Here’s a small snippet from my first novel – Pine Gap. From time to time I will place ‘teasers’ on here for people to read, enjoy and comment on. If you have any criticisms or suggestions please post them as my novel has not yet found a publisher so there is still time to get on the acknowledgments list 🙂
Colonel Gabriel Drax had left the blazing, shattered remains of the Pine Gap Express strewn over the desert far behind him. He was the sole survivor of the catastrophe and needed to get to higher ground in order to call for help. The hot sand scorched his feet through rugged yet well-worn military boots and he struggled to maintain momentum, sinking to depths as high as his calf muscles with every single strength-sapping step. The centuries-old hole in the ozone layer had superheated the desert floor so that it was like wading through molten rock and although his footwear could withstand this sort of punishment for a while, they would not last forever.
The rocky outcrop on the horizon looked like an oasis and Gabriel knew it was his only chance to find safety from the Sand Sharks who were beginning to circle. These amazing marsupials had evolved over more than a thousand years to adapt to their hostile environment. With strong legs they are able to ‘swim’ through the loose earth while their round flat tails tune into the vibrations of their prey on the surface. Although the juveniles can only hunt at night, the adult Sharks possess a unique body cooling system that prevents their internal organs from boiling inside them and their tough hides are practically resistant to the baking temperatures of the sunlight. Colonel Drax had encountered these creatures only once since leaving the wreckage and had come off second best.
Time passed slowly as Gabriel trudged forward grasping his laser pistol tightly in his left hand; his right having been torn off at the wrist several hours earlier. He had done his best to close the wound with the remaining strips of cloth left over from his medikit but eventually he had to cauterize the stump with a white hot blast from his gun. Years of military experience had taught the Colonel how to survive in the worst possible environments however hunger, thirst and fatigue were beginning to take their toll and the pursuing Sharks knew it.
The oasis was looking more like a mirage.
As he extricated his foot from the sucking soil and plopped it down again for the ten thousandth time Gabriel scanned the desert around him for any sign of the inevitable assault. These specialised predators attacked from below at a terrifying pace, with an insatiable hunger and teeth that can pierce metal. A slight rippling in the landscape ahead of him alerted the soldier to the next challenge and he was equal to the task. Gabriel fired his pistol at the erupting mound of sand and managed to shoot an alpha male in the skull as it attempted to exit its burrow. The extirpated animal silently collapsed onto the dirt with dark crimson fluid pouring from the large laceration. Food was scarce in the desert and Sand Sharks were not afraid to cannibalize their own kind, especially when they were injured, dying or dead. The Colonel had bought himself some time but he knew that once they had the carcass torn up and delivered back to their burrows he would once again be on the menu.
Gabriel was left in peace for what seemed an eternity yet he was well aware that, with his water supply exhausted and his feet beginning to blister, death was not far away. The smell of his own charred flesh and singed hair made him gag, leaving the bitter taste of bile on the back of his tongue, when the rocky outcrop suddenly materialised out of the heat haze and he realised he was almost there. The elation of relief brought with it a painful lapse of concentration as a hungry Shark surfaced between his legs and tore a sizable slice out of his thigh. The femoral artery had been severed and the blood flow was frenetic. Gabriel fell onto the sand and started crawling towards sanctuary. The pain was intense as burned skin flaked from his fingers, but when he hauled himself onto the first piece of hard ground he had felt since boarding the train in Sydney the grim faced warrior actually smiled.
As Gabriel rolled over onto his back he felt a tugging motion on the leg that had been bitten and looked down to see it was gone. His mortality gushed forth in scarlet spurts as he desperately tried to use his frayed belt as a tourniquet. Three more ripples were moving towards him from different directions so he checked his laser pistol, only to find that the charge was empty. The blissful delirium faded and Colonel Drax was resigned to his fate.
A trio of Sand Sharks surfaced only two meters from where he lay. Gabriel had been found by a pack of hunting females and he knew that it would all be over very soon. The lead Shark walked towards him and stood inches from his face. She was an extraordinary example of creature cunning, strength and intelligence, a being that had survived beyond all odds and, despite her harsh appearance, Colonel Drax thought she was beautiful. He expected her breath to smell of death and decay but instead she radiated an intoxicating mix of perfumed aromas. So incredible was the fragrance that he relaxed and offered her his throat.
Pine Gap © Matthew Green 2004