Gramp’s Journal – Chapter 10 - “Sanctuary”
This was crazy I thought but then I remembered what Jonah had said. He had told me it might be best to fear the shadows themselves than what came from them. I lightly shook my head and thought to myself, shadows do not move on their own.
It wasn’t long before my luck began to get worse. Jonah’s marks had stopped and I couldn’t find another anywhere. With frustration on my face I kept following a path leading to the left. The further I walked the worse the swamp got around me. A terrible smell began to fill my nose. It was the worst thing I had ever smelled in my life. Then I came upon a light mist floating in the air around small puddles of green sludge. Kneeling to take a closer look I saw it bubbling as if it were simmering. A puckering sound was made as it released more of the foul smelling green mist. It wasn’t long before I felt sickened by it.
Walking along I noticed it getting thicker and heavier in the air. Barely seeing my way I soon had to stop for lack of seeing at all. There was a dead silence as I stood there and listened. Blindly moving along my stomach lurched and as I thought I’d pass out it began to clear.
The smell got better and the green mist was left behind. I heard birds chirping but I realized these weren’t the sounds of any birds I knew of. It was more of a screeching sound and looking up I saw hundreds of them moving from tree to tree. Whatever they were, they were huge. I could swear they were as big as me if not bigger. A few minutes later they had all moved out of sight and for some strange reason I was glad.
Soon I heard the sound of water splashing and figured there had to be a stream nearby. Quickly moving towards it I stopped when I saw it. What was in front of me was a stream all right but not a small one by any means. It was at least thirty feet wide and disappeared into the shadows on both sides of me. The fast moving water was a dark green in color and dead branches raced along in the strong current.
Then I noticed something to my left. It looked like the end of a boat sticking up over the bank. Walking down to it I stopped dead in my tracks. Goose bumps rose along my arms at the sight of it. The back half was missing and the top half of a skeleton seemed to have gone with it. Then I remembered the captain’s journal. Maybe there really were sea monsters. The thought of them being seen by search parties back home popped into my head. Looking back at the dark water I wondered how to get across. Moving to my left I finally saw something that gave me a little hope. A short ways ahead was an old wooden bridge with someone standing on it. I ran down close thinking maybe it was Genny. Getting there I quickly realized it wasn’t her.
There was a young girl standing right in the middle of it and it was shaking from the strong current racing along underneath. She was too scared to move. I tried to tell her I would try to help but I wasn’t sure she understood. Slowly stepping onto the end of the bridge it began to shake even more. She screamed out and I quickly backed off. I knew the bridge wasn’t going to last much longer.
Looking around I saw a large tree with a branch going out over the bridge. Taking off my backpack I pulled out a long piece of rope and climbing up to slide out over the bridge. Tying the rope on I slowly lowered the other end. I yelled for her to grab hold but she wouldn’t let go of the bridges handrail. She looked at me as if I wasn’t any safer than the bridge. Again I tried telling her to grab the rope but it was of no use. I knew I had to think of something else quickly. The bridge was shaking even more now and I saw pieces beginning to break off.
Quickly I pulled the rope up and taking the loose end I moved backwards near the tree. Moving into a squatting position I kept telling myself this would work. Grasping the rope firmly I jumped off the branch and swung downward toward the bridge. Quickly closing in on the girl I opened my legs and took hold of her as I continued towards the other side. Swinging close I opened my legs and let the girl fall gently down onto the bridge. Quickly she got up and ran to solid ground. Swinging back I saw the bridge begin to fall apart. Moments later the dark water was carrying it away.
Suddenly I heard a loud crack and the branch broke. Falling to the ground hard I tumbled backwards. The branch fell in the dark water and floated off with my rope. Sitting up I looked over to see the young girl had already disappeared into the swamp. In frustration I sat there with my head in my hands. With the bridge, the branch, and my rope gone how was I to get across now.
Suddenly a strange sound broke the air. “Baaauuugh hoppa, Baaauuugh hoppa,” sounded out loudly. Looking up I saw a giant frog on the other side of the stream. I was sure it was as big as a cow if not bigger. “Baaauuugh hoppa, Baaauuugh hoppa,” it croaked, staring right at me. Strangely enough it almost seemed to be smiling. I hoped it wasn’t looking at me as its next meal.
Sitting there I took out a bag of gumdrops and popped one into my mouth. Suddenly the frog started hopping a little quicker and croaking even louder. Reaching back I threw a gumdrop as hard as I could towards it. A loud “snap,” broke the air as the frogs tongue shot out. In the blink of an eye he swallowed it down and frantically hopped about and croaked over and over. Suddenly my eyes opened wide and a gasp came out as I fell backwards. The large frog passed over me and I bounced upward at the sound of the thud. It had easily leapt over the dark water and landed directly behind me. I couldn’t believe my eyes but here it was staring down at me. I tossed another gumdrop up and “snap,” it was gone in a flash. Hopping around afterwards the frog shook the ground so much I bounced about a few times.
