The Treetops Experimentation Excerpt and Beta Call

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I’m doing a call for beta readers today and posted the general blurbs in a list here.  I didn’t have excerpts for all of them so the four that need excerpts are being posted today so people can read those and decide if they want to try the short story

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Movement drew my gaze down to my arm.

“Eep!”  I jumped, heart seizing.  Adrenaline zipped through me like a lightning bolt and I forced myself to take a deep breath.  A black beetle the size of a Buick sat on my arm, held at bay by the potion I’d slathered over myself before coming out to keep creepy crawlies the hell off me.  It was supposed to repel as well as create a barrier; apparently this monster didn’t care about that first part.

It stayed that centimeter or so above my skin, wiggling and buzzing like it was annoyed.

I squeaked again and flicked it off, shaking.

“Bug,” I said, looking up.  Anton will probably start calling me mouse after that squ…

Anton hung in his harness about ten feet from the end of the bridge, face slack, eyes unfocused.

“Anton?” I asked, waving a hand.  “Hello?”

Nothing.

“Guide!” I screamed, reaching for my phone before remembering I didn’t bring it, or anything, up here with me.

Nobody answered.

I looked down.  The guide who’d been watching our section stood below, but he didn’t move or anything.  Another guide in sight was under the second course, standing the same way, her face too far to see but probably slack, too.  Behind Anton, the two people waiting on the platform to tackle the bridge stared with the same vacant eyes.

Anton charged forward and I jumped away from the support tree.  The two people walked back, climbing onto the first obstacle, the swinging logs, holding onto the cable and shuffling across like it was nothing, even though the bigger guy had huffed and puffed his way across not ten minutes ago and collapsed like I had after the bridge.

Anton walked past me like I wasn’t there and stared down.  The guide got the ladder to get people down in this section and put it against the support tree.  With movements as fluid as my cat’s, Anton clipped his carabineers on the ladder’s top loops.  He scrambled down so fast and easy I’d swear it was magic, especially after seeing his gangly limbs trying to navigate those ladders for the past two hours.

“What the…” I said.  The people who’d been behind us hit the ground a moment later, both taking the course’s starting ladder down as easily as Anton had.  What’s going on?  What… Don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t fucking panic!

Anton and the guide looked up at me, like they were expecting something.

“Um, guys?” I said, unclipping my carabineers from the cord.  The guide pulled out a cell phone and hit something.  He held it up and the little camera at the top blinked.  Taking a picture of me.  His hands flew over the keypad, still so silent.  He put it away and the pod people moved towards me en masse, picking up branches as they went, holding them up like clubs.

The guide got to the ladder first and wiggled up it fast and jerky as that freaky chick in The Ring.

One of these things just aren’t like the others, I thought, focusing.

I wore the tank top because it was stretchy and low enough in the back just in case I needed my wings.  I looked around to make sure they wouldn’t smack into anything and sighed as they shot out between my shoulder blades with a whush of displaced air.

I jumped off the platform, spreading my wings and catching wind towards the lake.

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