A Promising Storyteller, Nikka Mikkamaster
By Eric Poirier
Do you see the lie up top and the truth below?
The former prettily packaged with promises hollow.
But together combined all jumbled and swift,
Make the makings of legends and eventually myth.
These words belong to a once sound outspoken mind, now bereft of the ability to communicate in a transparent manner. This is the story of one Nicola McMaster, a freelance journalist whose tenacity for stories about isolated communities fueled her lust of travel to and discovery of darker corners of the world. Her punctual articles and gabby narratives captivated an audience of eager liberals who demanded more, thus fueling her lust further. Another trait, although unfortunate to her, was a tendency in private she relentlessly indulged, which begot her in the circumstance that resulted in the frame of mind captured above. Her lust propelled her to a remote community tucked away at the base of mountainous giants, secluded within the Rockies. A community not identified, nor mapped, and with a population represented by devout zealots, whose daily practice was to subdue the characteristics of their extroverts by preaching the practices of introverts. A normal routine there was the sequestration of desire and such thoughts that lead to earthly delights. It was there that Nicola landed to report on an archaic form of life that has all but vanished in our modern world. There, and on her first night, before she began her investigation, Nicola indulged her tendency with a local young man whose own tendencies was difficult to eradicate by the town elders, and which represented a hidden minority within the community. It was this that would steer Nicola’s investigation of the human heart underground.
On a Sunday gathering of the masses, at a location outside the town, Nicola participated in order to begin her investigation. The ceremony seemed odd to her. Not only was it outdoors and without the accompaniment of the usual accessories used for preaching and worshipping, but it was at the base of the tallest of the two mountains that overlooked the town, before large iron doors, sealed shut by a lever attached to one door that swung down to rest in a latch on the other. Adjacent to the door were six young women and seven young men, former adolescences of the town who, to their parents’ chagrin, left to seek out a different life. But now they stood before the door, bound to one another by gender in a single file, returned to the town by those loyal to the community who had stole them from their homes in the night. Six un-chaste maidens, and seven men who had un-chastened outsiders outside of marriage.
Nicola, who believed this scene to be a strange reenactment of a moment in the town’s history, observed from behind the crowd with locked attention, amazed at how believable the countenances of horror and despair were painted on the faces of the thirteen young souls. In between the gathering and the door, next to the souls, an elder dressed not in a priest’s attire, but in a white toga, mounted a stone dais and faced the crowd. He raised an arm to the thirteen souls as if presenting them. He then sucked in oxygen into his lungs in a deep inhale.
‘These souls we do condemn on the third celebration of our purification. For many years we have fed the beast’s gluttony by purging our society of the same wickedness that begot our bane in the first place.’
This is great stuff, Nicola thought to herself as the elder continued. She stored every word, already anxious to return to her room in order to transcribe this odd event. As she gazed on, the young man she had encountered the night before approached her from behind. He grabbed her firmly by the elbow and spun her around to face him.
‘Andrews?’ she exclaimed. ‘I cannot stand aside this time,’ he said with passion, now grasping both her elbows. ‘I have fallen in love with you. But I cannot help you for it would reveal me and then I would be bound with the others.’
‘Oh, Andrews, listen,’ Nicola interrupted. ‘Last night was a one-time thing. It happens all the time where I come from. I’m sorry but…’
‘I love you,’ Andrews cut in. ‘So I give you this to aid you in escaping your fate.’
Andrews let go of her right elbow and began to slide his hand down Nicola’s left forearm and seized her wrist. With his free hand, he pulled a small pocket flashlight out of his pocket and thrust into her left hand. Nicola looked up at the trembling young man whose gaze was now so fierce the journalist felt heat coming out the back of her head.
‘Wait,’ she said, in realization. ‘Is this part of the reenactment? This town is so funky with its traditions!’
Andrews tightened his hold on her wrist and leaned closer to whisper: ‘If you escape…take me with you away from this ancient world.’ Before Nicola could respond, Andrews let go of her wrist and darted away in behind a group of men who were approaching Nicola. Speechless, Nicola put the flashlight into her pocket. At the same moment of the young man’s exit, the elder on the dais raised his voice and called out: ‘Bring the outsider forth!’
The newly arrived men encircled Nicola, laid their hands on her, and began forcibly escorting her through the crowd, towards the dais. The town’s people, who seemed to suddenly realize her presence, began to scowl her with foul words projected from their mouths with violence: ‘Sinner! Whore! Destroyer from the outside!’
Nicola, now afraid, began to demand: ‘What is this shit! What are you assholes doing?’ But Nicola’s own profanity was drowned by the townspeople’s accusations. She was brought to the thirteen souls, and shackled as the seventh in the file of females. All the while, Nicola continued to compete with the crowd: ‘What are you fuckin’ pricks doin’?!’ ‘Whore! Sinner! Destoyer!’
The dais elder raised his right arm straight into the air and immediately the crowd fell silent. He lowered his arm and again deeply inhaled:
‘We who have sought solitude to protect our ways are forced to root out the evil from our soil.’
