Mythical carnivores that prey on humans…and the researchers who study them.
New graduate student Jordan begins her first field expedition to study Italy’s legendary animals, under the supervision of her mentor Gabriela. But being on the frontlines of discovery with these mysterious, dangerous animals comes with risks. Will Jordan learn to survive the local Roman monsters? Or will she join the countless others who’ve lost their lives to this unexplained legendary infestation?
This short story is set in the world of Terrestrial Magic.
Targeted Age Group:: Adults
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I wanted to combine my experiences and interests–urban fantasy, my scientific background, the experience of living in Italy for four months, and my semester of studying Roman art history while actually standing in archeological sites. All of those elements brought together turned into a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy world where scientists research legendary animals.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I didn't know I was on the asexuality spectrum when I first created my protagonist, Jordan, but I did know I was different. I wanted some of her quirks to reflect aspects I didn't usually see in fiction. Aspects I wanted to normalize. And of course, I wanted the logic and creativity of her thought process to reflect my experience with science.
Jaculus. A deadly, flying snake described in ancient times, known to launch itself at prey from trees. Supposedly mythical.
But if the past few decades have taught us anything, it’s just how real these so-called ‘mythical’ animals could be. We didn’t know where they’d been in the centuries since their recordings in historical bestiaries. We didn’t know why we hadn’t encountered them for so long. But they were here now. More and more of them appearing every day, new animals we knew nothing about with abilities we didn’t understand.
What could we do, other than fill in the gaps in our knowledge?
That was why I found myself leaning against a pick-up truck at the edge of a wheat field, the rays of the morning sun heating my skin against the morning chill. My eyes scanned the tree line on the edge of the field, where several farmers had been attacked, hospitalized, and even killed by as-yet undescribed snakes. The witnesses who’d reported the incident passed on stories of how the animals had shot down and latched onto the victims’ arms, chests, necks, before they knew what was happening.
Whatever these new snakes were, and wherever they had come from, we were calling them jaculi. The idea that they were the same animals described in ancient sources, which had somehow disappeared for centuries until suddenly becoming a problem today–well, it wasn’t any stranger than the reemergence of other animals whose descriptions came suspiciously close to legendary creatures in literature.
Like griffins or chimeras, which had thankfully not been spotted anywhere near Italy yet. Or like the man-eating strixes, which were unfortunately local.
And now, I was out here looking for mythical flying vampire snakes that bit people’s necks. It was overwhelming. Not only did I have to catch up with what felt like a lifetime’s worth of information in a few days, but I had to find a dangerous animal that I didn’t have any experience with. That not even Dr. Gabriela Sanchez, the post-doctoral researcher actually responsible for this field expedition, had experience with.
The jaculus’ appearance was just too recent. At least with strixes, we knew they tended to spook at sudden loud noises, but these jaculi? We didn’t know the first thing about protecting ourselves from them.
I could admit that a part of me marveled at the prospect of learning more about such a mysterious animal. About discovering something that no one else knew, something we all desperately needed more information on. That was all I’d wanted for myself, ever since I was a little girl.
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