Assault River is not your typical vacation destination…
Thomas Calabrese … The Tassadarian civilization lived on a cold dark planet in the Serpentis Galaxy that was several light years away from planet Earth. The Tassadarians were highly intelligent fierce carnivores who required massive amounts of meat and flesh to nourish their massive brains and powerful bodies and had a life span of several hundred earth years. When the Tassadarians experienced a severe food shortage caused by a meteor storm, scouts were sent out to find additional food sources on other planets. The Tassadarian civilization did not survive the drought and famine, but one of their scouts eventually made it to earth. The spaceship landed in the Arizona desert near the Salt River on July 1, 1966 and burrowed eighty feet deep into the ground to avoid detection.
The change in temperature, atmospheric pressure and gravitational pull were vastly different from the Tassadarian’s home planet so it had to make drastic changes in order to survive. It could only come out for one day at a time then had to return to its spaceship and re-enter the suspended animation capsule. It could survive sixteen years in earth time when fully nourished inside the capsule, but then had to come out to replenish the food supply system.
A tour bus with forty three senior citizens that was on its way to a religious revival in Yuma was found near the Salt River on July 12, 1968, but there was no one on the bus and authorities never found out what happened to the passengers.
A group of thirty one college students who had gone to Salt River for a rafting trip disappeared from their camping site on July 12, 1984, sixteen years to the day of the first disappearance and only faint amounts blood and undistinguishable footprints were found at the scene. After an exhaustive search that lasted several weeks authorities found nothing and the case remained unresolved.
A family vacationing from Escondido, California vanished on July 12, 2000. They were seen leaving in their tubes from the launch site, but never arrived downriver at Sheep’s Crossing.
The unsolved cases fueled a variety of rumors and outlandish speculation and the Legend of Salt River was born and continued to thrive.
Sergeant Bill Whittington was a water safety and survival instructor for the Marine Corps and stationed at Camp Pendleton when he met First Lieutenant Marsha Millan a Super Cobra helicopter pilot. After dating for seven months, they got married on the Big Island in Hawaii on July 12, 2015
They rented an apartment in Vista, California on Sycamore Avenue and Bill found employment as an instructor with Spartan Fit, a physical training company that developed fitness programs for individuals looking for an extreme exercise regime with special emphasis in preparing young men and women for the elite units in the military. Marsha worked for the Department of Forestry flying helicopters and was based in Ramona, California.
“Remember Jason McCallum?” Marsha asked.
“Yeah, you flew with him where you were stationed at Pendleton, why?” Bill asked.
“Good memory, I got an e-mail from him.”
“What does he want you to do, re-enlist?” Bill joked.
“He got out too, he’s in Arizona working with his brother,” Marsha said, “He’s operating a rafting company on the Salt River,” Marsha continued.
“Assault River,” Bill replied, “Sounds like an all- inclusive military resort.”
“Salt, not Assault,” Marsha responded.
“That’s what I said,”
“No you didn’t, you said assault, its salt,” Marsha snapped back.
“You mean salt as in pepper and not assault as in battery?”
“Affirmative, he invited us down to take a raft trip,” Marsha said.
“What’s the level of the rapids?” Bill asked.
“I don’t know,”
Bill pulled out his phone and accessed information about Salt River, “It’s only level three.”
“What are you looking for a minimum of five?” Marsha snapped back.
“Six when I can find it,” Bill shrugged.
“We can celebrate our anniversary while we’re down there.”
Bill and Marsha began packing for their trip to Mesa, Arizona at zero seven hundred hours, Thursday morning and planned to leave right after rush hour traffic subsided. Marsha noticed Bill loading their compound bows and two quivers of arrows.
“What are we bringing the bows for?”
“There’s a lot of open space out there, thought maybe we’d get some practice in,” Bill answered.
“We’re going down for rafting, remember that.” Marsha said.
“They don’t take up much room, if we don’t use them, it’s no big deal.”
