By RD Rivero
By RD Rivero
November 28, 1999
The heavens, abound with clouds, darkened by the motion of sunset.
Thick arms of yellow mist swirled across the marble face of the full
moon. A vibrant clash of unreal colors, the tops of tall, gnarled trees
pierces the sky above. In the deepening red orange sky the world
succame to dread and to sadness. Depressed, the fall season was well
underway and through the sprawled void of nature scarcely a bird
fluttered. Silence, all around was silence.
At the edge of an arching cliff, at the base of a wide, imposed tree
Pumyra watched the forest below drown in the oncoming shadow of night.
She felt the rough bark of the oak, a thousand yeas old, no doubt and
she wondered how many sunsets, how many fools must have come across in
its lifetime. Meanwhile, Bengali approached from behind.
"I don't know why I'm so sad, Bengali, I just don't know."
"The changing seasons. I've finished the campfire. Come back before
The two walked through a makeshift trail carved out of the underbrush by
hoards of insects active only a few days ago. Down a slight and gentle
slope the trees faded abruptly into a meadow of ankle high grass. Two
green canvas tents stood next to a flaming, sparkling fire. They felt
warmth from the first sight.
The air was calm until a great and unexpected breeze galed up from the
south. Fortunately the tents diverted enough of the cold, icy wind that
the fire was safe. They sensed no danger from the disturbance or
perhaps they were unaware of the way, the strange way the hundred foot
tall tress swayed and shivered violently from side to side but then the
rustling sound was muffled by distance and the sky was too dark to see
the effect clearly.
"You're not worried about Tygra, are you?"
Bengali was somewhat stunned at the tone but calmly spoke: "I don't like
that he went out there alone."
"There's no danger, he's well acquainted with these woods."
"The warrior maidens who live in these woods."
"The warrior maidens?" Pumyra laughed.
While they sat around the fire warming themselves Bengali became aware
of a certain flicker of light from within the trees. It was too early
to have been Tygra. Tygra was supposed to return tomorrow morning
unless something had happened.
"A man tall, black hair, black eyes. He's holding a lamp of some kind
not electrical, not fire either. I can't see anymore from here but I
think he's carrying a knapsack."
"A man. A man here? So deep in Amazonian territory?"
"Strange but I doubt it's a danger. We should go check him out anyway.
He's coming toward us."
Pumyra and Bengali approached the stranger slowly to not alarm him. Up
close they found him to be rather harmless. Bengali dropped his guard.
There was something about the stranger that lent others an uneasy
nature, that seemed familiar in some unusual way.
"Who are you, stranger?" asked Pumyra.
The strange stopped a few feet from the Thundercats. He looked at them
attentively. He had not seen them until that moment. Words took time
with him to register, so long had it been since he had last needed to
"My name? My name? I can't repeat it, it's forbidden. I am a
wanderer, weary in exile. For as long as there's been earth have I been
cursed to roam abroad. You two, who might you be?"
"I'm Pumyra and this is Bengali. We've Thundercats. May I ask why
you've been cursed this way?"
"I ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I
wasn't supposed to, you see, I was told not to do it but I did it. I
wasn't the first and I wasn't the last but I'm the only one who lives.
Life, that's the curse, the wandering's just how it manifests. I don't
mean to frighten you, I had no idea there was anyone around and I do try
to avoid others. It's better that way believe me."
"No, friend, don't go. What ever you did, it couldn't have been so
bad." If only you new, the wanderer thought. "Stay for a while, at
least rest the night with us," said Bengali.
"You do me too great a kindness," it may fare as bad for you as it has
for the others. Somewhere under the black, starry canopy and between
the trees of the forest around the camp a red eyed beast lurked and
prowled. Smoke fumed from out its nostrils.
Bengali stepped into one of the tents and fumbled around in the darkness
through one of the many cases he had brought with him from the Tower of
Omens. Meanwhile, the stranger took off his knapsack and set it upon
the ground next to small log. Then he sat next to it, opened it and
placed the lamp he had held back inside. He removed a set of glasses
and an old, rather thick book with pages torn off. Pumyra placed
herself eagerly by the stranger's side and for the first time she
noticed, in the blazing light of the fire, that the man had a scar along
the top of his forehead. Most of the form was hidden under hair.
Bengali returned and handed each one a sandwich. Pumyra thanked her
friend immediately. The stranger uttered some words in a language
unknown but his tone and the easy manner in which his utterance flowed
from his tongue reassured Bengali that he was indeed grateful for the
gesture. The white tiger then sat with his own sandwich in hand on
another log opposite Pumyra. The stranger was in the center of the
The three ate their meal around the fire. A curious Pumyra wanted to
know what the stranger had done, what he had really done. Surely eating
the fruit of a tree could not have been enough to warrant the punishment
received. The stranger had to open up and suddenly Pumyra got an idea.
