This is the beginning of a short story.
Message me to let me know what you think or if you want to read more.
Chapter 1 : The River
Katie lost grip as soon as the stone under her left foot moved. It must have been due to the power of the current, or the type shoes she was wearing.
‘Aaah!’ she shouted as she lost balance and fell forward into the icy water. People on both sides of the river cried out for her and two men from the closest side rushed into the water. With the river reaching their thighs, the men pushed their way through the water making large splashes as they went. Incapable of moving as fast as they wanted due to the strong current, both called out to her, often contradicting each other.
‘Stay there, Katie. Don't move!'
'Come towards us!'
'Try to stand up!’
But it was all lost on her; all she felt was a sudden pain in her left ankle as if a sharp needle had stabbed her and the sensation of frigid water flowing around her. She raised her head out of the water to catch a breath and get her bearings when it grabbed her; a multitude of small sharp teeth sunk into her left thigh as tentacle-like things enwrapped themselves onto the leg, locking whatever it was into place despite the strong current. Blood started to colour the water. Anchored to the riverbed by whatever had grabbed her, her head was forced under water. Screams tore through her throat as she struggled for her next breath.
Suddenly, strong hands reached in and grabbed her by the arms and upper torso, forcefully pulling her up. She gasped for air as soon as her head came out of the water. The creature, feeling its prey evading, tightened its grip, sinking its teeth further into the woman's flesh; the renewed pain she was experiencing blocked out the instructions the two men were giving her. They seemed in a state of shock. One of them held her torso out of the water, while the other, most likely Blake although she wasn't sure, grabbed a large stone from the river bed and started to hit at something in the water; large splashes ensued. After a few well-aimed blows, the grip on her leg slowly loosened and whatever had grabbed her unlatched itself. The two men quickly dragged her towards the bank of the river and laid her down on the sand, panting.
She was crying in pain. Her jeans were covered in blood and one could see two rows of small holes punctured across her left thigh. The rows ended with a pair of larger holes, one set near her pubis while the other lower down in her thigh. 'Most likely canines,' Theodore thought to himself, still breathing hard to catch his breath after saving her from the river attack. The man was kneeling beside her with his hands placed on her left leg, inspecting the scale of the wounds; she also had various scratches on the face although they seemed superficial.
‘We need to remove your jeans and inspect those wounds,' he said to her as people arrived to the scene.
Theodore turned around, ‘Her tight jeans are wet. Removing them will be tricky.’ Karen and Lin understood immediately and took to the task of removing Katie’s trousers as best as they could given the situation. Katie groaned a few times as the jeans was pulled away, revealing distinct bite marks upon her flesh. Some looked very deep. Upon seeing those, gasps were heard from the group. A woman named Julia kneeled down and placed Katie's head on her thighs, acting as a pillow. She also placed one hand on Katie's forehead and held her hand with the other. 'You'll be fine,' she said unconvincingly.
‘We need clean water from the stream. And cloth,’ Theodore called out. Lin gave him her scarf, ‘Here,’ she said. ‘It's linen. It dries fast’.
Blake, who had also rescued Katie, soon came back with cupped hands full of freshwater from the river. ‘Where do you want me to put this?’
‘The wounds. We need to use the water to clean them’.
Theodore got to work, inspecting each hole and flushing them out with fresh water to make sure no dirt was present. It was a lengthy task and Katie moaned of pain for most of the time but kept still. The others stood nearby, watching with a sense of disbelief; Theodore was the most qualified in the group to treat the injuries and so all the attention was on him.
From time to time, someone from the opposite side of the river, keen to know about the events unfolding, would call out and a person from the group would reply. Once Theodore was confident the bitemarks were as clean as they could be, he dressed Katie’s thigh using Julia's scarf. Sweat rolled down his forehead as he carried on the work. Luckily, not only was linen stronger than cotton, but its drying properties would also help with the healing process in this hot and humid climate.
'There!' he said. 'We'll need to clean the wounds and the scarf regularly to reduce infections. How are you feeling?'
'My leg is still in pain. But thanks,' was all she managed to say.
'You won't be able to walk on your left leg for a while. We'll need to carry you.' he replied.
'What the fuck was that thing?' Stephen shouted, sensing that they could finally talk freely once more, 'An octopus?'
'I don’t know what it was,' said Blake while caressing his slightly bruised hand, 'Whatever it was though, it won’t get to live another day.'
'Good job out there Blake,' Stephen replied back before asking out loud, 'Once again, has anyone got any ideas yet where the hell are we?'
Julia spoke out as she continued to nurse Katie, 'An unknown island in the South Pacific?'
'The Amazon rainforest?' shouted Kris, a plum brown-haired woman who’s been struggling since they started walking. Stephen turned to the tall man on his left, 'Matt. You haven’t said much since we arrived. What do you think?'
The bearded man didn’t reply immediately. Instead, he picked a purple leaf from a nearby bush and looked at both sides, attentively. He was known amongst the group for his calm demeanor as well as the time he took sometimes to respond to questions. The answer had seemed obvious to him. The vegetation in this jungle was not entirely green, but also had nuances of purple like the leaf he was holding. The plants were unrecognizable; as well as the animal noises. And that thing which attacked Katie was clearly an unknown species given the unusual bite marks. In addition, the air was different; they had all been breathing harder than usual to catch their breaths, which was made evident when he saw Blake and Theodore panting hard after bringing back Katie from the river. Meaning that they were high in altitude. Yet, given how hot and humid it was, and how lush the jungle seemed to be, he had to rule out the high altitude hypothesis; they were near sea level. So, he was left with the inevitable conclusion: the air they were breathing didn't have the same oxygen content as the one from Earth.
'We’re on an alien planet,' he finally replied, loud enough for all to hear.
A brouhaha erupted amongst the group upon hearing Matt’s reply.
'An alien planet?'
'This is absurd!'
'Are we on Mars?'
'Does this mean we can’t go home?'
Stephen's reply was the loudest, 'But that’s impossible! Two hours ago, we were all in our offices in London. How could we have just been transported to another planet so quickly. This is nuts. I don’t buy it!'
Matt faced the group with the calm that characterised him, 'Either that, or we are all hallucinating.'
Theodore stood up, 'No hallucinations could have produced Katie’s bloody injuries. Matt’s right Stephen. What me and Blake saw in the water was not from Earth.'
Blake stepped in, 'If we’re not on Earth, which planet are we on then?'
''We're not in our Solar System, that’s for sure.' replied Matt. 'The stars in the night sky might give us a clue, but we’ll have to wait for the clouds to dissipate. Heck, this might not even be a planet.'
'What do you mean?” said Stephen, 'You just mentioned an alien planet.'
'…or a moon, Stephen. A moon. We could be on a very large moon orbiting a Jupiter-size exoplanet, although gravity here seems to be very similar to Earth’s so I’m thinking more of a planet-sized body moon. What we need is a clear sky, which as it stands,…' Matt looked up at the grey uniform cloud cover above them '…won’t be happening anytime soon.'
'No. I don’t buy this!' exclaimed Stephen, asserting his authority.
Suddenly, shouts were heard once more from the other side of the river, cutting short the discussion.