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  • Writer's pictureJay F. Servedio

The Valley (part II)

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

We rode for an hour until we saw the entrance to Third Canyon. Cooper was the first to reach land followed by Jimmy, then Theo, then Ethan. I was the last to pull up so I arrived a bit late to the conversation that was already being had.

“... his back man, you agreed to come, Jimmy!” Ethan was yelling at Jimmy, who appeared to be in hysterics.

“I wasn’t told there were going to be GIANTS, Ethan!”

“How the hell was he supposed to know that! Even if there was some way he could’ve, would you have believed him?”

“I…. FUCK MAN! Fuck!”Jimmy kicked the sand on the bank and walked in a circle. “We’ve got four more days to wait out till help comes to pick us up! How are we going to even survive that long?”

“We’ll figure it out. In the meantime let’s–” Cooper, who’s usually one of the calmest people I know, butt in.

“E, can you not see that we are IMMEASURABLY fucked at the moment?” I got out of my boat and made my way over to them. Theo, was hugging his knees and sobbing, sitting a little ways away from the conflict.

“Cooper–” said Ethan. “You gotta chill man. If you don’t chill–”

“ Don’t tell me to CHILL, Ethan! I just watched Goliath tear three people into pieces–” I pointed my gun to the river and fired. Everyone shut up real quick and looked my way. I had their attention, and one less bullet in this magazine.

“We have four days left in these woods. Four days to get to the base of this river or we are absolutely screwed without any chance of survival. Does everyone understand that?” Heads began to nod.

“Ok.” I paused. I needed to think of something or these guys were gonna tear each other's throats out before the giant would ever get a second chance to. “We know something everyone else who died before did not know. We know FOR A FACT that something is out there, looking to kill us–”

“How is that supposed to make us feel better–”

“It isn’t Jimmy, so shut the fuck up please.” He looked to his feet, quiet as a cucumber. “That thing can be injured by bullets, I shot the bastard today. We all have guns… save for Theo, sorry buddy.”

“Oh crap, you’re righ–”

“We can hurt, and possibly kill… whatever it is. And the fact that we know it exists takes away its ability to surprise us…” I looked into the woods. Everyone followed suit. We stared for maybe ten seconds.

Nothing, thank God.

Theoretically, it should not be able to surprise us as easily. And… that gives us some kind of heads up on the competition.” Theo’s face went pale when he heard the word.

“Head… why… What is it doing with their heads? I mean you guys saw it! The bodies, they all didn’t have heads. It–” he paused and he shook his head. “It ripped off Kyler’s head… it ripped off Sau–” he didn’t finish the sentence. Instead, he began to dry-heave. Ethan put his arm around Theo, and patted his back as he heaved and cried..

This poor kid, I thought to myself. He’d watched his best friends get literally ripped apart barely an hour ago.

“We’re gonna get you out of here, Theo,” I said. “We’re all getting out of here.” Jimmy was the first to question my optimism.

“How Frankie? How do you expect us to last the next four days when that THING is after us?” It was a valid question. One I didn’t really have a good answer for. What I did have to offer was honesty.

“We gotta just keep making pace–”

“We’re dead–” said Cooper.

“I’m serious. Our best chance is to keep moving and pray that we can get to the base of the river and avoid it until our ride gets here.” I thought for a second. “Besides, it didn’t attack us BEFORE we got to the valley in Second canyon. Maybe its trapped there.”

“And maybe it isn’t trapped there, and that’s just the best place to kill people?” asked Theo.

“That’s also a possibility. But now that we know the thing exists, it’s gonna be a lot harder for it to sneak up on us. Especially because we’ll be armed and as ready as we can be.” Looks were exchanged amongst the panickers. Ethan did me a huge solid by offering some support.

“If we can’t get our shit together, boys, we will be as good as dead. An idea is better than no idea, and being that this is the only option we have, I suggest we stick to the original plan, this time, with our heads on a swivel.” And that was what we did.

We busted the guns out of our bags and moved them onto our persons.

Food was made.

Small talk was kept to a minimum.

For the most part, everyone was on edge and kept to themselves. Around six we realized we’d probably have to stay put for the night and wait to head into Third Canyon in the morning, on account of the setting sun. No one was happy about that. Camp was set up, tents were pitched, and we came to sit around the fire.

