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The human mind was designed for failure. We must protect our ego because it gets us out of bed. We need philosophy as a higher form of dissociative madness.

  • Excerpt from “The Path of The Longstrider”



10 Minutes Later (Lowgarden Time) - Copycat - Spooky Woods

“Are these other trees going to attack us?”

THEY BETTER NOT!” bellows Cy. “IF THEY KNOW WHAT'S GOOD FOR THEM!!

The trees around us are cowed into immobility. Or, they’re stealthily planning their next move. Or, they’re trees. I have no idea. Either way, Cy has no fucks to give. He’s tramping through the woods, daring the flora to test him.

I follow along. Rear guard. Also, I don’t know where we’re going. I wonder if Cy does? He’s certainly striding with confidence. I wonder if we’re off to save Presto, or kill him? It’s hard to tell by Cy’s mood.

“Fucking guy can’t even walk to the next tavern without getting kidnapped.” mutters Cy. “We’re practically in our backyard.”

A huge snake with gorilla arms pops up in front of us. Hisses at Cy.

“Nope.” states Cy. “Fuck off.”

It backs down, slithers into the darkness. Good choice, bud.

After twenty minutes of arboreal power hiking, Cy stops in a clearing. Studies the ground. “Hmm. The tree met up with a band of goblin scouts.”

I nod knowingly.

“I wonder why?” asks Cy.

I shrug unknowingly.

Cy looks into the bushes. “Hold on. We have a man on the scene. I’ll ask if he saw anything.”

He kneels down, and starts conversing with a small fluffy bunny.

Cool.

After a few minutes of watching the bunny’s nose wriggle, Cy turns to me. “The tree passed dad off to the scouts. They took him east, riding on giant wolves. Fluffy would have stopped them, but the wolves kept looking at him.” Cy turns back to the bunny. “We can’t catch the wolves, brother. But our cause is just. Will you help us?”

Several minutes of nose twitching later, Cy nods. “Fluffy’s in.”

“Cool.” I say.

“He thinks he can catch the wolves.” says Cy.

“Great.”

Cy stands up, faces the woods. Goes still. I look at him, at Fluffy, back at him. I don’t know what’s going on.

“Psst.” whispers Cy. “Don’t look at Fluffy.”

“Right, of course.” I face the woods.

Wait.

Let out a deep breath. Yet another social interaction where I’m not sure what’s expected of me. Should I make small talk?

Thump, thump.

Cy spins around. “Okay, he’s ready.”

Thank the gods. I spin and behold a giant bunny. Sweet.

“We’re gonna ride him.” says Cy. “But there are rules.”

Fluffy wiggles his nose for a few minutes.

“Don’t touch his ears.” translates Cy.

Several more minutes of nose wriggling.

“His ears are very sensitive.” translates Cy.

More minutes of wriggling.

“That’s why we can’t touch them.”

Wriggle, wriggle, wriggle...

“Under any circumstances.”

Wriggle, wriggle, wriggle...

“If we start to fall off him.”

Wriggle, wriggle, wriggle...

“We should grasp him firmly.”

Wriggle, wriggle, wriggle...

“Anywhere but his ears.”

Wriggle, wriggle, wriggle...

“Let’s say we want his attention...”

I’M NOT GOING TO TOUCH HIS FUCKING EARS!!” I yell.

Fluffy shudders, hits the dirt, covers his ears with his paws.

“Wow.” Cy clutches his brow. “Really?”

“i’m sorry.” I whisper. “i didn’t know i couldn’t yell.”

“You knew his ears are sensitive.”

“you’re right.” I whisper. “i fucked up. please forgive me, fluffy.”

After an eternity of grovelling and superfluous ear care instructions, we’re ready to go. Cy mounts Fluffy, and I get on behind him.

“Okay, Fluffy can still hear the wolves. Hang on.”

Fluffy bolts like he’s shot from a crossbow. The woods blur, my eyes water, and my stomach feels like it was left behind. Holy Moley! We’re moving!

Fluffy’s soft footsteps roll like low thunder, Cy cackles like a madman, I grin. A few minutes later, we rocket past the scout’s rear guard, a pair of goblins poking along on their wolf mounts. I wave cheerily as we blaze through.

I laugh at their shocked faces, then they’re gone, their howls all that chase us. The next pair of scouts are turned to face us, but we blast past them just the same.

The third group is galloping ahead, moving almost as fast as we are. As we ease past them, they converge, snapping at our flanks.

Fluffy leaps and rolls, twisting 90 degrees. Kicks the left wolf into the woods. Levels himself, lands, twists to the right, and hammers the other wolf away.

The second wolf is shot off so abruptly, that it’s rider keeps moving forward, soaring through the air beside us. Hits the dirt hard enough to start a new life in another realm. Whoops, sorry bud.

Fluffy hammers the next group too, then we’re cruising up on the main pack. Six wolves running hell for leather, their goblins twisted backwards to wield crossbows.

Cy’s laughing again. Fluffy pours it on. Bounds forward in a zigzag pattern. Crossbow bolts fly wild. We barrel roll over the line of wolves, Cy reaching down to snag Presto on the way over. Fluffy sticks the landing, and we’re gone. I flip double birds behind us. Later fuckers.

Cy passes Presto back to me. He’s all tied up, but smiley. “Hi guys! That was awesome!”

There’s a dozen angry wolf scouts on our tail, but I’m feeling confident. Till Fluffy rounds a bend and I see a tree in the middle of the trail.

“Uh-oh.” says Presto.

Fluffy crouches and bolts under the tree, but a few branches swoop down and sweep us off his back. We hit the dirt hard - roll, slide, and bounce for a dozen yards. Ow.

I struggle to my feet, see Fluffy shrink down, and disappear into the woods. Dang. There goes our ride.

Cy and I stand back to back, with Presto tied on the ground between us. The wolf riders lope up and surround us.

“Well, that was a nice try.” growls the lead goblin. “But I think… CRACK!!!

Cy punches the lead wolf. Grabs it’s rider as the wolf collapses. Beats two other wolves senseless with the hapless goblin, then sidearms him, knocking two other goblins off their mounts. Points at the tree. “You’re next.” The tree uproots and hustles into the woods.

“Cy’s in a mood.” Presto wriggles out of his bonds. “I guess we aren’t talking our way out of this one.”

He pops up, draws his blade. Frowns. He’s holding a wooden practice blade. “Oh no. I think I dropped off a real sword at a kindergarten.”

A goblin flips over the line of wolf riders. She’s bald, with a confident smirk and battle pajamas. She dodges a few of Cy’s blows, then mercilessly kicks the shit out of him.

As Cy hits the ground, she turns on us. The remaining scouts have reloaded their crossbows.

“You know…” Presto sheathes his fake sword. “I’m suddenly curious about where they were taking us.”

Dang.

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Doctor Zero

Bio: Hi! I like reading and writing sci-fi and fantasy.

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