Monsters of New Madrid: Event 149

Submitted into Contest #176 in response to: Start your story with someone witnessing magic from a hiding place.... view prompt

41 comments

Fantasy Fiction Thriller

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

[The Exhort's back story can be found at https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/rohzpj/]


On shore, it looked like an enormous, dirty gray tarp, discarded and collapsed onto itself. The muddy waters of the Mississippi lapped at its edges, stiffening them in the ice-cold January current and causing steam to rise from the unholy-looking flesh. Hiding behind a nearby pier, Cole Miles -- who knew what it was -- urgently whispered to his younger brother, Jarod, “Go get Mom. Hurry!”


Upon arrival, Lily Miles surveyed the detritus that had washed ashore. “Kids, get to the house. NOW!” Her eyes frantically scouted the river behind the gigantic, cast-off amniotic sac, searching for immediate threats. Her tone was one the boys rarely heard, and it got them moving as Lily dialed a number on her cell. “Martin, we have a situation at Old Point.”


Martin Samuels was the latest chief in a long line who had overseen the business of The Exhort, a 200-year-old order formed to keep the monsters of New Madrid, Missouri, at bay. On this blustery January day, just three days after the latest 3.0 earthquake had hit the town’s shores, at least one monster had been spawned anew: it was time for The Exhort’s members to spring into action once again.


Martin and Lily met up to measure the casing, then put out the word. Soon, more than two dozen Exhort members were cloistered in the Methodist church basement. 


Though still challenging in their own rights, The Exhort depended upon their successes with these smaller events in order to keep their skills honed. A monster of the size that would spawn in the coming USGS-predicted 6.0+ earthquake would be unimaginably catastrophic, and that is if it was only one monster. Time and training were of the essence, and days were still being spent researching what measures might be taken in preparation for such an encounter.


Martin silenced those gathered and proceeded: “People, we have a Level 4 Incursion and we have limited time. This thing could already be miles away. We need sharp eyes to track this down and deal with it before it can cause panic… or worse. Teams 3 and 4 with me upriver; Team 2 downriver; Team 1 on sac disposal then downriver with Team 2; Mary on base ops. Load your armaments and head out. Keep it tight!” 


Equipped from their private armory cache, The Exhort teams moved out with precision, piling into their Jeeps, quads, and boats as instructed. Soon, their CBs chirped to life: Bob Griffith had seen the creature’s spout five miles upstream, quickly moving further away. “Deploy the fences!” ordered Martin, “Make it the +2 and +10 mile locations.”


“Fences deploying; drones inbound,” replied Mary from base. Due to the muddiness of the Mississippi, submersible viewers had never been effective, so high-res drones were used to encircle the targets for tactical advantage after they had been sighted.


With all groups converging on the site, The Exhort “fences” were slowly being rolled up from the riverbed in either direction from the creature’s location. The leviathan had paused at the deafening sound of the machinery moving the steel-cable nets into place. Ten minutes later, Bob reported “Target is stationary at Mile +10, repeat stationary at Mile +10”. 


Click-check. “Target remains stationary. … SUBMERGING.” That was very bad news: it meant the spout was disappearing below the surface, and usually preceded –


BOOM! Sounding like a bomb exploding directly overhead, the creature powerfully lunged from below, breaching the surface, its skull crashing into the drones on its way upward and knocking them from their high perch in the sky. It was 20’ wide and twice as long, enormous. Spikes covered its back, 3’ long and standing on end as the creature crested. Rolling itself into a ball at the apex of the leap, it crashed back to the water, sending huge waves washing ashore and in all directions. Minutes later and miles downstream, the Catucci boat on the safe side of the Mile +2 net was swamped by the huge swell that pummeled downriver.


“We’re down - headed ashore!” shouted Lucas Catucci into his radio just before it sank and shorted out.


Bob Griffith was equally affected, the freezing river blast flattening him and temporarily knocking him unconscious. When Bob came to, his vision was blurry, and he was certain he was concussed, but there was no time for that. By now, Teams 3 and 4 had begun arriving, ready to do battle.


“Fences fully deployed!” reported Mary from home base. Just then, a tremendous, ear-shattering roar split the silence of the area, echoing across several counties. The monster had rammed the Mile +10 net. 


