Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Writing Prompt #1: Sharks Swim in the Forest

Here is the first of my Writing Prompt articles, with thanks to "The 180 Prompts I Actually Use" on Tumblr. The prompt in question is "Sharks Swim on the Forest".

The first sign of trouble came about an hour into Jack's hike. He'd always loved hiking in the woods, particularly along this stretch of trail that wound through a particularly dense portion of the park. Even though it was coming up on noon, the shade offered by the trees kept him cool, allowing him to notice the exact moment when silence descended like a curtain.

The birds stopped singing. The insects stopped buzzing. Nothing moved around him. It felt like the entire forest was suddenly holding its breath, waiting for... something. Jack froze where he was, unnerved by the sudden silence. What was going on? He glanced around slowly, looking for any sort of danger.

Then he saw it--a gentle swelling of the loose turf like something was headed past just under the surface. The mass undulated past, and then sank into the soil.

Cold sweat broke out on Jack's brow, and he took a few cautious steps away from the spot. Then under his rear foot, the turf swelled again, and he jumped away. This time he saw something that at first his mind refused to believe. A triangular, back-swept fin pierced the soil, showing Jack a silhouette that nearly everyone could recognize, no matter where they were.

It was the fin of a shark. There were sharks in the forest.

Jack froze. The swell passed him. The fin vanished beneath  the soil.

Run, he told himself.

But where?

Get off the ground. Get up a tree. Just don't let them--

Another swell lifted the soil,  but this time it changed course and headed directly for Jack. There was no time to debate the possibilities of land sharks. Jack broke into a run, headed for the nearest tree with low branches. He wasn't exactly an expert tree-climber, but blind adrenaline would have to serve where experience failed him. He glanced back once, and saw the gray triangle of a fin slice its way through the soil, bearing down on him.

Jack hit the tree trunk at a sprint, trying to turn his forward momentum into upward momentum. He clawed his way up the trunk, scrambling from branch to branch like a terrified monkey--which, all things considered, wasn't all that far off.

He risked a glance down and saw the dirt and underbrush below him explode with the force of the emerging shark. It was definitely a shark, too--there was no mistaking the leathery gray skin fading to white on its underbelly, the gaping slit of a mouth lined with chainsaw teeth, and the soulless black button eyes that foretold death to anything that happened to be edible. The shark lurched upwards, jaws open to bite.

Jack pulled his foot up and out of its reach just in the nick of time, and its jagged teeth closed on empty air instead. He hooked his foot around a nearby tree branch and looked down at the thing as it belly-flopped onto the turf with a meaty sound of impact. A few moments later, the shark wiggled, writhed, and then dove back under the dirt, kicking up a few final clots of turf with the flukes of its tail.

Jack didn't dare relax, though, as the shark and its two apparent pack-mates started circling the tree where he'd lodged himself. How patient were hungry sharks? Jack didn't know, and even if he did there was no way to compare that to these things. He settled himself in for a long wait, hoping his snacks and water held out until these monsters got bored and wandered off.

He had a feeling it would be a long wait.