Thursday, February 7, 2013

Day Three-Eighty-Nine: Trapped

We know what was beating up the animals. I'm surprised I hadn't figured it out before. Hell, in retrospect, I hadn't thought about it… in a long time…

I was, as usual, the last to awaken. Dad was drinking beer, because there's no point of any day that's too early for beer, and Pagan was off scouting on his own. Julius scurried out of my bag with a jam-laden bagel on his back, and after dusting off the bottom I scarfed it down.

"Sleep well, ya shit?" asked dad between chugs. He grinned with each lift of his travel tankard. I think he was tired of dipping his face into mugs to drink, and he refused to use a straw. Not manly enough.

"Yeah, I guess." I shivered and scooted closer to the fresh fire burning in the small fire pit in the midst of our camp. "Cold today."

"Want some beer? Warms me up. C'mon, have some."

I shook my head. "Beer doesn't do anythin' for me, dad. No point."

"Peh." He spat into the fire. "Gave ya beer as a kid 'n it always knocked ya for a loop. Great for puttin' ya down when ya wouldn't sleep. You'n Robert both. Pair of squallin' little tits, you were."

"Guess I grew out of it." I munched moodily on my bagel, wishing Pagan would come back.

"No man should grow outta drinkin'. It's our god-given right t'drink 'n get drunk. Somethin's seriously wrong with ya if a healthy dose 'o yeast doesn't burn your bones."

I shrugged, staring up the mountain.

"Robert woulda had a drink," my father growled.

"Yeah, well, he's dead, dad."

As the words flowed unthinkingly and irrationally from my mouth, I expected Oswald the Farmer to put his boot heel through my face. I regretted each syllable, having loved my idiot brother, but I spoke them anyway, almost wanting my dad's merciless foot to do me in. But he just grunted and dropped the subject, lapsing into moody silence.

Pagan mercifully came back with evidence of life on the mountain that distracted us from the subject of my brother's death: a wad of shaggy brown hair.

"Found it latched onto a rock," he said, warming himself in front of the fire. "Was under a heap of snow. I wanted a drink, I ate some snow, and poof! There it was, caught in my teeth. A vile method of tracking, but there you go."

That wasn't all. Now taking freshly-fallen snow into account, Pagan put his amateur-but-better-than-ours tracking skills to work and noticed the presence of half-filled footprints littering the part of the mountain he'd been exploring. After an hour of tracking, backtracking and false starts they'd led him to two places: a cave he hadn't dared enter -

- and back to our camp.

"So somethin' was watchin' us." Dad grabbed a handful of fur and inspected in closely. "Don't recognize it."

"It's dog fur. Canine, anyway. I had a few hunting dogs with fur just like this when I was growing up." Pagan shrugged. "I'm just glad it's not sloth fur. I took it on good faith that a sloth didn't actually live here; this is encouraging evidence to support your claims, Dragomir. But if it's not a sloth, what could it be?"

Only one way to find out. We put out the fire with handfuls of snow, packed up our gear, and set off along Pagan's trail to find the cave. It only took half an hour of searching before we discovered the half-hidden hole cut into the icy rock of the mountainside, one we'd probably walked by a dozen times the previous day without noticing. Snow is wondrously good as camouflage.

Sliding his sword cane from its sheath Pagan took the lead, handing off his gear to me. He brushed aside much of the snow to give us easy access to the cave and stepped cautiously inside, squinting at the darkness. He was probably asking himself the same questions I had in my head: 'How long is this tunnel? Can we go far without needing a torch? Is the thing with the fur in here? Does it like to eat meat?' Are we going to be trapped if it comes back while we're inside?'

All of those questions were answered after only three breathless minutes of silent sneaking. The back of the cave was maybe a hundred straight paces away from the entrance, just barely hidden away from the light of the outdoors. The further we got the wider and taller the cave became, expanding into a large chamber that ended with a flat, smoothed wall. On the wall was a huge, white symbol, seemingly painted on, which looked something like this:

I didn't recognize it. Pagan and my dad, however, did.

"The symbol in the sky," Pagan murmured. "Gods. It's the same thing."

"You saw it too?" Dad stepped up and touched the wall. "Guess most people did. Nobody ever talks 'bout it, but sure as hell we all saw it. Means you saw it, too, right, Drago?"

I shrugged. "Uh. No? Not even sure what you're talking about…"

"C'mon!" My dad snorted and shook his head. "Blocked out the sun 'n everythin'! Middle of the day! Musta happened, oh, a couple months ago?"

"The end of July," Pagan agreed. "I was in my fields when it happened, inspecting the harvest. Caught me by surprise. Sent most of my slaves into paroxysms of religious fear."

"Yeah! Same here!" Dad shook me by the arm. "C'mon, you're not so dense that - hey, what the hell's the matter with ya?"

I'd blanched. My brain had lined up the dates with absolute certainty. I hadn't seen the symbol because I'd been underground, watching The Baron open a massive door, begging my daughter to come with me, feeling the twist of her blade in my gut, and I saw and relived all these things as a gruesome collage of disjointed imagery overlapping real life, staring at the entrance of the cave, the jagged oblong of light, which was now slightly smaller because something big and black and vicious was moving in towards us, all these things happened at once and only I noticed them, but I was too stunned and mentally fucked to say anything.

Pagan caught on first. He swept in front of us, sword drawn and poised expertly. Dad took up a threatening position behind the old knight, leaning forward as though ready to bash the thing with his skull. I remained frozen in the back, watching it come closer, realizing with each smooth stride that it looked horribly familiar. I had been one of the last humans to see it, after all, been tasked with keeping it contained.

Keeping her contained.

Antonia the Werewolf stopped maybe twenty feet away from us, settling on her thick haunches and inspecting us with rabid red eyes. Thick foamy spit slid down her hairy chin, and the fur on her too-large back bristled and rose, agitated and betraying her desire to attack. She looked even bigger than the last time I'd seen her, now utterly unmistakable as a wolf, and I wondered how I'd ever been so stupid to think that she was a kangaroo.

She didn't come any closer, though. She showed no fear of Pagan's sword, but she nevertheless held back. We watched, she watched, and thus began the stalemate of the century.

It continues. We've been backed into this cave for almost six hours, now, and only in the last two hours have we shown any inclination to move. Pagan refuses to take his eyes off Antonia, and dad is little better, though he's at least willing to eat while he watches. Julius and I prepare food for the other two. Antonia has retreated slowly to a more comfortable sitting position, though she continues to growl and bristle.

I don't know how she got here, or why she's here. I'm guessing the symbol behind us, which, I've noticed, looks a hell of a lot like a rat's head, has something to do with it. I only know that she's not letting us leave, and we can't sit here forever. Someone has to make a move eventually, and when they do, there's going to be a lot of blood.

No sleep tonight, diary. No sleep at all.


Dragomir the Trapped


  1. For once I was actually right about something. Ha ha. Go me.

    Sure it was one of the more obvious plot twists but still. Don't take this from me.

    I still demand a picture of a sloth punching a horse though.

    1. Once I'm moved into my new place I'll pencil it in. I meant to do it last week but it got lost in the shuffle, somehow...

      Also, for everyone: Steewpid asked more Qs, I gave more As. Check out the Q & A page for more on my FASCINATING life. Oh so fascinating.

    2. For the love of Allah make that picture public.
      It sounds amazing.

  2. Things do not bode well...hopefully Antonia survives, a boxing Orc could come in handy.

    Oh...and I guess it'd be a shame if Oswald kicked the bucket...yeah...a...shame...