Universe W-2020: Mikey’s Tails 2
September 24th, 2008
A pleasant gust of wind billows through the hilly forest kingdom of Windfield on this earliest of autumn mornings. It sweeps up over mountains and down through low-lying valleys, disturbing the calm surfaces of the rivers running through them. This most blustery of gusts carries with it the scent of the forest, the aromas of the flowers and the foliage along with the odor of the denizens waking amongst the trees. Many different tribes live in these woods in harmony, from the tree dwelling TwitchTail to the burly BlackCoats, all shapes and shades of life spring from the ground where the trees are rooted. All these smells and many more hit the nose of Bigfoot, the only solitary member of the WhiteTail tribe, waking him from his slumber.
He snaps into a standing position, points his nose to the starlit sky, and inhales, sniffing with all his might. All the usual scents are here, but… there’s something else, too. Something familiar, yet… foreign, as if not of this world. He wonders if the other WhiteTails have detected this presence, maybe he should go warn them… or maybe not. Having just woken up, he would rather get a cool drink, maybe graze around for some herbs to munch on. Before any of that though, Bigfoot takes a nice drawn out piss all over the soft patch of meadow where he bedded down the previous day, as buckdeers do.
Bigfoot makes his home amongst the ruins of a farm sitting on the outer edge of the Kingdom. Few know of its existence and even fewer know of its whereabouts; Bigfoot enjoys his privacy from the other forest folk. Here, where two proud stone buildings once stood, is now an overgrown patch of woodsy reclamation, easily missable to the naked eye. The foundations, reaching out from stone-lined chasms in the Earth, are snakepits; the long, twisting vines growing from them like pythons make a perfect cover for half of the LegLess tribes living in the Kingdom to nest here undetected. Bigfoot walks past them and down a stone staircase, ducking beneath dead trees, the branches resembling evil, monstrous hands reaching out to snag any unsuspecting WindFieldian within their grasp.
Crossing over the wide dirt trail that leads to the place no tribe shall settle and guided only by the scent of the morning air, Bigfoot embarks on his daily journey to the Water Hole. There are many rivers running through the kingdom and an equivalent number of ponds scattered throughout, but none are as luxurious as the Water Hole; basked in a direct beam of sunlight on cloudless days and fed by two raging streams that emerge from the peaks of WindField’s tallest mountains following a storm, the water of the Water Hole is the most sought-out drink in all the vast Kingdom. Tribes from all corners of the forest travel for hours, some even for days just to taste the sweet, Earthy drip.
Despite the odiferous hustle and bustle of all the forest dwellers coming into consciousness, the forest itself is quiet this morning. The sun has yet to rise and, for all intents and purposes, Bigfoot is alone in these woods – just how he likes it. Well, that’s how it seems; he can’t shake that odd scent from his nose, what could it be? No tribe exudes this smell naturally… well, there is one with a similar stink, a solitary creature, but his scent has more of an earthy twinge to it.
‘It doesn’t really matter,’ Bigfoot supposes. ‘It’s not like this mystery creature is capable of catching me, let alone hurting me. Maybe the other WhiteTails are afraid, but not me.’
Just then Bigfoot spots a young tree, not too thin but not too thick either. He approaches the saplet, assesses it – it passes all the tests. Bigfoot proceeds to rub the living shit out of it, scarring the bark with his mighty antlers, claiming his territory and polishing the bony white of his mighty rack. Nobody’s messing with Bigfoot. Not on this side of the wide dirt trail.
Once the tree’s been dealt with, Bigfoot continues on his path towards the Water Hole. On the way, he finds himself in a clearing within a ring of trees; it’s not a meadow per say, and it’s not a rock garden. No, it’s more of a dojo, as if some bipedal ape-like creature had removed all the foliage, plucked the rocks, and cleared out the leaves to expose the dirt. How odd…
Suddenly, the air begins to twitch. Bigfoot hardly notices at first, a slight shiver in the wind, a quivering breeze with no reason t’quiv’.
Then the cracking and popping begin.
