The day was sunny and warm and the perimeter fence was almost finished. Jason and Amanda were hard at work finishing off the last section. The past week had been spent on building the fence and installing booby traps, which Jason liked to refer to as an early warning system. The fence was eight feet high, solid and strong, with barbed wire covering the last foot at the top. When finished, the only way in or out of the grounds would be through the front gates.
The Doc was busy building a fire pit that would be used to cook most of their food and boil water for drinking. With no animals around, most of their food consisted of rice or dried pasta and anything else they could find in the houses and buildings around the town. Rain water was collected whenever it rained and any additional water was sourced from a stream which was a mile or two from the house. It wasn’t the most ideal of living conditions but they were surviving and living a reasonably comfortable life.
‘You think this will keep the Screamers out?’ Amanda said.
‘I hope so.’ Jason said, as he clipped the wire mesh to a fence post. ‘We can’t do any better with the supplies we have.’
‘I suppose at least we’ll hear them coming.’ Amanda said.
‘The booby traps?’ Jason replied.
‘Yes.’ Amanda said, ‘But I thought you liked to call it the early warning system?’
Jason chuckled, ‘That’s exactly right. We should get a good few minutes to prepare.’
The Doc approached them, wiping the dirt from his hands.
‘We need more water.’ He said. ‘This dry spell is not good for our water supplies.’
‘We’re nearly done here.’ Jason said, peering over the fence. ‘We’ll head down to the stream and fill up and then come back through the front gates. Pass me a few containers.’
The Doc fetched two twenty-five litre containers and passed them over the fence to Jason and Amanda. Jason, in return, passed his tools and the remaining fencing materials over the fence to the Doc.
Jason and Amanda picked up the containers and began the short walk across the fields to the stream. It was late in the day and the sun made the landscape glow orange and their shadows stretch on as if for miles. They clambered down the bank to the stream and filled the containers. They were heavy so Amanda climbed the bank first and Jason passed the containers up one at a time. As he was passing up the second container, he froze. In the distance he heard the familiar screech of a Screamer. He quickly passed up the container and climbed the bank. Amanda was already gazing at the tree line on the other side of the field when Jason got to the top. He looked over and froze for the second time in the last thirty seconds. He could see at least twenty Screamers lined up at the edge of the field, all of them staring over in their direction.
‘Get back down into the stream.’ Jason said to Amanda. ‘Follow it down to the next field and then head back up to the house.’
‘Where are you going?’ Amanda said.
‘I’m going to distract them.’ He said.
‘Doesn’t matter. Just go.’
Amanda slid down the bank and ran off down the stream as Jason stood up and stared at the Screamers facing him, three hundred metres away. Pulling his hunting knife out of its sheath, he walked slowly but solidly towards the Screamers. The Screamers stayed on the edge of the tree line and let out a deafening screech.
‘This was not a good idea.’ Jason said to himself as he got closer.
The creatures facing him were hideous, not human, not natural, more like some sort of freak of nature. He stopped and stared at every one of them and then he spoke.
‘I don’t want to fight you.’ He said. ‘Just let me past and no one will get hurt.’
He realised how stupid that sounded but he didn’t care, he was delaying them for as long as possible. They just stared at him, unmoving. He came to a halt, his arms open by his sides. Nothing happened for the next ten seconds, just a stare off to see who would back down first, but no one backed down. Then one of the Screamers began to move and shot a vine directly at Jason. Dodging out of the way, he rolled to his right and then stood up, prepared for the next attack. Another vine shot at him and he grabbed it in his left and thrust the knife into it with his right hand. The Screamer howled as Jason cut through it and threw the end to the ground. Within seconds, more vines were coming his way. He dodged and weaved his way through them until he was face to face with a Screamer. Raising his knife in the air, he leapt at the Screamer and plunged the knife directly into its head. The Screamer fell to the ground with Jason on top.
‘One down.’ Jason said to himself. ‘A million more to go.’
He swung around and caught another Screamer in the leg with the blade. The beast fell on its knee but continued to grab at Jason. He quickly stabbed it in the head and moved on to the next.
Three more went down before Jason began to tire. He was vastly outnumbered. Even with his newly acquired strength and reflexes, he realised he was fighting a losing battle. Looking around he found himself surrounded by at least another twelve Screamers. He guessed that Amanda was probably safely back at the house, so he decided it was time to run. Gripping his knife, he charged at the nearest Screamer, stuck the knife in, and took it down. And then he kept on running.
He headed back down to the stream and picked up a water canister that was left behind and then followed the same route that Amanda had taken. He moved as fast as he could, trying to put as much distance between himself and the Screamers. He ran across the final field toward the house and had a quick glance behind. The Screamers were far away in the distance, but coming.
‘Open the gates.’ He yelled as he approached the house.
He was relieved to see Amanda and the Doc swinging the gate open as he ran in. Then they quickly slammed it shut and locked it up tight.
‘They’re coming.’ He said. ‘I killed five or six of them but there’s too many. Grab a weapon.’
‘How long until they’re here.’ The Doc said.
‘Three, maybe four minutes’ Jason replied between breaths.
‘I have an idea.’ The Doc said. ‘Grab the left over barbed wire and throw it over the gate. I’ll be back in a minute.’
When the Doc returned he was holding some old sheets and a propane canister.
‘Found this in the shed the other day.’ He said referring to the propane. ‘Along with this.’ He dropped the sheets and held up a full bottle of barbeque lighter fluid.
‘Oh, I see where this is going. I like your style Doc.’ Jason said.
The Doc smiled. ‘Quick, open the gates.’
Amanda opened the gates and Jason and the Doc ran out and bundled the sheets on the ground. They soaked the sheets in the lighter fluid and then placed the propane canister in the middle. Finally they threw the barbed wire on top and around the sheets. The Screamers were less than two hundred metres away and approaching fast, so the Doc quickly opened the valve on the canister and pulled a box of matches out of his back pocket.
‘Here we go.’ He said, as he waited for the Screamers to get closer.
When they were fifty metres away, he struck the match and threw it down on the sheets. The sheets caught light immediately and within a couple of seconds the whole area was alight. And within a few more seconds, the whole area was surrounded by Screamers. Jason quickly pulled the Doc away and shoved him through the gate as Amanda closed it behind them.
‘I hope this works.’ Jason said.
‘It will.’ The Doc said. ‘I just hope we timed it right.’
They had timed it right. The flames weren’t a threat to the Screamers and they attempted to charge through them but when they hit the barbed wire, their legs became tangled. The more they moved, the more tangled they became. Some of the Screamers were beginning to burn from the flames, others were just outside of the fire. Jason, Amanda and the Doc watched and waited.
They didn’t have to wait long, the propane canister was alight and hissing loudly. They were all wincing, knowing that at any moment it would explode.
And then it did.
It had reached its limit as the gases expanded and exploded in a big ball of fire. The force ripped through the Screamers, tearing their torsos from their trapped legs as shrapnel ripped through their bodies. What was left of the Screamers quickly erupted into flames, leaving heaps of burning vines.
Their bodies were reduced to piles of smouldering ash as the sun dipped below the horizon and darkness set in. No more Screamers followed and the evening was silent and still.
‘I have to hand it to you Doc.’ Jason said as he stared at the glowing embers, ‘That was a damn good plan.’
‘Thank you.’ The Doc said. ‘But it was totally inspired by you. Your story about blowing the house to pieces somehow stuck in my mind.’
‘So it was really a new spin on my idea.’ Jason said, smiling. ‘I’m glad it came to mind Doc. You saved us from a long fight.’