Authors: Dennis Larsen
Rise of the Huskers
A Fictional Series
Dennis F. Larsen
The Raven Falconer Chronicles
Rise of the Huskers
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014
Dennis F. Larsen
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
Cover Design by Sean Strong for curtisANDstrong
The Raven Falconer Chronicles is a fiction series written in serial form. Episodes One and Two are released as indicated below with an excerpt from each. Watch for Episode Three in the summer of 2014.
Episode One: Operation Z-Day
Nathan Edwards, if that’s who he was, looked at his blood-smeared fists through unusually blue eyes. He slowly opened his knotted hands, which were large and calloused, not unaccustomed to hard work or reaching out to others. Strong arms led to broad, square shoulders that were capable of carrying any burden, but perhaps the one that challenged him now. Something told him to cry or breakdown and weep, but he could not. He hung his head and ran his fingers through his blond, matted hair that was streaked with blood and sweat. His fair skin, bloodstained lips and high, well-defined cheekbones gave the handsome young man a Dracula like appearance, so uncharacteristic of his former self.
Episode Two: Rise of the Huskers
The horde walked on, unafraid, the sights and noise awakening within them the need for a murderous rampage, the way sultry music heightens lust and desire. Two blocks from the source of the display, the Huskers saw dozens of people run from the south side of the road. The movement stimulated a predator-prey response among the cannibalistic clan, launching them forward at a dead-run, anxious to overtake their quarry.
Episode Three: Coming Soon . . .
Eli Falconer finally let the tears stream freely down his f
ace, the result of a sadness he’d only experienced once before. Saying goodbye to his beautiful daughter, Raven, had been more difficult than seeing Lilith slip from his life, so many years ago. He yearned for a blissful reunion with his departed wife, but suspected there would be no eternal joy, as long as Raven’s safety and future hung in the balance. A deep ache swelled and rolled over him, taking his breath away. Minutes before, he’d been able to restrain his sorrow, remaining firmly resolute for the one he loved, but the walls of his emotional fortress were crumbling under the tremendous weight of knowing he must die and leave his ‘little girl’ to fend for herself. Fever and illness wracked his frame but the onslaught was meager in comparison to the misery, which ripped at his soul and drove him to despair. A mournful tide of heartfelt tears washed his cheeks and dampened his lap, as the last remaining vestige of his citadel slipped away in the wake.
God won’t let anything happen to my Raven.
He drove the narrow, mountain l
ane, struggling to keep the route in focus and the tires properly aligned. The wide-beamed headlights bounced against the foliage and trees, as the RX350’s suspension worked to stabilize the chassis on the rutted-out dirt road. Lake Louise, with its emerald waters and skyward-reaching glacier, was his ultimate destination. He and Lilith had spent their honeymoon there 32 years ago and it seemed only fitting that he would reunite them on the lake’s dazzling shores. Eli periodically slid his hand over the passenger seat to the Ruger handgun resting there, the cold steel a reminder of how uncaring and final death can be.
A short distance from
Smugs’ cabin, the middle-aged Falconer was able to regain his composure and his will. “I’m coming, Lilith. Keep the dinner warm, I’m on my way home,” he said, the words helping to calm his anxious heart. The road dipped and twisted, leading him away from one life and loved one, as it drew him closer to yet another, perhaps unseen but very real in his estimation. Slowing to negotiate a hazardous switchback, the lights swung in a large, creeping arc, which briefly left the roadway dark and shadowed. Cautiously the SUV navigated the hairpin and was about to straighten its course when a slender figure darted across Eli’s path, startling him and bringing the Lexus to a stop.
e encounter was brief but disturbing enough to send Eli’s nervous system into overdrive. His fever and illness were temporarily forgotten as he grasped the pistol and laid it across his lap. Removing his foot from the brake, he eased forward, resisting the urge to slam the pedal to the floor and make a speedy escape. Such an act could prove catastrophic for the SUV and his intended plans. He drove, swinging his eyes from side-to-side, unsure of what he might encounter next. Suddenly a rock bounced off the window to his left, pitting the glass but not breaking the reinforced silica. He moved on, slowing again to take another sharp turn, when a larger stone found its mark and shattered the pane. Dull glass shards exploded over the interior of the luxury vehicle, frightening Eli, who lifted the pistol but not before a howling Benny assaulted the driver’s door and hurled yet another stone at the grey-haired man. The .357 magnum erupted in Eli’s hand at the very instant the fist-sized boulder crashed into his temple, knocking him sideways in the seat. The impact caused the injured driver to lose control of the Lexus, which rolled to a stop against a barrier.
