“Hurry Lucy get the others to the cellar!”
Chu reminded Lucy in a voice just below a shout. He was happy it was her up with him, any of the others and the fear would definitely have frozen them. Even though this time he saw a terrified look on her face, she could still bring herself to move. Considering that they were all with the exception of him were actually children, she was commendable in her actions.
One of the drills that was done after the incident with the wolves was now done for real. Chu was not one to sit back and relax from the previous incident. He analyzed what he remembered and made a drill plan to work on their response times and allocated them different job functions that were simple.
Seeing the two tumbling down in haste from the tower, Ming had already guessed what he had to do. In low voice and with hand signals everyone rushed to the ladder leading to the ground floor below. With the commotion above Clod and Sue were easily carried along with the flow into the cellar.
In less than a second the barn was deserted, the oven coals and scattered coppers on the platform remnants of the previous inhabitants.
In the cellar Chu was on the new wooden steps under the closed trapdoor. A small hole had been made through one of the boards functioning like a peephole. He was now positioned there stifling his breath.
The trapdoor was barred from the inside by solid wooden planks and had been reinforced from underneath. At the top it was no more than part of the floor. Clod and Sue were constantly keeping this area clean and scattered with dried herbs.
Lucy whispered the news to the others within the passageway. Ming had a small table turned on the side and blocking the passageway. to the well. The others were behind him with Dyna close to the well listening for any sounds from that end. He and Clod were positioned with spears behind the table with Lucy and Miki at the back armed with the crossbows. All Chu had to do was run over to them providing he could move in the dark without falling.
While they organized themselves Chu was shaking slightly and waiting. He tried to get his eyes accustomed to the darkness. Remembering the scene from before he was not too convinced this wooden door could offer any resistance against the creature. Clod had reinforced the trapdoor and it could now be barred from the inside. The floor around and on top had dry grass scattered around. This grass was soaked in high scented herbs and roots by Sue. It gave the barn a fresh herb smell but more importantly masked their scent.
Chu heard some scrapping noises followed by a silence that seemed like an eternity.
He saw and felt the upper deck floor above the peephole vibrate as if a ton of bricks fell on it. It amazed him that the old barn could withstand such a frightening force. He had to blink his eyes from dust that actually fallen into the peephole.
There was a long period of silence again. The tension was starting to solidify making the very air hard to breathe.
‘This is what is meant by having to cut the air with a knife he wondered.’
Anything to keep his mind from what was about to present itself.
A low growl cut through the silence. Then came the sound of heavy footsteps slowly walking across the platform above. Between the spacing of the floor planks on the upper deck he could make out light and shadow.
CLACK! CLACK! CLACK!
The vision of the curved claws between some larger spaces as they rattled on the floor added to his fear. They moved towards the ladder entrance from the upper deck.
A loud thump and the vibrations were louder and closer. The footsteps were now above him on the kitchen floor. The slow footsteps became louder as they became closer.
Through the peephole he saw the beast wrapped in shadows as it walked across on its back legs. Chu instinctively closed his eyes. He didn’t know if he did it out of fear that it would see his eye reflecting through a half-inch hole. Or if by closing his eyes he would stand a better chance of hiding and magically turn invisible.
With another thump the animal dropped on all fours and began sniffing around. It made its way to the fence where Chu heard the breaking of the stout planks. The fence that could withstand a wolf pack was now being broken easily like matchsticks.
Only low growls and rattling claws could be heard. Chu stood as if petrified into stone not daring to move. Even if he wanted to move toward the passageway to the others he couldn’t. His feet were rooted to the ground in pure fear. Even if he could move he wouldn’t dare, last thing he wanted was to make some noise to alert the monster above.
After what seemed like an eternity the noises gave way to silence.
Chu closed his eyes and blinked several times until he could get accustomed to the darkness of the cellar. Very, very slowly he made his way on all fours crawling towards the passageway. Only when he was far inside and close to the well exit did he breathe in relief.
He never ever believed he would see something so dreadful. A figment of imagination, a legend in his former life becoming real.
Those were the words that matched the picture stamped in his mind.
WTH! Did this world have things like these also? He was doomed if this was the norm.
In the fading light coming down from the well Chu placed his hands on his lips signaling them to be quiet. For all he knew the creature was simply lying on the edge of the trapdoor waiting.
