Please vote for the piece you feel is most deserving:

Poll closed Mar 27, 2011.
  1. Mister Cheech - The Forest

    0 vote(s)
  2. Tessie - Borneo

    2 vote(s)
  3. TheIllustratedMan - Jessica

    0 vote(s)
  4. Boysarn - The Mortem Forest

    0 vote(s)
  5. chacotaco91 - A Hunt in the Forest

    4 vote(s)
  6. Ion - To the Satisfaction of a Fox

    0 vote(s)
  7. webbo_5 - Deer Me

    2 vote(s)
  8. jonathan hernandez13 - The Jungle

    3 vote(s)
  9. Trish - Ashlan's Mistake

    4 vote(s)
  10. yellowm&M - Shadow

    0 vote(s)
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  1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England

    Voting Short Story Contest 88: The Forest

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Mar 14, 2011.

    Voting Short Story Contest (88) Theme: Reincarnation

    Thank you for all your entries. The winner will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned. No more entries are allowed in this contest.

    Voting will end Sunday 27th March 2011 to give you all a chance to read the entries.

    It is possible to vote for yourself, but I would hope in the name of good sportsmanship that you would only do so if you have read all the other stories and given them your honest evaluation. You gain nothing if you base your vote solely on how you feel about the author or whether you have personally invested time and effort in the story. In the end, your conscience is your only judge.

    Any entries under or over the suggested word limit will be flagged as such - they are still entered in to the contest. It is for you to decide whether they are still worthy of your vote.

    Any entry not in accordance with the theme will be dealt with on a case by case basis to determine eligibility. Consider how the author has responded to the theme in making your decision.

    Good luck to everyone.
  2. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Mister Cheech - The Forest

    I took mushrooms when I was fourteen. I know now that if you have some idea of where to look, you can pick them yourself, but I didn’t know that then.

    I’d bought some from some older kids at school. I paid fifty dollars for twelve, maybe fourteen. That night, what happened was I ate half and waited maybe ten minutes. Nothing happened, so I ate the rest and watched an episode of The Simpsons and hoped they would kick in. They didn’t, so I became convinced that the kids had ripped me off and that they were hallucinogenic at all.

    A couple hours later (maybe one and a half) after mom and dad had gone to bed, it started. I was alone in my room watching some movie on TV. The door was closed. Everything had been a little blurry for a while, the way they are when you’re stoned, but then suddenly and arbitrarily, my thoughts got out of control. All these overlapping voices were racing around in my head. I hallucinated the smiling faces of Native Americans emerging from the walls. It was fun at first (I laughed a lot) then the euphoria disappeared and everything became profoundly frightening and bad. I didn’t feel good. I felt the opposite of good. I felt bad. The trip lasted all night.

    I was asleep just before the sun would have come up and I got woken up for school a couple of hours after that. I decided then that I wasn’t going to school that day. Why go to school? I had no answer.


    Heavy-as-**** backpack on, I walked slowly along the footpath and thought about the previous night’s trip (if whether I enjoyed it had anything to do with whether or not it was positive; if I would enjoy it more if I did it again; etc.) and ignored the world. Instead of continuing down the path (it was about an hour’s walk to school), I disappeared arbitrarily into the forest that neighbored the region. I wanted to be with nature. The forest occurred to me as tangible, real and the place I needed to be - as opposed to school, which didn’t even make sense to me anymore. The wiring of my brain had changed overnight.

    I entered the forest and walked for some time. It was pleasantly distracting. It slowed my thoughts down. Everything about the trees intrigued me: the distances between the trunks, the roots arcing up out of the earth, the light coming down through the gaps in the leaves and the branches.

    I didn’t expect the next thing to happen to happen. It kind of goes without saying now that I think about. Since then a number of things like this have happened. I like to feel I’ve learned something from all of them. They've all been so different and interesting.

    “Hey!” a voice yelled out to me, female. I don’t know how I knew it was to me, but I was entirely convinced. It might have been said to anyone, but I knew it was to me. I guess I just figured there would be no one else in this forest.

    I looked around, embarrassingly desperate and surprised, or at least I imagine so, from a third-person perspective. I saw no one. “Hey!” she said again.

    Confused, I yelled out: “Where are you?”

    “Over here,” came the reply. Her voice seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. She sounded beautiful. It was a beautiful sounding voice. I wanted to run after her. I wanted to find her. I had no idea where to run. I figured I should pick a direction and call out again. If her voice got quieter, I would know I was going the wrong way; if it got louder I would then know I was going the right way. I ran forward.

    “Where are you?” I called out again a couple minutes later, while running.

    “Here!” she said, louder now, definitely ahead. I ran toward the sound.

    We did the same call and response. We kept doing it. We did it for who knows how long. It felt like hours. It probably wasn't that long. I've never run for hours. I don't think I've ever been in good enough shape to run for that long. It could have been half an hour. I wasn’t getting ant closer. She was so far away. It was insanity. I keep running.

    'Where are you?!"

    “Over here!”

    I was running into nowhere. I wasn’t going to a place. I was going to nowhere. I was following nothing. I stopped and said, “You’re not real.” Oh God, only then, at that moment, had the thought crystallized and I realized what had happened. Louder now, “You’re not real!”

    Of course, she didn’t reply.

    I found my way out by sunset. I've been having these experiences fairly often since that day. I've spend some periods of my life for this in hospital and though I'm medicated now it doesn't make quite the difference I would have hoped. They're all interesting, though, that's the weird thing. I feel like, sometimes, it's my brain's way of teaching me things I need to know.
  3. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Tessie - Borneo

    A Blue-Eared Kingfisher chattered in the canopy of the forest. The restless sun was near its zenith, and higher in the mountains the humidity of the tropical biome hung in the air like an eternal cloud. The cerulean bird, much smaller than any rodent crawling the underbrush of that mountainous island, flitted through the trees in search of food. He loved his green abode and the ancient ways of the forest that had comforted him all his life. Through the endless vines he continued to wander. There was the rustle of the trees, searching for the sun, the occasional whinny of the Pygmy Elephants, and taking a breath, he smelled the endless variety of flora. He knew the towering rainforest would always be this way, long after his last brood of nestlings had fledged, long after his body had returned to the soil.

    He stopped above a stream, clutching a swinging vine. He glimpsed the water below and watched and waited. His white eyelids rose and fell, concentrating on the swirling rivulets for the prey he hoped would soon be his nestlings’ dinner. Suddenly, the vine lowered in a brief dip. He held out his wings to balance himself and then squawked at the creature who had nearly unseated him. But glancing over, he noticed it was his mate.

    She piped a cheery greeting and then shook her head, nearly laughing.

    He turned away coldly and gazed to the water. He would not be distracted from the task at hand. He had been hunting for a time now, and her presence was not welcomed. No doubt she had left the nest to complain that he was taking too long. Not that she was the better hunter, however. He often managed alone. But why was she so concerned about that?

    A quick motion in the water caught his small, glinting eyes. In an instant he had dived into the water, hugging his wings close, forming a stream-line shape that speared the surface. He came out of the ripples fluttering and blinking. His beak was empty. He had missed the fish.

    She cawed, scolding him for the missed opportunity. He folded his wings in dejection and perched on the vine again, shaking his feathers. The droplets splattered onto her face. She squeaked at him to stop. The bitter exchange that followed was broken off by an unearthly noise. Both heads arched to peer into the forest. A low rumble shook the ground, then a thunderous chug-chug-chug, which vibrated the enormous leaves of the trees. He looked deeper into the growth, puzzled.

    She pecked his shoulder. Her eyes were nodding down to the water. A school of tadpoles had left the haven of the leaves on the streambed. Splish, he quickly went, and behind him there was another splash. Bursting from the water with meal in beak, he ascended and noticed he was not alone. She had claimed two tadpoles herself. She batted her eyes with pride and then giggled when she saw his small catch.

