Day 2 was another success for the crowdfunding campaign and NanoWriMo. In total we have raised over $2,000, putting us well on our way to the $10,000 goal. This initial money is going to be very helpful in getting Whiteout on the shelves as it means we’re going to be able to submit it for circulation. Big thanks to everyone who donated, I am humbled by your generosity.
We still need your help, so if you can, share our link and donate! Thank you! GoFundMe.com/WhiteoutNovel
For NanoWriMo, my total as of this morning has just passed the 8,000 word mark, putting me on track for a November 15th finish for Maelstrom. We’ll see if I can keep this pace up! Here is the second chapter of Maelstrom, more to come soon!
Just a reminder, this is unedited, a rough draft, and CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR WHITEOUT AND DOWNPOUR. You have been warned!
Our camouflage certainly wasn’t the best in the world, but the fact of the matter is, most tourists aren’t looking for two men hiding in the desert, watching them with high powered rifles. We had torn up scrub brush and laid it on top of ourselves, knowing that soon enough the night would come to disguise the rest. If anything, we probably looked like a couple of bloated corpses that had gotten very lost crawling away from Vegas. Nothing anyone would pick up a phone about.
The sun had gone below the rim of the desert, giving way to the odd light between day and night. Above us, the stars had already begun to come to life, fading only slightly at the western edge where the sun still held radiance. Somewhere in the distance, a coyote howled, waking up for the nighttime hunt. Surprised that’s not enough to scare the tourists off.
On the bluff, scattered various distances around the sign were five families, spread out with their picnic blankets, staring at the sky. Idiots. I still can’t figure out why people would drive all the way to the desert, by choice, to sit in the dirt, but there they were.
“Seems you’re in good company,” I whispered to James.
“What do you mean?”
“Well these twats believe in aliens too. Maybe after this you should join up with them. Or better yet, get a job at SETI.” I laughed, likely creating an odd sight in a cackling desert bush, but couldn’t help it.
James said nothing and looked down the scope of his rifle. “Want to make a bet?”
“I do love a good wager.”
“If we see aliens—”
“We won’t,” I interrupted.
James gave a frustrated huff. “But if we did.”
“I’d kiss a Cantonese bog monster.” Just the thought of it made me shiver. That long, muck-ridden tongue, and the smell of the bog. It was enough to make anyone want to drink.
“I’d get a week off.”
“What the hell do you need a week off for?” James had never asked for time off before, even after his miraculous rise from the grave.
“I want to see my parents,” he admitted, sheepishly.
The thought of it surprised me. It must have shown on my face, because the James’s reaction was hasty.
“They don’t know I’m back from the dead alright? I haven’t figured out how to tell them.”
“Ah.” The memory of a somber black funeral in the Midwest came flooding back momentarily. “Your mother did cry quite a lot at the funeral.”
“What? I went to the damned funeral, and came to get your ass afterward.” It had been years since that horrid trek into the Amazon, but I had not forgotten any of it.
“And you’ll never let me forget it.”
“That’s right.” We lapsed into silence, watching the tourists ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the occasional shooting star. It was shaping up to be a boring night, and if a kid didn’t get taken soon, I was likely to fall asleep right there in the desert. “What if I win?”
“If you win,” James thought about it. “I’ll buy you something from the top shelf.”
“The bet is fair.”
Almost immediately after I had spoken, something began to move off to the side of the bluff. “You see that?” I asked James.
“Yeah, kind of, but it’s a little tough when someone didn’t spring for night vision scopes.”
As a rule, I never paid for weapon add-ons at a merchant. James was absolutely right, we could hardly see anything, but it was a matter of pride. “Quit your complaining and try to get a bead on it.” I followed the moving shadow with my scope. It was about the right size, four feet off the ground, hopping awkwardly like a kangaroo.
The creature was about twenty feet from the tourists when it stopped. Large shadowy spines lifted off its back, as if sensing something. Its long tongue flicked out into the air, a gruesome shadow silhouetted against the desert moon.
“Do you think it smells us?”
“Not a chance, with the smell of those tourists, we’re practically invisible.”
As I said it, the creature’s head turned toward our position. Red eyes glowed in the darkness, staring straight at us.
