Sandgroper

Reads: 24  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

Geololgist Aron, is investigating the unexplained pinnacle formations on the West Australian Coast. A sandstorm sweeps in from the Coral coast and brings hell along for the ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandgroper

By Lee Franklin

 

 

The pinnacle ruptured the earth like a fractured bone through torn flesh. It towered over me as I threaded the LED endoscope into the small hole I’d drilled into the formation. Beneath my hand, the gritted rock felt both immutable yet fragile.

A gust of wind billowed in, picking up the sand and hurling grit against my bare arms and legs. Goosebumps rippled my skin. When we arrived, the wind had been a desert-scalded easterly, sucking the moisture out of the air. It seemed to have snapped round by 180 degrees, to come cool and damp straight off the Coral Coast a few kilometres away to the west.

The last gaggle of tourists left on their bus about twenty minutes ago.

Hunched over the screen, protecting it from the wind, I turned it on to check if it was working.

“Aron!” Damon’s voice broke through the weather.

Irritation scratched down my back at his impatience. I flipped him the bird over my shoulder. Mum and Dad’s idea of brotherly bonding, yeah great. Just two hours, that’s all I’d asked him for. Two hours to place motion sensor cameras in ten of the pinnacles. It had taken me over a year to get permission, and this research was for my final paper. Less than an hour, and already he was busting my balls.

Head down, I moved the endoscope around the interior of the pinnacle. Dust and a few insects skittered around. A shadow cut across the corner of the lens. What the hell?

I swung it around, and the shadow moved down. I followed it to the base of the formation only to lose it in a cloud of dust. As the dust settled, a pile of white rocks poked through the dirt. I had found this in the base of other formations and was part of what I wanted to investigate. They looked like bones.

“Aron . . . storm!”

I noticed that Damon’s trademark wheedling tone had changed. It was enough to make me pause. 

I searched the cloudless blue sky above, and irritation bit down once more. Still, the wind was getting impossible.  Sand lashed the backs of my legs, thousands of needle points raking my calves.

Damon still owed me an hour. We would have to return on the way home to retrieve my data. No doubt he would complain about it, but too bad. A deal was a deal.

I picked up my backpack with my equipment and patted the rock with affection. Damon had never understood my fascination with rocks. Ever since I could remember, and much to my mother’s chagrin, my pockets would be full of gravel, rocks, and pebbles. I spent hours watching the sun glitter through a piece of quartz, running my fingers over the waves and lines in river pebbles. Stories of generations carved into being, waiting to be read, understood; their history revealed.

I strode back towards the car park; strong gusts slammed into my back, almost sending me over. I’m gonna find sand in my hair, ears and unknown places where sand shouldn’t be, for months. I grinned. Part of the job.

Definitely not part of Damon’s job, I noted, as he hid in the cab of my Toyota Hilux with his girlfriend Albie.

Scowling, Damon thumped the steering wheel and blasted the horn, the screech cutting through the wind.

God, what an arsehole. I couldn’t believe I had ever looked up to him. I reckoned he was jealous of my career. If he had put as much effort in his schoolwork as he did the gym, well . . .

Then I thought of Albie with those well-muscled legs; that cute, freckled nose and serene smile. Jealousy took a bite out of me too.

Damon stood half out of the Hilux, his head tucked down, his arm waving me in.

Albie’s expression from inside the cab made it serious. Her eyes were wide in fear, her mouth firing off as she jabbed her finger at the sky behind me. I turned and faced a world tinted sepia as a brown wave filled the sky, rushing towards me, ready to break. The wind battered me, dust thickened the air.

“Sandstorm! Holy fucking shit,” I yelled and bolted like a rabbit. Desperate, my legs surged towards the safety of the Hilux, feet twisting and stumbling on the formations hidden under the rippling sand.

Panting with fear as much as exertion, I bolted with blind determination. I didn’t dare to look back. Something small and hard flicked my cheek; more followed like a volley of dried out spitballs, as I ran through the clouds of dust.

Flick, flick, the stinging hits kept on coming; hitting my face and body. I couldn’t see much of anything save for the dust settling thick on my sunglasses.

Damon pushed the back door open for me and I collided with it in my blind panic. I slid into the backseat, gasping for air, and slammed the door shut behind me.

