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Part Two

Words.

She was here for the words. What was she doing, sitting against the wall, knitting and sleeping?

She put a hand down to push herself up. The ground felt soft, almost spongy. Furry to, like some sort of animal. But nothing lived inside the Story Warren. Just the words.

She tried to sit up, but found the same soft, yielding surface right in front of her. And at her back.

It completely enclosed her. She couldn’t rise. Panic lit a fire in her chest. Trapped! She pushed against the furred surface, but it wouldn’t budge, just gave around her hands. She tried to kick her feet, but they were tucked up under her and she couldn’t raise herself.

Then the furry wall moved. It shifted around her, tightened its grip with a rumbling sound. Not a wall. Some sort of creature!

The Writer wriggled, twisted savagely, trying to get clear of its grip. She couldn’t breath. Hot air filled the tiny space, thick with the sound of her panting. Her heart thumped in her ears as she grunted and pushed at her enclosure.

Then a desperate hand came down on something different. Small and hard, a little cylinder, pointy on one end. A pen.

Her pen.

That’s why she was in the Warren. She was looking for words. She was a writer! She scrabbled at the pen with the tips of her fingers, straining to pull it into her grasp. The creature had such a tight hold, she could barely move.

Her hand closed around it, wormed it up to her face. It hardly gave off any light, just a tiny glow around the point. She remembered how bright it had been when she first came into the tunnels. She wished she could see like that now, wished she could see what had hold of her.

The pen responded hesitantly at first, the glow swelling like the sun over the horizon. But the light grew, until she could see the black fur that surrounded her.

The closer she peered at it, the brighter the light became. On impulse, she thrust her hand into the bag at her side, feeling the slippery tendrils of the words she had collected already.

The light from the pen seemed to jerk, the beam searing out into the tiny space. Then her whole world lurched. The furred surroundings shuddered as if in pain. Suddenly, the Writer found herself tipped from the furry tomb onto the hard tunnel floor.

Gasping fresh air, she swung the pen light around wildly, and shrieked.

At one end of the tunnel stood a beast. Its shoulders brushed the ceiling. Its black fur that covered bled out into the dark, making its edges hard to see. It’s mouth, little more than a jagged line in the fur, gaped below glowing red eyes. Furred, blurry hands reached out towards her.

Terrified, the Writer backed up involuntarily. The beast followed. Its red eyes watched her every move. The hands reached closer. She shuddered to think that she’d been resting, sleeping, wrapped up in its arms.

She turned and ran. It followed, the thump thump of its feet chasing her through the tunnel. Her pen gave off almost no light, and she tripped and stumbled.

She fell, sprawling over some lump in the ground. Frantic, she curled up into a ball, waiting for the beast to grab her.

But it didn’t. After a moment or two, the Writer peered out from between her hands. The beast stood in the tunnel behind her, a nightmare of fur and long arms. But it just watched. It didn’t come any closer.

The Writer stared. What did it want? Why was it here and what would make it go away? On impulse, she flung her hands out at it.

‘Shoo!’

It didn’t move. Its pupil-less eyes didn’t blink. But when she got up and forced herself to walk on, it followed. It’s feet shuffled in the dark, a black shadow, following.

No matter what she did, it kept the same distance behind her. If she ran, it thumped along and kept pace. If she walked, it slowed. It stopped when she did.

She tried to put the beast from her mind, tried to look ahead up the tunnel. But it wormed its way in. She knew it was there, and couldn’t stop thinking about it.

No one had warned her that creatures like this lived in the Story Warren. Where had it come from? Was she the only one it had found? Perhaps no one else had felt its embrace. She shuddered to remember how warm and comforting it had been, wrapped in its arms.

Her luck was like that, she thought darkly. Of course something like this would happen to her. Maybe it was a sign, that she wasn’t suited to the Story Warren after all.

She thought of how hopeful she’d been, how sure of herself. She’d day dreamed of finding wonderful stories, even of creating new tunnels like the most famous of the Story Warren explorers.

Stupid. She knew now that she wasn’t good at this at all, just playing at it. She’d found a few words, got all excited, then stumbled into a beast she couldn’t get away from. Who did she think she was? She wondered if she could even find her way out of the tunnels again.

