Nathan’s Private E-Journal – February 16, 2014 “My Odd Valentine’s Day Adventure” Part- III

For a brief moment, I simply gawked at the mare, for that’s what she was, and a beauty at that.  She had a gorgeous white coat and a long mane that I could brush for hours if given the chance.  But since I didn’t have a brush, I simply ran my hand through it. Hey, I’m a sucker for long hair, okay?

Horse Mane

Anyway, as I continued to stroke her I remembered the legends about unicorns and quickly looked down my shirt to make sure nothing had changed there.  My pecs were perfectly normal.  Still I carefully reached down to make sure the rest of my privates were still intact. Once I was satisfied that nothing was amiss, I gently told my visitor, “I hate to be the one to break this to you, but I am in not any way shape or form a maiden.  And as for my purity and innocence, you’re about a 150 years too late. So either your radar is really out of whack, or you… need my help.”

Those last three words came out much slower than the rest, as the scent of dried blood reached my nostrils.  Craning my neck took a better look at my visitor and finally spotted several long gashes near her rear flank.  It had taken some doing to see that area of her because of how swollen and distended her belly was.

I knew that look all too well, she was pregnant.

Stroking her face reassuringly, I smiled, “Ah, that’s why you came to me.  You’re not so innocent yourself anymore.  Well I hope he was worth it.”

She gave me a look and suddenly stood up.  At first I thought she’d taken offense but then I saw that her swollen abdomen was riding much lower than I’d originally thought.  As I started to do some mental calculations she began biting at her sides, while her tail began raising and swishing anxiously.

That put an end to my mathematical exercise.  The dried blood, her coming to me, the lying down and getting back up again meant only one thing.  She was already in labor and had been for a few hours.  No doubt she had been resting someplace safe in the Para-Earth she called home, but then something had tried to get at her.  She’d managed to put her labor on hold, a gift shared by horses our reality, long enough to flee the scene and came through the opening Otto had ventured into earlier.

Looking back on things, I suspect she had passed through the portal several times before.  This would explain the sightings of strange creatures that had brought me and Otto to this otherwise secluded place.  Only this time she had come through slightly injured and in need of assistance.

As I got to my feet, I noticed her staring at the ‘nest’ I’d made myself and knew exactly what she was thinking.  I’d helped my father and our stablemen deliver foals enough times, to know that a nest was exactly what she needed.  Immediately, I started gathering clean branches and brush, while she moved off a ways to relieve herself.  By the time I’d finished her ‘delivery’ bed, she had emptied herself as much as possible.  Or so I thought, because there was suddenly a loud splashing sound

“And there goes your water,” I nodded with a groan.  Now the clock was really ticking. The baby was coming and there was no stopping it this time.  If whatever had gone after her before showed up, it would be up to me to keep her safe, as well as help deliver the foal if necessary.

Immediately I carefully led her over to the nest where she promptly laid down.  “Atta girl,” I said soothingly, “Everything’s going to be just fine now, I promise.”

Naturally, as soon as the words had left my mouth my keen ears picked up the sound of movement in the distance.

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Glancing upwards into the overhanging trees, through whose branches I could see a few strands of the Aurora Borealis, I said quietly, “Don’t tell me, Lord I want to guess.  You got bored with the other 7 billion souls wandering the planet and said to yourself, ‘Hey, let’s check on that vampyre guy Nathan, he’s hysterical.  Ooo… lookie there, he’s found himself a unicorn in labor.  Now this looks promising.  But you know what?  It could be a bit more interesting.  Let’s give him something more to worry about.’ Am I right?”

As if in answer the sounds in the distance became clearer and I could hear two men talking.  “I’m telling you, Donnie, someone saw a unicorn around here,” one was saying.

“Eric, you’re getting as bad as Dad.  You believe everything you see in someone’s Twitter feed,” replied the other.

“So what are we doing here with our guns if you weren’t hoping to find a real live unicorn?” asked the first voice.

“Bro, if we spot ourselves a unicorn, it’s not going be alive for very long,” the second voice answered, followed by the distinct sound of a rifle being cocked.

“Great, now I’ve got Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam to deal with as well,” I murmured under my breath.

The mare gave me an anxious look.

