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The Last Valley Part 3 - Pursuit




* * *




Jacali woke up after the sun had risen on Monday, July 27, 1875.


“Damn it, Jack West,†she muttered.


She had expected the man to wake her when it was still dark. She found West leaning against the medicine wagon where he must have leaned and fallen asleep. His gun was still in his hand and he looked very peaceful. She thought on how to she wanted to wake him up. She finally decided to leave him be until he woke naturally.


He awoke when he heard people moving around in the camp.


“****,†he said.


He had merely leaned against the wagon at one point while watching and rested his eyes. Then it was morning. He was a little embarrassed by the situation but didn’t say anything about it.


During breakfast, they heard a strange roar in the distance, much like the one from the night before. It sounded closer. They looked in that direction, Professor Stalloid and Jack West using the field glasses. West and Jacali both saw the shape of a massive creature, like a lizard, a few miles away. West’s jaw dropped. He recognized it as the thing he’d seen on the edge of the fog. It seemed to be heading their direction. It dropped its head near the ground for a moment and then continued on.


“I have a very exciting idea,†West said.


“What’d you see, Jack?†Professor Stalloid said.


“Well …â€


“I saw your jaw drop.â€


“There’s a different skin that I would like.â€


“Okay, Jack, you stay here, we’ll keep going ahead. Everybody agree?â€


“Yes,†Dr. Weisswald said.


“Stalloid!†West said.


“Stalloid, in non-crazy-person news, I think there’s something following us from the fog, and my guess would be that it’s following the dead, giant sack of meat that we are carrying,†Jacali said.


“Yes, I said that in the fog!†Professor Stalloid said. “That things would follow us.â€


“What is our plan on that, then? Since you have clearly already thought of it.â€




“To run until … we stop and it catches up with us …â€


“And we get more people with more guns.â€


“And we endanger civilians.â€


“More people with more guns. Yes.â€


“Stalloid, have you seen me use this?†West said, holding up one of his six-guns.


“You’ll be there with the more people with more guns,†Professor Stalloid said.


“No, but, Stalloid, if we do it by ourselves, we get all the glory. Also, we are on a wagon. This is faster than that big lizard.â€


“What makes you think that?â€


“We’re still ahead of it, right? Y’all want to stay ahead of it. I agree, but … we should go a little slower so we don’t lose it.â€


“Do you want to go fast? Ride until we get to civilization?â€


“Do you think we can lose it though?†Dr. Weisswald said.


“I don’t know,†Professor Stalloid said. “I’m also wondering if it would be attracted to the smell emanating from the─â€


“The guts?â€


“─we buried at all.â€


“I don’t want to lose it,†West said.


“I don’t think there’s going to be another town for a while,†Jacali said. “Not that I remember around here.â€


“We could take the head,†Otto said. “Leave the rest for it.â€


“We could gather the ashes from our fire at night and slowly spread those along our trail as we go ahead,†Professor Stalloid said. “That might disrupt its scent and we could find out tomorrow.â€


“Stalloid, if we do that … we might lose it,†West said.


“I think that is the goal Mr. West,†Jacali said.


“We’ll have to take the chance, I guess,†Professor Stalloid said.


Dr. Weisswald suggested laudanum might disrupt its scent as well. Professor Stalloid noted he still had the poison he’d made for the worm things in Hilton Springs. Jacali thought they should do whatever they were going to do and do it quickly. There was talk of digging up the guts from the pterodactyl or poisoning the meat from the creature.


“You know what would make this easier?†West said. “If we get the skin out of the way.â€


In the end, they injected the horrible poison into some of the meat from the pterodactyl and left it behind, hoping to poison the thing following them. In Apache, Jacali prayed, apologizing for using the thunder bird for what they had planned and praying not to be punished for it.


They continued to the east at good speed. West continually asked them to slow down, not wanting to lose the beast.


They made good progress that day. When they stopped to camp that night, they could still hear the roars of the thing in the distance. It sounded like it was a little closer.


“How long would that poison have taken?†Dr. Weisswald said.


“Oh, it would have been very quick,†Professor Stalloid said. “It was basically just everything I had that would kill a living thing.â€


Dr. Weisswald was of the opinion they should leave the pterodactyl. Otto and Jacali agreed, though Otto thought they could keep the head.


“Who says it’s not after our innocent snake man?†West said.


“I don’t think he has a big enough scent,†Jacali said. “I don’t think he’s good enough food for a creature of that size.â€


“You smelled him?†West said.


“Smelled like any snake I’ve ever smelled,†Jacali said before gesturing at the roof of the medicine wagon. “But this thing! Oh my God! I don’t know if you’ve been outside all day but I have smelled it for 24 hours.â€


“I don’t know what you’re talking about,†West said.