“Go! Go! Go!” I shouted, wondering why we weren’t already spinning out of the car park.

“Took your fucking time. Now we ain’t going anywhere until this damn whatever-this-is passes,” Damon said, pointing at the windscreen. Like a thick fog in shades of brown, we only had about a foot’s visibility as the sand pinged against the metal shell of the 4WD. “How did you not notice that?” 

“The sandstorm?” I asked, spitting out the grit.

“No shit Sherlock!”

“I dunno man, I was walking with my back towards it for the last half an hour. I guess I just got distracted.”

“You’re always distracted, Aron. You got bloody lucky, always you and your bastard rock hunting.”

I rolled my eyes at him and accepted a bottle of water from Albie. I dived into her brown eyes. Even scared, Albie was beautiful. A few weeks ago, I thought we had a moment. A guy could dream that she would pass up the brawn for the brains. They’d been arguing a lot lately.

The wind howled around us, sudden blasts rocked and pummelled the Hilux. Flick, flick, flick. My top pocket jiggled. I reached my hand down into the pocket of my shirt, wrapping my fingers around a small, squirming shell, and lifted it to the cabin light.

“Hah.” I laughed, amused as I watched the insect, kicking and flicking its tail in futile attempts to escape. About six centimetres long, its shell glistened in shades of gold. Its front legs were paddle-like, perfect for digging all day. Four more stumpy legs protruded halfway down the body, then it was all tail.

“Ew, that’s gross,” Albie said, leaning away from me in the front passenger side of the cab. “What is it?” Her curiosity took over as she leant back over the front seat to take a closer look. 

“This is where us West Aussies get our nickname, Sandgroper, from. This little guy is the original sandgroper. Hey, Damon, do you remember Sunny Sandgroper with Fat Cat from when we were kids?”

“Not really, Aron,” Damon lied, looking at the bug under a scowl of disgust as it bucked and twisted between my fingers. “Get rid of that thing! How did you get it, anyway?” 

“Dunno, I was running towards the car and they all flew up at me, hitting me. I thought I was doing paintball.”

Damon cocked his eyebrow. “If you had ever tried paintball, you would know it would hurt a shitload more than this little bugger.”

I ignored his dig, but couldn’t ignore Albie’s sigh of frustration and pointed look in his direction. Was she tiring of his muscle-head arrogance?

She looked at me and rolled her eyes.

Maybe.

“So how long do these storms last?” Albie asked, transfixed by the gale crashing into the pickup. The wind roared and whipped around the vehicle, rocking it backwards and forwards. The roar was so loud we had to shout over the sound of the sand hitting the cab. I could only imagine the damage being done to the paintwork.

“Not long. Not very common out here. First one I’ve even heard of. A few willie-willies, now and then, but nothing like this,” I answered, still inspecting the sandgroper. I dropped the squirming insect as the Hilux lurched to the driver’s side.

“What the hell?” said Damon, as Albie toppled into his lap.

She had barely regained balance when the 4WD dropped to the other side and my head slammed against the window with a crack.

“Holy cow, what the hell was that?” Damon asked, trying to peer out, his breath misting the glass.

Albie braced herself against the interior. A lump swelled under my fingertips as I inspected the bang to my head. My heart hammered in my chest.

“Are we on some kind of sinkhole or something?” Damon asked.

“There aren’t any sinkholes out here, I don’t think.” 

“Yeah, like there aren’t any sandstorms either.”

“Look, I don’t know what the hell happened, okay? We’ll just have to wait for the storm to clear and then . . . Albie, Albie, what’s wrong?”

Albie’s face had frozen and paled, emphasising the splatter of freckles across her cheeks. Her eyes stared over Damon’s shoulder, locked on something outside. I couldn’t see anything, just a dense umber cloud pulsing against the Hilux.

“There’s something out there. I saw something move out there.”

“Bullshit,” Damon said. “Albie, you can’t see shit out there.”

“What did you see?” I asked peering out, as the 4WD rocked and groaned against the barrage of wind. 

“A shape. A shadow, it went past us.”

“Fucking sand, that’s all you saw,” Damon said. But I noticed he was no longer leaning with his back against the glass.

“With legs?” Albie asked.

