Every November is the National Novel Writing Month. As I mentioned on the podcast I was going to try and participate in it again this year. The key word in that sentence is try. Back in 2008 and wrote a novel but this year it does not seem like I'm going to get off my lazy butt and finish it.
I did put a bit of work into this novel and enjoyed what I have written so far, but I don't know when I am going to finish it. Sense I have a nice chunk scribbled down I figured I would share the first section of it with you folks so you can criticise it and make fun of me. It's the first draft so I'm sure it is filled with spelling and grammer errors that make it almost unreadable but I am too lazy to do anything about it, but if you are interested in reading it the feel free.
Teddy vs. The Monster
To say that the Dakota territories had cold winters was an understatement. The word cold doesn’t seem to accurately describe the conditions during the winter months. Frigid seemed to fit better. Perhaps even Arctic. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s really cold. It’s kind of important for you to understand that before we get into this.
William had often had a theory that hell was not a hot place. Heat seemed to easy to him. One can get accustomed to the heat, but the cold seeps into you and takes over. No matter how much you might cover yourself or how close to set to the fire, a deep cold just wont seem to leave you. You take it with you everywhere you go. You just live with it until you consumes you. That’s why William felt that hell would be more frighting as a clod place.
It was a though the circled his mind as he sat in front of the pitiful fire that he and Emmett had struggled to get started for the past hour. It’s tiny flames only now seemed to show up from under the pile of the driest twigs the could manage to find. The light of the day was slowly dying out as the to man huddled around the flickering light of their camp fire. The night had snuck upon them as the were out checking their traps so there was a hurry to find and kind of kindling they could before it was to dark to see anything.
This might not have been such a terrible turn of events if not for the fruitless day the two men had experienced that day. They were into their third day in this trip into the woods and had very little to show for it. Most of their traps were empty other then the two beavers they have caught. To make matter worse, it was clear the several of the trap had been sprung, but the animals have manged to make their way out and more then a few traps had been broken open and were now unusable.
It was beginning to look like this trip was not going to be profitable for the two fur trappers after all. Neither one of them said much to each other this night as they ate their hardtack tried to stay warm. They just let the depression of their situation stew inside themselves as they listened to the sound of the fire crackling at their feet.
After a short time had past the two men wordlessly made their way to the crude lean to they had built for shelter and bundled themselves in their blankets. It did very little to alleviate the cold conditions, but with little else to do the two men begrudgingly attempted to sleep. It didn’t come easy but they managed to drift as deep into sleep as was possible in these conditions. Emmett even managed to dream he was some place warmer. It was a welcomed relief until dawn when the reality of his situation came crashing back down on him.
“I think we should get out there early” William said, breaking the long silence between the two men. “It’s not going to get much warmer today. The animals aren’t going to be out all that long.”
Emmett wordlessly shook his head. At least William assumed that’s what he intended with his shaking. It may have just been from the cold but either way he didn’t seem to have the energy to disagree with him at the moment.
Not long after, the two men were on the move through the woods to check on their traps. The long hike would serve to warm them up slightly. They followed a shallow creek just north of the camp towards the first set of traps. Although both were miserable they held out hope that this would be the moment where their luck turned around for the better.
As the began making their way from trap to trap the hope inside them diminished. In total all but two of their traps were empty. The manged to catch two hares but the rest came up with bunk. What was more disheartening was that many more of their traps were broken open. It was almost as if a person had gone from one trap to another as sabotaged them. Such a thing was not an uncommon sight in the fur trade, but their was no sign that another person had been in this area. It was more likely that a wolf had come across an animal in one of the traps and busted it open.
Again, non of this was uncommon for fur trappers to deal with but the number of traps that had been broken almost suggested a deliberate attempt to sabotaged their traps and whatever had done it had not let much trace of it’s presence in the area. All that the men could do was to rest the traps that could be reused and move on.
After hours of wondering from one set of traps to another, the two men took the meager catch they had acquired and headed back toward their camp site. The furs from the two rabbits wouldn’t fetch much of a price but their meat would add a little verity to tonight’s dinner at least.
Neither men were prepared for what they saw when they got back to camp. The whole site had been torn apart in their absence. The lean to they had set up had been knocked down and the gear they left behind had me spread all over the place. The two men just stood at the edge of the site dumbfounded. Neither one of them seemed to be able to grasp the amount bad luck that had befallen them this trip.