Something brushed against the back of her neck.

She leaped in shock, and spun to find a black furred wall behind her. Her shriek echoed in the tunnel as she backed away from the beast.

It had come so close! She realised too that the light from her pen had faded away to almost nothing, leaving her in a tiny yellow sphere of light.
The Writer cringed, expecting to feel the beasts furred hands close over her. But it just stood there, outside the light of the pen. The Writer watched it, but like before, it didn’t come any closer.

‘Go away!’ she cried. ‘Leave me alone!’

The beast stood still, not moving, giving no hint that it had heard her at all. She stared at it. It stared back.

She sighed, and decided resolutely to ignore it. The Writer turned on her heel and struck out down the tunnel. There was little to see: still no side tunnels, and no words growing. Instead she focused hard on the walls, shining her pen at the curves.

The wall seemed to be made of ordinary dirt, brown and slightly crumbly. It’s irregular surface bulged gently here and there. Sometimes a crack ran down from the ceiling, a darker fissure in the dark walls. She peered into one, the pen light held up close to her face. It had little filaments strung across the inside, like the beginnings of a fungus, or the roots of a plant. They glistened in the light. She could have sworn the filaments leaned toward it.

Curious, she looked for more cracks. They were the same, pale little tendrils of something growing. One had a larger growth, a thicker line curling in the gap.

A thought shouldered its way into her mind. She wondered how close the beast was to her.

Immediately she heard thumping footsteps. She couldn’t help it; she turned her head to look behind. Her pen light had grown brighter, lighting up the tunnel. In the glow, she could see the beast running to catch up.

It had been far behind her, as if it had stopped following while she studied the cracks in the wall. Now it seemed that she’d called it back, just by thinking about it.

Swiftly, before it got too much closer, she turned back to the walls, concentrated on the filaments in the cracks. A larger one turned gently, a gleaming strand deep in the wall.

It had words within it.

These were new word strands, growing here in the walls of the tunnel. Too new yet for a writer to use, but slowly forming. She laughed in amazement, and wondered how long it took words to grow.

Resolutely, the Writer started off down the tunnel. She looked in the cracks, studied the way the tunnel curved back and forth. Anything to take her mind away from the beast that paced relentlessly behind her. She couldn’t clear it from her mind entirely; she still knew it was there, could feel the thump of its feet through the floor. But if she concentrated, focused on the tunnel, it seemed to stay away.

Ahead, a dark blotch showed on the side of the tunnel. Her heart leaped and she rushed forward. The Writer almost cried aloud for joy. A side branch at last. Somewhere new to go. Somewhere else to walk that wasn’t this endless, wordless space. Excited, she dashed along it. The walls still looked like earth, but they sparkled in the pen light; little star points reflecting back to her. Beautiful.

She gazed at them as she walked. With a start, she spotted something she hadn’t seen in hours, since she had stopped to rest and the beast had found her.

Words. Fully formed words.

Not many, just a few lines growing from a crevice between the sparks. But they were words. Her hand reached up to pluck them.
What would the beast do if she took the words?

The thought forced it’s way to the front of her mind, and she hesitated. Immediately, she could hear it’s feet pounding, faster than she’d heard it move before, tearing up the tunnel toward her.

Terrified, she turned the pen toward it, to see it hurtle around the last corner, jagged mouth gaping, arms outstretched to grab her.

As if her legs had a mind of their own, she turned and ran, leaving the words behind. She could hear the beast crashing along at her heels, gaining. She tore past other patches of words but she dare not stop for them: the beast would catch her for sure.

She ran a long time before she realised the creature hadn’t actually gained on her. It kept pace, but stayed back in the dark.

She shook her head, hating herself for being so afraid. Why hadn’t she just grabbed the words? That was why she was here. To find the words. And she’d let the beast chase her away from them.

She could hear it creeping closer to her, the longer she thought about it. She shook her head again. Next words she found, she wouldn’t be such a chicken, she promised herself. She’d grab them anyway, no matter what the beast did.

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Author
Ruru
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7 min read
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