Part VII: Strange Revelations
Jennaleigh stood and looked with horror at Charles’ lifeless body on the ground. Her ears began to ring, and suddenly she could hear only the sound of her shallow breathing. Suddenly, a scream pierced her stunned state and whipped her back into the moment. The horror of what just unfolded began to rapidly set in, and Jennaleigh began to involuntarily back up to the door. Nahele looked at her and held an out his open hand.
“Wait. You don’t understand,” he said softly, arm out-stretched.
She ran. Without thinking Jennaleigh leaped out of the door of the hut and started sprinting into the blackness of the forest. She could hear Maria’s piercing scream behind her, fading with each rapid step further from the hut and towards the thick blanket of snow-covered trees. She ran and ran; never stopping, never looking back. Her lungs were on fire; a strange sensation juxtaposed to the bone-chillingly cold air. She keep running until she could sprint no longer. She stopped and looked back in the direction of the hut, though now she could see no flame in the distance. She tried to catch her breath, but it eluded her with each chilly inhalation. For a brief moment she had forgotten why she was running, then suddenly the memory struck her. She could still see the image of Charles toppling over and bleeding everywhere in her mind. Before Jennaleigh could think of anything else, she found herself involuntarily curled over and began vomiting. She emptied the remaining contents of her near empty stomach onto the bright white snow beneath her feet, then finally caught her breathe upon the sudden realization that something was watching her.
Jennaleigh could feel a gaze on the back of her neck. Then, she heard it; the unmistakable sound, this time much closer to her. One of a kind and soul-crushing. A buzzing growl, like a million angry wasps stinging awake a starving, hibernating bear. Jennaleigh slowly turned around toward the noise behind her, and at last she saw it in clear, sickening detail. It stood, starkly against the trees, at least 30ft tall. A monstrous, insect-like face with huge teeth-laden mandibles on either side of a gaping, drooling mouth caught her gaze first. Apart from its huge, glowing red eyes, it had no other recognizable, earthly features. It hovered above the snow, a few feet off of the ground propelled by a set of massive, tree-shaking wings, riddled with holes and scars. Its arms resembled that of a bears, but much larger and thicker. Claws protruded from its unearthly gigantic paws and glistened in the moonlight, sharpness apparent.
Jennaleigh stood in shock, unable to speak or move at the sight of the terrifying monstrosity before her. Suddenly, the beast lifted its paws into the air, claws still protracted, and let out a buzzing, bellowing growl. Jennaleigh stood, bewildered by the sight of it as it hurled its giant claws down and toward her. She closed her eyes. She saw her brother’s face in the darkness of her mind and whispered, “I’m coming, Jay.”
Moments passed, no pain accompanying them. No sound, no anything. Jennaleigh wondered if she was dead until at last she summoned up the courage to open up her eyes and realized that she was indeed, surprisingly alive. The monster had vanished, leaving behind not a single tangible or observable trace that it had ever even been there. Jennaleigh stood flabbergasted in the darkness of the night, unable to come to terms with what had just unfolded, when she felt a hand grip her shoulder. She spun around, heart racing and saw a face, before her, that was covered in blood, but still recognized.
It was the soldier, the woman from the bus. Her hair was pulled back into an ever loosening bun, and a steady stream of blood ran down the right side of her dirt-covered face. She was panting and clutching her side, hunched over and wincing. Jennaleigh saw blood dripping from her abdomen.
“Oh my God…you’re…from the bus. The soldier,” said Jennaleigh, still not entirely grounded in the present moment.
“I’ve been running through these woods for hours. A f*****g Indian shot me with an arrow. I pulled it out, but I think a piece of the arrow might be stuck still. It f*****g hurts,” said the soldier, panting heavily.
Suddenly, the soldier winced in pain. She fell to the ground and landed on all fours, crimson blood spraying from her wound and dotting the ultra-bright snow beneath her. Jennaleigh quickly dropped down beside the woman. She grabbed a hold of her shoulders and lifted her back onto her feet.
“Oh my God, are you alright? We thought you were dead. We thought that… thing took you,” said Jennaleigh in a hush.
