I'm recycling SG1 again. ;) Wrote this a few years ago, and it seems to fit the Hallowe'en spirit, so I thought I'd share it here. Comments welcome, if there's anyone out there readin'.
The atmosphere was ambiguous and the weather inclement on SG1's unexpected night on P0X 266. What light the moon leant in its full phase was hindered by clouds. Trees of the deciduous variety were barren of leaves, and when the wind blew their branches cast shadows which appeared as thin, crooked hands and fingers on the ground below. Teal'c shivered. Customarily the chill air was not a bother to him, but he could not seem to retain warmth on this evening.
"It was a dark and stormy night," O'Neill said, no small amount of bitterness in his voice. "And the intrepid quartet were stuck on a cold, dreary planet even though they should have been home…and therefore warm…long ago. None of them were happy, but one in particular was really pissed off."
"I had no way of knowing the device would transport us this far away from the Stargate, sir. We're not due back at the SGC until tomorrow night."
"She had no way of knowing…hear that, Daniel, she had no way of knowing."
"No, I won't ease up. Alien device and transport – both words that should have rung some serious warning bells with someone and don't say I should have heard them, because I did but no one listened to me."
"I'm sorry, sir. You're totally right. This is all my fault," Captain Carter said.
Teal'c shivered once more. Assigning blame was of no interest to him, for it did not change their circumstances. He was of the belief that O'Neill should concentrate with greater detail on starting a fire. Not only would a blaze provide warmth, but it would also cast away the shadows which crept all around them. Unfortunately, the wind was just strong enough that a simple campfire was proving difficult to maintain. For a moment, it appeared as though O'Neill was going to respond to captain Carter, but then he returned his attention to the attempted fire.
"Too bad we don't have our sterno," O'Neill said.
"I really am sorry, sir."
O'Neill finally sparked a fame big enough to withstand the breeze. Within minutes, the blue-tinted dimness changed to dancing orange shadows. Teal'c remained standing while each of his teammates settled down – O'Neill begrudgingly – for the evening. As the portable heating device, their tents remained near the Stargate. They would be 'roughing it'. For some reason, that thought caused him a great deal of unease.
"Okay, we've got fire. Anyone happen to have food in their pockets?" O'Neill sounded more reasonable, and for that Teal'c was glad. "I've got…a power bar."
"I have these MREs," Daniel Jackson said. Teal'c watched, with some amusement, as four pockets were emptied. "They should tide us over."
"Daniel, how did you fit all of those in there?"
"Forget how," O'Neill said. "Why are you carrying all of those in there?"
"I like to be prepared."
"Well, look at that. Daniel Jackson: Boy Scout."
O'Neill spoke with sarcasm, but even in the dim light Teal'c saw the warmth in his expression. He thought O'Neill believed no one was aware of his true feelings. Teal'c, however, saw easy understanding in Daniel Jackson's face, however briefly it lasted there. It was sometimes as dangerous to mask emotion as it was sometimes of great benefit; he hoped his friends realized this.
"Ha ha." Daniel Jackson rolled his eyes and shook his head. Hair fell forward, concealing most of his face. "Do you want any, or do Sam, Teal'c and I get to split yours?"
Teal'c contemplated forfeiting his MRE. He did not care for this variety of Tau'ri sustenance even when it was heated properly, but tonight they would consume it cold. He frowned as Daniel Jackson stood and handed him the pouch of food. In the end, it might be better for him to consume the distasteful meal than endure O'Neill's inevitable commentary. Teal'c sat down next to Captain Carter. The fire and his closer proximity to it did not fully alleviate the chill he felt. For some minutes, the encampment was filled only with the sounds of the fire popping, the rustles of food packets being opened and the wind. There was not much to discuss. The new purpose of their mission was evident – to return to the Stargate.
"Nothing hits the spot like cold beef stew," O'Neill said, breaking the silence.
"Mmm," Daniel Jackson said. He did not appear to require palatability in his food choices. Perhaps this was something he could learn from Daniel Jackson – food as energy only. "I've had worse."
Teal'c lifted a cracker to his mouth, with the mental reminder that their day tomorrow would likely require much energy. Unfortunately, this knowledge did not improve the taste or the texture of the cracker. He would require much practice to learn to eat Tau'ri food for practicality only. He was glad the provisions at the SGC were significantly superior to these rations.
