By Willow Taylor
"A black eyed dog
he called at my door
I'm growing old
and I wanna go home
A black eyed dog
he called at my door
The view was monotonous, row of hedges lining fields as far as the eye could see, with a single dusty track running in between two fields. At first glance this farmland seemed flat, but it must have some hills, because over a rise comes a small, dusty black clad figure on a large, equally dusty gray horse.
"This looks like as good a place to rest as any." Victor Shelly pulled his horse to a halt, and slid off. "Damyew," he said, "it's hard to keep riding you all sometimes."
"Now there's no need for profanity."
Since his horse, though large and extremely intelligent, had never talked to him before, Victor stared in befuddlement. Then a young woman in a dark brown dress and white apron came around from the other side.
"Oh." He chuckled to himself, and the young woman - well, more of a girl stared at him. She had to be young - mostly because she was looking up. "Sorry," Victor said brushing his bangs out of his eyes. "I thought..." he chuckled again. Damyew looked at Victor with doubt in his brown eyes. "Anyhow, it wasn't a profanity, that's his name."
"You named your horse that?"
"I didn't name him," shrugged Victor removing a clove from his pocket. He gave the girl a second look. She was tiny, undeveloped beyond a child's shape, and her thin red curls were covered in a white cap. "Anyhow, what's your name?"
"I'm not supposed to talk to strangers."
"True, it's probably not a good idea," Victor said, lighting the clove. She giggled. "Look, not to get you in trouble or anything, but could you tell me how far it is to the next town?"
She shook her head. "There isn't a next town."
Victor removed his clove from between his lips and raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
The girl shook her head.
"Well where do you live?"
She pointed through a tiny gap in the hedgerows.
"YO! Victor!" called a voice, and a man shoved his way out of the hedgerows on the other side of the road. Shaper has twigs sticking out of his hair, which retained it silky, yet spiky texture. He would have leapt directly onto the road, but his mask got tangled in the hedges and tripped him, sending him sprawling onto the dust. Victor bit back an out and out laugh. That had been the most entertaining thing he'd seen in months. As Shaper extracted himself with some mighty naughty language, Victor gave up and buried his face in Damyew's shoulder. The horse whinnied as if in amusement.
"What's so funny?" demanded Shaper, when he'd finally gotten himself free.
"If you have to ask, it'd take too long to explain." Shaking his hair from his eyes again, Victor looked around. "What the... where'd the little girl go?"
"What little girl?" asked Shaper, pulling a twig out of his hair.
"The one I was talking to when you made your entrance!" Shaper looked at Victor with an all too serious expression.
"Victor, are you sure those are cloves you're smoking?"
Victor clouted his friend over the back of the head.
As it turned out, they didn't find a town before nightfall. Or any firewood either.
"Man, this SUCKS!" Shaper pouted huddling in his blanket and looking up at the mostly full moon.
"God you're a whiner," Victor snorted, chewing on a bit of beef jerky. The stars got dim as clouds started swirling in from the horizon. As the light dimmed a bright star of light on the horizon caught Shaper's eye.
"Hey, I think I see a house over there!" he said, standing up and shedding his blanket.
"Do you?" asked Victor singularly unimpressed.
"Maybe if we ask nice, they'll let us sleep in their barn, which would at very least be less windy." As if to prove the rizen's point a huge gust blew around them, snatching up the discarded blanket, and trying to take it away with it.
"I suppose you're right," Victor admitted, extinguishing his clove. "But it looks pretty far away."
"It also looks like it's gonna rain."
"Yeah..." Victor turned his face into the wind, and closed his eyes. The hard stiff wind felt good, and it got his bangs off his face. Despite Shaper's theatric posturing, Victor had been unpleasantly warm for hours. As well as being slightly nauseous. He unbuttoned the first few buttons on his shirt. When he looked up, Shaper was looking at him expectantly.
"Come on, let's get going! Toss the saddle on that monster you call a horse, and off we go."
"No," Victor said simply, picking up the aforementioned tack, and tossing it at Shaper. "Carry it."
