Paradise Falls

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As I continue to jog I glance at the forest around me. To humans, all forests may look the same. But to us otherworld's, every place is different. I wait ten minutes until I phase into a tall silver-grey wolf, a precaution that became a habit just in case any humans happened to be nearby. I flex my paws and surge onward, weaving around the pine trees while dodging fallen branches. For the first time in a while, I felt free, safe even. I finally slowed to a halt where the trees ended in a clearing. I morphed back to human form quickly and took the phone out of my pocket. Already, Collen had sent me a call and two texts. I quickly responded saying that I was fine, even added a smiley face for good measures then shoved the phone back into my pocket but instead of phasing back, I sat on the log of a large fallen tree and studied the clearing. Wild flowers of every color bloomed in the spring air and birdsong sounded from the tree branches. I looked up where a hawk sat perched on one of the lower branches as it scanned the clearing for prey. It's piercing yellow eyes fell on me and it let out a loud cry then flew away. I watched as the hawk left its perch and glided effortlessly through the sky. Sighing wistfully, I  glance back towards the direction in which I had entered the clearing from then check the time on the cell phone, it had been nearly fifteen minutes since I had replied to Collen's messages. For some reason, his words replayed in my mind; 'I'm going to call every few minutes, if you don't pick up then I know something is wrong'.' There is no possible way he could have forgotten, Collen always seems to go out of his way just to help me. Suddenly the phone buzzes and I sigh with relief. I take the phone out of my pocket once more and Collen's text appears against the glowing white background:

You are strong, and there is always a way to turn weaknesses into strengths.

And now I notice that the birds have fallen silent. It makes me a bit uneasy. Frowning I ponder his strange reply in my mind then stand and start to jog towards the house while dodging tree roots that reach out to trip me. But something makes me stop so abruptly that my momentum nearly sends me crashing into a tree. Smoke. I could not see it but my acute sense of smell certainly could scent it. Phasing suddenly to a wolf, not caring whether a human was near or not, I dashed towards the house. Maybe it was nothing, maybe some campers simply made a fire. But a small voice in the back of my mind told me it was something more. Collen's text makes its way back into my mind and I finally near the hill. I morph into a human more through shock than through safety. A thin line of smoke was rising from behind the hill where the house stood. The smell of burning ash was strong now and I dashed to the top of the hill and my breath caught in my throat. Smoke seeped out of the brick chimney and poured out from the shattered windows. Orange flames were slowly yet rapidly spreading along the back porch. A scream catches in my throat and before my mind can comprehend what is happening, I am running in a full sprint towards the front door. My eyes water as a wall of thick smoke reaches out it's long fingers as if beckoning me towards the fire. But my mind was only thinking about Collen. Was he still in the burning house? Had he escaped? I have just reached the front steps when my world explodes in heat and light.

I am thrown back, tossed through the air like a feather. In front of me, the front door was blown away and the house completely exploded in a ball of fire. With a jarring thud, I land suddenly on my back. What breath I had left is knocked from my lungs and I lay there gasping, inhaling smoke. My head throbs and it feels as if someone has dropped a heavy weight on my chest. The smoke blots out the sky and my vision blurs. I feel as if I may die there in front of the burning house. Over the roar of the burning inferno I hear the sound of approaching footsteps. My heart rate picks up as visions of The Order setting our house on fire, trying to kill Collen and I. What sounds like two people grab my arms lightly and drag me a safe distance away from the burning house. I try to look at them but through my messed up vision, they are nothing more than tan blurs. A moan escapes my cracked lips and I end up coughing due to the ash and smoke in the air. Someone's face enters my vision close to me. A woman with short blond hair, I think.

"It's ok, were going to get you home" she says in a fake soft tone. My eyes narrow but I cannot respond and I cannot move anything more than a few fingers. But my mind still works. I have no home, Collen and I have been on the run all my life...

Collen. Is he still alive? My eyes wander towards the house, or what's left of it, and I snap my head back against the ground, fighting tears. My vision blurs and I fade to darkness as if I am falling.

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