    They flew to the wailing calls of their brood, depositing the meal into the fleshy throats of the three nestlings. She wiggled herself into the straw and feathers of the over-crowded nest, and then looked to him, beaming with content. He tried to smile, but the sound was coming closer. He stared off into the direction and felt apprehensive.

    Something was amiss in the forest. Everything told him so. Nearby trees were silent and grave. Their lively dance to the sun, which he was so accustomed to every waking moment of the day, had stopped. His kindred attachment to the soul of the forest suddenly went limp. He could feel trees screaming in agony, pleading for relief. There was a brief struggle and then something within him died. The entire forest was thrown into chaos. All manner of noise grew into explicit urgency as if the whole world had been set ablaze. Meanwhile the familiar chanting of the orangutans had ceased, replaced by a constant thrashing of vegetation. Then he heard the wretched noise that all creatures feared in the forest. CRACK, SCREEE. . . A sacred tree was falling. There was a moment of panic as the percussion of tree hitting ground flew threw the air like a Clouded Leopard’s playful swipe. The air hit his face. This awoke his nestlings, who had finally dozed off, and they began to whine again.

    She looked at him. In her eyes were fear and anxiety. She drew the nestlings closer to soothe their alarm.

    He nodded in reassurance to her, then leapt into the air, determined to find the perpetrator. And it did not take him long to discover it. After a few dozen flight-strokes he was over the gory scene just as another tree was falling with a deafening crash. Above him a flock of birds had lighted into the sky. They fled for the safety of the far-off mountains shrouded with the all-encompassing fog.

    Etched into the landscape was a gaping, brown square. It was the exposed skin of the ground. Countless trees had fallen victim, and among the trunks that had been stripped of the loftiest branches were ferocious, yellow creatures. They had bending arms topped with claws that mauled the naked trees. The timber was cut and divided until there was no resemblance of a tree left. With a methodical rhythm the devilish creatures worked, stripping, sawing, and stacking the timber into piles, while gray exhaust billowed overhead, swirling higher to choke the virgin sky.

    These creatures had interrupted the peace and ancient equilibrium of the forest. But he could not understand why. Quickly circling round, cries of anguish soon filled his ears. To his left he saw the reddish blur of orangutans, swinging helplessly in the treetops. They bemoaned the gruesome sight and cried to him, begging for the slaughter to end. But he could do nothing. He watched with despair as the trees, his friends, were hauled further down the hill to more machines that had circular feet. Then slowly those machines rolled down the track way, burdened with the piles of dead logs that had been uprooted and plucked so mercilessly from the forest’s growth. What did this mean for his family and the rest of the rainforest? What could he do?

    A cry from above made him glance up. His mate had chanced a flight from the nest and now she was weeping. Her wings gave out and she leveled to beside him. Her eyes shot to his, then to the trees that continued to die in excruciating pain, and then once more to him. Her knit expression asked him the questions he had been asking himself a moment ago. What to do? What to do? What were these horrible creatures?

    He sadly shook his head and climbed higher into the air. They would have to flee as the other birds were doing. There was no alternative. Their habitat was under attack; evilness had invaded the primordial forest, and he knew little else would dare to resist the destruction. He and his family would retreat deeper into the forest and leave the regretful sight behind. Forever.
  4. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    TheIllustratedMan - Jessica

    He was lost. It scared him a little, but the place he was in was familiar and warm. The sun made scattered shadows on the ground. The leaves above him stirred in the breeze and made the shadows dance.
    He took a hesitant step forward, looked around, and took another step. Something was wrong with the large tree to his right. He moved closer.
    The skin of the tree was raw and bleeding. Thick sap hung in glistening globs. He could see that the wounds were deliberate; they formed letters, words. "Jonathan Matthew McCabe."
    "That's my name," he spoke to no one, "that's all right."
    Jon put his right hand on the trunk of the tree; felt its warmth. There was a faint pulse under the bark, or was it the pressure of his own pulse in his hand? He let his hand drop to his side. "Which way?"
    He turned his face to the sky, trying to gauge the direction of the sun. "Rises in the East, sets in the West. Rises in the West, sets in the West. Rises first east, then west." He watched the sun. It was directly overhead, to his right.
    "The sun's to the left. So I go north." Jon started off in the direction that he was sure was northeast. "But what's north?" He looked ahead, past the nearest trees, to see more trees. He shrugged, and kept walking.
    "Pick a marker in the direction you're going, walk to it, pick another marker. Keep a straight line." Jon thought of his Boy Scout training. "But that's only good with a map and a compass. If I had one of those..."
    Jon stopped, crouched, and brushed dead leaves and sticks away from the dirt. With his finger, he traced a line in roughly the direction he was going. He crossed this with another line. At each point, he wrote a word.
    At the far point of the compass, he wrote "Home".
    Brushing the dirt from his hands, Jon stood, looked at his compass, measured the direction that it was pointing, and made for the nearest tree along that line.
    This tree was twisted and broken. A large crack ran down the middle of it, and there was some kind of fungus growing. Jon stepped around it to pick his next target, and saw that all of the trees in this direction were just as scarred and diseased. Their branches tangled together; their roots were mostly washed out of the soil.
    "A plague!" Jon said. "Strictly arboreal? Some chemical agent? What's this then?" His eye finally caught the markings on the trees. Carvings. Scenes of joy, anger, achievement, and embarrassment. He saw a little boy catching a toad. He saw a teen smoking a cigarette. Here was a young man graduating college. There was a one-night stand. Here was rejection, resentment, insecurity, resolve, accomplishment, elation.
    Jon spun, taking in the scenes. He wandered from tree to tree, drinking them in, wallowing in them. At some, he smiled; others he wept. He felt like crawling into a hole; he felt like standing atop a mountain.
    His feet carried him ever deeper into the dark mess of images and emotions. He forgot his compass, he forgot home. The scenes were his compulsion; the scenes were his drive. He moved faster, screaming with rage, laughing with delight, tearing his flesh on bark and clawing limbs as he ran. His clothes hung from his body in shreds, his blood ran in torrents and fell on the black earth.
    At last, exhausted, Jon stumbled into a clearing. The twisted, tortured trees were on all sides, but here it was open. The sun was overhead, to his right. The ground was covered in tall grass and wildflowers.
    As his eyes adjusted to the brightness, Jon wiped the tears from his face. In the middle of the clearing was a lone tree.
    Its skin was pale and freckled; its leaves were purple. It stood strong despite the waste surrounding it. Jon was drawn toward it; it seemed to reach for him. He moved slowly across the clearing, each step a journey in itself.
    He reached the base of the tree and found himself staring at the most beautiful face he'd ever seen. He reached for it, caressed its cheek, and ran a thumb along its hairline. He mouthed a single word.
    He kissed the face on its forehead. He dropped to the ground, and nestled into the root-bed. He closed his eyes.
    He was home.
  5. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Boysarn - The Mortem Forest

    ’Halt!’ the general yelled as the pack of roman soldiers reached the end of the dirty road. Days of traveling were soon to be over yet they had the most frightening path ahead. In front of him lay the Mortem forest; named after the countless victims its dark shadows had consumed over the years.

    The clashing sound of metal against metal reached his ear as a nearby soldier shifted his weight with unease. ‘Ease yourself soldiers, it is nothing but kid tails!’ the general yelled, the stuttering horror in his voice told otherwise.

    He felt a cold sensation creep up his spine as he remembered all the myths that hid behind these majestic trunks. As a child his father had told him of the horrors this forest entangled; forcing him to promise never to enter its embrace. His pupil’s widened as they gazed into years of horrifying stories and sad tails. Long shadows from the treetops above defeated any trace of sunlight resulting in almost total darkness. A dense fog floated just above the wet grass giving the whole scene a mysterious vibe. For a second there was total silence but the soft breeze of the whispering wind. The silence alone made the general uneasy; it was more horrifying than the sound of hundreds of dying soldiers screaming as their life’s cease to exist.

    He tightened the handle of his loyal sword; grasping it as if it was his only hope. Exhaling a final time he prepared himself for whatever awaited inside. With one heavy step his foot lifted from safe grounds and met the wet moss at the forest edge; it sank deep into its roots as if to welcome another victim to its historical superiority.

