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Authors: Russ Cooper

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BOOK: Shark Beast
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A thin crack spider-webbed across the top half of the glass.

More jelly-snot managed its way past the window.

That crack sobered Derrik like he'd never been sobered before.

It's getting
in ...

"You... got to get out of here, right now, Big D.," he coolly informed himself, as another crack sheered across the top third of the window. A guillotine slice of glass tumbled forward, shattering into three even shards at Derrik's feet.

He stared at the glass, drop-jawed, then forced his vision back to the window--

The creature began oozing upwards, "feeling" its way toward the new opening.

Fingernail-against-chalkboard sounds clawed their way into Derrik's ears, into the helpless meat of his brain.

More spider-cracks began appearing.

"This white boy has... got... to...
go
," he decided, and, still unable to tear his dry-eyed gaze away from the window, tossed aside the fractured flag pole, and began crabwalking backwards on the floor, toward the door.

The creature pulsed, spattered, undulated, jelly-groped, glob-shimmered...

And began to make more of its globular way past the ever-cracking, ever-sharding window glass into the foreign language classroom.

~~~

"Do you have a cell-phone, Lina?" Derrik asked again, with a desperate delicacy, in a gotta-keep-trying whisper, glintily eyeing the tiny "Sugar Ponies" purse she was stone-clutching in her crossed arms.

She answered as she had the several times before: folding her arms even tighter against her chest, and slowly, stone-firmly shaking her head.

"Lina, please --"

"It's trapped!
I trapped it!
" Derrik cried, waving a bright yellow yardstick over his head as he stumbled backwards from the hall into the library. "It's in Miss Pizo's Foreign language -- it came through the window -- tried to -- broke the window -- came for me -- but
I
made it out and
I
slammed the door and
I
pushed a desk in front of it and
I
--
I
--
I
-- and so now it's trapped and trapped and
I totally trapped it
--"

His eyes were bright with accomplishment, but began to dim -- just a bit -- as he looked at Ryan and Lina in their chairs on top of the table.

"I, uh... it can't get us, we're... we're okay now," he said, a small shadow of confusion greying his expression.

Ryan carefully raised one finger of his right hand and placed it against his lips. Pointing with his left, he indicated a spot over near the front library desk.

His confidence curdling, Derrik reluctantly looked over in that direction. All he saw was the door to the library office.

It was open.

There was jelly-slime dripping off it.

"Ohhh, mmannn," he groaned, in a tone that sounded like he was being cheated at poker. "There's
more than one?"

"Don't freak, Derrik!" Ryan said quickly. "I've got it figured out -- those things, they only attack
if you get scared.
If you don't show fear, they don't even know you're there! Think about it -- Miss Babcock stood there and it didn't do nothing -- until she started to run and --"

"Dude! I know! I figured it out in foreign language class!" He waved his flag-sword. "And back when it got Gina, and --"

He blanched.

Ryan froze.

For the first moment since he'd been in the library, Lina took her gaze away from the door, and planted it hot and whole on Ryan's face.

"Gina?" she said, in her heartbreaking 14-year-old voice. "One of them got... Gina?"

"No no no," stammered Derrik lamely. "She was -- no, she was-- she got away. That's what I meant to -- she just walked away. She just --"

And then, though he fought against it, he grew quiet, in that way that guilty people do when their mind can't think faster than their lies.

"She's... nothing happened," he said with a swallow.

"GINA!" Lina cried, in a wounded howl.

Ryan tried to hold her, comfort her, quiet her, something, but she pushed and kicked him away.

"Ginaaa," Lina wailed plaintively, her eyes fixed on the slime dripping down the back of the open door.

She had tears in those eyes... and, unmistakably...

Fear in her voice.

Fear.

From behind the front desk, up rose a thick glob of that awful gelatine... small tendrils poking and probing the air with a wicked, twitchy delight.

"Oh, dude," Derrik choked, then -- his eyes narrowed and his jaw went grim. "No. No way." Then -- "NOOO!" he screeched, suddenly, madly, "I LOVED HER! AND THIS IS WHAT YOU GET!"

He picked up one of the small metal-and-mostly-plastic library chairs and hurled it at the front desk. It ricocheted off the corner and clattered to the dull green carpet.

"TAKE THAT! AND THAT!"

He picked up another chair and hurled that, too. It flew over the top of the desk into the open library office door. It disappeared into the dark and crashed against something.

"NO! NO WAY! I'm going to kill it just like it killed Gina," he said, and he picked up another chair. He flipped it over, and wrenched off two of the protective plastic bits on the bottom of the legs, revealing nothing cut sharp chrome metal. One leg already was missing its protective bit, and the fourth wouldn't come off. He left it.

Jabbing the air slowly with the metal legs of the chair, he started skulking around the counter, heading to the dark area in back.

He lasted until he noticed a trickle of blood slipping down his cheek. A piece of glass, from the floor of the foreign language room...

"Hey, dude, I'm bleeding," he said to himself, his eyes -- for a flash of a second -- showing the slightest frightful concern.

Fright.

That's all it took.

