By LELA MARIE DE LA GARZA
“Be so very still now,” Kaal whispered.
Leslie didn’t need this instruction. She knew the radar of the Semmes could detect motion from a far distance, and she was being as still as the rocks around them. She knew too that with its keen sense of smell the Semmes was probably already aware of them.
As if confirming her thought, Kaal said “He is scenting us now. Come he does soon.” Leslie heard crashing and looked through the telescope of her rifle. A vague shape emerged, and she held steady.
The Semmes had been terrorizing villages for a month. It ate everything that moved—animals, adults and children alike—and destroyed what it didn’t eat, ripping houses to splinters, trampling crops. The Semmes generally stayed with their peaceful herds in secluded parts of the planet Darius, but this one had gone rogue. It had to be put down.
Leslie had only a hazy idea of what the Semmes looked like, but she knew it was big. She felt the smallness, the puniness of herself and her rifle. How did I let myself get talked into this? She wondered.
The village leader, Tlak, had been very persuasive. “Came you did to our village with your strange powerful ways and your strange powerful weapons. Be you we welcomed with feast and dance. Ours spear and our clubs do stop the Semmes not. Devour all he will. But you with power can kill Semmes. Kaal, our bravest and strongest will go with you. Surely you do save us. And Tlak had crossed his arms on top of his head, a solemn sign of entreaty.
So here she was—in the most danger she’d ever known in her life. Why did I say yes? Why didn’t I tell Tlak that I wasn’t big enough, that my weapon wasn’t big enough? It had been a point of honor, and she had agreed. At that time it hadn’t seemed impossible to shoot a Semmes.
Now that it was coming toward her, she felt ridiculous. The creature was bigger than she ever imagined it would be, and she would have to wait till it was almost on her before she fired. A Semmes was covered with armor plate and had only two vulnerable spots: the single eye high on its forehead and the hollow of its throat. It had to be hit in both places.
Leslie forced herself to stay still. She was a good shot—if only she had a chance to fire. The Semmes looked something like a brontosaurus, but had six legs instead of four. It also had a long trunk which it whipped madly around at everything in its path. She heard Kaal’s sharp intake of breath as the creature rushed toward them. Leslie held her gun steady, waiting for the last possible second. Then the Semmes reared up on its hind legs and she had a clear shot into its neck. The Semmes paused for a few seconds, then kept coming. There was a sound, something between a scream and a roar, and Leslie was looking into its red baleful eye. She took her second shot.
That should have killed the Semmes, but it kept coming. “Now must we run,” Kaal urged, but Leslie didn’t need that warning. She ran. Kaal ran. But the pounding and crashing behind her told Leslie the Semmes was gaining. Any moment she expected a huge foot to trample her or fangs rip off her head. If I get out of this alive, she vowed, I’ll never do it again. Never! No matter how many entreaties they make, no matter…
Then a thud shook the ground as if one of the giant hanging stones had fallen. Leslie stopped and looked back to see the Semmes stretched on the ground, blood pouring from its throat and head. Kaal approached the beast cautiously, careful to stay away from the trunk. “Deads it is,” he announced, and dipped his finger in the blood. Then he approached Leslie. “I must put this on you.”
“Why?” Leslie shrank away.
“It marks you as a warrior. Great honor.” Leslie felt something slimy touch her forehead. “Now all will know that you braver are. There will be Leslie song, Leslie feast, Leslie dance.”
Leslie wasn’t sure how much she wanted this honor. The spot Kaal had touched seemed cold. Surreptitiously, she felt it. The blood was already dry. “When will this wear off?” she asked. “Or can I wash it off myself?”
Kaal looked astonished. “Oh no! Blood coming off never. Show to every space in Darius wonder greatness of you.”
Kaal didn’t know that word. “Ever now will you be called on for deed braves. Many villages. Must kill you the Great Ok. It has one the weak point under its tail. The Jacruse must hit in its open mouth only. Ears of Lacca…belly of Gro…
Leslie was no longer listening. She’d taken a vow never to do this again, but she wasn’t going to be allowed to keep it. She could run away from Kaal; she could run away from Tlak and the village, but she could never run away from the mark. There would be songs written about her, dances of her bravery performed, feasts given in her name. She would be honored throughout Darius, and she would belong to everyone who needed her strange, powerful ways and her strange powerful weapon.
Leslie shouldered her rifle and followed Kaal back to the village, striding straight and tall as a warrior should.
- - -
Lela Marie De La Garza has had work published in “Guardian Angel Kids,” “Passion Beyond Words”, “Black Denim,” “Yellow Mama,” “Bewildering Stories,” “Breath and Shadow”, and “The Western Online”. Her latest novel, “Mistral,” was published in December of 2014. She was born in Denver, CO. in 1943 while her father was serving in WWII. She currently resides in San Antonio, TX. with three and a half cats and a visiting raccoon.
Thursday, November 5, 2015
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