Hell Town RV Park
For Those Who Believe in Other Worlds
by Clara Bush
Artwork by Lara Clayton
Part Three: The Hidden
(To start at the beginning with Episode 1 click here.)
(Rated Mature for Adult content)
(Last Time in Hell: Spooky’s army now stood before her like a group of soldiers ready to follow their leader’s commands and eager for the battle. She smiled. She guessed she shouldn’t have. A true commander would be fearsome and demanding. But she wasn’t a real commander. Only a mother. And this might be the last time she’d ever see these individuals she’d grown to depend on, respect, admire, and, perhaps even like. A little.
“It will be dawn soon,” Spooky said. “We don’t have much time. We need to use the darkness to our benefit. Guy, you lead. Try to find us a way in. We’ll follow.”
Guy’s clothes collapsed around him and his snake slithered out of a pant leg.
Spooky watched Aron’s body convulse into his wolf. And as before, she was astonished to see he no longer had but one arm. His eyes flashed a wild blue, then changed to a clear amber shade.
The wolf followed the snake with the others close behind.
Ternion World: Point of Entry
In the early morning darkness, Spooky and her army followed the gray, glistening scales on Guy’s back. Hexer had summoned a moon and its beams spun off the snake’s scutes in eerie iridescence. Like tiny beacons on an otherwise black palette. They illuminated the way just enough to be tracked but not detected.
The path-that-wasn’t was cluttered with blanched fragments of something Spooky couldn’t identify. Like white rocks. But not. Hard pieces of something crunched when stepped upon and caused the followers to trip more than once.
Guy’s sleek snake body maneuvered the obstacles with ease. While Aron’s agile wolf glided over the debris as if his paws never made contact. But those on foot stumbled, and soon learned to dodge the bigger pieces of…whatever mysteries lay beneath their feet.
Spooky brought up the rear—on purpose—with Ransome. She didn’t want anyone to witness her clumsiness. Her clothing was soaked from the weighty, dew laden overgrowth, making it uncomfortable and unmanageable. She felt as if she’d been forced into a wet t-shirt contest of which she wanted no part.
Mo’s safari shorts sagged with so much moisture, he paused once to tighten his belt. And Hexer’s cape drooped behind him like forgotten laundry.
But the wolf’s fur repelled the wet and the snake’s scales absorbed it, causing Spooky to wish she could shapeshift into a bird. She would fly above all this. Maybe fly home to Dovie. Make sure she was okay. That Trubel hadn’t hurt her daughter.
The dampness fused with the stink of something rotting, and intensified Spooky’s desire to escape this wretched place. This wretched time in her life. This wretched experience. Would things ever be normal for her again?
Though the Avenir homecraft had appeared close from their hidey-hole, the path-that-wasn’t—with its rubble, overgrowth, and wetness—made the going slow and tedious for the small army of freedom fighters.
As if mimicking the group, the first glints of dawn searched for a way through the thick barricade of jungle masses but found little progress. But it didn’t matter it was getting lighter. They—with a bit of luck—had arrived. And had the gods been watching from Mount Olympus, Spooky and her army would have appeared like Thief Ants compared to the alien craft.
It loomed before them. A dome-headed megastructure of immense portions. Spooky’s eyes started at the ground and searched upward. And upward. And upward. Until the dome disappeared into a lingering morning cloud. It was bigger than anything she had ever seen on Earth. Bigger than anything she could have imagined.
The wolf sniffed the snake as if communicating in that animal way creatures do. The wolf went left. The snake right. And those remaining understood the pair of shapeshifters went looking for a discreet point of entry.
While they waited, Spooky studied the structure and determined it looked like a monstrous mushroom. Its base was metallic all the way up to where the dome began. The entire mushroom top, from what Spooky could see, was some sort of transparent smoky substance, like glass, which it couldn’t be from what little she knew of space travel.
Spooky stooped and picked up one of the ashen fragments she’d stumbled on numerous times. She examined it, still unable to determine its origin. The dawn inched in little by little, like a shy child, and filtered through the dense foliage, illuminating the billions of pieces of the white debris surrounding them.