‘I don’t know what you people are pulling,’ Nicola exclaimed, ‘but I did not ask to be part of this, nor did I ask to be manhandled! Take these shackles off me!’ The elder looked at one of the men who escorted Nicola to the front. The man moved to Nicola and smote her across the face, sending her, and nearly the rest of the file of young women, to the ground. In shock and pain, Nicola looked up at the man in fear and remained on the ground. The dais elder continued:
‘Once again, we sacrifice our sins to the beast to keep his violence at bay. But today, for the first time, we also sacrifice the ill-gotten spawn of one of our sinners.’
The front of the crowd parted to allow a small boy, who stood not but three feet from the ground, emerge and approach the dais.
‘NO!! YOU BASTARDS!!’ the first young woman shackled at the head of the female file screamed. The same man, who struck Nicola, approached the shrieking woman and struck her across the face. She did not fall like Nicola, but she did become silent.
The boy stopped before the dais and looked up at the elder.
‘Take your place, Theo,’ the elder commanded.
Obediently, the boy walked over to the first woman and took his place in front of her. The woman, sobbing uncontrollably now, leaned over him and wrapped her arms around his upper body in an embrace as if to hide or shield him from some invisible impending doom.
The elder on the dais then turned to face the iron doors. He raised an arm and pointed to the doors. Four men approached the lever, and raised it from its latch. The sound of old metal ripped through the air like an enormous rusty hinge. Then, the four men, two grabbing hold of each door, pulled the doors open. This time the noise of rusty metal moving was louder and lasted longer as the men slowly, and with much effort, pulled the doors open. From within the mountain came a rush of hot air and a foul stench that made all those present put a hand to their mouth. Without command or physical prompting, the two files of souls began to move towards the doors. Theo also walked, while remaining at the front with the crying woman’s hands on his shoulders. With the movement, Nicola was forced to get to her feet and move along with the file.
‘Fuck this!’ Nicola screamed and began to yank on the shackles, jerking rearwards the shackled hands of the quiet young woman in front of her. The latter pulled her hands in turn and yelled at Nicola to follow. ‘Fuck you too!’ was Nicola’s response. From behind, a man placed his hands firmly on the journalist’s shoulders and pushed her forward. ‘Fuck off!’ Nicola screamed. Once inside the mountain, on the other side of the doors, the two files and Theo stopped. The area was completely black and smelled of a foulness that only grew stronger from within. Fourteen men each approached one of the young souls and with a key, unlocked their shackles. When the man unlocking Nicola was finished, the enraged journalist violently pushed the man away and ran to the doors. Another of the fourteen men restrained Nicola and once he gained control, faced her to a man who struck her hard across the face. They threw her to the ground. The fourteen men left the mountain, dragging the shackles behind them. Then the loud rusty noise of the doors closing and the lever latching echoed through the total darkness that ensued once the light of day had been cut out. Lastly, she heard the sounds of scattering feet and hands trying to feel their way in the dark. One of the young women whispered, ‘Hang on to me Theo’. Nicola could not be sure, but it sounded like the other souls had left somewhere into the abyss, leaving her alone in the foyer to the mountain.
Nicola slowly rose to her feet while in complete darkness. Although she could not see her hands shaking, she knew she was trembling in fear. And although she would not be able to see the tears on her fingers if she wiped her face, she could feel them rolling down her cheeks, and taste them when they reached her lips. For all that she could now feel for being blind, she could also smell a foul stench. The sound of noises trapped inside the cave resonated and echoed around her. She could hear the fading sound of scurrying feet as the others made their ways in the darkness. She could hear drops of water hitting rock, even over her excessive breathing. She could not be sure, but Nicola thought she could hear the sound of something soft falling to the hard ground, then the sound of something crunching and ripping apart.
It was several minutes before Nicola decided to take her first step. But to her it felt more like a day. During that time a million thoughts of people she had to meet that week and errands she needed to run, flashed through her mind. She could see her mother and father sitting at the kitchen table in silence, with nigh a perceivable emotion. They were simply sitting, pondering what to do next. The next image was a curious picture of her only favorite nephew. He was the only son of her estranged sister, the result of a night of lust. With the picture came the pleasant memory of one of their conversations. Despite the boys lisp, he was always eager to communicate his interest in her; asking her where she had been and what she had seen. She quickly put that image aside. The last image that crossed her mind before she composed herself and decided to act, was that of her audience, not finding her articles in the newspaper for that day, and then the next day, and the next. The image of her fans finally expecting not to see her name in the paper evoked the worst emotion she had yet to experience in the cave. It was one of complete loss. The feeling that is brought about when you realize that you have been completely erased from existence, the way a painting disappears when you turn out the lights, the way the sunlight vanished when the steel doors to the cave shut. In that brief moment between standing up and finally moving, she could feel the hard stone beneath her, feel the open space she was now in, feel her fear.
