"s 2015 Horror Write-off:

" Lure of Thunder "

Submitted by Author Ultima

Hania had tripped on a branch yet again, she fell to her front and landed chest first onto the thankfully soft moss and grass covered soil. The girl grunted from the slight pain of the impact, and as she sat up to recover checked the ankle which had been hooked by the unearthed root two feet behind. A little scratch, some minor itching at worse and certainly nothing to fret over. As she looked up to her eternal friend Taylor who was about to help her rise, Hania could not help a peripheral scan of the area. Enormous, colossal trees armored with massive slabs of coiled bark around trunks and branches thicker than entire houses sprang up from the ground in allure akin to the spears the earth itself would wield. Decorating them were armies upon legions upon empires of huge verdant leaves, opened up towards the heavens to capture the nourishing energy of sunlight from above, which at the same time plunged below in twilight.

Taylor lent her help to Hania to bring her back on her feet, and the pair of young women resumed their insignificant passage amongst the several hundred meter tall inhabitants of this strange and imposing land. Both she and her companion knew little and cared equally to what could lurk around, for them all that mattered was the thunder. That was what had drawn them here, the menacing and blaring growl of the sky. It was unmistakeable, regardless of how distant it might be. Across where Hania and Taylor lived, or rather were trying to, there was hardly any way to hydrate oneself; water in its liquid form, in immemorial legends and echoes past so plentiful, was as non-existent as breathable void. And that is where the lust to venture here had birthed; where thunder roared, water usually poured. They pressed on, carrying hopes inside empty containers.

Having gotten a bit dirty from her fall earlier, Hania a flap of her long cloak with a gloved hand. The ginger haired woman, being somewhat of a huntress, wore a rather solid and rugged great brown cloak over her upper body and matching practical trousers. She even had several other layers underneath, being prepared to stay out for quite a deal of time. Hania looked to her companion Taylor with her greyish green eyes, and still could not fully understand how she managed to stay out in her attire no matter the temperature; she wore a large, thick turtleneck sweater of a dark red coloration and an equally thick knee-reaching skirt colored in black with rims matching her sweater. From her feet to her knees, white stockings covered her legs and heavy marching boots guarded her foot, ankles and lower calves. Her straight-kept white hair, which almost matched her ashen skin. To Hania, overall, quite the beauty.

Within several more hours of walking the reverberating roll of thunder had grown in intensity, but incomprehensibly neither lightning bolt nor raindrop was to be seen. It was quite a disappointment but far from a discouragement. The humongous forest had become denser in vegetation, rendering further progress more difficult as it went on. Across their path they had witnessed strange and borderline worrying signs, such as gashes in the earth the size of rivers, entire trees broken and toppled over, and they were only becoming more frequent. By now, the thunder was omnipresent and impossible to determine which direction from which it comes. Hania was simply feeling more and more unpleasant.

‘’Taylor… we can’t even tell where the thunder’s coming from anymore. I don’t like this… maybe there just isn’t any thunder or let alone rain…’’

Taylor replied in her common neutral, smooth tone and warming voice.

‘’We need to at least try.’’

She pressed on despite her tiredness, Hania in her wake. Perhaps there was no liquid water to be seen, but there was most certainly a large amount of moisture hanging in the air, combined with the high temperatures rendering the very atmosphere heavy, hot and sticky, giving even the simple action of breathing the complication of a moderate chore. Through this warm air and in between the countless plants and branches, a louder and much closer booming sound than the now environmental thunder made itself heard to Hania and Taylor, causing much panic in the former. 

‘’W-what in the name of the heavens was that!?’’

She backed up closer to her partner, grabbing her hand as her eyes frantically scanned the surroundings for any hint to the origin of the sound. Taylor, while still outwardly calm, was at least somewhat internally stressed. 

‘’I do not know Hania. It was certainly not thunder.’’

‘’It was like something was moving…’’ Hania added.

After a few relatively silent moments passed, it was realized, with horror and great worry that the thunder noises had stopped entirely. This is when Taylor and Hania realized that what they had mistaken for so called thunder was not thunder at all, but something a lot more dreadful. A terribly loud crashing noise was heard barely one hundred meters from the two and along with it the sight of trees being trampled over like mere dominoes. The author of this path of destruction, heading straight for the girls, was one hideously colossal wurm; a great serpentine bodied beast covered with extremely thick skin, deprived of limbs and armed with completely insatiable hunger its massive gait. As it approached more features could be identified, such as that it had grey skin with some white arrow and line shaped patterns and had moss growing on the topside of its length. The wurm, opening its triple jawed mouth, charged at the pair.

