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It Can't End Like This
"Latch Johnson....last of the real mountain men..." he said, under his breath.
He let out a giggle at his own joke. He was tall and raw-boned, blond hair sticking out from under his battered
fedora. He looked more like a back woods hillbilly than a mountain man. Hell...he'd lived in
Montana's high country pretty near all of his life and, as far as he knew, he was the ONLY
mountain man in these parts. He hadn't met anyone face to face in more than 5 years...no
"mountain men" anyway. Sure, he'd seen the jerks who came up on the highline to hunt, but
they sure as hell weren't anyone he cared to know.
He coughed and wheezed...the thin mountain air biting into his lungs as he made his way up the
Latch had first heard the noises two nights ago. High up on the mountain and just to the left of
Beartooth Pass. He figured it was just another bunch of city-folk out getting drunk and shooting
innocent pop cans for fun, so he hadn't thought much more about it. Single shots, sometimes in
twos and threes, echoed around the canyons, closely followed by Indian war-whoops
and drunken laughter. However, even boneheads don't go shooting in the dead of night....
The shooting had started just after three o'clock in the morning and no laughter this time....only
screams. Not manly shouts of rage...oh no....these were real, full-blown,
blood-curdling shrieks. It sounded like those boys were filling their pants with the runny green shit of the Truly Scared.
Latch had headed out shortly after the gunfire had stopped and was just now making
his way up the pass. He'd been walking for about 3 hours now and he knew they had to be close....he could
smell the gunpowder residue still in the air. He gripped his 30-.06 a little tighter and decided he'd
better keep his eyes peeled. There was no sense in running into a problem....sneaking up on it,
real quiet-like....that was the ticket.
Dawn was lighting the ridgeline and he was able to make better time now. He thought he saw a
reflection through the trees ahead. He quickly moved off of the trail, sliding up against a large
cedar tree. Keeping his eyes on the spot where he'd seen the glint, he knelt slowly and reached for
his binoculars. His knee sank into the half-frozen mud as he panned back and forth....searching
for the source of the reflection. There it was again!....a single flash....maybe
a signal mirror?....It looked like there was some movement back in the brush.
Then Latch saw a figure stumble out of the treeline. It was a man. He was wearing mirrored
sunglasses and every time he turned his head in Latch's direction, the rising sun caught the glasses
with a golden flash. He was wearing your standard hunting clothes - flannel shirt, jeans, boots, and
a down-filled vest. He wasn't watching where he was going too well though. He seemed damned
worried about something that was behind him and looked backward more than forward as he
stumbled down the trail.
Latch panned the binoculars in the direction the young man had come from and saw more
movement in the woods. Some kind of animal maybe....low to the ground and dark colored. It
moved out of the trees and into the clearing, spotting the hunter stumbling along
"Jesus Christ!" Latch hissed. He didn't know what to think. He simply watched as the situation
demanded....helpless to do otherwise....shocked to the core of his spleen. His heart was beating
like a jack-hammer and the blood roared in his ears. The binoculars revealed a creature that was
no relation to anything on Earth.
It held itself low to the ground and was about three feet tall at the shoulder and about ten feet
long. Its arms and legs splayed out from its body like a huge lizard....and there were five of them
- two on each side and one protruding from the centre of its chest. The "chest-arm" pointed
straight ahead and wove back and forth like a second head. The head!....Oh Gods!....The head was
tiny....hardly larger than its neck....with the features all smashed together and mashed onto the
very end. Latch thought it looked a lot like a sloth....and a damned ugly sloth at that. Looking
closely, Latch could see that its colouring wasn't fur, as he had first thought.
Its skin was a dark grey color and looked thick and leathery....like the hide of an elephant.
No tail....but Latch could see a very human set of "franks and beans" hanging from between the powerful legs.
"Freakin' lizard-men from Mars," he whispered. Latch felt a little light-headed and had to fight
off the insanity of the situation. Deep down, Latch was afraid he was becoming unhinged....but
then the proof was right there in front of him. The guy with the sunglasses was about a hundred
yards away and coming on fast. He was blubbering like a little girl and Latch could see the
dark stain where he'd wet himself. Looking back, he saw the lizard thing and began screaming in
earnest again....praying for someone to save him....help him.
