Sorry for the long absence. I kept meaning to write something specifically for Jabberings, but I never really got around to it as I've been doing school and a rather hefty new novel. I did, however, write this short story last semester, and since it's all I've got... here you go. =)
If you like Jurassic Park you'll probably like this. If not... sorry. I would write comedy or something but I epically fail at that.
(I just realized as I copied and pasted that it's kinda long. =P)
“We have to split up. There’s no way anyone’s going to get out of here alive if we don’t.”
The remaining five survivors of the crash were huddled together at the base of a colossal tree. Three days with no food and little water had taken their toll.
A branch cracked near them, and they all jumped. Their de facto leader, the tall, strong young man called Devin, motioned them to be silent. They all froze in their places, hardly daring to breathe.
Another branch cracked, and then another. A few ferns rustled, and a little whisper of wind worried some old, decaying leaves up from the rainforest floor, driving them into the survivors’ faces.
“We have to split up now,” Devin whispered. “It’s coming. It can’t hunt three different groups.”
The others stared at him. Five was obviously not divisible by three. Had he gone mad because of the strain he was under? Was he hallucinating now? They edged away from him slightly, uneasy.
“I’ll go alone and distract him while the rest of you split into two groups and try to make it to the city. Go now, or he’ll be too close and there’ll be nothing I can do,” Devin added. The others looked at each other, confused.
“I thought we were all trying to get out,” one of them, a girl of about twenty-two years, offered uncertainly. Devin shook his head.
“We were before, but that’s mostly out of the question now,” he said grimly. “Go. Please go now. There’s no time for discussion.”
There was a long, wailing roar from somewhere in the rainforest. Everyone paled visibly, even Devin. They needed no urging to run then. The four others split into two groups and sprinted away, leaving Devin standing alone under the tree. Once he was sure they were gone, he knelt, facing the tree, and took out the long, sharp knife he had concealed in his right pant leg. His face was haggard; all the exhaustion he had been hiding from the others was surfacing.
He took a deep breath and set the blade of his knife against the palm of his left hand. The only way to keep their pursuer from following the others instead of him was to let it smell his blood. It was like a shark that way; it followed blood.
He bit his tongue and sliced his hand. His blood dripped down his knife blade onto the ground, and he clenched his teeth against the pain. The cut had been deep, deeper than he had intended. He had not sliced any of the tendons, but his hand would hurt for a while.
So much the better. The more he bled, the faster the pursuer would come to him. And he would be ready—oh yes, he would be quite ready. He sat with his back against the tree and let his hand bleed onto its exposed roots, where the dirt would not absorb the blood and cover up the scent.
A little less than a minute had passed when he heard the sound of a large creature trying to be stealthy. He stood up, cleaned his knife on his pant leg, sheathed it, and prepared to run. His hand was still bleeding a little bit, but that was all right because it nearly ensured that the pursuer would follow him.
The noise was very close now. He jumped away from the tree and began running—not as fast as he could, since he might lose the pursuer, but fast enough to provide it with a tantalizing quarry.
Almost the moment he began running, he heard a huge crash and a roar as the pursuer came to the tree and realized that the bearer of the blood on the tree was gone. He sped up as the pursuer caught his scent and bounded after him.
Branches tore at him as he ran, tearing his already-ragged clothes even more. He did not allow it to slow him down, though; he ran as if his life depended on running, which it did. Not only his life depended on it—the lives of the four others did as well. This thought gave him endurance when he felt like he could go no further.
He ran until he came to a small clearing. The pursuer was crashing through the trees behind him, but it was far enough away that he could make his plans before it got to him. This clearing had room to maneuver and plenty of tall trees on the edges. He scrambled up a tree and crouched on one of its huge branches near the trunk.
Then he waited.
The pursuer rocketed into the clearing a few seconds after he perched in the tree. It sniffed the air a few times and shifted its weight back on its haunches, ready to spring if Devin showed himself. Devin held his breath and stayed completely motionless. The pursuer was almost directly underneath him. If he moved, he would be dead and the others would not have had enough time to get to the city.
This gave him time to observe what, exactly, had been following him. It was definitely reptilian, but it was far larger and faster than a Komodo dragon. It looked a little like an extremely large panther, although it was scaly and it had a reptile’s head, feet, and tail. Devin remembered the local legends about the creature that lived in the swamps of the Amazon. He had not really thought they were credible… until now.
