The distance between the dense underbrush spread out as Albert ran. The thistles and branches that kept getting caught in the fabric of his clothes and scratched his face and arms stretched out in front of him as he returned to the lower area of the forest. With the closely tangled roots and other tripping hazards further apart, Albert dashed ahead with renewed fervor, chancing a glance behind his shoulder.
He immediately regretted it. Though the less overgrown part of the forest was easier for him to maneuver in, the same could be said of the creature. Free from having to force its way through the confines of thick vegetation, the beast was able to run without restraint. The distance between the two was shortening rapidly, the creature's paws drove it forward in a giant, loping, gait, its heads all tilted towards the ground to give it increased momentum. In the moment Albert had glanced back, he noticed a fact he hadn't seen before, a long reptilian tail swayed casually behind the beast as it moved, keeping it balanced despite the weight of the heads.
Chocking back a small sob, Albert grit his teeth and dashed to the left around a tree in front of him, immediately swerving and doing the same in the opposite direction around the next tree.
"That thing might be able to run faster here, but it shouldn't be able to maneuver as well as me," he reasoned, wheezing and doubling back to try and keep his movement as random as possible. "Luckily there's still not enough room to fly in here."
That last thought chilled him and Albert tried not to think about what would happen when...if he made it out of the forest. Nothing would stop it from taking to the skies then. Though his progress was slowed by the zig-zags, it seemed to have worked. He looked back and saw the monster slow to a trot and swipe a tree with its claws, leaving deep claw marks in the wood. The monster saw Albert looking back at it and roared in frustration, the dragon-like head hissed and a stream of fire billowed out of its maw. Albert felt the heat of it fly by his torso.
"Fuck...really...?" He wheezed, feeling more indignant than fearful for a moment.
Another blast of fire rushed past him, scattering against the tree he had just dashed around and leaving a black scar in the bark, speckled with ashy, white, embers. His curvy route seemed to help him dodge the flames as well and he saw no reason to stop. Flashes of fire continued to whiz past him, singing his hair as they come steadily closer due to his stamina beginning to run out. His sides felt like they were splitting open and the forest smelled like the campfire from his middle school trip, only it wouldn't be marshmallows that caught fire if he got hit.
The creature roared again, frustration even more evident as it continually missed its mark. Ahead, the ground seemed to end abruptly and Albert felt a flash of hope as the red of the mushroom-like umbrellas at the restaurant came into view. When his toes met the edge of the cliff, he spun around quickly, grasping the ledge with his hands and dropped down to the middle landing without waiting. Then, hesitating only to glance back up to the top of the cliff where the monster surely was approaching, he leaped off the ledge, the ground rushing to meet his feet. His legs hit the ground awkwardly with a heavy thud and he stumbled and rolled forwards, pushing himself back up a couple seconds later. His ankle felt as if it had been hit with one of the blasts of fire from earlier, but as Albert limped onwards and across the street, he glanced down to see that it wasn't burned at least.
At last, as he reached the parking lot and Albert ducked behind one of the cars and peered through the windows back up at the boulders and cliff. The creature was at the precipice, heads bent over the ledge of the cliff and sniffing as if it were a dog. Then, it sat at the edge and stared over the road for a few moments and disappeared back into the forest with a swish of its long, lizard-like tail. Albert's whole body relaxed at once. His knees gave in under him and he fell to his hands and knees, dissolving into a coughing fit with bile rising up into his throat. His parents walked over to him just as his vomit splattered onto the asphalt.
"Al? What happened, are you alright?!"
His parents ran over to him, his mother dropping to his side with a steadying hand on his shoulder. His father stared down at him, frowning at the sight of him. His face was cover in small cuts and a stream of dried blood flowed down one side of his face, chipping and browning at the edges. His T-shirt was torn in several places with small twigs caught in some of the bigger holes. His pale skin was a ruddy white, a striking contrast with his jet-black hair that hung over his eyes which were staring off into the distance as if not really seeing anything.
"What happened son?" his dad asked again, grabbing his cell from his pocket. "Do I need to call the police?"
Albert shook his head and took a shuddering breath to steady himself.
"No, well...maybe, I don't know," he said, accepting his mother's hand and standing up with a wince.
He couldn't pay too much attention to it at the time, but now that he had time to think, his ankle was throbbing with pain. Every second or two it would pulse as if his arteries had decided to pump scalding hot water instead of blood.
"What do you mean, 'you don't know' sweetie? Did someone attack you?" His mother asked with concern, picking the twigs out of his shirt and brushing the blood off of his face with one of the wet towelettes she always kept in her purse.
Again Albert shook his head. He was beginning to catch his breath and the panic he had felt just minutes before began to fade away into a numbness.
"No, someTHING did though," he replied pushing the cloth away in annoyance. "Something up there." He pointed up towards the cliff, his eyes shifting over every shadow and swaying branch in case it showed up again.
