Enjoy the first chapter of my novel Souille for free on my website now!! Thanks so much for all the support! Link if you would like to read the rest https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09GZ98LQR
It was the smell of mud that kept Natalie awake. A distasteful scent of sulfur, salty sea water, and rotting corpses. The sludge was cold to the touch, a deep gray in color, and thick beneath her shaking hands. As her bottom slowly sank into it, she tried to steady her rapid breath. The panic that swelled inside her was petrifying.
Eyes stinging from the chill in the wind, she had to force herself not to rub them. It was bad enough she was covered in the mud; she did not want her eyes burning from it. Back pressed to the hard metal of a flipped shrimp boat, Natalie only wondered for a split second who had owned it. It did not matter.
All that mattered was silence. Lips tightly together, she released the tension in them to take a deep breath inward. Movement somewhere behind the shrimp boat made her close them again. Eyes widening, heart pounding hard, mind threatening to explode in a panic. Natalie had to pull all her strength together in order not to move.
Her skin crawled at the sound of something moving quickly through the mud. It growled, then let out a clicking, barking sound that was sharp and deep. Natalie knew it was too close for comfort. The creature would not be alone either. Listening, Natalie could hear two more. They were not as close as the one nearby, but still too close.
Looking out to where the ocean had once been, all Natalie saw was ugly gray mud, corpses of sea life, and sunken boats. Miles off, she could see the glimmer of the ocean water. She knew it would eventually come back to the beach. Time was of the essence, and she knew that she had to get off that beach quickly unless she wanted to drown.
Sliding her gray blue eyes, she looked to her left. A large shipping vessel was only a few feet away, halfway buried in the mud with a faint hole in its hull. Square cargo containers were scattered along the once beautiful beach. The land that was once covered in bright tan sand was now stained with the mud of a storm.
Behind her, the creatures began communicating with one another. Not with words but grunts and barks. It was unusual to the ear but also a good sound. It helped Natalie know where the creatures were. Leaning to the left, Natalie glanced around the shrimp boat. The sky was sickly red orange mixed with angry clouds.
A highway was partly destroyed at the other side of the now muddy beach. Random parts of it jutted out from the land and were tossed around. Wrecked cars seemed to have been kicked around violently on the highway’s remains. If Natalie focused enough, she could look past the cargo vessel, towards the docks for fishing, and see the ruins of her former hometown.
Her heart sank at the thought. It had happened so fast. The destruction seemed unbelievable. If she had not gone through it herself, she would not have believed it. And yet there she was sitting in mud behind a shrimp boat trying not to be slaughtered by creatures. In a town that had once been beautiful but now was nothing but a chaotic nightmare.
Growling grew behind her, and her eyes jerked back to the main reason she had even looked around the boat. The three creatures were roaming back up the beach. Each one looked the same as the other. On all fours, each had charcoal leathery skin, with cracked lips and a mouth with thin pointed teeth that jutted from the each jaw. Causing its teeth to constantly be out of its mouth. Natalie’s gaze moved behind those pointy teeth. There was another row hidden inside.
Their bodies were thin, but the muscles in their thighs and biceps were incredible. They had only four fingers and toes. Natalie had quickly noticed the thick sharp claws on each. She had seen them use those claws to quickly shoot themselves up the sides of buildings and shred another human to pieces. A thin tail hung long from their backsides, waving back and forth as if it kept them balanced.
The most horrifying thing about the creatures was the fact that their eyes were diamond-shaped and always closed. Natalie wasn’t sure if they even had eyeballs; if they did, it didn’t matter. They seemed blind and as if they barely could even hear. Dark stringy strands of hair seemed to sprout from their scalps. Their ears were almost human-like but smaller and pointier and closer to the body.
Where Natalie sat, she could make out the slits on the sides of their rib cages where their gills were. A wet substance seemed to slowly seep from them. The genitalia that Natalie could make out did not seem natural, but they all seemed male. They clicked at one another, grunting, and swung their heads side to side.
