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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2318156
A giant sand snake that uses its horns as a lure to catch and eat humans and other animals
Not far from Glen Hartwell, Luella "Lulu" Wellins was walking Mongo her black Labradoodle along a sandy section of the bank of the once unbearably polluted, now bearable polluted, Yannan River. A checkout girl at the Glen Hartwell Mall in the Victorian countryside, Lulu, a petite pixie-cute brunette teen, was enjoying the Easter break. Since it was Good Friday, she had obeyed an Australian custom of buying fish and chips for lunch rather than meat, including three pieces of fish - one for her, if she was lucky, and two for Mongo.

Sitting on the sandy bank, the sixteen-year-old tore open the white wrapping paper and reached in to take out a handful of chips, which she managed to eat, despite Mongo trying to snatch them out of her hand.

"Bag 'og," she said through a mouthful of fried potato.

Whining, Mongo wagged his tail, lowered his head, and gave his mistress his best sad-eyed look, knowing she could not hold out for long.

Sighing from frustration, Lulu reached into the paper bag and took out a piece of battered flake. She broke the fish into two pieces and threw the largest piece a few metres away. Then quickly ate her smaller piece as Mongo raced across to scoff down his big piece, before racing back in the hope of getting Lulu's piece too.

"Too wait," said Lulu between chewing her piece of fish.

Despite his hungry whimpering and doe-eyed look, she held off on the second piece of flake, until she had swallowed her own piece.

"You'd eat all three pieces and leave me none, wouldn't you?" said Lulu.

Mongo wagged his tail and seemed to nod his agreement.

Sighing, Lulu took out the second piece of flake, just avoiding the Labradoodle snatching it out of her hand.

"Bad dog," she said. She tore off her third then threw Mango's two-thirds away: "Go fetch!"

Instead, he snatched her small piece out of her hand and swallowed it down as he raced across to scoff down his larger piece.

"Hey! You thieving wretch!" cried Lulu, laughing despite herself.

Grabbing the final piece of flake from the bag, she managed to take one large bite. Before Mongo raced back, snatched the remainder out of her hands, and ran off to eat it.

"I don't know why I bother to feed you at all, you curly-haired kleptomaniac!" said Lulu as she settled for eating a potato cake before the fish thief could return to steal that too.

After scoffing the last of the fish, Mongo crept back as silently as possible, hoping to snatch a potato cake from his unsuspecting mistress -- knowing that however much she yelled at him, Lulu always forgave him afterwards. However, the pixie-cut brunette held the bag right up to her face to scoop chips straight from the paper bag into her mouth to chew without letting Mongo even see them.

Whining in frustration, the black Labradoodle raced forward and tried to grab the bag from Lulu; receiving a gentle slap across the snout for his trouble.

"Bad dog," said Lulu, making Mongo whimper and lower his head; trying to look as innocent as possible: "Don't try that one, I know you're guilty as Hell, you fried fish thief!"

Still, she reached into the paper bag for a small bag containing three steamed Dim Sims. Not bothering to take them out, she threw the bag a few metres away, then hurriedly ate a pineapple fritter while Mongo raced across to tear open the small bag and scoff down the juicy Dim Sims.

"Why do I pay for the meal, but you eat two-thirds of it?" asked Lulu between bites: "And even then you try to steal my third."

Mongo had almost finished the Dim Sims when he spotted movement in the sand just ahead of him. Careful to swallow the delicacies first, the Labradoodle raced across to start digging in the sand trying to uncover whatever creature was under it.

"What ya got hairy-head?" asked Lulu: "A sand crab?"

By way of answer, a gaping mouth with twenty-centimetre-long teeth leapt out of the sand to grab Mongo; who started whining as the Cerastes started reversing back under the ground. Taking its victim with it.

"Mongo!" shrieked Lulu. Dropping the bag of chips, she climbed up and raced across to try to help her beloved canine friend.

But by the time that she reached the spot the large dog had been pulled headfirst underground. Leaving behind nothing but a sickeningly large amount of blood on the otherwise yellow sand.

"Mon ... goooooooo!" cried the pixie-cut teen.

Over at the Yellow House at Rochester Road, Merridale, they were also sitting down to a fish-and-chip lunch. But with poached pink salmon, homemade potato wedges, and sweet-potato chips, all prepared by Deidre Morton, the owner of the Yellow House.

"That looks grouse, Mrs. M.," said Sheila. At thirty-five, the orange-and-black-haired Goth chick was the second-top cop in the entire BeauLarkin to Willamby area.

