- Shhh... It's okay daddy... Just let it take us. Let it take us...
- -- Maxine Baker
Appearing in "The Hunt, Part Two: Maps"
- Mr. Duffy
Synopsis for "The Hunt, Part Two: Maps"
Buddy Baker and his wife Ellen discover their daughter Maxine playing with the reanimated corpses of several local pets. She tells them that she had heard them calling out from a certain place. When he asks which place she means, she points to his chest, and he is surprised to discover that his body is covered with an elaborate red tattoo which resembles veins. "The Red place," she responds.
In their kitchen, surrounded by mischievous dead animals, Buddy determines that the design on his chest is more or less permanent. Maxine reassures him that it will come off once he enters The Red. She shows him that the design forms a map to a special tree, and if they enter it, they will be able to enter The Red instead of merely being touched by it, however, she warns that if they don't get there soon, someone evil will get there and kill the tree. If the tree dies, everything dies.
Outside, Ellen is alerted by the screams of her son Cliff, who has been caught trying to fill in the pets' graves by their neighbour Mr. Duffy. Angrily, Buddy marches out with a threatening shout, but when Mr. Duffy sees the design on Buddy's body and the dead animals in tow, he becomes even more aggitated, calling them freaks.
In retaliation, Maxine uses her abilities to turn Mr. Duffy's hand into a bird's talon. The man squirms in horror as Buddy sees to him. Ellen begs Maxine to change the hand back, warning that it is never good to step over that line, and alter a human's body. Reluctantly, Maxine changes the hand back, and Mr. Duffy runs away.
Ellen is quite broken up about the revelation that her daughter has such destructive and terrifying power. Buddy reassures her, and decides that it would be best if he goes along with what Maxine said about the map and the tree - and if Ellen and Cliff stayed at home in the meantime. Ellen is reticent to see Buddy and Maxine leave together, but in the end, she must allow it.
At the nearby San Diego Zoo, three zookeepers notice that something strange is happening to the animals. When they discover that the hippos appear to be pregnant without any males around to mate with, they stare in horror as the animals' distended bellies undulate and grow larger. All they can think to do is run.
Buddy and Maxine travel across California from their home in San Diego to Los Angeles and beyond. Buddy senses that what he has known as the morphogenetic field or lifeweb is perhaps something more than just energy, and he worries about Maxine's powers, which seem to be greater than his own. Following the map on Buddy's chest and the directions of local wildlife, they soon find their way to the tree. Placing their hands on the tree's roots, they are sucked into The Red.
Back at the zoo, the hippos appear to have given birth to the grotesque Hunters Three that Buddy had dreamt about the night before. They assume the forms of the three zookeepers, and set their sights on Buddy and Maxine; preparing for the hunt.
- This book was first published on October 5, 2011.
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