Chapter Four has been claimed by Smita Ray. Who wants to write Chapter Five? It’s first come, first serve. The first to ask for the specific chapter gets it. As well, claims for future chapters are allowed; I will remind you in the thread where you’ve commented at to let you know when it’s your turn.
Here are the guidelines and rules if you are interested in participating in this project:
- Leave a comment expressing direct interest in writing or claiming a chapter. First come, first serve. You must comment your interest in writing a chapter. If you, however, send in a chapter without expressing interest beforehand, the submission will not be accepted, unfortunately.
- The participant who claims the chapter has seven days when it’s their turn to write the chapter and subsequently send it back to me. If accepted, I will provide edits if needed and the chapter will be up the day after it was submitted.
- If I don’t hear back from you regarding the chapter, however, and it is beyond the one week limit, I will be searching for someone else to write it.
- Please do not submit to the form without commenting your interest in writing a chapter.
- Authors can write multiple chapters—no constraints or limits on how many they do. However, there is a general courtesy to not claim one chapter after the next. This is to allow other authors a chance to participate and as well get their own claims in for future chapters. When it’s your turn, I will remind you in the thread where you’ve claimed the particular chapter.
- There is no deadline for this story. When I feel it’s near the end, I will release a notice on here to get the final few chapters in.
- The minimum word count I will accept is 500. The maximum word count I will accept is somewhere between 8,000 to 10,000 words.
- If no one seems to claim an upcoming chapter, then I will jump in to write again.
- I will not accept anything religious, outwardly political, hateful, pornographic, slurs, or anything that is demeaning, threatening or harmful in its content. Please nothing that is against a particular group, or anything that demeans a certain group of people that would be considered racist, homophobic, sexist, religious discrimination or prejudice. I will not accept your piece if that is such the case.
- An exploration of social issues is fine. It should not alienate or debase the audience, though, in your writing.
- I will as well include your name/pen name and a link to your website (if you have one) with your contribution to the novel collaboration. The novel is titled “Identify.”
You can submit your continuation here.
Need to catch up? Here are the previous chapters:
Chapter One by Lucy.
Chapter Three by B.V. Stratton.
Zara paced back and forth between the branches, curling her feet around the bark covered limbs. As quietly as she could, she watched the two below hurriedly dash about, covering their mechanical transport vehicle. How stupid, she thought. To think they went unseen on such an island as this. How easily she could take them out with her claws she pondered, but now was not the time to strike.
Here in the treetops, Zara craved more. More watching, more observing, and more reporting were needed first. Zara hunkered down beneath a knot in the canopy’s many tree branches and cracked open a kakoa nut. Drinking its milk, she sloppily let it run down the sides of her mouth and trickle to her barren throat. Her chest heaved as she drank in the nutrition from the sacred food and she let out a small breath at its finish.
Below, the male and female were searching through their packs, no doubt for drink or food, Zara surmised. If only they knew that just ahead was an area ripe for the picking of anything they could need to survive; but these two were not native, hell, no one was native but Zara had been long enough she thought the island hers, and she had proven her expertise in assassination efficiently, if not quickly. They, the ones in the shadows had grown to let things slide because Zara had proven herself indispensable in bringing back the damned. Thirty six to date, she reminisced. How lovely they had tasted on the night of the banquets. Their skin roasted to a grand honeyed brown, juicy and just warm enough to kill off the viral nuisances that could destroy such a tasty treat.
The days before experiments were foreign to her now, Zara could only think of her life here in the trees and among the rocks that littered the barren landscape. Her senses had changed after the second round of injections, giving her the edge she had needed to run. There was no keeping up with her after those doses and she wondered if that’s why They had made the serums less powerful since her escape. Freedom here isn’t what it was cracked up to be; she had traversed this island for more than a month’s time and never found a route off. Starving, she came back to the oasis, seeking out food and rest in the canopy of the trees. That’s when They had found her and offered her the deal.
“Look at you there with all your speed and finesse. Do you like what we’ve given you?”
Zara had looked on, head cocked to the side as if a kitten looking at a toy.
“Tell you what, we’ve talked and have an idea. By now you know there’s no way out of here, so what do you say to a little partnership of sorts? We let you live, and you bring back anyone else that escapes. You’ll be rewarded each time you do, and you’ll get to return to your little slice of heaven right here in the island’s Sunset Valley. Do you like the kakoa and bushnell berries we’ve planted here? They are quite tasty, yes?”
Zara pondered the ultimatum. There was really no way out of the deal that she could see, so it occurred to her to find her own winning side. Albeit, a little unorthodox, being so meant it would fit right in.
“It seems we have a deal. On one condition. I get to choose who comes back alive or dead. You get them either way, but I choose how. I like the hunt, but it may end differently depending on the prey. Me going after animals is one thing. I’ve grown adept and agile at the art.” Zara sharpened her nails on a rock she kept in her pocket. “But I want to get to know my prey before striking, I want to do it how I see fit.”
