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Say What? Part #5

June 28, 2017 Leave a comment

Tom looked from the seat to the dog a few times before turning around. It creeped him out when animals did that. Like the cat he used to have that would hiss at empty rooms before running out. He had hated that cat, but when it died, he moved out of the house because he didn’t feel safe in it when he was alone. Tom always figured that the cat knew something that he didn’t. Better safe than sorry.

Harry didn’t let up. Tom wanted to reach over and sooth him, but considering his current project. Considering that the old legends discussed a supernatural monster that he might be chasing, Tom just couldn’t put his arm up.

The dog might be onto something.

“Alright,” he said. “Calm down. We are out of here.”

He was so rattled that when he started to pull out, Tom forgot to check his blind spot. The honking of the horn made him jump as he slammed the brake. The sudden jerking of the vehicle nearly spilled the big dog into the floorboard, but all of the disasters were avoided. Other than getting cussed and flipped off, both Tom and Harry were fine as they pulled onto the street.

When he looked back into his rear view mirror, Tom thought he saw someone standing in the empty parking spot. He snapped around to look, but he couldn’t see anything.

“What the hell?” He asked Harry.

A chuffing bark seemed like about as logical an answer as he had come up with.

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The Hours #20

December 7, 2016 Leave a comment

I watched the others sleep but noticed that they did not sleep well. All of my companions twitched and fidgeted, making pained and frightened noises as they did so. I had no idea how long they would sleep, but I took the time to consider my course of action.

When they woke, each looked around in confusion with fear in their eyes before they realized where they were. Eyes roamed around, looking for the beasts from their nightmares as the quiet of the afternoon was ripped apart by gasps of surprise.

Samantha was the first to wake. She looked at me and her eyes narrowed when she saw Mary resting against my chest. When her eyes returned to mine, she bit her lip, lowered her eyes again and lifted her hand to wipe her eyes. She did not meet my gaze again, though she did sit up so that Carl’s arms were no longer around her. I wish she had looked up so that she could have seen me smile at her.

Mark was the next to rise. He looked around the boat and rubbed his neck. I assumed that was the last physical sensation he could remember from when I had watched the torch disappear into the night. After his eyes met mine he turned around and looked at Samantha. He looked at Carl’s sleeping face, sighed, and then turned to stare over the side of the boat.

Mary woke and began brushing her arms. She looked all over, searching her arm and skirts for intruders before looking at us and letting out a sigh of relief. She curled into my arms, burying her face against my chest and shuddered.

Carl was the last to wake. He jerked up with a start and drew in a huge breath. After his moments of disorientation, he sighed and shook his head.

None of us spoke. Carl and I picked up the oars and moved the boat along as fast as was possible until making our port. Odd and uncomfortable words were exchanged with the boat’s owners and the coach drivers, but everyone was as off put by our attitudes as we were.

My friends and I parted ways. I sat in the study, staring at the fire and drinking far more brandy than was my norm, replaying the dreams that I was certain were not just dreams.

I would have to proceed with caution. I would not hurt Mary. She deserved better than that, but I could not ignore what I felt for Samantha. In that strange dream world, despite its horrors and pain, I had found love.

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The Hours #19

November 30, 2016 Leave a comment

When I opened my eyes, I was genuinely surprised. I tried to reconcile the bright sunlight dappling my face through a canopy of dark green leaves with me memories of breaking bone. I could still feel the burning and tearing of my flesh where the worm had attacked, but the sight of clouds moving through the sky to my left made me question my sanity.

Perhaps I had lived a life of sufficient virtue to be granted paradise. Perhaps I was hallucinating. Perhaps I was even dreaming.

This thought stuck in my mind. The idea that I was dreaming beat upon me like a hammer striking steel yet I was sure I had just died. I should not be thinking at all. I should be nothing more than a ghost in a strange land.

Something made me look down. Some weight that made it hard to breath. I lowered my eyes, expecting to see an absence of legs or the worm chewing on my guts. I did not expect to see a pile of golden curls.

“Mary?” I whispered the word, speaking just above a breath.

I looked up and found that Mark was in the middle of the boat. He was curled in a ball with his head on his arm. Then I could see the toes of Samantha’s boots.

Samantha.

She was dressed, and whole, and alive. She was reclined in the other end of the boat, her dark curls resting on Carl’s chest, his arms around her.

I snarled at the idea of him touching her.

I looked around as the others slept and confirmed that we were all still dressed. They were all uninjured and as far as I could tell our canoe had drifted to the side a short ways before we were supposed to have landed.

We were alive and well. It had all been some horrible nightmare.

As I rested there, feeling Mary’s body move with her breath I watched Samantha. I looked from Carl to Mark and realized I was clenching my fist. It was more than a dream. I felt it in my bones. It was more than a dream and I would not leave the woman who had saved my life and shown me a new world. Samantha had shown me love.

There were many things I would have to change.

