Friday, November 20, 2015

Flash Fiction #173 --Escaping Somewhere Else, Part 8: Lost

I flew.  I didn't much like it.
Edmond had dug deeper into my jacket, which was good, despite the claws holding on to my shirt and skin.  We were moving through the air and I couldn't begin to tell how far we had gone already, but there was no lessening of the wind.  I went too close by walls that rose up into the sky, scraping a foot along one and losing a shoe.
And sometimes I could see a pair of huge, glowing eyes in the cloud, watching me.
Down.  I needed down.
The thing was coming closer.  A huge claw swept out and would have had us if I hadn't suddenly twisted and pushed downward, as though in water.  Swim -- one arm holding to Edmond, but still swim.  Dangerous -- I was soon down amid more of the buildings, but the wind had less strength here.  I swept down lower and aimed for a breach between two walls, and then swept to the right.  The wall blocked most of the wind.
We dropped.
It was only a few feet, but I landed hard on his side against a pile of bricks.  I hadn't the breath left to even moan.  Edmond didn't move and we laid their, silent and still, while something swept over head, yowling in anger and frustration.  Edmond shivered.  So did I.
Gradually the night came, cold and dark.  The wind had gone.  I listened, hoping for the sound of others.  Small things moved around them, but nothing large enough to be human.
"Safe," I whispered.
"There is no where safe," Edmond mumbled into my shirt.  "This place is insane.  None of it makes sense."
I gave a nod of agreement and finally started to sit up. Edmond popped his head out and looked around.  Then he pulled his head back in and made sounds that were probably cat curses.
"I have no idea where we are," I said.
"We're lost in hell."
"We need to get back to the others."  I started to stand, but everything ached.
"Not tonight, Mark," Edmond said.  "Wait until light.  Even I wouldn't go wandering around in the dark tonight.  We need light to see if we can spot anything.  And we need sleep. Flying was very tiring."
"We need to move at least a little away from here in case whatever that was comes back looking for us," I said.  I did manage to stand this time.  The loss of the shoe was going to be a problem.  The rocks everywhere hurt.  I cursed, too -- but I took us back through the breach in the walls and then off to the left a little.  I thought that had been the way we came.
I did not look up at the city, though I was grateful for the little bit of light it cast.  I concentrated on my footing, on the shadows, and kept thoughts of what hung over us to a minimum.  It was impossible not to have some thoughts -- Don't think about a pink elephant! -- because the mind just doesn't work that way.  I had to give myself other things to consider.
And those were enough to worry me.  Lost.  Injured, though not so much that I couldn't move.  Something out there, maybe hunting me.
"Is this far enough?" Edmond asked.  He was limping as well.
I would have kept walking, but that wasn't what we needed.  I grunted agreement and sat down on a fallen boulder.  "Sleep for a while, Edmond.  I'll stay awake."
He jumped up into my lap and made himself comfortable.  "This way I'll know if you fall asleep," he said.
I wanted to complain, but it was entirely reasonable.  Edmond, being a cat, had no trouble falling asleep, either.
I wasn't certain I would ever sleep again.  Everything, from the moment I had killed the monster Tommy Creston had become and all the way to this flying lesson.
I was angry.  I was furious.  I had done the right thing by taking care of the monster at home and all it had gotten me was a hellish amount of walking punctuated by things knocking me around.  Everything I knew about myself had changed.  I was a Protector, but so far that hadn't done us a lot of good.  It sure hadn't gotten me anything better and I was tired of it all.
"If you start growling, I'm going to go find somewhere else to sleep," Edmond said.  "Sit still."
I almost snapped at him, but I held that anger inside.
"That's better."
He went back to sleep.
The night stayed quiet, which I supposed was good.  I didn't hear so much as a breeze now.  I imagined nothing willingly moved out there tonight.  We each kept our silent vigils.
The world calmed.  I calmed.  Edmond slept.
And then I heard things coming.  Little things that grew louder, like the clicking of tiny metal teeth against stone.  The sound grated and I stood, my hands in fists.
"Leave me the hell alone!"
The clicking went silent.
"Well, okay," a woman said somewhere close by.  "I can leave.  But I really thought you might like to get to cover before the biters get here."
I spun.  The woman was standing by a window, faintly outlined by the light.  Dressed in black an gray, her face lost behind a huge cowl . . . She could have been there all along.
Edmond had backed up to me, but he didn't seem particularly upset.
"I'm sorry.  I didn't see you there," I said.  Friend?  Foe?
The clicking noise started up again.  Closer.  I automatically picked Edmond up.
"I think we better go," the woman said.  "Fast.  They're going to be hunting."
That didn't sound good at all.  I looked at Edmond.  He gave a little nod.  So I bowed my head to this stranger and followed her, limping over the stone.  Another adventure, I told myself.  Another adventure to survive.

