Big Bad Wolf’s blood trail led the Blue Nasties and the Lonely Hearts out of the forest, out into the bright warmth of day.
A maskless Colonel Ripper, Marilyn Fox, and Billy the Cameraman were waiting for them on an airfield lined with fighter jets.
Colonel Ripper cracked a yellow grin. ‘I saw a wolfman running by just now with his arm missing. I’m guessing that was your work? My, how you all have grown. When you came here, you were getting your asses kicked by C-list slashers! Now you’ve entered the Zone and are kicking their asses right back!’
Sam beamed with pride.
‘Sorry, Colonel,’ said Jack. ‘You’re going to need some new Captains.’
Colonel Ripper laughed. ‘Naw! I reckon you might have taken out a few of my B-list henchmen, but those three are as close to the Big Five as A-list slashers get without actually being in the Big Five. It’s going to take a lot more than the kitten kisses you put them through to take them out. Now, you’ve passed the Wild Hunt. It’s time for your final test!’ Colonel Ripper put his American flag skull mask on and pulled the cord of his buzzsaw. The weapon roared to life. ‘Cut me once using the Zone and you pass the combat training!’
Marilyn tapped Billy the Cameraman on the shoulder. ‘Make sure to get all of this. Whatever happens next is going to be juicy!’
‘Zone: Bomb!’ said Colonel Ripper. Little explosions rippled across his body.
This was it. The Number One Slasher of the Big Five had entered the Zone.
‘Listen up,’ said Colonel Ripper. ‘If any one of you fails, I will kill you. I mean it this time.’
In all their battles with Colonel Ripper throughout the last month, they’d always gotten stomped. She licked the gums were her bottom molars used to be. Looking around at her stone still friends, she could tell that they felt the same way.
Puck and Mezu turned to Jack.
‘We should think of a plan,’ said Mezu.
‘Screw that!’ said Puck. ‘We should rush him!’
The Plague Doctor raised his hand. ‘Might I suggest poisoning?’
Jack hammered his palm with his fist. ‘Here’s the plan: we’ll rush him!’
Sam could have cried. She raised her chainsaw sword instead. ‘Geronimo!’
All of them roared and charged Colonel Ripper.
He swung his roaring buzzsaw in a circle, and the space around him exploded. The Blue Nasties and the Lonely Hearts weathered the scorching heat, the suffocating smoke, the dizzying vibrations, and the stinging fire and slashed him with everything they had.
Colonel Ripper didn’t bleed, bruise, or even stagger. He just shook his head. ‘I’m disappointed—’ Cuts opened up all over his body. He laughed. ‘In myself! Maybe I really am getting old! I couldn’t be prouder!’
Marilyn jumped up and down. ‘That’s my psychos! Get in there!’
Everyone dropped their slashing weapons. They were exhausted.
Colonel Ripper patted Jack and Sam on the head. ‘I’m particularly proud of you two. Schretcher, you used your brain, and Jacinto, you used your courage. You’re like the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion.’
Jack and Sam spoke together wearily. ‘Thank you, Colonel.’
‘Your combat training has ended, everyone. Feel free to collapse. The medics will take care of your wounds. As for me, I’ve got a few small fry slashers to take care of.’ He chuckled. ‘I bullied some of the little news networks into sending them over to just for the chaos factor. Real life isn’t orderly, so I don’t see why combat training should be.’
That son of a gun! thought Sam.
Colonel Ripper jogged towards the forest, stopped, and looked over his shoulder. ‘Make no mistake, the truce is off. The next time we meet each other, it will be as enemies.’ Then he disappeared into the forest.
‘You rest up, my lovelies!’ said Marilyn as she slapped the Aztec’s and the Hawaiian’s bottoms. ‘You’ll need your beauty sleep for what’s coming up! Next stop, the Big Five! Pigskin, Fubsy the Clown, Shark Man, the Cosmonaut, and finally Colonel Ripper himself! Fun, fun, fun!’
Sam walked up to Marilyn. ‘Before that, one thing….’ She raised her fist.
Marilyn held her hands in front of her. ‘Not the face!’
Sam punched her in the stomach.
Marilyn fell to her knees. ‘Th-thank you.’
Sam bent over her. ‘I’m not your pawn anymore. You’ve been using me up until now, but now I’m going to use you. I’ve decided I’m going to stay in the Blue Nasties and see the Death Game to its end, because as evil as you and the others may be, you are still my comrades in arms. I abandoned my police squad, they died for it, and I’ve been feeling lousy about it ever since, so I won’t abandon you guys no matter what. I’ll fight with you to the bitter end. Then when it’s all over, I’ll put a bullet in your heads like the mad dogs you are, because someone has to. To that end, I want the most advanced guns and armour that the United States Armed Forces has to offer. I don’t care if it goes against the slasher rules or whatever. I’m not a slasher; I’m a slasher hunter. You got that?’
Marilyn coughed and gave a thumbs up.
Sam turned to the others. ‘Any problems?’
Jack was twiddling his thumbs. He seemed to be unsure of what to do about Sam having just punched his girlfriend. ‘Could you…could you at least help her up and shake hands?’
Sam helped Marilyn up, took her hand, and shook it while smiling at the camera. ‘All’s well that ends well! This is Sam Jacinto from sunny San Antonio, signing off!’
The Plague Doctor leant close to Jack. ‘Glad she’s on our side.’
One by one, the Blue Nasties and the Lonely Hearts collapsed. Sam felt her adrenaline subside. The inside out world went outside in again. Something in the forest caught her eye: it was the giant feathered snake and the ghost animals; they were evaporating. The ghost animals were clapping for her.
The giant feathered serpent spoke. ‘WELL DONE, ANCESTOR! WELL DONE!’
Sam pointed at them with both hands and clicked her fingers. ‘Piece of cake.’
Then she collapsed onto cold concrete.
A giant in a black football uniform was blocking the road.
‘What’s the deal with this joker?’ said Chewie as he ate his brownie.
Chewie and his friends had been driving through the cornfields towards Austin University for their midnight college reunion when all of a sudden, this human roadblock had appeared. Getting Stan the Jock, Jennifer the Cheerleader, Tyson the Black Guy, and Nancy the Nerd together again had been like getting blood out of a stone, and Chewie the Fat Guy would be damned if he was going to let this jerk stand in the way of their nostalgic night out.
Chewie pressed the car horn. ‘Hey, idiot! Get off the road! This guy is ruining my good mood, man.’
The giant turned around. His skin was blackened with third-degree burns.
‘Eeew!’ said Jessica the Cheerleader.
Stan the Jock’s voice was monotone. ‘Turn the car around, Chewie.’
‘Why?’ said Chewie.
‘That’s Pigskin. He’s a slasher. He’s come to kill me for something bad I did to him in college. We need to go now.’
‘Aw, hell no!’ said Tyson the Black Guy. ‘I’ve seen enough horror movies to know where this is going! The brother always dies first! God damn!’
Nancy the Nerd smiled. ‘I never thought I’d be so happy to be a nerd.’
Chewie turned the car around and gunned it. ‘C’mon, c’mon, c’mon!’
He looked at Pigskin in the rear-view mirror: he wasn’t chasing them. It looked like he was setting down…was that a football? Pigskin kicked it. The football caught fire in the air and arced towards them.
Fire, agony, and darkness.