A small whirlwind whips up and the driest dust lifts from the earth beneath Bigfoot – this hasn’t happened for quite a long time, and it’s never been this subtle. He tightens his stance and lowers his head, slowly rotating to take in his surroundings. He’ll be here soon; there, the silence, he’s coming. There’s always a silence before the storm, the air just goes still, too still. The wind’s not even giving life to the canopy anymore, it’s as if mother nature herself is waiting in anticipation along with Bigfoot.
His heart’s pounding, blood pumping, brain whirring.
The gust buckles.
A monstrous pair of hands grabs hold of Bigfoot’s antlers.
Bigfoot bucks, thrashes his body, tries to kick his legs back but hits nothing; the grip is not loosened. The hands pull his antlers and Bigfoot resists at first, but then succumbs to the creature’s grasp. The WhiteTail hits the bare ground with a thud that echoes through the silence. Then, the hold on his antlers is released.
“I win this round, old friend.”
Bigfoot struggles around on the forest floor, kicking up dust and leaves in a miniature maelstrom around him. Once he manages to plant his hooves in the ground, he stands and faces his wrangler.
“Tim. I thought I smelled something off in the Kingdom today. How are you?”
Tim-nah’tee smiles. “I am, Bigfoot. That is not me you smell though, I’ve come here to warn you. Also, I just bathed yesterday, the waterstink should have long dissipated by now. Regardless, the Kingdom has been invaded.”
Bigfoot cocks his head to the side. “Invaded?”
“Yes, by two creatures. Their being is similar to my own, but they clad themselves in armor to appear invisible.”
“They’re armored?” Bigfoot asks. “Like the ShellBack tribe? So they move slowly?”
“Not quite. These creatures are not to be taken lightly, they bring death and destruction wherever they go. I have encountered many of them in my time and know of only one who is unlike the others. Unfortunately, my known one is not one of your invaders. Normally I do not interfere with the lives of the Kingdom’s tribesfolk, but you’re different, Bigfoot. You’re like me, solitary, an isle unto yourself. You’ve been warned.”
Tim-nah’tee turns and walks over to a hollow treestump rotting along the outer ring of the dojo. He reaches inside, the mighty girth of his forearm splitting the dead, tenderized wood, and pulls out a pinkish-white fruit dwarfed by his hands.
“Wait, Tim! These invaders, what are they called? What am I supposed to do, how can I stay safe from them?”
Tim-nah’tee looks his friend directly in the eyes. “It matters not what my dead relatives called them. As for what you must do…” he says before taking a pause to roll the fruit between his fingers and that opposable thumb of his. “You must do everything you can.”
With that, Tim bites the fruit in half, devouring the entire thing in two grizzly bites. The air twitches and crackles again and the Quatchfut vanishes, leaving Bigfoot alone amongst the leaves once more. He knows what he must do: return to the Grove and warn his tribe.
The Water Hole
The Water Hole is rife with patrons by the time Bigfoot trots down the hill. There are TwitchTails, Munks, even a couple of RedCoats getting their fill of the murky greenish-black water so chock full of nutrients and nature stuff. Two juvenile BlackCoats stare Bigfoot down from across the pond as he lowers his head to drink. When he raises his head, the BlackCoats are gone, and everyone else is staring at him as if he sprouted a third antler, yet none of them occupy the BlackCoat’s spot. Huh.
“Hi everyone, can I uh… can I help you with something?”
Silence, nobody moves a muscle. They’re all just looking at him, motionless, like an owl watching prey from a branch. Weird critters, these WindFieldians. Bigfoot laps one more drink before he decides that it’s time to go, though as he turns around, he finds one of the BlackCoats blocking his path. They eye each other up.
“Easy, Bonzo. Our tribes have a treaty, need I remind you.”
Bonzo stands up on his hind legs and tilts his head to the side, studying the anxious Bigfoot. His brother, Scraff, pokes his head out from behind his haunches, curious to see what’s going down. A wind rustles the trees, raining down orange and yellow leaves. One such leaf lands on Scraff’s nose and he sneezes. His elder brother shoots him a glance from the side of his head, then looks back to Bigfoot.