To Be Continued. . . .

993 Words


Friday, November 13, 2015

Flash Fiction #172 --Escaping Somewhere Else, Part 7: Travel

I had never pictured myself as Moses.
Walking at the head of this group made me nervous.  I was much happier when Maggie or Davis took the lead for a bit,  but then I had to worry about what they were going to run into.  Lady -- the head of the locals, none of whom gave names -- sometimes went out there as well, as did their overgrown talking monster.  It made me nervous to see even them out ahead of us for fear that something would happen --
Of course something was going to happen.
Edmond was walking with me and being uncharacteristically quiet, which I also didn't trust.  Oh yes, paranoia in full bloom here.
"What's bothering you, Edmond?" I finally asked, rather than leave it all in my head.
"That's no help."
"Then you shouldn't have asked."  He gave a sigh.  "Okay.  First is that odd creature up there.  I've never seen anything like it.  It didn't come from Elsewhere and it isn't from around here, I'm sure of that much.  So that means it came from yet another place."
"Yes, probably," I agreed.  What did I know?
"We're heading for a door to another place.  It might be his place.  I don't think I want to walk into a world filled with them."
"If the door lead to his home, why hasn't he gone there?"
"Maybe because he's crazy and is protecting humans rather than eating them."
"You have a dark, dark mind, Edmond."
Edmond stopped and looked up at me.  "Look, I put myself in his position.  I imagined myself with these weak little things all around me, and here I was, alone.  Maybe kicked out of home because I wasn't sane.  I didn't want to be alone.  So there I am, and I make friends with the mice.  I protect them. What would you think?"
I didn't say anything, but I found myself looking at the creature again.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Edmond said.
Well, that certainly helped my state of mind.
We were making remarkably good time, though.  These people were used to traveling through this maze of ruins.  They were also good at finding unexpected food, mostly in the form of mushrooms and other fungus.  They picked everything along the way and clearly shared with each other.  I still couldn't see how they managed to survive, though.
"I wonder how long ago this happened," I said to no one in particular.
"My guess would be about fifteen years," Davis said.  "Too much is still standing and I heard a couple of the others say they hoped to find a store that hadn't been plundered yet.  This is something that happened in the memory of this generation.  You can see it in their faces."
"But why?"
"Don't think this group will tell us."  Davis looked up at the city hanging over them.  "You had some contact. What did you learn?"
I hadn't thought about that since I woke up.  I had purposely shoved it out of my head and I tried not to shiver as it came back now.  I looked around the area, at all the ruins, the dust, the feel of death.
"Mark?" Davis said.
"They want magic.  That's about all I can say about it," I replied softly.  "They know we're not from around here.  They know we have magic, but they don't seem to think that we're any threat."  I stopped and considered it for a few steps.  "And you know, that might just have been pure luck.  I don't know much about magic at all.  If she'd caught hold of you or Maggie --"
"Yes.  She had a voice, there in my head.  Calm.  Cultured, if you know what I mean.  A sense of self-worth and no sense of worth for anything else."
"Not my favorite type of person," Davis replied.  He glanced up and away quickly.  "They don't look up.  I think it is a way not to draw notice.  If you notice it, the city will notice you."
I thought about it for a moment.  "Attracted by the magic, maybe.  And you know, that makes me think that city is like a big mouse trap."
Davis glanced at me, at Edmond, at the sky and away.  He walked on for several steps.  "Illusion," he said.  "Or more than that because there is something solid up there.  But not what it seems.  Do you think the rest of these people know what it is?"
"I think if they do, they know enough not to look at it and not to talk about it."
Davis gave a nod.  We said no more.  Not right now.
The day was going from light gray to dark gray and would soon be black again.  I could tell that Lady was looking for a campsite.  Edmond had come back to be carried.  I thought about how easy it would be for him to disappear in the darkness and we'd never know what happened.  I was glad to carry him.
A cold wind blew past us --
"Cover! Cover!" Lady yelled, waving towards us.  Her own people had already dived down into whatever covering of debris they could find.  Children cried and were silenced.
The wind roared and growled as I scrambled to find some cover.  I held tight to Edmond because the wind was so strong I could barely keep from being swept away and he wouldn't have a chance.  He burrowed into my jacket and I thought I could hear him cursing and hissing in turn.  I wasn't near to a wall.  I had climbed clear of them, looking for a place to camp.
And it cost me.  I could see something in the darkness that spread across us; something huge in a cloud of dust that rose around it so that I couldn't see the shape, even when it swept down at me and caught me up in the cloud as well.

To Be Continued. . . .

995 Words