Standing up I got an idea on how to cross over. I wasn’t sure it would work but I figured I had nothing to lose. Reaching back I tossed another gumdrop over the stream. Before it could hit the ground on the other side the giant frog had leapt back over and snapped it up. After croaking a few times it leapt back over to my side. Landing with a heavy thud it bounced me off my feet and I landed on my backside once again.
“Toadwarts,” I yelled. Standing up I pulled another rope from my backpack. This was my last one and being just a few yards long I hoped it was enough to do the trick. Slipping my backpack on I put a gumdrop in my shirt pocket and the rest in my pants pocket.
Walking slowly up to the frog I began talking to it. “I know you’re here to help me, aren’t you?” I said. It sat there without moving an inch. Moving around behind it I saw its large eyes roll backwards to keep watch on me. Slowly I climbed up onto its back and tossed the rope up over its head. Pulling it snug I tied the ends together and took a firm grasp. I figured if bull riders and bronco busters could do it so could I.
Grabbing the gumdrop from my pocket I threw it as hard as I could over the stream. My other hand had no sooner grabbed the rope and up we went. Jumping so hard and so fast I slid down on the frogs back. Only my outstretched hands barely able to hold the rope kept me from falling into the dark water. Before I knew it the giant frog had reached the other side and I heard the loud “snap.” The only problem was he had stopped and I hadn’t. Flying over him I landed hard on my backside still clutching the rope.The giant frog suddenly hopped and croaked wildly. The force of it kept bouncing me up and down. I knew I was going to feel all of this later on. After he stopped I sat up and turned to look at my new friend. I was sure he was smiling at the fun he had just had. Pleased with how he had helped me I tossed a few more gumdrops up. Realizing my lantern had landed somewhere else I looked around but didn’t see it anywhere.
“Toadwarts,” I yelled again. It must have come off on the landing and I knew I’d need it soon. Suddenly the giant frog croaked and snapped its tongue towards a patch of tall grass. Standing up I walked over and sure enough there it was. Picking it up I saw the broken glass dome with a small piece missing. I quickly checked to see if it still worked and it did. Letting go a sigh of relief I hooked it back on and turned to thank my new friend but he had hopped off into the swamp without making a sound. I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing on this side of the fog.
The swamp was more shadowed now with thick canopies keeping much of the daylight out. Suddenly I heard shrill screams then loud growling. That explained why the giant frog had left so quickly. With it ripping into my ears I knew it was time to go. Moving along a path to my left the sounds got louder and closer with every minute. As they increased so did my pace. Trying to stay in the center of the moss covered path I ran. Soon my chest pounded and my breath raced in and out. My legs wearied and I felt the weight of my backpack bouncing against me. I was tiring fast and I knew it.
Just ahead I noticed large trees and with everything I had left I broke for them and quickly ducked in behind. Stopping to lean over and catch my breath I heard them and covered my ears to keep it out. My heart pounded and my pulse raced. The sweat of fear stung my eyes and ran downward to soak into my shirt. My body trembled so badly I almost couldn’t control it. I kept telling myself there was nothing to fear but I knew better. I had every right to fear whatever was out there. Slowly letting my hands down I listened to a dead silence as if everything around me had been scared into it. I stood there trying to hold the emotions desperately trying to break free. After regaining control I carefully peeked out from behind the tree. Not making a sound I looked about in every direction and saw shadows gliding gently along the ground and glowing red eyes piercing the darkness. Keeping deathly quiet I kneeled and slipped my lantern off. I remembered about the light hurting them. Pulling out the wooden matches I slid a few into my shirt pocket and kept one in hand.
As time went by I heard the normal sounds returning. Looking out around the tree I saw a squirrel sitting in the path. It looked at me and began chittering as if to say it was okay now. Whatever had been in the shadows had finally moved on. I returned to the path and started walking along once more.
An hour or so later and I realized it was too dark to continue without the lantern. Striking up a match I knew I was in trouble again. The light from the match had alerted them to where I was. The swamp went deathly quiet and minutes later the screams and growls returned. Quickly I lit the lantern and suddenly it all got worse. They were a ways off yet but I knew they were coming.
Holding the lantern I started running. Trees blurred as I raced by. The lantern’s light flickered as the wind rushed past the broken glass. The sound of feet pounding the ground got closer as screams and growls grew louder. My legs ached and my breathing grew labored. My chest pounded and sweat ran as I struggled to see.
Then I noticed another large outline just ahead. I knew if I was wrong it would be no worse than what was after me. Well winded and low on stamina I gave it everything I had left knowing it wouldn’t last long. Getting closer I realized I was right. It was a cabin and I just had to make it safely inside.
Red eyes suddenly broke the darkness around me. Shrill screams tore the night air. My ears rang from the deafening sound of it. Growls echoed through me in waves of fear. The open door was only a few yards away now. Just as it lunged from the darkness I lunged for the door. Glowing red eyes passed by as claws slashed out just inches from my face.
