Loading... Chapter Twenty Two
When the dark started to creep in, they decided it was best to rest for the night. Daniel let go of the reins as the horses stopped. The crisp air made him glad for the hood that shielded his ears.
Making a fire was the most compelling thought in his mind. Daniel carefully worked on guarding a young flame until it was large enough to survive on its own. The heat of it nipped at his fingertips and kissed away the cold.
Once Daniel had his fill of the fire, he moved back over to the wagon, and converted it to serve as a tent. Didn't take much, needing just two poles sticking into the ground. "Mademoiselle," Daniel smiled, gesturing over their accommodations for the night.
"Thank you," Amilia smiled. She had tried to help set up the camp, but Daniel always seemed to handle things faster than she could. They wasted the rest of the night around the fire until Amilia retired to bed. After checking a few things, Daniel followed after a short time later, and found everything he needed for bed laid out and ready for him. He stole a small glance at Amilia, who was curled up on her side of the wagon, sleeping soundly already.
Owen expected a calm feeling to wash over him as they skipped ahead to the next day. Instead, the game continued to move in real time. He wondered if the headset had frozen altogether. The usual peace of the day change was replaced with panic. Owen felt pins and needles behind his eyes. He gasped as his sight went black for a second before being replaced with the vision of Amilia near the water's edge. A waterfall rained down with a constant drumming before she stepped towards it. The world skipped ahead with jarring stitches. Amilia's arms trembled as she tried to push herself up off the ground. Now soaked down to the bone; her clothes and hair clung to her small frame. She blinked slowly as if her head had its own set of objections. The next time he saw her was when Amilia stumbled over to a horse.
A shadow of color moved down the side of her face. At first it was written off as water, but Amilia lifted a shivering hand to touch her cheek, and her fingers came back spotted with blood.
Another jarring stitch, and he saw Amilia now riding, or as well as she could as her body began to shut down. She had made it far enough that the falls no longer dotted the background. But it was still too far to make it back in her state. Amilia started to fall off her horse before Daniel woke up with a start. His heart pounded against his ribs. He might have been able to convince himself it was all a bad dream, but when he looked over to where Amilia was sleeping there was only a pile of blankets.
Maybe this nightmare wasn't over.
He climbed out of the wagon, and took a quick glance around their camp. One of the horses wasn't far, just a few paces from where he should have been at a new patch of grass. The second one was absent, likely still with Amilia.
Daniel closed his eyes, centering himself as he focused on the direction the vision showed him. He didn't have to ride far until he found Amilia, and the missing horse. The latter had been slowly making its way back to camp, while Amilia had been abandoned in the grass to freeze to death. Daniel dropped to her level as he scooped her up in his arms.
"Amilia, don't do this to me," he begged.
Panic slowed his mind, but the icy touch of her was enough to kick his brain back in gear. He moved as fast as he could back over to the fire. Very carefully he laid her down next to it.
The fire had gone down over time, so Daniel moved to feed it more wood. The fire greedily sparked back to life, making the area it touched warmer than the wagon had been.
"Please make it through this to be mad at me in the morning," Daniel said. He doubted that she could hear, which was the scariest thing out of everything. If she had been shivering, or at least awake, he would have found some hope lighting the way. Her soaked clothes would keep the cold in, so they'd have to go first. He pulled off what he could, and tore or cut away at the fabric if it proved too much of a hassle.
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Bone Diggers (Paperback out now!)Science Fiction
When everyone IRL lies, the only person you can trust is an NPC. Dirty little secrets can't be hidden behind player avatars, because Bone Diggers like Owen expose the lives behind the code. When his two worlds blur, he must decide which is more impo...