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Bumps in the night

Tristan awoke and found himself starring straight into the starry black summer sky. This was not one of his usual awakenings, where it took him several minutes, and perhaps hours, to fully gather his senses and wits about him. His mind had been active in his sleep, restless, working tirelessly to try and process very obtrusive information that his senses had been relaying to it. His breathing was slow and calm, but a sense of unease hung over him like the blanket he was under, and the hairs that were raised on the back of his neck were telling him in no uncertain terms that something was wrong.

Tristan was sure it was this feeling that had woken him up. He suddenly realized that his hand was at his hip, clenched tightly around the hilt of his knife. Releasing the grip, he moved his had a few inches to the right and assured himself that his bow and two dozen arrows were right beside him. Not strung though he reminded himself. He knew that, unstrung, his weapon was nothing more than a smoothly carved branch and some sharpened sticks. Regardless, he couldn’t help feel some illogical comfort that they were beside him.

Still staring through the branches above him into the stars, Tristan began to take in the aspects of his senses to try and discern what it was that had disturbed him. He felt the cool, moist summer air laying softly upon his face, in precisely the same manner he’d felt not hours before. He took in the sounds of the forest, all of the clicking noises of the insects, the occasional flutter of bats’ wings, and the only barely audible brush of the wind against the ample leaves around him. The smells of the forest also washed over him, and here was the disturbance. He met all of the familiar odors, the earthy smell of dirt and decomposing leaf-litter, the woody scent of bark and sap, the fresh aroma of a recent rain. However, amongst all this was another smell, subtle, yet obtrusive enough that it had tugged his consciousness awake. It was musky, mingled with something akin to wet fur and bad cabbage. Tristan knew it shouldn’t be there, but couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from. Instead, he felt almost as though it descended like a fog from the clouds, coating the entire clearing randomly with it’s mark.

He turned his head ever so slowly, and his heart skipped a beat as he saw two wide white eyes starring straight into his. He exhaled with relief as he recognized them as Sky’s, looking from where he lay some five yards away. Natural, Tristan thought, that Sky with his familiarity with the forest would have been disturbed from his slumber before he was.

With the kind of soundless movement Tristan had seen only in him, Sky touched his finger to his mouth, then indicated with his head and eyes to the forest behind him. Tristan scanned the dark shadows with intense concentration, but could discern nothing within their murky depths. He turned back to Sky with a questioning glance, only to see him with a slight smile, shaking his head. He moved his hand and pointed to his ear that was off the surface of the ground, then very deliberately closed his eyes. Tristan, understanding, followed suit. At first he heard nothing out of the ordinary. The sounds of the forest misted down around him just as they had a moment ago, just as they had the night before, just as they had for the past three years. He slowed his breathing, lengthened each exhale to lower his heart rate, just as Sky instructed him while hunting, and searched the noises for something, anything, that didn’t belong. He sifted through hums and jitters, clicks and flutters, until finally he caught something that he thought might be amiss. It was so slight a sound, so slow to reveal itself from the orchestra of the night and so quick to fall invisible into rank once more that he couldn’t describe it, not even to himself. All he could do was wait to see if it would come again.

It did, and this time Tristan was ready for it. He heard it as a mix between a soft crunch and a soft thud, somewhere deep in the woods behind Sky. Now that he knew it, Tristan could pick the noise out more easily, and it came again, and again, each time coming a bit more clearly to his ears. It was the sound of a mixture of dead and dry leaves being flattened, the sound of porous earth giving ground under pressure from above, the sound of weight being carefully shifted from one foot to the other as something moved through the forest.

Tristan opened his eyes, and stared once more at Sky. He saw in his friend’s face a hint of anxiety that he knew was mirrored in his own, for they both understood a very scary truth- someone or something was on the prowl in the forest, and whatever it was, it wasn’t natural.



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Mathias said...
Feb. 25, 2012 at 10:05 am

I like the way that you described the way they listened to the sounds in the forest, but sometimes I found the story to be a bit overly-descriptive. Description is good, but when it takes away from the plot the reader loses interest, and that's never good.

You have a lot of body language in the story, and that is good. It's something that a writer should use and you're using it a lot. It strengthens the story somehow.

It's a good idea for a story and a very intruiging one.

 
CoreyVernot This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 25, 2012 at 10:49 am
Thanks for being so consrtructive, you gave me a lot to think about. I'll work on cutting out some of the unneccessary description.
 
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