Though she recognized it as a distraction, Autumn still couldn’t keep her memory from flipping through the images o’ the felt & frilly walls o’ this ship’s plump stomach. the dining room looked bigger than her block—& ’twas far easier to get lost in.
A paradox tumbled through her wires: she was anxious to ’scape that warm room with its humid food, incubating light, & worse, stuffy people, whose every attention was a laser pointer. No, though she knew how much colder were the mere fruity pebbles & silk leaves she hoped to fleece, these were all she needed; all she wanted was to quickly collect the sparkling coal & scram so she could forget all the warm steam that only e’er slipped through her fingers.
But still the heat seeped into their dank closet leaking with frigid foamy tides from a capsized bucket, through the catacombs o’ stacked mops & packages only those as low as them would notice.
’Twas as this heat slowly depleted that Autumn wiffed the hint o’ midnight slumber outside. She checked her phone, muffling it gainst her jacket to stifle its useless beeps.
It’d like to find the guy who forced all these beeps on these electronics & jab a needle right into his ear drum.
It said 1:20 AM.
The majority, a’least, must be asleep.
She slowly picked ’part the wall ’tween them & the door, cringing @ the slightest tink o’ a can on linoleum. E’en if she weren’t worried ’bout someone catching them, noises always burrowed into her bloodstream,—& this shitty ship shipped a full load—which was then contradicted by the proportionate intolerance to perfect silence, which was just a drawn-out warning o’ noises on the way, anyway.
Each pathetic displacement o’ can or box pieced together an opening to their pathetic exit—the 1st piece o’ their pathetic heist. Leading Edgar by an arm, she led him up to the door.
1 bright light o’ this heist, though, was the darkness under the door: she tried peeking ’neath, but saw nothing through the night haze. She gently turned the knob all the way & pushed the door open a slot. No noises followed. She opened it wider; still no subsequent sounds. She leaned her face out the door & swung it both ways; she could neither see nor hear anything o’ note.
She drew Edgar out & led him down the hall. She winced as she stared into the stale murk, her neurons trying to stitch back together a shallow copy o’ the tapestry she’d seen in passing, holding her free hand out to grab extra clues.
For only a millisecond was she able to register the cone o’ light twisting suddenly into view—& not ’nough time to hide ’fore it stopped onto her face. She held a visor hand o’er her eyes & stepped back.
“O. Sorry, Madame,” said a voice strewn with whistles. “¿Need help finding the restrooms?”
“No, I was just on my way back,” said Autumn.
“’K. Well, if you need any help, don’t be ’fraid to ask.”
She quickly—though not so quickly as to be noisy—sidled past the light, & kept such speed till she found her hand bump flat metal.
“¿Who’s there?” a muffled voice said loudly.
Autumn backed, & then zipped down the hall to her right. She felt ’long the wall, but mo’ slowly this time, till she felt mo’ flat metal, & then a smoother knob. Like with the closet, she turned it fully & opened, only to immediately close it—too quickly, causing it to thump—’pon seeing yellow light inside.
“Wonder who that was,” said ’nother muffled voice.
“Probably forgot which room was hers,” replied yet ’nother.
She ran further down the other side, feeling for doors ’gain; but the next she found wouldn’t e’en budge when she pushed it.
Autumn’s veins raced. Every second felt like its own support beam, a single 1 broken causing the whole house to collapse. Every air movement was a jab in her ear. Every second she expected to hear heavy footsteps close in.
She tried 2 mo’ doors ’fore finding 1 without light on the other side. She slipped in, closed the door ’hind her, & waited. Nothing inside seemed to stir; neither anything outside.
She waited a few beats, & then extracted her flashlight & turned it on while pointing it downward. She carefully slid it round the room, but found nothing but empty hardwood.
Knowing my luck, I’ve hit the only empty room or the only Buddhist guest.
She 180’d so that she was facing the door, & then slowly raised her beam till it hit the corner o’ the ceiling. From there she slid it round the room, gradually dipping it on each rotation. ’Twas through this that she found something: scaly suitcases resting on a shelf.
