The Screech Owls – Chapter I Part VI

I’m sorry guys.  I still have to write this.

Novel: Fantasy Horror

Edward hugged him closer. He hated seeing Cole so frightened. If only he could take whatever was frightening Cole out of his head and put it in his own. It was too much for the kid, a kid who was too weak to fight what was terrifying him. Edward had the ax; he didn’t have to be scared.

“Go to sleep,” he said. “I’ll keep watch.”

Cole sat up. “No. You didn’t sleep last night. I’ll watch first.”

“You didn’t sleep much either.”

“You didn’t sleep at all. You sleep first.”

Edward wanted to argue. He didn’t want Cole awake in these woods by himself. But they would have to take turns sleeping eventually anyway. And he was so tired. As if to illustrate Cole’s point, he yawned, and he couldn’t quite stifle it.

“Okay,” he said. “You’re on first watch. Wake me up if you hear anything at all.”

He lay down on the hard ground. It was cold and held no comfort, and his stomach gnawed at him mercilessly. At least he had some stored fat on him that his body could use, but what about Cole? The kid was tiny; he was becoming skin and bones. What if they didn’t find anything to eat tomorrow? Edward buried his head in his arms and willed sleep to come so he wouldn’t have to think, but the moon was showing through the trees before he finally drifted off.

When Cole woke him he was bathed in sweat, but it was only from the weather – hot nighttime again.

“Wake up,” Cole said, shaking him. “They’re nearby.”

He jumped up so fast he nearly toppled over, still groggy. But he couldn’t see them. “Where?”

“Listen.”

He did, and he could hear the chirping and the chink of armor. He scanned the trees until he could see them, blank darkness in the moonlight.

Cole was right; they were stronger. They still ambled to them slowly through the trees, and though they swung their dark axes slowly enough they had better aim. Edward had to block one of their swings, and clumsy as the swing was he was still amazed that he could block it so deftly and easily, as if a child were behind the attack. He swept the ax aside and cut through the thing’s armor as if the monster were warm butter. There was no blood, but it collapsed to the ground.

“Behind you!” Cole shouted in alarm, though there was little danger. Edward turned and sidestepped a failed attack and cut that one down as well, the great ax in his hand light as a feather. Now that he was getting used to it, it was like a part of his arm.

There were two more approaching, practically tripping over their own feet. Edward laughed and cut them down. When he was done he turned to Cole and grinned at him.

“I need more of a challenge than that,” he said.

But Cole was pale in the moonlight, his eyes wide and reflective. He hugged Edward’s helmet in his tiny arms. “They will be worse tomorrow,” he whispered.

He let Cole sleep. He was too wound up from the fight to fall back asleep himself. The moon was smack-dab in the center of the sky and the light from it was scorching. Cole was able to take off the oversized shirt and lay on it like a bed roll. He said to wake him before morning so Edward could get more sleep, but Edward let him sleep the rest of the night.

“I told you wake me up,” Cole said grumpily when the sun woke him.

“You need sleep too.”

“So do you. What are we gonna do if you’re tired?”

“Okay, okay. Don’t lecture me. I’ll sleep a long sleep tonight.”

And we’ll find food today, was the thought that went unspoken.

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