Suddenly, from approximately his twelve o’clock, he heard a shrill, desperate scream. Obviously, the creature did, too; it turned toward the sound and away from the bloody handprints Devin had left on the tree trunk.
“No, no, no,” Devin muttered. “Run the other way. Stop screaming. That isn’t going to help you.”
A girl ran into the clearing, hotly pursued by a young man. With a shock, Devin realized that they were two of the other survivors. The creature saw them also and let out a roar. They both froze. They were too far away for Devin to see their faces, but he was sure they were terrified. He had no time to think—just to act. He jumped out of the tree and landed hard on the monster’s back. It hissed in surprise and wheeled around. Somehow Devin managed to get his knife out.
“Run! Get out of here!” he screamed at the top of his lungs. The girl took his advice and dashed away. The young man stayed frozen for a moment and then scrambled toward a tree.
“No! Run!” Devin shouted hoarsely. The creature bucked, trying to throw him off. He plunged his knife into its back, intending to hit its spine and kill it, but he missed by the tiniest fraction of an inch and pierced one of its lungs instead. It shrieked in agony and rose up on its hind legs, shaking violently. Devin was thrown off and landed against the base of a tree, smashing his head. He tried to get up, but he was so dizzy that he could not move. The creature howled and shook itself again. It turned toward Devin, and he squeezed his eyes shut. He was all but defenseless without his knife, so he knew he would not last long. He could almost feel the creature’s teeth tearing at him.
The expected pain did not come, though, and Devin finally cracked one eye open to see what had happened.
The creature was leaping up at the young man who had climbed a tree. The young man was bleeding, probably because he had caught himself somewhere on the tree. This was apparently what had attracted the monster. The monster’s claws shredded the ancient tree’s bark as it tried to climb up to the young man. Devin struggled to his feet. The young man attempted to pull himself up to a higher branch, but his hands slipped. Devin watched, frozen in horror, as the young man plummeted toward the monster.
It was as if time slowed down. Devin started running, although he felt as if he was running in quicksand. He simply could not move fast enough. The creature’s jaws were opening; the young man had fallen almost into them. The jaws started to snap shut; Devin kept running and started shouting at the creature, even though he knew it would probably do little good in the long run.
Miraculously, just before the young man fell into the creature’s mouth, he caught a branch with one hand. For a second, he dangled there, and then he started trying to get back up the tree. Devin kept running. He was almost there… so close…
The creature sprang and caught the young man’s legs in its mouth. The young man shrieked in agony. The sound was so desperate, so raw and animal, that it stopped Devin in his tracks. The monster came down from the tree with the young man in its mouth. The young man screamed until the monster grabbed him by the torso and shook him hard. His screams were silenced immediately, and he became limp. Devin moved to run again, this time away from the creature. There was no use in attacking it now; it had its prey. The only thing Devin could do was make sure that the girl arrived at the city safely. She probably could not make it on her own.
As Devin took his first running step, the creature’s head came up and it eyed him carefully. The young man’s blood was dripping from its fangs. Devin was surprised to see the obvious intelligence in its eyes. This was no mere animal that had been hunting him. Certainly, it behaved somewhat like a shark, but its mental capacity far surpassed a shark’s. Devin could see that clearly now.
The creature began moving toward him, slavering. Oddly, he was reminded of the legendary basilisk; a single glance could kill a man, or so the story went.
There was no time for such foolish thinking. The creature had begun running. Devin feinted a lunge to his right as the creature sprang, but then he ran left, in the direction the girl had run. He had to find her—but he was still bleeding. He would attract the monster with his sheer presence.
That was a risk he had to take. The girl would probably attract the monster anyway; it seemed to be able to smell fear, like a dog. Devin was convinced that the girl was terrified. He had seen her run, and he knew too well that only people who are afraid for their lives run that way.
He tracked her to a river. That was smart of her; the river would cover up her scent, unless she had not actually gone into it. Her tracks led into the water, but there were no tracks leading out on the other side. Devin cursed. Apparently she had been carried downriver. There was no way for him to find her unless he got into the river, too.
