He was running through the muddy woods as stealthily as possible. It was night; he had been running and hiding the whole day. What was to be a jolly stroll through the woods had become a nightmare.
He swerved left at the sight of a caterpillar and veered right in a swift motion. It was not long before he had to duck as the protruding end of a branch swung by. Fear groped him. Though he had been running and hiding the whole night, he was quite confident that he would survive the night. Now, for the first time, he started to doubt his judgments.
For the past twenty minutes he had been running hopelessly, seeming further unlikely that he would find a place to hide. He did not know exactly what he was running away from, but he knew it was capable of slaying him, for his brother had run in the opposite direction screaming out a single order “Run until you can’t run anymore!” His usual skills had become near redundant under his current circumstances.
Finally he came to a halt, under a big oak tree. He was surrounded by bushes and ferns. He was trying to think exactly where he was. His memory seemed extremely vague, his thoughts seemed clouded and he found it hard to concentrate on one thought for more than a few seconds. He assumed that he had some sort of concussion or that he had hit a branch on the course of his run.
He heard a crackle to his left. He turned ever so slowly in an attempt to anticipate whatever may lie in front of him. Mid-way through his turn he thought he heard another noise coming from the opposite direction. Was it his minds playing tricks on him? Was the first sound a decoy or was the creature that was after him really that fast? For a few seconds he just watched, his heart pumping loudly, threatening to burst right out of his chest. A twig snapped again, he was definitely not assuming this time, in an instant; he picked up a stick and flung it with all his might into the bushes. The next moment, he felt something thump his head, followed by darkness which slowly consumed him and his thoughts.
Waking as though he had been in a deep slumber, he rubbed his eyes and tried to survey what was around him, his surroundings. After a few minutes, he realized that he had been lying down in the same place where he had been smote standing before something had hit him. Panicking, he quickly squinted to try and spot if any danger menace was still lurking. From the corner of his eye, he spotted a small red object, glinting some five five feet away from him.
He slowly walked towards the object and picked it up, it was just an apple. He assumed that it must have dropped on his head when he was sleeping under the tree. After a moment he realized that he was in fact seeking his way through the woods after a jolly stroll had turned into a despairing run from a ruthless monster. Then he looked at the apple again and he slapped himself; he had nearly frightened himself to death over an apple.
Just when he seemed to relax a little, and Just as complacency threatened to creep engulfing to him, he saw a pair of yellow eyes emerge above one of the bushes he was surrounded by in vicinity. He was rooted to the ground, shell-shocked, understanding knowing very well that he had no chance of outrunning the creature now.
The creature had pranced upon him. The eyes seemed to study him for a few seconds. It was probably seemed to be contemplating whether the boy would taste better dead or alive. Fearing the worst, the boy readied himself for what he hoped was going to be his own version fable of David and Goliath.
The creature slowly walked out of its hiding. It was furry, long and menacing to say the least. Both of them circled each other with the apple tree in between them. It seemed to flex its hind legs. He noticed that it was furry long and sinister in the a moment of shock, as he realized that the creature was about to pounce. He remembered his name Amir! He cursed himself for letting his thoughts drift again as the creature leapt on him. Soon. Soon, he found himself fighting tooth and nail rolling hither and thither with the creature. For an instant it would seem as though the creature had its claws on his neck, on the verge of ripping his gullet out, the next he would emerge on top. Amir fought for what seemed perpetuity.
Amir and the creature were getting back on their feet for what seemed the umpteenth time, preparing for another clash. Amir was starting to feel jaded and he knew feared it wouldn’t be long before he suffered a vital injury at this rate. The creature made its first move charging charged at him from an angle. Amir jumped, hoping to land behind the creature. It was a miscalculation on his part, for he one of his legs landed on the creature, while the other hit the ground. He toppled over awkwardly, hitting the tree they had been encircling.