Natalie did not know anything about them. What they were or where they came from or why they were even there in the town in the first place. What she did know was that they caught on to movement quickly but became confused easily if there was a lot of sound around.
One of the creatures jumped on top of a car and started clawing at the roof. Another one barked at it, and the one on the roof snarled, leaped off the car, and tackled the other. They went rolling in the mud, hissing and biting at one another. Natalie held back bile as she watched them. Her skin was crawling, and her vision blurred from fear. The sight of these creatures wasn’t what scared her the most.
It was the fact that they could mimic human beings. It seemed impossible for their mouths to move in certain directions with their square jaws. However, Natalie had seen others be slaughtered by these creatures because they thought they were another human. Even she had been confused at the gym, hearing her friend call out to her from the showers. When she entered, it had been chaos. Blood and flesh had been everywhere.
Natalie Phillips knew she could trust nothing. In the distance, gunfire rang off, and Natalie jerked her head back around. Panting, she heard the engine of a truck echoing through the wind. A long laugh drifted down the beach, and the creatures let out a raspy call. Looking back around, she saw the creatures racing up the muddy beach and on top of the broken highway. One of them looked backwards towards the ocean and opened its large mouth. Its teeth glittering as it suddenly let out a sound like a gunshot.
Chills raced down her spine at the perfect mimic of a gunshot. Another gunshot rang off, and Natalie knew this was her moment to run. Looking to her right, she saw more wrecked shrimp boats, along with a rig off in the distance that had collapsed into itself. Slowly moving to the right end of the ship, she tried to ignore the smell of the mud. She knew it would haunt her nightmares for the rest of eternity.
At the edge of the right end of the ship, her hands were deep in the cold mud. Sniffling, Natalie stared past the mess on the ruined beach and towards the business docks. Or at least what was left of them. The buildings on the water were worse than inland. Twisted in ways unimaginable or just completely gone. But Natalie was not focused on them. What she was looking at was the bridge towards the ferry.
The ferry was gone, of course, and Natalie was sure the bridge was in ruins. Yet, she knew past the canal would be another highway, one that would lead closer to Texas. Breathing heavily, she sat up, wiped her muddy hands on her red workout tank, which was already covered in mud, then reached into her workout pants front pocket and pulled out a crumpled paper.
Unraveling it, she read it again, as she had done countless of times, since she found it tightly clutched in a dead man’s hand.
“Reports coming in that these creatures don’t like dry air or dryer climates. Which seems obvious since they mostly dwell in the water. Seems to be safe in northern lands. I have word from family in Texas. They’re safe. They’re a couple of miles out of Dallas, in a hunting lodge. Baxter’s Lodge and Hold. I’ll admit, I don’t know exactly where that is. But, maybe someone else does. I’m going to head that way. I know the ocean water is going to come back in eventually. That’s going to just cause more problems for those that survived the storm. Need to get the hell out. Not just because these creatures seem to be trying to make our town their new home but because of what they do to us. Carl was infected with their affliction. His veins black and eyes oozing that weird blackish goo. Turning vicious and psychotic. Still don’t know how they infect people but have to be careful. If I don’t make it out, then I hope whoever finds this uses it to help themselves. Please get the hell out. We didn’t deserve this.”
Natalie had no idea who the man had been. She had lived in the town for all of her twenty-nine years and had never once seen him. It made her wary of the paper because she had no idea if she should trust it. But she also had no other options or plans. Natalie knew crossing the empty canal would be dangerous. Since it had once been filled with sea water, the ground of it would be soft. The likelihood of sinking inward was high.
Somehow that was a better fate than being shredded by these creatures or murdered by someone she knew. Thunder clapped in the sky, and it caused Natalie to let out a gasp of fright.
Looking upwards at the angry sky, she frowned. It seemed as if the storm was not yet done with her hometown. Staring back at the beach, she glanced at a flipped silver toolbox that sat halfway in the mud. It was not much cover but it had to do. Shoving herself forward she raced towards the toolbox, shoes getting stuck in the mud. It took all her might not to stumble and fall. When she reached the toolbox, she allowed herself to land heavily in the mud.
