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They caught a few more of the fish and put all but three into the fridge they’d attached to the back of the dozer, where Rob had had the foresight to store loads of clean cold water.
It seemed they’d thought of everything.
‘Where do we go then?’ Tia said.
Rob was looking into the sky with a curious expression on his face.
He licked his finger and tested the wind direction.
Then he traced the sun down into the water with his finger, his brow furrowed in concentration.
His eyes scanned the river.
‘There,’ he said, pointing to where there was a small dark hole in the surface of the water.
It looked like a whirlpool.
‘What is it?’ Davey asked, desperate to know and get it all over with.
‘We’re gonna have to get a bit closer,’ Rob said.
‘I don’t wanna,’ Luna said, her hard façade dropping for a second.
They moved right to the edge of the water.
Rob gave the tree trunk by the water a quick shove to see how sturdy it was.
It held, so he wound a bit of the chain around it.
‘We’re gonna need a bit of extra leverage,’ he said, a haunted look on his face.
They moved to the edge of the water.
The waters began to froth.
Dark shapes surfaced.
Then the fish began to leap out.
Davey and Loco knocked them away with wild swings of their arms.
The fish screeched their disapproval and went back into the water.
Rob hooked one of the fish on the end of the spear and whirled it around a little.
When he had built up sufficient momentum, he threw the fish towards the dark whirlpool.
It fell short, but the whirlpool seemed to move towards the fish.
‘Shit! How big is that thing?’ Tia said, open-mouthed.
Her answer was given when the chain lurched hard enough to send Rob flying down the slope.
Loco lunged for him but wasn’t quick enough to stop his leg going into the water.
The water turned red as the smaller fishes surged around his leg and tore strips from it.
Rob screamed as the flesh was torn away from his shin.
Luna and Loco grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him back.
He screamed as he saw his left leg had been reduced to gleaming bone.
‘You bastard,’ Luna shouted, firing her gun into the water as mutated heads popped up in search of more fresh meat.
Davey grabbed her arm and pulled it down.
‘We need to get hold of the chain, before we all end up in there,’ he said.
They all pulled, using the tree for extra leverage.
The chain lunged forward, almost hard enough to pull all of them into the water.
They all screamed as one.
‘I don’t think this is worth it,’ Loco said.
He’d lost the confidence Davey had seen in his eyes.
He looked a broken man already.
The chain pulled again, creaking against the tree trunk.
‘Fuckin hell,’ Luna said. ‘Ain’t no way we’re gonna get this out.’
Davey looked around.
Saw the dozer.
An idea quickly formed.
‘Where the fuck are you going?’ Luna said as he let go of the chain and ran up the hill towards the dozer.
Davey hastily pulled another length of chain from the fridge unit and tied it around the back of the dozer.
He then ran down and fastened it to the other length of chain.
The chain lurched again, pulling Luna towards the water’s edge.
She cried out as dark heads erupted from the tide, snapping towards her booted feet.
‘Whatever you’re doing, hurry the fuck up,’ she shouted.
Davey banged the dozer into reverse and began to pull back.
The chain began to come towards them, creaking under the strain of what it was pulling.
‘Get outta the way,’ Davey shouted.
They scattered like bowling pins as the dozer began to haul its catch from the filthy tides.
The creature was indeed huge.
The head alone was bigger than the five of them combined.
Two blazing eyes glared at them from atop a head that looked like that of a human only squashed down and stretched out to epic proportions.
The flesh was pale, flaccid, but with the occasional slick of rainbow colouring like a fish’s scales.
Its body was humanoid, but bloated enough to be almost unrecognisable.
The mouth was lined with sharp teeth, curved like scimitars.
It let out a guttural roar that left them in no doubt as to how pissed they had made it.
Where the legs should have been was a W-shaped tail.
The thing stunk of decay and filth.
Davey personally would have preferred to pluck his eyes from his skull than look at it.
The creature hit the river bank and it began to thrash, the movement making the chain jingle.
