Content warning: Violence, including a traumatic head injury
Richard heard the howls first. He was just about to get his cane out from under the seat and go out to see what was taking the others so long, when a noise like the scream of a soul suffering in Hell split the air, and made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. It also made him jump out of his skin and fall off the carriage seat to the ground, where he landed on his head.
He blacked out for a split second, and when he opened his eyes Alice, extremely blurred, was standing over him.
“I thought you had died,” Alice said.
“Sorry,” said Richard.
“Please don’t apologize.”
“What did I just-”
Sylvia came flying out of the wood, and slammed into Alice.
“What the f-”
“Shut up,” Sylvia hissed. “Get down.”
“What are we waiting for?” Richard asked. He was still seeing spots, and his voice sounded slurred and hollow.
Sylvia gave him an odd look. “You alright?”
He smiled deliriously at her for a few moments before he realized she had asked him a question. “Yeash, I’m just. Hit my ‘ead.” His tongue felt thick in his mouth and his ears rang. He felt like he was in a fog, with only the dull ache in his head to remind him that, oh, right, he had a human body. “What are we waiting for?”
“We got in trouble in the woods. The others are coming.”
“Oh.” The trees were blurry blobs of green and brown, even with his glasses on. Richard, still smiling, took off his glasses to see if that would help. It didn’t, and he still didn’t know what they were doing. “What are we waiting for?”
“I told you, we’re waiting for the others. You know, Johann and Deirdre and Monty and possibly Wilhelm?” Sylvia looked shifty, like there was something she didn’t want to say.
Johann suddenly appeared. “Richard, your hair has blood in it. Did something happen?”
Richard watched mesmerized as the stars swayed back and forth.
“I’m. Hit my head.”
“Richard, I think you have a concussion.”
Richard was incredibly dizzy. He groaned and put his head in his hands. What was all this sticky stuff coming off his head? He flicked his hands to get it off. He went to stand. Johann tried to help him up, but Richard threw him off and stood up on his own. He stumbled several feet, before almost falling on his face again.
“Richard, how do you feel?” Johann asked.
Richard furrowed his brow. How did he feel?
“Richard, I think you have a concussion.”
“Stup using. My name.”
“Richard, we have to get you home.”
Someone with a tricorne hat did a flying leap out of the bushes and landed on his back next to the girl with long brown hair whose name Richard couldn’t recall.
“Ow,” said the person with the hat.
Johann pulled him up. “Monty, you have to help me get Richard-”
Someone else, a young man with blonde hair, was next to Johann. “I can help you, Dr. Faust.”
“Right. Wait, Wilhelm?” Johann recoiled in shock.
“I ran away from the monster.”
“I thought you-”
“I crawled through the grass. I was almost struck by lightning!”
“We saw that,” said the long haired girl. “Only, it looked like you were struck.”
“I almost was!”
Richard struggled to count everyone there. He had a vague idea of how many people there were supposed to be, and he was pretty sure there was someone missing.
“Deirdre,” he said.
“She’s… um…” Sylvia wrung her hands. “She’s coming, Richard.”
Everyone went quiet. Monty whispered something to Alice, who looked immediately concerned. “Erm… Richard? Deirdre’s-”
“Don’t tell him the truth, he isn’t in his right mind,” said Sylvia.
“Deirdre’s leading the faerie in the woods away from us,” Johann said. “She volunteered.”
Richard tried to stand up again to go get Deirdre. She was in danger!
“Sit down, Richard,” said Johann. “Please.”
Suddenly, Deirdre was there, breathing hard, with flushed red cheeks, skin scraped by a thousand thorns, and wild eyes.
Johann threw his arms around her, but he was only able to do that for a few seconds before the girl with the long hair shoved him aside and did the same.
“We have to go,” Deirdre said, speaking between heavy breaths. “Go now!”
The man with the tricorn hat was surprisingly strong – he hefted Richard into the back of the wagon, where he was nestled among a few burlap sacks that were back there for some reason. Johann started the horses going, and the girl with the cap and short blonde hair that made her look like a boy perched on the back with a scythe to strike at something that might have been following them.
The wagon took off, with Sylvia running after it. She did a flying leap and landed in a roll in the wagon bed, where she collapsed on her back.
“How did you do that?” Deirdre asked.
“I used to be a circus performer, believe it or not.”
“In the 1790s.”
“Are you telling me that you spent the French Revolution in the circus?”
“Yeah, basically. I met George Washington there.”
“George Washington, Deirdre.”
“The general of the continental army during the American Revolution?”
“The American what?”
The girl with long hair stared at her indecorously. “Have you been living under a rock?”
“Maybe. I was actually trapped in my grave from 1345 until 1850.”
“Jesus Christ. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“The Man in Red gave me an overview of what went on. I thought it was good enough. He didn’t tell me that America had a revolution, though. Pray tell, who did they revolt against?”
“Oh my God, Deirdre.”
The wagon jolted, and Johann screamed. A thing with black skin and long claws darted out of the forest, leaping onto the side of the wagon. It jolted again as the thing rocked it from side to side, screeching the whole time. In an instant, Johann was screaming, Sylvia was screaming, Monty was screaming, Deirdre was perfectly calm, Wilhelm was screaming, and Richard was screaming because he was busy hallucinating a horde of pink rats that his rational mind, which was being held captive by the other side of his mind, told him weren’t really there.
Alice stood up and jabbed at the monster with a scythe. It knocked one of its hands off, but didn’t do much otherwise, especially because the monster immediately launched itself over the side and into Alice. She went flying off and landed on the side of the road.
The monster was back an instant later, crawling out from under the cart and jumping up on Johann’s lap. He screamed again, and dropped the reins. Sylvia dove to the side and grabbed them, but Richard’s head lolled back, and that distracted Deirdre, who went to pull his head back up by dangling her arms over the side, which hit Sylvia and made her overbalance. She fell backwards off the wagon, leaving the reins unattended, just as they were going around the curve, which completed the whole fiasco by flipping wagon, horses, and all off the road and into the ditch that ran alongside it.
Richard must have hit his head again, or something like that, because the last thing he heard before he blacked out again was Deirdre screaming at someone passing by. “Go and get your mother! Hurry! Go!”
Apologies for the short chapter today! I am, however, aiming to get two new (and much better) versions of the header drawings up by 10 pm today, which might hopefully help make up for this chapter being much shorter.
Thank you for reading!