She slowly lowered her light, only to throw it back up ’pon seeing the muffin top o’ an occupied blanket. She licked her lips; already the outside heat was whipping the sweat out o’ her & into her jacket.
It’s likely that all these cabins are built this way & that the vast majority—if not all—o’ the tenants use them. It’s the best way to confound thieves, after all.
She pulled Edgar right up to her mouth, the flab o’ his rob pressing tightly gainst her strangely cooler than the air.
“Stay here for a sec,” she whispered.
’Pon releasing Edgar, she crept toward the bed with the corner o’ an eye dedicated to her host. She dropped her beam o’er the side o’ the bed to confirm that the guest’s feet didn’t reach the end. After a few seconds’ deliberation, she slipped off her shoes, raised a leg, & planted its foot on the end o’ the mattress, cringing as she felt it sink & sensed the other weight shift. Having already done the worst she could, she placed the other foot on as well, & then reached up for the shelf, feeling ’long the rigid wooden edges till she felt leather. She patted her hands round it a few times till she had a grip round it; but when she did, she felt just how heavy ’twas—which wasn’t helped by the leaning angle @ which she stood.
But she’d already dug this deep; so she slowly edged closer to it, step-by-step, till she felt the lump o’ a foot & withdrew her last step. From there she tightened her grasp on the suitcase & slowly slid it toward her, cringing @ the heavy scrape o’ its scales gainst the wood.
However, she’d still underestimated its weight, thanks to the sturdy shelf, & it surprised her so much that she couldn’t keep it from slamming down, pushing her hands down with it. The guest groaned as it hit him. She heard the swishing o’ sheets, & then a click, followed by a blinding flush o’ light.
The guest’s eyes were as wide & lined as analog clocks. Though this image latched onto Autumn’s mind, she only actually saw it for a second before she grabbed the briefcase & scurried for the door. Not weighted down, Edgar made it there 1st & opened the door for her.
“¡O my god! ¡Thieves! ¡I can’t believe it! ¡Someone, stop them!”
The man’s voice gradually quieted in Autumn’s ears as they drew distance. Yet ’twas clearly successful, as the lights out in the hall soon flashed on, revealing dozens o’ predators. While they stood round with gaping maws congruent with the guest’s, Autumn dashed in the nearest direction. Unluckily, that direction was just as crowded with security as the other.
She quickly looked backward & ’head, & then hefted up the suitcase as a shield. As she’d hoped, the security person ’head o’ them grabbed it. Autumn could see by the way she deliberately avoided looking @ Edgar that she didn’t e’en want to touch him. They played tug-o’-war with it as mo’ security personnel neared from ’hind. When she’d calculated that they were less than a meter ’way, she let go, causing the weight o’ the suitcase to knock the guard in front o’ her backward while Autumn fell in the other direction, knocking o’er those ’hind her.
While they were all still trying to get back up, Autumn leapt to her feet, grabbed Edgar’s arm, & ran as fast as she could past the guard ’head o’ her, shoving her way out the door @ the end.
Outside was the stern. Outside was a dead end, bordered by the empty blue & white o’ the sky, accompanied by only the Thup-thup-thup-thup o’ the rapidly spinning propeller, only visible by the top through the holes in the railing.
The realization was delayed, so that Autumn & Edgar were already almost to the handrails, & the doorway was already filling with security. She lifted Edgar up & climbed herself in 2 quick motions. When she looked back, she saw security closing in.
Possessed by panic, Autumn pushed Edgar & herself into the ether before she fully considered the consequences. While security all stood staring down @ her in confusion, Autumn pulled a string on her pack, causing a parachute to unfurl, their next destination determined by the wind.
“¿Ought we try hunting her so she can be arrested?” asked 1 o’ the security personnel, still staring down into the periwinkle long after the dot o’ the thieves had disappeared.
’Nother shook her head. “No point: they didn’t get ’way with anything. ’Sides, those fools are falling right into the Land’s End. Nobody e’er made it out o’ there ’live.”
