Hunting in the Forest

Story by Wolvun

 


Pipin held her flashlight. The beam shaking along with her uneven breathing. Each snap making her jump. Each movement causing her to sweep the light towards it. With only the shawl over her shoulders, for all the good it did. The chill coursing though her body just at the thought alone of being in the Samhein woods. The cold pierced through whatever one wears, when knowing what could be waiting behind the trick trees.

The terms that the Witch of Words had laid out were simple. In exchange for going out to retrieve new knowledge, the Blue Library would be her home, and she would be taken care of within it. Impress her and perhaps she would teach Pipin a few things too. Magical things. For the Witch of Words to offer such a deal made sense. Bound within the walls of that single room, larger than explanation though it may be, her desire for the place had been its own form of misery for her.

Still, there had to be a catch for little Pipin.

Having spent…who knows how long there, the Witch of Words had access to vast amounts of knowledge. The only knowledge remaining to consume, are the things that have so far not been recorded.

So Pipin had to enter the forest herself, alone. Armed with the light, shawl as well as boots, she had snuck from the Manor and made her way toward the tree light. Each step heavier than the last. Her glasses fogging from her own breathing. Wiping them with her blue shawl as she continued deeper. Trying to recall what the Witch of Words had said. Watch the trees? And the branches? And the roots?…basically, everything. She hadn’t dared speak back on the matter. Now it felt like there was eyes everywhere.

According to the rumours the Witch of Words was able to read from through the walls of her room, there was something in the Forest. An apex predator that kept witchlings from venturing too far in. Slaves and Ill Manored could only guess what was in there. Between the changing paths and carnivorous trees and nonstop danger, surely such a thing was just a witch’s tale to keep the slaves from gambling their chance for freedom…Surely.

But the Witch of Words was no fool. She would not lose her new apprentice, or more specifically, her source of new information, to whatever threat might be in the forest. Pipin’s task was simple. She need only find proof that this predator was there. Nothing more. If she could do the task, then perhaps Pipin could earn more than just shelter from the Blue Library.

=

Everything was still. Everything was quiet.  Everything was still. Pipin didn’t need to wipe her glasses anymore. Once she had caught her breath, she didn’t dare let it escape again.

Lifting her glasses to rub her eyes, trying to clear them after surely beginning to see things. None of the other trees had leaves. That one there surely couldn’t be the only one. It was only when she brought the dimmed flash light up did it strike her as odd that such a well kept tree with no branches sticking out would be anywhere near this place.

The tree also had a face. Contorted into a silent scream. The eye sockets empty of their glow. Orangish fluid dribbling into the twisted mouth and socket. The light continues to flicker as Pipin moves up. Taking in the massive reddish orange… gigantic pumpkink? Watching, it slowly extends outward. Serrated teeth sinking further into the bark. Pulling further back, Pipin is unable to see the top of the…She would have called it a pumpkink, yet it had no face. The orange gourd instead. Broken and covered in broken branches, and a large machete embedded in the underside. It opened like a terrifying, blossoming flower, teethed tendrils unfolding in all directions revealing 

A rending crunch.

The upper jaw of the tree was gone. Pipin flinches. Noticing that the surrounding trees had not been taller. Massive weather tree trunk-like stems perched on the tree tops. Chips and chunks fall around what remained of the tree. The crunching grind filling Pipin’s head. Whether or not it was echoing, it made her grip the sides of her head. Trying desperately to keep the noise out as well as stay standing before. Until it stopped. Pipin opened an eye. The massive pumpkin for there was nothing else it could be had stopped chewing. The bottom of the gourd directed at her. Along the rigged lines fluttered. Giving the impression of a growl. 

All the folds pull back. Exposing a blackness rimmed with serrated teeth. Pipin didn’t realize she had started running. Pipin didn’t hear herself screaming. Pipin didn’t hear it roaring. Nor the crunch of trees being twisted as the four stem legs carried the creature above the tree line chasing her down from above. She did however feel the vacuum of air being sucked away as the nightmare dropped from the tree tops. That hungry emptiness aimed directly for her.

Her legs were wet. She felt something soft on her knees. There was something folded over in her hand. The card the Blue Lady had given her, folded in half. There were shelves around her. The Blue Lady stood before her looking down at her convulsing form. An expression of mild annoyance having the carpet pissed on.

“I see you have much to tell.”

–After observing the creature with some distance between then and now, I can make some theories as to how such a creature has appeared in the Forest. Like all pumpkinks, they are required to feed on Misery. However, this far from the Manor the Misery concentration is drastically lower. So much so that the pumpkinks lose the incentive to be patient. Betweeen the Trick Trees and others predators, what little Misery reaches this far needs to be claimed by aggressive force.

-This feral Pumpkolossus cannot sit on its haunches. The Misery is so thin that it gets no respect from it’s brood and cannot feed them from a stationary position. Instead, it must seek out prey wherever it may chance upon. Climbing above the tree line and dropping down before giving chance. It has become a mobile, hunting predatory Pumpkolossus.