Nicola moved forward slowly with her hands in front her, all the time stepping on stone. Another thing she could feel was the moisture in the air. Nicola could feel it so much that she wasn’t surprised when she reached a rock wall and felt it covered in dew. In fact, the back of her clothes were still wet from lying on the ground. Once she reached the wall, she began to make her way along it, heading to her right. Immediately she realized that the ground was sloping downwards, probably taking her deeper into the cave. What Nicola wanted to do was find the door and simply pound her fists against them, maybe even attempt to open them. Instead, she could feel herself moving away from the door. She stopped, turned about, and began to follow the wall in the opposite direction. She moved back up the slope until she felt she was level again. She continued to walk slowly, hoping to come across the door. Regrettably, she felt herself moving downward again. She stopped once more and began to cry, starting to comprehend the fruitlessness of her idea. She returned up the slope until she was level again and stopped there. This time she placed her back against the wall and began moving forward, her hands up in front. Her rationale was that the door was opposite to the wall she found. Nicola walked slowly for several seconds, still not coming across anything. She could only assume that she was now in the middle of the cave’s foyer they had thrown her in. But still no door, nor another wall. She walked for so long that she began to wonder whether or not she was still walking straight.
She walked for several more seconds until finally coming into contact with another dewy wall. This time she proceeded to her left, along the wall. And again, Nicola could feel herself moving downwards. Once more she headed back up only to find the path sloping in the opposite direction as before. Nicola stopped and cried again. Contemplating her next move, she decided to let out a cry for help. But along with the other sounds, it simply bounced off the walls and echoed throughout the cave.
As soon as the last ‘Help!’ of the echo died, a scream from one of the young men ripped through the air from behind Nicola. The journalist wiped around but obviously could not see a single thing. The scream was gone and was replaced by the same tearing and crunching noise she heard before. When that noise was gone, a loud roar shook the very stone beneath Nicola’s feet. It sounded frighteningly and realistically close. In a frantic but careful pace, Nicola moved in the opposite direction of the noise, following along the wall, continuing downwards. Further along she went, the further down she could feel herself going, but she did not stop. She felt her way along the wall, not noticing how some of the more jagged points were cutting her hands. She continued to move, almost running now, her heart was pounding and her breath was usurping all other sounds. She ran, all the time still heading downwards, until finally she tripped over something.
Nicola fell to the ground hard. It wasn’t until she was lying on the wet rocks again did she realize that she was hurt and bleeding. She could feel her hands were cut and now her knees were sore from the fall. She also noticed that her feet were still over the object that had tripped her. She stopped moving and even breathing for a few seconds to hear if whatever the thing that emitted that roar was following her. All she could hear was silence, except for the usual drops of water hitting rock and her breathing, which had now slowed down. She rolled over onto her back, sat up and pulled her feet of the object. She was beginning to feel the pain in her body. Her hands were bleeding and her knees were sore. Slowly she stood up. She held her hands before her face and still could not see them, but she could feel the blood pooling in her palms and running down her forearms, soaking her sleeves.
Nicola started patting herself down, feeling every pocket in order to find something to dress her wounds. Unfortunately for her she didn’t carry much; her credit card and driver’s license were wrapped up in five twenty dollar bills in her right back pocket of her Levi’s jeans; the keys to her medieval hotel room and her rented Mazda 3 were in her right front pocket; and in the front left pocket…Andrew’s pocket flashlight! Forgetting about her hands, Nicola ripped the flashlight from her pocket and frantically ran her fingers all over it, trying to feel how to turn it on. She realized that the light was the type that needed to have its button on the tail end pushed in order to illuminate. With her thumb she pressed on the button. A loud clicking noise echoed but nothing happened. Nicola clicked and shook the light so violently that it fell from her grasp. The sound of the flashlight hitting the rock floor made such a noise that Nicola let out a yelp of horror. Like lightning, her hands hit the ground in pursuit. She fell to her knees. She swept the dewy ground in tears, her worry starting to take hold. She could feel and picture her blood painting the ground in red around her. She reached behind her with her right hand and touched the light’s slender, cold body. She picked it up and continued to shake and click it, this time with a tighter grasp. Nicola nearly gave up when she decided to feel the shaft with her fingers again. She felt her way to the tip and noticed that the end with the lamp was a little unscrewed from the shaft. Having used such a light in the past, Nicola remembered that sometimes the illuminating end of a flashlight can unscrew enough to allow the bulb inside to break contact with the electrical prongs in the shaft. She gently tightened the end and gave the light another click. Wondrous light poured out and fell to the floor. Never had Nicola been so happy to see such a common thing. Instead of immediately observing her surroundings, Nicola took another second to realize how something so great and practical, almost life-like, could come from such a small object.
