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the MERGE anthology: TRANSFORMERS fanfiction - Cassiopeia's Caldera (STORY 1)

by HildeMint


J.M.J

She yawned, it wasn’t just a yawn, it was full mouthed hippopotamus yawn, her eyes teared up and her shoulders slumped, her hands slipped lower on the steering wheel. Her rental car had seat warmers, and her favorite CD was playing. Why there was so much traffic in the middle of a snowstorm on a mountain at night was beyond her. It probably wasn’t a good idea to start the drive as the sun was going down, the forecast said light flurries, good for skiing, nothing that would lengthen the hour or two drive to the caldera not the whopping six hours she had been inching up the side of the mountain.

She squinted out of the windshield, even with the wipers on, snow and shadow obscured anything except the glowing taillights of the car in front of her. An hour ago, she could’ve pulled over and slept in her car for the night, but no, she had decided to push on- then she hit this mysterious traffic jam. She leaned back into her seat, the car in front of her accelerated, then stopped. She filled its space. She had a small dinner, intending to eat something when she arrived, which was supposed to be four hours ago. She did have snacks, in the trunk, with her drinks and blanket. She’d loaded the back seat of her blue SUV with her camping gear, while the passenger’s seat was stacked with boxes that held her few personal items. She had gone on enough mountain trips to know always have snacks nearby. Of course, she hadn’t gone up in a few years, and she had left in a rush. So… maybe more foresight was needed. She scooted her car up again.

She reached into the side compartment while pressing down on the brake and pulled out the map booklet that had come with the will. She carefully unfolded the brittle yellow paper and flicked on a light to get a better look at the faded drawing. She turned past the pages that showed the now abandoned town, and the large abandoned farm and mineshaft, according to her great uncle, at some point along the road there was a secondary path, which would lead directly into a tunnel to the caldera, instead of to the ski resort on the other side of the mountain and eventually to the top, then have to snake down into the center where the buildings were. She set the map on her console, and scooted forward. Then she looked out of her windshield with new determination, she was NOT going to miss the secondary road.

After another hour of stop and go traffic, Cassie saw a small patch of snowy forest with less trees and snow. She probably would’ve missed the turn if it wasn’t for the unnecessary amount of warning signs. There where somewhere around twenty road signs indicating utter peril and law suits if someone took this path.

“STOP TURN BACK!” said one

“TRESSPASSERS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT,” said another

“BEARS! TIGERS! WOLVES! VOLCANOS!”

“PRIVATE PROPERTY!”

And even more where covered with snow and unreadable, in the heavy snowfall it was a miracle she could read any of them, but then again, that’s probably why there where so many signs in the first place.

“Tigers?” She said toward the signs, as if they would elaborate.

She began to turn; the SUV shook as it fell from paved and salted road to hard packed dirt that hadn’t been driven on in months. Even with the music playing, the loud crunching of sticks and freshly fallen snow could be heard inside the car. Cassie gritted her teeth and tightened her grip on the steering wheel as she bumped along. She could see less than she could before, the windshield was a smear of icy mush and blue wiper fluid, even past that the forest was pitch black and was only illuminated by the two thin beams of her head lights. The path was supposed to be a straight shot to the tunnel, so she cranked up the heater and pushed on.

It was smooth sailing for the most part, despite mostly driving blind, Cassie wasn’t afraid of hitting any other cars, trees maybe, but as long as she kept to the middle of the path that wasn’t a problem. It was the dead of night now, heck it was probably the next day. Problems only began once she reached the tunnel. She saw it, the black gaping mouth that was her way into the caldera, it was haphazardly boarded up and barricaded, with stakes in the ground. The stakes looked almost like teeth in the dim light.

She glanced at the map- what was it the tunnel was called? She squinted at the fading calligraphy, Tiger’s Maw. Cassie groaned aloud, she would have to turn around, if she even could do a U-turn in the dark with no clue as to what was on either side of her. If she didn’t crash off the edge into a ditch, then she would drive back to the main road, wait for a gap in the traffic, and drive all the way up the mountain, and then down the mountain.

Nope, absolutely not. That was the only thought in Cassie’s mind as she looked at the tunnel, she could just stay the night in her car, but she didn’t want to be snowed in and by the looks of the snowstorm, it seemed likely. There was another option however, in the back seat she had a small hatchet for firewood, if she could pull into the tunnel she wouldn’t be stuck in her car, then she could continue on her way in the daylight. She didn’t want this to be a two-day drive, especially since Lauren would come and pick up and return the rental car for her the next day. Then, she was on her own.

