Join my army, mortal, and this territory shall be undisputedly ours!
You fear that you will not come out of this alive or unmaimed and therefore accept the offer. Immediately the darkness gets darker and you fall asleep to cruel laughter.
When you awake you find yourself up in a pine tree, hanging from thousands of silken threads; you have become a Minion of the Marb. You are clad in brown and green armor. Your legs have multiplied from two to six with a membrain in between. For a moment You then realize that you have made a mistake: you came to the park for a hike in the woods and now may not finish. Yet as you gather your thoughts the Plan becomes more clear to you. To turn back now would be folly; the forest is your home now; all two-legged humans either need to accommodate or assimilate, and you know they will do neither….
*Thus ends the Hike in the Park; you have not died, but your hiking days are over, as well as the ability to make your own choices: you belong to the Army of the Marb!
The words printed on the cover shine as you open Do Not Open. You first expect that some monster will jump out and chase you down the path, but no. Instead you find that the first chapter is blank.
Chapter two stares you in the face and as you read it seems to suck you in; it’s a fast read and the details can be seen clearly in your mind’s eye….
You see a man running on foot through dense foiliage; he looks back but all he can see is a fast moving red blur. The chaser seems tireless and the man is running out of strength to keep a distance. He sees a clearing in the woods, a dirt path, and makes for it but trips on an extended tree root.
The red blur leaps upon the fallen man and pins him to the forest floor. The man sees at last the creature who has chased him down, but is not given much time to think on it as the thing quickly jabs him in the neck with a long barb and drags the lifeless body away to be eaten. The thing starts to eat, its back turned to you, but then it tenses as if listening; it then raises itself up from its kill; you see a pair of large yellow eyes turn and look in your direction; the rest of it is veiled in shadow……
You are pulled from the book and into reality. Low growling is heard behind you. A large red cat, like a cougar, with long pointed ears, and gleaming yellow eyes; a third pair of legs at the front brandish long pointed blades, from the elbow on, in place of feet. The strange big cat stares you down, a low gutteral growl continuously made.
Thus you have encountered the Marb. Feeding off the intellect of curious readers, long since has he been freed from his written prison, and has been gathering minions, unsuspecting hikers foolish enough to open a book entitled Do Not Open. Soon he will have enough underlings to transform the Park into the Jungle he once held before his exile….
The Marb suddenly lunges at you. The attack is made quickly; you fall to the ground. The creature has you pinned with its front paws crushing your arms while the front leg blades cross above your neck, ensuring that you stay still.
The cat eyes you but not hungrily; you then realize it has other plans for you. Hot breath hits your face but it has a strange smell to it like formaldahyde or some other preservative….
You fight the urge to sleep though darkness threatens to take you. The world around you is veiled in swirling shadow; it might be just you, but it reminds you of the creature from the book.
You have no choice, mortal, comes a deep voice in your head. The cat seems to sneer. Join my army or fall under the coming tide…
You begin to see a vision of a vast army of creatures, numerous as the sea, coming out of the Labyrinthine Forest and swarming all who oppose them….
What have you released?
Joining the Marb may ensure your life be spared, but to what cost? Yet surely if the biker fought off the creature, so can you.
**This is where trails are mixed and paths are woven,
Now is the place of a road newly chosen. **
There is a foreboding about this book. It is entitled Do Not Open for a reason and not simply to get you to read it. You then scan the ground and notice that there are scuffmarks as if there was a struggle. The back of the hut has a place where the dirt is flattened but hole points just like the ones following the bike-tire marks go from this point.
You realize that the bike-rider may have opened the book, fought with something, and then was chased out.
You leave the hut but right as you get to the split in the trail you wonder what the book was about……..
**This is where trails are mixed and paths are weaved, Now is the place where a Choice is concieved. **
You go left, which shows that something with pointed feet chased a biker and has not returned.
The trail winds left and then right, always going uphill, until you see an old house. It looks more like a hut than a house; it is entirely made from miscellaneous branches and tree roots. There is no door, just a black rectangle through which darkness yawns within the one-room building; the bike trail ends here as though the rider set down the bike and walked inside.
Once your eyes adjust, you notice a very thick book: yellow, hard-backed. The book is entitled, in shiny blue letters, Do Not Open. It was certainly a good choice for a title: the author is using reverse psychology to get the reader to open the book, right?
**This is where trails are mixed and paths are woven, Now is the place of a road newly chosen. **
You trudge right up the hill; it is not as bad as you remember. The path goes gradually uphill for about a mile but it passes quickly; afterwards the terrain flattens out and descends to meet a noisy stream. Two bicyclers have been here; though they are not supposed to ride on dirt paths, the stream betrays their tire marks crossing and going a little past the bridge until another slight hill hides both marks and trail. You now stand on the verge of crossing the bridge and going further than you’ve ever gone.
You cross the bridge, following the pair of bike tire tracks. The hill descends and splits: one path goes left, the other goes right. Left goes uphill again, while right goes down and seems to wind until it too goes uphill. Then you notice something odd: the pair of bike tracks split and go both left and right. What is more, the bike tracks that went left came back and strange marks, like a pair of deep small holes, follow the tire tracks. It makes you wonder about the left path, but you also want to explore the right path…..
**This is where trails are mixed and paths are woven, Now we find a path newly chosen. **
The monument is twenty feet away and is in a space where the grass is short compared to the rest of the area. Up close the large stone has a plaque with a paragraph in tribute to some guy and has his face ingraved on it. The man is bald with a Y tatoo below his left eye. You begin to read:
Captain Irving Silverous, known as the Yawningman of Castle Hill, a famous musician, could put anyone to sleep with his flute. While on the roof of his castle fort, he thwarted 16 consecutive attacks from the Ohio 21st, 64th, and 33rd Regiments but no clear account is recorded of what happened to the bodies of the fallen.
Ft. Castle Hill was laid under siege in Fall of 1864 and later fell in the Winter of that year. The foundation underneath of the building was apparently hollowed out: after much battering the ground gave way and Yawningman’s castle was swallowed up.
Follow the trail to see the remains of Castle Hill.
The trail is hardly visible; grass has taken over though it may have once been six feet across and easy to follow. Despite the Park’s apparent attempt to forget the trail that leads to Castle Hill, a trail can still be made out, like a slightly darkened path of grass. The hidden path leads straight to your left and disappears over the next hill.
You look more closely at the woods behind the monument: the trees are close together as if hiding something….
**This is the crossroads where paths are woven,
Now is the place of a road newly chosen. **
You decide to steer the sled right. You avoid the briar patch by a few inches, nearly flipping over into a shallow ditch, and then holding tight as you descend for another ten feet before the trail bends left. You pass another trail but it goes by too swiftly; you will have to explore it on the way back up…..
The grade of the hill levels slightly and the sled is becoming harder to move; it soon stops altogether, twenty feet away from a stone monument. The trail has stopped here; grass has taken over and a thick wall of young tall ash trees surround the clearing where the large stone resides.
All around you is grass except for the monument and the forest. There is a faint sound of water to your left but it is some way off. The woods are in front and to your left; grass and weeds are to your right, getting taller in the distance. The trail you passed by is way behind you but can still be seen.
You have several options before you but ultimately you must go back up the trail…….
**This is the crossroads where paths are woven,
Now is the place of a road newly chosen.**