this was a creative project I did for my Brit Lit class in college a few years ago. I haven't thought about it in a while and I stumbled upon it while I was organizing my documents. I'd really like to do something with it but I'm not sure what. Any thoughts, ideas and criticism are appreciated.
A man came to our village the other day. He speaks our language and knows some of our customs but he is not allowed in. He slinks along the outskirts of the forest during the day. Mother says we have to keep the gates closed except for business because of him, and so that the children won’t see him. I’m not a child any ore so I snuck up on one of the houses to watch him. I’m watching him now. He is walking back and forth just inside the eaves of the forest. His back is bent as he hunches over knuckles almost scraping the ground. He has something in his right hand, something that he keeps bringing up to his mouth to tear at. It’s too far away for me to make out but I think that’s one of the reasons why everyone is so afraid.
I probably shouldn’t be here on top of the roof, I would get in trouble if I was caught, but everyone is in the mead hall discussing what should be done about the strange man, so I don’t think I’ll get caught. I decide to get down anyway, that man isn’t doing anything interesting today. I turn to give the creature one last look and get a shock. He has stopped pacing and now stood erect, the snack in his hand momentarily forgotten; he is looking at me. He yells something that I couldn’t understand and charges from the forest towards our wooden palisade. My hands are shaking so bad that I lose my hold on the thatching of the roof, and with an unintelligible yell of my own I plummet towards the ground.
I awoke in my bed. I had been dreaming, but the ethereal images soon dissipated into the pain of reality. My whole left side was of fire and I couldn’t move. Hands were holding me down, many hands. What were they doing? The pain in my side and leg seemed to be pulsing, stabbing through my body and into my head. I could hear urgent voices around me. I couldn’t move! What was happening? I wanted to shout out, but my voice couldn’t find my throat. I squirmed against the grasp of my captors. I couldn’t get free. Again I tried to shout, but all that came out was a strangled moan. The hands held me down harder. I felt a shaper pain then, sharper than any of the others. There was a snapping, clacking sound, more pain and then a release of pressure around my leg and side. The hands removed themselves from my body. Without their restraint I tried to rise. My head being above my chest proved too much for me however and I passed down into the world of darkness again.
I awoke a second time, I don’t know how much time had passed but I was hungry. My pain had gone down to a bearable level. I tried to get out of my bed and was promptly stopped by a hand gently pushing me back into my blankets. It was my mother. She gave me a cup of hot broth to drink. The liquid passed through my lips to spread its reviving warmth through my body. She asked me how I was feeling; I asked her about the stranger. My mother was strangely silent for some time. When she spoke she did so softly. She told me that the village had decided that the stranger had brought a curse down upon us. On top of my accident there had been incidences where livestock had gone missing and some of the crops outside of the palisade had withered and died during the night. She said that some of our warriors had gone out to remove the exile. She said that he had retreated into the forest upon seeing them and the warriors had gone in after it. It was night now and there had been no activity from the forest.
Her story finished she again asked me how I was feeling. Sore and confined was what I told her, careful not to let her know how intrigued I was about the stranger, which was difficult when she asked how it was that I got hurt. I managed to dance around the subject for the most part, telling her how I had climbed atop one of the houses as a matter of personal honor. That seemed to satisfy her and she dropped the subject. I asked her when I could leave my bed. She smiled and said that I needed to stay off my leg and rest if I wanted to heal. I tried to argue and stand up to show her that I was fine, but the stiff pain forced me into compliance. I finished the rest of the broth and handed her the cup.
The next few days passed as slowly as any in my life. Every morning I would eat porridge or bread, even some dried fruit every now and then. I would spend the rest of the day in quiet solitude looking out of my window at the blue sky and the clouds that lived there. The clouds were funny. Every one the same, yet every one different, I wondered if there could be a stranger cloud. A asked every chance I got about the stranger however. Indirectly of course, asking if any of the warriors had returned from the forest. My father was one of them so the request wasn’t at all an odd one. Most people were silent, a cloud of worry over their faces. My mother only tells me that the forest is large and the man was more than half beast and at home in the forest. She told me not to worry, that my father would return. Still, the shadow was across her face too.