With a massive thump, the 4WD drive rocked, and the window behind Damon’s head cracked. Before anybody could react, a second hit sent glass, sand and wind flying around the cab. A brown head forced itself through the window.

Small armour-like spikes studded the beast’s head, large mandibles clacked and chattered. Antennae probed, searching over Damon’s head before the thing reared up. A beak opened, shrieking as the mandibles clamped down tight on Damon’s shoulder.

The creature shook its head, throwing Damon around the cab before trying to wrench him outside.

Albie groaned in pain as Damon’s legs swung and kicked her in the face. Barbs from the creature’s head slashed the seats, the foam peeling open like flesh.

Albie grabbed his shirt, blood pouring from her nose as Damon screamed. His arms pistoned up and down, smashing at the monster’s head. His fists broke and tore against the spiked armour.

Blood spread around his shoulder as I threw myself between the seats and grabbed his legs. The abomination tugged on him, his shoulder jamming up hard against the quarter window.

The sandgroper released its grip on Damon and retreated into the swirling chaos outside.

Wind and sand screamed through the shattered window. Damon groaned in agony, his face pale with shock. The thing had torn the flesh of his shoulder open, and splintered fragments of bone glistened with blood.

Albie ripped off her T-shirt and plugged the wound with trembling arms. 

Damon’s body was jerking with shock as we tried to shift his weight away from the shattered window.

My brain fired a million questions, but none I had any answers for. Before I could put anything into words, a screech tore into the cab as the monster lurched back inside.

This time the monster’s mandibles closed around Damon’s head and pulled it into his open maw.

The jaws clamped down hard around his clavicles, the crunch of bone drowning out his screams.

Two dagger-like pincers stabbed down into the chest, grazing Albie’s hand.

I clung on fast to his legs. Damon’s screams vibrated through his body and into my arms as the creature hauled him through the broken window and into the storm outside.

With one hand curled tight in his T-shirt and the other on his jeans, it pulled me through with him.

Glass sliced into my chest and belly, drawing lines of fire through my body.

Half hanging out of the Hilux, I felt as if I were drowning in sand. It found every orifice and blasted its way in. I couldn’t find air to gasp. I refused to let go; my face burned in agony.

The strength of the insect would have taken me too, had it not been for Albie grabbing my legs.

With a violent tug, the creature tore Damon from my grip, leaving me swinging half out of the car, screaming his name into the storm.

Albie dragged me, sobbing and coughing, back into the cab.

I collapsed, trembling with adrenalin and terror. All I could hear was the roar of the wind as Albie leant over me, grabbing my face, streaks of tears running down her cheeks. Her mouth was moving at a hundred miles an hour, punching words at me. I wanted to react, I just couldn’t.

Albie used my gym towel to cover the hole and stop the torrent of sand blowing in. Wiping sand from her face, she checked the cuts on my stomach.

I winced as she pulled out bloodied slivers of glass before pressing the ragged remains of her T-shirt against the cuts. Her T-shirt soaked in Damon’s blood. Damon.

I’m not sure how long we lay there, wrapped in our terror and around each other. I wasn’t aware of time passing, but it was twilight by the time the storm had passed.

The silence was almost as scary as the roaring wind.

We shivered in the cold, blanketed by sand, our eyes crusted with grit and our noses clogged with dust. I sat up; sand trickled down my face as the world crept back into focus.

Albie jerked in panic, her fingers digging deep into my flesh. I pulled her rigid body close to me, murmuring soothing sounds. She melted into me with her head against my chest.

Holding her cocooned in my arms had been a dream of mine since the first time Damon brought her home. But not this moment, not with Damon . . .

My vision blurred with tears. I looked at her face, at the trails through the dust on her cheeks where her tears had run. I had lost him; I had lost my brother. Guilt and self-loathing settled in my gut like a granite boulder. I finally understood how seven-year-old Damon had felt, all those years ago.

“I’ve got to find him.”

“No, no, no,” she said, her eyes tearing up, her nails cutting into my arms as she held me tight. “You can’t leave me here, you won’t leave me here. I can’t. We need to drive out of here. I’m not stepping a foot outside. Not with that whatever the fuck that was.” Her eyes were wild with fear and desperation. I wondered for a moment if she would lose it.

“Albie, I don’t think the Hilux is going anywhere. I gotta find Damon, I don’t know how long he has.”

