Read Dominant Species Volume One -- Natural Selection (Dominant Species Series) Online

Authors: David Coy

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Dominant Species Volume One -- Natural Selection (Dominant Species Series)

BOOK: Dominant Species Volume One -- Natural Selection (Dominant Species Series)
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The year
2006

Mary listened to the droning sound that came to her through the
wet air and thought of her mother’s soft humming. She wanted her mother to be
there now, to hold her and hum softly to her, to soothe her. She drifted toward
her mother’s round arms and warm smile on the ghostly crest of that ugly sound.

Then the dread came. It crashed over her like a cold, brown wave
and the memories of her mother’s soft touch were washed away. She was in the
big chamber. The big chamber was where the droning sound was. The droning was
the collective sound from others just like her, others not asleep yet not
awake; others unable to move their limbs.

She could turn and lift her head and see and hear and smell. She
could not talk, but she could make a deep sound, a groan, if she tried. When
the pain came, the groan would be its outlet. The groan would be the dull steam
her violated body would vent in its outrage.

She prayed for a miracle. She prayed that when she opened her eyes
she would see big, blue sky and bright light. She pressed her eyes closed and
prayed hard but when she looked, only the chamber’s ceiling filled her vision.
Its black, bubbly surface gave substance to the dread and when the cutting
began, the ceiling’s gloom would stamp its dark print on her soul once more.

Mary turned her head slowly and saw the naked body of a young
woman. Then she breathed the warm scent of perfume. The woman was new and a
splash of luscious scent had been captured with her. The woman looked at Mary,
her face slack with paralysis. Mary could not speak, but if she could have spoken
the result would have been the same. There was nothing to say to this newcomer,
no consolation to be offered. There was no comfort where none could exist.

Then her surgeon witch was there, its long head hovering, twisting
and looking. Its thin, quick hands moved like rats over her body, feeling here
and there with spiderlike squeezes. For the moment, her body was numb to the
creature’s touch and she was thankful for it.

There was a motion under her skin, in her neck, deep in the
muscles. It was a roiling little pressure she’d grown to know quite well. A
grub was moving, and from the feel of it she thought it was moving upwards. As
the larvae fed on her tissues, it caused a single sharp note of pain that grew
in volume second by unmerciful second. She heard the high-pitched hiss of the
witch’s cutter and was relieved that the cutting was starting.

Mary began her retreat from the sound and the growing bite of the
cutter and of the pain of the worm and joined her voice with the others.

 

 

Dominant Species

 

Volume One

 

 

 

 

natural selection

 

David Coy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dominant Species Volume One: Natural Selection

Copyright © 2007 by David Coy

Third Edition

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage
and retrieval system, without prior written permission from the publisher or
the author, excepting brief quotes used in reviews. Contact the publisher for
information on foreign rights.

 

Cover art by Ivaylo Nikolov.

For more information on this title, characters,
and forthcoming books in this series,
www.DominantSpeciesOnline.com
This is a work
of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of
the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.

ISBN-10: 1-4196-6377-1 EAN-13: 978-1-4196-6377-2

Library of Congress Control Number: 2007902031

 

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Kate

 

 

 

 

 

The Dominant Species
Series

 

Volume One:

Natural
Selection

 

Volume Two:

Edge
Effects

 

Volume Three:

Acquired
Traits

 

 

 

Nature
is not human-hearted.

—Lao
Tzu

 

 

 

1

 

It was an odd little compulsion, this thing of making the coffee
then not drinking it. That was the usual pattern. This time though, he’d actually
poured the steaming brew into his insulated travel cup, stirred in creamer and
sugar, capped it off and before starting out, perched it precariously on the
passenger’s seat. Now stuck fast in the heavy traffic of the 405, he took a
thankful drink of it.

All that
rushing for nothing, he thought. That’s the way it is in Los Angeles. The
traffic paces all. It is the great modulator of effort.

He’d marked time when he left Redondo Beach and by three PM, the
traffic was tightening its strangle-hold on the basin’s major arteries. He
crept through the San Fernando Valley, but when he reached the I-5 and 14
interchange, traffic had loosened up and he began to make time.

Soon he was on Route 12—two lanes of level desert highway,
arrow-straight and empty for miles. He cruised peacefully across those barren
flats, and the sun started toward the horizon in a gentle fall. He entered the
foothills just in time to watch the early-evening sun turn the hillsides to a
rich and warm brown.

Miles later, high in the hills, he stopped at a red clapboard-sided
building called “Dwight’s Grocery.” It was the only store of any kind for
miles. The inventory was basic, often downright spare but it was the only place
to shop, and the proprietor, Darrel Wright, was the kind who wouldn’t bend to
such nonsensical pressures as customer requests for anything other than what he
had stocked for years. So the customers complained, Darrel resisted the
complaints, and balance was perpetually maintained.