~~~

They were out there, a good dozen of them.

Dusk now. They'd been out there for hours. The jelly-things glimmered, blue, lime-green, deep purple, pulsing with lava-lamp phosphorescence, like giant globular fireflies.

"Colorrrrs," Lina slurred, touching the smudgy glass of the front doors. Ryan gave Lina another hit from Derrik's locker-stash, and he took a deep drag himself. Lina looked confused, somewhat distant, but she was giggling, and Ryan chose to take that as a good thing. Anything but fear, anything but fear...

(Does sweet-weed-induced paranoia count as fear? he wondered dully. He shrugged. Nothing to be done about that now, is there?)

"Uhmm, where we going again?" Lina asked, one eye squinting, as she tilted her head back loosely.

"Going to find a phone," Ryan nodded, trying to look authoritative. "Going to find a phone, before it gets dark, going to make everything all better."

"Alllll better." Lina blinked like a sleepy kitten. Then, wounded:"Gonna make Gina all better?"

Smiling tightly, Ryan nodded, just once. "Make it all better," he said, quietly, giving her another hit. "Everything..."

"Allll bettter," she lulled, blinking slowly.

"Now we might have to walk a short ways," he said slowly, "or we might have to walk far, but either way most likely we're going to have to walk through town, so --"

"Ooooh," she giggled. "Those lights look funny."

She pointed through the glass, at the glimmering, shimmery creatures.

The wounded look came back. "They going to hurt us?" she asked in a tiny voice.

"They're just all part of the song," he said, patting her hair gently. "Remember? Like back in the library?" He swivelled his hips, wriggled his lips, and started singing Elvis's "Good Luck Charm," with a couple of extra exaggerated "uhh huhs" and "oooh yahs" thrown in. She didn't want to laugh, but she did, and, like he hoped (thanks to Derrik's locker-weed), her giggles bounded and bounced and spilled all over each other, which made her giggle even more.

Ryan smiled hopefully.

A parade of questions, through the soft buzz of his gently-toasting brain: Would he be able to keep it up? Would Lina keep laughing if any of those glowing things got too close? It was only a couple miles to his house, but that was a long two miles to try to keep a girl who lost her sister entertained. Would the weed keep working? Was it possible to think she could walk all that way, with those things swarming around, and not get scared, not even once?

Seriously: would they make it?

They shared another hit.

He smiled again.

Does it matter?

He took her hand, and, gently humming "It's Now or Never", together they headed out into the rolling, wobbling colors of the night.

But just then, suddenly--

AAAAAAIGGGH! MY LEGS! MY LEGS!
MY FREAKIN
'--

 

~ ~ ELEVEN ~ ~
Still Yet Again Out On The Beach:
OPERATION:
NOT GETTING SOME

"--FREAKIN' LEGS!
OH IT
HURTS!"

Suddenly, Tara screeched, jumping up and backwards (almost falling over completely, but catching her balance at the last second). She gave her head a shake, to get out of the make-believe "Gob-Slime" world she had just been entranced in.

"--OHHH HELP ME
PLEASE IT HUUUURTS SO MUCH
--!"

Adjusting her glasses, she winced at the sight before her--

There he was, Beck, on the sleeping bag, wriggling and jerking about, with a geyser full of the fakest looking blood she'd ever seen. It was just spewing everywhere. Much too much to be coming out of a human body, let alone one as sickly and skin-and-bones as Beck's. Her startlement quickly turned to annoyance.