“You can’t, you can’t go out there with that . . . thing. He’s probably dead already,” she said, lifting her hand to her lips, trying to shove the words back into her mouth.

I rocked back as if she had slapped me.

“I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. But you can’t go out there, Aron, you can’t. Damon wouldn’t want you to.”

Tears burned my eyes, and a lump strangled my throat. I took my hands away from her shoulders and sat back. My hands clenched into fists, the knuckles white as the pain struck me like lightning burning my insides.

I collapsed into Albie’s arms and sobbed, my heart twisted into knots. Fuck that! No, it couldn’t be true. I wiped the snot and tears off my face. Damon was alive. I’m his brother, wouldn’t I know if he was dead?

“He never stopped looking for me, you know. When I was a kid.”

“Yeah, he told me you went missing out by Lane Poole Reserve when you were little.”

“I didn’t go missing. I was so angry at him for throwing my damned rock away. I hid away in the boulders, I must have fallen asleep, and I didn’t wake until it was dark.”

“You were a little kid, nobody blames you,” Albie said, squeezing my hand. “Aron, there was nothing we could have done. I mean, what the fuck was that? The sandstorm, the 4WD, we don’t even know, we don’t know a fucking thing. We’ll just sit here and wait for help. Besides, you know what happens in the horror movies when people split up.” She managed a tight smile, her eyes glassy with tears.

The 4WD shuddered and groaned under us, Albie threw herself on me, all calm forgotten.

I pried her fingers from around my neck and pushed my face up to check outside. It looked like the wheels had melted into the car park as sand banked up against the step.

Another thump and the cargo deck tilted over the tipping point. Our heads smacked against the roof as the rear end dropped into the earth with a crash. Tipped almost vertical, we slammed into the backseats with a dull thud and Albie’s head cracked against the rear window.

“Albie, Albie are you ok?”

She answered with a low moan.

I lifted her head towards me. A trickle of blood ran from her hairline, and her eyes were sleepy and glazed.

“Stay awake, Albie. Stay awake goddammit, we need to get out of here.”

Already the front end of the Hilux was shaking violently. Her head dropped and her eyes rolled back to the whites.

“Stay awake, Albie, stay awake. We’re going to get out of here.” 

“I’m not leaving here.” Her voice wobbled. “I’m not getting out of this truck.”

“Yes, you are,” I said, pulling her away from the back and climbing up through the car seats, dragging her along with me.

Above me, the stars twinkled in the night sky; beauty despite the horror. Underneath us, the Hilux groaned and clanged as the balance shifted. Shit!

“Brace yourself! Hang on!”

I twisted to jam my legs against the dash as the front end of the 4WD nose-dived; metal crumpling, lights and windows cracking under the impact.

As the bullbar crunched into the dirt, airbags exploded around my legs, sandwiching one and driving the other up into the back of the driver’s seat.

Albie’s arm swung back and smacked me in the face. Stars exploded and my eyes watered with the sudden pain.

Albie’s body rammed into the back of the front seats and jarred the shoulder I hadn’t yet pulled through.

A sharp stinging pain ballooned in my ankle and raced up my leg. I couldn’t see a thing and tried to pull myself up between the back seats. My shocked muscles burned with adrenaline.

I tugged on the foot caught between the airbags. I twisted it, agony exploding in my brain as it slid free, leaving my shoe behind. I crawled through to the back which had become vertical, panting with the effort.

Albie lay frozen with fear; blanketed in glass which glittered in the moonlight. I nudged her aside and swung myself around. My ankle screamed in rage with every movement. My bones ground against each other and I knew I had broken it.

I swallowed down the bile coating my throat. “Albie, you with me?”

Albie whimpered in response. Her eyes were wide open, her jaw slack. Her knuckles were white as she clung on to me.

“We’ve got to leave, now!”

I braced myself against the back of the front seats and kicked at the window with my good leg. Well, better leg. The glass cracked. Another two good kicks and it shattered, the cool night air a sweet kiss.

Sand trickled through the smashed windows, gathering momentum until it reached a flooding crescendo.

I swung around and pulled myself through the rear window, glass cutting into my hands. In the cargo deck, I turned and reached down into the cab, searching for Albie’s hand.

“Albie, take my hand.”

