Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Wichita Kansas, U.S.A.
Waiting for winter
Waiting for winter
The old man sat at the table. His mind was consumed with memories of the past he had lived through, of the memories of friends long dead and lovers long gone. He remembered the seasons of summer upon Hereiingspon that he had endured for most of his life. The summers were long and hot, drawn out for years at a time. The sun would never go down it seemed, the night would never come. For years at a time there would be no night, only shadows from the clouds that brought the summer storms.
The storms were fierce and violent; the winds blowing eighty to one hundred miles per hour tearing apart anything not built sturdy enough, the tornadoes ripping everything apart in their paths. For this reason most of the dwellings had been underground, partly to avoid the storms, mostly to avoid the brutal heat of the never setting sun. For five years at a time the sun would rule the day and hide the stars but when the winters came so did the night. Ice and sleet would pour down upon the plains along with the snows that drifted upon raging winds from the east.
With no sun to melt the snow the drifts would continue for years creating an ice age of sorts. The nights were long and dark and dreadful. In the darkness creatures roamed and hunted for flesh; stalking through the tunnels that had been carved in the snow, pathways created that were wide enough for the transports to travel two abreast. Artificial lights generated from energy saved through the summer years would light the way as crowds of people mined the depths for gold and diamonds formed by volcanoes long ago.
The creatures were twisted things that hunted by smell and not by sight. Their hearing was well adapted as well and they could detect the faintest of vibrations from miles away. In silence they stalked and hunted their prey, nether giving away their positions or alerting the inhabitants that that they were near. In the shadows they would strike and feed upon the children that played away from home.
The old man remembered when they had come for him. He was only ten when they had caught him in the darkness of a tunnel only recently bored and cleared for travel. The lights had not been fully strung so the shadows were thick and dark. He was too scared to move or scream when he saw them. Shaggy six legged things with elongated snouts and long sharpened teeth that distended from crocodile-like jaws; black as the night and cruel as the devil they sprung from the shadows and surrounded him. Terror caused him to nearly wet himself and fear kept him at bay.
He could remember the hissing and clicking of their breath along with the steam that roiled from their black snouts as they inhaled and exhaled the ice cold air. He could still see them as they stalked forth upon sharpened claws that dug into the icy ground. There were six of them and they moved like oiled darkness. He could smell them as they secreted sweat from their feet and under their thick pelts. They closed the distance until only an arm’s reach away, but strangely they did not attack. Instead they nudged him with their snouts and pushed him to the ground. The largest among them stepped between the boy and the others and hissed loudly through its nostrils; the sound like compressed air through a vent. The others backed away slowly and melted back into the shadows leaving the boy alone with the leader of the pack.
He tried to hold back the tears of fear, but they ran down his face in torrential streams. The boy began to shake and tremble in the presence of the hunter and it seemed to smile as it opened its mouth, revealing the inner workings of its maw. The beast lashed out too fast for the boy to comprehend and bit him on the leg. The boy screamed in pain as fire seemed to envelope his shredded limb. He had seemed to lay there for hours and the boy had fully expected to be eaten, but when he opened his eyes the creature was gone.
The old man remembered the terror of the moment and smiled. He did not understand at the time why the creature had not devoured him, but through the years he came to understand. His father had attended to his wounds as best as he could, but the infection could not be helped. It spread through him like a fire upon dead wood and cast him into nightmarish hallucinations and pain.
In his dreams the boy could see the heat of those around him; could smell their scents and hear the blood flowing through their veins. He could smell their body scents and could identify those around him with the vibrations from the movements they made. He dreamed that he was hungry for flesh and blood and could hear the screams and shouts of those who had loved him all his life.
In the darkness and comfort of his home below the snow the boy struggled to survive; the sickness and infection bringing him to the brink of death. It seemed like an eternity before the fever broke and the pain had gone away. He rose from his bed and turned on the light of his room, a small lamp made from pottery and glass. The light hurt his eyes and he squinted for a moment before finally overcoming the glare. He looked back at his bed and saw that it was ripped and torn, the stuffing mixed and intertwined with the sheets and blankets, like the nest of some primordial beast. It was also covered in blood and bones.
His screams echoed through the underground house, but they were not answered by his father or mother, nor by neighbor or passerby. With a numbed mind he ran from the room and into the hall. Blood and bone, along with cloths and refuse lined the floor and walls. It dripped from the ceiling and clung to the picture frames. What had happened here? Why was he still alive when everyone else was dead in the house? He ran outside into the snow tunnels and stopped when he saw the corpses, mangled and shredded, torn limb from limb. He stumbled forward past the dead and twisted remains and through the tunnel until he reached the town square. He yelled for help but no one answered his pleas. His voice was muted by the snow and so was his weeping.
From the shadows they came, stalking forth, hungry and bold. They moved past the corpses and snorted their pleasure at his fear. The beasts sniffed the air and tilted their heads listening for danger, there was none. At the forefront of the pack was the leader, the one who had bit the boy only days before. The boy could hear its heart and smell the meaning of its excretion. He could hear voices among the snorting and clicking of the creatures, he could understand the meaning of the tilt of their heads and the snapping of their teeth as their jaws opened and closed.
He found his voice did not come from his throat but from the breathing and snorting of his nose, the tilting of his own head and the snapping of his own teeth. He seemed to be dreaming, but he was not. He was fully awake, but altered in a way he had never known.
‘Welcome to the pack.’ the leader snorted.
The winter seemed to last for a lifetime. In the dwelling of the dead the creatures consumed the flesh of the corpses. They feasted upon the blood and gnawed upon the bones of the townspeople. Well nourished they grew larger and stronger; bolder and aware.
The ceilings began to rain as the snows began to melt. It was a false rain that drenched the ground of the tunnels and seeped into the drains that lined the streets. As the sun fought off the chill of winter the canopy of snow receded and finely melted away revealing the scavenged corpses and the stairways that led into the underground houses of the townspeople.
The boy looked over to the other beasts that were nearby and found that they were beasts no longer. He looked to his own body and found that he was naked and human once more. The leader of the pack smiled with a predator’s grin revealing short yellow teeth, shark-like but also very human. ‘Now we move to the next town and blend in until the winter comes again.’ he said.
Years have passed, generations have come and gone, the pack was now old, yet healthy and very much alive. The old man sat in the home he had rented waiting for the winter to come again.
A good reputation take a long time to build, but only a moment to destroy. Wow, that's deep!
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Last edited by Adrian; 04-29-12 at 08:30 PM.