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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2322164
Indian Shamans are visiting Glen Hartwell and have brought werebison with them
The delegation of fifty-five American Indian Shamans and Shamankas (female shamans) alighted at Terminal Two at Melbourne Airport at Tullamarine and walked through the airport until stopping at Dufry Electronics and Fashion Accessories.

"Who needs electronics or fashion accessories?" asked Shaman Lightfoot from the Shawnee Tribe.

"No one," said Shaman Running Beaver, of the Chippewa Cree Tribe.

"Do you speak for everyone?" asked Lightfoot.

"Why would we need electronics or fashion accessories?" asked Running Beaver: "We have just landed in our native regalia and are here for a working holiday exploring this nation."

"Especially the countryside," insisted Shaman Charging Moose, one of the Canadian delegates; agoraphobic and already uncomfortable in the airport terminal.

"Here's something we need," said a young Shaman, Leaping Lizard, of the Cherokee Nation. He stopped at the Duty-Free Confectionery shop.

"You and your candy," bemoaned Lightfoot; nonetheless following Leaping Lizard into the lolly shop. As did most of the other Shamans.

"Hello gentlemen," said Busty Suzie Longfellow, a part-time worker at the store: "Here for your daily sugar rush?"

"We certainly are," said Leaping Lizard enthusiastically, looking through the various types of sweets: "Hey they've got all the best American-style candy: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, M&Ms, Hot Tamales, Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Starbursts, Hershey Kisses, Candy Corn, Hershey Mini Bars, Snickers, Kit Kat ... you name it."

"We are an international airport," said Busty Suzie, delighted as the Shamans started to buy armfuls of lollies each. My commission is really going to add up today! she thought.

"Now, if we can just work out how to get to Glen Hartwell?" said Lightfoot as they exited the confectionary store -- having given in to the temptation to buy armfuls of American sweets after all.

"You can take a bus to Melbourne," called Busty Suzie: "Then walk down to Flinders Street Station in Swanston Street."

"Flinders Street Station is in Swanston Street?" asked Running Beaver.

"Yeah, don't ask me to explain that," said Suzie as the shamans departed.

Over at the Yellow House in Rochester Road, Merridale, in the Victorian countryside, they were seated at the dining table awaiting their lunch. While waiting, Sheila Bennett was listening to her favourite group, the Devil's Advocates, on her MP3 player, while Tommy Turner was doing the Melbourne Recorder Mammoth Crossword.

"Hey, mad Goth chick," called Tommy. A recent retiree, Tommy was short and fat, with longish yellow hair, and was a slowly recovering alcoholic: "What's a ten letter word meaning 'dedication'?"

"Why ask me?" asked Sheila taking off her headphones. A tall, athletic woman of thirty-five, she was a Goth chick with orange-and-black-striped hair: "Terri was always the brainy one at school ... ask her."

"What're you mean?" asked Terri Scott, a beautiful ash blonde; the same age as Sheila, Terri was the top cop of the BeauLarkin to Willamby area: "You did just as well as me at school."

"Only because I always sat next to you and copied your answers for tests or exams."

"What?" asked Terri, while the others stared at Sheila in amazement.

"Yeah, why do you think I mated up to you at kindergarten? Even at that age, I could tell that, unlike me, you were a brain-box. So I went out of my way to be friendly so I could copy your answers all the way through primary school, high school, and then police academy."

"What!" shouted Terri, standing to stare down at Sheila.

"I'm starting to get a bad vibe, as though I should have kept my mouth shut," said Sheila, genuinely surprised by Terri's reaction.

"You lied to me for decades about being my mate!"

"No, no, only for a few months until I genuinely started liking you. You were the first brain-box I ever really liked."

"Sheils, I am shocked at you!" cried Terri.

"I did all the physical stuff myself, like running and climbing ropes and stuff ... And even helped you with that."

"That's true," admitted Terri, then to Colin: "She virtually carried me back from one hellish cross-country run at high school."

"I'm dismayed at you, Sheila," said Natasha Lipzing. At seventy, Natasha was the oldest resident at the boarding house, having spent the last thirty-five years there.

"And to think you used to be my favourite?' said Deidre Morton. A short, sixty-something brunette, she was the owner of the Yellow House; so nicknamed due to her obsession with the colour yellow.

"I still am your favourite, Mrs. M.," insisted Sheila: "You just don't know it at the moment."

"She's right, Mrs. M.," said Colin Klein, playing peacemaker. At forty-eight Colin had recently retired after thirty years as a top London crime reporter, to take employment with the Glen Hartwell Police Force. He was also engaged to Terri.

"Maybe," said Deidre, clearly unconvinced.

"You know he's right," said Freddy Kingston. Also a recent retiree, Freddy was tall and stout and almost bald.

"As soon as you resit the police exam!" insisted Deidre.

"That's a great idea, Mrs. M.," said Terri, hugging the plump lady.

"What?" asked Sheila: "But that would mean telling Melbourne; they'd sack me for sure."

"I won't tell them," assured Terri: "I'll just ask for copies of a few of their old exams, to test would-be cadets before sending them to Melbourne. Then we'll all help you to study the police manual."

"We have a police manual?" asked Sheila, genuinely surprised: "How come I've never seen it?"

"Sheils, it's that huge book on top of one of the grey filing cabinets in Mitchell Street Station," said Colin.

