The Affinity Bridge - By George Mann Page 0,1

a shuffling sound from behind him. At first, Harrison assumed it was Taylor, still kicking awkwardly at the sun-baked soil with his boots. Then he became aware of a quiet, whimpering sound, like that of a frightened animal, and felt his hackles rise. He turned around slowly on the spot. His heart was hammering in his chest. What he saw was enough to send him running for the asylum himself.

The creature that was menacing Taylor was like something raised from the very depths of Hades itself. It was dressed in the torn rags of an Indian peasant, and may have once been human, but now looked more like a half-rotted corpse than anything resembling a man. The creature's skin was desiccated and peeling, its eyes bloodshot, its hair hanging in loose, stringy strands around its face. Its teeth were bared in a rabid snarl and it was bearing down on a terrified Taylor. Harrison presumed that it had crept out from the cover of the nearby trees when they hadn't been paying attention. Taylor was on his knees before it, using his arms to cover his face from the beast as if simply trying to will it out of existence.

Harrison scrambled hurriedly for his rifle, fumbling as he attempted to bring the barrel to bear on the horrifying creature. Hargreaves was already on his feet and rushing forward, his sword drawn, ready to take a swing at the monster. Shaking, Harrison tried to remind himself to breathe, to hold himself steady as he planted his feet and took aim. He let off a shot, jarring his shoulder with the sudden recoil. The creature staggered back for a moment, then surged forward again in a frenzy, lashing out at Taylor, who had given himself over completely to his terror and seemed unable to even attempt to defend himself from the diabolical thing. Harrison watched in shock as the creature raked its nails across Taylor's face, digging its bony thumbs into his eye sockets and sending him spinning to the ground, his once-handsome face reduced to nothing but a bloody ruin. He gave a final wail before crumpling to the dirt, silent.

The creature turned its attention to Hargreaves. Blinded by rage after witnessing the fate of his fellow soldier, Hargreaves swung his blade at the lurching monster with all of his might. It struck home, cleaving deep into the creature's chest, biting through skin, muscle and bone, but it hardly seemed to slow the beast at all. To Harrison's amazement it showed no signs of pain, or even distraction, as Hargreaves struggled to pull his weapon free from where it had wedged inside the creature's shattered ribcage. Harrison let off another shot, to no avail, and finally accepted the uselessness of the firearm and abandoned it to the ground, instead drawing his sabre and rushing quickly to his fellow's side.

Using his momentum to carry his blade forward, he speared the monster directly through the gut, driving his sword home until the hilt itself was buried deep inside the creature's abdomen. He twisted it, trying desperately to slow the assault of the vile thing, to draw some sort of reaction from it. All the while it continued to rage at Hargreaves, who had given up trying to pull his weapon free and was now pummelling the monster's face with his fists as he attempted to wrestle free from its talon-like grip. A moment later his movements turned to spasms when, unable to gain useful purchase on the creature, it pulled him close and tore his throat out with single, wretched bite.

Harrison, aghast, pulled his sabre free of the creature's guts and aimed a blow at the arm that still held the limp body of his friend. The blade sliced clean through the arm, lopping off the limb at the elbow and dropping the dead Hargreaves to the dirt. Dark blood sprayed from the wound, but the monster itself seemed entirely unperturbed by its injury. Baring its teeth it pounced on Harrison, clamping its mouth on his forearm as the man struggled to bring his weapon up before him in defence. Howling in pain, Harrison kicked at the creature, desperate to break free. He could smell the carrion-stench of the thing; see the feral hunger behind its darting, inhuman eyes.

Acutely aware of the horrifying manner in which his friends had died, Harrison's instincts screamed at him to run. With a concerted effort he grabbed a handful of the creature's hair and wrenched his arm