“Martin, it’s not high enough! If he breaches again….” Though it had never happened before, Bob didn’t need to finish the thought. Their steel cable nets only rose 20’ into the air due to the constraints of physics. Given the weight of previous incursion targets, there had never been a leap that cleared the nets, but this one had just proven that it had the height and hang time to rise above them. The team prayed that it could not also summon the corresponding forward momentum to propel itself over, as well.


“Teams 1 and 2, ETA?” yelled Martin into his comms.


“3 minutes!” Jack Graham squawked back, but the response was lost in the sound of another tremendous bellow from the leviathan. Deep within that sound rose an unholy screech that pushed their eardrums to near-bursting; those in its immediate vicinity screamed and fell to their knees, writhing in pain. 


“I can’t get Mile +10 electrified! The capacitors are offline!” shouted Mary from headquarters, but nobody on Teams 3 and 4 could now hear the warning over the creature’s screams.


Tears pouring down his face, Martin was the first to open his eyes. The water had stilled, but the spout was at least visible again, bobbing in the center of the water where the creature had retreated from the fence back to their location. Not good. He could tell by its angle that the monster was now facing them, momentarily stunned from its collision with the fence… but it should be dead, or at least gravely injured, from electrocution. He snapped his fingers, testing his hearing. Muted. Also not good.


Teams 1 and 2 were arriving just then, though he hadn’t heard them; he nearly jumped out of his skin when Pat Latham shook his shoulder from behind. Fortunately, those teams had been far enough out to avoid a direct blast from the screech. Pat asked in muted tones whether Martin was ok. “See to the others!” Martin ordered. Pat checked: the remaining ground-zero members were also suffering hearing loss. Along with being soaked to the bone and shivering, with various injuries from the wave blast, their effectiveness was now questionable.


“I don’t understand why it’s still upright,” Martin confided when Pat returned to him. By then, Martin’s hearing had returned well enough for it to strike fear into his heart when Pat replied, “The electronics failed.”


The news was as bad as a monster spawning, in the first place. 


Since the 1990s, the electronic fences - guaranteed to fry anything they had yet encountered - had been their primary means of fighting the creatures. The initial shock usually caused the creature to go limp and float for a time, exposing its weaker lower body; teams carried military-grade weaponry including rocket launchers to finish the job, but those would do very little against the hardened upper torso of a full-health spawn. 


Already Teams 1 and 2 were readying their weaponry, not realizing that the electronics remained offline and would not present an opportunity. “Stand down!” Pat bellowed at them, fearing a premature firestorm in the heat of the moment. They did not carry enough munitions to waste them in a futile attack. The teams looked at him quizzically, but were too far for shouting an explanation. Pat ran to explain while Martin frantically considered options.


The monster began a series of bellows at that moment, low rumblings that escalated then began again in waves, that made hearing and understanding – as well as concentration – nearly impossible.


“I’ve lost eyes, and Mile +10 electronics remain down: what is happening out there?!” squawked Mary from home base over the CB. The drones had been down since the creature’s massive lunge took them out. “Can you get the creature to return to Mile +2? Repeat, electronics functional at Mile +2!”


The creature continued to bellow and surge, the sounds escalating and the water beginning to roil.


“Negative! Hold for further instruction!” shouted Martin back at her. There was no way to move the creature, but he knew she was only desperately trying to help. Chaos was ensuing, and he did not know what they were going to do, this time…


Suddenly, the creature’s spout submerged. “It’s DIVING - BRACE!” BOOM! The creature arced up from the water again, and at that moment, with all heads braced downward for the watery explosion except Martin’s, a miracle occurred: a speed boat banked on a crest from behind the monster, seemingly out of nowhere, and with a diagonal curve sliced right through the creature’s belly precisely as it leapt upward. 


A tremendous and horrific screech rent the air as entrails burst from the creature, spraying out for dozens of yards and burying the water beneath it, along with the boat… followed shortly thereafter by the entirety of the creature’s now-flailing body.


