The boy groaned as feeling slowly returned to his body. His head was throbbing. Why? Had something hit him? He couldn’t remember, and pain spiked inside his skull every time he tried. The boy tried to open his eyes and look around, but the motion made his leg hurt and he involuntarily let out a moan. He heard a gasp in front of him, and the air brushed against his face, as if something had moved quickly.
Then an earsplitting shriek rang out!
Startled, his eyes shot open, and he lurched away from the noise, but stopped when his leg and head throbbed simultaneously. The pain couldn’t mask what he saw, though. There, standing right in front of him, was a lion. Something was wrong with it, though. Its head was deformed, almost giving it the appearance of a girl’s face. A human girl.
When Sarah saw the young Slayer, all the terror she had felt in the manor came back to her. Her first instinct was to bolt, get far away from him. Something held her back, though. She looked at him. There was something different about him now. It was, she realized, the fact that he seemed utterly terrified just by the sight of her. Something wasn’t right here. There was sweat rolling down his skin, and he was hyperventilating. If he was acting, he was doing an incredibly good job at it. Still, it would be stupid to believe that the one who had just been about to kill her had somehow undergone a complete change of heart in less than five minutes.
Tentatively, she placed her front paw forward. The Slayer’s eyes widened in fear, and he scrambled to get further away from her. From the look of pain on his face, she guessed that he must be injured somehow.
What’s going on? The boy thought desperately, what is that thing?
He began trying to think of a way to escape, but with his leg the way it was, running was impossible. The monster eyed him carefully.
It’s going to eat me!
The lion-creature raised one of its front paws, and took a slow step towards him. The boy flinched, even though the thing was still too far away to touch him, and nearly cried out in pain. Whatever had happened, he guessed that his leg must be broken. The monster watched, fascinated by his reactions. He could almost believe that he could see anger in its deformed, human-shaped face. Whatever this thing was, it didn’t like him one bit.
Sarah began to contemplate her options. The smart thing to do would be to leave the Slayer here to die and try to find her way to a Sanctuary. There, she could contact her parents and put this entire mess behind her.
Another side of her suggested a different option. Perhaps she could kill the Slayer and then find the Sanctuary. The first part wouldn’t be too hard, with the boy injured. The more she thought about it, the more she liked that idea.
Sarah, you brave and wonderful girl, you’ve made me so proud! Her father would say to her.
Those evil Slayers will have to think twice before they threaten us again! Her mother would add.
She began to flex her claws. The boy must have realized what her intentions were, because his face went pale. Sarah took another step forward, no longer afraid, simply wanting to give this Slayer a taste of his own medicine.
The boy watched as the creature’s face became angrier and angrier. It was baring its claws, as if it couldn’t wait to use them. It took another step towards him. He closed his eyes, trying to block out the terrible image. He was going to die here, and there was nothing he could do about it. He should just sit here and hope that it would be relatively quick and painless. The creature raised its claws to kill him. Turning his eyes on his tormentor, the boy finally worked up the courage to speak.
Sarah bared her claws, and prepared to deliver the fatal blow. Just before she did, though, the Slayer looked her in the eye and spoke.
“If you’re going to kill me, please do it quickly.”
This caught Sarah completely by surprise. She lowered her paw and stared at him, her mouth hanging open with shock. It wasn’t what he had said, but the look on his face when he’d said it that shocked her. A look of complete and total helplessness.
Suddenly, there was no doubt in her mind that this was not the same boy who had just chased her through a burning house, ready to slice off her head. Something had happened to him. Still, she refused to let her guard down.
The boy breathed a loud sigh of relief when the creature lowered its paw, but didn’t let himself think he was out of danger yet. What was it doing? Was it not going to kill him? Or was it simply considering an even worse demise for him? He looked it over again, still not able to believe what he was looking at. A lion with a girl’s head? And were those wings on its back? Whatever had hit his head must have addled his brain. Maybe, he thought with desperate hope, he was hallucinating, and there really was no lion-bird-girl-thing in front of him!
Then it spoke.
“Who are you?” Sarah demanded. That was a good way to start, she mused. Find out exactly who this boy was. The boy’s eyes widened in disbelief. For a moment, she thought he was going to faint. “I asked who you are!” she repeated, a growl forming in her throat.
The creature was asking for his name. Should he tell it? Did he even remember? Though it hurt to do so, he began to search his brain for anything that might have been his name. Slowly, through the fog in his mind, one word rose to his tongue.
At first, Sarah didn’t think the boy would answer. Judging by the way he was grabbing his head with both hands, he had a massive headache. Just as she was about to ask him one last time, he looked back up at her.
“Porter,” he said, simply.
“What?” she asked, confused.
“I think my name is Porter.”
Sarah narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean, ‘you think’?”
“I can’t remember anything else. ‘Porter’ is the only thing that sounds familiar.”
Sarah stifled a gasp, remembering how the ceiling had collapsed on him. He’d been unconscious. That meant a piece of it must have hit his head…
“You don’t remember anything? Nothing at all?” she asked.
“No, nothing. I don’t know where I am, or how I got here. I don’t even know what you are.”
Sarah sat down on the damp, earthy ground. So, if the Slayer was to be believed, he remembered absolutely nothing about himself. That meant, she concluded, that he couldn’t remember that he was a Slayer. This was a turn of events that she never could have expected. What could she do? Looking at him, she no longer saw the vicious, cold blooded killer from before. Now she only saw a helpless teenage boy who didn’t even know who he was. Could she kill someone like that with a clean conscience? He had intended to do just that to her, she reminded herself.