He felt searing pain in his back whilst simultaneously the creature yowled incoherently. He sensed a flurry of motion. He forced his eyes open and saw the creature lay on the ground. About four dozen apples lay scattered around the creature. A half-grin etched itself on his face; he had survived solely due to luck. Grunting as he tried to get up, he heard his bones click back into place. He slowly walked across to the creature and snapped its neck ensuring it was dead. As relief coursed through him, he did so, he collapsed.
A loud cry woke him up. He sat bolt upright surveying his surroundings. To his left a bonfire was crackling. He tried to raise his legs but couldn’t for some reason. He peered down and found them tied to large rocks. A weight seemed to land upon his shoulders, scarring frightening him. He twisted his neck to find a the hand of a stout man on his shoulders.
The man presented a wide grin, baring his musty teeth. “‘Finally, you’re awake” he quipped. “Do you know Are you aware of how long you’ve been asleep?” he asked. “Who are you?” Amir quizzed. The question seemed to fluster the man. In an attempt to prevent the man from getting angered, Amir set off on a flurry of questions “Did you find me? Where am I? How did I get here?” The man heaved his heavy body up from where he was squatting and talking to Amir and sighed took a halted briefly and said.. After a brief pause he said “I am a hunter. In these woods lie strange creatures, they are near impossible to kill. Once you enter this forest, you’re memory starts to dwindle as you may have noticed. If you do not pay heed to it, you will soon find yourself go insane and will sooner or later get scrounged by any of the predators here.” He paused for a moment, letting Amir absorb whatever he had said.
Amir took a while to comprehend whatever had been said. “How long have you been here?” Amir asked the man. A sense of understanding seemed to dawn upon the man once he understood what Amir was trying to find out. “55 Fifty five years” the man replied. Amir was shocked by the reply; the man only seemed to be 34 years.” After an instant, Amir dropped the question he wanted to ask initially “Why have you not gone insane yet?” The man sighed and pulled out a flask from his thick trench coat. “This is the key to your survival here; I’ve been trying to make you drink this for the past two weeks, yet you simply refused and fell asleep every day. You think I’m trying to poison you with this liquid” the man said. “If I-I-I have been refusing to drink this for two weeks, why do I have no memory of it?” Amir asked. “I think you know the answer” said the man. “If you don’t drink this now, you are soon going to have no memory. There is not any means by which you can find out if I am lying or not. But, if you don’t take this now, you are going to go insane!” the man yelled.
“Why do you care about me?” Amir demanded.
“I have been lacking some company in these woods. Two boys arrived in the forest this week, you and another one who seemed a bit taller than you. You and the other boy are the first ones to arrive here since I came here” said the man with a slightly mournful expression. “Are you suggesting that you lived here, isolated, for the past 55 fifty five years?” asked an astonished astounded Amir.
The man turned a way for a moment and seemed to sob. After a span of about ten minutes, he turned around to face Amir again. “Listen boy,” he the man said, his tone turning aggressive suddenly. “I will say this only once. A brigade of twenty-five elite soldiers entered these woods fifty-five years back. I was one of them. We were sent here with one task; to exterminate these savage creatures that hound these woods. The king had been worried because every civilian who came here for timber or for game never returned. We had packed resources for three months including the sap of the holy Gingoa tree which prevents memory loss. After 2 and a half months, we gave up pursuit. and our general decided to retreat and no one complained because Eeveryone was eager to return to their families. We tried to retrace our way back out of the forest with the help of our map. But, every route we took seemed to take us to the same place; the centre of the forest.
“What happened to the other soldiers?” Amir interrupted.
“I said, I will only say this once! So keep quiet and listen!” fumed the soldier.
“When we all started to panic, the hounds of this forest seemed to have realized that there was prey nearby. One by one, our men were eliminated by the hounds. First, my brother, he sobbed. Then the general.”
Amir wanted to ask how the man had survived when everyone else had died, but refrained himself.
