Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Walkabout: Part 3

Walkabout: Part 1
Walkabout: Part 2


When Carol caught up, she turned and looked down the hill to the riverbank. They could just see underneath the overhanging branches where the croc had crawled out. Indeed, there were obvious footprints and drag marks in the mud where it had come up onto land, but it must not have stopped just out of the water like they had been expecting. It must have crawled up further among the trees and the bushes.

That meant it was now somewhere back along the trail they had just run down.

"Hold on now. Something ain't right here..."

James waved for the couple to stay put as he walked back along the trail, crouched down, scanning down the hill and into the trees and bushes that obscured the view from the trail to the riverbank.

"James? That looked like an awfully big croc. Maybe we should just continue down the trail a bit, wait and see if it crosses behind us or heads back into the water?" Daryl's excitement was suddenly gone. The only sound was the guide's shoes on the dirt as he picked his way slowly back along the trail.

Animals dealt with predators on a regular basis. On a trip to Africa several years ago, Daryl and Carol had witnessed a small pride of lions share a watering hole with gazelle, hyenas, and even a giraffe with no problems. The prey could sense when a predator was on the hunt and dangerous, as well as when it wasn't. The silence of the park around them, combined with the knowledge that there was indeed a large predator nearby, wrapped them in a thin veil of fear, which threatened to thicken and smother them at any moment.

Carol slipped behind her husband as she watched the guide quietly search for the animal.

"I'm honestly not sure that was a saltie, mate. No ridges on its back. Looked more like a large monitor lizard."

"Monitor lizard? They don't get that big, do they? I mean, that thing was huge!" Daryl's voice wavered.

"Dunno, to be perfectly honest with you. I just know that wasn't like the salties I'm used to out here. Ah, there it is. Okay, you two, stay here. I'm going to see if I can get a better look at it."

"Are you crazy? Can't we just wait until it goes away?" Carol continued trying to squeeze herself behind her husband. Her sense of fear only increasing.

James worked his way carefully around the edge of the trail, keeping his eyes trained on the animal in the brush as he stepped down. "Just, stay there!"

James made his way down the hill, keeping his eyes on the shape which remained motionless in the bushes. He knew it was watching him as much as he was watching it. This was a massive animal, and an extremely dangerous predator if it was the reason all the other animals cleared out.

The coloring wasn't too far off from a saltwater croc. A mix of dark browns and greens, making it near invisible in the brackish water or the low brush. Even in the tall grass it would be hard to spot. It stood taller than a crocodile though, its head lifted high, with a much shorter snout. The scales were smooth as well, not the rough armour that the salties had.

James nodded to himself. It looked more like the biggest goanna he'd ever seen. If he had to guess, it was easily six meters long. He picked up a small rock and tossed it over into the bushes. The animal didn't move. He backed up slowly, his feet finding the way back up to the trail, eyes locked on the animal almost entirely hidden in front of him. Looking right at it, watching, it still seemed to vanish with the distance as he stepped back.

He didn't turn his back until he reached the trail again, then he hurried back to the couple.

"Yeah, that ain't a saltie. Looks like the biggest damn goanna in the world though."

"Goanna?" Carol asked, peeking over her husband's shoulder.

"Lizard. A really, REALLY, big lizard."

"Is it dangerous?" Daryl continued the line of questioning.

"Well, yeah. I imagine it is. Something that big could take down damn near anything it wants."

"You don't know what it is though?"

"Nope, never seen anything like it before."

"Can we sneak past it? Get back?" Carol's voice trembled.

As if to answer her question, the bushes shook, and then the beast charged up the hill and at them, the ground shuddering under their feet. It was absolutely a massive lizard, and not a crocodile. Its open mouth hissed at them, baring sparse, pointed teeth.

The couple turned and ran down the trail. James followed a ways then darted off into the bushes. The reptile chased after the older pair, its tail waving side to side.

Daryl stumbled.

Before she could do anything, the beast had clamped down on his leg several times, almost gnawing on it, shaking its head, the old man flung around like a dog's toy. There was a distinct snapping sound as Daryl's leg gave to the motion, breaking, and the air filled with the smell of blood and the old man's screams of pain.

Then he was laying on the dirt, blood pooling around his leg from several deep puncture wounds. The animal left him there and continued on, chasing after Carol now.

"The tree! Get up in the tree!" James screamed at her from his own perch, some twenty feet up off the ground. Somehow she heard the command over the sounds of her own screams and its mass pounding the ground as it pursued her.

