“How come you don’t need to look?”
Ted rolled over onto his side and looked up at Kore. “Because I’m in the middle of the woods with my best friends. Because the sun is shining and it’s not too hot, and there’s a breeze coming off the lake and it’s not too cold. Because the beer is cold and right now, I don’t have a care in the world.” He rolled back over onto his stomach. “And most of all, you and me are down here, and Madison and Lawrence are up in the cabin. So, this is nice.”
Kore walked over to her backpack, pulled out a towel, unfurled it beside Ted. She laid down and shut her eyes, focused on every sensation she was feeling: the warmth of the sun against her skin, the grittiness of the dirt on her legs where the towel didn’t cover her, the soft plush towel against her bare back. I wish I had sunglasses. It’s a little too bright. With sunglasses, I might even be able to fall asleep out here. Oh, my God, I didn’t bring any sunscreen. Well, that won’t be an issue if I don’t stay for too long, right? Oh, screw it. An hour won’t kill me. Hell, a week won’t kill me. “Mm. What about Anna?”
“What about her?”
“We’re down here and Madison and Lawrence are up in the cabin; where’s Anna fit into your ‘nice’ worldview?”
Ted was silent for a moment. “I don’t know,” he finally said. “I guess she’s probably with us, but maybe, like, fifty feet off and doing her own thing, you know? Writing in a notebook, or painting the lake and adding a monster coming out of the depths.”
Kore chuckled softly. Somewhere across the lake, a crow responded with a caw. “Aw. I missed you, Ted. I mean, I missed everyone, but I don’t get along with the others the way I get along with you.”
“I… I missed you too, Kore.”
Kore turned her head to look at Ted. She smiled at him, her brown eyes dark against her skin. He watched her, his head turned just enough from where it was resting against his arms to regard her with a single blue eye. Their breaths were soft amidst the sounds of the lake, and after a moment Kore turned her head back and shut her eyes.
* * *
Kore awoke to the sound of something moving through the brush. Something big. She opened her eyes and blinked against the brightness of the sun. The quality of the light was the same, and when she looked down at her hands and arms, there was no redness. I couldn’t have been asleep very long. She turned her head to look over her shoulder.
Ted was gone.
She sat up and looked all around. There was no sign of him. His things were still next to her, but he’d vanished.
“Ted? Where’d you go?”
The sound of movement again. There was something behind her. Something that had been creeping along slowly and uncertainly before Kore had spoken out loud. It had paused upon hearing her voice, and once she’d stopped speaking, it’d pressed forward with increased energy.
Leaves pushed aside. Branches and twigs snapped underfoot. Ted was gone. It was probably just him. But if it was, why didn’t he answer? Kore looked around her for a branch, a rock, anything. She could see where the bushes were moving now as the thing pushed through them. She’d knocked a cop to the ground once, lowering her shoulder and ramming him in the side when he’d stood over her friend. Whoever this was, she could take them. At the very least, she could put up a hell of a fight.
Unless it was a bear.
But it probably wasn’t a bear. Probably it was just Ted.
She could see a shape now, just feet away from her. It paused, and Kore balled her hands into fists and raised them up in a half-remembered boxer’s stance her father had taught her when she was just a little girl. As if she could punch out the bear that was about to eat her. As if. The form sucked in air, and then it leaped from the bushes, dark in some spots, pale in others, and snarling as it closed the distance between them and then stopped just five feet away.
Kore screamed on reflex. And then she saw what had been stalking her, and she shouted out of anger.
“Come on! Really? What the fuck, Anna?”
Anna stood before Kore, grinning widely, wearing black jeans and a black sweatshirt with the hood up. Her hands were held before her, fingers splayed and fingertips pointing towards Kore like claws. “Grr! Rawr!”
“Seriously! You scared me!”
Anna dropped her hands to her side. Her grin became a simple smile. But she was still smiling. “Yes, that was the idea.”
“I could have punched you in the face!”
“That’s why I’m back here, out of face-punching range.”
Kore rolled her eyes. “Whatever. What do you want?”
“Richie Rich says dinner’s almost ready. I was helping him cook, then Madison started helping, and I wanted none of that, so I volunteered to come find you and Ted.” Anna glanced down as if she was just noticing Kore’s swimsuit for the first time and frowned. “Am I interrupting anything?”
“What? No! No. We were just swimming. Hell, I was swimming. Ted was just drinking beer.”
Anna looked down at Ted’s bag and his discarded shirt. “So where is he?”
“I don’t know. I just woke up, and he was gone.”
“I’m here, I’m here,” he called out. The two girls turned to look and found him emerging from behind a group of bushes and small trees not thirty feet from where they were standing.
“Why didn’t you answer when I called to you?”
Ted said nothing. Anna laughed once, a single sharp note. “Nature was calling him louder, I guess.”
Ted blushed and ignored Anna’s comment. She was watching him closely, Kore noticed, her eyes lingering on his chest as he approached, on his back as he passed them and pulled his shirt on. “So, did I hear you say it’s time for dinner?”
“You did,” Anna said. “But I want to show you guys something I found first.”
“Show us what?”
Anna grinned again, her face alight with mischievous joy. “Something really fucked up.”
Word Count this Post: 1,080
Total Word Count: 10,983/50,000 (four and a half days behind schedule. Yikes.)