“I can’t. I can’t go out there,” she said, hysterics dulled by her concussion. 

“Do you wanna get buried alive in here? ’Cause I can tell you that is happening. Take my fucking hand now!”

Clammy, gritty fingers crept into mine, and I heaved. Albie scrambled through and into my arms. Smeared with blood, glass was embedded in the flesh of her cheeks. She trembled in my arms, and seemed so fragile I almost wept. I wanted to tell her that everything would be all right. I wanted to tell her I would keep her safe, yet the words died hollow in my throat. Damon couldn’t fight off that thing, and he was one of the strongest blokes I knew. What chance did I have?

The 4WD creaked and groaned underneath us, I snapped out of my self-pity. We were about a metre below ground level.

My heart hammered in my chest as the tell-tale wobbles of the 4WD tipped it ever so slightly back towards the rear. The Hilux was a giant see-saw.

I cupped Albie’s foot in my hand to boost her up. She hesitated, but I was not in the mood to muck around. I couldn’t take any weight on my shattered ankle and my good knee was ballooning from being rammed into the driver’s seat. I grabbed her and half-pushed, half-lifted her up against the bank.

Hot on her heels, I launched myself, one legged. The dirt bank punched into my guts, my face planted into the sand.

Winded, I slipped back, my hands sliding through the running sand. Beneath my swinging feet, the crashing and shrieking of metal announced the further sinking of the truck.

My feet kicked and scrabbled, and white-hot pain fired in my brain as my ankle connected with the bank.

The dull roar of rushing sand was foreboding, and it slid away underneath me. I dug my fingers deep into the shifting sand and could not find any purchase. My muscles burned and throbbed as I summoned the strength to pull myself up out of the hole.

Hands reached out of the darkness, grasping my wrists, dragging me across the cool desert sand until we both fell back, sprawled across each other.

Ragged breathing burned the back of my throat. Despite it all, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the night was. The Milky Way cast itself across the night sky, an illuminated spider’s web laced with lights of blues, purples and reds. A silvery trail lit by the moon spilled across the desert plain, broken only by the silhouettes of the pinnacles. The shadows seemed to consume the light, puddles of a black abyss. Shivers shot up my spine.

Sweat cooled on my shivering body, but from the cold or fear, I didn’t know. I guessed that any trail left by Damon and the creature had been obliterated. Never had I felt more useless. I strained my ears, but all I could hear was the pounding of blood rushing around my head. 

“Ouch!” Albie said.

Flick, flick, flick. The sandgropers flung themselves out of the sand and bombarded us.

I grabbed Albie’s arm and pulled her towards me as I struggled to stand, the pain in my ankle a searing fire. 

“Urghh.” I glanced over and noticed blood, inky black in the night, glistening in the moonlight as it trickled from her lip.

 “Those bastard, fucking bugs,” she said, her voice strained with terror and frustration.

Before I could reply, the earth under our feet rumbled, my eyes stared at the wind-rippled sand, too scared to blink. Flick, flick, flick.

I didn’t know what I was looking for, but my eyes burned with the need to blink. The breeze swirled, and the sandgropers continued to throw themselves at us. Just as an instinctive reflex slammed my eyelids shut, I noticed a divot and a puff of sand about two metres away to my left. Grabbing hard on to Albie’s arm, I gasped.

The divot lengthened into a furrow. Barely a ripple in the fine sand, it charged towards us, dropping out of sight just half a metre away.

Holding my breath, we staggered backwards, towards a monolith jutting high into the night.

Intelligence recognised the futile gesture. Instinct drove us to seek a semblance of shelter in its shadow.

Albie shrieked and pointed further away. Another depression in the sand stretched out, racing, reaching towards us before stopping at our feet and vanishing at the last second.

Cold sweat slithered down my back as my stomach seemed to swallow itself. My gritted eyes scanned the ripples of sand around us. Albie quivered violently in my arms, goosebumps down her arms. She was still only wearing a bra and shorts, my own T-shirt was nothing more than a rag, stiff with blood.

I leaned in closer to give her warmth. Our eyes never stopped scanning, the white sand almost luminescent in the night’s shadow. Stiff with tension, and ice cold, I wrapped my arms around Albie, feeling her heart punch against her chest.

