Drawing closer, he could detect a ledge just above the waterline. Below it, the dolphins were milling. Ridley thought it odd that they were floating like a logjam, bodies in close contact. They seemed to be looking at something.
Something stirred on the ledge. It was a subtle, almost imperceptible movement. Ridley’s already frazzled autonomic nervous system got jump-started one more time. He switched his headlamp back on. Nothing. The batteries were spent and replacements were in one of the dry-bags stowed away in the front compartment. Where was that damn pink bunny when you needed him the most?
The creature on the ledge stirred again. The light intensity increased. So did the vibration in Ridley’s ears. To his horrified amazement, he saw the orb was not hanging from the cave wall, but spinning, suspended over the now motionless form.
Ridley was within ten feet of the ledge. The raft of dolphins moved quietly out of the kayak’s path as he landed against the rocks. The air was humming all around him. The vibrations pulsated within him down to his core. He felt as if he were inside a large turbine engine.
He reached under the deck, detached the Sig Sauer, and stuck it in the waistband of his shorts. The form on the ledge did not move.
Ridley transferred his feet from the kayak to the ledge, slowly placing one foot, then the other onto the rock. Pushing to stand up, he realized that he had no feeling in his legs. His legs crumpled beneath him and he fell hard onto the rocks. Panicked, he scrambled to his feet and drew the semi-automatic, engaging the slide mechanism.
The figure was lying in a semi-recumbent position, propped up against a small boulder. From this distance, it appeared to be human, but even in this diffuse light, something was wrong about the stranger’s appearance. The proportions of the face were not right. The clothing was odd - something like a tunic that appeared to shimmer beneath the orb. Ridley saw that the right leg was bent at an odd angle. Something whitish was poking out of the clothing where the thigh would be, a large, dark stain surrounding it. The orb continued its revolutions, the spin and hum increasing as Ridley drew nearer.
Ridley took another step forward. In the next instant, he was thrown backward, the air driven from his lungs.