Friday, February 26, 2016

Flash Fiction #187 --Escaping Somewhere Else, Part 22: Just Mist

I remembered hearing about a book where this guy went hunting for a lost tribe  He had no idea what he was really doing, I don't think.  Oh, he knew basics, but when it came to culture beliefs, he didn't have a clue.  Didn't seem to take it seriously.
It didn't end well.
Oh, he got out -- and that gave me some hope for my own current troubles -- but he stumbled around and got into a lot of trouble because he just didn't know what to look for or what to ask.  The people he lived with didn't know what to tell him, either.  Assumptions on all sides are very dangerous.
May your sacrifice be worth the gift.
I should be asking questions, I thought.   Should really be asking things . . . But I hadn't a clue what those questions should be.  Was it too late to turn back?  I stopped and turned to see where we had already passed.  The odd mist wasn't as thick that way.  I could see the little guys still lined up and the rest of those following me trudging along the path.
"I fear I may have done something stupid," I said to Edmond and Lord Snow.
"I can't decide," Lord Snow said.  He lifted his head and sniffed at the air ahead of us.  "I can't sense anything at all that way, so whatever is out there, it's a long ways off, Mark."
"And what do we do when we get there?"
"Whatever we have to," Edmond replied.  He jumped out of my arms and trotted ahead a few steps.  "I don't much like what they said about sacrifice either, but I got the feeling that maybe they're a little insular.  They don't leave their little place in the world.  I've known cats like that. They guard their turf as though it was the most important place in the world, and have no idea that there's a better place just a couple blocks away.  They're totally disconnected with anything but where they stand."
"I suppose I've known people like that too," I admitted.  "But it's not like anything has gone really good since I arrived, you know.  From the moment you started talking to me, Edmond, it's been one form of insanity after another."
"It has been exciting," he admitted with a flick of his tail.  "More exciting than I've liked at times.  But we can't go back, Mark. We can't even go back along this bridge, at least not until we find out there really is a danger up ahead that we can't deal with because we know what kind of trouble we face behind us."
That sounded reasonable.
"I don't like this mist," Lord Snow admitted.  He swatted at one patch and it glided out of his way rather than let him hit.  "I would almost rather be walking down in that jungle than up here."
Mark looked over the edge of the bridge to the bright green world below.  Birds flew and animals gave distant shouts.  Trees rose up and tangled with ivy.  Bright flowers dotted the canopy and though he couldn't see much below it, I still expected to see dinosaurs.
And while I looked over, one of the misty shapes drifted closer to me. When I swatted at it, the thing didn't retreat in haste like it had from Lord Snow.  Maybe I simply wasn't scary enough.
"You know, I can understand the little guys living in the middle of the bridge and never going any farther."  I patted a vine that grew up on the edge of the bridge, laden with fruit.  "Safe here, really, compared to what we went through and what's below.  I don't know what's ahead.  Above --"
I looked up for the first time in a while and could see distant sky through openings in the rock and dark sky above.  No way to get there, though.
"Above is a long ways off," Edmond said.  "And probably less safe than down below.    Haven't seen any griffins down here."
"I'd rather know what enemies we do fight," Lord Snow snarled and took another swat at one of the creatures.  It did retreat again.  "And I am getting annoyed with these filmy things.  I hope we don't have to deal with them the entire rest of the way."
Another came at me.  I swatted at it with a little snarl of my own, and felt a rubbery surface where my finger's touched.  That seemed odd for a mist.  I batted when it came closer again.  Maybe they were balloon-like, and I could simply shove the thing --
It caught hold of my arm.
"Let go!" I ordered and jerked away again.
It didn't let go.  The creature elongated, grabbed more of my arm, grew more limbs and grabbed my legs.  Or maybe more of them came.  Lord Snow let out a roar and leapt in, using claws this time.  It worked.  Once the creature had been punctured, it disappeared in a flash of mist.
"Claws," I said.  "Good.  We need to warn the others to keep something sharp and ready."
I rubbed at my arm and turned to look back at the others.  I could see Maggie in the lead, still holding the symbol of her status in Elsewhere so that the staff rose above the others and the emblem glowed.  It probably helped them to know she was there --
Something caught my leg.  I snarled and kicked.  Lord Snow had moved a head, swiping at more of the creatures.  Edmond, though, had turned back and came at a leaping bound, biting at the creature.
But another came behind me and grabbed so fast that I hadn't even a chance to yell as it pulled me off the side of the bridge.
"No!" Edmond yelled and leapt, latching onto my leg.
I would have ordered him back if there had been time.
The thing let go.
We were falling.

To Be Continued. . . .

