(Link to Part 19)
We started across the grass at a leisurely walk. Not a care in the world, right? I almost threw myself flat on the ground when a bird flew overhead and started to apologize before I saw the other three had reacted almost as badly.
This did not help my paranoia.
"What do I need to do?" I finally asked. The silence was driving me crazy already. Besides, the stretch of green that had looked like a small ribbon from the air was far wider than I expected. We were probably at least an hour out from the city sill.
Maggie dropped back to walk with me. Edmond forged ahead, clearly glad to be on the ground again. I knew how he felt.
"Mark, something odd is going on," she said at last, a hand on my shoulder. "I don't know what it is. There is no reason why you should have drawn this much attention just by crossing into Elsewhere."
"I -- I killed someone, you know," I said softly.
"Yes, I know. I'm sorry Mark -- but I think you did the right thing, as difficult as that may sound. If Davis is right, and there is an infestation of weres on the other side, that's going to be a huge problem. However, there are other things you should know. You are not the only one who has killed someone and then ran to Elsewhere. Many of them didn't have as good a reason as you did, too. That can't be the reason this is happening."
"Then none of it makes sense," I said, sounding as frustrated as I felt this time."
"There's the other problem. It may not make sense. Things like that happen in Elsewhere, but rarely with such persistence. Have you heard of anything like this before, Davis?"
"Yes, I have. But I'd rather not discuss is now. I don't want to give either of you a wrong idea," he said and smiled. I thought it looked a little strained. "It may not be as bad as it looks."
It might be worse, I thought. That was what he wasn't saying.
The land was not completely flat. We went up and down over several small hills. I could see a few cottages off to the sides now and then, but we didn't get closer to anyone at all.
On such a fine day, I would have expected to see more people here. It was a lovely walk; the best I'd had since I arrived. However, the farther we went with no one around, the more worried I became. This had to be an omen of trouble. But there was another one and I didn't really want to mention it.
After another few minutes, though, I did.
"Where's Edmond?" I asked.
"Oh, he won't be far," Maggie answered. "He never goes very far. Edmond!"
He didn't answer. Maggie frowned and hurried to the top of the next little hill. Davis looked at me, worry clear in his face. I hurried on, and caught up with her as she scanned the land ahead of us. The city was finally much closer. I wasn't sure that was good.
"Edmond!" she shouted again. I hoped to see his little furry head pop up at the next hill. Nothing. "Edmond!"
We started to run. Davis caught up with us and pushed a little ahead. The next hill was a little taller and steeper than the previous one. We topped it and I could streets leading into the city from here. I thought I saw people moving, a bare hint of a shadow, disappearing behind the first building.
"Edmond!" Maggie shouted, frantic this time.
And we heard a distant yowl. There is no sound quite like that of an angry cat. Maggie looked around, frantic now.
"I saw someone there, I think," I said, pointing towards a short long building. "Going behind there."
"Come on," Davis said. He was already moving ahead of us.
I took a moment longer to look around, but I saw nothing more but pretty colored buildings and stone streets. I hoped I had been right because the other two were already running in that direction. We weren't far from the city, at least. We reached the first of the stone-lined roads and I could hear sounds ahead of us, but I still couldn't see anything. And when we went around the first building I had no idea where to go next. Shadows clung here, and odd plants grew along the edges of the buildings -- but nothing moved.
Maggie rushed over to a street lamp and hit the pole several times. "Which way did they go!"
A light brightened in the lamp. "Ow!"
"Sorry, sorry." She stopped and rubbed the pole softly. "I'm just very upset."
"No reason to take it out an a poor lamp!"
"That's true. I apologize, I truly do. Can you tell me, though, which way they went?"
"Lots of people go --"
"Please. The ones with the cat."
"Oh, the ones who took Edmond? They went up North Street. They shouldn't have hurt Edmond. He's pretty nice for a cat. And he doesn't go banging on poor lamp posts."
"I apologize," she said and her hand flickered with a little rainbow set of lights that flew up into the lamp. "Thank you."
"Oh! Pretty! May I keep them?"
"As long as you like," she said with a little smile.
"I shall be envy of every lamp!"
We were already heading away. I looked back to see the lamp flickering with colors.
"North Street," Davis mumbled. "We're going to find trouble."
"Not a surprise," Maggie said.
They didn't give me a chance to comment before they took off running again.
To Be Continued. . . .
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