The oceans of spilled blood are only overshadowed by the dozens of skeletons strewn about the land. The trees have not been cut, but they have been carved to depict graphic scenes of terrible and despicable violence. What few burnwoods are not carved are covered in macabre decoration – bones, bloody furs, poppits made of bloodstained grass, and hanging from the center tree is a sight so visceral Albey cannot bear to see it.
The bigfoots sleep in huts, it seems, as there are many of them strewn about. They are made of thin branches and covered from roof to floor in weeds, dead and browned. There are some nests as well, like huts without walls, and all of these are stained a dark carmine. It’s similar to the whitetails urinating in the place they sleep, Albey imagines, although horribly, horribly more deviant… and the smell, the wretched, fetid reek of this place is enough to bring tears to the Mad Poet’s eyes, but these tears are not solely the waters of disgust. They are hot tears of sadness and fear, these tears, and they flow freely down Albey’s cheeks.
Many of the skeletons are complete – aside from the skulls, that is, none of which are to be found – but more are partial and more yet are not skeletons at all but mere piles of various bones, all of them gnawed clean of meat. They stick out like icebergs floating on a sea of sick red, for the burnwood needles in this place are not the pleasant ocher Albey has come to know and love but a deep, putrid brown, the color of dry blood mixed with shit and piss and stomped so deeply into the ground the trees have perished for it. There are no needles above him; Albey can see through to the sky, soft and blue, a far more pleasant sight than that which lurks below it.
Yes, many of the skeletons are complete, and many were once wolves. Too many. They are not the lunar wolves, which gives Albey short relief, but still they are wolves. Though they are mere pups compared to the black and white wolves of the Calla and the Halla, the gray wolves of The Hillside Commons are the height of a ‘man in length, and thrice as heavy in weight. Their red eyes can see far, their pointed ears hear all, and their noses can pick up a scent from many dozens of treks out. They rove in packs and do not abandon their own unless it is imperative for their survival, or unless one can no longer keep up. Albey thought the wolf he found was abandoned because of its back leg, but he sees now he was wrong. The bigfoots slaughtered the wolf’s pack and picked them clean, kept the remains as perverted trophies, and that one wolf managed to escape.
But it did not escape for long.
There are raccoon skeletons, bobcat skeletons, cougars, deer, a bear. The mother of the cub Albey saw just a few treks back, he is sure; it must have sent its young up the tree to protect it from these horrid beasts. Too late it came to understand it had wandered into hell, so it saved its young and went to fight a battle it didn’t have a chance of winning. Here it sits, bones bare and bleached from the sun shining through the dead burnwood trees, missing its skull like all the rest.
The smell, the sights, the distant sounds of mirth as though the creatures who call this badland home were a natural force of this forest and not a twisted mistake, a horrible grudge cursed unto the world by a daemon who escaped the pits of hell… it’s too much, it’s all too much. Albey will die at the hand of these monsters, he is sure of this above all else; whether it happens atop the crag or it happens in the clearing at the center of the isle rivered by the Ouroboros Albey will be slain by the bigfoots, and he will likely end up in just the same position as the last ‘man who dwelled within this damned forest.
For Albey knows now that Gobon did not raise the cabin. Albey knows now the cabin was built and kept by a woman, a brilliant and bold woman who set off on her own to live in the forest amongst the squirrels and raccoons and the whitetails, who wrote prolifically and made books meticulous in detail about the ways of the world around her, who caught wind of the sudden change in her wood and decided to go out looking for the cause, the woman who found the bigfoots before they found her and never returned to write about it.
At the center of the nesting grounds, hanging from the largest tree, her arms crossed high above her head and staked through the wrists, is the prior inhabitant of the cabin. Her eyes are gouged out, her clothing is torn to tatters, her body is bloodied and bare. Her hair lays in matted clumps far beneath her dangling feet. There are ragged bite marks all about her body – her breasts are missing, were likely torn off – as though the bigfoots feasted while they forced her to mate, and… and between her legs… a horrid ravine crusted in red and white, like bones laying about the floor of the nesting ground, like scraps left to putrefy on the cutting room floor.
Albey’s breakfast – what’s left of it, at least – rises into his throat, the bile burning as he swallows it back down. He cannot vomit here, he can leave no indication that he trespassed on this smitten land. He has to leave, he must flee right away before they come back and slaughter him, and rape him, and bash his head to pulp with a rock. Backing up slowly, unable to look away from this ghastly vision of a god who no longer cares for its subjects, Albey takes up his dagger, says a prayer to Iuqon and Ram’rl, and doesn’t look back until he reaches the ledge of the crag.
The baby black bear watches Albey’s retreat through eyes empty and dead. Its lifeless body will stay in that tree ‘til the blind wolves howl forth to usher a day of War into Death and even then it will not be at Peace, merely knocked down by the rumble of the roving pack and left to rest on the needled floor of this accursed burnwood forest.
This has been the sixth subchapter of the fifth 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.
The Hillside Commons has a Facebook page. Here’s that.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~