When Bill and Marsha arrived at Yuma, Arizona, it was almost lunchtime and they decided to get something to eat at the Texas Roadhouse then drive the last two hundred miles to their destination.
“Where did you hear about this place?” Marsha asked.
“I told one of my clients that we were going to Mesa and he said this place was pretty good,” Bill answered.
Marsha parked the car, “Let’s see if he gave you correct Intel.”
Bill and Marsha walked passed a line of motorcycles and entered the restaurant.
A hostess asked, “Two?”
“Yes, thank you,” Bill replied.
“Booth or table?” The hostess asked.
“Booth please,” Marsha answered.
There were twenty individuals sitting at several tables; five women and fifteen men. They were wearing motorcycle attire that included their colors and gang affiliation; Cobra was imprinted on their cut off jackets and shirts. Their tables were filled with beer bottles, both empty and full and the entire group was in various degrees of intoxication.
Bill followed the hostess and Marsha was right behind him as they passed the table with the motorcyclists. One of the men reached out and grabbed Marsha’s butt as she passed by. Marsha jumped then glared back at the man, but didn’t say anything. Bill noticed, but pretended not to.
When they got to their booth, they opened their menu and looked over their choices.
“Did you know that the designation for the one year anniversary is river water?” Bill asked.
“It is paper,” Marsha retorted, “I’m going to have the grilled chicken sandwich, sweet potato fries, ice tea and guacamole and chips for an appetizer. I’ll be right back.”
Bill placed their order and was casually looking around the restaurant when he noticed Marsha exit the ladies room. When she walked passed the table with the drunken bikers, the same man who grabbed her butt tried to do it again, but this time Marsha wasn’t caught off guard. She grabbed his thumb and bent it back that so far that the biker had to roll out of his chair to keep it from being broken.
The biker cursed up at Marsha, “Damn bitch!”
The rest of his table laughed which further enraged him and Marsha went back to her booth where Bill had the menu up to his face, “I ordered already,” Bill said as he lowered the menu.
“Good, I knew I could count on you.”
After they finished eating, “You get the meal, I’ll get the tip,” Bill grinned.
“I’ll get the tip,” Marsha replied.
As they prepared to leave the restaurant, the biker that Marsha had the altercation with earlier was waiting in the lobby and he looked much bigger standing up than he did when he was slouched down in his chair; six foot four inches tall and three hundred and eleven pounds to be exact. A second biker who was slightly smaller, but not by much, was standing next to him and both men completely blocked the front entrance. The rest of the bikers were waiting outside and watching to see what happened.
“You owe me an apology,” The Biker demanded.
“What did I do?” Bill quickly interjected.
“He’s talking to me,” Marsha said.
Bill inflamed the situation, “I apologize, my wife sometimes bullies helpless individuals who can’t defend themselves,” then turned to Marsha, “You should be ashamed of yourself for picking on this poor guy, you can see how weak and stupid he is.”
“Are you trying to help me? If you are… then don’t,” Marsha snapped back.
The Biker became enraged, gritted his teeth and clenched his fists in anger. Almost as if they were reading each other’s minds, Marsha slipped out of her flip flops just as the bikers started to make their attack. Bill and Marsha jumped up and did simultaneous flying sidekicks and hit the bikers in the chest and knocked both men backward out the front door and into the parking lot. The other bikers rushed to intervene and in a matter of seconds, an all-out brawl began. Marsha was fighting with the women and hit one so hard she knocked her two front teeth out. Bill was holding his own against the men even though he was outnumbered six to one. Suddenly there were two gunshots and everybody stopped fighting and looked around to see the general manager of the restaurant with an aluminum bat in his right hand and a smoking Colt .45 in his left, “I can either take batting practice or target practice, it’s your choice. The police are on the way.”
The bikers knew the manager was not bluffing so they hurled a few foul insults then mounted their motorcycles and raced away.
