This is part three of a four part collaborative story where each part is written by a different author. Links to part one and part two are below – you should read these first (and give their blog some love at the same time):
- Part one by Paul J Willet (We love the stars too fondly)
- Part two by Peter MacDonald (Words and things)
Just five minutes into entering the marsh, she was second guessing her decision to check out the site. Within ten minutes she definitely regretted leaving the road; the marsh was a slimy, boggy, mess. She jumped from one mound of grass to the next, trying to stay on solid ground, but slipping and falling on her arse more than once. She was only grateful that she had left her pack under a junked car, its weight would have made this exercise even more difficult, and any hope of a rapid escape impossible.
God the water stunk though. A rotting compost smell that when combined to the acrid burning metal fumes from the rockets, made her stomach churn and her throat burn.
Fuck this, she thought, grunting as she dragged her trapped foot out of the mire. Every step came out with a deep sucking ‘slortch’, and she had nearly lost a shoe on numerous occasions.
What the hell am I doing? Helicopter has already bombed the shit out of whatever the hell this is, so what can I possibly gain from hiking in this shithole of a swamp? There wont be anything to scavenge, certainly nothing to eat, and I’m exposed out here from every side… Curiosity killed the cat right? I am a fucking idiot for coming out here.
She looked over her shoulder, back to the relative safety of the road.
I should go back. That’s the clever thing to do. Caution over curiosity keeps you alive little miss kitty-cat.
But… the choking chemical smoke left over from the rockets impact had mostly subsided by this stage and she could see tantalising remnants of the helicopter’s target.
Damn it, I’ve gotta see what this is. OK Ms Kitty, you can be curious. Just be careful too.
She approached the area. Carefully. The remains of the attack formed a large dark flat mound rising out of the murk. Some small patches were still on fire, oddly bubbling away in a black smoking liquid. It looked like it might have originally been about the size of a large tent or caravan, at least before the attack. Now it was blackened from the fire and the explosions had left if opened to the air. The still burning fires had melted much of whatever it was originally, along the way away exposing a series of odd pointed beams, running in parallel facing pairs. She wasn’t far now, and it looked a lot like the upturned frame of a wooden boat.
No way its a boat out here; water isn’t deep enough. Some sort of vehicle? Maybe a hunting cabin?
The gentle ocean breeze shifted again, picking up a strong new smell, straight from the site and wafted it directly over to her. A charnel stink of cooking meat, burning fat. The corrupted odour of a greasy fry-up and rancid milk. Her gut somersaulted, and she barely kept the old orange she had eaten down.
Oh my god, its ribs, those beams sticking up are fucking ribs and this thing was alive.
‘Was’ being the operative word here, the helicopter had been thorough in its destructive work. This thing, whatever it was, was certainly dead now. Digging briefly into her pack, she withdrew a long woollen scarf and tied it around her head to cover her mouth and nose. Slowly she continued forward squelching through blackened water up to her knees until she came within reach of the blackened carcass.
The grotesque corpse lay sunken in the marsh. It’s enormity seemed impossible, and brought to mind ancient great and extinct beasts, dinosaurs and mammoths. It was several meters long, and a couple of meters wide, and terminated with short stumpy limbs – at each extremity was a fat weirdly jointed fin, vaguely reminiscent of a seals. Few ribs were intact, but those that were complete stood taller than her by half, and as thick as a man’s thigh. The creature’s spine was clearly visible and it became apparent that the ribs curved the wrong way, stretching out over its back in a wide arc instead of circling forward as you would expect a chest to do. Grey rubbery skin had peeled back from the blast exposing carbonised muscles, blistering black and yellow fat wicked the few remaining flames and bubbled away, boiling.
Wait a minute… where… where are its organs?
Indeed, now she looked into the ruined beast’s ribcage, there was a distinct lack of the organs that she expected to see. She scanned the immediate area. Here and there she could recognise a few scraps, something that might have passed for a lung perhaps, a kidney over here, a tiny gut over there, but that was it. With such a massive chest cavity, she should expect to see a veritable abattoir of carnage resulting from the helicopter’s weapons.
If the ribs didn’t protect organs, what was in there? And where the fuck did it go? She looked around – was someone here? Had they taken something? Or had something left of its own accord? That’s it kitty, we’re done here, back to the road, curiosity is OVER. But even now she knew that was a lie. Even if someone or something was still near, she had one last thing to check.
She moved towards the front of the beast.
She needed to look at its head.
Ah, again, such a hard exercise writing someone else’s story. I’m a bit worried that this is part three and perhaps I should have progressed things further towards the resolution than I have… oh well, we may have to see whether someone picks it up and runs with it!
Let me know what you think in the comments.