Catastrophic waves hit the shore and continued to do so as the creature went through its death throes mid-river, but it was now or never. Noticing that Martin was face-down on the sand, motionless, Pat screamed “OPEN FIRE!”, and artillery exploded up from behind him, cutting into the beast’s wounded and now-exposed underbelly.


When the smoke cleared, very little of the creature could be seen above surface, though mounds of fleshy debris littered the wide river and entrails floated, some still clearly anchored to the creature’s corpse deep below. 


Those still standing checked first on the wounded. They had lost a greater number than ever before, primarily due to the unforeseen failure of the fences leading to a fight with a full-strength foe. They swore to ensure that would not happen again. 


Their beloved Chief Martin Samuels was among those who did not survive the assault: one of the final concussion waves had caught him off-guard and broken his neck, they later determined.


Another dead was the previously-unknown savior of the day, Lucas Catucci: from what they were able to piece together, after his boat had been swamped downriver, he had been closer to the far shore and had bailed out in that direction. The vacation homes on that side of the shore held enough high-end toys that he was able to commandeer a speed boat, which not only allowed him to reach them in time, but the blades of which were high-quality enough that they had enabled him to slice through the creature’s tough underbelly. Slicing through the spines on the creature’s back or its reinforced upper torso would have been impossible: it was a one-in-a-million shot that he had managed it all, but it was a Hail Mary that had worked, and that was all that mattered.


Regrouping, The Exhort was down to fewer than half of its pre-battle membership. Now led by Pat Latham as the new chief of operations, slowly they began to recover, repair and rebuild, readying – always readying – for the next battle to come.


December 11, 2022 04:23

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41 comments

Mary Lehnert
17:50 Dec 11, 2022

Bravo, Wendy. Can a Hollywood writing contract be far behind. Recognized the honorable mention with undeserved delight. Mary

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Wendy Kaminski
18:09 Dec 11, 2022

Thanks, Mary. :) Glad you enjoyed it!

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Susan Catucci
15:54 Dec 11, 2022

WOW! Wendy, you sure know how to take a suggestion and turn it into something topnotch and amazing. The action you brought to life here was non-stop riveting and, though I was a tad distracted by the delight of catching a familiar name that ultimately became a major player (thank you for that - ox), by the end I felt that I'd just sat through a blockbuster. An intense and satisfying read - and with a ending that might accommodate a sequel or two. (Please)

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Wendy Kaminski
16:09 Dec 11, 2022

I am so glad you liked it, Susan! And that you didn't mind the name drop all too much... :) I threw in a few folks who were generally encouraging and also those who specifically encouraged this story, and I might do that more in the future. I really got a kick out of doing it! And also just writing this in general was pretty fun! Thank you for reading and such flattering comments. :)

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BRUCE MARTIN
07:15 Dec 11, 2022

Wendy, this story is amazing. It's riveting and had me on the edge of my seat. It seems like excellent sci-fi movie material. Your writing is really exceptional. I'm really impressed.

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Wendy Kaminski
14:01 Dec 11, 2022

Thank you so much, and especially for the encouragement which "spawned" it! :)

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00:01 Dec 15, 2022

It's time to take a meeting with Michael Bay. :) I hope this is part of a longer work. So much to mine here, characters to get to know, plot points to flesh out -- I feel like I just saw an awesome movie trailer and can't wait until it's released! You write action sequences quite well - riveting :) Minor point: In paragraph 2, should that be an amniotic sac?

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Wendy Kaminski
00:04 Dec 15, 2022

I think you are probably right, on that - as long as .docx allows it, I don't catch it! hah :) Thank you so much for the encouragement, and also the assist! :)

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Lonnie Larson
21:32 Dec 12, 2022

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Missouri, I take it. Recognized the New Madrid location. Minnesota boy here. Excellent writing, worthy of any screen writer. Wouldn't surprise me in the least to see your name in the credits someday. Great last name as well. I have a cousin with same last name in Colorado. Anyhoo, keep up the good work.

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Wendy Kaminski
22:06 Dec 12, 2022

Thank you so much for the incredibly flattering encouragement! Appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment!