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“Don’t worry, Sweetheart,” I assured her, getting to my feet. “I’ve been watching Bugs Bunny cartoons since they first came out in 1940. I know how to deal with these jokers.”

I started heading towards the source of the voices when she whinnied loudly, making me wince.  Not that I could blame her, I mean after all she was in the middle of giving birth.  But the Bobsy-Twins had heard her as well, and were now heading towards us.  Luckily, they were still outside the edge of the woods where the snow was thick, which was slowing them down but only so much.  They’d be able to spot us in mere minutes.

Turning back to my charge, I was about to outline the plan that was forming in my head only to find a new problem had arisen. The amniotic sac that held her foal was already showing.  But, instead of the healthy white I’d been hoping for, it was red. Immediately, my heart sank.  She was ‘red-bagging’ which meant that the baby’s oxygen supply was getting cut off and it could suffocate before it escaped its mother’s womb if I didn’t act fast.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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Nathan’s Private E-Journal – February 16, 2014 “My Odd Valentine’s Day Adventure” Part- II

      Anyway, Otto was still shaking his head saying, “Missing lectures again.  How many times have I told you that will cost you on the exam?”

      That startled me.  “There’s going to be an exam?  I thought I was simply here to listen to bunch of experts in their field.  Admittedly, some were more long-winded than others, present company not included,” I added hastily.  “Is there any way I can make up the points?  Maybe, go on a field trip or something?”

      A bright smile appeared on my mentor’s face.  “What a lovely suggestion.  In fact I had recently been hearing reports of strange creatures being spotted in a region just north of here.”

      “Really?  And did that region happen to coincide with any interesting mathematical computations you’d been working on recently?”

      He gave me a disappointed look.  “I’m a professor, I’m always doing some kind of mathematics.  But to answer your question, yes they do.  By the way, how are you with snowshoes?  It’s going to be pretty deep where we’re going.”

       This time it was my turn to smile indulgently at him.  “Snowshoes?  Pffft… who needs those?  I can just do my Legolas impression and move across the top of the snow without breaking it.”

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     Which is true.  I can make myself extremely light at will and can walk across a number of surfaces without breaking the surface.

      Apparently, he’d forgotten this fact, but instead of looking too embarrassed he simply grinned evilly back at me.  I had no idea what was going on in his head, but I just knew my bragging was going to come back to haunt me later.

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      Three days later…

      “What do you see with your elf eyes, Nathan?”

      See, I told you that wisecrack of mine would come back to haunt me.

     Turning I stared down the mountain at him and replied, “A lot of snow, trees, and one wiseass.”

     “You know, Aragorn told me Legolas said the same thing to him,” he smiled innocently.

    I chuckled at that.  Otto is one of those people you can’t stay mad at for very long if ever.  At that moment, my ears picked up a susurration off to my left.  I had gotten used to the sounds in the area over the last two days, which was why this whispering rustle caught my attention I slowly turned, scanning the terrain very carefully until my eyes detected one area among the trees where the light was much stronger than it should be, considering the sky above us was dark.

    Pointing in the direction of the spot, I called down to my mentor, “It’s about two hundred yards to your left, and twenty yards up the hill.”

     Nodding he started moving towards the spot I indicated with great speed, which was quite an accomplishment for anyone wearing snowshoes.  But Otto is far more athletic than his appearance belies.  At first glance one might think he’s in his later 50’s, short, and stocky.  But he can move as silently as a cat, and as fast as a leopard when he wants to.

      Even with my ability to run across the snow he beat me to the spot by a few seconds.  Now the thing with Para-Earth portals is that in order to spot them you have to be at just the right angle.  Otherwise, you could walk right past them and probably do several times a decade.

     As we examined the opening, Otto made careful measurements, which I faithfully recorded for him.  Then he prepared himself to step through.  He always goes first, since out of the two of us I’m more vulnerable.  The one time I didn’t wait, I wound up racing back to our reality with the worst sunburn you never wanted to see.

     I watched anxiously as he disappeared through the opening and waited.  They say the waiting is the hardest part.  Even knowing how durable my friend is, I still get a little nervous.  Luckily, my wait was not a long one.  After a few moments, he reappeared sporting a pair of stylish sunglasses which told me all I needed to know.

