A short story first released in the Serving Worlds, podcast audio anthology, Mountain Challenge is now available for .99c on Kindle.
Preserving Instinct backed Aleyku up against a jutting rock when the horrible scent filled his nostrils. When he met the rock he stopped, and thought of following the elk back down the trail.
He waited, ears twitching in vain for sound, but refused to slink back off the mountain. All that matters is reaching the top. When he was satisfied that nothing moved around him save swaying branches, he continued on. In part he was frightened how easy it had become to override life-preserving reflexes, but another part was eager to face whatever came. Stupid, looking for challenge like this.
Both relief and sadness tugged at him as he completely abandoned the cry of his Instincts for the first time in his life. Aleyku was saddened by the thought he might be running his last race, but also eager to see what lay at the end. He stooped to chew long, cool grass to settle his nervous stomache and stoke his courage.
He caught it again, the strange firescent. Sure enough it was close now, wafting down the only pass leading upwards. Baring his teeth, Aleyku cantered ahead.
Stupid, but exciting!
Read more after the break, or pick up Mountain Challenge for Kindle for .99c!
The air was crisp, the ground chill beneath the pads of Aleyku’s paws as he clawed his way up a steep incline, and he hoped the snow of the mountaintop was near. He could feel his energy fade, his will along with it.
I will decide when it’s time to lay down!
Growling, drawing every ounce of pride to spur him on, Aleyku bounded over the crest onto a wide field and a view of the Moon, rising pale in the face of the sun. The scent of snow grew strong in his nostrils. So close now. He felt the Moon was calling him forward, his last ally, cheering him on from its beautiful perch in the sky.
Looking up at the eternal Moon, Aleyku felt his resolve grow, and opened his mouth to bay in thanks.
As he drew in that breath, the choking scent returned, and he jerked his head down to the path just in time to see the rabbits leap past. A plague of rabbits, bounding around and off of him in terror-inspired haste. One of the poor creatures’ tail was on fire, yet it was in too much of a hurry moving its legs to roll in the loose dirt. One of the last of the rabbits bounced off Aleyku’s chest, chittering in panic. It found its legs and took flight again, ignoring the shocked wolf in its single-minded flight.
Aleyku’s nose filled with rabbit dander from the collision and he sneezed, shaking his head to clear it even as the thumping of crazed feet disappeared behind him. Leaving him alone on the edge of a field, to stare through teary eyes at a monstrous thing at the far side.
A giant of red and gold. Scaled skin shining like pebbles in the clear streams that ran through the mountains. A head the size of a bear, rear legs the size of buffalo and front legs longer than Aleyku from nose to tail. As it laughed, the air grew thick with bitter smoke.
It laughed again, smoke curling from black nostrils at the end of a mouthful of the largest, sharpest teeth Aleyku had ever seen.
Emotions and words thundered inside Aleyku’s head, as if they had been his own.
Pick up Mountain Challenge for for only .99c on Kindle to find out!