Autumn – Chapter 8 – 02

                Gray looked sidelong at Eva, not for the first time that afternoon.  She was resting as comfortably as Elton could manage to make her, but they all knew that she was still troubled by nightmares she wouldn’t speak of—except for to Kes, who’d gotten a few words about them out of her the week before.
                Why so secretive about them?  Gray wondered, tearing his gaze from her and returning his attention to the book in his lap.  It was one of Kes’s books, a translation of something Old or Middle English into discernible prose.  The margins were littered with the younger woman’s notes, most of them mentioning Arthurian legend.  That made up several thousand lines of the epic, as near as he could tell.
                He looked at Eva again.  Had she lived through events that got turned into the lines of this epic?  She didn’t look a day over seventeen, though appearances were certainly deceiving, especially in a case like hers.
                How many people like you are there out there, Eva?  A dozen?  A hundred?  How many walk in our world now?
                Her brows knit as he watched her and she tossed and turned, tangling in her covers.  He winced and set the book down, getting up.  Gray put his hands on her shoulders, trying to gently hold her down.  “Eva,” he whispered.  “Eva, wake up.  You’re having a nightmare and if you keep twisting around like this you’re going to rip open your side again.  C’mon wake up.”
                Eva’s eyes snapped open.  “Phelan!”
                What?  Gray blinked, drawing back for a moment.  “Huh?”
                “Phelan,” Eva repeated, throwing back the covers.  She swung her legs over the side of the bed and shot to her feet.  She crossed the floor quickly and shoved her feet into her boots, then stumbled out the door of the small room.
                “Eva, wait!”  Gray shook off his initial shock and darted after her.
                She was already running out the lodge’s main doors as he emerged from the room.
                “What the hell is going on?”  Wat asked, his pants soaked from the bucket he’d evidentally dropped—or had knocked out of his hands by Eva as she ran past, Gray couldn’t be sure which.
                “I don’t know.  Where’s everyone else?”
                “Where do you think?  They’re hauling supplies up here from that gas station we found the other day.
                “Fuck,” Gray muttered, shoving his feet into his boots.  “Tell them I went to find her!”
                “Wait a second, where is she going?”
                “I don’t know!”  Gray yelled over his shoulder, already halfway down to the access road from the lodge.  “But she can’t go that far!”
                At least I hope she can’t go that far.  He hit the access road and looked up and down.  There was no sign of her.
                What the hell?  Where did you go, Eva?  His gaze lit on a game trail that headed into a thicker tangle of woods—but was a straight shot west.
                West?  Why west?  He frowned.  Phelan.  That’s her brother.  Is he west of here?  A shudder ran through him.  What if Eva’s brother was stumbling toward them right now?  Was that why she’d thrown herself out of bed and run off?
                It was what he would do, if he was her.
                Gray cut down the game trail.  Faint impressions from her boots lay in the hardened mud, just barely visible.  There was no other sign of her, though—she’d come this way, but she’d made it beyond a bend in the trail.
                How the hell can she move that fast with a hole in her side?  Gray hit that bend in the trail and had to slow down as the grade became steeper.  He still couldn’t see her.
                If something terrible happens to her, I’ll never forgive myself.
                His foot came down on a wet leaf.  It slid across the muddy trail.  His foot shot out from under him and he fell backwards, all the wind knocked out of him as he tumbled to the bottom of the grade.
                He lay at the bottom of his twenty-foot slide, trying to remember how to breathe, blood roaring in his ears and stars dancing in front of his eyes.
                Breathe.  Breathe.  What’s that sound?  He went very still, straining his ears.
                There it was again.  A faint cry, somewhere to his left.
                Eva?  Gray pushed himself to his feet, sucking in a few more raspy breaths before he flung himself into the brush to his left, toward the sound.
                He felt hot and cold all once as branches and brambles tore at his jeans and sweatshirt.  The feeling was the telltale sign that something strange was going on, something supernatural was afoot.  What’s out here?  What did she run into?
                His foot caught on something and he fell face-first into a tangle of wild raspberries.  Cursing as he hauled himself upright, he twisted to see what he’d tripped over.
                Eva’s boot.
                Fuck me.
                He snatched the boot and plunged onward.
                He broke through some brush and stumbled down a five-foot incline, barely managing to not snap his ankle on the way down.  Stumbling back against the tangle of earth and branches, he took a quick look around, trying to get his bearings.
                Eva.  She was sprawled about ten feet away, collapsed on her stomach, arms and legs flung akimbo.
                Something was standing over her.  It turned slowly, amber eyes bright in the afternoon sun.
                Gray swallowed once, twice, staring back at it, struck by the intelligence in those eyes.
                The creature bared its teeth at him, leapt over Eva’s prone form, and disappeared into the woods.
                Gray found himself able to breathe again as he stumbled toward Eva and gathered her into his arms gently.  She groaned, head lolling to one side and her eyes flickering open.
                “Ungh.  Where am I?”
                “In the woods,” Gray said slowly, looking away from her, toward where the creature had disappeared.  It had been mostly bipedal, covered in a brindled pelt.  “What was that thing?”
                “What thing?” she murmured, putting her head on his shoulder as he slowly straightened up, cradling her.
                It can’t be that. They’re not real, are they?
                “There was something standing over you,” he murmured.  “And if I didn’t know better, I’d have sworn it was a werewolf.”

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4 Responses to Autumn – Chapter 8 – 02

    • I will admit, I hardcore didn’t want to use that, but I found reference to shapeshifters in one of the Icelandic sagas and further research just kept pushing me in that direction. So there it is.

  1. meagan says:

    Wow, this is an amazing story… are truly a gifted writer!!

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