“I vote we leave it,†Dr. Weisswald said again.


“We should leave it,†Otto said.


“I second,†Jacali said.


“Maybe take something small off of it but leave most of the corpse behind,†Otto said.


“Maybe we take off the skin,†West said.


“That’s what it’s after!†Otto said.


“That’s a large portion of what it’s after, I believe,†Professor Stalloid said.


He pointed out it was good at smelling and they should get rid of all of it, noting the serpent person alone was the discovery of the century. West thought they should look for a tall bluff or cliff. Jacali didn’t think her bow would be any good at piercing the thing’s skin. Only those people with guns would be able to actually fight it. Professor Stalloid didn’t think the guns would have much effect on the creature. West noted bears were big too but could be killed. Jacali said it was much bigger than a bear. West thought that just meant they’d need more bullets.


“I’ll let you get rid of the p-terodactyl if we kill that,†West said. “Because I want that.â€


“If you want to kill it, you can get whomever else you want in there,†Jacali said. “But I am not in it. I think we are all going to die. Or it is going to be extremely dangerous.â€


“We climb a big rock,†West said.


He looked at them.


“Wow, that is such a good plan,†Jacali said.


Dr. Weisswald had a temporary name for the snake person, calling it Opheo after the genus for the American green snake.


West suggested driving slowly enough to shoot it from the back of the medicine wagon. Otto thought that a bad idea and Professor Stalloid pointed out the thing was catching them on a daily basis. Jacali thought it probable if the thing caught up to the wagon, it would destroy them.


“True. We could lead it to a town and the citizens could distract it for us,†West said.


“No!†Otto said.


“That’s what y’all are talking about, right?†West said. “You want to go to the safety of a town? It’s just going to keep following us.â€


“I don’t think that is a good idea,†Jacali said.


“That’s why we’re getting rid of the pterodactyl!†Professor Stalloid said.


“We’ve got to have some sort of trophy,†West said.


“Opheo,†Professor Stalloid said.


“We’ve gotta save Opheo,†Dr. Weisswald said.


“Can I claim him?†West said.


“No!†Professor Stalloid said. “Opheo’s a person!â€


“He is already saved!†Jacali said.


“Fine,†West said.


“The thing is, Jack West, I am not opposed to killing this thing and I feel I am not going to be very useful in it,†Jacali said. “And I think it is incredibly dangerous, and …â€


“We’re gonna need a bigger gun,†Otto said.


“We’re going to need either a very good plan or more guns,†Jacali said. “And I don’t─â€


“About this big rock,†West said.


“Expand on this idea of the big rock,†Jacali said. “What happens with it?â€


“Well, the rock is bigger than it,†West said. “And we stand on top of it …â€


Jacali looked around but it was already getting dark. She guessed there might be places nearby where they could get up. Dr. Weisswald pointed out it wouldn’t save the wagon or the horses. West noted the gunmen would take their place on the tall butte while the others moved away with the medicine wagon. He said they could put the pterodactyl on the ground in front them.


“What your suggesting here is we leave you and Otto with the pterodactyl and we go to the town,†Professor Stalloid said. “Good plan.â€


“No!†Otto said.


“Not all the way to town,†West said.


“Not again!†Otto said. “I’m not being left behind a second time.â€


“Okay, we leave Jack and the pterodactyl on top of the rock,†Professor Stalloid said. “We’ll come back for you later and we’ll go to the town.â€


West suggested they just lead it for three days and it would die of dehydration. That didn’t seem feasible as they were passing, occasionally, springs in the desert where the thing could probably get water. West suggested they go two more days before getting rid of the pterodactyl. Professor Stalloid said they could wait until morning but then if they saw it still getting closer, he would throw away the pterodactyl.


“Seems fair,†West said.


“And if you want to stay, we can ditch you,†Professor Stalloid said.


“Also fair,†West said.


They set the watches for the night. Jacali was disappointed at the watches the night before. They decided Otto would be on watch first and Jacali second. When she found out Otto had stayed awake the night before, she trusted him over West.


The Indian they had rescued was still only semi-conscious and often delirious.


During the night, they heard more growls and roars of the huge creature in the distance. On his watch, West thought the thing had their scent and would be there soon. He assumed the cries of the thing were some kind of challenge to its prey.



* * *




Tuesday, July 28, 1875, dawned bright and sunny once again after the cold, desert night. They could see the thing was closer, visible to the naked eye. Some of them looked at the thing through the field glasses and it was definitely still moving in their direction. It looked like it was only a mile away.


