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  • Writer's pictureJay F. Servedio

The Valley (Part III).

“What the–” Ethan fell to the floor. He turned to see his undead brother. “Jimmy?” Jimmy howled at Ethan and rose to his feet and towered over the still living sibling.

“THEO, AIM FOR THE HEAD.” Theo did as was instructed. He raised the gun, took aim, and squeezed the trigger.


Jimmy’s head exploded sending chunks of his skull and brain and blood all over the surrounding area. Ethan got drenched in it. Jimmy’s body fell backwards.

I heard Ethan begin to cry again. It was the second time in one day he’d watched his brother die. I turned to my friend and put my hand on his shoulder. In a twenty-four hour period we’d found out our mission was a fool's errand and lost five people. All of whom left this world with folks to mourn them. Jimmy’s kids, now fatherless. And it was all my damn fault. Ethan looked up at me after another bout of crying.

“Coop was right,” said Ethan. “We are fucked.”

That’s when it hit me.

“Where… where the fuck is Coop?” Theo eyes widened. Ethan didn’t seem too bothered by the question, being that his focus was still on what remained of Jimmy.

“What does it matter, we’re all gonna die here, man.”

“That doesn’t have to be true,” offered Theo. Ethan wasn’t having it.

“Keep your fucking mouth shut, kid, or so help me God I’ll put a bullet through it.” Once again, I needed to calm the passions for the time being. At this point there was a higher chance of these two killing each other than a giant, or some kind of evil spirit doing the job.

“Theo, go check his tent, just to be safe. And whatever you do, don’t wander away from camp, please.” Theo nodded and headed over to camp. Then I turned my attention back to Ethan.

“He saved your life twice today, E. I know the circumstances aren’t ideal, but you have to realize he made the right–”

“He shot Jimmy, Frank!” His eyes met mine. The tears that they bore ran as strong as the current beside us.

“I know. But you need to trust me, Ethan. He was gone. The threat here is much bigger than Giants now. It’s more than the elements. There is something more sinister and more powerful going on in this forest, and we need to stick together. We need to get out of these woods, man.”

Ethan looked one more time at Jimmy.

His eyes narrowed.

“What the fuck?” He laid Jimmy’s body down and moved to his midsection. Then I saw what Ethan was looking at:

There was a huge circular lump in Jimmy’s right pocket.

Ethan reached into it and pulled out… what looked like a stone with some sort of weird, angular sigil carved into it.

“When did Jimmy get this?” I shook my head.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before.” The sigil looked like an eye made out of three triangles. Two to make up the outside of the eye, one upside down one to make up the pupil. Something about it rubbed me the wrong way. “You think he picked it off the ground somewhere?”

“He might’ve… you think–” I finished Ethan’s thought for him.

“It could be cursed?” He looked to his feet. The notion wasn’t that crazy after all the shit we’d seen. Theo had said it perfectly earlier. In these woods, everything we thought we knew means jack shit.

Speaking of Theo, it was during that shared silence that I heard him calling for us.

“Frankie!” He and Coop came over. “He was sleeping.” How the hell could he have slept through all of the chaos that just ensued? Coop got to us and I saw he had something in his hand.

“Theo told me what happened, I don’t know how I missed all that fellas I’m sorry. I was having these crazy nightmares about–” He looked down at Jimmy’s near headless corpse and he turned green. “Jesus…” It was his eyes turn to water. “I can’t believe it… I’m so sorry this happened, E.”

“Thanks Coop.” Cooper wiped a tear off his face with the hand that had the… thing… in it.

“What do you have there in your hand?” Coop brought himself back to the present.

“Oh, I woke up with this fucking rock by my pillow and–” he opened his hand to reveal the same sigil on a different stone. “I thought you guys might’ve put this in there.”

“Shit,” I said. Ethan lifted up the one he found with Jimmy.

“This was in my brother’s pocket.” Cooper gave the stone a blank stare.

“The fuck is it?” Ethan and I looked at one another.

“I think it’s a curse.”

We let the other two in on our theory as we started another fire. We made the collective decision to stay up as a group till the sun came up. We weren’t sure if we were dealing with hoo doo or magic but we decided to keep an eye out for those stones. Jimmy’s possession and Coop’s paralyzing night terror were enough evidence to think they were bad juju and worth staying away from. We tossed the stones in the river, and before we knew it, the sun had come up.

