The trees along the side of the road began to shake as a strong breeze indicated a large truck driving by. The lost travelers ran as fast as they could. Still the truck driver hadn't noticed them. The travelers came to the spot on the road where the truck had slammed into a branch of the tree. Splinters from the impact were scattered all over the ground.
All of the travelers seemed upset at the great amount of effort they had wasted. They all remembered the direction of the last town and agreed it was not much further. Just along the side of the road about to come into the view of the travelers, sat a small parking lot and tiny little market. It was perched neatly behind a couple of trees. And it quickly became apparent this building had not been used for quite some time. There were large cracks in the parking lot and green moss in the cement.
As the travelers were walking along the parking lot they saw the shop window. It was not far from their view, and it appeared there was nothing there. It just seemed black and dark inside, just as empty as the parking lot. It seemed odd the travelers would not remember this place from their previous journeys in the area, but never before had they been so lost. The area was great, with plenty of wildlife surrounded by forest and few clearings.
Just as the travelers passed a row of trees at the edge of the parking lot, they also noticed a trail running down the parking lot all the way down to the forest on the other side. Seeing this trail put some questions into the minds of the travelers. They sat there awhile and started walking along the trail to see if anyone could help them. At the end of trail just behind a few more trees the travelers saw another building, roughly the same size as the store.
A darkened lightpost sat at the far side of the building. The structure was square and not very tall. Ivy and holly hung from the lightpost and some other areas around the abandoned building. It too seemed like this area had not been used by anyone for quite some time. So the travelers decided to travel back to the road. They had walked back just a little ways, seeing a deer frozen near some trees on the trail. The deer had ran off and immediately after a dog ran up to the travelers.
None of the travelers were startled by the dog, it had seemed so friendly – the dog just ran at them and sat on the ground wagging his tail. The travelers loved the dog right away, it had been a long time since they saw anything. They had nothing to give the dog – he was still happy just sitting by the travelers. The dog continued to walk onward with the travelers for a little ways.
As the travelers walked not very much farther, the dog ran off. The animal made off in a straight line down a small depression into the forest. It seemed as though the dog would no longer so faithfully follow the travelers. The travelers were hardly bothered by the departure of the animal, and soon were approaching the road.
The clearing where the animal vanished was down a hill about five feet from the trail. Down the embankment, there was a small field of purple and yellow flowers. Tall strands of grass and flowery bushes ran underneath. As the travelers walked on, all of them remembered just how quickly the dog ran off. They all liked to think of their former companion as a wolf. Such an intelligent animal to quickly befriend people. However, the wolf was gone now and the travelers had no choice but to move on without their companion.
Just as the travelers were very near the junction of the road and the trail, there was a car parked at the edge of the parking lot. A single red pick-up truck in a vast concrete ocean of nothing. They sat around for a minute and nobody showed up to save them. Then they left the truck, heading back for the trail.
As the parking lot and the trail were not far apart - maybe five minutes had passed - and they reached their final checkpoint before traveling on. That was when they saw a person. Right at the head of the trail, they could see a stout figure about thirty feet from the road. It was hard to see any of his features, and he was walking rather briskly as he met with the travelers.
“Is there any reason you're all trespassing on my property?”
There was a pause amongst the travelers, suddenly they all gained appreciation from a proper introduction. They had no idea what to say and then one of them fired back at the man.
“I hope we're not intruding, we're just checking out the nice little shop you have here.”
The man replied:
“That market hasn't been open for quite some time.”
The traveler explained:
“We are a little lost out here, and we were hoping that we could find somebody to help us. I don't quite remember the area as much as I used to.”
The property owner collected himself for a moment, then he said:
“The town is not far and I suppose you all could ride with me, I have some business to run around town. The town is called Crescent.”
Just then is when the travelers noticed two dogs coming fast for the trail-head. The one they had seen earlier, and another dog. This other animal was much more brightly colored, and shimmered in the light with wispy brown hair. It was remarkable the difference between the animals. The companion dog had little color, with shreds of matted hair on the body. And the other dog appeared to glow with the right lighting. It was the classic case of beauty and the beast.
“These are my dogs, they tend to get excited. They know better then to jump on people.”
The man glared at the dogs briefly.
“My name is Paul. The black/brown dog is Spark, and the other is Flare. Fitting, right?”
The man flashed a friendly smile, then he started speaking again.
“I've had these creatures since I was seven years old. It's hard to keep from going on and on. I'm really proud of them”.
