Chapter 5

0 0 0

After a time, the creatures gave up on their prey- the largest one, the gray, let out a disgruntled huff and walked off, and the others reluctantly followed.  Tara watched from her position of safety, her tears still drying on her cheeks.  They were gone.  But they wouldn't be far away... and if she went down to the ground, she was sure that they would find her before she found the cavern.  She had been lucky enough to survive once- she wasn't willing to test her luck again. 

So she stayed in the tree, shifting to the most comfortable position she could find.  She was no longer admiring the sky.  She searched the forest floor for any movement, not even noticing as the stars faded one by one.  What if those creatures weren't the only horrors this world had to offer?  What if there were others, things that could climb?  Every crack of a branch, every sound that may or may not have been a footfall made her jump.

The night was ending, the world beginning to gain its colours with the dawn.  How long had she been here for?  Would her parents be worrying?  Kenzie surely would have come back from school by now...   she pictured their faces, and that started her off crying again.  She wanted them with her, but at the same time she didn't want them to be scared here like she was.  She just wanted to go home.

Overwhelmed by fear and loneliness, she didn't notice the figures below her until they were right beneath her tree.  An unfamiliar-sounding call drifted up the tree to meet her.  Her heart racing, she wiped at her eyes to clear them before she looked down.  She was prepared to climb further up, to the thinnest branches that could hold her before she realised.  The figures below were humans. People.

A group of three were gathered at the base of the tree, pointing up at her, some calling out in a language Tara didn't understand.  All adults, she was sure, though from up here, she couldn't see much more.  Their faces were just blurry blobs of varying shades of brown, though she could tell they were looking at her.  They wore strange clothes, Tara observed, then thought that was an odd thing to notice in a situation like this- but it was true.  They wore the same colour, top to toe, in what seemed to be a single garment.  The morning light seemed to be absorbed by the dark clothes of two of them, but dazzled off the man who was wearing bright silver. 

"Hello?" She scrambled down a few branches, wanting to see them more clearly, but wary about getting too close.  Her limbs were tired, aching from the chase and the hours of sitting motionless.  A small hiss of pain escaped her before she continued.  "You've got to be careful down there.  There were-" she hesitated, not knowing the name of the creatures that had chased her- "monsters.  I don't know what they're called."  She shivered at the thought of them, the things her mind had already built up into great phantasms.  She couldn't see the creatures anywhere, not even now that it was beginning to get light.  But with the man in the bright clothes down there, they'd be spotted easily.  The sun reflected off him like he was glowing.

They were all looking at her in some confusion- she thought so, at least, it was hard to tell from up here.  She tried to listen to the torrent of words, but the sounds all blurred into each other.  They sounded confused, maybe concerned- then the man in the dark clothes spoke.  He wasn't louder, but he sounded more forceful than the others, and they fell silent.

"Hello!" He called back up to her.  He understands me!  Tara thought, heart leaping.

"You have to be careful of the monsters!" She repeated urgently, at the same time that he spoke-

"Child, are you hurt?"

She shook her head- her little scrapes weren't important right now, not when the monsters could come back at any time!

"A little.  Not very.  But-" She was about to launch into her warning again, but he simply nodded, interrupting her before she could even begin.

"We know there are beasts in the area.  There always are, so close to the gates between worlds- what are you doing here, a child on your own?  Are you lost?"

Red Petals (Open Novella Contest Entry)Read this story for FREE!