Don’t move. Don’t move. Don’t move.
Calsei changed the motto over and over in her head. Her backpack straps pulled at her shoulders, encouraging her to drop from her crouch and sit down on the nice warm earth.
Sweat trickled down her face. This planet was far too damn hot for any reasonable life to live on it. Calsei had always said that this damned foresty planet was going to be the death of them.
And now, it was.
The silence hung around her like a noose. Where bird calls and monkey hoots should be was stone cold silence. Even the local wildlife knew when it was approaching. They too were terrified.
Calsei tried to keep her breathing even. It had already got Raven and Tuilu. It was now coming to finish the job.
A low rumble broke the silence. It sounded like thunder but this planet couldn’t get thunder. The humidity never broke, the extra energy dissipated into the trees, into it and things like it.
It was called an Anyentr. Goddess’ hand in the local spaceport’s tongue.
The legends had that it would strike down anyone who tried to set foot on the planet’s earth. A protector, or sorts, according to the spaceport’s legends. A guardian of the earth that so many in this region relied upon for its supply of electricity.
I’m a scientist, Calsei thought. She was supposed to be the one hiding behind Raven and Tuliu. Not standing in the middle of a damn forest with the whole weight of the earth dragging at her long limbs. She was just here for the saliva samples to test back at the lab nothing more-
A branch broke.
Calsei forced her hand to go to the safety on her gun. Her body shook with fear, she had seen what had happened to Raven. Her body had been barely identifiable that morning when they had found her.
Another brush of air against her cheek made her shiver. The wind whispered through the trees gently, too gently. As if it too was afraid of the creature of the forests that stalked the shadowy forest floor.
Another branch snapped, closer this time. The Anyentr was a master of camouflage, it would stalk it’s prey until the last minute-
A pair of eyes appeared in front of her, framed by the dark shadows of the leaves. They were a striking violet purple, and round like saucers.
Calsei swallowed, moving her hand up her gun-
The Anyentr moved before she could even put her finger near the trigger. One moment the eyes were staring at her, the next the huge beast was standing over her, one hand clamped down on the top of her head, the other wrapped around her hands and the gun.
Pain enveloped Calsei’s conscience immediately. The Anyentr’s claws had poison laced into the ends, which whilst not deadly, could make a human feel indescribable pain in a mere few hours.
Fortunately for Calsei, the pain was only coming from one place, her trigger hand, where the Anyentr’s claws had broken the skin.
The Anyentr’s face was long, like that of a bat, with a protruding jaw and snout. Sharp teeth lined the edges of it’s mouth, between which saliva dribbled out onto the floor in fat, heavy droplets.
The Anyentr twisted Calsei’s face up to it, so it could stare directly into her eyes. Calsei tried to look away, but as she moved her eyes the Anyentr moved her head so she still looked at it.
Calsei had never thought about her own death, certainly not at the hands of the creature she had spent her life studying. She’d always thought she’d die in a spaceship accident or choke on a bone, or something more mundane and boring.
The Anyentr moved it’s face closer, so Calsei could feel it’s breath on her face. It studied her, in the same way Calsei would study the specimens in the lab.
“Leave,” it said. The word was guttural, laced with the power of the earth that it sucked it from. Calsei flinched as static electricity danced across her cheek from the creature speaking.
Then it was gone, moving too fast for her to follow. Noise began to trickle back into the forest around her – a few birds sung in the tree tops, some of the insects began to hum again.
Calsei swallowed, reaching up to touch her face. She was lucky to be alive, to stay would be suicide.
She could imagine it now – her bosses would haul her over the coals for failing to get the samples, if only she could-
Calsei touched the lapel of her shirt. It was wet, soaked through with the spit of the Anyentr.
Maybe there is something to show from this, Calsei thought. If they could decode the Anyentr’s DNA, then maybe there was a way to defeat the creature.
She smiled. Sure, she would leave the Anyentr for now. But then she would be back to finish off the job.
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