Begin Matt’s weeklong writing period, the last section before the story’s year and a half hiatus.
“I think we should walk for a while,” Samantha said.
“Yes, that makes sense,” the coachman agreed.
Tanya looked hesitant. Bill nodded slowly, understanding spreading across his face.
“But why? I don’t see why we can’t ride,” Tanya said.
“We should try to keep the horses as fresh as possible,” the coachman said. “Just because we haven’t come across anything out here doesn’t mean we won’t.”
They picked up the trail along the fissure. Samantha and Bill walked up front, followed by Tanya. The coachman was in the rear leading the horses by the reigns. Tanya watched as the Guardian and her charge fell into step with each other. Her skin was still pink and raw in some places, but she felt pretty back to normal. Periodically, she would probe the vastness of the landscape for any sings of life. Each time there was nothing but a gray fuzziness.
As they walked, Billy glanced out of the corner of his eyes at Samantha. He tried to come up with something to say, but his mind was full of images. In one part of his mind he replayed the events of the previous day. The rest of his mind was full of places, people and events that were foreign. In some images he saw people rushing frantically around him, signs of battle littered the countryside. In others he was alone, surveying a pristine land spread before him. In others, visions that chilled his spine, he stood before a throne of bone. Atop the throne was a man, wickedly handsome, with firelight dancing in his eyes. In some visions this man was smiling, a hand outstretched to Bill. In others he was giving the order for Bill’s death.
Yet his mind sang with the sweet sounds of his new power.
“How are you handling all this,” Samantha said, still looking forward.
The question pushed all the images away for a time. “It’s confusing. I see…strange people and places. I see you and Clyde now in my childhood. Here and there I can see what you might have done for me. And I see a man on a throne of bones. I don’t ever want to meet that man, but I have a feeling that one day I must.”
“That I don’t know. Annie’s the one with the sight. I get it in flashes sometimes. Many of the Guardian sisters do, but I can’t control it.”
They continued walking. Billy looked into the corners of his mind, finding some areas dark and hazy, while others were very clear. His stomach rumbled, but he did not notice. Samantha heard it. She looked over at Billy, frowning. Her pace slowed, and then she was walking alongside Tanya.
“I don’t know how long Billy can keep going,” Samantha said, keeping her voice low. “He needs food and water, and so far we haven’t come across either.”
“Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that. What should we do?”
“I don’t know. We better hope that we come to a way out of this place soon.”
The horses whinnied behind them, and the coachman made soothing sounds. Their noises continued, and they began stamping their hooves. Samantha and Tanya stopped and turned back to the coachman. He had stopped a few paces back and was stroking the horses’ faces.
“What’s the matter,” Samantha said.
He turned his skeletal face toward them. His fearsome grin and empty eyes still looked sinister to Tanya. “Something’s coming. Something they don’t like.”
Tanya cast out with her mind, probing the countryside. She gasped and a worried look came to her face.
“Tanya, what is it,” Samantha asked. Tanya didn’t respond. Samantha grabbed her arm, squeezed. “What’s out there?”
“The imp returns. He follows our trail. And there’s something else, something hungry. It follows behind the imp.”
“Ok, now’s the time we ride. Billy, come on lets go.” She didn’t hear a reply and so she looked around.
Bill was still walking, but he was starting to disappear in the swirling mist of the land.
“Billy!” Samantha yelled, “Something’s following us. It’s time to ride.”
He stopped and turned slowly. He looked lost. Then, he looked into their faces, saw the concern and the excitement and rushed back to them.
They mounted quickly.
“What’s the matter,” Bill asked over his shoulder.
“Tanya detected our imp friend and something else, something big, following us.” Samantha said.
The coachman let out a yell and cracked the reins. His horse took off, swirling mist behind. Tanya yelped and wrapped her arms around his chest. Samantha squeezed his ribs, and then Bill followed the coachman’s lead. The mists caressed their faces as they trailed after Tanya and their coachman.
Shortly after riding off, they heard a strangled cry, followed by a savage roar. The horses picked up the pace, running full tilt. The horses raced north along the crevice.
Tanya reached out. She could no longer feel the presence of the imp. However, the unknown creature was getting closer and its hunger was growing. She felt its mind, animalistic on the surface, driven by basic needs. Beneath was a childlike intelligence. Tanya tried to sooth that mind, hoping that would quell the beast. At first it appeared to be working, the beast began to slow. Then, the hunger took over and the beast charged on. Tanya was closed off against a wall of hunger and bloodlust. She shivered at the feeling.
“What is it,” the coachman asked. “What do you sense?”
“It is hungry, and it will not stop.”
Tanya looked at Bill and Samantha. They were very close behind. Bill was looking tired. She couldn’t tell if he was pale of if it was merely and illusion of the mist. Samantha clung to him, looking worried, though whether worried over Bill or the monster chasing them Samantha also could not tell.
The coachman gave a small tug on the reins and the horse slowed a little. Billy and Samantha’s horse caught up quickly, and they rode side by side. Bill was about to ask what was going on when the coachman spoke up.
“We need to look for a place to hide or a way across the chasm. That beastie will catch up to us sooner or later.”
Bill and Samantha nodded. Tanya looked over her shoulder, expecting to see the monster right on top of them. Only the mist followed, and the monotonous ground. The coachman urged his horse to his full speed, and Tanya had to grip him to stop from falling off the back. They rode hard for what felt like a day. The animal following them remained silent, but Tanya could feel it following. Its hunger was overpowering. If she touched its mind for too long she thought she would be lost in mindless hunger.
From up ahead Bill shouted and pointed off to the right. Up ahead, a narrow bridge of stone jutted out into the chasm. They slowed the horses and stopped at the bridge. The stone was too narrow for the horses to cross. Bill dismounted and Samantha followed after him.
“We must cross,” he said. “We have not seen another way across. We might not see another. Besides, the creature following us probably won’t be able to get across if it’s as big as we think it is.”
As if to punctuate his statement the beast let loose its savage roar. Tanya dismounted and joined Samantha and Bill. The coachman stayed.
“Come on,” Samantha urged. “We gotta go!”
The coachman shook his head. “I’ll not leave my horses. You go. Maybe the creature will follow me instead.”
“But-“ Tanya began, and the coachman grabbed the reigns of the second horse and rode off.
They inched across the narrow jutting of rock. Tanya was in the lead, followed by Bill. He had insisted on going last to cover the two women, but Samantha refused on the grounds that she was still Bill’s guardian. She didn’t tell him, but she found it touching that Bill was taking to the hero role quickly.
They were halfway across the bridge when the beast came into view. It spotted them and let out a triumphant roar. It had a bulky body with squat, powerful legs. Coarse brown fur covered the body and legs except where patches had fallen out revealing red pestilent skin. A whip-like tail, nearly ten feet long swished through the air. On top of its nearly twenty foot tall shoulder was a mangled head. Two trunks, like an elephant’s extended from the middle of the face. The mouth was full of razor sharp teeth. Two great eyes locked onto the three travelers half way across the bridge.
“Oh God,” Tanya muttered. “It’s horrible.”
For a moment, nothing happened. The beast’s tail swished the air and its two great trunks rubbed together. As it stared at them, the look in its eyes changed from rage to joy. The trunks lifted to sniff the air and a giggle poured from its gaping mouth. The sound was eerily childish.
The animal approached, closing in on the rock bridge. Bill raced through the newly awakened parts of his brain, trying to find something to help. Nothing. From somewhere beyond the limits of the mist’s visibility was the sound of horses and a yell from the coachman. The beast looked away, toward the sound. Its eyes glazed over in confusion.
“Move,” Samantha hissed.