Chapter 22: That Distant Memory
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Previously: Madnes was finally able to confront his once-childhood best friend, Oz, about his wrong doings and how he almost killed two of his close friends, but the reunion was short-lived as Oz refused to hear anything he had to say and instead accused him of betrayal. A fight broke out between them, resulting in Madnes being flung through the air by Oz’s crowv strength and disappearing into the tree-lined horizon… And now, a distant memory…
“Think you’re fancy because you’ve got nice clothes, do you?”
“You rich types don’t belong in Okinala.”
Three boys surrounded a child—a blonde, blue-eyed boy clinging a book to his chest as if it could save him from their cruelty.
“What’s that book you’ve got there?” One reached to steal it away. The child turned, blocking with his back, but another boy yanked the book free from his arms.
“No! Give it back!”
“Likes to read, does he?” The second bully dangled the book just out of reach. “I bet he does it to make himself feel smarter than everybody else. Hehehe, we should beat that pride out of you.”
“I don’t! Please,” tears rolled down the child’s cheeks, “it’s just a book. Give it back?” A fist to the stomach brought him to his knees, gasping for air. Resisting the urge to clench arms around the pain searing his belly, he clenched his head protectively instead, knowing more blows would come. Waiting for more pain.
At a shout the three older boys turned, and young Oz dared to peek out from beneath his shielding arms. A redhead, not much taller than himself, approached, violet eyes blazing.
“Give that book back, and go do something useful with your lives. I’m not gonna let bullies do as they please!”
“Huh?” The bully with the book frowned, flashing a snarky face at the redhead. “Why the heck would we listen to you—”
A fist suddenly appeared and knocked the older kid down; the redhead moved faster than any of them could follow. Pwam! Thunk!
The fallen book was snatched up and the young redhead grabbed the blonde by a wrist, pulling him into a run alongside him, and together they fled the scene before the bullies could recover their wits.
The redhead laughed, running and glancing back at the finely-dressed boy in tow. “You’re new around here. You can stick with me, if you like!”
The blonde gazed at him, legs struggling to keep up, blue eyes alight with newfound life. “Y-yes…I’m Oz,” he breathed. “Who are you?”
The redhead grinned back at him. “Madnes!”
Pain. His arms. He forced his eyelids open to see the cause of it, then regretted the effort as soon as a headache split his head in two. Mind groggy and cotton-stuffed, he let his lids fall back closed. He felt like he’d just been on a crazy ride, one that flung his body mercilessly through the air.
‘Where am I? What happened…?’
The picture of a blonde face, a blue-eyed child smiling back at him.
“Oz!” His hand reached out with a shout, grasping for that image, that distant memory…
A snapping noise fully woke his senses. Taking a breath in, he carefully shifted his torso and glanced about, only to find his body sprawled out across tangled tree branches, stories up off the ground. “How…?”
Images, flashbacks, recalled a fight with Oz. And hanging blue vines, and miniature purple monkeys watching him through the surrounding canopy, reminded him this was Wonderland.
‘I can’t move. Every part of me aches…’
Stupid human. You forced me to heal you, or you’d be an invalid with a broken spine by now.
A familiar voice spoke inside his head. The fairy of the Madness Solver power.
That healing cost you a bit of life, just so you know, an elfin face spoke haughtily, Tick-tock! arm motioning the ticking movement of a clock’s hand.
His wrist. He didn’t dare look at the clock inked in his skin. Whether it was months or a year of life he lost, he didn’t want to know.
‘You’ve been silent all this time, fairy. Why?’ he demanded, barely keeping anger in check.
Hm, she shrugged pale shoulders, You didn’t need me. You just thought you did. And besides, it was entertaining to watch. A giggle echoed through his head, making him growl and mutter under his breath.
“More like an evil imp than a fairy…” he snorted.
Voices, voices calling out. He could hear his friends looking for him, and with it relief briefly swept over. It wasn’t long before Pelur’s dragon claw lifted him out of the canopy tangles—attempting to do so gently, but quite a few twigs and vines slapped him in the face. He was set on the blessed ground, and felt Alice’s comforting arms around his neck.
“Dude, you need to be smarter when facing Oz. He’s pretty tough!” Harrey slapped his shoulder, beaming a grin, “You soared like a rocket! Must’ve been one heck of a ride, eh?”
Paws shoved Harrey aside. “You should have told me about this, Madnes!” He winced as Cheshire’s furious cat face filled his vision. “How am I supposed to help you and keep you safe when you’re keeping secrets from me?”
He looked away, and took his top hat as Alice held it out for him—somehow the thing was still around. “I didn’t think it necessary, at the time,” he murmured. “I’m sorry, okay?”
Cheshire huffed, but then relented. “It’s getting late,” he said. “We can’t stay here in the open woods.” They looked around at the pressing trees and curling blue vines, purple monkey eyes peeking out from every crevice. The day’s light dimming made Madnes wonder what night time was like in Wonderland.
“Where did Oz go? I’m not done knocking sense into his brain yet.”
Harrey guffawed. “Who knows? Princely duties and new schemes, probably!”
A paw motioned at them, “Come on, I’ll take you to my place for some refreshments.” The cat patted the leather book hooked under his arm. “And tell you an interesting old tale…”
At the edge of the woods, and nearby a Wonderland village, rested Cheshire’s cottage. A quaint, little house with a vegetable and flower garden ringing a fence. It was a surprise to Madnes, he was expecting something more…crazy.
“It’s like a fantasy cottage,” swooned Alice.
“Yeah. A real shocker.”
Cheshire unlocked an arched wooden door, and eyed him. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”
Madnes shrugged smugly, “It’s not a mushroom or something else ridiculous, what a miracle.”
Cheshire rolled cat eyes and let them indoors.
Soon a pot of tea was set on a tablecloth, and cups shaped like tulips served out. They took seats around the round table, and Ugly Duckling busied himself with a biscuit.
“Now then,” the cat sighed after taking one easing sip, “now that we’re all settled, let me share with you a tale I found in this Mythological book…”
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© copyright 2015 E. Rawls and Rawls E. Fantasy, All Rights Reserved
This is my entry for this week’s #BlogBattle challenge by the wonderful author Rachael Ritchey, where the challenge is to write a short story based on that week’s chosen word. This week’s word was: “Ride.” Check out the link, read other great stories there, and VOTE for your 3 favorite to win!
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