The Nightmare: Part Two
Dark clouds shrouded the forest in a dim, weakened light, the thick trees casting harsh shadows over the landscape. Arthur's mother and father were busy gathering dry wood and other supplies when they picked up a sudden voice far away in the distance.
His mother’s ears perked at the tiny voice echoing through the forest. She turned in the direction of the source of the sound. Her eyes widened, glistening at the sight of a young red Zafara skipping straight towards her.
She stopped what she was doing and dashed towards her son. Arthur stopped in his tracks as his mother rushed him, putting him off guard. Seizing this opportunity, she snatched her son into her arms. Arthur winced as he found himself locked in a very tight embrace, his mother nearly falling over with emotion.
“Oh I'm never, ever letting you leave my side again! I promise we'll have that Virtupets tracking device by the end of the week!”
Overjoyed, she hugged her son more tightly than ever, nearly squeezing all the air out of his lungs. Arthur struggled as he tried to free himself from her grasp. He was only barely able to wiggle himself enough so that he could look over his mother's shoulder towards his father.
“Uh...a little help?”
Arthur's father chuckled at the sight of his wife and son’s embrace.
“Let him breathe, Scarlett. You're nearly suffocating the poor boy.”
“Oh! Sorry.” She let go, Arthur gasped for air as he landed on his feet onto the ground.
“It's--it's okay Mom.” He said in between gasps, “Listen, I—”
Scarlett cut him off, “Oh look at you! You've grown a bit since we last saw you! How long has it been, a week? A fortnight? I was so worried I thought you forgot about us. How is that Kain and your friends treating you? Did you make new friends? Are you staying out of trouble?—”
She stopped her barrage of questions as she noticed Arthur's anxious stare.
“Arthur, you look a little sad. Is something—?”
“No mom, I'm fine. I'm--I'm just so glad to see you again.”
Arthur smiled, his eyes almost a blur. He briefly hugged his mother, who hugged him back. His father joined in on the embrace.
Time passed. As the sun's last lights crept above the horizon, the family settled down in a clearing.
“Look, there's something I need to tell you, both of you. I've been having this recurring nightmare...”
He explained the nightmares in great detail to his parents. When he was done, his mother and father looked on, looks of concern reflected in their eyes.
“Oh you poor thing, you must have been missing us so.” Scarlett said, running her fingers through Arthur's tuft of hair.
Arthur stared at his mother, his eyes misty.
“I'm scared mom! What if something happens to you and dad? I can't—”
She pulled him close.
“There's nothing to be afraid of. We're here with you now and we always will be. We'll never leave you.”
Arthur looked up at his mother for a moment; he gave her a soft smile and then rested his head on her shoulder.
When the sun vanished under the horizon and the evening turned to dusk, the family lay down on the ground. The chorus of chirping crickets ringing in their ears as they all drifted off to sleep.***
Arthur woke to the sound of the rain splashing against the soil.
As his vision cleared his senses came to him, the rain dowsed him in a cold drizzle, the smell of the dampness of the air and the refreshing spray of the mist filled his lungs.
He was alarmed. He got up on his feet, observing his surroundings; the forest was shrouded in a thick haze obscuring everything in sight. He looked behind him, expecting to see his parents. To his horror, neither of them were there. He was completely alone.
He was hit with a sudden realization. His breathing became shallow; his heart began to beat faster. He started to move. He made his way a few feet before abruptly stopping in his tracks.
A familiar sight lay before him; a clearing, two large, silhouetted figures lying close to each other, perfectly still. He trembled, barely able to keep it together. He forced his legs to move, one in front of the other. The mist cleared and the shadows receded as he came closer. His heart beat racing, his breathing frantic. Finally, the silhouetted figures came into view, revealing...nothing but a pair of large jagged rocks.
Arthur was dumbfounded. But at the same time, he breathed a sigh of relief as his heart rate stabilized.
Then his ears twitched as he heard the sound of rustling grass in the distance.
Arthur twisted his neck in a swift motion towards the direction of the sound. It came from within the mist. His heart rate skyrocketed once more. He waited, listening carefully. Another rustling, this time coming from behind him, he turned back, nothing was in sight. He made a motion to call out to his parents, but he hesitated, his lips quivering in fear.
The rustling continued, this time followed by a distant voice echoing far off into the mist, the words lost in the wind, drowned out by the sound of the rain.
Arthur started trembling, looking frantically to his sides. He was afraid to move, and at the same time, too frightened to stay put.
The rustling grew louder, louder and louder. Arthur began to panic as his heart started beating at an abnormally fast rate.
He took no chances; he started running.
As he made his move, the rustling of grass was joined by the sound of heavy feet crunching the grass.
He ran fast, but the sounds behind him grew ever louder, closer.
The last row of tall grass cleared. At that moment, Arthur gasped and his eyes widened, he twisted his lower body, setting one foot in front of the other at an angle, sliding against the ground, slowing him down right as he came dangerously close to the very edge of a cliff.
As he came to a complete stop, he looked down; nothing but a thick mist could be seen, obscuring the ground, giving the appearance of a bottomless void. All that could be heard was the faint sound of rushing water from down below.
For a second he stood there, staring into the abyss. Flashes from his nightmares suddenly raced back to the corners of his mind. He walked back, slowly, shivers running down his spine.