“Bear” William said as he bent down to examine the foot prints left in the dirt. He began to follow the tracks around the camp to get a better idea of what happened to their camp during their absence. Emmett didn’t share the curiosity of his companion. He set his pack against a tree and sat down in front of the dead fire pit.
The next day brought a return of the cold and depression. Once again they ventured out to check on the traps and found all to be empty yet again. When they returned to their camp site it had been torn apart once again. It seemed like the fates had it in for the two trappers.
William’s swearing could probably be heard for miles. As he kicked up dirt and launched into a long winded and colorfully worded monologue, Emmett began to pick up the pieces of their tattered camp site. He chose self reflection over anger. He had always been the more level headed of the two.
By night fall they two men sat around the tiny fire once again. William’s rant had died down to the occasional muttering at this point. Although they both showed it in different ways, both men were defeated. This trip was going to end up costing them more then they could earn if they kept it up. If you could believe it, the winter was only going to get colder and animals more scarce in the coming days. In the morning they would pack up what little they had and make the hike back to civilization.
Emmett was lost in his own thoughts. He was well aware that trips like this happen from time to time but this had to be the worst he had seen in his short few years as a trapper. When he cam out to the Dakota territories five years back, he didn’t thing it would be and easy road. He knew that he was not going tip and fall on top of a gold vein while walking through the woods on his first day.
He was a realist. If he wanted money then he was going to have to put the work in. Fortunes were won and lost in a matter of minutes out here. A man could strike big and lose it all in a few hands of cards and some pretty girls. He didn’t want to be that man. It’s the men that run the bars and shops that made the real money. If he could get enough cash together he could be the shop owner.
It was somewhat ironic, really. His family had been captains of industry at one time. Emmett came from a family that owned quite a bit of land. Their downfall was that they owned a substantial number of human beings as well. Not that they were considered as such at the time, but Lincoln brought and end to that. Without the slaves to work the land his family didn’t have the resources to keep the crops flowing. Which means they didn’t have the money to keep the rather large mortgage on their property paid down.
None of this bothered Emmett to terribly much. He could barely remember the old family plantation and he had always like the idea of striking out on his own. Something about the uncertainty of it drew him to head off to the frontier when the first opportunity came.
William’s back story was a mystery to Emmett. He was older the Emmett but he didn’t ever say how old. He didn’t say much of anything about his past. When asked about where he grow up his response was “Places” and what brought his out here was “Stuff”. He purposeful vagueness made him the talk of the local watering holes. It was clear that he had fought in the war but he never said which side.
The two trappers had hooked up about three years back in a little nothing of a town. The kind of place that had just enough room for man to get a drink and a little company for the night, but not much else. Emmett was still new to trapping and working alone for the most part. He watched a pack of drunk men get a little fresh with one of the local ladies and didn’t have the common sense to stay out of it like every other person in the saloon.
William watched as Emmett stepped into the crowd to try and talk the men down. He then watched as Emmett knocked to the grown and kicked repeatedly. He even watched as Emmett was picked up and thrown out into the mud. What really peaked William’s interest was when the blood and mud covered man walked back into the establishment. A lot of men would have come back with a gun, but not this kid. He walked through the door with his fist clenched, ready for round two. William enjoyed watching the young man take on the group hopelessly out numbered, but refusing to give in. He didn’t lift a finger to help the boy but he enjoyed watching the kids spirit.
Emmett didn’t wake up from his savage beating for two whole days and spent another week unable to get out of bed. It was an all around stupid display, but one that had earned him William’s respect. The two started traveling together from that day onward.
It was in the quite times like now that Emmett would think about how he made it to this point in his life. William didn’t talk much so he had to keep himself occupied when sitting around the camp fire. All he could do to keep out the mind numbing boredom was remember the past and think to the future. Something about campfires lend themselves to self reflection.
The loud sound of a twig snapping just outside of their visible range cut through the silence at the campsite. This area had been extremely clear of any wild life for the past few days. Their lack of catches was evidence of that. Perhaps the bear that had been hitting the site when they were away was getting a little more adventurous with the coming of night.
Emmett sat with his head cocked for some time, just listening for any more sounds. After almost to minutes had past he turned back towards the fire. He could see William’s hand resting on the rifle at his side.
