He stood there silently at the edge of the trees, looking at the world in front of him. Or better expressed, the walls of buildings in front of him. He sniffed the air and made a disgusted face. It smelled of soot and metal mixed with human filth. So little animal, so little green, no life at all. The city sprawled in front of him but it felt so empty as if something was lacking. A shudder ran down his spine. He did not scare easily but this terrified him. He hadn’t noticed in the forest at first due to the sudden awakening in between humans, but now that he was at the treeline, he noticed that a lot had changed whilst he was asleep.
He scratched his big nose, trying to get that awful scent out of it, whilst studying the city in front of him. The darkness covered everything, but he had no issue piercing it with his sight. The darkness was familiar, an old celebration for his kind, a curse for mankind. For it meant easy feasting on unprepared prey which could not fight back.
But the darkness was empty and devoid of the usual activity. He saw nowhere what would usually transpire during the feast of darkness. The darkness was there, but besides him standing here, nobody was using it as cover. With so many humans in a city this large, there should have been a feasting ground, where his kindred would gorge on or pull tricks on them. But nothing like that was going on, it was eerily quiet, very unsettling. Where did his kindred go? Where were his brothers and sisters that would use this day to eat their fill and gather supplies for the remaining winter?
There were big buildings all around the forest as if the city had encroached on the forest line. Very unhuman like, they would usually have cut down all forests and trees close to cities. All the buildings were much bigger than him, not a hut in sight. Everything was made out of very straight stone and huge and in straight lines. The craftsmanship in those houses was excellent. Almost as if it was built with wizard might, so neat and aligned everything seemed to be. That irked him, what irked him even more, was the constant smell of soot and metal in his nose. It reeked as if someone had decided to set the world on fire, but he couldn’t find a source of that fire anywhere.
He took a few steps forward and climbed a slight rise, there was a gravel path and a few benches. Those benches seemed to be made by a master craftsman, with curving shapes and not a trace of woodgrain to be seen. What humans had made this? What had happened to the world?
He looked to the east and saw a big fire burning there. That might explain the burning smell in the air. Something lit up the darkened sky ahead of him and he looked up. A huge fireball was quickly dissipating, and flaming chunks were falling down from the sky. It was far away but he guessed those things had been big. What had it been, that could cause such a big fireball in the sky?
With a scowl on his face, unhappy with all the things he had seen so far, he made his way down to a road and studied the sturdy material it was made of. He bent over and sniffed it carefully. It smelled of pitch and something he couldn’t identify. It seemed solid enough and had markings on it. When he scratched it with his claws it was strong as stone. When he put more pressure behind his claws he released black pebbles in the road. They had used pitch to keep pebbles in place to build a road? Why would they want to do that? And where did they get so much pitch?
Strange carts in various sizes and colors stood parked on the sides of this road. He studied the strange carts that came to his knee height and some even top his hips. They were all shaped differently and had different colors. Some had hard corners, others had smooth rounded edges. All of them had large glass panes, even curved glass panes. He had never seen curved glass before like that. He knocked on one of the carts, causing it to crumple with a loud metallic noise under his hand, the windows shattering and spreading small glass shards everywhere. A series of loud sounds came from the cart and lights started blinking on it. He growled startled and jumped on the big flat part on the front, stomping it down, which gave way under him with a loud creak and pop. He punched a few times down on it, his claws tearing the metal apart effortlessly. The loud sound and blinking stopped and he stopped tearing into the cart. Surprisingly weak things these carts, he had torn it apart without effort. He sniffed the torn apart cart and found the source of the strange scent he had smelt before on the road. It came from the black cartwheels of these crumple carts.
He scratched one of the wheels with his nail to see what that black material was made of that left its scent everywhere. The wheel exploded with a loud bang and he backed off startled. He eyed the cart warily, waiting for it to do something else.
Feeling confident the cart wouldn’t explode or do anything else, he gingerly touched the mess that had been a wheel a moment ago. Why would a human wish to ride a thing that could explode at any moment, that made loud noises and is so fragile? And what was the material these cartwheels were made of? Iron wires mixed with a strange substance. And where would the horses or oxen be placed to drive this cart? He sniffed the vehicle again and a frown came over his face. No trace of an animal on the cart. Only human scents and that foul penetrating odor. Did they push these carts themselves?