The scraping of rocks behind us pulled me back. A sharp, bitter stench wrenched my head upwards. Standing atop the pinnacle, a hand’s breadth away, was a gigantic beast.

Smaller than the other one, it was a Rottweiler-sized sandgroper. A long, thick tail flicked in agitation; its mandibles clicked. The moonlight glistened on the exoskeleton, its beaked maw opened and closed in spasmodic jerks before releasing a screech of rage.

My arms dropped from around Albie. She screamed as I stumbled backwards. Falling as my busted ankle gave out, I lay sprawled and winded on the desert floor. 

The creature lunged off the rock, landing on top of Albie. As I reached for her, the ground opened beneath me. Sharp daggers stabbed into my shattered ankle. I lost my breath with the pain of it.

A monster wrenched my broken ankle downwards. My hands flailed, sand sliding through my fingers as the creature dragged me down and through the earth.

The tunnel was so tight, my body cracked like a whip, a spark of pain flared in my spine . . . and then nothing.

 

***

 

The sun was a soft, peachy hue behind my eyelids. When I peeled my eyes open, blades of sunlight slashed at my eyeballs.

My hand jerked by instinct to protect my eyes from the sun, but it didn’t respond. Solid, white rock bound me from the shoulders down. Panic rose as my arms and legs refused to respond. I squinted through the slits of my eyes, my throat parched and caked with dust and grit. My tongue, thick from dehydration, rolled around my mouth seeking a speck of moisture.

A chittering noise sounded nearby, and my insides turned to stone.

Ten metres away to my left, a mammoth sandgroper, bigger than a motorbike, stood against the side of a pinnacle. The sun shimmered on its bronze carapace; its head shone burnished gold.

Instead of a rocky cap, there was Damon, lifeless and buried up to his shoulders. His skin had melted against his bones in wrinkled, saggy folds. Pale as bone, he remained motionless.

A protuberance from the beast impaled my brother. Damon’s once muscular body seemed to shrink impossibly smaller, like a deflating balloon.

The creature feasted on my brother, his corpse a sack of fluid.

A weak groan snapped my head away from that grotesque sight. It was Albie, buried to her waist and trying to dig her way out.

Her hands bled and her fingertips shredded as she peeled limestone rock away from her body.

Albie’s name passed my cracked lips in a whisper.

She must have heard me as her eyes looked up and locked with mine. She brought a shredded finger to her blistered lips.

The insect paid no attention and continued to drink Damon’s remains.

I remembered the last time I’d tucked myself into the crevice of a rock, watching my brother. He’d searched for me until his feet were bloody and bruised, his voice hoarse from crying and shouting. My parents never trusted him again. Damon had never trusted himself again. 

The chatter of sliding gravel drew my attention back to where my brother lay. His body moved, jerked and wriggled.

A smile cracked across my lips. “Yes, yes, Damon!” He was alive. “Run Damon, escape. Albie, Albie. Look Damon, Damon’s alive!” My words were reduced to a croaking wheeze.

I heard Albie’s whimper of horror as Damon’s body lurched around the neck of the hole. Golden antennae twitched and climbed up his chest, out of the cavity. The size of a fist, the insects climbed their way up his body, flooding from the opening.

The swarm clawed and climbed their way up Damon’s corpse and down the side of the pinnacle holding him.

Reduced to a sheath of skin and bone, Damon was dislodged from whatever had held him. He slid, disappearing into the throat of the rock formation. A tuft of thick, black hair coated with dust crowned the top.

The fist-sized sandgropers marched towards me. I tried to cry for Albie’s help, but my throat swelled with fear and no sound emerged.

The mammoth beast moved, paddle-like appendages wiping at the protuberance which slid back inside its mouth.

A shriek from the monster sent the swarm underground. They churned up the desert, creating miniature dust clouds. They dug fast, disappearing out of sight. Dimples dotted the sand, the only sign of their existence.

I wasn’t sure if it was more terrifying to see them, or not to know where they were. I tried to lift my legs up into my chest, imagining an attack from inside the base of the pinnacle. But my legs didn’t respond, they couldn’t as the limestone rock held me like a vice.

The beast moved, the sunlight reflecting off its body.

My head snapped to look at Albie, who had peeled the rock down to her knees.

