PROMPT/CHALLENGE SUMMARY: Time for round four of Chuck Wendig's collaborative flash fiction challenge! We're coming to the end of things now, pushing the stories forward toward next week's conclusions. It should be interesting to see how people tie these things up. A bunch of them are making me want to keep writing them for another 10,000 word. Or okay, since I can't write short stories, probably 100,000 words. This week I decided to go with a story started by Liz Neering and continued by Andrea Speed and Kyra Dune. As I've been doing, I haven't marked out the places where the author changes for the sake of reading continuity, though those links will take you to each evolution of the story. My contribution picks up with He disappeared between one heartbeat and the next...
(Source: Chuck Wendig's blog)
Isa stood in the deer blind, the tip of her rifle pointed through the narrow slat out towards the forest beyond. To her teammate she looked like a stranger, a bundle of cold-weather clothing with only a thin strip of brown skin showing between scarf and snow goggles. The brown strip turned to face him, black eyes a shadow behind polarized plastic.
"I fucking hate these sneaking missions," she said. "I just want to shoot something. I don't think that's a lot to ask."
Tyler snorted. Behind the heavy fur lining of his coat, he opened his mouth to speak, sending a puff of white into the air. But whatever he meant to say was lost in the sudden crunch of snow, the snapping of evergreen boughs. The hunters' eyes snapped back to the woods.
Lumbering out from the treeline was a massive creature, wrapped in battered leather, dragging a heavy metal ball and chain. Blood dripped from its mouth and hands. Its head turned as it scanned the field. The hunters drew close together, crowding around the blind's small opening.
"I can shoot it, right?" Isa hissed. "It's far enough away. The others won't hear." Tyler shouldered into her, shaking his head. But neither moved the muzzles of their rifles, and neither took their eyes off the beast.
Isa then saw a flash out of the corner of her eye, a swift movement that almost made her flinch, and was enough to tear her eyes away from her target. "What the hell was that?"
"What was what?" Tyler asked.
She pulled out her binoculars and scanned the shadows where she had seen it. Right now she saw nothing but darkness. "I think we have a secondary contact," she said, even though she had no visual confirmation. After a while, instinct took over, and her instinct told her they were being watched, even though they were well hidden in the blind. The problem was, the blind wasn't camouflage from everything. Just most things.
Tyler snickered. "Getting nervous?"
She tapped her earpiece, and said, "Team two, come in." They were higher up the range, and theoretically had a better vantage point.
Normally communication was instantaneous. But there was nothing but a white noise hiss over the line. "Team two, respond."
Now Tyler's eyes flicked towards hers, his jaw tightening in annoyance. He hit his own earpiece. "Team two, report."
Nothing. That wasn't good.
There was an odd thunk on the roof of the blind, followed by a dry scritching. Isa's stomach burned, and she tightened her grip on her rifle. Something was on top of them.
"Still think it's just my nerves?" Isa asked through clenched teeth.
Tyler eyed the roof. "No. And I don't think we better wait around for Team two, either." He moved toward the door.
"Whoa, wait a minute." Isa grabbed his arm. "Where do you think you're going?"
"I thought you wanted to shoot something."
"Yeah, but I don't want to get killed in the process. You have no idea what's up there."
The scritching sounded again, followed by a squealing sound which could only be strips of the tin roof being peeled off. "I don't know about you," Tyler said, "but I don't like the idea of being stuck in here like a sardine in a can. At least outside we have some room to maneuver."
Isa hesitated, then gave a brisk nod. With both hands firmly grasping her rifle, she followed Tyler out the door.
He disappeared between one heartbeat and the next, gone in the whisper of a not-quite breeze and a pattering rain of something thick and liquid. Isa pulled back into the blind, instinct guiding her.
Her mind tugged apart the flash of what she'd manage to see, trying to make sense of it. Red eyes. A gaping wet mouth. Too many legs, four of which had torn her partner to bits. Wet slurping and dry cracking met her ears. Her stomach twisted into a hard knot and shoved bile burning up to the back of her mouth.
The sound was coming from both sides. She crept to the lookout, searching for the monster they'd been sent here for.
It was gone, lost in a mass of furry legs and bodies. There had to be at least a dozen of them, making quick work of the giant's corpse.
She'd never get past them all.
Her brain disconnected from the scene, training focusing her on survival and shoving the details aside to be dealt with later. She activated the distress beacon on her utility belt, sparing a brief second to send up a prayer that she would still be alive when the extraction team found her.
Then she reached into her pack, silently extracting a pair of grenades.