Serial Saturday: The Figurine, Part 8

Jefferson heard the report of the shotgun as he ducked toward the side of the road. As he made the brush the sound of raised voices drifted over–someone telling him to stop, he thought, which didn’t seem like the thing to do.

He pelted through the thin line of trees along the side of the road and into the tall swichgrass on the other side. He slid to a stop, cursing, and ducked back into the trees before taking off again, running parallel to the road. Behind him, he heard the sound of the Plymouth starting up.

He glanced from side to side as he ran. The line of trees was too thin for a reliable screen; there was a good chance anyone driving slowly past would spot him, unless he hunkered down behind a tree. But if the two after him had any sense they’d split up, and one of them would come along on foot through the trees or on the other side.

He drew his Smith and Wesson as he jogged. He might be able to simply take the men out if they split up, but he was outgunned unless he could get to his car. The sound of the Plymouth grew louder.

With one glance over his shoulder, Jefferson ducked back into the switchgrass. After a few running steps he dropped to his belly. He was well under the tall grass, which was a good three foot high. He’d left a trail through the grass. He’d noticed quite a few of the trails when he’d been exploring, faintly visible lines of broken-off or pushed-flat grass, left there by animals or last week’s searchers, so maybe it wouldn’t make him obvious. Still, he hoped his pursuers weren’t country boys.

The Plymouth was approaching very slowly, coughing and sputtering in low gear. Cold water was seeping into Jefferson’s clothes along the length of his body as he slowly sank into the spongy ground. He awkwardly held the gun free of the ground, forcing his elbows even deeper in.

The car made its way by on the road. Jefferson remained still. He was looking back the way he’d come, though he could barely see more that a few feet through the tall grass. After a few moments, he thought he heard a noise, hard to make out over the sound of the Plymouth as it rumbled away. He cocked his head, trying to get a fix on it, and after another minute he was sure he could hear the swish of something coming through the grass.

The noise came in fits and starts, quiet and hard to get a fix on. He could envision a man making his way quietly through the grass, pausing now and again to listen and sweep the area with his shotgun, but he couldn’t actually see anything. He thought the noise was coming from closer to the road, probably up along the treeline, and he worked his way around as best he could to bring the pistol to bear on the general location.

The Plymouth was getting closer, he realized. It must have turned around to make another pass. As it got closer, it became impossible to hear any further noise from the man on foot. Was there even a man on foot? Maybe he was imagining the noise, of hearing a dog. Or something worse. If it was a man, and he even caught a glimpse of something suspicious, he could just open up and spray Jefferson with buckshot.

The minutes crawled on, and the Plymouth went by, then turned around and began to approach again. When the car was in the distance, he thought he heard the man go by, a few yards off, then he thought he might hear him approaching again.

He was pretty well soaked through from the wet ground, and feeling a desperate need to itch his calf. Then he began to feel the sensation he’d been looking for earlier. It was so faint, something like an itch at the back of his throat and a slight nausea, that he thought at first he might be imagining it from sheer nerves, but as the seconds went by he became more and more sure he was feeling the presence of a Sciritbath.

He licked his lips, wanting to curse but not daring to make a noise. He craned his neck back, trying to get a look at a new patch of grass even though he wouldn’t be able to see more than a few feet in any direction. The urge to stand up was becoming overpowering. It could be anywhere, it could be a few feet away, for all he knew, and he was just lying here, waiting for it to leap on him and start biting, or clawing, or whatever it was going to do. He ground his teeth together, to avoid leaping to his feet and running.

Then it appeared, right in front of his face after all his fears, pushing its way through the grass as it slowly crept forward. It was small, rat-sized if that, and seemed to have only two limbs. It dragged itself along, leaving a muddy track on the ground, and paused when it was a few feet off, as if it had just spotted him. It didn’t seem to even have any eyes to spot him with, though. It was questing with something that looked like a combination snout and mouth, like a nose ringed with teeth. Then it started toward him again.

Jefferson brought the Smith and Wesson forward, propping it with his elbows. He tried to remember where he’d last heard the man hunting for him. He was going to just have to shoot the Sciribath, then pop up and try to take the man out before he got hit. He wished he’d brought out the Colt semiautomatic rather than the revolver. Small as it was, he’d need at least two shots to be sure of the Sciribath before he turned his back on it since the things never seemed to have anything that could really be called a vital organ, and it would take some awful fast shooting on his part to get a crack at the man before he fanned the whole vicinity with his shotgun.

The Plymouth was nearing again, out on the road. The Sciribath hissed, then began to drag itself forward faster. Jefferson adjusted his aim, then jumped as the shotgun boomed, a few yards off. It was something of a miracle that he didn’t squeeze the trigger tight from the shock of it, no matter where it was pointing, but he held himself back even as it sunk in that he hadn’t been hit, and that the report had made the thing pause.

He heard the sound of a round being racked, and another shot, then he was moving, flicking the big pistol in his hand to grab it by the barrel as he half-rose onto his knees. Just as the Sciribath began to move, he brought the butt of the big revolver down on the thing. The noise and feel of the impact, a squish and a crack, made his gorge rise, but he repeated the motion as the shotgun fired again. He fell back on his side, staring at the Sciribath. It wasn’t moving, he was almost sure, but he didn’t take his eyes off it. He had an overwhelming urge to crawl backwards, but remained still, listening.

He heard a branch crack, then fast-approaching steps through the grass, even as it registered that the Plymouth had gone quiet.

“Did you get him?” someone asked. Close, not more than five yards off.

“No,” another voice replied. “No, it was a Sciribath.”

There was a pause. “You sure?”

“Yes,” the first man replied, irritable. “I felt it.”

“But did you see it?”

“No, but it was in the grass, I think.”

There was another pause. “Hell, it looks like you shot in three different directions, here.”

“I felt it, dammit, and I don’t feel it now.”

Neither did Jefferson, he realized. That was good–at least there wasn’t likely another one creeping up on him. For all he knew, the man had killed another of the things, though it was just as likely he’d gotten spooked feeling the one Jefferson had killed and started firing blind into the tall grass.

“Christ,” the first man said. “Whatever it was, we gotta get out of here. I don’t want something clamping onto my ankles, and anyway all this shooting might attract some attention.”

“No argument here,” the second man replied. “Whoever that guy was, maybe the Sciribath got him.”

The first man grunted, and Jefferson heard them move off. A few seconds later the Plymouth started, and pulled off.


Copyright © 2012 SM Williams

~ by smwilliams on May 26, 2012.