Hania and Taylor were needless to say not very fond to learn that not only their hopes for drinking water had been crushed, but that the so called thunder was in fact a furious monstrosity out to devour them. Backing away slowly, they turned around without hesitation and started to run, but the wurm was quickly gaining on them. Peeking around, Hania saw that it was about to overcome them, and she was swift to tackle Taylor and herself into a cavity inside a giant tree root ahead. Taylor grunted from the impact, landing on her side, while Hania managed to cushion her fall by rolling. 

‘’Are you alright Taylor?’’ She immediately asked, panting.

Taylor nodded as she grabbed Hania’s arm which she had lent to help her up. Seconds later the wurm’s hideously immense head crashed through the hollow root directly besides the duo, making the wooden structure quite literally explode in thousands of splinters. Taylor and Hania immediately ran in the opposite direction, towards the tree which the root was attached to. They could hear deafening roars and feel everything shake around them as the beast was in hot pursuit. Inside the tree, which was mostly hollowed out, many of the inner complexions were already crumbling. Panicked rodents, birds and giant insects were scurrying for safety down in the earth or up above. Another violent crash, and the entire structure started to lean forward with a menacing cracking noise as if prone to snap in half. Taylor looked towards the interior summit of the hollow, and at its angle which was becoming less and less sharp due to the wurm’s assaults.

‘’Hania, we need to get to the summit.’’

She took a hold of Hania’s right hand and started to run and climb towards her new destination. Though Hania was a bit incomprehensive, she did not protest and went along. Below them the monster burst through the now risen base of the tree, utterly smashing and ripping apart the aging bark and wood and roared louder than ever, so loud it deafened and stunned the girls for a few moments. Due to the powerful gust of air it produced, numerous shards of debris and droplets of acid saliva were thrown all over. Despite this, the pair pressed on ever harder, evading a snapping bite from their pursuer which all but crushed the structure they were on moments ago and was menacing to gnaw them both to paste with the next one it was readying. Witnessing the desperate situation, Taylor focused deeply, extending an arm and opening her palm towards the wurm. She mustered to it all her magical energy, all her willpower, as deep orange and red flames appeared in her hand. Hania looked to her and to the gaping jaws rising over them and attempted to pull Taylor away, but the girl would not budge.

‘’Taylor! Taylor move! It’s gonna kill us!’’

Hunger, rage, or perhaps a mix of the two could not wait; the wurm’s jaws came snapping down on the two victims, with less mercy than a warhammer crushing an ant. Just before being sent to the afterlife however, Taylor unleashed her arcane wrath, liberated the all-consuming fire she had prepared in her palm, directly down the cavernous depths of the monster’s throat where it caused a ruinous deflagration. As great tongues of fire licked and seared wurm and tree flesh alike, the explosion’s powerful breath threw Taylor and Hania a few dozen meters up the hollow shaft. Having already suffered considerable damage from the violent and unrelenting attacks of the wurm, the tree could not sustain any more and the raging inferno was more than enough to send its entire structure crashing down upon the forest soil, crushing smaller plants and animals alike. Loud shrieks and howls of pain and fury could be heard outside.

Both young women were lying down in the lower half of the fallen tree, heavily dazed. As Hania recovered first, getting up to her knees, the smell of burning wood invaded her nostrils and the cracking of flames slowly adapted to her ringing ears. She could still feel the tremors caused by the serpentine body of the wurm moving outside, meaning Taylor’s attack had not killed it. She kneeled to her companion, whose body was still immobile on its front. 

‘’Taylor… Taylor we… we need to hurry or else the wurm… will… eat us. Come… on!’’ She said in a rather weak voice as her hands shook Taylor by the shoulders. 

It would not do. But, she was able to confirm Taylor was merely unconscious as she could feel her breathing. Relieved of her relative safety Hania picked up her partner, cradling Taylor in her arms close to her, resting her head against her chest and proceeded to walk towards a large hole in the wooden wall caused by extended damage. Yet another rumble was felt, nearly knocking Hania off of her rather fragile balance. Along with it, the wurm’s screech was heard one final time before it became completely silent. Not even the sounds of its movement, or the accompanying tremors could be felt anymore. The thunder was gone as well. It was as if something had killed and took away the beast, disregarding its ridiculous proportions. Hania, finding all this quite odd, rushed outside but saw no trace of the wurm, safe for large amounts of its purple, foul smelling blood splattered here and there as well as a fragment of its skin hanging from a broken branch close by. Approaching carefully and supporting Taylor with one hand, she took the piece of skin.

It felt like very strong leather, even stronger than the one her outfit was made of. Intrigued, but deeming this was no time to fool around, Hania folded the handkerchief sized sheet in four and stored it safely in her travelling pouch. Using both of her hands to more appropriately carry Taylor, she began the long road back to safety. The road back home.