“Why are you the only WhiteTail prance we ever see at our pond, Bigfoot?” Bonzo asks, now beginning to sway back and forth. “Why don’t you stay with your tribe?”
Bigfoot blinks. “That’s a good question. I’m headed there now, I’ll make sure I ask.”
Bonzo leans forward and lands on his front legs, gingerly taking a step towards the loner WhiteTail. Bigfoot stomps his foot.
“Easy, Antlers. What did the Quatch’ tell you?”
Bigfoot’s eyes widen. “Did you just call me Antlers?”
“Enough! We heard the infernal crackle all the way from down here, what did he tell you?”
The WhiteTail sniffs the air, the stench of BlackCoat strong but not enough to blanket the stink of the invaders. He then lowers his head to the ground and maws some clover, chewing with his mouth open, letting them wait for the answers.
“Nothing I didn’t already know,” between chews. Bigfoot turns toward the other critters, diverting his attention away from Bonzo.
“Smell the air, denizens, can you not sense it? There are invaders in these woods, very dangerous creatures. They are said to be the very harbingers of the forces of death and destruction themselves.”
Scraff quickly lumbers away, he’s heard all he needs to hear. Bonzo hesitates, then nods at Bigfoot before following his brother back to their cave. The Munks are all chirping and chattering at each other, desperately trying to figure out what’s going on because they don’t know how to talk. All the TwitchTails scurry up into the trees. Bigfoot tries to leave but is stopped by what feels like a paw batting at his back leg. He looks down to see a RedCoat staring up at him.
“What should we do, Mister Bigfoot? I… I don’t want to die and be destroyed…”
“Hide, little one. Find yourself a den and hide out there for a few days, only come out when you need food or water. And be careful. Very careful.”
The RedCoat scampers away, his scarlet fur vanishing into the distance among the autumn leaves. Bigfoot is alone at the Water Hole, haunted by the scent of monsters lingering in the air. The scent is stronger now.
They’ll be coming for him soon, if they’re coming for him at all. Time to do whatever he can.
Time to get going.
The journey down to WhiteTail Grove is a long one. The sun has risen to its apex in the sky and Bigfoot is trotting through the lowest valley in all the Kingdom, a valley laced with shadows.
Many seasonal cycles ago, the WhiteTail tribe pulled a massive relocation maneuver following the signing of the PawHoof peace treaty. It was an especially warm winter and the BlackCoats failed to sink into stable hibernation, leaving them awake and very cranky when they otherwise wouldn’t be. The WhiteTails, who had put on a ton of extra weight in anticipation of the upcoming food shortage, were mercilessly hunted and slaughtered due to their sluggishness. Buck, the leader of the WhiteTail tribe, found issue in this. He met with Claw, the leader of the BlackCoat tribe, and sought to reach an armistice between the two tribesfolk. In exchange for the end of the hunting, the WhiteTail would share their knowledge surrounding edible leaves, herbs, nuts and berries with the BlackCoat. The treaty was signed with mud, as all sacred arrangements are, but still Buck doubted the word of the BlackCoats; they’ve never been trusted, and they never will be. He had his tribe relocate themselves to a grove of fruit trees hidden deep within a valley that lies beneath the tallest mountain in in the Kingdom, where they still reside today.
Ducking under masses of thicket and dead fallen trees, Buck enters WhiteTail Grove, ushering an uncomfortable silence among his estranged tribe.
An older WhiteTail with a monumental rack of antlers comes hobbling towards him, the hair around his mouth stained purple and dripping with juice. He swallows, then, “Who are you and what do you want? Speak fast, I am not long for this world.”
“What?! Are, are you dying? What’s wrong?” Bigfoot exclaims, completely throwing off the mood.
“I have invited the elder spirits to enter my being, young one; I am far from dying. Now, answer what I have asked of you.”
Bigfoot exhales a sigh of relief. “It’s me, dad. Bigfoot.”
