's 2020 Horror Write-off:

In The Forests of Aeon

Submitted by James B. Davis

Within The Valley of Aeon’s tall and dense forest I could not see the sky nor the valley’s walls. The vast expanse of trees went in all directions as far as I could see. Strange flora grew on the forest floor and the trees were unfamiliar. Ancient conifers and primordial ferns concealed the sun and clouds from my sight. Moss covered logs and boulders littered the grounds. Bizarre chirps and squawks, like nothing I have heard before, sounded from the canopy. Alien birdsongs of unknown meanings. Even the air here felt heavy and unlike that of any other place. And while I traveled through these woods on my own, I was not alone.

In the dark depths of the distant trees large shadows shambled and twisted. The snapping of gargantuan branches and the crushing footsteps of some primeval beast could always be heard. The flapping of demonic winged creatures above the trees was made evident by the horrible whirling sounds of their wings and the massive shadows that traced the ground as they passed by unseen. Slithering bodies rustled from within hallowed logs and ancient burrows. Carnivorous titans roar their battle cries in challenge.

Truthfully, with my blaster on my hip, I was not as frightened as perhaps I should have been. Normally the very idea of a firearm on my person would have been repulsive but when I went forth on my expedition into The Valley of Aeon I knew some form of protection would be absolutely necessary, and a blade or saber alone just wouldn’t be sufficient for such matters. And because vehicles are forbidden, and cannot even make passage, in the valley a sidearm was the only option. The blaster would only be used for protection from wild animals and creatures, so I did not feel the guilt I normally would.

But still even with this added protection I was not safe. A blaster may hold off a large synapsid or medium sized ceratopsian but against a full grown theropod or an Elder Crocodylomorph it would be little more than something to slow them down. Because of this, I hoped to be out of the forest in a week’s time when I entered. However, after 9 days of wandering in a straight line through the wilderness I realized this would not be a realistic goal and that I would not reach the city of Ru when I thought I would. The forests of Aeon are not short in food or drink, but the danger lies in that very fact; I am not an apex predator in Aeon like I am on Terra but rather a low tier scavenger.

The small computer in my visor told me that 1 day of walking would be most likely as far I would need to travel till I would reach the edge of the trees. While this was comforting I knew not to trust too closely as the same computer made the prediction that I’d only have to walk for a week.

I made my temporary camp below an ancient tree when night fell. Dangerous as day may be in Aeon, night is truly beyond nightmares and one would not be caught dead wandering under its stars. The thought of starting a fire was at first frightening as it may attract unwanted company but as I held off I found that this forest was too wet and too cool in the night to be without flame. So I fell asleep upright sitting against the tree at my fire with my hand on my blaster.

I must have looked silly sitting there like a cowboy with his hand ready to draw, but when I heard the galloping of giant reptilian feet barreling toward me I Ieapt to my feet ready to run. As expected the galloping slowed, eventually to a stop, as it drew closer but regardless I held my feet tight to the ground, ready still to run if need be, with my blaster aimed out. I fired off a warning shot, the short green beam of light illuminating the forest before stopping in the trunk of a large tree. Just before sizzling out against the tree, the blast briefly illuminated a massive crocodilian form, met by a loud and guttural hiss.

In the dark of the forest I could hear the ancient deinosuchus slither it’s scales across the ground to a new ambush point. I fired another blast, this time luckily connecting with the beast. It roared a horrible cry in pain that shook the very ground below me. I lifted my backpack, holding everything I had, and darted away from my fire light and into the darkness as I once again heard the creature galloping toward me; this time much faster and seemingly with more force. Just as my silhouette left the orange glow of my campfire the massive scaly creature smashed through my former camp site, mashing its head against the tree’s trunk and burning its underside in the process in my camp fire. Again the monster bellowed as blood trickled down its massive head, easily 9 feet long alone, from its punctured eye socket.

Before I could see much else, I took off into the night. As I ran through the darkness I could still hear the elder deinosuchus’ half-blind rampage.

“Turn East by 23 degrees to reach desired endpoint.” My helmet’s computer told me.

I turned and ran till the morning came, despite my own advice on traveling in the night. As the sun started to rise invisibly through the trees I began to see the opening of the treeline. It was distant, probably 10 miles off still, but it was within sight.
Slowing to a manageable walk, I continued my journey to The City of Ru.