“So, Stalloid, is that close enough?†West said.


“I think it is,†Otto said.


“I think we are getting rid of this pterodactyl,†Professor Stalloid said.


Otto asked if he could use his saddle on Jacali’s horse. Her first reaction was a no but when he noted the saddle also had a rifle sheath, she said he could try. He tried to put a saddle on the horse but it shied away. He gave up and put it into the wagon. Then he mounted up bareback. She stared at him for a moment. Jacali apologized to her horse in Apache.


They removed the dinosaur from the top of the medicine wagon and Professor Stalloid gave the wagon a quick wipe-down before they continued east away from the thing. They used the ashes they’d been collecting from their fires behind the medicine wagon as well. West watched the thing as best he could with the field glasses.


West suggested they use a cave to try to deal with the thing. Stalloid didn’t like the idea of being cornered with the horrible thing but West was certain it was a good idea.


They had been following the White River in Colorado and continued to do so. Someone saw a mark on the map noting “White River P.O.†Jacali and Otto led the way, scouting ahead to find a clear path for the medicine wagon. She narrowly got them around a marshy spot near the river towards the end of the day. West, who had been watching the creature, thought it was closer by that evening.


They could hear it roaring in the distance as they camped that night.


“It’s too bad we don’t have dynamite,†Dr. Weisswald said.


There was a noise from the medicine wagon and they found the Ute brave had woken up. He jabbered away in Ute, terrified. Dr. Weisswald understood most of what he said and Jacali could understand him a little bit. She told the brave she was a friend and she had been the one who had helped him. He didn’t know where he was and was terrified. He did relate that he and other braves were attacked in the fog by lizards the size of men. He fought bravely but then fled as they killed the others. When Dr. Weisswald told him they had killed a thunderbird, that terrified him even more. He wanted to know why he was tied up and was certain the white people were going to kill him.


Jacali introduced herself and introduced “Whitewind†noting that the white woman could understand him better than she could. She also told him they were in Colorado, which confused him. He was very hungry and thirsty. When Weisswald asked where his home was, he told her he lived on the Uintah Reservation.


They told him they would take him home but there was danger behind them. When they told him it was a lizard, he was terrified. Jacali said they had some luck dealing with the lizards and thought that would continue.


“Why am I tied up?†he asked.


“We don’t want you to hurt the other patient,†Dr. Weisswald said.


“What is that thing?†he said.


She calmed the man down after some time and he said he would not hurt the snake thing but he was still very distracted and disturbed. They untied him and used some liniment on him. Jacali quickly removed him from the medicine wagon. He was introduced to the rest of them and then they heard the roar of the thing following them. He was terrified at that and told them he and the other braves had heard such noises in the fog though they never saw what made them, though it sounded really big.


Jacali learned the man didn’t speak English. He only understood Ute. She told him she had to talk to the others.


“I think that I’m worried about is this thing catching up to us in the night and catching us unaware,†she said to the others.


“That’s why we’re on watch,†Dr. Weisswald said.


“But I’m saying: do we have any better plan than that,†Jacali said. “And what is our plan for tomorrow? Because, we haven’t lost this thing. I don’t know if it’s getting closer. The noises sound closer every night.â€


“I say tomorrow we might just have to go with Jack’s plan,†Professor Stalloid said.


“Finally, people are thinking responsibly,†Jack said.


Professor Stalloid suggested they might be able to continue at night, using lanterns as well.


“Too dangerous!†West said.


“It will still catch up to us,†Dr. Weisswald said.


“I know, but at least we’re moving,†Professor Stalloid said.


“Maybe it’s after your snake,†Otto said.


“When would be able to sleep?†West said.


“How would it know?†Professor Stalloid said.


“We got rid of the pterodactyl,†Otto said.


“I think it’s just after us now,†Professor Stalloid said. “The big - the big creature that my wagon is, is what it’s after. It thinks ‘That looks yummy yummy.’â€


“We have six horses and six people …†Dr. Weisswald said.


“Six people, a big structure, it doesn’t know it’s wood,†Professor Stalloid said. “It might think it’s a big solid hunk of meat.â€


“That’s what I thought it was,†West said.


“And if the snake smell, if Opheo’s smell is what is attracting it─†Jacali said.


“I don’t think it’s that powerful,†Professor Stalloid said.


“Possibly not,†Jacali said.


“Even if we just injure it, we might be able to get ahead of it,†Dr Weisswald said.


“I agree,†Professor Stalloid said. “Oh! Rockslide.â€


They heard the thing in the distance.


They had been starting to move into the hills on that day as they continued to follow the White River, but it was still very barren.