She froze, unmoving. The creature turned its back to us, and Albie continued her frantic attempts. The beast reversed up the side of the pinnacle and defecated hot, white sludge over my brother’s head. Its thick tail beat and formed it into a capped shape as it cooled. It buried my brother in a tomb of insect shit.

The pinnacle formations stretching across the horizon blotted my vision. A realisation overcame me, and my heart fell as I recalled the white fragments inside the pinnacles I’d studied. How many people were buried here?

Albie whimpered, wriggling her legs, freeing herself from the earthly embrace. On wobbly legs, she crept over and tore at my rocky mound.

“Hurry,” I said, barely able to push the words out of my mouth. Panic gripped me as hard as the rock holding me prisoner.

Albie tore and pulled, her fingertips flayed to a pulpy mess as she crushed them against the limestone.

Still the creature ignored us, instead sunning itself on the side of my brother’s tomb of shit.

I swam in Albie’s dark-brown eyes and dared to hope.

The rubble pile of rocks grew as Albie tore them away from my body. I tried to help by pushing and wriggling my body, but I was bound tight.

“Help me.”

“I’m trying, I can’t move. If you can just get one of my arms free.”

“I have.”

I looked down and realised my right arm was clear of the rock. A cut on my shoulder oozed blood. Yet I felt nothing, numb. I tried to lift my arm, but it would not respond. Had I dislocated it, maybe? Where was the pain? I wanted to feel pain like never before.

Panic flooded my mind. I pushed it aside, my brain unable to grasp the truth. Instead, I focused on trying to move my fingers. Nothing.

Panting with the effort, the air grew thinner as I struggled to breathe. My world as I knew it spun and fell away from me. Albie dug away more of the rock, and my shoulders curled forward.

What the fuck is happening? Why isn’t my body working?

Then my mind grabbed on to the sliver of a memory. Tearing, rushing earth, that surge of pain in my spine before it all went blank smacked me in the face with the truth. I died inside as the realisation snatched hope from me.

“Stop, Albie, stop.”

“No.”

“Go, leave me here.” I swallowed, but the words stuck in my throat like a razor blade. I drank in her beauty, the determination in her eyes, and my heart shattered. “I think it broke my neck.”

“No, no,” Albie said, her torn and blistered lips bleeding as she spoke and shook her head.

My eyes took in her bruised body covered in scratches and grazes. Glass still glimmered in her cheeks. The limestone dust had coated her body, dulling her hair to a bone grey. I was in love and that love would be buried here with me.

The chittering noise and the sound of sliding sand drew our attention. Panting, Albie snatched at the rocks, tearing them away. My body slumped further and the side of my head rested against my chest as I watched the monster assess us.

It clicked its mandibles together with a sound reminiscent of metal on metal, and snapped its beak, before rearing up to sit on its tail. The creature released a shriek that stabbed my ears like knives.

“No, Albie, STOP!” I croaked as if my throat were splitting in two.

Albie dropped the rubble on to the earth, and embraced me, her body convulsing with dry tears.

“Run, Albie, run,” I mouthed, my throat unable to give proper voice to the words.

Albie searched my eyes, I closed them, shutting her out. She was Damon’s. Dry lips pressed against my forehead, her fingers slid through my hair. I winced with the pain of feeling I had betrayed Damon twofold.

Once I heard her step away, I dared myself to open my eyes and gaze at the landscape. Albie had already made some distance, yet behind her I saw movement in the sand.

My heart pounded in my chest and I cried in frustration as my body ignored my commands.

“No, not her, you bastard, me. Come and get me, motherfucker, leave her alone!” I croaked, a futile attempt to capture the creature’s attention.

My body slumped further against the rocky vice which held me upright, and I could no longer see what was happening.

I strained my ears, but could only hear the blood gushing around my brain. My head had flopped on to my chest and my brain screamed. I didn’t know if she would make it, but at least Albie had a chance.

A bitter and fetid odour burned my nostrils. Hot, wet puffs of air spilled over my neck; burrs from its exoskeleton scratched my cheek as it leant over me.

Saliva dripped on to the rock. The limestone fizzled and bubbled to a goop.

My breath caught in my throat as my mouth stretched into a soundless scream.

 

 

 

The End.