"I thought that was just a paperweight made to look like a book."

"Well, it's not. It's the manual," said Terri.

"But it's huge, I'll never memorise all that."

"Sheils, you have an excellent memory ... Who did Collingwood beat in last year's AFL Grand Final?"

"Brisbane. Magies twelve goals eighteen points, 90, beat the Lions thirteen goals eight, eighty-six."

"What caused the Poms to go ballistic, in the second Ashes test match in 2023?"

"Jonny Bairstow went wandering down the pitch and Alex Carey stumped him."

"Ask her an older one?" suggested Natasha.

"How many times did Jack Brabham win the Formula One Championship? And in what years?

"Three times. In 1959, 1960, and 1966. In 1966 in a car he designed himself, the Brabham-Repco."

"See, you have a great memory," said Colin.

"But more importantly," said Tommy Turner: "What's a ten-letter word for 'dedication'? First letter 'C', fourth letter 'M'."

"Commitment!" shouted Terri, Colin, Natasha, and Freddy.

"Hey, it fits," said Tommy, as Deidre Morton began setting out lunch.

"So how long have I got?" asked Sheila.

"The usual recruitment and testing for Victoria Police takes six months. So let's say the last day of November," said Terri.

"Wacko, so no need to rush into things," said Sheila: "I was planning to watch 'The World's Stupidest Stuntman Down Under' starting tonight. It lasts three months."

"There'll be no 'World's Stupidest Stuntman Down Under' until you pass your make-up test!"

"Oh! But I love, 'The World's Stupidest Stuntman'."

"Couldn't she watch one hour a night?" asked Deidre Morton.

"That sounds fair," said Colin.

"All right, one hour per night ... no more."

"Well, it goes two hours a night, so I might be better off watching the second hour, so I'll know how each episode ends."

After reaching Melbourne, the fifty-five Indian Shamans went to Flinders Street Station in Swanston Street, only to find that the train didn't depart until midnight, another eight hours, so they, having eaten most of their candy, set off to explore some of the sights of Melbourne, including the National Art Gallery in St. Kilda Road, an easy walk from the station.

Dressed in traditional Indian robes, they really felt the cold when the evening started to get chilly as they waited on the platform inside Flinders Street Station.

"They have cold Springtime in Australia," complained Leaping Lizard.

"We have opposite seasons in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres," explained Shaman Lightfoot: "It is almost summer in North America, so it's almost winter here in Australia."

"If I'd known that, I would have dressed like a white man in half a dozen layers," said Running Beaver, drawing laughter from the other shamans.

"We could always do a traditional dance to warm ourselves up," suggested Shaman Gray Wolf, from the Algonquin Tribe near the Great Lakes area of Canada.

"We'd look like idiots to the Aussies waiting for the train," complained Leonard Brown Bear. He pointed to where thirty-plus Aussies were waiting for the Glen Hartwell train.

"No, they'd just think we are one of those touring tribal dance troupes, promoting our show," insisted Gray Wolf.

"He's right," said Shaman Lightfoot, no longer pretending not to feel the Australian cold: "We have to do something to warm ourselves up." [Flinders Street Station has covered platforms, but the train tracks are open to the night air.]

After a moment's hesitation, Lightfoot led the Shamans in a simple dance. Soon they had all joined in, and the Aussie spectators were applauding, some even throwing five- or ten-dollar notes, weighted with coins to stop them from blowing away.

By the time the train arrived, only ten minutes late for a change, the shamans were warmed up and had raised enough from money thrown to pay for most of the American candy that they had bought earlier.

"It's a nine-hour trip to Glen Hartwell," advised the station master as they boarded the electric train, which would have its engine replaced by a steam engine at Sale: "So lay your seats back and have a good night's sleep. The lights will be dimmed once we're out of the inner suburbs."

Nine-thirty the next morning Sheila Bennett was sitting at the huge black wood desk in the front room of the Mitchell Street Police Station in Glen Hartwell. Behind her, Terri was standing by one of the three grey metal filing cabinets that held ancient case files from the pre-computer days - which for Glen Hartwell meant the 1990s and earlier.

"I wonder how I can get Mrs. M. to forgive me...?" began Sheila, stopping as Terri dropped a massive hardbound book on the desk in front of her. Looking puzzled she asked: "What's this?"

"The Victorian Police Manual," explained Colin.

"We're gonna help you study for the big exam at the end of November, remember?" said Terri, as she and Colin sat down on either side of Sheila.

"Oh, I hoped you were joking about that!"

"No such luck," said Terri, as Colin skimmed through the early pages to get to the actual text.

"Here we are," said Colin.

"Oh, God!" said Sheila, half blaspheming, half praying.

Having arrived at Glen Hartwell Station in Theobald Street a short time before, the fifty-five American Shamans had had to split up: some staying at the Dorset Hotel in Duchess Street, LePage, others going to the rather seedy Imperial Motel in Oxford Street Willamby, the rest going to the Chandler Hotel at the corner of Chappell Street and Rushcutters's Road in Harpertown.

"It's not often we get Shamans staying at our hotel," said seventeen-year-old brunette Leila Feinberg, the maid and sometimes stand-in receptionist of the Imperial Motel, greeting sixteen of the shamans as they were checking in.