“Soon, there were only 3 three of us left. We had realized that these creatures could sense where we were through their eyes and their sense of smell. If we remained a unit at that time, we would have been the centre of fear, waiting to get our guts ripped. So, we parted ways. I had forgotten to give them the sap and the location of the Gingoa tree. It was an accident! None the less, they feared they would go mad, and as I told you earlier, the creatures sensed their fear, hunted them down and killed them” said the man, gulping, probably with guilt as he finished he completed completed his tale.
“We will Never Again, return home boy. Now, will you have this sap or not?” the man asked in an authoritative tone.
Amir thought about what the man had said and compared them to the past events. The man looked scrupulous and gave which him cause for concern. But, he remembered what the man had said about the creatures of the woods and their sense of fear. He carefully concealed that thought. He eventually decided had to have two sips of the sap. He found it disgusting to say the least.
Amir screamed with pain as the sap started to find its way into his body. The man clamped his mouth shut. Amir panted for a few moments, flung the man’s hand away from him and yelled “Couldn’t you have warned me?”
“If I had warned you, you would have refused to take the sap.”
Amir paused for a second; as clouds in his brain seemed to clear. He stopped the man mid-way through his sentence and said “I am Amir, we haven’t introduced ourselves properly, and I sincerely apologize for that. But, I need to know where my brother is right away. You said you saw…
This time it was the man who stopped Amir in the middle of a sentence; “I am Arjun, I am afraid I had the tall one for dinner yesterday.” the man said with a smug grin.
“You ate what?” asked Amir, anger pulsing through him.
“Relax, I am only kidding” said Arjun. “Don’t they teach you anything in school these days? It was a joke” he said and shook his head in disapproval.
“Then where is he?” asked Amir, still unsure of what the man’s intensions were.
Arjun, pointed towards a fire, about hundred meters away from where they stood. “He didn’t remember you at first, it was only after I poured some sap into him that he remembered he had a brother. I haven’t told him that you are here. He wouldn’t bear see his brother in such a lowly state.”
By the time Arjun finished his sentence; Amir had untied his legs from the rocks and had started walking towards the fire. He waded his way through the thorny bushes and ferns. Soon, he found himself standing about 3 three feet awayclose from to a bonfire. Next to the fire lay a wooden log, and a stack of what seemed like plants. Arjun and Amit, his brother, probably used them as pillows to rest their heads.
“Amit!” he called out for his brother. A few seconds later, he heard echoes of his own voice. He grunted at his own stupidity, he calmed himself and looked for his brother, panic starting to course into him. “Where is he?” he whispered to himself. He heard a twig snap nearby. He couldn’t hold the fear out much longer, it poured into him and he ran to the direction where the sound had come from. He was worried, and hoped that the he didn’t have to look at the corpse of his brother as he walked.
“Amir, is that you?” said an astounded voice. Amir looked up, realizing that he was lost in thought and panic and saw his brother standing with a bemused expression. Amit was standing in front of him, carrying handfuls of twigs and timber. Relief coursed through Amir as he ran up to him and hugged him. Amit dropped whatever he had been carrying and screamed. Amir backed away amused at his brother’s awkward reaction. He looked down and realized that his brother’s leg was bleeding. He realized that there was probably a creature behind Amit’s leg.At a second glance he saw footprints behind Amit. He looked around to find a blade in his brother’s belt.
He pointed towards the a blade in his brother’s belt and ordered his brotherhim to toss it to him. His brother flung it at him in an instant. Amir caught the blade and was surprised at the speed of his thought; it was probably the sap he told himself. Amir admired the cusp of the blade and how sharp it was. That wasn’t a very smart move, because at thatIn an instant, the hound behind his brother’s leg stepped to the sidefrom its hiding and pounced on him. Amir kicked at the creature blindly. about 10 ten feet away screaming “Get, away from me!” as he did.. In the brief instance that he had to recover, he He gripped his brother’s blade tightly, got up and saw that his brother had fainted from the corner of his eye. Anger washed into him, and the creature seemed to back away.