The warming roused the stench. The odor assaulted their noses, causing Hexer and Spooky to cough and gag. Mo tied his bandana over his nose like a train robber’s guise. Ransome whined.
They were surrounded by pieces of decaying corpses. A leg here. A hand there. The bigger fragments, which had often tripped them, were decapitated skulls and severed torsos.
Spooky instantly tossed the piece she was holding into the brush. Finally able to identify it was the distal phalanx of some poor soul’s finger. “Yuck,” she gasped. “What the hell? The Vrag didn’t do this.”
She knew they hadn’t because she’d watched victims, flesh and bones, dissolve in the Vrags’ mouths once their acid secretions were activated. If the Vrag had done this, there would be no remains.
Mo lowered his head. “This is what’s left of my people. The Avenir bots tortured and dismembered members of the resistance to force information out of them.” He eyed Spooky. “It’s what they’ll do to Moon, and probably Piper, if we don’t rescue them soon.”
Spooky understood the urgency as a deep feeling of loss swelled inside her and consumed her like waves at ocean’s shore. She shivered. “I know you want to be the one to save Moon and your daughter. But…” Could she make him realize the importance of following her plan?
Show him you have confidence. Shayd placed the thought in her head.
“But if you trust me—.” She hesitated. People always say, trust me. In books. On TV. In the movies. And it never amounted to anything but pointless words. “I know people always say, ‘trust me.’ And I want you to. But, to be honest, I don’t know if my plan will work. But of all us, our wolf and our snake have the best chance of saving those we love. So don’t trust me. Trust them.”
Mo nodded, then looked away. Spooky thought she saw tears forming. “It’s just, for so long I wanted nothing more than to be with Moon and our child. Now they’re here. Close enough for me to see them. But…not touch. Seeing Moon tortured. Wondering what’s in store for my daughter. Me not able to do anything to spare them is more than I can—”
“Bear.” Spooky finished his statement, paused, and added, “Almost.”
Mo’s expression questioned her meaning.
“It’s almost more than you can bear,” she explained. “Look, Mo, you’re a brave man. That’s apparent or you’d never have joined the resistance to right the wrongs inflicted by the Avenir. You rushing in to save them doesn’t ensure their safety. It might end up getting you killed. Or worse.”
“What could possibly be worse?” Mo demanded.
“The bots might use Moon or Piper to get information from you. Your presence might result in more torture. Or get them killed like these remnants of the resistance scattered at our feet.”
Mo nodded in agreement and this time Spooky believed he was convinced her plan was their best option.
The Avenir Homecraft: Guy
If my parents could see me now…was the thought orbiting in Guy’s head as he scouted the perimeter of the spacecraft in search of a way in.
He knew his parents would be proud of his endeavors to save the worlds. But what would they think of his love for a Gate Worlder, who was part Starling and part Times Three.
Just as the Starlings and Times Threes were known to be deeply captivated by each other, Booners were notorious for falling in love at first sight. Guy guessed this characteristic could be attributed to his species’ close connection to nature. For all life forms on his world lived and loved. Booners knew this fact and thus gave freely and easily of their own love in return.
It was his explanation for his immediate attraction to Piper. But he wasn’t sure.
All he knew for sure was he couldn’t quit thinking about Piper. From the first moment she’d appeared in his life, he’d thought only of her and what it would be like to be in her presence forever.
He sensed she might feel the same. If it wasn’t for Leo.
It was something in her touch. The way her small, warm hand lingered on his arm. Her lips on his cheek had sent a thrill cascading through his body, causing every one of his scales to quake.
He’d find her and save her. And even if she chose Leo, she’d be alive, and he could dream of her. For what right had he to ask her to love him. His scaly body. Cold blooded, he was. Ugly, humans would say.
But many Booner females considered him handsome. But they were Booners. And she was a Starling and a Times Threes—both species known throughout the worlds for their beauty.
Guy halted, realizing he was almost back to his starting point with no success. The wolf had joined him midway and now sat on his haunches beside him.
