Hello, Benjamin from Brother’s Campfire here!
I have been writing Campfire Tales off and on and this is my ninth chapter. This one might be unsettling for the sensitive, so reader discretion advised.
Without further ado, Gather ‘Round and I will spin you a tale.
A meeting of the La Longi crime syndicate was in session.
“Andras!!! I need a status report on the handrail installations right now! “
“Sure Ernest, we have 216 installs throughout La Longi proper and 51 in outlying areas.”
“Excellent! Execute Automaton !”
“On it!” Andras left the meeting, springing in his step.
The La Longi crime syndicate was in session in an abandoned warehouse on the waterfront. “What’s Automaton?” Asked a boss. “Are you running an operation without permission?”
Screaming Peaches, illicit drugs, and a bit of trafficking were Earnest Kenyon’s forte and he was prepared with an answer.
“Of course not, my dear friend, ” he replied.
“It is just that we want to help you hold on to what is rightfully yours. See, Andras has been assisting in a mechanical protection system. Trust me.”
The boss was not thrilled.
“I am not sure I trust you, Kenyon. Word is out you are drawing a lot of attention to the syndicate. Some say you shot a prominent engineer out of the sky over a teetotaller argument. Others are saying your boys got aggressive with Stephanie Mae and she ran you off with a mechanical bull. What exactly are you up to, Kenyon?”
“Ah, I guess it is time to show you. You see, there is more to the world than what you are aware of. Have you considered that the “prominent engineeress” I shot out of the sky is an international spy from Carsiolia?
Perhaps you did not realize she is assisting in aerial espionage against our great city? She is a foreigner and not one of us; a spy of the lowest regard.
As for Stephanie Mae…. She is a cattle thief and I was just trying to collect the syndicate’s share of the proceeds.”
The boss frowned. “Kenyon, we have been working quietly and raking in a lion’s share of every industry in La Longi while the city turns a blind eye. You are going to ruin things with your high profile shenanigans.”
Kenyon was impatient. “I am only trying to help. Let us go for a ride in the mechanical cart, and I will show you the plan.”
Reluctant, the bosses climbed aboard the cart pulled by a steam-powered man. Kenyon whispered in the ear of the mechanism.
The mechanical man belched smoke and began trudging to the outskirts of La Longi.
“Where are we going?”
“You will see.”
The sun was not yet setting when they arrived at an abandoned farm with a sturdy fence built around it. With a cane, he pushed a button that opened a gate. It closed behind them.
The mechanical man slowed and stopped.
“Stay in the cart men, it is not safe here.”
The minutes ticked by and impatience ensued. Everyone was restless from the ride.
A ruffian grumbled.
“I gotta see a man about a horse.”
“Go over the side, don’t get off the cart! They are out there”
“Eat a rotten otter Kenyon, I gotta go.”
The ruffian jumped off the cart and ambled past a heaped-up pile of straw and to a fence post. Finishing, he replied, “See, nothing out there Kenyon. If a man has gotta go, he goes.”
There was a rustle in the straw and the sound one might hear if someone were to bite into an apple or a peach.
The ruffian spun around. “What was that?”
A creature’s head lifted from the rotting vegetation. It was the size of a raccoon, had pointed ears, and large, soulless eyes.
It growled and sprang upon the ruffian, biting him where the calf attaches to the heel.
“Aggh! It bit me! The ruffian struck at it with his club and the creature retreated.
The ruffian laughed nervously. “Never seen one of those before! I nearly bit into my boot!
Additional apple crunching sounds came from the straw.
“Get back in the cart!” Yelled a boss.
To talk a little disrespect to another boss was not recommended, but permissible to save face. However, the ruffian was quick to listen to his superior.
As he made his way back to the cart, the sounds grew louder.
“You wanted to show us a field critter, Kenyon? Those are not as bad as the sewer rats at the docks.”
“They are behind you! Run!” Growled the boss.
They were upon him like a hill-topping swarm of ants, knocking him to the ground.
The first thing to go was his garments. They tore them off and methodically put them in a pile.
“Help me! Help me!”
Rending him, the creatures tore him to pieces, running off to the straw pile with bits of flesh.
Frightened and fighting for his life, he called for help as the onlookers froze in fear and amazement, hypnotized by what they saw.
The last thing to go was his voice, his pleas disregarded as no one was about to jump off the cart and help.
It was quiet. Eerily quiet.
Kenyon’s hands were shaking, and his eyes were on fire with excitement. “Efficient little devils!” He clapped his hands.
Stunned at his behavior, the bosses stared.
Ernest Kenyon paused. “Oh, by the way, while I have you here, I have a minor concern that I would like handled. There is a man by the name of Brett Hazelcup that disrespected me and I would like him dead.
He is tall, has a large mustache and hat, a red sash. You can’t miss him. I will pay, oh let’s see, a year of dockhand wages and free drinks at the Puke for life. “
Choked up, a crime lord whispered, “Did you see what they did to him?”
Kenyon was dismissive.
“I told him to stay in the cart. He was a fool. These things are everywhere. THIS is why we need a mechanical protection system. Project Automaton will keep these creatures at bay.”