He thought that was just his mind playing tricks on him from the various movies he had been used to watching. Nonetheless, cConfidence seemed to pour into him at the sight. He charged at the creature, which sidestepped and dug its claws into his calf muscles.
Before he could realize what had happened, he found himself sprawling in the dirt with his knife lyinglaying a few metres away from him. He screamed as his brain seemed to realize that a part of his flesh had just been ripped out. The creature seemed to have a smug smile on its wolf-like face or that was just his mind playing tricks on him again. In any case, he didn’t have much time to ponder upon that most interesting matter as the creature pouncedit pounced once himmore. In that brief instant, thoughts seemed to engulf him. He thought about, fate, destinies, the man who had saved him, his brother, and then he saw the creature open its massive jaws, preparing to snap at his neck. Its eye sockets seemed to widen a little and then it the creature collapsed. Amir quickly pushed the creature away from him and got up. He found an arrow jutting through the hound. He looked up and saw that it was Arjun who had shot the arrow. “Thank you” Amir said in a hushed tone. Arjun just nodded from the other end.
Amir turned around and walked towards his brother, who still lay motionless. He reached out for his shoulder slowly and shook him vigorously. “Amit!” he called. Slowly but surely, his eyes seemed to flicker. “Are we dead?” asked Amit. “Not yet” said Amir. “How did this ensue?” inquired a clearly troubled Arjun. “This was supposed to be well hidden, the only way they could have found it is through a strong source of negative emotion” he said, starring into Amir’s eyes as he did. A pang of guilt poured into Amir as he realized that he had caused them the trouble with his panic. He remembered the anger he had felt, and said “we have to move quickly, there will be more coming. It was my fault, I’m sorry.”
“This isn’t a time for apologies, boy. Pack up as much game as you can, and get moving!” ordered Arjun.
“I’ll get my bow and arrows. You have two minutes!” he said. “Amit, cannot move at this state, let alone run!” Amir said in desperation.
“Then he shall die” said Arjun simply.
“Are you going to desert people again, so that you can live on in this glorious forest?” fumed Amir.
“I will do what I can, to survive” said Arjun blankly, and stormed away.
Amir slumped next to his brother, and waited for the inevitable. Arjun was out of sight before long. He had given him a small dose of the Gingoa sap, if he somehow managed to survive this battle.
“You should have gone” whispered a half conscious Amit. “Shut up! This is no time for heroic statements” snapped Amir. A slight chuckle seemed to emanate from Amit’s mouth. Arjun lookedAmir looked down and noticed it was not his brother who had laughed. He got up and gripped his brother’s blade. He saw three hounds approaching in a triangular formation. They seemed to be taunting him to make a move. Amir wasn’t about to give up yet, he picked up a rock with his left arm and flung it towards the three hounds. Amir thought he heard a snarl emanate from the direction of the hounds. An instant later, he saw that the hound flash before his eyes. To make matters worse, it was pouncing, and not at him, but at his brother who lay lie twenty odd feet away.yards away. “No!” he screamed hoarsely and flung his brother’s knife at the creature forlornlyin desperation. To his luck, it seemed to strike the creature. It twitched, and lay motionless next to his unconscious brother. He thanked the gods, and surveyed what lay around him. He didn’t have much time to be relieved for the next hound seemed to have its sights on him. It leapt out of his sight. It seemed a bit more cautious than the previous one to his annoyance. Amir slowly started to walk towards the dead hound to pull out his blade. The remaining two seemed to notice, because aAt that instant theytwo hounds both leapt some five feet leapt in front of him. He stood there, without anything to protect himself from the hounds. He felt hopeless. A weak battle cry was sounded at that time and from a tree, Arjun jumped down. The creatures seemed to stare at one and another, bemused. If they did have brains, they certainly weren’t quick because they stood there motionless, giving enough time for Arjun to fire arrows at both of them. The hounds slumped to the ground like rag dolls.
