The Blink, Chapter Two, continued

29 May

The Blink

Chapter Two, Continued

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

Kyle Wyndham Adams awoke in early morning, the time of day when everything is cast in a soft sepia light, and the sun is still well below the trees. The campfire smoldered, a curl of smoke barely visible. To the side of the fire were the remains of dinner — bones and soft tufts of fur. It was a rabbit. Adams’ stomach growled.

He could hear the creek nearby, and the chatter of birds overhead in the trees. He wondered whether he was still a front-page story in their conversations, or if the uniqueness of the naked man had slipped from their tiny minds.

His neck was incredibly sore, and he gingerly rotated his head, hearing muscle and sinew pop with the effort. He scanned the forest around the small clearing. She was nowhere to be seen, but he knew she was about. At his bare feet was neatly stacked doeskin clothing of some sort, plus a pair of moccasins. He twisted in his position, and felt the rawhide binding chafe against his wrists.

Then, as silently as a dream, the Sequoia emerged from the forest, caring what appeared to be a pouch or bag.

“I see you’ve been out shopping,” he said, breaking the natural silence.

She barely acknowledged him, and put the pouch next to the fire ashes. Kneeling, she carefully blew into the ashes, and sprinkled small twigs on her area of focus until a yellow flame licked up. She added more wood previously stacked by the fire until the campfire came fully to life, crackling with flame and heat.

She took another long twig and pulled something from her pouch, and skewered it onto the twig. It looked like some sort of crawling bug, but was difficult to see from where he was tied.

She pulled another “bug” from the pouch and skewered it as well, then lay the twig with its fare on a rock next to the flame.

Crayfish! They were crayfish! And they wriggled in pain on the skewer as the fire’s heat slowly cooked them. She pulled one of the crustaceans off the skewer and bit into its reddened head, juices running down her arms to her elbows. She brought the remaining crayfish to him, and offered the head to Adams. He opened his mouth slowly, conveying his reluctance with one raised eyebrow.

It was crunchy, but sweet to the taste. He chewed the head slowly, thinking at some point his mental revulsion would take over, and he would vomit it out. But he didn’t. The meat in the small crayfish tail was delicious, and even the shell and legs were good.

He smiled at her.

“You know, this would cost you a pretty penny in a New Orleans restaurant,” juices running unrestrained from the corners of his mouth.

She tilted her head and looked at him, as if pondering something, then pulled out her knife and cut him loose from the tree.

Di-le-di,” she ordered, motioning him to get up.

He slowly pulled himself up, feeling the resistance of joints nearly locked from long disuse. As he stood, she gathered the clothing and held it out to him. There were two pieces, a top, decorated with leather fringe, which he slipped over his head.

The pants necessitated him taking off his fern skirt. She stood and watched him until he looked at her and motioned she turn away and not look. When it dawned on her that he wanted his privacy, her face blushed, and she turned her back to him. She brandished the knife to let him know not to try anything foolish.

He slipped the pants on. They were ample enough for him to move and bend.

“Well, how do I look?”

She turned and gave a nod of approval. Then pointed at the moccasins.

“Hope they fit,” he grinned, sitting down to pull the soft coverings onto his feet.

They fit, although a little tightly.

“I guess they’ll relax over time,” he said. She looked on approvingly. He pointed at the moccasins and said, “Shoes,” then wriggled his toes on both feet and said “Feet.”

“Feet. Shoes,” she echoed back.

“Okay, then — now what? I mean, you didn’t go down to Stein Mart and pick up the clothes, right? And you didn’t go out and kill a deer and make this stuff. I mean, you might have, but it wasn’t last night or this morning. Which means there are more of you around.”

She watched him talk, obviously confused at what he was saying. She pressed her hand to his lips.

“Okay … I talk too much.” She pressed his lips again and looked away, as if listening to something.

“Shhh!”

She grabbed his hand and pulled him into the brush around the camp area, motioning him to crouch down and be quiet. He felt clumsy, but obeyed her silent directions.

Just behind the sound of the gurgling creek he thought he heard voices. He strained to see into the woods where the creek flowed, and thought he made out some thing or some one moving stealthily among the trees.

Yes! There was someone! He looked at Sequoia who once again urged silence with her eyes.

A voice from the trees.

Another voice, further to the side, and closer.

Adams looked at her to see what kind of trouble they were in. Maybe he should stand and announce himself and get over the growing tension. How bad could it be, after all. But Sequoia’s look was grave.

Two men, dressed much in the same clothing Adams now wore, stepped quietly into the camp area. One knelt to the fire and warmed his hands. He saw the pouch and examined it, pulling out a wriggling crayfish.

They were not particularly large men, but lean and hard-featured. The one that pulled out the crayfish bit into its head, sucking the shell of its content.

Tsi-s-du-na!” he announced to his companion, who walked over and looked into the pouch, disgusted at finding it empty. He threw the pouch to the ground and began to circle the area, looking for marks.

He pointed out the fern skirt Adams had discarded, and the two began to search more intently.

Adams felt a touch on his sleeve, and Sequoia tugged him gently, indicating with motion of her head it was time to retreat. He didn’t hesitate, and turned to follow her, crouching low. Unlike her, though, he was unused to being quiet — especially in the woods — and stepped heavily on a fallen tree branch, which snapped loudly.

The two men turned instantly toward the noise, and began to approach.

Shit! he thought to himself. The jig is up!

At-li!” Sequoia said in a harsh whisper.

“What?” As with his first experience, Adams felt the blink coming on.

RUN!

§ § §

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