Chapter 3 – Crackle and Chase

The days have passed more painfully than they should have. I expected this much from the time we left, but time is a cruel mistress. Having adventured our way to the mysteries of the inner forests beyond any mere human, we have battled with beasts, bloodthirsty demons, and the seductive visions of our minds. Huh, mother never prepared us for something like this, she never warned us about the terrifying potential of a craving mind. My, how scary it is indee-

“Can you shut up already, Lock? It hasn’t even been a week.” Liam grumbled wrapped up in his blanket, attempting to escape the early morning breeze.

My nerves pop to the sound of the crackling flames, or at least, what is left of it. As the sun slowly made its way up into the sky, dominating the measly light of what is left of the campfire, so did my blood pressure.

“I agreed to come on this journey to escape the village. I agreed to come on this journey so that you wouldn’t be alone. But I didn’t realize you didn’t have an actual plan?!” throwing my cover to the side, I stomp to the ground and get up, storming through my backpack. I find some of the leftover nuts from yesterday’s gather and start nibble on them. “And for your information, I don’t do well with mosquitos, nor angry rodents. So excuuuuuse me if I complain!”

Liam slowly got up and rubbed his forehead and eyes, displeased with the sound of nothing else but my whining. Pushing his pitch black hair back with both his hands, he drops his head and groans. “You were stealing their food, no wonder they chased you.”

“Yeah, well, I want to survive just as much as they do. And so far, this journey has only been a hassle.” I mumble displeased and bite into another nut. Ouch! And here I thought rodents knew how to pick their nutrients. Looking at the nut again, it didn’t look bad, but I threw it into the fire anyway.

CRACKLE!! POP!!

“Woah!” I yell out in surprise.

Liam also seemed to suddenly wake up, staring at the newly born fire. “What was that??”

Looking down at my pile of nuts, I scatter through them to find another one similar. I didn’t pay too much attention to it, but it looked like a teardrop, was really dark brown, almost black, quite hard… If only I could find another one – Ah! There we go! I pass it to Liam and as he slowly examines it, his face starts to distort from utter confusion to dread. As he apparently comes to a realization of what it is, he quickly stands up and throws his things into the sack he carried, but unable to completely close it. “Cover the fire with dirt, put it out quickly!”

Without a second thought I begin to carry out his orders. As we’re almost done, a flock of birds fly off from the distance. Something was coming… and at high speed.

“Run!” Liam exclaims under his breath, quickly turns the opposite way and starts to run as quickly as he can. I swiftly rush behind him. The leaves of the bushes brushing our bodies for a split second each and the trees blocking our way were the only witnesses of our path. But even so, whatever was coming up behind us definitely knows how to catch up.

“What was that?!” I asked realizing that that weird-looking nut was the cause of this initial attraction of the beast.

“C-nat.” huffing and puffing from the run, Liam continued to avoid obstacles in his way, not slowing down one bit. “It’s made small and light so that hunters can carry them when hunting and for warriors to carry as many as they can in battle. It’s made to look like an almond so that enemies aren’t alarmed by the quantity carried, but animals often confuse it for food. They can’t eat it so they throw it. Hunters hope that the unfortunate prey will somehow ignite it and then they start chasing it for food.” As he uttered those words, he looked at me while still keeping his pace. “Food Lock, thanks to you. So keep on running and don’t stop for a second, cause it’s getting closer!”

As he warns, I look behind me and I see the top of the trees shaking, each shake signaling a closer reach of the beast towards… no, not one beast. “Liam! There’s at least 3 or 4 of them!”

Liam grunts and looks around for an idea. But, too late…

I’m about to call out to Liam as the beasts push us to the ground but something knocks on the back of my neck, and my surroundings turn to pitch darkness…

……….

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