Flesh-eating zombies in Pomona, of all places. I don’t mind regular zombies—not that you’ll ever see many these days—they’re strong but slow and the zombie-master’s usually close by. Drop him and they all fall over dead. As opposed to standing around dead. Flesh eaters are another matter. They get everywhere, you’re never sure exactly what’s animating them, and it takes forever to ferret them all out.

Sometimes I wish George Romero had never made that movie.

At least we got the jump on them this time. It still took a dozen of us all weekend, but Pomona, and the rest of Southern California, was safe again tonight. Monster Fighters of America had things well in hand.

It’s a dorky name, I know. I’ve been an active MFA member since high school. I guess that’s when most of us join. It was kind of like a TV show, except instead of a bunch of brain-trust geeks and rich soc-types in designer clothes hanging in the library we were a bunch of stoners, rockers and car-geeks who hung out in auto-shop.

There could have been another group in the library, I guess. I wouldn’t know, I never spent much time there.

Other than that, and the weapons—I mean, crossbows? Come on. Otherwise it was pretty much the same, a bunch of kids who went out and fought monsters nobody believes in. Most of the old gang drifted after graduation, but the bug bit me harder, I guess. I’ve been at it ever since.

I was looking forward to a shower and a long snooze when, ten minutes from home, my phone rang. I screwed the Bluetooth into my ear and answered. It was Gene, MFA’s dispatcher for my area.

“Hey, kid. I got something for you.”

“Gene, I haven’t got home from the last one. I’m low on supplies, sleep and—”

“You’re closer than anyone else by more than an hour. Relax, its just an observe and report. It won’t take long and it’s probably nothing. Reports of some sort of cult activity up in the hills, I’ve got an address. You still full up on recon gear?”

It wasn’t like hunting zombies had used up the batteries in my night vision gear. “Yeah, I’m full up on recon gear, such as it is. I’m damn near out of standard ammunition and I haven’t eaten since Friday, but I have my recon gear. Where is it?”

The address was close, at least on a Sunday night. Monday morning rush would be a different story, but that was at least eight hours away. Twenty minutes and I was pulling over to the side of the road in roughly the right neighborhood. Loading the zip full of topo-maps for this area into my lap-top, I started planning my approach.

It looked like I could get closest working up a ravine running behind the strip of multimillion dollar homes that clung to the mesa’s edge. You could almost assume any cult dabbling in the dark arts would be operating out of a big place with no close neighbors and this one had chosen an ideal place. Big house on a large lot well up on the mesa so it mostly looked down the ravine at the neighbors’ backyards, rather than the other way round. I drove to where I could get into the canyon and got my gear out of the trunk.

Monster Fighters provided their own gear. We get together and swap some, and send out e-mail alerts on deals we run across, but mostly it comes out of our own pockets. There’s one guy down in Burbank who has the whole James Bond/CIA covert ops set up—state-of-the-art night vision, boom mikes, infra-red cameras—all packed into the back of a hundred grand worth of Mercedes. He’s a money-guy in Hollywood, arranging financing for movies and shit. Rolling in dough.

I work at a truck-stop as a diesel mechanic. I’m doing good to have a second-generation night vision monocle and a real classy pair of high-powered, low-light field glasses with an electric camera built in. Which I swapped some engine work on that guy’s Mercedes for. Throw in a set of black mechanic’s overalls and my web-harness and that’s my recon gear.

After spending a minute considering my shotgun—too bulky for the job and I only had a partial box of ammo left after Pomona—I loaded up with my shock-baton and USP-45. They would have to do, and I still had two extra magazines for the pistol.

An arsenal wasn’t really required for an O&R anyway. I was just twitchy after a weekend of zombie-slaughter. The first time I’d done an O&R in these hills, right after graduation, the ‘cult activities’ had turned out to be a professional porno-company making a movie in someone’s backyard pool. The memory made me smile—I still had a few of the pictures I took. I even tracked down a copy of the movie, later.

Of course, the second time I’d come out here…

The house had a high wall around the back, stuccoed white. The place would be imposing in my neighborhood; it was bigger than the rec-center at my trailer park. Here it was just another house on the lane, a little larger than most. With the house set-up at the front of the lot and the back stepped down into the canyon behind it, the house wasn’t likely to go mud-surfing down the canyon—as so many places do up here—though the pool-area might, someday. The layout meant you could just get a peek at the back from behind the up-mesa neighbor’s place, though not from that neighbor’s house itself.

I checked the ravine with my night-vision gear but didn’t see anything resembling a sentry. That was a good thing in that I wasn’t likely to get caught, but anyone up to real evil mojo activity would probably post some kind of guard, so the whole thing was probably going to be a wash. Of course, that’d be a good thing as well, so I huffed my way up the canyon to take a peek.