He watched as the lizard-man put on a burst of speed and charged the hunter. Ole Mirror Shades
got about six steps before he went down under the writhing ball of grey. Latch was expecting
carnage, but the lizard-man simply slapped Mirror Shades up 'side the head a few times until he
shut up (read: passed out), then he slung him over his back and began to trot back to
Moving the binoculars back up to the trees, Latch saw several more of the creatures waiting and
watching. Two of them raised their ugly little heads and made a sort of whinnying sound. The
lizard-man carrying the hunter moved into the trees and uttered a coughing grunt that seemed to
speak volumes to his buddies. They set off at a gallop and Latch could follow them
only intermittently....moving through the trees towards a huge clearing covered by the overhang of a
cliff. There seemed to be more of them there ....maybe three or four more....it was too far away to
Latch raised the binoculars and fiddled with the focus. It looked like....
yes.... four more of the lizard things were waiting for the others to return. There seemed to be something under the
overhang of the cliff but it was still in shadow. Since they were about four hundred yards away,
Latch decided to risk moving up the trail to get a better view. He kept to the trees and moved
around the clearing, coming up onto a hill that gave him a much better view of the lizard-man
camp and their.....ship.
"Well, by the four bells of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph....a real live
spaceship," Latch mumbled. His rifle slipped from nerveless fingers and hit the ground. A single shot exploded into the air and
brought him out of his daze. He raised the glasses and looked to see what effect it had had on the
Two were pointing in his direction....the others were on their way down the mountain.
"Aw shit!" Latch groaned, "I think I just screwed the pooch big time....."
Latch dropped the binoculars and they fell hard against his chest, the strap digging into his neck
as he reached for his fallen rifle. This can't be real, he thought.... then began chanting it like some
But, he knew this mountain, dammit! Nobody or no....thing....was going to catch him. He looked
back over his shoulder checking for signs of pursuit, but he'd stumbled into the woods and the
trees blocked any real view. He turned and began thrashing his way through the brush, trying not
to think about what was behind him.
His quasi-controlled fall down the mountain suddenly turned into a genuine, ass-over-tin can,
rolling sprawl, as a hidden tree root grabbed his left ankle and threw him into the air. Latch
managed to slow himself somewhat by strategically dragging his face and chest against several tree
trunks on the way down. Finally, he jammed his rifle into the muddy ground, stopping his
forward progress....and completely stopping up the barrel. No time to clear it now. It had, in effect, now
become useful only as a club.
He checked himself and surveyed the damage. Aside from a few throbbing spots that would soon
blossom into Technicolor bruises, nothing seemed broken. He started to rise and saw a flash of
movement in his peripheral vision. He turned slowly and froze.
Not 50 feet away, one of the lizard-men crouched....staring. He wasn't looking for Latch, though.
He'd FOUND him. The alien was motionless.... expressionless. He simply stared.
Latch backed slowly away. His rifle was no good with the barrel full of mud, besides, he didn't
really want to piss these lizard-guys off. He didn't know how many were close by and he hadn't
seen them kill anything so far...so he'd just have to wait and see what happened.
He heard a muffled coughing sound from behind him and spun around, finding himself face-to
face with one of the aliens. Fear overrode reasoning as Latch threw his rifle at it, a scream rising in
his throat. He fell backward and tried to scoot on his ass away from the alien standing over him.
The alien had caught Latch's rifle in mid-air and was examining it with interest. It was
standing....after a fashion....with its two hind legs splayed out and the leg in the middle of
its chest extended to the ground and supporting its upper body. From his position on the ground,
Latch could see that the alien was a male....and a lucky one, by human standards.
The alien had apparently decided that Latch's rifle was of no use, since it tossed it aside after
bending the barrel to a 45 degree angle. His chest-leg bent backwards, lowering the upper body
down to the ground and he moved towards Latch.
There was nowhere for Latch to go. His back was pressed firmly up against a large tree and his
fear had, in effect, completely paralysed him. He saw two more lizard-men emerge from the trees
to join the one moving towards him. He heard a rustling from his rear that told him that there
were more aliens behind him too. The leader, if it was the leader, now crouched directly in from
of him. It tilted its head and looked him over. There was absolutely no expression on
its face....none at all. Now that he was so close, Latch could see that its eyes were lidless and didn't seem to have
any whites....just solid, black orbs sitting in red-rimmed sockets. The nose was just two
runny-looking slits in the front of its face with frilly appendages that fluttered
with each breath. The mouth was very small and oval with wide-spread, needle-sharp teeth that were visible only
intermittently. It moved closer and its breath rolled over Latch like a moist, stinking, fog.
It lowered its chest leg, supporting its upper body, and raised its left
hand.... palm up towards Latch.
As Latch looked down at the alien's left hand, the right came sweeping in and cuffed him twice up
side the head....hard. Latch was unconscious before he could even register the pain.