As he was speaking, the travelers stopped nodding their heads at the man. Then they had some nice conversation for a while; mostly talking about their situation, the forest area, and the town closeby. The travelers were appreciative the man was willing to help them, so they were pleasant in relating with the man. Nobody had mentioned that the man was obviously thirty to forty years old. Spark and Flare must be nearly twenty-five years, or older. The travelers had a hard time believing the man. The group then walked up to the man's red pick-up truck.
“Dammit.” The man yelled, looking at the truck. “I'm gonna have to take that load in the back of the truck back up to the farm. I've only got two more seats in the truck.”
The travelers acknowledged the situation. Possibly, the skepticism showed on their faces. They would be at the mercy of this man's leisure. In other words, The travelers would be waiting for this man to return. Without knowing, even if, he would return. So the man had taken his dogs and left the travelers. Before the man headed out, he told the travelers to expect his return in two hours. The man's house was the opposite direction of the town, Crescent.
During their waiting period, the travelers made a point to avoid complaining amongst themselves. Despite the circumstances, they felt relieved when the man left. At the same time, they anxiously anticipated the man's return. The man had seemed odd to the travelers. While the man was gone, the group discussed his behavior. They had built an awesome list of nuances. Soon, they found this was the best way to pass the time.
One of the travelers paused in conversation to light up a cigarette.
The noise from the lighter echoed through the forest, which was not far from where the travelers were standing.
This had apparently startled some deer on the edge of the forest. The travelers saw the deer burst into the parking lot. Upon reaching the cement, the deer turned, running along the forest onto the trail. Never pausing for more than a second, the herd of deer bolted out of sight.
The group seemingly had a front row view of the deer. They all thought little of the situation, and the one of the group was still smoking his cigarette. They continued talking while the smoker reached out and tossed the cigarette onto the cement. Before the litter even touched the ground, the travelers heard a bark from the forest.
They all paused to listen – the sight of the deer fresh in their minds.
The travelers were standing at this point, propping their heads and looking around. In the desperation of the moment, the group resorted to conversation. Before long, they agreed the bark clearly came from the forest area directly to the right of the trail. Beyond the edge of the parking lot, at least twenty feet into the brush.
The travelers shared disagreement in exactly how to handle their ordeal.
One of the travelers walked toward the corner of the parking lot. The rest of the group watched his every move. The traveler waited on the cement, about ten feet from the forest. He looked around, unsure about what to do next. The group motioned for him to return. Turning his back on the forest, he walked only a few paces. Then the group motioned for him to run, as they witnessed a large carcass thrown from the forest. The traveler never turned his head to look and he ran for the center of the parking lot.
The carcass flopped on the cement. Nothing else could be heard by the travelers. The antlers on the carcass was intact. Large streaking gaps of flesh on the body and neck separated the two front legs. The abdominal organs of the animal splashed the area. Before the traveler could return to the group, three large figures appeared beyond the same corner of the parking lot. The group stared at the creatures, at least eighty feet away. The figures darted into the center of the trail, and stopped to observe the group.
None in the group grasped a clear view of the figures. Suddenly the figures jumped across to the far side of the trail. The creatures walked slowly now with a clear line of sight on the travelers. The animals then reached the road. Still the travelers watched the pack. The pack had closed the distance on the travelers and cut off the road to the travelers.
After just a moment, the pack came to a halt on the road and slowly walked down the trail this time. Closing more distance on the travelers, the group saw these creatures were veracious animals. Two figures were taking the lead, with the last following closely. The front arms of the creatures were treading the ground. Periodically, the creature would raise the arms in the front exposing the claws.
The travelers could see more detail of the creatures, watching from the center area of the parking lot. The stature closely resembled the gorilla in many ways. Somehow, the animal skulked along frighteningly. The arch on the back of the creature was longer and more slender than that of a gorilla. The creatures had hind legs like a dog or wolf. Yet, the front claws were much more unique. The foreleg was long and thin, and quite flexible, allowing the creature to prowl low to the ground.
The pack had finally reached the closest line of sight to the travelers. Still on the trail, 30 feet from the individuals, the pack of animals paused for just a moment. The travelers should have never let the creatures come so terrifyingly close.
The man in the red pickup returned to find the organs of individuals spread across the trail. The man followed the thrashed remnants of flesh to the end of the trail. The pack had brought the bodies to the front entrance of the abandoned building, hardly intact. Then the man gathered his creatures from around the back of the shelter near the lightpost. He tied up his creatures in the back of truck. The man always made two trips back to the farm. It was the only way to keep the creatures separated from his dogs. He took his creatures home with him, and wondered if he would ever be so entertained again. The stage was set.