“We’re gonna need someone to keep watch tonight.” said Coop after a long bout of silence. Ethan was quick to jump in after him.

“No. We need two folks on watch.”

“Why two?” asked Theo. The answer was pretty simple so I just threw it out.

“Because they can keep each other awake until the next shift.” Ethan nodded at me.

“Exactly.” Silence filled the air after Ethans affirmation. No one wanted to stay up for the first watch. I couldn’t blame them. The day had been an emotionally and physically exhausting endeavor. I volunteered to take the first shift. And in a surprising turn of events, Jimmy said,

“Then I will too.” All of our heads turned to him. “What.”

“No, no … it’s just…” Ethan stammered. “Didn’t see that coming.”

“I’d rather just stay up later and go to bed for a bit before we move again then have to wake up in the middle of the night and ride in a bumpy kayak with no sleep.” Nods were exchanged between the other group members, being that it now made sense.

Theo, Ethan, and Cooper hit the hay, Jimmy and I sat by the fire, facing the woods with our guns in our laps. We’d been close in high school, but over the years, I’d gotten a little closer with his brother than I was with him.When Jimmy met Amanda, she began to take occupy more and more of his time. I moved out of the midwest and to the east coast, he had kids, and we began to drift apart. There wasn’t any negativity between us, we were just both… busy.

I was glad he volunteered for the same shift as me because I knew it’d give us a chance to reconnect, and it did.

He told me about how Molly and Jacob were ten and eight now.

How Molly had a solo in “Hey Jude” at her last choir concert.

How Jacob hit a home run in tee ball this season.

How the kids loved going bowling with him and Ethan.

How happy he was.

And I was happy for him.

“I’m glad I got to see you again, man.” I smiled at that.

“I’m glad too, Jimbo. I wish the circumstances were different.”

“Me too.” He took a beat and I saw his face drop before he spoke again. “Frankie, I don’t want to die here.” Those words felt like a knife in my gut. I’d dragged him, and Ethan and Cooper here. He had a wife and kids at home. And there was a very very good chance that we weren’t going to be able to make it out of Nahanni alive. His fears were one-hundred-percent rational. We could end up dead by the end of the night. We all knew this. Still, I felt I had to offer some kind of hope.

“If we stick together, we won’t.”

“But how can you know that for sure?” His eyes were watering now. I couldn’t bare to look in them any longer. My head dropped.

“I can’t, Jim. I can’t… all I can say is we give ourselves the best chance possible if we do. And we owe it to ourselves to have a fighting chance. I owe it to you guys. You followed me into the fucking wilderness on a whim because I asked you to. I’m gonna try my damndest to get all of us out of here, ok?” My friend didn’t answer me. I looked up to see why that was and… and his eyes.

His eyes had turned black as the night sky.

“J-Jim?” His response wasn’t a verbal one. It was an action.

He reached for his gun.

“Jim what's going on buddy?” He picked it up and pointed it to me. Before I even knew what happened, he squeezed the trigger.

And nothing happened. The safety was still on. He didn’t realize it was still on. He was trying to shoot me. I lunged for the gun in his hand, and as I did, he flipped off the safety. He pulled the trigger again as I felt the barrel dig into the outside of my arm. A bullet took a fat chunk out of my arm and I felt pain like I had never felt before. A wail clawed its way out of my throat as I managed to rip the gun out of Jimmy’s grasp. Now up close, I could see how black his eyes had become. It was almost as if there were voids under his corneas. Absolute nothing. I threw his gun toward Theo’s tent and managed to let out the beginning of a “HELP” before Jimmy had his hands around my neck and his knees on my shoulders. He began to slam my head against the sandy ground over and over again and chant in some language I’d never heard of before.

“Pleee–” I managed to squeak out. I couldn’t help but feel like I deserved this as I slowly had the life squeezed out of me. I dragged them here. I killed us all. It’s only fitting that I be the first to go.

And then the grip was released. I gasped as the air found its way back into my lungs. I looked up to see Ethan now wrestling with Jimmy.

“What the fuck is wrong with you Jimmy?!” Ethan got his brother into a triangle hold. Jimmy squirmed and flailed his limbs to no avail.

“He tried to shoot me!” Ethan took his eyes off his brother.

