Winter Flowers - 1

Feb 25th, 2016
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  1. There was nothing left to do but run. Run from the darkness. Run from whatever the hell was chasing you. You felt like there was this entity watching you as you run, never dropping behind, but never catching up. Your lungs burnt and your limbs threatened to fail you with every step.
  2. You heard nothing but the throbbing of blood through your head, the sound of your steps and your breathing.
  4. There were other sounds around you, but they were all drowned out by the sinking feeling of fear flowing through you. How long until it caught you? How long until whatever it was chasing you decided to stop playing it's game and just take you for itself? Did it enjoy this? Watching you run as hope disappeared from your eyes?
  6. It was sadistic.
  8. Unrelenting.
  10. Sooner or later, you had to rest or collapse.
  12. You couldn't do this forever.
  14. No one could.
  16. You were deprived of sleep from fear, your belly was empty, your throat was dry, even from before you started running. Now, it was like you had gulped down a kilogram of salt and sand. You blindly ran forward before out of nowhere, a tree branch caught you under your chin, causing you to flip backwards and smash into the undergrowth heavily, ejecting all of the oxygen from your already empty lungs.
  18. Your eyes felt heavy as you saw an ominous figure appear over you.
  19. Before you could scream, you felt your head swim and all of a sudden, your world went black.
  21. -----
  23. One week ago.
  25. Four weeks of planning was finally going to pay off today. You had worked hard, earning both the respect of your boss and quite a bit of money from all of the extra shifts you had been taking. Tonight would make it all worth it. Tonight, you were going camping! You had always wanted to go camping again, ever since you were a kid. When your Dad was alive, he had taken you out to all of his favourite camping spots, mainly Flower Valley. It was a beautiful spot, filled with abundant flora and fauna, incredible views, and miles and miles of untouched wilderness.
  27. There was this one spot that you had always wanted to find. When your Dad had taken you out the first time to Flower Valley, he talked of this amazing spot on the top of a hill surrounded by stones. They were placed in a circular formation and it was clear that some indigenous tribe had carved what was possibly local folklore or tales of achievement into the stone.
  29. Unfortunately, you never got the chance to go there with your dad, as he was taken from you by terminal lung cancer not long after that first visit.
  31. Today, you were going out there again to find that spot and experience how amazing it was for yourself. It wasn't only something you had always wanted to do, but it felt a lost like a tribute to the memory of your father. He was an amazing person who deserved better than to have his life cut so short.
  33. Accompanying you on your expedition was two of your closest friends. Paulo, your coworker and best friend since primary school, and Rick, who you had met on your first day of highschool and formed an inseparable bond with. Paulo and you had been friends for longer, but Rick had a much more meaningful presence in your life, providing more than just friendship during your troubling times.
  35. You packed up, clocked out and then made your way to your car after the days work was done. The brisk, early winter breeze blew strongly, causing you to pull your collar up. You were definitely glad to have fixed your car’s air con last week, or you'd be sitting inside a fucking icebox.
  37. Shivering, you turned the car on and sighed happily as the air was quickly warmed by the newly fixed air con. Just before you drove away, you typed in the location of the first camp site into your gps. It was a few hours east of the city, but the drive would be worth it.
  39. -------
  41. The drive was uneventful, and eventually, you arrived at the camp site. Waiting for you there was Paulo, who was sitting inside of his own air conditioned car, waiting for you and Rick to arrive. He stepped out of his van, covered thickly in his parka and mitt’s.
  43. “Well dressed as usual.” You quipped and smirked at Paulo who shook his head.
  45. “I didn't dress to look cool, man, I dressed to stay warm. Shame it's not fucking working.”
  47. “I'm afraid it's only gonna get colder from here on out.”
  49. “Remind me why the fuck we're doing this again?”
  51. You raised your hands in mock offense.
  53. “Hey dude, you were the one who asked to come along if I remember right.”
  55. “Yeah, you remember right. Remind me why the fuck I asked to come along again?”