"I'm sure you have, Daniel," Captain Carter said. "They probably didn't have gourmet on Abydos."
Daniel Jackson stopped chewing, his expression becoming both hurt and wistful. Teal'c's stomach clenched. He would eat no more tonight himself. He set his food to the side. O'Neill coughed slightly and glared at Captain Carter, though she was focused only on her MRE. Her intent had not been to cause harm, yet his stomach still felt ill and Daniel Jackson continued to look haunted by good and bad memories.
"I was thinking about college food, but you've got a point, Sam." Daniel Jackson also put his food down. He leaned closer to the fire. Teal'c saw a sizeable shiver. "Flour you grind by hand does lack a certain amount of refinement."
"Oh, I don't know, Daniel. Sounds pretty healthy to me," O'Neill said. "But the discussion about food, as fascinating as it might be, isn't what we should really talk about right now. It's going to be a long, cold night. Anyone have any idea how far we actually are from the 'gate?"
"I didn't do much more than video the device, but there might be some kind of indication there."
"Think you can look at it tonight?" O'Neill cast a look behind him. "I'd like some information to go on by morning."
Teal'c tilted his head. It seemed O'Neill was intent on departing from this planet. Teal'c looked up to the overcast sky and full moon. There was indeed something alarming about this place, though he still could not put a name to that feeling. Being transported and indeterminate distance way from their way home did not help matters.
"I can probably help you with that – study what I can based on the images," Captain Carter said. Daniel Jackson flinched. "It's better than nothing. I can't look for a corresponding piece of technology out here in the dark. It's kind of creepy out here, you know?"
Daniel Jackson nodded, then shivered again. Teal'c did not believe viewing images on a miniscule screen was an effective means to determine anything of value.
"I will secure the perimeter," Teal'c said. They had not yet determined the safety of their location, an oversight that caused him no small amount of embarrassment.
"Good idea, Teal'c, but don't wander too far."
That would not be a problem. Teal'c buttoned his jacket, picked up his staff weapon and proceeded away from the campsite. Their presence in this new region had not provoked response from any of the wildlife. Captain Carter had indicated there were no sentient beings in the vicinity of the Stargate; because they did not know their current location, he did not know if that information was applicable any longer. As he walked up the slight incline, the wind became more of a force. They were fortunate for the vale, he thought. The night without equipment would be more tolerable for his friends in the shelter of the dell.
He conducted a full circuit around the campsite, edging no more than one quarter of a mile away. He did not encounter any nocturnal creatures that would be considered a threat. He did not know what he had expected. He glanced up at the moon, and it stared back at him blankly, as if it were a large open mouth, screaming. Teal'c shook his head. He was being foolish. A strong burst of wind blew through the trees, like a specter. Like a great number of specters. Foolish. He stared at the moving shadows on the ground for a moment, and then pulled the collar of his jacket up. He looked forward the warmth of the fire. He began moving back toward the orange glow.
He moved quickly, pace pushed by his irrational feeling of distress. The wind tugged at his jacket and wiggled its way underneath the hem. Teal'c clenched his jaw, ignoring the tendrils of coldness reaching up his back. He breached the rise, realizing that he could not hear his friends only when he saw that they were not where they should be. It was beginning to appear that his alarm was not entirely foolish. He gripped his staff tightly and brought it up to the ready. He immediately sought cover behind a tree, though he knew not from what. It did not matter.
Teal'c leaned his head back against the rough bark. The clouds were closing in, becoming denser. He watched as they blew over the moon. The silver light was extinguished, and for one terrible moment the darkness closed around him. He felt blind, he was blind until his vision adjusted with the fire's glow. He knew that in order to track his friends he must go to the campsite, for that is from where they vanished. He was reluctant. The hollow, he thought too late, was an excellent a location for a trap. He gripped his staff tighter and pushed away from the tree.
Out of the corner of his eye, the shadows grew darker and larger. He was being monitored by something he could not see. Teal'c clenched his jaw and raised his weapon. He did not have the chance to even prime the staff. A considerable force hit him from behind, knocking him to the ground.