"While we're here we should entertain ourselves," said Pumyra.
"What do you mean?" Bengali asked.
"I remember when I was young that one of the things my brothers and I
would do was tell each other scary stories around the camp fire."
"No, not something else that'll keep me up tonight."
"What do you say, stranger?"
"It's an old custom I suppose."
"You're not afraid?" Bengali asked.
"Not of stories, reality is far more gruesome."
"'Tis too true proved," said Pumyra.
"Well if that's how you're going to play then why don't you start,
Pumyra, since you thought of it."
"I think it's only proper that our guest starts. You'll tell us part of
a story, then Bengali will continue, then I'll take my turn."
"I see, so, now, where do I begin?"
"Anywhere you want."
The stranger put his book down next to him and the sack. He looked
around with his glasses in his hands. After a few moments of thought at
last he spoke:
"Four friends trekked through the woods one late afternoon. Over their
shoulders they carried the spoils of that morning's hunt. They were
trying to get back to their village before sun down, certainly before
sun down. It would have been death, even for men of their profession,
to be caught in the wilderness in the night, when the evil spirits of
the woods brake forth free from their slumbering prisons of day.
"In the course of the hunt they had lost themselves deep in the
forests. They no longer treaded under the trails so carefully beaten by
past generations. Somewhere in the distance insects stirred through the
fallen leaves of the underbrush. Even owls hooted, called, flapped
their wings and such from on high up the enormous trees.
"There were still plenty of daylight hours when the men encountered a
sudden clearing. The land was not entirely devoid of trees, the trees
were simply sparse. The leaders decided to stop and rest awhile. Ty
and Bragg, those were their names, they looked around and peered into
the horizon or as much of the horizon as they could make out. They
studied the shape of the mountains that loomed far and away. Green,
blue, gray and while on top, the Forbidden Mountains were very ragged
and their examination was inconclusive. Ty thought they should move
north, Bragg believed the village was only ten miles or so to the east.
"So among themselves they decided to walk northeast. A compromise. In
any case, after a half hour's rest they set off again. They had not
made it out of the clearing when one of the men, Ty or was it Casio, one
of them anyway, found a stick figure dangled from the branch of a tree.
The men stood around and studied in awe and bewilderment. The figure
was formed from thick boughs cut into five pieces. Four pieces were the
same length but the fifth was much longer and served as the vertical
bass, as a pole. Two others crossed in an 'x' pattern along the pole.
The last two sticks formed a triangle with a section of the large pole
toward the top, to form something shaped either as the head or as the
"Casio and Phaeton were taken aback by the object. Obviously someone
had formed it so someone had to live around the area but that was not
good. No one lived in the forests. No one. Undaunted, the men
continued on their journey but as soon as they passed the tree with the
stick figure, what do you know but they soon discovered that every tee
in the clearing was adorned with them. Some trees had a figure on every
branch. Some figure had over time fallen and rotted on the ground,
covered by brown leaves or dirt.
"Now universally frightened, the men ran steadily into the denser parts
of the wilderness, mindful to keep their northeast course. They came
across a brook, a thin river of sorts none had ever seen before. Its
banks were covered by wild plants, thigh high. Unsure of what to do
they stopped again to take their bearings. It occurred to someone that
they should go east and south. While Ty, Bragg and Casio tried to
reason out a course, Phaeton thought he saw something move within the
bushes on the other side of the rive. As he watched, the motions grew
more violent, more obvious as what ever it was quickly retreated into
the trees behind the river bank. He wanted to tell the others but did
not know how.
"South east is was and once again the four intrepid explorers set on.
The sun was on its way down and before their eyes the universe faded
into nothing but darkness and the eeriest silence. No, not even the
breeze echoes. From a distance they saw a light, a fire. They had lost
their heads, they ran to the scene. They thought it was a home on the
outskirts of the village but alas it was no such thing. It was a house
though, just a house, all alone in the woods. It had two floors and
probably a basement as well.
"The men circled the building and found that the light came from a
fireplace within. The windows and doors were in good order, nothing was
missing, nothing was out of place, nothing was even dirty. The front
door was open and they entered.
"The first floor had four rooms. A living room with the fire place, it
was lighted, yes, but not well lighted. There was furniture, a couch or
a sofa, wooden chairs covered by hide of some kind. The floor was also
wooded, a dark wood any nicely kept. The rest of the floor, indeed, the
rest of the house was totally dark. Ty asked Casio to run out and get
some twigs or sticks from the trees that surrounded the house. He
wanted to make torches so that they could explore the rest of the house
in comfort. Bragg opted to wait by the front door for the man's return
while Ty and Phaeton continued to explore.