“On second thought,” I breathed. “Don’t move, and don’t say anything.” My heart began to beat hard in my chest. Chupacabra might not have been the deadliest of our prey, but that didn’t mean they weren’t dangerous. I put the two red eyes in the middle of my crosshair.
“I’m taking the shot,” whispered James.
Before I had time to protest, there was a muffled bang. Silencers were mainly meant to mask shots at a distance, so my ears still rang with the crack of gunfire. Next to the bluff, the red eyes tore in two as James’s shot hit the mark.
“Well that was easy.”
“Don’t jynx it…” I trailed off as in the desert before us, another pair of red eyes blinked open, and then another, and another. The darkness that had been empty moments earlier became a sea of red as upwards of fifteen creatures stood on their hind legs, spines flaring out in the moonlight.
One, standing at over six feet, far too large for the average chupacabra let out a rattling hiss, almost like a sprinkler. It shook in the night air and grew louder as the rest of the creatures joined in.
“Shit,” I spat. “Plan B James!”
James was way ahead of me and had already sited and killed another before I had even fired a shot. The confused tourists were standing up, thinking that they were on the verge of some great alien encounter.
I was able to kill one before the creature’s charged. They all began hopping at once, gaining furiously on our position. The rattling hisses died down to become the muted thumping of scales on hard packed dirt.
“Uh, Nick…” James stood and began to back away.
“Yup, I’d say it’s about time we ran.” Reaching into our gear bag, I pulled out a small blue light grenade. “Don’t look back!” I yelled. I pulled the pin, tossed the grenade at the oncoming horde of red eyes, and turned to run.
James followed suit, and behind us, there was a mighty blue flash as the grenade erupted. The hissing began with a renewed vehemence. I ran as fast as my legs would carry me. We had gotten a fair ways away when I noticed our pursuers had stopped giving chase. I turned briefly to look and noticed that dazed, the herd had changed directions and was heading back towards the tourists on the bluff.
“God damnit.” The easy solution was to turn and run, but chupacabras in a rage tend to be far deadlier than normal.
“We can’t leave them, Nick.”
I cursed under my breath. “I know. God damnit.”
“Time to bring out old faithful?” I asked. The collapsible harpoon gun always stayed hidden in my backpack for special occasions. I had nearly lost it on a mountain years earlier, but somehow, even after a blizzard, I had found it sticking barrel up out of the snow.
“We can’t risk it, we might hit them.” James started running back toward the bluff.
“Stupid kid. We don’t have a plan James!” He was right of course. If I had fired a harpoon at one of the creatures it would have torn through it and been just as likely to hit a tourist, but it was still disappointing.
“You never have a plan and it seems to keep working out for us,” called James over his shoulder.
“I also said it’s not a good habit to get into!” While my general plan in dangerous situations is to fail upward until the threat is gone, I do find that I am abnormally lucky. Might have something to do with a fortune teller I saved from a cave dragon, but that’s another story entirely.
As we ran, I could see James pulling a pair of knifes from straps on his sides.
“Oh I like where this is going.” Blood pumped hot excitement through my veins. It wasn’t the best plan, but I’ll be honest, I had been wanting for melee combat ever since stepping out of the arena a few years earlier. It was addictive in the way that only blood sport could be.
I pulled out the machete I always kept on my side, finished the last of the flask and tried not to think much about certain death. It tended to be the best strategy in situations with long odds.
By the time we reached the tourists, chaos had already befallen the small group. A child kicked and screamed as one of the ugly beasts tried to drag it away. James jumped on the creature, stabbing furiously, and eliciting a gurgling, rattling hiss. The child was dropped and ran away into the desert, where another chupacabra hissed violently and took pursuit.
I launched myself at the creature’s scaly back and dug my machete deep into its tough skin. The creature fell, taking me with it into the dirt. With a sudden motion, it flipped over, wrenching the machete free and pinning me beneath it. In the dim moonlight, I got my first look at its hideous face.
Rows upon rows of sharp teeth glittered from the inside of its black maw, and two fangs extended from its gums. It’s red eyes flashed brightly as it began to strike. I winced at the pain to come, but the creature’s head was thrown sideways by the force of knife impact. James bowled the creature over and finished it in a few quick swipes.
