(Link to Part 8)
I awoke to the sound of Edmond arguing with someone -- some thing, actually, that had a high-pitched voice, their words invading my nice, calm darkness and pulling me back to the real world.
Well, not so much real. I turned and found Edmond arguing with a squirrel. Color me surprised.
"Listen, you poor excuse for a mammal --" the squirrel . . . chittered, his voice getting higher and the words coming faster. "I could take you in any competition --"
"Ha! You have more fur on your tail then you have cells in your brain," Edmond replied.
"You -- You -- You --"
"Hey guys," I said. "Either hold it down or take it out outside, okay?"
"Sorry," Edmond said and gave a nod to the squirrel who leapt off the windowsill and hurried off. "Davis!"
Surfer Dude came into the room. He looked harassed, which made me feel guilty since I appeared to be his only patient. Or maybe it was Edmond and the squirrel that were driving him crazy. I stretched out and realized I was in a bed now, and wondered how he'd managed to move me. No, it still had the covering and general shape of the chair, but had morphed into something longer and wider. Cool.
I felt better. My shoulder ached a little, but not much.
Davis put a leather bag on a table by the door and came to look me over. He was silent at first but then gave a nod of relief.
"Maggie was summoned back to the city," he said, then seeing my worry, he smiled. "Nothing wrong. It's part of her job as a messenger. She'll be back in a couple days and then the two of you can decide what to do. I'm glad you're looking so well, though, because I have to go to a nearby village. They have an outbreak of drustlies. The spontaneously shape-shifting children are driving the parents crazy. And we don't want this to spread."
"Right," I said.
"You're strong enough to get to the bathroom and use the shower," he said and waved a hand across towards another door. "And forage in the kitchen for food. But I want you to stay here at the cottage until I get back. Don't wander out of the yard. Edmond will stay here with you, and if there is any problem, he knows where to find me."
I nodded, feeling a bit odd about staying here in this strange place. However, at least it wasn't a place that was trying to kill me. That counted for a lot.
"I'll stay here unless Maggie says otherwise," Edmond said. "And the same for Mark. Or if I see a reason we have to go. Things have been odd."
"Yes, true," Davis agreed. I still couldn't get used to the idea of a wise cat.
Davis gathered up his bag, paused at the door as though trying to think of other things to say, and then gave a single nod and headed out. He walked past the window and out into the yard where I could still see him from the chair/bed. He whistled and the motorcycle came out at a bouncing run that looked like a puppy called to play. He secured the bag to the seat, climbed on and kicked on the engine. The wings unfolded and they took off.
So here I was, alone in this strange house with Edmond. I noticed that the broom was sweeping up in the kitchen and decided that was enough weirdness for now. I napped for a while longer, Edmond coming to sleep on the side of the pillow. I thought about suggesting he sleep at my feet, but my brain caught up with my mouth just in time. Besides, there was pillow enough for both of us.
Later I got up and showered. The hole in my shoulder was almost entirely healed though it felt sore to move my arm. The cut on my head -- which I had mostly forgotten -- was nothing more than a thin white line where the bullet had come close to killing me. Having them both healing was good . . . but it didn't take away from that moment when the memory of what happened hit me. I closed my eyes, remembering Sheriff Creston's gun aimed straight at my head.
Trembling. For a moment I didn't dare move at all, trying to remind myself I was safe. As long as the big wolves didn't come here and the tree outside the cottage didn't take exception to me being here, right? Should I be worried about the broom? How about the door?
I grew up knowing Elsewhere was very close by. All the kids talked about going there, but I'd never had the draw to crossover until I had no choice. I'd secretly wanted to go to Japan and learn about the other half of my family. I looked up into the mirror, wondering if I looked like him -- and for a moment I thought I saw another face looking over my shoulder.
I left the bathroom in a hurry, my heart pounding.
"Okay, Mark?" Edmond asked, his head tilting as he stared.
"Yeah, Fine. Is there food here for you?"
"Some fish for both of us," he said and walked over to the stove. I opened the oven and found food already on plates and ready to eat. I took them to the table, not even considering putting the food on the floor for the cat. Besides, I wanted his company. I wanted the distraction. Edmond settled on the table across from me and waited politely for his food.
"So what now?" I asked as Edmond took dainty bites of his fish. I had corn and rice too. Really good food.
He looked up. Glanced at the window and then back at me. "Eat faster."
I looked out the window. A huge, dark line of clouds was heading our way far too quickly. Even I knew the storm wasn't natural.
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