January 7, 2016 | Posted in The Mermaid & The WolF Adventures

The very cave seems to be alive. Static rushes through the air; rushes through the blood of its inhabitants; rushes through the very poppy plants that are now swarming the cave. Bursts of red shoot from the walls and the floors, as if trying to make up for the plants that have fallen victim to MeaZea’s grabbing hands.

The father of the centaurs is a strong thing. His palomino coat is dark with dust and grime. His blond hair has grown long and unruly. Slowly, he unfolds his legs and stands up, shaking away the last few straggling, desperate poppy flowers.

One by one, the rest of his family follows.

One by one, they stand up to face their tormentor.

But all of the blame can’t be placed on the feathered shoulders of the turkey, for he’s just a soul that has been led astray. The bird looks almost frightened, staring into the faces of the centaurs. The illusion cast by the flowers is starting to fade away, revealing the sad state of Heinder’s plumage. “No,” he says, with a gobble and a bawk. “No! You have to go back to sleep, family. You have to go back to sleep! It’s not safe outside, and you can’t leave, and you’re going to try and leave!”

A red flower blossoms out of one of Heinder’s wings. WooFZee lunges forward, ripping it away with a single swipe of his paws. “Stop it,” he snarls. “Stop talking like that! You’ve been lied to, Heinder! These flowers have tricked you!”

“No!” Heinder shakes his head and scrambles away from the wolf. “The flowers are protecting me!”

“They’re hurting you,” says MeaZea, clutching one hand to her chest. The other hand curls into the soft flank of the youngest centaur, whose golden fur is dappled through with white, whose eyes are still wide with innocence and love. “Think about your family, Heinder. They’re still waiting for you.”

“Please let us go home,” says the youngest centaur. She takes a step towards the turkey. The mare is all knobby knees and large hands. “You can come with us, if you want. We’ll show you that it’s safe.”

Abruptly, the poppy flowers vanish. It’s as though the wavering belief of Heinder has severed their ties to the cave. The bird slumps to the ground, exhausted. “I don’t believe you,” he says, but he doesn’t argue when the father of the centaurs hefts him up.

The mother says, “let’s go home.”

They leave the cave system the same way that they entered it; through a hole in the ceiling. And yet, the field that they come out into is different. The poppy flowers have vanished, leaving behind barren earth and a dark forest. Heinder is amazed! He moves from tree to tree, pecking at the ground, ripping at the dirt with his claws.

“I can’t believe it,” he says, over and over again. “I can’t believe that the world is still here.”

MeaZea and WooFZee stand a few feet away from the rescued creatures. The mermaid lounges over top of her partners back, arms wrapped around his neck, fingers entwined in the fur on his chest. She says, “I think that they’re all going to be okay.”

“Even the gnome?”

“Don’t be so mean to the nisse,” scolds MeaZea, but she’s laughing when she says it. The mermaid tugs on one of WooFZee’s ears. “But yes, even him. He’s going to have his family back, after all.”

She says it so wistfully that WooFZee can’t help but ask, “are you okay?”

MeaZea smiles and says, “let’s keep moving. Ever onwards, right?”

WooFZee chuckles. “Ever onwards.”

 

Katelynn E Koontz – Author