“I wish you’d get some kind of shopping carts, Darrel,” Phil said,
depositing an armload of groceries and canned goods on the counter. The counter
was covered with a scratched and yellowed plastic sheet. Under the cover were
the miscellany of country barter—notes, business cards, stuff for sale. A
crooked cardboard sign taped to the cash register read,
“Sorry, no more credit,”
in thin
red ink.

“Nobody buys enough at one time to need 'em, ‘cept weekenders
like you,” Darrel said. “Don’t have the capital anyways.” He picked up a can of
peaches and turned it over and over looking for the price.

“One-nineteen,” Phil volunteered. “Damn highway robbery, too.”

“You wouldn’t think so if you had to sell it as infrequently as I
do,” Darrel said. “I’ve had that can of peaches for six months at least.”

Phil didn’t doubt it. It would be impossible for anything fresh to
exist here, even canned goods. The floor, the walls, the groceries on the
shelves, every single thing in it had a stillness, an
agedness
to it.
Put a fresh box of Cheerios on one of these shelves, Phil thought, and it would
be stale before the day was out. It would pick up the staleness by osmosis.

“Got any Cheerios?” Phil asked, grinning.

“Nope. All out of Cheerios,”
Darrel replied, dinking the price into the antique cash register.

Good,
Phil thought.

Darrel aged here, too. Phil had
bought candy from this very store and dropped his nickels for it into the same
gnarled hands that now slowly packed the groceries into the paper bag. He’d
spent many blazing hot summers in these foothills. Darrel’s store was the only
source for cooling and energizing soda and candy during those gloriously bright
days. Now nearly eighty, Darrel Wright had spent the greater part of his life
behind this counter, counting change, passing the latest news and deflecting
complaints. Like the items on the shelves, Darrel had taken on that stillness
and the faint odor of the aged. His mind wasn’t as sharp, his vision even less
so and rumor had it that Darrel’s mind was gone now and subject to delusions.
Phil had no direct evidence of that. He’d listened to Darrel’s warnings,
kidding and outright lies for so long he wasn’t sure he, of all people, would
ever be able to tell the difference between one of Darrel’s bona fide delusions
and one of his “stories.”

Darrel was the one who, in his younger days, put the fear of the
woods and the mystery of
the
dark
hills into preadolescent boys who’d come for candy.
“Don’t you go over to
Fitzsimmon

s

he’s got a damn gorilla
locked up in his barn,”
he’d said once.

That particular story had kept two dusty, sticky boys hovering
and snooping around Fitzsimmon’s barn until dusk that day, hoping to find some
clue to give bone to the body of fear and fascination Dwight had conjured up
out of their innocence.

“What do you know since I saw you last?” Phil asked, “and don’t
lie to me.”

“Same old crap. Not much I guess,” Darrel replied. He held up a
can of green beans for Phil to examine. “Is that a
six
or the letter
b?”

“Six,” Phil said through a grin.

“Good. I need the money.”

He dinked the price into the cash register. “We did have some
excitement here on Wednesday, though.”

“What was that?”

“Gloria North had some of her cattle stolen. You know who Gloria
is.”

“She lives up on the ridge in that blue trailer there, don’t she?”
Phil replied with his best local grammar.

“She says somebody stole ten heads of her cattle. Then she calls
the sheriff, Bob Lynch. You know who Bob is.”

“You mean my uncle Bob Lynch? That sheriff?”

“Aw, hell—I forgot all about that,” Darrel said, his old voice
genuinely apologetic. “Well, Bob goes up and can’t find any evidence at all
that they were stoled. No horse tracks, no truck tracks. Nothin’.”

“Huh!” Phil said. “You don’t say.”

“That’s right. What do you make of
that?”
Darrel
asked, leaning a little forward.

It was the last part that tipped Phil off. One of Darrel’s tales
was on its way like some capricious leprechaun. The leaning forward helped a
little, too. Phil was ready for anything.

“Aw, hell. They’ll come back. I doubt Gloria North keeps a very
tight fence anyways,” Phil baited. “That’s gotta be it, don’t you think? Loose
damn fence?”

Darrel leaned a little closer still. Phil did, too, just an imperceptible
inch or so, just for emphasis.

“Yoo-foes,” Darrel said with clarity. “Yoo-foes took 'em.”

The remark didn’t stand a chance, really. He’d heard lots better,
especially from Darrel. Phil licked his lips and settled his chops. In the
first place, the source of it put it at an immediate disadvantage. And even if
it had come from a complete stranger, and even if Phil had been, say, a
cobbler, with not a wit of knowledge about the realms of the mind, he would
have easily recognized it for what it was.

Phil responded out of reflex to the remark, and without
hesitation. “No shit,” he said evenly, then waited for an upshot, a zinger,
from Darrel that would nail it in.

Instead, Darrel said nothing. He fixed his gaze on Phil, pursed
his lips and nodded his head with the certainty of it. Just when Phil thought
Darrel would let it go with a grin and get back to the groceries, Darrel nodded
again.

