Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: Both
Title: Title: Lost and Confounded
I didn’t get lost. Normal people, people who couldn’t find their way to the corner without checking their GPS, got lost. But no matter how many times I radioed my team, I got nothing but static in reply. And no matter which way I turned, I found myself covering new ground. Turning one-eighty, I couldn’t even find my own track. The terrain looked completely undisturbed by my passage.
Not even a fucking bent blade of grass.
Like I’d never even walked through it.
“Okay,” I said. “Okay. This is funny. On some not-remotely-funny level. I’m sure someone, somewhere, is having a grand laugh.” I looked to the sky to orient myself. “But it ain’t me, got it? Whatever shit is going on here, I want no part of it. I’m a tracker and I’m here to find someone and bring her home, that’s it. So enough with the mystic disappearing trail hoodoo.”
Someone laughed at me and my shoulders stiffened. Insult to fucking injury.
Taking a deep breath, I scanned my surroundings until I spotted the baby owl. Or… the baby in an owl costume. Or…
“What are you?” I asked.
It didn’t speak. Just giggled and hooted and otherwise made noises I associated with a baby or an owl. But not both.
“Oh, I get it,” I said. “This is what a Section 8 feels like. I’m losing my mind in real time. This is awesome.” I scrubbed a hand over my face. “Can I just go home now?”
The sky shimmered and on the horizon I finally saw something I understood. High voltage towers. Power lines. But the sun shone too bright, blowing out the sight like an overexposed picture. I blinked away flash blindness, seeing spots of brilliant white and deep violet and all colors in between.
And all the while, owl baby kept right on laughing at me.
“Listen,” I said. “Unless you’re going to help me, your commentary is unnecessary.”
If anything I made the kid laugh harder.
I lifted my face to the sky.
“I’m open to suggestions here,” I said. “Preferably one that leaves the peanut gallery here behind.”
The grass in front of me rustled, catching my attention. It shifted before my eyes, a clear trail opening to the northwest.
My mouth worked for a few moments before I figured out how to speak again.
“Right,” I finally croaked. “I’ll go this way.”
Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.