At first, no one spoke. They all just sat, idly picking off the webs from their clothing and trying not to look at each other. In fact, no one made a sound except for Will who was huffing in and out into his fist while Toby kept wandering around him, trying to take the webs off his extra spider legs for him. Outside, there were still noises of bellowing cries but they sounded far away and soon, the clatter died off. Dolly looked to Will but he was still looking at where the door disappeared, his gold grey eyes wide and his fingers twitching.
“Is everyone okay?” Lydia asked cautiously.
“I think Will’s going to have a heart attack if he doesn’t calm down,” Dolly frowned. She carefully put a hand on his shoulder and he jumped. “Will, calm down. We’re in the Safe Haven.”
“You saw it?” he said, his voice barely audible over the fire. “You saw it, right? I swear I saw it. I know I did. You had to have seen it.”
“Will, everyone saw it,” Stuart said, slowly. “We couldn’t not. It was coming right for us.”
“No,” he gasped, looking around at them all. “No, not the Buck. He was just doing what he was born to do. Granted, he has that problem that they try to contain and that’s why he was all enraged but that’s just a part of their blood, or so I’ve been led to believe. I’ll have to look it up later.”
“Will. Back to topic at hand, please,” Dolly interrupted.
“Right! Being terrified of a horrible predator,” he said, shaking himself back to normal. He cleared his throat and picked off some of the webs that Toby couldn’t pick off for him. “You’re serious that no one saw the gloves? No one saw anything?”
“Gloves?” Lydia asked, confused. “We saw a thing with horns and he was trying to stab us with them. I don’t think he was wearing gloves.”
“Again, that was just the Buck,” Will replied, shaking his head.
“Could someone explain to me what in the hell a Buck is? And just what the hell he is too?” Matt said, sheepishly. He looked around. “And how you managed to get a set up with a real fireplace and all this shit in a storage locker? The ceiling looks like it’s at least ten feet above our heads.”
“Um, Dolly,” Will said, quietly. “We might have a problem.”
“The kind of problem that includes having an injured boy in the Safe Haven that we’re going to have to explain what’s going on to?” Dolly frowned.
“Slightly bigger, if you can believe that,” Will said, slightly too cheerful for her liking. He carefully walked over to Matt and sighed. “You were one of the PranKingz right? At least you worked with them when they weren’t making your life miserable, right?”
“And you’re some guy in a costume, right?” Matt said, unsure. Will sighed with a frown. “One of you guys has some killer money and you can afford all of this, right? Like those legs on your back, they’re just props?”
“Well if you’re wondering about our budget, we’re blessed with the more frugal option that we have the real thing available as opposed to making expensive props,” Will offered. Matt shook his head. “I have spider legs. They grew a few years ago and I’m stuck with them for the time being.”
“No,” Matt said, looking at all of them. “No I get this. I got it good this time. That asshole Blair is going to be paying his rent and drug money himself because this is too far. That scared the shit out of me. You’re all in on it, right? Look at me and tell me that you’re all in on this. Those assholes with the horns aren’t real. None of this is. Nothing tonight is real.”
“We wish we could tell you that, Matt,” Dolly sighed.
“And you already know that this isn’t true,” Will added. He frowned and looked at the boy at his feet.
“You know because you heard it, didn’t you?” Will said, lowering his voice.
“No, it’s not true,” Matt said, feeling something bubble in him again.
“Please, try not to get too excited,” Will said, miming to keep his voice low. “The spider you saw before is afraid of loud noises and I already scared the webbing out of him once. Things get gross if he does it too often.”
“What do you mean, he heard it?” Lydia asked. “They just made noises, Will. We all heard that.”
“The one that he grabbed, they spoke to each other,” Will said, looking Matt in the eye. The boy at his feet looked away. “I know it did. I saw its eyes change color. They don’t do that for nothing. Bucks are noted for their power but they can also see right into the pit of your soul if you let them.”
“Maybe we could back up a bit, Will,” Dolly said. “You’ve mentioned these Bucks more than once now and we don’t know what you’re talking about. You knew these things were around?”
