Okay, so here we are, back to Thursday’s regularly scheduled look at a day in the life of a newly hatched cockatrice. Last week, Ben met a strange old man who led him deeper into the forest. Will there be candy? Treasure? Anything of importance?
Let’s find out.
The old man pressed his bleeding hand against his shirt. “Damn thing’ll be a menace in a few weeks if you don’t put a leash on it.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t drag me into a deep, dark forest.” Ben shrugged.
The old man’s eyes narrowed. “I’m trying to help you.”
“We’re supposed to believe a stranger is altruistic?” Ben raised an eyebrow. “What sort of fairy tale did you wander out of?” Ben stomped through the leaf-strewn ground, carelessly breaking twigs underfoot.
“Wait.” The old man held up a hand.
“I’m not staying with you.” Ben walked back toward the road.
“That way leads only to death.”
Ben looked over his shoulder and frowned. “Stop trying to scare me, old man.”
The old man shrugged. “Your funeral.”
With a sigh, Ben stopped.
“The police are looking for you.” The old man grinned. “Here, at least, we can escape them in the dense cover.” He turned and waved a hand. “Come. Farther in, we can talk in relative safety.”
Ben rolled his eyes. “Next you’ll tell me the trees have ears.”
The old man looked over his shoulder. “What makes you say that?” He pushed aside a tree branch that blocked his path.
Ben shook his head. “Nevermind,” he muttered.
The old man led him through the forest to the edge of a swamp. The ground slurped with each step. Black sludge bubbled to the surface under Ben’s tennis shoes.
“Ugh.” Ben scowled in disgust as his sneakers squelched in the muck.
“Hurry, we’re not far.” The old man leaned against a tree that stretched over the swamp.
Ben crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m not walking through that.” He pointed to the swamp. “My shoes aren’t waterproof.”
“Perhaps you should prepare better before running away from home.”
“How did you–?”
“Come along.” The old man scrambled up the tree as limber as a squirrel.
Ben scratched his head and looked at his cockatrice. “How did he do that?”
The cockatrice titled its head and burbled.
“Great,” Ben mumbled. He followed the stranger up the tree.
The thick trunk hung low over the swamp. Insects crawled across the stagnant water. Tadpoles swam beneath the green speckled surface. A unseen frog croaked.
Ben’s slick shoes slipped. He flailed his arms and grabbed a clump of suckers growing out of the tree. His heart hammered in his chest.
The cockatrice hovered near his face and warbled.
“I’m fine.” Ben closed his eyes and steadied his breathing.
“We’re almost there.” The old man leaped off the tree and landed with a thud on dry ground.
“How…?” Ben studied the swamp below and the tree branches ahead. The swamp seemed to stretch farther than the branches.
“Trust me.” The old man leaned against a wooden post stuck in the ground.
Ben shook his head. “I don’t even know you.”
“I’m standing on dry land, what more do you need to know?”
“Your name, for one.”
“Monty. Now, jump.”
So, what do you think will happen? What do you want to happen? Was it too short? Too long? Too unfunny?
Yep, that’s right. I’m soliciting comments and suggestions. I may even use them. No matter how wacky, zany, nerdy, or weird. No matter how serious, fanciful, or sci-fi. It’s a choose your own adventure. You choose what happens next.