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The Hours #14

September 21, 2016 Leave a comment

Samantha and I made our way along the edge of the woods in a subtle panic. Throughout the day, we could hear the snapping of limbs as some creature made its way in parallel to our own. With every crack, I expected another demonic monstrosity to leap out of the forest. With every step, I did my best to keep myself between Samantha and our stalker.

Neither of us released the other’s hand for more than a moment.

“Stop,” she hissed.

I froze, my club lifted to the ready, and I held my breath. In a second, I could hear what the dear girl’s ears had picked up on. There was running water near by.

“It’s in the woods,” she said. “I don’t think it is very far, but we will have to go in.”

I shrugged. “We have to have water.”

At the same time, our unseen companions began making a great deal more noise. As the noise grew softer, I turned a questioning eye on the woman beside and she smiled. “I think our fellow travelers are hurrying after a drink as well.”

I smiled and relaxed. “Good,” I said. “Then maybe they will have cleaned out a path through the god forsaken trees for us.”

Within no more than a hundred paces, I was proven right. The thing on the ground was the size of a large bull, but it had green and gold feathers in place of fur. The cow-bird was pinned down, struggling under three hairless rats the size of large dogs that were tearing at its throat and belly. Samantha gasped when the poor things abdomen gave way, spilling its guts on the dirt where the creatures fell upon it in a snapping frenzy. We ducked behind a bush, shared a frightened look, and hurried away.

I could hear Samantha praying as we went.

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The Hours #13

September 14, 2016 Leave a comment

When I opened my eyes, I was looking at the back of Samantha’s head, and despite the horrors of these last few days, I could not help but smile. We lay side by side, pressed together like spoons in a sideboard, and I found my mind wandering down paths that I had been taught were not for a gentleman.

I could feel her moving with each breath. My arm was wrapped around her and she held my hand in hers regardless of being lost in slumber.I had to protect her. That meant that we needed to find more food.The bird had tasted heavenly, no doubt due to our hunger, but one of the feathered murders was not enough to leave us satisfied.

It also meant that we needed water. I was parched and for the first time that I could remember, I did not wake with a need to relieve myself. We would die of thirst in another day or two and I could not allow any harm to come to Samantha. She was now all that I had. She was all that mattered. Her body kept me warm, as mine did hers. We were lost, but together and now I looked at her as more than a simple acquaintance.  She was mine in many ways and I tightened my grip around her.

I must have squeezed too hard, for she stirred. I gave a silent prayer that she might be allowed a few more minutes of peace, though in truth my prayer was as selfish as it was altruistic. I did not want to let her go yet.

I heard a cracking sound. Something in the woods ahead of me had stepped on a limb. We were not alone and in this nightmare world, that meant we were in immediate danger.

The club I used to secure our dinner should have been right behind my leg. I pulled my hand away from the girl and reached back.

Nothing.

I shifted my arm back and forth, keeping my palm just above the ground as I searched for my weapon. I could hear my pulse thundering in my ears to the point that I wondered if I would be able to hear another limb breaking. My breath was shallow and as I searched, I felt my stomach clench with panic.

Samantha shifted so that he back was on the ground and she smiled up at me. Her lips parted in what I assume was to be a greeting, but she stopped as she studied my face. I did not look at her, but kept my eyes focused on the trees ahead.

Samantha began to sit up. Looking all around as she did so. She reached forward and picked up her own stick as she gathered her feet beneath her.

I rolled over, letting my eyes locate my bloody weapon since it seemed to have rolled beyond my reach. I snatched up the length of wood and spun back as another stick broke near by.

“What is it?” Her voice was so soft that I had to run over her words three times before I was sure of what she had asked.

“No idea.”

We waited and the sticks continued to break. Whatever was making its way by us, it did not come closer. Samantha jumped and almost whirled around to strike me when I put my hand on her shoulder. “We should leave.”

Samantha rested her hand on her breast for a moment, relaxing from the scare I had given her, before nodding and taking my offered hand in an iron grip and cracked one of my knuckles.

 

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The Hours #12

August 12, 2016 Leave a comment

Samantha and I walked for the better part of a day before we came to the edge of a small wood. We had both played an equal role in keeping the other going when the enormity of our situation would come crashing down. Each cared for the other, offering a hand or a shoulder as was needed, and in the course of the day I developed a deep appreciation for the woman.

I had thought her nothing but a brainless trollop when first introduced. After joining Carl and his betrothed for a meal, I then thought her a waspish shrew and I pitied my friend. Now though, I came to the conclusion that Carl would have been the lucky one. Samantha was filled with steel that made me feel effeminate at times. We traveled without food or water, and despite these hardships she carried on with far less complaint than I could have imagined possible from any lady.

“I don’t know if we should go in there,” she said, peering between the trees.

“We can walk around the edge,” I said. “But I believe we need to stay close enough to take cover if those birds return.”

“What about spiders?”

I swallowed and then flinched at the look on her face when she heard me. “I agree that there are many dangers, but I should think that we will be best able to react by staying on the edge. We can walk in the grass in an effort to ease our way.”

