Nature’s Apex

Apr 20, 2021 | Short Stories

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Nature’s Apex

Prince George needs some flare. The mayor is fully aware that this town is on the decline, and he’s willing to invest into the future – turn this dead-end into a tourist sensation! They need a catchy sign to pull people in . . . go big, like Hollywood. Hence, the deforestation project Tanner is working on for Allen Forestry Solutions to make way for a new sign of the town. Unfortunately, there’s a bunch of tree-humpers, known as Mother Nature’s Guardians, making this job far more complicated than it needs to be . . .

Nature’s Apex is April’s short story covering Mother Nature’s Guardians’ rebellious actions, based on my upcoming horror novel Rave, launching May 20th, 2021. Enjoy the story in written form (link above), the artwork, and audio (in this post) through the podcast with improv music.

Nature’s Apex

Work, chop, work, chop. CHOP, CHOP.

The mundane task of tearing down the forest is no glorious work. But hey, it pays the bills, right? There’s good money in ripping apart the wilderness around Prince George. The town is willing to pay a rush job, too; they aren’t messing around to flip this location into a tourist trap. People complain about it, saying that it is a disservice to the environment or whatever. Well, too bad. People progress. There’s so much forest out there that it doesn’t matter! Plus, pulling in visitors with a catchy sign will help the economy. The new millennium is eleven years away, meaning it’s time to get with the times. At least that is what Tanner tells himself because he was told that, because he needs this money, because he wants to go to college, because he is an adult now – no more mooching off his folks. Thus, Tanner works hard.

Tanner is drenched in sweat, hauling the scraps left by the heavy machinery further ahead. One by one, they fall. Birds fly everywhere! Some small critters are bolting for their lives, hoping not to get crushed by the machinery. Branches, logs, dirt, bushes, animal corpses – you name it. Anything that is in the way goes so the next crew can install the framework for the sign. Thus, Tanner cleans up.

A fraction of the town folks is pissed off about the teardown. Quite frankly, Tanner doesn’t overthink it. If he did, maybe he’d side with the environmentalists – since they do have a point – but then how would he make enough cash to pay for school? He wants an education and does not want to be in the logging industry for his whole life. In this town, your options are limited. Thus, Tanner doesn’t overthink it.

“Tanner!” came a coworker’s voice. Tycho. He’s sweating just as bad as Tanner. Tycho is new to the crew, but Tanner doesn’t mind showing him the ropes.

“Yo?” Tanner asks through the loud sounds of trees crashing.



Tycho says, “when is our break? I’m sweating like a pig here.”

Tanner laughs. “Not for a while, man. We just started.”

“Christ,” Tycho says, lugging a large branch into the woodchipper.

BZZZZZZZZ!! One down, dozens more to go.

“Nasty,” Tycho says, picking up a pile of dead birds. They’re in a mangled nest, probably hatchlings.

“Yeah, well, tough shit for them,” Tanner says.

“You think that?” Tycho says through the kerfuffle.

“Well, yeah. It’s not our fault. We’re just trying to get paid.”

“People are gonna be pissed. You don’t kill animals.”

“If those tree-humpers want to get mad at anyone, it should be the mayor.”

“Totally. Still, we should take ownership of what we do, you know?”

“Then quit,” Tanner smirks, throwing some branches into the woodchipper.


Tanner doesn’t want to get into a stupid righteousness conversation with Tycho. The guy is new and doesn’t understand that the crew couldn’t give less of a shit for nature. This isn’t some Snow White Disney movie. No. This is life! What was that thing people said in school? Oh, right, Darwinism. Survival of the fittest baby! Thus, Tanner stays focused.

SNAP. SNAP. CRASH!! More trees are tumbling down.

Tycho stays quiet, keeping his hippie-dippie comments to himself and the crew works throughout the earl AM with the red horizon highlighting the area. The sooner they clear out this forest, the better. Tanner just wants to kick it back with a beer. He eventually finds a dead deer – a small buck. It looks like a branch punctured its lungs. The muzzle is all bruised up, too. Jeez. That’s going to take a few people to move. It’s not like Tanner enjoys this, but man, he really needs that cash.

