Written for and winner of the 2013 #3-POV challenge.
Episode: Attack of the Alligators
The story so far:
Having been called to a research station located in a backwoods bayou, an incredulous International Rescue team arrives to find a crumbling
mansion-cum-laboratory under siege from a group of giant alligators.
The hapless band of trapped civilians includes Dr Orchard and his assistant Hector McGill, Mrs Philes, the housekeeper, and Mr Blackmer, who had
arrived at the house one day previously for a demonstration of Dr Orchard’s
Theramin compound, a derivative of the local waterweed Sardonicus Americanus
, a plant proven to possess the astounding property of causing animals to grow to super sizes. Culp, the boatman, is missing from the group, presumed
eaten by one of the mutant reptiles.
in the swamp, Scott opts to enter the building, much to the consternation of the scientists and their household, who have taken refuge in the basement
laboratory as the alligators attempt to tear the upper stories of the house apart. Scott suggests they leave the crumbling basement before it
collapses, and the group takes a precarious refuge in the front room of the mansion.
The minute they made it up the teetering staircase, the minute they were herded like so many sheep into the parlour, the absolute minute Blackmer
spotted the safe haven of the couch over by the bureau, he scooted himself between the settee and the wall, figuring it was the only safe place left on the
ground floor of the mansion. The wall behind him cracked and buckled with every thump of alligator tail on the external brickwork, but the couch somehow
promised safety. Took him back to the long, long nights of his childhood, when his mother worked late and he and his sister crouched behind the furniture
as imaginary phantoms moved like shadows through the dark.
Blackmer turned his back to the crumbling wall, clenched his fingers into the red leather of his refuge and stared at the man in the blue uniform – Scott,
he’d called himself – who had somehow, stupidly convinced them to leave the safety of basement and brought them here, here,
where those freaking man-eaters could see him and smell him and, and… a shadow passed by the smashed window, the sound of something heavy dragging itself
through the mud, brought with it the stench of God knows what and moss and dirt and the damp odour of mushrooms sprouting in the dark. Blackmer shuddered,
dug his fingers harder into the upholstery as his legs weakened and threatened to drop him to the floor. He briefly considered running blind out into the
swamp, because they sure as hell weren’t getting out of this alive, not trapped right here with nothing but brick and plaster between them and those giant
snapping jaws. It was just a matter of time before one of those screaming beasts – and Christ, how they screamed – got its snout through the
gaping hole where the window had been and ripped them all to bloody shreds.
Blackmer stared at the International Rescue operative, and God, how he hated him.
There had been many times in Scott Tracy’s life when he’d wondered what the hell he’d been thinking. Many times when he’d worked purely on instinct, woken
up to find himself in the middle of some hare-brained scheme and thought “what the hell?,” constantly surprised to find there was more than one
Scott Tracy living comfortably inside his head – Scott Tracy the action man, all impulse and testosterone and yes, one giant set of testicles, and the
other Scott Tracy, the one that was made of flesh and blood and … dare he say it … fear.
Right now, Bullet-proof Scott – the one that had been running on adrenaline and instinct, the one that had looked up at the fractured ceiling of the
basement and realised their only hope lay up in the mansion with the uncertain refuge of the swamp within sprinting distance – that Scott, that particular scrummer who was responsible for all the black eyes he’d ever had, for all the broken bones and the scars that peppered across his
skin, that Scott had now deserted the scene and left only flesh-and-blood Scott, stuck in the middle of a tiny, crumbling room, with four pairs of
fear-filled eyes turned towards him for salvation. Oh yeah, Bullet-proof had gone and left him, left him with nowhere to go, and absolutely,
abso-fucking-lutely no. way. out!
“They seem to be all ‘round the house,” McGill said as an alligator lashed its way past the broken window, tail whipping against the house as it bellowed
like a prehistoric beast come to rampaging life. Plaster rained down from the ceiling, the furniture jolting and shifting as the floor began to buckle
beneath their feet.