“What?!” It was for a second too long, though. Jimmy slammed a closed fist into his brother’s nether regions. Jimmy broke free and Ethan, who was in a considerable amount of pain, dropped to his knees, clutching his groin. Jimmy began to beat down on his brother’s face with his fists.

“JIMMY, JESUS CHRIST!” I tried to stand, but I stumbled and fell flat on my ass. I was still dizzy from almost losing consciousness. I looked back up to see him bite Ethan’s left ear off. Ethan wailed and screamed as Jimmy spit it out onto the sand. That’s when he turned his attention back onto me. Jimmy snarled when his eyes met mine. He got on all fours and began to slowly crawl toward me.

“Jimmy…” there was no look of recognition in those black eyes. “Jimmy.” And then he charged me. “JIMMY!”

He was ten,

Five,

He was ten,

Five,

Two feet away from me when:

BANG!

BANG!

BANG

Jimmy’s chest blew open, sending splats of blood and chunks of rib in all directions as his body fell on top of me. Blood spurted out from the bullet wounds in his torso.

Any possibility of getting an answer as to why he attacked us was as dead as the man I held in my arms. The man I grew up with, who I considered to be my brother. He was dead.

And mere minutes before I was promising him that I’d try my best to get him out of this forest alive.

“JIMMY?!” Ethan screamed, holding the gushing wound on the side of his head. He made his way over to me. I looked over my shoulder to see what exactly killed Jimmy:

It was Theo, holding the gun I threw towards his tent.

Ethan sprinted to Jimmy’s lifeless body and pulled him off of me. He began to sob and caress what remained of his brother.

“What the fuck did you have to shoot him for?!” Theo began to stammer.

“I– he– it was trying to kill–”

“It?!?” Rage filled Ethan’s eyes as he continued to cradle Jimmy. “It was MY FUCKING BROTHER!” He began to sob again.

I didn’t know what to make of ANY of this. Theo had just murdered Jimmy. Jimmy had just tried to shoot me, and he attacked Ethan.

“He was gonna kill you, Ethan!”

“You don’t know that! You don’t fucking know that, Theo! You just met him last night! You don’t know anything!” Ethan was beside himself. I looked to Theo again to notice the poor kid had gone and pissed down his leg. He was just as scared as us. He’d faced loss today too. And he tried to do the right thing.

“E,” I spoke up. “He wasn’t him anymore.” Ethan looked to me now.

“What the hell is that supposed to even mean, Frankie?”

“I mean… I.” I looked for the right words to no avail. No matter how I could put it, what I thought to be true was going to sound insane. “Ethan, I think Jimmy was possessed.” He stared me dead in the eyes for what felt like a year.

“Are you out of your Goddamn mind? Possessed?” He took it how I thought he would have.

“We were attacked by a Giant not even eight hours ago E, I’ve given up on what I thought I knew was impossible.”

“What would even lead you to think that?”

“I don’t know man. Besides him trying to shoot me, strangle me, and smash my face in, he also bit your fucking ear off!”

“He could have been having an episode!” My face went blank.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Psychosis or some shit, I don’t know, why else wou–” before he could even finish, Theo cut him off.

“I’m a psych major, Ethan. And no neurodivergent disorders turn people’s eyes black and send you into a blood lust.” Theo let Ethan process that before he continued. “I know you all think I’m some hopeless kid. I thought I knew a thing or two about the world before today… happened. But a giant and now this threw all of what I thought I knew out of the fucking window, man. Your brother tried to kill you, and your friend. I am beyond sorry that I killed him, but I made a game time decision. It was either let him kill you two, or put an end to whatever that just was.”

Silence filled the air and it was louder than a gunshot. Ethan looked back down at his brother, who’s eyes were still black and mouth was hanging open. He brushed Jimmy’s cheek with his hand. He began to whimper.

“He… his kids. Amanda… he has people.”

“We all do, Ethan,” I said in between whimpers of my own. “And we gotta make sure you get back home because Jimmy’s family is gonna need you to take care of them.” Ethan nodded, letting a few more tears fall onto Jimmy’s face before he looked back up at me.

“Ok.” He rested Jimmy carefully onto the floor. “Where’s uh.. Where’s a shovel.” He stood up, and took a step.

That’s when Jimmy grabbed Ethan by the leg.




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