Chapter 5.3- Undead Minotaur

6 Sep

Hi guys! Let’s see what our favourite little ray of sunshine is up to this week.

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It’s been six, no, seven days since Briony was so rudely intruded upon by the young gentlemen dressed as an undead minotaur. Not much happens in her life like ever, so this event could serve as brooding fodder for weeks.

She’s got that whole grumpy teen thing on lock. Plus she’s been ruminating on the sight of her dad being torn apart by zombies for years now, and that can’t be too good for the ol’ sanity.

Just a sidenote, I googled “Undead Minotaur” cause I thought the results might be cool, and YASSSSSS.

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So anyways, Briony’s nestled all snug in her bed while visions of undead minotaurs dance in her head. She’s at that lovely foggy part of sleep where you’re just starting to wake up and you know you’re dreaming and everything is cozy and trippy.

Two days!

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At the sound of the shrill voice Briony jerks awake, casting her un-adjusted eyes around for the source.

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Woman: I am seventy-one years old and it took me two whole days to get here! I had to climb my old bones over hills and boulders, I had to trek through three swamps! Two days it took me, so you’d better be done your sulking.

Although usually quick to react, this unexpected verbal assault leaves Briony stunned and blinking her eyes into focus.

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Michael: Hey…

Briony groans and sits up. The woman begins walking towards her.

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Woman: Come on, then! You’re not staying in this slimy hole anymore. Stand up, let’s go!

She’s surprisingly stronger than she looks as she grabs Briony’s arm and hoists her to her feet. Wordlessly Briony follows.

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They clamber up over the mouth of the cave and onto hard ground. Briony tries to catch Michael’s gaze to get a sense of what the fuck is going on, but every time he quickly averts his eyes downward.

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Once on flat ground he seems to find his voice.

Michael: I’m sorry, this so wasn’t my idea. I just told her I ran into someone living in a cave and she-

The old woman marching ahead cuts him off.

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Woman: Made him spill the beans! He said you wanted to be left alone but I wouldn’t hear a word of it. No sense leaving a young thing like you in that sorry state. What’s your name, child?

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Still not having said a word this whole time, Briony is quiet. The old woman immediately stops and turns to her, addressing her sternly.

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Woman: Now I won’t have any of that broody nonsense. It’s childish and silly.

Taken aback, Briony responds, “Briony.” The woman’s authoritative expression gives way to a warm smile.

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Woman: Good. I’m Janessa. Or Gran.

These little introductions completed to her satisfaction, Janessa or Gran forges on across the rocky ground.

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Although the old woman is most definitely in the lead, Michael walks ahead to scour the bushes for hidden threats. Briony trails behind, bewildered. As much as she’d like to run from these people, the thought of another round of shrill words from Janessa seems strangely more threatening at this point, so she lets her legs carry her blindly onwards.

As they walk, Janessa and Michael chatter intermittently. Briony follows in silence. While they do have to climb over a few hills and boulders, they don’t see a single one of the swamps that Janessa claimed she had to trudge through. By the late afternoon Briony’s underused legs are aching and there is a sharp pain in her lower back, but she says nothing of her exhaustion to the energetic two ahead of her.

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As they reach some concrete ruins, Janessa slows her lively pace.

Janessa: We’re here.

Briony: You live here?

Janessa: Didn’t you hear me, girl? I said it was a two day trip.

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Briony follows them up a set of stairs obscured by bushes, and Michael offers an explanation.

Michael: We have friends that live here. You’ll like them, they’re really nice.

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Briony’s quite sure she won’t really like them at all, but continues to follow deeper into the labyrinth of ruins. The walls are maze-like and confusing, and every so often there is a gaping hole in the floor that threatens to swallow Briony up if she makes a misstep.

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After turning enough corners to make her head spin, they descend a set of stairs and step into a small dark room. Briony sees Janessa stop to wait for her, and rushes to catch up.

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Janessa: Now do you have anything flammable on you?

Confused, Briony shakes her head.

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Janessa: Well alright then, come along dear.

