Thursday, May 1, 2008

Chapter 10: Dawining, Part II

He took a couple of steps forward with hand outstretched. The figure retreated a few feet. Vernon blinked. He hadn't seen her move; one moment, she was at the bottom of the porch and the next she stood a couple of steps away. He backed up. She advanced again. More laughter. Vernon paused. He hadn't considered this. How could he rescue them if they wouldn't even let him approach? He frowned at Alexis, who tilted her head and smiled back. Her features were hard to read, but he thought the grin looked a tad mischievous. Just like when she doesn't want to take a bath. His daughter usually liked that part of getting ready to bed. She'd splash and play in there for better than an hour if they'd let her. But every now and then, she would decide it wasn't time yet. She got that same little smile on her face and ran off. Cheryl and Vernon would give chase while she ran away, shrieking with laughter. The girl was hard to catch once she got going. A house offered nearly limitless hiding places for someone her size, and with a child's boundless energy, she could keep going long after her parents got winded. login deluxe pass

"I don't have time for this, Alexis," he muttered. A single long stride took him off the porch and onto the first step. The girl vanished.

Vernon halted, eyes narrowed as he tried to peer into the night. Darkness flowed around him. Slender tendrils slipped out and brushed his face. He jerked back and let them die in the porch light, but stood his ground while he searched. Where did she go? A titter sounded from his right. His neck popped as he turned his head sharply that direction. Only shadows met his gaze. A breeze blew from his left, carrying a soft voice to his ear.

"Come find me, Daddy."

Goosebumps broke out on his arms, and the hair on his neck stood. He slowly backed up on the porch. Holding the rope out to one side, he pivoted on his heel and walked toward the door. He caught a pale flash out of the corner of his eye. Vernon waited until he stood on the threshold, then spun right and bounded across the porch. Alexis' pallid figure flickered like a light with a short, her eyes wide with surprise. She disappeared, then reappeared at the edge of his vision. Vernon turned right. He kept turning, trying to keep the strobing form in view. She reached the other side of the porch, then winked out.

"Can't get me."

"Come on, sweetie. Stay still, please. Daddy just wants to talk."

High-pitched, childish laughter slid across the yard, echoing oddly in the night.

Vernon moved back to the steps. He growled and shook his head. Why did she have to make this so difficult? Maybe I should go out there after her. He leaned forward and hesitated. Shadows reached for him, and he snapped upright. Maybe not. No point in going out there until he had something to grab hold of. He heard a loud whirr. Something pale swooped out of the night and perched on the porch rail.

"Alexis?" Vernon leapt onto the porch and headed toward the figure. He halted halfway there, his wide-eyed gaze drooping as it met the round, yellow stare of a large owl. It hooted and ruffled its feathers. The bird clutched the bloody ruins of some hapless rodent in one claw. Vernon cocked his head to the side. "How on earth did you get out here?"

He sidled closer. The owl kept its glare fixed on him, but did not move. As he drew closer, Vernon saw it hadn't made the trip through Jennings Grove unscathed. Bloody scratches showed where feathers had been ripped away, and one of the pointed tufts atop its head had a clipped look. Its beak opened partway, and its wings spread. Vernon halted. The bird folded its wings and hopped awkwardly in place. "Eat it or drop it," he muttered. As if in response, the owl lifted its foot. He gasped and put a hand to his mouth. The bloody mess was what remained of its leg. He swallowed several times, trying to fight his gorge back down. How can anyone call this place home? He reached out to steady the creature. It opened its beak and hissed. He drew back, holding his palms out. "Fine. Have it your way. I was just trying to..."

Black arms unfolded to either side and wrapped around the owl. Wings spread, the bird shrieked and tried to bite on every side. The noise suddenly stopped as the night pulled in opposite directions. The owl ripped in half and disappeared even as a brief crimson shower pattered to the boards. Vernon leaned over and threw up.


Part III of Chapter 10 coming next week!


login deluxe pass