Chapter 40:




I lost!

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘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?’

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

Mammoth was stunned.

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

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

‘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?!’

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

‘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.

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

Sam Jacinto and Lobo leapt backwards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

He swung his giant spear down with all his strength.

A flash of flame.

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

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.

Jack Schretcher!

The Lumberjack!

The new Governor of Texas!

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

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

‘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.’

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

‘I don’t think so.’

‘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!’

‘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?’

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

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.’

They stared at each other for a long moment.

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

‘I'm sure you could.’

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

‘Jack!’ said Puck.

Sam Jacinto and Lobo raised their sonic shotguns at Mammoth.

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

Mammoth drew back his giant spear.

Then he put it down.

‘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.’


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

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?’