The Charm – Chapter 24

(Index)

The van leans quite steeply to Jemma’s side. She looks up at Traci who is fiddling with her belt.

“Traci. Stop that!”

“Why?”

“You’re going to fall on me if you undo that. Wait till I get out and I’ll give you a hand.”

Jemma’s door only opens a few centimetres before digging into the ground. Throwing her shoulder against it a couple of times enlarges the gap a bit. She stops, noticing a wheel lying on the ground nearby.

“Is that our wheel?”

Traci cranes her neck to see through the dusty windscreen.

“I don’t think so. Why would our wheel be over there?”

Good question. Jemma slides through the gap she’s made and surveys the damage. A cavernous washout has swallowed the entire right side of the van. Both sides have matching dents and scratches now. The front right wheel has been torn off. Jemma decides this van has officially reached the end of its life.

The Charm vibrates warmly against her chest, either in warning or amusement. Jemma does her best to ignore it. There is a dense tree line in the distance, illuminated by the wash of bright moonlight. They should stay near water now that they were on foot. She knows people die out here in the scrub all the time by trying to walk back to civilisation.

She hears several bumps and frustrated curses as Traci clambers out of the driver’s door on her hands and knees.

“Oww. I thought you were going to help me? Holy shit, look what you did to the van. Where d’ya learn to drive, Jemma?”

Jemma’s crossed arms and pursed lips should be letting Traci know how unfunny she is.

“I think I liked it better when you were passed out. You feel up to a walk?”

“Got no choice now. You smashed our car into the Grand Canyon.”

Traci sneezes, waving at dust that hangs motionless in the still air. A cheeky smile spreads across her face at Jemma’s narrowed eyes.

“Just  kidding.”

“I’m so glad you’re back to your normal annoying self. C’mon.”

They trudge along the track, sharing the last bottle of water. Traci hangs off Jemma, still unable to walk a straight line and complaining her limbs won’t do as they are told.

The familiarity of the approaching tree-line has been niggling at Jemma’s mind for a few minutes. Suddenly she gasps and halts their progress mid-step, listening carefully. Traci stumbles at the unexpected halt.

“What the hell!?”

Jemma slaps a hand over Traci’s mouth and holds it there.

“Shush, be quiet.”

The shimmering creek beyond the trees confirms a creepy, unwelcome thought.

She listens intently. Traci’s wide open eyes flutter in confusion while Jemma intently scans the area.

Seconds tick by.

Jemma relaxes the pressure on Traci’s mouth and leans close to whisper.

“We might be back at the same creek. If we are, there’re two very angry, drunk, ripped off drug dealers somewhere nearby who would love to get their hands on us.”

Properly frightened, Traci nods her understanding of the situation and stays silent when Jemma takes her hand away. A light breeze springs up. Bushes throw tangled shadows that their overwrought imaginations turn into moving figures.

“Which way should we go? Is downstream this way?”

A long, angry scream rises from that direction.

“Was that a bird or something?” Traci whispers.

The Charm glows hot.

“Not any bird I’ve ever heard. Let’s go this way,” Jemma whispers back, reversing her direction. The Charm instantly cools. Jemma hopes its queer moods don’t lead them into more trouble. Instinctively she know she should rely on it to keep her alive but she doesn’t trust it at all.

Their progress slows to a nervous shuffle along the shadowy creek bank. The moonlight is no longer their friend.

The scream comes again.

Closer.

(Chapter 25)

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Published in: on Wednesday, 10 December, 2008 at 2:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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