Sunday, June 24, 2012

Quicksand - Part 15

Minty stood as straight as she could and pushed her back against the thick bark of the tree. She knew fully well that if she made a sound, they'd catch her.

It had been a long chase. Not just the running, which by now seemed to have been going on an eternity, but the stalking and circling, the whole process of her becoming prey.

Minty's ears twitched slightly, waiting to hear some sound, some indication of where her pursuers were and how long it would take for them to reach her. She was tired, so tired, and somewhere in the back of her mind she started to think that if they caught her, at least she wouldn't have to run anymore. But she wasn't ready to give up – and every horror-filled, trying moment she'd suffered up to that point made her that much more determined to get away.

It was Frisco who finally caught her – and, somehow, Minty had always known it would be. She didn't hear him approach; he melted out of the shadows beside her and had grabbed onto her arm before she'd even felt his breath on her cheek. He did not let go. Darren, the possum, came from the other side, breathless, and together, the two of them dragged her away.

Minty's instincts told her to run, but she couldn't. Everything about her leaned toward flight, so when struggling free proved impossible, her brain seemed to shut down – and despite her desperation to escape, she allowed herself to be led, wordlessly, back through the forest to the factory.

 If you enjoyed reading this, stop by next week for another instalment. You may also like my published novel, Aigaion Girl ... a story of the end of days, available here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Quicksand - Part 14

Craven Lorne paced in the field. He had been walking for hours, it seemed, trying to clear his head and sort out the plethora of thoughts that pushed their way back in. He had, he had thought, resigned himself to the idea that Voss favoured Minty over him. He had even gone so far as to do everything in his power to help Voss win her and to assure his friend that she would, eventually, see sense.

But he couldn't do it anymore. The simple truth was that Craven Lorne was in love with Voss and it was no longer in his power to deny his feelings or do anything else that would jeopardize them.

And anyway, Craven reasoned, Voss deserved better than some stuck-up rabbit girl who barely gave either one of them the time of day.

Craven was, he had decided, going to tell Voss all of this, just as soon as he could find him. He felt dizzy, sick to his stomach, feverish, even, at the idea. But there was another emotion too, a feeling of calm and complacency, which came with the knowledge that he was about to lay himself bare. And a small part of him, a very small part of him, could almost smile and believe that Voss would return his feelings.

Voss, either fortunately or unfortunately, could not be found. Craven Lorne checked all of his usual haunts, the factories, the starlight club, Sunday afternoon, all to no avail. Every time Craven searched somewhere in vain, he was pure ambivalence: crushing disappointment and soaring relief. Eventually, he found himself in the field, staring at the large shade tree they had so often shared a bottle of wine under – and almost allowing himself to enjoy the breeze.

Craven stayed in the field for a long time, caught between thinking of how he would tell Voss about his feelings and wondering if he should. He looked around a the pale blue sky and green grass and the soft, dusty, tan path that ran over the field and asked himself, more than once, what he was hoping to achieve. After what seemed like an eternity and may have been a moment, Craven Lorne decided to return home. There was nothing, he realized, for him here.

Craven walked to the edge of the field, toward the forest. He told himself that it was a nice day for a stroll, that the fresh air would do him good. He told himself anything he could think of to bolster his spirits.

It was morning, warm and sunshiny. Soft yellow light filtered through the trees and glinted off the wallow gnats that were flying in lazy circles near to the ground. And there was something else, the feeling that nearby, somewhere, was a stream or a spring. Craven couldn't hear it, but he could feel it. If it had been any other day, if Craven had been there for any other reason, he might have actually enjoyed himself, or been impressed by the pleasantness of the day. As it was, the only reason he was able to force himself to keep walking, was that if he stood still, he would start to think too much.

Craven Lorne hadn't been walking in the forest very long when he found Voss. And Voss, as Craven suddenly realized he had been expecting all along, was not alone.

Craven's body had turned away before his brain could fully comprehend what he had seen. In the moment that he turned, he could see everything, imagine every sickening detail. Voss was on top of her, wearing nothing but his mask and she—She was still in her dress, lying on her front, motionless, making the most of each of Voss's thrusts and silent through his grunts and moans. 

Craven was sure she had looked right at him, taunting him with her big, blue 

Craven was disgusted, horrified, mortified. He couldn't believe that he had even let himself hope that Voss might return his feelings and he was astounded by the fact that Minty had been playing games with Voss this whole time, toying with his delicate heart then using his tenderness to her advantage. And though Craven didn't realize it himself, he was infuriated with Voss for falling into Minty's trap – and for not seeing what had been right in front of him all along.

Craven Lorne decided to confront them both, to make them share the pain that they had caused him. He fought with himself to muster the courage, took a deep breath and tried to turn.

