Hello, everyone and welcome to October! Fall is here with its cool, crisp air and soon Jack-o-lanterns will be all a-flare. Actually the temperature at my house is a balmy 98 degrees Fahrenheit at the moment because I live in one of the hottest areas of West Texas. Don’t worry though; the end of October always brings cooler weather in time for Halloween Trick-or-Treat. Speaking of tricks and treats, today I am proud to share an excerpt from a much darker fantasy short story of mine called “What Tendrils Echo”. This is one of the short stories that will be included in the soon-to-be-published Musings short story collection! If you enjoy the excerpt and wish to know how the story ends, please look for the full version in the upcoming book!
Just to whet your appetite even more, I have included the mock-up cover art for “What Tendrils Echo”, which will be included in the book. I hope you like it! Please keep watching the Blog and News pages for more updates on my upcoming Musings anthology. Thanks!
A surge of pain jolted me awake. My bleary eyes snapped open to see a black jaguar’s half-open jaws inches from my face. I tried to scream, but only managed a wheezing cough as the predator’s hot breath overwhelmed my nose and slithered down my throat. The jaguar watched me steadily and then seemed to nod to itself. Before I could even flinch, the beast’s massive jaws closed on my head. It bit down on my already bloody skull and held me between its fangs while its hot breath streamed into my lungs. The smell was revolting and yet addicting―like I was breathing in pure adrenaline through a moldy sponge. I finally found my voice and screamed. The jaguar jerked back and then growled at me, as if annoyed by my fear. He―I could now clearly see that it was a he―flicked his tail back and forth like my house cat does when she feels smug about something. Then he turned and vanished into the jungle’s undergrowth.
I sat paralyzed with my back against a large boulder for several minutes. With nowhere to run and no one to help, I was sure he would return and finish me off. I looked around the jungle floor through tear-streaked eyes, trying to make out any new danger. Nothing moved among the shadows, not even an ant. I listened intently for the faintest sound and heard nothing. How weird. The jungle was always noisy. Day or night, rain or shine, the world was always filled with some sort of cacophony. Yet here in the clearing where I lay there was only silence until…
My stomach roared rather than gurgled. The unexpected noise made me jump to my feet in terror. At least that is what I tried to do. My legs seemed to be asleep because I felt nothing solid under me when I landed. The shock of that lack of sensation caused me to tumble backwards into a tree root the size of my chest. The collision between my skull and hard wood should have sent me cursing or wincing or at least something other than a mere “Huh.” Why was I numb from head to toe? What was going on here?
I reached up and felt the gooey wetness of blood coating my hair. As I pulled the hand away from my scalp and examined it, I also noticed a kind of greenish puss-like sap clinging to the dark red smeared on my palm. The mix of sweet and metallic scents made me want to vomit. Instead my stomach just growled all the louder. I had to find safety and food fast.
I looked around my oddly quiet surroundings once more. Where was I? I couldn’t remember anything past the unearthing of the Olmec chieftain’s tomb’s entrance last night after supper. All of the members of our archeology team had been so excited. Was it last night or the night before? Obviously, I had slept since then, but I couldn’t remember going back to my tent to do so. I’d never be stupid enough to wander off alone in the rainforest, so perhaps the jaguar pulled me out of my tent and off into the jungle. Had he? I couldn’t remember.
“Come on, Jacqueline. Think!” I whispered to myself, but my skull’s pounding prevented anything more than the most basic instincts to surface. I wiped the sticky substance off my hand with a handful of leaves, tore off a piece of my T-shirt, and wound the rag around my bleeding head.
I frowned at my wayward legs. The tanned skin protruding from my hiking boots was peppered with cuts from yesterday’s excursion to the temple dig site. My skin should be covered with insects and feel on fire, but instead it was just numb with cold. Still frowning, I tried to stand once more. This time balance won out long enough for me to find a fallen branch from a nearby tree and use it as a decent walking cane.
The snap of a nearby twig caught my attention. The jaguar must be back. Well, at least I had a weapon now. If I was going to die, I was going to go out swinging. I braced myself against the closest tree and waited for the jaguar to pounce.
I hope you have enjoyed today’s excerpt. If you have any questions or comments about it, please drop me an email or leave your thoughts below in the commentary section. Don’t forget that you can view and buy the beautiful cover art that I designed specifically for this story HERE on my photography website.
I have worked very hard during August and September to improve the website so that it is easier for everyone to find what they want. I will continue to pull older photos off of the photography as I add more Alaskan photography. If possible, I will also upload more story cover art to the website for your enjoyment in anticipation of Musings upcoming release. Please give me your suggestions about how I can make the website experience even better for you! Thanks so much!
Until our next meeting, may we each rewrite our world for the better.
The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the desk of Alycia Christine Sears and/or Alycia C. Cooke with love and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts on this particular topic and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!