Beth flipped idly through the magazine, letting out an occasional sigh.
“Oh, but I am bored!” She exclaimed, tossing the magazine onto the coffee table.
It had been about a fortnight since the Postmaster had called on her. Inspiration for writing had been infuriatingly slow in coming. Try as she might, she couldn’t coax a decent idea from the swirling labyrinth of her subconscious. So, she had merely loafed around, doing a few odd jobs around town or hiking the unearthly red rock.
Even her cat, Balrog, seemed unnaturally placid. It lay stretched on the windowsill, not even bothering to bat at dust particles as they floated lazily by.
“You’re bored stiff.” Beth said. “I can tell. If you were a dog, I’d take you on a walk.”
The cat let out a drawn-out meow, stretched, and rolled over. The sun caught its dark reddish-black fur, making it look like it was glowing.
“Fine. Be that way.”
She cast a hesitant glance at the device the Postmaster had sent her. Just when was he going to call on her for another mission? She had expected something sooner, an update, anything really.
“I didn’t endure freaky tree carvings to get put on the shelf.” She said resolutely. “I’m gonna give the Postmaster a call.”
Balrog meowed approvingly and hopped off the windowsill. It curled up on her lap as she tapped the screen of the device. Just as it hummed to life, someone knocked on her door. She sighed, nudged Balrog off her lap, and pocketed the device.
“Well, let’s see what it is this time.”
She trotted to the door and peaked through the side window. She couldn’t help but gape.
“Nou, what the heck are you doing here?” She exclaimed as she opened the door.
“Surprise! Postmaster send Nou get Beth. Says on way to Beth and Nou’s next mission!”
“Eh, but- wait a sec- what?”
“Nou explain. Beth pack.”
Beth nodded numbly. “Yeah, sure. Come in.”
Nou looked around the living room approvingly. “Beth have nice house!” His eyes lit up when he saw Balrog. “Beth have kitty! Not tell Nou Beth have kitty.”
Beth smiled. “I didn’t know you liked cats.”
“Nou love cats! Nou had cat once. Nou’s cat very good cat- eat little snakes. Protect Nou from snakes.”
“I see. You just stay here with Balrog- keep talking to me. I can hear you from my room.” Beth left for her room, motioning for Nou to sit down.
Nou nodded and settled down on the couch. “Kitty come to Nou!” He said cheerily. “Nou will pet kitty. Kitty name: Balrog? Balrog come to Nou!”
Balrog padded warily over to Nou and sniffed his outstretched hand. It meowed curiously.
Nou giggled. “Good kitty!”
“You gonna tell me what we’re doing any time soon?” Beth called.
“Oh! Yes, Nou almost forget. Postmaster say we go to place called Nevada. Say we go to Death Valley.” Nou shuddered. “But Nou not want to go to-”
“Death Valley?” Beth exclaimed. “Oh, yes! I’ve always wanted to go there! Do you think we’d have time to see the Eureka Sand Dunes?”
Nou frowned. “Why Beth want go to Death Valley? Name gives Nou the willies.”
“I dunno, it just always sounded so cool…like a piece of another planet, or something.” She emerged from her room toting a decent-sized duffle bag. “I’ve got enough gear for four or five days. That good?”
Nou nodded. “That be good. Will kitty be okay on own?”
Beth nodded. “Yeah, he’s a tough kitty. I have a system set up for these little trips, so he gets food and the like.”
Nou smiled. “That good! But Beth not let Nou finish! Postmaster very secretive, not say exactly what mission is.”
“There’s a surprise…” Beth muttered sarcastically.
“But Postmaster do say that when Beth and Nou get out in middle of desert, Postmaster call, tell us what do.”
“This guy sure likes keeping us on edge, doesn’t he?” Beth said, half to herself. “I mean, seriously. He expects us to just trust him and go with it.”
“Postmaster was right in China. Postmaster be right here.”
Beth was about to tell Nou that the China mission was a well-orchestrated test, but thought better of it. Why spoil Nou’s trust in the Postmaster?
“Well, okay. Let me just take care of a few things.” She smiled quizzically. “By the way…how’d you get out here? I’m a good half-hour from town, and at least five or six hours from any major cities.”
Nou smiled. “Nou drive, of course!”
“Oh, yes, naturally. Silly me.” Beth drawled. “I’ll meet you in a sec.”
After she handled a few vacation/going-away measures, she locked up and headed out to meet Nou. She whistled approvingly.
“YOU drive THAT?” She gestured to an impressive Jeep, equipped for the rough terrain.
