‘My heart pounds against my chest like the ominous approach of a wurm and my fingers go numb and useless.’
— Korik, “Ominous” They Come at Night
I’m dead. I’m dead for sure. I shouldn’t have taunted him like that. And now—
Feck. Why did I do it? Why didn’t I just lie there on the roof and do nothing?
And now I’m going to die because I—
I dart through the Wurm Wood in the fading afternoon light like a frightened doe. Faster and faster. Too terrified even to chance a look back.
He’s finally coming for me. I finally took a step too far. And now Gunther is finally going to end me.
I race further and further into the nightmare woods I swore I would never set foot in again. Where monsters loom in the shadows ready to devour everything you’ve ever loved.
Master Gísluson’s shop was the closest I’d come to the Wood since I escaped them six years ago, but now… Now I’m so deep in them I don’t know if I could even find my way out again. Now I’m running for my life through its birch trees from a monster concealed within our own skin.
Now I’m running from him.
“Come out, come out, little fawn! You can’t hide from me!” his voice roars through the Wurm Wood, seemingly from all directions.
I startle, catching my foot in an old rabbit’s warren, and take a spill. Tumbling down through the underbrush of rocks and leaf litter and sharp broken sticks until I come to a hard painful stop against the dead stump of a tree.
“You can’t run forever, Korik!”
He sounds so close I nearly choke on my breath.
You have to get up. You have to go.
I force myself to my feet even though the world is spinning around me. And limp onward, trying to ignore the pain.
My ankle—it’s not moving as it should.
Have to keep moving.
“I’ll stripe you to the skin like the Colorless fawn you are for what you did!” Gunther threatens and I make a mistake—I look back.
The ground gives way beneath me and I know it’s all over. There will be no more running after this.
I fight free of the muck and the mud, terror making my limbs clumsy.
Will he really strip me like a monster’s prey?
I chance a frantic look about—the Wood has gone quiet. Too quiet.
It’s fine. You can lose it all. It doesn’t matter—they’re just clothes.
And as if in counterargument, it presses heavy against my chest like it’s trying to crush my bones. My hand clutches it tightly—desperately—like a lifeline in a raging river. My pendant. Now the only thing I have left of Mama.
I cannot lose this too. I’d sooner die.
Gotta hide it, but where? They’re not clever. But they’re not stupid either.
I unclasp my pendant and turn frantically in the mud.
The hollow of a tree. An abandoned warren. Something! Anything!
I paw at the mud-slick earth as I crawl on my knees, trying to find a safe place to hide it away. Some place they’d never think to look.
A branch snaps in the near distance.
They’re close. Too close. I’ve no time.
My heart pounds against my chest like the ominous approach of a wurm and my fingers go numb and useless.
I can’t move.
I can’t think.
They’re getting closer.
You’re going to lose everything.
Everything you’ve got left.
I can’t. I can’t breathe. I can’t—
I slam my hand to my mouth and swallow. I nearly choke, but it goes down.
And then I hear his voice right behind me. “Found you….”
Oh CRAP! Korik just got captured by Gunther and his horde. How is he going to escape this one? Or will he?
Find out in the next episode of They Come at Night!