“Look!” Mrs Philes pointed a finger to where the bookcase jostled itself from the wall. “Over there!”
Shit. Scott clamped his teeth hard on the inside of his lip, tasted blood along with the fear. Shit.
“They’ve got in!” McGill took a panicked step towards him as the bookcase threatened to spill its load to the floor.
“Right.” Scott raised his pistol as the bookcase jiggled further from the wall. “Now stand back!”
He clamped his finger on the trigger, doubted the weapon would be able to handle ten thick inches of alligator skull, wondered if he should aim for the
eyes or the mouth and what would buy them the most time. If they even had any time…
He never saw the bullet coming.
He was so focussed on the shifting of the bookcase and the what-if scenario playing out in his head, that when a dirty and dishevelled and
grunting man emerged from the cavity in the wall he couldn’t process it, couldn’t quite comprehend what he was seeing. And by the time he realised there
was a gun aimed toward him, by the time he heard the crack of the round leave the chamber, felt the sting of the bullet as it ripped the skin from his
fingers and knocked the pistol from his grip, it was all too late.
Son of a bitch!
It hadn’t been that hard, after all.
Sure, finding the secret passage into the house had been hard, what with a giant alligator tailing him through the swamp, snapping and snarling at him as
he heaved his way through the mud and the vines that tangled over everything. In the end it had been the vines that had saved him, snarled the alligator
and allowed him to slip unseen back into the river, and up, up through the slime-filled tunnel and back towards the house.
Yes, that part had been hard. But shooting a man had been surprisingly easy, and Culp was almost disappointed the bullet hadn’t found a deeper mark. He
considered shooting again, lost his train of thought as the sound of McGill’s voice cut through the air.
“So. The alligators didn’t get you after all.”
Culp raised his weapon and aimed it right for the scientist’s heart. “Brilliant deduction,” he snarled. That bastard had always hated him. They all had,
McGill and Orchard and that cold-hearted bitch Philes. They’d treated him like dirt, used him to get what they wanted, and now it was his turn.
The snarl fell from his face as he pulled the vial of Theramin from his pocket, transplanted itself with a wide and lazy smile. He raised the vial into the
air, savoured a smug rush of pleasure as he turned the gun back towards Scott. “You’re gonna do things my way,” he drawled, relishing his moment, “or else
I can cause even more…”
…how was he going to phrase this?
“Unpleasantness,” he grinned.
Blackmer didn’t hate Scott now. Not now that he was the only thing standing between them and the twitching of Culp’s finger on the trigger.
He watched as sweat formed across Scott’s forehead, a tiny bead breaking free and sliding down his temple. Blackmer’s lip twitched in sympathy. He hadn’t
stopped sweating since he’d arrived in this hellhole, his body dripping with a constant damp that seeped from his armpits and plastered his shirt to his
back, made him feel like a fat old man on the verge of a stroke. And now, now, when things couldn’t get any worse, because how could things get any worse
when you were trapped by a pack of giant alligators – giant freaking alligators –
A low rumbled shuddered its way through the walls of the house.
At first he thought it was thunder, but as the rumble vibrated through the walls, the floor, the quaking soles of his feet, Blackmer realised something
bigger, much bigger, was bearing down upon them.
What new hell is this,
he wondered as a shadow passed over the house and darkened the jungle beyond the window.
Not so bullet-proof after all.
Scott’s hand stung like a bitch where the round from Culp’s pistol had torn the skin, left another scar for his burgeoning collection. He raised the wound
to his mouth, sucked at it briefly as the roar from Thunderbird Two’s engines passed overhead.
“Yeah.” Culp moved to the window as the craft disappeared towards the swamp, scattering the alligators into the jungle. “They’re moving back to the river.”
Scott tore his eyes away from the barrel of Culp’s weapon, stared out the window in the direction Thunderbird Two had taken. He gritted his teeth
and prayed Virgil wasn’t going to land, that one of his brothers wasn’t going to come in looking for them and get his head blown off.
