Welcome to Wednesday Briefs, where authors post free fiction of 1000 words or less each week. I used: “Did you hear something?”
“I want to go home,” I whispered when I was done. My stomach hurt and my eyes were scratchy. Not to mention I was drained—emotionally and physically.
Shane turned me around, cupped my face in his hands, and said, “I know. Are you done now?”
I nodded, then leaned my forehead on his right shoulder. “I think so. Shane, I'm afraid.”
Shane's hands slid from my head along my back. He wrapped his arms around my waist and squeezed. “I will get you out of here, I promise. No matter what it takes, Gil.”
“That's not what I meant. Not all, anyway,” I replied. “I trust you to get us back. I have no idea how you're going to do that but you will, there's no doubt about that.”
“Then what are you afraid of?”
“Of the things to come. Your explanations why you let me believe you were dead. Why you came back as a puppy. Why... why nothing makes sense anymore.” I pulled my head away to wipe off some stray tears rolling down my cheeks. My voice sounded choked, when I added, “For heaven's sake, Shane! We're in some alternative universe and a dragon chased us into a derelict building or castle or whatever this is. A dragon!”
“This has been a castle,” Shane replied softly.
“Right,” I said and rolled my eyes. Then it occurred to me that he couldn't see my action. I slapped my hand on his chest. “And that's important why exactly?”
Shane's shoulder moved up and down in a fast motion. Shrugging, I guessed. “It's not. I just don't know what to say. I swear I never wanted to leave you or make you think I was dead. Please, you have to believe me.”
It was my turn to shrug. “Can we go now?”
I took a step backward and stepped into nothingness. I let out an unmanly squeal and flailed my arms. Before gravity did its deed and tumbled me down the stairs, Shane's hands closed around my wrists like steel. He yanked me back against his chest. Since my dignity was lost anyway, I ducked my head under his chin and sniffled.
“So pathetic,” I mumbled.
Shane laughed. “You? Never, sweetheart. You're anything but pathetic. You're here, you haven't freaked out—not completely at least—and you survived for weeks after you thought I was dead. If our roles were reversed, I'd never have managed to... to...”
“Of course you would've survived,” I snapped when he trailed off. I didn't want to hear it. Neither did I want to discuss that I almost didn't make it either. I softened my voice in a way that always worked on him and said, “Please bring me home.”
Shane sighed, then interlinked our fingers and led me down the stairs. After a while, we crossed into a tunnel that went straight ahead. Our shoes crunched on the loose rubble, and sometimes I scratched my right arm on the tunnel's wall.
“Hey!” I said. “There's light coming in somewhere. It's getting lighter!”
Shane peered ahead, but instead of quickening his pace, he slowed until we came to a halt. He tilted his head to the side and reminded me of the puppy he'd been. I couldn't help but smile for a second.
As fast as the smile appeared, it vanished again. I pricked my ears while my heart rate accelerated. I whispered, “Did you hear something?”
Shane nodded and shoved me behind his back before he slowly pushed me backward. Back into the tunnel where the dead dragon rotted.
“Shane, what is it?”
“I think the dragon circled us.”