The journalist directed the light to her right to see the wall along which she had ran before falling. She then directed it upwards. She half expected to see a ceiling of rock, but instead she saw more blackness, from which drops of water were materializing, as if from thin air. Obviously the cave was high enough that such a small light could not reach its ceiling. Such a sight immediately dwarfed Nicola’s thought of the flashlight being a great, big thing. She directed the light to the ground at her knees and could see her blood around her. She held up her left hand into the light to see the cuts across her palms. She then switched hands with her flashlight in order to see the other palm. It too was cut, but not as deeply as she had originally thought. The pain she felt was so bad when she could not see that she presumed the cuts were seriously deep. In fact, the cuts on either hand were not deep at all. The cuts were on areas of the hand that move whenever you clench your fist. Undeniably the movement of a wound always causes more pain than the wound itself. But the blood wasn’t gushing as badly as Nicola had presumed. What the journalist had thought was blood pouring down her forearms and wetting her sleeves, was in the fact water from the cave that had soaked her clothes. Nicola directed the light to the ground again to observe the blood once more.
Quickly, she realized that the blood on the ground was disproportionate to the blood emitting from her broken skin. The blood did not belong to her. Nicola noticed that the blood around her knees was pooling from a stream of blood that continued beyond the light. She followed the stream in the direction of the object that had tripped her. The closer to the object she came with the light, the larger the stream became. Suddenly, something brown broke into the light, something that was definitely not indigenous to a cave. Nicola moved the light forward to reveal what looked like a Columbia-style, suede-coloured leather hiking boot. She brought the light closer and saw the Columbia brand logo on the tongue of the boot. It was still properly laced and lying on its side. On closer inspection it was the left foot. Nicola continued along with the light. Coming out of the boot was a sock stained in red. Further along she continued. Coming out of the sock was the shin of a hairy leg.
By this point it was needless to say that Nicola was beginning to feel a little uneasy again. Ever since she was grabbed by those men and thrust into the cave, her emotions were causing a catastrophic ballet of upheavals. Now they were running high again. Her breathing was increasing.
Along the leg she continued. She was coming across the calf. Instead of coming across the knee, the leg stopped. Beyond the stump where the rest of the body should have been was an even larger pool of blood, this one with small chunks of flesh and clothing floating in it.
Nicola leapt back in horror and disgust, letting the light shine around her uncontrollably as she brought both hands to her mouth. The light was trained onto the wall while Nicola began to hyperventilate. She looked into the darkness where she could only assume the rest of the body was lying. Surely the rest was there because what she had tripped over was larger than a severed lower leg.
Regaining her composure, she brought the light back onto the ground before her, and slowly retraced her steps towards the leg. There it was still, severed and discarded. She moved beyond the leg and continued to follow the blood that had now become an even larger soup of cloth and flesh, and now pieces of bone. Much to Nicola’s chagrin, the light was exceptionally bright for such a small device, illuminating every gory detail of this scene. Another brown object broke into the light. It was completely soaked in blood. The only reason she thought it looked brown was because her light fell upon another Columbia logo. Instead of moving forward, she pulled back the flashlight, making the circle of light larger, and illuminating the second object, which turned out to be a jacket.
Suddenly a thought seized her. Surely if these items of clothing belonged to the remains of the object over which she had tripped, she should also be covered in blood. She aimed the light onto her torso and noticed all that was staining her shirt was water from the cave and terror sweat from her body. She guided the light down her front, past her waist and crotch and upper quads. Still nothing. It wasn’t until she reached her knees did she noticed that the lower legs of her Levi’s jeans, all the way down to the tips of her shoes, were covered in blood. Nicola gagged. But before she could vomit, she looked straight into the darkness and took two deep breaths. This helped regain her composure. Another thing that helped her avoid throwing up was the epiphany that only her legs past her knees fell into someone else’s blood and not her hold body. By the looks of the pool in which the jacket was soaking, she was counting herself lucky.
With all this in mind, the urge to vomit left and she continued to feed her curiosity. She re-aimed the light onto the bloody jacket and was about to continue on when she noticed something hanging out of the front pocket. Bravely she moved forward and bent down to look. The something appeared to be a black leather wallet. Only the corner was visible. Nicola reached down with the intention of pulling out the wallet. What she had planned do with the wallet was not apparent to her at the moment. Surely Nicola did not know what the wallet would provide. Certainly she knew it would be absolutely useless to her given her current predicament. But still she reached for the wallet with the intentions of taking it out of the jacket.
Nicola’s fingertips were inches from the wallet’s corner when a large hand with very hairy knuckles ripped into the light and grabbed the wrist of her reaching arm. Nicola let out a loud scream and attempted to pull away but the hand held her in place. All she could do was train the light up the arm. The light revealed a muscular forearm, likewise very hairy. Past the hairy elbow a large bicep was flexing, making the veins running over it bulge and even pulse. Nicola realized that foul stench she had smelled when she was first thrown into the cave was now all around her and totally unbearable. Nicola moved the light away from her captor so she could block her nose and mouth with the back of her free hand that was holding the flashlight. In order to discover who this man was Nicola aimed the light in the direction of where she assumed the man’s head would be. She got a glimpse in her mind of a man whose features were completely covered with hair. But it was not the head of a man. What did shine in the light was the head of a large hairy animal with fierce red eyes. Nicola only had a second to see before she let a scream and was mentally blinded by her hysteria. The animal’s head seemed to be that of a bull’s. Its head was huge and its black hair thick, with blood and flesh clinging to it.
