After a while, Carter finally stood up with a solution at hand, now he just had to test it out. Pressing a few buttons in accordance to what he had jotted down, the walls started to move and turn about the room, following the instructions he had given it.
“Not quite there yet.” Carter mumbled to himself. One of the walls was still in the way, blocking what was to be the passageway leading to the 12 o clock of the room. He gave a loud sigh as he sat back down to work on the formula once more. The last time he had to actually solve a puzzle of this nature was back in high school where he still played video games on his consoles.
Scratching his head hard, he put pen to paper again to record down what ideas he had in hopes of finding the solution to the puzzle.
Carter ran fast, as fast as he could, far away from the roaring fire he had once built. Something was out there and it was out to get him. He saw it in the dead eyes of the squirrel. He saw the fear in its eyes. Whatever that killed it was definitely out for blood.
He couldn’t hear any footsteps coming from behind him at all as he ran past tree after tree in the deep and dark forest. Each step he took crunched up twigs and dried leaves scattered messily upon the ground causing his footsteps to sound much louder than normal. This was clearly bad news.
The Croaked Men were said to have advanced hearing, allowing it to track its prey from the movement it made. It didn’t actually require any light to do its hunting and could very well kill in pitch darkness according to the lore. That was the reason why it only came out to hunt in the late evenings and nights instead of in bright day light.
“Shit.” Carter cussed as he felt his legs start to tire out, he had to stop to take a breather soon. As he surveyed the many trees around him, he spotted a large one with a hollowed bark right in the middle of it. The space in between the bark was just big enough to squeeze a kid his size in and make him completely disappear out of sight. Quickly, he deviated towards the tree in hopes of doing exactly just that.
Slipping into the crack of the tree, the rough edges and curves of the trunk scraped and rubbed onto his thick jacket as his tiny body moved deeper into the bark. After a minute or so, he had managed to get himself quite snugged up into the tiny crevice. From there, he tried to catch his breath from whatever that may have been chasing after him.
Carter could see mist forming from the tip of his lips as he breathed hard to regain what energy he had lost. It was clearly very cold and his breath had been heated up from all the running he did. He had probably run a good three to four kilometers before stopping for a rest, zigzagging through the forest in hopes of shaking off his pursuer with the confusion of what seemed like a never ending maze of trees aided with the cover of night. Carter was only actually worried about the sounds his footsteps had made earlier. It would have been easy to track down his location from all the noise he was making. He had hoped that this was not the case.
It was then, did he notice something moving about from the corner of his eye.
Standing sideways in the hollowed trunk, only his right eye was positioned well enough to take a rough look at what was happening through the small opening he had entered. His eyes caught on to what looked like a black human silhouette prancing around the outside of the tree. It was jumping around in a stalking fashion and looking in all directions as if searching for something.
Carter’s heart started pounding violently as he saw the figure outside. It was clear something had indeed been chasing him. It was definitely in the shape of a human and could have reasonably be a ‘Croaked Man’ as suggested by urban legend. He knew it was supposed to be just a myth but what if whatever that was out there was indeed the creature in question.
Biting his bottom lip hard, he tried to stop making any noise by holding his breath in although he was clearly still in need of more oxygen. Moving his hands up to his mouth, he covered it to further muffle the sound of his heavy breathing. He felt his entire body stiffen up while a sudden weakness manifested itself around his crotch area. It was clear fear and anxiety was setting in, slowly gnawing at his psyche.
As the creature outside continued to stalk around the area, it seemed to have determined that its prey had vanished out somewhere else. A loud ear shattering croak came from the beast before it proceeded to dash off into the darkness of the woods. In a split second, it disappeared from Carter’s sight as the light footsteps from its sprint grew further and further away.
Letting out a huge sigh, Carter could feel the numbness in his fingers and stiffness in his neck slowly disappear. He started to feel normal again as he stood there still within the cozy crevice of the hollowed tree trunk. Breathing hard, he tried to catch his breath again as he inched outwards towards the opening once more. The small space had become uncomfortably warm from his body heat and thus was getting a lot less breathable fast.
After a few wiggles and some persistence, he finally popped out of the hole and stumbled onto the cold winter’s ground outside. Sitting in the cooling air, he felt rejuvenated from the bottom up. His breathing hastened as his lungs started to fill with fresh oxygen once more. His vision which was once blurred with sweat was finally clear again as he wiped off whatever salty liquid that was left on his eyelashes. His legs sat outspread on an entire floor of leaves as his hands propped him up from behind. The leaves and dried branches behind him crunched and cracked as he moved his body ever so slightly.
Looking up into the sky, Carter could see a giant moon hanging above over him. The light from it shone magnificently through the night sky, illuminating the forest just enough that it was possible to make out basic shadows of objects around him. Climbing up to his feet after a rather lengthy rest, he set out to find his way back to camp once more. There wasn’t much of a point to start a fire again seeing that there was indeed something unfriendly lurking around in the forest that was attracted to the light.
“Man it’s cold.” Carter shivered as he looked around. He had no idea of his directions any longer. Running through the forest especially in the way he did most definitely made him lost. He was suddenly reminded of his text books in history class detailing the accounts of sailors using the constellations to aid them in their journeys at sea by pointing them to the right direction. He however did not pay attention to the particular section in class and had forgotten all about the geographical properties these stars would contain in their shapes and relative positions. Without a compass, he was essentially a blind man in the forest.
