The Journey South: Part 2
Adam sat, looking at his hand. He had tried to rub the bloodstains out, but no amount of water could seem to scourge the violence. Even in this new world, this far from Lipari, his past continued to haunt him.
Clenching his fist, Adam rose to his feet, gazing at the herd. He had decided to name the creatures, “bleats,” after the sounds they made. Radish had looked at Adam strangely when he told him the name but seemed to accept it. The herd had continued to migrate further south, taking the two golems with them. The appearances of the black creature had continued, though gradually more of them had begun to appear. They always stood at a safe distance. Though Adam had still had no direct interaction with the creatures, the way the bleats panicked and formed a defensive circle had him on edge. Not to mention the one beast that always hung in the back, the same that had appeared the first night. It still glared at him with those hate-filled yellow eyes. The situation had Adam on edge. Night after night the beasts would appear, encroaching ever closer to the herd. Adam would stand, ready to swing and fight for their safety, then the creatures would back off, their reflective eyes bouncing back what little light his own glowing ones produced.
The sheer tension was weighing heavily on his shoulders. Adam did his best to relax, enjoying the time in the light they had now. Radish continued to play with the young bleats, sometimes picking them up and carrying them over his head. The bleats seemed to like it, jumping at Radish’s hands in eager anticipation of being the next to ride in the golem’s arms. The older bleats grazed around the peak they had settled on for the day, chewing the small shoots that grew in between the rocks. They had subtly formed a defensive perimeter around the younglings. Adam sat at the least sloped path to the peak they rested upon. From watching the beasts of the night so closely, he knew they could not climb as well as the bleats. He knew that if any attack was forthcoming, it would come in his direction.
“Let them come,” whispered a voice in his mind. “Give them a taste of my pain.”
Adam tried to shake off the dark thoughts. Crushing them down deep inside, he couldn’t get rid of the thought of how it would feel for the anxiety to be dealt with.
Adam’s eyes were fixated on the line of scrubs below. The younglings had been huddled to the center of the herd, some of the older bleats acting as sentries. Adam stood with them, unable to sleep. Though the exhaustion was beginning to take a toll on him, the anxiety wouldn’t allow him to rest. Now, at last Adam’s prayers had been answered.
A dozen pairs of reflective eyes stared back into Adam’s from the bushes. Soon, the eerie noise of the beasts was sent up, a discordant melody in the sharp night air. Then the pack charged.
The first feeling Adam could identify was elation. At last, the waiting was over. Then it was replaced with anger at their attackers. Adam roared back at the beasts, his clay throat rumbling deep. The creatures nipped at his legs, taking small chunks of clay out of his calves. Adam swung his mighty arm, but the beasts were just nimble enough to avoid it. Some began to slip past, but heavy hits by the horns of the elder bleats made them retreat. Adam clipped one’s back thigh, sending it careening over the edge of the peak, howling into the crags below. Adam’s sense of satisfaction scared him, but he relegated the thought to the back of his mind. The remaining beasts renewed their attacks, desperately scrambling to get to the younglings behind him.
Adam’s strike became more efficient as he predicted where the creatures would be. One tumbled back with a broken back from when he slapped it aside, another downed with a crushed skull. Four had run off limping, and still the resolute few attacked. Even with half their number out of the fight, the beasts continued to rend scars into Adam’s clay. Still, the beast with the hate-filled gaze had not shown itself. Adam rained down another blow, striking one back where it lay, whimpering. Seeing more than half of their number downed, the creatures at last retreated, slinking back into the night.
Shaking, Adam stood in the light of the moon. He had cuts and claw marks all over his legs and lower torso, but they were reparable. At long last, the attack had come, and they had come out alright. He sank to his knees in relief.
A terrifying sound rang out from behind him. He spun around, finding the hate-filled beast with its jaws clamped around the neck of one of the young bleats. It had silently climbed the side of the peak, avoiding the bottleneck the slope created. Radish and the other younglings huddled together, the elder bleats weary of the beast. Adam roared.
The beast leaped, avoiding Adam’s swipe. It launched itself down to the bushes, but not before flashing Adam a self-satisfied look, escaping with the child in its jaws. Adam sank again to his knees, the previous elation ripped away with the loss. He had failed them.
A sound filtered through the devastating grief. The whimpering of the beast who hadn’t run away. All sound was deafened by the rushing rage. Adam stomped to the pitiful creature, grabbing it by its neck, he crushed its throat, shattering its neck. Turning to the cliff, he cast the corpse away, to be broken by the boulders below.
Adam turned, standing still for a moment, unable to bear looking at the herd, at Radish. Then he strode into the bushes, searching for something he would not find.