They must have thought he was stupid or something.
Culp fingered the vial in his hand. That tiny test-tube of pure, green gold was as good as money in the bank. And that’s what this was all about, wasn’t
it, because if he’d just had some money, if only he’d owned something more than a clapped-out boat and the clothes on his back... yeah, this Theramin was
going to get him out of this swamp, this shit-hole, get him someplace where mould didn’t grow between his toes and chiggers didn’t crawl through
his bed at night.
Culp smiled despite himself, despite the howling of the alligators out in the jungle and the five worried faces that never took their eyes off him, not
even for a second. He smiled because who knows, but maybe once he got paid, once he had some cash, maybe he’d find himself a nice lady, someone
who didn’t look at him like he’d just crawled out the swamp, someone who’d treat him like a real gentleman. Someone who wouldn’t look at him like that
withered old bitch Philes was doing right now. His lip curled. She was no different from every other woman in his life, judging him, looking down on him, rejecting him. How easy it would be to sink a bullet into her cold, hard heart, payment for all the sneers she’d ever sent in his direction. All
the times she’d treated him as nothing more than a dog.
The screaming of the alligators echoed from the swamp, and the sound of guns firing, distantly. He glanced across at International Rescue as the shooting
and screaming faded into silence. Thought he saw in the wide blue eyes the merest glimmer of hope.
Culp wanted to put a bullet right between those eyes. Wanted to see if that smooth forehead would deflect a 44, or if it would shatter into a million
Blackmer watched Culp as he stood guard by the window. The boatman had two guns now. His own, and Scott’s fancy ray gun, that he’d scooped up from where it
had clattered to the floor.
Blackmer wished for a gun. His gun, the weapon of the great white hunter that he’d left stupidly up in his room. Oh yeah, if he had his gun he
could put a round right through Culp so hot and so fast the boatman wouldn’t even feel it. Ahh… shit.
One of the alligators screamed nearby, a primordial bellowing that shook more plaster from the ceiling, sent a fine rain of dust swirling into the moist
air, made him choke and cough up phlegm specked with white. He spat onto the floor, clenched his fingers into the couch as one of the monsters butted its
head against the mansion, lashed its tail against the wall, stuck a huge scaly claw into the masonry and tried to tear the place apart.
They could smell him, Blackmer was sure of it! They had caught the scent of his sweat and his fear, and if they passed by that broken window and
pressed an eye into the space where the glass had been… If they saw him, oh God, if they saw him…
There was another crash against the house, a great reverberation that filled the room with noise. The impact sent the bookcase crashing to the floor,
exposed the dark, wet cavern of the tunnel, and a wall that had only minutes to go.
“Look, Culp, in about two minutes from now that wall is gonna collapse altogether, and you know what will happen.” Scott reached towards Culp for
his weapon, gingerly, like a man placing his hand into a pit of vipers. “Just let me use the ray gun,” he pleaded. “Maybe I could cripple the reptile?’
Culp aimed the gun towards Scott’s head. “One move and you’re dead,” he rasped out, oblivious to the mayhem around him, the ceiling that threatened to cave
in and crush them all.
Scott dropped his hand, curled his fingers into a fist as Bullet-proof resurfaced from out of nowhere, commandeered his body, his heartbeat, the
sweat that dripped down the back of his neck and wicked its way through the heavy drill of his uniform. Bullet-proof sucked down a lungful of damp air,
tensed his muscles and locked eyes with McGill.
It was now or never, and Culp was going down.
It seemed for a moment that Culp sensed the change, realised that the greater danger now lay inside the room. But before he could speak, before he
could act, before his finger could press down on the trigger and take International Rescue out of the equation, there was the sound of more gunfire from
the forest. The onslaught on the house ceased as the reptiles slunk growling back into the swamp.