Much like myth is jumbled and jointed,
A combination of lies and truths,
The creature was two, not normally combined,
But down below it was two at once,
Black bull’s hair covered with pieces of what it can never be.
As soon as Nicola flashed the light onto the creature, it let out a loud yell of pain which again made the very rock beneath the journalist’s feet rumble. It moved out of the light and released Nicola, the cause of which threw her to the ground. Nicola could not see the creature flee but she could it hear the patter of heavy, naked feet on wet rock draw away. Seconds passed before Nicola was in total silence again.
For several minutes Nicola sat on the wet rock, listening to the sound of drops of water hitting stone. Her heart was still racing and her breathing still fast. She was contemplating what to do next. Immediately it was painfully obvious that continuing down the path was not an option. Surely if such a creature was lurking in the dark, flashlight or no, she did not want to move any deeper into the mountain. So, the only course of action was to go back and find the entrance again. With the light now, it would be much easier. At the moment, Nicola’s thought was that she would rather take her chances running into the creature again while locating the entrance, than getting lost in the cave. Unquestionably, the light would eventually give out, and it would be infinitely better to be next to the entrance when it did. That way, Nicola would have a better chance waiting for someone to open the doors.
Nicola battled with herself before she stood up and started moving towards the doors, in the direction the creature had fled. But she had the flashlight. Being very careful not to flash the light on the shredded corpse she had tripped over, she aimed the light on the wall and stepped very slowly, until she was certain she was passed the remains of that unfortunate soul. Paying very close attention, she began moving back the way she came. The entire time she could not hear the patter of naked feet, or anything else, but her breathing. Several times she swung around on her heels with the light to check behind her, and every time nothing came into the light. It was a long while before Nicola reached the doors.
Once at the entrance, Nicola spun around on her heels, flashing light into every corner. There were four separate caves, all branching out from the foyer and seeming to head in a downward direction. When she finally stopped spinning, Nicola trained her light onto the large iron doors. In a reflex she ran to them and began pounding as hard as she could. The echo of the thuds bounced off every jagged piece of rock but nothing happened. The doors did not move nor could she hear any noises from the other side. All she could hear, when she stopped pounding in order to put her ear against the cold metal, was the continuing and inescapable sound of falling drops of water onto stone.
During one of her listening moments, Nicola caught the sound of naked feet pattering on wet rock again. The journalist froze in place, her ear stuck to the metal. In a flash, she spun in the direction of the sound and aimed the flashlight. In her haste, the motion of violently swinging the pocket light must have jostled the batteries for when Nicola aimed the device, there was no light. Again she froze in fear and panic and began clicking and slapping the contraption until finally glorious light beamed out and illuminated a very disturbing scene. Rather than seeing what she expected, who stood in the light was not a creature, but the young boy who had joined the group so obediently, and who had reminded Nicola of her favourite nephew.
‘Hello,’ the little boy said, holding one hand up to cover his eyes from the light.
‘Hello,’ Nicola responded near tears.
The pair stood and stared at each other for seconds. It was only when Nicola realized that she was probably blinding the boy that she lowered the light. ‘Sorry,’ she said and focused on aiming the light at the ground. Theo did not protest. Instead, he calmly sat down on the wet rock and crossed his legs, never taking his gaze off Nicola. The journalist imitated the young boy, and slowly slid her back along the iron doors as she sank to the ground. She too crossed her legs but unlike the boy, she leaned back against the doors.
‘What’s your name?’ Nicola asked, her voice was shaky.
‘Theo, Madame,’ the boy responded, his voice was steady and very polite.
‘Where’s your mother?’
‘The bull-man take her and eat her, she gone.’ Nicola was starting to notice the boy’s lisp, much like the one her favourite nephew had.
‘He eat us. He has to to live. And we give him the bad people,’ Theo explained. ‘Mommy told me that if the bull-man eat her, I have to come here and pray.’
‘Pray for what?’ Nicola asked.
‘Pray for God to forgive me for the bull-man eating me.’
‘Theo,’ Nicola started, ‘what did you do? What did your mom do to get thrown in here?’
‘Teacher said mommy is a destroyer and that I should be here.’
Nicola began feeling a hint of rage. She could sense the hate swelling in her. To know that such ignorance and cruelty existed in the world made the journalist want to rip through the doors and tear out the hearts of those who would commit such acts of atrocity.
‘Theo,’ Nicola finally said, after composing herself, ‘where is your daddy?’
‘Mommy said that daddy is gone. She left daddy to come back home. I don’t know what daddy looks like. Mommy is always scared. She cries every day. When I asked teacher why mommy cries a lot, teacher said mommy knows she is a sinner and has to pay. Teacher said daddy is the devil and lives in hell.’