"You're rather young to be the owner of a motel," said Leaping Lizard.

"Nah, I'm the maid-cum-waitress-cum-general dog's body. I'm filling in here while the new owners, Mr. and Mrs. Pollock get their heads around things ... don't think they've got much experience."

"Less nattering, more signing in, Leila," said a tall curvacious forty-something ravenette, Heidi Pollock, coming out of the dining area.

"Is it too late to get breakfast?" asked Running Beaver.

"Not at all," said Cameron Pollock, a tall fiercely blond man coming out of the dining room: "Knowing you were coming, we've kept the dining room open."

After breakfast Running Beaver and three other shamans went out to explore the forest. It was almost two PM by the time they reached Gardner's Canyon: a huge hundred-metre-high mount, which looked as though someone had used a gigantic shovel to scoop out one side, creating a deep cul-de-sac.

"This should do nicely," said Running Beaver as they looked around the brownish-orange walled canyon: "Let's begin our preparations."

"Okay," asked Colin Klein: "What do you do if a savage dog is attacking a screaming woman."

"Shoot the dog, then slap the woman till she calms down," suggested Sheila.

"Half right," said Terri: "You shoot the dog failing having any tasers, which we don't have yet, then comfort the hysterical woman."

"Oh, I hate comforting hysterical women," moaned Sheila.

"Relax," said Colin: "You've got another six months to learn all this."

"That's hardly a reassuring thought," complained Sheila.

That afternoon at a little to six, four young men were riding through the countryside outside Willamby.

"So, tell us again why we're out in the cold night air?" complained Colin 'Col' Cooper. At eighteen, the tall thin teen was the youngest of the four.

"Firstly, it's not night, it's late afternoon. Secondly, it's a little bracing, not cold," said his older brother Ashwin 'Ash'. At twenty-one Ash was the oldest of the four men; also the bravest and most foolhardy.

"So, why are we out in the late afternoon, in this bracing weather?

"To catch Brumbies," explained Ross Stott, his cousin. A twenty-year-old with beautiful long blond hair that most women would have died for: "Lonnie, Lom, and Lila Hogworth told us there were brumbies in the area."

"Didn't Lonnie, Lom, and Lila get killed recently?"

"Yes," agreed Elroy 'Roy' Stott, a nineteen-year-old ox of a man with mousy brown hair: "But I doubt that the brumbies killed them ... they drowned, the careless bastards." [See my story, 'The Brumbies'.]

"So where are these brumbies supposed to be?"

"Somewhere between Willamby and Glen Hartwell."

"That covers a lot of territory."

"You can always turn your horse around and skulk off home if you don't mind us making chicken noises after you," teased Ash.

"I can live with that," said Col. He turned his horse to start galloping back the way they had come.

"Come back, I was only joking!" called Ash, going on to make 'bark bark bark' noises, along with Roy and Ross, who soon joined in.

"I can't believe the wimpy sissy skived off," said Roy.

"Yeah..." began Ash, stopping as he heard the sound of chanting not far off: "Where is that coming from?"

"Somewhere near Gardner's Canyon, I think," said Ross.

"Let's go check it out," suggested Roy.

"Why? It's only some Abos. having a corroboree," said Ash: "No big deal."

"They don't usually use Gardner's Canyon," insisted Roy, heading his horse in the direction of the canyon.

"'Spose we'd better follow him," said Ross with a sigh.

"So how are the lessons coming?" asked Freddy Kingston as they sat down for tea at the Yellow House at six thirty PM.

"Oh, don't ask," said Sheila: "My head feels like exploding from all the facts and figures that they tried to ram into it"

"In six months you'll thank us," said Colin.

"If my head hasn't exploded by then! The only good thing is, since we worked so hard, Tare has said that I can watch both hours of 'The World's Stupidest Stuntman Down Under' tonight."

"Wacko," said Tommy Turner.

"That means we all have to watch it," said Natasha Lipzing unhappily.

"You could always go to your room to read your mysteries," said Tommy.

"I'm not going to bed straight after tea, like a child being punished."

At Gardner's Canyon Running Beaver and a dozen other Shamans, dressed in traditional Indian raiments, were performing the bison dance, which their ancestors had performed for millennia -- to call bison for hunting, or later to try to use them against the white invaders. But this time they were performing it for another purpose: To placate the Wendigo a winter demon of the Algonquin people.

As the three young white men watched from the shadows, thinking themselves unseen, the Shamans danced around a ceremonial fire that they had built, with Running Beaver occasionally throwing a handful of powder into the fire, making it flare up with blue-green flames.

"What the Hell are they doin'?" asked Roy as the three men sat on horseback watching the natives sing and dance.

"They look more like Itchy-Bums than Abos," said Ash Cooper with a laugh.

"Woo, woo, woo, woo!" said Ross, slapping his right hand against his mouth at each syllable."

At the sound, the dancers stopped and turned to glare at the three men.

"Maybe it's time for us to leave," opined Ash Cooper.

"I think you're..." started Roy, stopping as Running Beaver threw the entire bag of explosive powder onto the fire.

Then raising his arms into the air, he called to the Wendigo to help them to transform. And in seconds the eleven men and two women began to flicker and fade out ... to be replaced by thirteen greatly oversized American bison.

"Jesus, they're huge," said Ross: "At least five metres tall!"

