We spiralled inwards from the shoreline, keeping an eye out for the creature while scouting for tracks and survivors. Every human structure, from kayaks to chalets had been destroyed and scattered violently. The beach resort had been pounded into the sand. Fragments of furniture and roof sloshed gently in the surf. We were somewhat shaken by the degree of devastation and flinchingly sifted through the wreckage, fearing what state the casualties might be in.
Following the trail that had been beaten into the forest we came to the flaming beacon which had lured us in. The fire appeared to have come from the hotel’s power generator which lay behind the main complex. It looked as if it had been stamped upon, rupturing the boilers. An avenue of smashed trees and flattened cabins led away on both sides of the smoking ruin.
Either fear of the Ultrashark had dissuaded the holiday makers from their annual vacations or the creaure we’d seen skulking into the sea had been disturbingly thorough. We found no survivors or even any bodily remains, beside a long red smear within a footprint. The beast’s tracks were plentiful and had provided most of our footpaths; Harvey and Maxwell measured them while I took photographs.
The creature, we surmised, had the gait and rough anatomy of a large aquatic reptile but was far larger than anything found even in the Southern Continent. Some of the clearer markings where the animal had paused before changing direction showed a length between forelegs and tail tip of fifty feet. We had no idea of its head shape as yet, though there were grooves in the sand where it might have ducked to graze upon its prey. Harvey expostulated that it was naturally at home on the bottom of the ocean where it would feed on anything that came within reach until the stimulation of the Ultrashark brought it to the surface. Maxwell considered it an interloper from distant waters. It was an exciting discovery and a number of papers were likely to emerge from its study.
Our intent had been to island hop with the ferries or local boat men, but there were no longer such facilities available. The detritus of boats and the buoyant stern of a ferry were visible from the beach. Some of the islands were only a few hundreds of feet apart (even less at low tide) so Harvey proposed that we travel on his back instead, as we had often done in the lakes of the Eastern Mood jungles. This was not the most appealing prospect but past attempts at raft building had met unfortunate ends. It was only a little water after all. I tucked Maxwell into his perspex box; he hates the water, but not as much as being unable to see.
That first passage between the islands was tense, but brief. Harvey’s light step skimmed through the shallow waters and up the next beach before we’d had time to truly unsettle ourselves. Harvey shook his articulated length dry and I released Maxwell onto the sound. Perhaps we’d find a whole boat on this island. Without an aerial view we had to trust that the creature was still ahead of us. On reflection it would have been the ideal time to unhook the radio from Harvey’s pannier and check whether Bob was still airborne.
Even now I find it hard to believe that a creature so large could move with such stealth. Indeed, the noise we heard, which alerted us to the imminent danger, was only the sound of water cascading onto wet sand. We turned; Harvey instinctively circled around us like a wagon train. We three watched the enormous head of the creature rise out of the water. It had a long broad snout with the appearance of a salamander or newt save the powerful jawline and rows of wicked teeth which gave it an alligator’s grin. Instead of eyes set into its head, it boasted a pair of mobile eye palps resembling horns. They rotated smoothly towards us with alien grace and its cave-like nostrils flared. Maxwell named it for us, in a low mewl of disquiet: “it’s a… a… a Colossal Death Newt!”
Part 4 coming soon….