"Oh,
real
mature, Beck!" she shouted, over his whiny screams. "What a cheap trick! Well, the deal's off, you jerk! I agreed to listen to your story, not some cheap stupid Halloween prank! And it's too bad--I actually liked your story, but you had to go and ruin it by being childish and lame!"

"--OHH NO IT'S
REAL
HELP ME
PLEEAASE
--"

"Yeah, real," she snorted, picking up her towel. "Yeah, nice tentacles. Real convincing-looking! Enjoy sleeping in your loser-bed alone with your rubber toy! You stupid... stupid... you stupid nerd!"

"No! STOP WAIIT--
AAAIIIGH!"

"Forget you, Screech!"

Spinning on her heels and sending a tart spray of beach sand into the air, Tara
hurrumphed
and headed off, sweet chunky thighs and all.

He can find somebody else's French tests to copy off of from now on, the nerdy smurf,
she thought, as she climbed away from the beach, and the smoldering remains of Operation: Getting Some.
Wanted to go shopping on the boardwalk, anyway...

Stalking off toward the grassy dunes, Tara didn't turn to look back even as Beck's screams trailed off into a warbly gurgle, then to silence.

 

~ ~ TWELVE ~ ~
From The Hermit Crab Used Bookstore
To The Beach:
ESCAPE

Roxy exited quietly out of the bookstore, and headed around the corner to the parking area in back.

With a tartly determined strut, she made her way toward her car. Suddenly, out from behind the nearby dumpster, came a discombobulated Dickie, still in "prank" regalia, still sipping his soda.

Roxy whipped around--"HI-YAAAA!"-- doing a quick, effective, and very impressive Tae Bo kick that sent him against the wall, sliding down unconscious.

"No offense, but you
really
picked a bad time for a prank, Dick-o," she shrugged, as she made her way to the car, finds the door locked, fumbling through her pockets for the keys.

~ ~ ~

"Roxy, where are--"

D. J. stumbled past the dumpster, where he noticed Dickie dressed in odd Halloween garb, all passed out. For some reason, that didn't seem as strange as it probably should have. But before D. J. had time to dwell on that thought any longer--

Out of nowhere, a dune buggy suddenly screeched up next to him. About an inch up next to him. Leaving him standing there, frozen, unable to believe he hadn't just been run over.

Roxy called out, almost bored, "Coming or what?"

She cranked open the passenger side door; he -- very shakily -- leaned in, muttering, "Who taught you how not to drive...?"

"Not in the mood! Get in already!"

And with that, D. J. found himself yanked inside the buggy, and they sped off into the night.

"What-what are you doing? Where are you driving?"

Roxy gave him a sour look. "I'm scared, I'm high and I don't know how to drive stick--how would I know!"

"This is Hoagie's car, isn't it!"

"I lost my keys up in the stupid attic! So he owes me!" she explained as they jerked and swerved across the road. "Plus, he's a man-skank. So he owes me for that too!"

"Well, fine, he owes you--but let me drive!"

"Why? Do you know how to drive stick!"

"No!"

"Then just--"

"Stop--!"

"Hands off, you friend of man-skank--!"

"Roxy!"

"D. J.!"

CRASH! --over a splintery picket fence up and over a ragged dune, through some bushes and down a steep hill--

"AAAIIIGH!"

"ARRRGH!"

--right into a tree.

"You know," D. J. mumbled, wiping leaves off his forehead, "this car could explode in the next ten seconds, yet, oddly, I would feel safer."

"BOOM!" yelled Roxy right into his ear. "There, smart guy, feel safer now?"

"You know, I hate to say this, but if your side of the buggy explodes and mine doesn't... I'm gonna so laugh."

"Fair enough. Who cares, but fair enough."

"And, you know, another thing--"

But Roxy didn't find out what that other thing was, as D. J. screamed when the naked Hooters girl jumped out from behind some bushes and started jabbering--

"He's gone! He got--EATEN!" she cried, wide-eyed and shocked. "Out
there!
Coming to
get me!
Don't get
out of the car!"

D. J. and Roxy really didn't have time to be scared or puzzled, as the naked Hooters girl scrambled to get in the buggy with them. "What are you doing?" Roxy barked.

BOOK: Shark Beast
2.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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