Something exciting this week! City boys, in the wild? At night? In a tent? Whatever could happen?! This week's flash update was inspired by the prompt: "I hate the dark!"
Fortitude Part Four
“Psst, Will. Did you hear that?”
I groaned. Teddy kept waking me up, insisting he heard something. He’d maybe slept an hour before it started. “Teddy, go to sleep. It’s nothing. The wind, maybe, but we are far too close to the city for any big creatures that can eat you.”
“We’re going where creatures can eat us?” Teddy squeaked and grabbed my arm over him, digging his nails into my flesh. “I hate the dark!”
“Ouch! Teddy, would you please calm yourself? You’re acting like a nelly!”
I was never going to get any sleep if I didn’t go check out whatever sound had him fretting. “Fine. I’ll go look. Will that calm you down?” I grabbed my pistol and sword. I buckled my sword belt around my waist, and buckled on my shoes, squirming to get them on in the small tent. I held my pistol and grabbed the lantern—squirming out of the tent on my elbows in an undignified fashion.
“The things I do for you,” I muttered. I stood up, frowning at the mud on the elbows of my shirt. “Damn it.” A small thought and the wick on the lantern began to glow blue. I held it up.
The beam perimeter was still intact. I walked around the inside, checking each box and peering out into the trees. Nothing was in sight… not that I’d expected anything. Teddy would hopefully get used to be outdoors soon, because I was tired and wanted to rest. We had too far to go tomorrow to be bothering with such nonsense.
Teddy was peeking out of the front of the tent, watching me. I bet he’d been dreaming, and only thought he heard something while he was awake.
“See, nothing to worry ab—”
Teddy shrieked, hands scrabbling at the ground as he disappeared into the tent. It collapsed and I could see him behind it, inside the perimeter. Something was hunched over him, holding him by the ankles. I held up the lantern and sent a surge of power to it as I darted forward.
How the hell did that get around the perimeter?
I held my gun up in the air and shot, hoping to scare the creature off if the light didn’t work. The shot made it react—but it didn’t run off. It jumped on me, bearing me backward onto the ground. My elbow hit the ground and my gun went flying. My sword tip was under my leg, and I couldn’t get it free.
The stench was abominable. Whatever it was, it had to have been scavenging rotting carcasses for its last meal. Possibly last hundred meals. I gagged.
The light wasn’t strong enough to see what it was, but it was strong and had a tight grip on my arm. I raised my other arm with the lantern and sent a surge of power, making it flare bright.
“Argh!” The creature turned its face away and scrambled off me.
“Shh, Teddy, be still.” I waved my hand at him as I slowly sat up. I faced the creature. “Hey, we aren’t going to hurt you.”
“Bad. Bad light. Bad sound. Shh.”
The sound was more of a hiss than him shushing me. Our camp invader wasn’t a creature—though it was very hard to tell under the layers of filth and fur. He was a man, stringy and thin, but he was young. I dimmed the lantern and he dropped his arm.
His clothes were furry and flat bits of what I assumed were animal skins, tied around him. He had a mess of knotted hair and a scraggly beard.
“Who are you?” I asked.
Teddy crept up to me, pressing against my back. “What is it?”
“Not a what, a who. That’s a man.”
He growled at us.
“Kind of.” I studied him. What was a human doing outside the city, alive? No one could live out here; nearly every creature that existed would kill a man, if given the chance. It was too dangerous, and most of the plants were poisonous. Lack of food and clean water would kill anyone off who tried to live off the land which was why I packed extra goods for our journey.
“Who are you?” I asked him again.
The man snarled. “Go home.” He waved a hand at us, pointing to the city. “Bad. Go home.”
“We can’t. I’m looking for something.”
He had surprisingly white teeth he bared at us when he scowled. He certainly didn’t like what I said. Too damn bad. I had a mission, and a plan, and I would not be deterred. Not even by the odd miracle of a person actually surviving in an environment designed to kill him.
“Nothing here. Go ‘way.” He pointed back at the city again with one dirt encrusted finger.
“Well, you’re here.”
He cocked his head, narrowing his eyes. “No one look for me. Bad. Bad.”
I had to wonder if he meant looking for him was bad, or if he was bad. He had scared us, but he didn’t seem particularly violent. “Why? Who are you? Where do you come from?” My mind was racing. Everyone knew the cities were our only hope for mankind.
“We’re not looking for you. I just meant there is more than nothing here, because you’re here.” Okay, yeah, that didn’t register with him at all.
“Teddy, hand me my bag. Slowly.”
The strange man was poised on the balls of his feet—to run or attack, I had no clue. Without taking my eyes off him, I used my free hand to dig inside a side pocket. I pulled out a packet of cheese and tore off a small chunk of bread.
“Here.” I threw them at him. He caught both, instantly stuffing the bread in his mouth. He didn’t sniff it, but he did the cheese package, his cheeks puffed out as he chewed furiously. He’d seen bread before, and he was hungry. He growled at the cheese. He smelled it, maybe, but couldn’t open it.
Like that? More next week! Plus there are other updates to enjoy from the Briefers!