There was hardly enough light left to see the rockstack when Albey finally returned to it. He fell to his knees then, ignoring the urge to pound his fists into the dirt and curse the endless wood for stranding him here in what could only be a sick kind of purgatory.
“It’s a circle,” he mumbled, letting the sliver of metal drop from his hand. “The cabin was built on an island ensnared by these twin rivers, this ouroboros of frigid water… and I am trapped within it. No food, only water… the deathwatch ticks on and on…”
Albey glanced at the water then, at the shimmering reflections of stars emerging from the black like cosmic lightning bugs, and saw movement beneath the surface. It was near impossible to pick out, but could it… yes, those were fish. He must have startled them when he broke the surface of their home with his face earlier, but there they were. Plump, meaty fish just begging to be skewered and roasted over an open fire. He could smell the pungent stench of the luscious meat, there was little else the Mad Poet craved in the world at that moment but a mouthful of steaming cooked fish flesh… but how would he cook them? How would he go about catching one of the fish, by jabbing at it with his flank of metal? The one he just dropped to the river’s bank and now cannot find?
“Brilliant,” he loathed to himself, hunching his back in self-pity.
The forest around him was only getting louder, the crickets had come out to play their infamous song and bats flapped leathery wings overhead. Soon the night feeders and other deadly nocturnes would be on the prowl; Albey would do well to return to the cabin when he still could.
“Another night in the ashes, I suppose,” he groaned as he picked up two handfuls of the riverstones from his stack, pocketing all but one. He may have lost his blade, but he had more back in the clearing. They don’t do much for combat over a distance, anyway. If some foul thing of the night were to charge him from behind, at least he’d have a shot at cracking it over the head with a rock before it sank its teeth into his throat and maimed him like the wild game he’s become. He turned then to proceed through the wood, but stopped on his toes. The way ahead was dark. Albey couldn’t see a stone’s toss ahead of him.
“Just walk straight, you damned fool,” Albey growled to himself, then did just that. “It’s an island, not a maze.”
But how labyrinthine it felt; Albey tripped over rocks, dented his shins on spiky logs, tasted tree bark and the sticky sap which oozed out from beneath it more times than he cared to keep a count of before finally stumbling through the bramble of needles at the treeline of the clearing. He could see well enough now that he was out of the wood – though the moon waned ever closer to the Calla the land was still bathed in a dim twilight, and he stumbled over the dirt to the edge of the firepit where he unloaded the soggy stones from his now damp pockets. Just as he was about to let himself fall into the firepit, the memory of the curved flanks of jagged metal appeared to him, and he caught his Balance by waving his arms wildly about his sides. It was too late to go digging for them now; the water in his belly helped, but still the Mad Poet was overcome with exhaustion.
And the need to urinate, he realized then as he thought about it for the first time all day.
Albey returned to the edge of the forest, watered the needly trees, and hobbled back through the clearing, taking up the collection of throwing stones on his way to the cabin without paying as much as a glance to the firepit. He would do well to have a means of defending himself were something to go bump in the night (given the bump was loud enough to wake him), the Mad Poet figured, and so he dirtied his palms with the thin film of mud the stones picked up in the dirt. He sat down upon the rough welcome mat, leaned his back against the locked door, and bent his legs so he would not slide in his slumber. He then folded his arms and rested them on the cache of rocks in the nook of his lap.
“Everything is as it should be,” Albey mumbled tiredly as the wool of sleep draped over his eyes on this, his first night in the clearing at the end of no path. “Everything… is… should’be…”
This has been the last subchapter of the first chapter of The Face of Fear, a novel about bigfoot written by the writer in Untitled Bigfoot Project. Here is everything you need to know about it:
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~