"Thank you, dear," said Deidre. A small plump sixty-something shoulda been chef, obsessed with the colour lemon; hence the nickname of her boarding house that was painted yellow inside and out.

"I'll say," agreed Natasha Lipzing. A tall, thin grey-haired lady who had spent the second half of her life at the Yellow House.

"Yes, indeed," said Terri Scott. Also thirty-five, the beautiful ash blonde was the top-cop of the area, and fiancée of Colin Klein.

"You make even fish and chips a delicacy, Mrs. M.," said Colin. The forty-eight-year-old redheaded man had been a top London crime reporter for thirty years, before retiring to take up employment with the Glen Hartwell Police Department after meeting and clicking with Terri.

"Superb!" agreed Freddy Kingston a tall, portly recent retiree.

"Could use a snifter of Johnny Walker," complained Tommy Turner, a reforming alcoholic. Reforming due to Deidre Morton finding and seizing his secret stash, which she doled out one drink per meal.

"I'll get your snifter after I've served everybody," said Deidre with a frustrated sigh.

They had barely started eating when the phone in the hallway started ringing.

"It's Good Friday, damn it!" said Sheila, as Terri got up to answer the phone: "And why must they always ring when we're eating?"

A few minutes later Terri returned to announce: "That was Lulu from the G.H. Mall. She said a sea serpent just ate Mongo."

Staring in amazement, Colin said: "I'll have to get my ears syringed out, honey. I could have sworn you said a sea serpent just ate Mongo."

"That's what Lulu claims," insisted Terri, as Deidre stood up and started packaging up some of the food into plastic containers for the three police officers: "She was hysterical and sobbing."

Putting the containers in paper bags, Deidre handed them to the three cops as they headed outside.

"Poor Mongo," said Sheila.

"Poor Lulu having to see it," said Colin as they got into Terri's Lexus.

"Speaking of dogs, what about Slap, Tickle, and Rub?" asked Sheila as they set out.

"No thanks, Sheils, you're not my type," said Colin: "Besides Terri would kill me if I ever looked at another woman."

"No, I meant Don Esk's three dogs, while he's in hospital with radiation sickness?"

"Oh, Lisa Williams, his fiancé is taking care of them between helping look after Don in hospital."

"She's domesticated, isn't she?" said Colin.

"Yes," said Sheila: "And when I first saw her I thought she was just another dumb blonde."

"Say what?" asked Terri.

"Nothing personal, Chief," said Sheila, trying her best not to laugh.

"I'm starting to think Lisa will make a great mother," said Terri: "She does seem to like looking after people and animals."

A short time later the Lexus pulled up at the Yannan River, where a blue police Land Rover and an ambulance were already parked. Outside, the gaggle of people included Lulu Wellins, three police officers: Stanlee Dempsey a tall powerfully built man in his forties; Hilly Hindmarsh, a beautiful Teutonic blonde in her mid-fifties, and Wendy Pearson, a forty-five-year-old honey blonde who looked more like a beauty queen than a cop; plus two paramedics: Cheryl Pritchard, and Derek Armstrong, both keen bodybuilders who spent their Saturdays at the local gym with Sheila Bennett; also Tilly Lombstrom, an attractive fifty-something brunette who was the second in charge at the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital; as well as two nurses: Leo Laxman a thirty-something Jamaican by birth, and Topaz Moseley a gorgeous thirty-something platinum blonde.

Topaz was getting ready to give Lulu an injection when Terri stopped her, asking the teenager: "You did say a sea serpent grabbed Mongo."

"Yes!" shouted the hysterical teen: "A bloody great snake came up out of the sand ..." She pointed to the blood-stained sand: "And dragged him head-first underground."

"It must have been strong?" said Sheila.

"It happened!" shouted Lulu.

Terri nodded to Topaz who injected the teenager in the arm.

"Get ready to catch her, somebody,' said Topaz.

Stanlee Dempsey stepped forward to catch Lulu, then carried her across to the waiting ambulance and up the ramp.

"So what's next, Chief?" asked Hilly Hindmarsh.

"I guess we get the Department of Building and Works to dig up the area, while we stand around with guns ready, in case there really is a bloody big, dog-eating snake under the sand," said Terri.

"Poor Lulu," said Terri: "She really loved that big dog."

"Poor Mongo," added Sheila: "So what're you make of Lulu's story of a sea serpent?"

