Chapter 5: Mysterious Encounters
The leaves crunched against Ryan’s dirty running shoes as he traveled along the woodland path. He had come quite far in his journey, having taken a day to get this deep in the forest, but surprisingly hadn’t come across any problems. He was genuinely surprised to have even reached the forest without much difficulty, since it was way off the beaten path, but even so found himself well-equipped and prepared for the trek ahead.
“Just follow the path, it doesn’t branch out at all do you should be fine!” Was what the chicken scratch on Judy’s note said. It was simple.
Too simple, a tone stereotypical of a cheesy action movie rang through Ryan’s head. He ignored it. There was no way he was going to succumb to that of ridiculous clichés. They didn’t belong here of all places, anyway.
And then, like the quiet before the storm, he felt something stir.
Goddammit, Ryan thought irritably.
Gathering his bearings and shaking away his absurd thoughts, Ryan decided it was probably better to focus on the matter at hand - the noise he had heard. It sounded like the crunching of leaves, though he couldn’t distinguish it from his own noisy footsteps.
Ryan stopped on the path he was on, listening intently. He doubted there would be anything else out here than himself and wildlife, if he was lucky.
There it was again, except now Ryan knew where it was. It was...he felt an ice cube drop in his stomach. It was behind him. He whisked his head around with such force that his neck felt like it was about to snap.
The only thing that was behind him were the colourful trees that swayed ever so gently in the breeze. He sighed, disappointed in his fickleness. He turned around, shoved his hands in the pockets of his sweater, and went on his way.
He only got about five steps ahead when an awful screech echoed through the forest.
With a blast of light narrowly missing his ear, the feeling of dread that he was so unfamiliar to easily crept back into him. He was able to see something in the distance, and though it was blurry, it was unquestionably anything but a human.
What was more confusing was the fact that a laser had almost killed him. Technology was advancing, but it wasn’t that advanced...was it?
As if to answer his inquiry, the shadow in the distance grew closer. Ryan squinted to try and make it out, and it was only until the shadow was nearly on top of him that he realized it wasn’t a creature. It was literally a shadow swiftly slinking across the ground; and it was headed straight for him.
Startled, he jumped back, desperately trying to figure out what to do. A thousand thoughts raced through his head. Hide in the trees? Run? Where? None of his questions heeded answers, and the shadow was advancing.
Ignoring all logic and reason, he ran straight towards the ebony beast. Praying that his whimsical plan would work, he grazed his arm against his whip tattoo.
Just reach inside, he told himself. And then pull out the whip. His fingers met the tan, firm skin of his forearm. It was as if a barrier separated him from his power, rendering him completely vulnerable. But by this point, it was too late.
The shadow lurched from the ground, knocking Ryan in the stomach and sending him flying backwards. Ryan felt all the air wheeze out, and felt like his lungs were about to collapse. He landed on the leafy ground, dirt coating his back and a pain in his stomach like no other.
He tried reaching for his tattoo again. The mark refused to glow, no matter what he tried. Ryan was practically clawing at his arm, desperate to have some sort of power to fight. He hardly had any time to react as the shadow threw him again, this time sending him several feet forward.
He landed on his stomach, lying on the ground and staring at his arm. He couldn’t believe he was going to be finished off this easily. Ryan always saw himself going out in a more meaningful way, not being tossed like a dog toy.
Now that he looked closer at it, Ryan noticed that his tattoo wasn’t as vibrant as it usually was. In fact, it appeared to be quite faded, as though it was only half there. A sickening thought hit Ryan like a brick. Maybe he wasn’t able to use his power because it had to recharge. Was it possible that there was a set waiting time after each time he used his power?
If so, he was out of options. He had used his whips to defend Mark; the sun revived him from the dead...he had his wings.
No way. Humans couldn’t fly, even if they did have supernatural-inky-generally-odd powers that could being their tattoos to life. And yet...Ryan had to do something. He could feel the shadow preparing to strike again. Ryan highly doubted a shadow could fly.
He mustered up all the hope he had left, concentrating on his back. A warmth that was akin to the flames inside a fireplace spread gently through his upper back, making its way down. Ryan caught a glimpse of them out of the corner of his eye - a set of beautiful wings that seemed almost transparent. It was as though he were inside a painting, and van Gogh had just finished the final addition to a masterpiece.
The shadow seemed to had stopped, but only momentarily. It must have been just as captivated by Ryan’s wings as he was. Within seconds, the shadow snapped out of its trance and launched itself at Ryan. Ryan gasped, jumped back, and found himself over ten feet in the air.