Shaper opened his mouth to tell his traveling companion to bugger off, but got a good look at the cold dark gray eyes beneath the unruly bangs. The rizen shrugged the tack onto his shoulder, as Victor unpicketed Damyew, and started to lead him in the direction of the light. Something was different about Victor. One handed, Shaper picked up his mask and put it on. The night brightened immediately, and all of his other senses sharpened. These he focused on Victor.
Since he'd escaped the lab he woke in, Shaper had been in Victor's company near constantly. The slim, short man was extremely introverted, and to someone who didn't know him, one might think he wasn't any deeper than he appeared. But some of the things that he'd done proved he was. And this was a new side to him. And Shaper didn't like it one little bitty bit. Because now with his mask on and supernatural powers in full effect, it was obvious that there actually was something different about Victor. He was fairly sure it went deeper than Victor's eyes resolving into gray as opposed to their normal murky color.
"Hey, Victor, do you want me to lead?" he asked. "I've got my mask on, and so I've got better night vision right now."
"No. It's not that dark."
The chill in Victor's voice made Shaper start. Something was definitely up.
It was getting worse. As he moved, his skin felt like spiders were crawling all over it. Victor rubbed his eyes and forehead, and wondered what the matter was. Could he be getting sick? No, that couldn't be it. He never got sick unless there was actually something wrong. Besides, what would he have to base that thought on? He'd never been sick before. But his stomach was churning, and his lungs burned, so the dark haired man wasn't sure what else it could be. And his head hurt. On second thought, his forehead was noticeably warmer than the rest of him. He took a deep breath, and almost choked.
"Take a bath! You positively reek!"
"Are you sure it isn't your damn horse?"
Said quadruped put his ears back and snorted.
Damn Victor wanted a smoke, anything to drown out that smell. As if in response to his wishes, the wind turned, streaking the clouds across the sky, and his own shaggy hair out behind him. The wind made his eyes water, but it cooled him down, and took the smell out of his nostrils.
Behind him, Shaper sniffed experimentally at himself with his heightened senses. He didn't think he smelled that bad, just leather and latex, like normal. He turned his eyes to the dot of light in the distance. Ah. Good, it was noticeably closer.
"I was just..."
The rizen hunched his shoulders. Something had pissed Victor off, and he had to hope it wasn't him.
Victor was concentrating on keeping to the flattest ground possible. As much pain as Damyew was, he'd really miss the beast if it broke its leg. And he kept getting hotter.
At last he stopped, and Shaper walked straight into his horsešs ass. Damyew picked up a foot briefly, decided not to kick the rizen and put it back down.
"What is it?" Shaper asked quietly, afraid to get his head bitten off again.
"I don't feel good," Victor muttered, rubbing his eyes. He turned to face Shaper as moonlight pierced the cloud cover above them, striking his face, and lighting it up.
The shadows of his bangs cast glyphs onto the pale flesh below.
Shaper's mouth went dry, but he managed to quip anyway "Well at least now you feel like you look."
A howl split the night around them, and the skies opened up. Damyew raised his head and neighed, then Victor collapsed as if the rain was too strong to let him stand.
"Well Shit." He scooped Victor up - not hard, soaking wet the wiry man didn't top a hundred and eighty pounds, leather coat not included, and threw him over the horsešs back. Damyew snorted, but didn't complain. Tossing wet hair out of his eyes, he looked to where the light glowed in the distance. It shimmered for a few moments behind the curtain of rain, then went out. "Aw SHIT," swore the rizen again, and set out to where the light had been moments before.
An hour later, a muddy Shaper pushed open the door to a ruined looking barn - the only structure he'd found. The door hung crookedly, and the roof sagged, but inside there was some straw, and it wasn't too wet. Damyew shook his mane out, as Shaper pulled his friend off the horse's back. He'd never seen Victor just go down like that. There was always a reason, and quite frankly, usually enough reason for two people to be dead before Victor would fall over. As he tossed the slim hunter onto a pile of straw, he got a second shock - at the flush that colored Victor's cheeks.
"I think we're in trouble," he informed Damyew, who was investigating the straw. The horse whickered, then went back to what it was doing.
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
Black Eyed Dog © 2001 by Willow Taylor
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