Nou nodded and grinned. “Yep! Jeep was present from Postmaster.”
Beth’s eyes widened. “The Postmaster gave you THAT?”
“Beth sound so surprised! Postmaster take very good care of agents. Once Beth be agent for little longer, Postmaster give Beth present too!”
She nodded. “Well, sounds good to me.” She dropped her bag in the back of the jeep and clambered into the passenger’s seat. “Postmaster Agents: roll out!”
Nou laughed as he pulled out of the driveway. “Beth Transformers fan?”
Beth smiled. “You betcha!”
“Nou too! What favorite Transformer?”
“Well, you see, that really depends on what continuity we’re talkin’, ‘cause there are some I won’t touch with a fifty foot pole…”
They had been driving for some time when Beth’s pocket began to vibrate.
“Ack, what the-?”
It was then she remembered that the Postmaster was going to contact them once they were out in the desert. She took out the device and clicked it on.
“GOOD DAY, AGENTS.”
“Hello Postmaster!” Nou chirped.
“What he said.” Beth added with a dry grin.
“HA HA.” The Postmaster said, his voice unusually flat. “NOW, ONTO BUSINESS. YOU MIGHT WANT TO PULL OVER, NOU, SO AS TO GIVE YOUR FULL ATTENTION TO YOUR MISSION.”
“THERE WE GO. NOW, LISTEN VERY CLOSELY YOU TWO. I WANTED TO GIVE YOU THE DETAILS OF YOU MISSION OUT HERE BECAUSE- WELL, BECASUSE IF SOMEONE EAVESDROPPED SOMEHOW, IT COULD START A PANIC.”
Beth and Nou looked nervously at each other.
“I’M SURE YOU CAN HANDLE YOURSELVES.” The Postmaster added hastily. “GIVEN YOUR EXPIRIENCE WITH LARGE CREATURES THAT SHOULDN’T BE THERE, I FIGURED THIS MISSION WAS RIGHT UP YOUR ALLEY. I HAVE OTHER AGENTS AT WORK ON DIFFERENT MISSIONS- THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, A RUTHLESS GANG OF KIDNEY THEIVES, AND THE LIKE.”
“Man, we’re missing out on the Blair Witch Project?” Beth asked. “That’s just prime.”
“SARCASM NOT APPREICIATED. I THINK YOU WILL FIND YOUR MISSION FAR MORE…INTRIGUING THAN THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.”
“What mission is?” Nou asked eagerly.
“I HAVE NO DOUBT YOU’VE SEEN PICTURES OF THE SO-CALLED CAMEL SPIDER.”
Beth nodded and shuddered. She and spiders had long had a violent relationship.
“I ALSO ASSUME YOU HAVE SEEN PICTURES, OR AT LEAST HEARD, OF THE MONTAUK MONSTER.”
Beth frowned and looked to Nou.
“Nou seen pictures. Montauks ugly creatures. Montauks look like Montauks want to eat people!”
“INDEED. LASTLY- WELL, THIS ONE IS A GIVEN. YOU KNOW OF BIGFOOT, I PRESUME?”
Beth laughed. “Uh, yeah, that’s a safe bet.”
“GOOD. WELL, CAMEL SPIDERS AND MONTAUKS HAVE BEEN SIGHTED IN INCREASING NUMBERS. THEY’VE EVEN ATTACKED PEOPLE. BIGFOOT SIGHTINGS HAVE ALSO INCREASED, AND IN THE SAME AREAS AS THE MONTAUK AND CAMEL SPIDER SIGHTINGS. AND THERE IS VIDEO EVIDENCE…ACTUAL CLEAR IMAGES- NOT THE FUZZY GARBELED JUNK SO MANY TRY TO PASS OFF AS EVIDENCE. I HAVE ANALYZED THE SIGHTINGS, AND THEY SEEM TO BE A PATTERN. THE CREATURES ARE MIGRATING.”
“To Death Valley.” Beth finished.
“What Postmaster want Beth and Nou do?” Nou asked.
“I AM CURIOUS AS TO WHY THEY ARE MIGRATING TO DEATH VALLEY. ONCE THERE, THEY WILL LIKELY POSE LITTLE TO NO THREAT TO PEOPLE, BUT…WHY ARE THEY GOING? I DON’T LIKE NOT KNOWING THINGS. IT IS YOUR JOB TO TRACK AND OBSERVE THEM. ASCERTAIN THEIR PURPOSE. IF HOSTILE, STOP IT.”