    The general dared not to inhale; fearing that the air was filled with contagious poisons. While still holding his breath he twisted his head starring right into the eyes of his trusted soldiers, his brothers in war. They had been through so much; what was this if not another barrier to be defeated. He had to be brave for them or they would be forever lost. Swallowing a chump of saliver he shrugged as courage returned. Calmness filled the mind while air filled his lungs, he was ready.

    ‘Let’s show everyone why we are known as the bravest of Rome’s warriors!” he yelled; pointing his sharp sword towards the treetops as if to challenge their dominance. The soldiers turned their head towards the proud treetops; screaming of joy and excitement, his wolf pack was once again alive. With newly found strength they began to march into the forest. Torches in conjunction with darkness left moving silhouettes of brave men upon the pack of trees surrounding them. Tonight they were gods and nothing could stop them from being victorious.

    Far into the forest a creature turned its head as glowing eyes suspected the gaze of movement. Starring into the darkness beyond eagerly wanting to confirm what its instincts had just hinted, a promise of pray. Time stood still as it sat steady on the large branch carrying its extraordinary body. The wait paid off; far in the distance between the trees a torch gave light to it surroundings for just a brief second before resulting in total darkness once again. The creature revealed a sharp set of fangs as if trying to smile. Then it squished its legs together, widened its wings and took of into the night.

    ‘Keep moving, stay sharp!’ the general yelled while his eyes desperately searched the wild for hidden enemies. The torch in his left hand gave only vision but a few meters ahead before total blackness conquered the world. He kept glancing back on regular intervals; not only to ensure that the men were up to pace but also to ensure that he was not left alone. If not for the sound of their boots breaking a fallen branch or an occasional cough he would have been unaware of their presence. Everyone was silent as if the slightest sound would curse their bravery.

    He was met with the same sight as just a minute ago: A total of twenty experienced soldiers marching in two separate lines, the thick density of the forest allowed no more. In the middle of the line two horses dragged a wooden escort; filled with supplies and conquered treasures. The horses looked frightened; they wouldn’t listen to the reassuring words of the young slave boy trying so desperately to calm them. He could see and feel the panic in the horse’s eyes for they knew that something was very wrong with this place.

    Having grown up on a farm he had learned that animal’s could detect danger long before it became a reality. ‘Ready yourse-‘, he was suddenly interrupted by a loud scream that echoed throughout the night. At once his started heart started to pound as if fighting to break out from its prison.

    The horse’s scream filled the air once again. Terrified as it were it refused to listen to any whips or screaming commands coming from the boy no more. Affected by its companions state the other horse was hit with panic of insane passion. Jumping on its front legs it aimed a brute back-kick; freeing them from the wagon. Chaos echoed through the forest as soldiers threw themselves to the ground; doing anything in their power to avoid the panicking horses which were now free. Feeling betrayed by their former master the horses ran past the general, barely avoided hitting him, into the forest ahead. Just moments later they were gone. All that remained by the event was the altering sound of their hooves stomping away in the distance.

    He turned around just to be filled with a sight full of disappointment. Confused soldiers occupied the ground, faces filled with shock and fear. ‘Get up you useless rags!’ he screamed, trying to regain control of him self and the men. His gaze met that of the slave boy; tear filled eyes gazed back at him for a second before they reunited with the ground at his feet. Wet liquid pored down the boy’s legs, obviously very shaken by what had just happened. He looked at the men around him, stared into their souls. They looked at him with the same feelings as a son looks at his proud father, respect and loyalty. They expected him to know what to do, no matter the situation. Was he fit to lead these men, did he deserve to do so? Regret begun to crawl up the chambers of his pounding heart but not before long it was replaced with solid determination. He took a final breath before readying himself for what he had to do.

    ‘Gather what we need from the wagon, leave the rest.’ he said confidently, returning to his old self. ‘Oh and…’ he continued, eyes resting on the innocent boy’s forehead once again, ‘kill the boy, there is no place for such weakness here’. He then turned around and faced the darkness once again, his nemeses. The desperate cries from the boy were soon replaced by the guttering sound of a sharp blade cutting through flesh. He heard the barbaric sound but his heart would not react to it, not anymore. Soon the sound of dripping blood was replaced by the thumping sound of footsteps as they continued through the forest, seemingly untouched by their first encounter.

    ‘Halt!’ A contagious smell reached his nose as his instincts repeatedly told him that somewhat was off. ‘Can you smell that, sire?’ a nearby soldier whispered. He did not bother to respond for it was obvious, the stench was unbearable. ‘Be ready for… anything.’ He said out loud and picked up the pace once again. It did not the long before they were forced to halt again; this time their eyes were met by stench.

    One of the former horses, or what remained of it, laid slaughtered by a trunk to his left. An empty hole in its stomach was all that was left from what once occupied its space. Wide opened eyes, filled with fear, sat glued on the horses face. ‘Wh- what in…?’ the same soldier whispered. ‘Cease your tongue soldier or I will do it for you!’ the general responded, angered. Truth was he was shocked and scared for he had never seen anything like it. ‘Stay close, stay alert. Let’s get out of this place.’ They escalated around the dead horse and continued into the eternal night. Left was nothing but the buzz of hundreds of hungry flies and one lonely predator; watching eagerly from the branch just above the dead horse as the fiery line of pray continued deeper into its domain.

    The general slowly returned to consciousness as he tried to grasp what the hell happened. His head, it was on fire! It felt like thousand of arrows had pierced his skull at once yet failed to kill him, leaving him to suffer. His entire body was aching of the purest of pain, unbearable. He considered just laying still until it ceased to hurt, until he ceased to exist. In his mind he could see his father kneeling at his side; telling him how much hard life is, how it would disappoint him over and over. He started to lose grasp of reality, the pain numbed. Was this what dying felt like?

    Then his father grabbed his hand telling him that the weak succumb to life’s disappointments while the strong conquer them. That life wasn’t about how many times you succeed but in how many times you fall to your knees just to rise again. ‘Don’t ever give up my son, never…’ his word echoed through his mind.

    Like if drugged he felt alive again, literally feeling the blood starting to pump through his empty veins. He overcame the pain and opened his eyes. Pushing himself to his knees he welcomed life’s disappointing embrace yet again. His eyes gazed up towards the crowded sky to be met with the most beautiful of sights. A single sunray had managed to defeat the wall of the tree crowns against all odds, a promise of hope. The general steadied himself and got up on his feet. While gathering his breath his eyes started to evaluate the surroundings.

    Emptiness was all that remained. He stood in the middle of a very small, yet dark, glade. Around him the usual sight of tall trees continued endlessly. His torch lay on the ground next to him still burning; the grass was covered with a dense moisture prevented it from catching on fire. He grabbed the torch and looked for his sword; it was nowhere to be seen. It was just then that he noticed his armor. Three thick marks were encrusted in it as if clawed by a lion, only bigger. His shirt was filled with stanching blood.

    Fearing the worse he threw off his armor and started searching himself for injuries but found none. The blood was not his own. Getting cold he armed himself once again while looking around him more carefully. To his right, at the edge of the glade, blood cursed the grass. Left with no choice he started walking in its direction.

    He had not cried since his mother died of disease when he was but a boy; however seeing the massacre in front of him summoned a rain of tears. The entire ground was filled with blood and flesh ripped from its bodies. On top of it all laid what remained of his fallen comrades. Some had their entire heads ripped from their muscular bodies while others look’s completely unharmed as if asleep. The paleness of their bodies revealed otherwise. He wanted to curse, wanted to scream into the darkness promises of revenge but his mouth would not open.

    He knelt by his second in command, his friend, and did nothing but cry. Minutes, hours, days, he did not know how long he lay resting upon the corpse of his long gone friend. Nothing mattered anymore, he was alone. Truth was he had always felt alone even at the biggest of feasts. An outsider carefully watching and studying the others as they lived their lives. It was not until he joined the army; putting his life in his brother’s arms as they experienced triumph and death that he had felt the warmth that a family provided. Now they were all gone, all but him. Why did he survive, he did not know, did not remember, did not care.