Just as he was about to jump into the river, he felt, rather than heard, something coming toward his head. He ducked, and a branch swung right where his head had been. Startled, he wheeled around and came face-to-face with the girl, who was clutching a huge branch in both her hands. When she saw who Devin was, she relaxed.
“Oh. I thought you were someone else,” she gasped. She staggered, and Devin put out a hand to keep her from falling down. She pushed it away, shaking her head.
“I’m fine,” she protested. “Just… just out of breath. That’s all. Where’s the other one?”
Other one? It took Devin a moment to figure out what she meant. Then he remembered the young man who had been accompanying the girl.
“He… um… well…” Devin could not formulate an easy response. Finally he shrugged. “He’s dead,” he said bluntly. The girl sighed. Devin had thought that she would take this news badly, but instead, he could have sworn that she looked relieved.
“He didn’t know the meaning of ‘survival situation.’ He tried to get a little too… um…” She broke off and blushed. Devin understood what she meant immediately. He could not keep a look of disgust from crossing his face.
“Thus, I guess, your screaming?” he asked. The girl nodded, and Devin sighed, although it came out more like a growl than a sigh.
There was a gigantic crash right behind Devin. He caught a glimpse of the creature’s wide-open jaws, and he grabbed the girl’s arm and dragged her into the river with him. She did not resist, even when he pushed her under the water to keep the creature from seeing her.
He was not so lucky, though. The creature managed to snag the side of his face with a claw, leaving a deep, painful gash. Devin immediately pressed it with his hand and submerged.
He stayed down as long as he could. Somehow he was still holding the girl’s arm, but she struggled free of his grip just before he resurfaced.
When he came back up, he could hear the creature roaring back where they had jumped into the water. It was a swamp-loving creature, but apparently not a deep river-loving one. He breathed a sigh of relief, even though he knew it was probably premature.
The girl was floating next to him, treading water, but letting the current move her as it was moving him.
“Are you okay?” he whispered. His voice was gone, likely from all the screaming and shouting he had done earlier.
“Yes, but you’re not. You’ve got blood all over your face,” the girl replied. Devin touched his burning cheek, and his hand came away bloody. His tongue explored the inside of his cheek and he found that it was sore, too.
“Yeah, I think he got the whole way through,” he mumbled, trying not to move his cheek too much. The girl looked keenly at his cheek.
“I’ll say. You’ll be lucky if you don’t have a scar that takes up half your face.”
“Is it really that bad?”
The girl frowned, as if judging how much she could say.
“Um… yes. It’s not just a cut. He ripped away a good bit of skin, too. I guess his claws are kind of…”
A roar echoed in the rainforest, much closer than the last one.
“…dull,” the girl finished quietly. Devin motioned to her to dive again, and he did the same. They swam downstream as far as they could, and then they came back up to catch their breath. The monster roared again, and Devin could hear it crashing through the undergrowth.
“It’s onto us,” he muttered, and went back under. The girl followed his lead, and they swam as fast as they could toward the city, which was on the river.
The creature pursued them until the river flowed out of the rainforest. Then it stopped and stood just inside the confines of the trees. Devin resurfaced just in time to see it stand up on its hind legs and roar its anger at him. The noise sent a chill down his spine.
The city loomed up on his left, and he dragged himself out of the river. He made it most of the way out and then collapsed. The girl, who was surprisingly strong, pulled him the rest of the way and shouted for help. He faded in and out of consciousness, worn down by the lack of food and water and loss of blood.
Soon he heard feet running toward him. His tired body tensed, but he forced himself to relax. The girl did not seem upset, so the feet had to be help coming. He could not fight the way he was, anyway.
Hands picked him up and put him on a stretcher. He relaxed and finally let himself go to sleep.
When he woke up, the right side of his face was bandaged, as was his left hand. He opened his eyes slowly and looked around. He was lying in a hospital bed in a remarkably clean room. When he turned his head a little to his left, he saw the girl watching him.
“I don’t think I ever got your name,” he tried to say, but his tongue felt thick and he could not get the words out properly. The girl smiled, though.
“I’m Beth.” She paused for a moment. “The other two made it out safely, too. You did it, Devin. Everything’s going to be okay now.”
Devin realized that he had been coiled tight as a spring. Once he knew that everyone was all right, though, he relaxed completely and smiled as much as he could.
He went back to sleep.