The general manager turned to Marsha and Bill, “You alright?”
“No harm, no foul,” Marsha replied.
“I’d be happy to comp. your meal for any inconvenience this may have caused you,”
“Don’t do that, once my wife gets in the habit of getting free meals for fighting, we’ll be doing battle every day,” Bill said.
Marsha elbowed Bill in the solar plexus.
“You two look like you got skills, military?” The manager asked.
“Marines,” Marsha answered.
The manager rolled up his sleeve to expose an eagle, globe and anchor tattoo, “Semper Fi.”
Bill, Marsha and the manager whose name was Larry exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes and when he found out that Bill and Marsha were heading to Salt River to celebrate their one year anniversary, he pulled out his cell phone.
“Hold on, I need to make a call,…“Hey Richie, its Larry, I’m with a couple former Marines who are headed your way to celebrate their one year anniversary. Take good care of them and you know what I mean.”
Larry hung up the phone, “My cousin Richie is the night manager at the Westgate Painted Mountain Resort. It’s a nice place and he told me that he’ll have a nice suite waiting for you.”
“You didn’t have to do that,” Marsha said
“Don’t you know that its bad luck to turn down a gift from a fellow Marine, especially an anniversary gift. You don’t want both of us to have bad luck, do you?” Larry smiled.
The bikers pulled behind a supermarket, “I don’t know if the cops are looking for us, but just to be safe we should lay low for a while, let’s stock up on what we’ll need for a couple days,” The biker in charge said.
Two hours later, the bikers set up camp in an isolated area near Salt River and not much later Bill and Marsha checked into the Westgate Painted Resort, “How about we get up early, get some breakfast then head out to the river before it gets too hot?” Marsha asked.
Bill looked at his watch and saw it was twenty one hundred hours, “Do you know that in three hours, one hundred and eighty short minutes we’ll have been married one year, any regrets?”
“None that come to mind at the moment,” Marsha replied as she got into the king size bed, “What about you, do you have any second thoughts?”
Bill slipped into bed and curled up next to Marsha, “No, I’m pretty happy, I guess.”
“Marsha pulled away, “Pretty happy you guess, is that what you said?…pretty happy, you guess, that’s it?”
“Really happy,” Bill quickly corrected himself.
Marsha still wasn’t convinced.
“How about extremely happy and I have never been more sure of anything in my entire life, is that good enough?”
“Close,” Marsha embraced Bill.
Back at Salt River, the bikers were in various states of narcotic and alcohol induced incapacitation when from out of the water came the Tassadarian. It was the size of a polar bear and had a head filled with shark like teeth and greenish brown skin that was as hard as that of an armadillo and webfeet with razor sharp claws and weighed one thousand pounds. A Tassadarian was the ultimate predator; powerful, merciless and extremely cunning and bore an eerie resemblance to a Tyrannosaurus Rex except that they were more compact, highly evolved and made the Rex look like a passive lap dog.
One of the drunken bikers looked up and thought he was having a nightmare so he shook his head several times, but the gruesome looking monster was still moving toward him so he closed his eyes and laid there motionless. When he opened his eyes again he was too frozen in fear to speak as the creature hovered over him. The biker finally found the nerve to scream, but before he could get the first sound out, the creature severed his head with one wide mouthed bite and swallowed it whole. By the time the others realized what was happening they were also killed.
The Tassadarian dragged the dead bikers down the tunnel to its spaceship and after getting the bodies inside; it ripped the clothes off them with its talons then dropped the naked bodies into a high tech food processor that quickly liquefied their flesh and bone. The proceeds flowed into a thousand gallon tank but it wasn’t quite full so the Tassadarian realized it would need two more bodies for his full hyper hibernation cycle and would have to return to the surface.
It was zero five hundred hours on July 12th when Bill rolled over in bed and kissed Marsha on the cheek, “Happy anniversary, Miss Wonderful.”