Samantha looked all around and nodded. “Are you much of an outdoorsman? Did you spend time in the field with Carl?”

“A little, though at this moment I am wishing I had spent a great deal more time hunting with him. Why?”

Before she could answer my stomach released a growl that could have frightened small children. Samantha smiled and I nodded, then we began to move along the woods.

I looked up, as I so often did during this leg of our adventure, and in the lowest limbs of one old, dead tree I saw two of the red winged birds that had destroyed our garments. I stopped, squeezing Samantha’s hand and nodded.

“What now?” She whispered the word into my ear, and the heat of her breath sent chills over my body in waves that must have mimicked water after dropping in a stone. I took a deep breath to aid in the search for my composure and dropped my eyes to the ground.

A large stick lay at my feet.

When I attempted to release her hand, the woman squeezed my fingers tightly enough to crack the knuckles. I patted her, took a stronger grip in an effort to reassure her, and knelt to gather up the weapon. She looked at me, panic washing over her face.

I moved forward with slow steps, making an effort to keep quiet. I doubt it mattered because the birds squawked and chirped at each other, making a tremendous amount of noise. I don’t know when Samantha realized what I intended to  do, but the second time I released her hand, she let go without complaint.

The impact of my club against one bird and then the limb below it caused the other one to take wing. Samantha was smiling and almost bouncing as she looked at the thieving little beast who had helped to destroy her dress. “Well done,” she said. “So we will be dining on squab tonight.”

 

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The Hours #9

July 6, 2016 Leave a comment

Mark made two trips, dropping off arm loads of wood and switching to a fresh torch, before Samantha returned.  I was watching the sky as a wall of clouds worked their way towards us when she walked up and sat down beside of me. “Are you alright?”

She shook her head and sniffled. “I wondered about the time that Carl spent with Mark.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I have trouble believing it.”

“It doesn’t matter now. Carl is gone and neither of us can have him.”

I was at a loss for words. How on earth was I supposed to console this woman. Her fiance had been ripped out of our boat and she had just been told that he was cheating on her with one of the two people she was traveling with. Further, her best friend, my own fiance, had just been eaten by spiders. We were lost in an  alien landscape and at this rate, all of us were going to die. I was numb to it all. I felt cold and lost and I knew she felt the same, but I could no more offer her support than I could guarantee her safety.

“I have a question for you.”

I added one of the sticks that Mark had brought to the fire and stirred it up before turning to face her squarely and nodding my ascent.

“Why didn’t you try to save Carl?”

“Because I was afraid.” It was the simplest version of the truth.

“Can’t you swim?”

I nodded.

“Then what were you afraid of?”

I swallowed, and in the quiet of the night, it was an audible sound. “He,” I began, and I had to begin the sentence many times before I managed to say the words. “He didn’t fall into the water.”

She looked at me with what I thought was confusion.

“I saw something that looked like the yellow ribbons on a young girls twirling baton wrap around his throat and drag him backward into the water. I didn’t know what it was, and I froze.” Samantha stared and after a moment, I realized that tears were making their way down my cheeks. “I was a coward.”

Samantha did something that was, in my opinion, one of the most courageous things that she could have. Instead of breaking down, as I was, or crying and denying my claim, she moved closer and wrapped her arms around me in a fierce hug. I returned the gesture, and we sat there, holding each other for some unknown time, before she sat back, moving her hands to sit on top of my knee.

I looked away, ashamed of my tears, my cowardice, and my general lack of manliness in such dire times. I attempted to take a steadying breath and noticed the light moving towards us. “It appears the Mark is returning.”

I regretted pointing it out. Samantha scooted away and I missed the comfort of her touch immediately. She lowered her eyes to the fire while I watched the torch as Mark made his way down the hill towards us.

The light came closer, then seemed to dance back and forth. “What is he doing?” I asked as the little glowing spot moved back and forth so quickly that it seemed a glowing line in the night.

Samantha looked up while I rose and moved to the other side of the fire. The spot seemed to jump forward and then it flared. When it moved again, there were two spots and I realized that the torch had hit the ground, lighting some of the dry grass when it did.

“He’s in trouble,” Samantha said. She rose and stepped up beside me. “He must be.”

It happened again, and a third fire sprang to life along with a high pitched scream. I turned and grabbed two more burning brands from our fire and handed one to Samantha. “Quickly,” I said, took hold of her hand and pulled her behind me.

The fire jumped again but this time, it left a streak of light as it moved away from our camp. It was moving much faster than what Samantha and I could. I stopped after a few steps, listening as the scream died away. The trail of fire disappeared when I assume Mark was dragged over the ridge of the hill.

Samantha’s hand trembled in mine and her voice broke as she asked, “He’s gone?”

My squeezing her hand was the only response I could muster. We stood for a moment, watching the little fires as the flared and grew, but then it began to rain. The first cold drops of water smacked my skin before Samantha pulled me back toward our little camp.

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