A Killer in the Caldera

Sam jacked up his injured leg and slammed the sole of his boot down on the eggs. The blue shells cracked. It took two more blows to shatter the thick rinds. Green yolk and slimy effluvia splattered up his pants leg. The nests lay under nearly every clump of greenery and the damn things weren’t even edible. The stuntman discovered that truth the morning they exited the tunnel into the caldera. One bite swelled his tongue until he choked and suffocated.

The situation went downhill from there.

The entertainment industry was a truly fucked up business, but the current endeavor reached a new plateau of bend-over-and-take-it-hard. If Sam walked out of this antediluvian chuckhole alive, a sentiment fast earning a thumbs-down outlook, he’d pocket one of those eggs and treat his bastard of an agent to a special omelet. The fuckwit had sold him a tankard of bullshit about his great return before the documentary camera. Yeah, nix that idea.

Two of the three days they’d trudged around inside the extinct volcanic pit had been spent crawling back to the tunnel mouth, only to discover the passage blocked by a landslide. It took zero effort to piece together the truth. The muted thump of helicopter blades drew their faces to the sky. The ghetto birds spiraled overhead like enormous vultures, shards of sunlight reflected from the bristle of expensive camera lenses, their sacrifice for science recorded on film.

Sam despised reality television and worse yet, it might make him a star again.

A babble of excited voices preceded the remainder of their expedition party. The half dozen men burst through the vegetation into the clearing, eyes wide, weighted down under the surviving equipment. They’d had to jettison most of the gear when the killing started.

The flesh-eating foliage cost them two porters but they learned to identify and avoid the fatal plants. The wildlife was another matter. The dinosaurs were domestically sized. Environmental constraints created a closed ecosystem unable to accommodate megafauna. As a biologist, Sam knew size didn’t alleviate risk. He’d underestimated the ferocity of the nocturnal species.

The largest breed was only bloody waist-high but demonstrated voracious appetites and fierce speed. They swarmed camp the first night, excising limbs with the rapacious snap of razor sharp teeth in jaws strong as hydraulic presses. Clack clack. Even the director gave a hand.

Twenty-four hours in they’d lost three men, sustained injuries, and the project was all but abandoned. On top of that bullshit, a human predator stalked the survivors with a silver blade. The killer slashed out from behind a tree, nearly decapitated the boom operator, and left them unable to properly record sound. A gut blow, delivered beside a twisted knot of root, eviscerated the lighting master.

Sam suspected the High-Indemnity-Release clause in his contract had been optioned. He studied the raw rock face and wondered if the side of the caldera was scalable. At twenty-five he would have done it with shirt torn wide and a thick hard-on displayed for the wide-angle focus on his crotch. He’d been a female fan favorite.

A scream jerked off and Sam listened to the barrage of curses that followed. Careful to avoid the gel-filled pustules ridged in a line on the underside of the branch, he thrust aside another fern frond. A row of blisters on his left forearm burned from yesterday. His thigh muscle was weak and the wound still seeped. The climb up the steep loose scree of the escarpment would make a good camera shot and though he was no hero, going down hard produced Hollywood buzz.

Sam crushed two more eggs and moved back into the sunlight. He ignored the tiny blue lizard-like creature darting across his path. The small ones stung. The larger sleek black-and-green striped biters were fast. Yellow eyes had peered from beneath the dense undergrowth and clued him to the fact the reptiles ate eggs. He’d removed the food source to buy time.

Sam flipped off the hovering helicopters and hoped the ultra-zoom lens showed the dried blood caked under his fingernails.

He was studying the collapsed cliff face when Josh approached. The boy’s scratched and bandaged hands marked the left little finger gone altogether. He’d been one of the lucky. Sam liked the kid. Freshly dropped out of college, the boy was a genius if you put a camera in his hands, and his first big break improved as the crew became dino-snacks.

“The director’s dead.” Josh dragged dirty fingers through his tousled black curls and winced. “I saw the killer, a man with red hair, swing this huge blade.”

Sam’s attention swiveled to Josh. “Small guy, with green eyes, and a scar on his chin?”