"A sand serpent!" corrected Colin: "If it lives under the sand."

"Are there sand snakes?" asked Terri.

"Some snakes live underground," said Stanlee Dempsey: "But I don't know about under sand."

Twenty kilometres or so outside LePage township, Craig Davies was getting ready to move his flock of black-faced Merinos to the upper paddock for grazing, when a small voice behind him said:

"Mum said to bring you dis!"

Looking around, Craig saw his seven-year-old son, Archer, standing in the dusty sand-swept field, holding a small aluminium Billy can. The apple of Craig's eye, archer was a younger version of his father. Both stocky males with shoulder-length yellow hair, wearing plaid shirts under denim coveralls, with leather work boots.

"What we got here?" asked Craig taking the pale from the little boy.

Removing the lid, he found a thermos of tea, two big marmalade-filled scones, and two smaller strawberry-jam-filled scones, along with a capped mug of homemade lemonade.

"Looks like she provided for both of us," said Craig. He took out a small scone and the mug of lemonade to hand to Archer, before pouring himself a cuppa, then taking one of the large scones.

Sitting down on the dusty ground, man and boy started to tuck into the scones, between sips of their respective drinks.

"Watcha doin' here, Dad?" asked the boy.

"I was just getting ready to move the flock," explained Craig.

"Where to?"

"The upper paddock."

"What for?"

"So they can spend the day eating the lush grass. After the hellish summer we just had the ground is too dry and sandy down here to grow anything for them to eat."

"Then why don't you just leave dem up dare all da time?"

"Dingoes and foxes could get them," explained Craig moving on to his second scone.

"Foxes?" asked Archer: "'Cording to Beau and Mo, foxes are harmless and should be left in peace."

"That's their misinformed city slicker opinion. Foxes are not cute little cat-sized creatures with Irish accents, like in Mary Poppins. They're bigger and more deadly than most dogs. They're not above killing farm dogs, sheep, even cattle if they're hungry enough."

"So you gotta bring da sheep back each night."

"That's right."

Over at the Yannan River Terri, Colin, Sheila, and co stood around watching as the Department of Building and Works people dug a long trench starting where Mongo had been dragged underground not long before. The trench extended a couple of hundred metres before they found the remains of the black Labradoodle.

"Found him," called George, the foreman: "What's left of the poor bugger. Skin and bones only."

Using his shovel he lifted the wool-like fur of the big dog and its gnawed bones out of the trench.

"Now what?" asked George.

"Now you keep digging till you find the serpent slash snake slash whatever, that killed poor Mongo," said Terri.

"I hope we're getting danger money for hunting for a serpent slash snake slash whatever...?"

"We'll talk about that later." teased Terri.

"It's not that you're not gonna get paid," said Colin Klein: "Just that you might have to wait another three months to see your money."

"Oh," said George sounding unimpressed.

"You know," said Sheila: "When we finally get more cash in July, after we pay everybody we owe, we're gonna be flat broke again with another year to wait until we get any more moola!"

"Actually, I've been letting the blokes in Russell Street shout at me while trying to convince them to give us extra cash to pay off our back debts."

"So when was the last time you saw blood come from a stone?" teased Colin.

"Don't joke," said Sheila: "That might be our next wacky case! The Case of the Bleeding Stone Monster!"

"Didn't they do that in Doctor Who?" asked George.

"Yeah, 'The Stones of Blood'," said Sheila: "One of Tom Baker's best stories. I always preferred his spooky stories to his comedy ones."

Craig and Archer were finishing their treat when suddenly the little boy jumped to his feet and pointed at the sheep in the pen:

"Lambie-Pie just vanished!"

"What?" asked Craig. He climbed to his feet less agilely than the seven-year-old boy had done.

"Lambie-Pie just vanished!"

"Who or what is Lambie-Pie?"

"The lamb with a black tail," explained Archer: "I named him; he's my fav'rite."

"You do know we're gonna sell them all in time?"

"Not Lambie-Pie ... Mum said I could keep him."

"Did she?" asked Craig. Knowing what Eileen said was sacrosanct, especially when she promised their pride and joy something.

"Yes, but he just vanished."

As though to confirm this, the sheep started baaing hysterically and racing around the enclosure excitedly.

"Something's in there," said Craig. He raced across followed by Archer and could see a large hole in the ground where the lost sheep had been.

"Son, go get Blue Boy and Cobalt!" instructed Craig, referring to the station's two blue heelers.