      “Let me guess, it’s very sunny over there.”

     “Actually, I discovered that the future is so bright in that reality, I have to wear shades,” he quipped without missing a beat.

     “Sounds too heady for me.  I’ll stay right here and make sure nothing comes through that shouldn’t,” I told him.

     “Good idea,” he nodded and then added, “And this time, please don’t let anything from this reality slip through the opening while you’re at it.”

     Rolling my eyes I protested, “I only let that happen once.  And it was just a bunny.”

     “That’s what that kid said down in Australia, and look what happened there.”

     “True,” I conceded and then added seriously, “Be careful, over there.”

     “You worry too much,” he smiled, “But it is appreciated.”

     I watched him pass through the opening once more and then turned to take in my surroundings. Trees blanketed the area, but were not so thick as to keep any snow from hitting the ground.  A thin layer of white gently covered decades of fallen pine needles.  Glancing up, I could see the snow was much thicker on the branches.

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      Between that and the fact that the nights were much longer at this time of year, I had little to fear from any hint of sunlight that might peek through.

     Now my ears picked up the usual sounds of nature, birds, a stream in the distance, and the occasional scurrying of an animal either underground or foraging some ways off.  In short, it was very peaceful.  The perfect place to crash out for a while.

     So I gathered up some fallen branches and moss and made a little nest against a thick tree, so my pants would stay dry and sat down.  Leaning up against the trunk I relaxed and settled in to wait for Otto’s return.  It was all so nice, I couldn’t help letting my eyelids close and drift off for a while.

     And before anyone asks, no, I didn’t wind up sinking into the ground for a dirt nap.  Contrary to what many in my extended family think, I do not always go to ground to sleep.  I’m perfectly capable of sleeping in a bed, on a couch, or a sleeping bag, whatever.  However, sometimes it gets a little lonely so I actually sleep in the ground more often than I actually need to.  While I’m in the soil I feel more attached to the world itself.  I can see and feel the vibrations of nature at work, like the plants drawing their nourishment, the passing of an industrious mole or field mouse making its way through the Earth.  I’ve even had some pass through my liquid-like state on occasion, which was actually rather ticklish, believe it or not.

     Anyway, this time I stayed above ground.  The cool fresh air lent itself to some very pleasant dreams.  Because I never know who might be reading this entry (i. e. YOU Lisa), I won’t go into details.  However, I will say I was enjoying the company of an enchanting young person when a weight settle in my lap.  Immediately, I recognized this form had warmth which roused me from my slumber.

     Having grown up in the 1850’s when horses were our main means of transportation, I can safely say I’m quite familiar with their general physique and shape.  I’d spent many hours among those my parents kept for pulling our carriages, as well as for personal riding.  And more than once I’d had one of my more favored mares place her head in my lap while I was sitting on the fence of their enclosure.  So even without opening my eyes, I knew my visitor was of the equine persuasion.  A gentle horsey snort confirmed my suspicions.

     At this point I was still not fully awake, but it did occur to me that this encounter out in the wild was rather odd.  Not that I minded.  Animals in general seem to be attracted to me, perhaps it’s the way I smell that puts them at ease.  In any case,  I started stroking the side of its face to reassure the animal that I did not mind the intrusion.  Still, I couldn’t help wondering what was a horse doing out here in the woods?  Just I moved my hand moved up to the animal’s long face and encountered an odd bony protuberance.

     Immediately my eyes snapped open and I stared down at my visitor and saw a very long white horn sticking out of the animal’s forehead.  It was a unicorn.  A real live unicorn, and it was resting its head in my lap.

unicorn

TO BE CONTINUED…

“Home For Christmas: A Para-Earth Holiday Tale” – Part Four

 THE THING IN THE WOODS

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Julie continued to stare at the opening of the cave.  The creature was moving very slowly as if searching for something.  It raised its camel-like snout into the air and sniffed several times, before moving again.

She’d never seen such an animal before.  For one thing it was huge, way too big to come into the opening of the cave.  So even if the animal did sense their presence, it couldn’t get at them even if it wanted too.

