This is a serialized writing prompt, explained here: 7 Steps for the Lonely Writer.
Today's prompt is: MONSTERS.
Step Four. The Hills Have Eyes.
The giants stirred from their slumber.
What was that? he called.
A noise, the cat called back without stopping.
Yes, but of what? he called again, following.
The cat halted a hundred steps ahead and stared at him. What’s the difference? God, I thought I was the pussycat, it mewed sardonically.
He stopped too and matched the cat’s glare. They stood ninety-three steps apart now, between rows of rolling hills from which he was positive he had heard a rumbling noise. And this cat was taunting him. Why should he follow it?
If she sent you, he called to the cat, then you must know. Why I’m here, where I’m going. How is this supposed to make me understand? She said I would understand with each step. I’m stepping. I’m counting. I’m keeping my promise. What am I supposed to understand?
He fell silent, panting in the night air; he almost missed the warmth of the drunken partiers’ bonfire. The cat just watched him in silence.
Then it said, Are you finished?
He sighed. Yes.
Good. Keep counting. It turned back to its path, paused, and mewed over its shoulder, Or don’t.
He sighed again, stepped forward.
Three thousand, nine hundred, ninety-nine. Four thousand.
He paused. There it was again, the rumble. He could feel it in his feet. But the cat didn’t stop, so he carried on as well: Four thousand, one. Four thousand, two. Four thousand—
He kept his eyes on the cat, less so he’d know where to go and more to see if it would finally react to the unmistakable noise. Because the noise was growing.
Now he could see it along with feel it, hear it. The hills surrounding him were rolling, actually rolling. This couldn’t be normal. He ran to catch up with the cat, shouting out his steps as he went—Four thousand, seven! Four thousand, eight! Four thousand, nine!
It was almost vindicating to see that the cat indeed couldn’t ignore the rumbling any longer, that it was in fact peering skittishly about the landscape, its pupils dilating further with every RUMMMBLE.
Will you tell me what it is? he asked.
The cat seemed to consider this for a moment before stating in measured monotone, The hills have skin.
The hills have—what?
You mean the hills are... alive?
I thought that was obvious.
He didn’t know how to respond to this.
The hills, the cat went on matter-of-factly, must be restless. They’re rolling—
—a bit more than usual, it finished.
Just as the most recent rumbling grew beyond comprehension—He imagined this must be what entire continents sounded like when ripping from their moorings to secede from Pangaea—the air was rent with a tearing sound like none he had ever heard. An image rose unbidden to his mind of claws, much longer and sharper than his companion’s, tearing into flesh, sinew, tendon.
The cat’s reaction was immediate. It shot forward like a cork from a bottle, hissing, Run!
The tearing and the ripping was ever present, pressing itself on his eardrums. The rumbling shook his world from stern to bow, like that of an earthquake. He could see things, towering things, monstrous things, rising in his peripherals, in the dark. They were bursting from the hills and from the fog hugging the grass, ripping the hills’ skin from their monstrous bodies like embryonic sacks.
As the monsters rose from the fog, a realization rose from the fog of his mind:
The hills. They weren’t hills at all. And they certainly weren’t “fallen giants.”
They were sleeping giants.
Sleeping giants that had now awoken.
Five thousand. Five thousand, one.
To be continued...
THE COMPLETE STORY:
Step 1. Ten Thousand Steps.
Step 2. A Companion.
Step 3. A Drunken Detour.
Step 4. The Hills Have Eyes.
Step 5. Her Graven Image.
Step 6. The Earth, Flattened.
Step 7. Back to the Beginning.
Step 10,000. Colla Voce.