Ready or Not by: R. A. Long
Ready or Not
by: R. A. Long
52… 53… 76… Niner… 100! The call finally came and not a moment too soon. Kale’s head rested upon his forearm which was supported by the gargantuan pine whose moss stuck to the exposed area of his lower arm as he sprung from his personal intermission. He could hear his prey rustling off in the distance. He could not see any movement, but could sense the direction he should go as wolves do. He knew not of the instinct wolves possessed or even quite what ‘instinct’ is, but Kale was akin to this unknown prowess and mystical power, for he was part wolf. The noise haltered as Kale brushed his brown bangs from his matching brown eyes only for them to fall back into their initial resting place. He peered from behind his bangs into the forest before him as he sloughed the moss from his arm and traced the indentions left from the bark. The brush was thick yet almost unmaneuverable, but the rugged terrain would prove to be nothing less than a minute detail well overlooked by such an experienced supernatural, hybrid tracker as himself. Kale paused for a moment and inhaled the apprehension of the hunt before him, but the serenity was abruptly halted by the sound of a snapping vine, and he knew there was only one place in this forest where that vine grows. He leapt from his confines and broke into the overwhelming bush in an intoxicating frenzy, crazy from anticipation and determination.
Jake hurriedly slid into the gulch trying to catch his feet and his breath at the same time. He felt his heart beating furiously in his chest from elation and fear. He was not going to be found again. No… Not this time. The hunt was on and he reveled in it. He moved with the swiftness of a leopard and tore down opposing shrubbery like a silverback gorilla, while making likewise noises in the process, but he had to suppress the urges to do so during this delicate game of cat and mouse, because, you see, his pursuant had the ability to hear whilst Jake did not. However, since Jake was unable to hear his other senses were much more keen and sensitive, which would fruitfully work in his favor. As he reached the adjacent face of the gulch, he quickly grasped a vine and began to scurry up the soft red wall, but the silt filled his shoes and the vine gave way. He plummeted to the bottom, yet was unscathed thanks to his cat-like reflexes. Unfortunately, Jake was unaware that the untimely destruction of the vine that almost destroyed him had incidentally given away his position. He scrambled across the riverbed until he found an embankment shallow enough for him to scale. He emerged from the hole in the earth that just tried to swallow him, face and hands stained red from the belly of the beast he had just battled. He dusted off his blonde hair that was now the same color as his now camouflaged hands and face. Jake noticed some birds take flight from their roost high above in the treetops on the other side of the gully, and stealthily took refuge behind a nearby tree trunk. He knew it was his assailant hot on his tail.
Kale sprinted through the dense thicket before abruptly skidding to a halt. Before him stood an obstacle of immense proportion: a deep red chasm of ominous intent whose only purpose seemed to be to separate him from his antagonist. He spotted the severed vine sprawled out on the bottom of the opposing side. He knew it was his fugitive’s failed attempt at surfacing to freedom. Kale scanned the bed but found nothing besides the vine. A small pile of dirt and claw marks gave Kale an inkling of suspect hope, so he slid halfway down the steep face before jumping the rest of the way down, his landing at the bottom erupted a cloud of heroic dust that quickly enveloped him.
Jake peeked out from behind the protective tree after what felt like forever, but wasn’t a millisecond too soon. His glance caught a cloud of fresh dust protruding out of the hole in the earth, and behind that loose gravel and sand trickled after two fresh tracks that appeared to descend inward. This was his chance if there ever was one, and he knew it. Removed from suspicion, Jake burst into quick strides as to evade his captor. He made his way towards an opening that he had been eyeing ahead in the distance while he took asylum. With the end in sight, his heart filled with joy from the promise of safety, but his hopes found disaster. What stood before him was unnervingly unexpected, and was most likely not of this world.
Kale held his breath as the dust settled while trying to wave the remaining particles from his eyes. He inhaled then stifled the cough which proceeded as to remain silent. He knew the one he was after couldn’t hear, but he also knew that the one he was after had heightened senses because of that, which could arguably be even more reason to be as covert as possible. Kale made his way to the evidence of his evader’s escape and followed suit.
At the top of the gully, Kale knew where to go. It seemed obvious… Almost as if this had happened before… Déjà vu, maybe. He took off into the direction he knew to go, but shortly after was met with a strange sound coming towards him. It was Jake in a cold sprint. However, just as quickly as Jake appeared, Kale recognized that the oncoming danger was in fact chasing Jake who was frantically gesturing in the direction of Kale’s back. He made out the word “Run.” Before he was able to process the swift change of events, a snarling killer of a beast smashed through the dense thicket, trampling everything in its path. Jake fled past his previous stalker, and Kale took heed in his wake. The hunter had become the hunted, and the two found themselves back at the treacherous chasm they had perilously traversed but moments ago. With their backs to the enormous drop, the only evident plan of action was to team up and stand their ground.
The beast lurked through the underbrush, snarling a Cerberus snarl as acid slobbered from its jowls. The earth disappeared under the demon-beast’s shadow, and all evil began to spring forth from the darkness that drug along underneath. Kale knew he had to embrace his wolf within to win… His form began to change into something between a wolf and a man… A… Wolfman. As Kale began his transformation, Jake used his powers to create a force-field around the two, and his eyes glowed red. Kale had a force-field too, but it was better than Jake’s. But, Jake’s was made of Fire, so his was better… Plus, he could fly. Well, Kale was able to make the earth do things for him. The beast closed in…
“Boys, it’s time for dinner…” rang out into the battlefield. “Kale, tell your brother that it’s his turn to set the table.”
At the sound of their mother’s voice the family dog, a golden retriever, started off towards the house, occasionally glancing back to make sure the kids were coming. “Mom says it’s time for dinner.” Kale relayed dejectedly.
As the two boys exited the garden covered in dirt and fresh adventures, Kale laughed to his brother “Next time you’re it!”
About R.A. Long
R.A. Long is a prolific writer from Denver, CO living through the eyes of the observer. He draws much of his inspiration from his family, friends, and seemingly random occurrences that ignite the bonds of joy, fear, truth, and the dichotomy of the human condition. He writes in the hope that others may answer life’s call-to-action through the influence of his stories’ vicarious travels. R.A. Long can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
See the rest of the Pregnancy and Children Short Stories