As Hart continued his journey, he became aware of a buzzing around his ears. He fanned his hand around both ears in a circular motion, took another gulp of water, and realized the buzzing was still there. Annoyed, Hart whipped his faded baseball cap off, waved it around his head, and put it back on. There. That should take care of the little bugger. But it didn’t. The buzzing grew louder. Louder and more persistent. Something bit him on the back of his neck.
Hart winced and clenched his teeth. It was as if someone had plunged a sharp needle into him. He reached to slap his sweaty neck a few times. When he pulled back his hand, Hart’s blue eyes bulged at the sight of blood smeared across his palm. What the hell just bit me? A Fairy Falls vampire?
The buzzing returned, and another creature flew into his ear. Hart freaked. Maybe it’s trying to burrow into my brain? Suck out the fluids? Leave me paralyzed on the road? His heart raced. He frantically dug a finger into his ear to extract whatever had crawled in there. He winced, hearing a sudden pop, like its body had exploded in his ear canal. Hart’s shoulders tensed, as he pulled out his finger. It, too, was smudged with blood. His blood. Sweat blistered across his temples and dripped down his face. What’s going on? What are these strange creatures? And why are they attacking me?
More buzzing accompanied these thoughts. Biting his bottom lip, Hart wiped the blood from his hand and finger across his jeans, and turned to face the enemy. He dropped his jaw and water bottle at the same time. A flock, no, a herd, no, a swarm of black, buzzing, blood-sucking whatever-they-were, were inches from his face. The black cluster moved in for the kill. Hart promptly closed his mouth, took a step back, then another, and another, but the little beasties followed him every-which-way he went. He broke to the left; they followed. He cut to the right; they pursued. He started to run backward; they kept up with every stride taken. A root snagged Hart’s ankle and tripped him. He rolled a short distance down a ravine before smacking into a group of moss-covered boulders.
Disoriented, Hart shook his head, then looked up. That was a mistake. The swarm of flying beasties were now hovering over him. His breathing became shallow, his heartbeat erratic. His mouth went dry. This is it. I’ll be devoured in a matter of minutes by a hoard of vicious, bloodletting demons made of teeth and wings. Then Hart heard something else to his right. Not buzzing or whining, but a noise that sounded like a nervous-whump, as if someone was thrashing about in the bush. Slowly, Hart glanced to his right. His skin tingled all over. Not more than a metre away, coiled in layers of brown and black, hunched a lone rattlesnake, ready to strike.
In one breath, Hart rolled to his left, stood, and sprinted into the forest. He ran like his life depended on it, cutting his own path, while branches and saplings scraped his face and whipped his legs. The flying black demons were hot on his trail but Hart soon lost them, and after about fifteen minutes of constant running, looking back, running, and looking back, he sensed it was safe enough to slow down. His lungs protested, his legs screamed their silent pain as Hart, now sweating like a fat man in a sauna, collapsed in a clearing and surrendered to his body’s wishes.
Feeling his legs cramp, Hart reached down to rub both his calves briskly. Tired and hot, and now probably lost again, he knew he had to find his way back to the road, wherever that was. Hart swore aloud, angry not only with himself, but with the strange, savage creatures that lived up here. He had thought he had some idea of what to expect. The trucker, whom he’d hitched a ride up here with, had told him about the numerous golf courses that dotted the area, about the million dollar cottages nestled amongst the trees, and about the condominium style resorts that were being built around many of the lakes’ shorelines. Hart banged a fist against the spongy forest floor. He thought Fairy Falls would have been more civilized, more developed. But he was wrong. Dead wrong.