A Forest Cat, Chapter four: Confrontations, part 4
Wearily Gaell stumbled on beside Shane, who urged her on with quiet determination. But she could feel his worry increase as they followed a little game track across the forest. The darkness did not hinder them but the lack of sleep and prolonged march was beginning to take its toll on the girl.
What is it we are fleeing from?
It was hard to direct the conscious thoughts at Shane but opening her mouth would be even more tiring, apart from the fact that Shane would not be best pleased if she made any more sound than strictly necessary.
I am not sure.
His answer worried her. Shane seemed always so sure. There was nothing in the forest that could phase him in the time they had spent together. His answer truly worried her.
The forest senses this presence as well and she does not like it.
Wincing as the branch that she stumbled over broke with a dry, loud sound, Gaell wished she hadn’t asked her question. With every new thought that Shane created in her mind, her worry increased. A sense of dread came over her like a cold wet blanket and she began to pay attention to the impression her surroundings made on her own feelings. ‘She does not like it’, Shane had said. How did he know how a forest felt? How did he know if a forest felt at all?
Lost in her own thoughts, she bumped into Shane when he halted abruptly. His arm shot out automatically to stop her from falling. Too tired to complain or wonder, Gaell merely waited dejectedly until Shane would move on.
But Shane was watching the sky anxiously and then looked back along their path.
We cannot escape it. It moves faster than we do.
Her frightened eyes stared at Shane and forgetting herself, she asked shrilly, “What do we do now?”
Shane smiled reassuringly but his shifting eyes as they roamed restlessly through the forest did not ease her mind at all.
“We’ll find a good place to meet whatever is out there.”
Encouraged by the fact that he had actually spoken aloud, she straightened her body and gently pried her arm loose from his hand that still supported her. She managed a thin smile as she looked into his concerned face. “Let’s go then,” she said and was proud of her steady voice.
They continued their progress for another hour until Shane halted again. Casting sideways glances at the girl, he must have noticed that she was running on the last reserves of her strength. Pale and drawn, she had not spoken or sent anything in the last hour but merely trudged on doggedly behind him. The trees were spread thinner in this part of the forest, providing a little further view back.
“We will wait here,” he said and indicated a dense shrubbery to their left. Gaell slumped to the ground in exhaustion, unable to feel anything else beside her overwhelming tiredness. Her eyes saw the preparations Shane was making but her mind no longer registered its importance. Leaning her back against a tree, she closed her eyes and drifted into a fitful sleep.
Shane meanwhile, was stringing his bow and checking his arrows. He had no idea how long it would be before the presence would overtake them but he hoped to have the advantage of darkness. The few hours that remained of the dark might not be enough for it to catch up with them. He considered leaving Gaell and track back for it alone but when his eyes fell on the sleeping face of the girl, he decided against it.
Tentatively, he let his mind drift along the dark forest, alert for any presence he could feel beside the disturbing dark entity that threatened to block his awareness of those he was really looking for. His mind stretched out deeper among the trees but to his extreme disappointment, he could not feel his brothers or sisters.
Hours dissolved slowly in the dark and Shane’s nerves were strained to painful alertness as he sensed it coming nearer. What bothered him most was that he could not be exactly certain how close it was. Other than a general direction, it’s precise location seemed somewhat veiled to Shane and it bothered him.
It was no human, of that he was certain. He could not feel the presence of humans so strongly as this. It was evil, the uneasiness of the forest animals and his own instinctive reaction told him so. It was no forest animal, his feline senses were confident. The only solution his mind offered, he did not want to consider because its possibility alarmed him more than he cared to think about. If only the entity would hurry and bring an end to this uncertainty.