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Perils in Perfection

Jez Patterson is a teacher and writer currently based in Madrid. Links to his recent and collected fiction can be found at: jezpatterson.wordpress.com.

"It's a myth that you'll just sink in quicksand. It's denser than flesh, so you'll sink a bit, then... bob."
Captain Percina Saunders stared at her husband.
"Not that this is even sand we're in," Martin added.
It was eggs. Billions, trillions, whatever-came-after-illions of eggs. The holiday on Hamman had been Percina's way of putting things between them back on an even footing. As it were. But she'd had a sinking feeling even before she'd led them a wrong turn, straight into a clearing and a pool of Russian cracker topping.
"It's not caviar," Martin corrected. "The eggs were laid by an amphibious life form called the drackrack."
"I should never have gotten you all those enhancements," Percina said and Martin looked pointedly down towards his waist before raising an eyebrow at her. She blushed. "That one, too."
As her boyfriend, he'd been her inferior. As a fiancee, her equal. And now, as her husband, and after an enhancement for every birthday since she'd met him, he was... driving her nuts. Hence the adventure holiday where his smooth looks and smarts were going to be no match for her survival training.
"Okay, so we won't drown. But what about the drackrack? Does the salmon guard its young?"
"Sturgeon," Martin said. "And, no, we don't need to worry about what laid the eggs."
"Just the things that feed on them."
With his new heightened genius, Martin gave information with gaps, like crossword clues.
"The jeenassa are a rather voracious, eel-like creature with centipede-like legs. Vicious jaws."
"Why do they have vicious jaws if they eat eggs?"
As Martin launched into an explanation, Percina regretted asking him. "So, do we have to eat our way out?"
"Do you know the caloric content of caviar?" he asked, horrified.
The enhancements hadn't just been to his mental capacity. Or to raise his, ahem, other lower quotients. His pecks, glutes, chin, cheeks, and chops had all been enhanced too--hence Martin's obsession with keeping them perfect.
Back when he was her first mate rather than her only mate, when she'd commanded a ship rather than just the rented shuttle she'd piloted to Hamman and Hamman's swamps and jungles, she'd thought Martin had all the makings of a perfect husband. Provided she was the one who decided the bits to be made perfect, sure.
Her mother had warned her and she hadn't listened. There was a time in married life when you wanted your husband to have more than one thing on his mind and actually be entertaining. But it wasn't yet.
"I.Q . is only O.K. on the T.V. in the P.M."
Useless advice now. Percina's experience of prolonged cohabitation could provide another weary, useless insight: "Every A.M., our W.C. is enough to K.O. all of D.C."
"Besides, the jeenassa are migrating in the opposite direction. The drackrack wait until they've all departed before laying their eggs."
"Then we're okay."
"Unless the eggs hatch. The drackrack larvae have a voracious appetite."
"And jaws?"
"You mean 'mandibles'?"
"There's a difference?" He smiled. "I don't want to hear it. If you can't tell us something useful with that enhanced brain of yours, I'll think of a way to get us out of this."
If quicksand had buoyancy, and this tapioca had the consistency of quicksand, they should just be able to do a slow motion run back to the bank and clamber out. The fact Martin was happy to bob indicated there was more information to be had.
Percina rolled her eyes. "Okay. Go on."
"With what?"
"With why we can't just swim out of here."
"The eggs react to movement in order to hold anything that falls into the pool for when they hatch. They have hooks which snag themselves on the fur of their prey, these then link with other eggs, like chains of beads, until they collectively weigh the victim down."
"Oh," Percina said. She sighed. "Have you already taken off your clothes?"
"I shall join you on the bank." Drackrack and jeenassa weren't the only things with a voracious appetite.
He swam past her, perfectly formed.
Smartarse, she thought. And it was. She'd paid for it three birthdays ago.
When she got out of here, she'd resort to the neckties wives had always bought their husbands for their birthdays. She understood the tradition now: it was good to have your husband fitted with something that resembled a noose.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Author Comments

I read the bit about quicksand in a children's book of "Crazy, But True" facts, and it gave me the basis for the opening scene. Percina and Martin were created on the spur of the moment simply because I needed two characters stuck, and bickering, in the quicksand. I enjoyed writing their exchanges so much that I've since pushed them into other situations. This is the first story of their many adventures.

- jez patterson
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