Okay, so, very first fanfiction. Ever. After reading fanfiction for three years, I figured it was high time to write one. In any case, this means that the story will probably be unnecessarily long and slightly ramble-y. I warned you. Also, I'm an artist, not a writer. Feel free to point out any mistakes you find.
Speaking of warnings (were we speaking of warnings?)... At the moment: Relatively unplanned plot, Human names, un-betaed, OOC-ness, slight horror, perhaps gore or yaoi in future chapters. Nothing too graphic, I'd most likely butcher the entire story if I tried that. Oh, and Alfred's language. Not so much in the first chapter, though, if my memory serves me correctly. Future chapters may have updated warnings, too.
In any case, I've actually written like ten thousand words for this fic, I just need to read them over before posting. So rest assured that this will be updated, probably like crazy for the first week or so. And that it will be long. Need space for all that rambling.
And, finally, if you review this fic then I will love you forever. Seriously.
Constructive criticism is welcome, too, if that's what you're into.
Thanks for reading! :')
Out of all the things to notice first, it was his eyes. Purple specks that managed to catch the light, drowned in a border of shadowed black. Sunken, unblinking, inhuman in every possible way. They caught my eyes and stared in return, a stalemate of predator and prey.
I shifted on my feet. Weight from one side to the other. The creature noticed.
It moved closer, legs bent at the knees like those of a deer. I watched as the shadows of the trees fell from its skin, revealing a stretched canvass of snow-white that caught every valley and ridge of bone as it passed over the body. Ankles, knees, ribs—all were caught with such startling clarity that it surprised me, for a moment, that this creature managed to stay alive. How could any creature, monster or not, manage to live in such an emaciated body?
The next thing that I noticed, as my eyes travelled upwards, was its collarbone, then its chin and jaw and mouth. Unhealed wounds wove their arms around the creature's lips, a startling contrast of deep red against the white skin. Dried blood stretched its arms down the creature's neck and onto its chest. Fresh blood dripped from its mouth onto the snow at its feet, a steady rhythm in such a quiet atmosphere. The blood did quite a good job of giving the creature the convincing look of I-just-murdered-something-and-ripped-its-throat-out-with-my-teeth, which was not a look that I necessarily needed to stare in the face.
And then, just as the shivers had made their way from the back of my neck to my tailbone, I noticed its horns—previously shadowed by the overhanging forest, they emerged from the creature's dirty, golden hair like concentrated barbed wire. They reminded me of a deer's antlers, if the soft velvet had been worn away to reveal a wooden black underneath.
The entire creature, minus the blood dripping from its mouth, looked like a badly put-together skeleton with a white sheet stretched over it. It was, in every way possible, the single most horrifying creature that I had ever laid eyes on.
From the clearing, the creature looked on, unmoving. I could feel the gaze of its violet eyes digging into the back of my neck as I made for the road.
I had grown up in a small-ish town, about forty minutes from a large city. We drove down there pretty often, my mother and I. We used to take my brother, too, but he disappeared when we were eight. The police told us he had most likely gotten lost in the forest. Never found his way out. Being twins, it was pretty hard on me—it felt like I was missing half of myself. We had been pretty close. Even today, the thought of my brother—Matthew—struck an uncomfortable twinge in my chest. I tried not to think about him.
In any case, my mother always warned me about the forest, after Matt disappeared. Strange visions of monsters and demons filled my head when my mother told her stories, leading to the consequential nightmares and bed-wetting episodes that I'd rather not think back on.
At first, I blamed her for it. What mother would willingly put terrifying thoughts in her child's mind? A child that she knew quite well could not handle horror. There had been quite a few horror movies that I had insisted on watching, as a child. She saw my reactions. And yet, the stories still came.
Now, though, I knew not to blame her for the stories. The thought of monsters and untimely death kept me far from the forest, and, in her eyes at least, bedwetting episodes and night terrors were much, much better than the loss of another child.
Matt was already gone. She needed me.