The anger was all Nicola could sense now. Several seconds went by. It wasn’t until then did she notice that the little boy’s feet were in need of shoes. Theo’s soles were wet and dirty and dripping blood. All the journalist could see now was holding in her hands the heart of the men who had hit her. The boy’s soft, calm voice brought her back to the cave.
‘What’s your name, Madame?’
‘Nicola,’ Theo repeated. Nicola smiled.
‘You know, I have a nephew about your age. He talks like you do. He calls me Nikka Mikkamaster. We wrote stories together. We made up names for ourselves. Together, we were the great storytellers, the famous Joshua and Nikka Mikkamasters.’ Theo was smiling. He attempted to repeat the name, ‘Ni-k-k-ka Mik-nas-naster.’ Nicola smiled. ‘No my little one, my name is N-i-k-k-a M-i-k-k-a-master.’ Theo repeated it, ‘N-i-k-k-a M-i-k-k-a-master.’
‘That’s right. You got it.’
‘What stories did you write?’ Theo asked, looking fascinated.
‘We wrote adventure stories. We pretended we were great archeologists, like Indiana Jones. We each had a hat and a whip, and we both carried backpacks with tools for digging.’
Theo’s eyes lit up. He reached behind and began fumbling and breathing excitedly. ‘Did you have this in your backpacks?’ The little boy pulled out a knife and held it up to show Nicola. The sharp tool gleamed in the light and reflected it like sunlight on water. Nicola’s eyes widened.
‘Where did you get that hon?’ Nicola asked.
‘Mommy gave it me today and told me to keep it a secret from everyone. Wanna see?’ Theo stood up from the ground and came towards Nicola, still holding the knife up. The patter of his naked feet echoed off the walls. The little boy stood in front her and leaned forward to pass Nicola the knife. Nicola took the object and examined it closely. It was simply an ordinary kitchen knife. But at that moment it was a gift Nicola thought. The boy continued to stand and looked at Nicola with pride. The boy was a simple innocent soul, but at that moment, he was a blessing.
‘It’s a beautiful tool, Theo,’ Nicola said, the tears were running down her cheeks. ‘You hold on to it. You can be Indiana Jones today.’ Nicola made to return the knife. The boy smiled and reached out to take it back. But in a heartbeat, he was gone, violently snatched out of the light and into the darkness. Theo never made a sound. All Nicola could hear was the all too familiar sound of crunching and tearing. Nicola rose to her feet, her back pressed against the iron doors. She was gripping the knife in her hand with all her might. Nothing in the world could have persuaded her to train that light in the direction of the horrible eating sound. She knew exactly what was happening and could even picture it. But she continued to aim the light onto the ground, knowing full well what was next. She would have met her maker in that disposition. But suddenly, a thought jumped into her head. The knife. She realized that it had been entrusted onto her, and that she needed to use it. And if that was the case, she needed to flash that light onto the thing for which the knife was intended.
When she finally did shine the light, it was a replay of what Nicola had seen the first time: the enormous head of a bull ripped into the light and gave out a sharp yell of pain before retreating into the dark. Nicola saw her chance and spun around to bang on the iron doors again, but to no use. She pivoted on her heels to face the dark with her tools ready in her hands. All was silent again. Then, the patter of naked feet rushed towards her. She brought the light up to reveal the most horrifying thing: racing towards her was the bull’s head mounted on the body of a hairy muscular man. As before, it yelled out in pain, and held its hands before its eyes, only this time, instead of retreating, it swung out its left arm and knocked the flashlight from Nicola’s grasp. The journalist felt a strong hand grab her by the throat. In complete darkness, your other senses become augmented; your hearing is acute, your smell keen to every foul ordour, and your nerves sensitive to every fiber that touches you. Such were the sensations Nicola was experiencing when she felt the creature lift her off her feet by her throat and throw her across the cave away from the doors.
Nicola felt pain all over when she hit the ground. Another thing she felt was her hand still clutching the knife. The journalist slowly raised herself and was on all fours when she heard the patter of naked feet come up from behind her. Before she could react, the beast was mounting her. Nicola could feel it wrap a strong arm around her stomach and spread her legs apart with its legs. She could feel its breath on the back of her neck, its bloody black hair dangling, tickling her nape. It wrapped its second arm across her chest and lifted her up, forcing her to stand upright. Both the beast’s arms were around her own, holding her up. Without even thinking, Nicola instinctively commanded the arm holding the knife to reach behind her and dig the tool into the creature’s head. Nicola could feel that the knife had punctured deeply. The creature let out the most pain filled yell yet. Nicola’s ears burst and her head began to pound. The next thing the journalist could feel was the creature throwing her across the cave again. Again she landed hard, pain reverberated throughout her body. Her head continued to pound from the piercing cry of the creature yelling in pain. Nicola remained lying on the wet rock, listening as the creature’s cry slowly faded, then stopped. She continued to listen attentively. She matched the sound of what she was hearing with the image of the creature heavily falling to its knees, and then falling over on to its side.
