Silence broke suddenly on the great frozen waste; the land shook and crumbled in on itself a little at first, then in great heaves. It continued for some time to churn. The vast benches of snow were split, their innards exposed to the frigid air from Alaska, and the mercury in God’s thermometer crept up a fraction of an inch. From Muncho Lake to Kwadacha the tremors were felt, fresh faces in such places saw their ice-huts melt away.
If anyone but Yahto had been here to see it, they would have observed no ordinary quake. The seams in the ground had multiplied and branched out from each other, arcing and curving, the earth between them tumbling into the chasm as they met.
The cold air had made the ground brittle, and spider-web cracks raced across the land as the fissures began to form an outline.

It became steadily clearer; a five-pointed shape throwing the snow -now slush- upwards and over the sides of the chasm, making dirty wet mounds at its edges.
Cold, fresh black tendrils crept, seemed to grow out of the hole, flinching dully at the icy wind. They crawled forth and to the tops of the dirt-mounds, where they bit down hard, clenched. They held fast, pulled, and slowly the great mass moved out and into the sunlight.

Yahto looked on, paralysed with fright. The thing was gargantuan, smoky green in hue, two-hundred feet high and just as wide. He thought it looked like the wild curbitas he’d seen on journeys south. Its body was overwhelmingly disproportionate to the tentacles slithering from it, and the entirety of it was even more ill-fitting when viewed against the landscape. As Yahto stared his eyes strained trying to cross its never-ending mass. Even if its hide had not been so hideous, its very size made it abominable

He stumbled and fell, the bandage over his perennially bleeding leg shifted and he brought his knee up to correct it. He tore it off and looped each end around the wound. The great monster before him growled, and its tentacles came unfurling towards him, groping.

Yahto got to his feet in terror, frantically knotting the bandage around his thigh. He bolted off, back towards the Ituha Forest from which he’d come, turning in surprise to see the monster wasn’t in pursuit.
He momentarily closed his eyes in relief and moved cautiously back, curious as to what it would do. It had drawn its limbs back in to itself, and appeared to be shivering.
Coming closer, he saw it was sniffing, drawing in sharp quarts of air and scent.

It was blind.

The monster shrieked with glee, started to rumble and turn away from Yahto, fumbling for his hatchet. Drawing it out from its triangular semi-sheath, he drew a line through the space immediately in front of him, aiming for the Curbita’s centre. He swung and released, the axe cleaving the air and striking the thing, penetrating its skin to the shaft.
The monstrosity didn’t seem to notice, its tentacles now snaking across the snow purposefully. By the same manner in which they’d lifted it out of its earthy origins, slowly dragged the body east, leaving a mammoth trail in its wake.
Yahto knew the way to every village in the region, and saw it could only be heading for Hiamovi Uzumati’s tribal encampment on the banks of Lake Muncho. If so, he knew the Curbita’s path would come to the impassible Chochmo Chasm, twenty miles long. If he went back through the Forest and crossed the frontier at the low, rolling Pakuna Hills, he might beat the creature there and warn Uzumati of the danger.
He had to.

Turning to run, Yahto Etu cast one last glance back at the great rotten organ moving slowly further east. It was gaining speed.

Still startled and barely aware of what he was doing, Yahto ran on and on, ignoring the pernicious wound in his leg, across tundra, through forest, over ground frozen and rocky and hostile to his feet.
Emerging from the trees at last, he looked out across the landscape, expecting to see the Curbita in the distance somewhere, on its way to the Lake.

Yahto stopped, squinted, trying to pick it out in the golden glare on the horizon. He realised it wasn’t there. It was either lagging behind in their little race or was disastrously ahead of him.
Picking up his pace once more, with trepidation Yahto pictured the results of the possibilities as he ran. Even if he warned them in time to prepare for a confrontation, how could they? He wondered. Uzumaki’s tribe was a minor one, with few warriors in comparison to his neighbours.

On Yahto ran. He was crossing the Hills now, right at the base of the Chocho incline. His stamina, built on years of lone hunting in the wild, could carry him far past today’s intended destination, but presently he slowed to an exaggerated jog. What he could see of the Chasm disturbed him deeply; a great cloud of dust obscured the sheerest part of the gap, and he could see parts of either side had crumbled, chunks of the rock walls resting in the Chasm’s depths.
Horrified, he redoubled his speed, his feet striking the ground in endless spasms of motion.

Cresting the last of the hills at last, he cast his eyes out to the village on the Lake, saw it as a sprawling low silhouette. As he focused on the familiar slants of rooftops he could not ease from his mind the size of his quarry, the evil smell of it that still permeated his senses.
As he came closer, the omen of evil he’d so privately expected revealed itself; there was no smoke rising from Uzumati’s bonfire. A deep sigh of sadness seemed to burst from his very ears as he ran, as he very suddenly, and overwhelmingly, saw the path of destruction. The Curbita had come from the north-west, as its course clear in the linear disturbance of the snow approaching the encampment.

Cucurbita Demona had won.

