Hell Town RV Park
For Those Who Believe in Other Worlds
by Clara Bush
Artwork by Lara Clayton
(To start at the beginning with Episode 1 click here.)
(Rated Mature for Adult content)
(Last time on Hell Town: A loud crashing sound came from the distance. Spooky watched as entire trees were leveled. Clacking. Bestial roars—guttural in quality like a giant, prehistoric beast forgotten by time. It changed to a sound indicative of a chainsaw come to life and gone mad. At once sounding primordial, and, in another instant, becoming automated and programmed. Both sounds contradictory to each other.
The mechanical whirring howls silenced every living creature around them. Birds flocked to the outer reaches of the heavens. Insects, no longer audible, ran across their feet in swarms—scorpions, spiders, crickets, grasshoppers. None concerned with anything except escape.
River’s eyes became large, round, silver dollars in size. She ran to Spooky and latched onto her hand, hugging Creeper close to her chest. “The Vrag,” she whispered between the crashing, clacking, and roars.
“This way,” Hexer said. “I’ve found a place we can hide.”)
Other Worlds: The Vrag
Hexer led them to what resembled an abandoned lighthouse. It was constructed of oyster shells and quicklime. Spooky paused to run her fingers over the jagged texture, touching individual pieces of shells.
“You seem fascinated,” Aron said.
“One of my clients, a real history buff and an engineer, told me about this type of construction. It’s called tabby. A durable cement-like material used in early Spanish settlements along the southeastern coastline. It hasn’t been utilized in its original form since the 1930s. Odd to see it here, don’t you think?”
“Not so odd,” Aron said. “I mean, apparently the otherworlders have been traveling the worlds for a lot longer than you and me. I’m sure they’ve visited Earth numerous times. And no doubt some of our developments impressed them.”
The others were already behind the safety of the shell-laden walls except for Guy. He was scouting the jungles surrounding the structure. “Aren’t you coming?” Spooky hollered.
“I’ll remain outside to see what I can learn from the plants and animals,” Guy said. “I’m not sure I can communicate with them as I do on my world, but I figured I’d try.”
Aron and Spooky entered the dark and damp cylinder in time to see Leo and Piper ascending the rickety spiral staircase. Spooky touched the handrail. It was cool, rigid, and unyielding like cast iron, but no rust, which was unusual for such a damp environment. “Careful, kids. We need all of us if we are going to defeat the Vrag,” Spooky said, allowing her mom to surface. She slammed the door shut. It too was made of the same heavy, iron-like substance and had an elaborate latch-bolt locking device attached. She guessed they weren’t the only ones needing protection from what was outside.
She slid the latch into position and wondered if she were, in some way, locking her fate into place. She’d often entered the black corridors of her soul never knowing what waited. And at no time did she recognize the sound of her own soul teetering on the precipice, yet she’d always regained her footing. Would she this time? Does anyone ever recognize the sound of their own fate as it falters?
“We should be safe here,” Hexer said. He shook the staircase railing. It quivered but appeared sturdy enough. “We will all need to make our way up to the top to get a good look at what surrounds us. And at least two of us need to stand guard at all times.”
“What about Chick and Kappa?” Spooky asked.
Hexer dislodged a loose baluster from the bottom step and propped it under the lock for extra security. “My daughter is the one who told me about this place. She will meet us here. This is where they hid when they came to steal the Ternion Shimmer.”
“Can the Vrag not detect us?” Aron asked. Hexer shot him a puzzled look. “Like smell us. Or infrared vision. Or some other tracking capabilities.”
“At one time, maybe. But once the mainframe claimed them, they lost most of their natural abilities and instincts. This makes it easier for them to be controlled,” Hexer said. “I’m hoping it’s your olfactory sensory neurons we can count on to keep us safe.”
“In that case, I better get to sniffin’ and pick up the scent of that Vrag we just heard.”
“Aron, no,” Spooky said.
“I’ll shapeshift. I’ll be fine. Open the door once I’ve changed.” Aron found a dark corner. He turned his back to them, undressed and draped his clothes over a protruding copper hook, coated in a green patina from the humidity.
Hexer and River diverted their eyes, but Spooky was too intrigued to look away. She’d seen a number of werewolf movies—Weres were her favorite type of monster—she didn’t want to miss seeing Aron’s transition. But instead of the grueling bodily contortions and all the moaning and growling, Aron merely leaned his head from one side to the other until his neck popped. He shuddered a few times, and poof a wolf taller than she stood before her.
“Very cool,” she murmured and reached out to pet him. He put his cold, black snout into the palm of her hand and then sniffed her ear. She wondered if the lack of convulsive movements was because Aron was a shapeshifter and not an actual bitten, ruled-by-the-moon type of werewolf.
