On Four Legs.
Yo folks. A little something that's been on my mind. Maybe a one shot, maybe to be continued. If anyone's wondering I'm 2/3s the way through Ruinous 4, and still chipping away at Door of Air. This was something I wrote to get my creative juices flowing. Blame the Dresden Files, or Blame alcohol. Let me know if you want me to keep it up.
Shit. That's the only thing I can think when I find myself suddenly presented with the spectacle of the entire cheer team, and Mr. Barkin pinned to various surfaces and splayed out around me as a vicious mutated jerk from my pre-teen years started to advance on me. I mean, so far we'd been stranded out in the middle of nowhere, the only other source of non-estrogen was a crazy ex-military teacher with some kind of vendetta against me for daring to look at him wrong in the ninth grade, and I've been too bat shit scared to do anything but ramble the entire evening. Luckily, everyone just took that as another sign of my natural weirdness. That's good. If they realized that ever since I've discovered that we were returning to this thrice damned forsaken shithole that should be nuked so the world would no long have to bear the horror of its presence on it that I reason I've been rambling isn't that I'm trying to warn them about the horrors of this place and the real reason for my carrying on is that it's the only thing keeping me from shitting my pants in front of them, well, then things could get ugly.
"Now, Gill," I say slowly, backing away as I spoke. Oh fuck. Why did it have to be here? Why couldn't he have confronted me at the lake, or the fire side, or after the bus broke down, or in a freaking mine field filled with unexploded ordnance? Anything would be better than here. We're no more than a dozen yards from the cairn, and Gill is looking so freaking spit happy that I have no doubt if he starts unloading he's gonna unload big time. "Can't we talk about this? In a calm, peaceful manner, somewhere else preferably?" I try to angle myself away from the cairn. Dear dead gods, please, let me get away from the cairn. Gill sees my shifting, and seems to think that what's freaking me out is him, and cuts me off with a leer. Jezuz fuck, he's deliberately keeping me between him and the cairn. He just sees the big pile of stones as a useful land mark to back me into.
"I don't think so squeeb," he leered at me. Wow. Squeeb. That is so insulting. I don't think I'll ever recover. "You're gonna pay for what you did to me!"
"Did to you? You liked the lake and I like arts and crafts. We both switched, no questions asked. Blame the freaking science camp," I tell him, and make another effort to get away from the very scary thing that's getting closer and closer. No, not Gill, the cairn. Oh sweet dead gods, don't make me get any closer to that wretched monument. Once more Gill seems to think that he's top shit here, and gets in the way of my very righteous attempt to run away from the real threat.
"No more talking, squeeb! Time for you to suffer like I did!" And with that last dimwitted, pre adolescent jibe, he takes a deep breath, inflating his gullet and causing his little fin things to spread out.
"No! Don't you idiot! You'll wake it up!" I dodge desperately, away from the cairn, hoping that at least he'll follow me with his aim. Behind Gill, Kim and the rest of the cheer squad cry out, and Mr. Barkin yells something about webbing between his toes. I get a tree between me and the rampaging mutant shooting pond scum at me, have a brief moment to reflect on just how stupid this situation sounds when I put it like that, and then it's gatling mucus time for Gill apparently. As I crouch shielding my head, the only thing I have eyes on, the only thing that matters to me, is keeping an eye on the cairn. Please, please, PLEASE! Dear dead gods, don't let it get disturbed! Anything you ask of me, I'll give it, just don't let it…
A stray shot of muck. Gill is apparently so crappy an aim that he feels the only way he can hit a target is if he hits everything in a sixty degree arc. Right there, at fifty seven degrees, is the cairn. It takes a hit. I can only watch, eyes wide, my breath shortening in panic, as a stone dead center in the pile takes a direct hit. My eyes widen further, and my whole life is consumed in watching the stone shake. Loosen. Please don't, please don't, I beg inside my mind, my mouth already open and screaming the same. The stone rattles, and now the pathetic threat of pond scum doesn't even register to me. I crawl to get a better view, so I can know if I have even a chance of making it out of the night with my life and sanity. On all fours, frozen in dread and anticipation, I watch the stone as it….