Tumble, tumble fall it did,
Went crashing to the ground.
Rumble, grumble bang it did,
Never to make a sound.
It had to be that men guarding the entrance to the mountain, for after the beast let out its fatal cry, the iron doors came alive with sounds of opening. The sound of rusty hinges tore through the dark and suddenly a sliver of light cut through. The doors open just enough for two of the town’s men to enter, their own flashlights examining the scene. Their lights fell upon the beast and they rushed over to it and began to converse to each other in a frantic manner. The creature lay on its side, its back facing the light, the knife still protruding from its bloody black hair.
‘What are we going to tell them,’ is all Nicola captured from the men’s talk.
The men stopped whispering to each other and then aimed their lights onto Nicola. The journalist was blinded by so much light. She was confused and in extreme pain, still in fear. Her entire body, from head to toe was wet. The men rushed over to her and forced her onto her feet.
‘You evil whore!’ the men shouted at her, increasing Nicola’s confusion and fear.
‘You will pay dearly for taking away what has been given to us to purge our community of sinners!’
Nicola was still blind from the light, but her remaining senses were still acute. She could feel hands on her, squeezing her arms and shaking her in anger. She could feel breath and hear every syllable in the men’s words. Suddenly, all four hands let go and a new surge of pain attacked the side of her face as one of the men struck her down. Then, Nicola felt the hands grab her again and throw her across the cave. She landed on her back directly next to the beast, her head propped up against the creature’s warm, foil smelling body and her right hand was inches from the knife’s hilt, still protruding from the creature’s head.
The next thing Nicola could sense was the sound of the soles of shoes pounding against wet rock. The men were coming for her again. All in one instant, several things happened simultaneously. Nicola quickly realized that both men had dropped their flashlights in order to have their hands free. Without beams of light in her face, she was no longer blind. She also noticed that there was just enough daylight creeping in through the doors for her to see that the men were the same who had each struck her in the face before throwing her into the cave. Nicola could now see as well as feel the hands grab her. At the exact same moment, Nicola’s fingers wrapped themselves around the knife’s hilt. As the strong hands lifted her off the ground, Nicola pulled the dagger out of the dead creature’s head. Just as one of the men was about to strike her again, his arm high over his head, Nicola dug the knife into the other man’s right side. The man let out a yell and let go. Before the other man could complete his assault, Nicola lunged forward and sank her teeth into the man’s nose. He too let out a yell and could only shake in pain as his blood ran down his chin onto his chest. Nicola held on, her jaw locked, blood running down her throat. It wasn’t until she could feel what she had bit down on come loose before she released. The man fell to the ground like a sack of rocks, holding his face, his blood pouring through his fingers. Nicola watched and waited until it was confirmed that both men were on the ground and incapacitated. When she was satisfied, she spit out the tip of the man’s nose and ran out of the cave into the sunlight.
Never again would Nicola take for granted the common things in life. Never again would she take for granted the sensation of warm sunlight on her shoulders. The journalist stopped for only a second in order to bask, but in doing so she realized that the assembly area, where hundreds of townspeople had cried out for her death, was now deserted. A sudden rush of adrenaline began coursing through the journalist’s veins. She ran in the direction of the town with the intention of getting to her car. Once in the town, Nicola was so focused on her objective, that she barely noticed the townspeople reaction to her presence. Several women coming out of a grocery store dropped their bags when they saw her run by. Nicola could now hear people raising their voices at her and trying to get the attention of others to signal what was transpiring. But still Nicola ran, now faster and faster as more and more townspeople were becoming aware of the situation.
Nicola finally reached her vehicle, which was parked on the street outside her medieval hotel. She was nearly out of breath but was still coursing with adrenaline. Nicola fumbled in her right front pocket to pull out her car keys. Instead, she pulled out the keys to her hotel room. She quickly threw them away and thrust her hand back into her pocket. Nicola pulled out her car keys and began fumbling with them to single out the key that would unlock the door. By this time, several of the town’s men, who had just caught on to what was happening, were running towards her. A man was almost upon her when she succeeded in opening her car door. Nicola got into her car, slammed the door shut and locked it. The man began pounding his fists on the car door’s glass window.
Next, Nicola began fumbling with her keys to single out the one that would start the engine. By now, several of the town’s men had surrounded the car, pounding their fists against window and metal, the women watching from the sidewalk. Nicola succeeded in sliding the right key into the ignition and turning it. The engine burst into life. Without even thinking, Nicola placed the transmission into Drive, and slammed her foot down onto the accelerator. Two men who were on top of the car slid off and hit the pavement; one man who was in front of the car was shoved underneath it as it moved forward. Nicola watched in her rearview mirror as she pulled away from the scene; several men gave chase, while some of the women circled around the man who was run over. Others watched from the sidewalks as Nicola tore out of the town on the only road leading in or out.