Aron wiggled his massive shoulder into his holster so one of his guns conveniently laid flat against his chest while the other rested on his back. Ransome rolled over in front of the wolf and surrendered to the alpha male in passive submission. Aron wolf went down on all fours, nuzzled Ransome into an upright position, and both bolted out the door when Spooky opened it.
Hexer and River stood wide-eyed, mouths open. River darted behind Hexer. “Guess you don’t have shapeshifters on your worlds,” Spooky said. Both shook their heads. “If it makes you feel any better, he’s my first. I thought shapeshifters were a myth.”
Hexer patted River head. “It’s okay. No need to be scared. He’s on our side,” he said and then muttered, “thankfully,” under his breath. “How about we go upstairs and see what we can see?” River handed Creeper to Spooky and took Hexer’s hand.
Spooky watched the large man and the child climb the stairs. A softening in her opinion of the hypercritical Hexer kindled.
Once Hexer and River were safely to the top, Spooky began her ascension. The staircase vibrated with each step she took. She kept reminding herself that if everyone else could do it, she could too. Shayd? she asked.
With you, he replied.
And why this was comforting to her, she had no idea. It wasn’t like he—in his ethereal form—could catch her if the staircase came tumbling down. She reached the top landing huffing and puffing. She felt her heart might pound out of her chest.
“Old, see I told you,” Hexer said.
Her thought of growing fond of the jackass vanished. “Well, I made it didn’t I? Just a little out of shape is all. Plus, I think Creeper has been storing up on Earth food. He weighs as much as a big dog.” She exaggerated, of course, but he was heavy. “Whew. You carry him next time.” She set the Rooi at Hexer’s feet. Hexer raised an eyebrow and scowled. Creeper cooed. Spooky patted him. “That’s okay, little guy. I’ll carry you. I don’t think the old man is strong enough.”
The landing was roomy and solidly anchored to the walls. Spooky felt secure here. Colorful quilts and blankets lay about, as well as empty, glass food and water containers. She’d been to Santa Fe, New Mexico numerous times and always brought home Mexican blankets. She loved their designs and colors. The blankets scattered about on the landing reminded her of those. Same bright colors but with designs resembling Mayan tribal art rather than the vibrantly striped Mexican Saltillo blankets like hers.
The quilts appeared homemade with bright patches of different fabrics. The kind her grandmother used to make. “I guess this is where Chick, Creeper, and Kappa stayed, huh?”
“Yes. So we must be careful. Anyone aware of our presence might look here first,” Hexer said.
A chill raced along Spooky’s spine, as she imagined the Vrag and what Leo’s father might do if he managed to follow. She fiddled with the food containers to compensate for her growing concerns, placing the empty ones, or the ones that looked spoiled, in a corner. Some contained preserved fruits and vegetables. Still good, she decided. Those she stacked neatly on an overhead shelf and then folded the blankets.
Once her motherly OCD was satisfied, and her nerves had settled, she stepped onto the deck. There was no lantern room as typical in a lighthouse, only a flat deck with metal railing encircling it. The five of them loomed above the world below.
She could see the reflection of the sun on an ocean in the distance. Blinding at first, but once her eyes adjusted, the horror set in. Hundreds of Vrag roamed the jungles. They towered above the trees and deemed nothing in their path worth saving. Huge predatory cats were plucked up from their hiding places by numerous tentacles and thrown into the Vrags’ cage-like mouths. The prey dissolved, even fur and bones, in seconds, like sugar in a rainstorm.
Spooky’s stomach churned with gut-wrenching nausea. She slapped her hand over her mouth to prevent the sudden flow of her most recent meal. An attack of frayed nerves pushed her body into uncontrollable shivering. How could her measly crew even toy with the idea of defeating the Vrag? There were too many. They were gigantic. Powerful. And greedy for meat of any kind.
She slumped to the floor, wrapped herself up in her arms and buried her head there. She feared for Aron. He had no knowledge of their abundance nor their hunger nor their disregard for life. Would any of them make it back to safety for that matter? Was there anyway to win without Chick, Guy, Kappa, and Aron? Their strongest warriors.
Spooky looked to Leo and Piper. Could these two young ones be of any assistance? And if they could, would they? They stared at the destruction before them, transfixed on something incomprehensible. Their faces drained of all color. Hands clutching as if to maintain some sort of stability.They hadn’t noticed her disintegration into despair.
“Hurry, pick yourself up. Don’t show weakness or they will never trust you to lead,” Shayd urged. Spooky took a deep breath and stood.
“You need to be alright,” Hexer demanded. “Of all of us, you are the one most likely to convince the young people to help. I know this is overwhelming to say the least, but—”
“I’m fine. Just a momentary lapse.” She needed to change the focus from her to something else. “This isn’t a lighthouse, so what is it?”
“Timerees have always been an untrusting lot. They built these lookouts all over their world ages ago to always be on the watch for their enemies,” Hexer said.