"But where the Hell did they come from?" asked Ash, his words turning to a scream as his terrified horse bucked wildly, throwing him from its back, before taking off back toward their horse station.

"What...?" cried Roy as his horse also threw him.

"Hang on," said Ross, trying to get his horse to head toward his brother; further into the canyon. But the horse, Black Death, had other ideas and threw its rider, before galloping after the other two steeds

"You should be called 'Yellow Coward'!" Ross shouted after the fleeing nag, before realising that they had bigger problems.

The thirteen giant bison started toward them, at first slowly, then at a run.

"Run for..." began Ash, too late, since the werebison quickly ran across the three men, trampling them to death.

Then, more leisurely, the oversized creatures returned to start devouring the dead farmers, with half a dozen rows of needle-length teeth, like those of the largest sharks in the ocean.

For twenty minutes or more the creatures tugged and tore at the three men, ripping great chunks off them to devour with delighted looks upon their bovine faces; tearing off arms or legs to devour to the bone, before snapping open the bones to get at the juicy marrow.

Finally, having finished their repast, the great beasts began to shimmer and fade out until being replaced by Running Beaver and his confederates.

"I just don't see the point," said Natasha Lipzing as they sat watching 'The World's Stupidest Stuntman Down Under': "It just seems to be a group of incredibly stupid people, doing incredibly dumb things, which could easily get them killed ... for no reason at all!"

"Now you get it," said Sheila Bennett, like Tommy Turner, loving the show.

"Well, I'm off to bed to read," said the old woman starting for the stairs.

"You can't please everyone," said Tommy, getting a nod from Sheila.

Over at the Imperial Motel in Willamby, Running Beaver and some of his co-conspirators were sneaking in the front door to head toward the stairs, when Leila Feinberg called: We've kept some steaks ready for you if you want tea?"

"No thank you," said Running Beaver without looking back: "We've already eaten."

What nice people! thought Leila as the Shamans raced up the stairs.

"Less daydreaming, more helping with the dinner dishes," said Heidi Pollock coming into the reception area from the dining room.

"Yes ma'am," said Leila, thinking: I'm starting to understand what Killing Heidi is on about!

Around eight the next morning Terri, Colin, and Sheila were at the Mitchell Street Police Station studying the Victorian Police Manual.

"So what do you do, if people are being menacing by a knife-wielding maniac?" asked Colin Klein.

"The same as Amy Scott did in Bondi Junction in April; shoot the bugger dead," said Sheila.

"If there is no other option," said Terri: "He was attacking Amy when she shot him."

"I'd shoot the bastard anyway," insisted Sheila.

Before Terri could argue with her, the pale green phone on the wall behind her rang.

"Hello?" asked Terri, speaking for a few minutes.

"Who was that?" asked Collin.

"Maddy Cooper, from the Cooper Station outside Willamby. Seems her sons and the Stott boys went out brumby hunting after tea last night, but only young Col returned. She's rung Janice Stott and they're not there."

"Sounds like the Kelpies are back!" said Sheila excitedly. [See my story, 'The Brumbies'.]

"We banished them to Scotland remember?" said Colin.

"The Scottish Tourist Board thanked us, don't you remember?" teased Terri: "They get by on gullible tourists hunting for ghosties."

"Okay, let's get going to Willamby," said Sheila standing.

"You're going nowhere," said Terri, pushing Sheila back down into her chair: "You and Colin can stay here reading the manual, while Don Esk, Greta Goddard, Suzette Cummings, and I go to Willamby."

"Oh, Hell," said Sheila as Terri went outside to get into her police-blue Lexus.

More than an hour later, Terri, Don, Greta, and Suzette turned up at the Cooper Horse Station. Greta and Suzette were both pro rata policewomen: Greta Goddard was a tall, shapely silver-blonde. At age sixty-nine in 2024 Greta was still fit and worked pro rata when needed; Suzette Cummings was a pretty seventeen-year-old ravenette working pro rata for a year or so to decide if she wanted to go to Melbourne to try to become a cop full-time. Don Esk was a local sergeant, a tall muscular man with dark brown hair, with a long scar down his left cheek. He was the local police dog handler and had brought his three Alsatian crosses Slap, Tickle, and Rub with him in case they were needed.

On the rear porch of the white weatherboard farmhouse, Maddy, Walt, and Colin 'Col' Cooper sat glumly waiting for the arrival of the police. Col quickly related what had happened the night before, up until he had left for home.

"Okay, let's go look for them," said Terri, leading them back to the Rover.

After a short time, they had reached the point where Col had turned his horse for home.

Getting out of the blue Rover, the police examined the hoof prints for a moment.

"Well, there are prints everywhere," said Suzette Cummings as they walked around the pine-needle-and-gum-leaf-covered forest floor.

"Those are mine heading back home," pointed out Col; feeling a little guilty at having abandoned his brother and cousins to their fate, just because the evening had turned a little chilly.

"And there are three other sets heading forward again," said Greta.

"Then let's keep following them," said Terri, climbing back into the Rover.

After another forty minutes or so they reached the opening to Gardner's Canyon.

"What the hell happened here?" asked Terri as they examined the mass of overlapping prints: human, horse, and oversized bovine prints.

"Looks like there's been a corroboree performed here," said Suzette, pointing into the canyon where remains of the ceremonial fire stood, along with numerous tiny white bone fragments -- all that was left of the three men.

