unexcerpt: n. 1. A single scene coalescing with remarkable clarity in my imagination, having no point and even less context.
2. What my brain does, waking me up before 8AM instead of letting me sleep.
Setting: Amazon rainforest
Narrator: red-haired woman
The dense air was difficult to breathe, and muffled sounds enough. I couldn't tell where it was going to strike from next. My only hope was to keep running and hope that I could reach civilization before anything reached me. I slipped my hand into my pocket to grab my compass—only to recall that the compass was in the backpack I'd dropped in the first attack.
A macaw overhead screeched a frantic warning. I took off running at the sound. With a roar that virtually disintegrated every muscle in my body, the caiman erupted onto the bank, skimming over the land almost as quickly as it had been swimming through the bog. I felt the jaws around my leg and heard the bone snap as I fell before the pain slammed into my head. I couldn't help myself; I screamed as a flurry of tropical birds took wing. The caiman rolled expertly, tossing my body through the air and slamming me to the ground, all while keeping a firm hold on my leg. Then it began to drag me back toward the water. I didn't even have the willpower to resist my imminent death.
The undergrowth snapped as a large shape sprang into the clearing. The caiman paused to see who would dare interrupt its meal. I looked, too, and saw a huge black panther thundering toward us. I envisioned being ripped from the jaws of the caiman and torn to shreds by the panther, but there was no point in trying to see a way of escape. My fate had been sealed.
I had no feeling in my leg, but my body gave a small jerk and I looked down. The caiman had dropped my leg to greet this new oncoming threat. I turned my head once more just in time to see the panther leaping straight for me. I snapped my eyes shut, bracing myself.
I heard the roar on my other side, and smelled a musty, hairy scent that almost smothered me. There was no pain like what I had been expecting. I opened my eyes.
The panther stood over me. The fur on its belly brushed my face. The paw resting next to my head was easily bigger than my whole face. The panther screamed at the caiman till the reptile returned to the swamp from whence it came.
Now we were alone, me and the panther—and I was bleeding, wounded, and almost dead. Perhaps any moment now, the panther would turn, snap my neck with one chomp of its powerful jaws, and drag my mangled body up into a tree to feast on me at its leisure. I closed my eyes as I felt the paw beside my head lift and transfer to the other side. Now the panther was standing over me, watching my face. I felt whiskers brushing my cheeks, smelled the reek of death on its breath, and it was all I could do to keep from flinching—though the panther could probably sense my breathing and my wildly-beating heart. Any moment now...
The panther hovered over my midriff. I could hear the animal snuffling with its nose against my side. The massive jaws opened, and I felt the sharp teeth press against my front and back—
But they did not puncture. My head flopped back as the panther lifted me off the ground as easily as a dog lifts a doll. The teeth held me firmly in place, like laying on a bed of nails, but they did not pierce the skin. I was having an easier time playing dead, as the real thing loomed closer and closer. The panther walked slow and easily through the forest with unusual tenderness. I almost wondered if it considered me one of its young, with the way it had defended me from the caiman—but if so, then why?
At last, as I teetered on the edge of total blackness, the panther laid me down, this time on a softer surface than the cold ground. I could almost identify the feel of the fibers beneath me as some animal pelt. Moaning softly, the panther nosed along my shoulder and began slowly licking the blood from my face. The beast's breath reeked of the old flesh that made up its diet. The tongue felt like wet sandpaper against my skin.
"What have you found, Carnossus?"
I did not have the strength to open my eyes at the sound of the low female voice. I sensed someone crouching nearby, and felt the hand laid on my head. The palm alone covered my face; dimly, I wondered how big the person would be, with hands so large. Another hand quickly slipped under my back, and she said something else, but then the darkness swallowed me....
More to come...