    A true roman never gives up no matter the odds. It was the code he and his brothers had lived and honored. He would not spit in their dead faces by giving up on the one thing that bonded them, he would honor their sacrifice. He grabbed his consciousness and got up while sadness was replaced by anger and determination. ‘Show me the way!’ he begged the gods as he searched the ground for a weapon. He found a nearby sword; dark blood consumed its sharp blade. His brothers had not given up without a fight.

    All his senses were at once at sharp as a strange, yet not fully unknown, noise reached his ears. It lasted for just a second and reminded him somewhat of a snoar. No matter how hard he tried he could not identify the noise, where had he heard it before? Flaming torch in one hand and the glorious sword in the other he studied his surroundings while staying on guard. A very soft stomp behind him reached his senses; if it was not that he was at his fullest clarity he would never have heard it. For but a moment the world ceased to move and everything was still. Then with magical haste he twisted around; sword held high ready to assassinate whatever foolish creature thought it could sneak up on him without his approval.

    He stared straight into the massive head behind him, looking straight into its very dark eyes. Throwing the sword forwards he aimed for the creature’s throat readying him selves to end its miserable life. Halfway through he hesitated; his fingers slipped as they lost grip of the swords handle. He watched in slow motion as the blade flew just barely beneath the creature’s massive throat missing it by bare millimeters.

    He tried desperately to calm the worried horse before him while attempting to achieve the same results upon him self. ‘Easy boy’ he whispered as he patted the horse on its forehead, hands shaking. ‘It’s just me’ he continued calmly. Finally the horse calmed down and their foreheads met. Thanking the gods he held the torch with one hand while tightly grabbing the saddle with his other, sword stuck at its side. Throwing himself up on the horse he was at once filled with confidence, he was to survive.

    His feet dug into the horse as it thrust itself forward in a first glorious step. Soon they were running; a single source of light piercing its way through darkness. All of a sudden a strong wind started to whip his face, it stank of death. Panic grew within him as he watched the torch trying desperately to overcome the horrid wind; it was as if the devil himself breathed upon them. Then there was darkness. The horse slowed down and stopped as nothing but orange glow remained of light. There they stood, in the middle of nowhere, alone. The stench of death was still present. Through his legs he felt the beating of his horse’s heart, it was calm. ‘You’re magnificent’ he whispered as his fingers dug through its soft fur.

    A cracking noise broke the silence as a massive branch to his left gave in. Separating itself from its creator it fell heavy to the ground below resulting in a loud crash. He quickly turned his head towards the darkness and listened, waiting with his sword drawn. At first there was nothing, just an empty night. Questioning his imagination he stood still, and then he heard it. The sound of something breathing.

    Despite pure darkness he could feel how he starred into the beast before him, he could sense its presence. He dared not to breathe being afraid to give away his position, but deep down he knew that it was too late. ‘So this is how it ends?’ he cried to himself as he realized that he was without hope. His eyes closed as he pulled the sword backwards preparing its surrender, preparing for a glorious death.

    Without a warning the breathing stopped and silence ruled once again, what was it doing? The sound that came next would have made the bravest of men weak; the growl. It started silently but for every second that passed it grew in strength. Before he knew it the growl consumed his entire body, his skin turning inside out. Then came the roar.

    The corpses of his dead friends flashed before him as he tensed every muscle in his body. He remembered the sword in his hand, how it was filled with blood. ‘They died like men…’ his consciousness echoed. Seeing their dead bodies before him he acted. As the roar conquered his reality he threw his arm forward; throwing the sword in the direction of the breathing. He then slammed his feet into the horse screaming a war cry throughout the universe. The horse’s muscular body sparred itself as it pushed forward with unimaginable haste. They saw nothing but neither did they have to, for they were guided by hope. Behind them branches cracked as a set of wings were put into motion.

    With a burst of energy they busted out of the thick woods to be reunited with the purest of sunlight. He screamed of joy for he had made it, the bravest of men. Never had light been so beautiful or an empty fields so glorious. He slowed the horse down as they walked across the green field, embracing life. A sensation of being watched creped up on him, quickly he turned around and gazed into the forest.

    The trees occupied the horizon but that was all, like a massive dark wall. A dark spot in the sky caught his attention, far away something was flying in the air. It was too far to make anything out but a set of magnificent wings. Anyone would have taken it for an extraordinary large eagle but he knew better. He dragged his fingers across the chest where the mark of the beast lay, trembling. As the sunlight reflected the body he could not help but to feel an ounce of respect for the creature. He watched as the creature made a loop before diving into the forest beneath, leaving no trace behind. It could have ended him at any given time but it had let him live. Live so that he could keep its historical heritage alive.
  6. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    chacotaco91 - A Hunt in the Forest

    “Damn thing’s been through here, can smell him for sure.”

    The hunter was speaking to himself, coldly staring into the wooded unknown. The dark leaves of the trees perched low and left little room for the sun. It was like a cage of green, entrapping the father and son from the reassuring blue of the sky.

    “Dad, I don’t think it’s here.” The boy tried to sound confident, though his voice was only a child’s. His palms were sweaty on the wooden grip of his rifle, and he was nervous by the intense concentration of his father.

    He was so young, so weary from this hunt. Yet he knew that he needed to be brave, that now was the age to prove he was a man, to prove his bravery.

    It was hard to be brave now though.

    “Papa, I’m tired, and it ain’t been through here. I know because I haven’t caught one sight of him yet, and you said its tracks gone dead……”

    “Quiet!” The father hushed him quickly, holding a raised finger to his son’s face. His gaze locked into the deepness of the woods.

    He suddenly went to a knee, and raised his rifle to look down its sights. The boy noticed too late though, and awkwardly took a knee as well. He went too quickly and landed his shin on a protruding rock, giving him a sharp and bruising pain.

    And without warning, he felt fear.

    It was as if the pain was some kind of trigger, a kindle for a fire of fear. It rose from his gut to his throat, gripping his mind and thoughts and emotions. It was his transformation to full terror, and he felt though the forest could sense it to, responding by rustling its leaves in chorus to the breeze.

    His sweat turned cold even though the day was hot. The forest canopy gave them shade, but this only worsened his growing fear. His Uncle Ben once that all things die in the dark, and he squeezed his rifle all the tighter.

    “It’s here, can’t you feel it?” His father said quietly scanning with the rifle’s scope. He loaded a single round into the chamber with a smooth motion, the bolt action rifle looking as sleek and black as the night sky.

    The boy began to breathe quickly and with difficulty, while his father took the calm and slow breaths of a killer.

    “I see it, just sitting there.”

    He took one hand off the rifle to point in a general direction, though his shooting eye was still locked in the scope.

    “Didn’t I tell you boy? Just like any other animal, they all get tired and they all need to drink. You’re gonna pick these tricks up when you get older. Things you just gotta learn.”

    The boy didn’t care about tricks or what the animal was doing, he was afraid and shaking, and tears began to build in his eyes. His father didn’t notice though, busy gauging his target in the glassy vision of his scope. His son looked like a little toy soldier, holding his small wooden rifle. He felt that way, fragile and frozen, and his tears began to flow from their watery home down his cheek.

    “I want to go home, you kill it dad.” He tried to sound strong in his defiance, but the tight grasp in his throat and high voice made him only sound like a child.

    “Nonsense boy.” His dad turned from the sights to look at him. He realized his son was crying, and gave a friendly smile of understanding.

    His voice was reassuring. “It’s an easy shot; you can make it, I promise."

    The boy words were entangled in emotion, his cheeks red in shame and sadness. “I don’t wanna kill nothing dad, I can’t do it, I wanna go home.”

    He could no longer hold them, the tears now flowing freely. His breaths became loud and choppy, and he repeatedly sucked for air like he couldn’t breathe.