“Come on old man, keep up, that’s two for me, none for you.” He laughed.
The kid is enjoying himself. He really was meant for this job. Putting my admiration aside, I picked up the machete and made my way back into the fray.
The largest of the beasts which had led the attack was in the process of pulling an adult man, kicking and screaming away from his crying family. Seems like a good enough place to start. The fight had stirred up some bloodlust, and I was feeling lucky. It also helped that the constant drinking over the course of the evening was catching up. My movements felt fluid and fast. I always fight better a little drunk.
“Hey big boy,” I yelled, holding out the machete in a ‘come at me’ gesture.
The chupacabra turned its red eyes briefly away from the man it was clenching. It cocked its head sideways at me, decided I was too much trouble and dug extended a set of long claws, digging deep into the man’s flesh. Gripping him tightly, the creature began to hop awkwardly away.
“Oh no you don’t.” I ran after it. Even at full speed, the creature was still managing to keep pace and stay just out of my reach. I panted with exertion. Despite chasing after predators for a living, I still felt surprisingly out of shape.
Just as I was about to reach the creature, another stepped in front of me, blocking my path. I skidded to a stop so that I was no more than a few feet from it. It chittered excitedly and fanned out its spines in an impressive display of size.
Those look sharp. I had never been stabbed by a chupacabra spine, and didn’t want to find out if they were poisonous. “That might work on other dumb animals, but I know you’re still a scaly little shit!” I held out the knife in front of me, threatening.
Behind the creature, the larger of the pack was still loping away with the bleeding man clutched in its arms. Nearby, James fended off two at once, finishing one with a knife to the eye, and bludgeoning the other with the blunt end of a telescope.
Where the hell did he find that?
I didn’t have much time to ponder, the creature in front of me lunged. They may look like a bunch of fucked up kangaroos with a skin condition, but they’re nimble. Its claws extended midair, unsheathing from tiny pockets just above the knuckle.
I knocked one of them aside and ran my machete up its mid-section, spilling blood and a foul black ichor over the dusty rock. The creature hissed and let out a high-pitched squeal that could have only been its death rattle. It was louder than the others James had killed and caught the attention of the herd.
The attack stopped at once, and the chupacabras that remained began to scatter. At a quick glance, most of the families looked alright. Beaten and bruised, but they still had most of their wits, and they hadn’t been sucked dry of their precious blood.
In the moonlight, the leader could still be seen, but it was shrinking on the horizon. “James,” I called. “We’ve got a runner.”
James dropped the bloodied telescope immediately and started running in the direction of the leader.
“Don’t lose its trail, I’m right behind you.”
“I could track it better if we had bought night vision goggles,” he quipped.
I pulled my machete from the recently deceased chupacabra at my feet and took off after him. The black liquid coating the blade smelled almost as if black licorice had been mixed with rotting soup. It was a smell that would have turned even my grandmother away, a woman who frequently mixed up dish-soap with salt.
We ran for what felt like a half hour, but was likely only a few minutes. The heat of the desert had quickly evaporated, and each breath became a plume of steam in front of my face. Somewhere in front of me, James ran in the dark, squinting at the ground, trying to follow the creature’s trail.
Finally, James stop, and a glint of red shone out from the darkness in front of us. I stepped up beside him, panting. “Good job, we got him.”
“Something’s not right,” James said, quietly.
I was about to tell him he was being skittish when I got another look at the creature’s red eyes. Only, they weren’t red eyes, it was a single red eye, and running from it was a long line of red light, almost like a laser. As the realization came to me, a hundred other red lights illuminated at the same time. I looked over at James to see his body pinpricked with little circles of red light.
Please don’t be Predator. I didn’t want to pay up on our bet, and the Predator movies had given me one too many nightmares.
“GET ON YOUR HANDS AND KNEES NOW!” Boomed a voice so loud that it might have come from god itself.
Flood lights turned on, searing my almost dark-adjusted eyes. “Oh thank god,” I groaned.
“What’s there to be thankful about?” James was already getting to his knees. It wasn’t the first time we’d been held at gunpoint.
“It’s not the Predator!” I exclaimed. “It’s just the CIA.”