Gibber Cleanup

Professor glanced at her book splayed over the railing. It had taken her some time to actually mount the thing, and even after that, the wind had kept blowing her page so she always lost where she was. So much for reading while waiting for Trapper. She did admit that the railing that he had built was nice and homely, considering he only had a week to build it. Spacious too.

She toed a tackle box full of triggers aside, reaching down for a sandbag. With a small grunt of exertion, the second member of the Turtle outfit hefted a ten-pound sandbag on her book. That would serve nicely as a paperweight. Soon she’d be able to read all she wanted about Louisiana hoodoo, even if that avenue seemed to hold no hints the Gibbers.

The warder delicately gripped a page between her fingers, then jerked her eyes up. Trapper always showed up when she was about to start reading, and she wasn’t going to fall for it this time.

She intently scanned the treeline surrounding the ranch. Beneath her little crow’s nest, there was nothing but the house with a broken window. However, the surrounding field definitely was not devoid of features.

Beside the homestead, there was a slightly run down barn. The Turtle outfit had avoided it for the week they were working there as the stench was nauseating. Summer heat and burst horse corpses did not a nice combination make. Around one hundred yards in every direction from the house, small patches of overturned dirt made the ranch resemble a gopher’s paradise. Perhaps Trapper was actually just a gopher in disguise. Large pipes, piles of gravel, and other construction supplies were also sprinkled around the house.

Professor took her glasses off, stuffing them casually into her back pocket. From around her neck, she pulled a pair of binoculars up and scanned the treeline.

She squinted and shifted her weight.

Odd, Trapper hadn’t shown up yet. The warder felt a familiar knot of tension build inside her gut as she continued to search restlessly.

“Man…”, she muttered, “and I know that if I stop looking he’s going to burst out of that treeline and scold me for not seeing him.”

Another rotation, staring at tree trunks.

“Can’t ever read while we’re out,” she complained.

The woman shifted her weight again. She produced a small stopwatch from her pocket and read the timer. Almost up. She pressed her lips together.

This is cutting it a bit fine, isn’t it Maurice?

Then, she saw motion in the underbrush from the direction of the barn. Scarcely breathing, she jerked her binoculars up and stared. And waited.

Then a short, greying man dressed in an orange hunter’s vest broke into the clearing. He was wildly waving around a pistol that wasn’t his and breathing rather heavily. Trapper.

Professor dropped her binoculars back around her neck and let out a breath. Her shoulders sagged in naked relief.

Right then, time for work, she thought. Her face brightened as she began whistling a Bach tune.

The warder picked up a shotgun that was leaning against the balustrade and shouldered it with practiced ease. She double checked that her sabot slugs were loaded and that she had an ample supply beside her foot. Running out of ammo was never really a fun prospect. Particularly when dealing with something as visually striking as gibbers.

Professor looked down her sights, drawing a bead where Trapper had made his way out of the forest. Finally, she rested the barrel atop the sandbag and her book. Shooting at a hundred yards in light wind with a shotgun wasn’t the easiest. She withdrew her glasses and settled them on her nose.

Prof was more than up for the challenge.

Then she stopped.

Oh crap, that’s right.

Professor grimaced and blindly groped behind herself with one hand. Finally, she clutched one ear of a set of yellow construction earmuffs and clumsily shoved them over her ears. Now she was ready to shoot.

She spared a quick second to glance at Trapper, who was nimbly zigzagging across the open field. Or—more accurately—leapfrogging across conspicuously placed baseball tiles that he had acquired God-knows-where.

She returned her attention to the underbrush where Trapper had burst out from. Safety flipped. The breeze rustled some leaves under the treeline. Or was it the breeze? Professor could hear herself whistling. And her heartbeat.

Something burst out of the treeline. Empty simian eyes pierced her and haunting rhythmic hooting punched a tattoo into her eardrums, threatening her very sanity.

Then the gibber’s head exploded.

The reanimated chimp cadaver sallied out of the bush, the rider hanging listlessly. The mount continued grotesquely crawling, clearly indifferent. In an organized fashion, the remainder of the troop burst out of the treeline, making a beeline for the homestead. They were running damn near single-file, so that made Prof’s job a hell of a lot easier.

She lined up another shot, picking off the head of another gibber rider. The rider again slumped, but the crab-walking mounts again appeared to not notice. No skin off her back, but the way Prof’s shots were just being ignored slightly sapped at her motivation.

Nonetheless, before the gibber entourage of twenty had reached the sixty-yard line, not one of the riders remained with a head.

That did not seem to inconvenience the gibbers in any way. Professor wrinkled her nose in distaste. A galloping gibber was a specimen of disjointed, twitchy movements made into desiccated flesh. The new addition of half-coagulated blood, brain, and hair did not make the gibber mounts appear any more appealing.