“Thing? What thing?” asked the soldier through clenched teeth, rising to her feet.
“You haven’t seen it? There’s… something in these woods,” replied Jennaleigh, fearfully.
“Only thing I’ve seen is an a*****e with a braid and bow. F****r got me good,” said the soldier, unaware of the threat that was among the trees around them.
“It was just here. Just a couple seconds ago,” said Jennaleigh.
“Was it an animal?” asked the soldier, patronizing tone and all.
“I don’t know… I don’t think so. It was massive, like nothing I’ve ever seen,” said Jennaleigh, aware of how it must seem to someone who hadn’t seen it with their own eyes. After all, could Jennaleigh really blame her for not taking it seriously? She wouldn’t have believed it herself if she hadn’t seen it.
“Well, whatever it is, I’m glad it’s gone,” said the soldier, wincing once more. “I’m Erin, by the way.”
“Hey, I’m Jennaleigh,” said Jennaleigh to the woman.
“So… where are the others then?” asked Erin scanning the forest.
“The others?” Jennaleigh suddenly remembered what had led her here in the first place. She saw Charles’ body hit the ground once again in her mind. Her breath became shallow once more.
“They… killed him,” Jennaleigh said, whispering.
“What? Who killed who?” asked Erin.
“The old man… that awful old man. They killed him. The old woman and Nahele did.”
“Who?” asked Erin frantically.
“Nahele was the man who saved us from the bus. From the… thing. I thought we could trust him,” said Jennaleigh, tears forming.
“Whoa whoa whoa… slow down. They killed him? That old man from the bus? What about that woman and her daughter? And the bus driver… what was her name again?”
“Clara. Her name was Clara. The monster got her before she could get to the woods with us,” said Jennaleigh, reality becoming clearer and clearer by the moment.
“F**k. Okay so… where are the lady and her kid now?” asked Erin gingerly.
“In the hut. The old lady’s hut. I had to run when I saw him… what they did to him. I didn’t mean to leave them. I couldn’t think straight… I…”
Erin cut her off, “Hey, it’s alright. Your adrenaline made you run. It’s okay. We’re gonna find them, okay? Just lead the way.”
Jennaleigh slowly looked up at the soldier, drying her tears before they could fall. She gaze her a nod and started back in the direction of the hut.
They walked through the dense trees for a few minutes, until at last Jennaleigh could see the flickering flame of the hut once again in the near distance. She crouched down behind a tree, looking at the hut. Erin followed suit.
“That’s it right there,” said Jennaleigh pointing to the structure.
“Alright then, so there’s two bad guys in there then? Did either of them have weapons do you remember?” Asked Erin with wide, experienced eyes.
“Yeah, Nahele has a bow. Not sure about the woman though,” replied Jennaleigh.
“Must have been the sonofabitch who shot me. Alright, so one is armed for sure, the other might be for all we know. The bow takes a few seconds to draw and shoot, so we’d probably have about a five second window of opportunity, give or take, not factoring the possibility that the woman is armed too. We’re gonna have to be quick in any case. Are you with me?” Erin was locked in and fully analyzing the situation at hand.
“This is a bad idea. He’s a big guy and you’re wounded!” Jennaleigh exclaimed, amazed at the soldier’s suggestion.
“That won’t matter with this,” Erin said as she pulled out a combat knife from her boot. The blade was six inches long and looked durable, as if it had seen its fair share of use and endured over the years.
Without another word, Erin hobbled over to the hut. Jennaleigh, still crouched followed closely behind her. They reached the door of the structure and stood on either side of the door. Jennaleigh pulled out her can of pepper spray and clutched it tightly, nervousness permeating her composure.
“Are you ready?” asked Erin, whispering verging on mouthing with no sound.
Jennaleigh looked in her eyes, wiped the sweat from her brow and responded with a nod.
Erin held up her hands, stuck out her fingers and started counting down from five. Jennaleigh felt the tension swell within her, and as Erin lowered the last finger, Jennaleigh jolted up the her feet and followed closely behind the soldier as she kicked open the door and entered the hut of horror.