“Enemies?” Spooky asked.
“Oh yes, like on Earth, they war against each other for power, control, and wealth. And when Bent World was destroyed, it’s inhabitants went in search of a new home world. These lookouts provided an extra measure of surveillance.”
“Bent World inhabitants? The Vrag, you mean?” Spooky asked.
“No. Originally Bent World’s inhabitants were the Ingenium. They were technically superior. When they discovered a way to live forever, their world became a world run by machines. These highly advanced beings replaced themselves with an artificial neural network. The Ingenium became the ANNs once the last living citizen’s brain was incorporated.”
“I thought that kinda shit only happened in the movies.”
“It’s possible Timerees created such movies. Or some human with a premonition,” Hexer said.
“I can tell you don’t think much of us humans. Why?”
“I was on your Earth for a number of years. Never really found anything redeemable in your kind. As I said, you war against each other. You pollute your beautiful world. And more and more I see humans losing control and surrendering it to technology. Much like the Ingenium.”
Spooky knew everything he said was true, but she still believed strongly in humans to improve. “We have our faults for sure. But we do have our qualities as well. Besides, are Starlings perfect?”
Hexer stroked the length of his jaw line. “We strive to be. We control time so we must be as near flawless as anything living. Of course, the Booners come closest to that perfection. Mainly because they allow nature to guide them, instead of trying to control it like Earthlings do. The suns and the moons guide the Starlings which makes us the next closest to completeness. The Brumers are children. They do child-like things but nothing that hurts their world. They are the innocents in all this as well as the Rooi.”
“None of this explains how the Vrag came to be.”
“Once the Ingenium became the ANNs, they used their superior knowledge for space travel. They bridged the distance between their world and other galaxies. They discovered the Vrag on some remote planet and found they could easily control them. Even though the Vrag were no more than mindless things, the ANNs brought thousands of them to their world to be their slaves. Even machines need caregivers.” Hexer’s words trailed off for a second as if considering a world without sentient being.
He continued. “The ANNs implanted the Vrag with a receptor that receives commands and overrides the creatures natural instincts. A world run by machines is soulless. And because of this, after the Vrag ravished everything on Bent World, they sent the Vrag to our worlds for food and the Shimmers, hoping to one day replace every living thing with their kind. Whatever that is.”
A melancholy tone resonated in Hexer’s last words. Spooky now understood so much more about the outworlders’ origins, but most importantly she understood the necessity of destroying the Vrag, and their masters. Abruptly, their surroundings went quiet and were replaced by clacking, bestial roars, and mechanical whirring.
Birds fled. Insects and rodents scurried for safety. Chick and Kappa ran toward the lookout, barely escaping falling trees. Guy came rushing from the jungle and joined them. Piper pointed at the desperate refugees and screamed. Spooky forgot about the wobbly stairway and darted down, taking two steps at a time. Hexer close behind. She kicked the secured baluster aside and unbolted the lock. The three dove in. Panting. Sweating.
Aron, as his wolf, charged the Vrag’s unraveling tentacle. His powerful jaw clamped down. “Aron,” Spooky screamed.
Hexer threw Spooky out of the way, slammed and locked the door just as another one of the creature’s tentacles pounded against it with a deafening thud.
“Aron,” she cried. A yelp, like an injured dog, answered.
Leo and Piper stood midway on the staircase, holding onto each other and shaking so hard it put the stairs in motion. Piper pressed a finger to her lips. “Shhhhh. They’re all around us,” she whispered.
Next episode planned for May 2, 2019
The Web Serial
With the onset of the technology boom, authors are discovering innovative ways to get their works in front of readers. However, though the web serial relies on the internet for distribution, it is not a new idea. It’s much like how writers became known before the days of mass-produced, full-length novels. Earlier writers, such as Mark Twain, released a chapter at a time, on a regular basis, in newspapers or magazines. This is the same concept as the Web Serial. Writers publish their works in bite-sized, one-sitting reads to facilitate the hurried reader. The web helps to make it easily accessible to the writer’s fan base.
Hell Town offers episodes of 1,000 to 3,000 words in length and is considered a tightly cohesive style of web serial. This type intertwines episodes with each other and depends on the reader being familiar with the story. It is meant to be read as one might read a book.
About the Artist
Lara resides in the Texas hill country with her two adorable but exhausting little boys, her husband, and two male dogs. She confesses her life is dominated by male influence.
She graduated from Trinity University in 2009 with her Bachelor’s degree in art and with an art history minor. During her life, she has worn many hats—bartender, barista, massage therapist, newspaper circulation manager, wine shop manager, and the list continues. These life experiences have added a richness and depth to her artwork.
Lara is on her way to accomplishing her dream of becoming a freelance artist. The illustrations are Lara’s original artwork and are created specifically for Hell Town.
We both would love your feedback. And if you are looking for an artist, Lara is available.