  57. “I dunno, man. I said this trip wasn't going to be easy. All I did was tell you what I was doing, you were the one who asked to come.” You laughed as Paulo’s teeth began to chatter from the cold.
  59. It wasn't long before a crappy little 90’s hatchback turned up, sputtering as it came to a halt. That shit heap could only belong to one person. Rick.
  61. Rick was a nerd type, completely engrossed with geek culture and frequented conventions. A real fuckin’ stereotypical shut in nerd. How he agreed to leave his cave and come along was a mystery to you. But he was a true friend, and sure enough, he was here now, ready to go on a two week expedition.
  63. You had with you a satellite phone, a GPS and two weeks of food and water, although you did plan on doing a little trapping while out here. Not just for the experience, but also to help your food and water reserves go a little longer.
  65. You had three small tents, made to fit one of you each.
  67. A few flecks of snow fell as Rick got out of his car in a similar outfit to you and Paulo. He was shivering, but substantially less than Paulo. He was from further up north originally, so he was much more used to the cold.
  69. “So, you ready to do this, Rick?” You asked.
  71. “I hope so. You know where we’re going, right?”
  73. “Of course I do! I’ve got the hill itself marked out on the map, and even though I don’t know the exact pinpoint location, I do know it’s on the peak of the hill. Easy.”
  75. “As long as you’re sure.” Paulo said, warming himself by rubbing his arms.
  77. “Well, let’s head off. I wanna get going before this cold front reaches it’s peak.” You said before your group retrieved your pack’s from your cars and began moving off into the forest.
  79. -------
  81. As the name suggested, Flower Valley was a valley, filled with thick trees, a river in the very centre, and very little clearings. The snow had fallen heavy overnight and you sat huddled together behind a tree.
  83. A deer stepped into view and you pulled out my camera, eager to get a shot of it before it smelt or heard your group. There was a snapping of a twig next to you and the deer's ears perked up before it bolted off.
  85. “Shit, sorry man.” Paulo apologized.
  87. “Ah, it’s fine.” You said, but you were still a bit pissed off.
  89. The three of you stood up and began to make your way toward camp. Night was only a few hours away and you wanted to gather firewood and start it up before the night fell completely.
  91. Rick went off to gather wood while you and Paulo started to assemble what you did have to a small makeshift fire pit. You pulled out your flint striker and began to strike, eventually causing the sparks to catch and a small fire begin.
  93. “Hey, there we go. Good job, Mitch.”
  95. “Thanks.” You blew at the kindling, trying to get it to spread to the other pieces of wood. “It’s good to know how to do this stuff. Never know what will happen.”
  97. “Yeah, it’s honestly kinda fun, you know? Living off the land, “scrounging for survival”, you know? I mean, we’re not actually scrounging to survive, but it feels… I dunno, very back-to-nature stuff.”
  99. “I get what you mean.” You smiled as the fire caught to a couple of twigs. “Me and Dad used to do this stuff a lot. You know, before he… You know.”
  101. “Yeah man, that’s why we’re here, right? Paying homage to him or something.”
  103. “Yeah.” You blew more at the twigs.
  105. Shortly after, Rick walked into camp with a few thick branches and sticks, a little wet from the fresh snow, but not too wet to serve well as firewood. You thanked Rick before you started to pile a few of the thicker branches into the pit in the perfect position so that they caught alright not long after placement.
  107. You smiled and sat back in satisfaction as the fire roared to life. You and your friends sat down in front of the fire to warm yourselves.
  109. “So, how much longer now?” Rick asked.
  111. “We should be there by…” You brought up “Oh sweet, tomorrow at around midday, if we make good time.”
  113. “Good. I’m starting to get a little sick of the weather.” Paulo shivered out.
  115. “Don’t worry too much, man. Just relax a bit and warm up for now, we’ll be out of the cold sooner than you think.”
