Mira blinked into a slow eternity as her brain tried to make sense of what she had just heard. “Were you speaking to me?” she asked, as politely as she could. She glanced around, making sure this wasn’t some boyish prank. But her street was strangely empty, save for herself and the talking hairless cat.
It made a sound of exasperated annoyance. “Do you see anyone else around?”
Mira shook her head, wondering for a moment if her brain was rattling about inside her skull. Was she dreaming? Hallucinating? Suffering from a concussion?
First the old lady, and now this thing, whatever it was.
The creature tugged on its ears that were round and decidedly not cat-shaped. “Great Barnaby’s toads!” If it weren’t clinging so tightly to the branch, it might have been dancing in place with impatience. “Don’t you know anything?”
“I happen to know a great deal,” Mira said with affronted dignity. “I’ll have you know that I’m the best speller in the entire fifth grade, and Ms. Marshall says—”
“Yes, yes, yes.” The creature let go of the branch long enough to wave impatiently. “All very impressive, I’m sure. But hadn’t you ought to be getting home right now?” It widened it’s already wide eyes and nodded toward her house.
Good manners dictated that she answer his question, but she didn’t like the buzzing feeling that had started up in her head and burrowed down as though a colony of bees had taken up residence in her stomach.
“Who are you?” she settled on. She took a step closer and squinted up through the leaves, but couldn’t make out any more details of the creature.
“Of course,” it muttered to itself. “A name. You humans always want names. Very well,” he raised his voice, “you may call me Bodkins.”
“Is that your name?”
It raised a brow and looked down its nose at her. “What do you think? Now hurry home. You know how your mother hates for you to dawdle. Especially today, of all days.”
Mira narrowed her eyes until all she could see was a slit of leaves that obscured the creature. It knew an awful lot about her for something that should have spent its days pouncing on mice.
But it had a point.
She glanced at the sky, noting that the sun was already approaching the horizon. The sky hadn’t begun to change color yet, but it would. Soon.
Without saying another word, Mira gripped the straps of her backpack and trudged up the sidewalk. Her favorite season might have been autumn, but the coming season always made her mom a little edgier. This meant an enforced curfew, among other things. It was like her mom held her breath the second summer ended, and didn’t breathe easy until winter began.
And punctuality was as much a part of the Pink Lemonade Brigade as the teacups and weird presents.
How could that creature have known?
She glanced back from the corner of her eyes, but whatever it was crouching up in the tree, it didn’t appear to be following her.
But like the fairy doll tucked safely in her backpack, appearances could be deceiving.
Puzzling over the creature and the strange conversation they’d had, she didn’t see the shadow in front of her solidify until she was flying forward toward the pavement.
Mira’s knees and the palms of her hands stung as though they’d been attacked by the imaginary bees buzzing inside her stomach. All her recent scrapes were throbbing an enthusiastic welcome to her new cuts and bruises. She pushed herself upright, shaking her head to make sure nothing vital was loose.
And looked up into a pair of eyes bluer than the summeriest of days. Beneath the eyes was a button nose and a mouth that stretched from ear to ear in the brightest of smiles. While this one didn’t look a thing like a hairless cat, there was something about him that reminded Mira of the first creature.
The image that thought conjured up was one of feral sharp teeth, no matter how pleasantly they smiled.
Mira shook her head again, whether in denial, fear, or something else, she couldn’t say. Either way, her voice seemed to have deserted her somewhere in the thundering of her heart against her chest.
“Ah,” the creature—no bigger than a cat—said. “The lady has fallen and blood be about to taint the air.”
Before Mira could do anything, the creature moved between one breath and the next. And there it was, standing next to her, examining her hand and running its bright purple tongue against its teeth.
“Blood be the thing that turns a bargain into a promise.” It gave her hand another speculative look, squinting as though it was trying to read her future. Its hands were soft as cobwebs and as strong as rock and bone. “But will it be enough, do you think?”
. . . TO BE CONTINUED . . .
© 2014 by Danyelle Leafty. All rights reserved. Originally published in Curiosities of the Moon.
Just when you think things can’t get any weirder . . . along comes a . . . whatever this blood thirsty little critter is.
Come back next Wednesday to see if something can be salvaged from all this Pink Lemonade mess. After all, a person only becomes eleventy once in their lifetime. Usually. 😉