“What do you think” asked the young trapper. “Bears again?”
“Or something else” William replied. “There are spirits in these woods.” William moved his hand away from his gun but not so far that he couldn’t go for it again.
His comments struck a strange cord with Emmett. He had never known the old man to be superstitious, but the way he said it was unnerving. He had hunted in these woods long enough that he knew all the old stories the natives pasted down and had seen his far share of thing that this world had to offer.
Emmett’s musing about the old trappers past was once again cut off by the all the clear sounds of movement outside their camp, but this time the noise came from the other side. Whatever was just out side the camp did not just stumble into this area by accident. It was here on purpose didn’t seem to scared of the fire or the two men sitting around it. From the noise it was making it wasn’t anything tiny either.
One of the only things more dangerous out in the woods then a large wild animal is a large wild animal that is not afraid of humans or fire. Most bears and large cats have developed a healthy fear of men in the past few thousand years. The might get close but once they get a good look the head the other direction most of the time, but if an animal is hungry or crazy enough it will keep coming.
Emmett faced charging bear once. He waved his arms and hollered at it. The massive thing just looked at him and ran full speed towards him. Luckily he had read enough adventure books as a kid to know that you don’t run from a charging bear. He stood his ground and fired his rifle into the air. The bear backed down and Emmett lived to tell the tale about how he stared down a bear the next day in town. Not all outcomes are typical to his though. Nine times out of ten you end up mauled to death and no one finds your remains for a few decades.
Neither of the two trappers were looking to add and adventure to this trip. The both were content to talk about how little they caught in town over drinks. Fighting off a bear was not the tale they need at this point.
As the night got darker the rustling in the tree line on increased. What ever was out there was circling them and watching. It’s intention weren’t clear but the fact that it was hanging around meant that neither man was going to be getting to much sleep tonight.
They set up a watch. One of them would stay awake and the other would sleep. After a few hours they would switch. Not a great way to spend an evening but it was necessary. William volunteered to take the first watch. Volunteered doesn’t really seem like a strong enough word for it but it didn’t take much convincing to get Emmett to want to sleep.
As William sat with his rifle in his lap, Emmett wrapped himself in his blankets and lied down next to the fire. Sleep didn’t come all that easy for him. Something about the threat of death didn’t ease him into dreaming all that well, but eventually he willed himself unconscious.
The cold had finally seeped into his dreams that night. He was alone in the cold. The white out of a storm cut his vision down to just inches and he was lost. There was nothing in any direction he searched. He was lost, cold, scared, and alone.
No, not alone. There was something here with him. He didn’t see or hear it, but he could feel it. He just knew it was out their. It was all around and it was nowhere. The feather he ran from it the nearer it seemed to be. It was death. Death chased him through the darkness and nothing could stop it.
Soon it was so close he could hear it. It made noise that Emmett couldn’t hear. It was like a listening to a conversation in another room. He knew their were sounds but he could no pick them out.
An animal cry like none he had heard before shook Emmett from his nightmare. When he realized he was back in the real world he sat up and looked to his partner. William was frozen in place. Not out of fear, but anticipation. His eye were staring at the the butt of his rifle as he listened intently for any other sounds.
Emmett watched him for a moment before William’s eyes rose from the ground to meet his. William placed a finger to his lips and Emmett nodded silently. The two men were locked in a stare for what felt like an eternity before the strange cry rang again. The noise was shrill and disturbing. It was moving around them as it yelled. What ever it was, it wanted them to know it was their.
“It’s like a dying animal” Emmett said said under his breath.
“Ain’t no animal sounds like that” the old trapper replied.
“I know. It just reminds me of when to get wolf stuck in your trap. When the things just all torn apart and dying. It scream is so awful, you just have to put it down. But this thing...”
“It sounds almost like a man. Man who’s been shoot through the gut and is lying in the middle of the battlefield. Screaming his lungs out as he friend watch and do nothing. He just lies out there yelling for help that ain’t coming.”
This was a side of old man that Emmett had never seen before. There was a darkness in his eye that only added to the fear growing in his heart. He read about the battles and had seen those picture that come out at you, but Emmett was aware that didn’t do the horrors of it justice. William had seen hell first hand and something like that never really leaves you.