We had become quite close after my brother's death, and I liked to think that I had become a better son. I had become a better person, at least; mostly to please my mother. After all, Matt was always the good one; the nice one, the good student, the respectful child. Without him, I needed to fill in that role, too. Be my mother's hero. So I made a conscious effort to stop skipping classes, to watch my language, all that crap that mattered to parents. It seemed to be working nicely, too. My mother, at least, lost that undertone of stress that always hid in her eyes.
She knew what I was doing, sure. Maybe, in a way, this made it worse—I wasn't actually becoming a better person, I was just building myself a fake identity. But at least she didn't have to worry about me, not anymore.
And if that made her happy, so be it.
It was Friday, and I would usually be walking home with my friends. Today, though, I was alone. My friends had noticed my "changing" and were, in simple terms, not very happy about it. Sure, it hurt a bit to see them go, even if they never said it outright. I still hung out with them.
But I couldn't be the hero to everybody (or so my mother had told me), so I tried my best to let it go.
I attended my classes.
And when I went home at the end of the day, my mother would be holding the shadow of a smile on her lips, stress-free and a phone line empty of any calls from the school.
Not that Friday, though.
I was carrying my binder under my arm, too lazy to open my backpack and shove it in. Between all the crap that I shoved in to my bag, there wasn't much room, anyways. I made a mental note to clean it out soon, knowing it wouldn't happen. Still, the "mental note" thing made me feel a tad more responsible.
I was walking past the forest. The main road, the one that stretched from the city to our town, also happened to lead to a series of small roadways that lead to my school. And so, after school ended, I'd walk home—twenty minutes max, maybe thirty in bad weather. Ten of those minutes would be walking the main road along the forest's border, before the silhouettes of buildings made their appearance from behind the trees.
I kept watching for those silhouettes, eager to get home. The air was getting colder as of late, warm enough but with a chilling undertone. Not too comfortable when the only thing you were wearing was a beaten-down bomber jacket. The fur holding onto the collar dug into my neck, bristles sharp and stressed from a light wind.
A car drove past. Red with mud soaked tires, and the head of a half-asleep dog stuck out the passenger window.
Another vehicle, this one a truck.
And then, a sound from the forest, which made me jump. I watched my binder fall onto the pavement, history papers spread out in an arch. Yeah, I was old enough to know that my mom's stories were fake, but come on, childhood trauma, here.
I told myself to stop being an idiot and to pick up my papers before the wind did.
A bit too late, I watched a few pages catch the wind and fly off between the trees. Not caring all that much, I grabbed the rest, stacking them messily and shoving them back into my binder. Still too lazy to open my knapsack, I decided not to drop my binder again. I'd hold it tighter. It would work out.
But then I thought of the noise, a bit too unnatural to be categorized as a leaf or a snapped twig. A bear, maybe? No... They never came this close to the road.
And then a new, somewhat unwelcome thought.
I kicked myself for that. I had lost. I knew it, too. Fuck, I told myself, a bit pissed off at my stupidity. Now you're gonna go run into the forest like the hero you are. Get eaten by a freaking bear. This is why people think you're an idiot, you know.
In my mind, of course, I knew that Matt was dead. Starvation, maybe? Frostbite? It had been around this time in the year when he had gone missing. A few more weeks and the cold would kill. But I also knew that, if I went home, there would have been a tiny chance that Matt was still alive.
And if we found him in a month, dead after surviving for all those years, I would never forgive myself for giving up my one chance at saving him.
Yeah, I knew it wasn't Matt to make that noise. But regret's a heavy thing to carry on your shoulders, and I'm not one to drop that sort of stuff.
I didn't bother trying to talk myself out of it.
In any case, the papers that had blown into the forest could very well have been important, maybe due on Monday for some previously unknown assignment. My mom would be pissed if I didn't get them in.
And so, with a lame excuse for utter stupidity and the words "the stories were lies, you know" running through my head, I made my way into the forest.
My binder, blue and muddied and abandoned, lay on the pavement of the main road.
I'd come back for it.
The forest was thick and suffocating, drenched in the dying leaves of early fall. A thin layer of frost covered the ground as the trees got thicker and thicker, until my entire world had been reduced to a darkened orb of nothingness. No sky. No light. No daytime, but no night-time, either.
