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From Chapter One of the first book in the "Hannibal's Elephant Girl" series


Massive boulders rose like glistening black teeth. I lunged off the log, trying to get away, but the angry river seemed determined to swallow me.

A huge rock loomed ahead. I screamed, grabbing for anything to save me. I twisted away, but my head smashed into the stone, sending flashes of pain through my skull.

When I opened my eyes, I was pinned against the rock by another log. A slimy green growth covered the rotting bark, and two jagged limbs stuck out like broken arm bones. As I strained to push it away, a sharp pain shot from my head into my shoulders.

The roaring current caught my legs, pulling me into the rapids. I grabbed for the log but missed.

I crashed into the boulders and plunged through foaming whitewater until I tumbled into a deep pool.

When I surfaced, gasping for breath, the slimy log popped up beside me. I grabbed it, letting the eddy carry me around in a slow circle.

Every movement caused excruciating pain from the back of my head across to my temples. As I held on with one hand and lay back in the water, clouds and overhanging trees revolved in the morning sunshine.

Birds chirped in the palm trees, and a gentle breeze brought the earthy scent of dry land and flowering plants. Why am I in the river? My head hurt when I tried to concentrate. All I remembered was two men throwing me from a bridge. What happened to the others?

Exhausted from fighting the river, I was drained of energy. The will to continue—that was gone, too. So, I took a shallow breath and let go. As I sank into the cold depths, relief came over me as the spiraling world blurred into darkness.

Suddenly, something moving through the water startled me. A creature grabbed me around the waist. I struggled and pushed against it, thinking a water snake held onto me. The serpent yanked me above the surface. I tried to scream but only coughed and choked on the water I’d swallowed.

The snake tightened its hold, trying to crush me. I pushed against the writhing body, but it was too strong. It lifted me until I stared into a large eye surrounded by wrinkled gray skin. Frightened by this dreadful image, I could do nothing but tremble within the creature’s grasp.

The beast blinked and shifted its grip on my wet belly, holding me farther away. Two long horns extended from its mouth and curved along both sides of me.

I pushed with all my strength. “Let go!”

My shrieking voice startled a flock of swallows from the palm trees. Their wings beat the air in a muffled uproar of flight.

The racket must have frightened the animal, because it released me and bellowed so loud, it rattled my insides. The instant it let go, I grabbed hold of what wasn’t a snake, but a long, curling trunk. I wrapped my arms around it, holding tight. I didn’t want the monster to eat me, but I didn’t want to fall onto one of those horns either.

I screamed while the beast trumpeted, splashing and crashing its way onto the riverbank, trying to shake me loose. I held on tight when it jerked its trunk high in the air, howling as if something had bitten it.

Perhaps, in my desperation, I did bite its trunk, but it couldn’t have caused enough pain to justify such a rampage. The creature stumbled across the sand, crashing through the brush until it rammed its backside into an enormous carob tree. The tree shuddered all the way to the topmost branches, shaking so hard, a large dead section broke loose and fell, smashing onto the creature’s head.

It swayed. Its eyes fluttered closed, then it toppled over, crashing to the ground in a cloud of dust, leaves, and branches. The animal’s head hit a boulder, and its coiled trunk, with me attached, came to rest on the upper side of its massive face.

I sat up, trying to catch my breath while brushing wet hair from my eyes. I glanced over the still figure of the gray beast.

“Did I kill him?” 

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