The gut wrenching howling was getting closer and more frequent. What ever was out their wasn’t going to go away. It was only getting bolder each passing minute. It was fast too. It bounced around the tree line making it’s noises in seeming random places. It was almost enough to believe that there was more then one but that prospect was far to frightening to consider at the moment. The two men sat motionless and waited for whatever happens next.
Their patience was rewarded when a blur of shadow flashed into there vision. The motion was only their for a fraction of a second. Any other time it might have been ignored, but not tonight. Both men turned to were it had been in vein. No trace of it remained. Then another flash of movement in another direction with nothing to show for it when the two men turned their gaze to it.
Emmett’s eyes began to dart every direction in a desperate attempt to pinpoint the figure before it moves out of sight. As much as he scanned the tree, he could see nothing but darkness. He concentration was eventually broken by the sound of William cocking the lever on his rifle. Emmett followed his lead and reached for the colt in his waistband.
More movement was joined the things shrill cries. It seemed to run from one side to the other at imposable speeds. Despite the frequency of it, neither man could discern any shape or size to the thing. It seemed to be just shadow.
Suddenly it all stopped. The noise and the blur of movement were gone and were replaced by dead silence. William slowly stood up from his seat, grabbed his rifle, and scanned the tree line. Emmett joined him on his feet with his revolver clutched in his shacking fist.
The two men just stood their dumb founded. The old man began to take a few steps and the froze. After a quick scan he started a slow walk around the fire pit. He stopped every few feet and look around. His face was filled with confusion. None of this seemed to add up to him.
At this point Emmett realized he had been holding his breath for some time now. He allowed himself the luxury of exhaling and loosened the vise like grip he had on his revolver. He began to take in deep breaths and then letting them back out. The adrenaline pumping though him caused his to shudder slightly with each exhale.
William had slowly made his way around the fire pit and was standing next to Emmett. The two men looked around for a moment before turning to face each other. Confusion filled both of their faces. Emmett shrugged his shoulders hoping to hear some sort of explanation from the old man.
At first it looked as if he was about to speak, but instead William grabbed him by the shoulder and shoved him to the ground. Emmett landed on the ground with thud as he felt a rush of wind behind him as the fire’s time light was extinguished and a scream cry out and quickly diminish.
Emmett rolled to his side and quickly pushed himself up into a crouching position. He was alone in the darkness. Blindly he reached all around himself until his hand landed on his pack. He quickly felt for his lantern and matches. The shacking of his hand made the process of lighting the lantern take longer then he would have wanted.
Eventually he got it lit and began to scan the area around him. William was no where to be found, but there where tracks he could follow. Not of the thing but ones that were clearly William. Fear gripped Emmett deep down but he forced himself to stand up. With the revolver in his right had and the soft light of the lantern illuminating a few feet in front of him, he headed out to follow the few traces of the old man that he could find.
After a few yards of slow walking Emmett had come to the end of end of any visible tracks in the ground. The path he had followed was so sporadic and directionless that he had know real clear idea on what direction to continue. He searched around for any sign of a direction to go next.
Helplessly lost with no clues to follow, Emmett let the white hot fear he had been suppressing took over. The reality of being alone and lost in the darkness crippled him. His breathing was near hyperventilation. He leaned himself against a tree and tried to push the panic back down inside himself. He forced himself to open his eyes and breath deep.
When his vision came back into focus he saw something on the tree he was leaning against. There was a fresh scratch craved into the side of it. It was not very big but Emmett kicked himself for missing it. quickly checked the near by trees and found another just like it. It was a clue and he was not going to let his fear keep him from following it.
Emmett took a deep breath and then began to mover forward in the direction the marks were taking him. as he past the fifth tree with the tell tale mark on it his heart stopped. There was a figure a few meters away. It wasn’t moving but he didn’t wasn’t going to go in half cocked. Pointing his colt forward, he began to put one foot slowly in front of the other.
As he closed the distance he could make out the unmistakable shape of a person. He was almost certain about what was ahead of him but he forced himself to keep moving forward. With only a few feet to go it was clear he was seeing William sitting with his back to him. As he was within reach of the old man he looked him over.
William was slumped over with a broken neck. There where no unexpected wounds apart from a scraped and the snapped neck. No claw or teeth mark on him. The thing just dragged him all the way out here, broke his neck, and left. It didn’t even stop to take bite. Emmett was unable to move any more. He sat down next to the body of his friend and let the comforting terror of his situation wash over him.
