Chapter 40:



TWO YEARS LATER (1991)Bookmark here

I lost! Bookmark here

Mammoth crept up on the Chaperone Ice Rink, using the night as cover. Bookmark here

Puck and her new hockey team the San Antonio Snakes were meeting the press in the parking lot. They were celebrating their zero to three defeat against the Austin Armadillos. Though they’d lost the match, Puck had knocked out the enemy team's mascot after the game, which as far as they were concerned, was a cause for celebration. Puck was whizzing about the parking lot on her roller skates laughing.Bookmark here

I’m supposed to be the strongest in the Horror Universe, yet I lost to this runt! How is that possible?!Bookmark here

After the Data Centre had collapsed on him, Mammoth had been knocked unconscious. By the time he’d come to and clawed his way out of the rubble, the Death Game was over and the Lumberjack had been declared the Number One Slasher. Word had it that Puck had quit the Death Game out of a sense of loyalty to the Lumberjack, which as far as Mammoth was concerned meant that Puck was really the Number One Slasher. The Blue Meanies had gone underground after that, keeping Mammoth from finding Puck for two years. Then he'd noticed one Sidney Gretzky playing hockey on the TV. Bookmark here

Mammoth shook his head. It must have been a fluke! I’ll crush that runt here and now and be done with it!Bookmark here

He slinked through the sea of parked cars until he was within throwing range of Puck. Then he aimed his giant spear.Bookmark here

‘Are you really that scared of her?’ said a feminine voice behind him. ‘She’s four foot nothing.’Bookmark here

Mammoth whirled around to find Sam Jacinto and Lobo standing behind him. They were wearing black suits and had bemused expressions on their faces.Bookmark here

‘What?!’ said Mammoth. ‘How did you notice me?!’Bookmark here

Sam Jacinto rolled her eyes. ‘You have the body shape of a boulder, Mammoth. Stealth isn’t exactly your strong suit.’Bookmark here

Lobo laughed and spoke in a growling voice. 'Elephant think he mouse.'Bookmark here

‘Listen,’ said Sam Jacinto, ‘this is a special night for Puck. She’s given up being a slasher to pursue a full-time hockey career. This was her first match. We don’t want her getting back into bad habits, so could you please come along with us quietly? Lobo and I promise we won’t hurt you. We’re civil servants now; part of the Agency of Slasher Hunters. No blades, just a nice mug of hot chocolate and some therapy later. Waddaya say?’Bookmark here

Lobo held out a steaming mug. 'No more law of jungle. Hibernate now.'Bookmark here

Mammoth was stunned.Bookmark here

Puck called over to them. ‘What’s going on over there, Mountie?!’Bookmark here

‘Nothing, Puck!’ said Sam. ‘Just a straggler from the Death Game! We’ll handle it! You just have fun!’Bookmark here

‘Wait, is that Mammoth?! Well, melt my igloo, I haven’t seen you in forever! Stop creeping around like a pervert and let me buy you a brewski! You don’t still eat people, right?!’Bookmark here

Mammoth gritted his teeth. They’re mocking me! They think I’m weak! They’re mocking me!Bookmark here

‘Zone Special: Woolie Warrior!’ Mammoth grew in size until he was as big as a truck. He swung his giant spear in a circle around him, ripping the surrounding cars to shreds. Bookmark here

The reporters and camera operators screamed and ran in all directions.Bookmark here

Sam Jacinto and Lobo leapt backwards.Bookmark here

‘Active slasher!’ said Sam Jacinto. ‘Weapons hot!’Bookmark here

They both summoned futuristic-looking shotguns out of thin air and fired at him.Bookmark here

Sonic blasts burst Mammoth's eardrums and knocked him down, but he batted the slasher hunters away with the flat of his giant spear. Bookmark here

Fighting through the stinging pain, he got back up and stampeded towards Puck. Bookmark here