She made it off the trail to a tree, scrambling up, but not making it high enough in time. She gripped the branches as sharp teeth dug into her ankle. The pain was excrutiating as she screamed at the top of her lungs. The reptile didn't bite down and hold on. It almost seemed to try to chew while attempting to pull her down from the tree.

The flesh of her foot gave before her grip did. The teeth dragging down through her foot and ankle, the lizard tearing huge gashes and ripping off half her foot before it slid back to the earth, swallowing the small chunk as it looked up at her. Tears streamed down her face as she tried to force herself to climb higher. The beast just looked up at her, a long, forked tongue flicking out between its closed lips. It somehow looked satisfied.

She managed to work herself up into a fork in the tree and hung there, blood streaming out of the mangled strips of flesh that used to be her foot. She watched the huge lizard circle the tree she was in before turning back down the trail. Daryl was gone though, the blood marking where he had fallen stretched into a trail off into the bushes and grass.

Her eyes grew heavy and her breath came in quick, short gasps. Carol had spent fifteen years as a nurse. She knew she was going into shock. The wound on her foot was bad enough that if nothing was done she would bleed out in short order anyway, and there was no real way to get proper help in time. She let her eyes close, hoping it would just be quiet and peaceful.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Walkabout: Part 2

Part 1. (For those of you who haven't read it yet.)


Half an hour, they trudged through the trees before the trail finally wound back around to a hill overlooking the river again. The two men had continued discussing the merits of random tourists seeking out deadly animals while Carol dragged her feet behind them, trying to think of ways he was going to pay her back for dragging her all the way out here and wasting a full day of their vacation.

"Huh, well, that's odd." James had his hands on his hips as he turned first one way, then the other, scanning the river as far as he could see in both directions.

"What's odd?"

James didn't answer right away. He continued scanning the river, then turned and looked off further down the trail. The trees thinned quickly at this point, opening into a grassland with scattered trees and red stone hills and outcrops.

"Still don't see any crocs in the river. Don't see any roos or anything out in the grass either. It's weird. We should be able to find something."

The three of them scanned the area. The riverbank still had tracks and drag marks in it. There were signs of life, just nothing moving.

James held up his hand.

"Listen. You can't hear anything. It's like everything's cleared off."

"So all the animals are gone?"

"Well, I dunno that all of them are gone. But you can't even hear any birds."

Daryl didn't know what to say to that. Carol only knew it meant they had trudged all the way out into the bush and wasted a day of their trip for nothing.

"Daryl. You owe me a night at the bar when we get back if you dragged me all the way out here for nothing but the heat."

"James? What does this all mean?" Daryl did his best to ignore Carol's aggravated tongue, though he knew he would pay for it more later.

"Well, could be just about anything. Could be a bad storm moving in tonight. I'd 've heard about it though so I don't think that's it. Could be a particularly nasty saltie has chased everything away." He smirked and glanced over at Carol. "Or, could be someone was noisy and sent everything scurrying."

Carol crossed her arms over her chest, and huffed. She could hardly argue that though, as much as she avoided brushing any of the plants, she hadn't exactly tried to keep her voice down.

"Yeah, that's it, blame me because you can't find your stupid crocs."

"Look, we'll head a bit further down the trail, keep our voices low, and maybe something might come out, okay? Easy peasy."

Carol huffed again, and Daryl's shoulders slumped. He was disappointed and would be ready to head back if something didn't show itself soon. Then it would be down to the bar for likely the rest of the night.

Carol wasn't really a drinker, or a dancer. She liked to swirl a drink around with a straw and take her time with it. The punishment was that Daryl had to stay with her the whole night while they watched the younger crowd get blitzed and dance until the bar closed. On nights where he 'owed' her a night at the bar, she made sure they were the last to leave, with only the employees getting home after they did. Then she would wake him up bright and early. She really was a stickler about her time being wasted.

Which was exactly how this whole trip was turning out.

"There! Look down there!" James pointed excitedly down at the river as he started to run down the trail. There was something there, mostly hidden under the brackish water. The undulating 'S' shape was indicative of a large reptile swimming across to their side. As they ran to catch up with James, it disappeared into the undergrowth along the side of the river.

"Alright, alright, keep your distance now. It must just be like I told you, just a big saltie scaring everything else away. Keep your eyes open now, the trail comes around a little bend and he should be just up on the bank under the bushes where we should be able to get a good look at him."

