This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!
No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….
Rattlesnake Falls Book 1
“Tabitha!” Shelley pushed past the men, slapping their hands off as they tried to stop her. The grade was steeper than it looked, but she leaned back and kept going, zig-zagging down the hill to slow her momentum. Heavy footsteps pounded behind her and Dillon called her name. Why did he want her to stop? Why wasn’t he rushing down to help his friend too?
A distinct coppery smell wafted past her on the breeze, followed by the smell of rotting meat. She refused to believe Tabby was dead. She couldn’t be. Not after all they’d done together. All they still had left to do. She just…couldn’t be dead.
“Shelley, you have to stop! Look across the fire!”
Dillon’s voice finally penetrated and she looked up, seeing nothing across the firepit except another hill, that one covered in trees and shrouded in the dimness of a forest in daytime. Just a few more steps and she’d be right next to Tabby…
Just then, she saw the glowing eyes. Smelled the stench of rotten meat, and knew it wasn’t coming from either of their friends.
Bear-breath was much, much worse than she’d ever bothered to imagine. And those eyes were fixed straight ahead, locked onto her as a long tongue licked drool from black jowels.
A shot rang out from somewhere behind her and the eyes and muzzle went sideways. The animal grunted and the earth vibrated as his body hit the ground with a solid thud.
Shelley couldn’t take her eyes off the beast. It was bigger than she’d thought a black bear would be, and she imagined a breath, maybe two even though the shot had run right through the head. When a heavy hand fell on her shoulder, she nearly jumped out of her skin and gasped.
“Just me. The bear’s dead. Are you okay?”
She finally turned her head to see the concern in Dillon’s eyes. Swallowing hard past the lump in her throat, she nodded.
“Who shot it?”
Dillon pointed to John, now standing way too close to that carcass for comfort.
“He circled out the moment you started running — hit the hill full speed and didn’t stop until he found his mark. Thank God.”
A low groan from the bodies on the ground pulled them both back to the reason they were there in the first place, and Shelley whirled around, kneeling on the ground beside Tabitha while Dillon went to Mike.
“Tabby? Are you okay? Wake up — talk to me!” Shelley grabbed her shoulder and gently pulled Tabby from her stomach to her back, earning another groan in the process.
“Shelley?” Tabby blinked up at her, but didn’t seem to see her. “Is that really you? You’re like a mirage. All fuzzy or wavy or something…” Her head lolled to the side and Shelley gave the rest of Tabby’s body a quick glance, expecting the blood to be on her torso. But it wasn’t.
“Tabitha — wake up Tabby! What happened to your leg?” When she got no response, Shelley put two fingers to the side of Tabby’s neck and prayed.
Her heart was beating, but it seemed weak. Shelley moved to look at the wound on her leg, and that’s when she realized that the putrid smell she’d been trying to ignore wasn’t bear breath, but rather a long, obviously infected gash across Tabby’s thigh.
“Oh God,” she breathed, wondering how long the two had been laying in this spot. The wound was dirty, and…were those maggots?
Momentarily at a loss for what to do, she glanced over at Dillon and Mike, now on his back too. Mike’s wounds were considerably more substantial — long gashes across his chest, and apparently in worse shape than Tabby’s.
“What do we do?” she asked, looking helplessly at Dillon. “I don’t even know how to help.”
Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 19!
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