Chapter 1 - His End
CHAPTER 1 - His End
(The gossamer moon was the only sentinel to witness our tenuous beginnings.)
Brandon burst past a clump of trees, racing deep into shadowed woods that seemed to want to swallow him alive.
A fine mist of droplets fell from the pine needles overhead, down into his dirty blond hair. The water saturated him. Plastering the few dry strands left down onto his scalp, forehead, and temples. His wet clothes clung to him and made his thin cheeks and dark-rimmed eyes seem all the more devastating.
Brandon whipped away a cool droplet from his skin, fighting not to shiver and failing miserably. “Damn forest! It’s freezing!!.” He panted shallowly as he moved forward and asked himself. “Where the hell am I anyway!?”
Brandon pushed through another water-soaked pine branch and gritted his teeth as the cold dew drenched him once more. His soggy ashy blue jeans and thin black t-shirt gripped his flesh with a sharp bite.
Clingy and cold like ice. While his shoes were soggy, rotten, and two days from falling off his feet completely.
Shaking away the cold he tried to motivate himself.
“Keep going Brandon...Don’t think, just move your feet. Move...just a little more...” Brandon whispered to himself. Egging himself on raspy and weak. Still, he knew that he had to keep moving.
The crunch of the pine needles beneath his rapid, stumbling steps, were muffled by the trees all around him. They blotted out the expanse of the sky, only allowing Brandon disconcerting hints of stars, clouds, and some small silvery shafts of moonlight; that far from illuminated his way deeper into the darkness.
Unluckily more often than not Brandon found himself running full on into one tree after another. But if someone had asked him, he would have been hard-pressed to choose between the lack of light or the giant hole in his side that was causing him to traverse the darkness in a drunken, painful slump.
Brandon slipped, his heavy feet knocking each other turning his stumble into a full-on face plant into the soil, but at the last moment, Brandon raised his hands from his stomach and snatched at the tree beside him. His nails scratched into the bark. Chips and splinters, shoved themselves underneath his nails, releasing the heavy scent of pine and sap.....and blood.
Biting his lip as the pain subsided, Brandon tried to catch his breath. He slowly came around to look at his throbbing fingertips.
In the sad light of the moon, Brandon looked at his hands for the first time in hours.
Ignoring the stiff sting of wood under his nails, he stared grimly at his blood-soaked fingers and forearms and then sighed. Brandon knew without looking at the rest of himself that his entire lower shirt and right pants leg were drenched in coppery fresh blood. His blood. And he also knew that there was enough blood in the soil behind him that it should have killed him by now.
Surely he was already dying.
Fresh blood painted his hand, his stomach, it dripped steadily from the cuff of his right pants legs down into the scrub beneath him. Gleaming like bright red paint there was even a thin trickle of blood running from his cheek and lips where distinct gashes and a large painful bruise were just beginning to take purplish black definition.
Brandon stared at his blood covered appendages a moment or two longer trying to gather the strength, no. The Will to move.
“Oh come on!” He whispered fiercely to himself. “Pick up your feet! Don’t stop!”
Brandon leaned awkwardly on that tree. Which was honestly the only thing keeping him on his bone tired feet and tried to ignore the blood that gushed out of the wound in his side every single time that he took a breath.
With every little wave of watery warmth that flowed down his hips, to further drench his pants, Brandon grew groggier, weaker.
But with every scrap of power still left in his body, he refused to pass out. Even as the fatigue of his journey slammed into his lungs and made his knees shake.
I won’t stop....I can’t...
He told himself.
But deeper than that he was afraid to stop.
Brandon’s raised his head and slammed his fist into the trunk savagely. And welcomed the pain that came with that. Determination and sorrow warred there in his groggy green eyes.
“No,” he whispered angrily to himself, barely having the strength to move his lips. “You are not going to make this easy for them! If this is the night that they finally catch up to you Brandon....By god, you’re going to make the bastards work for it!” He lectured himself raising his head, to glare into the darkness before him; as though his enemies’ were there in the shadows, not somewhere behind him, chasing him.
Like rabid dogs after a newborn fawn.
Pick up your feet and MOVE!!!!
He shouted inwardly. And somehow he did move.
Brandon groaned as he dropped his bloody arms back to his sides and forced his tired legs to bend.
He couldn’t help but shiver as more blood gushed out of the gaping hole in his side to splash across his hip. That terrible feeling made him want to throw up. A continuous sickly warm flow on his legs as the blood fled his veins.
Somehow feeling cold and numb all at once Brandon took one step, then another. The time fell away as he kept moving forward. Soon he was melding with the darkness even as his skin paled more and more in the scant moonlight.
Sadly Brandon realized he wasn’t going to get very far get far before they came upon him.
It began with the rustle in the trees then along the pine needled path he had at his back. Then the sound of a hunter, deep and vicious, a growl that rose every hair on his neck. This growl was strange to his ears, but in his state of anemia and exhaustion, Brandon couldn’t be bothered to wonder exactly why that was.
Of course, at this sound, Brandon tried to flee, further into the trees. But Brandon stumbled into three more trees before he finally had to still his footsteps or risk falling to the ground for good. His head swam with pain and confusion. But even with his mind befuddled he knew a few select things. A few important things.
He knew he was lost. He knew he was dying. And he knew that it was there with him now, only awaiting its chance to pounce. Well and truly unsurprised that this was going to be his final night of living, Brandon chuckled weakly, coughed, and got ready to make his last pathetic stand.
Gritting his teeth against the new gush of blood and pain that flowed out of his body following his movement. Brandon reached around to the center of his back and gripped the handle of a dagger.
It was a simple weapon, with a jet-black handle and a blade as long as his palm and as sharp as any good blade could be.
It sat sheathed just beneath his shirt and thrust through his leather belt so he could pull it when he needed it. Grabbing for it, but he refrains from brandishing it, he turned slowly. Using the pine tree at his shoulder as a crutch he took a pathetic stance more leaning than standing and glanced out into the now eerily silent forest.
With his back up against the tree Brandon scanned the night with green eyes too dulled by pain to reflect anything but exhaustion and...Acceptance. He held his place there at the tree, panting, bleeding out, praying that this would be it, and waiting for the monster to descend and devour him.
Somehow taking a deep breath he screamed. “Come on!! Show yourself! You hear me! IM NEVER GOING BACK!!!!”
Brandon gripped the dagger tighter as another growl cascaded on the night, bouncing off the tree trunks, encasing him, and pounding on his ears, and waited for his end.