They thought it over amongst themselves for a few minutes while Zara stood waiting, wondering if a bullet was going to find a way to her skull. Moments later the man turned to her and began to speak.
“Alright, you’ve got a deal. Though, we’ll be out to collect you if you don’t deliver. Watch for the lights on the river. If they are on, someone has escaped, and we will trust that you will return them to us in a timely manner. Good hunting, Z46.”
Below Lauren and Tom did their best to feed themselves on what was packed away in their bags, taking care to portion what they could. Tom especially liked the cashew looking nuts and wondered if he had had them before. Lauren, on the other hand, saw how little Tom had drank and began to get worried.
“Here, take this.” Lauren reached out and gestured to Tom with a canteen.
“No. Just drink it, it’ll help with your stamina for tomorrow’s hike. This area is gonna be brutal and we’ve got a lot of it to cover until we get to the first x on the map.”
“I just don’t get why we are hopping from x to x, there’s got to be something better than this pirate map you’ve concocted. How do you know what will be at these places anyway?”
Lauren sighed and considered telling Tom the truth, but she thought it was best to tell him as little as possible until his memory recovered. After all, the less he knew the less of a target he’d be for the others in the shadows. She knew they were out there, the night-slayers. Stories of them had made their way around the underground for a few years now. People disposed of in the dark by creatures in the night. There was no telling when they were around or what their purpose was, but Lauren knew that there were a few places that had never been reported, and those were the places the two of them would try hiding out until they could get the hell out of here altogether.
“You’ll just have to trust me on this one. Let’s just say there is more to this island than either of us realize.” She took back the canteen and took a swig. The citrus and malt washed over her tongue like a warm beer, nasty and hard to choke back.
“Should we camp here for the night? I think we shou…” Tom tried to continue.
“Fuck, no. We don’t camp. Ever. At all. There is no stopping, Tom. Not once, not at all. We’ve already been here too long. We could have already been spotted for all we know, though there are no lights up on the river yet.”
“Lights? River? What the hell are you talking about?” Tom was getting frustrated and worn out from the day’s travels.
“Look, they light up the river with these lantern things whenever someone escapes. It signals that there is a search going on. Kinda like the great wall, remember, with the signal fires?”
Tom tried hard to recall. “Things are still fuzzy at best Lauren, give me a break.”
“No time for breaks, of any kind. A break could mean death, bro. Gotta get with it.”
After the tense conversation, Tom packed up what was left of the food in his pack and followed Lauren to the border of the seemingly welcoming tree line. Beyond here there was no telling what they’d encounter and now Tom was more nervous than before.
“Lock em’ down and make sure you’re ready. Shoot everything that moves.”
“Sounds like a plan…Which x are we heading to first?”
Lauren thumbed around with the map and pointed out one to their North West. “This one first, there should be food on the way for us to restock, just keep an eye on what the birds eat. We eat what they eat and nothing else.” She made brief eye contact before continuing. “No water either from the river. It’s got to be boiled first.”
“Got it, let’s go then.”
Zara dozed on and off as she normally did while resting, never sleeping but not fully awake. There was no sleeping in this life now. That was a luxury afforded to only those with belonging and purpose on the mainland. She was glad she couldn’t remember much from that time. Her heart had turned cold over the last few years and there was no going back to who she once was after the experiments, that much she knew. Hearing a rustling below, she made quick work of getting to the trunk of the tree to hide herself, feet nimble enough to not rustle, the leaves came in quite handy during the night hours.
As she overheard whispering in the distance, she realized she had dozed just a bit too long and had lost her bearings on the two newcomers—but pursuing them would have to wait. Her dinner, a nice plump desert vulture was down feasting on a rodent of some sort and Zara had reservations for a juicy meal tonight. She was going to need her energy to keep up after the two escapees after all. In one leap, Zara made it to the ground and on the way opened her arms just enough to break her fall on the last branch of the tree below her. Swiping down just below her knees, she caught the neck of the bird with her razor like nails and sliced it clean off its body. The decapitated bird lay bleeding, its legs twitching from the nerve response of death.
The flesh was tough, but who could complain? Zara loved having a fresh kill as her nightly replenishment; the meat still warm when it reached her belly, she chewed up what was left and spread the bones out over the forest floor. It was time to take to the trees and she needed to make up the few hours she had let the escapees get ahead of her.
Scaling the trunk of the nearest birch, Zara made easy work of ascending to the canopy. This was her favorite time of day with the blackened sky and small glittering stars above her. Her feet started to do what they do best, as they wrapped around branch after branch and propelled her forward. Scent locking the male in the forest was easy as his pheromones were dominantly present in the evening air. Breathing them in deeply, she turned a quick corner of birches and rose another thirty feet in the air. Tonight’s entertainment would be how long it would take for her to reach them, and oh how she loved a good hunt.