Daryl's enthusiasm quickly returned as he raced to catch up with James. Carol hurried along at her own pace, falling behind the two men by several steps. Not that they got too much further before stopping at the bend the guide had mentioned.

"Well, shit. Where did he scurry off to?" James stamped his foot.


Walkabout: Part 3

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Walkabout: Part 1

Carol fanned herself with the wide brim of her hat. How she had let Daryl con her into a vacation in Australia of all places in the world, in the middle of summer, she couldn't recall.

"Daryl! Have you seen any crocs yet?" She yelled from the sweltering shade of the trees she had taken cover under.

"No. Dear."

He had been adamant about seeing all the dangerous animals the smallest continent had to offer. Saltwater crocodiles were at the top of his list. He was a camera hunter, although he was slow on the draw and missed twice more shots than he caught. He said it was enough for him just to see the animals with his own eyes, though. Memories to carry the rest of his life. Nevermind that his memory had been fading fairly significantly the past several years.

"Oy! You can wander up the trail over here!"

Daryl had hired a guide to take them into Rinyirru National Park for the day in order to check off his list of critters. Carol, in the meantime, was simply along for the ride, trying to mete out whatever enjoyment she could out of the trip. She enjoyed a good sunny spot as much as the next lady, but over a hundred degrees was too much of a good thing.

"Carol, come on, we're heading up the river a bit further."

She groaned, standing up and looking around. She wished she'd stayed at the hotel. Her hat replaced on her head, she headed after them down a small trail.

The park was an interesting mix of mangroves, swamps, and rainforest, quickly transitioning to grasslands and hills as you went south. Carol had initially been surprised at the variety, but in the heat of the day even that little interest had evaporated.

Now she didn't bother trying to hide her irritation as she followed them down the trail which meandered alongside the river, just far enough up the bank that a croc couldn't lunge up and take someone without warning. Carol watched her steps, being careful not to brush against any of the grass which hung over the edge of the trail. Daryl had made her watch enough nature shows on Australia before announcing the trip for her to be wary of the smallest bug.

Daryl's list of animals to see included the funnel web spider, and while it didn't make the list of critters to hunt down, the documentary which covered the spider also devoted time to bull ants and other insects. As far as Carol was concerned, everything out here could be hiding some deadly bite or sting.

The idea didn't scare her, so much as it pissed her off that he had insisted on coming out here. Daryl was wearing shorts, daring for some little thing to stab, sting, or bite him.

She caught up with them at the crest of a small hill, overlooking a wide bend in the river.

"Found your croc yet?"

"No. Nothing yet."

Their guide, James, pointed out the mud on the opposite bank before speaking in the thick Australian accent Daryl had insisted their guide have, though Carol thought James was playing it up for him.

"Look there. See the lines in the mud? Those are drag marks from a saltie's tail. They're around here somewhere. Or at least they were not long ago."

"Can we keep going inland? How much farther does this trail go?" Daryl sounded worried, completely oblivious to his wife's quickly fouling mood.

"This trail? It goes on for Kays still. Common for backpackers to head up this way for a weekend camping trip. There's any salties though, they'll be in the next click. I haven't seen them much farther in than that around here."

"Well, what else might we find if we keep going? Anything else on my list, here?"

Daryl dug the piece of paper out of his pocket, handing it over to their guide. Carol shifted her weight onto her left leg, crossing her arms across her chest and letting out an indignant sigh. She had her hat, and a bag with a couple bottles of water, but they hadn't actually planned on being out here all day. James had assured them it wouldn't be hard at all to actually see a croc, or a saltie as he called them. Carol was seriously considering demanding a refund of his fee when they got back to civilization.

James looked over the list and glanced back up at Daryl with a cocked brow.

"Mate, you'll be lucky if you don't see most of these your whole trip. Seriously, you want to find an eastern brown?"

"Well, I don't want to hold it or anything. I just want to get a picture, or see one at the very least."

"Ya know, there's a world-class zoo just up in Beerwah."

"Yeah, I know, I want to see them out in the wild though. Just a quick glance if that's all I get. I don't even need to take a picture."

"Mate, you're a weird one. We can go up a bit farther though, see what we can find. You see something move though, you tell me and I'll let you know what it is. Last thing I need under my belt is a dead tourist."

James sighed, his shoulders slumped as he turned and led the way further up the trail.

Daryl folded his list up and tucked it back into his pocket. His face scrunched up in the way that Carol recognized as his expression of "Nobody understands me." It was true too as he followed up the trail and she brought up the rear. Twenty-three years of marriage and she still couldn't understand his desire to see all these animals.

