It has lived along the Altamaha River between the depths of the Atlantic and the shores of Smith Lake for well over 200 years. In one week, two men with an unsettled past will fight for its right to survive. Only by understanding the way of its mystical guardians will a former believer overcome the science bent on its destruction
The Journey Ends...
Along the coastal waterways of Georgia's tidal marshes, there lives a monster that makes the Altamaha River its home. Over 20 feet in length, with a snakelike head atop its long neck, the Altamaha-ha has been sighted dozens of times by those who live along its namesake.
A pregnant female struggles to return upriver and give birth. She is bound by those who captured her before, and pursued by others who already killed her mate for where she can lead them. A place marked as the abode of dragons by the Tama Indians, it is also the location of a treasure buried in the final days of the Confederacy.
Drawn to the river and caught up in events centuries in the making, Ian becomes the unwitting pawn in a quest for world domination. He soon learns of his link to the Altamaha-ha, and that he must save it, if he is to save himself. Aided only by a few colorful locals, McQuade must defeat the enemies of the Foundation, before its technology is turned into a doomsday device.
The ten-foot boat was thrown nearly two feet out of the water, the bow raised thirty degrees, and the stern submerged almost to the waterline. It splashed down again, sucking a layer of pond scum into the bottom. Ian was summarily thrown backwards, out into the fetid stench of the brackish swamp. He cut his shoulder, as his nor’easter snagged on a cypress stump, and hung him there. Dazed at first, he flailed and screamed for Alma to come for him.
The cartographer nearly spilled over the side herself, in a frantic effort to come about and row towards him. She was clumsy in the water, unsure of maneuvering the oars. She yelled for him to hold on, as he struggled to extricate himself. He was pinned against the dead trunk, lifted out of the murky bayou high enough to prevent him from slipping out of the oversized raincoat.
The enraged creature bellowed, as much in pain, as territorial defiance now. It bolted passed Alma, with a churning brown wake that expanded across the algae covered surface of the marsh. The greenish brown of its heavily mottled skin, almost warty in appearance, with looser folds near the pale oyster yellow of its underbelly, moved inexorably toward its helpless prey.
Alma clumsily drew close and reached out her hand to Ian, as the Alty surged between them. The lake monster butted Ian with its lowered head, ripping him from the ensnaring folds of his borrowed slicker. It hung like the tattered remains of a macabre scarecrow, the hood empty and the sleeves floundering. McQuade was once again thrown headlong into the water, amid rushes and lily pads closer to shore.
“Alma,” he gasped, sputtering water as he tried to catch his breath from the force of the blow to his ribs. “Help me! Don’t let it get me, again!” Del Nephites yelled for him to hold on, as she managed to turn the boat towards him a second time. He pulled himself along with a one-armed, flailing dogpaddle. His side ached, and he was sure the monster had bruised, if not cracked one or more of his healing ribs. It submerged and was now nowhere in sight. It gave Ian hope that if Alma hurried, they just might make it out of that fetid swamp. She rowed alongside, or as close as she dared, dropped the oars and clinging to the side of the boat. She held out her hand to him, as he grasped thin air to reach her in time.
If they could have but seen themselves from above or below, where angels and demons stood by and did nothing, they would have still watched helplessly, as the Altamaha-ha rose up from the depths. Without slowing, it corkscrewed in its path, and gaped the maw of its fearsome mouth towards the nearest of Ian’s kicking legs.
His outstretched fingertips just brushed Alma’s, when the creature struck, lifted him up, and bore him under. The last he saw or heard, was Alma’s muffled screams, and the quickly fading light of the steel-gray morning that silhouetted her lithe form.