Through the thick fields of grass they came to answer the siren call, on all fours, the puffs around their necks full of blood, suffused with what they knew not enough to call faith. The grass rustled around their bodies, their long heads pushing it through it. The knots of ganglions which constituted the brains set all the way down their spines tingled as if they smelled blood.
Roland saw them from the last watchtower on the plains. They moved in rows, all aligned in the same direction, and the red and grey of their bodies pulsed through the grass as far to the west as he could see. He lowered his field glasses and shouldered his plasma rifle. The device hummed awake in his hand as it recognized the signature of his body. He focused on one of the forerunners and fired. A mile away, one body stopped. It was as he suspected. The cooperative instinct of the tribe had broken down; each of the giant lizards ran forward in its own blind drive.
There was no hope for the rickety wooden tower. Roland turned and tied his sleeping bag into a precise roll and picked his leather saddlebags off the nail in the wall. He descended the wooden ladder to the stable below and removed the horse’s nosebag. Then he saddled and mounted it. In minutes, they would be upon him.
To the river, to the river, he thought. While there was no guarantee that water would in any way deter the lizards, the river lay parallel to the run of the horde and not in its path. He rode hard, digging his spurs into the thin side of the horse. He need not have. The smell of reptilian flesh so close behind them had terrified it. The sinews on its neck stood out with effort, crisscrossing the ropey muscles. A froth of fear dripped from its mouth.
Pallbearer - Devoid of Redemption - 2012
When he reached the river, the lizards were only thirty yards behind them. Roland could see their faces, their tongues flicking as they ran towards the smell of fresh meat.
He jumped off the horse, grabbed his bags and the rifle and waded into the river, keeping his arms carefully above the water. It came up to his ampits. Then it came up to his nose. He swam, uncaring that his possessions would get wet. If he ever had a chance to use them again, he would learn to deal with the discomfort.
The horse did not follow him. It neighed and pranced in panic, for its instinct did not permit it to enter the fast flowing river, a thing it had never seen before, but it could smell the rampaging horde, and it knew danger.
Roland crossed. When he turned back, he saw that the horse’s hesitation had cost it dearly. He could hear the snapping of bone and the tearing of flesh. The only thing which had saved him from the same fate was the twenty yards of river.
Squatting on his haunches, Roland wondered what had occasioned this carnivorous tide, flowing in the same direction, so relentless, onward to the red sun. He dismissed the thought. He did not have the luxury of asking himself questions he could not answer.
His path lay westwards, and now he had no horse.