    The father smiled as his young boy lowered his head in shame. The son didn’t want to look weak; he felt that he failed, that his father would never love a fearful child. He dropped his rifle lazily on the ground onto the soft grass. It made only a slight thump on the soft and moistened dirt.

    “Its okay son, it’ll be alright, I promise.”

    His dad hugged him in a long and tight embrace, feeling the warm tears seep beneath his camouflaged shirt onto his shoulders.

    “I’m here, ain’t nothing gonna happen.”

    He held his son for a long time, held him till he slowed his crying and his nervous fit finally passed. He broke from the hug, but kept the boys shoulders gripped in his calloused hands.

    His son met his gaze, his tears now dammed and his mind at ease. The father held his smile, his welcoming hold giving the boy hope.

    “You can do it son, I know you can. I did it, my father did it, and you can do it to.”

    The boy rubbed a stray tear from his cheek and gave a quick sniff of his nose.

    “Okay………I’ll…… I’ll do it.”

    “That’s my boy.” The father’s voice was calm, reassuring. A smile was across his face that was as long as the knife on his hip. The son picked up his small weapon from the ground in both hands, as if telling his father that he accepted his love and confidence.

    “I’ll help you son, now take a knee here.” The child did as he was told, and felt safe as his father’s grip guided him to the place from which he would shoot. He pushed down on the boy’s shoulders to make him kneel on the ground. The father then helped him hold the gun properly, readying his son for his first kill.

    “Good, good. Now, hold the rifle tight to your shoulder, just like I taught you.” The boy slowly edged the weapon up, his body still feeling tense and weak from his prior sorrow.

    “That’s right, just like that. Now, look down the sights. Do you see it? It’s just sitting there, all still like. It’s probably sleeping, so it won’t even feel a thing.”

    “Like this dad?” The boy was still unsure; the rifle gave a slight shake in his grip.

    “Just like that. Now, take a deep breath, and aim right in its center, just like I taught you.”

    The boy’s eyes were wide when he met his. “And it won’t feel a thing?”

    The father held his same smile. “It’ll be like he never woke up.”

    The boy closed his left eye, the other looking through the view of the scope. Its four lines centered in the middle, a cross to lead the bullet, a cross that meant more to him than any cross he’d ever seen in church.

    He noticed first the distance blur of green and the movement of the branches in the wind. Their leaves swayed lazily, as if teasing the dark moss below them for being stuck in one place, stricken to never feel the wind themselves.

    There it was, like his father said. It was leaning back lazily on a rock, in sound sleep next the pond from which it drank. It must have been tired and thirsty he thought, since he and his papa had been huntin’ him for so long.

    “Don’t forget to breathe boy, and aim at its center. You’ll never hit nothing tryin’ to be fancy.” He still looked over his child, but no longer held him. It was his shot now, his kill, his time to become a man.

    The boy tightened his hand on the grip. Just like we practiced, he thought to himself. He tears were all gone, his confidence firm. The tranquility of it all overtook him, like all the few young years of his life were meant to lead to this one very moment.

    Then, it opened its eyes.

    He saw it through the scope. He could not tell if it saw him, or he merely saw it. It scared him so that he suddenly jerked and gripped everything tightly, including the trigger.

    A bang ran through the forest, its sound waves bouncing through the dark leaves and the thick bark, scattering the birds and making the critters freeze in the sudden interruption nature’s usual harmony.

    The smell of gunpowder filled his nostrils, and the rush of adrenalin had stricken him into a stillness he could not break.

    “Did…….did I kill it?” The boy said quietly, his eyes wide with apprehension. He could not tell himself, for the kick of the shot knocked the scope from his view.

    The father quickly brought his own sleek weapon to bear, looking down his sights to see the fate of the hunted.

    “Ha! You got it son! hell of a shot my boy!” He had never seen his father so happy, and he too felt the excitement overtake him when his father bent down to give him a quick but powerful hug.

    Before he knew it, the child found himself jogging with his father the path that the bullet once followed. They hopped over thick and tall roots, and puddles of moistened earth and wet and fallen leaves. He almost near tripped, his short legs having difficulty crossing the terrain.

    Above him, the forest continued to sway lazily in the wind. Within the spaces between the leaves, the bright sun desperately tried to find cracks in the canopy to let its bright touch through, to give light to the dark soil.

    His father was already inspecting it when the boy caught up to him, breathing heavily from the run. When he saw it the dead though, he could no longer breathe.

    “What a shot son, right below his left eye! I could never hit anything like that at your age, swear to god. You’re gonna make one hell of a hunter.”

    The boy smiled with pride, but could not take his eyes away from the gory sight. Its face was all but gone, the bullet carving a gaping hole that only blood and brain saw fit to leave. The large rock he once leaned against was painted in a splash of red.

    “What we gonna do with it dad?” The boy said timidly, eyes fixed on the only dead thing among them.

    “Well, I guess I’ll just give it to the common folk. Hard times like these they’ll take any meat they can get. I paid good money to hunt this one though.”

    The boy kept his gaze on the bloody fluid as it slowly dripped down the face of the carcass to the chest below, like a sap falling from a tree.

    “Well my boy, I just cannot wait to go home to your mother! She’ll be proud of you for sure, cook us all one hell of a dinner, for her big son the hunter.”

    The leaves continued to move casually above. The critters as well, after they learned the loud bang had been nothing to fear, and went back to their normal doings. The birds went back to chirping, the squirrels to squirreling, and the deer’s to deering. The forest never changes.

    “Alright son, its gonna get dark sson. Hold his body while I take off his head, Executioner needs to know this man got his due.” He looked his son in the eyes with his same familiar smile.

    His father walked toward the dead man, and his face grimaced in disgust as he gave the carcass a good kick. "Lived like a damn animal and sure as hell smells like one."

    The father knelt next to the body to examine it, the boy unsure of what he was looking for.

    His father looked at the large black letters of Criminal that were branded on the man's forehead. He then began rummaging through the man's pockets, and passively spoke to himself in a tired and content voice.

    “It’s a strange thing you know, that we get to do the executioner’s work for sport when he’s stuck doing it for a job.”

    The boy was too young and too much in shock to understand his father’s musings. His focus was on the dead man and all his complexities. He stank to high heaven, his clothes rotten and tattered. His coarse hair was covered in leaves, and his body was painted in cuts and scrapes, head to toe.

    The boy approached the kill in slow, careful steps. His father unsheathed the large, serrated knife from his hip. He did as he was told, and held the fugitive’s head still by its oily coarse hair while his father carved its neck with perfection, carefully sawing where the least effort was required.

    The boy did not watch while he felt the rough vibrations of a head in decapitation. Instead, he stared blankly at a large, thick oak tree. Its bark was a deep brown, and its branches hung low with verdant green leaves.

    It was in that moment that the boy forever would love the forest and the hunt.
  7. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Ion - To the Satisfaction of a Fox


    The animal slipped under a fallen tree and shot forward like an orange dart. I hefted my crossbow, vaulted over the same log, and sprinted after in pursuit. I trampled through ferns and ducked low branches as I strained to keep the clever little devil in sight.

    “Fox!” I shouted again between breaths. “I demand satisfaction!”

    The fox ignored my challenge and sped onward as foxes are wont to do. I responded by willing my burning legs to move faster. He had eluded me before, but this time was different. Firstly, I had caught him unawares, and secondly, I had driven him into an area with sparse foliage where I could follow him at speed. There was no doubt that he could be intercepted so long as I kept my wits about me. As I said before, he was a clever little devil. The slightest lapse in concentration would give him an opportunity to vanish.

    I chased the fox out of the shadows of the forest and into the bright morning sun. The sky was a cold expanse of blue and the air was chill. It was sure to grow a magnitude warmer as the sun crept up above the land, but the coolness of night always lingered early until then. Ahead was a stretch of my father and I’s farm. The magnificent field of young summer wheat threatened to pull my attention off of my quarry, though luckily I was of a single mind at that moment.

