The Long Way Home (Part 3)

A Twisted Tale

I take a deep breath in, feeling the cold air fill my lungs. A wicked chill creeps up my spine. I release the air, feeling a little more focused now. Cristal seems to be ok also, for now.

We make our way crouching from tree to tree, checking out our surroundings carefully as we make our way. After what seems like a while, we can see a small incline through the trees. 

She points out to me the little curved in part of the incline. She says, "Looks like it could provide some shelter." 

I nod to her in agreement. She moves ahead of me and we make our way to it. 

SNAP. A twig snaps not far behind us. We freeze in terror. Is it that thing? Or just some animal? A million questions race in my mind. I hear it moving closer.  I look to the ground and there is a large, sturdy looking branch by my foot. Looks good enough to use as a weapon. 

I can hear Cristal breathing heavily as she starts to quietly sob. I have to do something to scare it off, if I can. At this rate it's getting close and I can hear a low growl.

Cristal flinches as the growling gets louder. Another snap of a twig. Louder this time. Closer, too. Cristal gasps out loud and the growling turns to a roar. She turns and screams. I hear it start to advance on us. 

I instinctively grab the branch with my hands and grip it so tightly I can feel the bark from the branch digging into my skin. With a turn to the creature I swing as hard as I can at its head, and in a blur I see it. Massive, almost like a bear, but thin and hairless. 

Cristal runs behind a bigger tree just up ahead. I stand face to face with the creature. With it hunched over it stands a little taller than me. I grip the branch as hard as I can. It growls at me. My heart pounding in my chest, I don't back down. I have to make a stand. It advances towards me. I wait till the last minute and swing as hard as I can. 

Contact! The branch hits hard on the side of the creatures face. Knocking it off balance. A whimper can be heard from it. It regains its balance and I swing again harder than before. This time the branch breaks and the creature is knocked down whimpering loudly. A piece of the branch broke off into the eye of the creature. 

It swipes at its face trying to get it out. It's bleeding from its eye. It turns whimpering and runs off in the opposite direction of us. And before long, it is out of sight. But for how long?

Cristal rushed to me. "Oh my God! Are you OK?" She asked, almost out of breath.

I stand there for what seems like hours looking at the direction the creature ran off to. I release a deep breath. My hands are stinging. I look down and hold up my hands. I have some cuts and a few splinters sticking out from the broken branch. I let it drop to the ground. 

Cristal pulls me with her to the incline. Climbing up a few yards the not so steep cliff there is a small opening. It goes in about 20 feet with a 5 to 7 foot opening. Seems safe for now. 

There is a small puddle of water. "Here, wet your hands so I can help clean your cuts," She says as she rips a piece off her already torn shirt. 

She helps me clean my hands in silence. After a long moment of silence she asks. "Why did you attack it? Weren't you scared at all?"

"I honestly don't know how I felt," I start to say. "I just know I had to do something. I had to make a stand. I know it was a very stupid idea, but I did something and scared it off, even hurt it." 

I look out the opening into the woods. I just hope it doesn't come back pissed as hell. 

The wind starts to blow through the trees. The scent of rain is in the air. The low rumble of thunder can be heard rolling in. It starts to rain. A light drizzle can be seen as a rabbit hops past. 

Cristal curls up against the cave wall looking out the opening. Curiosity fills her face along with fear. "Are we gonna be safe in here tonight? Will that creature come back?" She asked me. 

I don't have all the answers. I don't know what to say. Why does she ask me, how am I supposed to know? 

"I don't know, but I do know we need some rest. We have to try to survive and make it back to the car," I say to her, hoping it somewhat eases her mind. 

"You're right, we do need to rest," She agrees. 

"I'll take first watch. You saved us today. You need rest," She says as she gets up and sits closer to the opening. 

Thunder cracks loudly overhead. The area brightens as a flash of lightning crosses the sky. The downpour of rain comes. I curl up and lay down with my back against the cave wall. I can feel my eyes getting heavy as I look out towards the opening, and to Cristal. Slowly my eyes come to a close. All is dark.

A scream echos over the trees. Growling followed by a loud monstrous roar can be heard. Blood is on my hands. Blood has been sprayed across my face. Blood and flesh can be seen all over the ground. Cristal is crying out in fear as she crawls away backwards. Blood is covered all over her clothes. 

I wake in a jump. My eyes wide open, heart is pounding. I sit up and put my head in my hands. I feel a cold sweating my face. What a terrible nightmare. I look up to the opening of the cave. It's morning and it's still drizzling outside. I look around the small cave wondering why Cristal didn't wake me for my turn at watch.

The cave is empty except for me. I stand up quickly looking around. Where is she? My mind races. I go to where she was sitting right before I fell asleep. There is no blood; she wasn’t attacked. Where is she?

I rush outside the cave, crashing into Cristal. 

"Ouch," She says in a shocking tone. "I was just looking around."

"You scared me. I thought something happened to you," I explained.

"Why didn't you wake me for my turn?" I questioned.

"I fell asleep. When I woke up I saw you were sleeping still,"  She explained. "I saw it was morning and stepped out here to take a look around. I was careful to do so, though, just in case the creature was out here. Then I turned and you crashed into me.” 

I sighed with relief. "Sorry, I panicked when I didn't see you." 

Walking back into the cave she asked, "What are we gonna do now?"

"We find a way back to the truck," I answered. "The truck shouldn't be too far now. I remember this location from when we came through here yesterday."

"Oh yeah, that's right," She said.

I laced up my boots and put my jacket back on. We headed to the cave opening and climbed up the cliff side another 20 feet. Once at the top, a sense of relief falls over me. We are not too far from the truck now. The creature is missing an eye and is hurt. We can make it. There is no turning back now. I just pray someone else made it. I hope Charlie and Erica made it.

Now Reading
The Long Way Home (Part 3)