The trail wound away from the river and inland into the rainforest. The two men continued tromping, while she ducked her head under every branch, and shied away from leaf and blade of grass reaching out from the shade. She expected things to be cooler, even if just a little. It certainly didn't feel like it. Probably due to it being more humid underneath the canopy. She wished she was in Ireland, or Canada, or somewhere not known for its heat. At least where it was cold, you never heard people making excuses about it being dry or wet.

She felt something plop onto the brim of her hat and she quickly pulled it off to look. A leech. Lovely. She flicked it off her hat and back off into the undergrowth before hurrying after James and Daryl.


Click here for Part 2 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

31 Posts of Monsters: Giant Spiders

Maybe it's part of being a mammal, but it's odd how anything outside of the usual head, body, and four limbs becomes something frightening. It doesn't seem to matter if it's no legs, like snakes and fish, to multiples, like most insects, squid, and, of course, spiders.

Name: Giant Spider

Size: To some people, any size is scary. For the purpose of this post though, we're talking anything from one to hundreds of feet across.

Appearance: A spider. A bulbous abdomen, small thorax, small head. Two fangs, eight eyes, and eight legs. They can be almost any color of the rainbow.

Threat: Variable. Small spiders can have deadly venom, while larger spiders may be harmless, or able to impale people on their fangs. The largest spiders may even be able to swallow people whole.

Spiders are just plain unnerving to, let's just say, the vast majority of people. Crawling along on eight legs, venomous, leaving webs everywhere, why wouldn't they be? They are probably the closest we can get to an alien species. Spiders are just so different from practically every other type of creature on the planet. It's a good thing most of them are so small.

Every so often though, a story comes out of a sighting of a spider of massive proportions. There is a legend in the Congo of the Jba Fofi, a spider with a leg span of at least five feet. It creates a home almost like a trap-door spider, although it's the size of a mud hut and is said to prey on antelopes.

Recently, legends of giant spiders, or whole hives of them, have been further strengthened as weather in various places has forced spiders to collect together. These communes can span an entire tree, or even a full acre of nightmare fuel that not even fire can cleanse.

Being such fear-inducing creatures, it only makes sense that spiders would get picked up in fiction as antagonists. One of the earliest movies being Tarantula, released in 1955. Godzilla had a giant spider as an enemy in a few movies. All leading up to the present day with movies with such imaginative titles as Big Ass Spider, and Eight-Legged Freaks. It seems like they're everywhere.

All the more reason to squash anything that comes within reach. Or not. They do eat mosquitos, flies, and the occasional scorpion

~ Shaun

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Writer Resources

So you want to be a writer. Well, as solitary as the act of writing is, you're going to need some help. But, where to find it? The internet is a huge place, and some of it is conflicting information, so what's an aspiring writer to do?

Yeah, he NEEDS some help there.

Well, I'm going to share with you all today, a few places and things on the internet that I've found particularly helpful. After all, the more places that can lead you to where you can find help, the easier it'll be to find them. 

AbsoluteWrite is a website for authors, but the real help is in the forums on this page. We're talking a forum full of published authors, people that have worked in the publishing industry, and experts from many different fields. So there's lots of advice to be found here. Ask about things you're researching for your next story. See if anyone knows anything about that publisher you were considering. Even post small bits of your writing for feedback! Really though, the best thing here is how supportive the people on this forum generally are. If there's anything that'll help you on your way to being a published author, it's being cheered on by people that have already done it. 

So, you now have a piece written up, beta-read, edited, and ready to send out into the world. For God's sake, don't submit your work in Comic Sans font. 

There is a standard format for your work to follow before you submit it somewhere. It is recommended that people follow it, or you could find your work rejected without even being read. 

This is the best guide that I've found around the internet to what the standard format is. 

Of course, now that you're all set to submit, you need to know where to go, what markets are open, and what they're looking for. 

They have a lot of articles and although you have to pay to access it, they have the Writer's Market, which lists places you can submit to. 

The Submission Grinder is better, I think, for finding markets to submit to. It's completely free, for a start. It also allows you to track your submissions, where you sent them to, and how long it's taken for them to get back to you. It also tracks statistics for a lot of markets, so you can see what their average response times are. You can also search for markets by story length, style, genre, and even pay rates. 

Well, those are the most useful sites that I've come across. If you know of others, feel free to drop them in the comments and I hope you find these as useful as I have. Good luck in your writing! 

~ Shaun