He raised his giant spear over his head for a devastating downward strike. ‘Let’s see you dodge this!’Bookmark here

Puck shrugged and grinned. ‘I tried being a nice guy for once! Zone Technique: Ice Queen! Zone Technique: Cold Iron!’ Bookmark here

Her skin became ice armour, a crown of ice horns grew out of her head, and the end of her bladed hockey stick started steaming with liquid nitrogen. Bookmark here

It was just like before, only this time, Mammoth would come out on top! Bookmark here

He swung his giant spear down with all his strength.Bookmark here

A flash of flame.Bookmark here

Something stopped Mammoth’s giant spear an inch short of hitting Puck’s head.Bookmark here

Someone was holding his weapon by the shaft in one hand. It was a burning man with a mop of blonde hair in a grey suit. Bookmark here

Jack Schretcher! Bookmark here

The Lumberjack!Bookmark here

The new Governor of Texas! Bookmark here

‘I’d be a shame to ruin such a pleasant night with violence,’ said the Lumberjack with a smile.Bookmark here

Mammoth huffed. ‘Out of my way, Lumberjack! This has nothing to do with you! This is between me and the runt!’Bookmark here

‘Well, you’re in my state, so I’m afraid it has everything to do with me. Listen, Mammoth, I don’t know what’s going through your head right now, but if you’re anything like I was two years ago, you probably want to become the Number One Slasher. You probably think that achieving that will bring you some measure of fulfilment and peace. Trust me, it doesn’t. Strength is meaningless unless it’s put to good use. How’s about instead of ambushing hockey players in ice rink parking lots, you do something useful? There are a lot of fatherless young boys on the reservations. They’re lost. How’s about you use that strength of yours to teach them how to be men? I mean if I can be rehabilitated, there’s no reason you can’t.’Bookmark here

‘What is this drivel?!’ said Mammoth. ‘You want me to give up the path of Kiviuq for babysitting?! Ridiculous!’ Bookmark here

‘I don’t think so.’Bookmark here

‘Then let me put it in a way even a fool like you can understand: a warrior who never draws his sword becomes a coward!’Bookmark here

‘True, but a warrior who never sheathes his sword becomes a monster. How about a compromise? There are plenty of threats to the Horror Universe in the wider Multiverse, Cthulu to name but one. How about you take those fatherless young boys, teach them to use the Zone, and lead them as the chief of band of warriors to defend the universe?’Bookmark here

Mammoth couldn't believe what he was hearing. ‘You want me to take on Cthulu? You’re mad.’Bookmark here

The Lumberjack shrugged and smiled. ‘I killed the King in Yellow, but if it’s too much of a challenge for you, by all means, back out.’Bookmark here

They stared at each other for a long moment.Bookmark here

‘I could cut your head off right now,’ said Mammoth.Bookmark here

‘I'm sure you could.’ Bookmark here

The Lumberjack let go of Mammoth's giant spear. His fire went out; he'd deactivated his Zone.Bookmark here

‘Jack!’ said Puck.Bookmark here

Sam Jacinto and Lobo raised their sonic shotguns at Mammoth.Bookmark here

‘Hold it, ladies.' Jack stretched out his free hand. 'Let the man make his choice.’Bookmark here

Mammoth drew back his giant spear.Bookmark here

Then he put it down.Bookmark here

‘I’m leaving this insane universe for good,' he said. 'Everyone here is either a weakling or a freak. I've been meaning to travel to the rest of the Multiverse to a real challenge anyway. Zone Special: Dungeon Gate.’Bookmark here

*Bookmark here

A medieval-looking basement door materialised on the ground. Mammoth clambered in and slammed it behind him. The basement door dematerialised. Bookmark here

Jack turned to Puck, Sam, and Lobo with a grin. ‘Would you look at that? Two slashers coming to a peaceful resolution through conservation. Guess an old wolf can learn new tricks. Been a while since I’ve seen you guys. Want to catch a coffee?’Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.