Rustles In The Dark: Part Three
Oh, the horrors of that night would never end. The cold, the hunger, the pain of her many inflicted wounds, by thorns or ground squirrels otherwise. Maun forced herself not to fall asleep, for she had to keep moving in order to stay warm.
The little girl wouldn’t have been able to even if she could; there were horrible sounds coming from deep inside the forest, sometimes screams, sometimes shrieks, and sometimes sickening sounds she could not place what they were. She did not want to know. And she was frightened.
Maun became lost, and whatever direction she took, she walked toward the noises. Fearing for herself, the girl let out helpless tears for a third time. A voice was heard in response: “Why are you crying, small girl? It would be best of you if you went home, away from the dangers of the monster Titalukia. It only awakes from its slumber on the darkest time of the coldest day of the year.”
By now, Maun was starting to believe in Tiquik- whatever it was called. “Oh, White-Tailed Deer, I am but a miserable little girl. I am cold, hungry and alone. These noises frighten me. Will you be able to help me in any way?”
White-Tailed Deer pressed her flank near her body to warm her. “I shall help you little child. As I have told you, every year, on the coldest day, does the great demon Titalukia awake. It is an evil thing, but none have ever seen it, for none have ever escaped it with their lives. Within the deepest shadows of this forest, is where it lives. The Sounds are of Titalukia stirring, as well as its unlucky victims trying to flee.”
Maun shivered again, but this time not from the cold. If she should encounter it…no, she shall not think of it. White-Tailed Deer will tell her how to get away from the beast. And if she does not, she shall force her.
White-Tailed Deer sniffed her clothes. “I smell Ground Squirrel on you…have you met him?”
“Oh, yes,” Maun replied. She decided to stretch the truth. “Well, you see, I saw him near a pine, a poor wretched creature he was. Now it was an ugly rodent, but I still helped him when he asked me for my rice cake. That is why I am now so hungry. But he was dissatisfied, and bit me. Now, I took a heavy-weight branch and struck his head, and I left him lying still.” Maun finished her little tale with a dry cackling.
White-Tailed Deer rose to her slender legs. “What have you done? He was my friend!” she hissed. “And I do not think he would just ask for a rice cake- he believed in bartering. But I do think you harmed him!” White-Tailed Deer struck Maun with her front hooves. “And I will harm you!”
Maun heaved herself in panic, and sprinted away. But deer are swifter. She soon had a bloody face and bloody mouth. Maun screamed in spite of herself. Instantly, the Sounds fell silent. There were no more hooves flying either, and she turned around in apprehension for a trick.White-Tailed Deer fled in to the bracken, and disappeared into the bracken.
“Ha! I scared her away with a loud noise, and she scampered away. Such weak hearts do deer have.” Maun’s own weak heart paled when the sounds started again, so loud she realized she must be very, very near.
The trail! Looked for where White-Tailed Deer vanished! Maun smiled at her own brilliance, but faltered when there was no bracken in sight. Where did it go off to? Maun paced around, but quickly stopped when it brought her closer to the Sounds.
She was really frightened now. White-Tailed Deer could have helped her, if she was not friendly with that squirrel vermin. Maun even missed the brief warmth she provided. She tried anything for some animal to come and rescue her, but it only succeeded in provoking the Sounds even further.
The small child wondered if this would be the night when her selfish life would finally end. She did not like the sound of it. What a horrendous place to die. It was so gloomy; it was easy to think this is where Titalukia would enjoy sleeping. The shadows played with her sanity. She envisioned scenes that she would never think of in a sunny afternoon. Maun worried, and worried to the point her heart ached.
Would she ever eat rice cakes in peace by the riverside? Put apple blossoms in her hair that she prized as though it was made of gold? Climb tall trees, sleep in soft beds, feel the sun again? Greet her mother and father, and tell them how sorry she was for going outside without permission?
She must…and she shall find a way. Maun pondered and pondered, until she realized…the Sounds. White-Tailed Deer said they were caused by Titalukia. What had her mother told her about it? That is she continued misbehaving, it would come after her and eat her up. No, other than that. Yes. The surrounding area around its den became infested with dark magic, so that victims were drawn in. Maun paled. She will not die. It must not come to that.
What else did she say? Something about a certain path where the magic does not settle, and is only seen by the one who knows…Maun no longer remembered. Knows…what? About the path? She searched for some difference in the dark forest, but was terribly disappointed.
A familiar voice sounded, one that she never thought would be glad to hear again. “Little child…I gave you advise, and you refused.” Owl’s cold eyes flashed. “And then you insulted me.”
“Please forgive me, dear Owl,” Maun said quickly. “Please lead me out of this awful place.”
Owl sat silent on his cypress limb, but then responded harshly, “I heard what you did to Ground Squirrel. And not what you told White-Tailed Deer,” he hooted solemnly. “You see, there is only one trail leading away from Titalukia’s den. And the traveler must know one thing: compassion. Ground Squirrel tried to make you learn that, little child, by making you give the rice cake willingly. You did not. He despaired, and sent White-Tailed Deer to aid you. Little child, you little head still had learned nothing. Good bye.”
Maun was about to plead with him, when Owl let out a thunderous screech:
“TITALUKIA! I HAVE HERE A HUMAN GIRL! WAKE UP, YOU LAZY CREATURE AND COME EAT HER!” Owl flew away silently, far away from the wrath of the demon.