Slamming hard onto the wooden floor I kicked the door shut. Gritting my teeth to push past the pain I rolled over and put both feet against it. It shook violently as they clawed at it. Quickly I held the lantern up and heard the yells of pain. Within minutes the door stopped shaking. Turning the flame higher I heard the sounds moving away. Becoming very quiet I let out a big sigh of relief and set the lantern on the floor. Relaxing enough to let my feet down I laid there resting. My whole body was aching but it was all worth it. I figured now I might be safe for the night. I knew if I was going to find Genny I needed to stay alive. This cabin looked like just the sanctuary I needed when I needed it. There was no doubt I was going to spend the night here with whatever was waiting for me still out there.
Slowly I sat up and turned to look at my new sanctuary. I was hoping it was something like my cabin back home but it wasn’t like mine at all. It was in pretty bad shape to say the least and I guessed there hadn’t been anyone here in a long time. It looked a lot older than mine. The remains of an old table lay in one corner with a broken chair next to it. A fire place was on the back wall with a few pieces of cut wood alongside. An oil lamp sat on the floor next to a bucket of dark liquid. This place looked like time had just forgotten it. I figured if I was lucky I could get a fire going and save my lantern fuel. I knew I’d probably need it again before this was all over.
Standing up I held my lantern and peeked out the door. If I was going to start a fire I needed more wood. I was sure I had seen some when I lunged inside. Not seeing anything I slowly opened the door and set the lantern down. To my right was a small pile of chopped wood. I ran over and after grabbing a few pieces ran back to throw them inside. On the fourth trip it all started up again. Glowing red eyes broke the darkness and the screaming and growling began. Quickly I ran inside and closed the cabin door. With all of my might I leaned against it while holding the lantern close. At first the door shook violently but within minutes the light had driven them back once again. I stood there trembling lightly as the sounds moved away from the cabin.
Setting the lantern down I jumped in surprise as “Baaauuugh hoppa, Baaauuugh hoppa,” softly broke the silence. Looking over by the broken table I saw a small frog like the one who had helped me. It was sitting in the corner just shaking in fright. I figured it had come in when I was grabbing wood. It seemed the cabin was going to be sanctuary for both of us this night.
After stacking the wood I got a fire going and we settled in. I set a few gumdrops down but the frog wouldn’t eat them. I pushed them closer but he just ignored them. Picking them up one dropped and “snap,” he ate it before it ever hit the floor. I realized then it had to do with being in the air like insects. After tossing a few out and watching him snap them up we relaxed for the night. Checking the old oil lamp I found out it still worked. Even better was the dark liquid in the bucket was the fuel for it. I filled both lanterns and after lying down on the floor next to the fireplace the small frog hopped up alongside me. He snuggled up close and fell fast asleep. I felt sorry for him having to survive this every day.
What I found odd was he purred like a kitten while he slept and the colors of his skin seemed to move. He was dark green with light green stripes running all over and the light green stripes gave off a faint glow and seemed to swirl about. This definitely wasn’t like any frog on my side of the fog.
Lying there thinking about Genny I hoped she was okay. After what I had been through I hoped she had been luckier. I kept telling myself she was safe somewhere and just waiting for me to come get her. It wasn’t long before I fell fast asleep myself.
I awoke a short time later to the small frog croaking frantically and noticed the fire was almost out. I heard movement outside the cabin and I was sure I knew what it was. Quickly I tossed more wood onto the fire and stirred it up. In minutes it was roaring and again I heard yells of pain as whatever was outside moved away. Looking at the frog I thanked him because if it wasn’t for him we both would’ve been in trouble. I decided to call him Bogs because of his strange croaking. He seemed to smile after hearing it and after feeding him a few gumdrops we both went back to sleep.
I awoke the next morning to Bogs softly croaking again. I think he was telling me it was time to wake up. After rubbing the sleep from my eyes I fed him a few gumdrops and he croaked happily afterwards. Looking around again I saw a small black crystal attached to a vine necklace on the mantle above the fireplace. Sliding it on I suddenly felt dizzy but taking it back off I felt better. I tried again but as soon as I had it on I felt disoriented. Taking it back off the feeling quickly went away. I slipped it into my pocket figuring it might come in handy later on.
Looking at my watch I saw the hands had moved a little. It was showing around ten thirty now. I knew it wasn’t right but I couldn’t figure out what was going on with it. Then I thought maybe time on this side of the fog was different. Shaking my head and smiling I thought, no, time is time wherever you are. Looking outside I figured it was around eight by the position of the sun. The sunlight was breaking through the treetops and lighting the swamp up very nicely. I knew it was time for me and Bogs to go. Hooking the lanterns to my backpack I slipped it on and very slowly opened the cabin door. Looking around I saw nothing but the usual swamp creatures running around. At least I thought they were the usual swamp creatures. Many things were different on this side of the fog.