The darkness twisted around Isaac, swirling through the towering pine trees that surrounded him. Fear induced paralysis gripped the former eraser factory foreman, he knew they were there, watching him, he could hear the rustling, the whispers. Isaac’s mind raced with thoughts of the pointed red hats, the demonic stares, the puzzles. Not the puzzles, please God no, not the puzzles.
Isaac blinked. A face, deep red in colour, eyes filled with evil intent stared up at him from 2 feet away, white beard rustling lightly in the breeze. The force of Isaac’s heartbeat increased, he could almost hear it. It wasn’t real. Isaac blinked again, this time on purpose.
A second face, identical in every way to the first, this one only a foot away. They weren’t real. How could they be? Folklore. Myth. NOT… REAL…
Eyes screwed tight, every fibre of his being forced the disbelief through his tired brain.
A weight tugged on Isaacs torso, a claw like grip climbed its way up his sagging thermal pyjamas. NOT REAL…
A whisper in his left ear caused Isaac’s eyes to snap open. Whirling his head around while his eyes tried desperately to focus in the gloom. Stick like red arms with gnarled and pointed fingers clasped his soaked attire. The face stared at him.
“If all seven sides of a cube are equal in length to the circumference of its diameter…”
Isaac reeled backwards, cutting off the gnome’s whispered riddle, tripping backwards over a root protruding from the base of a nearby tree. As he stumbled Isaac caught sight of the horde of red gnomes standing before him. Rows and rows of tiny red bodies lined the forest floor, spindly legs and feet piercing the crisp snow. Each of them possessing a deathly gaze aimed directly at Isaac.
The scream pierced the night. A cloud of condensed air blasting forth from the mouth of a bedraggled man. Isaac clambered to his feet and ran. Streaming through the pitch black, charging as fast as he could, kicking up icy snow in clouds behind him. Isaac ran for his life.
*beep* …… *beep* …… *beep*
“patient … stable … found him … woods … -thermic cold … expect him to wa- … been out … days … -alking about hidden peop-… -uzzles…”
Muffled voices all around him, the scuffing of feet, the scraping of a chair across tiled flooring. Sounds he knew. Sounds he recognised.
Isaac gently opened his eyes, gradually allowing them to adjust to the burning white lights around him. His surroundings were as he’d expected, a stiff sheet covered his body as he lay on a hard mattress. A cold white, sterile environment, machines whirring and beeping, covered in flashing lights.
His head span, muddled thoughts pulsed across his synapses trying to comprehend the situation. There was a factory, he worked there. He had a wife, Glori. Something about brothers, and a lodge. Meditation. Nordic traditions. Bjorn. Hidden People. Puzzles.
Isaac tried to raise his hand but discovered it was bound to the bed. So were his feet. Isaac pulled at the tethers holding him down, contorting his body, trying to free himself. Something red flashed in the corner of his eye. He froze. Slowly, Isaac turned his head toward whatever it was, fear creeping up on him.
The piercing gaze of a red faced, white bearded gnome met his from across the room. Perched on a stool, adjusting the angle of its pointed hat. It smiled.
“Isaac? Are you awake? It’s me. Glori.”
The screams, and the rattling of leather bindings against brass buckles filled the room and adjoining corridors.
A group of gnomes ran into the room. They pinned Isaac to the bed. A sharp pain in his arm. Slowly Isaacs struggles began to calm. Isaac’s head became heavy and his eyes began to close. As his vision dimmed to black the last thing Isaac saw was a gnome scurrying out of the room. It appeared to be crying.
Thanks for reading.