(I will be using this picture for the next few weeks since I do not have time to do new artwork)
(Link to Part 14)
The darkness echoed the words of whatever followed us, whispering at a promise I didn't truly trust. I still couldn't be certain the things was human -- human-like, at least -- or something else entirely. Should I trust the words that implied it would not attack? That we could leave this black, emptiness?
Maggie had stared into the darkness for a long, silent time. I couldn't tell if seconds or minutes had passed. But she nodded finally in the direction where the voice had been, as though she could tell the truth of what had been said.
Then she took hold of my arm again, and we turned the way we had been going. Or so I assumed. I was still too disorientated to tell one direction from another. I had to trust that Maggie would see me safely out of this darkness, just as I had promised to see her safely home on that night of my birthday, so many years ago.
Somewhere else, and a place I could never go back to.
Thinking of home had not been such a good idea. I hadn't expected to feel such sudden, overwhelming depression. I wanted to go to my knees and weep at the loss of everything I would never have back. So much I should have done differently. So much I could have changed. And the thought of killing Tommy drove the pain through my heart. How could I have taken his life? How could pulled that trigger. I didn't deserve to survive --
Somewhere in my mind, I knew this wasn't natural. The wave of loss and depression felt like a blanket trying to smother me. I suddenly fought to push it aside, letting anger -- another strong emotion -- push aside the depression.
I wasn't the only one under attack. I felt Maggie's slim fingers tighten on my arm and then start to let go as she took a ragged breath --
"No!" I grabbed tight hold of her arm this time. "No, it's not real."
"Mark?" she said. Tears ran down her face. "I'm so sorry, Mark. I brought you into Elsewhere. I should never have --"
I shook her. "Stop it, Maggie! I think we're under attack!"
She gasped and blinked, her eyes going from loss to anger in one blink. She looked over her shoulder again. "No, whatever you are. No. Not that easy."
She started away again at such a steady, fast pace that I had trouble keeping up with her. She had thrown off the depression faster than I could. I still feared too much, I think. But I held on to her now, and tried to keep up. But when I looked down for a moment --
"What the hell are those, Maggie?" I asked.
"Those?" she said, confused.
I nodded down at my feet. She looked and stopped.
Little balls of darkness were moving in odd, braiding movements at our feet. While I watched, one suddenly burst into bright light and I thought I saw the flutter of wings.
"Oh!" Maggie sounded surprised. "I think they're pixies, Mark. They must be trapped here. Yes, stay with us, little ones. Hold on. We're going out."
I hadn't known we were so close. Three steps and I could see a thin line of light, bright and blue as though we looked up at the sky. I laughed and thought I could hear the sound echoed at my feet.
"Keep hold," Maggie said softly, close to my ear. "We cannot trust it."
I took a breath to calm myself and looked down. The balls of dark stuff clung to may pant legs. Should I trust them, either? So much I didn't understand. So much I needed to learn before anything else happened. But I'd hardly had a chance to take a breath before the next problem hit. I couldn't believe stepping out of the darkness and into the light was going to be any better.
"Are things always this crazy here?" I asked at last.
"No," she said. She gave me an odd little glance and then turned back to the slit of light, which was growing larger as we got closer. "There's something odd happening, Mark. I'm worried. I think Edmond is, too."
I wanted to ask more, but then I decided it might not be a good idea to distract her right now and I didn't want whatever was still behind us (because it was there) to hear too much of what we said. Get out of one mess first, and then worry about what was going to happen next.
We were closer. I could see the shape of trees now. The blue was a cloudless sky, so the sudden storm had disappeared as quickly as it came. No surprise there, either. Everything seemed to happen quickly and with little logic in Elsewhere.
"Go, little ones. Out first," Maggie said when we were no more than a step away. I thought she sounded breathless. I didn't know what it took for her to get us here, and I didn't want to lose our chance to get out, though. I could hear the thing coming behind us.
"I know," Maggie said when I gave a slight twist of my head to indicated the sound. "We're almost there."
The little black balls began to leap out the opening, and as they did, the black fell away like dust and I saw bright colors darting straight for the woods. There had been more of them than I thought, and for a moment they made a rainbow line of luminous color as they escaped.
Maggie glanced my way and mouthed the world 'together' without saying it aloud. I gave a slight nod. When she moved, so did I.
But we were not fast enough. The think behind us let out a shout of anger and I felt something grab hold of me, and of Maggie, trying to drag us back into the darkness.
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