 

 

 

More from Lee Franklin

 

Nang Tani

Berserker: Green Hell

Gilded Cage

 

Anthologies

Made in Britain

Demonic Household

Twisted Tales

Graveyard Girls

 

***

 

Nang Tani

 

 

She Takes her Vengeance in Blood

 

A Novelette

 

Celebrating his twenty-first birthday in Thailand with his best mate Paul, Shane finds the perfect tattoo of a local deity, Nang Tani. He must have her at all costs.

 

When Nang Tani is unleashed, she comes with vengeance. Shane will learn that sins, like tattoos, cannot be washed away; not even with blood.

 

 

Reviews for Nang Tani

 

“ Holy brutality, Batman. This one took me by surprise. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I’m glad I gave it a shot. This is a story of brutal vengeance that kicks it into high gear about halfway through, and doesn’t let up until the final word. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’ll definitely be checking out more from this author.”  Amazon Reviewer

 

“Nang Tani is an extreme and  gruesome tale of deadly revenge that subverts the sexist tropes inherent in a lot of torture porn. It features a goddess that you don’t pray to, you only pray you never, ever meet her.”Jasper Bark - Author of Stuck On You and The Final Cut

 

“This story is just awesome, a tale of a forbidden tattoo and the curse that comes with it. So very good! I love revenge stories, this book is sick! Very satisfied with it!!

5/5 Tattooed Skulls

????????????????????” Brad Tierney

 

 

 

Berserker: Green Hell

 

 

A terrifying debut novel set during the Vietnam War.

 

Australian Lance Corporal Terence 'Pinny' Pinfold and his squad find themselves in the midst of the living hell of the Vietnam War.

 

Known as Reapers, their job is to go in after the firefights to collect dog tags and any evidence of war crimes. As each soldier tries to make sense out of a senseless war, they find more questions than answers as mutilated, butchered bodies are discovered the further north they venture.

 

Pinny soon finds himself at the very core of the real war – in a secret underground facility amongst hybrid creatures which belong only in the very worst nightmares.

 

With Pinny's aboriginal bloodline, the enigmatic Doctor Jacinta Harding believes she has found the perfect specimen... Pinny might survive the war, but he might not save himself.

 

 

Reviews for Berserker: Green Hell

 

 Berserker: Green Hell is a terrific, breathless read. Brutal, funny, well written and WILD!

Peter Laws - The Frighteners

*

This is a very real, utterly plausible insight into war and the people who are tasked with the grimmest of roles, coupled with a gripping, visceral, and terrifying horror story. Lee Franklin certainly knows how to crank up the tension – and the battle. Five stars and highly recommended. 

Karen Perkins - Award Winning Author of the Yorkshire Ghost Stories

*

"What a knockout of a story, and such a detailed and horrific journey into an absolute hellish Green Hell. Its relentless, fast-paced narrative carries the reader along, sometimes breathless, sometimes shell-shocked but always wanting to know what happens next."

Simon Clark - Multiple Award Winning Author of The Night of The Triffids and Blood Crazy

 

 

Gilded Cage

 

 

Torn from the only family she has ever known and sold to the highest bidder, Mica spends her youth performing for her guardians. Neglected, abused and tortured, Mica is worked to exhaustion. On death's door, she is cast away only to discover a new reason to live and an appetite for revenge.

 

Reviews for Gilded Cage

 

An excellent, highly imaginative piece of work that unravels slowly and with an ever-increasing sense of anticipation.

Tonni Bunnel - The Nameless Children

*

Gilded Cage is a clever little tale, mixing a sense of dread with political satire, as is unlike anything I have read before. 

Peter Blakey-Novis - The Broken Doll, Four 

*

Great short story. This author's talented mind sucks us in and gives us an everyday occurrence, but adds a scary twist. Check it out, you'll probably want to read more from this author. I did. 

DJ Doyle - Banshee, Red & Reddest, Newgrange 

 

 

Copyright © 2021 Lee Franklin

 

This book is copyright under the Berne Convention

No reproduction without permission

All rights reserved.

 

The right of Lee Franklin to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead or events is entirely coincidental.

 

 

Prepared for publication by Karen Perkins

www.karenperkinsauthor.com

 

 


Submitted: May 14, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Lee Franklin. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:


Facebook Comments

More Horror Short Stories

Other Content by Lee Franklin

Short Story / Horror

Short Story / Horror