I awoke at around 7:00 Wednesday morning and here it is, 4:21 Thursday morning and I am still awake. I have been up, down, and up again for several hours, but in place of my normal, boring and very repetitive night-time ritual (you don't want to know - think Star Wars/Star Trek, but where nothing ever happens) euthanizing me, I couldn't get this entry out of my head. I kept giggling.
And so, now, I obey my muse. Likely to no good effect, but if you want to find out, you'll need to use the cut, but listen. Everything I know about The Correct Way to Be a Writer says that the first rule is: Do Not Show People Works-In-Progress. In other words, if you enjoy it, by all means tell me so - but leave it at that.
If you don't like it, then just shut the fuck up and pass on by. You should be grateful for the opportunity (or maybe you should) to see what we laughingly call the "creative process" in action. Okay,
Still not panicking, the girl waited until she could no longer hear the barbaric laughter from up the narrow road, then turned in hopes something would give her a clue as to where she was or how she had come to be here - let alone, what had happened to her clothes.
But there were no clues.
"All right, Ash, think! What's the last thing you remember?" she whispered to herself intently. And, thinking, she realized with no small degree of pleasure that she had at least remembered her name! "That's something, I guess," she muttered. "My name is Ashera Hawkins. I've just turned 15 years old. I live in the city of Toronto. And ... and I don't know where I am or how I got here!" she ended in a voice that was threatening to break.
She took a deep breath, let it go, then took another and held it until she had to let it go. She sniffled once or twice and leaned against a tree until she felt she had herself once again under control.
"Shit!" It really was pitch-black; she almost wished the drunken louts would come back, if only for the light of that little lantern. She was a city girl; it was never totally dark!
She looked up, but could see no stars in the sky, let alone a moon, and it was so dark she couldn't even tell if the stars were being blotted out by the leaves of the tree under which she was sheltering, or if it was over-cast.
"Well." She really had only two choices. Stand here, naked in the night, and wait for morning. Or try to find that little road again - she was pretty sure she still knew in which direction it lay - and walk, naked, along a gravel road towards an unknown destination, chasing after two drunken louts who looked awfully strong and even stranger.
Put that way, standing under the tree until morning seemed the obvious choice.
The yawn took her by surprise. It was one of those big ones, that seem like they'll never end, where you fear your jaw will lock in place. When it finally ended, she was nearly winded, and she realized she had seldom been so tired.
She wondered what time it was and how long she'd have to wait until daylight. These thoughts, these recognitions of her ignorance and helplessness made her want to cry again. But, again, she refused to give in to that weakness.
All of sudden, she realized with some surprise that, thought it was quite warm out, there were no bugs buzzing her, no mosquitoes landing on her and drilling for her blood like so many miniature flying Texans. She wondered if the same might hold true for the ground.
"What the hell," she muttered, "I'm exhausted," and so slowly let herself sink to the ground 'till she sat with her back against the tree - whose bark, she realized, was smoother than that of any tree she had ever touched before.
And so she sat in the dark, ready to leap to her feet at the first sign of creepy-crawlies. But nothing bothered her.
Nothing rustled in the trees above and around her; no further noises came from the road; and nothing crawled or slithered or landed on her bare arms or legs, nothing buzzed her ears or tried to crawl into her mouth.
The more she thought about it, the stranger it seemed, but she wasn't going to complain about; that was the first good bit of weirdness she could remember on this, very weird night indeed.
But still, she had no intention of allowing herself to fall asleep. She stared into the dark, wracking her mind to remember how she had got here - wherever here was.
When she awoke - suddenly and almost in a panic - she leapt to her feet and looked, first, down at herself (yes, she was naked, it hadn't been a dream!) and then all around her.
It was obviously still very early morning, twilight. The tree against which she had fallen asleep glimmered strangely, it's smooth bark hinting at both white and pale green. Others like it grew about her, quite far apart, almost like trees in a park. None had limbs less than 20 feet or so above the ground, and those sported leaves like none she had ever seen - some were green, others orange, and red, and purple, and more colours besides.
"Too weird," she said to herself, "too fucking weird." She looked down and saw that what she had taken for grass was ... not grass. Kind of like grass, but ... well, not. She bent down to examine the forest floor more closely. The blades were much thicker than grass. They reminded her almost of aloe vera, though not prickly and not that thick.
She was a about to break one off when she heard a dog barking, not far off. A big dog, from the sound of it. Further off, a gravelly voice called after it, "Freckles! Heel, Freckles!"
She could hear the dog running. It sounded like it was heading right towards her. She looked around, wondering what to do. The road wasn't far off at all, but it still didn't seem like a good idea in her present state of undress.
"Shit!" she hissed through gritted teeth, and back up tight against the nearest tree. She stood still and held her breath, hoping no one and nothing would find her. In the night, she had thought she might be able to steal some clothes (or even a sheet or a towel) from someone's clothes-line, but that wasn't going to happen if someone found her first.
And the dog seemed like it knew right where she was. The barking got louder and louder and there was soon no way she could hope it was off after anything else.
The only reason she didn't scream when she saw the animal was that she was too shocked.
It barked, but it was no dog. It was as tall as a Saint Bernard, but - she guessed - at least half-again as broad. It's legs were thick and powerful and its face looked more like that of a miniature hippopatamus than it did like a dog. Instead of fur, it was covered with what looked greenish-blue scales and that hippo's mouth was filled with viscous-looking canines, along with a long red tongue.
The animal stopped right before her, its slavering mouth inches from her belly, and barked and barked and barked (yes, just like an enormous dog).
Ash trembled but could think of nothing else to do. It had come fast, despite its bulk; she couldn't out-run it. And it looked like it weighed at least three times what she did; she couldn't hope to fight it.
She could only hope that this animal's bark really was worse than its bite.
Meanwhile, the voice was getting nearer and sounding ever-more impatient. "Freckles! Dag-nab it, if I've tol' you once, I've tol' you a thousand times not to go runnin' off like thet! It ain'st safe!"
At the word, safe, Ash began to wonder if the animal that had her treed was Freckles after all; she had a hard time imagining any animal that would put this beast at risk. But she could imagine it eating any dog at all that it wanted to.