Epics Halloween Horror 2019
The things that make you afraid
Little Boy Lost
(This story is based on the Mirrorworld story “Epics Infinites”, in which the Empire was victorious in the Battle of Endor. It is now one year later, with the ragged remnants of the Alliance on the run . . . .)
Jabba the Hutt’s palace, four years after the Battle of Yavin:
The rancor approached its prey, who was frantically trying to escape from the beast’s lair. The small figure yanked desperately on the bars that blocked its exit. The rancor’s mouth slavered with anticipation. A second meal in one day would fill its belly for a long time. Suddenly, the rancor’s prey whirled about, spied the remains of a previous meal, then grabbed and flung it at the wall just as the monster was squeezing underneath the heavy barrier that separated it from its den and the feeding area.
A massive weight abruptly smashed down on the back of the rancor’s neck, driving the creature to the ground. In agonizing pain, the beast’s claws grasped weakly at the air, then it uttered a low moan and went still.
# * # * #
Jabba’s golden talk droid strutted about the rancor’s den, directing the Hutt’s minions in their tasks. “You two,” the droid commanded. “Mighty Jabba orders you to take his late, beloved pet to the Western Dune Sea, and dispose of it with proper reverence.” The two Weequay who had just been given the assignment stared at each other, aghast, then fearfully turned their gaze to silent beast lying nearby.
# * # * #
“Faster!” one of the Weequays shouted to his companion driving the flatbed hauler through the canyons of the Jundland Wastes. “I think it moved!”
“What?” the Weequay driving gulped.
“I said, ‘It moved!’!”
“Hey, what do you know?” the Weequay driver stammered. “Arrived at our destination already!”
“This isn’t the Dune Sea! Jabba is going to kill us!”
“So will that thing. It’s time to unload the baggage!”
The rancor was unceremoniously dumped into the nearest arroyo, the creature rolling down to the bottom where it rested in a silent heap. Without a glance backward, the two Weequay sped back to Jabba’s palace in relief.
The rancor lay there for a long while before it finally began to stir. With a grunt, the creature hauled itself to its feet, shaking off the bone-gnawers, gravel-maggots, and other assorted parasites that sought to feed on the rancor’s flesh. The beast glanced around the unfamiliar surroundings, wincing in pain from the grievous wounds on the back of its neck, till its beady black eyes fixed on the column of black smoke rising from the Northern Dune Sea.
# * # * #
One year later:
“Get out of the way, kid!”
Gavin shrank back, stung and hurt by the viciousness in the Alliance trooper’s voice. It wasn’t his fault; he was doing his best not to get underfoot. Tears welled up in Gavin’s eyes and his chest shook with a small sob. More than anything, Gavin wished that he, Mom, and Dad could just go back home to Corellia.
It was horrible that night. Gavin saw his parents, speaking in hushed tones, as they were gathered round a small transceiver that he had never seen before. All of sudden, Mom started crying and Dad began to grab things and stuff them into knapsacks. Spying his son, Matheron Thayer stated flatly, “Son, we have to go.”
All three piled into the family speeder. Mom asked, “Math, what about our parents?” and Dad replied, “It’s too late, Catharin. There isn’t any time.”
Dad drove the speeder so fast that night. On the way to wherever they were going, Gavin saw other speeders parked over by the side of the road, and quite a few of them must have had repulsor or turbine problems because there was smoke coming from them. And it looked like the people riding inside them had decided to get out and lay down on the ground to go to sleep. That was when Catharin put her hand over Gavin’s eyes and whispered, “Don’t look.”
When they arrived at a clearing, Gavin saw two evacuation ships, and a whole lot of people were running towards them. There was a lot of crying and screaming. People were yelling “Have you seen my wife?”, “My children are back there!”, “Stormtroopers are coming!” Gavin was snatched up by his father and the family dashed aboard one of the ships. Inside, everyone was sobbing, and some were hysterical. The ship suddenly lurched and everyone was thrown to the deck. Gavin was able to grab onto a spar to keep from being tossed about. Without warning, the ship began shaking violently, and someone kept screaming “We lost the Kyte! We lost the Kyte!”
Gavin lost count of how many places they flew to, and they never stayed in any of those places for very long, either. At least until they reached Tatooine. And even there, there was never enough of everything: Food, water, sleep, fun things to do. One day, some men came to Dad, whispered something, then handed him a blaster. Dad kissed Mom, held Gavin in his arms and told him that he would have to take care of his mother until he came back. Gavin hadn’t seen his Dad since. Mom cried a lot; so did Gavin. He cried even longer and harder when his mother hugged him, then shouldered a blaster and left.
Now the only protection Gavin and the other kids had were soldiers. Most of them were missing a limb—or two—or had cybernetics replacing parts of their faces or bodies, and they weren’t very pleasant. Gavin and the others were frightened by them, but the thought of the stormtroopers coming was even more so.
