GREATLY DISORIENTED BY GUSTS OF WIND, flying grit, acrid smoke and little light, Peter had difficulty getting his bearings. Glancing to his left, he realized he was on his hands and knees. Blood was dripping on his left hand. His blood.
What’s happened? he wondered in the stillness. There seemed to be a lot of movement around him. Mostly it was grey movement. Shifting back and forth. He could make out feet sometimes, but the motion was very quick. Frenetic. A wing tip would sweep just over his head, blowing his hair all over. Ah! That’s where the grit is coming from. These wings are swirling it up off the floor.
Peering beneath the shifting greys, he could see beige beyond them. Walls? Wings and walls? Where am I and what’s going on here?
Suddenly, a pair of feet appeared next to him. Regular feet with no talons. Feet wearing Keds. Keds? That’s right! Danielle wears Keds.
More blood dripped onto his filthy hand. Enough of it had pooled on the back of his palm that it finally ran off onto the dirty stone floor. What happened?
His shoulders squeezed together. Someone was tickling him. No, that’s not right. Lifting…
Ah, Danielle! Her face came into view, but no words came to complete his greeting. Peter squinted at his daughter. She was talking to him. At least from the motion of her lips, he assumed that she intended to talk to him. She really needs to speak up. We taught her better than this.
“Dad!” Danielle yelled at him. What else could she be saying? Bad? Mad?
Peter was growing annoyed with Danielle and felt a surge of anger rising up within. But the incessant hissing in his ears was even more aggravating. That and the spots dancing before his eyes. Where am I? Why is she taunting me? I’ll have to talk to Ames about this because this is unaccepta—Ames? You’re here, too? Before Amy could answer, he felt consciousness slipping away.
Vaguely aware that another set of hands slid under his arms, Peter’s head tipped back and he was staring at the ceiling. No, that’s not right. This isn’t a ceiling. It’s a…it’s a…ah, what are these called again? Cave roof? Yes, that’s it. Cave roof. Except this roof is very high. But I—we—were in a cave just now and…where’d Danielle go?
A grey wing passed over his head, blocking his view of shimmering stalactites high overhead. This infuriated Peter. He tried thrusting his right hand through the gap in the wings just as a plume of fire burst over the gap. The veins in the grey canopy stood out harshly, as dark lines across now orangecolored wings.
Whoa! I really don’t feel well. His left eye stung ferociously from the blood sliding into it. Dark spots chased around his right eye, blocking most of his remaining vision, until he slipped back into darkness.
Again, he felt someone lifting and dragging him. Looking down, he saw that the hands were as big as pie plates, with muscled forearms. Why do Amy and Danielle keep pestering me like this? The fingers were thick and calloused. Wait. Danielle was just yelling at me. How did her hands get behind me? Slowly, his mind repeated the observation: fingers…thick and calloused. Johann! “What are you—”
But then Danielle was staring at him again. Where did Johann go? He stared at her blankly from one eye. The other, clenched shut, was already swollen. His hair was matted from blood and grit.
“He must have a concussion!” she yelled over his shoulder. Who is she yelling to? I wonder who has a concussion and why does she sound so strange? And will someone please get those idiots with the jackhammers to stop their incessant hamme—his head drooped—ham…hammering! Silence stole over Peter, even as he vainly fought the impulse to sleep.
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