Autumn thought that they were lucky when they passed every scraggly birch, till she saw the periwinkle emptiness awaiting them—dim, being @ the farthest point from the rising sun. Her fists scrambled for her scissors in her pocket & rushed to snip all o’ the cords o’ the parachute before their shadow passed land. Her shaky hands’ constant missing didn’t help.
Luckily for them, she only had to cut a few for the rest to snap under their combined weight, dropping them ’bout a meter from the edge with a thick-thudding crouch.
Curious, Autumn edged closer to the edge & looked down; but all she saw was a steep rock fringe fade into creamy blue: anything that may be ’neath was wholly hidden.
“¿Where do we go now?” asked Edgar. He wrapped his arms round himself, shivering in the dewy air. Autumn could see the fog pack together under his mouth.
“Not westward,” said Autumn.
She looked ’bove Edgar’s head to see “not westward” & saw a caky plain scattered with long-&-thin-fingered trees holding leaves so juicy, Autumn could see the liquid drip from them. A few black insect dots sizzled through the air like static. As the distance stretched, the trees packed closer & closer, till all Autumn could see @ the end was a wall o’ leaves.
“We should see what’s on the other side o’ those leaves,” said Autumn.
So she led them forward, climbing o’er o’ergrown roots & ducking under boughs sagging like grape vines under their hefty leaves. ’Twas only as she neared the same trees that she noticed this hugeness: the branches that looked thin from a distance turned out to be thicker than her neck; the leaves were larger than her head, their droplets as big as her hand. But their bigness made it difficult for them to crowd together, & thus there was plenty o’ holes through which to climb or crawl.
On the other side, Autumn saw, surrounded by vegetation like a lone gunman, a 3-story mansion. It itself vs. the porch framed a jarring contrast: while the mansion had so many fine & clean curves & concaves on its every side, window border, & roof, the porch was uneven stained wood in boxy shapes.
Sitting on said porch was a man in a matching white suit, fedora, & walrus moustache. Suddenly, he waved toward them with a smile & crinkling eyes. His voice, tinny from the distance, called out, “No need to fear, folk. Come on in. There’s plenty o’ food & shelter inside.”
Autumn paused while Edgar looked @ her for answers. She crept back into the leaves, followed soon by Edgar; but she kept a gap open so she could continue watching the mansion.
To her alarm—but not surprise—she saw the man rise & start scampering down the steps.
Autumn whispered, “¡Run!” & then pulled Edgar with her through the ivy. Throughout she used her usual technique o’ taking turns as arbitrary as she could to minimize the logic o’ her trail. When she’d calculated that 12 seconds had passed—the # she’d estimated the man would need to reach the leaves—she stopped. The whole cave o’ verdure was so infested with, well, verdure that ’twas impossible to move without causing some leaf, branch, or root to snap, scratch.
It wasn’t necessary to hear this man, though: in addition to the thrashing his feet did to the leaf floors, Autumn could hear his whistly voice say, “There’s no need to fear, folks: people fall down here all the time. I don’t mean any harm.”
His steps grew louder. Autumn threw her eyes round & stuck them to a towering oak just ’side them.
She whispered right into Edgar’s ear, “When I get on the tree, jump on my back & hold tightly.”
She didn’t dare make a zipping noise to open her backpack, so she had to suffice with her naked nails & dirt-soaked socks. But she couldn’t e’en cross half a meter without brushing a foot o’er a blowing leaf.
“¿You still round here, folks? I swear, I won’t harm you. I just want to help you get back.”
Autumn hugged the oak & dug her toes into niches in the bark. The next moment, she felt clothy sleeves wrap round her neck & a weight begin pulling her downward, which caused her grip to weaken a bit; but she drilled her feet in farther, & then reached her hands up for the nearest branch.
It’s been such a long time since I’ve climbed a tree… Let’s just hope I haven’t forgotten how to do it.
’Cept for 2 almost-slips in her footing, Autumn was able to climb a few meters without trouble. She stopped @ the branch she’d singled out when she 1st looked upward: 1 that could be barely seen through the few holes in the bushels o’ pine leaves. @ 1st, she worried that it might be too thin to hold up their weight steadily; but when they reached it, they saw that its thickness was just a trick o’ distance like the others: ’neath them ’twas as stiff as ground floor.
