Emboldened by Seb‘s recent post, and by way of encouragement, I hereby submit an excerpt from my whatever-the-diminutive-is-of-magnum-opus. Unlike Blackadder’s giant rollercoaster of a novel, mine is more of a small roundabout-type pamphlet. Enjoy?
“Run like you’ve got wind!”
Now, in these situations, when a phrase or joke hits you where you live (usually when you’re in a Thursday afternoon place, mentally), you can usually relax as you convulse and snort milk down your nose while your eyes fill up. However, Tarsus did not have this luxury, being hotly pursued as he was. That he managed to locomote while all of the above occurred (apart from the milk bit) was more a testament to his visceral fear and loathing than to his coordination and determination.
Indeed, the convulsions were aiding his progress to some degree, although by some unknown process. They were also having some unpleasant side effects, odoriferously, as it were. In fact, their presence was in as much danger of being revealed by Tarsus’ trumps and burps as it was by his continued attempts to stifle that inner, moronic laugh that we all have but strive to take with us to the grave without its utterance ever having even once sullied our ears.
Presently they came to the forest and plunged inward without pause. Their rapid transit appeared to have caught the trees off their guard and they made it through the first few metres with little impediment. As he ran through the trees, Tarsus became aware that his body was moving with little conscious input from his brain. Look at me go! Watch out for that treeeeeooooo that was close! Their flight had tapped into an inner sliver of primordial, animal instinct in Tarsus’ mind, whose determination to endure was doing a fine job in ensuring that Tarsus, and hence his inner animal sliver, would prevail.
Pointy, on the other hand, did not appear to have such a sliver, nor have need of one. It appeared that the trees were getting out of his way. Leaving his body to do the running, Tarsus could see that Pointy had in his mouth a small whistle that was evidently blowing in concert with his breaths. Tarsus’ could not hear it, but the trees obviously could as they clapped their bows to their trunks as he approached. A few made pained attempts to foil his passage, but none came near.
Their pursuers, obviously confounded by their inability to best the combination of animal instinct and frantic whistling, release their own animals into the fray. Three hunting dogs were released and soon began gaining on the fleeing pair. Aided by the scent trail being left by Tarsus, they homed in with relentless ease.
This is one of those occasions, thought Tarsus, where, by some method, which is never fully explained, it would be useful to be rendered invisible. Or to suddenly find a hiding place so perfect as to allow instant concealment while simultaneously erasing any sign of ones presence. It would be useful, say, ooh, about now. He waited. The rendering invisible or perfect hiding place did not manifest itself. If only this was one of those convenient chases you read in books. Evasion opportunities are always more bountiful.
As his animal sliver continued to propel him forward, he chanced a look over his shoulder. He could not see much apart from a few trees aiming evil looks in his wake and a haze of dust and leaves that marked his passing. His inner sliver sensed the lack of immediate evisceration and suddenly and without due warning, relinquished command of Tarsus’ faculties.
It goes without saying that this is not the ideal command decision to encounter while looking over your shoulder, especially when involved in a serious, high speed and prospectively fatal pursuit situation. In the time it took for Tarsus to align his head to the path ahead and refocus his eyes, a tree appeared in his direction of travel. The effects of the animal sliver had not fully worn off and Tarsus was able to twist slightly to one side in order to avoid a potentially embarrassing running-into-a-stationary-tree event.
However, he suffered the possibly even more embarrassing running-into-a-tree-saw-it-at-the-last-moment-but-still-hit-it. It was, however, but a glancing blow. He was knocked off his feet but, and don’t ask how he managed it, Tarsus executed a forward roll, sprang to his feet and continued apace.
Pointy had witnessed this event because Tarsus had managed to gain ground on him, even encumbered by the lack of a tree-repelling whistle. He was about to offer a scathing yet congratulatory remark to Tarsus when, from a little too close for comfort behind them, there came a chilling howl.
They both looked behind them. Now clearly visible between the clawing boughs were three large hounds, black as night, with eyes glowing like coals in the fire. They bounded through the trees with powerful grace, without, it seemed, the need for whistle or sliver. The trees seemed as repulsed as Pointy and Tarsus were.
“What we need,” panted Tarsus between breaths “is a convenient hiding place or method of evasion that is never fully explained!”
“What?” shouted Pointy.
“Need Hide Knackered Soon Blisters Hounds Gaining Intestines Collar,“ replied Tarsus. “Too pretty to die horribly,” he added.
“With you on that one,” agreed Pointy, and promptly vanished.
For a few seconds Tarsus did not notice his colleague’s disappearance, the threat of imminent death occupying progressively increasing amounts of his thoughts. When it dawned on him that Pointy was not to be seen, he was overcome with grief. From deep within, Doggy once more rumbled into life. Tarsus stopped as quickly as his inappropriate footwear would allow, using a tree branch as a brake. The branch promptly snapped off, accompanied by distressed creaks from the dismembered tree. Tarsus ignored the complaints and, brandishing the bough, turned to face death like a man.
The lead hound was only a few meters away and was slowing down, a look of confusion in its ember eyes. As it drew close, Tarsus fetched it an almighty blow with the branch and the hound crumpled into a sharp black heap on the ground. The other hounds skidded to a stop nearby and looked around, the same look of confusion evident. The urge to kill still bright in his mind, Tarsus ran towards them, the bloodied branch held aloft. The two hounds spotted the onrushing weapon but barely had time to react to Tarsus’ piercing war-cry before the second hound lay bleeding and insensible on the needle-strewn floor of the forest. The remaining hound took one look at each of its defeated companions and, with a look of frantic desperation and despair, took off in the direction of the pursuing soldiers.
Tarsus, now firmly in the groove, was about to give chase when he heard Pointy calling to him from nearby.
“Tarsus, over here! Quickly!”
Tarsus made his way towards the sound of Pointy’s voice but could not locate his companion.
“Stop playing silly buggers! This really isn’t the time,” shouted Tarsus. Suddenly he felt a hand touch his arm and, without fully considering his actions, brought up the branch and swung round.
“Watch out; that nearly hit me, you moron!” came Pointy’s voice, from an indeterminable source in the vicinity.
“Where are you?” asked Tarsus.
“Beside you,” said Pointy in his ear.
“This is going to sound unusual, but I’m going to say it anyway. I can’t see you.”
“I can’t see you either. Unfortunate side-effect. Come on.” Tarsus felt Pointy take his hand. He briefly considered making a big song and dance about not being able to see him and how it wasn’t fair and how bad his day was and did he know what it was like but decided that it was not the time for such remonstrations.
“I am also a little concerned by my seeming inability to see myself. I have checked my eyes and they appear to be open and functioning normally. Now may be the time for soothing words before I have a psychotic episode,” said Tarsus in a level, if brittle, monotone.
“It’ll pass. Keep moving,” said Pointy.
“That is a relief,” said Tarsus sarcastically. “I don’t think we’re in a safe enough place to get into a philosophical discussion about how you can be sure you exist if you can’t see yourself. You may sense I am not entirely comfortable with being invisible,” he added.
“Deal with it. We have more pressing issues to worry about,” replied Pointy, his voice hard. Tarsus let it go.
Tarsus was beginning to get used to the idea of being led by the hand through a forest by a small, pointy, invisible man when said man began to appear.
“Hey, I can see you. Sort of. I can see a vague outline, shadowy. You look less pointy than normal,” he added.
The shadowy outline turned to Tarsus. “Yes, we’re both becoming visible. The effects are only temporary – about fifteen or so minutes.”
“Is it worth my asking you to fully explain this?” enquired Tarsus. “No.” said Pointy. “Right.” said, Tarsus, and left it at that.