Cassie didn’t see much a of choice, so she zipped up her red snow jacket, pulled her matching beanie over her ears, and opened the car door. The blast of frigid air made her eyes water as she scrambled out of the car and slammed the door, causing snow to fall off the roof. The loud slamming sound caused the forest to go eerily silent. She sunk into the snow with every step, snow slipped into the tops of her boots and breathing stung her lungs. She couldn’t see her hand in front of her face, she trailed her gloved hand along the side of the car until she found the handle. She tugged the door open and warmth began to escape into the winter landscape, causing the windows to fog up.

She hissed and began to rifle through her camping and survival gear, unzipping and re-zipping pocket after pocket. She grabbed a blue duffle bag and unzipped the side pocket, then she pulled out the hatchet and shivered. Cassie grabbed a large flashlight in her other hand and pushed the car door shut with her leg. She flicked on the flash light, the light bounced off the snow and along with the headlights of the car, illuminated the road to some degree. She began to slog through the thick snow, the night sounds started up again and Cassie felt a tension in her chest release. How many times had she been on hikes in these same mountains? Sure, she’d never gone up this high, or gone at night alone, but it wasn’t exactly unfamiliar territory. She neared the Tiger’s Maw and hefted her hatchet, there where ten stakes and some weak looking boards, she could probably drive through the boards, it would damage the car… but it wasn’t her car anyway and what where the rental company going to do? Bill the completely broke ex-collage student who has no mailing address in the mountains?

Cassie might as well have burned her birth certificate and faked her death, heck it probably would be easier to reach her then. She had canceled everything to come out here and told no one but Lauren, well, more accurately, she had canceled everything to pay for the legal fees and taxes that where all of a sudden thrust upon her by the will, and her family contesting it, and ran away from the fragmented life that was left after that. She had nowhere else to go, no friends she could trust, no family who would take her in, only a huge worthless plot of land in the middle of a volcano, she was going to die in these mountains it was only a question of how long that would take, she’d already written her own will, leaving her newly born grandnephew as the next of kin. Might as well keep up the tradition.

She raised the hatchet and began to hack away at the first stake. It fell away easily, old and rotten wood covered in moss and slush. Cassie grunted as she kicked at the stake it groaned as it gave way and fell to the ground. She picked it up, hefted it a few times, then threw it into the bushes. Her fingers felt numb already and her stomach grumbled, but she rolled her shoulders and walked over to the next stake. Chop, kick, crack, throw, repeat. By the fourth stake she was shivering wet and miserable, the snow beat down upon her mercilessly, it seemed to grow heavier, like it was trying to blank out any signs of her existence, but that just fueled the fire of desperation that burned in her empty stomach as she continued to attack the wooden stakes like some kind of vengeful vampire.

She had finished off the eighth stake and the adrenaline had kicked in, she was alone at night, in a snowstorm. She didn’t notice the uncomfortable wet and sweaty state of her snow clothes, she didn’t notice the empty gnawing in her stomach and she didn’t notice the cramping in her fingers. She speed-walked her way toward the ninth stake, she raised her hatchet and prepared to strike when she heard a loud hissing sound, not like the hissing of a snake, but the hissing of a cat.

Cassie turned to look toward the car, the beam of her flashlight growing fainter, as if it was nervous. The car was noticeably sitting lower in the snow, Cassie stepped forward trying to see what was wrong, the forest went silent. She froze, the beam of her flash light spinning wildly before it winked out. Her heart jumped into her throat and she began to run toward the car, the snow clinging to her boots like clawed hands. The air stabbed her lungs with icicle swords, for a second a huge shadow blocked the lights, then they went out, there was no sound no indication of what eldritch monster was hunting her.

She began to hit the side of her flashlight, hoping it would flicker to life, it did for a second, but the creature was gone, then the light cut out again.

“Nonononono…” She whispered angrily to the light, it flicked half heartedly then it went out again. There couldn’t be a worse time. Cassie dropped the light and held her hatchet with both hands.

She began to walk toward the car her eyes, unused to the dark, trying to make out shape in the darkness and snow, a rustle of leaves could be a beast walking through a bush, a sudden birdlike howl in the distance could be a monster signaling its brothers it has found prey.