Yahto saw the huts, crumpled like woven baskets, the obliterated homesteads where the monster had crawled through, then he saw the bodies of tribesmen, mutilated past the point of recognition, lying lifelessly out in the open. Villagers were strewn everywhere; Yahto could see an elder splayed across a table, fists clenched, a foot-wide hole gouged through his back. Babies were screaming their dying screams as they lay in their cribs.

The Curbita had trodden over the land and its people in mindless hunger, decapitating and toying with the corpses of human and home alike as it passed. As a teenager of the Micmac tribe Yahto had fought in armed combat against the brutal Neetha (of what would later be called Hudson Bay by the White Man), but even their savagery did not compare to what had transpired.
Reaching the camp’s centre and Chief Uzumaki’s lavish housings, which were girt by a waist-high decorated stone fence and gardens of Enchinacea, he heard a calloused, peppery dry voice. He recognised it as belonging to the Chief.

The old man was sprawled in the mud to Yahto’s left.

‘Who is there?’ he called. Yahto turned.

‘Come closer, stranger.’

Yahto stood. He looked around, saw no-one else, and moved towards where the Chief lay. One of his knees was bent 65 degrees in the wrong direction, the sole of his slipper facing the sky. His head and shoulders were propped upon a pile of flat stones.

Yahto knelt respectfully and spoke:

‘I must know, Hiamovi, how long ago did…it…pass through here?’

‘Ah, the great green demon which has taken so much from us?’ He was weeping. ‘It came upon us without warning, tore through our homes easily as a stone through a stream. My people have not been to war since the time of my great-grandfather. Our warriors are -were- few and inexperienced, their weapons just as rusty. We stood no chance.’

He contemplated a moment, drew himself up on his elbows so as to breathe better.

‘My son, Yuma Bodawai, was the last of us to see it. He claimed it left as the Sun passed directly over us.’

Fifteen minutes ago, by Yahto’s reckoning.

‘Where is your son now?’ Yahto interrupted as the Chief started rambling again.

‘He…uh- Bodawai chose to track the creature rather than stay. Not altogether a hard task. I mean-’He gestured at the wreckage of his peoples’ homes.‘Just look at the path it leaves.’ He chortled.

‘No, I expect my son, cunning as he is, will guess where it is heading and set out to warn them. I hope he is successful. I would not wish what has happened here today on my worst enemy.’
Yahto was moved. ‘My fate is decided, then. I must set out to meet your son.’

He moved toward Uzumaki to help him up, to carry him back into his home, but was shrugged off.

‘Waste nothing on a dying, foolish old man. Time is already against you as it is.’

The younger man nodded in reply, in understanding.
Once again he set off east, his heart heavy with foreboding. On his way out he saw what must have been the last stand for Uzumaki’s warriors; they lay cloven and utterly spent en masse. Their bodies were grey as the sky overhead, in gorgeous contrast to their blood. Their spears had been little more than ornaments and snapped uselessly in the monster’s hide when they attacked it. What followed had been a bloodbath.

Yahto followed the twin mounds of earth signing the Curbita’s path out to the lake’s closest shore, from where he could see the trail followed the curvature of the bank, pushing impatiently south. Yahto knew, even before this revealed itself, knew where the demon was going to strike next; the tribe of Hiamovi Masou was rather more adventurous than Uzumaki’s, larger too, living a nomadic existence to the south of Lake Muncho. They generally flocked west to the woodlands in July, but now, in Winter, could be anywhere in Kaska. Just where, Yahto supposed the monster’s trail would lead.
It curved steadily south, down and around a breach in the Rocky Mountains, through a blizzard which brought Yahto to tears of hurt. In the flurry his skin blistered and his pores frosted over, his lungs aching with every breath as though they were being clawed at from within. He could barely discern the trail; the storm had wiped nearly all trace of it away, save the depression in the ground, which Yahto could swear was filling before his eyes.

He trudged on, desperately willing his legs onwards as the path disappeared rapidly before him.

‘I’ll be lucky if a few toes is all I lose after today,’ he grumbled, looking up to see the path was gone and the blizzard with it. The sun was setting over the distant ocean, hemmed by clouds purple and orange. Yahto looked from the fire in the sky to the fire on the landscape; he beheld Chief Masou’s settlement, in disarray, flames soaking into the houses and sending ash into the sky. Looking to his left he saw the monolithic Cucurbita, surrounded by the townsfolk, lashing out at them in place with its tubular limbs. He ran down to a group of men huddled outside the camp’s outer fence. Approaching them, he saw one was wearing the traditional vestments of the son of a chieftain.

He called out, a herd away from the group: ‘Are Yuma Bodawai?’

The man in garb turned from the others, who looked up and out at Yahto.

‘I am. State your name and business, stranger. As you can see, we have no time for chitchat.’

Yahto strode towards them as he spoke: ‘My name is Yahto Etu, and I have tracked this,’ He gestured at the monster wrecking havoc on the land off to the left ‘thing from before it came upon your father’s people. I was not swift enough to warn you. I am sorry.’ He bowed.
The younger prince blinked. ‘Very well. This here-’ he put his hand to the shoulder of the man closest to him ‘-is Sa