And the Curse of Mahan
DANNY WINCED at the sting of the branches digging into his cheeks, but the pain was fleeting — running was more important than the pain. The moon broke through the thick trees and revealed a set of small boulders in front of him. He entertained a brief moment of gratitude for the guiding shallow light and used it jump over the rocks. His heart was pounding and all he could hear was his own breath and footsteps.
Good, I think I've lost it, he thought. He slowed down to a jog to catch his breath and glanced back into the nearly pitch black forest. He took a deep breath, now a little relieved. Just as he did so he heard the loud crashing and snapping of tree branches. No, he screamed in his head. Danny began to return to a sprint. He jumped over rocks and cleared the occasional downed tree. He pushed through the piercing branches and damp creek beds.
"There it is!," he said aloud. Danny could see lights in the distance. He thought it might be the resort, but he really didn't care what it was. Light meant people, and people meant it was safe. He figured it was still a good mile out. Danny could make it. Even just last week he had run an 8 minute mile on the treadmill. "I've got this," he said aloud as he continued to run, now picking up his pace.
Danny sprinted with a fury that hadn't entered his legs since his track days in high school. He was comforted as he passed a couple of resort cabins on the outskirts of the main building. He thought of trying for help in one of those, but worried people would be too afraid to open up this late at night. He ran past an elegant wooden sign that pointed forward down a trail and read, "SnowMountain Resort" with the subtitle, "100 Yards."
Danny took courage. The sounds had vanished a few minutes ago and the shadows of the resort could now be seen in the moonlight. He slowed his pace slightly to catch his breath and moved towards the welcoming lights. The first thing he needed to do was get to his room and send the email. Then he could figure out the rest — first, how to retrieve all of his equipment (if it was still there), and second, how to announce his discovery to the world. It wouldn't be an easy thing for people to believe. But first, the email.
The path took a slight turn to the right, moving out of the line of sight of the resort. Danny turned the corner with ease but then suddenly skidded to a stop. With his heart still racing and adrenaline pumping, Danny gasped in horror as the thing he had worked so hard to evade was now standing in front of him directly on the path.
The moon was enshrouded by the towering pine trees, which appeared to now be bowing in reverence to this terrible creature. The dark shadow loomed over Danny's trembling frame, standing nearly 12 feet tall. It took a step forward and Denny tripped over his own legs and fell backwards onto the ground.
"What do you want?," Danny blurted out between gasps, "Who are you?". The tall creature took another step forward, moving slightly into the moonlight. Danny realized it was humanoid in form. Its arms were muscular and covered in thick hair. Danny thought he could partially see some form of covering or pants over its legs. The creature lurched its head forward, breathing deeply through its large mouth. Its eyes were dark and cold, hidden beneath a large brow. It opened its mouth to speak.
"I am the keeper of the great secrets. Cursed to keep hidden things from light until the world burns with fire. Then I will have peace."
The creature leaned forward and stretched forth its hand and grabbed Danny by the throat. It lifted Danny high into the air like a child's rag doll. Danny began to choke, his throat pleading for a morsel of the cool night air. "Please. No," Danny coughed. "Soon, you will rest," replied the deep, groaning voice. The other large arm reached around Danny's ribcage and then to his pants. It ripped Danny's left pant pocket and the light of a smart phone illuminated the area as it hit the ground. The creature reached its long arm toward the ground and picked up the phone.
Danny eyes began to blur and odd shaped spots and flashes of light began to flicker in front of him. He could barely make out the shadowy figure that was grasping his throat with such terrible force. A warm fluid began to trickle down his pants.
Danny's eyes went dark and his heart felt as though it would burst. He wanted to cough but somehow couldn't. The sounds of the forest night life began to fade and the scent of pine started to dissipate.
"Rest my son," a voice said.