“Alright.” Culp waved his pistol at the little group. “The coast is clear.” He raised the Theramin into the air, sent a gloating look towards Orchard and
McGill, turned a wicked grin on International Rescue. “Now you radio your buddies in their craft over there and tell ‘em I’m comin’ out now.”
“No, Culp,” International Rescue said with the faintest hint of alarm. “It’s not safe!”
“Look,” Culp drawled, amused that International Rescue even cared. “Your pals out there,” he jerked his head towards the jungle, “have just gotta make one
move to stop me, and I pour this little cocktail into the river.”
Blackmer knew what that meant. That meant more of them. More of those freaking man-eaters stalking the jungle. And who knew what
else was lurking in that swamp… what other kinds of nightmares were out there waiting for Orchard’s potion to turn them into freaking monsters?
Blackmer wanted to let the fear take him, let the oppressive heat drop him to his knees, wanted to curl into a ball behind the couch and imagine there were
no alligators, no Theramin, no Culp, no guns… wanted to be eight years old again, hidden safe behind the furniture.
Scott could feel the fear. He could smell it, seeping out of Blackmer’s skin, out of Orchard’s skin, out of McGill and Mrs Philes and hell, even out of Culp. The fight drained out of him as Bullet-proof departed the scene, left him sweating and licking his lips and giving in to
the inevitable. Scott raised his communicator.
“Calling Thunderbird Two. Calling – “
“Scott, at last! What’s up?”
“Now listen, Virg.” Scott swallowed thickly, tasted the swamp on his tongue. “There’s a guy here pointing a gun at us. He wants you to give him a clear
passage from the house.”
“Yes?” Virgil said slowly, the unspoken ‘and then?’ hanging like lead in the air.
Yeah, Virg. And then…
“…he threatens to put some more of Orchard’s drug into the swamp.” Scott looked up at Culp, at the gun trained unwaveringly towards his heart. “And you
know what that means.”
Culp moved away from his position by the window as all eyes followed him tensely, waiting for the shot.
And oh, how he wanted to pull that trigger. He wanted to turn the gun on all of them and take them out one by one. Most especially he
wanted to wipe the look of disdain from that smug bitch’s face, and put a bolt of hot lead right between International Rescue’s eyes.
But he still had to get out of here, didn’t he, and he might need those bullets for the swamp. So Culp hadn’t pulled the trigger, despite the itching of
his finger begging him, just begging him to do it. All that time with his gun poised ready and the devil, whispering in his ear, had
ended with a simple “thanks, bud,” as he stepped through the mangled doorframe and made his way through the trees and the vines and down to the river.
Blackmer tottered to the boundary of the shattered window, the visible demarcation between life and death, and hovered there, pale and sweaty and so
After so much noise, it was the silence that threatened to break him. Even the jungle lay still, as though the guns they’d heard earlier had shattered
something, broken the intrinsic clockwork of life and rendered the whole world mute. Beyond the splintered periphery of the mansion, he watched as Culp
scrambled into a dinghy and cast himself off into the swamp.
Orchard and Scott stepped through the fractured doorway, picked their way through the rubble and the mud, wandered shell-shocked beyond the safety of the
house and into alligator territory. What the hell are they doing out there? Don’t they know they’re sitting ducks?
Blackmer shrank away from the window as Orchard blurted out, loud, loud, way too loud, couldn’t he keep his damn voice down? “The vial!
What happened to the vial?”
And there it was. Movement in the forest. Life, returned, at the sound of Orchard’s voice.
A flock of birds rose screeching into the air, a breeze broke through the dark tangle of trees, and a roar echoed from the swamp, primal, terrifying, the
ancient sound of death. And over it, above it, dying in it, Culp’s voice, carrying on the wind, high-pitched and wailing.
He’d had a gun.
Blackmer turned away from the window, clamped his hands over his ears, tried to drown out the sounds that floated up from the river. Culp could’ve saved himself. He looked up, met the unflinching gaze of Mrs Philes. If only he’d pulled the trigger.