"But all the local tribes have their own sacred ceremonial sites near or in their camps," said Donald Esk. Then picking up some of the bone fragments: "And what the hell are these?"

"Could be bone shards," said Greta Goddard as all of the police officers picked up some of the white particles to examine them.

"We'd better collect some for examination," said Terri: "And ring for Jesus, Elvis, and Tilly to come to check out this site before we corrupt it any further."

An hour later Terri, Greta, and Suzette were at the local morgue in Dien Street Glen Hartwell, watching as the local coroner, Jerry 'Elvis' Green examined some of the fragments under a microscope.

"So what's the verdict, King?" asked Terri, referring to Elvis's adoration of the late King of Rock and Roll.

"Definitely human bone shards."

"Ancient?' asked Greta.

"No, from someone, or ones, killed in the last fifteen to twenty hours."

"Our three missing men?" suggested Suzette.

"Almost certainly," said Elvis, grateful that Col Cooper wasn't in the morgue: "Though what could have chewed the bones down to such tiny pieces in so little time is a mystery."

Soon after tea that night, Running Beaver and some of his accomplices set out for a 'walk', in reality going to meet up with other confederates at Gardner's Canyon.

Only to find a police team watching the canyon, having picked up all of the bone shards for DNA testing.

Without saying a word the shamans continued deeper into the sweet-smelling pine and eucalyptus forest, until finding a cave at the base of Mount Wanderei nearly ten kilometres from Glen Hartwell.

Once more they performed their ritual magic, doing the bison dance, until all thirteen shamans turned into greatly oversized American bison. Then together they set out into the sweet-smelling forest to find food to sacrifice to the great Wendigo.

The Mulla-Mulla Tribe were based about twenty kilometres outside Glen Hartwell. A once large tribe of well over a hundred members, their numbers had shrunk in the twenty-first century to less than sixty Aborigines. That night they were seated around a cook fire, finishing the last of their tea: fish and chips bought from Neptune's Fish-and-Chipatorium in Blackland Street Glen Hartwell.

"They do great fish and chips at Neptune's," said a young buck, Winston Wulumu savouring his last bite of flake.

"None better," agreed Agnes Wandin-Din, an elderly lubra, who despite the approach of winter still went topless, pretending not to notice when the young bucks couldn't keep their eyes off her huge pendulous breasts.

"That's for sure," agreed Thomas Muda-Muddi, stopping at the sound of animals running: "Sounds like a stampede."

"Could be the brumbies everyone from Glen Hartwell to Willamby has been talking about," suggested Winston.

"No! Sounds too heavy for brumbies," said Agnes, climbing slowly to her feet: "Much too heavy for horses"

"Maybe a herd of giraffes escaped from the nearest zoo," teased Winston.

Glaring at him, Agnes said: "Too heavy for giraffes, or even elephants."

"Um, the last I heard, there were no land animals larger or heavier than elephants," said Thomas: "Leaving out dinos and other extinct creatures."

Ignoring his sarcasm, Agnes began waving her arms in a shooing motion screaming: "Run, run for your lives, everyone."

At first, the tribe stared at her, as though she were crazy, then, finally, they started to climb to their feet, slowly ... too slowly starting to follow the elderly lubra into the forest, heading toward their sacred ceremonial site, which was ringed by red gums, the only possible place for them to hide.

Too soon for most of them the werebison charged into their tribal area and began trampling to death the Aborigines, not stopping to eat until they had trampled all the natives to death. However, Agnes and eight other Mulla-Mulla tribal people managed to squeeze into the corroboree area, past the tightly growing red gums.

Lowing in anger and frustration, the werebison tried charging the red gum trees, many of them ancient and massive in size.

"They're breaking through!" cried Thomas Muda-Muddi as the werebison repeatedly charged the red gums, making them shake and creak as though about to shatter into kindling.

Lowing in rage, the creatures continued head-butting the great gum trees for nearly half an hour. Then, finally, lowing again in anger and frustration, the werebison returned to consume the fifty or so Aborigines they had already killed, crunching and tearing at their victims, ripping off limbs, and devouring flesh, organs, and bones alike.

Inside the ceremonial circle, the nine survivors sat hunched up, covering their ears with their hands, desperately trying not to hear the sounds of hellish feasting outside.

Will it never stop? thought Winston Wulumu as the crunching and gnawing continued.

Finally, there was nothing left except the tiniest bone and meat fragments. So, after taking one last look at the protective circle of red gums, the werebison set off into the forest again; returning to human form before going to their respective hotels-inns.

Shivering inside the protective circle of trees, the nine survivors did not dare leave until morning had broken.

At seven o'clock the next morning, Terri Scott and the others were sitting at the dining table in the Yellow House enjoying their favourite breakfasts: vegemite crumpets for Sheila, cherry-jam crumpets for Terri, marmalade muffins for Colin, porridge with treacle and bay rum for Tommy Turner, and so on.

"How can you eat that?" demanded Natasha Lipzing.

"There's nothing wrong with porridge for brekkie," insisted Tommy.

"But with rum?" demanded Natasha: "How can you eat it?"

"How can he keep it down?" corrected Freddy Kingston.

"It's fab," insisted Tommy.