    The fox flew through the fledgling stalks of wheat as I narrowed the gap between us – he was tiring. When I got near enough, I could pause to bring my crossbow to bear and finally finish the chase. If I stopped too soon though, the fox would dash out of range before I could aim properly. My patience would win out in the end.

    The fox must have sensed the end was near because he started zigzagging in every direction. I had expected as much and shadowed his maneuvers step for step, staying right behind his bushy white tipped tail all the way to the edge of the field. Through the tall grass in front of us, I could make out flashes of light reflecting off of lazily flowing water. We were coming upon the stream that bordered our land.

    This was it. The fox bounded down the bank and took a flying leap. He landed in the water with a small splash as I came to a stop at the top of the bank. I watched him struggle through the water toward the other side and lifted my crossbow, lining up the perfect shot. He was less than twenty feet away with his head poking up above the water, black ears flattened back against his wet fur. He wouldn’t escape.

    As my finger tightened against the trigger, I remembered the fateful day so many summers ago when I had first laid eyes on the sly animal. I was on my own in a woodland glade on a morning much like today’s, gathering berries for a pre-breakfast snack. I had a good amount of fruits collected, all of which were neatly laid out on the surface of a flat rock in the center of the clearing. I left my stash to go find one last batch of berries to add before I sat down to eat.

    When I came back though, the fox was there, finishing off my snack. He had devoured everything.

    Like any child that has had something taken away from her, I was furious. Over the next hour I chased him through the forest, anger lending me the cunning necessary to corner him. Rocks were at his back and he had nowhere to go. Foolishly I advanced, letting no opening appear for him to flee through. Everything appeared to be going my way. Then I laid hands on the creature. Suddenly the fox was a thrashing whirlwind – sharp claws tore at my face and needle-like teeth bit off a piece of my ear before I thought to throw him away.

    I would keep wary watch for that fox ever after that day. I would lay intricate traps, learn of his haunts and habits, and pursue him whenever we crossed paths, all to no success. My faded scars, constant failure, and the occasional thefts he carried out from nearby farms kept my spite alive and well. Over the years, our sporadic chases would become more and more tilted in my favor as I grew into adulthood and the fox aged.

    The old fox panted with fatigue as he came up on the other side of the bank. He looked over his shoulder to check for signs of pursuit. Just as I came back to my senses, our gazes met. His golden eyes appeared tired through the sight of the crossbow. Neither of us moved.

    “Farren Lynne!” came the distant voice of my father, carried through the cold morning air.

    I exhaled and lowered the weapon. The old fox remained stationary for a moment. I nodded at him. Suddenly he bolted. I looked after the creature, but I lost track after a few seconds as he ran through the thick brush.

    “I’m here,” I called back. I turned away from the quiet stream and left the past behind me.
  8. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England
    webbo_5 - Deer Me

    Five years is a long time to work without taking a vacation. In the time since my previous holiday, I had gotten married, fathered a child, and taken up smoking. I know, I know, most people are quitting. I myself have never been one for trends. I’m betting that smoking is coming back in a big way and I intend to be in the foreground of that particular movement.

    “No one dances anymore around here”. That’s how my wife started the conversation about my taking some time off. “We used to dance nightly”, she muttered as she prepared dinner. At the time, I was more concerned about the retched smog that was billowing from the new cookware we had just purchased. Later that night, however, I understood just what she was driving toward. She wanted adventure. I lay awake, cloaked only in my blue night cap and my thoughts. Hour after hour went by until finally I had my game plan. It was time for this family to stretch its legs and do some dancing.

    As a family, we are fair. I don’t mean it in the sense that we are just or noble, but instead that we prefer the mountains over the beach. My son Alan had never been out of our little neck of the woods so this trip, in particular for him, was an important one. In my youth, I knew many friends who had never taken trips with their families. There was always something about them that didn’t sit well with me. They were shifty and even a little on the squeamish side. I didn’t want that for Alan. He was a good boy even if he did smell suspiciously like my cigarettes.

    As we bedded down for the night, in our temporary home, Alan met my gaze. He had enjoyed the trip so far and was looking forward to tomorrow. I decided then and there that I would get up early the following morning and take Alan on a little father and son hike. The sun rises earlier in the mountains. Obviously, that isn’t truly the case but it’s something I read on a bumper sticker last week and it moved me. I wanted my hike with my son to be monumental. I wanted it to be something he would remember for the rest of his life. Instead, it was a near disaster.

    I believe heavily in the notion of nurture. I know that Alan has an excellent gene pool from which to draw intelligence, charm, and good looks but I can’t help but to worry that someday he will get in with the wrong crowd and be influenced into less than admirable behavior. I lit my first cigarette of the day and stretched my legs. A co-worker of mine had suggested The Pocono Mountains and as I inhaled the purest morning breeze I had ever been a part of, I realized that I would have to send him a postcard or perhaps a box of taffy.

    We had been walking for only an hour when we stumbled upon the cabin. It was quaint, as cabins tend to be, but we approached with caution. Quaintness isn’t always a good thing. I have a cousin who used to only date quaint women. Let’s just put it this way, his golf game isn’t what it once was and he sleeps with a revolver under his pillow. Now, I’m a cautious guy by nature. I don’t play the lottery, I floss regularly, and I only have one piercing. That said, I dropped the ball as Alan and I observed the cabin from behind a maple tree. He had only wandered a few steps when I first noticed. I remember thinking to myself that Alan had grown a great deal in the past year and, more importantly at the time, that I needed a cigarette.

    I was enjoying the first spark of nicotine when I heard the voice. By the time I looked up, the man was between us. Alan had always been a curious young buck and it had finally gotten him into trouble. Judging solely on the enormous proportions of his head and the freckles that covered his body, the man was of the Irish variety. I had spent years shielding Alan from the horrors of man. Now, I found my son face to face with one of man’s most hideous and disturbing creations - the V-Neck tee shirt. My father had assured me that a man that will wear a V-Neck tee shirt will do almost anything. “The unsolicited liberation of chest hair is one of mankind’s most perverse traditions”, he used to say. My blood ran cold. I could not take the risk that Alan, now exposed, would one day wear a V-Neck tee shirt. No son of mine would be a V-Neck. Not on my watch.

    After a moment’s pause, watching my son frozen like an Alan in the headlights, I took action. As I lifted the camera to my face, the strap scratchy against my neck, the man turned. Looking me dead in the face, he emitted a wild and intoxicated smirk and pointed his thumbs to the sky. He was in attack position and did not seem even remotely surprised to see a twelve point buck, standing on its hind legs, holding a camera. I snapped the photo. The flash brought Alan out of his trance and he ran quickly to safety.

    That was two years ago today and we haven’t taken a vacation since. As it turns out, my wife was not seeking adventure but rather dance lessons at the local YMCA. She’s a more literal doe than I give her credit for. Alan, or Aldo as he insists on being called, is now a teenager. He smokes, he drinks, and he does poorly in deer school…but, I’m happy to report, he wears only crew neck tee shirts like the rest of us. He’s a good boy, my Alan.

    We had a flash of luck that fateful day in the Pocono Mountains and I felt it my duty to relay this story as something of a parental cautionary tale. Don’t take your eyes off of your children, friends. There are a lot of scary things out there and you don’t want to have to write a cautionary tale of your own. Computers are expensive and don’t get me started on the difficulties of typing with hooves.
  9. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England
    jonathan hernandez13 - The Jungle

    The man was small and thin, his blonde hair had a youthful and healthy looking sheen to it. He spoke with a soft and deliberate tone as the others watched him.

    “I was in the thick of the God-forsaken jungle, covered by razor-thin bladed grass leaves that grew as tall as a man. The foliage was so dense it cut out horizontal line of sight to a distance of about ten meters.

    Our guide spoke some English, I spoke some bush; between the two of us we managed to get along somewhat nicely but not to the extent I would have preferred.