Stars and unusual flashes of lights appeared in his vision as he struggled to right himself and evade the encounter. He still held the heavy pistol in his right hand but had no strength to lift it from the floor mat where the barrel rested. With his left
hand he felt at his temple, a slick warmth cascaded over his fingertips, assuring him, without looking, that he was bleeding badly. He laid his palm flush against the wound and pressed, barely staunching the flow, but giving him a moment to think. It was then that he heard a low, yet very distinct growl. This was certainly not the end that Eli had imagined: lying, unable to respond, while another human being consumed him. He fought with his muscles, trying to convince them to rescue him, one last time. His brain sent out signals to respond to the immediate threat but the neurological cries went unheeded as his thoughts churned and he teetered on the edge of consciousness.
Lying in the mud outside the vehicle, a confused and agitated Benny held his severed and brutally mangled ear in his palm. The large slug had torn it from his head and left it dangling at his neck, where he easily freed it from the last thin thread of tissue with an angry jerk. Compelled to finish the attack, he labored, though somewhat woozy, to get to his knees, then feet. The act emboldened him and he wailed a high, shrieking utterance that echoed down the canyon. The Husker looked at the twisted remains of h
is ear, and for a moment contemplated ingesting it, but reconsidered, flinging it through the shattered window. Three precarious steps brought him back to the side of the Lexus and the man that had unexpectedly blown his ear off. Fear, nor caution, entered his mind, as a savage need coerced him to finish the attack and claim his prey.
The war cry
, voiced moments before, sent a shiver through Eli that he could not deny, but when the wet, cartilaginous mass struck him in the face, he could not withhold the scream of terror that burst from his lips. “No, no . . . God help me. Don’t let it . . . ” A renewed surge of adrenalin filled his veins, but it was the appearance of the teenager’s face, framed in the SUV’s window, that shut his mouth. A bloodied and filthy young man growled through gnashing teeth, his mouth salivating profusely as their eyes met. A faint, yet unmistakable resemblance greeted Eli and he blurted out, “Benny . . . no, no . . . Benny, Benny, don’t do this!” The boy hesitated only briefly before thrusting both hands through the broken window, clawing at Eli’s legs.
The elder Falconer thrashed, as he was able
, to ward off the assault. Dropping the gun from his grasp, he swung weakly at the scratching, clutching fingers. He twisted his hips and brought his foot down hard on the accelerator, lurching the SUV forward and slipping the front bumper over the guardrail, rendering it immobile. Benny clamored to gain access to the vehicle’s cab, his hands grasping at Eli for leverage. The battle raged in the confined space, Eli, running on adrenalin and fear, while the boy’s hormones raged. Broken glass from the splintered window dug at the Husker’s belly as he slid forward, spilling blood over Eli, until his buckle wedged into the window’s slotted frame. Biting and fighting to kill the aging man, Benny finally gained a tenacious hold on Eli’s left arm and sunk his teeth deeply into his victim’s wrist, spewing arteriole blood out both sides of his mouth.
Screaming and scrambling for
the gun, Eli punched at the top of Benny’s head but was unable to free his left hand. The flow of blood continued from both his wrist and left temple, limiting the pulse of vital, life-giving fluid to his brain. In a last desperate attempt to fend off his would-be killer, Eli thrust his knees to his chest, lifting his attacker up and breaking the carnal hold on his arm. Pushing the out-of-control youth away with his legs, Eli Falconer blindly felt for the Ruger and finding it, brought the sights to bear on the lashing boy.
Benny, forgive me,” Eli shouted, as he turned his face away and pulled the trigger. An explosion of blood, brain and bone covered the interior of the SUV, as the ballistic cleaved the youth’s skull in twain. Covered in the boy’s ghoulish death and repulsed by the violent deed, Eli slid from under the limp body and worked his way out the passenger door. Retching, he bent over and discarded the contents of his stomach. “What are we becoming?” he yelled, dropping to his knees. He pounded his chest and tore at his coat, rending the material as a final act of overwhelming anguish. An inexplicable wave of fatigue and nausea swept over the distraught ailing man, as the loss of blood began to overtake him. “Lilith,” he whispered. The name crossed his lips again as he pulled Benny from the cab and assumed his position behind the steering wheel.