Looking out into the wilderness, he had to choose a direction to walk towards regardless. It would be a wild guess but it was better than staying still and freezing half to death in the cold. Picking a random direction, he set out into the forest slowly and silently, making sure to make as little noise as possible to avoid attracting any more wild beasts or creatures to his location. He wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice.
As he ventured out into the unknown, he could see twisted silhouettes in the distance of balding trees and shrubs. He knew for one thing that shadows could make an object seem evil and menacing while in the day they would look just as normal as any other tree. He was watching out very closely for any movement in the darkness just in case there was some kind of animal lurking close by that could harm him.
Out of a sudden, he felt a gaze lock on to him as if somebody was watching him from behind. He turned his head in a partial swirl to see if anything was indeed behind him. He saw nothing at all although he still felt a pair of eyes following his every footstep from afar. Carter told himself it was all just in his mind and proceeded to discard the matter entirely before continuing on.
It was then as he was taking a few steps forward that he heard something from behind. It sounded like the crunching for dried leaves. It sounded like a foot step.
It was followed by a croak.
Carter sprinted once more into the darkness, fear started to take hold of him as adrenaline pumped through his veins with every step he took. This time, he could hear loud and crisp footsteps following him from behind.
This chase however seemed bleak in comparison to the previous one. Whatever that was chasing him this time seemed to be getting closer and closer with every passing second. Carter tried to pick up the pace by taking larger steps with more spring to his run to maximize the distance with each leg he put forward. This however ultimately caused his own downfall.
Out of a sudden, he felt his legs lose balance as his body started to tumble towards the ground. He felt a strange tugging sensation around the ankle; his foot had caught hold on to an elevated piece of root that sat firmly in the ground. As his body swung forward violently, he felt the bones in his ankle start to twist in a disturbing and painful fashion. It emitted a loud crack as his fell to the ground on his belly, kicking up leaves into the air. Quickly, he tried to regain momentum by standing up but a sharp pain shot up through his leg as he tried to stabilize his right foot on the leafy ground.
In a split second, before he could do anything else, he felt a figure standing over him. It lunged at his back pinning him down once again on all fours causing his already twisted ankle to jolt backwards, creating a cringingly painful wave of electricity to shoot up into his body. The bones in his ankle shifted around frantically as if trying to find its proper spot, it felt as if it had detached from its socket, it felt as if it had been dislocated.
A loud croak ensued as a large blunt object came onto his head. A loud thud rang through the air as the object hit the top of his skull hard. There was a sudden wave of confusion as the attack caused his ear drums to ring in pain and the top of his head to bleed and vibrate from the sheer force of the blow. He screamed and winced in pain.
A second blow ensued as a horrific numbness followed. A third blow came along almost immediately, a fourth blow and finally a fifth blow which left him bludgeoned and bloody. The last sight he saw was that of crimson red blood streaming down his hair and splattering about messily onto the ground before he lost all consciousness.
He had indeed been caught.
Pressing the relevant buttons and keys, Carter found himself staring at what looked like a successful attempt at the puzzle. Before him was an open passageway which was situated on the 12 o’clock of the room. At the end of the passageway stood a huge metal door that just as before was covered in a thick coating of rust.
“Not bad if I do say so myself huh?” He laughed as he walked across to the door. There was no handle on this one though, which made it quite different from the regular doors he had met before. However, in between the crack of the door was a small article of paper which was browned with age, as if to suggest it had been placed there for a very long time already.
With a light push, the door swung open effortlessly, revealing what seemed to be a small corridor lighted with florescent tubes at the very top. The piece of paper that was stuck in between had fallen to the floor. Carter picked it up with his right hand to take a better look at it. It seemed like an old newspaper clipping which was torn on all side. There was even a picture of two men standing next to each other holding an odd looking machine of some kind. Without thinking twice, he shoved the article into his back pocket and continued on. He was going to get out of this room first if anything at all before taking a better look at what was written on it just in case the door closed on him, sealing him within the room forever.
Walking into the hallway and to the other end, he was faced yet again with another heavy rusted metal door, but this time it was fitted with a handle just like the rest. For some odd reason, Carter felt a sense of relieve from finding another familiar looking door. This entire charade of an experiment was starting to really get to him.
Putting his right hand on to it, he pushed it downward until it clicked open menacingly. With just a bit of strength, Carter pulled the door inwards. An oddly placed pulse traveled from the handle up into his palm as per usual. He hadn’t thought much of it thus far but it did indeed feel as if the door itself was pulsating, as if it had a heart of its own. Carter knew it sounded absurd but simply couldn’t deny what he was feeling within his own hands. He gave off a large sigh before shrugging the rather creepy thought off and continuing on.
As the huge chunk of metal swung open, a stream of yellow light started to burst through the crack in the half opened doorway. He was about to enter a new room and he sincerely hoped that he would be meeting up with the rest of the team once again.
Being alone was much harder than he had initially thought, especially with all the bad memories and thoughts flooding his mind consistently in the background.
Carter clearly did not enjoy being alone.
Written By HoiHoiSoi
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