By Robert Pobi
About the book:
An homage to the blockbuster Jaws and the classic American novel Moby-Dick, MANNHEIM REX tells a tale of obsession, healing, and man versus nature as the characters struggle to find meaning and purpose in their own lives. Following the sudden death of his wife, horror writer Gavin flees New York City for the quiet of the country, where he soon learns that many people have gone "missing." Thirteen-year-old Finn, who is dying of cancer, knows that the truth: There's a monster in the lake. And Finn's last wish is to go down in the record books for catching it. Battling demons of his own, Gavin joins Finn on his perilous quest to slay the nightmarish leviatha.
Part 2 of Chapter 1 continued from Fairy Tale Reviews.
He felt a stinging in his fingers and looked at his hand. It was gone. Neatly. Cleanly. Gone.
The braided line had garroted his hand.
A thick piss-rope of blood drooled out. Thick drops splattered his boots and turned the water sloshing around the bottom of the boat pink at first. Then quickly black.
Then the sky opened up. The staccato clatter of hail bouncing off the boat almost drowned out his single, girlish scream.
Frank fumbled with his belt. Managed to get it off. Pulled it tight around his arm to slow the bleeding. Pain hit. He howled again. Grit his teeth. Then saw the shadow moving just below the surface of the lake. The hail was pounding the water, distorting it, but it was huge. Massive. Something about the way it behaved transmitted more than its shape could. There was purpose in the way it moved. It wanted something.
Frank scrambled back against the transom, his eyes never leaving the nightmare that surged through the water, skirting his field of vision. He tripped on the bench and almost went sprawling backward, over the gunwale. He stood at the transom, crying, staring into the water. It wasn’t going away. It was getting closer, circling in.
There was no longer the sensation of blood drooling out of his wrist or of the hail clattering down; his universe had been reduced to the black shape that wanted him. He knew it wanted him. He could feel it.
What was it?
Why was it doing this?
But he knew. It was here to feed.
Somewhere above him there was a flash of lightning and the air cracked with the pressure. Frank stumbled. His thigh hit the throttle and engaged the propeller. The boat lurched forward with a jolt.
There was a split-second as he teetered on the edge of his balance. Then he fell, screaming, into the water.
His boat! He needed to get to—
The boat chugged steadily off into the haze of the storm and was soon gone, leaving him alone. With it.
He spun, searching.
It found him first.
He heard his humerus break before he felt it and the thing pulled him down into the black, toward the center of the earth. His body seesawed with the pulse of its muscles as it pulled him away from the world.
Please stop. Oh God, it hurts. STOP! Please. Please, please, pleasepleasepleaseplee—
Stars filled with phosphorescent blisters of pain burst behind his eyes. His lungs screamed for air. Something else broke deep inside him and fear replaced all the things he had ever hoped for.
He tried to free himself. Each movement to get away brought him a jolting slap of hurt. He punched at the snout. Connected with bone and slime and teeth. His palm ripped open. Hit it again. And again. Suddenly he was free. Floating. Knechtel kicked his legs and his life vest brought him up.
He broke into the mist and sucked in greedily, filling his lungs. Water splashed into his mouth and down his throat. He coughed. And screamed. What the fuck is it? was all he could think.
Get to shore. He looked around and could see it at the edge of the haze. Three hundred yards. Maybe less.
The first stroke was awkward and he faltered over onto his side. He tried again and the same thing happened. The bad arm was not working. He reached over and felt the denuded bone and slimy tendrils of tendon sticking out of his shoulder. There was no arm. It was gone. And that was when the pain went supernova. Bucketloads that spilled through his body and set his mind on fire.
There was the swish of something in the water in front of him and he felt the pulse of a wave as it moved by.
Then it came back and grabbed him.
It clamped down onto his remaining arm. Yanked him under. All the fuses in Knechtel’s mind exploded in a flash of fear. He felt his body pulling to the surface, the buoyant life vest doing what it was designed to. But the freight train driving him down just kept going. There was nothing he could do, not against the force taking him into the earth. He felt a sharp snap as his eardrums imploded and white noise of static filled what few corners of his mind weren’t packed with agony. Blackness started creeping in and he started to lose consciousness. Then, for some reason, it let go.
The life vest pulled him toward the white world above. The fuses in his mind that were not yet blown kept him holding on to consciousness. For the second time he bobbed to the surface.
The first breath burned down his throat. He coughed and vomited, bile splattering out his nose in red strings. The world spun dizzily and he saw the distant outline of the shore flash by. He spun in a whirlpool created by whatever it was circling him.
He had to make it to shore. To get away from it. Far away.
Knechtel tried to swim and nothing happened. It took a second for him to realize that he wasn’t moving because he had no arms. They were both gone. No, a voice somewhere back there at the edge of consciousness said, not gone—bitten off. He kicked his legs and he spun in place, amid the widening pool of blood.
There was a surge of pressure as it hit him from below and he knew he had shit himself. For an instant the pain was brain blinding. And then it…wasn’t. He hardly felt anything at all except disbelief. But he heard it. The sound was intimate. And with some disconnection he realized that his body was being torn apart. Chewed. Crunched. Consumed.
Below the foaming surface of Lake Caldasac, Frank Knechtel’s head slowly swirled toward the bottom. His mouth instinctively sucked for air that, had it come, would have done no good whatsoever because he no longer had a body to process oxygen. It spiraled down into the cold water, blood billowing out as it sank.
The last message his brain received before the electrical impulses stopped firing had been sent from his eyes.
Madness was coming for him.
Frank Knechtel’s face, although no longer technically alive, had time to involuntarily wince before it was torn from his skull.
Disclosure of Material Connection: No payment was received by me in exchange for this post. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.