As part of #fridayflash on Twitter, here is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, The Dark Road.
To set the scene: The group of travellers are stuck in rural Cambodia, trying to cross a fast running river. It is night time, the woman is hurt, and something is after them…
Seth took hold of the rope, grateful to have something to hang onto. He could see Greg and Laura frozen nearly halfway across, Greg almost chest high in the water. All torch lights were on them, leaving Seth in almost near darkness. The water rushed and churned like black oil, swallowing him up to the waist. Something bumped against his calf, something cold with the texture of rotting flesh. It seemed to deliberately wrap itself around his legs, like gelatinous fingers grappling at him, trying to pull him down into the dark.
“For Christ’s-sake, Seth! Get a move on!”
The sound of Greg’s voice snatched him back to reality and he continued to push forward, desperately trying to forget what was hidden beneath the surface. He clung onto the rope with both hands, pulling himself through the water.
Within moments he had reached Greg and Laura. Greg’s arms were shaking with the effort of holding Laura above the water and Seth could see he was weakening. Holding Laura was easy, but doing it whilst fighting the fierce push of the river was draining.
“Damn it, Seth! I need some help here. Don’t just stand there staring at us.”
Still holding onto the rope-hammock with one hand, Seth reached out and wrapped his other arm around Greg’s waist. Immediately he felt Greg’s relief as the bigger man leaned some of his weight into Seth; both men now providing a more solid barrier against the ton of water that was trying to push them downstream.
“We need to move Seth,” Greg shouted above the roar of the river. He could feel Laura’s grip around his neck weakening and the fear in his heart told him that even if they did make it across, she might not make it through the night.
“I’m ready,” said Seth. “Let’s go.”
As Seth stepped forward something moved in the water in front of him. Something with a thick, snake-like body, and limbs tipped in pointed claws, pushed its way like a crocodile beneath the water. Its scales flashed on the surface for a fraction of a second, before it disappeared into the dark.
Something bumped against his waist and he screamed in surprise.
“What? What is it?” yelled Greg.
“There...” Seth’s voice broke. “There’s something in the water.”
“Don’t fucking start, Seth! We need to get out of here.”
The bank was only feet away, but Seth stood paralysed with fear, his eyes fixed on the water around him, watching for the thing he knew was beneath it. Around his body the rushing water suddenly became still and the dark fluid began to shimmer like oil on a wet road. Seth stood with one arm raised above the water, his lower body motionless, as though it had been frozen in a block of ice.
Then claws cut like knives across the back of his ankle, slicing his Achilles tendon, and Seth screamed. White-hot pain seared up his leg and sheer panic blinded him. Seth plunged forward, shoving past Greg, knocking him off balance.
Instantly Greg was engulfed, submerged under the fast flowing river. Water rushed into his lungs, thick and suffocating. The darkness was absolute and a muffled roar filled his ears. Caught in its grip, his body tumbled. He felt Laura’s arms slip from his neck and the water dragged her away from him. He grappled madly; desperate to find her, but the ferocity of the water had torn her from his grasp. Briefly his fingertips touched her skin, and then she was gone.
Greg burst through the surface. He could barely breathe; the taste of silt and dirt cloying his mouth. His throat burnt as he choked up the thick, dirty water. None of these things mattered – all he wanted was to find Laura.
He tried to turn in every direction, fighting against the current, desperately trying to spot her in the darkness, praying that she had somehow made it to the bank. In the depths of his heart he knew there was only one direction she could have gone in. He could hear the sound of Seth, still screaming in pain, pulling himself out of the water and onto the other bank. Greg prepared himself to let go of the rope and allow the water to take him to his wife.