|Table of Contents|
"It sounds... alive," said Dee, unaware that her voice wasn't carrying much further than her own ears. The strange man-shaped machine was throwing off sound and vibrations that blanketed everything nearby. Its incessant Thrums and shudders were joined by metallic scrapes and whines.
Green light flickered beneath the armor, growing brighter and more insistent with each emerald flash... sparks seeking fuel with ever-increasing vigor. Dislodged bits of wood and shredded vines flew out of the joints as the squeal of straining gears grew louder.
Dee stood transfixed. She heard Treach barking as if from a distance. The scarecrow had moved out of her field of vision, and so had ceased to exist to her increasingly focused thoughts.
There was only the light...
The green... light...
Why was it so familiar? So... insistent?
Dee took a single step forward.
The flickering green became a bright pulse as the sparks caught, and some final impediment sprang free of the gears deep inside the machine. Discordant sounds wove together around the thundering heartbeat; the monstrous torso twisted to one side, snapping vines and trees as one arm came up... then the other.
The sound shook Dee. A second passed before she realized that what she'd heard were actual words. It took another second to place the source as the lumbering machine. It had spoken! The grinding and growling of the gears had formed words!
"What the hell-"
"WOODSMAN IS NOW ACTIVE!"
The machine made a flexing motion with its upper limbs. Long slits opened along the forearms, and equally-long blades slid out. There was a loud 'CLICK', and the blades began to rotate... slowly at first, but then faster and faster, until the blades looked more like large spinning disks mounted on each arm.
"THIS UNIT EMPLOYS RAPIDLY ROTATING BLADES! DO NOT APPROACH! DEATH OR DISMEMBERMENT WILL OCCUR!"
With its warning complete, the machine began its work. The rotating blades shifted forward on long, retractable levers, extending them well past the mechanical hands at the end of its arms. It then turned to the nearest tree and swept one arm across the trunk. Wood and sap spat back at the creature as the high whine of a buzzsaw tore across the clearing... but only briefly. The tree fell to one side as the machine stepped past it toward the next. It, too, fell with a single slice.
"Ha! It's just a machine!"
Dee watched as the mechanical "woodsman" cut through trees with smooth precision, each arm felling trees as easily as a lawmower cutting dry grass. Trees thundered to the ground on either side of it. Some fell backward and rolled harmlessly off of the armored form as it walked onward. It made its way along the edge of the clearing, seemingly oblivious to its audience.
Treach put an end to that.
Dee's pit bull didn't like loud noises, and had an almost neurotic attraction to shiny objects. A giant walking buzzsaw with glowing green lights on its head was too much to resist. The dog ran into the trees and began following the metal giant, growling and snapping at its massive feet.
"DAMMIT, DOG! Get Away From That Thing!"
Dee ran after the dog, calling his name. She waved her flashlight back and forth, slicing the beam across the 'head' of the woodsman. Was someone controlling it? Surely they wouldn't put something so dangerous out in the woods unsupervised. Someone had to be watching. She had to get their attention!
Treach darted out of the path of a falling tree and leapt at the metal monster. The dog bounced off one of the metal legs, hit the ground and leapt again, unfazed by his previous failure. Large pieces of wood and bark sailed past the dog as he snarled.
"IS ANYBODY IN THERE!? HEY!!"
Dee ran toward the machine.
She approached from behind, not wanting to get anywhere near the spinning blades. But the constant flow of falling trees and debris... not to mention the buzz and roar of the machine... was almost like being back in the hurricane.
"STAND CLEAR!" The machine boomed, repeating its previous warning. "WOODSMAN IS NOW ACTIVE! THIS UNIT EMPLOYS RAPIDLY ROTATING BLADES! DO NOT APPROACH! DEATH OR DISMEMBERMENT WILL OCCUR!"
Had it noticed her? Was that why it was repeating itself, or was the voice merely on a timer?
Dee decided it didn't matter. Whatever it was, wasn't stopping. And she didn't need it to. She just needed to get her dog out of the way. Dee ran close to the giant's feet and grabbed Treach's collar. She pulled. Hard. The dog snarled. He didn't bite her, but he wasn't coming with her, either.
"Not, NOW dog!"
Dee looped one arm under the dog's abdomen and pulled.
She'd been trying to pick him up, but things didn't turn out quite how she wanted. Her feet slipped in the wood chips and sap that covered the ground. She ended up on her back with a squirming pit bull on top of her.
She decided to hold on until the metal woodsman got further away. That was probably the safest-
The giant felled a massive pine-like tree with a single swipe of its blades. The tree fell directly toward Dee.
She released Treach and rolled to her feet. She ran as fast as she could at ninety degrees to the tree's path, while Treach did the same in the opposite direction. Branches slapped at Dee's back. Her backpack hung from one shoulder, shielding her from some of the assault, but something struck her head and she went down, screaming in surprise and pain. She curled into a ball and covered her head.
Something clamped down around her wrist.
The scarecrow pulled her to her feet and tried to lead her away, but Dee was dizzy. She stumbled... the world shifted around her and she fell.
"G... gimme a minute..." She tried to say, but she had no idea what actually came out of her mouth. Concussion? Probably. Skull or spine damage? Too early to say... "...help?"
The ground continued to shake and, somewhere behind her, Treach barked.
The scarecrow tried to pull her to her up again, but she resisted.
"Wait... I think it's leaving..."
She was right. The machine had moved on-
Suddenly, the whine of the machine changed. The pitch of the rotating blades lowered rapidly. The thunder of metal feet halted... then started again.
Dee looked up and saw it.
It had gotten a short distance away, leaving fallen trees and shredded wood in its wake. But now it was coming back. No, not back... not back the way it had come, but directly toward HER!
"Oh, hell..." Dee moaned. "What now..."