“Droyk, kid! I told you to stay out of the way!”
Again, Gavin scrambled to where he thought was an innocuous place, hoping the soldier wouldn’t hit him. He’d noticed that the troopers were starting to slap the other kids with increasing frequency if they didn’t to as they were told fast enough. The trooper was still glaring angrily at Gavin, and one of his comrades came up with a sympathetic shake of his head.
“Stang, I know what you mean. If we didn’t have these blasted kids around, we could’ve hauled jets off this dirt ball planet long ago.”
So, that’s how it was; if they didn’t want Gavin and the other kids around, then so be it. He would run off to fight the Empire, just like Mom and Dad did, and he’d show those troopers what a real hero was!
Scurrying back to the crowded, fetid berthing spaces, Gavin grabbed his knapsack—his “go bag” as Dad called it—and began to place items into it. “Pack emergency rations,” the boy whispered to himself as he stuffed his knapsack full. “Corellian apple, knife, clothing, water, and don’t forget the paceball mitt!”
Gavin knew his best chance to run away was during the midday meal, when the troopers would gather and eat the food that was supposed to be for the kids. And when he heard the familiar tromp of boots on the deck plates headed towards the mess, and plaintive begging of hungry children, Gavin made his break . . .
A sobbing Gavin looked about the canyon he was wandering around in, heartily wishing that there was some way he could be magically transported back to the ship. Tatooine was so hot. The heat from the sand seemed to go right through his shoes to burn his feet. And his clothes, which kept him comfortable on Corellia, even in summer, were absolutely useless here. His snug fitting, black syncloth pants seemed to trap the heat and sweat inside, and Gavin could feel his parts of his legs begin chafed raw. The same was with his shirt and jacket. Sand and gravel constantly got into his shoes. This planet had two suns, and Gavin felt that his face was being scorched. The water in his flask was long gone, the last drops consumed an hour ago.
That was when Gavin decided to turn back, to find his way back to the ship. Instead, he had gotten lost. All of the canyons looked like the other, and Gavin hadn’t thought to do anything to mark his trail.
Sweat ran heavily down Gavin’s forehead and into his eyes, the salt in the perspiration stinging them badly. The boy wiped his eyes in despair, the tears of fright staining his cheeks mixing with the sweat. The weather was getting worse as well. The desert wind grew in intensity, kicking up sand and gravel, while creating an eerie, moaning sound as gusted through the canyon.
Gavin suddenly whirled. He was sure he saw something out of the corner of his eye. A soft click, nearly inaudible over the screeching wind, caused the boy to spin about. There! Dark figures moving furtively in the shadows! Gavin, whimpering in terror, abruptly flung his knapsack to the ground and started running when a guttural, ululating voice rang out in the canyon.
The boy sprinted as fast as he could. A desperate glance over his shoulder revealed a quartet of hideous looking beings in pursuit. Their heads were wrapped in brown bandages, with odd tubes sticking out from them. All four wore ragged, flowing tan robes, and all carried an evil looking axe/spear in their hands.
“Leave me alone!” Gavin screeched in fright, but his pursuers showed no inclination of quitting their hunt. Ahead, the boy saw an opening to a cave, a large one, and he headed toward that. Once inside, Gavin might be able to find a place to hide from the horrible creatures.
Tripping over his feet as he reached the cave’s mouth, Gavin scrabbled on his hands and knees into the entrance. Risking a look back to see where his pursuers were, Gavin saw that they had stopped dead in their tracks, and were now pivoting about to flee in the direction they had come from.
Gavin breathed a sigh of relief. He was safe for the moment. Glancing about his surroundings, Gavin noticed that it was not a cave he was in, but some sort of tunnel or passageway. The wall surfaces were smooth, and the roof arched. Gavin could also feel a breeze blowing from the interior of the tunnel, indicating another opening. Perhaps this tunnel led to some sort of underground settlement? Maybe the beings who lived there would be able to help him!
As Gavin cautiously made his way down the passageway, he could see that his hunch proved to be correct. The tunnel didn’t grow darker as he went further in, but grew in illumination, and the passageway itself led to a large domed chamber, parts of which were caved in as indicated by the large piles and lumps of dirt and rock. The light was provided by several openings in the ceiling, the most prominent of which was a large round one at the apex of the roof. Maybe this was some sort of temple? Opposite Gavin were several tall and wide tunnels, presumably leading to the outside, and the one through which the faithful would enter.
A bright, twinkling light cast about the cavern caused Gavin to smile. The source was the silicon sand and dust drifting down through cracks in the ceiling, and as it drifted into the beams of sunshine that streamed in through the cavern’s roof openings, prismatic tints and burst of color were cast onto the walls of the chamber. There was even a place in the center of the temple where you could actually stand and be surrounded by the lights!
