Part Fifteen

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They had flown past the prairie. They had skirted the home of the big folk. They had dared the impossible, the forbidden, and the foolish.

A bulb buzzed. The porch, pitch black and enclosed by fine netting, suggested itself as a foreboding entrance to the underworld.

They paused, hovering low by a rip over the stairs. They watched for the monster inside.

Something far worse stamped about in the house, each step an earth-shattering galumph. The big folk shambled like dunderhead gods, their powers beyond their own ken.

With a desperate scan in the flickering light, he discovered two bundles on the far side of the porch. One of them looked to be breathing.

"C'mon!" she called, zipping through the breach.

He hesitated. He clenched his fists. He clamped his jaw.

He flew.

She pierced the webbing using the rod. He struck the webbing using the bar. They pried the wrapping apart, but not off. Her sister opened her mouth and lolled her head. She gasped for air.

They poked and sawed, but the web remained resilient.

"We'll have to pull her out," she said.

The porch door, only a few feet away, rattled like thunder.

"Hurry!" he shouted.

She tied the thread around her sister's chest. The two of them strained, pulling-- and pulling. The web stretched like a thing alive-- possessive, stubborn.

The door clamored.

"Pull!"

Like a leaf of a corn husk, they peeled her sister free. Silk clung to her shoulders, loose like a cloak. She collapsed into their arms, her limbs a tangle. They shared her weight together, and flew back toward the rip.

The porch light wavered. It went out.

They glided through the void. It was too dark to see the web.

His left leg caught behind him. He let go. She tumbled headlong through the tear with her sister. He instinctively grabbed for his leg, sticking his left arm to the web. He reached back with his right to use his weapon-- and the gossamer trap ensnared him.

A long, segmented leg descended toward his head.

He watched the leg twitch on the periphery of his vision. Beyond it, glistening like tasty gumdrops, a beady batch of arachnid eyes shone crimson in the night.

A humming trill lifted her up. She struggled to fly with her sister in her arms.

"Go!" he insisted.

"No. Not without you!"

The door stopped moving-- and that was somehow more ominous.

She carefully navigated the tear and pulled hard on his right hand. It was no use. He was caught. And that was the end of it.

"Goodbye," he whispered.

Legs overhead crept lower.

Her pulse raced. She set her sister on the top step. Her wings brought her back to him. She raised her lips to meet his. He shook his head no, afraid she would fatally graze the deathtrap.

She denied his caution.

And they kissed.

For the long-lived big folk, there would be nothing to measure, no event to witness, but for the span of two fairy heartbeats, life passed between them, and they were eternal.

Eight spindly legs lowered.

She backed away, ready to take hurried flight.

"Goodbye," she said.

Darkness took her.

Then, a delicate crinkling broke the night air.

Her two lumbar nubs opened, four petals each. They unfolded like wrinkling glass. Her new, beautiful-- diaphanous-- rainbow wings spread out from her hips.

She flew out of the darkness, grasping the slender rod at its hooped end, like a javelin.

The lanky beast lifted its attention. Its eyes flickered and caught the moonlight.

She gazed long at the monster. And it gazed back.

She whispered. "The eyes--! The eyes--!" She watched the monster watch her. She heard a voice.

"I've many curious things to show you."

She hesitated.

"Obey. Obey. Obey!"

Her sister groaned from the top step.

"Go!" he shouted again.

"I--" she struggled. "Am--" she wrestled. "Real!" she declared.

She threw the weapon. The rod flew into the cluster of eyes. The monster wailed in agony.

She lifted her sister up, set her over the rip, tied the loose end of the string to his thigh-- and dropped her sister out over the porch. She grabbed his upper hand and pulled, her new wings thrashing the air with pent up power.

The web snapped in two.

She caught him-- and spun out of control, tumbling after her sister. The monster lunged, but the web contracted, launching it backwards inside the porch. The door flew open-- and the monster landed on the nose of a nine-year-old boy.

The child screamed.

She and he turned in mid air and caught her sister before she could hit the ground. The pair carried her off, careening through the yard. They righted themselves, speeding low over the prairie, swift to leave the nightmare behind.

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