“Tycho! Hudson! Get over here. Help me move this.” Tanner calls out.

Hudson gets here right away. Tycho hasn’t shown up. Seriously? Where’d he go? Tanner looks around to see if he can spot him, but he’s nowhere.

“You see Tycho?” Tanner asks.

“Nah,” Hudson says. “Probably getting spooked. I tell you, there’s something out in the woods.”

“Shut it, man,” Tanner says. Hudson is ridiculous. Look at him scratch his bloated belly. Somehow he’s managed to gain weight over the past couple of weeks clearing this shitty forest. Thrown in a dash of over-worrying with too many burgers, and you end up looking like Hudson here.

“I’m telling you, I’ve seen some weird shit. People, but not.”

“Tycho!” Tanner calls out. “Get over here!”

Rustling comes from the bushes, and Tycho appears. “Yo, sorry, man.”

“What gives? Stop wanking it.”

“Had to piss.”

“There are stations for that. Don’t act like some animal. Now help us move this thing.”

The three guys figure out how to move the corpse as a man by the heavy machinery shouts,” FUCKING CHRIST!”

He stops the Parson Loader and hops out of the operator seat, tumbling on the ground. Another man screams, catching the rest of the crews’ attention. Tanner, Hudson, and Tycho leave the deer corpse and gather with the rest of the twelve crew to see what is going on.

The first guy’s eyes are popping out of their sockets, saying, “you guys see that?”

“See what?” Hudson asks.

“In the forest, fucking Sasquatch.”

“Bullshit,” comes a gravelly voice, the foreman. He sips his Tim Horton’s coffee with a loud SLLLLLUUURRRP and puffs on his smoke, saying, “get back to work.”

“No, it’s true!” the second man says.

The guy who screamed chirps in, saying, “I saw something in there. It looked human but had an animal face, like this.” He uses his fingers to emphasize ears on top of his skull.

“I told you this place is cursed, man,” Hudson says.

“I said zip it, bro,” Tanner says. How many times does he have to tell him?

The foreman says, “alright! Let-“

“Look!” the first man shouts before the foreman can finish.

A tin can flies into the air with flames coming out of the top, followed by smoke seeping from it. Wait, there’s another, and another! HSSSSSSSS! The three cans fall towards the twelves deforesters, seeping large streams of smoke. Instantly the crew starts coughing and covering their faces. These are homemade tear gas devices. The goddamned tree-humpers!


The crew keeps coughing as paintball bullets splatter their vests. Blue, red, and orange colours hit them all over. These poor workers have no defence. How many attackers are in the forest? A dozen, or maybe three? It’s impossible to tell with the tear gas filling up the area.

The crew is shit-scared and starts booking it, despite the foreman’s attempts to wrangle the crew together. Tanner is coughing violently, eyes watering, hurrying back as a paintball bullet hits his biceps. Ouch, that’ll sting later.

Some of the crew straight up flee the scene, including that pussy-ass Hudson, bringing them down to about five guys. Two of them are pissed and rush into the forest towards the paintballs, shielding themselves with their forearms.

Tanner is with the foreman, running out of the tear gas area, trying to keep himself together. The foreman pulls out his walkie-talkie, pressing the communication button to talk.


A branch knocks him in the back of his neck. He drops the walkie-talkie and falls to the ground. Tanner spins to see a deer-masked deforester stands in front of him. Woah, it’s one of the tree-humpers, hidden as one of their own. Clever bastards.

Tanner roars and lunges a fist at the man. He’s too fast and shoves the branch into his gut. It throws Tanner to the ground with a hefty thud. His assaulter raises the log and swings it down; Tanner prepares for impact! Firm hands snag the log in mid-arch.

“Vlad, what the fuck?” comes the deep voice of the assaulter, slightly muffled from the mask – clearly Tycho. The new guy . . . betrayer.

