Skog of Lost Souls : Chapter 7
And there we were, slowly creeping through the desert, the sun barely rising on the horizon, like hunters looking for prey. Oscar was far ahead, surveying from above.
"What's with this Gizmo fella?" I whisper to Bowski. "Why so timid?"
Bowski glances back, finger to mouth, signaling to keep quiet.
Nervous thoughts are running through my head. I keep asking myself why this Gizmo creature is so afraid of interaction.
Bowski points above, as we catch a glimpse of Oscar landing near us.
Oscar mutters in Bowski's ear and pats them on the back before flying back briskly off into the distance.
As we tiptoe through a sudden patch of winter barley, the sun creeps above us, lighting the way.
Bowski puts their hand up in front of me to stop, and slowly fans the stalks open to catch a glimpse of a small cave under a magnificent boulder rock formation just up ahead, with a shimmer of fire light casting a reflection on the stone.
We crawl forward until we get right up against the edge of the cave, and Bowski announces, "Gizmo, It's me Hamlin," hands in the air. "I have a visitor with me.
Silence. Bowski glances at me and looks back,"No need to be alarmed. We mean you no harm. Just need your help getting through..."
"You may enter," Gizmo interrupts, their voice echoing off the rock formation.
I follow Bowski into the cave, slowly approaching a small fire, chills running down my spine.
That's close enough," utters Gizmo, their shadow reflected on the stone embodying a large feline.
"May I ask what you are reading?" Bowski asks, noticing a book in Gizmo's hands via the reflection.
"It's about the Gothenburg Trading Company," Gizmo responds.
My eyes widen in curiosity. "That's impossible," I mutter to myself. How is it this far away creature in a far away land has heard of something from my home land?
"Gizmo has quite the collection," Bowski turns towards me. "You see, there have been many ship wrecks off the shores of the island, and many a treasure such as these written pages has been found and saved by many inhabitants here, especially..."
"Are you from Kola?" Gizmo asks suddenly. Bowski turns towards me signaling it's okay to respond.
"Not quite. My people have inhabited the peninsula for quite some time, but tensions have forced us out.
"What is it you seek?" Gizmo finally approaches the fire, their white and yellow spots magnified by the burning embers.
Bowski responds, "We need your help getting through the skog. Oscar mentioned your Koduõlu might be just the thing to keep us safe from Sambuca."
"What's the skog? I shiver.
"It's the woodlands, home to Sambuca's grave site, " Bowski remarks. "Legend has it every night, Sambuca rises from their grave desperately searching for their lost soul, causing a total raucous, with no end in sight."
"It's a total case of oppe hele natten," Gizmo chimes in. "Even if Oscar is right, why risk it Hamlin? It's too dangerous."
"Yes, is there another way?" I beg Bowski.
"Only on a full moon is Sambuca the most vulnerable," Bowski steps closer to the fire. "If I can get them to drink the Koduõlu, then maybe, just maybe, they will see the light."
Gizmo stands up in front of the fire, a tall and ominous force of nature and pronounces, "Then it shall be done."
"Hooray!" Bowski waves in utter joy as I stand in utter disbelief at our presumably impending doom.
"You have not changed one bit Hamlin," Gizmo chuckles. "You both should rest up before nattfall."
After learning more about the wonders of the Estonian Farmhouse Raw Ale, and tasting the rich, deep, smoky flavors, balanced by the piny resin of juniper and sweet gale, I feel lightheaded and fall into a dizzy spell. Turns out Gizmo isn't so bad after all. I wonder about their past, and what may have led them to become so apprehensive.
I awaken to the lovely smell of fish stew slowly cooking over the fire. After a nice filling meal, Gizmo hands Bowski a bottle of Koduõlu, and we are on our way out of the cave heading for this so called skog.
By the time we reach the edge of the gloomy gravesite, the full moon is plain in sight, commanding attention from above. It's almost impossible to see ahead of us due to the thick fog rising from underneath as we make our way through.
I am trembling at the core, terrified at the sight of bones and skulls of what appear to be other humans who never made it through.
"Bowski, how do you know where we're going? I can't see a thing!"
Out of nowhere, I sense a paw brush my shoulder. I immediately turn around only to see Bowski standing there shaken, with a light in their face.
"Bowski?" I quiver. "But, but how did you sneak behind..."
Suddenly, like a tornado, Bowski vanishes into thin air. I spin out of control and fall right into a thick pit of smoked lager, the golden ruins of dead memories circling around me. I finally gain consciousness, shaking my head, realizing my impending demise, and struggle up to the surface of the lager.
My hands reach for the nearest hard objects to latch onto. With every bit of strength left within me, I pull myself out of the pit and lay defeated on the murky terrain nearby.
Glancing above, the low hovering clouds, something feels slightly off from before. I finally pull myself together and stand up only to see an entire plot of gravestones before me.
"Bowski!" I scream, wandering around aimlessly, feeling completely lost, but all to no avail.
I suddenly make a run for the hills ahead in total desperation, tears running down my eyes, hoping I can catch a better glimpse of the skog, in case Bowski is still somewhere out there, hurt and in need of help.
However, the higher I get, and the more I look back, the less I can see, and the more exhausted I feel. I lay at the top of the hill looking at an empty void, angry, frustrated, and plot my next move.