I tested my voice.
The forest was strangely quiet, so I would have heard an answer if Matt had been there. Nothing came. I decided to give myself two minutes to continue before turning back. What was the point of false hope, anyways?
Matt was dead. I knew that.
I tried again.
"Yo, Matty, you there?"
A scuffling to my right. I whipped around, stories running wild in my head. I could count my heartbeat, running faster and faster in my chest. Seconds sped up.
One, two, three, four, beat after beat.
Was it Matt? Was it a deer, startled by my voice? Maybe a monster from my mother's tales, come from deep inside the forest to reinforce my fears.
My voice was weaker now, not as loud.
Do not. Disturb. The beast.
All of a sudden, a form burst from the undergrowth and leapt straight at me. I shrieked, my voice echoing through the trees. I had fallen back. The beast leapt straight past my head, and in a moment of pure terror I caught sight of its horrid, frighteningly devilish bushy tail.
I met eyes with the creature as it perched on a twig next to me. A nervous laugh, more of a bark, came from my throat as I smiled and dropped my head back. The beast startled at my voice, scurrying away.
You goddamn idiot.
For a minute or two, I lay there in the dying leaves, listening to my breath as my heart calmed in my chest. A smile was plastered on my face as I laughed at my idiocy, laughed at the squirrel and laughed for the adrenaline. Stories still held their place in my mind, but they didn't frighten me, not anymore. I always knew that there was really nothing to be afraid of.
And so, holding tightly onto what little pride I had left, I sauntered further into the forest with much more bravery and a much lower heart rate. I wasn't really looking for Matt, not anymore. But I wasn't looking for monsters, either.
In a way, I guess I was flaunting my invincibility. Monsters didn't exist, and the scariest things in this part of the forest, at least, were squirrels. I was top of the food chain. Untouchable. Super-Alfred.
Counting down the minute or so that I had given myself to continue, I determined to finish my brave quest and return to my home a hero. Leaves in hair and dirt on back. My jacket would need a good wash, after this.
And that's when I spotted it—a silhouette of black against the forest's shadows. It moved swiftly between the trees, coming to a quick stop as it was spotted. I saw the antlers.
I loved deer—and yeah, I know that sounds unmanly and all, but they could totally take your eye out with their hoofs, and those antlers were pretty damn sharp. Totally badass. All in all, though, I guess I related them back to Matt. As a child, deers would often come to visit us, standing on the borders of our backyard and the surrounding forest. After we moved deeper into town, we didn't see them as much anymore, but I could still remember the way Matty would sit at the window and watch them.
God, he could sit there for an hour and not move an inch. I could never do that, but it didn't surprise me that he could. He was always so quiet, calm, shy—invisible. Like a deer.
I didn't believe in the afterlife, but for the year or so after my brother disappeared, it comforted me to think of him as a deer, running through the forest like a shadow. Unseen. Unheard. Beautiful. It suited him.
In front of me, the deer shifted, walking out into a small clearing. I couldn't see it fully; not yet, hidden as it was by the afternoon shadows.
I walked fully out into the clearing, expecting the deer to startle and run. It didn't. I was somewhat surprised at how trusting it was.
The clearing we stood in was small enough, and shadowed by the branches that hung over it. I couldn't see the deer at all, now, but I hadn't heard it run away, so it must've still been there.
I made a soft noise with my tongue, beckoning it forward.
God, Al, it's not a cat.
Surprisingly enough, though, it did step forwards.
Into the clearing.
Standing on two legs and taller than I'd ever be.
Afterwards, I'd think back on it and not really remember what it actually looked like. My only memory of the incident included a sharp scream ripping from my throat, the feel of bark against my palm as I stumbled backwards, and a piercing violet on the back of my neck.
I locked the door when I got home.
Closed the windows, too.
Sat on the couch in the basement and sobbed.
Fear was paralysing. I didn't move for hours. Didn't eat. Didn't sleep.
My binder was still sitting, abandoned, on the main road.
It didn't even cross my mind.