“Morning of The Roo”
Alice walked up the riverbank toward the bloody camp, naked under the full moon. She wrung blood-tinged water from her hair and grimaced as a rib twisted back into place. After hundreds of transformations from human to The Roo and back again, that last sharp pain always caught her unawares. So many bones moved as she changed back to human, she could never tell which one would be the last. It always surprised her.
In the outback, though, it’s about the only thing that still surprised her. The poachers she hunted were so predictable. They followed the troops’ routes and stuck to the easy places, like the wide river in which she had just bathed. They knew, eventually, the kangaroos would come here to drink. They’d make a hasty camp at dusk, when their depredations couldn’t be well-spotted by government drones. None of them set security, not even whisper-sensors that might have picked up her muffled moans as she changed or ground-ears that would have detected the heavy leaps that brought her among them. So stupid. So predictable.
Not that sensors would have helped them much. Even if they had taken their time, they wouldn’t have had a chance, not against her. No poacher had ever survived Alice on the moon-bright nights when her legs sent her dozens of feet in a leap, her claws cleaved metal, her tail crushed bone. Still, the sensors fetched a decent price at the secondhand shops and selling the valuables she scavenged from the dead paid for her needs and a couple luxuries, like the autonomous skimmer that would arrive soon to take her back to civilization.
Alice straightened and stretched. It felt good to be clean, to be a human again, instead of the Roo. After the din of battle, she relished the time spent in the quiet of the wildlands just before dawn, alone save for the night insects and the rustle of breeze through the scrub brush that grew along the river bank.
The rustle of the breeze and something else. Alice turned quickly, just as a coughing bark sounded from by the river. A moment later, a dark shape the size of a Great Dane crested the rise of the bank, saw her, and barked again. Answers came from her right and her left, as two more grinning, slavering beasts moved in. She knew there would be at least two more not far behind. Dire dingoes never hunted in packs smaller than five. Worse, they were chipped; she could see the dull metal patch embedded between their eyes. Someone had put them on her trail.
Alice spat a curse word and reached inside herself for the Roo. The change would be quick and painful, but she’d never survive without it. As her bones began to shift, the dingoes charged her. Alice snarled a challenge at them and whoever was looking through their eyes. She’d been lazy and they had finally surprised her. But she and the Roo had something for them.
For a reason you’ll see later, I couldn’t play along with the usual Friday Fiction challenge. Fortunately, I wasn’t entirely happy with last week’s story, so that gave me something on which to chew today. And chew I did! Last week’s story was supposed to be a nice and tight — a woman who her life as a were-kangaroo fighting for regular kangaroos, mostly by ravaging poacher camps with her preternaturally-strong marsupial form. Did you get “were-kangaroo” or “avenger” from last week’s story? I’d be surprised if you did. I tried to be too cute with the reveal. As a result, I didn’t really reveal it at all. Blah. This week’s story is an attempt to do better with a little more elbow room. I went 500 words this week.
This week, Darleen Click provided a different bit of inspiration for the stories. Honestly, I couldn’t wrap my head around an Enya song, which is the other reason I revisited Alice the Were-Kangaroo, but she did a very fine job of teasing out a nice little strand of mythological wonder.
BigGator5 wove a tale of a long lost love found again.
April’s offering is very strong and reminds me of one of my favorite television shows from the 80s.
Are you reading Matthew Newman’s serial “Through the Mirror”? You should. It’s quite solid. Here’s the latest installation.
(Edited to add a new photo. Credit to gaborfejes on Pixabay)