Rodger backed away. One step. Two. Three. And the leash grew taut. The mermaid struggled even more. Rodger glanced at the Spiral. It might be suffocating. He stepped close and fumbled with the safety harness. There seemed to be a low bussing in his ears. The Spiral pulled at the harness around its throat and scratched Rodger in the process.
‘Will you calm down!’ Rodger forced the Spiral’s hands away and loosened the harness to the point that he worried it might slip right off.
The buzzing rapidly grew in volume and made him look up.
‘Get down!’ He threw himself down on top of the Spiral just as the praying mantis swooped down at them. He glanced from the mermaid hyperventilating beneath him to the praying mantis above probably making ready for another swoop.
‘This is just my luck,’ Rodger slipped the safety harness over the Spiral’s head and rolled off it. ‘Run!’ He looked up again to see which way to dodge, but he could not find the praying mantis in the sky. The music stopped. Rodger looked for the flute bearer. It was lying on its side as if it had thrown itself down. The flute was about a metre away on the stones. As he spotted the praying mantis, he picked up a stone. The flute bearer twisted around and made for the trees.
‘Hey!’ shouted Rodger, ‘Hey! Here!’
Either the praying mantis could not hear him or it was ignoring him. Either way it swooped at the flute bearer. Rodger threw the stone with all his strength and hit the wing of the praying mantis. The praying mantis wobbled in the air. Rodger picked up two more stones as it straightened up.
Now at least he had its full attention. It made straight for him. He threw another stone which hit its belly and glanced off. Somewhere the music began again. He threw himself to one side and felt the whoosh of air as the praying mantis dived right past him. He stumbled backwards towards the island keeping his eyes on the praying mantis as it soared again and turned to dive.
He swallowed. Why had he suddenly felt the need to play the hero? Stupid. The praying mantis came for him and he rolled aside, but not quite fast enough. His thigh burned as it ripped through his trousers. He gasped and tried to scramble to his feet, but the praying mantis was already about to dive again. Rodger fell onto his side and watched as it began its descent.