Three friends, Flint, Warrick and Luko, are living in a cave on the edge of a forest. Luko sleepwalk from the cave and Warrick wanders into the forest to look for him. It can be either the Spirit Warriors who have supernatural battles every night, or a person infect with the deadly virus they had thought they escaped from. I'll let you decide!
“Flint! Flint, wake up!” Warrick jabbed his friend with a branch. Flint rolled away, burying himself deeper into his sleeping bag. “Flint! He’s gone again! Flint, come on!” Warrick stood over the bulky sleeping bag and nudged it with his shoe.
“Go away!” Flint rolled further towards the campfire.
“Flint!” moaned Warrick. “Luko’s gone! He’s disappeared!” He repeatedly prodded him with the branch.
“I said: ‘go away’! Luko will turn up in the morning; he always does. Now, go back to shleeep...” From somewhere inside the sleeping bag, Warrick could hear his deep rumbling snores. He gave up. Flint was pretending, he knew that, but he was also aware how cranky Flint can get. It was best to let sleeping dogs lie. He looked at the empty space by the fire. He would just have to find Luko himself.
Heading towards the trees, Warrick left the safety of the cave with a flaming torch in one hand and Luko’s dagger in the other. Warrick knew that his friend would not go anywhere alone without his dagger, but Luko had a tendency to forget these things when he sleepwalks. The light from Warrick’s torch only illuminated his immediate surroundings. The rest of the forest was an abyss of black. The night sky was invisible under canopy and cloud. Holding the torch knee height, he searched for footprints.
He found them easily. It had rained the day before and the mud was still fresh. By the looks of it, Luko had forgotten his shoes as well. He followed the trail that led him into the forest.
The forest doesn’t sleep. The night-shift was busy going about their business. He could hear everything, but could see nothing. True, he was a little scared and jumped at every noise, but he would never have admitted it. The Spirit Warriors roamed these regions. They were more terrifying than any beast. They couldn’t be seen or heard, but sometimes Warrick can feel them watching him.
He raced on in time with his heart, counting Luko’s footprints to keep calm. “...58, 59, 60, 61...” Snap! Warrick swivelled towards the noise and froze. He felt the blood drain from his face as perspiration broke out across his brow and back. He waited for the source of the sound showed itself. He strained his ears, struggling to hear anything other the thumping of his heart against his ribs. He waited, eyes wide, trying to depict the monster hiding in the dark. He imagined a Spirit Warrior, watching and waiting to transform and give chase. His imagination produced a panther crouching in the undergrowth, ready to leap on him any second now.
He moved an inch. Then two. He stepped forward and cringed. Nothing happened. He pressed on into the forest with a desperate hurry.
“...112, 113, 114, one hundred and –,” He froze again. A low growl rumbled from the shadows on his right. His eyes widened in fear as his head turned slowly towards the sound. His brain suddenly screamed at his muscles to run, but they didn’t respond.
A roar ripped from the darkness. He turned and flung himself away from the shadows. He zigzagged recklessly between trees, tripping on hidden roots and catching in enemy vegetation. He didn’t look back; he didn’t need to. He could hear the panting and the pounding of it feet on the forest floor. He could almost feel its eyes piercing through the night, locked on its prey. Warrick tripped again and slammed into a tree. His torch flew from his hand and landed, extinguished, beyond his reach.
He was plunged into absolute darkness. Silence. Standing there, exposed and blind, he whimpered, gripping the dagger with his good hand. He backed up to a tree. The rough bark against his shoulder blades offered a little piece of comfort. He could only be attacked from three sides now. He gulped back his urge to either scream or cry. Both would have done him no good. His racing pulse thundered in his ears. His eyes darted around the blackness. Beads of sweat trickled down his face, making him itch. His clothes were soaked. But he dared not to move. He couldn’t move a muscle.