It was hard enough to almost pull the dozer down the slope, but Davey floored the accelerator and began to pull the creature out of the water.
‘Fuck me that is one ugly thing,’ Luna said.
The thing snapped round to glare at her with its big, jaundiced yellow eyes.
Its mouth worked soundlessly as though it was arguing with her.
On its side were two bony appendages that looked like crushed human hands, as pitiful as they were useless.
It thrashed again, pulling the chain taut, testing the dozer’s grip on the mud flats to the absolute limit.
Loco moved in to jab a spear into its throat, put the poor thing out of its misery, but it lunged up toward him, moving with a speed that belied its bloated frame.
The jaws creaked ominously as they opened, revealing stinking strands of drool.
His head disappeared into its gaping maw.
Now it had him, it took its time, moving with the sickly pace of a slug.
Loco screamed as his head disappeared into its gaping maw.
Waves of muscular contractions rippled along the creature’s vast belly as it began to swallow him whole.
Luna and Tia darted in, attacking the creature with bullets and blades, but it was no use.
Only Loco’s dirty trainers poked out of its mouth.
The creature let out a sickly gurgle and it contracted again, pulling the feet in so that Loco was no longer visible other than as a rough outline within its bulging belly.
The creature let out a burp that stunk like decade-dead fish and began to roll around a little.
‘Shit, we gotta get him outta there,’ Luna shouted.
She grabbed Rob’s knife from his hand – Rob was stood gawping in absolute horror at the bizarre sight – and slammed it into the creature’s side.
She pushed it in to its hilt and drew it down, freeing a straw-coloured liquid that reeked bad enough to make her throw up in her mouth.
The creature seemed content after its meal, so much that it didn’t seem to mind her attacking it.
‘Look out,’ Davey shouted from the dozer, upon seeing that the creature’s mouth was searching for her feet.
She shoved the knife in further, splitting the vile creature’s side.
More of the straw-coloured liquid poured out, adding to the vomit-inducing cocktail of scents around the riverbank.
Some of the creatures had begun to poke their heads from the water, trying to see what was going on.
Davey jerked the dozer back, moving the creature away as it began to lunge for Luna’s legs.
The movement opened the wound in its side, making the straw-yellow liquid turn to a thick black substance that poured onto the mud.
She saw part of Loco’s t-shirt through the wound in its side. The movement of the dozer further opened the wound.
The creature finally screamed now as the dozer’s pull tore its belly open.
Loco popped out from the creature’s insides, but his face was horribly burnt away, the flesh already raw and red and bloody, partially digested by the acids in the creature’s stomach. Likewise his hands and even his clothes.
His head flopped from his neck with a sickly wet thud.
The flesh began to slide from his bones.
‘Shit, that’s some powerful acid,’ Luna said, trying to avoid putting her feet in it.
‘Another ten minutes and there wouldn’t even have been bones left,’ Rob said, his head bowed in sorrow for his lost friend.
The creature seemed to be dead now; it had stopped moving and the thick black substance gushing from its stomach had begun to slow to a trickle.
‘Ok, let’s get this sorry-looking thing in the fridge,’ Davey said.
He pulled it up the hill so it sat on the dirt.
Its baleful yellow eyes seemed pitiful in death as did the rest of its absurd frame.
Davey undid the chain from the dozer and used the blade to lift the creature’s flaccid carcass into the fridge.
It plopped in.
Davey quickly shut the lid on it, not wanting to see the horrific face any longer.
‘Well this has been a total car crash,’ Tia said, her head bowed, tears glimmering on her perfectly chiselled cheekbones.
‘Yeah, I’m not even sure we can eat that thing,’ Davey said. ‘Looks like it would poison us.’
‘I was thinking that,’ Luna said.
Davey wasn’t certain but he thought he saw her wiping a tear from her eye.
But she was tough to the end and didn’t want anyone to see this.
‘I know something we can do to potentially bring more food back,’ Rob said.
They all turned to him, ready to hear more.
‘But it’s probably even more dangerous than this place.’
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