The warmth on his back was reminiscent of a charming smile, and he could feel every part of the wings as though they were his fingertips. He pushed, and soared higher. The shadow rose from the ground, watching Ryan as he ascended. It looked to be almost human-like, with glowing white eyes that emitted the only bright light that came from the creature. Though its body was cloaked in darkness, it seemed to be melting, having the consistency of tar. The shadow gaped with a mouth that drooped far lower than a human’s mouth could ever reach.
Ryan couldn’t believe that he had gotten away. True, he was shooting through the air at an unbelievable speed, and he hadn’t exactly gotten the feel of the entire staying in the air thing, but things seemed to be fairing...alright.
But alright wasn’t enough for him to almost fly straight into trees several times. Alright didn’t mean he wouldn’t crash into a fairly large tree with a thick trunk. Alright didn’t give him the knowledge of how to steer.
In fact, he was less than alright when he noticed that his wings were fading. Slowly but surely, the once vibrant ink was growing thin. He was going to have to land sooner rather than later.
That seemed to bring up another valid question. Just where exactly was he? Scanning the trees, the only thing revealed to him was that there was no path in sight. Ryan lowered himself so that he was closer to the ground. Even still, he was completely lost.
The final spirit of his wings vanished from existence, and Ryan stumbled as he was forced to face the crippling aspect of gravity once again. All that surrounded him were trees. Endless trees. Ryan did a full 360, worried that he would be stuck here until the end of time, or worse; until it was too late to save Mark.
He squinted to the right, focused harder to the left. He began to wander, seeking refuge somewhere, anywhere to gather his bearings. After a fearfully long while of searching, Ryan spotted something. Upon closer inspection, it was a cave.
A stone cave in a the middle of a forest? It seemed rather strange to him. Peering inside the cave didn’t clarify anything either, since it was darker than night. There was nowhere else to go...but his powers couldn’t save him if he needed them. He was spent, not a single cent left to his name.
As he pondered whether this cave was a good idea or not, a horrifying screech echoed through the forest. Ryan flinched, nearly having a heart attack, and whipped his head around to face where he thought the noise came from. He squinted and saw the same creature from before, bellowing the racket. It sounded like it was calling for backup.
That seemed to settle the decision rather quickly. Hoping it hadn’t seen him, Ryan darted into the cave, soon finding his surroundings to be nothing but a blind man’s world. He felt around, searching for a wall to follow, and felt his hand graze on bumpy, yet smooth, stone. It was damp to the touch as well, with a hint of a musty smell nearly hidden by the scent of rain.
Ryan decided not to go too far into the cave - he still wanted to go back outside, after all. He found a sturdy bit of rock that extended out far enough that he could easily use it as a sort of chair. His body nearly collapsed into the seat, worn out from a level of exercise Ryan was seldom used to.
His eyes were drooping, his head falling slack. But he couldn’t sleep; what if the shadows discovered he was hiding out in this cave? He was going to run out of time to save Mark - the psychopath that held him was going to slaughter him long before he got there.
And yet he couldn’t stop his consciousness from drifting off, until his eyes were nearly closed. Just before he passed out, a large, dim, white light gleamed before him. He could hardly ponder what it was, as his body drifted off. Ryan was asleep before his head rested against the stone of the cave.
Impressive, very impressive. I didn’t think he had a way to escape one of my creatures. Turns out he’s at least moderately capable. I think that easily brings him to the top fifty...but now he’s taken refuge in that silly excuse of a cave. I don’t think I even have to send anything out there to conflict with him this time. Ha. I can’t wait to see the horrendous horrors he has to endure next.
“Hey,” It was the voice of that boy. I flinched, dropping a blotch of ink on my research journal. I glanced at the entry I had just written, and shut the book. Turning, I saw his innocent-looking eyes gaze at me with such fierceness it brought a smile to my lips.
The psychopath’s icy eyes glittered at me as though I were a frog about to be dissected. A strange expression crossed his face, and his lip curled into an unsettling, sinister smile.
“What is it?” he asked with a cunning undertone.
“Where’s the bathroom?” I asked without shame. At least, I didn’t display my shame.
“Didn’t I specifically say you could ask the staff?” His steady gaze was unrelenting. Creepy.
“I couldn’t find anyone. Where is it?” I refused to let my voice waver. I was going to get through this...alone, if I had to. If Ryan couldn’t make it here, I was on my own.
The psychopath chortled. “Look across the hall from your door. It’s three doors down. Now, off with you. I have work to do.”