Craig raced back to the farmhouse to get a shovel and pick to dig at the large opening in the sandy soil. But by the time he had returned, Archer had already brought the two heelers, and dog and bitch were digging furiously at the hole, trying to get at whatever had grabbed Lambie-Pie.

"Go get it, Blue Boy! Cobalt!" cheered on Archer.

While the heelers dug at the hole, Craig went across to open the pen to allow the terrified sheep to race out into the open field beyond.

Cobalt immediately left her mate to the digging and abandoned the pen to herd the loose sheep up to the top paddock to graze.

"Good girl," said Craig as the heeler safely herded the sheep in the right direction.

After extending the trench another couple of hundred metres, George said: "We could be following this serpent-snake thingy for kilometres without finding it at this rate."

"Have you got any better ideas?" asked Terri.

"Yeah. We've got a water supply," said George pointing at the murky Yannan River: "We brought pumps with us. So let's try to flood the bugger out of there."

"I like your way of thinking," said Sheila.

"Okay, I guess it's worth a try," said Terri, less enthusiastically.

"Just pray we don't poison the soil for kilometres with the Yannan's polluted waters," cautioned Colin.

"Sometimes you have to take risks," said George as they started to set up the pumps: "Besides the Yannan isn't as polluted as it used to be. If we keep cleaning it up, in another eighty, maybe a hundred years at the most it might even be safe to swim in."

"I love your optimism," teased Colin.

"Well, 'Nothing dentured nothing gained', as Doc Kaddich always says," teased Sheila, referring to the local dentist.

As Cobalt led the sheep to relative safety atop the grassy top field, her mate Blue Boy kept digging furiously at the hole in the sheep pen.

"Go get him Blue Boy!" called young Archer, angry that his pet lamb had been taken by the still unseen aggressor.

Suddenly the sheepdog stopped digging and backed up a little. But not fast enough to avoid the snakelike head of the Cerastes as it flashed out of the hole, jaws gaping almost impossibly wide to grab the Blue Heeler by the neck, swallowing its head.

"Blue Boy!" cried Archer as the dog made muffled whining sounds from inside the Cerastes' mouth; as the serpent began wriggling rapidly backward, pulling the poisoned dog backward into its burrow.

"Stay back!" ordered Craig as the blond boy started to race forward. Swinging the pick, Craig started to stab at the ground, far enough away from the hole to miss the blue heeler, but hopefully connect with the Cerastes.

Shrieking in rage, not pain, the serpent reluctantly released the dying dog and vanished deeper into the sandy earth.

"Blue Boy!" called Archer as his father gently lifted the almost dead pooch out of the ground: "Is he going to be all...?"

The boy stopped and started to cry as his father shook his head.

At the Yannan River, they pumped polluted water into the hole in the ground for nearly an hour before Terri called a stop to it.

"No point going on, if we were gonna flush it out it would be out by now."

"At least we've helped to water the parched landscape after a hot summer," offered George.

"Or poisoned off all the local farming land for years to come," warned Colin Klein.

They were still debating the pros and cons of pumping the Yannan's water underground when Terri's phone rang. She took out her phone and talked for a few minutes before disconnecting.

"That was Craig Davies. The serpent-cum-snake-cum-thingy has just attacked their sheep pen, killing Blue Boy and something called Lambie-Pie," explained Terri.

"Lambie-Pie is ... was Archer's pet lamb," explained Sheila, adding: "Poor Blue Boy! Poor Archer!"

"We can't pump Yannan water that far," said George: "You'll need to get in touch with Ronald Meldon to get the fire department to help you out."

An hour later, Terri and co had arrived at the sheep pen at the Davies Sheep Station outside LePage. Ron Meldon and his crew had just started to pump water from their truck into the serpent's hole.

"Well, at least it will be cleaner than the Yannan water we pumped into the other hole," said Terri.

"Afraid not," said Ron: "That's where we get our water from too."

"So you pollute people's houses while putting out the fires?" asked Colin.

"That's about it," said Ron with a chuckle.

"Well if that thing's still down there," said Sheila: "If we don't flush it out, we oughta still poison it to death."

"Two chances for the price of one," agreed Ron with a laugh.

After an hour or so the two fire trucks had run out of water, without flushing the Cerastes to the surface.

"Nothing so far," said Ron: "Do you want us to refill from the Yannan and keep trying?"

"No," said Terri: "Whatever we're dealing with, it seems to have escaped again."

"So what's next?" asked Colin as the fire department packed up their equipment.

