Snarkometer #24

Perched on a low, heavy branch, a long-armed wingless bird took a pull of brandy from his canteen. He yawned, pointed his beak at the starry midnight sky, and scratched his crest against the butt of the rifle strapped to his back.

"I need a hen," Messy thought. "Nice fat one to keep me warm." With his taloned hands, he tried to rub some warmth into his arms and shoulders. Careful. Some drunk bastards been known to claw themselves featherless and bloody.

He took another pull of brandy. "You sorry cock. How the hell drunk are you, anyway?"

He looked down from his branch at the scrubby ground six feet below.

"Try hopping down. You'll find out real quick."

Messy scanned the valley below: Meller's Trough, where the Aban camp glowed like a miniature metropolis. Smoke from the campfires snaked upward. Pots clattered; hatchlings cheeped with single-minded fury. An argument broke out, squawks clear and crisp in the cold dry air, but Messy couldn't understand a word of it. Twitters escalated to bloodthirsty shrieks, derisive caws. Then the wind shifted, muting the fight.

He'd picked a fine perch. His squad's campfire glowed further up the cinnabar-studded canyon; through his binoculars he could make out a few of the other squads' fires, too. If any officers came snooping, he'd have plenty of time to high-tail it back to his post. Not that discipline was enforced these days. They were the Guard, after all, not the bloody army.

Messy swung the binoculars back to the refugee camp. Each arroyo leading out of the Trough had one and only one quartet of Guardcocks. If the Abans got it into their pebble brains to rush them, it would be murder. He reached backward, raking his talons against the rifle barrel.

I don't handle science fiction but I love this. Notice the juxtaposition of unexpected things. Agents are always begging authors to surprise them...this does. Notice the hints of impending conflict and underlying tension. Notice the wry voice of the narrator. I'd read on but sadly I wouldn't take it on cause SF/fantasy its own world and you'll want an agent who reads the genre and knows it well.


Anonymous said...

Ooh. I like this one too. What I really like is the way we get a clear sense of the character's attitude. I also like the way the descriptive details are slipped in to flesh out the story, not for their own sake.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Miss Snark. This gives me hope that I'll be able to snag an agent after all.

Bernita said...

Oh yes, I like this one too.
A touch of Mercedes Lackey, in the gryphon-type character, but not derivative.

Anonymous said...

I love this one too. Good work!

Anonymous said...

Uhmm does anyone know if this has been published? 'Cause if so, i'd kinda like to read it.