Breathe in. Breathe out. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds; rain pounding on the grass, thunder rolling in the sky. Too loud to hear yourself breathing, but you can still hear the rush of blood in your ears, and the pounding of your heart...
"Easy Thomas..." He muttered, his grip tightening on the gun in his hands. His eyes opened again but the land was a void of darkness. Sheets of rain surrounded him, falling sideways from thick black clouds. This was no place for someone to be standing, this was a world tossed into chaos by a twisted version of nature. The clouds too dark, the water too hard and icy cold against the skin. An unnatural storm that screamed in his ears, pushing and pulling him in every direction at once. He should have been frightened, properly terrified. This was the kind of storm that men didn't come out of the, the kind of darkness that hid monsters and masked men and who knows what else.
Only he'd been in a storm like this before. That night at sea, with the waves crashing over the sides of their ship, there had been just as much water. The cold he'd felt when he'd fallen beneath those waves was the same; a deep bone chill. The rumble of thunder and the flash of lightning? Those had been there too, drowning out the yells of his shipmates and making the world sound too loud and too quiet all at once. Like the sound had reached a point where you couldn't hear it anymore. As horrible as this storm was, he'd rather be here then back on that ship. He was on land, the storm didn't rock the earth on which he stood. There was no chance that he'd fall over the side, because there were none all the way out here. Yes, this was much better, the land flat and solid beneath his feet was his anchor. It's what made him calm in the middle of all that chaos.
What was he even doing out here?
He wasn't that far from camp, at least he didn't think he was, considering he couldn't see very far in all of this. As much as he didn't fear the storm, he didn't want to be standing in it either. Yet there was something out here. Something that had brought this storm with it, or sensed it coming and used it for cover. They'd seen it before the clouds rolled in and blocked out the sun, making it as dark as night and so much colder. A dragon, or some twisted beast that looked like one.
They should have retreated, fallen back into the camp, and locked up what they could. Faced it on ground they might actually stand a chance. Except the storm made it hard to hear and as much as he'd yelled to try and locate the other people who'd come out with him, all he got in return was that deafening silence. It made him nervous, anxious, his legs itching to bolt like a rabbit in a direction he hoped led to home, but instead he stayed glued to his spot. He had a tree to his back, and that small sense of comfort was enough to keep him rooted. They can't sneak up on you, his mind told him. His eyes closed again, tired from trying to see through water, as he lifted a hand to take his hat from his head. Sliding it into his pocket, he sucked in a breath and considered his options.
It was highly likely the other men had gone back already. In fact he was almost positive that if they hadn't gotten lost, they were probably already back at camp. So it shouldn't be too bad if he went back himself...right?
Thomas felt his eyes shoot open and his whole body freeze. His hands tightened around the gun, not even sure if it would work in all this water, but taking comfort from it anyway. Whatever made that noise, was big. Big enough or close enough that he could hear it above the storm. Somewhere inside of him his heart jumped up to his chest and he realized he had to run. It didn't even matter which direction, he just had to get out of there and fast.
By the time he got his legs working there were more sounds. A beast, crashing through the trees, louder then the thunder that rained down from the sky. He splashed through deep puddles of mud and rain, his body dragged down by clothes soaked through with water. He could feel adrenaline rushing through him, warming his veins, but at the same time there was the exhaustion from the cold that had curled itself around his bones. He wasn't going to die out here. He refused.
He just couldn't see where he was going, he didn't know if he was running into the forest or heading for the camp. He couldn't even see his hands in front of his face, and if he wasn't floundering through a particularly deep puddle he was tripping over roots and rocks. Each time he fell, or had to stop and catch himself before he did, he heard the thing getting closer. Could almost imagine it breathing down his neck. Scalding hot in contrast to the ice water that surrounded him. It was like he was back in the ocean somehow, sinking deeper and deeper the more he struggled to keep his head above the water.
Only this time there was a shark circling under the surface.
He didn't know when it happened. It hadn't sounded like it had gotten any closer. Thought admittedly he probably should have realized that he couldn't trust his ears as a good judge of distance in all of this.
So when the strike came he was probably more surprised then hurt. He liked to think that his running and constant falling had maybe saved him for once, keeping it from making any real contact. Except that he''d felt claws rake his side, and the sheer force of the blow sent him off his feet.
He hit the ground hard enough to get the breath knocked out of him, and a sharp pain, plus a sound he didn't really like. His arm smacked against a rock or a tree...something hard and painful, effectively knocking his gun from his grip. He couldn't hear himself cry out but he knew that's what he did, right before the thing roared in his face, a deafening sound that shook the ground around him like an earthquake. The urge to curl up like a child in fear was almost overwhelming. Only the fact that he hurt everywhere kept him prone on the ground. Pinned down by a force of terror so heavy and solid it was like a bolder was sitting on his chest.
Yeah, not his usual vocabulary but, god damn that hurt. Closing his eyes for a second he tried to get his breath back, His brain too if he could manage it.
There was no time. Not to breathe, not to think, not even to register what hurt and what didn't. Whatever it was, that thing was coming at him again. If he hand't felt the water moving before it reached him, he probably would have lost his face. Instead he fell back, scrambling with his good arm to try and get some distance between them.
Maybe he was going to die out here.
The thing roared again and Thomas cringed at the sound, and tried to move faster, forcing his less cooperative arm to search and find the gun he'd dropped. His fingers barely scraped over something that felt like it might be what he was looking for, when he was screaming. A heavy weight pressed down on his back, claws digging into his skin and pushing him into the mud.
Frantic he ignored the pain, ignored the sound of tearing that came with it, and squirmed forward. Hand desperately trying to curl around the handle of his gun. He couldn't feel his fingers, couldn't feel anything but pain. Pain everywhere.
"Got yah`" He hissed.
The next part happened in quick flashes, like the gunshots. He struggled through pain, and a growing sense of lightheadedness to turn enough to aim in the creatures general direction. The first shot made contact out of sheer luck and the air was ripped by the sound of a pained scream. He felt the thing rear back, and without the weight pining him down he turned onto his back and aimed back into the darkness. Firing off seven more shots and hearing screeches of pain and anger accompanying at least half of them. He kept pulling the trigger even after it clicked to show him it was empty. Kept pulling the trigger until he felt the weight of whatever it was, fall across half of his body.
He didn't know if he'd ever felt so relieved in his life. His hand fell back down and the empty gun fell from numb fingers. It didn't matter that he didn't think he had the strength to move it, or that his breathing felt strained. He was alive. In more pain than he'd ever thought possible, but alive.
He could sleep now, wait for the storm to end....