The vision of encountering something horrifying as that sent shivers down his spine. He was more scared than the others. Unlike the others who were just confronted by another beast, he had countless horror movie experiences. Now he felt like he was dumped into the scariest one of them all.
All they could do was huddle up together in the cramped passageway for warmth. Well into the night, Chu took turns with Ming and Clod grasping the spears and pointing it into the darkness. Only fear kept the adrenaline pumping steady. Any sound was enough to cause them to awaken in panic. Fear kept them from releasing those pent up screams.
When morning came and the sunlight started filtering down the holes in the well cover, they were all in a haggard state. Lack of sleep, hunger, cold and paranoia took its toll.
Chu crawled into the cellar and made his way to the peephole following the dot of light that came through it. He was half afraid that when he looked into it, an eye wold be staring back at him. Shaking of that terrifying thought out his now fragile mind, he checked only to see nothing. Because of the small hole they could only see the immediate vicinity.
He listened but there was no sound, only deathly quiet from up above.
Maybe it already left? It had the body of the dead soldier so it could have gone since it found nothing. It was a beast after all who knows how intelligent they were.
Using those positive thoughts to quell his fears he made his way back. He didn’t forget to hand over some quilts and the emergence rations that he found mostly by feeling rather than sight. Last thing he wanted was to be lighting a fire, the smell of smoke would definitely give away their hideout.
They ate in silence and drank cold water dipped carefully from the well. Chu listened several times at the trapdoor but no sound ever came across during the day. In the evening he was beginning to think that the creature had left and returned to the forest.
Ming was signaling him mostly by hand for them to slowly open the trapdoor. He felt it was a reasonable decision but something kept nagging in his mind not to. The scene where the beast looked towards them, the sneering face in the distance kept repeating in his mind.
At that time it felt like he was being in the gaze of something that rated him as a sub species. Condescending like he was simply a toy for enjoyment.
Chu eventually decided to use the knotted rope hanging over the well to climb up. If he didn’t see anything suspicious around the barn he would sneak out to glimpse if the corpse of the guard from the patrol was still there. Only then would they chance it to open the trapdoor.
After whispering his plan, Chu slowly climbed the rope. From the beginning he had decided to do everything himself. That way he could prevent any incident that may reveal them to the beast.
If he sent Lucy or the girls a single gasp in fear would give them away. Ming was worse since he was clumsy and totally unpredictable. He was counting on his more than mature mind to help him through this unbelievable danger..
When he reached the top he slowly moved away some of the dry vines to look out. Swinging around the rope he saw nothing out of the ordinary. All he had to do was climb out and walk around the barn to see the forest.
Before he started to push his head out of the well, he suddenly had one of those feelings. Like the six-sense that was activated by fear and an overdose of adrenaline. The kind that screams at you as a warning. The hairs on his hands and back of his neck began to raise.
He held the rope and turned around on it eying all around yet he still didn’t see any danger. Something just kept telling him to take another look. He just happened to glance up at the barn and that is when he nearly fell of the rope in fright.
On the roof of the barn the beast was lying down in full spread. It was like a person on a tropical beach spread out on a towel receiving a tan. With its head inside the ripped cloth of their lookout tower, it was patiently gazing inside the barn. He only spotted it since half of its body was on the roof sloping towards the well.
Not for the last time he stifled a curse and scream while he slowly climbed down.
“Its still there! The fricking bastard is still here, stalking us from the roof!”
Chu spoke to the others grinding his teeth.
“That thing is not normal! %$#@!”
What could they do? This thing possessed high intelligence. Its cunning showed its status as a natural born predator. Facing it was useless and sooner or later it was going to find them. There was no limit for what this thing was capable of. For something that had the patience and time to lie in the snow to ambush them, the window of escape was already closed.
They chew on pieces of dried meat jerky in fear and despair.
“That thing, does it look like a wolf on two legs?”
Clod mumbled the question looking at Chu. The fear was obvious in his eyes.
Wolf on two legs, Chu thought. What a simple way to describe it. Seeing it in real life and up close, he would never have the courage to describe that terrifying beast like that. He felt if he said something like that, it would only invite the ire of such a creature.
Clod let out a sigh like a man giving up on life at the answer.
“I..I..ve seen it before.”
All the others looked at him in shock. No one was expecting him of all people to say something like that.
“Because of that….because of that thing I am homeless.”