the entire town before turning his weapons on his own gang and eventually himself".
Yes; the man in the chair thought to himself. That would make most pleasant reading indeed.
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley