Troll Part #3 By Ashley Redden.
I actually have no idea if 5 is the right number for Bonus episodes But it sounded right.
Music By The Lunacy Board – Curtsey of Mick Bordett.
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III Hoklonote’ she
By: Ashley Redden
The ancient native peoples had many tales of supernatural creatures of all shapes and sizes imaginable. One such creature was the Hoklonote’ she. Said to be a shape shifter, the Hoklonote’ she was capable of assuming any shape desired. It was also believed that this supernatural creature could read the thoughts of man. But such creatures were thought to only exist as myth and legend, objects of an ancient people’s attempt to explain the unknown. And so the legend of the creature known as the Hoklonote’ she, vague to begin with, passed quietly into the misty realm of folklore. Dismissed and Forgotten.
Moments after the initial discovery of the cave system that would be named in the weeks to come as the Potter’s Bluff cave complex, air from the outside world entered the warren of tunnels for the first time in some twenty-five hundred years passing throughout the open system in fits and starts as the excavation machinery enlarged the breech.
Deep within the black labyrinth of caverns a whiff of the gaseous contamination from the outside world passed over a clutch of six eggplant sized oblong eggs. The eggs sat upon the ground, dropped close to one another, but in no particular pattern. Had this clutch of eggs been outside the tunnel complex within the light, they would have been dull brown in color resembling nothing more than strangely shaped stones. But these eggs had never been bathed in illumination of any sort. They resided where deposited, within the cold dark belly of the world.
Upon the surface of each egg, small receptors that had laid dormant over the millennia suddenly became active, triggering a change within each. As the dormant receptors became active, so to did the contents of each perspective egg. For some five days the yolks developed, three into embryos, three into little more than a complex protein sac.
On the sixth day, one egg was pierced. A solitary miniscule claw broke free, followed by a match, then two more facing the opposite side. With a great crack, the egg split down the middle and the rat sized creature contained therein emerged with a hiss.
The creature sat for a moment, momentarily gathering strength, and then turned to the remaining eggs and had the second compulsion of its short life. The first was to hatch, to break free of its harbor, its life giving womb. To tarry in this act would have become its tomb. Its second compulsion was to eliminate its competition, now, immediately.
The newborn closed its body by expressing air. The creature’s sides folded around it like a spiral filter might, five rays of bony skin expressed as a whorl from its center trunk, sealing tightly.
It slithered around the five remaining eggs, wormlike, ascertaining each as it went. Three of the eggs it disregarded, these were food for later. The remaining two, however, were of more present concern. The creature checked very closely the two viable eggs going over every surface, but careful not to touch either. One was very near hatching; it could hear the weak hissing coming from within. The other was still days away.
The creature eased back from the clutch of eggs and puffed its body out by filling its skin whorls with air making a small whooshing sound. It then wobbled, for this was the first time it had ever walked, on its four stick-like legs back to the clutch. The creature carefully straddled the egg that would hatch first, again being very carful not to touch the outer edge of the shell.
Beneath it, an appendage throbbed and pulsed, its way of anticipation. The creature drove the appendage deep into the egg and listened as its sibling thrashed and hissed. The commotion within the egg was over almost as quickly as it had begun. Quiet now, the creature settled its light bulk onto the egg and began to feed, its oral appendage still imbedded within the egg of its now dead sibling. When it was finished with this meal, it would move onto the other viable egg, but for now it rested and remembered.
Its memory was genetic in nature, passed down from one parent to another. It touched on these memories lightly, not delving too deep. Once its other rival was neutralized, it would surrender completely. But for now it longingly nibbled at the edges as if caressing the surface of a glacial inviting pool, longing to dive in, but choosing not to. It realized then that it had it’s first choice of its fledgling life. It decided to feed now and remember later, after the danger was past. The creature rested and fed. It had just committed its first murder, soon followed by its second; neither would be its last.
The creature tarried at the clutch for a short while and consumed all of the eggs in that time. It was during this time of feeding just after hatching that it had begun to remember. Not remembrance as a memory of a past event or learning experience, but more like a day dream where past knowledge flowed from its forebears into it, enlarging it, changing it forever. It was during this early time that it learned what it was. It was also during this time that it experienced its first true emotion. The creature learned to hate.
Its race had been as a predator of both worlds, within the ground and without, unchanging since time immemorable. The creature’s ancient forbears had remained as they were until the man thing came. The man thing had discovered one of its kind, then realizing the danger, for the man thing was very intelligent, eventually sought out the creature’s kin within the dark places of the world.
The man thing had given it a name. They called it Hoklonote’ she, an evil spirit of the underworld. The man thing had turned their once sheltering underground homes into prisons. Many were the man thing that died during those first years for its kind was born powerful killers. But the man thing learned fast and, dogged in their relentlessness, eventually devised ways to capture and hold the creature’s powerful progenitors.
But they were never tamed. Though kept bound and starving by their captors, brought forth and made to participate in strange rituals, the Hoklonote’ she remained feral creatures, wild fury always simmering beneath their alien surface. As they lay in stains of their thick blood with hides peppered by the spiked balls the ancient man thing would beat them with, the hatred grew, malignant, overcoming all that was before. This hatred, blood red bright in the beginning festered and seethed becoming more and more black and putrid, was passed onto the young through memory. Through the generations, this festering hatred was concentrated with each passing. The stronger the emotion, the more intense, the more vivid was the memory overriding all others.
Over the next several weeks, the creature grew rapidly. During this time of rapid growth, the creature spent more and more time delving into its dreamlike memory of those that had come before. It began, almost immediately, to travel in the tunnels, learning the caves’ many cryptic nuances by heart. As it traveled in its worm form, it left scent trails as it went. The creature’s sense of touch was fantastic, its sense of hearing beyond compare, its sense of smell also remarkable.
Within several days of hatching, the creature followed the scent of air to discover several newly opened passages to the world above. The creature began then to go out of the caves security into the surrounding world to forage and learn. It did so only under the cover of darkness.
Upon exiting the tunnel for the first time in its short life, it drew upon its store of knowledge from creatures past hunger driving it on. After some searching, it came upon an area that was rich with grass, but without standing water.
It drove its three arms into the soil and begun to grunt, low, over and over. Almost immediately, these grunting sounds drove hoards of earthworms to the surface of the soil.
The creature that its ancient Paleo-Indian jailers had referred to as the Hoklonote’ she began a life of gorging, growing and dreaming.
As it increased in size and appetite, the creature began to search out and predate larger animals during its nightly forays from roosting birds to larger mammals. But its thoughts never strayed far from its one true desire, the burning need for revenge. The more it remembered, the more the seething hate blossomed and grew. Soon, hatred for the man thing had become its constant companion, dark, cold and bitter.
Approximately two weeks after the hatching, many score of the man thing again entered the cave complex for the first time in millennia. The creature began to at first listen to the man thing as they went about their strange activities. It would lay shivering, full of black fear and even blacker ire, certain that the man thing was there looking for it, to capture, and enslave it. To treat it as its ancient kin had been treated.
But eventually it became less convinced that the man thing was looking for it or were even aware of its existence at all. Slowly it ventured out, creeping with upmost caution, to be near them, to observe and learn. Though it loathed and feared the man thing above all else, its curiosity had been piqued. The creature yearned for knowledge. The Hoklonote’ she was not unintelligent. It had the ability to learn, though it relied greatly, almost completely at times, on its genetic memory.
The first time it actually came in contact with a solitary man thing, it plucked its visual appendage back so quickly, before the great blinding light the enemy carried could sweep across it, into the tunnel that the man thing continued unabated, ignorant that the encounter happened at all. The creature fled in blind flight back to the now empty clutch of eggs seeking comfort where none existed, where none had ever existed. The creature huddled shaking and shivering in the middle of the broken clutch of its murdered siblings, dread its only companion.
It took many hours for it to regain control and creep back out to access the tunnels in which the man thing labored to again observe and learn of its ancient enemy. But the edge of fear, sharp as a knife blade, was never far constantly honing its senses as it neared the ever despised man thing.
In legend, the Hoklonote’ she was a thing of shadows. The creature easily lived up to the legend. So stealthy were its habits that it could wedge its drab brown body into any natural crevice, moving slowly and deliberately or not at all, allowing it to watch the man thing without concern of discovery for hours on end.
As it observed, it began to plan. When not actively watching the enemy, it began to make tools, the knowledge flowing from its genetic memory, to aid in its war. This was its insatiable wish, to make war on the man thing and hurt them as they had hurt its kind so long ago. The creature’s ever present genetic memories demanded no less.
As the man thing continued clearing the tunnels, eventually, with aid from the creature, they entered an area suitable for its purposes of revenge. The creature journeyed down, deeper into the bowels of the cave. Traveling within these areas was highly dangerous, for the caverns were unstable. Using the greatest of care, the creature entered into a series of storage caverns and began searching for a certain type of treasure. Soon thereafter, it found what it was looking for.