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Graham Kinross
23:49 Dec 11, 2022

Who is funding The Exhort? Do they have a university Fraternity or Sorority? The constraints of physics? It’s a heartless master, no room for negotiation. Any blast that leaves you temporarily dead would definitely screw with your balance. I can attest to that. Rocket launchers in a non military organisation? It would have to be in the Americas. I definitely got some Pacific Rim feelings from that. If you’ve not seen it and you don’t mind giant robots with a generous helping of Idris Elba telling people off, then I recommend it.

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Wendy Kaminski
23:52 Dec 11, 2022

I own allll the monster movies. There are 2 Pacific Rims, you heathen. :)

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Wendy Kaminski
23:52 Dec 11, 2022

Also, Rocket Launcher is a perfectly acceptable baby gift, here.

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Graham Kinross
00:05 Dec 12, 2022

If I'm in the states I'll make sure to get my daughter some anti-tank missiles for her self defense. No one respects pepper spray now.

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Tommy Goround
17:17 Dec 14, 2022

Laughing

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Graham Kinross
00:04 Dec 12, 2022

True, but due to their ungodly killing off of Elba, I didn't enjoy the second as much. I like John Boyega, but he's no Idris. Disney wasted them both in Star Wars and the MCU respectively though.

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Maria Blackman
02:39 Dec 23, 2022

Great story, Wendy. You have some very cool ideas, like others have mentioned, you could turn this into a screenplay. I think you could work on the narration for greater effect. You could try using present continuous tense, so that the reader is seeing the events as they unfold. Maybe first-person point of view could work too? Otherwise, a great read!

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Wendy Kaminski
02:41 Dec 23, 2022

Thank you so much for reading, and for the great tips, Maria! I will definitely investigate those two suggestions for this - I can see how that might give this or another episode a better reference for the reader! I really appreciate it! :)

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Maria Blackman
02:56 Dec 23, 2022

You're welcome!

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C. J. Peters
01:24 Dec 23, 2022

This was such an awesome story haha! An incredible opening scene to a fast-paced, action-packed ride that I felt like I was flying through. I love the lore and worldbuilding that was built upon here from "The Town That Fights Monsters" (which was also incredible, loved the almost discovered-newspaper-clipping feel to that one!). Great work!

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Wendy Kaminski
01:36 Dec 23, 2022

Hey, thank you for dropping by and for the great review! Appreciate it! :)

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Max Russell
17:24 Dec 21, 2022

This was a very cool and thrilling action story! Nice work. It kept me riveted throughout. I wonder if this story would benefit from being told through Lucas Catucci's point of view. You can keep the team comms chatter throughout to show the group's efforts, but you'll be able to dive into Lucas's boat being swamped and add close encounter details of the monster's appearance. Commandeering the speedboat can show his set of skills and the heroics of driving toward the monster would be epic! I think the tension and heroics of the story would ...

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Wendy Kaminski
18:00 Dec 21, 2022

That is a really good point! I would love to be able to develop this out further, not sure if I would be able to do it justice but I am probably going to give it a try at some point! Thank you so much for giving it a read and for your very kind review and suggestions!

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E.L. Montague
01:41 Dec 18, 2022

It was a fast story. I'll need to go read the original story with additional details.

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Wendy Kaminski
01:44 Dec 18, 2022

Thank you! :)

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Delbert Griffith
00:21 Dec 18, 2022

Holy hell that was fun to read! Ima print this out and study it because it's basically a master class in writing action sequences. Simply amazing, Wendy. I was on the edge of my seat reading this, and so few stories do that to me. I bow to your action-sequence writing talent. I also enjoyed the names of many of the characters in the story. Can there be other stories with these characters? I see an action book in the making. I'd buy it.

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Wendy Kaminski
00:42 Dec 18, 2022

Thank you, Delbert! There may be more… I feel like there could definitely be more cataclysm in there. :-) I really appreciate your encouragement, and thank you for taking the time to read and leave such kind words!

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Os Cole
22:26 Dec 16, 2022

I have to agree with a number of the other commenters, definite movie material! I was surprised that the Exhort turned out to be so high tech. I will have to reread the original story but I had imagined them a bit more like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for some reason. I enjoyed the shout-out in there as well! I hope to read more Exhort adventures in the future.