Terri could only shrug: "Hope to get there sooner next time."

"And hope it sticks to taking dogs and sheep," said Sheila prophetically.

Not that far away outside Glen Hartwell, Rusty Redde (pronounced ready), a tall shapely redhead, and her daughters were seated on a red and blue stripe blanket in the sandy part of the forest. She had decided this was safer than taking three girls to the murky Yannan River, which also had sandy banks. Alongside her were her neighbours and close friends, Vikki Webster: A tall forty-something brunette and her husband, Ethan, a thin, wiry fifty-ish man.

"How are you recovering?" asked Vikki, referring to the recent death of Rusty's husband Valentino.

"It's still a struggle, but I have to go on for the girls."

"How are they getting on?" asked Ethan looking at the three girls: Tanya, six, a redhead like her mother; Lucy, five, a brunette like her father, and Sandy, three, an ash blonde like Valentino's mother. Unusually for their age, the three girls sat quietly on the blanket waiting for their lunch, rather than running around excitedly playing.

"They still cry a lot, missing their daddy."

"That will ease in time," said Vikki, as much in hope as anything.

Opening the wicker basket they had brought with them, Rusty started to pass around ham and tomato sandwiches, which she and Vikki had made earlier.

"How's your sandwiches?" Vikki asked the girls.

"Hokay?" said Tanya.

"No pickles," said little Sandy.

"Sorry, honey," said Rusty. She reached for a jar of mustard pickles, to spread on her youngest's sandwich; Sandy liked pickles on everything except dessert.

"Pickles, yuck!" said Lucy, who like Tanya preferred mayonnaise.

"Pickles are gweat!" insisted Sandy, now happily taking a chomp out of her ham and tomato.

"Are not!" said Tanya and Lucy together.

"Now, girls, no arguing," said Rusty; although secretly pleased that the three children were at last showing some sign of emotion, besides crying, after their father's brutal murder a while back.

"Sorry," said Tanya and Lucy.

"Tory," said Sandy.

"That's okay," said Rusty, before tucking into her own sandwich sans mustard pickles or mayonnaise.

They had finished their sandwiches, plus green salads for the adults, and had started eating yoghurt with fruit pieces, except for Sandy who would only eat smooth yoghurt, when the movement first started under the blanket that they were sitting upon.

"What the Hell is that?" asked Ethan as the blanket began to ripple beneath him, as though something was pushing up, trying to break through.

"What, honey?" asked Vikki: before shrieking as something tried to goose her from under the blanket.

"What's wong?" asked Sandy.

"Yeah, what...?" asked Rusty, stopping as she was blanket goosed also: "Get off the blanket, kids!"

Jumping to her feet, Rusty, grabbed Sandy and shooed Tanya and Lucy off the blanket, as Vikki and Ethan, both older, climbed arthritically to their feet. Less quickly than the young mother.

As the blanket's rippling became more frantic, the picnickers backed away from the blanket.

"Back to the car, girls," shouted Rusty, still carrying Sandy.

She led Tanya and Lucy across to the Websters' yellow and black station wagon. Hurriedly, she opened a back door and ushered the two older girls inside, before climbing in herself, nursing Sandy, before slamming the back door. Looking back she saw that the Websters were still staring at the rippling blanket:

"Come on, honey," called Vikki, as Ethan wasted time trying to pick up the food from the blanket.

"Gotta get the..." he began, trying to lift the wicker basket of food. Only to have the unseen Cerastes grab the bottom of the basket through the blanket and pull downward: "What the Hell!"

"What is it, honey?" asked Vikki.

Having started toward the station wagon, she looked back... As the wicker basket was pulled out of her husband's hands and disappeared underground along with the blanket, plus plates and plastic utensils, and empty yoghurt containers.

"What the hell?" she asked, as the ground under her feet began to ripple. Before exploding open to reveal the Cerastes, a huge incredibly flexible serpent, with no spine, like one continuous stomach, which grabbed her by the feet, quickly swallowing the now screaming brunette to the knees.

"Honey!" shrieked Ethan.

He raced across to grab his wife, almost missing as the Cerastes swallowed again, taking her in to the thighs.

"Eeeethan!" screamed the brunette as he grabbed her around the waist.

For more than a minute, there was a tug-of-war between the land serpent and Ethan Webster, but finally the frantic husband managed to pull his wife, minus much of the flesh from both legs, from the Cerastes' gulping stomach.

"Run for it, honey," he called.