It stays put. It doesn't fall.
I sag in relief. It didn't fall. It didn't fall! The cairn remains undamaged!
It's a half dozen heartbeats as I kneel there, too thankful that I have a good chance to see the next sunrise with my life and sanity intact, that I don't even notice as Gill closes with my prone form. The thing that finally snaps me back to reality is, surprisingly, Bonnie.
"Great. And the loser screws up again," she snorted. It was enough to bring me back to the present. Kim is in the background, shouting my name in worry, and Tara adds her voice to it. Mr. Barkin is there too, saying something like, "get it together Stoppable!"
The only voice I really can make out though, is right above me. "Well, squeeb. Time for you to get what you deserve!" Gill was right above me. He seemed to think that my cowering was because of him. That my fear was because of the pathetic attempts of an unimaginative fluke freak of nature like him. It should of made me laugh. Seriously, Gill? You really think you rate cowering?
But instead, it just pissed the ever living fuck out of me. This useless, selfish waste of space who had almost awoken something truly wretched and terrifying thought I was on my knees for him? Thought he deserved groveling?
I think it's time he realized just where it was he stands in this equation.
The thing about forests? Lots of dead wood, sticks, logs, that kind of thing laying around. I silence the desperate shouts for help and encouragements from the cheer squad (hey wait they were cheering me, sweet!) by demonstrating just how useful all those aforementioned forest scenery elements were as weapons of opportunity.
I don't think Gill was expecting me to swing about with a four inch thick piece of semi-rotten wood when I wheeled on him like a cornered animal. He certainly didn't expect the rage on my face when I struck it across his face with all the force I could muster and without an ounce of hesitation. The crack of wood on flesh echoed through the woods, stunning the witnesses into silence. The fact that my snarl could be seen even from where the aforementioned witnesses were strung up must have unsettled them even more. That I didn't pause to bring the half broken piece of wood back again for a backhand against the undamaged side of Gills face seemed to be the point where they registered that yes, I was truly fucking pissed. When the second strike against Gill's face broke the stump in my hands in half, and I didn't stop hitting him with it, that's when they finally realized that, hey, maybe something is going on here that they weren't quite aware of. When I started screaming at the already pulping face of the wannabe super villain that suddenly had a realization of just how unprepared he was for the big leagues, then the suddenly uncomfortable peanut gallery began to get an idea of just how pissed I was.
"You dumb shit fucking waste of air! Do you have any idea what you almost did! Do you have any fucking clue just how stupid you fucking are!" I think my excessive use of vulgarity might have almost caused poor Mr. B to have an episode right there. It certainly shut up the rest of the cheer squad. Even Kim was gaping at me wide mouthed. I don't think she's ever heard me swear before.
I suspended my effort to beat the dumb out of the green whack job in front of me, and tossed aside the now shattered log, before taking several deep breaths. Now, now, Ronnie. Not in front of the innocent bystanders. With a last breath I turn around and face my wide eyed audience with a relaxing smile.
"Well," I said brightly. "Now that that's…over….with…"I trailed off, as I heard something that seriously harshed my building mellow. With wide eyes, I turned around to confirm just what it was that I had heard a second ago.
The stone. The stone on the cairn had dislodged. The clink-clink of it falling down the rest of the pile was the noise that had interrupted my carefully calculated attempt to disarm the situation. But that meant…
"Oh." I said it loudly and plainly, and I my proclamation was met with startled wide eyes from my observers. "Oh fuck." I elaborated for them, so they could really get a clue of just how bad this was going to get.
