The yelling in the camp drowned out the noises of that which were approaching them. Once again, sides were being taken as the argument got heated, it was apparent there was a murderer in the camp, but no one knew who. A guard had positioned himself on the catwalk to search for suspicious behavior. What he saw was far more than he expected; he started running to the gate, yelling,
“Someone’s here, someone’s here, someone’s here.”
Slowly one by one, the encampment stopped yelling and started running to the gate; the screams of a man started to be heard as all the shouting had disappeared. Everyone arrived at the gate, and the man on guard let the gate swing open. The man fell through the opening, collapsing to the ground covered in blood.
Those closest to him tried to help, but every touch made the man scream with agony. Through his pain, he managed to utter but a few words before falling unconscious.
“Camp, slaughtered, nightmares, run.”
A chill ran down the spine of the whole camp; no one had anything to say. They were frozen to the spot till the little voice of Penrose spoke out.
“If he is here, does that mean the monsters are coming here too?”
It took no time at all before the idea of throwing the man outside the gate, but with every idea, there are those who oppose it. The camp was nearly perfectly split in half as panicked screams demanded the safety and sacrifice of this unknown individual.
“Everyone shut the fuck up; the question is not whether to kill this man or not. It is, do we run? We have not left the safety of these walls besides food since they have gone up. So do we run before they get here or fight here?”
The crowds of people murmured to one another as they contemplated the words shouted before them. Before a decision could be made, Penrose’s oldest brother spoke out.
“What if they are already here? We never noticed the one that killed that one asshole; what is to say they ain’t here?”
Eyes started darting around the camp, ensuring that nothing was lurking in the shadows, people started spinning on the spot to get a full view of the camp, but no one could see any sign of a monster lurking.
“Everyone group up and check the camp, then we will decide if we should leave.” Greg yelled as he started handing out what little weapons they had, initiating the first nightmare hunt on record.
Thomas, the leader of the builders, led a small group around the edge of the wall; the whole time, his head raced with what was coming their way. What had the capability to wipe out an entire town, something small that snuck under everyone’s vision, or a beast of great proportions that simply squashed the town with one stomp?
Thoughts of monsters and beasts started to run through everyone’s mind as they walked the camp. Meanwhile, Anodyne was floating about with the Conductor.
“Conductor, do you know how I bring nightmares into this world?”
“I assume you made them my lord.”
“Oh no, I can’t create life, only manipulate it. For you see, nightmares do exist because all humans have an ability that no other species share. They can create pocket worlds when they sleep; these worlds are destroyed each morning as they wake, so I simply take what they created and bring them unto Hollow.”
“So how is it you intend to bring forth their nightmares? Do you intend on waiting till they are asleep next?”
“Well, most of the time, I do, but if you get a human to concentrate heavily on something, they can create pocket worlds for short periods of time while conscious. All of them below are panicking; the only thing they can think about is what killed that man’s town; all I have to do is wait till someone is lost in thought then.”
Anodyne paused and grinned, “Then I take out the beast they imagine.” Anodyne flickered from the Conductor’s vision; as he returned, he applauded himself and bowed. “I thank you, individually, for such a fine creation!”
A long slender black creature started to crawl over the wall; it dripped tar everywhere it laid its bony limbs. It was not long till the camp noticed it was met with screams and sheer terror.
No one had the mental strength to approach the beast; as it opened its unnaturally large jaw, it screamed a harrowing scream causing everyone to start running from it. It ran towards people like an excited puppy, constantly changing its target based on who was closer. It ran all over the camp till it finally caught the young orphan boy on the stairs; covering his body in tar, he pinned him to the steps.
His older brother snapped out of his fear upon seeing his little brother held down by the monster; he started running full speed to the stairs grabbing a dropped spear on the way. Penrose, who was standing next to her oldest brother, tried her best to keep up; she followed as fast as her legs would let her.
The monster leaned in to take a bite of the small boy, its mouth stretching to nearly the size of the child before a well-placed spear landed cleanly into its back. It let off another screech as it turned to the older brother; it leaped, landing on his shoulder and drenching him with tar. The older brother writhed as the tar-covered his entire body, bubbles forming over his face where his breath tried to escape. It turned back to the younger boy, where it walked back over to have its snack.
Penrose got to her oldest brother in time to clean tar away from his nose,
“Don’t worry, big budda. I will save little bro.”
He tried grabbing her, but the tar was too heavy for him to lift quickly; as she ran back towards the stairs, her oldest brother slowly started to stand up. Everyone had started to gather by the gate, ready to leave, but they had to stand there, they had to know if the children were going to die, but none of them wanted to risk their own lives to save them.
The monster was now lurching over the small orphan boy’s mouth, slowly opening as Penrose approached the base of the steps. Its jaw crunched as it extended wider, now capable of swallowing the boy whole; Penrose ran up the steps as fast as she could but was being slowed by the tar dripping down them. The oldest brother had nearly reached the base of the steps when Penrose managed to grab the beast’s hind leg. Being so small, it did not notice and slammed its jaws shut, taking boy and tar in its disturbing body.
Silence, shame, and guilt all ran through those standing at the gate, too scared to help the three little orphan children, now two. Penrose broke out into tears as the nightmare turned to her swallowing loudly; the little brother let out gurgling screams as he was being swallowed alive.
The nightmare red eyes glowed before Penrose as it chuckled to itself, but unfortunately for the nightmare, Penrose was broken. She had forgotten how to be afraid.
“Dat was little big brudda, you hurt him, he’s my brudda, not yours, these are my stairs, not yours. Get off my stairs and bring back little big brudda.”
Both Anodyne and the Conductor stared in amazement as a strange black energy seemed to be pouring from the ground and into the small orphan child.
“Lord Anodyne, what is that.”
“I have no idea, some kind of energy, but I have no idea what or who is making it.”
Before Anodyne could investigate, Penrose yelled once more.
“Dis is my stairs and my little big bro; you need to go!”
With the nightmare, Penrose and her older brother all disappeared into thin air. Leaving all behind confused.
Lord Anodyne, do you know where they…”
“I have no fucking clue; I can’t even see a trace of energy. They are just gone.”
The rest of the camp started to be filled with the sound of approaching nightmares; everyone started to leave the camp, running deep into the surrounding woods as the sun started to set in the sky.