Gavin hadn’t seen anything so beautiful in a long, long time. Grinning, the boy strode toward the light, unaware that one of the mounds of earth and rock along the walls had begun to stir.
The rancor eyed the figure moving toward the center of the place it called home now. It had been a long time since it had anything decent to feast upon. Most of the natural fauna here was thoroughly unappetizing, and the diminutive creatures with the glowing eyes disgusting to the taste. Not only that, the rancor had to pick scraps of an inedible brown material from its teeth after every feeding. But the little morsel striding into its clutches looked young and healthy, and its scent was sweet and fresh. Unable to contain itself, the rancor lurched to its feet and moved forward.
Gavin caught the sudden movement in his peripheral vision, and as he turned, the boy was suddenly rooted in place by horror. The horrible monster was tall—at least five meters high—and covered in a rough, scaly, dark brown hide. It waddled forward on two stumpy legs, and was grasping at Gavin with two lengthy arms that ended in a four-clawed hand. The head was blocky, with beady black eyes, two slits for nostrils set above them, and its slavering, gaping maw was ringed with large, pointed fangs.
The boy made a few choked, terror-stricken sounds in his throat, and he tried to flee, but the sight of the rancor left Gavin paralyzed with fear. Only when the beast was nearly upon him did Gavin manage to move—by stumbling backwards onto his rump and scrabbling away from the monster on his hands and feet like a caw-crab.
His flight from the rancor carried Gavin right into the wall of the chamber, and he slammed into it with a grunt. The impact shook the boy out of his shock, but by then, it was too late. Gavin shrieked as the beast closed in and grasped him with one of its hands.
The rancor’s claws curled shut around the boy in a crushing grip. Gavin, his arms pressed tight against his body, squirmed and writhed in a frantic attempt if not to at least get free, then gain some room so that he could breathe.
The rancor eyed the screechy tidbit it held in its claws with a ravenous hunger. This little prey was doing its best to escape from the rancor’s grasp—wriggling and kicking its feet—but it was no use. Its mouth salivating at the prospect of a tasty meal, the beast rumbled with delight and brought Gavin closer to its maw.
With a snort of triumph, Gavin succeeded in freeing his left arm from the beast’s grasp. The boy suddenly gagged as the creature’s putrid breath washed over him, then loosed a high-pitched shriek as the monster’s jaws opened wide–revealing its dripping maw, horrid tongue and fearsome teeth, the bottomless black pit of its gullet-and its head lunged forward at him.
Gavin’s screams were smothered as the rancor’s mouth engulfed his head, shoulders, and chest, then abruptly silenced when the creature’s jaws snapped shut on the boy's ribcage with a crunching, crackling sound. Gavin’s kicking, flailing legs stiffened, rigid with pain, then went limp.
Within the rancor’s maw, a grievously injured Gavin somehow managed to open his eyes. At first there had been a terrible, blinding pain that made everything go white, then quickly fade to black. Twisting his head, Gavin made a gurgling sound as tried to spit out the frothy, bright red blood that was choking his nose and mouth. The sight of his left arm—what was left of it—caused Gavin to croak in distress. The limb had been severed just below his elbow, and blood was shooting out from the end in erratic spurts.
The rancor now stuffed more of the boy further into its mouth. Gavin stomach scraped along one of monster’s teeth, and the razor sharp fang sliced his belly open with near surgical precision, causing Gavin’s innards to spill out onto the rancor’s tongue. The beast’s jaws snapped shut again, snuffing out any remaining ember of life in Gavin’s body.
At that, the beast paused, knowing that a prey struggling in its death throes could cause serious injury to the soft and vulnerable lining of its mouth. Gavin’s legs quivered, twitched, then one kicked spasmodically–once, twice–before they both went still, dangling lifelessly from the rancor’s mouth.
A toss of the monster’s head backward brought the boy’s hips and thighs into the creature’s maw, leaving only Gavin’s lower limbs protruding from its jaws. The rancor then slowly sucked the rest of the boy’s legs into its slavering, blood-drenched maw with a contented slurping sound.
The beast began to chew slowly and methodically, savoring every bit of the diminutive, delicious morsel. How different it was from the last decent one it had feasted upon! That meal had been mostly greasy fat and gristle; this scrumptious little prey’s flesh was firm and tender, with a sharp, metallic tang to its blood, and contained within its bones was an incredibly rich marrow.
The rancor’s jaws and teeth gradually rendered Gavin’s body into a gory pulp of bloody flesh and bone splinters. With a shiver of pleasure, the monster gulped the boy’s remains down its gullet, the gelatinous mass sliding right into the beast's belly. This would be a meal fondly remembered, but hopefully not the last.
Last edit: by Gavin V. Thayer