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Author's note: I actually had a dream about this whole entire story and how I it ended all from the main character's point of view. Once I added names to all of the characters, the story just kind of came together and just to add some uniqueness I tried to place bible verses before each chapter to give the reader a type of small inference to what would happen within that chapter.
“No, no, please…”
I awoke with a start, finding myself staring into the eyes of Amos who had shaken me awake. His wrinkle-adorned eyes shined in the little bit of light coming from the window beside where I’d been sleeping. I glanced through the window to see it was early morn already.
“Amos, what happened?” I said, rubbing my now aching cranium.
“You had another nightmare, apparently. Was it the same one?”
“I have no idea as to what nightmare you’re talking about.”
“Claus, I know you understand the nightmare I’m referring to.”
Of course I knew exactly the nightmare Amos was referring to. My whole body shivered in sheer horror at the thought. It was that same nightmare. I would always feel as though my throat was still being slit open by the teeth of that…thing. I never could figure out what the mass was that attacked me every time in the nightmare. However, the beast always made sure to end my life in the most painful way it possibly could. The thing always crushed my throat with its teeth and I would die, lying in a pool of my own blood. It was always terrible.
I watched as Amos scuffled along the poorly crafted floor of hard mountain stone and pine straw. He reached for a tiny tan box and his pipe, lying on a stool, near the fire pit in the center of the room. When he retrieved it, he soon began preparing his pipe for a smoke.
“It was the dream about the monster wasn’t it? The amulet, too?”
He turned to me, flicking the flame of the match out as he inhaled his first puff of the morning.
“Yes. Yes, it was. I just can’t take it anymore, Amos. I feel like I’m going out of my mind.”
Amos planted himself in his favorite rocking chair. His frail form rocked slowly, his hand shaking slightly while he lifted the pipe to his mouth for another puff. The room because silent while Amos watched the fire in its pit, his emerald eyes filled with wonder.
I admired Amos greatly and even considered him to be like a grandfather to me, but the silence in the room soon became unbearably awkward.
“Have you heard anything from Sally?”
Amos looked at me, his eyes losing their wondrous shimmer.
“Yes, she still won’t be home for a few days, so I suggest you just sit tight for now.”
I smiled to myself. I guess he was right.
“Alright, I’ll stay here still for the time being, I guess.”
“That’s a good boy. Now, Claus, I have a question for you. I’ve been wondering this for a while, actually.”
“What is it?”
Amos took a strong drag from his pipe. He puffed out his cheeks creating elegant smoke rings.
“I was just thinking, Claus, could you describe what the monster looks like? You know, so I get a better idea what you’re dealing with.”
“No, Amos. It frightens me too much. That thing is an abomination. It shouldn’t live in peoples’ thoughts, let alone be described out loud. No, it’s too horrible.”
“Claus. Tell me.”
“Claus, if you tell me, I guarantee you’ll feel much better. If you’re facing something you’re terrified of, it’s always better to face it hand-in-hand with a friend rather than alone. It reduces the burden on you.” Amos’s face displayed pure concern, which made me feel guilty for not telling him when he first asked.
I sighed in defeat.
“Fine.” I began gesturing with my hands while I described it. “This thing is huge, larger than any man. When it stands on its hind legs it’s got to be at least, I don’t know, nine or ten feet tall. It has short rounded ears, large black eyes, and a round short muzzle. Its body is covered in this rust-colored, thick fur-”
“Did it look like a teddy bear?”
“Did it look like a teddy bear?”
“No, no, definitely not, unless a tiddy bear has long fangs and huge paws, larger than your head. Why? Amos, what’s a tiddy bear?”
Amos chuckled deeply. He rose from his rocking chair, walking to a large book shelf behind him. The book shelf was enormous in size, yet it only contained six books. Amos grabbed a large book, its burgundy outer coat fringed and dirtied with age. He flipped through the pages, while he continued to chuckle.
“Claus, it’s called a teddy bear, t-e-d-d-y b-e-a-r. I forgot, Claus, you weren’t born yet when the Sanctual Retreat occurred. That’s why you don’t know what a teddy bear is. You’ve never even see one. Here, this is what a teddy bear looks like.”
Amos crossed the room handing me the large volume. I stared at the little creature on the page. It had fuzzy rust-colored fur like I had described. Its eyes were large and dark and held a glow of sweetness instead of malevolence. The cute little creature didn’t really have a mouth, but it did have a black button-like nose.
I cocked my head, examining the creature from every angle I could.
“Amos, this couldn’t be the creature.”
“Why is that, Claus?”
“Because, it’s too cute.”
I giggled. Amos smiled at me for a short moment before his face grew grim.
“Claus, I know that’s not exactly what the creature looks like, but I have a feeling I’m on the right track. I have one more picture to show you, which I’m sure is the beast you’re referring to.”
I shivered in fear.
