“Jack!” I shouted, sprinting after him. His leash flapping, he was bounding across the field ahead of me. I knew I’d never catch him unless he stopped for some reason. I also knew it was unlikely he’d stop before he made it to the woods and there was that deer… no, I corrected myself mentally, still running as fast as I could and hoping the nice level ground didn’t betray me with a gopher hole or something. That was a stag, here in Britain. And even more than that, it was a white stag. Jack vanished into the brush that bounded the dim green forest. The stag twitched an ear, but still stared at me, it’s eyes dark and bright. It wasn’t an albino.
Jack barked, and the stag performed the prettiest pirouette I’d ever had the pleasure of seeing before bouncing over some brush and vanishing deeper into the trees. I stopped, chest heaving, panting, at the edge of the woods. I was too out of breath to even call the dratted dog again, and my brain was racing off ahead of me into the possibilities. It couldn’t possibly be an actual enchanted white stag like the one of stories that appeared to call knights on quests. No. It had to be a real animal, with real, very sharp, hooves. The idea of what those hooves could do made me flinch and forge into the woods again, looking for the golden plumes Jack usually carried high in his wake.
I was trying to make it there before time ran out. Wherever ‘there’ was. Pushing through brush, sometimes crawling under the thickest of it, I found small traces of Jack that let me know I was headed in the right direction. I’d never been so happy he shed constantly and copiously. I pulled a tuft of soft gold from some briars and scrambled carefully around them. I emerged into a mossy hollow that looked like something out of a fairy tale, right down to the ring of honey-brown mushrooms in the center of it. There were clear tracks in the moss, two sets, that led into the mushroom ring… and ended.
I wobbled a little as I walked up to the ring. Fatigue. I told my brain firmly. The mushrooms did not mark a fairy ring. There was no portal to a strange otherworld in there. It was simply drier moss that didn’t hold tracks as well as the more shaded, moist side. That was all. Nothing more magical than simple ecology. I stepped over the mushrooms carefully, because it would be a shame to damage such pretty things heedlessly.
“Jack!” I shouted. “Jack, come!”
I heard a distant bark, and it echoed, weirdly.
My prompt this week “Trying to make it there before time runs out” was given to me by Fiona Grey, and I challenged B Durbin with “The hula dancer on the dashboard came to life, and the nearby volcano rumbled.” You can read their writing at the links, and you should!
You can submit a prompt to receive a challenge in return at email@example.com and the prompt list is published at More Odds Than Ends.