The elder Whitetail’s eyes widen with excitement. “My son?? St… Stag, is that really you? Oh my, I must go fetch your mother, she… I… I… bbuuuuhhhhhh…”
Buck’s pupils grow to match the wideness of his eyes. A certain trance sets over him and he drops like a dead log to the forest floor. Bigfoot’s mother Bambii prances to the entrance of the Grove to find her long-lost son in a panic.
“Mom! Help! What’s wrong with dad, what was that purple stuff dripping out of his mouth? Is he going to be okay?”
“Ohh, Staggy! Welcome home, deer, we thought you had passed through the great transition many seasons ago! As for your father, well…” as she looks down lovingly at her twitching husband. Then, “Just look to the branches of the trees all around us.”
Bigfoot, confused at his mother’s calmness and the benevolence in the air around his seizing father, looks up at the trees. Hanging from the low-bearing branches of these curious trees are dozens of small, pinkish-white fruits. His mother speaks.
“We call them the AntlerBlossom. They don’t grow anywhere else in the Kingdom; they were bestowed to our tribe by the spirit of the first WhiteTail to graze amongst these woods as repentance for the slaughter we encountered at the claws of the BlackCoat tribe. When you eat of the fruit, the spirits of old are invited to enter your physical being and commune with you through visions of wonder and insight.”
Bigfoot isn’t quite sure what to say, this is certainly new. They’ve all gone stir crazy! “Is… um… this is why WhiteTails don’t come to the Water Hole anymore, isn’t it? Because of some magic fruit?”
His mom confidently chuckles. “Oh son, the AntlerBlossom isn’t magic. It is divine.”
“Aalllll righty then. Ahem,” as he clears his throat, preparing to address everyone in the vicinity of the Grove. “Mom, everyone else, listen up! I’ve come here today to warn you, invaders have wormed their way into the Kingdom, very dangerous monsters! You all need to stay here and hide, otherwise they might kill you!”
The tribe basks in an awkward and slightly concerned silence, save for Buck, who offers the occasional croak. His words seem to have fallen flat.
“Did you guys hear me? There are evil invaders in the woods!!”
His mom approaches him with a gentle voice. “Ah, I see… and how do you know about this, deer?”
“Tim told me.”
“Yeah, Tim-nah’tee the QuatchFut. I think he lives by my farm, but I’m not totally sure on that.”
“You live on a farm?”
“Are you guys not hearing me??”
“No, no we can hear you, it’s just…” she pauses, unsure of how to proceed. “We didn’t know WindField had farms. Or QuatchFuts. What is a QuatchFut?”
“There’s only one, he’s this big… thing. Covered in dark brown hair, walks on two legs like the BlackCoats sometimes don’t, and occasionally disappears into thin air.” A pause. “He never lies.”
“Oh, I… I see.” Sporting a very concerned expression on her face, Bambii takes a couple steps away from her boy. “This creature that… appears to you, why do you trust him when he tells you scary stories?”
“All of the tribes in the kingdom know about him mom, and they all trust him, too. You’ve probably never seen him because you’ve all been cooped up in here eating your magic fruit for so long.”
Bambii raises a single eyebrow. “The WhiteTail Tribe has lived in the Grove for quite some time, deer, it is our duty to protect the sacred fruit. You have ignored this duty, and now you are claiming to talk to a magical creature.” She pauses, shaking her head. “Were you the first one to see this creature? Maybe they’re all just playing along with you because they fear you’ve lost your mind.”
Buck, still laying on the ground, has a muscle spasm in his neck, causing him to splash the puddle of drool forming beneath his head.
“What? No, I… look, I don’t want any of you to be killed. You gave me an ultimatum all those years ago, live in constant fear or go somewhere else. So I went somewhere else. I’m not crazy for not blindly following you lot into a ditch, no matter how tasty the fruit that grows down here might be. If you don’t believe me, send some scouts out to my farm, it’s on the far side of the Kingdom, way past the Water Hole and across the trail leading to the place where no tribe shall settle. Tim-nah’tee will tell them everything. It’s getting late and I need to get home so I don’t get ganked by the invaders. It was good to se–”
“Are your invaders QuatchFuts too?”