As the terrified brunette raced back toward the station wagon, Ethan started after her. Only to be grabbed by the feet by the serpent, and pulled down into its burrow. Unlike Vikki who had had her full strength when attacked, her husband had been greatly fatigued by the tug-of-war and was rapidly pulled down into the creature's vast stomach and swallowed whole.

"Oh God! Oh God!" gasped Vikki.

The brunette fell against the car, gasping for breath for a moment, before finding the strength to open the door to stagger into the vehicle; blood still streaming from her legs.

"Oh, Christ!" said Rusty, seeing the state of her friend's legs. Putting down Sandy, she picked up some hand towels from behind the back seats and climbed over into the front seat to apply the towels as best she could to Vikki's bloody legs.

"Oh God!" cried Vikki, almost passing out from pain and hysteria, as Rusty did her best to staunch the flow of blood from her damaged legs. She continued breathing heavily, crying out from time to time until Rusty had finished. Only then did she look around herself and ask: "Where's Ethan?"

At her words, the three girls in the back seat turned round, on their knees to look out the rear windscreen.

"Dere's no sign hoff him," said Sandra.

"No, nothing," agreed the other two.

"Ethan!" cried Vikki, before finally passing out from hysteria and blood loss.

"Buckle yourselves in girls," called Rusty as the ground under the car began to ripple. She hurriedly buckled up the prostrate Vikki Webster.

Forcing herself to wait until the children were buckled, Rusty started the ignition and raced out of the forest, hoping she wasn't abandoning Ethan injured but alive to his fate.

A short time later the station wagon reached the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital, where they hurried Vikki Webster inside. Then after listening to Rusty and the children, Topaz Moseley rang through to the Mitchell Street Police Station.

An hour or so later Terri, Colin, Sheila, Greta Goddard (a tall, shapely silver-blonde, aged sixty-nine in 2024 pro-rata police woman), and the team from the Department of Building and Works were examining the Cerastes' hole in the sandy ground.

"So what now?" asked George, the works foreman: "Flood 'em with water again?"

"How about water laced with petrol?" suggested Colin: "Once we've filled the tunnel, we set the petrol on fire, and the water will help it to spread."

"Okay," agreed Terri: "But first we'd better get Ronald Meldon and the fire department on standby."

"What?" asked Ron over the phone: "You could set the whole countryside on fire!"

"Not necessarily," said Terri: "The hot weather is virtually behind us..." Unaware of just how much rain Victoria was about to get as March gave way to April. Usually, the nicest month of the year in Victoria, April in 2024 would turn out to be more of an Indian Winter than a warm balmy time: "You don't want other people swallowed alive by this serpent thingy?"

"Thingy? Is that official police terminology?"

"Yes, so what're you saying?"

"Okay, but we'll need to get a couple of more fire trucks from Sale first. So it won't be until tomorrow or the next day, till they arrive. We'll fill our two trucks with petrol and equally deadly Yannan River water; the Sale trucks with chemical fire retardant."

"Fair 'nough," said Terri disconnecting her phone.

"What'd he say?" asked Colin.

"He said he'd be happy to help out," lied Terri; before going on to tell what the fire chief had really said.

"So fingers crossed, no more killings in the next couple of days," said Sheila Bennett.

"Fingers and toes both," corrected Greta Goddard.

Having just buried the remains of her black Labradoodle, Mongo, Luella "Lulu" Wellins was at the Animal Welfare Centre at 52 Baltimore Drive in Glen Hartwell. Trying her best not to cry as she looked through the cells of dogs that they had for adoption. Not sure whether to go for another Labradoodle, or whether that would be too painful, Lulu was determined to get a large dog. She had never liked toy dogs; she had always said, 'If you want a small pet, get a rabbit or a cat. If you want a dog, get a real one, a Collie, Labrador, Mastiff, or such like!!!"

She was carefully looking through the cells, when from behind her came the deepest, throatiest 'woof' that she had ever heard. Turning to look she came face to face with a massive, Bull Mastiff, almost as big as her. A deep orangey-brown colour.

"What's your name, handsome?" she asked.

"Woof," said the Mastiff in its deep throaty voice.

"Woof it is then," said Lulu, smiling for the first time since the death of Mongo days earlier. To the receptionist, she said: "I'll take this one."

"He'll eat you out of house and home," warned Margey Grayson, a twenty-ish blonde at the reception counter.

"I work at the Glen Hartwell Mall, I get a ten Percent employee discount."