The moustachioed man continued wandering the jungle & calling for them for a quarter hour mo’ ’fore they heard his footsteps dissolve in the distance. With this closest approximation o’ a reprieve, Autumn turned her mind to the next problem in the hierarchy: ¿How do we ’scape this place?
The best, though imperfect as always, solution came soon: they’d have to ’scape @ night. It’ll be much harder to see us; & this selva is probably teeming with wild animals whose noises will shout out our own.
’Course, those same animals could end up mauling us to death.
So they spent the next few hours up in the fir, Autumn with her back gainst the trunk, filing her ’scape plans to their sharpest, & Edgar sitting back into her lap with his attention bouncing back & forth ’mong the flora. The sun grew to strength in this time, flooding the jungle with yellow & flipping the thermometer so that now, rather than shivering & breathing smoke, Autumn sweat & Edgar began to burn, which made their close contact a double-edged nunchuck, like addictive pain—to which Autumn was already accustomed, anyway.
Her stomach growled, not to mention her blisteringly dry tongue, neither having been quenched since last night. The desire to avoid Edgar pestering her o’erruled any desire not to hassle herself with eating & drinking that she didn’t truly feel now, anyway; so she slipped off her pack & pulled out a baggie o’ trailmix & a water bottle.
But not long after returning the remaining half to her pack, she realized the downside: in addition to eating, she also hadn’t slept since yesterday morn, & was now beginning to feel the saturation & heat pull her down. Edgar himself evidently felt the same by the way he kept leaning his head down on her shoulder, only to jerk himself back upright.
She lightly tapped him & whispered, “Go to sleep. I’ll need you to be rested so you can watch me while I sleep later.”
Edgar nodded & then curled up with his head on Autumn’s knee. While she failed her resistance gainst brushing the back o’ her hand o’er Edgar’s forehead like a kitten, Autumn continued to watch below for predators, wincing under the sun’s glare & drilling nails into her cheeks every time her lids began to droop or she began to slide downward into a supine position.
But ’ventually her exhaustion won, & her consciousness faded to red breezes. & yet, this didn’t last long, either: swishing leaves, snapping branches, murmuring… splotches o’ white stood out ’mong the green, moving. Autumn sat up straighter & watched them as closely as a coin-hiding cup.
“I found her.” Though the voice was casual, & quiet from far below, to Autumn’s ears it felt like a stab in the drum. She noticed 1 o’ the white splotches pointing a smaller brown splotch up @ her.
He called upward, “You needn’t be ’fraid, Madame: we mean no harm.”
A quiet moan ’scaped from Edgar. She could feel him stir. He leaned up a li’l & looked down @ the man.
“You needn’t worry: they won’t get near us without me seeing 1st,” whispered Autumn.
Edgar paused a second. His eyes by their aimlessness didn’t seem on.
“You sure they’re dangerous,” he said quietly.
“Can’t imagine they’d go through this trouble for no benefit to themselves; & I can’t see how we could benefit them. Mo’ importantly, I can’t see how we’d benefit from going near them. As they say, there’s 2 types o’ people: the hunters & the hunted. We’re obviously the latter, since we have no skills @ o’erpowering others, & thus survive better when we stay ’way from others.”
The man walked closer to the trunk. 2 others followed soon after.
“Madame, ¿can you hear me?” the leader said mo’ loudly.
See, this is why they’re obviously not worthy o’ trust: ’course I can hear you; I’m looking right @ you, & you’re talking so loud one could hear you from kilometers ’way.
Indeed, his voice was so droning that she wanted to grasp her temples & shout @ him to shut up; but that would only encourage him,—’twas clearly the true reason he did it, after all—so she resolved to continue ignoring him.
“¿Madame? We promise we mean no harm.”
“Duh… ¿What’s lying? That’s not possible.”
Finally, the man shut his trap & turned to his fellows. His mouth was opening & closing, but Autumn couldn’t hear what he was saying.