He wondered what, if anything, Aron had found. Guy had yet to try communicating with him in their shifter forms. Back on Boon World, his people communicated with all creatures. But Aron was human.
Aron, can you hear me?
Strangely, yes. How did you do that?
I think it’s something my kind have the ability to do.
Very cool. You find anything?
The wolf and the snake stared into the myriad of green growth before them, hoping the jungle might offer solutions. And, as if the answer came to both at the exact same time, they looked up and scanned the bottom of the doom. There, about thirty-five feet directly above them, was a hatch. If they could reach it, they’d be close to the room where Chick and the kids were being held.
Guy had slithered up many a thing in his snake body. But this structure was as slick as frozen water. And it was a straight up ascent. Still, he had to try.
His body swayed back and forth as it slinked up the homecraft base. His tail supported his weight. He was ten feet long in his snake form, but needed another twenty-five feet to make it to the hatch. He continued sidewinding, hoping to advance.
During one swipe, his body came into contact with a bulging disc in the framework. He made another swipe and there it was—a nodule in an otherwise flat surface. He repeated the action, this time applying more pressure. Nothing. He coiled, the best he could, and struck the disc full strength with his head.
A mechanical whooshing emanated from the shiny metal and within seconds a copper-colored ladder dropped from the hatch to the ground, bypassing the snake’s coiled body on the way down.
Guy descended and joined Aron, who had gone into hiding amongst the brush once he heard the noise.
Way to go, Aron said.
Let’s see if anyone…anything…comes looking for who opened the hatch, Guy said.
Morning light now provided them a better perspective of the craft. Its largeness was intimidating but also good news. Something so big couldn’t be guarded at all times. And they were not expected.
Or were they?
Guy and Aron waited. And as they waited, Guy devised his own plan. He and Aron would rescue Chick and the kids. Aron would get them to safety, while he searched for Piper. He’d save her. Spooky wouldn’t be around to stop him.
When the two shifters decided the Avenir and their bots hadn’t detected the breach, they stood at the copper-colored ladder calculating their best approach. It was a straight-up, vertical climb.
Do you think in your human form you can carry me up the ladder? Guy asked.
No problem, Aron said.
That way instead of one of us sticking our head through the hatch unaware of what awaits, I can simply peer in with my snake head and go pretty much undetected. Guy explained. If I’ve calculated correctly, we will be near the room where Chick and the kids are being held.
Aron seized his human form. Guy wound around his body like clothing, his head higher than Aron’s to scout above them for any dangers.
Aron’s 155 pound load forced him to stop three times to catch his breath. Damn, kid, you’re packing some weight on yah or I’m out of shape.
Actually, I’m pretty lean for the type of creature I am.
Aron released a winded giggle. Yeah, keep telling yourself that, kid. And I’ll keep telling myself I’m in great shape.
At the opening, Guy loosened his grip on Aron, extended his neck and peeked in. He reptilian head poked in each direction searching for movement. The transparent walls of the homecraft allowed the sun to naturally light the curved hallways.
Guy flared his hood like a cobra, but unlike the cobra who uses its hood to appear larger, Guy’s hood was composed of heat and smell receptors. He detected nothing. Not through vibrations, at least. And there would have to be something alive—which neither the Avenir nor Bots were—for his heat-receptive optics to kick in.
He slid off Aron and slithered left toward a nearby door and inspected it. He told Aron, Not detecting any bots, but there’s a door. Chick and the kids are behind it. My specialized receptors have picked up their scent and body heat. Come on through.
He nosed up and down the door trying to find a way in, but it was airtight. He recognized a keypad about four feet up, but it had no numerals. Only triangles going in different directions. They’d need a bot to open it.
Aron had joined him and immediately began pushing on the pad to gain entry. “Damn, how do we this? Any ideas?”
Try talking to the kids. Maybe it opens from the inside.
“Kappa? River? Open the door if you can hear me, it’s Aron.” He tapped lightly on the door. A soft tap, tap, tap was returned.
Episode 46 planned for September 12, 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.