“This motherfucker didn’t look like no Harry,” Jack coughed out the words. He had just taken a hit of the biggest joint Steve had ever seen. “Sure, I was on mushrooms that night, maybe had a few drinks too. But that fuckin’ thing looked scary man. A night just like this too.” He opened the front of their tent and breathed in the moist, forest air. The woods smelled like cedar and old man’s beard.
Steve sat up on his cot and motioned for the joint. He took three fast puffs and then held his breath. He exhaled and wheezed out, “Harry?”
“You never seen Harry and the Hendersons? Man, how old are you again?”
Steve didn’t bother responding. Jack knew how old he was. He also knew he had been raised without the benefit of TV. So what if he missed a little pop culture.
“That totally ruins my comparison now. Anyway, I never found Harry that intimidating, even when he was supposed to be scary.” Jack grabbed the joint back, “It’s puff-puff-pass, man. Come on! This is good shit, eh?”
Steve nodded his head. He had become quite the connoisseur of marijuana since he moved to the farm at the end of the school year. Every so often Jack would break out a mason jar of his private stuff; Head Cheez, Commander Noid, Green Bean, Sour Diesel, Ak-47. Each strain had its own pleasant odour and taste. He preferred the fuel-ish tastes of the diesel most of all.
“I’m telling you. Scariest moment of my life. I’m taking a piss over by the generators, cock in hand, and I hear a sound. A crack in the distance. Then something crashing through the woods towards me.” He took another haul off the joint and handed it back to Steve. “I’m thinking, for all the nights for rippers could have come, it’s a night when I’m fucked up like this. I left my goddamn shotty back on this cot right here, so the only gun I had was my dick and honestly that’s pretty useless against rippers.” Jack smirked. “Well, rippers of the male persuasion anyway.”
Steve laughed. Jack was about 50 years old and had spent pretty much all his life at the farms. His sexual exploits were legendary around the camp and like most legends, they were based in myth and misunderstanding. He always had a crazy story to tell. Which was good because Steve was so goddamn quiet.
“And sure enough, as quick as I noticed it, it stopped. And it was dead quiet. All I could hear was my piss tinklin—”
“You pissed through that?”
“Yeah, mostly on my leg though.” Jack paused like he was waiting for a rim-shot. “Here’s the thing, Rippers don’t usually go quiet. When they come, it’s fast and loud. That scares the shit outta old hippies I guess.”
“Old hippies like you?”
“I’m a well-armed old hippy.” Jack picked up his shotgun and pumped it a few times to empty the chamber. The red shells bounced off his cot and rolled off somewhere on the floor. He took a deep drag on the joint and filled his lungs till it was painful. “You… Put… Your… Mouth… Here…” Little puffs of smoke punctuated his words, as he moved the barrel of the shotgun to Steve’s mouth.
Steve put his lips on the cold steel barrel and Jack blew a lungful of smoke into the chamber of the shotgun. Steve inhaled deeply, taking the bluish haze into his lungs. The taste of the barrel acrid and sulfurous, like a 9 volt battery on his tongue.
Jack put the shotgun back down on his cot. “So. It’s quiet. Never heard it quieter. There’s always a certain level of ambient sound in the background out here, you know. But there was nothing. Just heavy silence.”
Jack was reliable. He reliably kept something burning between them for their entire conversation. Steve felt pleasant now. Twenty minutes of non-stop reefer would do that to you. There was a twinge of paranoia. It was deep in the back of his head buzzing. The story made the buzzing louder.
“You know me. I can’t be quiet at the best of times. Something about silence scares the shit outta me. I think I’ll only be silent when I’m dead.” Jack laughed and dropped what was left of the joint to the floor.
“Don’t say that,” Steve said.
“So I yelled out at the top of my lungs, ‘Hello’.” Jack stooped over to recover the roach. He fumbled around on the dark ground before rising again. “Still silent. Then. A howl. Maybe not a howl, more like a scream. I covered my ears and dropped to my knees…”
“Then what?” Steve was eager for the resolution. Sometimes he thought that Jack just liked to tell stories that involved his cock in some way. He hoped this wasn’t one of those stories.
Jack moved the shotgun and sat down on his cot. He took a big haul off the joint. Its cherry glowed a neon red. He exhaled a massive cloud of smoke and looked lovingly at the roach between his fingers. “The woods beg—”
Jack’s faced disappeared in a red haze.
Steve heard the crack of the rifle a second later. He couldn’t tell where it was coming from. He froze. He couldn’t get off his cot.
Jack rolled around and gurgled like a baby. The bullet that smashed into his face laid his features to waste. It transcribed a path from beneath his heavy jaw and through the roof of his mouth. The slug smashed its way into his nasal cavity and exited through his nose. In the end it left him without a tongue and a gaping hole that was a parody of mouth.
Jack reached out to Steve, gurgled at him and coughed. Blood mixed with mucous flowed freely from his face. Steve squeezed his eyes shut. He couldn’t look at old Jack anymore. Dude survived Vietnam only to get his face blown off in British Columbia.
A second shot hit Jack neatly on the temple and blew the remainder of the right side of his face off.
Steve moved then.
And bounded over Jack’s cot.
But not fast enough.
A third shot hammered into the small of his knee and exploded out the front accented by tiny shards of bone and torn sinew.
He screamed in pain and dropped straight backwards landing on top of Jack. The corpse burped as some air trapped inside its belly was forced violently out. Steve clutched at what was left of his knee and rolled under the cot.
It was bad. He knew it when he looked down. His leg was damn near severed and seemed only to be held together by a gristle of sinew and cartilage. And the pain. The pain. No position would bring relief.
Steve sobbed quietly under the cot. He couldn’t run away now. He laid on his side and stared at what was left of Jack’s face. He could make out what looked like an eye in the mess. It was glazed over and milky. Death’s eye.
He heard noise in the woods. Steve did a roll-call in his head. There were three others but it was their night off and they were off in town running mad like sailors on shore leave. They wouldn’t hear the shots over the raucous at the local tavern.
It was just Steve and Jack tonight.
A figure in black khakis burst into the tent and kicked the cot over. He had a rifle strapped to his back and a glock in his hand.
Steve quivered on the floor.
Black Khakis reached down and grabbed Steve by the hair and dragged him out of the tent. Steve held the man by the wrist but didn’t struggle. His brain had become numb to pain as he lost more blood from his wounded leg. Still, he didn’t want his scalp to be torn from his head.
Another black khakis appeared and dragged Jack’s corpse out of the tent by one of his skinny old man legs. Jack’s head left a trail like a slug as it bumped its way across the forest floor.
“There’s only two of them, Boss. Told you this would be a cinch,” Black Khakis said.
Boss dropped Jack’s leg and replied, “That one you got still breathin’?” He motioned towards Steve’s sad little body, all balled up and shivering wildly on the ground.
“Yeah. You want to do him?” Black Khakis punctuated his question with a swift kick to Steve’s ribs. The steel-toed combat boots cracked and splintered them like matchsticks. Steve didn’t seem to mind. He shook more.
Boss stepped forward and pulled a pistol from his belt.
Two shots later, Steve was missing his face too.