One hour, that’s all I need – give me the strength.
Raven Falconer sat on the porch of her uncle’s remote cabin and stared into the night’s sky. Her roommates had long since tired of the stunning array of greens and yellows that undulated and flared, filling the blackness above them. The young author and student periodically closed her eyes, hoping and wondering if her parents were privy to the same elaborate display. A tear formed at the corner of each eye, quickly followed by more that ran down her ivory skin, some giving way to gravity while others trailed down her neck. She made no attempt to wipe the moisture away, but sat stoically – quietly reflective, as she thought of her deceased mother and infected father.
Time is what you make of it,
swirled through her memory just as clearly now as when her mother had said it, years ago.
I know mom,” she said, as a fraction of her tear’s salty mixture found its way to her tongue, which she extended to cleanse her lips.
Six hours had passed since her father had driven away and the gunshot
s had pierced the night, along with her heart. She’d been anxious to race to the presumed scene but her friends had held her back, knowing what she would likely find. “Rave, when the risk of infection is gone we’ll take care of your dad. There’s no sense you having that image as your last,” Mick, her dearest friend, had said. The time had crawled by, each minute and then hour eliciting a myriad of possibilities waiting for her in the moody darkness. Dreadful scenes played on a continuous loop through her mind: the most horrible of which featured her father slumped across the seat of his Lexus, a non-lethal gunshot wound incapacitating him, as he cried out for help. Raven tried, without much success, to push the thoughts from her head, electing to focus on the invisible collisions taking place in the earth’s atmosphere and the miraculous panorama they created as part of the northern lights. “It’s beautiful,” she said, pondering the likelihood that life would ever be normal and beautiful again.
Lost in her thought
s, she hadn’t noticed the cabin’s door opening and Mick sliding out to join her. “What’s that, Raven?” she asked.
Startled, Rave was ripped from her thoughts and turned her head to reply.
“Mick, you scared the crap out of me . . . I was just wondering if life will ever be the same.”
Not likely, sweetheart, but I can’t take it anymore. We need to see about your father.” Mick tossed a mask and set of gloves into her friend’s lap. “Come on, you drive but you have to promise me that you’ll let me do the investigating.”
Raven jumped from the chair and embraced her friend.
“Thank you, thank you. This has been torture for me. I know it may not be safe but I have to know.”
Mick returned the hug,
and then opened the door to retrieve a rifle, letting Pooch join them on the porch. The dog’s tail whipped from side-to-side, a sense of excitement pushing her down the steps and into the snow. Her nose immediately went to the ground, which led her around the driveway and back to the women on the landing. She dropped her rump onto the cold, hard-packed earth, before extending her snout upward and letting out a low, deep howl. The invitation did not go unnoticed by Mick and Raven, who hurried down the steps to quiet the noisy mutt.
Pooch, hush up!” Mick ordered, as she encouraged the anxious canine to jump into the backseat of her Jeep. “Raven, I can do this on my own. You don’t have to come.”
I know, but I need to be there. He’s my dad, Mick. I need to make sure . . . Well, I need . . . ” There was an extended pause as the young woman tried to unbind her tongue and express the feelings of her heart, but could not.
Yeah, I can’t put it into words either.”
Raven climbed behind the steering wheel to be greeted with a wet lick across her cheek and right ear.
“Pooch . . . knock it off. Come on girl, sit . . . go on now . . . sit!” Another quick lick caught the driver off guard before the dog settled down somewhat, and moved her spontaneous affections to Mick. The teacher sat with the rifle’s muzzle extended to the floorboard but her hand through the lever action, as if anticipating a greater threat than she was putting on. “You thinkin’ we’re going to need that?” Rave asked, tapping the wooden stock with her fingertips.
No, not really. Just don’t want to be caught off guard. That episode this afternoon still has me a bit shaken,” Mick replied, while tossing a small but heavily ladened key ring to her friend.
A moment later
the appropriate key brought the Jeep to life after a couple of cold-sounding cranks of the motor. Raven slowly reversed from the parking area and began the perilous descent in search of her father. The light display overhead continued to provide some illumination but the night was still very dense; the forest canopy harboring unseen dangers, as well as shielding the road’s corners in near, pitch black. The pair traveled a couple of kilometers from the cabin with no sign of Eli Falconer, causing them to speculate that perhaps the gunshots had been fired by someone else. They carefully inspected each possible detour from the main road, confirming their suspicion that he would not leave the primary roadway.