Day 25 of the February Flash Fiction Challenge. Today’s prompt is to write about a cryptid, or an animal whose existence isn’t substantiated (e.g., Sasquatch). Coincidentally, I wrote about Sasquatch on Day 16 of the Flash Fiction Challenge.
This story is in support of the novel I am working on. I tried to keep the details vague so it could work as a stand alone piece of writing but there’s obviously a lot more to this story.
The woonchaj waited in a cave deep inside the big, gray mountain. It closed its eyes and felt for a signal—just like it had every day for the last 500 years. As much as part of the mountain as the animals and plants that lived there, it had been in this world for longer than it could remember.
A slight tremble of earth, soft steps of a hare, a whooshing wind through the pines. The forest was telling the same story it had every day. Deep, deep, deep into the core of the mountain, where even the woonchaj itself didn’t understand the strange connections between this world and another, a man screamed. The woonchaj sent a tendril of comfort to the man and the screams quieted.
Soon, soon, the woonchaj tried to convey its message to the man.
Evening calm settled in the pines of the mountain’s foothills. A jay squawked a note to signal the end of day. Night settled with such poignant darkness that even the woonchaj was startled by its quick descent. The air was different tonight and the woonchaj pushed tendrils of feeling out farther into the woods.
Then, it was there. A spark of something different, like a single thread of fabric caught on a branch, rending the smooth darkness with a gap of light.
The woonchaj could feel her. She was young yet driven by experience, scared but motivated by confidence. In the way that only the woonchaj could, it moved itself from cave, to rock, to tree, to shrub until it found her trail in the forest northeast of the big, gray mountain. She halted her steps and turned towards the woonchaj. It made itself seen. To her eyes, it appeared as a massive black wolf but its core was made from the spirits of all living things on the mountain. Its four legs were stronger than granite and its body was covered in something that was neither fur nor feather but something in between. Its face held the wisdom and knowledge that comes with being alive for millennia.
The woonchaj advanced slowly, feeling her hesitation but it sensed no fear. She had been expecting it.
“You are the guardian of the mountain,” she said. Her features were hidden under the cover of darkness and her own heavy layers of clothing.
“Yes. I have been waiting for you for a long time. Do you have the stone?” It already knew she had it before she answered, its power sang a song through the cold darkness that couldn’t be ignored.
She nodded, reaching for something in her satchel. “No need to bring it out. It isn’t safe,” the woonchaj said. She nodded again. “How much do you know?”
“About as much as one can expect considering a week ago I lived a happy naive life as a shopkeeper’s daughter.”
The woonchaj smiled to itself. “Good, that’s enough for now. I will fill you in on the details.”
She sighed, looking at the woonchaj like she wasn’t really sure it was actually there but was willing to go along with the story anyway. “Where are we going? What are we going to do with this stone?”
“We’re going to the mountain. We are going to save someone who has been trapped for a very, very long time. The mockingbird needs to be free.”
“More riddles. Great. Ok, then.” she said, wrapping her scarf more tightly around her neck. “I’ll follow you, Wolf Guardian Mountain Spirit.”
As they walked off, the darkness of the forest seemed to concentrate around them and the wind covered their noises with soft howls, hiding them from searching eyes. It wasn’t safe and the woonchaj felt the uneasiness bristle through the leaves, awakening animals as they slept. A change was coming soon and it wasn’t sure they had done enough to sway fate in their favor.