Short Story · Stories

The Scrape

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Artwork by Felipe de Barros

Written by Kevin M. Folliard

The Scrape nightclub was a slice of savagery, hidden in the western desert of New Pangea, in the smoldering town of Slash Valley. The valley got its name from prowling Utahraptors which The Scrape had managed—not to tame—but to monetize.

Boss Denton Castle of the Northern Isles heard rumblings of The Scrape’s dinosaur fights for years. He sent his top man Randall to place bets on his behalf.

Castle’s reputation had already spread to the continent, thanks to his operations smuggling drugs, alcohol, and other desirables. Soon The Scrape’s manager Mr. David Addison struck a deal and invited Boss Castle for a personal visit.

Castle hired experts to trap an Allosaurus from the island of Cambria. She was a 1.5 ton beast with brilliant rust-red scales, not yet fully grown, as requested. A horned crest spiked over her gleaming eyes.

“Perfect,” Castle said, inspecting the predator at the docks.

“I’ve seen Goldy fight, boss,” said Randall. “You sure about this?” Goldy was a 6-meter long Utahraptor, trained by The Scrape’s resident dinosaur whisperer Jace Ng. She’d never lost a fight.

“Positive,” Castle said. “Goldy’s got to retire or take a dive. Addison will make sure Jace Ng cooperates.”

The Scrape’s arena mostly featured raptor vs. raptor, but to keep things interesting—and attempt to topple Goldy—Addison tried to bring in other predators. Baryonyx from from Dactyl Flowage got depressed without water. Raiders from the badlands tried to import a Carnotaurus, but the people of Slash Valley didn’t trust them. They knew the raiders pumped their animals with steroids and stimulants.

Castle was more subtle than that. He clapped Randall’s back. “Tonight, my boy, the house wins big.”

Their five-man team packed into the cab of the animal transport truck. The whole way, the Allosaur roared in distress and thumped her tail against the pen. The handlers expressed concern that the ride was too long, the truck too small.

“All the better,” Castle insisted. “She’ll unleash that pent-up rage in the arena.”

By dusk, they arrived in Slash Valley. The town popped against the desert horizon. Bright blue shock wires lined the top of the steel perimeter fence, to prevent climbing raptors from infiltrating town. Top-line solar generators glowed in the sunset.

Checkpoint security had a list of questions about the Allosaur’s health, but as soon as Castle dropped Addison’s name, they waved them through the sliding gates.

Electronic saloon and casino signs flared to life as the sky darkened. Raptor Roger’s. The Red Claw. Carnivore Coin Shack.

Women in low-cut tops, grizzled survivalists, and even a few tattooed raiders roamed the streets. A performer was showing off tricks with a trained Dimorphodon. In front of a rust-red barbeque tent, Leptoceratops roasted on giant spits.

People whooped and hollered at the passing truck. Randall waved back. “Plenty of buzz about our challenger, Boss!”

Raiders and frontier-folk walked side-by-side. Castle spotted a scantily clad call girl with a pulse blaster holstered in plain view. “Rough customers.” The man chatting her up wore a pressed gray suit with a Jurassica badge. “Fancy seeing a compound official in this crowd.”

Randall chuckled. “Nothing brings the people of New Pangea together like gambling, debauchery, and dino-brawls!”

The Scrape itself didn’t look like much from the outside. Set on the far edge of town, it was no more than a warehouse with a windowless one-story structure built on front.

The town’s perimeter wrapped around The Scrape’s outside walls, and the warehouse faced the desert. Castle assumed they prepped and loaded predators straight from the wilderness. Addison must have wanted us to drive the Allosaur through town to stir up excitement, he figured.

A neon orange raptor claw glowed over the double doors of the entrance. Shady customers streamed in and out. As soon as their transport truck came to a stop, a crew of animal handlers hurried toward the rear of the pen.

Castle straightened his jacket, combed his hair, and stepped outside. A short man with stern narrow eyes and spiky black hair approached. The stranger wore khaki cargo pants and shirt with a blood red bandana around his neck. He extended a dust-caked hand. “Mr. Castle. Welcome to Slash Valley.”

“That’s Boss Castle.” He glared at the man’s hand. “You’re not Addison.”

The man smiled and lowered his arm. “Mr. Addison will see you shortly. He’s tied up in the evening’s entertainment. I’m—”

“Jace Ng,” Castle said. “I understand you’ve trained a magnificent beast.”

“Goldy’s a fan favorite,” Ng said.

Castle lowered his voice. “Hope you’ve said your goodbyes.”

Ng nodded.

“Your people can take the Allosaur from here?”

The Scrape’s handlers lined up behind the truck. Their shock prods hummed with readiness. Allosaur snarls rumbled.

“Naturally.” Ng smiled. “Follow me.”

Castle nodded for the rest of his crew to facilitate the animal wrangling. Then he and Randall followed Ng toward the double-doors and the fiery claw.