Are you a Slayer? the nagging voice of reason demanded. Or are you better than the Slayers?
No, she decided. She wouldn’t lower herself to their level. The best thing she could do was leave Porter here while she went to search for the Sanctuary herself.
Another glance at him made her hesitate. He really did look pitiful like that, unable to stand up, much less walk back to civilization. Who knew how far away they were from the nearest house, anyway? If she left him here, he would be dead in a matter of days.
“Are you going to kill me?” he asked, snapping her out of her thoughts.
Under that hopeless stare, Sarah felt something inside her melt, and she groaned. “No,” she answered. “I’m going to help you. Can you stand?”
No matter who this human was, she couldn’t just sentence him to death. Why did she have to be such a big softy?
“No, I think my leg is broken.”
“Let me see it.” Sarah approached him, completely against her better judgment. The boy did not move a muscle as she inspected his leg. Now that she was closer, she could see that most of the boy’s pant leg had been burned away in the fire. The skin was covered in burns and blisters, and what wasn’t burnt was a sickening purple color.
“Yeah, it’s broken,” she confirmed, looking away before the sight made her sick, “and you’ve got a lot of bad burns. We need to get you some help.”
“I don’t know!” Her outburst caused the boy to try to get away from her again. No, she chastised herself, don’t get angry at him. He’ll just end up hurting himself more.
“The only thing I can think to do is to try to bind your leg and see how far you can get like that. I’ll go look for some things we can use. Don’t try to move.”
“Wait,” the boy called to her as she turned around, “you’ll come back, right?”
“Yes, I’ll be back as soon as I can,” she was about to turn around again, but stopped. “What did you say your name was?”
“Porter,” the boy replied.
“My name is Sarah. If you need me, call me.”
With that, Sarah turned and walked into the dark forest.
As Porter sat in the dark forest, waiting for the strange monster named Sarah to return, he began to contemplate his situation. He had no idea who he was, or where. He was being taken care of by a lion-girl-thing with wings. Sarah wasn’t the worst thing he could be stuck out here with, though, now that he thought about it. She was nice, and she seemed to know what to do out here better than he did. Yeah, he decided. Even the way things were, they could still be worse.
Sarah padded softly through the darkness. Sniffing the air, she tried to catch the scent of something, anything, that would tell her where she was. If she could determine her location, perhaps she and Porter could find a way to civilization. The first thing she needed to do, however, was find a way to bind Porter’s leg. Leaving it the way it was would almost certainly result in infection. Walking over to a tree, she found a vine wrapped around the trunk and pulled it free with her teeth. Good, she had a makeshift rope, now she needed something to wrap the wound in.
After thirty minutes of fruitless searching, Sarah gave up and headed back to the place she had left Porter. He was still lying on the ground, waiting for her.
“I’ve found something we can bind your leg with, but we need something to cover the burns.”
“Um,” Porter looked around, and then spotted the long black coat he was wearing, “how about this?”
For a second, Sarah froze. Would seeing the coat be enough to trigger his memory? When he pulled it off and held it out to her, though, without giving any sign of recognizing it, she relaxed.
“I’ll need hands if I’m going to bind your wound,” she remarked. She cast the transformation spell, and stood up on two feet as a human again. Kneeling down, she began to wrap the coat around Porter’s leg, and then tied it in place with the vine. The entire time, Porter watched her with fascination.
“There,” she said, standing up to admire her work, “it’s not great, but it’s the best I can do for now.”
“You still have wings,” Porter said, dumbly, pointing at her back.
“What?” Sarah looked behind her and saw that he was right. “Oh, I thought I had it this time!” She released the spell with a groan, and became a sphinx again.
Porter flexed his leg, experimentally, and winced once more.
“You still won’t be able to walk on it, but it will keep you from getting the burns any dirtier.” Sarah explained.
Porter nodded, and then looked at her. “What are we going to do now?”
“Well, I don’t even know where we are. I think the best thing we can do is find somebody who can help us. The problem is that you can’t go anywhere.”
“If I had a big enough stick,” he suggested eagerly, “I could use it like a crutch.”
“Yeah, I guess that’ll work,” Sarah agreed.
Placing one hand on a nearby tree, Porter gently eased himself up onto his good leg. He grabbed a long, low hanging branch and snapped it off, eliciting a gasp from Sarah.
“What?” he asked, almost losing his balance when he turned to look at her.
“N-nothing,” she stammered, unable to take her eyes off the branch in his hand. That had been a perfectly healthy branch from a perfectly healthy tree, but he’d snapped it like an old dead twig! Even if he didn’t know who he was, he still had his Slayer strength.
Placing the branch under his armpit, Porter put his weight on it. It held him up with no trouble. He took a cautious step with it, and then another. After a few more steps, he seemed to have the hang of it.
“Okay, I’m ready,” he said. “Which way do you want to go?”
Sarah pointed in a random direction with her paw. “We’re not going to get any more lost than we already are. Let’s try that way.”
Nodding, Porter turned in the specified direction, and began to hobble his way through the forest, Sarah by his side.
NEXT TIME: And so the journey begins! Where will they go? What will they see? What will become of them? No one can say. Okay, I could, but I won’t.