December 22, 2019 | Posted in WooFPAK Heroes

Somehow, Jag has managed to mess up without even doing anything. It’s not just the unease and distrust brewing in his bones, but the fact that all of the other members of the WooFPAK seem to be so genuinely angry with him just – it makes his stomach churn, makes his hackles stand on end.

The smoke doesn’t help, and neither does the heat. Fire, Jag is realizing, is a completely different thing than any other threat that they’ve faced before. Fire is terrifying. Fire is hard to escape from; like a storm that pours down rain only worse, because the smoke is suffocating and he is so, so dreadfully worried about WooFDriver.

“Chase,” starts Jag.

But Chase snarls at him and pushes onward.

And then Jag hears it.

And he can tell that Chase and WooFDriver hear it, too.

It’s a soft, sad sound. A female human, young, and clearly in trouble.

The look that Chase gives Jag is scathing but – the urge to run just gets that much stronger. Jag has to battle it back, following Chase and WooFDriver as they rush to the source of the sound.

It is, in fact, a young woman. No older than a teenager, the girl is clearly stuck, her foot jammed between several rocks. “Oh my God,” she says, voice rough from smoke inhalation. “Someone’s here! Please help me!”

“It’s okay,” says WooFDriver. Slowly, he moves close to the rocks. He pushes at the stones, easily getting them off of her. “Alright. I’ve got you. I’ve got you. Come on, we’re going to get you out of here.”

“See?” Chase sounds smug. He’s panting, hard. The fire is dancing at the ground, here, the heat so immense that it’s stifling. “Told you.”

“I didn’t say she wouldn’t be here,” snaps Jag. “I said it wasn’t safe!”

“It looks safe to me,” says Chase. He turns around, moving to walk beside the limping, crying teenager.

Jag thinks, it doesn’t feel safe.

And then, as if the world is out to prove him completely correct about that, there’s a large, resounding snap. A small, burning tree falls down right in the center of their path, cutting them off. WooFDriver grabs the girl in one arm and the leads in the other, wrenching them all backwards with a startled cry.

I knew it, thinks Jag. I knew that something bad was going to happen!

Fear makes his thoughts erratic. They jump from one point to the next; to the burning tree in front of them, and the blaze that’s spreading on all side; from Chase, to the teenager, to WooFDriver.

It’s a terrifying thing. The smoke makes his throat burn.

“Easy,” says WooFDriver, to both the girl and the dogs. “It’s okay. We’ll just have to go a different way.”

The girl is crying harder.

Chase looks at Jag with wide eyes and folded back ears, tail tucked so tight between his legs that it brushes the ground. “What now?”

“Next time,” snaps Jag. “Listen to me!” And then he turns, lurching to the right, following the path of the burning, fallen tree. “Follow me!”

Chase scrambles to keep up. They stay at the very ends of their leads, keeping it drawn taut, so there’s no way for WooFDriver to get confused about which way he should be walking.

“It was worth it,” says Chase, firmly. “She’s just a kid.”

“Say that when we all get out of here,” says Jag, gruffly. He’s not really mad at Chase, he doesn’t think. He’s just mad in general, frustrated with the entire world spiraling out around them.

Chase whines. “We’re getting out of here.”

And Jag, for all his anger and fear and frustration, can still honestly say, “I know.”

 

Katelynn E Koontz – Author

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