Amir ran up to Arjun, thanked him and said “You came back!” “No” moaned Arjun. “I never left!” he cried. Amir produced a wide smile, and said “He’d be back in a trice”. Amir slowly walked towards Amit, who still lay unconscious. He pushed stepped over the dead hound and bent down where his brother lay. He, put his fingers below under his nostrils, but found he was not breathing. Amir panicked and lifted his brother’s head to find a part of the hound’s claw embedded at the back of his neck. His brother wasn’t unconscious, he was dead! “Arjun!” he called out in desperation refusing to give up on his brother. When he heard no response, he turned around to see a hound feeding off the corpse of Arjun. Sorrow, grief, anger poured into him all at once. But, the worst emotion he felt at the time was guilt. He had asked Arjun to stay back and help them fight; in return for Arjun’s loyalty he had died. All thoughts seemed to evanesceclear from his mind, as he charged madly at the hound feeding of Arjun. Amir held no weapon in his hand but flung himself at the creature, screaming as he did. When he was about to land on the creature, it seemed to open its jaws and snap at his neck. Darkness engulfed him , and Amir dead screaming.as he died.
When Amir opened his eyes again, he found himself screaming whilst sitting upright on his bed. He stopped screaming when he realized that he had been dreaming. He grunted, thanking the gods and rubbing his eyes as he did. He slowly climbed out of bed and walked towards his study table. He groped for his water bottle wildly. When he finally felt something cylindrical, he lifted it up to his eyes and found it was not water, but the sap of the Gingoa tree in the bottle! He thought he had gone wild, but at that moment, his brother stumbled into the room. Amir hid the bottle behind him and asked “What are you doing here?”
“I came to wake you up, its quarter past eleven” said Amit morosely.
“Have you been having nightmares?” quizzed Amir. His brother seemed bemused. He was about to reply but, at that instant Amir pulled out the bottle he had been hiding and asked “The Gingoa kind of nightmare?”
Amit opened his mouth and closed it. He Amit wanted to reply but was left stunned. It was obvious that he had had the same dream knew something about it. Amir was about to ask if Amit had any explanation, but his mother called them down for breakfast at that moment.
“We’ll talk about this later” said Amit and hid the bottle under Amir’s cot. They slowly walked downstairs for breakfast, pondering over their apparent nightmares.
They found themselves on their dining table soon, finishing their breakfast hastily. They started to head back upstairs after finishing their meals, but their father called them over.
“Amir, don’t you know better than to give our house address to strangers?” he asked, clearly angry.
“Here,” he said, tossing over a letter, “go and put that in the bin” he grumbled and turned his back towards Amir and Amit. Amir picked the letter from the floor and turned it over. It had no name. “Well, who is it from?” asked Amit, peering over his head. “I don’t know” said Amir. Though, he was pretty sure he knew who it was from. They nodded at each other, silently agreeing to go upstairs and read the letter.
So they headed upstairs, eager to open the letter as quickly as they could. They sat themselves on Amir’s cot and unsealed the letter. Amit snatched the letter from Amir’s hand and started reading it out loud.
“Dear Amit and Amir,
I suppose you are wondering who I am. Have no doubts, it is your friend Arjun. I have much to tell, but not much paper to write it on. You are probably wondering, how I found you, but that is a story that we shall save for later. I wish to thank Amir, for killing me in the other realm, because only death could pull anyone out of that cursed world.
Anyhow, I will not make this a distasteful moment, by talking about our nightmares now, let us celebrate our resurrection for now. I do not wish to extend this letter; we shall meet again in the location written at the back of the letter. Oh, I nearly forgot to mention; Never Again will you two enter the cursed forest behind your neighbourhood nor will you drink any Gingoa sap if you find any.
Amir and brother have trouble trusting the man.
The man is guilty of letting his comrades die, when he hid and survived.