He looked around and saw a lot of these carts around him. Curious indeed, the humans seemed to use them a lot, but without horses. They stunk up the place, that was for certain. He decided that he didn’t like the carts much.
He followed the road to the big buildings ahead, ignoring the curious explodable carts at his sides. Taking in all the curious things ahead of master craft quality, he pondered about what had happened to the world. He must have been asleep for a long time, a very very long time. And the humans must have been able to come to unhindered growth. Had they managed to kill off all his kindred? No, that was impossible, his kindred were created by the life force, and the life force was what had created everything in this world. Even if the last of them was killed new ones would sprout up. The world felt very poor and dry, making his skin itch with it. Scratching his arm made hairs and flakes fall to the ground, that turned to stone as soon as they detached from his body. He eyed the stone hairs and skin flakes with worry. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, his huge nostrils spread wide open.
Curious again. None of the life he was used to was around here. Normally you would be able to smell a few forest inhabitants, a couple of house helpers, fear eaters, but there was nothing.
What had happened to his world? Where were his brothers and sisters? This night should have been teeming with life and activity right now. He spread out his arms and tried to sense the life force. Normally it would be something in the back of his being, always there but never worth paying attention. Just like the air you were breathing, you would never actively try to feel its presence, it was always there. He didn’t like what his senses told him, the life force was so weak, barely noticeable. That would explain why he had slept so long, with this little life force in the world there wouldn’t be enough to sustain his transformation. He had been lucky those humans had built an enchanted fire on his back or he wouldn’t have transformed.
His stomach let out a light rumble that sounded like rocks being ground together. He had slept for father knew how long, and was still hungry. Those two humans he had snacked on had barely sated his greatest hunger. They had been tasty though, plump and fatty, juicy even. Not as stringy and oft disease-ridden tasting as he remembered them. These had tasted healthy and their bones had a nice crunch to them. They had also provided him with a little bit of life force they had in them, which would help him to stay in this form.
Normally he wouldn’t care about that little bit of life force, but seeing how easily his body turned to stone when parts of him got detached, he would need everything he could get. The world was full of soot and stinking things he did not know, but the taste of food had improved. He would need to eat a lot more to sustain this form, with this lack of life in the world. If he would turn back to his resting state he might not wake up again.
The road he was on ended, it split to the left and right. In front of him was a really big building in the shape of a circle. To his side a large building but much smaller than the one at the other side of the street. It had a big lit up sign above it that read Sainsbury's. There was a big place in front of it, where a lot of those strange carts had parked in neatly aligned spots. Humans had gotten more organized than he was used to. They used to be a ragtag group of people that built and placed things where they wanted. This was almost like a military organization. Was this a military base this Sainsbury's?
The building with the carts intrigued him and he moved onto the big lot to look at this potential military base. A couple of the carts stood crumpled together with small pieces of glass lying around, and the lights on the carts were blinking. What would enable a cart to produce such light? It looked far too bright for torchlight or candlelight. He tried to tap it gently with his nail, but his nail broke through it with a loud crack extinguishing the light. He let out an annoyed grumble and eyed the other side of the cart. One of the carts had a big plate on it’s front that had flipped up. He eyed what had been hidden by the lid with curiosity. A strange contraption with many tubes and twisting things, it stank horribly. How humans could bare such stench!
He gave the car a disgusted kick and the cart moved screeching back with a big dent in the side. As it came to a halt a bloodied arm flopped out of the glassless side window that was clearly in a wrong angle. It left a read smear at the side of the cart where it had flopped against. The white bone that pierced the skin glistened with blood.
He took the arm above the break between two fingers and pulled it gently, to examine the driver of the cart. The arm pulled slowly loose from the human in the cart. The human was strapped down by some kind of black cord. With a wet squelch and a pop, the last muscles and bones gave way to his pull. Weak things, that hurt humans, who were apparently forced and bound to drive with it. No wonder they strapped people tight in those carts. Nobody in his right mind would use such a dangerous, easy to damage vehicle if he had a weak body like a human. Maybe they were prisoner transports?
