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It is a rare thing for me to blow my own trumpet, but, damn, "The Voice of the Land" is good. I can say that after having read it eleventy zillion times.
Usually the àrtist`is inclined to fiddle. You know, that one more brushstroke to make it perfick, kinda of attitude. This time I am merely nodding and going, uh huh, that is good.
Therefore, I am going to give you sneek peek.

An extract from Chapter 3

 


Noise could drive a man mad. Creatures cackled, whooped and sung in continuous cacophony. Plants dripped in torpid heat, their huge blossoms leering like over-painted whores. Shrub interlaced plant, and insects the size of dinner plates fluttered their wings with a come-hither flamboyance.

Was this terraforming run amok? Carogan glanced at his wrist scanner. The numbers showed him nothing he could interpret. Not where he stood, not where his ship waited, not where danger might hide. Why would anyone in their right mind want to colonize this sweating, teeming, uncivilized continent?

More importantly, why had Victor Grantham chosen him for this mission? Did he think that because he and Jon had been close, Carogan would search out reasons forJon’s death more diligently? 

Carogan paused by a giant fern. Water dripped on his already soaked flight suit, the momentary coolness welcoming. He pulled out a canteen and took a sip of tepid energy drink. Sentient jungles, aliens, and an operative who had cut his wrists on his return home. Harvey’s death had shocked him, the copper scent of blood lingering in Carogan’s memory. Death felt different when it was a friend.

 A monkey cackled as it ran nimbly along swaying branches high above Carogan’s head.

Mutations. Carogan recalled Harvey’s body within the ship. He hadn’t  noticed any mutations then. Harvey’s only wounds had been those on his wrists. Yet he’d seen the results of forensic scans. Harvey’s physiology had been altered dramatically. He’d wanted to ask Forsyth about those mutations, but the doctor had never given him the
opportunity.

Carogan had read up on Bluesher. Its flora and fauna should have been as Earth-like as those that once lived upon that world, so it was these aliens, these desmondis, who troubled Grantham.

The cackling monkey lobbed a missile at him. Carogan ducked as an over-ripe fruit splattered against a nearby tree, leaving a rank smell of rot behind.

“Hilarious,” Carogan muttered, and promptly tripped over a root the size of a heating duct. He straightened up, cursed, and brushed off an army of ants from his hands. An ant the size of a bee bit him. He shook it off and stomped on it for its temerity. The monkey hooted in glee and threw another fruit, gaining a direct hit on Carogan’s chest.

Carogan lifted his gun and followed the monkey’s movements through the sights, finger hovering over the fire button. The little black-and-white creature scuttled to safety behind a canopy of leaves,  its long tail waving like a flag. About to lower his gun, Carogan hesitated, staring at a dark shadow by a tree trunk. He didn’t remember it being there on his first pass. When nothing moved, he lowered his gun. As he walked through the jungle, he became convinced something watched him, and not just animals. Bird-like shadows rustled overhead, and the monkey’s laughter sounded too human.

Sweat dampened his suit further. He glanced at his scanner once more. Bodies. Lots of bodies showed on the read-out. Animals or aliens? A scan of surrounding jungle revealed more meaningless numbers.

The monkey’s distant laughter disappeared. Nerves taut, Carogan listened to the absence of sound. Even the insects ceased their hum.

A ghost wind came to fill the vacuum, rising up and down, howling between trees, rustling and whispering secrets. Carogan raised his gun and used the sights to scan the area as leaves danced on sunbeams. He pressed a button on his belt, and a light-shield surrounded his body, camouflaging him to match his surroundings. He crouched down in leaf litter, waiting in shadows as the susurrus of leaves chattered louder until they became a wail infiltrating his mind.

Sound that hurt, which made him want to cover his ears, though he resisted the temptation as a great howl filled the air. A flurry of wings, the rustle of membranes, as a vast flock of creatures descended into the glade where he’d just stood. His heart beat overtime, his fingers tightened on his gun. Coincidence? Or had they known he was here?



Today's photo - Hawaii - road to Pali Lookout. Susan Curnow



 


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