Chapter 12:

012 ┃ Stealth is optional for this mission

The Isle of the Forgotten

Spud leaned against the wall as his heart beat faster and faster. It couldn't be. Not again. Why was he so unlucky? No, his wasn't bad luck, he was just stupid. He knew how dangerous it was to be outside at night and yet he had stayed late investigating in the church. The worst part was that Dawn had already warned him, and now he was completely alone.

The kitten looked at him attentively with its big eyes, making Spud direct his gaze toward him.

“It’s fine, little one. Everything will be okay,” Spud promised, unsure if he was saying it to the cat or to himself.

Trying not to make the slightest noise, he put the feline in his bag. The books already took up a large part of the space and the kitten's head poked out through the bag's opening, but it would have to hold on for the moment. Spud needed his hands free if he wanted to escape from there alive.

He lowered his head and rubbed his temples with his hands, trying to get his brain to work. He had memorized the way to Dawn's house, but to get there he had to cross the entire village. He could risk venturing into the forest, but the darkness of the night would only get him lost.

The only good news was that the stalker still hadn't noticed his presence. If he somehow managed to cross the village without being discovered, he could get home with a bit of luck. He wouldn't escape the deadly scolding from Dawn, but at least he would escape death.

He carefully got up, thinking about the best move. Even though he couldn't cross the shortest route, he could still go around the village. He would have to be very stealthy when moving, but it didn't seem impossible. He took a deep breath, ready to act. He only hoped that the mental map he had of the village was good enough to not lead him to a dead end.

He began to walk crouched down, moving away from the main street. He turned the first corner on the right and walked down the street. Now he should be parallel to the main street. He kept tiptoeing until he reached the first crossing. He stuck to the corner of the nearest ruined house and peeked out cautiously.

Again, there was the stalker. Now that he was closer, Spud could observe it well. It had the same grayish tone as the stalker he saw on the first day, but this one had a sturdier build, similar to a bear. Instead of four limbs, it had six, and it didn't walk upright like the first one. However, they had the same humanoid face with an eternal expression of terror that made his hair stand on end.

It was stumbling around the fountain in the center of the village, so there was no way to cross to the other side without going through that street. He could try to run past, but he was so close that it was impossible that he could cross without it hearing him. He had to distract it first.

Spud crouched down and picked up a small stone from among the rubble. He balanced it in his hand, checking its weight well. If this worked, maybe he had a chance of getting out of there alive.

He peeked into the square, where the stalker was still walking in circles like a confused ant. He waited for it to turn its back on him and stepped out of his hiding place. It would only be an instant, but his heart was beating so hard he could barely hear his thoughts. Gathering all his strength, he threw the stone as far as he could, beyond the fountain. As it fell, the stone collided with some broken glass, producing a momentary snap.

Upon hearing the sound, the stalker seemed to wake from its lethargy. Its body began to convulse and it emitted an unpleasant screech, like two pieces of metal colliding. It lunged in the direction of the sound.

Spud didn't hesitate to take advantage of that opportunity. He tiptoed across the other side of the street, trying not to make the slightest noise. Although he almost tripped over a stone in the way, he managed to reach the other side silently. He took shelter in the nearest wall and stopped to catch his breath. Even though it had only been a few meters, it felt like he had just run a marathon. But he had made it. He had outsmarted the stalker and could go back to Dawn's house.

As if wanting to contradict him, the kitten squirmed inside the bag. It seemed uncomfortable having to go inside a place like that. Spud tried to calm it down by stroking its head, but it was not enough. The kitten meowed loudly, the sound reverberating throughout the silent village. Spud stood still for a few seconds. Cold sweats began to trickle down his forehead. Maybe the stalker hadn't heard it.

The cat meowed again as loud as before and Spud felt a chill run down his body.

"Not now, little one," he said, trying to silence the animal.

From his hiding place, Spud again heard the horrifying screech of the stalker slowly approaching them.

"Oh, no, no, no…”

He backed away slowly while trying to think of a solution. His mind was racing and he was too overwhelmed to think clearly.

The stalker's body began to appear around the corner, revealing itself bit by bit. As soon as its head appeared, the stalker's gaze met Spud's and he felt his heart stop. The stalker began to convulse erratically while emitting the same creepy screech and slowly approaching him.

Spud turned around and began to run. He felt like crying, but if he started now, the tears would cloud his vision, and the stalker would catch him.

He didn't dare to turn his head to see if it was approaching, but he didn't need to. The ground shook with each step of the beast and sounded closer and closer.

All Spud could think about was that he didn't want to die. Now that he was beginning to discover interesting things about the island, he couldn't accept that it would all end so quickly. He still had so many mysteries to solve… and he had barely started to become friends with Dawn.

A whistle pierced the air and passed right behind Spud, causing the stalker's steps to cease for a moment. The boy turned, confused, only to see an arrow embedded in one of the stalker's eyes. Now it had stopped and started to emit a scream that gave Spud a headache.

"An arrow?" Spud blurted out. He looked in the direction the projectile had come from, and his eyes met a very angry Dawn with her bow raised, "Dawn!"

The girl took advantage of the stalker's seconds of daze to rush toward Spud and brandish her spear toward the stalker.

"Dawn, I'm really sorry…” Spud began to apologize, but the girl interrupted him.

"Shut up and go hide!" ordered the girl without looking at him. Despite her killer tone, Spud was glad she was there.

The boy backed away to the ruins of a nearby house just as the stalker charged toward Dawn. It had removed the arrow from its head and there was no trace of the wound.

The girl also charged with her spear raised high and forcefully plunged it into the stalker's body. Although a black fluid began to spurt from the wound, it didn't seem to be enough to finish off the sturdy beast, which with a swipe of its hand sent Dawn flying through the air.

A. Hoshino