My legs can only take me so far, and it’s a matter of minutes before I trip over a root and fall. I hold tight to the book, though, unwilling to lose it in the dim light coming through the trees. The ground beneath me shifts, and I can’t even pull myself back up, constantly stumbling and unable to steady myself.
For a moment I think it’s in my head – that I’m just dizzy and losing it – but it’s the world around me literally shifting and undulating.
Not so easy on your own, is it? Mara’s words and wicked laughter echoes in my ears. I told you. You need me. My brother isn’t coming for you.
Behind me, the wails of the figures chasing me continue, getting louder as they approach. I curl into a ball, hold the book close, and shut my eyes. At least with my eyes closed, the shaking doesn’t make me dizzy.
You need me.
Just let me in. I can help you. Her voice cuts through the screams. She makes an attempt at sincerity, but it just comes across as sickeningly sweet. Hidden poison. Between her and the screams, I can hardly hear myself think, let alone my own words.
“Arius…why haven’t you found me?” I open my eyes, try to see my surroundings without feeling nauseous.
A shimmer displaces the air, and the figure swipes at me. I only barely manage to scramble out away, panic forcing my body forward. Stumbling, I manage to pull myself to my feet on slightly smoother ground and run.
You can’t run forever. The taunt grates my nerves, and for the first time since my panic set in, defiance takes a crack at it.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t pay attention to the direction I picked, and I only make it a few yards before the forest floor comes to an abrupt stop at a cliff. The treeline breaks and I have to scramble to stop my momentum. It’s a long way down.
Nowhere to go now, little human.
At least the shimmering figures aren’t chasing me anymore – they’ve stopped at the treeline, as if unable to follow past it. Still, it’s a false sense of security. I’m trapped between the cliff and the forest. The figures pace along the trees, as if just waiting for me to try to get past them.
“Dammit, Arius…” I fall to my knees, hopelessness beginning to settle like lead in my chest. “Where are you? I thought you’d be able to find me anywhere…”
My eyes drift to the bracelet, the token that supposedly tethered me to him. It just feels like dead weight now.
My head snaps up at the sound of my name. In this entire ordeal, he never used my name, but there was no mistaking his voice. “Arius?”
I hear it again, this time from within the trees. It’s a trap. It has to be.
But what if it isn’t?
Two days in a row? Unheard of!
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As always, think happy thoughts 🙂