There were a lot of phrases that put the heart into impossible situations. No one was capable of thinking with the heart, for example - that was ridiculous. Technically, the heart didn't even feel much of anything unless it was experiencing a myocardial infarction, and even then it was really not registering that pain. No, thinking and feeling and emotions were all brain, not heart. The heart also couldn't, in fact, beat a million times per second or beat right out of someone's chest. Daniel was pretty sure both of those would result in instant death. The heart might explode, literally. All these phrases were figurative, he knew that.
Daniel sat here, though, the embodiment of a person with his heart in his throat. Well, figuratively. He tried to swallow. Yeah, that was why all those figures of speech existed, he thought. Of course. He fiddled with his radio. He'd been just fine until he'd been separated from Jack and Sam. It was dark enough out here for him to be extremely jumpy. He toyed with the radio some more. He really wanted to use it, but it was too quiet. Wind in the trees would not disguise the loud sound of the radio activating, let alone his voice, and whatever was after them would hone in on him.
So Daniel huddled and tried to keep his breathing under control while he thought about what to do. He cursed the clouds – they seemed to be on the payroll of their attackers, blocking out the moonlight. Things would be so much better if he could see. Right, he thought, things would be just fabulous then. Think, think, he had to think. He wished he hadn't dropped the camera. He closed his eyes and tried to play back the image from memory. What little he recalled was pretty much useless. Okay. He had no idea where his friends were, he was cowering like a child afraid of the monster under his bed, he had no clue what was out there in the cold, dark forest and he had no idea how to get away from it. No problem. He was fine. Juuuussst fine.
Jack and Sam wouldn't leave him and Teal'c behind. Oh no, Teal'c would go back to camp and find them gone. Daniel knew now where he needed to go. His new sense of focus and direction did nothing to bring him control or comfort. The breeze picked up. He couldn't stay here all night long. With a shaky sigh, he stood up and held his breath, waiting for some kind of reaction from the mysterious attackers. For seconds, nothing happened and then, then something spindly and rough – a claw? – clutched at his forearm. Daniel ran and ran and never seemed to get anywhere. The footsteps stayed with him pace for pace.
He couldn't run any faster. He already knew he wouldn't even be able to maintain his pace for very long. He kept going. All he could hear was the harshness of his own breathing and those terrible footsteps, except, no, that wasn't true at all. There was singing, high-pitched and eerie. It came from all around, and it was as far away as it was very near. Daniel couldn't help it – he had to understand the barely audible words. His steps slowed.
And then stopped as he went head over heels over head again, landing with a skid and thump on his back. He stared, breath knocked out of him, at the moon, which started poking through the clouds. He thought perhaps he was drowning. It felt like it. His lips must be turning blue. Daniel panicked even more, thoughts of death of a more natural cause than by being eaten alive on some alien planet flicking through his brain. Ironic. His breath came back to him at last, and it sounded like the world was filled with his gasps. The singing was gone. So were the footsteps. He should have been relieved; he wasn't. The moon danced in the sky as he heaved and huffed and where were his glasses? An obscure shaped over the moon, too dark to be a normal cloud.
Daniel squinted, but the shape became no clearer. He wasn't being chased anymore, there were no footsteps and yet he had an uncanny feeling someone was watching him. A cold, sweat-inducing prickle ran up his spine and made his scalp tingle. The darkness slid away from the moon, like an oil slick. He tried to track it, but it blended right in to the night sky and he had an insane thought that the blackness was the thing watching him. He'd never escape that, it was everywhere. He still wasn't breathing at a normal rate.
The voice was back, only this time he could hear it and oh crap it was here for him while he was sprawled on his back. Daniel sat up. He shook all over, like he was one of the leaveless branches in the wind.
"Daniel," the voice said again, high-pitched and breathy.
He had to run again he had to. His heart hurt at the thought of further abuse, and so did his feet, his calves, his hamstrings…
"Daniel, don't move." Okay. What? That wasn't what he expected to hear. Of course, he reasoned, a predator would naturally like its prey to stay put, which meant he should already be running. "It's right there."
"Sam?" Oh, thank goodness someone else was alive. Daniel felt like throwing up. "Are you okay? Where's Jack?"
"Shhh." Something brushed against the back of his neck. He shivered. Sam appeared right next to him. She had her weapon ready. "Didn't you hear me? It's right there."