She disappears down a set of stairs into darkness, and Michael hastens to explain.

Michael: Our friends do metalwork- lots of fires. Wouldn’t want the place to go up in flames.

Then he too begins the walk down the stairs, and Briony, suddenly nervous at being left alone, trails along behind.

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Walking so many steps through darkness quickly becomes disorienting, and Briony is sure that every next step will be the one she topples over into the chasm below. She concentrates on the sound of Michael’s footsteps to keep her pace and to calm her mind, and soon sees flickering firelight lapping against the lowermost steps.

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Finally on flat ground, she steps out into the light

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Michael: Alfie! How’s my favourite little buddy?

Janessa: Oh no, Amanda, it wasn’t such a difficult trip at all. I’m as spry as ever, believe me.

This reunion of old friends makes Briony suddenly feel very out of place, and she takes a step back into the darkness.

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The man skilfully coaxing a fire to life glances up at her in acknowledgement.

Man: So you’re the cave girl. I’m Theo, come on in.

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Amanda: Oh yes, don’t stand in the doorway like that. You’re probably all so thirsty, and we have dinner ready now.

Everyone heads to the table and begins serving themselves food and pouring what looks like homemade beer. As they begin to sit together, Michael looks up at her and pats a chair next to him. Briony apprehensively creeps to the chair at the farthest end of the table and looks down at her hands. Janessa rolls her eyes and slides Briony a plate.

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The happy group chatter on about mutual friends, gardens, and how well little Alfie is walking these days. Briony sits alone and stares sullenly at the table. It’s a strange dwelling, with nothing flammable other than perhaps the residents themselves. All the furniture has been made of salvaged metal, and the massive biceps of both Theo and Amanda leave no mystery as to who the artisans are.

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At some point Amanda takes notice of Alfie’s drooping eyelids and nestles him into his crib. The group moves their conversation onto a set of metal benches where they stretch out and massage their satisfied stomachs.

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Briony stays quietly in her own chair. Occasionally Amanda or Theo will give her a warm, inviting glance, but Briony turns away and ignores the others, feeling suddenly very conscious of her tangled mess of hair and the scraps of dirty cloth draped over her waifish frame.

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Eventually the group comes to the consensus that it is time to sleep, and Michael begins vehemently arguing why he should sleep on the floor so that Briony and Janessa may have the two guest beds. Janessa simply replies that of course he’ll sleep on the floor, and after such a stressful day Briony is feeling too overwhelmed to argue.

She sits perched on the edge of the bed, pressing her fingers painfully into her temples to try to distract herself from crying. The remarkably soft bed suddenly seems too good for her, and she wishes she had had the backbone to argue for the floor. Something so wretched as her should surely be sleeping in the dirt.

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The next morning Briony wakes up curled on the end of the bed, without having ever pulled back the covers. The preparations to leave are quite quick as Janessa insists on hitting the road as early as possible so that they may “get that one cleaned up and clothed”. They’re provided with a light breakfast of dried fruits and meats, as well as some to hold them over later in the day.

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Then, it’s back through the labyrinth and then out into the open for the long walk to wherever.

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During the course of this leg of the journey Briony actually does see a swamp, although the way around turns out to be a relatively quick detour. Michael remarks that if you can find the way through the swamp you’d find the ranch his sister and her husband run.

Janessa: And a crazy one he is, too! Teaches his horses to sniff out and kill zombies, nobody knows how he does it.

Michael: It’s just selective breeding, and only a little less than half actually take to the training. Still, it’s cool.

Janessa: Cool indeed.

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Sooner than she expected, Briony starts to smell open water. As the trio climbs over the rise of a valley they see the vast blue emerge ahead of them, and Briony knows they’re close to their destination. Michael and Janessa increase their pace, and soon they come to a thick forest.

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The fence is almost completely obscured by vegetation, save for one obviously well-used path. Janessa leads them in through the cool foliage, and Briony hears the creak of a gate.

That’s it for this week. Join us next week to learn answers to questions like “Where are they going?”, “Are these people psychos?”, and “Will Briony ever bathe?”

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