(Link to Part 4)
One step and another. The wolves howled and I hoped they were farther away this time so we could rest soon. Everything blurred and my shoulder became a pinpoint of agony and spreading fire. How long since I had been shot? Where was Maggie?
The shadows gave way to bright light, all but blinding me. Behind us I could hear the whisper of trees: Go, go, go they said with a flutter of leaves. Edmond became nothing more than a black spot against a world where colors washed out in sunshine.
Follow the bouncing ball.
"We're almost there," Edmond said. "Can you see it? That's the pond. Just a few more steps."
I'd been looking at the ground. I brought my head up, gasping at the pain through my shoulder at the movement. Something glittered ahead of me; the reflection of light against the water. I could make out the shapes of trees nearby, which worried me -- but having a destination gave me a little more strength.
"We better keep moving," Edmond said with a glance back the way we'd come. I could see the movement of his head, the glitter of golden eyes. "The trees weren't very happy with us and they might not keep the wolves occupied for long. We need to hurry."
I started to argue, but it would take too much energy. I could feel blood on my arm and my head throbbed, so whatever magic Maggie had used was fading now. She was gone and I was alone with a talking cat who might be leading me anywhere. I told myself this was better than being completely alone, though I wished we would stop moving.
Light glittered in my eyes, so bright I had to close them.
"Sit down before you fall down," Edmond ordered and nudged the back of my legs.
That sounded like a good idea. I sat and my fingers dropped into water, startling me. I hadn't realize we'd reached the pond but as I blinked I could see a small stretch of impossibly blue water well-shaded by the trees, a few cattails, water lilies and an odd green frog staring intently at me. I waited, expecting an attack. The frog only stared, eyes blinking -- first the left and then the right. Never both of them at once.
"Yes? Yes?" I finally said in exasperation. I leaned a little closer, daring myself not to fall in and drown. "What have you got to say?"
The frog blinked.
"Mark? Why are you talking to the frog?" Edmond asked, sounding very, very confused.
"Because he's bound to have something to say about me being here," I replied. The frog blinked again. "Everything else has."
"Why would you think a frog could talk?" he asked, looking up at me with confusion.
"Cats talk. Trees talk. Why wouldn't the frog talk?" I asked.
"Oh." He smirked and then tilted his head. "You know, there's a kind of logic in that. Unfortunately, logic never works very well in Elsewhere. Sip some of the water; it'll help you feel better."
I wanted to be safe. I wasn't going to find it, I feared. "Why did I come here?" I asked, dipping one hand into the water.
"Because you killed someone."
That hadn't been what I meant and I hadn't needed the reminder. I shivered this time remembering Tommy starting to crouch, his lips pulled back in a feral snarl and the blood on his lips. I thought I would be ill, remembering the look in his flashing silver eyes.
"He -- he wasn't human."
"Yeah? So? That's not a good excuse here."
I turned to Edmond, startled and afraid. "Was he from Elsewhere? Was he one of you?"
Edmond blinked several times and stared somewhere else, as though he could see something over my shoulder. I feared to turn and learn what stood there.
"He was touched by something dark." Edmond's golden eyes turned back to me. "We don't accept that sort of evil any more than humans would. But you will have to prove it. Sip the water. We can't stay if Maggie doesn't come by. She'll be looking for us though. It won't be much longer."
"Good." I still felt shaken. I'd tried not to think about Tommy and killing him. I'd tried not to think about Sheriff Creston and the rage when he shot me. I concentrated on not falling as I dipped my hand into the water. The frog continued to blink at me. I still expected him to speak.
"Damn overgrown dogs," Edmond said with a hiss. He looked up in the air. "Come on Maggie."
The water did make me feel better, but I didn't think I would have the strength to run.
"I was starting to think there was no where safe on this side," I said, dripping my hand in the water again. I let some of it dribble over my aching shoulder and the pain eased slightly.
"Safe enough," Edmond agreed. "As long as the wolves don't find us here and Naiad doesn't take exception to us."
"Naiad?" I said. I remembered the term from mythology. Water nymphs --
The wolves howled, much closer. I could see the line of trees not nearly far enough away. Once they cleared that they would see us. There was no where to run.
"Go, Edmond," I said. "Run before they see you."
He seemed more a statue right then, the gold eyes unblinking as he stared at me. "More like Maggie than I thought," he said. Then he shook his head. "Get up. We can go a ways yet before they catch up."
"You should --"
"I am not leaving --"
The wolves howled and I saw movement at the edge of the trees. Too late. Neither of us would get away. They were charging across the glade, though not straight towards us.
I tried to stand.
And a hand caught hold of my arm and dragged me into the water.
Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here:
And don't miss out on
for more fantastic quick reads
for more fantastic quick reads