Without another word, I reached down and pulled up my pants leg. Gasps echoed through the suddenly quite woods as I pull a thirteen inch bowie knife from my calf. Without another word I sprinted towards Mr. Barkin. His eyes widened, and I can't help but hope that when he saw me coming he thought about all the extra homework and spotty detention he gave me over the years.
"Stoppable what are you…" was as much as he managed to get out before I was on him. He closed his eyes and braced himself for what he no doubt expected to be a pointed demonstration of why he was my least favorite teacher. When nothing pointed happened to him, he cracked an eye and found me desperately cutting the filth that held him pinned against the tree away. "Stoppable?"
"Mr. B. Just stand very still so I can get you out of here," I told him. "As soon as you're out, you get the knife and start working on the next one. We need to move fast," my voice is quick and on the edge of panic. "We have incoming hostiles, and we need to evac to the safe zone, asap, got it Mr. B?"
I have no idea where the military lingo came from. One too many war movies I suspect. Wherever it came from, it seemed to calm Barkin down. He kept an eye on me, but when he spoke he had managed to regain a whole lot of nerve that had been draining out on him throughout the course of the evening. "Incoming hostiles, Stoppable?"
Other voices joined the inquisition, now that they had managed to assure themselves that no, I hadn't snapped and was about to come at them with a big stinking knife.
"Ron, what's happening? What's the sitch?" Kim said from the tree a couple yards off.
"Yeah, loser," Bonnie chimed in from the bunk bed on the now spaciously opened cabin sixteen. "What's with your whole freaking out thing?"
"What's with my whole freaking out thing?" I ask them, my voice high and fast. "You see the cairn?"
"Ummm, what's a cairn?" Tara asked, apparently giving proof that yes, the whole dumb blonde rumor might have some basis in truth.
"The big pile of rocks over there," I tell her gently. "Do you see it?"
"Umm, yeah," Bonnie said, somehow managing to make every inch of her display the complete and utter scorn she held for all things living that weren't her. "What about it?"
"What's it doing?" I ask her in return.
She scoffed. "It's a big pile of rocks. It just sits there. That's what it's…."
Kim cut her off. The moment I had pointed it out, she had noticed it. "It's moving."
"Yes," I tell her. I finally manage to get Mr. B free. He gasps and moves to cup his neck, checking on whether or not his exposure to the muck had managed to properly set in on him. "It's moving. And can anyone here tell me what it means when a pile of stones starts shifting ominously?" I give Barkin the knife, and push him towards the nearest suspended cheerleader. I turn and move towards Kim. Reaching into one of the bottom pockets of my cargos, I pull another knife. Unlike the first, this one is made out of bone. As I reach Kim, and begin freeing her, I meet her eyes. "When something like that happens, we like to call it 'ominous foreshadowing'." I cut desperately at the slime holding her, keeping one eye on the pile of stones.
The movement began slowly at first. A shift here. A shift there. It began to build, till the whole structure was shaking. I cut faster, as fast as I can without risking Kim. Barkin had picked up on my haste, and had moved onto the first of the bound cheerleaders, Marcella. It was when I was halfway through freeing Kim, that the rustling of the stones stopped.
I turned and stared hard at it, ignoring Kim for a sec. "That," I whisper, "can't be good."
The cairn exploded. I shielded Kim from the spray of rocks desperately, feeling a few good sized ones pelt against me. The shrieks of the girls, and the manly high pitched yelp from Mr. Barkin assure me that everyone else is alright.
Trying my best not to hyperventilate, I turn to look at what now stands where once there were rocks.
Its form was indistinct, abnormally dark in the night. The only thing that could be made out of it was its silhouette that looked vaguely humanoid, and its eyes, which gleamed and caught the miniscule light like an animals. It shifted slightly, its limbs twitching, and pops echoed through the air as though joints were cracking. Then it shifted again, and this time its twitching was more unnatural. Parts on it moved that can't move on a human. Dead silence met it as everyone but me could only stare at this strange thing. The air around it seemed heavy and oppressive, like humidity without the accompanying wet feeling that water in the air gives it.