“I didn’t but I should have been paying attention to this,” Will said, beginning to pace now. “Last summer, do you remember when I asked you about the moon phases? It was before we got wind of what that stupid Shadow was doing and I was going to try to make sure that things were at least safer around here during the Buck Moon. It might not have prevented anything but it was supposed to be a cautionary measure.”
“What were you going to do?” Stuart asked, quietly. “You weren’t going to tell us about it?”
“I did the same thing last year and it worked so I thought it was worth it to try again and not worry anyone,” Will sighed. “It’s nothing much but it was that incident where we found the spray paint on the drive of the storage unit. That was me. I tried to make a territory marking and try to drive away anything that might open a rift.”
“You just wrote ‘I am here’ and the year,” Dolly said. “And I had to pay for it to be removed.”
“I know I still owe you for that,” Will grumbled. “But it did seem to work. The rift was threatening to open and it didn’t. I was going to try something bigger this year but I never got the chance. By the time we dealt with the Shadow, the Buck Moon had come and gone and I thought we were in the clear. I didn’t figure they had come through.”
“Where do they come from, Will?” Lydia asked. “Was it where you were from?”
“No, Bucks are found in different areas all over the place,” Will replied. “They can come from any plane of existence and they’re found in multiple stories. If we were to listen to that radio I found long enough, we would find stories like what we saw tonight in different areas going on, especially in the summer time.”
“Why did they come here after us?” Stuart asked, looking towards where the door used to be.
“Honestly, that was just bad luck,” Will frowned. One of his mouth pieces had slipped down and was twitching as he spoke, making Matt grimace. “They don’t know anything about us and wouldn’t have cared if we hadn’t been there when they were sparring. I’ll bet the noises that we’ve been hearing were them. If not for the fact that Blair and his crew had made all that noise coming in, they probably wouldn’t have come to check in our direction.”
“Blair wouldn’t have brought those things,” Matt argued. “He was the biggest chicken in the world. That would’ve scared the shit out of him unless he was the one dressing up.”
“They aren’t dressing up, Matt,” Will said, gently. “Those horns are real. Those creatures are real and they are kind of sick with like a form of testosterone right now. When they heard Blair threatening that other person you had with you guys, they might not have understood the words but they knew he was making a threat. They understand the tone and they responded.”
“They killed him,” Matt said, his voice going hollow. Will nodded.
“And they would have killed you too but you met its challenge,” he replied cautiously. “I know I heard you before. It said something to you and you responded.”
“It just sounded like grunting, Will,” Dolly objected.
“No,” Matt said, slowly. “It was a word.”
“It looked into you and you met its challenge,” Will repeated. “That means that it sees you as an equal. It wanted to spar, which is what the Bucks are doing right now. They see you as one of them and they are going crazy because of their horns. It what’s making them go ballistic and when they can’t control it, they are sent to face each other until they learn to channel their aggression. They usually have a mentor or a figure of authority to watch over their progress but the veils were thin and these ones escaped their fate.”
“What was their fate?” Stuart asked.
“From what I’ve been told, one of two things,” he replied. “Either they learn to harness their power and use it to enforce order in their society or they are killed. The young ones are shown no mercy when they cannot work for the good of the group. They are only given one chance to establish their sense of control over their power, lest it take over the whole or give rise to struggles for control of it. In their world, this is a sin worthy of death.”
“So we can just wait in here until they off each other, right?” Matt said, getting more scared now. Will frowned. “Why not? There’s only a few of them, right? They are trying to fight it out and we’re not targets anymore so we can just wait for them to leave or kill each other.”
“There’s more than a few,” Dolly said, uncomfortably. “I saw a lot more of them in the shadows moving around the area.”
“And whether we like it or not, we’re harboring a target now,” Will said, quietly. Matt looked at him in horror.
“Me? You’re going to throw me out there?”
“No, but they will want you back,” he said, sitting down near Matt. “They have accepted that you are one of them. They will try to call you into their ranks and they will want to fight.”
“That’s bullshit. They don’t know me. I’m nothing to them and-” Matt started to argue but stopped short when he saw Will point to his leg. It was now completely healed.
“I’m not sure what is going to happen to you, Matt, but I do know that humans don’t heal that quickly, even in this reality,” he sighed. He looked around at the others. “We are going to have to figure out what to do if we’re harboring a newborn Buck.”