Hard pings of rain bounce off the old tin roof that cover us, the small tool shed our fortress for the time being. We’d been running for hours, the damn Locos on our tail the whole time. It took out Ramirez first when we were digging the hole in the ground for the pool. We must have woken it up.
Or freed it from its burial plot.
Either way it was after the rest of us now. Long and black, with mottled flesh pockmarked with disease, and a head twisted all around, the lower jaw gone; in place was just a long tongue, made of smaller tongues. I’d witnessed it use this like a tentacle, slithering into Ramirez’s mouth and pulling out his tongue to add to the fold. It’d sounded like an old woman when we first saw it, rising from the mud.
Now it sounded like Ramirez.
All of us that are left now are Paolo, Martinez and me; Martinez is in a bad way, having taken a blow to the chest from the oversized bullfrog of a creature, shattering some ribs. He was coughing up blood, which made me worry about the state of his lungs. Of course, I had a lot to worry about right now. Paolo, on the other hand, is merely sitting against the wall, eyes off in the distance as he smokes one of his hand-rolled cigarettes, one leg raised up to his chest to rest his arm upon.
He’s been no help since the creature got his brother.
“Paolo! You can come outside now, it’s safe!” The creature had been calling out to us for hours now, switching voices between the various dead that we knew we would never hear from again. What it really wanted, who’s to say? All I know is that it tore apart any man that it got its over-sized webbed claws on, before adding their tongue to its own.
“Ricky, why don’t you open the door and let me in? You’re being mean…” the creature says in my kid brother's voice, a voice I haven’t heard in twenty-five years.
He drowned in a pond when I was young.
The tool shed doesn’t offer us a lot of hope for weapons or rescue. There are a few shovels, a pick, and a lot of stacked lumber and cinder blocks. I suppose Paolo and I could grab a shovel each and see if we could down the beast before trying to get help for Martinez. It didn’t seem overly strong, just vicious. The way it hopped from the ground to a wall and back again made me think of some demented toad, chasing down a meal after going several days without.
Who knows when this thing last had a chance to “eat” like it is right now?
It seems loathe to actually attacking the shed, which is a good thing for us though it does make me wonder why. I mean, the shed is nothing but thin sheets of tin and iron, all rusted to hell and back, barely able to stand on its own. Hell, Paolo leaning against it caused the shed to shift minutely; this thing could have the door open in a matter of seconds.
But it waits, lurking in the shadows of the overgrown backyard we’d run to, taunting us with the voices of our former friends. I’d heard Ramirez beg for us to let him in, and Ramon ask why we hated him. I’d heard the voice of a young girl, no older than six or seven, crying about her hurt leg. It's switched from Spanish to English and back again more times than I could count. Paolo seemed to twitch whenever his brother pleaded for him to come outside and help, why he did so I couldn’t say.
“Okay, we need to do something…” I start, to which Paolo merely waves me off. I press on. “No, we seriously need to get Martinez some help; I think a rib may have scraped his lung or something.”
“We’re going to wait here until the sun comes up, and that thing retreats back into the mud hole,” Paolo said, taking a long drag from his cigarette. “Ramirez will have to wait until then.”
“I don’t think he can make it!” I growl, looking over at Ramirez.
“Then he won’t make it. I am not going to die to that thing like my brother did.”
They were cut off as a long, keening noise was made outside, akin to the sound of a fire alarm.
The crack of splintering wood resonated from beyond the walls as the creature began to do something sinister. Paolo and I stood up from where we had been kneeling by Martinez, and walked over to look at the tin door, as if concentrating on it would cause us to be able to see through it safely. The sound of cracking timber and the constant rainfall on the sloped tin roof made it difficult to guess what was going on outside.
“Oh god,” Paolo said after a moment. “It’s breaking a tree down, to push onto the tool shed.”
“Why doesn’t it just break down the door?” I ask.
Martinez coughs, sitting up slightly as blood dribbles from his mouth. “The creature, if it is anything like what the brujas say, is afraid of iron.”
“Brujas? You mean witches. You want us to trust what witches say?” Paolo snaps, looking at Martinez angrily.
He gurgles before spitting out a mouthful of blood. “Take a shovel or a pick each, and go out there and kill it. I’m done for, but you two still have a chance.”
“No, we could save you!” I say, looking over at him with concern.
He shakes his head. “You may be able to, you may not. But if that thing is working on knocking a tree down, it’s going to kill all of us. And what if it escapes? We woke it up, now it might begin hunting. It’s our responsibility to handle this creature here and now.”
“He’s right,” Paolo says after a moment. He walks to the back of the shed and picks up a shovel, before tossing it to me. “If it kills us it’ll just hole up for a while then start hunting for more tongues. There are over two million people in this city man, how many do you think a quick Locos can get before someone brings it down?”