Ng pushed through and held the door for Castle and Randall. Dueling piano music, laughter and joyful screams washed over them. Ng raised his voice, “Slash Valley abides by an unspoken code. Trust for one another’s property, one another’s spoils. There’s nowhere else in our primordial world where people so fully indulge in risk and carnal pleasure.”

Tobacco smoke hung heavy in the air. At the end of the room, between shiny black pianos, cabaret dancers twirled feathery Deinonychus pom-poms. Small string instruments were not uncommon in independent settlements, but pianos were a luxury.

The scantily clad women stomped and spun in perfect sync. “That’s talent!” Castle shouted. “Ladies like that are a precious commodity. They should tour the islands.”

Ng raised an eyebrow. “They’re happier here.”

“People in high places will pay top coin for them.”

“You can’t put a price on safety,” Ng said.

Castle admired rows of mechanical slot machines with hand painted graphics. Desert beetles, compies, Pteranodon heads, and raptor claws spun into place. Bells, whistles, and chimes sounded. Wild-eyed patrons pumped tokens into slots and yanked wooden levers. At banker cages, gamers lined up under the posted conversion rates between northern currencies and southern compound credits.

Two burly guards in black vests flanked a back door. They nodded at Ng as he approached. “Glamour is a given in our town, Boss Castle, but here’s what makes our operation special.”

Castle smiled. “The arena.”

Ng led them down a hallway ramp into a dim section of the warehouse. A magnificent glass ceiling showed the darkening purple sky. Stadium lights flashed on one-by-one, revealing a 20-by-20-meter caged dirt arena.

A magnificent Utahraptor winced in the light. She towered twice as high as a grown man. Brilliant orange and desert brown feathers spiked from her head down her neck. Fierce three-fingered hands flexed at the ends of long, drooping arms. Sickle claws curled off her scaly feet. She cocked her head and gave a piercing shriek.

Ng beamed. “Hello, girl! Meet Boss Castle. Boss Castle, meet Goldy!”

Castle whistled. “She’s magnificent.”

Goldy flexed her jaw, revealing daggered teeth and a slick red tongue. She stalked toward them. In perfect sync, Jace Ng placed his palm against the fence, and Goldy gently curled her fingers through, over her master’s. “We have arranged for one last spectacle for you, Boss Castle,” Ng whispered. “A private show,” Ng patted his raptor’s scaly hand. “Just for you.”

A desert-facing cargo door grinded open at the back of the warehouse. Two large men dragged a third toward the arena. Goldy snorted and twisted around to face them.

The man struggled. “Ng! Listen to reason!”

“That’s Addison!” Randall was drawing his pulse blaster and turning to face Ng just as a blue light burned between his eyes. Randall dropped. His blaster clattered. The scent of charred flesh hung in the air. A hole smoked between Randall’s glassy eyes.

Castle lunged for the fallen blaster, but Ng was already rushing him. He twisted Castle’s arm behind his back and pinched a nerve in his hand.

The two club guards now flanked the hall that led back to the casino, pulse rifles primed for another shot. The other men opened the arena gate and hurled Addison into the dirt. Goldy chirped with excitement.

Ng gave Castle’s arm an agonizing tug. “Watch and listen!”

Addison shook the gate. “Ng!” He turned to face Goldy, strutting toward him. Addison’s face was badly bruised. His suit stained with blood.

“The people of Slash Valley are hardened,” Ng whispered. His feathery raptor snatched Addison and yanked him toward the center of the Arena. “But we’re not crooks. For this town to work, we need fair standards. That’s what brings people here, the genuine chance to not only survive, but thrive.”

Addison tore free from Goldy, leaving his shredded jacket in her claws. He raced to the fence and attempted to climb. Goldy pounced forward and chomped his shoulder. He screamed as she tossed him like an old rag.

“The people of Slash Valley talk, Boss Castle. We have no interest in your fixed fights, dirty money, and child brides.”

Castle choked back bile as Goldy’s toe claw ripped stringy entrails from Addison’s still wriggling body.

“Please!” Castle screamed. “I’ll cut any deal you want!”

“Everything I want is already here,” Ng said. “I only want you to leave.” Ng shoved him against the fence. Castle fell to his knees and vomited as Goldy feasted. Addison’s pained gurgles faded, but his leg continued to twitch.

“Your men outside are likely dead,” Ng said. “Perhaps the trappers cooperated. We’ll see. You can use the back door.”

Castle raised his hands and made his way around the arena. All of Ng’s men had pulse blasters aimed at him. “If you don’t want a fix,” Castle pleaded. “We’ll let Goldy fight my beast fair and square!”

Ng followed Castle and shoved him into the cool desert night. “Don’t worry. Your animal isn’t going to waste.” Another gate slid open past the warehouse. The open transport truck backed into view. “In fact, we’ve already placed bets.”

Out stomped the Allosaur. Her green eyes flashed. She scraped desert dust, lowered her boxy snout, and snarled. Her tail thumped angrily against the side of the truck.

“Let’s see who wins the race across the desert,” Ng said. “The boss or his beast.”

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Sawyer’s Dimetrodon

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