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Breaking the Brush Men Excerpt

Everyone wants Glick and his friends dead - even the earth itself.


CHAPTER 1:  Glick

Glick took short, little breaths, trying to conserve the oxygen as he pushed at the membrane surrounding him. He scratched at the material that had once been filled with life giving mucus but was now thin and brittle. His claw cracked the shell and he tore at the opening. He inhaled deeply, his heartbeat slowing. It was a reprieve but he wasn’t safe yet. This air would run out too. He chipped away at the shell until there was a big enough opening for him to crawl through.

It was dark and damp and the small bits of soil that slipped through the clutch burnt his skin. He fell forward, jarring into another egg. “Sorry.”

The inhabitant was shriveled and dark, his claws pressed against the shell, his eyes unseeing. Glick stumbled backward and there was another egg and another. A few hatchlings had broken free like him. Some hung partway out of their eggs, bent at the torso. Others were prone in the soil, their skin dry and white from the earth’s poison. None moved. He couldn’t be the only one left. Someone else had to be alive. There’d been hundreds in his clutch. He pushed his way through the eggs and bodies, searching for movement, sound, anything that would mean he wasn’t alone. He called out but no one answered. He burst through the last line of eggs and into the soil. It burned his skin and his eyes watered from the toxic fumes, but he couldn’t go back to that crypt.

There was movement behind him and above. Others had hatched and were climbing to the surface. He followed their path, the dirt peppering him and eating into his skin. His nerves tingled and itched. He stopped, unable to do anything but scratch at his arms.

“Keep going.” Someone shoved him from behind. “We have to keep moving.” The other survivor grabbed a smaller companion, tucking her to his side as he pushed past.

“Where are we going?” Glick crawled after them, trying to ignore the pain. If the other guy could do this, so could he.

“Out of here,” said the larger Brush-Man.

Glick followed. It seemed like the entire world was shifting around him. All surviving hatchlings were crawling for the surface. Clicks and chirps of pain created a haunting song that vibrated through the earth.

He tried to stay on the path his larger companion made—less dirt meant less pain—but the other guy was moving fast. Glick stumbled, catching himself seconds before his face landed on the ground. He was tired and he hurt everywhere. He stopped next to another hatchling who was kneeling in the dirt.

“Come on,” yelled the larger Brush-Man.

“I need to rest.”

“You need to move.” The big hatchling looked back at him over his shoulder. “Or you’ll die. Your choice.”

“Bumpers, help him,” said the small female in his arms.

“As soon as I get you to safety, Flea.” Bumpers tightened his grip on his little friend’s hand and kept moving.

“What does he know?” He turned to his companion. “He’s a hatchling just like…”

The other Brush-Man’s eyes and mouth were open. His skin, which was dark brown was starting to turn white and flake away.

“You okay?” He poked the guy’s shoulder and the other hatchling’s arm snapped in two. He staggered backward. That’d be him if he didn’t move. “Wait for me. I’m coming.”

He hurried upward, ignoring the pain from the soil, ignoring the pleas for help and cries of agony from those he passed. He clawed at the dirt and more of his skin turned white. He didn’t want to die. He’d just hatched. He wanted to live. The tip of one of his fingers snapped off, sending shooting pain through his arm. He wanted to tuck his hand into his body but that’d slow him down and then he’d die. He moved faster and faster, his legs unsteady as the burning became more intense. He glanced down. His feet were turning white. He’d lose them soon. His legs too. Without them, he’d never make it to the surface. He was going to die, just like the others.

The earth around him no longer moved as a wave but in tiny ripples of motion. Only a few hatchlings still fought to the surface.

He blocked out the pain as he crawled, always upward. He was never going to make it. He was too tired. He hurt too much. His nose twitched. There was something different in the air. Fresher. Cleaner. Not as damp. He raced toward the scent, his hands raking through the dirt. He screamed as another tip of a finger broke away, but he kept digging. He was not going to die down here. He scrambled and kicked and clawed until suddenly his hand hit air. Real air. Not earth-air.

He shoved upward, his head breaking out of the ground. He inhaled his first deep breath as he emerged from the ground.

“Look out,” yelled someone.

A huge creature stomped toward him. Its feet a hundred times the size of him. He hopped to the side and the foot landed nearby, shaking the earth around it.

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