“O-Okay, I want to see if you’re right, Amos. Show me.”
He flipped a few more pages. When he’d found the picture he’d been searching for, he glanced up at me, his emerald eyes filled with concern.
“Brace yourself, Claus.”
I clutched my hat I’d been wearing, in my hands tightly as Amos turned the book so I could see it.
I couldn’t stop myself. I screamed as loudly as I could, slipping back to the headboard of the bed in an attempt to distance myself as far away as possible from the book.
It was just as terrible as in my dreams, its dark eyes glaring off the page with hunger.
“A-Amos what the hell is that, thing!?”
“This thing, Claus, is called a bear. I wouldn’t expect you to know about this animal because I know you’ve never seen one before, and up this high on the plateau we don’t have any bears.”
Amos’s calm, steady voice soothed my fears a bit, but I still shivered with anxiety.
“They don’t live here at all?”
“No, Claus, they don’t. You’re safe.”
I stopped shivering in relief. Amos closed the book, returning it to its original place on the shelf.
“Have you ever seen a bear?”
“Yes, Claus. Yes, I have many times. They are not pleasant creatures.”
“Then, why Amos? Why am I dreaming of them? Why?” My eyes were brimming with tears. I was so afraid. My heart pounded and my cranium throbbed as I thought back to that same nightmare.
“I don’t know, Claus, but I have a feeling someone’s trying to tell you something.”
“Why makes you say that? What do bears have to do with me?”
“Claus, say your full name.”
“Claus Benatt. Why?”
“Claus, do you know what your last name means?”
“No, Sally never told me. Amos, I don’t understand what you’re getting at here.”
“Claus, your last name, that’s what connects you to the bear. Your last name means “bold as the bear”. As much as you don’t want to admit it, you and the bear are connected, if only by a name. It’s still a connection.”
Amos planted himself back in his rocking chair, taking another drag from his pipe as he let this new information sink in.
I couldn’t look at him. My mind was swimming with confusion. I was connected to this thing, this bear. It’s presence haunted me practically every night, and all because I had a name that was connected to this thing. How could I even have an image of it in my mind if I’d never seen one when awake? It didn’t make any sense. Why? Why me? Just, why?
“Claus, are you okay?”
I still couldn’t look at Amos. I grabbed my hat, rising from the bed and keeping my gaze to the floor as I walked to the door.
“Amos, I need some time to think. I just…need some time. I’ll be back.”
I closed the door, shuffling out onto the main mud trekked road of the village.
I walked for about a mile, still keeping my gaze to the ground in bewilderment. Me. Why me? Why a bear?
My thoughts were soon interrupted when an unknown force struck my left shoulder. I glanced up, annoyed that my thought process has been halted. That was until I realized I was face to face with the person I feared most in the village. The Blood Walker.
The Blood Walker, stared at me, his icy eyes piercing straight to my soul, their intensity deteriorating any type of mental defense I could have mustered.
“Pardon me.” He stated, his gaze still drilling deeply into my stupefied core.
He trailed around me and continued on his way. I watched as other adults moved to the farthest parts of the muddy road to provide a space for him to cross through untouched. After, he disappeared behind a shack, I turned tail and ran as fast as I could, my hair falling in my eyes the whole way.
Once I’d reached Sally and my own shack, I slammed the large wooden door behind me. I rushed to the crevice in the old, worn wood farthest from the door. Inside, I found Sally’s only weapon of protection from outside forces. I loaded her flintlock pistol and grabbed a set of matches from the same hole.
Upon, loading the gun, I propped myself against the wall farthest from the door so I could face the only entrance to the house.
No matter what, if the Blood Walker tried to enter into the house, I’d be ready. I’d make the first move by putting a round of lead in his forehead. I would be ready for him. He wouldn’t get me.
I stayed in this position for hours, my heart threatening to beat out of my chest every time I heard the shack creak. It hadn’t been long when my eyes began drooping closed. I tried holding them open, but each time I felt my head fall again. Finally, I dropped the pistol in my lap. My eyes betrayed me and closed for good. My body faded into slumber. I was gone.
It had been a long afternoon. The sun, of course, refused to shine upon the village. The villagers seemed uneasy this afternoon and it was hard for me to pinpoint why. Eventually, though, it became quite obvious. The scrambling back into their shacks like little mice, the eyes wide with sheer terror, their faces white as snow as if they’d seen a ghost. I knew exactly what was wrong. Claude was out of his shack again and not working at the smoke house that day.
I usually spoke to Claude in secret. He seemed to prefer it that way. He had always been quite an interesting character. It was a shame most people were frightened of him.
Claude arrived about 1’o clock. He said when he’d seen me in town that we would need to speak later. When he entered my door, his posture was as stiff as ever. Lean and fearless in the doorway, he stood proudly, his icy eyes analyzing me closely.
“Count Marguff, as I said earlier, we need to speak. It’s quite urgent.”
