Hugh slowly slid to the ground against the cool, moist stone wall. The heavy rain outside his shelter was barealy audible in here, hidden away from the world and starving.
He couldn’t believe he had been chased by- by- what on earth had chased him? He had never seen anything like it, and he doubted anyone would ever believe him if he tried to describe it. Of course, if he survived the night and found his way back home again.
They had warned him, too, but a lot of good that did him now. Yes, he should have listened to them sooner, but not much he could do about that now, was there? Some monster, for lack of a better world, had hunted him down, injured his leg and driven him into this damp cave.
His leg was aching badly. Not all of the moisture on the floor came from the natural resources of the cave, he knew. Some of it was his blood, and he prayed to whichever deity might listen that the thing which had trapped him here could not sniff him out. If it found him now he’d be done for. He couldn’t run anywhere, his injured leg was partly to blame for that.
Ignoring the sinking feeling in his stomach that this was his last night on earth – or maybe it was hunger – he tried to relax. Stressing about something he knew nothing about would do him no good. Staying calm and alert, on the other hand….
He silently cursed everyone in that town and their loved ones for not being more persistent. They had told him not to go, had said it was dangerous, but had any of them really tried to keep him home? He had to wonder if any of them knew what was really out here, maybe even knew its name, and had sent him on his way because of that. Maybe they had not tried harder to save him because they did not want to save him.
A sudden sharp pang in his leg made him hiss and inhale in rattled breaths. No, he couldn’t think about them like that. He’d have to have a word with them once – if – he got back, but right now focusing on them would see him killed as surely as falling asleep on that thing’s back would.
The forest was haunted, or so everyone had said. Haunted by spirits and ghosts and demons and the like, and he’d be a fool to enter. So why had he come anyway? The treasure. Curse that blasted treasure. If experience had taught him anything it was that stories of gold always exaggerated the actual loot. This time it was not even worth the trouble.
He sighed, trying his best to sit upright. Of course it was worth it. The danger and the thrill always was. Was that not why he had come in the first place? The rumours of a haunted forest, a treasure buried deep within the woods, had been too tempting. He felt like there was something else he had forgotten, another part of the rumour, but he couldn’t-
Oh. Oh. Now it all made sense. He remembered that other half, the one he now wished he had forgotten instead. The folk living on the outskirts served the demons, that other half said. They served the demons and ghosts and spirits by providing fresh game. And he was the deer.
With the small amount of strength he still had left, he punched the solid wall behind him. How on earth was he going to get back out of this mess? He had never been in a worse situation, but that thing out there, prowling the depth of the forest for him even now, had never met him, either. He could outsmart it and make a run for it and damn that treasure for getting him into that situation! Danger was good, the thrill was good, but no amount of gold or rubies or pure sapphires and diamonds were worth his life.
He’d get out of there. And when he did, he’d have a serious chat with the people of the village.
All of my 10-Minute stories are improvised, unplanned, and unedited apart from spelling and grammar mistakes. The idea is to kick-start the dreaded Monday with a short, creative exercise without thinking about it, and simply writing for the sake of writing.
For all other 10-Minute shorts, take a look here.