“Oh, that’s all?” Beth scoffed good-naturedly.
“YES. AT YOUR CURRENT RATE OF TRAVEL, YOU SHOULD ARRIVE AT DEATH VALLEY SHORTLY BEFORE THE GREATER PACKS OF CREATURES DO. BE CAREFUL, YOU TWO.”
And with that, the screen went dark. Beth pocketed the device, frowning thoughtfully.
“So. We’re going on a monster hunt.” She said.
“Yup!” Nou said, smiling brightly. “Monster hunt will be fun!”
“That’s one way to put it.” Beth muttered as they drove off into the desert.
The massive expanse of emptiness stretched before them endlessly. Beth whistled. “Isn’t that something?”
“Something creepy!” Nou said. “Death Valley look- look like nothing!”
“Cool, huh? You did bring water, yeah?”
“Nou bring plenty of water. Gallons and gallons! In back of Jeep, with Beth’s suitcase.”
Beth nodded. “Okay, then we’re set. Now the only question is…how do we track down these critters? Where could they be going? Why?”
“That why Postmaster send Beth and Nou!”
Beth sighed in exasperation. “I know that, Nou, I was thinking out loud.”
“Well, Beth not need to! Look!”
A bizarre looking creature was shuffling along in the near distance. Beth squinted at it.
“Is that a Montauk?”
“Yes! And big one too!”
“Okay, you stay in the Jeep. Be ready to follow me.”
Beth hopped out and crept toward the Montauk. It stopped shuffling abruptly and sniffed the air.
“Oh shoot.” Beth thought. “What I would give for some cover!”
It turned to face her and roared furiously. “Nou- Nou you should come and get me now!” Beth called over her shoulder.
The Montauk charged. Beth yelped and ran for the Jeep. Nou slowed just enough for Beth to climb in, and then sped up and swerved to avoid the Montauk. Beth fumbled through the contents of the back of the Jeep, eventually securing the China mission machete. She yanked it out of its sheath and prepared to slash at the Montauk.
“No time for fight!” Nou said. “Look!”
The Montauk was coming round for another charge, and this time, it had company. Several other Montauks had joined it.
“Oh, great!” Beth exclaimed. “That’s just fantastic.”
“That not all. Montauks have spiders with them!”
“You’re kidding me!”
“Nou not kid! Beth look!”
Dozens of camel spiders hobbled along behind the Montauks.
“Okay, Nou, I hate to retreat, but it looks like we’re gonna have to book it! Step on it!”
The Jeep blasted over the parched desert floor, but no matter how fast they went, they seemed to only just outrun the monsters.
“Come on, come on! Can’t this thing go any faster?”
“Nou have Jeep, not Bugati Veyron! Nou going as fast as Nou can!”
Beth looked around, alarmed by what she saw. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me! Nou, look around!”
Nou glanced around and came to the same conclusion Beth had. “Beth and Nou being corralled!”
He slammed on the brakes. A wall of Montauks and camel spiders blocked their escape. They were hemmed in on all sides.
“We seriously got routed by a load of arachnids and their mutant pals.” Beth said flatly. She tightened her grip on the machete. “Well, then, if we’re gonna tussle, let’s tussle! Bring it!”
The creatures drew near to the Jeep, and for a terrifying moment, it seemed there were going to overrun it.
“Oy! Back now, you lot, back!”
A tall furry thingy shoved through the creatures. It looked down angrily at Beth and Nou. “What are you doing here?” It snapped. “Can’t you see I’ve got business to do?”
Beth stared at the creature for a flabbergasted moment. “Bigfoot!” She managed. “What the- what are you doing out here?”
“Oy! I ask the questions here!” Bigfoot growled. “Yer tresspassin’ on my property. ‘ey, Phil! Danno! Get a look at these two.”
To Beth and Nou’s utter astonishment, two more Bigfoot-creatures shoved through the monsters.
“I don’t like the look of that one…” Danno muttered, pointing accusingly at Beth.
“Hey!” She snapped. “We’re here on official business, you know!”
“Yeah, and the Tooth Fairy is real!” Phil guffawed loudly. “Please! You two are on our turf without our permission. What do you think we should do to them, Clyde?”
Clyde was evidently the boss. He scratched his furry chin thoughtfully. “We could always…eat them.”
“Oh, no!” Nou exclaimed softly. “Oh, no, no, no…!”
“Just try it, fuzz-butt!” Beth growled. “I’ve got a machete and I know how to-ack, hey, get your fuzzy paw offa me!”