Nicola was on the road for only thirty seconds when she came around a bend and found Andrews standing in the middle. She pressed down on the break with both feet in order to get her vehicle to stop. It swerved left and right and almost ran off the road before coming to a complete stop. Nicola looked up at Andrews who seemed very upset. His arms were rigid by his side and his fists were clenched so tight that Nicola could see the whites of his knuckles from where she was. Suddenly, a surge of anger overcame the journalist and she burst out of the car and after Andrews.
‘YOU SON OF A BITCH!!! WHAT KIND OF SICK, TWISTED PEOPLE ARE YOU!!! ?’ Nicola screamed. She ran up to Andrews and began pounding his chest with her fists. Andrews, still looking upset, grabbed her wrists to restrain her. He started walking forwards, pushing Nicola backwards as he did so. He looked deep into her eyes; a hint of anger became noticeable, and said:
‘It is a community like any other that governs by striking fear of damnation into those they mean to control. The only difference is it has the isolation to go to extreme levels to enforce its dogma.’
‘WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT THING THAT ATE EVERYBODY!!! ?’
‘The result of disgusting experimentations on human beings,’ Andrews replied, ‘performed long ago by outsiders who came to our community because of its isolation. They came here to do these things in secret, away from those who would condemn their aberrations. They brought their human desire and curiosity. The creature escaped and caused havoc on our town. When it was finally subdued, the outsiders were punished. The townspeople threw them inside the cave along with their creation.’ Andrews was still holding on to Nicola’s wrists and was still pushing her rearwards. They were now passing Nicola’s car.
‘WHY DO YOU PUT PEOPLE IN THAT CAVE!!!? ’
‘The cave in the mountain with the iron doors has been here since before the town’s founding. Legend says the town’s location was chosen because of its discovery by our fathers who sought isolation in which they could build a society of discipline and virtue. The ideology of the cave has always remained that God guided the town’s founders to its discovery, in order to use it. And so, when the creature was discovered, another ideology was born that the beast was sent by God to be put in the cave, so that we could create a method for purging our society of sinners.’ The car was behind Andrews and they were still moving together down the road, in the direction of the town.
‘Who are you?’ Nicola asked, becoming aware of Andrews’ growing anger.
‘Like within any regime, there are those with natural inhibitions to accepting a forced way of life. I am simply one of them.’ Andrews’ grasp of Nicola’s wrists was tightening. He stopped moving. The pair stood in the middle of the road, looking into each other’s eyes, thick, dense forest on either side of them.
‘I am the one who needs to escape. I asked you to take me with you. Why are you leaving without me?’ His anger was swelling and his voice was rising. ‘I need you to take me away from this world. You have to take me to your world where we can engage in pleasurable acts without fear of those who mean to govern us. I need to escape. You will help me.’ Andrews was violently shaking Nicola and screaming at her. ‘You will take me away and give me a life without fear! YOU WILL DO WHAT I SAY!’
Just then, something happened to Nicola: everything she had experienced in the last couple of hours had culminated into a force within her. All the memories of everything she had sensed materialized into a form of anger that was now taking hold. Nicola felt the adrenaline return as Andrews was shaking her. He raised his right arm to hit her but before he could land his palm on her face, Nicola thrust her left knee in between his legs. A burst of hot air escaped from Andrews lips. The young man folded in half and fell to the ground in the fetal position with both his hands holding his groin. In that moment the journalist was creating a new memory of something she could sense; Andrews’ skull crunching underneath her shoe as she brought her foot repeatedly down onto his head. During her last stomp, Nicola nearly lost her balance and so she stopped to regain her composure. When she was firm, she looked down at the bloody pulp that was once Andrews and let out a cry of anger. She stumbled backwards again, this time in grief, and began to sob in the middle of the road. Nicola nearly fainted under so much anxiety but instead of collapsing, she took a deep breath and ran to the car. She got back in, the engine was till running, and she drove off.
The trauma that nearly made her collapse on the road finally overcame her while she was driving. Fortunately for her, she succeeded in reaching Quesnel before completely succumbing to her anxiety and running her vehicle into a street sign in the middle of town. Nicola survived the crash and local authorities rushed her to the hospital. When she arrived, she was unconscious and remained so for nearly thirty-four hours before awakening. The identity of Nicola McMaster, who she was before, disappeared like the light when those iron doors locked her inside that mountain. The person who is awake today carries no name and speaks only in verse. The identification that was found on her might say Nicola, but all that remains is an empty shell with fragments of memory. What lies before doctors and psychologists who attempt to treat her, is the result of a brutal assault on the senses. People who visit Nicola follow the storyteller in her descent from reality and become trapped themselves. She speaks in verse and reveals fragments of information that possess considerable gaps. Nicola has become a long resident of the hospital she lives in. She has been forgotten and left behind while the world continues forward with its evolution. The only thing that is certain about the case of Nicola McMaster is that her story can be summarized by her own verses:
But together combined all jumbled and swift,
Make the makings of legends and eventually myth.
Copyright Eric Poirier 2013