On a camping trip Adam learns that bears and wolves aren't the most dangerous creatures in the woods, something else is coming and it's hungry for blood!
Adam's Tale by Joe Solmo http://pennedinblood.com
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In another time, the cool, damp, night air would have felt good on Adam’s drunk face. The moonlight shone between the thick branches of an ancient maple tree only feet away. It might have been a mile away as far as Adam was concerned. It was the pine tree he worried about. The pine tree that he could smell but not see. Its rough bark dug into his back as he struggled with the bonds that held him in place. How he got here was some sort of mystery. The woods he remembered. A party he remembered. Camping with friends was the last thing that he remembered. Where were they now? Did one of them do this? Where was Felicia? He tried again to turn his head to get a better view of his surroundings, but he still couldn’t move. Something was around his forehead keeping him against the hard, rough bark of the tree. He strained his ears, listening for some clue that could give him answers, but the only sounds he heard were a rustling in the branches above him in the trees. At first, he was alarmed but relaxed after realizing that whatever was up there, was too small to give him trouble. It was the animal that tied him up, that he was most interested in, anyway. “Are you out there?” he asked the night and listened. No response. He knew the man had to be out there somewhere. “Hello?” Adam called out to his captor. Frustrated, he kicked his feet, disturbing the bed of pine needles. That was when he heard the snicker. In the shadows of the maple in front of him something moved. A flash of orange light illuminated a face Adam had never seen before as it lit his cigarette. Who was this guy? “Who are you?” Adam asked, straining to see in the dark. “Let’s not worry about that now. You won’t be around long enough for us to get acquainted. It’s near midnight. The witching hour and all that,” the stranger said, waving his cigarette around as he talked. “Where are my friends?” Adam asked. “What did you do to them?” “I didn’t do anything. All I did was set the plate. Everything has to eat,” the stranger mumbled. “What the fuck does that mean? Untie me!” Adam said. “Why would I do that. Today has been going great so far. The best in a long time. They will be pleased.” Adam struggled against the bonds that held his arms behind his back, nearly dislocating his shoulder in the process. He grunted with the effort, which made the stranger laugh. He approached Adam and kneeled down, making intense eye contact with Adam. He got so close Adam could smell the man, a combination of cigarette smoke, sweat and halitosis, but the man’s icy stare kept him from retching from the smell. There was a timelessness in those eyes. He was only two inches from Adam’s face now. Too close for Adam. “Save your strength for the screaming, there will be lots of screaming,” he said and cracked a smile. He touched Adam’s cheek with his lit cigarette. Adam yelled out and tried to twist out from under the burning cigarette, but the iron clad grip on his head wouldn’t let go. He cried out into the chilly night again and again as the man burned him. Each touch a shock of pain on his cheek. “Yeah, like that. I think you will do fine,” the stranger said and laughed. In the distance a wolf howled, followed by another. Adam’s eyes widened. “Don’t you worry about them, now. Even they won’t come here,” the stranger said and flicked the rest of his cigarette at Adam. “This here is a special place. It’s time I head on out. They don’t like to be watched. This should buy my farm some time. They oughta leave me alone for a year at least.” “Who?” Adam said, but the man wandered off into the darkness without giving him an answer. He heard the wolves again and wondered if that was going to be how he died, torn to pieces by wolves. What was it the stranger said? The wolves won’t come here? Why not, he thought. He could smell the cigarette still burning and thought about it catching the bed of pine needles all over the ground on fire. He had a morbid question cross his mind. Would he rather die in a fire, or eaten by wolves? He almost laughed at the idea of getting a choice. He wondered if the wolves like Bar-B-Que. A half hour passed, the cigarette burned out and the wolves didn’t get any closer. He could still hear them howling out there in the forest somewhere. His cheek hurt from the stranger’s cigarette burn barrage and he wished he could look at it in the mirror. He heard sound of a small animal rustling in the dead leaves somewhere in front of him, near the maple tree the man had been standing by. He wished he knew why this was happening to him. The maple tree reminded him that the path beyond it leads to an old natural chimney. A rock formation that leads down into the earth. He had found out about it on a hiking app and he convinced his friends to come out here to hike and camp, but where were they now? He hoped they were ok. Adam thought his hand was going numb, the pins and needles sensation was beginning to set in, but then he realized it felt more like tiny little bites. He wiggled his fingers, and felt something furry run across his hands. What the fuck was that? Another nibble on his fingertips. “Ouch, you fucker!” he said and wriggled against his bonds as hard as he could, and to his surprise he freed his hands. He quickly worked on whatever was tying his head to the tree and wriggled free. He stood up and turned around to find a chipmunk sitting there, considering him with its black eyes. “You the one that bit me?” he called out and kicked at the rodent. It easily dodged his foot in the moonlight. Adam rubbed his cheeks and tried to get a good idea of his surroundings. If the large maple was there, then camp must be this way, he thought and headed off in that direction trying to work the cramps out of his muscles. The little chipmunk hopped after him on the forest trail, keeping its distance. With all the roots and rocks, Adam stumbled through the woods while trying to make it back to camp, twice he almost fell, his hand was covered in mud and sticky pine pitch. He wiped them on his pants as he continued through the wood. He could just make out a fire ahead in the distance. It must be his friends! He called out to them. “Felicia! Jacob!” He got no response. He stumbled into the clearing, but he didn’t see anyone. His tent was on the other side of the dying fire, he went over to it and opened the flap. Felicia was inside, wrapped in her sleeping bag. They must have gone to sleep, he thought. He climbed