None of this made any sense. No animal was as fast as that thing was. It was as if it didn’t have a corporeal form. It seemed to be more shadow then flesh and for some reason it didn’t seem to have been hunting it for food. It was toying with them this whole time. What creature does that?
Emmett looked down at his quivering hand. The were shaking uncontrollable from a mixture of the cold and fear. His mind raced as he tried to process what had happened. He kept looking up towards the inanimate shape that once of William, expecting it to gain life and tell him what to do.
That thing was still out there. It must have been watching him, but why hadn’t it acted yet? Emmett waited for any signs that it was coming but expected that he would not see it coming once again. It came right at him at the site and he saw nothing. If William had not had pushed him, they might have exchanged places. Maybe William would have had a better chance against the thing.
A sudden wave of clarity hit Emmett. If the thing was as smart as it seemed then killing William first was a calculated move. William was the biggest threat to it. It wanted him out of the way so it could play with it’s meal. It wanted him hopeless. It wanted him to give up. It wanted a him to cry and scream as it chased him.
The sound of nearby movement brought Emmett’s attention back to reality. The thing was back and wanted to make sure he heard it coming. It wanted it’s rabbit to start running so it could give chase. Emmett gripped his colt in his right hand. If it wanted a chase he would play along, but was not going to play by the rules.
Emmett took off into the darkness of the woods. He made sure to huff and puff with fear as he moved, making the occasional stop to look as lost as possible. He kept going for a few minutes but didn’t hear the thing following. He stopped for a moment to catch his breath and made sure to play up the fact that he was trying to hide behind a large tree. The all to familiar cry of the thing sounded after a moment. It was working.
Emmett took off running away from the noise as he was expected to. He ran though the woods and could hear the cries getting closer and closer. It was almost time for someone to spring their trap. He only hoped that it was his.
His legs carried him the base of a hill that was to sheer to climb up. This was the spot. The cries of the creature screamed behind him as he turned to face it. His eyes had become accustomed to the darkness in his long run to this point but as he turned there was no clear target.
The howling was headed straight for him as he stood with his back against the rock wall trying to get his breathing under control. As his eyes darted around in the darkness he say it. It moved to fast in the shadow for any real shape to be visible to him, but there was a mass out there moving towards him.
Emmett used every ounce of self control he could muster and raised his revolver in a quick but deliberate move, aimed downed the sights, and fired off one round into the oncoming mass of shadow. He was reworded with a shrill cry of pain from the direction he fired. He stood as still as he could with his gun still pointed out at the darkness for almost two minutes, just waiting for any signs of life from his predator.
Nothing came for him. He waited for the next surprise to hit him, but was disappointed. After s few more nervous minutes he finally developed enough courage to go search for the thing he had shot at. He slowly walked through wood in the direction he fired, listening for any sounds. as he moved forward he could hear the labored breathing of a wounded creature, but he kept his composure. It could easily be yet another trap.
As he approached the noise his eyes began to make out it’s shape. It was small and covered in fur. It’s body lie uncomfortably on the ground as it struggled to breath. Emmet was surprised to see it was not some spirit of the forest. At his feet was an adult wolf with a large bullet hole though it’s side, barely hanging on to life.
Emmett was not sure what he expected to see when came across the creature, but this was not it. How could a wolf have done the things that it did? No simple wolf possessed the speed and strength to do what he had seen this one do. A wolf could not have dragged William off into the woods and broken his neck like that. Nothing about this sight made any sense.
The muffled sound a twig snapping was all the warning Emmett got before something crashed into his side and launched him into the darkness. He did not travel very far before a large tree stopped his flight.
He landed face first on the ground. From the pain he felt it was clear that he had broken his arm and several ribs at least. The concussion burred out most of the rest of the pain so he was not sure what else he may have injured. It was had for him to think clearly about anything other the how stupid he had been.
The howls of the creature that began to ring out in the distance sounded almost like laughter. Emmett could hear it slowly moving towards him, making no effort to conceal it’s self at this point. He looked down and could see that he still clutched his revolver in his hand but as much as he willed himself to life his right arm it would not budge. The sounds of the creature came closer and closer as the cold began to take Emmett and the world went dark.