"The next room was the kitchen. There was a table and curiously enough
there were two chairs, only two chairs. The stove was cold and what Ty
assumed to be the sink was lined with a soft liquid. No smell, no odor
of any kind. The other rooms were closets, they were simply too small
to have been anything else. Then they decided to go up to the second
"There were only two rooms in the second floor. One was completely full
of spare wood and the like. The other had four beds but only two had
mattresses. Phaeton looked out one the windows. He saw something gray,
swim around the ground near the house. That time he told Ty and he came
to have a look at it too. The figure was about as large as a man, it
over flowed in a fog of nothingness that took the form of the cloak.
Remembering that Casio was outside the two ran down the stairs.
"In the living room the front door was wide open. Bragg stood up,
leaned against the frame. He did not respond. Phaeton dragged Bragg
into the house. Ty stuck his head out and called for Casio but no one
answered/ there was a great scream from the forests, a scream from a
voice they knew well. Ty wanted to run out and find out what was wrong
but Phaeton grabbed him, held him back. Bragg, who only then came back
into consciousness closed the door. He moved the couch over to block
"They asked him what went wrong. There was another sound from the
distance, a laughter, a deep hideous laughter. Then Bragg spoke."
"I think I can take it from here," said Bengali. "Ben, I mean Bragg
tells them that he heard a strange music, a flute played watery in the
shrubs. He began to get sleepy but not tired sleepy. He lost all sense
of emotion, nothing affected him.
"The gray, cloaked figure approached from the right. It danced, twirled
in sudden bursts as it came closer. He could see its legs, its arms,
its hands. Then it stopped and came right up to the door itself. The
music came from it, soft and muffled. The figure removed its cloak and
revealed its face. Ape faces, its eyes were buried under folds of hair
and flesh. Its nose had melded with its mouth in a sort of thin and
elongated muzzle. There were no nostrils only holes along its length
until the mouth which only then opened. A snake's mouth, it was over a
hundred degrees wide and full of sharp teeth. It could have barked but
it turned away after Casio.
"The men decided to barricade themselves upstairs in the bedroom.
Though there were only two usable beds they knew already someone would
have to stay awake. Sometime around midnight Bragg, Bengali, no Bragg
heard someone knock on the door downstairs. He awoke, Ty and together
they looked out the window. Though they saw no one the knocking
persisted and they decided to go down and investigate.
"Carefully they descended the stairs into darkness, they had killed the
fire earlier. The knocking had stopped but there had been no subsequent
sound of running or of walking. Bragg was the one who opened the door.
Slowly, at first, he swung it open. There was nothing on the other side
but no the door step there was a cloth, wrapped around some object.
Bragg picked it up very quickly and closed the door shut. Ty, Ty
blocked it again with the couch.
"On the living room floor they opened the cloth and to their horror
revealed a bloody heart cut in two. Then came another scream but it
came from inside the house. Phaeton. They shot up the stairs and into
the bed room where they found no one. Phaeton was gone, taken from bed,
the mattress hung limp off the edge. No open windows, even the door had
been closed so they realized that their friend might still be inside, in
the house somewhere, perhaps in the other room on the second floor.
"Without a second thought they headed to that other room with all the
stuff in it. They opened its door to a sudden rush of cold air. One of
the windows was open. They looked out and they saw a gray, hooded
figure run slowly into the cover of the trees.
"Alone in the house Tygra and Bengali huddled together in the corner of
the bedroom in silence. They were not going to leave each other and
they were going to sleep, not after what had happened. They were cold,
so cold, they," Pumyra shook her head in disbelief. Bengali recomposed
himself. "The screams, though, they had stopped for a while, returned.
The sheiks were Phaeton's, he called them from somewhere within the
house, from down stairs.
"Standing at the head of the stairs, together they walked down one step
at a time. At the middle of the stair case they had a good enough view
of the living room. The door was still blocked. The fire was out but
there was enough light coming in from the window.
"The two heard Phaeton cry again, his scream was punctuated by
laughter. They reached the living room and stopped silent in their
tracks. The kitchen was open to them in darkness. Next to the foot of
the stairs was a door Ty had assumed to have been only a closet. He
opened it gently and was taken aback from a current of warm air.
"Below was light, a flickering glow. The wooden stairs creaked while
they descended. The sound of fire intensified as they got closer and
closer. At the end there was enough light to see clearly.