    I was very much looking forward to the opportunity of meeting with the chieftain of the neighboring tribe’s. I must admit I was also a bit apprehensive, for months I had been the only white man within hundreds of miles, and for many of them the only outsider they had ever seen. My fears wore off as the villagers, almost to the very last, welcomed me cordially and very patiently assisted me in my research into alternative medicines. If only I could have my hands on a sample of the elusive herb which only seemed to proliferate in certain remote regions of the forest.

    In my head I was reliving the cautions that the guide conveyed previously when without warning one of the natives in our party, the man on point, hurriedly took a knee and silently urged us to do the same.

    He made some frantic gestures as our escorts notched their arrows. What followed next was a sudden and great show of force. A thin, obsidian-tipped spear hummed as it flew just past my face. Gasping, I spun just in time to see it strike my esteemed colleague, Mr. Collins, in the abdomen. His face and eyes registered pure dread, as his lifeless husk fell to its knees, its mouth still agape in a soundless shriek.

    Our warrior escorts adeptly returned fire, but they were firing blindly into the jungle as more spears flew our way. At that instant I remembered that Collins had a pistol on him, I crawled, panting, and frantically clawed at his trousers attempting to loose it from his belt. Somewhat dumbfounded, I found myself muttering some pious nonsense in ecclesiastic Latin.

    Out of the jungle sprang forth warriors from the neighboring tribe, donning battle gear, accoutrements, and war paint. They barely seemed like men, young adults maybe, boys on a rite of passage no doubt I can only imagine the kind of trophy I might have made for one of them, to kill a white man might have been quite a thing to brag about considering that we were exceedingly rare. I fell back and braced myself for the worst as a youth presented a blow dart pipe and fired it at me.

    I think I screamed, but did not feel the dart hit me. I remember falling on my side and rolling as I made horrid noises, as if the brain was instantly reacting to the toxin that my brain had not yet realized. I had perhaps seconds to reflect before I lost time, one of them was that I wished I had said goodbye to Wendy the day my ship left port, the other was that my body would never find it’s way back to England---

    I was a giant, ten meters tall, staggering through the jungle as terrifying big cats (small to me in comparison) jetted past, fighting for prey too small for me to see. I thundered past live volcanic peaks, trampling on ruins a millennia old, and fancying myself a god, sat before one of the temples as a fat moon adorned the velvet sky. Time passed by in increments impossible to count, it felt as short as minutes and as long as eons, natives dressed in splendid bird plumages danced before me, naked native girls were presented before me as gifts, the spirits of the jungle spoke with me in a language beyond alien, and yet, intelligible to me. The forest itself spoke to me, it shouted in a singular voice, beckoned me to change shape and turn into a Leopard. I chased small game and fed under an open sky, I swam in rivers too long to traverse, as a fish. I lived a hundred lifetimes as a human, a beast, a god; fantastic beasts from myth took flesh and welcomed me, and showed me all the forbidden secrets of the universe. And then, I woke up again in this hospital in West Edinborough along with some poor chaps who had been overseas fighting in the war."

    The head physician lowered his pipe for a moment as if ready to respond.

    “Is that all?”

    “All? Yes, I should think so. Ever since I’ve been back I’ve been recovering, and reflecting on my vision.”

    “Yes I see. And by vision you mean this experience, onset by the influence of some kind of toxin?”

    “That is correct. The natives make a number of poisoned darts and missiles, they’re used for hunting and warfare. There are a number of poisonous frogs that live in the area, many of them have toxins that can kill a man in seconds. I can only surmise that the unexercised youths might have accidentally shot me with a dart loaded with a nonlethal formula.”


    “A number of the frogs also have toxins that can cause hallucinations, and delirium.”

    “I see. Which was it then, were you hallucinating or mad?”

    “I don’t know, I may never know.”

    “I see. Well, thank you for the interesting tale lad, I shall look forward to presenting this anecdote to the board, and while it is unfortunate that the natives turned out to be savages, there are a number of discoveries yet to be had in the jungles. Perhaps the board may be willing to fund another expedition to find that herb you mentioned.”

    “I hope so.”

    “Indeed, well then, I’ll leave you to your resting. Good day.”

    “Good day sir.” The small man said and laid back down on his bed and the pipe smoking white men walked away, they did not understand, not yet, but they would one day. The spirits in the room spoke to him.

    “Did they see us?”

    “No, the white men cannot see you, they are blind.”

    “Will you make them understand?”

    “I will try, it will be hard, they think they know everything.”

    “When you return to the forest you will be rewarded.”

    “I understand.”

    “Come to us now, transform into a bird and fly here. We will show you things no white man has ever seen---”
  10. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England
    Trish - Ashlan's Mistake

    The snow shifts under me, making me slide several feet down the steep bank. Struggling to regain purchase on the rocks under the slush, I hear the bugling of an elk in the distance. The great pines towering above me continually drop more snow from their glistening boughs and being buried alive is becoming a real possibility.

    Scrambling my way back to the top of the bank I stop. The scent is unmistakable. Blood. Where there is blood, there is food, even if I have to finish it off first. My muscles bunch and quiver as saliva pools on my tongue. The odor is coming from the north; Rishna’s territory. I know that if his pack catches me poaching on their land they will kill me, and I am in no condition to fight. My pack needs food or they will die, so I accept the risk.

    Heading north as quickly as manageable in my malnourished state, the snow rising above my belly making it even more difficult for me, I push on. Three miles into Rishna’s territory I come upon a clearing surrounded on two sides by high cliff walls. The aroma is so strong it leaves an aftertaste in the back of my throat, yet I almost miss the source.

    It has begun to snow again in earnest and the elk calf is lying so still she looks like a large snow covered log on top of the snow. She is completely motionless, her eyes open, and her nostrils flared as she stares at me. It has been so long since she has blinked that the impossibly long lashes around her big brown eyes are white with fallen snow. I smell her fear, blood, and…. Something else I cannot name. It smells wrong and my heart starts beating faster. I whip my head around, scanning the trees, and my tail drops. What is that smell? I creep towards her slowly, belly down, nose and ears up, trying to place the scent, but I can’t. I am waiting for her mother to crash through the trees and crush me, or perhaps whatever animal injured her, when there is a sudden voice behind me. “Laiska, you are awfully far from home.” It says.

    I whirl around to face an old black wolf with a gray muzzle. “Rishna,” I lower my head briefly out of respect, “You are right. Hunger of the pack has driven me far.”

    Rishna studies me thoughtfully for what seems like twelve seasons. “Are you not afraid we will kill you for hunting on our land?” he asks gruffly.

    “No. You either kill me for hunting or I die of starvation. Or maybe I get food and get away. I’ll take my chances.” I reply with far more bravado then I feel.

    Rishna finds himself admiring the young wolf. She isn’t much more than a pup, yet here she is, staring him down on his own turf. She has a good point, too. You don’t get much of that in young ones these days. He thinks perhaps she could be a good match for the male that is to take over the pack when he dies. Her fur is as black as his own, her eyes clear and intelligent, and if she is scrawny and thin, well, he can overlook that under the circumstances.

    Shocked by the turn his own thoughts have taken he answers her gruffly, “Fine. Take it then. Take it back to your own territory and I won’t kill you.”

    Scenting the air again I look Rishna in the eye and shake my head slowly. “Uh-uh. I don’t want it.”

    Rishna’s look of shock is almost funny. Almost. I am terribly afraid I am pushing him to violence. “You what?!” he snarls at me.

    “I don’t want it”, I reply as calmly as I can. “It smells funny. I think there’s something wrong with it.”

    He stares at the young female thoughtfully. Perhaps she is even more intelligent than he first thought. “You’re right about the smell, Laiska, there is something off about her.”

    I can feel my eyes widen. “There is?” I ask “What is it?”

    “She was hit with one of the Two Legs’ Thunder Sticks,” he says sadly, “That is what you smell.”

    I sit down hard in the snow. I am shocked. “Two Legs? Here? Why?” I ask.

    Rishna considers his answer carefully. When he does answer I am completely unprepared. “They are here because of Ashlan,” he sighs.