“Who are you, and why have you come here?” A male voice said terrifyingly close, it was calm and had a slight accent she didn’t recognize, there was something eerie about it, inhuman.

Cassie turned toward the voice, but there was nothing there but snow and shadow, the cold seemed to sink into the deepest part of her soul, who would be crazy enough to come out here at night? Didn’t they read the signs? she struggled to find her voice; it was like it had frozen. “I’m… Cassiopeia Marino, and I have just inherited a sizable amount of land inside the caldera, I am here to evaluate my property.” She said her voice clear as her heart pounded in her chest, proud of how put together she sounded, proud of how she didn’t show fear to the strange man, when she was alone, and had no one to find her.

“It would be wise for you to leave this place and never return young one.” The voice said again, this time from behind her, she could feel hot breath on her neck. Cassie spun around.

Cassie swallowed a scream and took a step toward the car, he had broken the headlights, maybe slashed the tires- but she could hide in the car, she shifted the hatchet in her hands “I’m afraid I can’t do that sir,” she said slowly.

“It isn’t a place for a little girl” He continued, his voice everywhere at once. “Go home.”

Cassie stepped closer to the car, “Sir, I am the sole owner of this estate… In the will there were no mentions of any tenets, you are trespassing on private property.”

“I would be happy to take you down the mountain myself, it is dangerous here at night, I know several shortcuts, I will even bring your things after you.” He said, ignoring her.

“I live here now.” Cassie said she wasn’t going to go with some creepy man in the shadows, the reality of her situation dawning on her, she had nowhere to go but forward, she hadn’t spoken to her older brother and his family since they moved to Austin, she wasn’t even invited to family gatherings anymore after it turned out that she was meant to be the next family kook. So, what- if that’s the way it was going to be then yeah, she would become the latest and greatest in a line of lunatics. She almost felt bad for her nephew Oryan, she had doomed him to the same fate she was suffering… maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

The man made a low growling sound that sounded more like a thoughtful purr. “I am sorry. After last time, I promised I wouldn’t let any others suffer the same fate.”

Cassie swallowed as she put her hand on the hood of the door, “Do you mean… Tarry? - Sagittarius Marino.”

“… Yes, I believe so.”

She backed up, keeping one hand on the car, she moved slowly until she felt the handle, the man growled and there was a sound of soft padding on the snow, Cassie yanked the door open and practically jumped inside, she slammed the door and the car sprang to life the CD started playing, the lights flashed and the heater flickered on. There was a loud thud as something hit the hood of the car.

Cassie pushed herself back into her chair as she stared at an enormous teal eye that seemed to reflect the light. She held her breath and stomped on the accelerator, the car strained in the snow and with the extra weight of the… thing… on the hood but it started to move. The car picked up more and more speed until it was barreling toward the Tiger’s Maw, there was a loud scraping sound and yowling as the beast hit the roof of the tunnel and was pushed off. The car groaned in relief and sped on through the Tiger’s Maw. 

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17 Reviews

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Sun Jun 16, 2024 4:32 am
khushi17bansal wrote a review...



Hi!!

Dropping for a quick review here! Also, I happen to know next to nothing about transformers so I apologise in advance for any mistake or misunderstanding I make because of that.

I have to say, I really enjoyed reading you story, it's very intriguing and I love how you drop only a little hints about Cassie's family life and her uncle and all the mystery surrounding him and how he might have been the family lunatic. It gives lovely context and also adds a touch of humour that I feel really makes Cassie a relatable and realistic character.

Cassie's character itself is very well written, she sounds perfectly like a disgruntled, slightly resigned - perhaps snarky - ex-college student. Again, I love the touch of humor dotting the entire story.

Though, this is probably the part I loved most,

“BEARS! TIGERS! WOLVES! VOLCANOS!”


This made me laugh, I loved it! :D

I also really liked your descriptions of the ice and snow and Cassie's reactions, I appreciate the detail you used, it really paints a vivid picture and brings everything to life.

However, I do have a few suggestions.

She yawned, it wasn’t just a yawn, it was full mouthed hippopotamus yawn, her eyes teared up and her shoulders slumped, her hands slipped lower on the steering wheel.