Finally they allow me to walk again, but only for a little while. The stiffness of my leg recedes to be replaced by a dull ache that follows the rhythm of my lopsided walk. The gates remain closed though, and I felt as confined as I had been in my mead hall. The only incident of excitement was the large cloud of smoke that was coming from the forest and growing larger. It caused quite a stir at first but was soon enough put into the back of the minds of those who were not related to the warriors that had gone out. I walked the perimeter of the palisade, running my fingers along the rough-hewn posts as I did so. I heard someone cry out as I was nearing the gate, surprised to see that it had swung open and a haggard man was stumbling through. It was one of the warriors that had gone into the forest with my father. He fell to his knees, panting in a bold effort to regain his breath. When he did so the words spilled from his mouth like one of the old Roman aqueducts.
They had followed the stranger deep into the words, confident and in good spirits that they were driving it off. One night they had made camp by a dense copse of trees where the tracks they had been following were lost. Because nothing had happened in the first few days they had relaxed their guard, and had fallen asleep. The “Creature” as he called it, had awoken them during the night, killing two of them while they slept. He was a wild thing, spinning and twisting away from their weapons as it struck at them. When the Creature finally retreated all but two were dead; this warrior and my father. The man said that my father had stayed behind to delay the Creature. He said that my father had built a fire to try and smoke the Creature out or, if he was lucky, burn it back to the fires that it had spawned from. That was the last he had seen of my father.
The village was in a great uproar by this time; seven of our number dead at the hands of this Creature. Fear spread through the village like the fire that was devouring the forest. Where was the Creature now? Was it coming back to the village? Men, woman and children rushed around the village to get the man food and to make him more comfortable. Men armed themselves and stood protectively by the gate, angry eyes trained on the forest. The smoke was a lot closer now. I heard one of the elders say that it was the fires of hell following the Creature. I think I was the only one who heard her.
Night came with the red-orange glow of the forest reflected in the smoke overcast sky. Torches were placed around the outside of the wall, mirroring the flames cutting through the forest. That was a dull roar by now, periodically broken by the falling of a tree. We were gathered in the mead hall, listening to the Drictin talk to the warriors that came in to report on the progress of the fire. We waited for any news of the Creature and news of my father. Neither came with the reports.
We were settling down to go to sleep when something crashed into the roof of mead hall. The smell of burning pitch and thatch filled the hall right before the smoke. There was a scramble to reach the double doors before the roof collapsed on us. I made it but others didn’t. The ruins blazed with the same intensity as the forest beyond the palisade. There were shouts from every direction as water was brought from the well to quench the fires. The smoke was billowing out over the ground like a heavy fog, obscuring the actions of everyone around. The warriors from outside the walls came running in to help put out the fire.
I was running around looking for my mother. I screamed her name but wasn’t heard over the cacophony around me. I was running to the well when I felt the gripping fingers close around my waste. Before I knew it I was lifted off the ground, my eyes inches away from the running heels of a man who was not a man. I yelled out but no one heard me. We passed through the gate and to my horror I saw the bodies of two more of my village’s warriors. The violence of their deaths silenced me. We dove into the forest, through the burning trees and ash that was driven down like rain. I inhaled it once and couldn’t stop coughing. The Creature seemed to have no trouble breathing.
We made it past the burning trees in what seemed like seconds, the Creatures strides taking us farther into the desolation. He never seemed to slow down as the seconds turned into minutes, turned into hours. Eventually we reached a part of the forest that that was untouched by the fire. We found a path through the trees that led into the hills and a hole in the ground. Not a cave, but an earthen hole. He dropped me to the ground, pulling me inside. It was a hell of darkness as the dirt and rocks tore into my skin.
Finally we stopped. I was thrown to the side as the Creature lit a fire that filled the air with a putrid smoke. I looked around the lair, fear paralyzing me as I looked at the bones littering the floor. Skulls lined the wall, human skulls and some were fresh. I heard a crunching sound from to the side. I looked to find the creature biting into the arm of my father, the sight of which sent me vomiting to the floor. The Creature noticed me then, dropped the haunch of my father and coming towards me. The smile on his face was the twisted look he gave me that day. I screamed as his fingers bit into my skin.