Pulp and Dagger Fiction Webzine
A Seven Chapter Serial of Deadly Peril in the South Pacific

Island of Terror
formerly "Monster Island"

"Swashbuckling" Kirk Straughen

about the author

PREVIOUSLY: Mariner returns to the island after seeing the party he had left behind attacked by giant lizards and arrives just as Ma-Ku is shoved from a tree by Professor Huss and about to be devoured...

Chapter 3: A Remarkable Discovery!

Raising his rifle, Mariner fired as the monster’s gaping jaws descended. The shot caught the creature in the shoulder and it flung up its head, a piercing hiss bursting from its throat.

Thank God, he thought. I’ve distracted it for the moment, at least.

Turning to discern the cause of its pain, the reptile spotted Mariner and charged towards him, its eyes alive with mindless fury. He stood his ground, mastering his desire to flee before this destruction incarnate that bore down upon him, more confident of his aim on terra firma rather than on a rocking boat.

Now he had a clear shot at its head. Again he fired, scoring a direct hit in the centre of its skull. The beast staggered, roared in pain and rage but, to his amazement, it still came on with only slightly diminished swiftness. It was almost upon him when the third bullet found its mark, felling it to the earth with ground shaking force.

“Oh, God,” thought Mariner, fear stabbing him as it began struggling once more to its feet, claws churning the dark earth. “Will this thing never die?’

He was about to fire again when the reptile swayed like a drunken man, staggered, and then collapsed in a writhing heap at his very feet. A final shudder wracked the huge frame, and it died as gracelessly as it had lived.

Mariner stood for a moment gazing at the huge carcass. Before, he had been too concerned for the others' safety to give much thought about the dangers to himself. But now he trembled inwardly with the realization of how many times he had come close to death.

“Lord, this will never do,” he thought as he pulled himself together, and ran towards Ma-Ku who was rising unsteadily to her feet. She stumbled, and fell against him, her shapely breasts, exposed by a rip in her shirt, touching him with distracting pressure.

“Are you badly hurt, Miss?”

“Praise be to Lao-tien-ye* that you returned in time to save us,” she replied shakily, pressing herself against him with what he thought was unnecessary vigour. “I’m all right, thank you, Captain. The soft bushes saved me from all but a few scratches and bruises.” * Footnote: The supreme god of the Chinese pantheon. Translation: Father-Heaven.

Mariner glared up at Huss, cursing him with a stream of imprecations, and looking as if he wanted to spit more than just hard words in the German’s face.

“You cowardly bastard! Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t shoot you down like the dog you are?”

The atmosphere grew pregnant with impending death. Mara watched in fearful silence as both men gripped their weapons, glaring at each other with ill concealed hate, each hoping the other would make the first move so that self defence, rather than bloody murder, could be claimed.

“I slipped, that is all,” said Ma-Ku, placing a restraining hand on Mariner’s arm, further diverting his attention by allowing her shirt to gape. “We can’t afford to fight among ourselves when surrounded by such danger. Oh, our poor bearers, there has been enough death today.”

Of course the girl knew Huss had pushed her but, knowing the other things she said were true, mastered her desire for base revenge and sought with diplomacy and feminine charms to still the rising storm. She looked at the Professor sharply, thinking:

“I’ll let the authorities deal with you upon our return, oh child of the Serpent.”

“I know what I saw, Miss,” replied Mariner. “ But if you don’t want the matter taken further then I’ll let it rest, at least for now. All right Huss, get your arse down here. God knows I’d like to do you harm, but you have my word I won’t.”

The Germans scrambled with ill grace from the tree as Ma-Ku repaired her shirt with safety pins. Her nudity was now concealed; not so her guilty expression, as if she had taken secret pleasure in exposing herself to Mariner’s gaze.

Mara eyed her suspiciously, while the Professor pointedly ignored both Ma-Ku and the Englishman, walking over to examine the monster’s corpse instead. Much to Mariner’s disgust, neither of the Germans seemed overly upset at the native’s grisly end.

“Now what the hell is he doing?” growled Mariner.

“Satisfying his scientific curiosity, I imagine,” answered Mara, softly. “We have you to thank for our salvation, as I am sure father realizes. Please forgive him. It was a ruthless thing to do, but he was only trying to protect me.”

Mariner eyed her, a dour expression on his face. He was thoroughly sick of Huss, and even Mara had dropped in his esteem. She gazed back at him, her large sky-blue eyes pleading for understanding, thinking: “We’ll see who has the greater charms.”

“Ah, damn it,” he thought, dropping his gaze. “I’m a fool when it comes to beautiful women.” Then aloud: “Very well, he can have a few minutes satisfaction, then we’re getting the hell off this crazy island.”

“Mara, come here and look at this,” called Huss, excitedly.

“Come on,” she said, grinning inwardly at her success, as she moved away. “We’d better see what he has found.”

As Ma-Ku followed her mistress, Mariner fished out a bottle of iodine and some cotton wool from his pocket.

“Here,” he said, handing the items to her. “You had better dab this on your cuts. Tropical infections are nasty things, you know.”

She thanked him and took the bottle. He was one of the few Europeans that had treated her like a human being, and she was more that a little grateful for his small acts of consideration during the cramped conditions of their days at sea.

“If only,” she thought. “If only …”

Mariner kept a concerned eye on her, and observed something that had previously escaped his notice, as if a veil had suddenly been lifted from his eyes.

Her naked breasts had stirred his loins, true, but he saw there was more to her than that -- whereas Mara strode, Ma-Ku flowed with sensuous grace. Indeed, even her simplest actions -- the glance of her eyes, her smile, the movement of her hands -- were a harmony of motion, expressive of subtle loveliness, which enabled her to transcend Beauty’s conventional norms. For him, it was a startling revelation.

“Mara, this is a truly remarkable discovery,” cried the Professor, interrupting the flow of Mariner’s thoughts. “Well Captain, does this look like a wild goose to you?”

Mariner smiled coldly at the German, but said nothing. He was in no mood to admit the Professor had been right, or that he was just as curious as Huss about the nature of the beast.

“This animal,” continued Huss, “is a Varanus doreanus finschi, a lizard found throughout the archipelago, but grown to a huge size. Also, note the anatomy of the legs -- the creature does not have the sprawling gait it should, but walks upright like a mammal. Something has accelerated its evolutionary development with remarkable rapidity.”

“You’re quite right, father. Could this be connected in some way to the faint crimson radiance?”

Further words were cut short by the ominous drone of giant wings. Ma-Ku cried a warning, but too late. An enormous dragonfly, infused with the same weird glow, struck Mara in the back. Its sharp claws dug into her clothes, and in an instant it shot into the air, carrying the screaming girl aloft towards the smoking volcano at the island’s heart.

Chapter 4...The Giant Insect

back to Chapter 2...Man's Darkest Fear

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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.)