First 500 Words—River’s Edge

River’s Edge released on August 10, 2018. It is a stand-alone science-fiction short story about first contact and colonisation.
What’s it About?

When my mother told me to run, I ran. I ran all the way to the river and then stopped—because the river was a frightening place, and forbidden by the raiders who came to take their annual toll of settlers. Faced with the choice of being taken, or taking my chances in the river, I took a step back, and hoped that somewhere, across the river I’d find help.
Here are the first 500 words of that story:

River’s Edge

First 500 Words
I stood at the edge of the river, both feet firmly planted amidst the sweet meadow grass, the toes of my boots scant inches from the water. What would it be like, I wondered, to take that one step more?
Behind me bugles rang, and I glanced back, trying to see through the cover of the trees, trying to gauge if I really had a choice about the river, or if I was honestly thinking of facing the fate roaring through the foliage towards me. I turned. Perhaps that fate wouldn’t be as bad as I’d heard. Perhaps…
One look at the bestial features of the rider mounted on the giant boar, and I knew otherwise. The elders had been sugar-coating the truth for years; the only reason our colony had survived was because we paid a tribute in human lives—and I wasn’t going to be a part of it. Whatever the stories were that surrounded the river, none of them promised the horror I read on that face.
It was worth the risk.
And maybe I would find salvation downstream. Maybe there would be someone I could ask for help. Our ancestors might not have chosen to land here, but we had no choice about staying, Confederation and Alliance rules, or no. My mother had given me the chance to reach the river. I would not disrespect her by wasting it.
The rider drew her beast to a skidding halt, the tip of her spear bare inches from my chest.
“Going somewhere, child?” she asked, and I licked my lips. “Come back with me. I have a better use for that tongue.”
I was sure she did, even though I couldn’t think what. The boar was not the only one with fangs that curled over its lip. The creature mounted on its back looked carnivorous. I took a step back, not intending it to be my last on dry land—but I’d forgotten how deliberately I’d stood on the river’s edge, my heels in line with its bank, and my foot struck nothing.
I had time for one startled shriek, throwing my arms out for balance as my sole found the water’s surface and plunged through, and then I was falling. Coarse laughter followed me down, and I watched as they turned their mounts parallel to the bank. They looked odd as rippling shadows blending into the trees, and I hoped the stories weren’t entirely true.
Giant fish that could swallow a man whole, eels able to strip the flesh from a cow in seconds, amphibious lizards that paralysed with a bite so their young could eat living flesh until they were large enough to hunt it on their own, these were the nightmares that ran through my head as I flailed my way to the surface. The surface—where the riders were waiting.
The first spear thrust came as a surprise, and I turned, feeling the blade graze my back, as I noticed the rope trailing behind. I didn’t wait for a second shaft to come flying in my direction, but dove away from the bank, pushing myself under the surface and hoping they wouldn’t try for me until I came up for air.
My mother had always told me I was a dreamer.
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River’s Edge is a stand-alone science-fiction short story, available direct from Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, DriveThruFiction, and multiple stores via Books2Read, as well as via Smashwords and Draft2Digital distribution.