This is now the 24th chapter of “Of Wind and Wings”. See the table of contents here.
“Hey… Grubb… let’s take… a bit… of a breather. …OK?”
Without waiting for The Grubb to respond, Ed stopped and leaned against a large rock. He tried to remember the last time he was as out of breath.
Nothing came to mind.
“Sure thing, Mr. Ed. We can stop for a minute if you need to. It ain’t far. Just over this rise here and down the other side.” The Grubb sounded as fresh as if he were sitting on a sofa.
Ed looked up where The Grubb was pointing. They were near the top, but was almost a cliff to get there. The odd thing was that there were clear paths around the protrusion they were scaling.
“Hey Grubb, why do we have to go over this rock again? Why can’t we just go around? It looks far easier and will come out in the same place.”
The Grubb let out a large visible sigh, as if dealing with a small child. “I told you before, Mr. Ed. The place we are going to isn’t a place like you think. It’s a place in a different place. It’s beneath. And we have to go this way to get there.”
“Going up to go beneath? I’m still…”
“Think of the other place as a house, though it is as big as this place. You have to enter a house through a door. Or I do. You are one of Them, so you might be able to get there direct. So we enter through the door. And the door is this way.”
“But I’ve seen their village. In the forest? It is in this place isn’t it?”
“No. Think of the village as looking through a window. People can go through windows, too, but a door is better. You ready to move?”
Ed was still winded, but nodded for The Grubb to continue.
The Grubb scrambled up the last little steep section in a flash and stood precariously on the edge. He tottered for a second, then caught his balance.
“Come on, Mr. Ed, you’re almost there.”
“You would think I’m a horse, or something.”
The Grubb seemed confused. “A horse?” He wobbled.
“It was an old TV show. Don’t worry about it, just watch yourself. I’ll be right up.”
“Right, Mr. Ed.”
The Grubb turned and was about to start down the other side when a bird shot up in front of him. He took a step to the side in his surprise.
Only there was nothing for his foot to land on.
For one brief second Ed saw him like a falling tree, leaning farther and farther, and then The Grubb was gone.
“Grubb?” Nothing. “Grubb?!” He shouted. Still nothing. “Grubb!!” he yelled as loud as he could. He stood frozen for a half a second, waiting for the response that wouldn’t come.
Finally we knew he had to act immediately.
“I don’t care what he said, I need to hurry,” Ed said to himself as he descended a short way to a path that led around the outcropping.
Ed scrambled around the little jut of cliff as quickly as he could. It didn’t take long to get to the other side.
He didn’t see The Grubb anyplace. He wasn’t there. He had to be, though, didn’t he?
“I guess I need the high vantage,” he said out loud.
He followed the little trail back to where he started and then forced himself to climb. Despite the detour, he was close to the top, so it didn’t take long. The Grubb had been right, it was far easier than it looked, and adrenaline helped.
There was a five-foot straight drop on the other side, but the hillside was still very steep for quite a way.
Down maybe 30 feet lower, at least 50 feet away, Ed could see The Grubb. He couldn’t get a great look at that angle, but The Grubb’s body seemed to be in an unnatural position.
He didn’t expect an answer.
Ed clambered down, taking the quickest, easiest, if not the most direct path down. He dared a few glances in The Grubb’s direction but was never able to get a good look.
The few glances he did get, however, were not encouraging. He shuddered. The Grubb couldn’t be positioned the way it seemed. It was impossible for a living person to… Ed turned his mind back to how to get down the steep slope.
He finally hit a trail just below The Grubb’s level and turned towards the man-child.
“Stop a moment, Edward, your skills are better used elsewhere.” The voice had a strange accent, but it was one Ed had heard before.
The man was as strange as the accent, unlike anybody Ed had ever seen. And yet he was very familiar.
“You need to go back out and get Dr. Smyth. Tell him to bring four young men and a stretcher. Go! Quick!”
“Is The Grubb dead? No, I don’t think so. But it will be a hard recovery. Go.”
Ed started to walk around the bluff.
“No. You must leave the way you came in.”
Ed looked up the steep embankment with the small cliff at the top and then at the man. The weird guy nodded.
“Do we need to go this way when I get Dr. Smyth?” he asked. It would be impossible to carry a stretcher with a body up that cliff.
“No. Ed will be right where you see him, but he’ll be there in a way that you can get to him without going over the ridge. Come back the easiest way. Now hurry!”
Ed scrambled up the slope. He turned back right before the steepest part. The man was bent over The Grubb. Ed couldn’t tell what he was doing. He turned back to his climb. He found foot holds chiseled into the rock up that last five-foot cliff and crested easier than expected. He turned to get one last look at The Grubb from the place that he had first seen him.
The man and The Grubb were nowhere to be seen. They were gone.
Not understanding where they could be but understanding the emergency very well, Ed didn’t think too much about it, just quickly made his way down to the car.
He slipped a few times in his hurry. “Got to be careful. I’ll be no help to The Grubb if I break my own neck on the way out.” He immediately regretted the phrase, thinking of The Grubb’s odd position. He also wasn’t sure if there was anything he could do to help The Grubb, no matter how much he hurried.
Ed was soon in his car pulling onto the road. As he gasped for air he realized that here was a time that he was breathing harder than he had been on the rest-break going up the bluff. In his adrenaline-fueled panic he had pushed himself far harder than he ever had in his entire life, pushed himself to edge of his endurance.
There was no time to recover, though, he just had to settle down and recover as he drove.
He picked up speed as he headed to the village, going far faster than was safe.
Note – this chapter was not written for one of Sue’s prompts.