"Just concentrate on your own food, and don't look at him," advised Colin.

"Very wise," agreed Sheila, getting stuck into her vegemite crumpets.

However, they had barely started eating when there came a knock at the front door.

"Oh, why do they always come while we're eating?" demanded Sheila.

"Relax," said Terri getting up to answer the door: "You've got a full day learning the police manual, so you can finish your brekkie."

"And if you work hard," teased Colin: "She might let you watch both hours of 'The World's Stupidest Stuntman Down Under' again."

After a few minutes, Terri returned with Stanlee Dempsey, Donald Esk, Bulam-Bulam, and the nine survivors of the werebison attack the night before: Stanlee was a huge hulking police sergeant with short raven hair; Bulam-Bulam was a grey-haired elder of the Gooladoo Tribe, outside Harpertown in the Victorian countryside, and one of the most senior elders of the entire BeauLarkin to Willamby area.

Having already told his tale to Terri outside, Bulam-Bulam repeated it to Colin and the others, with frequent interruptions from Agnes Wandin-Din and the other survivors.

"Buffaloes!" said Sheila, desperate for any excuse to get out of studying all day again: "I'm your girl. I've had experience hunting down rogue buffaloes." [See my story, 'The Catoblepas'.]

"These ones were as large as Indian Elephants," insisted Agnes, who had put on a T-shirt before coming into town.

"Bullets should still bring them down," insisted Sheila.

"Or elephant guns," suggested Colin: "Do we have any?"

"Strangely enough no," said Terri: "We don't often have elephant trouble in the Victorian countryside."

"I don't think even elephant guns would stop these buffalo," insisted Agnes: "They seemed unnatural."

"Supernatural more like it," corrected Winston Wulumu, with the others nodding or murmuring their agreement.

"I'm even better with supernatural buffaloes!" insisted Sheila.

"Sheils the last time we took on a buffalo you just ran it down and shot it to death," pointed at Terri.

"That does seem to preclude it having been supernatural," pointed out Colin.

"Not necessarily. It did have the power to turn people to marble," said Sheila, making Bulam-Bulam and the others look startled.

"Even so, if it were supernatural, you would need at least silver bullets to kill it," said Terri.

"And most gun smiths say silver bullets are impossible because the friction of the bullets leaving the gun would make the silver melt and fall straight to the ground," insisted Colin.

"That's their opinion," insisted Sheila: "I've seen enough horror movies to know that silver bullets are possible."

"Sometimes Sheila you seem incredibly astute, even wise," said Natasha: "At other times, like now, you seem like a complete raving idiot."

"How dare you Miss L.," said Sheila starting to rise to follow the others outside, until Colin pulled her back down onto her chair.

"Might as well have a hearty breakfast," said Deidre Morton: "You've got a full day of studying ahead of you, Sheila."

"Oh damn it, I hate studying," said Sheila, before getting stuck into another vegemite crumpet.

At the Mulla-Mulla tribal area, they found the place swarming with other cops and medical staff from the Glen Hartwell and Daley Community Hospital:

"So what's the verdict, Docs.?" asked Terri as they carefully approached.

"Like last time the remains are of human beings," said Jesus Costello [pronounced 'Hee-Zeus], the administrator and chief surgeon of the hospital.

"But whether giant buffaloes caused them is another matter," said Tilly Lombstrom, a tall attractive fifty-something brunette, Jesus's second in charge.

"There are plenty of hoof prints over there," said Stanlee Dempsey pointing to what could almost be called a cavalcade of great hoof prints.

"Yes, although what the Hell made them is a moot point," said Elvis.

"That's a fancy way of saying you don't have a smeggin' clue, is it?" asked Donald Esk.


"So, I guess we have to try following the tracks?" said Colin.

"Which means us?" asked Agnes Wandin-Din, who like Bulam-Bulam had worked as a pro-rata police-tracker down the years.

"It'd be helpful," said Terri, as they started back to the cars, with Bulam-Bulam sitting on the bonnet of Terri's Lexus, and Agnes on the bonnet of Stanlee's police-blue Land Rover.

"Let's go," said Bulam-Bulam and they set out.

At first, it was easy enough to follow the prints through the thick layer of gum leaves and pine needles on the forest floor. However, in time the prints became lighter and Agnes and Bulam-Bulam had to walk in front of the vehicles to follow them. After an hour or so, the two Aborigines stopped.

"What's wrong?" asked Terri, getting out of the Lexus.

"They've stopped," said Agnes.


"They've just disappeared," insisted Bulam-Bulam

"Human footprints up ahead," said Agnes, pointing: "But no more giant animal tracks."

"Perhaps we need Slap, Tickle, and Rub?" suggested Donald Esk.

"Not now," said Greta Goddard: "Everyone is watching."

"I think he meant his dogs," said Terri. Then to Don: "You'd better go collect them, while we wait here."

After an hour or so, Don returned with his three Alsatian crosses and led them across to where the bison prints ended.

At first, the dogs were eager for the chase, but as soon as they sniffed the animal tracks they started whining, yelping in distress, and pulling away from the prints.

"Slap Tickle! Rub!" cried Don, a command that normally brought the dogs to heel. But this time they went berserk pulling at the leashes, until they had pulled the big man off his feet in their determination to escape.

"You worthless mutts!" cried Don as they started fighting against him, trying to escape.

