He paced, whining, the width of the stone bridge from one side to the next. Beneath him, water chuckled evilly.
He didn’t *have* to go over the bridge, which stank of Man and something worse. He could go back.
Why had he come out here? Why had he left the sanctuary of the Pack, and come to this awful bridge that stank of awful things? If he thought his Pack would have heard him, he might have lifted his muzzle to the sky and howled his fear. Would gladly have given into the shame that would come when they had to rescue him because he, a great wolf, could not cross even the most sluggish of streams without scenting it with the high stink of his fear.
Oh, whyyyy had he come here?
“You are a silly wolf, aren’t you? Come on this way. Yes, I know – you can smell the hurt. But it’s only for a second. Like pulling a prickleburr’s quill out of your nose. One, two, and done.”
*That’s* why he had come.
Because She had led him here.
And if She had crossed … well, then he could do it. She had led him on a merry chase, but she had always left more than enough of her scent – and her desire for him – to keep him coming, no matter how many twists and turns she had taken. He had come this far.
And She was there.
He scented the air, catching the woman-musk of her. Soon, the moon would rise, and they would hunt.
He felt no pain at all when he crossed that little bridge, leaving his world behind. What need had he for magic now, anyway?
She was all the magic he had ever needed.
Contractions like an army of fists punched Andrea’s uterus, and she dug her fingers into Dave’s upholstery. Three assaults ago, she’d figured out that her screams did nothing to part the red sea of brake lights stretching from one shore of the Hudson to the other.
When her child took his own foot off her internal accelerator, she pulled sweaty hair from her neck and asked Dave to at least open the window. “Can’t,” he said. “Police orders. Lock vehicles, keep windows closed. The guy’s armed and dangerous.”
“I’m gonna be armed and dangerous soon. Open the fucking window or I’m busting out of here. I am NOT having this baby in a goddamned car in the middle of the goddamned bridge.”
He cracked it a half inch. “Happy?”
“You’d rather get shot by some bank robber on the loose? Yeah. Awesome. Love you, too.”
“You’d rather sit here with the windows closed while this puddle of amniotic fluid bakes in ninety-degree heat and OUR CHILD falls out of me and onto your Yosemite Sam floor mats, which I don’t think you’ve cleaned in…forever? OWWWWW!!!!”
“How long was that?”
“Not a measurement of time.”
The whup-whup of a police chopper flew overhead. Andrea considered jumping out and flagging it down, but Dave had the goddamned childproof locks on. “I hate you.” She pressed her lips to the centimeter of space at the top of the window. “HEY! WOMAN IN LABOR HERE!”
Her plea resulted in a ruckus of shouting and honking. Then a soft tap on her door. Andrea peered over. A young, scared-looking man crouched next to the car. When their eyes met, they softened with kindness. “My sister, she had four kids,” he whispered. “I helped deliver two.” Something metallic flashed in the waistband of his jeans. “Look. This was all a big misunderstanding. If I help you…will you help me?”
“Open the door,” she told Dave.
Another contraction threatened. She dug her feet into Yosemite Sam’s face. “Open. The. Door. Now.”
The river stretched for a thousand miles, into what used to be dragon territory. Nobody had seen one of the formidably beasts for a century but the land still bled fiery, orange fumes every nightfall. Some believed this was an omen of things to come, that someday the dragons would return, born from the ashes and blood of violence and war. Superstitious fools. Nobody knew exactly why the sky was that faded reddish in that part of the world. The only thing they knew was the land was silent. Life, it appears, had abandoned those forsaken grounds and had not returned, not even when the Druids tried to muster the energy of the land.
The stone woke and the spirit of the Ammonite broke free and surveyed the beach that had become its home. I was once King of the seas and roamed at will. All creatures paid homage to me and now I am frozen in stone! I curse the coming of the comet and the ending of my world. I was supreme amongst my kind and now reduced to this. The pattern of the rings of growth have calcified into stone, but stone endures and my soul remains trapped in the debris along with it. I feel the long gone touch of the sea and sunlight upon my substance. “I am here,” I call out to the empty beaches and wait for some reply.
A hand made of flesh reaches for me and I am placed into a sack, gathered with others of my kind. I find that I am destined to be displayed in a glass case and put on show!
The tide receded and the door in the centre of the ammonite popped open. A head darted out, followed by a slithery body and silver tail. The creature shook itself and spotted a glistening shell on its front door step.
“For you, my Love.” The creature read on the attached label. With a swift shudder and shake, the creature changed form, legs becoming tail and upper limbs appearing where none had been, reaching out to the shell.
Which grew legs itself and scuttled away.
“A pet? Or a hunt?” the Sea Pixie asked the air.
Nothing answered her, apart from the scrape of claws as the shell got further away. She scrambled over the outer edge of the ammonite and followed it. The label blew away in an errant gust which rocked both shell and Pixie.
At the edge of a rock pool, the shell made good its escape, dropping into the depths with a tiny squeak of happiness.
The Pixie sat down and stared after it. “Now what do I do?”
“Nothing.” A face poked up out of the water and another Sea Pixie climbed out of the pool. “I sent it to you.”
“Why?” She asked.
“To bring you here.” He held out one hand.
She smiled and took his hand. “You could have just knocked.”
“After all these years, I thought you might want a replay of our first meeting.”
She giggled and kissed him. “Let’s go then.”
They slipped into the rock pool and disappeared.
He is a man conflicted. His clothes smell like oil and his nails are black. He reads poetry by candle light. He thinks of when she was near him. Hears her voice and starts – he is screaming inside. The restraints drive him to a frenzy. And so it goes.