Before I’d gotten anywhere near the top I started to have suspicions of my own. The back of the house was reflecting an eerie glow, which isn’t that unusual when you filter light through a swimming pool, but this glow was raising the hackles on the back of my neck. I was too far away, and too far below, to get much sound from the target but there was sound, that much I could tell.

I got up to the top of the incline, more of a climb than a hike, and crouched behind the neighbor’s wall to get my wind back. There was sound, I could hear it even over my puffing—a sort of muffled bass chanting that set my spine on edge. I leaned around a corner and looked in. The light was low enough and the angle bad enough that I couldn’t make out much by eye. That was why I’d lugged my field-glasses along. Sixty-X light gathering binoculars brought in more detail than I really needed.

It was an orgy alright. Not a bunch-of-high-school-kids-out-skinny-dipping-who-got-carried-away orgy or even a porno company letting off steam orgy. Porno people are mostly in shape, the girls anyway. Body-waxing, silicone implants and all that. This was more like a bunch of middle aged swingers gone horribly, horribly wrong. They were doing things in the writhing poolside pile that no sane human being could find pleasurable.

Look, I grew up in California, and like any healthy wide-band connected young man more often between girlfriends than not, I’ve surfed through a lot of porn-sites. I’ve seen a lot of sick, disgusting shit people get off on, but very little of it involved live fish, octopi and blood. In fact the blood alone set this apart—no one in these days of condoms in elementary schools engages in unbridled skin-breaking activities for recreation.

I took pictures. Once I got past the spectacle of the fish- and octopi- assisted orgy I got a better feel for the layout. The people were all on one side of the pool in a wide patio area, about forty of them. The pool itself was large and rectangular—maybe fifty feet by twenty. I couldn’t see where the light was coming from, other than somewhere in the water. The water was scummy green. The far side of the pool was obscured by a massive form of some sort—an idol of their fish-god, I supposed. From the back, in the dark, it didn’t look like much.

I switched to the IR monocle. The poolside pile stood out clear, no other people that I could see, none beyond the pool, none patrolling beyond the wall or on the canyon slope. This was real cult activity, so I turned on my cell phone to call in for back up.

No signal.

As much as I’d like to curse my service provider, the signal might have been blocked by the mystic ceremony. Maybe. I’ve heard about it happening, in bull-sessions after a mission. It didn’t matter why. I could either press on alone or go back down the ravine until I got a signal. It was seventy feet down and another sixty or so back up to the back wall of the place. I had no actual supernatural manifestation to deal with, the mission was still observe and report. I decided to get closer.

Scrambling around a scrub-filled ravine is a romp for a twenty-year-old. I know, it’s how I spent my days when I was a twenty-year-old. A dozen years later and on the tail end of a long, hard weekend, it felt more like a day trip on the Bataan death march, but I got up to the wall behind the place without breaking anything, or making enough noise to get noticed.

Up close brought details I could have done without. The patio area was set off from the house by a wall of screens painted garishly, as if by children. Disturbed children, with an unwholesome fascination with sea-life. The chanting came from men with painted faces. They were seated right down with the orgy but took no part in the orgy, instead controlling its tempo with the rhythm of their chant.

The festivities had stepped up in tempo while I repositioned myself, taking on a frantic air. The light pulsed in time with the chanting, and the scum on the top of the water stirred. I started working around the wall, trying to get a view of the idol. That would give me a better idea of what I was dealing with.

The wall wasn’t uniform in height, at least not on this side, but the ground rose up nearer the house. That put me closer to the ceremony than I liked, almost too close for the binoculars to focus for my camera but I made the move.

The idol was hideous, but I’ve seen worse. Fins, scales and tentacles over a form only vaguely man-like, carved as if seated on the edge of the pool, its lower half obscured by the scummy water. It’s back sported two sets of overlapping, bat-like wings that had obscured the rest of it from behind. The image sent alarm bells chiming in my hind-brain.

Images from the MFA’s bulletin—I downloaded the PDF every quarter—I tried to recall everything I’d ever read about dark rituals, diabolic summoning, I couldn’t put a name to the idol but I knew it was bad news, and the ceremony itself…this wasn’t some ongoing, weekly fish orgy. This was the cumulative ritual of a major working.

Which meant I was going to have to try to disrupt it.

One of the orgists wormed her way out of the pile and stood on the edge of the pool. My field glasses brought her into focus in time for a picture—she looked seventy but was probably a hard-used fifty, her body awash with fish-slime, blood and other bodily fluids, her eyes rolled back in ritual-induced madness—then she stepped into the water and slid under the slime with hardly a splash.

She never came up, but the water started to boil with motion. From behind the screen there was motion, two of the cultists were pushing a large object across the concrete to the edge of the pool. It was an anchor—not a boat anchor but a large ship’s anchor, four or five feet long and maybe a couple of hundred pounds.

