Scene 14: Absence
Updated: Oct 11, 2020
The group, sans Camille and Bobbin, was gathered near to another tree; on their faces, emotions ran from concern, to panic, to ambivalence; Gerry was kneeling on the ground, hand running over the dirt and sweeping away fallen leaves. Polly kept a little bit of distance away from the others, leaning nonchalantly against a tree.
"Third Irregulars, we have got to move!" Knickers shouted, eyes bulging. "Trooper Lonz, I need tracks now!"
"Just ch-chase them," Gerry urged.
"Are you out of your mind?" Knickers squeaked. "In all these trees? I'd crash in an instant unless I went slow. Hurry."
"I c-c-can't," the scruffy hermit admitted, his voice falling in defeat, head turned to the side.
"You can't? Fast as they were going, you're telling me they leave no footprints?" The sergeant was incredulous.
Irritation flashed across Gerry's stubbled face, his hair whipping around as he turned back to answer Knick. "I c-c-can't! I donn't know why, but I can't! They donn't leave tracks, witches donn't leave tracks, looks like Bobbin donn't leave tracks either! You ever nnnotice Sergeant Seule don't even walk on the g-g-ground, but a hair above it?! I c-c-can't!"
Knickers blinked. Just blinked. There was nothing for him to say. He could feel his world falling apart; Bobbin gone. Paddy gone. His heart ached as old memories resurfaced. The screams, the blood; he'd had something left after all that. The boy's head slowly drooped, green eyes transfixed on nothing in particular.
Mara stepped in. "What exactly happened, Gerry? I'm not as quick as these two." She looked between Polly and Knickers.
"Well, while we were waiting for you all to c-come back..."
Gerry had looked down from his perch to see the tall lady sergeant walking back towards where they were. Things seemed pretty normal.
"Keep watchin' the plantation, make sure nothin' sneaks up on 'em," she'd ordered him, then she'd turned to talk to Bobbin or something. Gerry hadn't been paying attention exactly to that.
"Yes ma'am," he'd said, and that was that. And then about thirty seconds before the shots that got everyone running, he heard a loud roar below the tree. When he looked down, he saw a big — bigger than a human — sable-furred beast making off with Bobbin. More like a cat or a wolf than a troll. Camille shouted for him to shoot the beast, and Gerry had tracked it as long as he could, but it was swift and dodgy. After the third shot, he saw a second black beast chasing the first.
"So these black beasts...?" Mara said, making a slow loop with her pointer finger.
"They always say witches can shapeshift. Guess that legend's true. And what they say about stealing kids! Hah!" Polly's voice came from... somewhere, and Mara felt her skin prick and crawl.
Polly continued, "Look at the little nancy boy, all sad his boyfriend and pet are gone. So sad, ain't it? Maybe they're hunting you because you didn't kill it last night — guess that'd make it your fault, wouldn't it? Whoops."
"Bobbin... Paddywhack..." The world started to spin around the boy.
Polly didn't stop. "Hey, maybe you can just sleep around until you get a new one!"
If Knickers heard her, he wasn't reacting at any level that could be seen. He just slowly crumpled in place. Overcome with sympathy, Gerry suddenly knelt down to catch him.
"Hey, Sergeant. You innn th-there?" His voice went soft as he cradled the younger man.
Mara felt her hands ball into fists. "Dorothy Farthingale, what in every hell-blasted pit is bloody wrong with you?" She shouted at nowhere in particular, not able to find the other woman.
"Just tired of playing silly soldier games. Don't tell me you've got a soft spot for that creepy little weirdo."
"For goodness sake, have some common decency!" Mara's voice echoed through the woods.
Disgust crept into Polly's voice. "That's why I'm not bothering to shoot him. Later."
"Dorothy! Get back here! Polly!" Mara bellowed. But no one answered her.
And this time, no one really was listening.