Phil had grabbed her from behind and wrenched the machete from her grasp. “There’ll be none of that!” He said gruffly.
“Let go of me, you big furry oaf!” Beth exclaimed. “I’ll cripple ya, I really will!”
“This one’s fight-or-flight response seemed to have kicked in.” Clyde mused. “More fight than anything else…”
“Hey! Phil let go of Beth!” Nou commanded. “Phil not being nice!”
The Bigfeet laughed.
“Hey, he thinks you aren’t nice, Phil!” Danno jibed.
“Let’s show him some real hospitality.” Clyde growled.
Clyde and Danno shoved the Jeep roughly, nearly tipping it.
“Whoa! Bigfeet stop that!” Nou demanded.
They laughed derisively at Nou.
“Nou said: STOP THAT!” He snapped.
Nou leapt from the Jeep and landed a punch squarely on Clyde’s face. Beth gaped.
Clyde snarled and grabbed Nou by the ankle, lifting him into the air. “I think we need to show these pups who’s boss. Maybe if we let one of my Montauks eat some of this fellow’s fingers, they’ll both mellow out.”
“Don’t you dare!” Beth snarled, struggling to free herself from Phil. “I have had it with you, flea-bite!” She snapped.
Phil laughed. “And what could you possibly do to me?”
Beth sunk her teeth deep into one of Phil’s hands. He roared in pain, swiftly drawing back from Beth.
“This one’s feral, Clyde! Now I’m going to get an infection!”
“Oy! Shut up!” Clyde growled. “I’ve been more than patient with the both of you, but now, my patience is gone. I have a shipment to meet, and if these monsters aren’t headed out in ten minutes, it’ll be my hide!”
“Like I care!” Beth snapped.
“Oh, but you will!” Clyde chuckled. “You’ll care, because if these creatures don’t ship on time, I’ll have to feed them. And I think I’ll feed them your little friend.”
Nou squeaked in terror, and Beth paled. “You- you wouldn’t.”
“I would!” Clyde snarled. “Now, out of your Jeep, real slow like.”
Beth complied glumly.
“Move over to Danno. No funny business.”
Beth darted a venomous glance at Danno before obeying.
“All right. Phil, maybe you should search the Jeep for something for your hand.” Clyde said, smiling cruelly.
Phil snickered. “With pleasure!”
With a mighty shove, he tipped the Jeep. The Montauks and spiders chittered in excitement as items flew out of the Jeep.
“Is there anything in this bag?” Phil asked, grabbing Beth’s duffel bag.
He tore it open and emptied its contents.
“Nope? How about this bag?”
The taunting continued until every bag in the Jeep was emptied and its contents scattered. Beth watched in silent fury.
“You guys are really something, you know that, right?” She jabbed. “I never figured Bigfeet were such jerks.”
“Well, that’s because you’re stupid!” Clyde said simply. He chuckled to himself. “You know what time it is, fellows?”
Danno laughed thickly. “I think so boss. You know what time it is, Phil?”
“Feeding time!” He exclaimed jubilantly. “And I say we start with these two!”
Clyde laughed and tossed Nou into the pack of monsters.
“No!” Beth snapped.
Before she could run to Nou’s aid, Phil grabbed her and threw her into the pack. The Montauks and spiders growled and hissed eagerly, awaiting the command of their masters.
“Boys: feast!” Clyde roared.
Beth didn’t even have time to scream. The Montauks and spiders descended like a swarm of locusts. She would fight off one only to have two more take its place.
“So this is it.” She thought dully. “At least I go out fighting.”
A Montauk reared to deliver a death-blow. Beth looked up at it defiantly.
A shrill war-cry rent the air, and with a single slash, the Montauk was decapitated. The Montauks and spiders attacking Beth scattered, retreating swiftly from the machete-wielding warrior that defended her.
“Nou?” Beth asked, agog.
Nou grinned. “Phil drop machete when Beth bite Phil’s hand! Nou find!” He held out a hand to help Beth up. “Beth injured!” He exclaimed.
Beth looked over herself briefly. Her arms were covered with scratches and bite marks, and she had no doubt her face was no pretty sight either. A few had managed to bite through her pants and land some nasty gashes to his shins.
“I’ll be fine.” She said. “As long as we don’t have to hike outta this place.”
Nou nodded and turned to face the Bigfeet, who were staring at them in a mixture of amazement and irritation. He pointed the machete at them. “Bigfeet better run, or Nou will run Bigfeet through! Nou give five seconds, and Bigfeet better be gone!”
Phil and Danno looked at Clyde. Clyde scoffed. “I don’t think so.”