  117. He shook his head, but warmed his hands by the fire. You pulled out a can of soup and warmed it up with the fire. It was bland soup, but it warmed your insides and filled your bellies, so it was more than enough.
  119. -------
  121. “So this is it, huh?”
  123. “Yeah, man.” You put my hand on your hips. “This is it.”
  125. You got to the top of the hill after a huge hike and found a large clearing with around thirty stones in a perfectly circular formation. It was strangely eerie, seeing these undisturbed relics, left alone by not just humans, but by plants as well. There was like this… Invisible line, surrounding the spot where plant life tapered off to dead ends and twisted branches.
  127. Honestly, it creeped the fuck out of you, but it also had this strange tranquility. It was a safe area, free from the dangers of anything outside. Invisible wards protected this place. Maybe it was just coincidence, or hey, maybe the ground was salted intentionally to stop plants from growing at the site.
  129. Whatever your theories were, they didn’t matter right now. What mattered is that you did it! You got here, to the “Sacred grove” that your dad had talked about so often, and now, it was time to experience for yourself what made this place so wondrous. The carvings.
  131. You walked over to a rock and brushed the snow from its side, revealing an amazingly intricate carving on the side. Was this really done by natives many years ago? It was surprisingly detailed for the regular cave drawings you had seen in pictures, and the story that it told was quite obvious to you.
  133. It showed a group of people, huddled in what looked like a cave. Outside, bears and wolves gnashed their teeth angrily, and deers ran from them. There was a fire at the mouth of the cave, presumably both for warmth and to drive off predators. It must have been a very dangerous area, for them to be so scared of these animals.
  135. You walked over to another stone and brushed it off, revealing another carving. This one showed a man on his hands and knees, almost… Praying, as a huge bear with deep holes for eyes towered over him. Next to the man, was a group of people fleeing, scared for their own lives from what this bear might do to them.
  137. Another stone, another carving. The group was all on their hands and knees, just as the previous man had been, but now, they weren’t praying for mercy from the bear. It looks like they had gathered to pray for help from whatever god they believed in. From the symbolism, it looked like they worshiped the sun, it’s curved rays shining down on the people.
  139. On the next rock, the humans ran alongside these small… Horse-like things. They were chasing away the animals, who were now the ones running in fear. They weren’t exactly horses, though. Wrong head shape, wrong proportions, wrong everything. These humans were very good at stone carving according to all the previous carvings, why would they get this much wrong?
  141. Wait… No. No way. This couldn’t be real. No way.
  143. Running alongside one of the humans, was… A unicorn. Or at least, it was one of these strange horse lookalikes with a god damn horn on it’s head. Oh, what the fuck. After a little more inspection, you could now see one of the horses with god damn wings.
  145. “What the heck is going on in these carvings?” Rick asked from behind you.
  147. “I dunno, man. Looks like it depicts some humans running away from animals, getting killed by them, etc, then they pray to… The sun, I guess, and then they suddenly get all these weird horse things with wings and horns. Now, they’re the ones doing the chasing.”
  149. “Wings and horns? Fucking unicorns?”
  151. “I don’t believe it for a second.” Paulo crossed his arms after looking at the carving you were currently in front of. “Cool carvings and all, but it sounds like they were tripping hard.”
  153. “I’m not so sure…” You get up and move to a rather large stone, facing in the direction of the late midday sun. Was this one of the praying sites of this ancient society? It kind of made no sense though, why would this society have left no traces of its existence? Why had scientists not found bones, relics, other carvings, literally anything in the surrounding area referencing this?
  155. Cleaning the large stone, you found that it was relatively bare for it’s size compared to the others. There was nothing on it except for a large flattened area with the sun expertly carved in the center. The very same symbol that it showed the group praying to.
  157. There was something else about the symbol that caught your eye. In the center, there was a faint indent of… A handprint. What the hell? You raised your hand up to touch it, but felt a strange heat emanating off of it as your hand got closer. You pulled away before reaching into your pack and grabbing out a camera and snapping a few pictures of the symbol.