Autumn smirked. “You can trust us. Whisper, whisper, whisper.
The others lifted the man till he could reach a branch. Not taking her eyes off him, Autumn gently nudged Edgar.
“I see it,” he murmured.
¿Dare I throw something @ him in the hopes o’ knocking him down?
He’ll just start climbing ’gain & ’gain & I’ll ’ventually run out o’ things to throw.
& if we try going back down, his goons’ll get us in the hassle.
Shit… I can’t believe I put myself in such a shoddy position so quickly.
She could feel her heart gyrate & her temples stand out, pressuring her mind to devise, devise quickly. Involuntarily, her legs began to shift, & then propel her to stand. Edgar stood after, probably expecting them to start moving.
She remained still, staring ’tween the climbing man & his minions.
¿Should I try throwing something in a bush & hope they take the bait? They’ll probably see me & wait; & e’en then, they’ll discover the ruse before we reach the bottom.
So soon after being heated to action did she feel frozen by doubt.
No, it’s better to wait & see what happens. Impatient patients o’erdose.
She grasped the tree’s stomach. Without a word from either o’ them, Edgar wrapped round her own stomach.
“There’s no need to fear, Madame: we just want to get you home safe,” said the climbing man.
There’s no use feigning ignorance o’ his presence; but then, there’s no use saying anything to him, either.
There’s a slight possibility he’s mentally aberrant & authentically wants to help, in which case some speech could hold rare benefits, & no loss.
“I don’t believe you,” said Autumn.
“I swear, Madame, I mean no harm. Look:” the man put his right hand in his pocket & pulled out nothing, followed by his left. “Nothing dangerous.”
Autumn’s brows slowly descended. That’s a great hat trick, but not convincing.
“We’d rather stay,” said Autumn. “’Lone.”
The man laughed nervously. “It’s not safe, Madame. Wild animals roam all o’er; & you’ll ’ventually run out o’ food.”
“That’s our concern, thank you,” said Autumn, eyes narrowing as the man each time neared.
“Well, Admiral Sherman owns this land, & he doesn’t want you trespassing. He’s scared o’ lawsuits & all.”
“I can assure you, no one would notice our disappearance,” said Autumn. Let’s meet blind assertions with blind assertions—¿why not?
She watched his eyes; but all she saw was a slight dilation o’ panic.
“That makes things mo’ perilous,” he said.
“I don’t see how that’s so.”
“Please come down, Madame.”
Well, he said “please,” so now I have to do as he asks.
She surveyed the close terrain to see if there was anything she could toss @ him, but found nothing heavy ’nough but her pack—& she figured she’d still need it.
But she could see that she needed to start retreading, as their hunter was only a few limbs ’way. She put a foot on an indentation in the tree, followed by the other, & stepped round to the other side.
She didn’t respond this time: the possibility for gain had evidently fallen void. ’Stead, she began climbing down the other side, repeatedly looking down to her side to see what moves those below would make.
’Twas as she was looking down for the 7th time that she saw the others aiming a gun up @ her. She scrambled rightward, only to feel a piercing in her side, which soon sucked the air from her nerves. ’Twas as if her limbs had all been taken from her: her dead hands released the back & dropped her; but she lost consciousness ’fore touching the ground.
Autumn 1st noticed ’pon waking—other than the last remnants o’ some HeroHero commercial her dreams had manufactured—the sheer softness & warmth she felt wrapping round her. She opened her eyes, only to see that ’twas just as dark. As her consciousness built, she realized that the softness enveloping her was a thick blanket & puffy mattress. She tried lifting the blanket & found no resistance. She sat up, & still sensed no response. This was when she noticed the immensely soft robe wrapped round her—though she could feel by the hard bump on her side that she was still in her denim skirt ’neath. She was boiling under the robe, but only untied its front open; in bipolar spring, she could suddenly become chilly any moment.
She checked her pockets, & was surprised to find them as full as e’er. Without a source o’ light, she sufficed with testing her immediate surroundings by feeling round her, ’ventually landing on a soft squishing lump to her side.
