As they enter the tunnel the turbulent flow forces Mark and the boy underwater and spins them end over end. He struggles to hold his breath and the lad’s hand, instinctively curling himself up to protect his head from underwater obstacles. What seems like minutes later the flow steadies and he thrashes to the surface, gratefully sucking in greedy lungfuls of dank air. After a moment he realises that the boy isn’t breathing.
The toad’s laughter is echoed sycophantically by its smaller brethren and Mark grinds his teeth, his hands curling into fists. “What’s so funny about that?” he asks as the throbbing laughter starts to subside, kicking off another round of batrachian hilarity.
The toad clutches slick wet claws to its abdomen and its mouth gapes for a moment, the boy’s slimy face appearing for a brief moment between its lips. The toad gulps him back and then inflates its throat-sac in a series of pulses that leave it massively distended and almost transparent, giving Mark a good look inside. The boy’s eyes are wild with fear. “Help!” he calls, the sound of his voice strangely muted and distorted. He pounds the membrane with his fists, each blow making a deep bass-drum THUMM. Read more…
Mark has to work hard to extract himself from the chilly water, for the purple grass is slippery and he is freighted with wet clothing. Eventually he grabs big handfuls of the long grass and uses them to pull himself slowly up out of the water. The roots make a tearing sound like Velcro coming undone but hold out long enough for him to finally reach the riverbank. He collapses on his back to catch his breath, his palms tingling with a faint burn. When he looks they’re stained with purple streaks.
Mark hits a slight bend and is launched into free-fall, a hoarse scream bursting from him as he flies. Then he’s down again with a thud that makes his coccyx throb and sliding on his rear, his passage eased by the layer of slug-slime that coats the bottom of the tunnel. It’s too dark to see so he closes his eyes; it makes him feel better, somehow.
Mark wakes to find himself blind and deaf. He panics for a moment and then realises that his eyes and ears are gluey with drying slug-slime. His mouth is sealed too and he can only breathe through his left nostril. He tries to wipe his face but finds that his arm is stuck to the floor. He panics all over again and thrashes against the muck, panting through his nostril. At last his arm tears free and he digs his fingers into the mask of slime over his face and claws it away. He sucks in a huge breath of air and finds himself taking unexpected pleasure in the simple act of breathing. Read more…
This is the start of a novel that I’ve had outlined for a while but not really done anything with yet.
Does it manage to capture your interest? Would you want to read more? I’d be grateful for your thoughts.
Zack barely grunted at me as he slouched past in the hall, the tinny music blaring from his earphones providing him all the excuse he needed to pretend I wasn’t there. It wasn’t a surprise, after the events of the last few days, but it still hurt. As Zack slumped down the steps I let my frustration and anger get the better of me for a second and I slammed the front door behind him as hard as I could. After an all-too brief moment of catharsis I swore under my breath and went to fetch a dustpan and brush.