  159. “This is pretty amazing, Mitch. Thanks for bringing me along.” Rick said, looking around at all of the amazing carvings.
  161. “No problem, man.” You smiled.
  163. “Gotta admit, despite the crap weather, this trip has been pretty cool.” Paulo added before approaching the stone you were taking photo’s of.
  165. “Hey dude, take a picture of me next to the rock? I wanna send it back home to prove to my parents that I’m not a complete shut in.”
  167. You nodded and he posed next to the rock, reaching around behind it and giving it bunny ears with his fingers. You snapped the photo and looked down at your camera to browse the photos you had taken of the stones.
  169. “What’s this thing?” You looked up to see Paulo placing his hand directly in the center of the sun marking.
  171. There was a blinding flash, and a bolt of… Something struck down from the sky, smashing directly into the ground where Paulo was standing. He was thrown back with immense force, landing him heavily into the ground in the center of the stone circle.
  173. “PAULO!” You shouted and began to run toward him. As you did, another blinding strike hit, now engulfing Rick and sending him flying as well. You were filled with panic and confusion, your mind racing on both what the hell to do, and what the hell was going on.
  175. You ran toward Paulo, but before you could get close, your vision was suddenly filled with a brilliant gold flash, and your mind began to float. It felt strange, almost like what you imagine an out of body experience would be like, yet… Still inside your body. Time seemed to slow as you looked around, the brilliant gold covering everything. Where were you? Were you still in the valley?
  177. Were you… Dead!?
  179. No. This didn’t feel like death. It felt like life. Like pure life was flowing through you. Instead of feeling like this was the end of your life, you felt almost as if this was a new burst of life. What the fuck was going on?
  181. You looked down at your body, only to see nothing. You could still feel like your body was there, it was just… Strange. Almost like your entire body was numb, but you could still sense its existence.
  183. You could hear something strange coming from somewhere out in the white-gold expanse of nothingness. You struggled to hear what it was, but instead, the more you paid attention to it, the sleepier you got.
  185. It was a voice. It was whispering things to you, but you could hardly make them out. Whatever they were, they started to relax you. Your eyes drooped, but even as they drooped, you could still see the gold light, as if it permeated your entire existence.
  187. Eventually, your eyes closed completely and you fell into a deep sleep like state, but you were still awake. Sought of. You were aware of time passing at the rate it should have, but it was one hundred times faster. You felt and thought every minute, every second, but you experienced this in what felt like a fraction of the time.
  189. You felt a strange tugging sensation at your head and all of a sudden, you blacked out.
  191. -------
  193. You awoke, groggy and lethargic, your otherworldly experience still fresh in your mind, but blurred and messy from your recent return to consciousness. What the fuck was that? What had happened to Paulo and Rick? Did they go through the same thing as you?
  195. Your rubbed your eyes with balled fists, but your hands still felt kinda numb. Not the rest of you, though, just your hands. And your feet. Your vision was blurred as you looked at the surrounding forest. The first thing you noted is that everything was tinted orange. Initially, your thoughts went back to the weird gold scape you were in before, but soon enough, you realized it was a much more normal explanation. The sun was setting. Twilight.
  197. How long had you been out? Scanning the general vicinity, you saw nothing out of the ordinary, besides a few patches of snowless ground, one at the center and one near the rim. In the exact location where Paulo and Rick had landed after they had been flung through the air.
  199. Looking downward, you saw that the ground around you was snowless as well. It was dry and honestly, rather soft. You saw that there was dead grass, acting as a sought of pillow for you. You also noticed something else when looking downward.
  201. Hooves.
  203. What the fuck. Hooves. You stumbled backwards, only to see the hooves move back with you. Slowly, you raised your arm to your face, confirming your fears. The hoof belonged to you.