“Like what?” I pressed.
"Adult things, sweetie. I’ll tell you when you’re older.”
“That’s not fair!”
“Life isn’t fair. Now get out.” He flicked his finger at me, and though he was a good distance from me, I felt myself forced backwards, easily stumbling out the door. It was as though a giant, invisible hand had pushed me out.
I huffed a sigh, picking myself off the ground and gritting my teeth. I so badly wanted to know what he was writing about. What he was planning. I knew he was watching Ryan. Gaining an advantage. An unfair one, at that. He was learning what he could do through observation.
Such a clever tactic for such a rattled mind. When I was studying him moments earlier, he seemed to be jotting something down frantically, as though an exciting thought had just burst its way into his head, and he just had to write it down.
It tormented me to be unaware of what he was writing down.
Well, I didn’t have much else I could do. I headed back to my room. I’m sure that that Mr. Psycho knew that my question of where the bathroom was was a lie. I had already discovered that the moment I was out of that petrifying room.
Though I knew I wouldn’t be out of there if it wasn’t for the being that hovered beside me. I had tried to ignore it, believe that it didn’t exist, so that perhaps it would just fade away. A ghostly harlequin figure had come to life, and I wasn’t exactly up for getting chummy with it.
I still don’t understand what I saw. One second the giant figure was as solid and creepy as all the other dolls in the room, and right after I had grazed an idle fingertip over it, it sprang to life.
It reminded me of a macabre and sinister rendition of Frosty the Snowman, minus the fun and dancing.
I also couldn’t be sure whether or not I was the only one who could see it. Mr. Psycho didn’t seem to be able to, but that source was misted at best. The spooky harlequin just followed me with that jester-like grin permanently plastered on its face.
Nonetheless, it had proven to be an assistant rather than an enemy. Recalling the incident, I remembered skittering to the farthest wall, terrified for my life. I thought the ghostly being was coming straight for me, when it suddenly changed directions to the door. Somehow, whether it be magic or a clever lock picking trick, the door gently creaked open, which was a miracle in itself since the door was so heavy.
I thanked it, and ventured out. I didn’t exactly expect it to linger, but it ended up tagging alongside me as a companion. In all honesty, I didn’t mind the company. It made talking to myself feel a lot more natural.
Though the occasional maid or butler would sardonically gaze at me, one eyebrow raising to the very top of their head. I learned to ignore them fast enough.
Now, I came into the hallway where my cell of a room was. A quick glance around was hardly enough to remember just how much of a maze this fortress really was. All the doors were seemingly identical, and not one door had a label.
I pushed the door that I thought was my room, and easily discovered that it wasn’t so. Instead, what greeted me was a vacant room. There was no furniture, no flooring or wallpaper. Nothing hung on the walls; it was just a small room of concrete.
I closed the door. I didn’t want to know what that room was possibly for. I walked a couple doors down, randomly choosing another symmetrical door and opening it.
Inside was an extravagant, professional-looking kitchen. This, too, was vacated. Not a single soul aside from me and...Sir Marx, if I could count him at all. I figured that the ‘x’ at the end of his name made him sound at least a little cooler and personable than he actually was.
With that out of the way, I wandered around the kitchen, my feet making clapping noises as they hit the bare tiles. Before me stood a tall, powerful fridge. Opening it, I was surprised by the heavy amount of food that was in here. The shelves of the fridge were practically stuffed with fruits, vegetables, meats, and the occasional pudding.
As I debated whether or not to splurge on pudding, I heard a startled voice beckon towards me.
“You shouldn’t be here,” It sounded like a girl. I spun around, surprised to see a girl my age blinking at me through one green and one black eye.
“Hello,” I breathed, the shock still not quite gone. I felt as though I was forgetting something. The girl looked beside me, and then back at me with a face contorted with worry.
“Leave,” she said, walking towards me. “Please.”
“Go!” Her voice was suddenly louder, almost a roar. I shut my mouth, skittering away. I glanced back, opening my mouth to say something. My breath caught in my throat. She was directly behind me. I hadn’t heard any other footsteps than mine.
“I’ll find you later. You have to leave now, they’re coming,” she whispered the words so quietly, her mouth hardly moving. I didn’t understand what she was talking about, but nodded anyway, exiting the room and hurriedly darting down the hallway.
After trying a few doors, I found where I was supposed to be. Marx followed me in, and I shut the door once he was inside. My mind was still reeling; I had so many questions.
I put them to rest for now.
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