For a few moments, it was a tug-of-war between man and mutt, then Tickle managed to snap his leash in half and set off at a run for home. Followed soon by Slap and Rub, which managed to pull out of their collars to set off at a frantic pace back to the safety of their homes.

"You useless sods!" called Don, climbing back to his feet: "I don't know what got into them."

"Fear," said Agnes Wandin-Din: "And if you had seen the monsters that slaughtered our tribe last night, you would be running from fear too."

The Head men had spent the day in the forest not far from Harpertown hunting for a half a dozen of their best Jersey cattle which had escaped from the Head Station sometime the previous night.

"The buggers must be here somewhere?" opined Thomas Head, at twenty-one the oldest and hugest, of the three barrel-chested brothers. He allowed no one but his Mum to call him 'Thomas', everyone else had to call him Tom.

"Yeah, but where?" demanded nineteen-year-old Roger Head, or Rog as he liked to be called.

"Maybe we should try the Yannan River," suggested eighteen-year-old Humphrey Head, or Free as he liked to be called: "They might have got thirsty."

"In which case they'll all be dead, if they've drunk that muck that passes for water in the Yannan," said their father, Richard Head. Like his sons, a tall burly man, who definitely did not like to be called Dick. He preferred to be called Ritchie, like his idol, fifties rocker Ritchie Valens.

The four men had nonetheless started toward the Yannan River, when they heard the sound of lowing a few hundred metres to their left, in the sweet-smelling pine and eucalyptus forest.

"Ah, speak of the devils," said Ritchie, heading off in that direction.

"I don't know, Dad," said Free, reluctantly starting after him: "That sounded more like bulls than cows."

"Nonsense," said Rog: "They must be our cows."

"No one else has reported any lost cattle over the Rural-Net," said Tom, referring to a closed Intranet system used in the BeauLarkin to Willamby area by all the farmers.

"Yeah, okay," said Free, unconvinced, as he reluctantly turned his horse to follow after his father and brothers.

After travelling for a few minutes, they found a hellish mess of red fluid and tiny white shards scattered across the forest floor.

"What the Hell?" said Ritchie, climbing off his horse to examine the mess.

"What is it, Dad?" asked Free, as the three sons also climbed down to examine the mess.

After sniffing at the mess, Richards said: "Blood and little bits of something else."

"Bone," insisted Rog after picking up some of the shards to run through his fingers.

"But what the...?" began Tom, stopping as a terrible thought struck him: "This can't be the remains of our Jerseys can it"

"What?" asked Ritchie, startled by the suggestion. But even more startled when the lowing began again, followed by the sound of heavy feet stampeding toward them.

"Time to get outta here," said Free.

However, when they looked around, they saw that their horses, spooked by the lowing had already taken off at full speed back toward their cattle station.

"Come back here, you cowardly nags!" cried Rog; the last words he would speak, as the werebison raced out of the forest and trampled the four burly farmers to death.

"Run..." shouted Ritchie, his last order to his sons before he was trampled by the monstrous creatures.

Free almost made it to the relative safety of a dense grove of trees, but was overtaken at the last moment by the werebison; which despite having devoured the six Jersey cattle earlier, still feasted upon the four trampled men, ripping and tugging great chunks of meat and bone from their shattered carcases.

When they had finished, the thirteen beasts set off back toward their respective lodgings for the night.

"So mate," said Terri to Bulam-Bulam as they started to head back home for the night: "What legends if any exist among your people about giant water buffalo?"

"None. Buffaloes were brought to Australia by whites in the 1800s. So we have no legends about them," said the elder. He stood deep in thought for a moment, then said: "But I might know someone who does. He's a shaman named Lightfoot from the Shawnee tribe in America."

"This isn't going to mean a long delay while we get him sent from the States like with that Verdillac matter?" asked Greta. [See my story, 'Across the Plain Comes the Verdillac.']

"No," said Terri: "I had forgotten; there's some kind of conference of shamans going on at the moment around the Glen Hartwell region." Looking guilty, she added: "I had meant to head to Willamby to say hello to them, but this latest wackiness made me forget."

"They're not all in Willamby," said Bulam-Bulam: "But Shaman Dennis Lightfoot is. And buffaloes are more likely to be in his mythology than in the Dreaming Time legends."

"Let's go see him then," said Terri.

They arrived at the Imperial Motel in Oxford Street Willamby just as everyone was settling down for dinner in the Hawaiian Dining Room; so named due to having a few plastic palm trees and other unconvincing Hawaiian touches.

"Lightfoot," called Bulam-Bulam, whispering to Terri and Greta Goddard: "He doesn't like being called Dennis."

"Bulam-Bulam!" called Lightfoot going across to hug the grey-haired elder. Then seeing the police: "I hope I'm not under arrest."

"No, we just came to Welcome you to the region," explained Terri: "And to ask for your help."

"Typical," teased Lightfoot: "The Whiteman only bothers to welcome us, when he needs to ask us for help."

"Actually I did mean..." began Terri, caught off guard.

"She means we've been distracted by a series of killings in the area," explained Bulam-Bulam: "Survivors have claimed the killers were gigantic buffaloes, as tall as elephants..."

"Werebison!" said Lightfoot loud enough for everyone in the dining room to overhear.

"They're just a myth!" insisted Running Beaver.