Then again, it could try using those massive claws on its front paws to try and reach in to get them.  She’d never seen such talons before on any animal.  There were three on each paw, and measured a good yard or more in length.  They were so long in fact, that the animal had to curl its front paws back and walk on its knuckles.

But what made them truly frightening was the way they curved like a scythe.  She could easily picture herself being hooked by one of those terrifying claws and dragged out into the snow.

Yet, something about the animal’s behavior made her think it didn’t want to harm anyone.  Her father and Uncle Jason had taken her out into the woods to observe animals in the wild.  She’d seen how various creatures behaved and this one seemed to be more lost than anything.

Without thinking she slowly started to move towards the opening to get a better look when Michael hissed, “What are you doing?  It’ll kill you if you go out there!”

“How do you know?” she whispered back.

“Because it killed my parents!”

*   *   *   *   *

Otto and his companion were studying the ground carefully as they entered the woods.  So far they had found nothing but what looked like mice tracks.  He knew from experience that these belonged to Nathan and was inwardly pleased.  Surely they’d find the missing child with this much ground being covered so quickly.

Still, he was a little surprised that his friend had apparently revealed his nature to a stranger.  Looking up at the tall Seneca, he could tell there was more to this man that met the eye.  Decades of meeting people from all different walks of life had allowed him to catch certain looks and behaviors in people that spoke volumes about themselves.

Pausing to crack another plastic stick from his pouch, he placed the glowing rod securely on a tree branch, just as his companion spoke.

“I appreciate what you and your friend are doing to help find my niece,” the man said.  “I’d like to be able to do something for the two of you.  You are seeking something that much I can tell.  But what it is, I have no clue.  Would you tell me what it is?”

“Nathaniel did not tell you?”

“Only that he had crossed into one of the many realities that are and are not, like this one.  Places where some if not all life, evolved very differently than it did here,” the Seneca replied quietly.

Intrigued, Otto turned to him.  “You have knowledge of such places?”

“As shaman of my people, I know a great many things, including how to recognize those who have been places and come back ‘changed’ by their experiences,” the fellow nodded.

“Then you also know that the openings that occur tend not to last for very long, but sometimes come back every so often,” he pressed.  “Have you heard of any around here?”

“Yes, I have.  There is one place not far from where we are standing where the woods have been reported to be haunted,” Jason told him.  “Strange noises can be heard, from beings unseen that are not of this world.  Even the local creatures avoid that place when the sounds come.”

Immediately, Otto became more excited.  “I see,” he nodded rubbing his hands together.  “Most interesting, tell me when do these sounds occur?  Are they all year round or just at certain times?”

“Only in winter, as I suspect you have already guessed,” Jason answered with a smile.  “But they do not come every winter.  I have heard them twice myself.  The first time was when I was only a boy of ten and had come out this way to hunt deer, in order to see if I could approach one and pet it without frightening the animal.  It took me by surprise and I was both frightened yet intrigued.  I came back several days in a row trying to find the source of the sounds, but then they ceased.  I returned the following year, but they did not come.  Still I hoped and kept coming back year after year in Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.  Then exactly ten years later, around Christmas I heard the sounds again.”

“Yes, yes… that is exactly what I calculated,” Otto beamed with pride.  Then he glanced at his friend and said, “And that happened ten years ago, am I right?”

Jason smiled and nodded.  “Indeed it did.  And I got close to the source, but the wind kicked up and began to howl as it is doing now.  It drowns the sounds and carries them away, but I am certain even without hearing those strange noises that I could find the opening you seek.”

“Do you think it’s possible your niece has already found it?” Otto asked quietly.

“It is possible, but I do not think she would enter such a place.  My brother and I have taught her well to avoid certain places where things do not feel right,” Jason assured him.

“I hope so,” Otto sighed.  “The question is, did something from the other side have as much common sense?”

“You speak of the creature that supposedly wanders these hills in winter, don’t you?”

“Have you seen it?”

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“No,” Jason shook his head, “but I’ve heard of it.  A towering creature with massive claws which can stand up on its hind legs from time to time, but mostly travels on all fours.  I have even seen the strange footprints it leaves in the snow.  They are huge yet not found very often.  They seem to vanish near large snowdrifts, yet I’ve been able to detect a disturbance in the pack as if something has passed into it, as a fish will move through water.”

