“Their security is too tight; we’ll never get by them,” Billy whispered to the other two boys as they neared the city’s outer wall. He gave a grunt of annoyance then in his anger kicked a stone into the open, almost alerting the Forukk guards to their position.
“We’ve got to think of something,” Trey said calmly.
Zak’s eyes suddenly widened and a grin crept upon his dust-coated face. “No worries. I’ve got our way out.” Without another word he sped off back the way they had come.
Trey and Billy chased after him, not risking shouting to ask him to stop or even where he was going. They ran past the bell tower hill, then almost smashed into Zak when he suddenly stopped. He pointed to a shiny metal ladder that led up to the aqueduct.
“This is our way out,” Zak said happily.
“Really?” inquired Trey.
Billy assessed the aquatud quickly then nodded. “Okay. Let’s get going. What have we got to lose?” He started to climb the ladder. A Forukk stalked into view, its fangs bared at the teens.
Zak gave a quick laugh then ran off behind a building.
“He betrayed us!” Billy shouted in anger. Hooking his legs around the steps he freed up his arms to use the bow. Awkwardly he nocked an arrow then drew back the string. He fired, the arrow slamming straight into the beast’s snout. It howled in pain. Trey ran to cut it down but Billy beat him to it, a second arrow driving through the monster’s throat.
“Take that you freak!” he jeered.
“Sssshhhh! You’ll get us caught,” Trey hissed. He looked around for Zak but the boy was nowhere to be seen. “Zak was right anyway This will get us from the city. It’ll be a long jump down into the field but I’d say we could make it.”
After climbing the ladder they slowly crawled along the aqueduct, half submerged in freezing water. After a few minutes they noticed that the water was rising and was starting to flow faster. It tugged at them, urging them to slip forwards. It became overpowering.
“This is so cooool!” came an excited shout from behind them.
“Is he insane?” roared Billy.
Trey didn’t have time to answer. A wave of water smashed into him, knocking the breath from his lungs. Zak flew over him on a makeshift wooden surfboard that had once been a door. Trey was just able to grab the end of the board before it zoomed off along the curving pipe. Billy grabbed Trey’s foot.
“I’m been ripped in half,” Trey managed to scream over the roar of the water.
Zak took in their predicament at a glance. He turned around and pulled Trey and Billy onto the plank as if he was on the ground and not hurtling along a high, narrow water passage at a breakneck speed.
Billy glared at him angrily between nervous looks at his own body as he tried to keep his balance. “Why couldn’t you just walk like us?”
“Where would the fun be in that?”
“Just like his granddad,” Trey mumbled to himself.
He looked past Zak out in front to see where they needed to be heading and noticed something that worried him.
“How well do you think this thing can take sharp turns?” Trey bellowed.
“Not good,” replied Zak simply.
Billy was about to add some cynical remark but gravity shut him up. The door hit the corner and exploded, firing pin like splinters everywhere and sending the three teens flying through the sky.
“Woohoo, I can fly!” laughed Zak. “Oh wait, I’m only hurtling towards earth head first.”
Not for the first time in the past day did Trey think he was going to die. His luck held out once again though. He smashed into a haystack. Slowly he poked his head out and was greeted by the heads of Billy and Zak. They shoved themselves out and brushed themselves free of hay.
“Well, that was well placed,” commented Zak. “Who’d have thought that hay would break that kind of fall?”
Billy grumbled to himself between pained gasps. “I’m going to be pulling splinters out of me for days.”
“Look at it this way, we got free acupuncture,” replied Zak happily.
Trey looked around him. They were in a large field filled with nothing except for grass and fluffy white sheep, but there was something wrong. No Forukks were visible nearby but Trey could not shake the feeling.
He walked further into the field and away from the blazing city. Beyond the smoke, Trey could see the assembled Forukk army laid out in the western forests. Clusters of battle still raged around the houses but they were clearly one sided. Biting his lip, he tried to push it from his mind and focus on his immediate surroundings. He continued walking. The other two followed.
“What should we do then? We can’t stay here,” said Billy.
“We’ve got to go to Onlasar like Gramps said.” Zak gave his answer, staring at Billy as though the boy was stupid for having to ask.
“Onlasar is leagues away! It’s a dangerous journey and there are bound to be wild creatures and Forukks everywhere,” Billy retorted.
“So we’ll die.”
“We’ll die if we stay here too. We might as well die on a cool adventure instead of standing around doing nothing.”
While Billy and Zak argued, Trey had continued to look around the field.
“Guys. I think you better stop arguing and run,” he said shakily.
All around them the sheep were starting to shake violently, their skin seemed to crawl and change. Trey watched the closest sheep’s eyes change from little innocent beads to sinister red slits.
“Oh. The mutating sheep. Why should we run from them? They look kinda cute.
“They have tentacles, you weirdo,” screamed Billy.
“So they’re a little different. That doesn’t mean that they don’t belong.”
Billy stared wide-eyed at Zak, clearly unable to comprehend the boy’s mind. “They’re mutating into demented, blood frenzied, demonic sheep before our eyes.”
“Maybe it’s that time in a sheep’s life when their body’s start to change.”
