The Watchers in the Dark: Part 3

photo credit: Snowy Forest ICM via photopin (license)
photo credit: Snowy Forest ICM via photopin (license)

He could hear the fall of stones as his former friends scrabbled down the rocks of the waterfall, but he did not turn to see as voices he’d known since childhood were raised shouting oaths and calling down curses on Gar’s soul. Gar just ran, sprinting for the forest that stretched out in front of him at the foot of the hill.
Gar risked a glance back as he stopped to catch a breath at the edge of the forest. He could make out the figure of Kel leading the pursuers. The Chieftain’s son had a sword raised high above his head and his face was contorted like that of a wild beast as he led the rushing horde of the mob in pursuit of Gar.
Gar continued onward, finding himself in an eerie half-light as he plunged into the forest. Jet black trunks reared up and up around him, and the forest canopy seemed lost amongst a dark pall that lurked high above his head. Between the trees a broad stemmed plant like a bulrush, with stems a vivid ochre, covered almost all the forest floor. The leaves of the plants billowed and waved in the current of a wind Gar could not feel.
He ran down the slope between the trees making a path through the undergrowth that wrapped about and tangled round his legs as the plants fought back against his forward movement. It felt as if all he was doing was creating a path for the fast approaching pursuers who moved ever closer, as Gar moved on in a futile attempt at extending his life for a few moments more.
A silvery grey ribbon of colour caught his eye and Gar turning to his right saw and heard the rush of a river in flood and stretched out over the roaring torrent one of the giant tree trunks. Whether felled by age, disease or the flood Gar didn’t care. Just the hope that the going was easier on that side of the river; the chance he could make it before those that followed, the chance of putting some distance between him and his pursuers was enough to make him turn in that direction.
His first step on the trunk was enough to tell him that the tree was rotten, wood splitting and giving beneath his running feet, but he had no other option. The pursuers had more than halved the distance between them since they had entered the forest, clearly he could make out many faces and nearly all wore the same mask of wordless burning rage.
He was half way across when the first of his pursuers began the scramble up onto the dead giant, the sound of wood protesting against the indignity rumbling beneath his feet. As he ran wood quaked beneath his feet, straining under the weight and then a misstep, Gar found himself in mid-air rushing head first towards the deafening roar of the waters.
The shock of the cold was like a punch in the guts as he found himself under the freezing cold waters of the flood. Buffeted by rocks and fallen branches lifted up and borne along by the flood. Then he was above the surface thrown up and almost out by the force of the current. Momentarily he caught a glimpse back upstream just as the giant tree trunk gave way under the weight of people on top of it and Gar watched as the men of his village were plunged into the deadly cold waters.

© 2016 | Frank Regan, All rights reserved.


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