Retracting the claws, the creature dropped on the ground where it twitched into stillness. Brad switched on his night vision lens and looked out over the field. Images blurred at first, then focused. He gasped a curse. Pockets of the creatures began to exit from burrows beside the tufts of grass. For now, they merely congregated on the ground.
Brad feared they might grow conscious of his presence. He broke into a run for the cliff. Not long after, the stampede of feet followed. It sounded like a continuous shuffle, spurring him to minutely lengthen his stride. Despite his fear, he looked over his shoulder. Hundreds of the creatures shuffled over the ground in his direction, but he could run faster than them.
Good he thought, taking in his destination.
With a few kilometres to go, he could afford to slow down every now and again to rest. The creatures continued on, closing the gap he had allowed himself. He turned and ran, almost full pace for the cliff. Once he reached there, he’d be safe. Twenty minutes on, the sound of stampeding feet grew no softer. Brad sprinted, running as hard as he could to put as much distance between himself and the little animals. Their trampling now sounded like a roar across the night air, much like muffled cicadas.
Brad stopped a moment to catch his breath and turned. To his horror, the creatures now covered the ground and would close with him in less than a minute. He quickly took out an explosive grenade. In mid stride, he twisted the timing cap and threw it over his shoulder. A new danger now existed in the rising hum of the weapon, compelling him to run as fast as he could on already weary legs. He stopped to watch as the hum crescendoed, and covered his ears as the grenade exploded. A small mushroom cloud, spread from the ground and billowed into the air.
Brad gagged as the scent of charred flesh wafted to his nostrils. Hordes of the creatures converged on the blackened circle, intent on feasting on their dead and dying comrades. Not knowing how long the gambit would delay them, Brad sprinted once more for the cliffs. With only a couple of kilometres to go, he felt confident he’d reach safety.
As he feared the muffled roar resumed. He stopped a moment, taking two gulps. The creatures were closing the gap again. It seemed he could keep ahead of them at a sprint, but they were relentless. If he paused too long, they’d be upon him.
His breathing came in burning, ragged breaths as he ran the last stretch. He prayed in his mind. God lent strength to his legs for the last five hundred metres, spurring him into a sprint. Running up the side of a huge boulder, he leapt free at the cliff wall with all claws extracted as he’d seen Teyata do. His fear of his pursuers overpowered his apprehension of colliding with the sandstone surface. Not having tested the claws before, he had no way of knowing how they’d react.