Professor pushed aside her disgust for a second and returned her attention to her more objective observations. Carefully putting her shotgun down and flicking the safety, she patted herself up and down for a sheaf of paper.

Prof wrinkled her brow and scoffed. She never had so much as a legal pad when she needed it. At least she found her pencil. The Warder hunched over the open book she had and began scribbling in the margins.

Rumor that the gibbers do not need the rider’s head is confirmed. Noticing that the riders are still tightly clutching their makeshift armaments, however.

Her writing was interrupted by a muffled pop. Prof glanced over to see that the first mount had encountered one of Trapper’s nasty little “toe-poppers”.

The first gibber had stopped at the boundary line around forty yards away from the house. That was where the construction site and gopher holes began.

A small molehill of dirt and fingers had been kicked up and Prof could see the conga line of gibbers had stopped. The lead mount, whose rider had been the first to decapitated via slug, was eyeing its front paw. Or what was left of it.

The mount slowly looked up, directly at Prof. The aberrant tilted its upside-down face until the empty sockets—no, not empty, full of teeth—bored into her chest. She saw the muzzle mouth some whispering invectives for what seemed to be an eternity. Prof felt a sudden, morbid curiosity to remove her earmuffs and listen to what the aberrants were saying.

Like Odysseus to the sirens, huh? Prof laughed.

However, she wasn’t an idiot, and instead fished out a remote control from the tackle box. It looked like it belonged to a toy motor car. Prof certainly felt that way as she pulled an antenna out of its niche and thumbed a joystick.

Sitting beside a pile of gravel, a pipe about as large as the gibbers were tall started rotating. It was a large, metal affair, with one end blocked up with concrete and a sheet of metal on the other. With the speed expected of a motor that was built using remote control car parts, the metal sheet end of the pipe slowly turned towards the gibbers. They were helpfully standing still.

She dully registered the attic door below her opening and slamming. Good, Trapper was back. He probably isn’t even wearing earmuffs. She waited until his gray hair peeked out of the attic before she pulled the trigger taped to the back of the controller.

A terrific explosion rocked the pipe, muted by her ear protection. A plume of dust covered the area around the pipe and where the gibber mounts were standing. Prof would have to wait for that to clear up, so she turned her attention to Trapper, expecting the stout man to have fallen down the ladder. Quite the opposite, the older Warder was breathing heavily, but very much in the crow’s nest. Prof spotted the yellow foam earplugs in Trapper’s ear and tried to mask her disappointment.

The founder of Turtle outfit very clearly saw said disappointment but didn’t deign to give Prof the satisfaction. What a child. He turned his attention to the dust cloud.

It slowly dispersed, revealing metal and dried flesh scattered like fall leaves. Trapper allowed himself a rare smile. He didn’t have an unlimited amount of explosives, so using it in a smart way was imperative. Thus, the pipe shotgun.

In addition, pits had appeared all around the house. Sometimes Trapper felt like an oversized gopher.

“Trap, are you sure they aren’t going to climb out of those pits?” Professor pulled a flare gun out of her holster, keeping an eye on three gibber mounts beating a hasty retreat.

Trapper shook his head a smidge.

“Spikes.”

Professor nodded. Trapper thought of everything, huh. She took careful aim with the flare gun and angled it slightly upwards. It fired, sending a flare just ahead of the gibbers and landing perfectly in front of them. A ring of homemade napalm flared up around the homestead, cutting off the aberrants’ escape.

Trapper deeply inhaled the scent. Then he picked up a can of gasoline and a shovel, beckoning Professor to follow.

She stared at him.

“I’m not heading down there yet. They’re still alive, y’know,” she said, eyes narrowing expectantly.

Trapper gave her an innocent look. She held out her hand.

The older man huffed. It looked quite strange with his scruffy beard. He then produced a pistol from inside his bright orange vest and held it out. Prof nodded at him agreeably and took the pistol. Trapper didn’t let go for several seconds as she tried to pry it from his grip.

“Oh no, not this one too,” Prof scolded. “You owe me one for the elephant snake, Maurice.”

He relented, letting Professor get her own gun back. She checked it for scratches, frowned at how the safety of the gun was off and turned back to the gibbers. Then, with several well-aimed shots, she downed the three gibber mounts struggling before the ring of napalm.

“Unbelievable. Greedy old bastard. Couldn’t even hit the broad side of a barn,” she muttered.

Trapper grunted, again pointing down. Prof turned, similarly grunted, and Turtle outfit headed down for their favorite part of the job.

Cleanup.

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