Henry pelted down the street, dragging me by one hand as I tried to keep my toes up and sort of bounced along the ground behind him. It wasn’t going so well.
“You know I can’t leave you behind,” he said, irritatingly comfortable.
Oh, come on. He hadn’t even broken a sweat. Disgusting. I was disgusted. You would have been too. I tried to think of some cutting remark to convey my disgust, but it was hard to think while also trying not to face plant at, like, 100 kph. Or whatever. Also, air in my lungs seemed like the more valuable investment right now.
Besides, it wouldn’t be long. I could hear the crashing and the screaming and whatnot pretty clearly. We had to be close.
We were. Henry skidded to a halt so fast that I swung around in a circle and crashed into his annoyingly-but-conveniently un-sweaty chest before I could stop my forward momentum. Which he really ought to have taken care of, since he was, you know, the one creating it.
“Oops,” he said, grinning like he was thinking the same thing, and wasn’t one bit sorry. “‘K, so you wait just there, behind that bush so it can’t see you, right? And don’t move. This shouldn’t take long. Lucky it was so close!”
“Yeah. So lucky.”
His eyebrows furrowed as he snapped out of whatever kinetic energy high he had going on long enough to focus on my face.
“You’ll be ok,” he said, reaching for my head as if he wanted to pat it.
Like a kid. Or a dog. He caught my expression and pulled back his hand real quick. Dogs bite.
“Just, seriously this time, April. Stay put. If you can’t do that, we should just turn around and go home now.”
His face crumpled a little at the thought. I couldn’t do that to him. Plus, the sounds coming from the other side of that bush? Even I couldn’t walk away from that kind of suffering.
“Yeah, I got it. Go.”
He beamed at me. “Be right back.”
Henry dashed off, producing that light-beam sword-thing that I’d seen him with before out of nowhere, which was pretty cool to watch. Cool enough that I kind of overshot his chosen April-hiding zone, and had to backtrack while trying to watch an epic Henry vs. nightmare-beast battle at the same time.
I needn’t have bothered; it was over in maybe 20 seconds. If that.
There was Henry, launching himself at the ripply bent-light looking mass that was a nightmare attack to anyone not in the midst of being eviscerated or crushed or otherwise terrorized to death.
Then there was Henry digging his blade into this great big whitish-grey-and-black mass that didn’t look much better defined than than the bent-light version, and some black spew fountaining up into the air and spattering all over the place.
And then there was Henry helping this rumpled, wild-eyed guy out of the muddy remains of the lawn.
“OK April, coast’s clear,” Henry called happily, trying to get his shoulder under the rumpled guy’s arm, but way too tall to make it work.
I strolled over like I had all the time in the word and was totally cool with nightmare attacks. I mean, they are a daily occurrence now. For me, at least. Did this make three? Or was it four now?
Up close, rumpled-guy was really white in the face - actually, make that grey, with a tinge of green. He looked to be on the wrong side of thirty, in a boring outdoorsy-athletics kind of jacket and pants that couldn’t decide if they belonged on the bed or in the gym.
“So, April,” Henry said, towing rumpled fashion-less guy along toward, and then past me so I had to trot to keep up. “There’s something I hadn’t really thought of that we need to discuss. You’re not going to like it.”
“That’s what I love to hear,” I say, fast, because I’ve only barely caught my breath from the last time we plowed down this stretch of sidewalk. “And maybe I can hear it when we get home? Which is not that far away, so maybe you could slow down?!”
“Hmm? Oh. Right.” Henry’s slowed down, taking exaggerated slow-motion steps while looking over his shoulder at me. “It’s kind of about that, actually.”
“What, your insane need to move at mach speed? I can tell you, it’s not doing your friend there any favours.”
I pushed past and looked back over my shoulder at Henry and his limp and rumpled acquisition.
“It’s about him too,” Henry frowned down at the rumpled guy. “Hey. What’s your name?”
“Mwaaa? Drrrh.” Rumpled Guy said, his head lolling as Henry hauled him along. He wasn’t doing as good a job of keeping his toes up as I had.
“We’ll call him Dave,” Henry cocked an eyebrow at me. “So April,”
“So Henry,” I said back immediately.
“Hnrrr,” said Rumpled Guy Dave.
Henry picked up Rumpled Guy Dave and hoisted him over his shoulder.
“Where are you taking that guy anyways?” I asked, suddenly suspicious.
Rumpled Guy Dave didn’t look in any condition to be giving directions to his place. I felt pleased about how well I’d handled my own ordeal for a split second. Then I felt suspicious. Then I felt ill.
“About that,” Henry sped up to walk a little closer to me on the sidewalk. “Remember how I said the nightmares didn’t like you, you know, not dying? How you were marked?”
“No,” I said.
“So I hadn’t really thought about it, but now Dave here-”
“So much no,” I said, walking faster to get home and lock my door behind me.
“Is marked too. So the only way to keep him, and you, alive is-”
“Endless no,” I panted, jogging.
Henry’s hand landed on my shoulder. “To keep him with us.”
“Rumpled Guy Dave is not moving in.” I spun around and shook Henry’s hand off. He patted my head.
“You’ll get used to him,” he soothed. “After all, just look how well we’re getting along!”