Sunday, March 16, 2014

Run, Part One

Kris ran, baby held tight to her chest, looking over her shoulder every few seconds to see if it was still following her. A long howl into the night air, followed by an echoing cry of wolves in the distance, made her double her pace as she ran through the underbrush, her dress tearing as briars and thorns tore at her exposed legs. Boots going up to mid-calf protected her from the worst that Worley Wood had to offer, but the close knotty oaks growing almost over each other made for a difficult path to forge.

The baby in her arms began to sniffle, the onset of a wailing tantrum coming on if Kris had ever sensed one. She shushed the child, muttering soft nothings to try and calm his cries before they even started. He grunted, wriggling about in her arms as she vaulted over a briar bush, landing roughly against a partially rotten log. That got him to let out a surprised cry, which led to wails of discomfort from the journey.
“No, no baby, you need to be quiet now,” Kris said, looking down at the wrapped bundle of cloth over the chubby baby’s small body. “Now’s not the time for tears…”
A faint, haunting flute melody lifted over the silent night, echoing throughout the woods with every sibilant note. Kris looked up, afraid of what this could mean, and instead chose to wriggle under the rotten log half propped against the tree, wedging herself and her charge into the safe confines of the shadows, swathing them in robes of darkness.
For the next ten minutes, all Kris could hear was the gurgling of the baby pressed against her chest, her own ragged breathing, and the creaking of the woods as the wind blew through them, the flute tune piping up two more times, playing the same melody both times. Just as she thought she was possibly safe, she heard them.
The crunching of boots, the flickering light of torches dancing over the shadows, the rough and guttural tongue of the men and women from the clearing, all speaking rapidly as they marched slowly past Kris’s hiding spot, the men leading the march, machete’s drawn and hacking into overgrown undergrowth as if it were straw before a scythe. The women were walking, all holding a variety of firearms or the torches, dressed in simple country clothes: ankle length dresses and simple leather shoes, some with dull brown mantles or cloaks over them to keep winter’s bite to a minimum.
Kris didn’t understand a word of what they said, and frankly she didn’t care. She’d been driving along route ninety three, a highway that wrapped around the large expanse of Worley Woods, and she’d gone over the edge into a ditch after hitting a patch of black ice. She only had fragments of memories from then and now, but her most distinct memory was the crying of a child and the guttural, inhuman chanting of the men and women in the woods, surrounded by three bonfires. Kris, along with six others, were tied to a green stone altar before a statue of some impossible creature, an insect-like being rising from the ground that stood with small words carved in swirling circles all over the main body, the eyeless head hanging over the altar with an opened mouth leaking viscous orange fluid onto the bound captives.
Somehow, Kris had wrestled the rope binding her free, thus freeing her and the other six captives, who had all taken off in different directions, just as Kris had almost been about to do.
But then she saw the child.
Swathed in thick woolen towels, laid out on a green stone dais in front of the altar with several wicked looking tools next to it… Kris couldn’t leave the baby alone to be killed by these crazed hillbillies.
So she’d scooped him up and, amidst the chaos that was reigning at the time, had run off into the woods, several cultists screaming out in rage as she made off with their child sacrifice. Now, she kneeled beneath the broken remains of a rotting tree, clutching the child so tightly Kris was surprised that it wasn’t making any noises. Perhaps it could sense the need to be quiet?
One man stopped just outside the entrance of her organic cave, his back pocket facing inside, a shotgun gripped in one hand as he spoke into a crackling radio in the same unintelligible language they’d all been using since she woke up. The radio died temporarily before it roared back to life, a hoarse voice speaking in English coming over the static-filled line.
“She cannot have gotten far,” the voice said, a heavy accent to it. “Find her and, more importantly, the seal. We need it by dawn if the ritual is to have any effect.”
The man spoke back in his horrid speech before clicking the radio off, grass crunching beneath his boots as he moved forward to continue his hunt for Kris and the child. Kris let out a sigh of relief as he moved away, watching his frame become nothing more than a meager shadow in the distance, roughly hacking through undergrowth with abandon belying the man’s apparent age, what with his long white hair.
Kris looked down at the boy, who looked back up at her with dark eyes, chubby fingers reaching out to caress her cheek with an open palm.
“What are going to do? Will they call off the hunt at dawn? Is that how long we have to last?”
The baby gurgled in response, as if amused by her worried tone. She hugged him closer to her, rocking him gently as she waited for the torchlight around her to dim and die, for those pursuing her to move past her so that she could double back and maybe, just maybe, find a car or something and drive out of these woods. 

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