  205. This wasn’t happening. This isn’t real. You died and now you’re in heaven. Hell. Purgatory. Jehovah's witness hell. Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Whatever. But you felt alive. You breathed in, the fresh, cold evening air filling your lungs and helping to wake you up.
  207. As calmly as possible, you looked downward again and inspected your body. Besides the hooves where your hands should be, your feet had also been replaced with hooves. Your legs were shaped strangely and it almost felt as if you had one super long foot. Oh yeah, did you mention that you were pink? Yeah. You were bright pink.
  209. A minty green lock of hair fell in front of your face and you looked upward. Oh god, the weird hair and skin colour was the least of your worries. Protruding from your head, was a stick of some type. Were you flung through the air and injured? Why wasn’t it painful then?
  211. You lifted up a hoof and gave it a nudge. Yep, definitely kinda sensitive, but not painful at all. But what was it if not an injury? It seemed to be thicker at the base and taper in a spiral motion toward the top, kind of like a narwhal’s horn-
  213. Oh. Oh shit, it all made sense now. The carvings, the praying to the weird sun god, the horse things… They were turned into them. You had a horn. You looked like a horse. You were a fucking unicorn. A fictional, or at least, previously fictional, race of horses with god damn horns on your head that had the ability to grant wishes to virgins. Although you doubted that you could grant wishes or detect virginity, there was definitely a certain magical air to this. You know, besides the whole being-magically-turned-into-a-unicorn thing. That was pretty magical.
  215. You tried to pull yourself to your feet, but your fears were realized when you lost balance and fell forward onto all fours. No more human walking for now, not at least while you were still like this fucking shetland pony thing.
  217. Speaking of shetland ponies, you felt almost half the size of one too! While standing before, your head had almost reached the top of the large sun-stone which started this whole mess, but now, you only reached about a quarter of the way up if you included the extra height from your horn.
  219. This explained the weird proportions from the carvings, although not exactly. They were smaller than normal ponies, but the ones in the carvings were a bit bigger than you, maybe reaching the hips of the humans at most. You probably reached their fucking knees.
  221. You looked over your shoulder at you backside. It was strange to see a pony body where previously there had been a manly, chiseled, handsome torso, with rippling muscles. Alright, maybe you were giving yourself a bit too much credit. Maybe a lot. Regardless, your new body was much smaller, much pudgier, and decidedly more… Feminine? Was that was this was? Your waist was thinner, your hips were wider, your fur was pink…
  223. Fuck off.
  225. No.
  227. No no no.
  229. You were not a fucking female unicorn. This was the gayest fucking shit ever. You quickly banished the thought from your mind and tried to think of something else. The only thing you really could think of was “What the fuck do I do next?”. You looked over to your packs and lo and behold, yours was the only one there. Did Paulo and Rick leave without you? Were they in the same situation as you? You could only hope that they were together. What made them leave without you?
  231. A snapping of a twig. Your ears swiveled toward the source of the sound and your head followed afterwards. A huge, hulking shadow moves through the treeline beyond the stone circle.
  233. “Wh-who’s there?” You called out, your high pitched, feminine voice confirming your fears. Now was not the time to grieve your lost gender. Now was the time for your heart to race and you to panic at the looming presence approaching you from the treeline.
  235. All of a sudden, the shadow leapt forward, traveling ten meters through the air and slamming with immense force into the earth in front of you. You were frozen in fear, only able to look upward slowly, taking in the body of the terrifying creature in front of you. It was enormous, furry, and had huge paws that ended with razor-like claws that almost glinted in the setting sun. As your eyes reached it’s face, your stomach sank even further.
  237. It’s eyes were pits. Not like pitch black, or figuratively pit like, they were pits. Holes, that seemed to go forever and then fade to darkness. This thing… This bear. It was the one from the carving. Now, the literal holes in the stone for the bears eyes made sense. It wasn’t a normal animal that group of humans were running from. This was not a normal animal. This was… A demon. Worse than a demon. It was death incarnate.
  239. You turned and ran.
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