I feel you should replace 'She' with Cassie because it really leaves me wondering who we are talking about especially as her name is otherwise introduced very late in the story.



I feel like you could make some of your paragraphs more short, breaking them at strategic points can help add more suspense and dramatic effect. For example,

She hissed and began to rifle through her camping and survival gear, unzipping and re-zipping pocket after pocket. She grabbed a blue duffle bag and unzipped the side pocket, then she pulled out the hatchet and shivered. Cassie grabbed a large flashlight in her other hand and pushed the car door shut with her leg. She flicked on the flash light, the light bounced off the snow and along with the headlights of the car, illuminated the road to some degree. She began to slog through the thick snow, the night sounds started up again and Cassie felt a tension in her chest release. How many times had she been on hikes in these same mountains? Sure, she’d never gone up this high, or gone at night alone, but it wasn’t exactly unfamiliar territory. She neared the Tiger’s Maw and hefted her hatchet, there where ten stakes and some weak looking boards, she could probably drive through the boards, it would damage the car… but it wasn’t her car anyway and what where the rental company going to do? Bill the completely broke ex-collage student who has no mailing address in the mountains?


Can be rewritten as,

She hissed....... She flicked on the flash light, the light bounced off the snow and along with the headlights of the car, illuminated the road to some degree. She began to slog through the thick snow, the night sounds started up again and Cassie felt a tension in her chest release.

How many times had she been on hikes in these same mountains? Sure, she’d never gone up this high, or gone at night alone, but it wasn’t exactly unfamiliar territory. She neared the Tiger’s Maw and hefted her hatchet, there were ten stakes and some weak looking boards....mountains?


And,

She raised the hatchet and began to hack away at the first stake. It fell away easily, old and rotten wood covered in moss and slush. Cassie grunted as she kicked at the stake it groaned as it gave way and fell to the ground. She picked it up, hefted it a few times, then threw it into the bushes. Her fingers felt numb already and her stomach grumbled, but she rolled her shoulders and walked over to the next stake. Chop, kick, crack, throw, repeat. By the fourth stake she was shivering wet and miserable, the snow beat down upon her mercilessly, it seemed to grow heavier, like it was trying to blank out any signs of her existence, but that just fueled the fire of desperation that burned in her empty stomach as she continued to attack the wooden stakes like some kind of vengeful vampire.


Can be made,

She raised the hatchet and began to hack away at the first stake. It fell away easily, old and rotten wood covered in moss and slush. Cassie grunted as she kicked at the stake it groaned as it gave way and fell to the ground. She picked it up, hefted it a few times, then threw it into the bushes. Her fingers felt numb already and her stomach grumbled, but she rolled her shoulders and walked over to the next stake.

Chop, kick, crack, throw, repeat.

By the fourth stake she was shivering wet and miserable, the snow beat down upon her mercilessly, it seemed to grow heavier, like it was trying to blank out any signs of her existence, but that just fueled the fire of desperation that burned in her empty stomach as she continued to attack the wooden stakes like some kind of vengeful vampire.



I think you can also elevate your descriptions by adding some onomatopoeias. There is snow and the chopping of wood in your story both of which provide excellent opportunities to add some onomatopoeias like,

Thwak, thwak, thwak!

Or perhaps,

Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch.

You can even try adding something like whoosh for the wind.

Again, these are just suggestions.



Now to the story itself,

Around the part where Cassie is hacking away at the wood, I feel like there could be just a little more foreshadowing. The advent of the mysterious cat-like man feels just a little too sudden. Perhaps, as she was chopping the wood, she heard strange noises but ignored them. Perhaps the hissing noises came a few times before Cassie paid them any heed.

I feel like a little more foreshadowing will really help the scene and make it more punchy and smooth.




Then she looked out of her windshield with new determination, she was NOT going to miss the secondary road.


All caps is used only when someone SHOUTING ON TOP OF THEIR LUNGS, so I would suggest you use italics for the word 'not' to add emphasis. Otherwise the 'not' has a tendency to stick out and disrupt that flow.


Overall, I really enjoyed reading your story, it's well balanced with suspense, mystery, intrigue and touch of humour. I'm looking forward to reading the coming parts!


Everything expressed is my opinion, accept or reject whatever you want.

Take care!

--KB

Image




HildeMint says...


thanks a billion




Stop being mean to your self-insert character, you're just being mean to yourself.
— WeepingWisteria