Signs in the Sand.

Corrine Celia

Written for the Cambridge Fiction Award with the topic "Sand." Part of the Horror series.

The sun baked the stones in the dry river-bed. The zoologist crouched over tracks in the sand and wiped sweat from his eyes. Cicadas chirruped and a bird screeched in the trees on the valley rim.

He was excited. He'd never seen prints like this. The deer tracks with their two prominent toes were normal and he could read events in their patterns. Deep indentations showed it jumping sideways. Sudden deviations meant it was evading pursuit and the shape of the toe showed it was running.

And the tracks of wild dogs also crossed the river. But there was no link between the patterns so the pack must have passed before the deer.

Then there were two other prints. Very large with claws on three prominent toes. The size of a bear. Or a mountain lion? Except the shapes were wrong. And they appeared from nowhere, how had the predator got there? And where had it gone? There were no tracks and no carcass. The zoologist scratched his head.

A branch creaked and an ugly beak pointed down at the slow pink monkey. With a twelve foot wingspan there would be no difficulty carrying its carcass back to the nest.