THE HUNT Part Twenty
Funny the things that go through your mind when you’re about to die.
That thing about your whole life flashing before your eyes? That didn’t happen, not for Arly. She’d thought only of David Livingstone and her eleventh grade term paper.
Mrs. Odelle had dictated that each student write about an historical person or event, and Arly had drawn the topic Henry Stanley and his search for Dr. Livingstone. Though she’d had far more interest in the upcoming Winter Formal and which of her admirers would be escorting her, she’d been surprised, when she’d gotten into the research for the paper, at how much it had intrigued her. She’d read this one excerpt where Livingstone had recounted his mauling by a lion. Livingstone had experienced no pain; rather a peculiar tranquility, a sense of peace had settled over him.
When Maka’kahu had grabbed her, she’d screamed and fought, but only for a few seconds. With the monster’s strength being so great, her own so useless and her struggling so futile, she’d accepted that she had no chance. Her main concern then had been for Pete, a prayer that he had not been killed when the monster had struck him. Already by then she had given up hope for herself. She’d remembered Livingstone and his lion and prayed that it would be the same way for her. So far, the peace and acceptance part had held true. God grant the part about feeling no pain would as well.
She could even appreciate the irony of it, the symbolism, a feeling of destiny. She had seen Maka’kahu as a child and survived it, and now he, it, had returned to claim her life. It was meant to be, she reasoned.
As it turned out, though, Livingstone had survived his lion attack, survived to write about it and die an old man. Neither did Maka’kahu kill her.
Not yet, at least.
He carried her under his left arm the way a man might carry a large sack of flour or a bedroll, as though she weighed nothing. She marveled at the speed of his gait. He carried her with her face turned away from him and that was good, otherwise the stench of him at close proximity would have made her pass out. Even so she struggled not to vomit.
She knew why he had taken her.
He carries off women, seeking to replace his lost mate.
She knew. And she knew death would be better, if it came to it, than what might await her. A glance up over her shoulder at the thing’s huge, grotesque, dangling genitalia made for an easy decision. She had a case knife in the pocket of her coveralls, and she knew she would use it.
But not yet. She could afford to wait for a little while. Saint might still be alive. She somehow knew that he was. And that meant he would be coming after her.
*Hurry, Beau, please hurry!*
Maka’kahu carried her for what seemed like miles. The movement made her dizzy. Trees and ground rushing past, the purple sky, the ground. She’d been swung up and down, side to side. Despite that and the stench of the beast, she somehow managed to keep the contents of her stomach down.
At last they stopped. They were in a clearing, a flat area where most of the ground consisted of smooth stone, with only a clump of dry grass here and there, patches of moss and yellow lichen carpeting the site. About the size of a football field, she estimated.
Then the scarecrows caught her eye.
That’s what they looked like, scarecrows. Though she took note right off that they were made of bones. Human bones, human skeletons, bound to branches fashioned into crucifixes, bound with strips of cloth…
their clothes…ribcage, pelvis, arms stretched out, just like scarecrows…skulls affixed to the tops of the poles. Three of them, staring at her.
Maka’kahu had erected his scarecrows by sticking the poles into the pockets of dirt where there were breaks in the rock. Scarecrows. Totems, Trophies. The bones of his victims.
From her position and from a distance, Arly couldn’t tell, but she suspected the bones had been gnawed upon.
There were wooden grates on the ground, too. Fashioned of thick, heavy branches, crisscrossed like bars, like a Tic-Tac-Toe board, and tied together with strips of vine or cloth. Arly counted at least six of them. Maka’kahu moved towards one, reached down to lift it with his right hand, and dropped Arly down into the hole beneath it with his left.
The wooden grates covered holes in the ground. Had Maka’kahu dug them out or were they natural? Arly wondered as she slid down inside. They were deep. If Arly extended her arms above her head, the top of the hole, and the wooden grate (which Maka’kahu dropped back into place) remained out of her reach by several inches.
The holes were narrow, too. Arly could not extend her arms all the way at her sides. A round hole, almost a perfect circle. For Arly to recline or sit would require drawing her legs up. No room to stretch out. The floor of the hole wouldn’t allow anyone to rest, anyway. Full of jagged little rocks and pieces of human bone. Arly figured they were human. It seemed probable.
The dirt encircling her felt hard-packed, frozen, even. No way could she dig into that, and even if she managed to gouge out little hand- and footholds, even could she manage to climb to the top, no way could she lift that grate out of place.
*I’m trapped, then. But I’m alive.*
The voice, shouting, belonged to a male, and came from somewhere above.
“I think it’s safe to talk now! I think that-that thing is gone! Can you hear me?”
“I can hear you!” Arly shouted back.
“Are you hurt?!”
“No! Who are you?!”
“My name is Joe Clark! I’m from Canada! Do you know where that is?”
“Sure! I’m Arly Youngblood, from the United States!”
“Had to make sure! We’re not in Kansas anymore, you know!”
“I know!” She cleared her throat. “Are we the only ones here?!”
“There’s one more! Kiersten?! Do you feel up to talking?!”
“Kiersten Roth?!” Arly shouted. “She’s here?!”
“Yes! Kiersten, would you like to say hello to Arly?!”
“She doesn’t talk much!” Clark shouted.
“Is she hurt?!” Arly shouted. “Kiersten?!” No response. “Are you both in separate holes?!”
“Yes!” Clark answered.
“Is it just the two of you?!”
“I’m afraid so! I came here with another man, but…!” He didn’t finish, nor did he have to. Arly understood. The “other man” stood now with the two others above them, silent witnesses, one of the scarecrows.
“I came here with your grandfather, Kiersten!” Arly called. “He’s here looking for you!”
The response came like a shot. “Papaw?! My Papaw’s here?!”
Kierstens’ voice sounded ragged and scared, but strong.
“Yes, he’s here!”
“He wasn’t captured?!” Clark shouted.
“Papaw’s gonna get me out of here?!” Kiersten cried.
“Yes!” Arly answered. *God I hope so.*
“Did he bring guns?!” Clark asked.
Arly didn’t even think before she said it. “Better than that! He brought my boyfriend!”
That instant is when Arly knew. Pete had been right. She *had* taken leave of her senses. And she’d somehow managed to fall in love with Beauregard Saint.
“Who is he?!” Clark shouted.
“God help me,” Arly whispered. “He’s a killer.”
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!