into the tent and shook her, but she didn’t move. She was always a heavy sleeper. He poked her harder and lit the small battery powered lantern they use on camping trips. “Wake up! We have to get out of here!” he said. Finally, she was stirring he thought as he watched her swallow and turn her head. “Come on!” Her mouth opened and a chipmunk climbed out, his face a crimson mask of Felicia’s blood. It squeaked twice and ran past him to the tent opening where another one was sitting watching him with those cold black eyes. “What the fuck is going on?” he called out and looked back down at Felicia. He shook her again, and got a better look at her. Her mouth was agape and he realized with horror that she had no tongue. He turned towards the doorway and saw that now there was about a dozen chipmunks standing there on hind legs watching him. The one with the bloody face took a step forward. “We are Tamias,” the bloody one squeaked. “Tamias,” the rest chirped in high pitched unison. “I’ve fucking lost it,” Adam whispered to himself and shook his head. “We demand payment for the transgression,” the chipmunk said. “Payment must be made. We demand it. The deal cannot be altered.” “I have no idea what you are talking about. What did you do to Felicia and Jacob?” he asked. Then started to laugh as he realized he was having a conversation with a chipmunk in a tent next to his dead girlfriend. Did he forget that he ate a bunch of mushrooms? “Two hundred cycles ago the deal was made. This land, our land to be shared. For a price. The blood price must be paid. A life for each season that passes, and we would share our sacred forest with the man and his kin. The most fertile land for his food to grow. Waters that grant a long life,” the chipmunk squeaked. The moonlight lit the orbs that watched him above its chubby cheeks. “I don’t understand,” Adam said and charged the entrance to the tent. The chipmunks scattered out of his way. He turned towards the tent and started to tear up as he glimpsed Felicia through the tent flap. The Tamias formed a circle around him, keeping out of kicking distance. “Human. You are the blood price. You and your friends must be given to the Tamias. The price must be paid!” the spokesperson for the chipmunks squeaked angerly. “You’re not going to get me. JACOB!” he yelled trying to get his friend to wake up. Maybe together they could escape this nightmare. “You friend is with the Dux Tamias. He cannot hear you,” the bloody chipmunk said calmly. “You will meet him soon yourself. The time draws near. The price must be paid.” “You can’t have us!” Adam yelled and ran to his friend’s tent. He ripped open the tent flap and jumped back at the horrid scene he saw inside. There was a chipmunk the size of a St. Bernard in the tent digging into his friend’s flesh, blood was everywhere. The large rodent turned to face him, an entrail hanging from its mouth, the soft tissue stuck between its elongated rodent teeth. He heard the patter of the chipmunk’s feet as they approached behind him. He backed out of the entrance to the tent, retching from the smell. “Dux Tamias, he is the sacrifice,” the bloody faced one squeaked and saluted the large beast. “It is promised. The blood,” the largest said leaving the tent. There was a shine of intelligence in its black eyes. “The blood,” the bloody one said. The rest of the chipmunks crossed their arms in salute as well, then returned to all fours. “Oh, fuck this nonsense,” Adam said and punted the closest chipmunk across the campsite. He turned towards the big one. “You want some of this?” he said angerly. “You are the promised. Bring the bowl,” The Dux Tamias said in a deeper voice that still squeaked and the bloody faced chipmunk ran off with two others. Adam looked around for a weapon. He saw his hiking staff near his tent. He worked his way over to it, keeping his eyes on the Dux Tamias. “You going to pay for this,” Adam said picking up the hiking staff. He pulled off the rubber tip that covered the metal spike underneath. He brandished it like a sword, pointing the tip at the Dux Tamias. “The bowl, the blood,” rang squeaky chipmunk voices as one. The bloody faced chipmunk returned with the others dragging a stained wooden bowl. The Dux Tamias stepped closer to Adam, a sneer crossed its adorable chubby cheeked face. “Stay back. I’ll skewer you and all your little friends. Roast you over the campfire,” Adam said and swung the staff at the large chipmunk. “Just like picking up trash!” he said and stabbed down, impaling one of the chipmunks who let out a chilling death squeak. The rest of the chipmunks circled Adam and started to squeak in unison to their approach. A marching cadence of the chipmunk army’s approach. Adam swung and knocked a chipmunk over. He turned towards the large one that was getting a little too close for comfort. He felt the weight of a few of them climbing up his legs, and tried to swat them off. That’s when the big one jumped on his back, knocking him to the ground. He hit his head on something hard and got dizzy. The Dux Tamias stuck its face close to Adam’s. “In two hundred years we have not gone without the blood. We will not now. Know this human. Your blood will satiate a hunger in us that is almost impossible to control. It keeps your species safe. It’s a noble thing, you are doing,” it squeaked. “The Blood. The bowl,” bloody face chipmunk said and dragged the bowl closer. The chipmunks all climbed on his back. He body was growing weak. Did he hit his head that hard? “By now the enzymes in our saliva have worked into your bloodstream. I am sure you remember a few nibbles back in the forest, yes?” came the voice behind him. Panic began to set in. For the first time Adam was worried for his own safety. Numbness took over most of his body as they moved the bowl under his cheek. He felt the Dux Tamias bite into his neck, and then the warm trickle of his own blood run down into the bowl. He couldn’t turn his head to see, but he felt the chipmunks leave his back and heard them slurping from the bowl. The Dux Tamias moved its form in front of Adam. It was hard for him to concentrate. The corners of his vision began to turn dark. He tried to focus on the dog sized rodent in front of him. That was when he noticed all the chipmunks were lined up in front of him like a buck toothed firing squad. “The Blood. The Life,” they all squeaked from the hole between their adorable chubby cheeks. Their black eyes flashed red before they charged him. He was helpless to stop it, Needle teeth tore into his face. He might have screamed just before darkness took over and he succumbed to the chipmunks will.
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