Hey. Remember me? I’m the one who used to, pretty consistently, write and upload one piece of flash fiction a week, on this blog.
I don’t know what happened. Either I got dragged into a dark hole of self doubt, or I lounged too much with new books in hand. Either one is just as possible as the other. It’s not even because I haven’t written anything these past three or four weeks. I have, I just never finished the stories I wrote. They are clogging up Scrivener as we speak.
Oh well. Lets not dwell on the sad past. Because I am back! With, what Chuck Wendig has called, The Cooperative Cliffhanger, Part 1. My assignment, should I choose to accept, is to write a cliffhanger that someone else, hopefully, will want to finish next week.
So I’ve written a little piece, about a small stag party, a jungle planet and some weird creatures. As always I’ve spent too much time digging around in the details to really know if it is any good, but never mind, here it is.
By Trine Toft Schmidt
“Can’t we just go back to the shuttle? ” Harry screwed the lid off his canteen. The water tasted funky, but he sucked it down anyway, since it was a sweltering hundred and four and the humidity was off the charts.
“Naw. Remember we are making a man out of you. For Jenny’s sake.” Kenny smirked and wiped a hand across his brow.
“I really don’t see how hiking through dense jungle, getting eaten by golf ball sized mosquitoes and hacking away at creepers will make me any more of a man.” Harry screwed the lid back on the canteen, and hung it on his belt. Bart grabbed the opportunity to get into his ever present lecture mode.
“You know, hunting has been a ritual of manhood since the fir…”
“Oh shut it, Bart.” Kenny bit into a piece of jerky and chewed vigorously. “Come on, it’ll be fun.”
“Blah! As if you’d know.” Bart scowled and pouted like a little kid.
“I told you, we used to camp out on Aristo when I was a kid. Two weeks every summer, hunting and living off the land. It was great.”
“So, couldn’t we have gone to Aristo instead? This place seriously gives me the creeps.” Harry kept his eyes on the foliage around him. He didn’t like the deafening silence that had fallen, when they’d stepped off the shuttle. Nor the sounds of snapping branches that seemed to follow their trek into the jungle. The others didn’t seem to notice.
“Aristo is like a fucking kiddie ride. Utopia is the real deal, it’s all, hunt or be hunted.” Kenny grinned and tightened the knot on his bandanna.
“I don’t like it, thats all. I’m pretty sure something is watching us.” Harry knew he sounded childish, but the hairs on the back of his neck were standing to attention and he had constant shivers running up and down his spine.
“Whine whine whine.” Kenny scrounged up his face and rubbed his fists into his eyes mockingly. Then he slung his riffle over his shoulder and yanked the machete out of the log he’d driven it into. “ Come on, it’s time to roll, girls.” He pushed through a curtain of vines and Harry listened to the rhythmic twack-twack of the machete and wished he could just goback to the shuttle. Then he sighed, the sooner the trigger happy idiot got to shoot something big and semi-dangerous, the sooner they could all go back and get wasted.
Something rustled in the bushes behind him.
He spun around, gripping his riffle hard and Bart snickered behind him.
“Relax Harry, I told you, it’s just snifflers or maybe a mantelle. The book says this part of Utopia is rife with small game.” Bart patted the travel guide in his front pocket. But Harry had heard things about Utopia and he doubted facts in any book could hold back a giant Tree Cougar, or the Crawler Bear if they decided to join the party.
Bart shook his head and disappeared through the vines.
A flock of Hopper Geese squawked and rose from the forest floor as if spooked by something and Harry slid his riffle off his shoulders and hurried after Bart, down the haphazard path Kenny had carved out of the dense vegetation..
“Hey, wait up!” Harry wrapped his finger around the trigger guard, he was almost running, but kept scanning the forest around him. There, something moved behind a tree to his right, but the murky colours, the deep shadows and the vertical shapes of tree trunks made details blurry. Was that a set of blinging red eyes, or just leafs swaying? He couldn’t tell.
A scream followed by a thick gurgling sound, pierced the silence. The sound of Kenny’s machete stopped. Bart stopped in the middle of the track and Harry almost barged into him.
“Fuck. Kenny?” They both started running, snagging on branches and vines, feet getting caught in the twisting roots that pushed up through the forest floor.
Together they rounded a bend in the path and there was Kenny’s machete, glinting in a wavering ray of light. It was smeared with dark red droplets. Kenny was nowhere to be seen.
“Kenny, goddammit, stop playing games!” Bart was wheezing like an asthmatic kid, spinning around, his eyes darting here and there. Something growled ferociously from above and Harry looked up, just as Kenny’s hand fell out of the canopy and smacked into the ground before him. A creature with long backwards bent legs and a triangular head jumped out of the tree into the next. Something long, floppy and very much dead human dangled from it’s mouth.
“Oh my god, it killed Kenny!” Bart swept his riffle up and started shooting. “You bastard!” He emptied the twenty round clip at the animal that effortlessly jumped from tree to tree in a wide circle around them.
Harry’s finger was cramping around the trigger guard, his whole body locked in panic and horror.
“What the fuck was that thing?” Bart didn’t answer, just fumbled a new mag into the riffle and spun around, tracking the animal.
There was a creaking sound and Bart shot up into the air, thrashing from the mouth of another beast. His screams filled the forest and Harry flung himself down on the ground. The animal, crushed Bart’s head, with a loud crunch, with a spray of blood and hair raining down over Harry.
“Oh god.” Hewanted to curl up in a foetal position and cry, but instead he scrabbled backwards, up against a tree, and aimed his Ruger at the creature. With a roar he pulled at the trigger, ignoring the recoil that slammed him back into the trunk.
The shots hammered into tree trunks behind the bounding creature, sending a flurry of splinters into the air. When the gun clicked, the creature stopped and Harry could swear it smirked down at him.
Then new movements directly overhead caught his attention.
He looked up and knew he was going to die.
Above him, a dozen creatures were making their way down tree trunks, their claws clicking and red eyes blinking in sync.