Near the top of Winding Terrace sat Sally, a notebook on her lap containing assorted descriptions of that which lay at the bottom of the terrace, namely, Westish Beach.
The scattered skeleton of a shipwreck speared the sand. .... Like lazy smoke, steam drifted from the hot springs that traced tangled lines through the beach. .... Sandfish flung themselves from their burrows to catch the small sea birds hunting insects amidst the red grains.
A shout, low and almost manly, called her attention to a man running across the sand with a tiger-like creature in galumphing pursuit. The beach, following their departure, was still.
Sally took a book from her satchel. She located the hair tie marking her place, read a page, and looked up.
‘That was quick,’ she said, recognising the man before her as the one from the beach.
‘Lots of practice,’ he said, leaning over with his hands on his knees.
Sally was unsure if he meant at running, or running away.
‘You’re covered in mud.’
He was, from up-stuck hair to small nose, to jacket, to boots. He wiped his face but the smears of red, brown and grey were long dry.
‘Yes,’ he said, and then pointed to her notebook. ‘Are you a journalist?’
Sally closed it and put her things into her bag. ‘No.’
‘I see. Doesn’t matter either way. Come with me.’
‘Come where?’ She wondered where she’d put the pepper, just in case.
‘First, to give me a hand in an important and somewhat time-sensitive....thing. Because although I have two fine ones of my own-’ he looked at his hands and tried to rid them of some mud by brushing them on his trousers. He glanced to his left and seemed to forget the rest of his previous sentence. ‘Second, to get away from that there beastie.’
They ran, the out-of-breath, tiger-ish something huffing and puffing behind them.
‘What-’ said Sally between gasps, ‘-is-’ gasp ‘-it?’
‘A sansanosmilus,’ said the man. ‘Obviously.’
They ran, twisting down side lanes and lane sides, over hedge and through garden, passing houses short and fat and thin, down into the back alleys of the town, down between tall buildings arching high and low over-
Sally crashed into him. The man was unfazed.
‘In here,’ he said, assisting a door open with his shoulder. The hinges wobbled and the old wood coughed dust. The windows were so thick with....something....that not a drift of afternoonlight crept inside. Dull green glowed from somewhere. A hand - the man’s, Sally felt the mud crumble on her skin - took her wrist and led her over creaking floorboards.
‘Um,’ said Sally, uncertainty, or dust, tightening her throat.
With her free hand she rummaged in her satchel and found the pepper. A roar rumbled the street. The building shook and sprinkled them with mouse droppings.
‘It sounds angry,’ she commented.
‘That’s its stomach. Watch your-’
Sally stumbled and tripped and reached out into the dark to try to minimise her fall, and prematurely peppered the man.
[Follow the story at sallycarter.blogspot.com]
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