Himself – Chapter Two

Here’s chapter 2 of our first story. Chapter 3 will be posted next Friday…

3 weeks earlier. He woke with a start, drenched in sweat as had been customary for as long as he could remember. The same dreams, the noise, the heat, it burrowed into his skin. A constant reminder of the thing that he’s tried so hard to forget, what he came here to escape. Trying to clear his head he lay looking around the cabin, it wasn’t big nor was it particularly comfortable, surrounded by nothing but the forest, it sufficed. He dragged himself up and stood in front of the mirror next to his bed, starring back at him was a face he barely recognised; a face that had no name, no need for a name out here. He ate and washed, the water was freezing but he didn’t care. It was time to go.

 The Cabin stood in a clearing, unassuming in the weak morning sun. Ahead of him was the forest, so dense that even the strongest summer sun could barely penetrate the canopy, but it was not summer, it was nearly winter and ahead of him it was dark. He set his eyes on the pathway that cut through it, he knew the way even in the dark. He picked up his bag, he’d packed light, along with his knife not much more than food and water, he didn’t plan on being gone long. One last look behind at the peaceful morning before turning to the trees and being engulfed by the forest. His eyes had adjusted, he knew where he was going he’d been countless times before. He focused in on the sounds of the forest: the rustle of the wind, the birdsong, the ambience of the insects, in the distance a soft howl.

 He’d been walking the overgrown path for hours, but the forest was starting to open up as it always did, the late afternoon sun lighting his way. He chose a spot to rest and started a fire. He sat reflecting on this place, it was a so peaceful, he wanted to savour it but he couldn’t shake this feeling, it was as if something was baring down on him, it hung tangibly in the air, it felt like he was being watched. He stared at the tree line, hopelessly scouring for something that was probably just in his head, this was puerile. Wait. There. A pair of eyes, reflections of the flames, in a flash they were gone. It was his imagination playing tricks on him. He had no time to dwell on it, before his brain had time to process what he saw the ground beneath his feet began to shake, he felt it grow, the ground was trembling. An earthquake. He jumped up not knowing what to do, preparing himself for the worst, then as suddenly as it began, it ceased. He stood frozen in silence waiting for something to happen but nothing did. He threw more wood on the fire, his nerves were shot from the tremor, he wouldn’t sleep tonight. Night in the forest is a dangerous time, it’s when the hunters hunt and the hunted hide, he hides within the light of the flames, he doesn’t sleep, he waits for morning.

 Morning comes. Day turns into night. He doesn’t want to rest, he’s tired but he can’t let that stop him. The light from a full moon illuminates the way, he presses on. He walks the path, it leads him out of the trees and onto a cliff edge, overlooking a wide open space. Below there’s a lake, a body of black, murky water. He continues walking, the ridge is wide enough not to worry about falling. The moonlight pierces the darkness well enough to see his passage across the rocks, they glow blue from the moon’s luminescence. He stops, the same feeling that’s plagued him since he left, his instincts warning him there’s something here, watching him, stalking him. He glares into the night, he sees something, pale white dots floating ahead of him. The eyes, they hadn’t been his imagination, they appeared from the shadowy trees in the foreground, moving towards him, slowly, deliberately. Out in the glow of the moon he saw it. It was a Wolf. It was massive, almost as tall as he was. Fear overwhelmed him, he tried to keep calm, Wolves hunt in packs and this one was alone. It wouldn’t attack him by it’s self. He reached for his knife. He’d been frozen to the spot but now made an active effort to hold his ground. It wouldn’t attack him without it’s pack. A series of resounding howls cut through the silence. Shit. They were close. In front of him the wolf was getting so near he could smell it, it smelt of death. Walking with purpose, snarling, salivating. It’s eyes, mad with hunger bore into his soul. To one side were the trees, he couldn’t outrun it and the others were closing in fast, charging towards him. The sound of their barking was intense, stinging his ears. To the other side was the drop, the cliff was steep and it was a long fall. No more time to think, just act, he flung himself to the side of the ridge; the wolf lunged, it’s teeth snapped shut on the air, missing by a hairs breadth as he managed to haul himself over the side. Plunging downwards, he caught a last glimpse of those voracious eyes watching his decent. Then he hit the water.

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