“Now that the terrain is more mountainous, your big rock plan, Jack, sounds more feasible,†Jacali said.


“I could try to make some nitroglycerin,†Professor Stalloid said.


They discussed what to do, Jacali pointing out she realized West wanted his trophy but she wanted to get out of it without any of them dying, if possible, just for the hide.


“We could always come back later for it,†Otto said.


“I don’t think there’s gonna be a later,†West said. “It’s after us now.â€


Jacali suggested they keep watch that night and try to pick up the pace the next day, trying to put some distance between them and it. On the way, they could look for a high vantage point and set up for an ambush.


“Sounds like a plan,†West said. “Sounds like my plan.â€


“It is your plan,†Jacali said. “I’ll give you credit for that.â€


Dr. Weisswald wanted to keep it away from the wagon. They realized they could make much better speed without the wagon but Dr. Weisswald refused to leave the serpent person and the Ute. Jacali noted, in addition to that, they kept the wagon away while they had some horses that could get the rest of them away if it wasn’t going to work out.


“Sounds like a great plan,†West said. “Problem is, we don’t have enough horses unless somebody’s willing to share.â€


Professor Stalloid was willing to share a couple of the newer horses.


They had not seen anyplace they could use when they had set up camp that night. They figured they would have to look for a spot once they moved on the next morning.


Professor Stalloid also got to work making two batches of nitroglycerin. The first turned out to be a dud and didn’t work at all. The second seemed to be very unstable and powerful. It was perfect. He packed it into a crate filled with wet straw. He knew someone would have to hold it while the medicine wagon was moving to keep it as still as possible.


Jacali told the Ute what they were planning and what they hoped would happen. She also asked his name and learned he was called Night Horse. She told him the thing was following them despite all they tried to do to slow or stop it, so they figured they had to deal with the horrible thing. Night Horse told her he knew of certain bears that, once they caught a man’s scent, they would hunt him until they were killed. He was afraid it was like that. He told her it might also be some kind of vengeful spirit that drove the horrible creature. He was afraid to die and was pretty certain he had died the first time death had come to him. He worried he was dead.


Jacali had Night Horse take the first watch with Otto. She gave him her bow but, when Dr. Weisswald saw that, she advised against it as the motion of drawing the bow could rip out the man’s stitches. Otto pointed out they would not be able to communicate either. Jacali said she had a solution and went to Night Horse and told him of the signal in the group, an English word “raspberry.†If he ever heard anyone say it, that meant there was trouble. She then asked the others if they could give him a gun. Otto gave him one of his peacemakers. Jacali asked him if he knew how to use it and he said he did, though he preferred a rifle. Night Horse cocked the gun and sighted down the barrel. She also told him if there was ever danger, he could wake her up first.


The second watch would be Otto and Jacali, while the third watch would be Jack West and Jacali.


Dr. Weisswald and Professor Stalloid kept watch on the serpent person. Professor Stalloid used a sponge, occasionally, to wet down the creature’s skin. Dr. Weisswald listened to the creature’s torso with her stethoscope. It was very strange but she didn’t think she heard any signs of internal bleeding or the like.



* * *




The next day, Wednesday, July 29, 1875, they could clearly see the terrible lizard without the field glasses. It was only a half mile away. They very quickly hitched up the horses and got the medicine wagon underway.


“Raspberry!†Night Horse said, seeing it for the first time. “Raspberry!â€


The thing obviously saw them and headed their direction faster than they found comfortable. They pushed their horses while Jacali scouted ahead to find a safe path. They didn’t see any place to ambush it that morning.


Jacali fell back and asked the others if they wanted to make due or hope for a place to ambush the beast further east. Dr. Weisswald was for looking for a better spot so they continued on, the dinosaur continuing to close the gap. They had moved away from the river a little ways and Jacali found a place, around 2 p.m., where there had been a landslide. It opened up a way to get to a cliff overlooking the place the wagon would pass, up about 40 feet. It was a place they might be able to use to stay above the head of the horrible thing.


They decided to ambush it. A discussion ensued on who would actually be part of the ambush. In the end, they decided West, Otto, Jacali, and Professor Stalloid would go up the landslide and wait to ambush the thing at the top. Meanwhile, Dr. Weisswald, Night Horse, and Opheo would continue on with the horses and the medicine wagon. Professor Stalloid gave Night Horse his .52 Sharps rifle and some ammunition. He gave Otto his pistol back. Night Horse would drive the medicine wagon so that Dr. Weisswald could see to her other patient.