Latch awoke feeling like he had a king-sized hangover. His head was throbbing and his neck
itched something terrible. He tried to scratch it, but found that his hands were
immobilized....actually, his whole body refused to obey any commands. He could move his head
around and was surprised to see that there were no ropes around him....nothing seemed to be
That's strange....He tried to say....then realized that no sound had come out. The front of his
throat itched just like the back of his neck and Latch figured they must have given him some kind
of a drug to keep him quiet and immobile. He could still see though, and looked around the
Off to his left he saw two men...paralysed just as he was, and looking at him. Their eyes were wide
with fear and they silently pleaded with him to DO SOMETHING! Latch didn't know how many
of them had been here originally. He'd heard the shooting and seen them grab the one guy with
the mirrored shades, but all he could see right now was the two in front of him....helpless
as kittens...helpless as he himself was....
Latch, and the two other men, lay in a slight depression which kept them from seeing what went
on in the middle of the camp. They could hear a strange sound....a rhythmic hissing, sometimes
short, sometimes long and drawn out. Latch thought it must be some form of language, but it was
like none he'd ever heard.
Suddenly, a lizard-man appeared from over the rise and looked over the three men. He picked up
the nearest guy, slung him over his shoulder, and carried him away. As he was leaving, Latch
could see the bloody cuts in the man's neck. Two deep slices, one in front and one in back.
Gaping, lipless wounds that failed to bleed. Latch realized what it meant and paled. The
aliens had cut the spinal cord and sliced the larynx so they could neither move nor make a sound. Latch was
sure he pissed himself at that point....but he couldn't feel it.
The lizard-man returned and picked him up like a sack of potatoes and slung him over his
shoulder. Latch could feel bones grinding together in his neck, but there was no pain. He tried to
scream and made another connection...all that came out was a long, drawn out, hissing sound. At
least he knew what the noises he'd heard earlier were. Oh god...He thought....This can't be
He was dropped in the centre of the camp. There were seven aliens there.... each one crouched over
a different man. They were pulling the men apart.... piece by piece. Some started on the
hands....some on the feet....but they were all intent on dissecting their prizes. The
hissing was like a roomful of broken steam pipes as the men tried to scream out their horror. Their heads
flailed from side to side...well, the ones that were living flailed. Some seemed,
already, mercifully dead.
Latch watched as the lizard man who had brought him up here extended his chest-leg and freed up
his hands for the task ahead.
Latch saw the alien lift up his arm and examine it. There was absolutely no sensation whatsoever
as the lizard-guy turned his arm this way and that. Latch noticed that the alien's hand were very
human looking....except they had an extra thumb on the opposite side of their hand.
Horny-looking nails capped the strong blunt fingers and Latch watched as they made their way
down his arm to his hand. The alien gripped his wrist in its left hand and examined his fingers
individually with its right. The alien took his forefinger and bent it quickly back until it touched
Jesus!...NO!...Latch thought....as he hissed out a silent scream. There was no pain at all, but that
made it even more macabre. Why was this happening?.... How could he stop this nightmare?....God, Please!
The alien was dispassionately twisting the finger back and forth. Latch could hear the broken
knuckle grating in its socket, but was helpless to do anything about it. The alien grabbed hold of
the finger and, with a twisting motion, pulled it off....blood spattered the ground as the tendons
snapped like rubber bands and twisted like living things against his palm. The alien leaned forward
and spit a stream of mucus into the hole where his finger had been, and it immediately stopped
spewing blood. Latch mewed out a rasping hiss in response.
The alien looked at him with disinterest and began to dissect the finger....pulling it apart with
its horny nails to expose the glistening white bones beneath. It touched the bloody offering to
its forked tongue and let out a muffled coughing sound. The other aliens looked up to see what was
going on....then went about their own grisly, bloody business. Latch closed his eyes tightly and
prayed for an end to the horror.
He felt a tug and heard a sound like someone crushing a handful of celery. He opened his eyes to
see his whole hand separating from his arm. The alien was twisting it back and forth and pulling.
His fingers were curled into a twisted claw as the tendons and ligaments were pulled taut....then it
began to tear loose. Huge gouts of blood boiled out of the torn flesh as the alien
pulled the hand completely off the arm. The alien then leaned forward again and calmly spit a huge, phlegmy ball
of mucus onto the stump to stop the bleeding.
Latch hissed out another silent scream as sanity, mercifully, fled his body....
leaving the lizard men to their bloody examinations.
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