Bigfoot is silent for more than a single moment. “…Goodbye everyone.”
As he ascends from the trough of the valley, the foreign smell of the invaders graces Bigfoot’s nose once again, much stronger now than it was earlier in the day. He realizes now, after leaving, that the scent was utterly undetectable down in that valley, and especially within the confines of the Grove. No wonder why nobody believed him… oh well. He doubts his tribe will be sending anyone out to chase after him – in a way, his mission was complete.
The walk back to the farm is arduous at best. Bigfoot stops at the Water Hole in hopes of talking to someone, anyone, but the spot’s devoid of life. With the sun getting lower and lower by the minute, he presses on.
Nearing the road outside his home, Bigfoot notices something out of the corner of his eye. On the side of one of the older trees growing just outside of his land, there’s this… thing. It’s kind of like a rock except that its surfaces are flat, unnatural looking. He walks up to it studiously, attempting to get a good stare at this odd little thing. It sort of blends in with the tree, but the patterns and colors are off. There’s a shiny black circle in the middle of it, too, also unnatural. ‘What in the world?’
Upon sniffing the tree-thing, Bigfoot’s heart stops and he realizes just what the world has presented him.
Suddenly, he hears a whispering. He looks up to his right and loses his heartbeat for a moment, or maybe it’s stolen, though ‘tis not a MaskBandit sitting up high in the neighboring tree. Something is there though, something clad in some sort of armor, something frantically whispering into a small black rock-looking thing grasped in its hand.
Just as our WhiteTail turns to run, a sharp stick with feathers on the end of it comes flying out of nowhere, grazing a stripe of hair from his chest. Bigfoot dashes, weaving between trees and leaping over shrubberies, his heart bashing his ribcage as he runs for his li–
A sharp pain stabs Bigfoot in the chest, stopping him dead in his hoofprints. He’s suddenly lightheaded, and a strange, overwhelming sensation of warmth erupts from within his body. The forest begins to look, sound, and even smell very… funny.
‘What the buck?’
He takes a step forward.
‘What… just… hap…’
Bigfoot slaps the ground with a mighty boom, his consciousness beginning to fade away, blood pooling around his trembling body. He looks to the canopy to watch his final sunset fall over the vast Kingdom.
“Dad,” Harley whispers into the walkie-talkie, “he’s right under me, checking out the camera. Do you see him?”
“I do now. Shhh, keep quiet, I’m loading the bow.”
Harley sits in silence, drowning in anticipation. A few seconds later, she sees an arrow fly through the air, just barely missing the high rack’a’ten below her.
“Shit, hold on. Loading another.”
“Hurry Dad, he’s running!”
The girl nearly falls out of her tree stand a’watch as her Dad’s buck prances away. Dad’s sitting up in a tree about fifty yards away; they’ve been in the woods for more than twelve hours waiting for a deer to come by. He better not let this antlery bastard get away, not after waiting all this time.
The walkie-talkie clicks. “Got him baby! Clean shot, right in the femoral artery. Climb on down, he didn’t run too far. Two steps a–”
“Two steps and he’s down!” she walkie-talks. “I’m comin’, I’m comin’!”
Harley climbs out of the tree with the speed of a squirrel and sprints in the direction the deer went. Mikey is already crouched next to the animal, stroking its neck as it takes its last breaths.
“Woah,” she says in awe. “He’s so huge.”
“This is the one, baby. The Ghost of Windfield Farm. I’ve been chasing this monster for years, nobody believed me when I said he lived back here. But I got him.” He looks to Harley, who’s suddenly not eight anymore. “I finally got him.”
“I am SO glad Mom and Jarome don’t like venison. We’re eating like kings tonight, Dad!”
“We sure are Harles, I bet they’ll eat with us anyway though. Nobody wants to miss out, plus, my venison cheesesteaks made your Mother fall for me in the first place!”
Mikey smiles; she has no idea how gross it was. “Quick, before it starts getting too dark to see, run and get the four-wheeler. We’ve gotta get this bad boy home before the BlackCoats sniff us out.”