“That’s Mrs. Wonderful to you,” Marsha replied, “Happy anniversary to you.”
Bill and Marsha got up and quickly dressed then headed out to the river, but on the way, Marsha noticed something as she looked out the passenger side window, “Pull over.”
Bill pulled the car to the shoulder of the road, “What’s up?”
“I thought I saw something back there.”
Bill and Marsha got out of the car and walked back up the road and looked to the east at a distance of two hundred yards away.
“What is that?’ Marsha asked.
“Good eyes, how did you manage to see that while I was driving?” Bill asked.
“I saw a reflection,” Marsha replied, “I just can’t make it out.”
“Standfast, I’ll be right back,” Bill ran back to the car and came back with a pair of Steiner high powered binoculars, “I bought these from a Navy Seal, don’t ask me how he got them.”
Bill focused on the site with the binoculars, “Oh hell,” then handed them to Marsha who had to look twice before she believed what she was seeing.
When they arrived at the site of the bikers’ campsite, the desert ground was stained with blood and motorcycles were tossed about like toys.
“Are these the same bikes from back at the restaurant? Bill asked.
“They look familiar,” Marsha answered calmly then picked up a tattered vest with the word Cobra on it, “What the hell did they run into?”
Bill and Marsha slowly scouted the perimeter of the campsite looking for clues when Marsha noticed a giant footprint in the sand, “Take a look,”
Bill bent down and examined the footprint which resembled a web-footed bear claw, “What the hell is this?”
They saw more footprints and followed them to the edge of the water, “Whatever it was, came out of the river then went right back into it,” Bill said as he bent down at the waters’ edge and looked back to Marsha.
“Dive right!!” Marsha screamed out as the Tassadarian reached out from under the water with a massive claw and just missed grabbing Bill by inches who had followed Marsha’s command without hesitation and rolled out of harm’s way. He quickly came to his feet and glanced back at the Tassadarian which was a hell of an incentive for him to increase his speed and catch up to Marsha who was already in a full sprint.
The Tassadarian was quickly gaining ground on them when Bill came up with an idea, “Swerve! It can run fast in a straight line, but maybe it can’t turn, I hope. ”
Bill and Marsha began weaving back and forth as they ran and luckily for them, Bill was right because the Tassadarian was unable to maneuver from side to side and eventually gave up its pursuit and began walking back to the river.
Once inside the car Marsha grabbed her cellphone and dialed 911 as Bill started the vehicle and was just about ready to slam down on the gas pedal when he looked in the rear view mirror and saw a family rafting down the river right toward the Tassadarian.
“Go! Go!” Marsha screamed, “What are you waiting for!”
Bill pointed toward the rafts and Marsha shook her head in resignation, “Did you bring any guns?”
We got our bows,” Bill retorted, “Now is as good a time as any to see how good a shot we are.”
They quickly got their bows and arrows and rushed back to the river. The nine people in the three rafts were slowly floating down the river as Bill rushed to the edge of the water and Marsha took the high ground. Bill took aim and hit the Tassadarian in the back with an arrow and he screeched out in pain then Marsha’s arrow hit the creature in the leg. They kept shooting arrows as fast as they could pull them out of their quivers. The Tassadarian roared in anger each time it was hit and it didn’t know which way to attack, but eventually fell to the ground with a dozen arrows through its protective skin. Marsha’s last arrow was the killing shot that went through the Tassadarian’s head as it struggled to return to the upright position. The people in the rafts just stared in disbelief as they floated by and three hours later the entire bank of the river was filled with law enforcement personnel and curious onlookers staring at the massive alien creature.
Richie the night manager from the hotel rushed up and could barely control himself, “I knew it! My dad told me there was a monster out here and everybody said he was crazy! The Legend is real!” then turned to Bill and Marsha and blurted out, “You two are the Legends of Salt River now!”
Marsha kissed Bill on the cheek and whispered in his ear, “Now you can call it Assault River.”