Then Phil saw it.

There is no way, Phil knew, to be sure of a lie when spoken.
Short of the right specialized machinery, no device exists with which to
measure it except experience. You listen to the speaker enough and you gain the
experience required. Phil had an abundance of such experience with this
speaker. Darrel had just spoken what he believed was the truth, and Phil could
see it plainly in this old codger’s familiar and wizened eyes. Phil wished he
had not seen it for he knew that Darrel’s mind, in believing its own
fabrication, had crossed a river of no return. The mirthful mind that once
delighted in hoodwinking Phil into any number of wondrous realities now stood
mired in madness. This misguided belief about UFO’s would branch to other
beliefs and those to others, and with each new belief Darrel’s mind would sink
a little farther down. If Darrel was lucky, his descent would stop at some
point before he died, but chances were he would sink completely. The mire would
consume the clear, clever mind and leave a husk unrecognizable in the end.
Years ago, Darrel’s tales and stories had fed Phil’s imagination like the candy
he’d come to buy. Now Darrel was the innocent, believing his own stories and
imaginings.

“UFO’s, huh?” Phil said finally. “Never have seen one.”

“Well you can hear them at night with little difficulty.”

“Aw, shit. Now, don’t you lie to me.” Phil swallowed hard and
brushed invisible dust off the counter with a quick hand. He’d said it as if he
were hearing the story thirty years ago and Darrel was again offering up to
Phil’s young mind some mysterious sweet. Phil could have wept.

Darrel watched from the porch as Phil stuffed the bag of groceries
into the truck. He leaned on the rail with both arms straight out and one leg
bent the way very old men do. Phil wondered how Darrel managed to stay on his
feet at all at his
a
g
e
.

“Watch your cigarette ends,” Darrel said. “It’s dry as tinder.”

“I gave 'em up long ago, Darrel,” Phil replied.

“That’s good. Boy scouts don’t smoke,” Darrel said to the
side.

“They do when they join the Marines.” Phil closed the back doors
and got in behind the wheel.

Phil drove down to King Solomon’s Road and turned off into Haight
Canyon. When the truck tires left the pavement and met the dirt road, Phil
sighed with relief.

There are places, physical locations one can bond with forever.
This was Phil’s place. In the 1800’s, the canyon had been the site of one of
the most productive gold mines in Southern California. King Solomon’s mine had
long since given up its last bit of gold but to Phil there were still riches
here. They came in the form of the house-sized rocks, sculpted by wind and
rain, and the primal, twisted forms of the scrub oak that dotted the brown
hills. There was a wealth of bird life here and deer and fox and badger. At
forty-six hundred feet of elevation at High Ridge, Phil’s name for that section
of the canyon, the view through the crystalline air of the stars on a moonless
night was worth all the gold ever taken from under them.

A single, twisting road came into the canyon from Havilah, a
one-horse town built largely from the mine’s gold, what there was of it. The
road wound its way like a snake and stopped twelve miles in at the edge of the
Sequoia National Forest.

He drove along slowly as usual, savoring the drive.

He saw the thin tire tracks of the VW again, just one set, going
up, so the trespassers were still in the canyon. He’d found the VW and the tent
with his 10x binoculars from High Ridge last year about this time, despite the
fact that the trespassers had tried to camouflage both with brush. He thought
about stopping and introducing himself, but thought better of it. He didn’t
mind an occasional camper or two, as long as they left no trash.

He’d purchased his high, rugged acreage fifteen years ago from his
sister Edna. Edna and her husband, Ronny Dogget, had bought his section and
theirs shortly after Phil’s and Edna’s father died. Collectively, they owned
thirty percent of one of the most scenic and isolated areas in the region,
thanks to a sizeable inheritance from their father.

On the way up, he drove right past Edna’s gate, deciding to visit
on the way down Sunday. Ronny was under a lot of job-related stress, and he had
a way of making Phil feel more than a little unwelcome half the time. The night
promised to be perfect, so why chance a blemish? There were many perfect days
and nights in this sheltered canyon, each of them precious to Phil.

He’d purchased the property on a lark, really. When his sister had
first dragged him up to that end of the canyon in 1980 and stood him on the
rough pad Ronny had cut on the top of one of the hilltops, it was dusk on a day
much like today. The sun was setting over Breckenridge to the far west and Phil
felt certain then that he had never seen such a view. Prior to that day, it had
been years since he’d been in the area and maybe some earlier memory of the air
or of the light itself ignited his passion for this land and its sweet scent of
pine and sage. The most appealing thing about High Ridge was the fact that the
nearest dwelling was his sister’s—four miles away. The only structure visible
was the fire tower on Breckenridge and even that you couldn’t see without
binoculars.

BOOK: Dominant Species Volume One -- Natural Selection (Dominant Species Series)
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