Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Land of Shadows: Chapter XVI - Left for Dead

It had taken Allison so long to get around the woods, she half expected to find Dee waiting impatiently on the other side. But she was not there. She considered calling her on the walkie talkie, but did not want to in case she was trying to sneak up on the target. She settled in to wait.

* * *

Dee opened her eyes on a trial basis. When she found that she was not in the Lake of Fire Pastor Tom preached about, she sighed with relief. But that, like everything else hurt. She tried to sit up and found that her belly was a mass of pain. She had no idea how many times she had been stabbed with the little throwing dart. Only the short length of the dart saved her. But it still hurt.

As if in a drunken haze she took in her surroundings. It was dark and beginning to get cold. Through the hole she had blasted in the canopy of the tree was lying under, she could see a portion of the sky. In the moonlight that spilled through she could see Bo's lifeless body. Her shotgun was nowhere in sight and when she looked she found that her other guns were gone as well.

She tried to stand and was unpleasantly reminded of the bear trap on her leg. Her pant leg was soaked in blood, but she did not think that any major arteries were severed. But it was difficult to think clearly. She was tempted to just lie down and sleep. Just deal with it in the morning. But no that was not right. She tried to pry open the trap but the trap was old and rusty and the spring too strong. She felt around under the leaves and found a large rock. It took both hands to move the head sized stone. But she managed to get it up over her head and brought it down hard.

The pain was excruciating. But the rock had forced the spring back down and was holding it there. She yanked her leg free and kicked the trap away. It snapped harmlessly at her again and lay there. Blood, old and fresh painted its jaws a dark red and black in the moonlight.

She cut away her pants leg with a single edged razor blade she kept tucked away in the tongue of her boot. The wound was nasty looking. The jaws had bit deeply into the meat of her leg. But the bone was not broken and the bleeding was stopped except where the act of pulling the shredded denim away had re-opened it. She got up and stumbled over to Bo. Her leg supported her but screamed with pain at each step.

She was dizzy and faint and the poor dog looked to be about twenty feet below her as she looked down. Her head felt like a balloon about to float right off her neck. There was no sign of Duke. Things faded for a second and she decided to get moving. She wandered over to the dead stranger and found a notebook bound together with a plastic comb binder. Her mother had done that for her Daddy so he could keep his journal organized. She bent down to pick it up, her injured left leg up in the air behind her as a counterbalance as she scooped it up. For a moment she began to lose her balance and looked crazily about trying to figure out where she was going to land, but somehow managed to right herself before stumbling off in a direction she hoped would take her out of the woods.

* * *

Allison woke with a start, cursing herself for having fallen asleep. She quickly scanned the area to see what had awakened her. It was already dark. In the moonlight she could see a shadow moving about at the edge of the woods, it was too large to be one of the dogs. She snatched the night vision goggles from the dash. Sure enough it was a wraith.

She dove into the back and quickly loaded a missile into the mole gun. They only had about a dozen missiles so so had to make it count. The carefully centered the beast on the guns little LCD to let the missile get a good look at its target and fired. The sound alerted the beast and it broke into a run. But it was already too late for it. The missile swerved and followed it tracking its every move till it inevitably struck its target, whereupon it began to bore through the tough hide of the wraith. It attempted to dislodge it by rolling about on the ground, but that only drove it further into its flesh. That was when it detonated. The otherworldly creature was ripped apart.

She stared at the corpse and the blood matted grass for a few moments before making her decision. She locked the Volvo up and headed into the woods. If Dee was not out yet she was most likely injured and Allison would be damned if she would just leave her.

She found her a few hundred yards in. She was a bloody mess, but she was still alive. She was huddled at the foot of a tree with Duke standing protectively near her. Bo was nowhere in sight.

"dead." Dee told her just before she passed out. Allison ran back to the Volvo as fast as she could in the dark, to get the first aid kit. But a brilliant glow from the clearing at the edge of the woods warned her that something was not right. She stopped before leaving the shadows of the woods and stared.

The Volvo was fully engulfed in flames. A young man stood about twenty feet away. Closer than she would have wanted to stand next to a burning vehicle. Especially one running on propane. In the firelight she could see his features quite clearly. He was handsome but the insane grin on his face gave her the creeps. A wraith crouched at his side. He turned and looked directly at her. She knew it was impossible for him to see her, he would only be seeing spots after staring into those flames. But she slunk back into the woods a bit more anyway. He scanned the edge of the forest for a moment before he left heading south west with the wraith following like a faithful hound.

© 2010 R. Keith McBride

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