There is more in heaven and earth, Mr. Shakespeare, then ever imagined in your philosophy.
|Fifteen-year-old Adelia had finally escaped from the youth asylum, but fleeing into the early morning Amazon rainforest posed as much of a threat to the terrified girl as did the ruthless guards who drew closer by the heartbeat. Gasping to catch her breath in the thick, humid air, she could hear the men shouting and dogs barking in the distance. Barefoot, desperate, wearing only a thin, soiled gown, she feared a separate presence even more than the guards or the Brazilian jungle. Something else was chasing her, hunting her. Pursuers that would have already caught and killed her if she hadn’t stabbed the attendant molesting her. And jumped from a second-floor window.
The ground was wet and soggy from the near constant rain; everywhere the leaves of plants dripped with steady streams of water. Whenever Adelia stopped to rest, ants, spiders, and other insects scurried up her bare legs, biting, stinging, sucking, as if her presence was little more than a next meal for whatever was hungry. She could feel other things crawling inside her uncombed hair, lengthy locks that hung past the small of her back and tangled on branches and bushes as she ran.
Like overhead searchlights, columns of sporadic sunlight penetrated the forest canopy, threatening to spotlight her fragile figure among the backdrop of primeval terrors that surrounded her. None the least of which were the humans who followed her clumsy trail. Who, when they caught her, would no doubt shoot her with the flint-lock rifles they carried. Unless she reached the river in time. And even they, with their guns and knives, were less of a threat than the real monsters who hunted her--creatures who sniffed the air with scaly, narrow snouts and drooled saliva from jaws filled with long, dagger-like teeth.
As Adelia burst from the protection of some giant ferns and stumbled deeper into the jungle, she jerked to a stop and listened. Though still far away, the raspy "hissing" sounds were unmistakable. It was them. She then heard the crack-snap of rifle and pistol shots, screams, finally high-pitched yelps. The lusus naturae moved fast, like snakes swimming, and had apparently reached the guards, even slaughtering their dogs. A moment later, the forest had resumed its more normal cacophony of non-human voices. Only the calls of birds, macaw parrots, and the howling of monkeys echoed amid the towering Kapok trees. The noises from all of them again ceased completely as the others approached. Others who were ideally suited to survive--and kill--in a jungle.
They had detected her scent and it was simply a matter of time before Adelia herself was trapped and murdered. Not as food for hungry predators, but because only she knew her assailants’ true identity. Who and what they were and more importantly, where they came from. If found before she got to the river, the flesh would be chewed from her bones--if she was lucky.
Os dragoes violentos. Adelia feared their throated fire more than anything else. She had seen people torn to shreds by scythe-like talons and spear-point fangs, and death had come quickly for them. Other, less fortunate victims had been engulfed in the creatures’ flames and struggled for long, agonizing minutes while they were horrifyingly burned alive.
But her persecutors had come too late. She smirked at the realization of how the cruel sanitarium guards themselves, had delayed the others' attack and given her the extra time she needed. Time to reached the sanctuary of the rushing water that awaited her. She had arrived there in time, but with little to spare. Standing on the precipice of a high cliff that overlooked the river, a place she had sought since her confinement years ago, the girl realized her frantic flight to freedom--her long-sought escape--lay only steps away.
Exhausted and struggling to find her breath, loud, uninhibited exclamations of laughter replaced the adrenalin-charged panic that had freed the inmate from her unjust imprisonment. No more would she suffer the nightly visits from the guards, and especially gone would be the terrible visions that had haunted her dreams for as long as she could remember. Nightmarish images of lizard-like monsters who could think, even talk like people. And kill like them as well.
Closing fast from behind, she heard the oncoming, rapid steps of long, reptilian toes and talons as they crushed the understory of the forest floor. The hideous snarls and hisses grew louder, deafening, and either teeth or flames would find her at any moment.
An instant later, Adelia had leapt from the rocky promontory and plummeted to the water and jagged rocks far below.