Bolt – the new tale, chapter 2
My mind was as foggy as the atmosphere. I shook my head violently, and realised that I was once again on my no doubt unremarkable backside in the sodden undergrowth. There was a brief whooshing noise in my left ear. I tapped the ear once or twice with my palm to clear it. What the hell had that been? A dream? A hallucination? And why was I sitting down again? Maybe I’d blacked out for a moment?
Wait, hang on a tick. If my mind was playing tricks (which, let’s face it, was a bit of a given since I could remember sweet fanny adams about myself), maybe I’d also imagined the bloody stumps and blue extremities of the corpse in the car boot.
I struggled back upright, and looked again in the back of the Meriva. Nope. The boot still resembled Sweeney Todd’s kitchen. She was still there, staring at nothing. This was actually properly real. Head, torso, two arms, three legs….. wait, what? I looked again. There were three legs. And there was something else. One of the mystery woman’s arms was hairy, muscular… and black.
My senses were whirling so much that it actually took me a few seconds to figure out that the body pieces came from different people rather than a weird grotesque. Blimey.
What the HELL was going on? The woman’s face was awful to look at. Blue lips, blank expression, and a dark fluid – presumably blood – that had leaked from her mouth and nostrils and the ragged edge of the severed neck.
One of the arms was slim, and apparently female, while the other was muscular, hairy, with black skin. The legs were all female, two of them severed fairly cleanly mid-thigh, while the third appeared to have been ripped with extreme force from its parent leg at the knee. No clean cuts there. My stomach lurched, but the chocolate stayed down.
I examined the woman’s torso – possibly it belonged to the head, but really, how could you tell? I wasn’t about to do a gruesome jigsaw puzzle to find out the answer. Nice tits I thought, then Ew please, STOP perving over dead tits before directing my reluctant gaze between the woman’s thighs.
Just above the fine pubic hair, over towards the hip, there was a small tattoo. I bent for a closer look, and got that short, sharp whooshy sound again – PHSSH, like that. Only this time it seemed outside my head. Fingering my ear, I thought that I’d better give myself a good rest as soon as I got the chance. Not bend over so quickly for a while. Maybe use that earwax remover.
The tattoo was a complicated affair. Let’s see if I can describe it. Imagine two wigwams, one inside the other. The larger has curly poles sticking out of the top. Now imagine all that upside-down, and with a big ‘V’ superimposed over the bottom. Got it? No, I didn’t think so. Complicated, see?
PHSSH again, but this time followed by a loud THONK as something heavy embedded itself in the raised boot-door. It took me a few moments, but aided by a sudden mental image of Conrad Phillips as William Tell in the late Fifties, I recognised what the thing was. It was a crossbow bolt. Fucksake, somebody was firing a crossbow at me. A sodding crossbow!
I’d had enough of this. I yelled as loudly as I could.
“Will you the FUCK stop doing that and tell me what the TWAT is going on?”
PHSSH! A bolt sliced through my unremarkable brown sleeve and ripped a gobbet of flesh from my left arm, above the elbow. Agony convulsed me for a second, then the adrenalin kicked in, and I was legging it like buggery up the track through the trees, blindly charging into the fog, away from the source of danger and deeper into the wood.
“Stuff this fog! THIS WAY! HE’S OVER HERE AND HE’S RABBITING!” screamed a female voice behind me.
I was running as fast as the boggy ruts beneath my feet allowed, heading… well, who the sweet Baby G. cared where? Just away from whoever wanted to sink nasty great chunks of metal into me.
“HE’S UP THE TRACK! COMING YOUR WAY, SIR!” screeched Mrs. Crossbow again behind me.
Oh yes. Thanks for the warning, dear – I immediately swerved off the track, where I was obviously still visible despite the fog, and smashed through a hedge and a tangle of undergrowth into a wide knee-high swathe of dripping nettle and dock. The far side was hidden in the murk, but I ploughed ahead regardless. My trousers were quickly sodden, and the greenery dragged at my rapidly tiring legs. I concentrated hard on not falling over tree roots and… what are they called? Tussocks, that’s it. Anyway, I didn’t fall over any, and continued to stumble through both nettles and the fog like a wounded animal. My arm hurt like bloody hell, and was wet and warm where I clutched at the wound with my right hand. Blood seeped through my slippery fingers.
Now imagine for a moment, dear reader, as I breathlessly forge my way through the nettles, heart a-pounding, that you have just woken up, not in your own comfy bed, not in your own familiar house, not anywhere that you even recognise. You don’t know what city you’re in. Hell, you don’t even know what country you’re in. Then with an idle glance to one side you’re confronted by a scene that’s horribly gruesome and really rather icky. That would upset you, right? And then on top of that, some turdbasket turns up and tries to fucking kill you. Go on, imagine – if it was you – how would you feel? Dead right, you would. You’d be terrified, baffled, panicky, dumbstruck, jumpy as hell, acting on impulse and on instinct without any forethought at all. All of those things. And on top of all that, I’d only gone and got shot in the arm!
Sorry. I digress. I just wanted you to truly appreciate how I felt at that moment, and how very much I wasn’t thinking or looking ahead. Anyway, back to me, breathlessly forging my way through the nettles, heart a-pounding.
A darker wall of murk ahead told me that I was almost across the comparatively open stretch of nettles. I could hear voices, male and female, echoing strangely in the fog close behind. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what they were saying. I pictured them about to break through the bushes that I’d crashed my way past a few seconds earlier. The fog would help hide me a little, that was true, yet I desperately needed to stay out of their line of sight.
If only I could avoid offering a target long enough to think of some way to lose them without leaving a trail of crushed vegetation and blood that they could easily follow. I briefly considered climbing a tree, but I doubted that I’d manage to get very high, given the excruciating pain now radiating from my wounded arm.
Maybe I would come across a busy road, or a friendly house, or… I don’t know… a network of hidden caves and tunnels or something. Yes I know, you’re absolutely right, I wasn’t thinking at all straight. I was dizzy, and starting to become delirious at this point. I wished with all my fibre to find something – anything – to help throw the hunters off my trail.
Nearly across now. Keep going. Almost there.
I frantically leapt at a tall screen of bindweed and hawthorn as it loomed out of the fog right in front of my face. Luckily my momentum was enough to carry me all the way through to the other side, rather than having me caught up in a tangle of branches to be easily discovered and, presumably, slaughtered.
My short relief at putting another, albeit slight, barrier between me and the hunters was swiftly curtailed as I realised that I was airborne. Remember when I said earlier that I wasn’t looking ahead? The ground had fallen away steeply and immediately on the other side the hawthorn and, rather like the coyote in a Road Runner cartoon, my momentum had taken me some way past the cliff edge.
Whimpering helplessly, I plummeted through the roiling fog.