Chapter One: Shadow Play

(NOTE: This story is not in continuation with any of the "Day of the Barney" novels written previously by me. Consider this one of those "alternate world/different plane of existence" type things. -B. Bull)

The night hung warm and low, as the last vespers of sunlight sank below the horizon. An occasional howl of a coyote could be heard among the desert brush and cacti, and a thin, wispy breeze whistled through the cracks and crevices of craggy rocks strewn carelessly about the desert landscape.

Amidst this desolate scene stood a short, squat, concrete building built of concrete and triple-ply wood, painted in varying shades of purple and green. Through the dirty and cracked windows, a faint yellow glow cast a dim haze upon the ground. Various shapes of cloaked figures and creatures could be seen, and spritely, sacharrine music was heard from a distance.

Out of the shadows, a large van drove through the landscape, leaving a thick trail of dust and debris in its wake. It was a bright yellow vehicle with a large red rose painted on its side. A sign attached to the driver's door proclaimed, "EVERETT BROS. FLOWERS AND GIFTS". It pulled just outside the grungy building and stopped.

Moments later a man stepped out carrying a box decorated with ribbon. An envelope was attached. He warily approached the building and knocked on the door.

The building's inhabitants grew deathly still. The cheery music and giggling ceased. The man knocked again. Seconds later a voice replied, "Who is it?"

"Flower delivery for Barney the Dinosaur", replied the man. There was a faint murmuring behind the door, then it swung open on tattered hinges. A portly young man with thick glasses and curly hair stood in the doorway. He was clad in a purple robe.

"How did you get all the way out here?" he asked.

"There was an anonymous call, no one left a name," replied the delivery attendant. "The card says, 'from a Special Friend', nothing more. Does Barney want his flowers or not?"

The young, stocky man scratched his head and looked blankly into the room. The cloaked minions in the area said nothing, only gurgled and uneasily shifted about. "Hey Barney," said the youth, "do you want these flowers?" There was a brief moment of uneasy stillness, broken by a sound from behind a shredded curtain.

"Flowers? For me, old Barney? Well that's super-deeee-dupperr!" replied a dopey, moronic voice. "Send them over here right now!"

"Come on in," said the stocky minion. "He's right behind that curtain."

The attendant began sweating and breathing deeply. "Can't he come out and take them? We'll need a signature....get him out here...please."

"I knew it!" yelled the fat youth. "You're with them!!" He then dove his hands under his cloak and produced a Bowie knife. The attendant backed away, frantically fumbling to undo the ribbon binding the box. The next instant he revealed a double-barreled shotgun, and thrust it at the charging minion.

The explosion was a blast of flame and smoke, reasonating through the entire room. The cloaked creatures flung themselves upon the floor as the obese human was struck directly in the chest. The minion hit the opposite wall and dropped to the ground.

Outside, the van doors flung open. Ten men and women, dressed in combat fatigues and sporting various weapons, ran out and began spraying the compound with bullets. Glass and concrete clouded the air.

The attendant was dazed and disoriented. He stared at the dead, lifeless body before him. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of something large, blubbery, and purple. Unfortunately, he reacted too late. A cleaver whizzed through the air and struck him dead in the chest. He gasped, and weakly clutched at the handle, trying to pull it out.

"You really shouldn't do such unkind things," mused the Beast of Purple. "You hurt my friend and played a mean joke on old Barney, so that's why I killed you!" The dinosaur giggled and disappeared behind the curtain.

The attendant slumped to the floor, his dying gaze fixed upon the floor.

The soldiers outside continued to rattle the building with bullets. Inside, the cloaked minions squealed in fright and retreated to the far end of the structure. These creatures were the infamous Loved Ones, children of Barney spawned by unwitting human mothers. Pink, pale, and fat, they were horrendously faithful to their master and carried out many of his grand schemes and machinations against the children of the world.

Upon reaching the far half of the building, many scurried down secret passageways and trap doors, while a few held back and armed themselves with rusting firearms and artillery. Finding immediate shelter, they returned the fire with fanatic devotion. But they were outgunned and outnumbered. Within minutes every single Loved One defender lay sprawled on the floor in grotesque positions.

The soldiers hurriedly occupied the building. One of them, a brazen man in his forties, ran about tearing down curtains, tapestries, and rugs, in order to find the secret passageways. When he found one, he signaled to his tracker, who immediately dropped a grenade down the shaft or tunnel. The explosions rocked the house, and was followed with a smell of burnt flesh.

An hour later, the area was deemed completely secure. But for the soldiers, it had been a frustrating night. Three of them had died in the firefight with the Loved Ones, and Barney the Dinosaur had completely disappeared.

By daybreak, many of the Loved One corpses had been stacked side by side and recorded. The lone human minion was placed next to the row, with no viable identification. The older man sat in the van, sipping his canteen. A scout approached him.

"General Brackenridge," she began, "what are your new orders?"

He replaced the lid on the canteen and rubbed the stubble on his chin. "Haddenford, tell the squad to make an all-out reconaissance mission within a five-mile radius from this compound. With some luck, he may not have gotten far. Get Johannsen to radio in for back-up. And perhaps Swenney and Aiko can follow-up on some of those tunnels down below."

"Affirmative, General," she replied, and returned to the squad with the new orders. The sun began to rise and the desert air began to turn hot and unforgiving....

The chase for Barney had begun.

@ Copyright 1996, Brian Bull

Click here for Chapter 2 of Death Zone Purple