    I whine so sadly even I am aware of how pitiful it sounds. Ashlan is just a pup. He is only two seasons old and he is of my pack. If Ashlan has something to do with the Two Legs being here in our territories with Thunder Sticks I have been away for far too long. “Please, Rishna, tell me what’s happening,” I beg.

    For a moment I am afraid he will not and then he begins to speak. “About one season ago there was a Two Legs camping at the top of Elk’s Falls with his cub. Ashlan was supposed to be out hunting for food, like you, but he saw them and he smelled their food. He decided to hang around until nighttime and then steal some of their food, just a little, he said, so that he could continue to hunt for the pack. He was getting weak and the mice he was catching just weren’t enough to sustain him. I’m sure you understand, Laiska.” I nod my understanding and he continues as my muscles begin to tremble and my mouth goes dry.

    “So night came and he snuck into their camp, but he was not as quiet as he had planned and the cub woke up. The cub came out of the tent to see what the noise was, and Ashlan, inexperienced as he was, froze instead of running. The cub got closer and closer until Ashlan panicked, jumped on him, knocked him down, and then ran.”

    I gasp, “Did he bite him?”

    Rishna shakes his head at me. “No, Ashlan swore he did not bite the cub, just knocked him down, but the Two Legs spread the word that a wolf had attacked one of their kind.”

    He gazes into my eyes and what I see there makes me want to run away. I do not want to listen to anything else Rishna has to say. What does he know anyway? This whole thing was probably made up just so I won't fight well when he tries to kill me.
    “Laiska, your pack is gone. The Two Legs have murdered them all. Now they are after my pack as well. We all must flee if we are to survive. I will let you join my pack if you wish to, but you must decide quickly. There is little time to waste.”

    I weigh his words carefully. I do not believe he is lying. His eyes are sad and somewhat broken and he would not leave his own territory without a serious threat. If I am being set up, I am no worse off than I was an hour ago, and if not, well, maybe I will gain a future and get to come home someday. I am devastated by the loss of my pack. There will be no more Ashlan telling jokes, no Qualean playing pranks, no more racing through the forest with Baktan, or seeing the flash of silver out of the corner of my eye just before Raswen pounces on me. I hang my head as I whisper, “Let’s go.”
  11. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    yellowm&M - Shadow

    A cold wind blew through the night, making the leaves on the trees shiver and rustle menacingly. Tamora drew her coat tighter around her body in a vain attempt to repress the shiver running down her spine. She hated the dark, and she hated the forest. For as long as she could remember her father had preached to her the wickedness of darkness, “For it’s at night when cruel men come out, and it’s in the shadows that greedy men hide. Promise me, Tamora that you will never stray into the hands of the shadows.” A wide-eyed young Tamora had readily promised that she wouldn’t. As for the forest, well, everyone knew the stories that surrounded it-tales of murder and evil. It didn’t matter if the stories were true or not, everyone avoided the forest. Sin and sorrow appeared to cling to its shadow lined trees and it had always seemed to Tamora that a place attached to so much horror was no better than the dark; so, true to her promise, she has never gone near it…until tonight.

    She couldn’t explain why she had decided to come to the edge of the forest, at night no less; after all she knew how furious her father would be should he find out, and nothing was more important to Tamora than her father’s approval. He was the whole town’s leader and moral compass. When people strayed into the shadows, it was he who showed them the light again. When people were scared or hurt, it was he who reassured and comforted them. When people needed council, it was he who provided the wisdom they needed. No one was as honest, true, and pure as her father. Tamora had spent her whole life trying to follow in his footsteps in that hope that one day she might also be as wise and good as him
    So why was she here? This was not the way to earn her father’s approval. The good didn’t stray into the dark…but she had to know. For weeks she had been receiving anonymous notes telling her to come to the house at the edge of the forest at night in order to learn the truth about someone. Finally after weeks of those notes her curiosity had gotten the better of her and she had come, even though she knew she shouldn’t have.

    “There is not truth in the dark, Tamora. Only liars and the guilty hide in the dark.” The rustling leaves seemed to be whispering her father’s words. She shivered again. It was pure foolishness to come here. The proper thing to do would be to turn around and go home now before she did anything else stupid. With a shake of her head, Tamora started to turn around and do the right thing, but at that moment a light flicked on in the one of the windows of the house. For a moment she stared at the glowing window then began to walk towards it, like a moth drawn to a flame. Her steps brought her right up to the window, so close that her nose was practically touching the glass.

    The window looked into a bedroom with a large, old bed sitting in the middle on top of a threadbare rug. A chipped and rickety dresser stood near the door and the faded wallpaper was peeling away from the wood behind it. A man and a woman were making their way clumsily thought the door, laughing and clinging to each other. From her position at the window Tamora couldn’t see either of their faces very well, but she could see that both of them were clutching bottles of beer- or the “devils drink” as her father called it-and by the way they were moving it was obvious that they had drunk a lot. According to her father, alcohol was just another way of being lured into the shadows.

    Suddenly the couple began kissing frantically. With a smash the bottle fell from the man’s hand as he started pulling the woman’s shirt over her head. The woman, meanwhile, was undoing the buttons of his shirt and pulling him towards the bed, all the while keeping her lips connected to his. An uncomfortable heat began to creep up Tamora’s neck and into her cheeks and she immediately began to back away from the scene unfolding behind the window as the couple fell onto the bed with a shriek of laughter. Tamora began to walk even faster backwards and in her haste she stumbled and sent a rock flying into the side of the house where it hit with a loud thunk. The man instantly looked up at the noise and his eyes met Tamora’s. Horror and shock coursed through her as she saw his face clearly for the first time. It was her father. And the woman he was with was not her mother.

    His own eyes went wide as he recognized her as well. Both of them stared at each other, and then Tamora abruptly turned around and began to run. It didn’t matter where she ran as long as it took her far away from that accursed house.

    “Tamora! TAMORA! WAIT!” Behind her a door slammed and her father chased after her, desperation in his voice.

    “What?!” She spun around, furious tears spilling from her eyes. Her father was panting and running a hand through his messy hair. He hadn’t even buttoned his shirt back up.

    “I can explain! It’s not what you think!”

    “You can explain?! How can you explain that the man who taught me about honest and morality is a drinking, cheater?!”

    “It’s complicated! If you’d just let-“

    “It’s not complicated!” Tamora could feel the fury building up inside of her and she could feel the voice of the night whispering in her ear, encouraging her, angering her, driving her on; and for the first time in her life she listened. “There’s nothing complicated about it! You’re a CHEAT and a LIAR! I looked up to you! I adored you! But all you were was a FRAUD!”


    “Only liars and the guilty hide the dark, right father? Everything was a lie! All your talk of love and honesty was a LIE!”

    “Tamora let me-“

    “NO! I won’t let you explain! I hate you!” Tears were now coursing down her face and spinning on her heel, Tamora began striding straight towards the forest.

    “Tamora! Where are you going?” Her father grabbed her arm, forcing her to turn around and face him. “You promised me you’d never stray into the shadows. Please don’t do this.” Fear was etched across his face, mingled with the hints of remorse. But there was no forgiveness in Tamora’s face, only cold rage.

    “I don’t keep promises to liars.” She hissed, and then wrenching her arm from his grip, started walking into the forest again. The woman in the house came out now, having hastily thrown her shirt back on, and she ran to Tamora’s father and put her arms around him. He clutched the woman’s hand and stared after Tamora, but he didn’t speak, and he didn’t move. Nor did Tamora look back as she walked. Everything he had told her had been a lie, she realized that now. The forest was honest where the light hadn’t been. Sunlight was for the wicked, it was in the shadows that truth was displayed, however cruel it might be.

    As she walked, the night whispered lovingly in her ear, and the shadows of the forest reached out to embrace her. A smile slowly stretched across Tamora’s lips. Now she understood that the darkness was not to be feared. With a final step she slid into the forest, so quiet and calm that she appeared to be a shadow herself.
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