It seems like just yesterday I began posting this little tale of big game hunter Edmund Sorenson and his vile manipulator Mr. Rolstein. Yet nine weeks have gone by. Things are about to get hairy and we still have no idea what Rolstein is really after, or why the government is so interested in. I guess that means you’ll have to keep reading. Read on, my friends. Read on.
A Matter of Life and Death X
Two feet of snow fell overnight, concealing all tracks and visual terrain features. Fortunately, Edmund Sorenson had marked the lotus grounds with a GPS tracker on his first excursion. The expedition slipped into snow shoes after breaking camp and continued the long, arduous journey into the Canadian wilds.
The loss of Harris played continually in the corners of his mind, for Edmund had never lost a man on one of his trips. Making matters worse, Cofield continued displaying outward hostility toward them all. The mercenary was volatile by nature. Losing his partner only made him worse.
Edmund knew there was nothing to be done about Cofield. A man so bitten by rage would either burn out on his own or fall in line. No one among the small group, now a man down, had any greater purpose than Edmund. Only by finding the lotus and getting it back to Rolstein would he be able to save his daughter’s life. Or so Rolstein promised.
It was Edmund’s one hope.
“How close are we?” Mara asked as she slipped alongside him.
Edmund continued scanning. “Not far.”
She frowned, lips pursed. “Do you really believe what you said? About that…monster?
The notion of real-life monsters was borderline ridiculous, but his insistence, combined with Harris’ disappearance, were beginning to make her a believer.
“I know what I saw.” And I hope I never have to see it again.
Frustrated, it took all her willpower not to grab his shoulder and spin him to a halt. “Edmund, I need to know. Can you get us out of here alive?”
“If I said yes would it matter? That idiot Cofield is just as likely to get us all killed as the Wendigo,” he fired back.
Adjusting the grip on his rifle, Edmund pressed on. He wanted to be done already. To get the lotus and return to Rolstein. He liked Mara, could even stand their taciturn medic, and knew how to handle Cofield, but the drive to save his daughter was paramount.
It was late afternoon when he called them all together. They’d arrived at the edge of a series of small ravines and sunken pits. The lotus ground. Wendigo territory.
“Listen to me clearly,” he said, looking each in the eye in turn. “This is the very edge of the lotus ground. The flowers are located somewhere near the center. There are caves in the far slopes, where I believe the Wendigo come from.”
“Enough with the boogeyman talk, Sorenson,” Cofield snarled. “Get the flower and show what I need to kill for Harris.”
Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it. “Save it, tough guy. You want vengeance, fine, have it but do it my way. I don’t know how many of those things are here.”
He swore he caught the sound of teeth grinding. Edmund concealed his grin. Brave or foolish, they were about to find out the truth of what he fervently believed. A mantra repeated in his mind. Find the flower.
No one spoke. It was time. They were ready. Edmund nodded. “All right, follow me. No talking. Don’t make any noise. We get the flowers and head directly for the pickup point. Let’s move.”
Edmund led them down into the nearest ravine as quickly, and safely, as possible. Daylight was already getting short and the cannibalistic Wendigo was mostly nocturnal. His plan was to get what they had come for and retreat back to the edge of the grounds, hopefully finding an adequate place to hold up for the night.
Shadows immediately eclipsed the majority of light once he stepped onto the ravine floor. The air took on an almost fetid odor, as if a great many things had died here. Edmund breathed through his mouth and kept going. The markings on the shrubs and saplings, markings he had made on his first venture, proved he was moving in the right direction. More so, he felt he was close.
The ravine twisted and turned while running easterly for several hundred meters. Edmund crept upon the final turn, crouching to reduce his silhouette. He raised his rifle and poked his head out. The area was clear, and filled with blooming arctic lotuses. His pulse quickened. His mouth went dry. He led the others into the small lotus patch and they quickly set about collecting the flowers. All told it took less than twenty minutes for the adventurers to fill their packs with the lotus and be ready to depart.
Edmund shouldered his pack and turned back to the ravine.
And then the world exploded.