Well, this was one very difficult piece to write. I very nearly gave up on it, but I didn’t. It got to 1,300-and-a-bit words and I took a pruning saw to it, but it seems to have come out okay. This thousand-word limit teaches a lot about what can be trimmed and what can’t. Good lessons to apply when writing longer pieces, too.
This story is a result of the latest Chuck Wendig terribleminds blog flash fiction challenge: Epic Game of Aspects Redux. Sub-genre randomly rolled was 'fan fiction'; problem was 'family torn apart'; element to include ended up being 'sea monster'. So, like all fanfics, this piece is not endorsed, recognized or sanctioned by the creator of the game on which it's based. Because of my total discomfort about writing something not a hundred percent my own, the only trademarked name used is 'zuleps' and the rest can be tweaked so that it resides wholly in my own world.
This story is exactly 1,000 words long, and was written inside three days. You are looking at the first draft.
I will post the thoughts and theory on writing it tomorrow.
They found the Partying Plesiosaur aground on Longneck Island. The old river boat had been driven ashore at full speed, its giant paddle wheels shattered to matchsticks and broken planks, the boiler gone to bust not long after. A gaping hole a third from the bow revealed twisted metal, shattered pistons and darkness leading to the hold.
Marrietta had expected bodies, at least a hundred, to be scattered on mud banks and strewn through reed beds bordering the island. She’d expected to at least find pieces of bodies, or footprints, or maybe animal tracks, torn top hats and ruined party gowns. There was nothing.
She twitched her skirts, lifting them clear of clumps of saw-grass where compy’s might hide. Behind her, the men pulled the longboat further onto the mud. They waved at the cutter standing off shore and followed in Marrietta’s wake.
Marrietta did not wear perfume and her hair hung loose, its wild curl reaching just past her shoulders. More than one of the men had wondered what it might be like to run his hands through that soft chestnut-colored mass… and more. Marrietta had a stunning figure.
They did not dare. Marrietta’s hazel eyes spat fire, and her generous mouth hid a razor-sharp tongue. She frightened most and intimidated the rest. She’d given up on finding a suitable partner long ago. Now she let no-one past the part of her she reserved for public viewing.
The men followed, careful to step where she stepped, some aiming their rifles outward over the swaying reeds and empty waves, others keeping a weather eye on the broken river boat with its spine cracked down the middle.
Marrietta completed her circumnavigation and started working her way in to the Plesiosaur’s side. She had just put the toe of her boot on a solid-looking piece of deck, when she heard a loud scream, followed by splashing and more screaming.
Shouts erupted behind her, but Marrietta lost no time in looking back. She stepped up onto the wooden planking and pulled herself inside. Something tugged at her skirts and she glanced around. Lars Meander had reached the Plesiosaur but tripped as he’d stepped onto the boards. He’d grabbed a handful of her skirts on the way down, and was now scrabbling forward, trying to pull his legs inside.
A low moan escaped his mouth as they heard something large pulling itself across the sandbank. Lars kicked his way inside, stretching his hand toward Marrietta. She reached down just as movement blocked the light, touched his fingertips just as horse-sized jaws clamped across his not-fast-enough shins and jerked him backwards, gasped as he was ripped away. She was already backpedalling when she saw those jaws carry him away.
Marrietta did not stay to see more. Crocs didn’t travel alone, and they wouldn’t leave until there was nothing more to eat. Listening to staccato bursts of gunfire crack across the water, she sought a cabin she could lock herself inside. She only hoped the cutter would bother waiting.
The next deck sloped alarmingly under her feet, but Marrietta hurried along it, passing empty cabins until she found more stairs. With the sudden beat of the cutter’s engines in her ears, she hurried up them, walking against the slope of the deck until she reached open air. What she saw belied belief.
The cutter was racing for the same mudflats on which the Partying Plesiosaur had been grounded. Smoke belched from it single stack, and the engines screamed. From where she stood, Marrietta saw a small war being waged across the cutter’s decks. The crew had picked up anything they could find and were facing off against a small horde of zuleps.
The dino-men were stronger and faster. Armed with spears, they were making short work of bringing the sailors under control. Marrietta had never heard of any tribes dwelling this far north, let alone near the bayous.
What, she wondered, were they doing in crocodile-infested water, attacking a human ship? Pulling an ancient pair of opry glasses from a pocket in her skirt, Marrietta leant on the rail, but she had no time to study the creatures because, with a sickening crunch, and the sound of tortured steel, the cutter reached the shore.
Mud flew as the ship ploughed onto the island, and Marrietta suddenly realized her predicament. Whoever had been steering the cutter had sent it straight towards the Plesiosaur. On deck, man and zulep alike glanced up and ran for the railings. Marrietta ran, too, away from the railing, away from the charging cutter, away from the impending explosion.
She spun down the stairwell, and headed for the stern as fast as she could go. A quick right took her down a corridor leading to the far side of the ship, a quick left led her into a corridor where she could brace. The cutter hit before she found the floor, and Marrietta slammed into a cabin door. It opened and she tumbled to the far side of the room.
A dull boom followed as the cutter’s boiler blew. The Plesiosaur shuddered, its framework groaning. From outside, she heard screams and shouts and Big Andres cursing the lizard-blasted hides of every zulep ever hatched. From inside, she heard footsteps followed by the faint slither of a tail.
Tucking her glasses back into her pocket, Marrietta picked herself up. At least part of the mystery of her sister’s disappearance was solved. The footsteps came closer. Marrietta held her breath, her innards churning with apprehension. If the zuleps had taken the Plesiosaur, and then taken all aboard, she had to decide if she would trail them or go with them.
Marrietta was still trying to find somewhere to hide, when the zuleps appeared in the doorway.
“Come,” it said, surprising her with Common.
“Come,” it repeated when she hesitated.
“Where?” Marrietta asked, rising to her feet and dusting her skirts.
“You we trade to raptor,” the zuleps said, taking her by the wrist. “Like others.”
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