Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Hide


(This is the third installment in the tale of Adalee and Rupold. It's more fun if you read The New Leaf and A Pie for Rupold first. The Sunday Scribblings prompt was 'The message').

Adalee could smell the wall before she could see it. It was a stomach churning mix, rotting flesh, curing hides, and strange chemicals, and it made her want to bury her face in the dirt underneath the sweetberry bushes and stay.
But she had come all this way. She had stumbled through labyrinths of corn and tangly sugar snap, waded neck deep across the icy Dirtywash, and dashed past the cabbage patches, painfully aware of how crisp her outline must look against the pale leaves in the moonlight. Before entering the Jewel Garden, she had dug a new hole, in case the old one was watched. And for the the final stretch, she had crawled underneath the sweetberry brambles, carefully avoiding the poison thorns, all the way up the hill until she hit the cold foundation of the Farmer’s barn.
It was a dangerous journey, dangerous to the point of folly, especially with these new snitcher vines weaving through each bush and tree. Somehow, though, she had managed to cross the Farmland without touching one of them, and without being seen. Only once had she heard the thunderous footsteps of the Hound, and they were far off towards the vineyards. And now that she was less than a pit spit away from her goal, she cowered in the brambles like a scared kitten. She could just hear Rupold teasing her.
- Come on, lady fair! Unless you think the loot will come rolling into your basket all by itself.
Right. Come on. Adalee snuck a peek underneath the black napkin she carried draped over her left front paw. Then she crept out into the open, concentrating hard to keep her claws retracted, and turned the corner.

This was the first time she had been this far up, and she couldn’t help staring. In the valley, everything looked so tranquil. Square fields of silvery greys and browns, stiched by dark hedges and tall fences into a vast patchwork. Wisps of white mist waiting to disperse into morning dew. Jewel fruits twinkling back at the moon. And further on, behind the giant border fence, the forest of the Freeground was a safe, sleeping darkness. For a moment, she wished she were one of the keets, so she could hurl herself into the sweet breeze sighing up the hill and fly home. Instead she willed herself to turn the other way, towards the grimy, weathered planks of the barn and its horrible stench.

There was a fresh hide nailed to the wall.

He must have put up quite a fight, for there were scratches and tears everywhere. Something sticky and black flattened the hairs in patches, and the edges were stiff and shrunken. The tail and feet were cut off, and where the eyes should have been, there were two holes that slanted sadly.
- Hi, Rupold, she whispered, - This is for you.
She shook off the napkin, set the gleaming diamond apple pie gingerly on the ground beneth the hide, and stepped back. She had imagined it would be a noble moment. Instead she felt sick. The pie looked garish against the filthy barn wall. The hide was not only gruesome, it was so empty, as if all that was Rupold really had been scraped off. And there was this feeling that kept brushing against the tips of her whiskers. Not just fear, she had been scared silly since before she crossed the border. It was itchier and more urgent than that.
- Sorry, she whimpered, and with her tail tucked between her legs, she turned to flee.

She couldn’t.

The snitcher vine had crept up on her during her clumsy little ceremony. It must have moved so very quietly across the ground to have fooled her, and the loops over her paws didn’t tighten until she tried to move. Now they were like vices. Helplessly, she tipped over. New tendrils slithered through the fur on her back and tail and pinned her down. She thrashed around. All around her, the ground lit up like a Christmas tree, hundreds of tiny, blinking lights, following each other in angular patterns.

A howl sounded at the bottom of the hill. It rose and rose and rose, until it was loud enough to hurt her ears. Then there were tremors in the ground, that grew faster and clearer with each heart beat that shook her rib cage.
This was it then. It was the wall for her, too. Maybe that was what she really wanted when she embarked on this ludicrous pilgrimage. Maybe she had thought she deserved it. But now that the Hound was coming for her, she couldn’t for the life of her remember why.

Adalee bent her head and stared at the sinewy vine wound around her arms. It really was like no plant she had ever seen, flexing with purpose, like a nasty, reedy snake. The leaves continued flashing their tiny alarms, puncturing the night with needles of light. Which was probably the only reason she saw the piece of paper attatched to the vine like a gift tag. It was fastened by what looked like braided hair, and lay face down right in front of her snout.
She tried thrashing around again, but it was impossible to move. Instead, she blew at the tag. It flipped over.
She almost laughed, but it came out a stupid, little mewl. Scrawled across the paper with brownish, crusty ink were two words:
Help me’.


Myrna Foster said...

I am loving these Sunday Scribblings. Thank you for sharing them.

I have an award for you over at my blog, if you want it. The sugar made me think of your diamond apple pie.

Eiv said...

multiple thumbs up!

Li:ne said...

Oh god...
Now what!?

Catherine Denton said...

Nooooo! Rupold. I was hoping he would come back somehow. Sniff. Can't wait to hear what happens next.
Winged Writer

Anonymous said...

Wow x 3!