There was a light, bright white, that lit up the trees in front of Craven and nearly made him blind. It was just a flash and he was barely able to register it before he was knocked down from behind by a strong surge of air.

Craven Lorne pried his face out of the impression it had left in the earth and almost began to brush the evergreen needles from his face and clothes before he remembered everything that had happened to bring him to where he was. He scrambled to his feet, turned and hurried to where Voss lay.

Voss was lying on his back, completely still, in a circle of flattened grass, bathed in moonlight, exposed and bleeding dust. Minty, that horrible fiend of a rabbit, had run away and left him there. Craven wanted to weep when he saw the state that Voss was in. When he examined him more closely, Craven found that Voss had been severely burned in several places on his body, most especially over his once-perfect lips, which were now melted and malformed. 

He was barely conscious and murmuring slightly, but not saying anything coherent.

There was no doubt in Craven Lorne's mind that the explosion was caused by Minty. She had too much Dust, more than was natural, and she clearly had no idea how to control it. She and Voss should never have gotten so near each other; that much Dust in one place could only lead to bad things. And she, the coward, had left Craven to deal with the consequences of her own inadequacies.

Craven helped Voss to his feet, and when Voss's clothes couldn't be found, offered him his own. Slowly, with Craven Lorne standing in for a crutch, they made it somewhere they could talk. But they didn't talk, not properly, not ever again.

 If you enjoyed reading this, stop by next week for another instalment. You may also like my published novel, Aigaion Girl ... a story of the end of days, available here.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Quicksand - Part 13

A long, slender foot landed in a pile of decaying oak leaves, sending some of them flying and crushing others. It rolled seamlessly from heal to toe and pushed off again as its twin touched the ground.

The owner of the feet was in a hurry. The speed with which she ran, with which she dodged between the thin, naked trees, was exceptional. Even with her awkward, jerking gait, it was next to impossible to keep up with her. She made almost no sound; the only indication of her placement was the crunching of dry leaves in the distance.

A couple of foxhounds ran behind her on all fours, sniffing their way through the fog, trying to trace her scent. A possum, with one hand on his bowler hat to keep it from falling off, ran behind them, barely able to see and unable to smell anything other than the dogs, the fog and the pervading scent of leaf mold.

And Craven Lorne, alone, and at the back of the pack, screamed into the gloom that he would never, ever forgive her.

 If you enjoyed reading this, stop by next week for another instalment. You may also like my published novel, Aigaion Girl ... a story of the end of days, available here.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Quicksand - Part 12

Craven Lorne sat with Voss on a low wooden bridge in a park where it was always Sunday afternoon. They sat with their feet in the cold, shallow water, watching it rush around their heels and observing the odd crustacean that scuttled underneath. Voss was miserable.

Craven was determined to make the most of any time he spent with Voss and had tried everything he could think of to make him feel better, but none of it was any good. Voss hadn't been himself for some time, now. He was distant, discontent and moody, in turns mournful and irate. Nothing could please him, nothing would improve his mood. He refused to be cheered up. It was all her fault, that stupid rabbit girl. And she was all Voss would talk about, the only subject that he thought was worth discussing, the only thing that could hold his interest.

Craven Lorne, despite hating the rabbit girl, despite the fact that he could feel the fur on the back of his neck stand up at the mere mention of her name, tried his best to encourage and support his friend. If Voss wasn't going to be his, at least Craven could help make him happy. That, he supposed, was some small comfort.

“It's infuriating,” Voss said, rubbing his big toe on the moss of a round stone that lay on the stream bed. “Ridiculous, really. I don't know why I even care.” He laughed hollowly. “I don't care, when it comes to it.”

Craven Lorne would never accuse Voss of lying, even in his mind, but he felt his friend was deceived by his emotions. “She must be a fool, not to want you.”

“She doesn't know what she wants,” Voss barked.

“She's not worth your time, Voss, honestly.”

“Of course she's not,” Voss agreed, though he didn't look convinced. He dropped his head and in a low voice repeated, “Of course she's not,” to himself.

“I heard someone say that she's Dust-heavy, too,” Craven said slowly. He suddenly felt guilty, selfish for mentioning any reason why she wouldn't be an ideal match for his friend – even though, he reminded himself, he was only concerned for Voss's welfare.


“So you have more dust than anyone I know,” Craven Lorne said, conveying with his voice the awe he felt over the fact. “And they say,” he reasoned, “that too much Dust in a relationship is never a good thing; too volatile.”
Voss sneered under his mask. “Thanks for the advice, but I think I know what's best, and what's best for me is Minty.”

Craven Lorne sighed inwardly. For now, he was out of things to say, out of plans to suggest – but he resigned himself nonetheless to spending his foreseeable future securing his crush's happiness at the expense of his own.

 If you enjoyed reading this, stop by next week for another instalment. You may also like my published novel, Aigaion Girl ... a story of the end of days, available here.