PREVIOUSLY: Skipper Jason Mariner transports the quarrelsome professor Huss, his beautiful daughter, Mara, and her maidservant, Ma-Ku, along with their assistants, to the mysterious island of Aratoba. But just as he starts to sail away, he hears screams from the shore...
For a moment Mariner sat in stunned disbelief. Then, snatching up a pair of binoculars, he trained them on the beach to better see the frightful scene unfolding before his disbelieving eyes.
The trio of giant reptiles, each at least thirty feet in length, ten feet at the shoulder, and surrounded by faint crimson auras, came into focus with terrible clarity as they rushed from the jungle and ran among the party, grabbing men and cutting them in two with a single snap of their powerful jaws.
The creatures, jet black in color with bands of vivid yellow spots across their upper bodies, were the crystallization of Man’s darkest fear – the dragon, symbol of chaos, destruction and unbridled lust.
“My God!” came his stunned thought. “Huss was right after all.”
Quickly, Mariner brought White Cloud about, sailing her close-hauled to the wind, using all his nautical skill to wrest speed form the moving air. He headed back to the island cursing the slowness of the boat, and sick with fear for the safety of the helpless party now being devoured before his horrified gaze.
Could he stop the huge creatures -- could he save anyone from such terrible ferocity? He was assailed by doubts, but held fast to his courage, knowing there was no choice but to try.
Again he looked through the binoculars, and saw three survivors running towards the jungle – Professor Huss, his daughter and Ma-Ku. Following rapidly after was a single monster, its brothers remaining behind to sate their hunger upon the mangled dead.
“Run towards the sea!” he shouted wildly, never before feeling so powerless in the face of danger.
But it did no good. The survivors had only one thought in mind – to escape the nightmarish creature that persued them, their blind panic blotting out all else. The last glimpse he had of the trio was the slim figure of Ma-Ku as she vanished into the underbrush, the reptile hot on her heels.
Shaking himself free of the horror he felt, and realizing there was not a moment to lose, Mariner locked the tiller, opened a watertight container, and stuffed his pockets with first aid supplies and ammunition for his Lee-Enfield rifle. By now the distance had narrowed to about a hundred yards, and he could clearly see the huge creatures. They looked up from their gruesome feast, attracted by the motion of his boat.
Whistling hisses exploded from their fetid maws. Thinking that this strange marine creature meant to rob them of their meal, they launched themselves into the sea and swam with alarming rapidity towards the approaching craft.
Cold sweat stood out on Mariner as he took up position in the bow. Closer and closer came the monstrous forms, nearer and nearer the flimsy boat. The beasts were nearly as fast in water as they were on land, and he knew he must make each shot count.
Drawing a bead on the lead reptile, he fired. The bullet struck the thing a glancing blow upon its thick skull. It bellowed madly for a moment, but still came on.
Sweet Jesus, he thought. The boat’s motion is killing my aim.
Again he fired, this time hitting the creature’s blunt but sensitive snout. Its massive body convulsed and swerved into the path of the other, colliding with it. The second beast, thinking itself under attack, turned upon its companion. Instantly, the water exploded into spray as the two mighty forms locked in unrestrained ferocity, churning the water to foam with the mad thrashing of their powerful bodies.
Mariner, seeing that he was headed directly into the path of the fighting beasts, dashed back to the tiller and altered course, barely avoiding the struggling titans, the waves thrown up by their potent thews rocking the boat with alarming force. He watched in morbid fascination as he slipped past the creatures. Each had torn great chunks of flesh from the other. Now mortally wounded, both lay feebly twitching in an ever-widening crimson stain that polluted the air with nauseous death.
With a shudder, he tore his gaze from the sickening sight, lowered the sails, and allowed the craft’s momentum to carry it to shallow water where he anchored it securely. Wading ashore, he fought his way through the churning surf, praying he was not too late, averting his eyes from the ghastly remains strewn upon the sand before him.
Up the sandy beach he sprinted, quickly and easily following the reptile’s trail -- the creature’s massive bulk had smashed a path through the jungle, leaving a clear track of flattened verdure crushed beneath its heavy tread. After what seemed an age of unrelenting pursuit, a shot rang out, confirming the nearness of the survivors.
Thank God, he thought, heart pounding wildly from his exertions, and in expectation of the horror he would find. At least someone’s still alive, but for how much longer?
An extra burst of speed carried him into a glade, and the sight that confronted him made him sick with rage.
The trio had taken shelter in a tree to escape the reptile, but their actions had gained them only temporary respite –- the beast was steadily gnawing at the slim trunk, already leaning at a dangerous angle, and its powerful jaws would soon bring their refuge crashing to the ground.
Professor Huss, seeing his Luger could not stop the creature, had deliberately pushed Ma-Ku off her branch, hoping that the beast would be satisfied to feast upon her tender flesh. The girl had fallen into some bushes at the base of the tree and was now at the mercy of the dragon.
This story is copyright by Kirk Straughen. It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)