“I guess…” Holding the shovel, I look towards the door. “Well let’s do this.”
As one, we kick open the door into the warm night air, Paolo running out with a pick, me with a shovel. I can see the Locos, standing on all fours, its tongue thrashing at the base of an old oak tree, one oversized webbed-claw on the trunk pushing it towards the shed.
“Hey! Pendejo! Over here!” Paolo waves his arms back and forth, getting the foul toads attention. It’s eyes peer at us from beneath the gaping hole that serves as a mouth, the tentacle made of stitched tongues wavering high in the air like a scorpion's tail, ready to strike. It slowly starts approaching us, gurgling from its drooling maw.
“Paolo? Why you do this to me man?” The creature said in a perfect imitation of his brother. “Just… just give up. It’s a lot easier if you just give up.”
“Screw that!” I say, dashing forward with my shovel raised high over my head. I jump to the left as the pillar of tongues smashes into the grass where I'd been, tearing up sod and soil as if the tongues were razor sharp. The tendril moves to follow me, but Paolo has stepped up and taken a slug at the column with his pick.
The pick stabs into the amalgamation, black blood and pus dribbling from the wound as the creature shrieks in multiple voices. I get close enough to where I can actually touch it, and I bring the shovel down hard onto the body, piercing the soft, almost swollen, black skin. An audible whoosh of air leaves the creature’s body as it deflates a little, leaving the the watery black blood to gush from the wound in its right foreleg.
It’s screams are getting louder, and more petulant as it begins swearing at us in English, Spanish and several other languages I’ve never heard.
“Ricky, look out!” Paolo shouts, causing me to turn and see the tongue, a bleeding tendril of wriggling red tongues, swerves and zips towards me.
Seeing nowhere else to go, I leapfrog over the creature, scraping myself on the pillar rising from the creature’s gullet, bloody gashes cut deep into my tanned skin. I roll to the ground and land on my hands, just as the tongue punches the creature in the shoulder, driving through it like a semi-truck would through a flock of sheep. Gore spatters everywhere as the creature cripples itself, severing its front left leg at the shoulder. The creature falls forward, it’s leg with the shovel pinning it to the ground. I stand up quickly and storm up, kicking it in it’s exposed underbelly, hard.
My boot sinks into the taut flesh, bursting the stomach like a balloon, spilling forth a stream of white, writhing maggots, all whispering in all too familiar voices.
“We love you brother…”
“Ricky, how could you?”
“Martinez, where are you! I’m scared!”
I begin stomping on the talking maggots, silencing their cries slowly as Paolo uses his pick to hack down the fleshy tongue at the root where it sits outside the mouth. After five minutes, the beast is done, and the backyard is worse for the wear. Heaving as I try and catch my breath, I look over at Paolo and nod to him.
“Now what? We call the cops?” I ask, looking down at the still twitching form of the beast, the eyes darting between me and Paolo.
“Hell no! They’ll just arrest us and send us back to Mexico. I say we bury this thing where we found it, let the homeowners worry about it.” Paolo said between gasps of air. “Here, help me pick it up and we’ll slid it back down into the hole before filling it up with concrete.”
The creatures back legs feebly struggle as we grab it by its crippled right limb and drag its light frame across the yard, tossing it back into the pit. I slid down the dirt wall and kick it once again, this time in the face, to force it down into the hole it's crawled out of. I look up at Paolo, who walks over to the cement mixer. In the entire mess, the hours we were being chased, the mixer was still spinning.
I climb out of the pit as Paolo pushes the chute over it, unleashing a torrent of finely mixed cement. The gray substance spatters over the Locos body, causing it to twitch as its numerous wounds are exposed to the substance. Gurgling, it speaks once more, this time in Martinez’s voice.
“You guys are too late,” it laughs as the cement begins to pool around it. “You couldn’t save me, or kill the beast. All you’re going to do is leave it for someone else to find! You think it cares if it has to wait? It’s waited centuries for tonight, and it’ll wait even more for another.”
“That’s the plan pendejo, that’s the plan,” Paolo says as he pulls a cigarette from his pack, patting his pockets in search of a lighter. “Looks like we’re going to pull an all-nighter before we ditch Martinez on the side of the road somewhere out near Canyon Lake, make it look like a hit and run.”
“Yeah, but hey – we made it!” I say with a smile. Reaching into my pocket, I fish out a lighter and toss it to Paolo.
“Thanks!” Paolo said, adjusting the spread of the liquid cement as it began to pile higher and higher. “What the hell do you think that thing was man?”
I just shrug. “Whatever it was, it was fuckin’ locos!”