He eyed the cart and the bleeding from a ragged stump, bound, unconscious human as he nibbled on the arm. The fresh meat and bone ground to paste between his teeth and then he turned to examine the building.
A human with a bleeding head wound was cowering in front of a collection of small metal carts that were placed into each other somehow. Another masterfully made thing. He had seen what metal items human smiths could create, but the quality of those carts was astounding. The human was holding something protectively whilst rocking forward and backward whispering soft words. He moved closer and looked at the terrified face looking around seeing nothing.
He sniffed the air and decided the human was a female. A bit strange for a woman to wear pants and have such short hair. He hadn’t known them to wear pants, they usually wore dresses and skirts. The thing she was holding must be her offspring, it smelled fresh and of milk. He liked to chew on those little juicy morsels, they tasted the best of all humans and they happened to contain the most life force. It was such a shame that they were so small, but the flavor was nice and rich.
He grabbed the infant from the mother and put the small infant on his tongue. He felt it wriggling in his mouth as he rolled it around in his mouth. The taste of the clothing it wore was different than he was familiar with. And something utterly foul tasting. What did humans wear these days that could give such foul tastes? He pressed the wiggling thing against the roof of his mouth with his tongue. He enjoyed the flavor with his eyes closed as it popped in his mouth, the juices spread throughout his mouth, overruling the foul taste.
The woman had started shrieking and was flailing around looking for her infant. He chewed a few times and then spit out the clothing and the bits he couldn't separate from it, unwilling to swallow what had tasted so foul. It landed with a wet sound at the side of the woman which shrunk together as she got sprayed. She looked around in panic with big eyes and screamed what apparently was her offsprings name. He had never heard the name Abdul before. He had also never eaten an infant that wore such foul clothing before. Was it a new human protection method?
He eyed her as she resumed her frantic searching, and licked his lips to scoop up that delicious blood that was seeping out the edges of his mouth. She was searching in front of her, missing the wet spot of warm mush that was leaking blood that had been her offspring.
He liked it when humans panicked. They did all kind of unexpected things. Some would fight, some would run and some would just sit there as if their soul had abandoned them. Those that fought were the most entertaining because you would have something to chew on afterward. Mothers that tried to protect offspring were the most tenacious. They would never give up. He once had a mother tracking him for half a year through land and country before he had grown tired of leading her on.
He turned his back on the crying, frantically searching mother and looked up at the sky. He blended out the screaming behind him and thought for a moment about what he should do. He would have to find a safe spot before the sun would rise, he could not risk going to a resting state. He would have to find others, there was strength in numbers after all, especially in this strange arid world. They might know why there was so little life force to go around in the world.
He would go to the meet. If there were others they would probably gather there too. And if none came he could think there in safety about what to do next. He turned back to the now wailing woman and grabbed her up. His hand fit around her waist snugly and she let out a shrill scream as she was lifted up in the air, clawing at his fingers. He put his fingers on her head and saw her eyes go big with shock. He twisted the head and heard a light snap as if someone had broken a twig. The body went limp in his hand as he twisted the head further tearing open the skin and muscles, spraying blood over his hands. He pulled the head off the woman and threw it in his mouth. He licked his hand clean of the blood and wiped the rest on his chest hairs. With a purpose in mind, his mood brightened and he went on his way following a bright star in the sky leaving a trail of blood behind him that leaked from the corpse in his hand.
Support "When hell freezes over"
I decided to try my hand at writing the story I had rolling around in my head for twenty years. English isn't my native language so some obvious errors might occur in my story but I hope that the readers will be forgiving.
If not, nobody forces you to read my mangled English. I recommend you read the wandering inn instead if my English bothers you. :-)
Attribution: The cave picture in the book cover is made by Stanislav Sedov and is licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ This picture was modified from the original with an overlaid moon and sea picture to be found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssedov/26342569905 The photographer has no affiliation to Tschallacka nor can be held accountable for the use of this picture the way as it is here.