The smelly stuff splashed on her cheeks, and she cursed under her breath. The sound of a car honking made her head jerk up. Down the highway, a white truck raced. Natalie panicked. The toolbox would not hide her whole body. She could play dead, but unlike the creatures, people were smart. At the sound of a gunshot, Natalie did not allow herself to think.
Looking at a car that had been thrown on the beach and buried deep, she took off towards it. Her legs burned as her heart pounded in her chest. When she reached the wreck, she stumbled and landed on her knees. The truck was closer now, and she knew that her body was still in view. Crawling forward, her eyes filled with tears.
She pulled her legs behind the car just in time. The truck sped past, and Natalie could hear wicked laughter coming from it. Shaking, she wiped snot from her nose and pushed herself closer to the car. Moving to the side, her left arm jerked with a sudden burning pain. Screaming, she felt the warmth of blood on her body.
Covering her mouth, a fear she never knew overcame her. Natalie wanted to close her eyes and disappear, but she knew she needed to cover her bleeding wound. Looking at her left arm, she gasped. A deep gash on the side of her left arm was at least five inches long. The blood that poured out was a deep scarlet. The tears that came from her eyes were heavy now.
She had nothing to use to stop the bleeding. Eyeing what had caused the wound, she found the back door of the car had been bent and twisted, causing metal to jut outward. She spotted her own blood on it and felt stupid for allowing her panic to get her in this situation.
Moving down the car, she sniffled and pressed her arm to her muddy shirt. She knew it was not smart, but she had no other option. Thinking that maybe something inside the car might help, she slowly lifted herself up. Before looking through the windows, she stared at the highway. There was no sign of the truck nor the creatures.
Shaking with dizziness in her mind, she looked inside. Natalie quickly wanted to scream again but this time held it in. Sitting in the driver’s seat was a bloated corpse that had shaggy blonde hair and dark brown eyes. He looked at her with pure shock and horror. She knew he had been dead for at least a couple of days. Probably when the storm had first hit.
Natalie wanted to leave the car and run away. Find a spot to hide in and never come out again. Pushing past all of that fear, she slowly opened the door. It took a few forceful pulls, but eventually it did what she wanted. It was hard to avoid eye contact with the body. But she tried her best. Looking around his car, she saw a jacket in the passenger seat.
Natalie did not want to go to the other side of the car to get it, since that would be exposing herself to the highway. Leaning over the bloated corpse, she had the urge to vomit. Closing her eyes, she tried to pretend that her body was not touching what it was actually touching. When her right hand felt purchase, she quickly clutched the jacket and jerked it backwards.
Sitting back in the mud, she began wrapping it around her bloody arm. Something fell from one of the pockets and landed softly in the mud by her left leg.
When she was done tightening the jacket, she looked at it grimly. It was poor work, but it would have to do. At least it would stop the bleeding for now, though she was sure she would eventually get an infection.
Looking at what had fallen from the jacket, she spotted a nice sized pocket knife. Picking it up, she wiped it on her pants and stared at the etching on the side of it. It was military grade and had a symbol for the Marines on it. Opening it up, she found that it was quite sharp. Natalie had no idea how to fight nor did she ever want to be in one. But staring at the knife made her feel a bit safer.
Going back to her main mission, she looked back towards the ferry bridge. It seemed so far away, and that only tightened her stomach more than it already was. Standing up, pain rippled through her body, causing more tears to fall. Natalie chose to ignore it and then looked around to make sure she was alone. When she was satisfied, she quickly darted towards another wrecked shrimp boat.
When a loud screech echoed through the cold wind, Natalie was swallowed up by panic again. Jerking her head backwards, she saw figures moving in the distance. She had no idea if they had spotted her, but that didn’t matter; the fear that engulfed her caused her vision to blur. When she looked back forward, she gasped when she realized how close she was to the shrimp boat. Trying to stop herself was not easy. The side of her face hit the hull of the ship with such intensity that it sent electrifying pain throughout her whole body. The world went black instantly as her body fell limp in the mud.
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