by Travis Perry -
“Front or back?” demanded Ernsto in a low voice.
For an instant, Jax wondered front or back what? But then his mouth said, “Front,” and he stepped forward with the spear, eyes searching for any bit of rock he could quickly scramble to the top of to lure the beetle coming down the draw into a standing position, exposing its lungs.
A quick glimpse cast backward showed the man he’d just met pull himself out of the sand, moving backward toward the aggressive male coriander on the rock pile behind them, his very large knife gripped in his right hand. Snapped back forward, his eyes registered the beetle from above now charging down the draw, grunting in rage.
Many possible rock formations lay in view—all good, none great. With reaction time running out, Jax charged a fractured boulder to his left and leapt upon it in a single adrenaline-fueled bound. He just managed to raise his hands over his head as the beetle hit the rock. It paused a moment then flipped up to a standing position, the four lower legs on the ground, its pinchers and upper two legs clawing at its higher opponent—Jax.
The edge of the book lung showed itself near the bottom of the beetle, close to the ground, close to the boulder. It would have been relatively easy to miss the target for someone too nervous or plain terrified. But Jax had done this many times before…his pulse pounded and his body trembled with the rush of fight-or-flight chemicals that naturally flooded into his bloodstream, but his mind was focused and clear—the spear flew down in a very short throw, sinking straight into the lung with a psssh of releasing air.
The mortally-wounded bug was not dead yet. It shook, as if with rage, and dropped back down on all sixes and charged up the boulder, pinchers hammering together. Jax lept backward, landing on hands and feet just behind the rock. Before him he witnessed the butt of the spear wedge into a crack of the boulder as the massive beetle plowed forward. Its inertia only drove the spear deeper into its body. It twitched but stopped moving forward, its yardball-sized head advancing no further than just beyond the boulder’s peak.
“Help!” the voice came from to his left. Glancing that way, he saw a headless coriander beetle that clearly had kept charging forward after its decapitation, which must have impacted into Ernsto and knocked him down because now it was dragging him forward, pushing him by the beetle’s undercarriage, its headless neck gushing fluids on the human’s face as it plowed Ernsto forward nearly at full speed, tearing the man’s back across the ground.
This was bad. Jax knew a coriander beetle could live a long time without its head.