The beast craned its serpentine neck, the yellow-marble eyes slit with a horizontal line glowered, foam-covered fangs bared. The dense reek of the wyrm smothered him. He felt the talons clench on him and another scream ripped its way free of his mouth. He almost blacked out under the waves of agony as they swarmed him under in a tide.
Its head struck, maw gaping.
He knew it wouldn’t use the precious platinum unless it had to, but he could still be devoured or torn to shreds with the spear-claws and sword-fangs.
In a blurred motion too fast for human eyes he drew the heavy brutes from their holster. He fired one into the face as it shot forward, and the massive half-inch bullet tore through the cheek and left a gaping hole in the mouth, scales flying and spinning into the gloom.
It screamed in anguished pain and dipped, dropping before the wings beat furious against the air and carried them higher, deeper into the cloud. He lost sight of the monster’s face, and felt the grip slacken. He put the muzzle of the guns against the thin armor of the reptilian underside and fired, right gun, left gun, right again, left again.
Thick ichor splashed against his face, ran in gushes down the plates on the chest and dropped in streaks into the cloud. A roar and a flash, the sulfuric stench of the platinum catalyzing, and the talons twitched tighter on him. He shrieked, almost blacked out, bit his lip and held onto the precious revolvers, the polished silvery surfaces stained with the blowback of thick swampy green blood.
The head spun toward him as they began to spiral downward. He pointed the revolver closest to the snout and fired. The mighty projectile plowed into the face just below the left eye, sailed through the thin flesh and thick bone, and exploded out in bone shards and blood spray at the back of the head behind the monster’s ear.
The wings beat once more, the head launched back in a death throe, and the great, spined back arched. The body pitched, rolled and plummeted into the gray ocean, through the dense cloud. He slammed the huge revolvers back into the belts and raced to snap the straps closed over them in desperate haste. He can’t lose the guns. Can’t.
He pulled at the talons, weak and battered, straining with the effort. They wouldn’t budge, locked in their death clutch.
A jolt shot through the claw still buried in his ribs. It shocked him to the core, jarred his heart, rattled his teeth. For a moment he thought he’d broken in half and his vision blurred to a red slurry. The massive torso tumbled and bounced over a flat mesa top, but he popped free of the talon. He rolled across weeds and bushes, twigs and branches stabbed him, and he put his arms over his face to cover it.
The beast skidded ahead of him, a darker mass in the gray cloud, before it disappeared from sight.
The edge of the mesa. The carcass fell off the tableau.
He hurtled at a furious speed, rocks and pebbles ripping and slicing flesh as he skidded toward the plateau edge. He spread his arms and legs to stop the roll but cartwheeled like a tumbleweed. He tucked into a ball and a final blow smashed against his back. He heard a sickening crack and felt a fresh spike of white-hot pain sear his back, shoulder, arm.
He panted, gasped for breath. He might be drowning in his own blood, inside. He fell onto his side and more agony raged through him. The twisted tree that stopped his flight imprinted his flesh with its bark. He’d have a nasty welt over his back in a long slash.
If he lived.
Blackness overtook him.
All original content © 2009 J. Dane Tyler
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