Ethan wanted to give his brother a proper goodbye. The kind that wouldn’t leave his remains out in the open to be the next meal for any sort of scavenger that might come by. We made a bed of twigs and sticks and laid Jimmy across it. Ethan cried through a eulogy he never thought he’d have to give. We all did too. After he said “I loved you” to Jimmy for the last time, he set his brother ablaze and we watched till all that was left of him was bones and ash. Then we packed up camp and headed into Third Canyon.

The ride wasn’t a crazy one, compared to Second Canyon’s rapids. It was a fast current, but a level one as well. We rode it for about nine hours and reached the mouth of Fourth Canyon. We’d only be about forty-five miles from the Nahanni River Butte, and three days away from a ride.

We pulled up onto the riverbank and worked on our tents together, looking over our shoulders, and jumping at the slightest creak in the woods behind us. The remainder of this trip would be as damned as the first half of it. Our silence spoke volumes, but we were all thinking the same thing.

We’d come to this forest with hope.

No Issac.

We thought this trip would bring us together.

No Xavier

No Sauce.

No Desmond.

We thought we’d be able to come out the other side.

No Jimmy.

The only thing we would be coming out of this forest with (IF we made it out of this forest) would be scars. Scars in our minds, on our bodies, and in our hearts. This search party had resulted in the loss of fathers, husbands, sons, friends, brothers… We had nothing to show for our efforts here in the Valley of Headless men. Just a couple of pitched tents that would probably hold four more corpses before the week was through.

Our camp was set up and Theo made a fire. The four of us sat around it, and Ethan stared into the flames, his eyes watering.

“Jimmy wanted to make that pre-cooked Pad Thai tonight.” He sniffled. The sniffle became a whimper. Theo stood up.

“I’ll get on dinner.” He made his way over to his tent and crawled inside.

Cooper put his arm around Ethan.

“We’re almost out of here, E.” His sentiment was met with silent tears. I came to Ethan on the opposite side and we all sat there for a moment in embrace. The three of us had practically been brothers for what felt like eternity. The knowledge that I had brought them into harm's way tore me up inside.

Theo came out of his tent with four pre-packaged meals, four bowls, and a kettle. He walked to the river, filled up the kettle, and walked back to the fire, facing us with his back to the forest.

“I can’t wait to take a shower again man,” said Cooper. “I feel gross as fuck.”

Ethan ignored him again. He wasn’t looking into the flames anymore. He seemed preoccupied with the sky… or another thought.

Then I noticed that his eyes move down slowly as if he was tracking something.

His eyes jumped to Theo.

Then back to tracking above him.

I followed his gaze.

I couldn’t make out what it was, but it looked like some… object… was slowly descending over Theo.

Ethan’s eyes narrowed.

He popped up, knocking me and Cooper off to the side.

“Woah, bro, what are you doi–” before Cooper could finish his thought, Ethan jumped OVER the fire, pushed Theo to the side.

“What the hell, Ethan?” asked Theo.

Ethan let the small… circular… object land gently in his hand.

“What is that, E?” I asked.

His eyes widened.

He turned to us and held up the object for us to see.

It was one of the engraved eye stones we’d found on Jimmy.

“Holy shit.” Theo’s mouth hung open.

“It was floating towards you,” said Ethan.

I was speechless.

“Do you think they just floated into my tent and Jimmy’s pocket?” asked Cooper.

“Looks that way, Coop.” I stood up and made my way to Ethan. “So we got another thing we have to keep an eye out for.”

“Fucking floating rocks that make people go crazy and killer giants. Great. I was hoping I’d get to get some sleep to make up for last night but it doesn’t look like that’s happening.” Cooper shook his head. “Just our luck.”

“What do you think is sending them here?” asked Theo.

The rock then shot out of Ethan’s hand like a bullet and headed straight into the woods. The ground began to rumble like it had two days ago. A guttural howl rung through the trees and the rumbling got louder and louder.

I drew my gun, and the other three did the same.

A familiar, hulking figure became more visible as it parted trees, making its way toward us.

“If I had to guess,” I said. “They belong to that tall bastard from the other day…”

And sure enough, out of the woods lumbered the ax-wielding Giant…

Only this time, he wasn’t alone. . .

He had two new tall friends with him.

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