They brought it right to the edge of the pool—the surface of which trembled with movement below the scum, now. The cultists withdrew, the orgy spread out into a semi-circle facing the pool. The chanting increased in both tempo and volume. I put aside my field glasses and rolled over the wall.

I landed behind a low bush of some sort, unseen or at least unremarked on. I drew my pistol. I had ten rounds in the magazine, two more magazines on my hip—but how to use them to stop this and, hopefully, cover my escape?

The huskies who’d dragged in the anchor returned. This time they had a girl between them. She was woman-sized, with a woman’s shape, but she hadn’t had it long. She was naked and scared, they had to drag her, stiff legged, to the anchor. She wasn’t resisting so much as she was just paralyzed. Perfect skin, no droop in her full breasts—if she was in high school she was a freshman, probably a virgin. A virgin sacrifice.

They stood her astride the anchor’s shaft and began fixing her hands to the cross-piece with cable ties, and I got up and moved. I reached the far corner of the pool area, next to the idol and across the roiling, scummy water from the cultists.

I’d drop the huskies when they went to push her into the water, and then unload into the crowd. I wished I’d brought a grenade, I wished I’d brought a tac-team. She was just a kid, California gorgeous with white-blonde hair and coppery skin showing white with tan-lines—junior high jail bait. The girl I’d wished I was dating in eighth grade.

The huskies drew the ties tight and faded back into the crowd. Maybe they weren’t going to push her in after all…

Tentacles slid up out of the pool, purple shafts with yellow suckers like a Harryhousen movie on acid. Trailing scum over the pool’s edge, uncurling in a graceful semi-circle that mirrored the cultist’s perches. They weren’t going to push her in…

The gun in my hand barked twice. From sixty feet away a two-hundred-forty grain copper-jacketed slug intersected the tan line that bisected her cleavage, another found her mouth open in its silent scream, bypassing her pink tongue and perfect pearly teeth to spray her brains across the gibbering filth that ringed the obscene tableau.

Instead of an unblemished virgin sacrifice, their God would eat a hundred pounds of dead flesh. I sprinted for the back wall, certain the thing in the pool would not appreciate the meal. I’d disrupted the ceremony.

Belly-flopping across the top of the wall, I tumbled over it and down the nearly vertical slope of the ravine. Behind me voices screamed. I lost my gun on the first roll, and then my arm broke. White noise drowned out the screams, and the sky lit green.

Two-hundred fifty—maybe three hundred feet before the ravine slope leveled from the steep climb of fill below the houses to the normal, Manzanita covered ancient run-off cut. My neck should have broke a dozen times, my ribs practically did by the time I came to a stop in the middle of a bush. My monoscope and my pistol somewhere on the slope above, my field glasses smashed as flat as I was.

I saw the house go. The whole place, house, wall, idol and cultists as well as six feet of California hardpan, into what was described by the TV news that evening as a “freak sink-hole”. A sink-hole to the nether reaches of hell, and good riddance to bad rubbish.

Gene’s follow-up team found me, got me to a hospital. They even got my car and most of my gear out, nothing left to connect me to the place at all. I have medical coverage through work, and a good thing, too. I was in the hospital for three days and off work for two months. Hard to turn a wrench with busted ribs.

Story is I got clipped while standing by the roadside, a hit and run. The MFA had a fund-raiser to replace my gear—they recovered the pictures from the remains of my field glasses, and they found my pistol. Not that I’ll ever use that gun again. I’ll probably trade it for another.

Nightmares are par for the course for a Monster Fighter. I never see the tentacles, or that awful idol. Just a flash of white-blonde hair, a white­and-copper tan line. She’s probably on a milk carton somewhere; I could find her on the internet. They have databases for missing children; I could put a name to her.

Instead I’ll light a candle Sunday mornings, and pray for understanding, if not forgiveness. I don’t take solo O&R’s anymore, and never, ever take a job in those hills. Not if I can help it.

# # #

Virgin Sacrifice by Michael D. Turner
originally published in the Fall 2011 print edition


Michael D. Turner is a writer from Colorado Springs, Colorado. His writing has appeared multiple times in Big Pulp, and in Aberrant Dreams, AlienSkin, Between Kisses, Flashing Swords, Every Day Fiction, and Tales of the Talisman.

For more of Michael's work,
visit his Big Pulp author page


This feature and more great
fiction & poetry are available in
Big Pulp Fall 2011:
On the Road from Galilee

Purchase books and subscriptions
in the Big Pulp book store!



Purchase books and subscriptions
in the Big Pulp book store!


Store ø Blog ø Authors ø Supporters ø Submissions ø About ø Exter Press ø Home
Art gallery ø Movies ø Fantasy ø Mystery ø Adventure ø Horror ø Science Fiction ø Romance

All fiction, poems and artwork © the authors. Big Pulp © 2012 Exter Press