When the creature arrived back at the dig areas, many of the man thing had withdrawn. It knew from past observation that they would return on the next outside day. The creature returned to a small cavern near the areas that the man thing had recently opened, but had dismissed. Though this cavern was small and seemingly barren, it was special. This small dead-end cavern had a dirt floor that appeared to be solid, but the ground sat upon a great heavy woven mat beneath the cavern floor utilized by the ancient man thing to protect the cave system from interlopers..
The creature retrieved its previous find and, going to the center of the opening, drove the staff into the ground with a powerful stroke. It squinted its great moist eyes and hissed at the glare from the lights left by the man thing in the neighboring tunnel.
The creature bored down into the soil in its worm form near the edge of the cavern where small access tunnels to the pit below were located. It found the arming mechanism, a series of moveable braces located at the bottom of the pit, holding up the false floor. Ghostly memories danced up from its genetic storage showing it which beams to move and where they should go.
Once finished, the creature retreated into a cavern at the rear of the pit and wedged itself into a tight crevice to rest and dream until the man thing returned.
As it fell asleep, its thoughts drifted to the harsh lights strung by the man thing wherever they went. It shuddered at how the lights seemed to mock the creatures own dark existence.
The creature sat listening to a pair of the man thing as they approached. It had been listening to both of the man thing for some time, born a thing of the dark; its hearing was startlingly acute. It listened, as well as felt, the approach as the pair of the man thing paused, and then entered the cavern above. Within moments, the cavern collapsed. The creature waited, listening patiently, feeling anything but as another man thing approached. It seethed with the need to act, to take and rend each of the man thing that had fallen into its trap.
The creature eased out of its protective tunnel, silently passing through the soil to emerge within feet of the two man thing stranded within the pit. The third arrived above, made noises to the fallen two, then seemed to be about to leave. The creature acted then, conscious thought pushed aside as the debt of pain owed to its ancestors roared through it driving its actions.
The creature expanded its body with a whooshing of air, its legs and arms extending from the whorls of its skin. The man thing in the pit saw it, one throwing his light at it then clambering upon the wall. The creature did not flinch.
Ignoring the two within the pit, they could not escape quickly enough; it removed a bone hook attached to a line made of sinew from its previous kills and flipped it expertly at the legs of the third man thing above. The creature immediately yanked the man thing, the hook catching upon its leg. But the man thing did not fall. Again the creature yanked on the heavy line with all its might. The hook rocketed down into the pit, snatched free of the man thing’s leg. The man thing stayed above. Seconds later, the creature could clearly hear its prey fleeing the cave.
The creature hissed in frustration and even blacker rage. It turned to the man thing still trying to climb the wall of the pit, emitting high pitched noises all the while. The creature grasped the man thing and flung it upon the floor. The man thing fell heavily, and lay still. The creature turned on the other man thing, the one who still sat upon the floor.
Grasping the preys face with two of its clawed arms, the creature thrust its feeding appendage into the soft stomach of the man thing. The creature lowered its great unblinking eyes to within inches of the man thing’s face watching as the spark of life bled away.
Once the second man thing was dead, the creature sat back to wonder at what it had done. The anger seemed to flash evaporate then leaving it with a sudden cavernous sense of loss. Not a loss for the man thing, it cared not at their death, they were after all the enemy. No, the sense of loss was for itself. A kernel of thought began to coalesce within its hate ravaged mind, one that was its very own, not memory driven. It began to understand that it had now lost the ability to choose. It had killed two of the man thing, and in so doing changed its life now and forever. No longer was it unknown to the man thing living free as its kind had so very very long ago. Now, it would be known to its ancient enemy and hunted as those who had passed down their awful genetic memories. The creature keened at the death of its now lost innocence; the death of its future.
Its strange heart raced now not from anticipation and anger, but from alarm. The creature began to remove the two man thing from the killing field to below where its larder was hidden.
Once both of the man thing were stashed, the creature fled to the hatching grounds again seeking comfort where none could be found. It knew now, its rational brain working for perhaps the first time in its short life. The creature had relied on the genetic memories to train it, to equip it with the knowledge needed for survival. But the memories came with a price. It had surrendered itself to the dreams, become one with its ancestors in their suffering and ire.
The man thing would come now, it knew this as a certainty and it would meet them, the rage was still there, they were still the enemy, but now the die was cast. The creature no longer had any choice; war that it had itself started was upon it.
The creature did as countless murders before it had, after the deed was done it wondered, what if? What if it had chosen not to listen to the dreams, to live unknown to the man thing, perhaps a long life? Perhaps the same as its forbears had before the coming of man thing? The creature lay huddled upon its hatching grounds, shuddering and forlorn, littered with the cracked and broken shells of its slain clutch and in the way of its kind, wept.