"The basement was the largest room in the place and it was the neatest,
the cleanest. The walls were full of cabinets and counters, full of
tools, buts, bolts, nails in glass jars all labeled. There were tables
with knives and other objects they could not identify. They saw more of
those stick figures, four of them actually, though only two were formed
"But there was no place to hid. Phaeton's screams echoes from, from the
boiler. Yes, in one corner of the basement was an iron, metal
contraption where the light came from. As they approached they found no
flames but a bright aura. The screams came from within it and there was
"Ah, I've got it Bengali, I've got it," Pumyra said amused with
herself. "Ty opened the grated door of the metal boiler and saw inside
a large cavern, fifty feet deep that widened across in length. The
walls were bright orange and glowed continuously. At the center of the
floor was a fire, roasted over it were human body parts, arms, legs. In
chains they saw Phaeton, the hooded figure loomed over him, with a
curved knife it cut open across the abdomen. Out came a loud scream
from the victim as well as several internal organs.
"The tow men watched helplessly as Phaeton was butchered, hacked to
pieces. Then the fire turned to see them. Bragg was again taken aback
by the music. He began to attack Ty." Bengali whispered a very
noticeable 'no.' "Ty tried to stop him, tried to knock some sense into
him," Bengali shook his head and looked down. "But then Bengali, I mean
Bragg took a large knife from one of the tables. Ty had to think fast.
He grabbed a large log of wood and threw it at his friend. When the man
dodged Ty got a knife of his own and jammed it into Bragg's neck.
"Ty ran up the stairs. Bragg somehow was able to follow or was it the
hooded figure? There was laughter. Out the front door and into forests
Ty ran and ran. He reached the river for a second time, he followed it
up stream. Screams and laughter echoes from all around, on a few
occasions he stumbled onto trees with more stick figures only they were
different in some way. He tripped and slid down an incline. A large
pipe jetted horizontally out up from the ground.
"He decided the best thing he could do was to get in and see if he could
evade capture. He crawled into the pipe until he thought he had come to
its end. Fortunately there was a nook just to the side where another
pipe ran across and under him. In that other pipe he cowered and tried
to pass the hours of the night.
"To his horror he heard the laughter again.. He peeked out to try and
see what was happening outside. Sure enough something more in between
the trees, moved in circles, danced. It got closer and closer to the
pipe. Then it stopped and ran right into Ty's view. All the man could
do was scream to the top of his lungs."
"Willa, I heard screams and they came from the camp."
"Are you sure, Tygra?"
"I know it happened."
"I hope Pumyra and Bengali are all right." Tygra thought for a moment,
hoped his friend was unhurt. The tiger and the warrior maiden came onto
the camp site nearly an hour or two after sunrise. They stood shocked,
neither could move, neither could utter a word. The tents had
collapsed, torn to shreds. The cases Bengali had were sprawled open all
around the dewy, misty scene. The fire had consumed itself a long while
ago but for some reason still smoked.
"What on earth could have done this?"
They ran into the heart of the encampment. All over the ground were
clumps of brown hair and black and white fur. There were spots of earth
soaked with blood and soft tissue, ripped flash. Under one of the tents
were bones hacked and broken, organs, chunks or organs splattered with
ants, roaches and other creepy crawlers. Tygra's stomach turned.
Willa could not approach, the horror was too great. She called Tygra
and very reluctantly the Thundercat came to her side.
"Pumyra, Bengali, Bengali, Pumyra."
"Get a hold of yourself." She hugged him. "There's something here I
want you to see." She showed him a tree, a single tee on the outskirts
between the meadow and the heard of the forests. The bark glistened
with blood, fresh blood. A sword was imbedded within the trunk to the
hilt, literally, the rest of the sword protruded out the other side.
But that was not all. The sword stabbed in place a single piece of
paper. Carefully, gently, Tygra pulled the paper free but in so doing
could not help but rip it along one side. No bother, though, the damage
On the paper, that had been ripped out of an old book, was one word
written in blood. "'Adamite.' Oh, Tygra!" She turned, buried her face
in his shoulder and cried. There was also a mark, again in blood,
beneath the word, it was a cross with one large arm that resembled a
"Vagabond. The Lord set a mark upon, upon Cain. Cain?" The printed
words glimmered alive though the words were pulsating veins.
"It was the beast, Tygra, the beast. There are old legends that speak
of an exile, cast away from paradise when he killed his brother in
jealousy. He wanders the earth, the beast forever at his side."
"I shouldn't have come to the village last night, I should've stayed
here, I should --" his voice trailed incoherently.
She cradled Tygra in her arms, hugged him, caressed him, kissed him and
in the bits of silence punctured by his sobs she turned to see within
the darkness between the trees. The stranger stood, book in hand, he
gave the queen a nod and she winked back. Then he whisked away,
pleased, followed by a pair of red eyes that faded into the mist, into
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