The four ambushers left the wagon at the landslide, climbing up as quickly as they could. In addition to the little bottle of nitroglycerin, Professor Stalloid had several bottles of lamp oil that he planned to stick rags into and light on fire in the straw-filled crate. Jacali had her magical arrow nocked and ready. Otto had his rifle and West was ready with his guns.


They waited at the top.


Jack West lay down on the ground, close to the edge. Professor Stalloid knelt a little further back from where he was. Jacali asked for a spare pistol in case her arrows couldn’t pierce the thing’s hide. Otto lent her his peacemaker. He also gave her some bullets.


“Wait for me to fire first,†West said.


They heard the thing before they saw it. It was almost as tall as the cliff they were waiting upon and was huge, standing 40 feet to the top of its head. West took aim. Then the thing stopped and sniffed loudly with impossibly huge nostrils.


Jacali stood from where she was quietly kneeling and shot the black arrow at the thing even as Jack West fired. Otto shot at the thing a moment later. Professor Stalloid used the lightning gun but the blast went by the creature and struck one of the few nearby trees. The bullets struck the horrible creature and Jacali’s black arrow entered the terrible beast’s right eye. The thing roared.


West stood and fired another shot at the horrible thing. The bullet didn’t seem to harm it much.


“Damn lizard!†he said. “Die!â€


Otto worked the action on his Winchester carbine and put it to his shoulder again. With a click, the gun jammed.


This thing always jams! he thought in frustration.


The horrible creature moved to the edge of the cliff and reached its head over the top towards West, snapping at the man, who staggered back. The jaws closed only a foot or so from him.


Professor Stalloid reached into the crate and took out the vial of nitroglycerin. He carefully threw it underhand, tossing it over the side of the cliff so that it might hit the thing in the chest. The vial went over the edge of the cliff and struck somewhere below. The blast knocked them all off their feet and physically moved the terrible creature back from the cliff.


The thing turned and stumbled away, finally collapsing to the ground and rolling on its back. They got to their feet as quickly as they could and saw a massive, gaping wound in its belly. Then blood and guts that had been flung into the air by the initial blast came down upon them.


“God damn it, Jack West,†Jack West said. “Did you have to blow it up?â€


“Yes!†Professor Stalloid said. “That was the plan. That’s why I made the nitroglycerin.â€


“Jacali, are you against skinning this one?†West said.


“I don’t give a damn,†Jacali said.


Otto was cursing his carbine as he struggled to clear the jammed bullet.


“I’m not going to help you though,†Jacali said. “That’s too big of a job.â€


“We’re not getting all of it,†West said. “Just enough for a duster.â€


They climbed back down the landslide. Jacali examined the thing’s head in an attempt to recover the black arrow. She found it embedded in the giant eye all the way down to the feathers. She was surprised it had not killed it instantly. She recovered it and returned it to the quiver.


Jack West cut off some of the meat to eat later. He also cut away a huge amount of the skin on the back of the thing for later tanning though he did a sloppy job of it. He wanted to cut the thing’s head off to take with them. Otto started to cut it off with his saber.



* * *




The medicine wagon showed up about 20 minutes later and found everyone left behind was covered in blood and gore. They talked of staying the night there while they butchered the carcass but Night Horse suggested that might be a bad idea as the meat would soon cause every carnivore and scavenger within miles to congregate on the spot. He suggested they at least get an hour’s travel from the thing.


Professor Stalloid cut one of the large talons from the foot and Jacali asked for a tooth.


Otto tried the serpent people sword to try to finish cutting off the head but found the balance was all wrong and he didn’t care for the weapon. He used it anyway so that he wouldn’t dull his own blade too much.


By the time they headed on, there were already vultures and hawks circling overhead.


They made camp that night, several miles away from the carcass, and cooked up tyrannosaurus rex meat for dinner. It tasted like chicken.



* * *




They reached White River Post Office late the next day, Thursday, July 30, 1875. The place proved to be little more than a trading post and post office with little to show for it. There was no hotel or saloon though there was a place to buy liquor at the trading post. It stood just off the river and was pretty bare.


“What you got there?†one man asked as they rolled in across the scrubland. “What is that thing?â€


“Got us a big lizard,†West said.


“I ain’t never seen the like!†the man said.


“Anyone got a tailor ‘round here?†West asked.


Professor Stalloid asked about a tarp but the trading post didn’t have any and the people there couldn’t spare him one despite the money he flashed around.


Jack West was able to find someone who was willing to tan the tyrannosaurus rex hide. He offered to pay $10 earnest money in advance and another $20 once the job was done. The man’s name was Rueben Fielding. He had a Midwestern accent.


That evening, the serpent person awoke.

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