Josh’s mouth dropped open. He nodded.

“I told my motherfucking agent I wouldn’t work with Brad Doulton again.” Sam lurched into motion.

Josh stumbled along in his wake.

“He and I worked together on that disastrous Amazon series five years ago.” Sam spat the words over his shoulder as he charged toward the bedraggled film crew huddled in a circle. “Get up you lazy bastards.” Sam bared his teeth in a grin and pointed at the circling helicopters. “We’ve got a primetime rating in a hot new serial or they wouldn’t still be filming.”

Josh grabbed a camera. “What’s the shoot?”

“We feed Brad to our reptilian friends in front of the cameras and then climb to safety.”

Josh’s mouth gaped.

“Let me guess, you’re so green you failed to demand a Sudden-Death-Exemption clause in your contract?” Sam watched the boy’s face color. He slapped a hand over the narrow shoulder, he’d take Josh along. Hope burgeoned. They had a chance to turn this around and come out on top. Excitement burned through him. Sam was back in the game.

Flash Fiction Challenge: Revenge of the Sub-Genre Mash-Up @ www.terribleminds.com

  1. #1 by MISH on December 31, 2011 - 12:03 am

    Choc-full of adrenalin-pumping action… what a game!
    Hope you have a fabulous New Year!
    See you in 2012…

    • #2 by Leslie on December 31, 2011 - 12:51 am

      This has to be one of the more ridiculous flash fiction efforts I’ve made…the genre mash-ups are always hilarious.

      Thanks for visiting and the vote of confidence! Happy New Years to you too!

  2. #3 by Louise Sorensen on December 31, 2011 - 8:04 am

    Actually quite believable. Great story!

    • #4 by Leslie on December 31, 2011 - 3:19 pm

      That’s a frightening idea, isn’t it? Thanks for visiting, and for the comment. I always appreciate that.

      Happy New Year!

  3. #5 by Bridgette Booth on December 31, 2011 - 9:00 am

    I’m dropping in with no idea what a sub-genre mash-up is but. . . I’m completely intrigued with your story!

    Btw, you write a man’s pov very convincingly. I haven’t managed that skill yet.

    • #6 by Leslie on December 31, 2011 - 3:21 pm

      Thanks Bridgette!

      The flash fiction efforts are part of a challenge hosted over at Chuck Wendig’s site: http://www.terribleminds.com

      He posts a new flash challenge every Friday with a prompt and this week’s was to choose two from a selection of sub-genres and mash them together. I chose “Lost World” and “Slasher”…which may have been a mistake!

      Too funny – you should try one! There’s still time…

  4. #7 by oldestgenxer on January 3, 2012 - 7:39 pm

    This is the kind of crap I might have written, if I had picked those two sub-genres.
    Take that as a compliment.

    • #8 by Leslie on January 4, 2012 - 6:26 pm

      I WILL take that as a compliment. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  5. #9 by Casz Brewster on January 4, 2012 - 11:30 am

    This feels more like a serious attempt than I could have mustered. I really like it. Thanks for the fun read.

    • #10 by Leslie on January 4, 2012 - 6:31 pm

      Thanks Casz! This was one of those stories that would never have been written without the impetus of the subgenre mashing. That’s part of what makes these things so much fun…stretching the comfort zone. Glad you enjoyed the nonsense!

  6. #11 by Dave Versace on January 5, 2012 - 3:24 am

    Hey Lesann, I just wanted to drop a note to say this has been my favourite of the whole challenge so far. Great stuff, fun and great pacing.

    (But now I’m kind of embarrassed that I went Lost World/Serial Killer as well. It seems like a popular choice. Ah well) 🙂

    Cheers, Dave

    • #12 by Leslie on January 5, 2012 - 6:49 pm

      Thanks Dave!

      This was one of those stories that just burbled out…the sillier the easier, it seems. I think the appeal of dinosaurs and murderers is hard to pass up – I didn’t expect so many bodice rippers but I bet they’re funny. I’m planning to catch up on my reading later tonight. Thanks again!

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