“Claude, you don’t have to address me like that. At least not here. You are my son-in-law. You may call me whatever you please.”
His eyes narrowed as he scanned my face for a moment. He placed himself across the small room in a recliner, his eyes never leaving mine. I could tell when he sat that he was especially troubled by something. His head was leaned at an angle on his hand. Something was quite the matter.
“Claude. What is it? What is so urgent?”
“Okay. What about Sally? She’s just fine that I’ve seen.”
That’s why. It was that boy. Always, it was the boy. The only child in the village. Claude had always been concerned with the whereabouts and well-being of that boy.
“Claus, you mean.”
“Don’t say that name. Ever.” He fidgeted.
“What about him? What is it, Claude? Tell me. I can’t read your mind, son.”
“Sally. If she stays in the Medicine Wing of the village you know what’s going to happen. So what will become of that boy?”
I noticed something quite different. I watched Claude, my eyes skimming over him closely then back to his face. He seemed even more tense than during our usual meetings. Something had happened that involved the boy. Something that Claude did not want to relinquish to my knowledge.
“Alright. Tell me.”
“What? What are on Earth do you mean? There’s nothing to tell.”
I could see him barely fidget under my stare. He was lying.
“You know I’ve known you long enough that I can tell when you’re lying. You’re as transparent as the wind, Claude. Tell me. I know something happened with that boy.”
“I ran into him today.”
“He wasn’t paying attention. I went to go around him but instead I accidently bumped his shoulder.”
“And nothing. I stared at him. It was completely embarrassing.”
I chuckled. I could tell that wasn’t everything, however.
“Yes, okay. There’s something else, too. I can see it.”
“I’ve been observing him.”
“Observing him? Well, that’s interesting. And what did you learn from your observations?”
Claude lowered his head a bit. His face was mostly statuesque but there were times when his emotions underneath slightly bubbled to the surface. I could see shame brimming in the icy complexion of his eyes.
“He’s quite intelligent for a child of only ten years. His will is strong and he’s quite aloof from others besides Sally and Amos. His favorite past time is to listen to Amos’ old wives’ tales and watch him smoke his pipe by the fire pit. He’s also…”
Claude grew quiet. His eyes were hard and glaring at the floor. His fists were clenched tightly together in frustration. I knew exactly what he was getting at.
“He’s afraid of you, too.”
Claude buried his head in his hands and fisted his short hair. He was confused, upset, ignorant of what to do. Not unlike a child himself.
I crossed the room, leaving shadows in my wake as I passed the windows. I placed my hand on the top of his head. He did not look up to me but instead clasped his hair tighter.
“Claude. You’ve done nothing wrong.”
“How can you say that? I’ve done everything wrong. It seems like everything I do, I’ll never get over it.”
I stroked some of his hair comfortingly.
“Claude, if you never forgive yourself, you’ll never get over it. Things will never change, life will never go on. You have to face your guilt, your shame and keep living, child.”
He looked up at me. His face was stoic again, no traces of shame left. His eyes were harsh, but in the very depths I could just make out a trace of despair. Claude was always good at hiding emotion. He’d had too much practice.
“Yes, but you don’t understand the problem, the harsh reality, I deal with every day.”
I examined his chocolate hair, stubble covered chin, and lean muscle. The boy had grown to be a fine young man. He didn’t need to be wasting his time. He wouldn’t be like this forever.
“Can I tell you something?”
“What is it?”
“You know, if Juliette were still alive she’d be proud of you.”
I could see his icy eyes tear up. His body begin to tremble as he held back sobs. Juliette was always a sensitive subject for him.
“W-why? What reason would she have to be proud of me?” His voice cracked.
“You’ve grown to be quite the young man. You’re handsome, strong, fast. She’d adore you even now.”
“Yes, but she wouldn’t be able to look past everything.”
“Claude, when you love someone as much as she loved you, barriers such as yours are shattered easily. She would have looked past everything if it meant being with you. She’d be proud that you were protecting others all these years from the same harsh reality that you dread. She’ll always be proud of you.”
Claude went completely silent. His hands were clasped over his mouth, but I could see him nibbling his right thumb, something he did often in thought. It was a few more moments before he rose and made his way to the door of my shack again.
“Claude, are you alright, son?”
He didn’t turn to face me.
“Thank you for the talk. I needed it. Make sure you check on Sally. That boy doesn’t need to be without a guardian no matter how smart he is. He’s still a child.”
I smiled. He was so choked up over Juliette, yet he still hadn’t forgotten about that boy. He really was a wonderful character.
“I will see to it, if anything happens he will be taken care of.”
I could see Claude nod and his hand reach for the door knob.
“You know what they’re calling you now don’t you? The villagers, I mean.”
He turned back to look at me, his eyebrow cocked.
“No. What is it this time?” His tone sounded annoyed.
“The Blood Walker.”