No, it was gone. It had been Sam watching him that had freaked him out, not it. There was no it, he decided then. Daniel shook his head. He was close enough to see Sam's knuckles were white around the MP-5. If she didn't relax, she'd end up with cramps in her hands. She seemed convinced something was right beside them. Maybe it wasn't just in his head. Just like that, he felt the cold fear grip him again, like it was Sam was contagious with it. He started to turn his head, but she grabbed him.
"Don't. Don't look at it. Don't," she said. "Pretend it's not there. Maybe it'll go away."
Yeah, that seemed like a really good plan. That way they could lull it into thinking they were easy prey, but then they'd run. Or Sam would shoot it. Wait…she must not be thinking clearly, or she would have shot it already. Now that he thought about it, Daniel wasn't sure why they hadn't heard shots coming from Jack's weapon. Unless there was only one it and it was focused on him and Sam. He unholstered his handgun and withdrew it. He should have done that a long time ago. He must not be thinking clearly either, but it was hard to think and run at the same time.
"Do you know where Jack is?"
"No, we got split up. I've been all alone." Sam shivered. She glanced around, presumably at it. Then she laughed. "If you go out in the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise."
He swallowed past that clichéd heart-in-the-throat again.
"If you go out in the woods today, you'd better go in disguise."
The moonlight made Sam look like a ghost, shadows forming around her eyes and beneath her nose. She turned her head. The shadows blurred and formed trails that looked startlingly like the thing he had seen in the sky. Suddenly it made sense why she didn't want him to look at it, because there was no it behind him. She was it. Somehow that thing had got into her or assumed her shape or whatever and run. He had to run again. Being alone in the dark was better than being stuck next to a monster that could kill him any minute. Daniel raised his gun hand. Sam moved her head again, and he nearly screeched at the oil stains that were her eyes. Instead, he aimed the handgun.
"Daniel? What're you doing?"
So cold. The wind tore right through his BDU jacket and T-shirt, seemed to penetrate his skin until the very marrow of his bones was ice. Daniel backed up one step, then another. Sam advanced one step, then another. He had to remind himself that it wasn't his friend as he pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. Damn, the safety was still on. Sam kept edging toward him. He should have been relieved that she didn't just pounce, but the creeping was creepy. His hands shook. He didn't have time to mess around anymore – Sam or whatever she was – was up close and personal now. He punched her.
He seemed to be going downhill, so had a much easier time of it than he had before. It was right behind him, though, and he couldn't let up. The footsteps behind him were strong and sure, where he faltered and stumbled over forest detritus. The fallen leaves were slipperier than they had been before, and they were costing him dearly. His pursuer was gaining on him. He heard her singing in that ghoulish voice. He could hear the words this time, and they weren't in English. They weren't in any language he understood. They were useless, just like the writing on the device.
He could imagine what they meant, though. His imagination easily made them Sam singing about staying out of the woods. God, if he could get out of the woods, he would. His right foot caught a soggy leaf wrong, and his whole body locked as he tried and failed to keep from falling. Once again, Daniel sprawled on the ground, staring up that the sky. The thin, black branches skittered in the wind. For a horrifying moment, he thought they were hands reaching down to grab him.
He reached up to ward them off. The gun…the gun was gone, it must have fallen out of his hand when he hit the ground. Daniel slid on his back, like he could hide himself in the cold ground. The footsteps kept coming and coming. It should have already caught him, he thought muzzily. The footsteps were only meant to torment him. Screw that. He flailed a little bit, turning over onto his side. The rotting smell of the moist leaves invaded his nose, clung inside his nostrils. He retched and turned his head to try to get some fresher air.
Only that isn't what he got at all. He continued retching. The MRE had been unsavory going down; it was worse coming back up partially digested. Daniel struggled to prop himself up on his elbow, now dry heaving. The thing in the forest kept running, running at him. It was messing with his head. He looked down. He supposed there used to be eyes in the sockets that stared back at him, and a nose where there was just…God, he'd never stop gagging.
That was an exaggeration. Of course he'd stop, about the time he died. Died like the very humanoid body right here had. Daniel had never been surer of anything in his life as he was positive he would die a horrible death in the forests of P0X 266.