Then he heard an all too familiar sound...
Startled, he looked back. He stood still as the source of the growling came into view; two large paws fitted with sharp, jagged claws emerged from the mist, followed by a set of vicious bared fangs and a long snout, then a pair of gleaming yellow eyes staring straight back at him.
It was a wild Lupe, and it had just found its prey.
Arthur trembled as he locked eyes with the Lupe. He realized at once the danger he was in; pure malice reflected in its visage. This wasn't just some ordinary Lupe out on a hunt; it was aiming for a kill.
Arthur twisted his neck, looking down at the void below, then back to the Lupe.
He took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves. He stared back at the predator approaching him with a steely glare. He extended his arms, outstretching them, bending his hind legs.
The Lupe lunged at him, its claws extended, jaw ajar, aiming straight for the young Zafara, letting out a vicious, intimidating snarl.
As the predator was an inch away from striking its prey, Arthur jumped back, rolling on his spine as he hit the ground, he kicked his hind legs, which struck the wild Lupe square in the torso, knocking him off his trajectory, his claws missing their target. As Arthur tumbled, his legs kicked once more, launching the Lupe into the air, sending him flying a few feet from where he stood, vanishing into the mist.
Arthur rolled head over heels, landing flat on his feet, one foot in front of the other.
But as he came to a stop, the sole of his foot slipped against the slanted edge of the rock. Arthur gasped as he lost balance, his leg dangling off the edge, causing him to stumble over his own weight.
Arthur could do nothing but flail as he fell over the cliff. He could feel the wind rushing against his face, the sounds of rushing water from the river below several hundred feet down. He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, bracing for the inevitable.
Suddenly something grabbed him from behind, Arthur yelped as he was forcefully pulled back, struggling to break free from the grasp.
“Are you completely mad?!”
The voice pierced his ears, his eyes bolted open. He bent his neck back a bit; it was his father.
He twisted his body around and embraced him. He is overjoyed.
“Son, what were you thinking? You almost fell into that chasm! If I had not been there—”
“I...I’m sorry dad! It all happened so fast I didn't—”
Arthur's father tightened his grip, holding his son close.
“No, no, you did good son, it's all right.”
Suddenly, a tiny voice echoed throughout the forest.
Scarlett materialized from within the mist, almost out of breath. As she spotted her husband and son, she rushed towards them, joining the embrace.
“Oh thank Fyora you two are okay!” Tears swelled, her eyes almost a blur, “I was so worried! I thought I had lured him away, but when I saw you were missing…I...I thought the Lupe had gotten to you! I—”
She pulled him close, hugging her son more tightly than ever.
“Oh Arthur, what would I do if I had lost you?”
“I'm sorry Mom, I didn't—”
“No, it's okay son. There's nothing to apologize for. I'm...just so thankful you're okay.”
Arthur snuggled into his mother’s arms, the warm embrace putting his mind at ease. The rainclouds above began to break apart, moonlight spilling into the forest, bathing the landscape in a light bluish tint. The rain began to die down and the mist dissipated. The family stood there, locked in an embrace, their undying love for each other keeping them close together. ***
“What? Hey! That was a cheap shot!” Arthur exclaimed, jumping off the couch, giving his sister a firm look as she teased him.
“Nuh-uh! That was a fair fight and you know it!” Clara replied, playfully sticking her tongue out at him, “You punched, I ducked, you left yourself open and I dealt the winning blow. Face it Arthur! I won.”
“Oh yeah? I challenge you to a rematch!” He said, holding up the Virtupets video game controller in his right hand.
Clara gave her older brother a devious smirk.
Arthur and Clara sat back down on the couch, controllers in hand.
“I see you're both having fun.” A voice sounded from behind them.
Arthur looked over his shoulder; Parlebb was leaning over with his arms crossed on top of the couch.
“Oh, hey Parlebb! Yeah, just watch me kick Clara's—”
“Shush! I'm trying to kick your butt here!”
Just then the front door opened with a clack, followed by the familiar jingling of keys and footsteps that they knew all too well ringing in their ears.
“Hey guys!” A deep voice called from down the hall.
“Hey Kain!” Arthur and Parlebb said in unison.
“Hi Dad!” said Clara.
Kain walked past the siblings, gesturing towards them as they greeted him. Arthur noticed the tall human carrying a book underneath his right arm. He paused the game, much to Clara's annoyance.
“Where did you go Kain? Nighttime strolls aren't exactly your thing.” Arthur said.
“Just to the library, I needed to get this book for Clara.” Kain replied.
“I'm surprised the library's still open this late.” Parlebb uttered.
“It's only eleven, Parlebb.”
Arthur glanced towards Kain, eyeing the book under his arm. Clara seized her chance, reaching over to Arthur's controller.
“Hey, what book did you get? Is it a magic tome? Can I see--”
“Ha! I beat you again!”
Arthur cut himself off mid-sentence, turning towards the screen, gawking.
“WHAT?! Hey, that's playing dirty Clara!”
Clara let out a soft giggle as Arthur gave her a steely glare.
“One more round. This time, fight fair.”
Parlebb chuckled at the sight of his siblings bickering, their playful remarks putting a rare smile on his face.