He tapped a spot on his wrist, and it began to glow.
“Oh, ew!” Beth exclaimed. “He must have some mega weird tech imbedded in him.”
Clyde snickered. “You haven’t seen anything yet.”
A flicker of purple-black appeared a few feet behind Clyde. It grew rapidly into a swirling portal-like vortex.
“We’ve had our fun with you.” Clyde said. “So now, it’s time to say goodbye. Boys: follow!”
“Nou not think so!” Nou exclaimed, hurling the machete at Clyde.
He lifted his arms instinctively to cover his face. The machete slammed into his glowing wrist, causing a shower of sparks to burst from it. Clyde roared in pain and fury, wrenching the machete from his wrist.
“You idiot!” He howled. “We’re all dead now!”
The vortex flickered and pulsed, whirling and wiggling like a streamer caught in the wind. Sparks of purple lightning lanced out of it, latching onto the Bigfeet and monsters.
“We have to- get through!” Phil exclaimed. “Or we’re goners!”
“Flyte’ll kill us if we- don’t get the herd- through!” Danno added.
“Forget them!” Clyde snarled. “We can get more!”
He glared at Nou and Beth. “This isn’t over, pups! We’ll be back, and next time, you won’t be so lucky!”
The Bigfeet ran through the vortex just as it imploded. The Montauks and spiders roared in pain as the purple lightning intensified, ripping into them.
“Nou, I think we should get cover.”
The pair darted behind the overturned Jeep and peered out from behind it. In a final collective bellow, the Montauks and spiders were consumed in a burst of purple lightning. When the flash cleared, naught remained but a few shriveled husks.
“Whoa.” Beth breathed.
She leaned against the Jeep tiredly, looking over her arms. “You wouldn’t happen to have a first aide kit in there, would you?”
“Nou have kit!” He exclaimed, dropping the machete and crawling into the Jeep.
He emerged with a sizable kit. “Nou always keep kit in glove box.” He said with a smile.
Beth laughed. “Well, that’s useful. Now, eh, how do you think we’re getting out of here? I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can turn that Jeep right-side up.”
“We call Postmaster!” Nou declared. “Beth call, Nou clean up arms.”
Beth nodded and activated the device.
“Hey, Postmaster!” She said. “Mission accomplished.”
“ALREADY? YOU MUST TELL ME ABOUT- WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU? YOU LOOK TERRIBLE. I TOLD YOU TO BE CAREFUL…”
“You can see me on this thing?” Beth asked, perplexed.
Beth rolled her eyes. “Of course. Silly me. Anyway, we, eh, had a little trouble with the monsters.”
“Beth and Nou have LOTS of trouble with monsters!” Nou said, poking his head into the device’s range of vision. “Nou taking care of Beth, though. Will need lots of Band-Aids!”
“START FROM THE BEGINNING.”
“Well, all right. When we got here, we spotted a Montauk pretty quickly,” Beth began. “and it got really crazy after that.”
“Beth wake up! Beth and Nou almost to Beth’s town!”
Beth started awake. She had dozed off a few hours ago.
“Postmaster have very helpful friends! Not for friends, we still be stuck in desert!”
“Yeah.” Beth nodded. “Remind me to write them a thank you note.”
“Okay, Nou remind Beth.”
Beth chuckled and turned to look out the window. Her thoughts were back in Death Valley. She had given the Postmaster a very thorough report. He had almost seemed- nervous. Though the name ‘Flyte’ meant nothing to any of them, the Postmaster had assured them he would find who the Bigfeet’s boss was.
“We here!” Nou declared jubilantly, drawing Beth’s attention back to the present.
“Nou, my house is half and hour outside of town.” She pointed out. “We’re not quite there.”
Nou shrugged. “But Beth and Nou close!”
Beth laughed. “Yeah, I guess so.”
Nou was quiet for a moment before speaking. “Beth think Bigfeet really come back?”
She shrugged. “If they do, we’ll be ready for them. Look at it this way: we’re one step closer to figuring out what this whole mess is.”
Nou nodded. “That always good! Postmaster worry lot about it. It good that Beth and Nou help.”
“Yeah…you know what, Nou? I think we’re getting good at this.”
Nou laughed, that cacophonic bag-of-rubber-chickens-being-hit-with-a-goose sound. “Yeah! Beth and Nou good team.”
“Yeah. The best.” Beth glanced out the window and thought, “Postmaster, whoever, wherever, whatever you are- you can count on us.”
Back to Postmaster main page