Tuesday, April 8, 2014

30 Days: "Swampgheist" by Joseph Ramirez

The man had played the corpse very well up to this point, lying carrion still where the water merged with the mud. He could feel hours worth of water-wrinkles in the fingertips of his right hand, which drifted limply in the brackish water, clutching a stinking mesh bundle of rotting alligator guts. He had been disturbed only by the fish... until now. 
He had the swampgheist coming to him.
After years of endless chasing, watching it dart away into the swamps time after time after infuriating, maddening time... he had it coming to him, like an eel to a glowstick.
And he was ready for it. His other hand, the one that wasn't holding the alligator guts, laid hidden by his side, clutching his revolver. Thumb on the hammer, finger on the trigger guard. He had unbuckled the snap on the sheath knife he had strapped to his leg. 
A weapon was no good if you couldn't get it out fast enough.
The night was so quiet he could hear the monster breathing. He heard the slightest slosh in the water. In his mind he could see it stepping closer to him. He didn't dare to look, for that would betray his purpose.
The excitement was sickening.
Then... he felt a ripple, a movement in the water, by the gut bag. It was sniffing him out. Alligator flesh was it's favorite. And it didn't mind human flesh, either. Caught live, or found dead.
No dogs, you beast, he thought. No motorboat. No spotters. No sonar. No men for you to disembowel... no nest for me to hack through. Just you, my dear scaly swampgheist, and me.
Whatever the taxidermist wanted him to pay, he would pay it. He wanted a museum quality piece, something that would last, something that he could show to his family, his enemies, and to all the fearful who had begged him to give up the hunt. Madness, they had said. 
He heard a gurgling rumble...as though it were growling through a windpipe full of water.
With utmost care, he pulled back the hammer of his revolver.
There was another slosh, then another gurgling rumble.
One smooth move, aim, fire every round. He would shoot the throat, severing arteries, the trachea... and at this range, the spinal cord. As long as he didn't damage that beautiful skull.
He had pulled his finger past the trigger guard, and placed it on the trigger, when it's enormous beaked jaws fasten around his left wrist.
It could snap his wrist and his hand would be gone in a second.
He readied his revolver hand.
It didn't bite down.
It just held him.
He felt it's heavy, scaled paw, with claws like giant fishhooks, moving along his arm, feeling him out. It stopped at his throat, and rested there, on the side. It reminded him of someone feeling for a pulse.
He held his breath.
His pulse?
Was it feeling for his heartbeat?
No. Impossible.
It froze. It released his arm.
Then, it growled, a hideous, rising, unending growl, and the paw of the creature wrapped around his neck.
It HAD felt for his heartbeat... and it knew he was alive.

I wrote this story for a Utah Children's Writer's flash fiction contest a few years back, before I was one of the writers who posted here. The contest? 500 words or less, and you had to include the phrase 'he had it coming to him' somewhere within the text of the story. This was one of three stories that I came up with for the contest, and in the end, I chose another story over this one due to the other story having a much better arc. I tweaked a few things before I posted 'Swampgheist' here, and as a result there are probably a few more than 500 words now, but the contest phrase remained. And what, you ask, is a swampgheist? I actually have no idea, sorry. :)


T.J. Reed said...

I really liked this. I could picture the swamp beast sloshing around while the hunter waits to fire. It really made me anxious while I read it wondering what would happen next. Great post.

Julie Daines said...

Super creepy! And intense! Loved it. Thanks!

Scott said...

Atmospheric and creepy. Nice work!

Yamile said...

Good job! I love flash fiction. Way to convey so much in so few words!