“We don’t kill straight up. Mercy only,” says the man. He’s got to be Russian with that accent.

“I wasn’t gonna kill the guy. I’m not a psycho, dumbass. Just rough him up.”

“With the size of that log into his face? Think.”

Tanner groans, attempting to crawl away, still on his back. He doesn’t need this shit. Why did he attempt to play hero for the foreman? Maybe Hudson was right to book it. Too late now. A boot steps on his shoulder, pinning him. Tanner looks up to see this Vlad character staring at him in a rubber deer mask.

“Not so fast,” the man says, leaning down to look at Tanner in the teeth. “You’re going to be the message from Mother Nature’s Guardians.”

Just now, Tanner clues into how quiet the scene is. Either the rest of the crew ditched, or these pricks managed to get the upper hand on them. All you can hear is the HSSSSSS of the tear gas. Footsteps pick up, and a third deer-masked tree-humper appears.

“Hey, the others are gone. Well, I had to beat the shit out of another,” says the newcomer.

“All good, Haze,” Vlad says. “We got our message here. This asshole tried to help the foreman get help.”

Tycho says, “trust me. He doesn’t give a shit about what he’s doing.”

Vlad nods, saying, “good. This will complement our message to the mayor next.”

The man named Haze pulls out a spray can and says, “knock ’em out. Let’s do it.”

“Don’t say shit, you got that, Tanner?” Tycho sneers.

Tanner gasps. “No, wait, I-” before he can finish his sentence, Vlad slams his boot into the side of his head, knocking him out.


At this point, Tanner isn’t fully aware of anything that is going on. They’re moving him . . . He fazes in and out of consciousness . . . where? Darkness fades. The scene blooms, overexposed light. Three deer-men appear in front of him, fully naked like some strange anthropomorphic creatures, laughing at him with twisted faces and fangs. Behind the deer-men are large hands made of wood. They’re feminine – Mother Nature. Fire fills up the sky. Oh, her wrath!

These visuals are all a crack-dream as Tanner feels a bucket of liquid splatters his body. The substance is sticky. Blades of grass and feathers sprinkle his body. The sound of a spray can SPSHHHHHHHHH wakes him up as a rubber mask is placed over his head. Tanner blinks several times, gaining a grasp on reality once more. He can see through the small holes of his mask. The three deer-masked tree-humpers rush away from the scene, vanishing into the forest, into Mother Nature. They are her safe-keepers. Man, Tanner isn’t with it. He tastes blood in his mouth.

Now, Tanner clues into the fact he’s tied up against a tree. His body is wrapped in rope and cannot move at all! His mouth is stuffed with rags, making him gurgle for help. He’s covered in red spraypaint, chicken feathers, and grass. Eventually, help arrives as the crew returns to the deforestation site with the RCMP and an ambulance.

The news also shows up. They’re fast buggers. Video cameras and flashing photography are all over him as the RCMP cut him free from the tree. They remove his mask, letting him see it is a rubber chicken. He’s seen this mask at the dollar store. It’s not 100% accurate for the animals in the forest, but hey, it got the message across.

Those damn tree-humpers. They made a joke of Tanner. Tycho . . . the accomplice. Chances are Tanner won’t be seeing him again any time soon. He’s best not to rat on the guy either. Tycho made his point pretty clear and these guys don’t seem to be shy of violence. Hudson had it right all along – be afraid and ditch your coworkers when danger arrives. For real, that’s what animals do in the wild. Mother Nature’s Guardians were the apex predators. Survival of the fittest. Tanner learned about Darwinism in school. Plus, in the end, all Tanner wants is some cash because he wants to go to college, because shit like this fiasco isn’t worth it, because they made him into a chicken man. Thus, Tanner is looking for a new job.

Nature's Apex by Konn Lavery
Author Konn Lavery

About Konn Lavery

Konn Lavery is a Canadian author whose work has been recognized by Edmonton’s top five bestseller charts and by reviewers such as Readers’ Favorite, and Literary Titan.

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