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Wendy Kaminski
00:02 Dec 17, 2022

Thank you, and glad you enjoyed it!

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Martin Ross
16:46 Dec 16, 2022

I LOVE a great horror story, and the more grounded in a relatable setting, the better. I worked for an Illinois ag publication for 24 years and extensively covered the ‘93 Flood, and you nailed Midwest pitch-in community life and river logistics! Great exposition — incorporating backstory into the action narrative rather than breaking it. I look forward to devouring more stories of The Exhort. So happy I discovered Reedsy, as a reader and as a novice writer!

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Wendy Kaminski
16:51 Dec 16, 2022

Thank you so much, Martin! Love my Midwesterners chiming in on this, and I really appreciate the delightful add-ons you provided, as well!

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Mike Panasitti
08:14 Dec 16, 2022

I agree with all those who commend your ability to write action sequences as if you were a seasoned screenwriter. Bravo, Wendy.

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Wendy Kaminski
13:37 Dec 16, 2022

Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to encourage, Mike! I really appreciate it! :)

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Richard E. Gower
12:14 Feb 17, 2023

Hello Wendy, Having discovered your work, I plan to ultimately get to all of the stories listed here, but, having no supernatural powers (would that we could actually do, what our imaginations wish we could do) I've only been granted the ability to read one at a time.-:) I grew up beside a river and the opening line of this story gave me a chill (On shore, it looked like an enormous, dirty gray tarp, discarded and collapsed onto itself.) when I began reading it. It only got better, from there. -:) Shoulda won, shoulda won, shoulda won! -...

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Wendy Kaminski
12:30 Feb 17, 2023

Hey, Richard! My pleasure - I loved that story (Cadillacs), and I found the Wiki on CR interesting, too, so thank you for linking that! I really appreciate your kind words here (and everywhere) very much. I'm a monster movie fan (latest watch: "DinoShark," which was surprisingly good for a B-movie - great CGI, plenty of monster screen time), so I had fun writing this and its predecessor. :) I hope to get back to it one day for another installment, but one thing is that it's difficult in under 3k words to convey the proper sense of "You boud...

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Richard E. Gower
14:13 Feb 17, 2023

Hi Wendy, A bit more Re Cadillacs: The zygote for the story came from CR, but I also had an uncle who owned one of the big sixties' showboats and he was the source of a lot of the factoids that remain in my gray cells. Monster movies are always good for a short, scary escape into unreality.-:) I haven't had time to get to the antecedent to your story as yet, but it's on my to-read list. Sounds like you may have the makings of a book there. Roger that regarding being restricted to fewer than 3000 words in a SS. I also chafe at that. Howeve...

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Wendy Kaminski
14:42 Feb 17, 2023

I think Reedsy is based out of the UK, as are their deadlines. :) Perhaps I should have said GMT so I don't get into political embarrassment if I'm mistaken on the location... Well, I have seen people break stories into parts 1 and 2 for the same prompt week or even into successive prompt weeks. Many many people on here are serializers, which is an amazing effort, given that they have to maintain a storyline across multiple weeks (or, in the case of Graham Kinross, years!). Depending on what your particular favorite genre is, I know a few o...

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Richard E. Gower
22:32 Feb 17, 2023

Just logged back in after a crazy day. Ahhh, Ok, UK/GMT, that would explain the disparity between the time showing on the comments, and the clock on the deadline counter. Thanks for the recommendations. Seeing all those stories to read makes me feel like I'm trying to take a drink from a fire hose. I have to will take them slowly, sipping one at a time-:) Thanks again, Wendy RG

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Wendy Kaminski
23:56 Feb 17, 2023

Well don't drink too deeply, it's almost time for the #185 crop! lol :) Yours will stay, but the rest get blown away in exchange for newer entries. :)

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Roger Scypion
20:29 Feb 02, 2023

Fantastic story. Would make a nice series. Very well written and engaging throughout.

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Wendy Kaminski
20:31 Feb 02, 2023

Thank you, Roger! It's on the agenda for a series (the first one is in my profile and it has the backstory: The Town that Fights Monsters), but I now have 3 series going and so it may delay a little. I've gotten the first paragraph done though... lol. :) Appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. :)

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