“Autumn,” whispered a familiar voice.
“Shhhh…” she replied softly. “¿Do you have any light in your robe?”
“¿Which 1? I have 2 now.”
After a short pause, Edgar whispered, “Yeah,” & then Autumn felt Edgar’s hand lift hers & press warm plastic into it.
She felt round it till she found the switch & aimed it downward as she clicked it on. However, all it revealed was blurry yellow.
“¿Can you find my glasses?” she whispered.
“Here, I can get them right there.”
She felt his weight o’er her lap as he climbed o’er her, & then the familiar rubber lines rub gainst the sides o’ her face.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
From there she slowly drove her light beam round the room, piece-by-piece revealing it to be an exquisite guest room bigger than their whole home. Mo’ important, she revealed that they were ’lone in it.
There could always be bugs.
¿Dare I open the door?
She slid off the bed, marveling @ how high off the ground ’twas. Pressed to it, she discovered it went up to her shoulder.
She headed for the door, only to see it open ’fore she was halfway. There was a click, & then dim orange light splashed o’er the room. In her wincing vision she saw an unfamiliar man in the familiar white suit with short graying hair. He was smiling excitedly.
“¿Did you have a nice rest, Madame?”
“’Twas unexpected…” said Autumn.
The man chuckled. “Admiral Sherman wants to meet you.”
“’K.” Autumn knew there were no rubies in refusal.
“Great. Just follow me.”
Autumn looked back @ Edgar to see him halfway out o’ bed, staring @ Autumn expectantly. She nodded, & then led him in being led by the stranger.
During their long walk out, Autumn’s eyes devoured the surroundings. Looking below, she thought she could see the front door @ the end o’ a spacious anteroom dimly lit by a single tall lamp.
The walk lasted only a hallway. As the stranger pushed the door @ the end open, Autumn could see that the light inside was already on. Autumn stood ’hind while the stranger entered.
“Your guests are here, Admiral.”
“Awesome.” Then the voice called out mo’ loudly, “Come on in, guys. There’s nothing to be ’fraid o’: I’m not angry ’bout anything.”
I bet you’re not…
¿Dare I try running out the front doors? They’ll probably be locked, & will only lead back to the jungle, where they’ll capture me ’gain.
May be better to act trustful, & then flee the moment their shields are dropped. After all, they’re clearly waiting for something, so I still have time.
She led Edgar in following their escort, who sidestepped ’way to give Sherman an unblemished view o’ them. Sherman himself was an uninteresting view: square-faced with 5-AM shadow & a a blindingly white suit & hat. He reached a hairy hand out.
“Good morn, folks. I guess you already know I’m Admiral Sherman. ¿& what, may I ask, is yours?”
Autumn quickly stepped forward & gripped his hand tightly. “I’m Madame Samantha Green—though you can just call me Sam--& my friend here is Sir Maximilian Basurto.”
“Good to meet you, Sam.” Sherman’s eyes shined mo’ brightly than his teeth. “¿& how did you 2 end up in this far’way place, anyhow?”
“A broken engine in our plane,” said Autumn. “Don’t know how it happened—couldn’t check, ’cause the dumb thing fell into the abyss. Barely made it out with our parachutes in time.”
Sherman chuckled. “Eeeuugh. Good thing you did. Wouldn’t want to fall down there. ¿You fly a lot?”
Sherman nodded. “Well, we’ve got a copter ready that can take you back to where you live—¿where is it you live, ’gain?”
Autumn knew this kind o’ lie would be easy to spot from her accent, so she said, “Boskeopolis.”
“’K. We can take you there after breakfast if you want. You must be starving.”
Autumn paused to think, keeping her heavy-lidded expression.
“No, we already ate so much yesterday.” Autumn only hoped her traitorous stomach wouldn’t moan @ that minute. ’Twas a necessary lie, though: ne’er knew if they’d poison her food.
’Course they could just orchestrate my copter to crash, so it’s probably nugatory.
Sherman smiled slyly. “That eager to get home, ¿eh? That’s OK. I can understand. If I weren’t already so used to this place, I’d want to rush outta here as fast I can, too.”
