All around him he could hear the sounds of struggle. The shouts from his companions. The roaring barks of something else.
Dominick rose, or attempted to anyway. The dream still held him fast, pulling him back.
“THE FUTURE HOLDS NOTHING ELSE BUT CONFRONTATION.”
That last sounded familiar and for a moment Dominick thought of hip-hop and clocks on chains. He tried to push it all away, clawing for consciousness.
He was in danger, he could feel that. Something was wrong and if he couldn’t pull himself from the dream he feared that may never wake.
The deep, resonant barking drew close, accompanied by shouts and screams. He strained against the dream, but it was like moving through molasses with hundred pound weights strapped to him.
Dominick tried to focus and exerted all of his will into the task of moving. Half of him lay in the grass on Gund, the other half lay on his couch in his apartment. Lord Hob was still with him. He still sat in the chair next to the television. He laughed at Dominick as he fought against sleep.
Someone was shouting his name. It was coming from outside the dream. He tried to latch on.
But the dream was having none of it.
“STRUGGLE, LITTLE WORM. WAKE, ONLY TO DIE.”
Dominick didn’t like the sound of that.
After what felt like years, after straining muscles he wasn’t even aware he had, after exerting enough energy to power a small town for seven weeks, Dominick was finally able to turn over onto his side.
And with that, something popped, like a balloon that’s reached its capacity. Dominick was awake. His apartment, Lord Hob, the nightmare had fled.
After four unsuccessful tries which ended with him face down in the grass, Dominick was at last able to pull himself to his feet. His vision blurred as he tried to identify the source of the chaos that he could feel bearing down on him.
He rubbed at his eyes as he stumbled about. Then, bending with his hands on his knees, he vomited. Which, though gross and not something anyone really enjoys doing, cleared the cobwebs from Dominick’s head and he was finally able to focus. There, a dozen yards from where he stood on trembling legs, he could see Captain Ovati, Bonta, Tot, and even the great dog, Bob, fighting with something large and hairy.
At first he thought it was a gorilla, and the biggest one he’d ever seen. But the longer he looked he could see differences. It was black, and moved about on feet and knuckles, like an ape. But it had the head of a ram with its great, curling horns.
He felt somewhat useless just standing there watching the others fight, but then he’d be even more useless if he tried to join in. If anything he would only accomplish getting himself killed. Besides, he found watching the battle to be more exciting that anything he’d ever seen on a movie screen.
Ovati and Tot worked together, each one attacking from different directions, keeping the creature distracted while the other could avoid those long arms and get a shot it. Ovati with her sword, Tot with a double bladed ax. But the monster was smart. Dominick could see that at once as the thing learned from their coordinated attacks. As Tot swung his ax, the creature lunged at the dwarf, but then reversed its charge at the last moment and caught Ovati unaware as she moved in to strike. One of its massive hands, which he could now see ending in long, black claws, knocked her off of her feet, sending her backwards about three feet to collapse in a heap among the grass.
While the two took the fight to the monster, Bob hung back, circling the creature with hackles raised, waiting for an opening.
Bonta too stood back from the fight, firing arrows at the beast. These, unfortunately, had little effect. Most bounced harmlessly off of the creature’s thick hide. Some penetrated, Dominick could see three shafts sticking out from the thing, but if they were causing the creature any discomfort it did not show. They certainly didn’t seem to be slowing the thing down.
It was then that he realized that Vivian, Harold, and Sam were nowhere to be found. It was possible that they could be out there now, hidden by the grass, wounded, possibly dying. Maybe he could do something after all. He waded into the thick grass, giving the battle a wide birth, to search for his missing friends.
About a hundred yards or so from their camp, Dominick stumbled across a small clearing with a large mound in its center. The mound was made from mud and grass and was flat and broad. There were three or four objects in the middle of it. Rounded and yellow. They reminded him of eggs. He heard a slight groan of pain on the other side of the mound and moved to investigate.
“Dominick, no!” Someone shouted.
He turned in time to see the creature knock both Ovati and Tot to the ground as it charged. Dominick had been perhaps fifty yards from the thing, but it closed the gap in four leaping strides, and before he could even so much as wet his pants, it was right on top of him.
It knocked him to the ground, falling atop Dominick like a mid sized sedan. Dominick threw his arms out to protect his face as the creature roared and barked, snapping its teeth like daggers just inches from Dominick’s tender flesh. He pushed out at the thing, holding it back by strength borne only from fear of dying.
The gorilla goat, for Dominick had no idea what else to call it, continued to bark as it bore down on him, it’s spittle raining down on his face like a hot shower of terror. The creature’s breath was like rotting meat and for one foolish moment Dominick’s greatest fear was that he would embarrass himself and puke before the gorilla goat killed him.
Then, without warning, the creature was gone. One moment it was there, straining to eat Dominick’s face, the next it was flying backwards. And then Sam was standing above him. The troll held out his hand.
“Are you okay?” Sam said.
“I am now,” Dominick said, taking Sam’s hand.
Sam helped Dominick to his feet. The gorilla goat lay among the grass, stunned. But not for long. It was back on its feet in moments. Turning away, Sam put himself between Dominick and the monster.
“You need to go,” Sam said over his shoulder.
The gorilla goat, barking like mad, charged.
“Find someplace safe,” Sam shouted as he leaped forward to meet the charge. “Go!”
To be continued . . .