"You'll need it with that big bloke," warned Margey as she typed up the sale on her portable computer. After taking Lulu's money she got her to fill in a few forms, micro-chipped Woof, then handed his leash to the brunette: "You wanna buy some dog food too?"

"Nah, I've got bags of it at home, and can get it cheaper at the Mall."

"They always say that," complained Margey Grayson who got a five percent commission on everything she sold.

"Come on Woof," said Lulu.

"Woof!" said the Bull Mastiff.

Out in the car park, the sandy ground began to ripple suddenly, making Lulu almost fall over. Woof woofed again then began to growl in his throaty voice.

"What the hell?" said Lulu.

Then as the rippling continued Lulu tried to pull Woof toward her second-hand Honda Civic, but found he was immobile. That's the only problem with huge dogs, she thought as she continued to pull on the leash to no effect: When they don't wanna move, you can't make 'em!

"Come on, Woof," she pleaded: "You don't wanta get eaten like poor Mongo, do you?"

At first, Woof remained rigid, hackles raised, growling at the rippling ground. Then as the great Cerastes' snake-like head broke through the earth, commonsense broke through also, and the massive dog turned tail and ran, almost pulling Lulu along behind him.

"Stop Woof, stop!" cried Lulu, running full pelt to keep up with her now yelping Bull Mastiff.

For a moment the Cerastes started after the dog and owner. Then Lulu managed to climb into the Honda, no longer having to force Woof to follow, and the creature lost interest. It knew from experience it could not catch up with a moving car.

"What the hell's going on?" asked Margey, making the mistake of stepping out of the animal shelter as the Honda took off.

Seeing the young blonde, the Cerastes changed direction and raced across to the shelter.

Screaming as the serpent swept across toward her, Margey Grayson tried to race back into the centre. But the Cerastes was too fast for the young woman. It virtually flew across the sandy ground to seize Margey by the legs, and with three or four quick gulps swallowed her whole. Then turning, a little lethargically after its big meal, the serpent slithered across to the hole it had arisen from and soon was safe again, deep under the ground of Baltimore Drive.

Over at the Yellow House in Rochester Road, Merridale, they were enjoying a magnificent meal of homemade Beef Wellington plus steamed vegetables, with chocolate mousse to follow.

"Can I have my mousse first?" asked Sheila.

"You're just a big kid aren't you?" teased Deidre Morton.

"Yes, but that's why I'm your favourite."

"Ooh, she's got me there," admitted Deidre: "But no! You'll enjoy it more after your Beef Wellington."

"I'm not used to that," admitted the orange-and-black-haired Goth chick: "Mrs. M. saying no to me."

"Well, get used to it," said Deidre: "If I don't say no occasionally you'd eat nothing but chocolate mousse, rum trifle, ice cream and jelly, and raspberry tart. You'd get as fat as mud."

"Firstly, mud isn't that fat; secondly, I wouldn't because I'd work it off at the gym on Saturday."

"She's got you there, Mrs. M.," teased Tommy Turner.

"Be that as it may..." started Deidre, stopping as the phone in the corridor rang: "Now who can that be?"

"Start eating quickly," said Sheila correctly guessing it was police related, as Deidre went out to answer the phone.

"That was Lulu Wellins," said Deidre, after returning to the dining room: "She's just been attacked again by that giant snake thing. It seems she'd just left the animal shelter in Baltimore Drive G.H., with a Bull Mastiff she bought to replace Mongo."

"Gee, that'll give her a food bill," said Freddy Kingston.

"Yes," agreed Natasha Lipzing: "But she always has liked huge dogs."

"Anyway she managed to get away with her new pooch, Woof, in her Honda Civic."

"So was anyone hurt?" asked Terri.

"She doesn't think so."

"Then it can wait till the morning, hopefully?" pleaded Sheila.

"I don't see why not," agreed Terri, before getting stuck into her food.

Soon after breakfast the next morning Terri and co arrived at the Animal Welfare Centre at 52 Baltimore Drive in Glen Hartwell.

As they climbed out of the police-blue Lexus, Sheila almost fell into the large hole left in the sandy soil by the Cerastes.

"I think Lulu might have had a very close escape," said Colin, as he helped steady Sheila. He stooped to try to peer down the hole, but could only see darkness.

"Come on, lover boy," teased Terri heading toward the glass door of the Centre. Pushing the door inward she called: "Margey?"