By now the sheep had surrounded them.
“It’s just a thought but maybe we should be running now,” interrupted Trey.
“No way. Look you can pet them,” Zak answered. He reached out his hand and attempted to pet one of the sheep. He suddenly gave a yelp of pain and withdrew his arm lightning fast.
“Agh. It bit me. Wait, I was right! The sheep are finally retaking the world! You said I was crazy!” Zak cackled.
“Um. Zak, I think it has rabies.”
“We’re totally surrounded and they look pretty nasty,” Billy added, nocking an arrow onto his bowstring tensely.
It looked impossible to find a way out from the centre of the sheep. They had survived the attack from the fearsome Forukks only to be eaten by sheep. An idea suddenly popped into Zak’s head.
“Let’s grab one of them, climb onto its back and ride into the woods to safety,” he said with a triumphant look on his face.
Billy was about to shout but after a second thought he decided on sarcasm instead. “Let me get this straight. You want to ride away from the evil sheep, on an evil sheep? That’ll really work.”
“I know. It’s an amazing idea that can’t fail,” grinned Zak.
Billy turned to Trey and raised his arms with incredulity. “Come on Trey, tell him that it’s insane.”
“We don’t have much choice,” replied Trey.
“Surely you’re not planning to listen to him?” the other teen pleaded.
“Sorry Billy. Zak lead the way,” Trey answered with a resigned sigh.
“Sweet!” Zak said with a smirk. Without a second glance at either Billy or Trey, he jumped onto the closest sheep’s back, used two of its tentacles as a seatbelt and tapped its side with his feet to make it run. It shot off, speeding through the masses of mutant sheep.
“You’re going the wrong way Zak. Onlasar is the other way,” Trey called over to him as he picked out his own sheep.
“I knew that,” Zak called back. “Just warming up.”
Trey jumped onto the sheep next to him, narrowly avoiding being bitten, and started to head towards the forest at the end of the field. Billy ran as fast as he could then made a huge leap to grab onto Trey’s sheep. He only just managed to grab its tail, causing it to release a blood-curdling scream and run faster.
Zak was closest to the forest by pure suicidal speed when the skin on his sheep started to bubble and slush. He carried on riding. The sheep exploded with a pop. Zak was sent flying through the air in a wave of purple gore then landed hard in a puddle of green and purple goo.
“Nice,” he said as he wiped himself down.
He looked over to where Trey was and laughed. Trailing along behind him was Billy holding the sheep’s tail for dear life. Just behind Billy was a horde of the sheep, attempting to bite at his feet as he thrashed around. Then, as Zak had anticipated, Trey’s mount exploded too, sending Billy screaming into a tree. At this point Zak was rolling across the floor, unable to breathe properly through laughter.
Trey opened his eyes only to discover he was surrounded by the killer sheep. Great. Eaten by sheep. Real good way to go. He thought sarcastically to himself. He opened his mouth to call for help when the remaining sheep blew up all around him. Gooey sheep guts flew into his open mouth.
After throwing up a few times, Trey staggered over to where Zak was rolling around. He was about to lie down and rest when he heard a roar from nearby. His eyes darted to the city and saw in horror that ten of the Forukks were heading towards them.
Zak couldn’t stop himself from laughing even when Trey told him about the Forukks. Trey didn’t want to wait for the monsters to catch up so he grabbed Zak’s arm and dragged him into the woods, only stopping to grab Billy’s leg as well since the boy was currently unconscious.
After struggling through the forest for a few minutes he risked looking back. Nothing was following them. He then looked at Billy who was still unconscious. His gaze then fell onto Zak, who he only now realised, had stopped laughing. He had his head rested on his arms and his legs crossed. He was asleep.
There was a moment of anger, then a smile crept onto Trey’s face. They needed a safe place to hide and he knew exactly where he wanted to go. He walked on, dragging the other two after him as the sky darkened around him until he found what he was looking for: water.
Trey had been here many times throughout his life. It was a small spring fed by a thin fresh water stream. It was a tranquil glade where Trey liked to go when the city life became too much. Just for tonight, they were safe.
The first thing Trey did was to take a small cup from his travel bag. He was going to take a leaf from his mother’s book. He looked out across the top of the trees, back towards the city and saw the moon illuminating the night’s sky around it. A silky reflection sat on the water giving the illusion of two moons. He slowly lowered the cup into the stream and watched as the sparkling silver water flowed into the container.
The moonlight gave everything a strange glow. Everything looked so peaceful; it was hard to believe that only an hour ago the city he had lived in all his life had been destroyed. His hands shook and his mind raced but a heavy weariness had settled over every inch of him.
Trey smiled sadly to himself then let the water trickle back into the stream. He wouldn’t wake them, not yet. He needed some well-earned sleep first. At first he had thought that he would find no rest, but once he had sat leant against a tree he closed his eyes and instantly his mind drifted off into the strange world of dreams.
It was all he could do not to dwell on his mother’s fate though; doubt and fears were always lurking just below his surface thoughts. Nightmares plagued his dreams until even his mind could no longer muster the strength to conjure up any more horrors.