Predator Update

Snippets and gibbets, rough draft. Forced march, scorched earth, five thousand words a day through the end of the month. (To explain why I won’t be as email responsive or online as much for awhile.)

Jeff

As a child, growing up in Siberia, the daughter of an exiled dissident, her mother an unwilling accomplice–resentful and remote–Mariyakova had gone walking with her friends on the ice of a nearby river one winter. The ice had broken, she’d fallen in, could not get out. The shock of the cold across her face and legs had numbed her and set her on fire all at once, and as she struggled, even then, a kind of preternatural calm had come over her, a kind of peace. As hypothermia eased the pain, as the ice hardened and she was taken by the current so that she was underneath the ice, her face pressed up to it, torn between gasping for breath and holding it in, her hands battering against the ice, Mariyakova could feel the retreating footsteps of her friends as they ran for help. She could see the weak disk of the sun hazy above her, could also see the minute imperfections in the ice: the bubbles, the fissures, and even as the water filled her lungs and she drowned, there was a kind of rapture, a kind of desire for both death and for life, to exist forever at this point between, that she was almost disappointed when she came to in the hospital.

***

A demon had come to the island. It was common to encounter demons in the jungle. The only question now: what kind of demon was it, and how could it be defeated, killed, or sent back to where it had come from. He watched and re-watched the whole thing: the rhino’s death, the flight of the men, with a cold-blooded calm. He’d seen worse. In real-time, the monitors showed his four guests running down the gravel road toward the lodge. Rath sighed. The one problem with the guests, no matter how they pretended otherwise, most of them were children under the skin, and like children, they would need reassurance. He needed to resolve the security issues, but first he would have to talk to his guests.

***

Something lifted Peake up, wrenched his rifle away and sent it spinning into the grass a hundred feet away, then brought hiim down into the grass, just a few feet in front of Horia. His insides turned to water. He fired into the space in front of him, Colquhoun off to the side, Tau down on one knee so that Horia could just see his head above the grass. Peake rose spluttering from the sea of grass, his back to the creature, while Horia continued to fire, but wasn’t hitting anything, couldn’t see anything. Peake was damaged in some fundamental way, was holding his side. Horia was backing away, they were all backing away from him.