Chapter 11:

The Wild Hunt


The Patriots brought in a group of prisoners dressed in orange jumpsuits.

‘Here they are, Colonel,’ said Girl Scout. ‘Thirty of the worst pinkos that Dominguez State Jail has to offer.’ She took a throwing knife out of the belts crisscrossed across her chest, slit a prisoner’s throat, and licked the blood off. ‘God, I love the taste of commie in the morning!’

The other prisoners grimaced and drew back.

Colonel Ripper slapped Girl Scout across the back of her head. ‘How many times do I have to tell you to stop doing that?! It’s dangerous, unhygienic, and downright creepy!’

Girl Scout looked down. ‘Sorry, Colonel. I didn’t eat this morning. I was trying to get the VHS to record G.I. Jesus, but…I’m not as tech savvy as my dad was.’

Colonel Ripper’s eyes softened. From out of his back pocket, he produced a burrito wrapped in tinfoil. ‘Here.’

Girl Scout took the burrito, smiled, and took a bite. Colonel Ripper patted her on the head.

‘Aw, bless!’ said Marilyn. ‘You can get the camera rolling now, Billy. The sentimental part’s out of the way. Nothing but senseless violence from here on out, baby! Ka-ching!’ She waved to the Blue Nasties and the Lonely Hearts. ‘Good luck, my lovelies! Break a leg! Literally!’ She snorted. ‘I’m funny!’

Colonel Ripper cracked his knuckles. ‘Everyone get into two lines! Prisoners up front, slashers behind! When I fire my revolver, the prisoners start running. When I fire my revolver a second time, the slashers run after them.’

Jack got into position next to the Plague Doctor, who leant close to him. ‘I don’t know about you, guv, but I’m quite bewildered by all this. The Colonel made me go sunbathing in a swamp full of alligators, so I fail to see how this is going to get me hot and bothered. Do you think he’s finally lost his marbles?’

Jack shook his head. ‘No. He’s a wily old coot. He’s definitely up to something.’

He heard sniggering behind them. Mammoth, Biker, and Girl Scout were whispering amongst themselves. They came over and leant over the shoulders of Puck, Mezu, and Sam.

‘Hey, runt!’ said Mammoth to Puck. ‘You sure you’re strong enough to even swing that hockey stick? Maybe I should sharpen a twig for you instead?’

‘Up yours, hoser!’ said Puck. ‘I’m plenty strong, and when I enter the Zone, I’m going to be even stronger, so watch your back!’

Mammoth laughed.

Biker tapped the sheath of Mezu’s ridiculously long samurai sword. ‘What’s this? A katana? No, too long. A kabuki prop?’

Mezu shifted the sheath away. ‘It’s a zanbatō, and I’ll thank you to keep your hands off it. My samurai ancestors used its length to cut down horsemen—and their horses—in battle.’

Biker whistled. ‘That’s pretty impressive…for the Edo period. If you run into a slasher with even the slightest modern technological advantage over you, though, you’re done for. Face it, the time of the samurai has passed.’

Mezu turned away. ‘I’m not going to dignify that with a response.’

‘Hey, coward!’ said Girl Scout to Sam, smirking an inch away from her cheek.

Sam’s eyes widened. ‘Yes, ma’am?! I mean yes, honey?! I mean yes, ma’am?!’

‘God, you’re pathetic. You can’t even stand up to a thirteen-year-old girl! It pisses me off that the Colonel has taken such a shine to you. I can tell his confidence in you is misplaced, though. I can see it in your eyes that you’ll always be a chicken!’

‘Yes, ma’am! You’re absolutely right! I question what the hell I think I’m doing here every day!’

This is cruel, thought Jack. Why are they doing this? To get us off our game? To what end?

‘On your marks!’ said Colonel Ripper as he raised his revolver. 

The prisoners got into running positions. 

‘Get set!’ 

The prisoners tensed.

Colonel Ripper fired.

The prisoners sprinted into the forest. 

Colonel Ripper fired again. 

The Blue Nasties and the Lonely Hearts ran after them.

Jack saw a trio of prisoners ahead of him and cut them down. ‘All clear over here!’

The other slashers made short work of their prey too.

The Plague Doctor held his arms out. ‘I’ve had more frightening evenings watching amateur plays at the Young Vic!’

A third shot sounded behind them.

Mammoth with his giant spear, Biker on his motorbike with its roaring chainsaw wheels, and Girl Scout with her throwing knives came racing through the trees. The Patriots followed behind them holding machetes.

Now Jack understood.

They weren’t the hunters; they were the hunted!

‘What should we do?!’ said Puck.

Mezu turned around and raised his zanbatō. ‘We should stand and fight as one. This is clearly the challenge we need to help us enter the Zone.’

With no other ideas, everyone turned around and raised their weapons too.

Something about this didn’t feel right, though. Like they were missing something vital.

Predictably, Sam ran away crying. ‘I’m sorry, guys! I can’t! I just can’t! Marilyn can blackmail me if she wants to! Prison has to be better than this! I’ll send you letters!’