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The Quetzal Skull by Margaret Gill

The Quetzal Skull by Margaret Gill

The Quetzal Skull by Margaret Gill. Outskirts Press. January 2011. 258 pages.

The Quetzal Skull is the story of a young man’s rite of passage against a drug dealing, zombie creating cabal.

Gray’s discovery of a narwhal tusk engraved with ancient runes has alerted a drug dealing cabal who believe the finder of these runes will lead to their downfall. Gray must be traced and annihilated. Is his encounter with Juan Paseo, a Colombian shaman, a coincidence? And is it pure chance that links his destiny with that of a sacred crystal skull?

Book Excerpt:

And all the time as we walked, endlessly pushing our way through deep vegetation, the thick rich smell of mulch and rotting wood in our nostrils, I listened, alert to possible sounds of pursuit.

Then it came, a slow steady padding. It was some distance away and I was unsure whether it was an animal tracking us.

I turned to Enrico who was bringing up the rear.

He twisted his head to one side under the shadow of his wide brimmed hat, its chin ribbon falling black against his cheek and listened. He shook his head.  He called to Kamano to stop. I saw him place his hand on the hilt of the machete slung round his waist. His eyes glowed with dark resolute power even in the dimness of the jungle canopy.

“He hears nothing my friend, you are mistaken.”

But I knew I was right. The skull was uttering small moans and whimpering.  I could still hear the distant pad, padding, not yet close, but coming surely closer and closer and I was afraid.  All the stories I’d ever heard of mythical monsters blotted out the sweating heat and the need to stay alert to the vipers and ants in the undergrowth.  My mind was filled with terror. I knew for the first time what it was to be the prey.  Some creature, not a creature of the jungle, but a weird supernatural creature was tracking me, not Enrico or Kamano, but me.

Then I heard the sound again.  Now it was a squelching, splashing, slithering sound. I stopped again and in a panic of terror pulled on Enrico’s sleeve. “I know we are being followed.  Can’t you hear it?”

He listened  and shook his head.

Enrico and Kamano, both so wise and so knowing.  Why couldn’t they hear it?

The track became wider now and was leading back down to the river side.

“We  stop.  We find cover.  If you are right, one of the Kabsi is following.  So we try to take it by surprise,” he whispered.

He spoke to Kamano who pointed ahead to a thick clump of large leaved shrubs and checked the ground beneath for snakes. We pushed aside the heavy thick foliage and crept underneath to wait.

My eyes were busy searching the thick undergrowth we had just left, my ears cocked, listening to the alternate pad padding, squelch, squelching growing closer and closer.

I heard the skull cry out with a piercing shriek.

And there coming through an opening in the trees was the automaton, so  grotesquely out of place here, dressed in white baggy trousers and white shirt  walking towards us with glassy, dead eyes, a machine-like swing of the hips, relentlessly walking, as if it had been wound by key, an expressionless blank staring face. It was unstoppable and moved with undeviating, mechanical persistence.

I saw Kamano spring up like a great lithe animal, machete poised.  Enrico’s hand was at his hip drawing a revolver.

Enrico scrambled up and stood up perfectly motionless arm bent, pointing his revolver but the thing came on heedless of danger.  Soon it would crash straight into him.

There was a shot but the thing still came on.  The Kabsi had its teeth in Enrico’s jacket and was worrying it like a rabbit, shaking the weapon from his hand.  In horror I ran and picked up the pistol. The Kabsi’s ghastly glassy dead eyes seemed to be turned towards me.

Enrico yelled something in Spanish.

With long cat-like springs Kamono leapt past me, machete swishing in the air. The blade flashed in the sunlight. I heard the horrendous crunching sound of bone hacked through and then the creature’s skull split open like a coconut.

The thing fell and twitched. Blood, like a geyser of black oil, spurted out with a loud gushing noise and then there was silence.

Kamano’s face was still, not a muscle moved.  His eyes glittered as he held his machete aloft, the blood oozing down his raised arm and down his side in streams of black oily fluid.

I wanted to retch.

Enrico was the first to speak. “It was the only way. The only way to kill them is to cleave their brains, cutting off their connection with the power that controls them.  It was him or us.  If he had succeeded in biting through my arm….”  He stopped and shuddered. “I would have become like them and you would have been the next victim.”

I looked at him dumb with incomprehension.  My heart was still pounding, my skin prickling with shock.

“Their bite is death… No!  Worse than death.”

The truth was beginning to filter through. This was the danger I was facing. This was what Juan had asked me to commit to.  I was beginning to understand the full implication of my mission.  It was much more than just restoring the skull to its rightful place.

I watched as Kamano heaved the dead thing into the river coating the waters black with its oily fluid, watched the eddying pools of oil drifting downstream merging with the streams of reddish brown volcanic deposits, whirling them together into the moving life of the river.

“The Condor will know immediately that one of their lines of communication has been cut and will not be slow to follow us,” said Enrico.

I clutched my back pack to my chest as we moved away from the river back into the jungle leaving the spot where the rays of the sun picked out scattered grasses, palm leaves and oil stained earth.

Something gleaming on the ground caught my eye.  I stooped to pick it up and could not hold back a cry of shock and horror.

The thing glistening in my hand was a little golden chain.  The same little golden chain with the emerald that Julie loved to wear and which I had last seen her wearing in El Maresqueria la Serenita, the restaurant in Heredia.

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Posted by Pearl on Mar 9 2011. Filed under Young Adult. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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