He turned to the assistant & said, “Giovanni, ¿could you escort my guests to their copter & send them on their way?”
“Thank you.” Sherman turned back to Autumn & Edgar. “Well, ’twas nice to meet you fine folks—feel free to keep the robes, by the way. We have too many o’ them, anyway. By the way, we can get you some boots or something, since I notice you seemed to’ve lost yours out there somewhere. Better to not go looking for them.”
Autumn shook her head. “I usually go out in just socks. Shoes cramp too much.”
Sherman laughed & said, “We oughta talk ’gain sometime later. You sound like a true audacious adventurer. I’d love to hear a story ’bout digging through Tangerine Temple or the Cinnamines sometime.”
Autumn nodded & took the sheet o’ paper on which Sherman wrote his email address. Then she & Edgar followed Giovanni through the manor & out a back door leading to a patio-like area. Though ’twas still dim out,—as well as freezing, which caused Autumn to tie up the robe ’gain & thank herself for keeping it—sharp orange sparks splashed o’er the backs o’ pines & long grass. Almost everything was silhouette black, including the copter filling most o’ the concrete ground.
Giovanni opened a door @ the back & stood back. “It’s all ready, Madame Green. Have a safe trip.” Autumn watched his face, but saw nothing but a blandly cheerful grin.
Too late to back out now.
She led Edgar inside, scooting to the opposite end all the way to the window. Then Autumn checked her backpack & connected her backup parachute to it before taking out a water bottle.
“Guess I should’ve mentioned being thirsty. O well, no problem,” Autumn said just ’fore taking a drink.
“It shouldn’t be a long trip, Madame,” said the green-garbed pilot.
We’ll see ’bout that…
But as it turned out, Autumn ne’er needed the parachute: though Autumn kept her attention fixed on everything she could, the trip seemed like just a trip, & before she knew it, they were landing in a familiar metropolitan area. Before she had a chance to wonder what the catch was, the pilot was already opening her door.
“I hope the trip wasn’t too rough, Madame & Sir.”
“Um, no… Not @ all…” Autumn said as she slowly slid out onto the street.
“That went better than expected,” Edgar said as he closed their apartment door ’hind them.
Autumn poured water into her coffee pot. “Yeah. We didn’t succeed in pilfering anything;—’cept these robes, I s’pose—but still better than expected.”
She practically inhaled her coffee, & yet still felt a deep, tongue-burning thirst.
E’en stranger, this thirst felt particular…
She opened the fridge & stood eying her processed prey.
Then she closed the door. “I think I need to go to the store.” She stared forward blankly, distracted from emotions by inconceivable thoughts.
“¿Need me to come?” asked Edgar.
“If you want…”
Autumn led him out their front door & down the steps, both ignoring the sparse drops from the thick soup o’ cyan & gray that was the sky. However, as they walked up the hill toward the nearest grocery store, Autumn began to shiver, having already taken off her robe in the apartment & having forgotten to put on a jacket ’fore going out.
O well. It’ll be warmer in the store, anyway.
They stayed close to the grassy ditch on their edge without falling in, for the courtesy o’ the few cars that passed through this idle road @ this idle time.
Figures our cheap government’d be too lazy to put sidewalk he—uh…
A big block o’ metal with piercing yellow eyes jumped out from ’hind the hill & in an instant grew bigger than both o’ them combined. Though they moved toward the grassy gap, the van’s face smacked them ’fore they could reach it. Then their vision blackened out, followed by heavy pain covering their bodies, which soon fizzled to nothing.
The hill was soon swarming with white vans. 3 people in matching white uniforms stepped out, & while 2 o’ them surveyed the 2 injured, the other spoke with the teary, babbling man who’d called them.
1 o’ the other 2 bent down & pressed her fingers to the fallen woman in the red ponytail’s wrist & felt no pulse. She frowned @ the bent-back position o’ the fallen’s head. The other could tell by the flattened brain matter leading out the shattered shards o’ a skull that the other fallen was in e’en worse shape.