Maybe, I think to myself, if we stay very still, it won't notice us and go away.
Then its eyes shifted. Not its head, just it's eyes. They moved across the shadowy face as though they were moving through water, changing position on its head till both of the shiny orbs were focused on the group of innocent young people directly in front of it.
Shit. Only one thing to do now.
Even as I start sprinting towards it, the silhouette's shape shifted again. This time its head split, melting like wax under the sun and reforming into a monstrously sized set of jaws, lined with jagged brilliant white teeth that shone out against the darkness of its flesh. The noise that echoed from the gaping chasm it had formed was the most wrong sick thing I've ever heard. It sounded like a bear, and a wolf, and a thousand cicadas, and whole murder of crows venting noise at the same time. It was like a physical assault on the ears. I was halfway to my destination. The jaws closed, and its form shifted again. It hunched over, expanding in some places and contracting in others. Its eyes lost their haunting shine, and now looked dull in the light of the night. I was three quarters of the way to my target. It looked like a wolf, or a bear, if either of those two natural species had giant spreading bat wings behind it. What they were seeing finally penetrated the minds of the shocked onlookers, and the air was pierced by Tara as she let loose a terrified shriek. I was almost at my target. The things eyes locked on me.
It moved. There must have been thirty yards between it and me, and five between me and my target. I blinked. Four between me and my destination, and twenty five between me and it. It moved so fast that it looked like a shadow pooling across the ground. Trees and brush were no impediment to it. It was so quick, and unnaturally jointed that it seemed to flow like liquid through them. One yard from my target, five yards from me. I jump, and pray that I had made it in time.
I hit Gill hard, grabbing him as I used my momentum to roll him on top of me. Then I placed both feet on the unconscious boys back and kicked him up into the air into the creature's path. Let it go for it…
It did. Great scything talons appeared, once more bone white, and pierced Gills body from all sides. It adjusted its destination, still moving at speeds so fast it was hard to keep track of it. With one more echoing shriek, it disappeared into the blackness of the forest.
I stood up, slowly, brushing myself off. I think I had rolled over some stones with that desperate maneuver. I could feel aches and pains forming that would no doubt be spectacular tomorrow. If I last long enough, I might even enjoy them. They'd mean I was alive. With one last look into the darkness, I say the last thing I have to say to the idiot bully with delusions of grandeur who had just awaken one of the most wretched and evil creatures in creation, and then been taken by it.
"Happy goat fucking, Gill." I spit in his direction, and then turn to hurry back to the task of freeing Kim.
Tara was sobbing. Mr. Barkin had frozen, staring at the last place the thing had been visible.
"Ron!" Kim was shouting. "We'll be fine here, you gotta go and help Gill! As soon as I'm out I'll come help." Kim had obviously entered that naïve zone where she wants to help everyone, even the bad guys. I can almost feel for her. It's not like Gill was trying to take over the world or anything. He was just a sad scared little boy that had lost his friends and family due to a freak accident. I cut her off.
"Fuck Gill, KP. The only thing he's good for is giving us an hour, two tops, to get everyone down and get the fuck out of here." This stunned the redhead, and I went back to cutting her free.
"Stoppable, did you just deliberately sacrifice that unconscious POW to the enemy in order to buy time for maneuvers?" Mr. Barkin was trying to wrap his mind around what he had just saw, and using military terms seemed to give him something to latch onto.
I shrugged, and said in a blasé voice that caused everyone else to stare at me gape jawed. "Better him than me, or any of you."
Bonnie spoke up. "Good point. Now that we have that out of the way, does someone want to tell me just what the hell that was?" She had started out calm, but halfway through she started gathering speed and volume till she was shrieking out the last of it while in the grips of obvious hysteria.
I give them their answer, not they'll understand it. They have no idea just how very screwed we are right now. "It was a yee naaldlooshi. A Skinwalker."