"What are they?" asked Greta Goddard.

"Legend says some dark Shamans align themselves with the evil Wendigo spirit for power. But have to make regular blood sacrifices to him in the shape of giant carnivorous bison."

"Nonsense!" insisted Running Beaver.

"Nonetheless, I must immediately speak to the survivors. Take me to them at once," said Lightfoot.

"Would you like a doggy bag for your steak?" asked Leila Feinberg having overheard the strange conversation.

"No thank you, I've lost my appetite," said the shaman, following the police outside to head toward Bulam-Bulam's village, where the nine survivors from the Mulla-Mulla Tribe were now staying.

Soon after they left, Running Beaver and some of his confederates stood up to leave also. In the reception area, they phoned the Dorset Hotel in LePage, and then the Chandler Hotel in Harpertown to arrange a special gathering of the thirteen dark shamans.

After speaking to Agnes Wandin-Din and the other survivors, Lightfoot announced: "I must perform a special ritual to the supreme being Moneto to beg for his help to destroy the werebison, or no one is safe on this continent."

"How soon can you do that?" asked Terri Scott.

"As soon as I can gather up all of my fellow shamans from Willamby, LePage, and Harpertown. It will need the power of all of my people to stand a chance of destroying the werebison," said Lightfoot, taking out a mobile phone to ring the Dorset, and Chandler Hotels, then the Imperial Motel. Then to Terri and co. he said: "A dozen or so of my people have already left the hotels. They must be the dark shamans."

"Can you perform the ritual without them?" asked Bulam-Bulam.

"I'll have to," said Lightfoot: "Take me to your ceremonial area, we will have to perform the ritual there."

Meeting up in the cave beneath Mount Wanderei, Running Beaver and his confederates performed the ritual to transform into werebison, then set out like stampeding elephants to slaughter Dennis Lightfoot and his shamans before they could beseech Moneto.

The ceremonial ground for the Gooladoo tribe was a circle ringed by great basalt stones three to four metres tall, with just a small entranceway.

"This should do nicely," said Lightfoot as he and his forty-one fellow shamans, including seven shamankas (female shamans) looked around.

It took half an hour or so to prepare for the ritual dance to beseech Moneto, then with the police and Aborigines sitting watching, the forty-two shamans and shamankas began dancing around a ceremonial fire in the centre of the corroboree ground.

Charging like enraged elephants, the thirteen werebison thundered through the pine and eucalyptus forest, knocking over everything in their paths to get to the Gooladoo tribal grounds, before Moneto could send them to the afterlife [American Indians don't believe in Heaven or Hell but instead an afterlife which all go to.]

The ritual dance had reached the crucial point when those inside the circle of stones heard the thunderous approach of the werebison.

Doing their best not to panic or distract the shamans, Terri, Bulam-Bulam and the other onlookers sat still while the ritual continued.

"Oh, Great Moneto!" beseeched Shaman Lightfoot...

As one of the werebison charged headfirst into the smallest of the red basalt stones, making it wobble and almost topple inward.

Unable to remain still any longer, the nine survivors of last night's massacre climbed to their feet screaming and raced out of the ceremonial ground.

"No! Wait!" called Bulam-Bulam, starting to climb to his feet, until Greta Goddard and Stanlee Dempsey pulled him back to the ground.

Trying his best to ignore the interruptions, Lightfoot continued with the ritual as the werebison, ignoring the fleeing Aborigines, continued head-butting the great stones until one creature tried climbing over one of the smaller three-metre stones.

"Look out!" cried Greta Goddard, however, the werebison fell back to earth outside the ceremonial circle.

"Shush!" whispered Lightfoot, before continuing with the ritual.

Again and again, werebison tried climbing the red stones until finally, one managed to balance atop a stone.

The werebison lowed in triumph as it toppled over the edge of the great stone, into the corroboree area.

Just a Lightfoot and the others completed the ritual and instead of a werebison, Running Beaver landed headfirst in the ceremonial area with a loud crunching as he broke his neck.

"We've done our part," said Lightfoot at the sound of the other twelve dark shamans running off into the forest: "Now it is up to you to track down the other culprits."

At which Bulam-Bulam and the police rose to start out of the circle of stones to race after the fleeing shamans. While the police pursued through the forest, Bulam-Bulam rounded up all eighty or so members of the Gooladoo tribe, all except small children, to help chase down the fleeing shamans.

"Should we help them?" asked a young Shamanka Maude Blackfeather.

"No, they'd only confuse us for the dark shamans," said Lightfoot: "We'll let them chase down the miscreants."

Even with police cars at the ready, it was nearly midnight by the time they had captured the last of the twelve dark shamans.

"So what do we do with them now?" asked Greta Goddard.

"Lock them up in Mitchell Street Police Station for now," said Terri: "In the morning we'll get Lightfoot and the other shamans to write out stat. decs. of what happened and send the lot to Melbourne to sort out."

"You're a glutton for punishment, Chief," said Stanlee Dempsey.

"I won't be going," insisted Terri: "You, Greta, Paul Bell, Drew Braidwood, and Jessie Baker can take them to Russell Street."

"Thanks, Chief," said Stanlee, making them all laugh.

© Copyright 2024 Philip Roberts
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
© Copyright 2024 Mayron57 (philroberts at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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