BLAZING SADDLES, SMOKING TENTACLES CH.1 - RAYGUNS AND RAWHIDE
By Scott Perkins
The fellow on the table isn’t going anywhere, so you decide to accompany the sheriff out to the abandoned mine to see what your fellow beings are up to and why they’re in your territory.
You nod the sheriff toward the door and when he turns his back to leave, you slip your Bolt Piecemaker ray gun out of the drawer and into your holster. As you strap up, you feel better with the polished brass and ceramic hanging on your hip; as their marketing transmissions like to say, “Quar’phon made cephalopods, Bolt made them evil.” You’re a terrible shot, but you don’t need to be a very good shot with a Bolt Piecemaker; aim in the general direction of your opponent and make him, his close kin, distant relations, and part of the landscape behind him go away.
If there are more like the guy on the table out in that mine, you aren’t taking any chances. (Bolt can make all the claims he wants, your people were already evil before he invented his ray gun.)
The sheriff shouts through the door for you to quit dawdling and get the lead out. You’re not sure what that means, but he seems impatient, so you hurriedly jab the unconscious creature with a hypodermic full of blowfish toxin, just enough to keep him from wandering off before you get back.
The sheriff has brought the horses around and is waiting outside the door alongside his deputy with the teeth like a Missouri mule. You feel your skin ripple in the heat as you come out into the high plains oven that these humans jokingly call a town.
“You reckon you’re gonna need that hogleg, son?” the sheriff nods at your Piecemaker.
“I reckon I don’t want to need it and not have it with me,” you reply. The deputy titters nervously and hands you the reins of your mount.
You can feel the eyes of the townsfolk following you as you head out of town and you do your best to return the stares with a friendly nod and a touch of your brim.
Thankfully, the glare of the sun is so intense that you’re not the only one in town keeping your hat pulled low. The problem is that it means anyone around you could be hiding their ears, or their tentacles, or four, maybe five extra eyes…
It’s easy to feel outnumbered in these situations and you catch yourself thinking that maybe you should’ve grabbed the rifle too.
A few miles outside of town, you finally begin to relax. The sheriff seems lost in his own thoughts and you’re damned if the deputy has any, so you’re left with yours and that’s fine with you. As the trail takes you across the barren stretches of brown scrub land, you find yourself in the lead.
That’s fine with you. You know the area well from when you scouted it from the air when you first arrived. The rocky terrain rises steadily and then fractures into gullies and eventually canyons where prospectors have frittered away their lives in the search for gold, burrowing into the landscape like a colony of heat-addled prairie dogs.
You can hear your companions talking in low voices behind you as you enter the base of the washout that leads up to the hole in the ground which once generously gave up gold, apparently in return for a steady influx of rusted pick axes and rotting minecarts.
You draw up to wait for the sheriff and his deputy, your horse dancing nervously as sounds whisper across the rusting junk, sounds that are not of the earth.
What the hell have these idiots been up to? How hard can it be to blend in with a bunch of fleshy bipeds so primitive that they think the telegraph qualifies as high technology? You didn’t choose this planet for its amenities.
The sheriff arrives as you dismount. He’s alone and looking back, you can see the deputy off his horse with a Winchester in his hands. The bucktoothed buckaroo hightails it back down the gully and you scramble up one face of the wash, seeking higher ground.
“Figure we can use high cover, and there ain’t no need for the kid to see what shouldn’t be seen.” The sheriff marks the dust at your feet with his tobacco juice to drive the point home. “Hear what I’m sayin, Doc?”
“You don’t want your town sullied by my… kind.”
“We have an understanding, then.” The sheriff drops to the ground and ties his horse loosely to a nearby bit of scrubby tree. “You, I don’t mind. You help folks out and hold up your end. But these troublemakers are gonna make trouble for all of us and I won’t have it, Doc, I just won’t.”
This seems a bit unfair. What does all this have to do with you anyway? Just because a fella has a certain kind of skin or a certain number of tentacles doesn’t mean he’s responsible for everyone else who does too.
“Get in there and find out what they want, but anyone who comes out of there sporting more than two legs and two arms is getting drilled.”
“That’s some negotiation strategy you have there, Sheriff.”
“No point in beatin’ the devil round the stump, Doc,” the lawman replies. “I have the citizens of my town to protect and they’re simple folk, salt of the earth… you know, morons. They don’t accept strangeness very well.”
There’s certainly no point arguing with that fact.
You came all the way out here, you might as well go through with it and anyway you’re not entirely sure at this point that the sheriff is entirely ready to count you among “his town’s” human citizens.
You ease your Piecemaker in its holster and continue alone the last few yards toward the mouth of the mine. The creature at the door isn’t in any form that the sheriff would offer a room at the Grand Hotel. The mass of waving tentacles greets you silently, one tentacle extends to caress the tip of your nose and then loses interest in you once you’re identified as of the correct flavor for entry.
As you slip past the guard and venture into the welcome cool of the mine, your eyes adjust to different wavelengths of light and you begin to notice carvings on the walls of the mineshaft. Pictograms you haven’t seen since you left home trace spirals across the walls and ceiling of the shaft, telling a story that’s not going to be considered good news by the sheriff and his town.
As you descend into the darkness and damp, you are reminded of home, and it makes you edgy. You pull your ray gun fully out of the holster. The weight of it feels good in your hand and far too small and ineffectual to make a good negotiating tool. If the door guard isn’t bothering with human form, then whatever the rest are up to won’t be good for anyone else who has taken to walking on two legs. Things might get interesting.
“Cthoth-hurragh ctchuck t’ut-t’ut ftaghn!” A harsh voice cuts through the silence. “Cthoth-hurragh ctchuck tut-tut ftaghn!”
You step into a large chamber and stumble to a halt. Whether this space was dug out for the men working the old gold mine to gather and watch sporting events or the mine had broken through to a natural cavern and made improvements, you can’t rightly say. The uneven floor is heaped all about with piled backfill dug out of the tunnels that open in all directions from this central chamber. Several of the nearby heaps of slag have an open space in the center, being watched with rapt attention by an undulating crowd of miscellaneous nightmares of scale, slime, and tentacle.
The spectators, though, aren’t what make your skin go rubbery and cold. A massive creature stands at the center of the watchers with a smaller human-sized creature held above what should by all rights be its head. As you watch, the creature shouts “Cthoth-hurragh ctchuck tut-tut ftaghn!” once again and brings the human form smashing down on the rocks.
The spectators take up the chant and soon they are chanting just one, ominous word. “Mon-go” they shout. “Mon-Go! Mon-Go! Mon-Go!” the name of an ancient terror out of the depths of your race’s darkest nightmares.
As you backpedal back down the tunnel, the darkness echoes with that ancient name. The ray gun feels useless in your nerveless fingers. You have to get out of there, you have to…
Your back slams into something solid and you realize you’ve run into a dead end. The chants are getting louder and the faint sussuration of suckers and feelers dragging obese bodies across stone floors follows. The tunnel in front of you gets darker as the Mongo approaches.
Your Bolt Piecemaker rocks in your hand as you empty it at the approaching terror. The flare of the death ray scours the pictograms from the stone walls and burns the hydrogen and methane out of the air, sending waves of fire and smoke down every tunnel and crevice. The rumble of the collapsing mine are accompanied by the realization that even if you bring the entire mountain down on its head, it’ll just make it mad.
You pray to your dark gods that the sheriff has the good sense to run as the dark hand of the Mon-Go reaches out to you.
Whether it’s the falling mountain that kills you or the creature is irrelevant, you’re jelly at the bottom of a deep, dark hole.
And that’s just not a good look on anybody.