Friday, February 19, 2016

Flash Fiction #186 --Escaping Somewhere Else, Part 21: The Bridge (2)

I had hoped to at least get over the bridge before we ran into more trouble.  There was a moment when I watched the movement in the slight mist ahead and considered turning around and going back.
Or sitting down and letting others handle the trouble.  One or the other.  I couldn't bring myself to care.  Too many things, too much going on.  I needed a break.
I watched the mist.  More than one thing was out there. They looked small.  I didn't assume that meant they weren't trouble.  Edmond and Lord Snow had both stopped as well, so maybe pausing wasn't such a bad idea.
"They aren't attacking us yet," Edmond offered.  "I think that might be a good sign, right?"
"Maybe they're setting up the trap," I replied.
"You're getting pessimistic," Edmond replied.  He paused for a moment.  "That's probably wise."
"I'm going to take a look," Lord Snow said.  "They won't have a lot of luck throwing me off the bridge."
I had purposely not looked down since we started across the bridge, but I had been vaguely aware of a sense of distance.  I stepped to the side now and looked down.
A jungle, far, far below with the hint of a river running through the bottom of the gorge.  Light came from . . . Everywhere, as far as I could tell.
I expected to see dinosaurs raise their heads and a pterodactyl to sweep up towards us.  The sight completely took my attention for a few heartbeats.  Then I looked back to see Lord Snow moving cautiously forward, his ears back and his tail twitching.
It was not the snow leopard's place to make certain things were safe for the others.  That was my job.  I took three quick steps forward and stopped beside him.  Edmond, still in my arms, gave a slight sigh of frustration but didn't complain.
The mist was odd.  What a surprise.  It moved and swirled without the least breeze, and I found myself watching a patch that appeared to form into a shape and break apart again, and then another shape --
I had to force myself to look away and back at what I thought was the real problem.
Little creatures were running back and forth on the bridge in front of us.  About Edmond size, brown and red, and starting to make a lot of racket.  I thought at first they were just making noise, but I quickly realized I was wrong.
"Human!  Human!  Human!"
"Calm down," I said.  They didn't listen.
Some of the creatures were up on the uneven walls that ran along the sides of the bridge.  I feared they were going to fall, though I saw they had long fingers -- and claws -- as well as tells that were longer than their bodies and obviously used as another hand to grab things.
"Be quiet!" I shouted  little louder.  A few of them fled in fear, but  dozen or so stood their ground, and at least got quieter.  "All we are doing is crossing the bridge.  We won't harm you if you leave us alone."
It was more a veiled threat than I like to make, but I didn't want to stand here for too long because something worse was bound to come along.  I did a quick sweep to get an idea of how many we faced -- dozens of them and more arriving.  They were small, but they outnumbered us.
And they were not happy.
"Did you understand what I said?" I asked.  I kept my tone quieter and, as I had hoped, they grew quieter too as they tried to listen.  "We simply want to get to the other side of the bridge."
"Other side?" one asked.  The two words echoed around and around.  Mimics.  "What is the other side?"
"The end of the bridge," I said nd waved my hand in that direction.
They looked.  Looked back at me.  I had the distinct impression they thought I was crazy.
"How can the bridge end?  If it did, it would not be bridge!"
Huh.  Okay.  A different approach.
"We need to go past this part of the bridge," I offered. They must not move far from here.  Cute little guys.  They hadn't tried to kill me yet.  I liked things that didn't, at least immediately, try to kill me.
"You go to the world of the gods?" the little guy whispered.
This was getting complicated.  Neither Lord Snow nor Edmond was offering any suggestions, either.
"We go to seek our future," I offered, which was a complete and total truth.
That brought a whisper of sound rushing back and forth among the little guys.  I thought it might be awe.  That struck me as kind of bad.
"You seek the gods," the apparent leader said  and bobbed his head three times.  He stopped.  He did it again.
Okay.  I bobbed my head  three times as well and wondered what I was agreeing to this time.
"Go in peace, brave pilgrims."  The little guys moved aside so that they lined the edge of the bridge, little heads bobbing up and down.  "May your sacrifice be worth the gift."
Uh oh.
But you know, we were getting past these guys without a fight, so I could could count this as a win, right?  Sure, Edmond was looking up at me with a shake of his head and Lord Snow had started mumbling things that were starting to sound like soft growl, but we were moving forward.
The mist still moved in odd ways.  I could not see through it and had no idea how far we might need to go.  And we might have to face gods at the end of the bridge.
Maybe I should have talked to the others first?  I looked back and saw the vague line of people (human and otherwise) following me. 
Following me.
I had to go on and make this work.
I hoped Edmond had a few ideas.

To Be Continued. . . .