"No answer was a stern reply," said Sheila. She walked across to ting-a-ling the counter bell, before calling: "Margey?"

After a moment the three police officers started to hunt through the animal shelter, calling for Margey from time to time.

"Maybe she forgot to lock up last night before going home?" suggested Sheila.

"But wouldn't she be in by this time?" asked Colin.

"Yes," said Terri. Taking out her phone, she rang through to Margey Grayson's home phone number, after finding it in the files. When she received no reply, she rang Tom and Evie Grayson in BeauLarkin to ask if their daughter was staying there. Disconnecting, she said: "I think we'd better get Building and Works to dig up that hole outside."

"You think it got Margey?" asked Colin as they returned outside.

"Possibly," said Terri. She rang George the foreman at the Department of Building and Works.

Two hours later they had extended the hole a couple of hundred metres and had located the bones and clothing of Margey

"That's it," said Terri: "We can't wait for the fire trucks to arrive from Sale. I want both this hole and the one where Ethan Webster was taken flooded. And this time we don't stop till we drown the bastard. When the other two fire trucks turn up, we can add the petrol later."

"Gotcha," said George, before ringing to arrange for their pump to be brought from the depot.

Six hours later they were still flooding the two Cerastes holes when alarms signalled the arrival of the two trucks from Sale.

Terri quickly explained to the nonplussed firefighters what they needed, and within half an hour they were pumping petrol into the two now water-logged holes.

Night was approaching fast by the time they were ready to risk igniting the tunnels.

"Should we ignite it now, or wait till the morning till we can see what we're doing?" asked Ron Meldon.

"We can't wait until morning, more people could die," said Terri: "We'll get the floodlights attached to the police cars, then ignite the holes."

An hour later, by which time the floodlights were attached, and well and truly needed, Terri gave the order to ignite the holes.

"Stand back," ordered Ron Meldon

He walked across to one hole with a flaming pine branch, which he tentatively touched with the branch. Almost being knocked off his feet by the whoosh as the petrol-flooded water ignited. At the same time, George ignited the second hole, near the Animal Welfare Centre.

All four fire trucks were now full of flame-retardant foam, two beside each hole.

For most of the night, the fires raged underground, without result. Then as it approached dawn a new hole appeared not far from where Ethan Webster had been taking.

Screeching like a banshee, the Cerastes tried to slither out of the hole, despite being on fire.

"Don't let it escape," ordered Terri.

Stanlee Dempsey, Colin Klein, and Sheila Bennett all raced across and started to hammer at the creature with short-handled spades, making the Cerastes retreat into the burning hole, screeching even louder as the fires intensified.

"Pour some petrol straight onto it!" ordered Terri.

The fire chief from Sale poured some petrol into a nine-litre metal bucket and stepped forward carefully to toss the contents onto the burning creature; after Sheila and co had backed away.

With the extra fuel, the fire whooshed to greater intensity and soon the Cerastes stopped shrieking and rippling, and lay still, reduced to little more than watery ashes.

They then lifted the remains of the creature out of the burning hole and made certain it was fully cremated.

"Now comes the tricky part," said Sheila: "Making sure we don't burn down the whole BeauLarkin to Willamby area!"

Already a number of small bushfires had broken out around Glen Hartwell, from where the fire had broken through the sandy soil.

It was early afternoon before the fires were under control. The fire trucks stayed on duty for a few hours more, to be on the safe side. However, Terri and the police wandered off to get some much-needed sleep.

"Here come the happy wanderers," said Natasha Lipzing as Terri, Sheila, and Colin entered the Yellow House, yawning widely.

"We'd started to think you had emigrated," teased Deidre Morton, herding them into the dining room.

"Too tired to eat," said Terri, collapsing onto a wooden chair.

"Nonsense, you've gone more than a day without tucker," said Tommy Turner: "Police officer does not live by fire fighting alone."

"Whatever he said," agreed Freddy Kingston: "Besides Mrs. M. made Sheils's favourite: Duck a L'Orange."

"Aha," said Sheila, suddenly wide awake.

"So any word about Jessie Baker?" asked Deidre, referring to a sergeant who had been off sick with radiation sickness for over a month.

"Officially he starts back to work April first," said Terri: "But I've told him that unofficially he can have a couple of weeks recuperating at home before coming in to duty. Sheils, Greta, and I will take turns helping him out with cooking and such like."

"What you two get away with without Russell Street ever knowing," teased Colin, making everyone laugh.

© Copyright 2024 Philip Roberts
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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