Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write for the ACTION and/or ADVENTURE Genre (11/13/14)
By Gregory Kane
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Gavin's command was crisp and decisive, as befitted his military background. But their SUV didn't move. Hugh was still halfway out the window, his elbows balanced on the thin metal roof, his Nikon SLR framing the bull elephant that had just turned to stare in their direction. Five minutes earlier, the massive creature had been plodding across the savannah on a path to intersect the narrow tar road. Pulling to a halt two hundred yards ahead of where they estimated the beast would cut across, Hugh had killed the engine and climbed halfway out the driver's window, camera at the ready. He knew that the animal wouldn't feel threatened by a stationary vehicle, especially one that sat silently in the drone and chirp of the African bush.
Although Hugh crouched close to the roof of the car, the elephant must have recognised his human profile, for suddenly its entire manner changed. Without warning, it flared its immense ears and raised one enormous foot in anticipation of danger. Moments later, it started to run, charging along the pitted asphalt track towards them.
Hugh didn't hesitate. He knew that a grown elephant can easily achieve speeds of 35 mph. Sliding down onto his seat, he reached for the car key and twisted it clockwise to start the engine. But nothing happened. Checking in the rear view mirror, he confirmed that the animal was still heading in their direction. He turned the key again but the motor didn't even attempt to turn over. Just then, he caught sight of the peculiar widget dangling from the key ring. It looked like it ought to plug into a guitar but now Hugh recalled that it served as some form of security device. The woman at the rental agency had called it an immobiliser. Shoving it into an unlabelled socket on the dashboard, Hugh watched as an innocuous LED changed from red to green. Then, yanking hard on the ignition key, he gave out a yelp of delight as the engine roared to life.
Michael Lee Aday once sang that "objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are." Meat Loaf probably didn't have a stampeding elephant in mind, but that was all Hugh could see as he glanced in his mirror. Beside him Gavin screamed, "Go, go, go," not that Hugh needed any encouragement to put his foot to the floor. Weighing in at a belligerent six tons, the rampaging pachyderm would concertina their vehicle as though it were made of cardboard. Ten yards shrank to fifteen feet as diesel fumes filled the air and strained rubber screamed in protest. And then it was all over.
Thirty seconds later, Gavin turned in his seat and peered out the rear window. Having abandoned its chase, the elephant had turned off the road and was weaving its way slowly through the grasslands. After another five minutes, Hugh brought their 4x4 to a halt and switched off the engine. Heart still thumping, he sat in stunned silence while a hornet buzzed past the open window in search of someone or something to torment.
"You all right?" Gavin asked.
"I will be. That was far too close for comfort."
Hugh reached down with his hand to grab the immobiliser but it came back up empty. Where the electronic key once hung, now all that remained was a short length of coiled wire. Hugh fumbled around on the floor, digging frantically underneath the driver's seat. Moments later, the distant bark of a hyena drew his attention to the open window. Had the device been thrown out on to the road? He unlocked the car door and planted both boots on the ground, scanning the distance for any trace of the black gizmo. They were miles from anywhere and with no hope of cellphone coverage.
Which was when he spotted the pride of lions lounging not fifty yards away in the shade of the acacia thorntree...
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