"It must have been a bear. Or a puma," his father said quickly, unlocking his phone with a swipe of his finger and searching for the number for animal control. "Whatever it was, if its attacking people we need to have someone come and take care of it."
"Wait," his mother said, placing a hand over Jiang's wrist. With Albert more or less safe, her worry had begun to wear off and eyes narrowing, she turned back towards her son. "What were you thinking, climbing up there? Anything could have happened to you! Of course an animal would attack you if you went wandering into its den."
Albert blinked, shocked that his mother would be reprimanding him after he was nearly mauled by a....a thing!
"Now Abi," his father chided, "be that as it may, any animal this close to human habitation is dangerous. While it WAS highly irresponsible for Al to go climbing cliffs and wandering forests in a place he's never been to before," Jiang directed these last words to Albert, every word stinging with injustice. However, the way his parents kept referring to that monster as a common animal bugged him more.
"-there shouldn't have been a vicious animal close enough to cause harm," his father finished, punching in the number for animal control.
"But dad, it wasn't-" Albert began, intending to set his parents right. That thing was no ordinary animal.
"SO, you think we should just kick that poor thing out of its natural habitat because we humans happened to build a road nearby?" Abi interrupted, hands on her hips.
"Poor thing? That 'poor thing' almost bbq'ed me!" Albert shouted, glaring at his mother and stopping his father from retorting with the usual well practiced response. They have had this argument many times before and Albert wasn't about to listen to it again. Especially that-
"THAT'S what it was!" Albert realized with a flash of memory. A brightly colored page of one of the books his mother used to read him when he was younger was vivid in his mind, a three headed monster with the body of a lion, a head to match and one dragon and a goat. The picture from the book also depicted it with a snake for a tail but it was close enough that Albert had no doubts it was the same creature..
"Mom, that thing wasn't a bear or a puma, it was that thing from the ancient Greek mythology book you used to read to me! A Chimera!"
Abi shared a look Jiang and frowned, argument forgotten as soon as it had arrived.
"Sweety," she said slowly, as if worried that speaking too loudly to him would set him off. "The Chimera is a MYTHOLOGICAL creature. It's not real."
"ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME! I WAS ALMOST ROASTED AND EATEN BY THE DAMN THING, IT'S REAL!"
Albert puffed up, his shoulders nearly at equal with his ears. He was red in the face now, staring down his two parents with a seething anger flowing through him. He wasn't even as mad as when he was unfairly grounded for breaking one of his father's vases. It had literally just hopped off the shelf and fell to the floor out of nowhere and Albert had heard giggling as a small creature with horns ran out the window. His father had grounded him for a month for that.
"Its bad enough they argue over every damn thing," He fumed," But their own son is nearly murdered by an ancient Greek monster and they don't have anything better to do than argue about animal cruelty and blame ME for going near it!"
"Watch your language!" Jiang shouted back at him. "You do not speak to your parents that way!"
"Whatever," Albert muttered, deflating like a balloon. "Let's just go," he said, limping to the car without looking back.
"I don't know why I thought they'd understand. They never do," he realized miserably.
"Wait just a moment Albert Chen!" his father said, stopping when Abi grabbed him by the shoulder and shook her head.
"He's in shock. Whatever animal attacked him up there has got him confused and he's doing his best to wrap his head around it. Give him time and he'll calm down and be able to talk calmly with us when he's ready."
The two followed Albert to the car, Jiang frowning and shaking his head when Albert flung himself into his seat and sat facing away from them, head resting against the glass. As his father pulled out of the lot and down the road, Albert saw a familiar shape burst out of the trees and take to the air, its large, bat-like, wings unmistakable even at this distance. Flying just in front of it was something that made Albert roll down the window and stick his head out like a dog. The chimera seemed to be chasing a smaller winged creature that was easily outpacing it. What was strange is that the other creature had looked almost human. He hung out the window and watched until the smaller winged creature disappeared into the distance and the chimera circled the area a few times before plunging back beneath the sea of trees.
Albert had always longed for adventure and to find out more about the supernatural. He had always had a special connection with it. Ever since he was a young child and had asked his mother who the strange man who watched him sleep was, he knew that he could see and feel things that others couldn't. Since then, he knew he was inherently different from other people. He desperately wanted to know what this strange connection he had to the supernatural was and had tried his best to try and find out whenever something else happened.
Now, he wasn't so sure he wanted any part of it at all. He had never seen so many strange things happen in quick succession before. Something was changing and he didn't know what. He could feel it in the wind that buffeted him through the open car window.
And Chapter 3 is out! I don't know what it is, but I am on a roll with writing lately!
Look forward to an exciting chapter 4 late this week or early next week!
As always, any comments, stars, or any sort of encouragement is welcome! :) Until next time.
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