“It swims through the snow?”

“No, I suspect it travels beneath the white, displacing the snow before it and pushing the pack past and then behind it, thus leaving no trail for anyone to follow.”

“Especially adapted for a colder climate,” Otto murmured thinking aloud, “It must come from a version where the Ice Age never ended.  Do we have any idea of the creature’s nature?  Is it aggressive?  Does it hunt other animals?”

“I’ve not heard of any strange remains being found in this area or of any livestock disappearances that could not be explained,” Jason replied after a few moments of thought.  “However, there was one incident about eight years ago when…”

A low distant cry as if coming from a gigantic throat cut off the rest of his words.

As the sound echoed and reverberated across the woods, both men stood there listening in wonder.

Soon the sound passed and only the wind could be heard.

“That…” Jason began.

“Would be our friend,” Otto nodded.  “It sounds very large indeed.”

“And I think I know where it came from and it is not too far from where the opening you seek is.”

“How can you be certain?” asked Otto curiously.

“For that howl to have echoed so well above this storm, the creature must be near a stony area.  And I know of one not too far from where we parted company with Sergeant Ross and your friend, Nathan.”

Just then the radio attached to Otto’s belt crackled and the voice of the policewoman in question could be heard.

“Jason?  Professor Hofstadter?  Do you read me?  Respond?”

Grabbing the device, Otto pressed the button and replied, “We read you loud and crackly.  Did you hear that deep, loud noise?”

“We did,” came the reply.  “We also found one of Julie’s footprints in the snow.  She appears to have been headed towards a rocky area to the south of our current position.  We’re heading that way now.”

He turned to his companion who nodded, “That’s the same area I was going to take you.  Tell them to move carefully and we’ll catch up as soon as we can.”

Otto relayed the information and then the two of them set out, moving as quickly as possible.

“I’m sure we will find her safe and sound,” he assured his companion.

“I hope you are right,” Jason replied, but kept moving with a fast determined step.  “You asked me before if the creature was dangerous or not.  Well, there had been a car crash that occurred at the same place near the barbed wire fence where we met and…”

*   *   *   *   *

“That thing killed your parents?” Julie murmured.

“Yeah,” her shadowy companion whispered back.  “It would’ve gotten me too if Riff hadn’t led me away to safety.  He was the one who found this cave and dragged me inside.”

“He dragged you? Why?”

“I’d hurt my head and couldn’t walk too well,” her friend replied.  “I don’t remember too much after that, except waking up inside here and feeling cold.  Riff was still with me and curled up with me so we could stay warm.”

Julie turned and stared back at the mouth of the cave.  The animal was moving slowly very slowly, or so it seemed.  She could see the back half of the creature and noticed one of its hind legs was limping.  “It’s hurt,” she murmured.

“Probably from when our car hit it,” she heard Michel remark somewhere behind her.  “It rose up out of the snow as we were driving and my Dad lost control trying to turn away from it.  But the car started to slide and couldn’t straighten out.  Our car fish-tailed and then suddenly that thing hit us and sent our car flipped over.  We rolled over a barbed wire fence and then the door to the backseat on my side opened and I went flying because I didn’t have my seatbelt on…”

As she listened Julie kept one eye on the creature which continued to move away from the mouth of the cave.  Something didn’t seem right.  Then without thinking, she crawled forward all the way to the opening and took a closer look at her pursuer.

The beast was as bigger than a bear, perhaps as large as a rhino and had long limbs which made its limp so distinct.  Strangely, she couldn’t detect any blood on the animal that she could see.  There was nothing near the snout or around that injured hind leg.

She was about to double back and ask Michael another question when the animal suddenly sniffed the air and turned around to face her.  The great nostrils flared and exuded steam as the beast seemed to stare at her with eyes she couldn’t see.

Just then a strong wind kicked up and blew some of the long hair back off the animal’s face.  What she saw made her cry out in shock.

A moment later, the great beast unleashed a bellow of its own, before loping straight towards her as quickly as its bad leg would allow.

Paralyzed she stood there unable to move, as the snow continued to fall all around her…

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TO BE CONCLUDED TOMORROW….