006. When Manticores Attack

Time of Faith: Now Bite-Size!

Jungle scenery
Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

The jungle was dense. The flopping leaves created a canopy of green and yellow. He couldn’t see through.

He narrowed his eyes. Southern Continent? Central Continent? The bigger question: What time period had he landed in? The man back in the cave was caucasian, and they hadn’t come to the Southern Continent until the 1500’s or so. Earlier?

A shadow passed over him. The suddenness of it took him by surprise. He looked up quickly. A massive shape barreled toward him, growing larger and larger in his view.

Kerr stumbled backward. He could make out wings and a whipping tail. It was gigantic. It looked like a lion! A mane fluttered in the wind as it dove. He’d never seen a flying creature this large. The creature let out a guttural roar. The deep vibrato hit Kerr like a wall—vibrating in his chest. The sound filled him with dread.

He blinked in quick succession. He couldn’t freeze. It would be on him in a split second. Kerr spun and scrambled toward the cave opening. His feet flung rocks as he dashed. Above him, the roar grew louder. The shadow that covered him grew bigger. How big was it? Kerr’s finger jammed against the emergency ‘all on’ button on his thigh. Was there any juice left? The action seemed to give him extra fear-soaked energy.

ACCELERATED HEARTBEAT DETECTED.
ADRENALINE DEPLOYMENT DETECTED.
SUIT PAYLOAD ENABLED.

As soon as the words scrolled over his eyes, Kerr felt his arms and legs vibrate. He felt the now-familiar sensation of time slowing down.

He was a blur of energy once more. He was scrambling forward, each step launching him from the ground. As Kerr reached the cave, the ground shook behind him with a heavy impact. Kerr fell forward onto all fours. He risked a look over his shoulder to see the creature and wished that he had not.

What Kerr saw defied explanation. He didn’t know what he was looking at. It was an over-sized lion—the size of a horse. Yellow fur glistening in the bright sun. Giant eagle wings stretched wide behind it. A mane of fur surrounded the head, but in the center was a face—something about the face was familiar.

Thick lips curled around sharp teeth—yellow and pointed. A wide nose flared. Thick forehead and bushy eyebrows hid piercing green eyes. The mouth flexed open—wide like a lion, but shaped like something else. The snarling sounded familiar. Kerr shivered. The face looked almost human. Mongoloid?

Kerr let out a yelp and continued to scramble back, cutting his fingers on sharp rock. He plunged into the welcome darkness of the cave. He could hear the creature pounding the ground behind him as it pursued.

FUEL LEVEL: 1%
REFUEL IMMEDIATELY
SYSTEM SHUTDOWN UNDERWAY

He was back where he started.

Behind him, the snarling intensified.

Kerr tried to flee beyond arm’s reach. Behind him, the creature slammed against the rocks. Dust and gravel pelted Kerr.

He felt something pulling at his arm and heard ripping fabric as his jacket sleeve tore off. The creature was fishing for him but couldn’t quite reach him.

Kerr fell forward onto the ground and spun to face the opening.

The roar from the creature was angry and loud, shaking the walls and rattling Kerr’s eardrums. Again, it thrust an arm through the passage, but it wasn’t long enough to reach him. Kerr sighed. It looked like he was safe.

The creature’s face turned away from the opening. Kerr sucked in a breath.

Something came shooting through the narrow opening of rock. It was a gigantic scorpion stinger. It buried in the ground between Kerr’s legs—impotent.


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