A World of Colors
The Fun and Fancy Free Art of Pixels
Lessons from Grandmothers
Poking the Gravid Chicken
Trouble Dare Youby Shannon Wolff
The wind howled in Dawson's ears as he zigzagged through the labyrinth of skyscrapers with his heart in his throat. Swallowing back his fear, he ventured a look over his shoulder and cried out when he saw he was still being pursued.
"He's still there!" he shouted ahead to Brook. She looked over her should in turn.
"This way!" Brook called as she took a sharp turn between two monolithic skyscrapers.
Without hesitation Dawson swerved to follow her, trying not to think of the dizzying plummet he'd have to the street below if he missed the gap. His stomach did flip-flops as the bristles of his broom scraped against the sides of the buildings, but he made it. And the man chasing them, on his own broom, streaked by, his quarry seeming to have vanished.
"Lost 'im!" Brook cheered as she made her broom loop through the air.
"Yeah." Dawson muttered, maneuvering his broom into a small holding pattern while he waited for his stomach to catch up to him. "Who knew Charm School truancy officers were so persistent?"
"But outsmarting those bozos is half the fun," Brook protested as she moved to share Dawson's pattern. "You didn't think we were playing hooky for a nice leisurely flight, did you?"
Dawson pretended his cheeks didn't go red at Brook's question. Truth was he'd thought things would only start out as a nice leisurely flight when he cut class with Brook. He hadn't exactly known what he wanted to happen while they were out, but playing cat and mouse with the school's truancy officer most definitely wasn't it.
"Don't you think we should find someplace to lay low until that guy moves on?" Dawson asked, his insides finally stopping their gymnastics routine.
"You kidding? We should go find that guy and get him to chase us again."
"Come on, it'll be fun."
"I should have known better than to ask such a straight arrow to go cruising with me." Brook huffed and rolled her eyes. "Honestly Dawson, sometimes you can be such a wet blanket."
"Brook, he's coming!"
"ALL RIGHT!" Brook screamed as she took off with a laugh, leaving Dawson to chase after her.
Again through the maze of steel and glass towers the two flew, the truancy officer on their trails like a bloodhound as they weaved between stone gargoyles and flew down alleyways.
"Woohoo!" Brook screamed in joy. Dawson glanced nervously over his shoulder.
"Shouldn't we loose this guy now?" Dawson called, his voice riddled with anxiety.
"You're no fun!"
"Fine! This way!"
As the words left her lips, Brook took another sharp turn and sent her broom into a dive towards the street, leaving Dawson struggling to keep up. Leveling off her flight moments before she would have collided with the pavement, Brook zoomed through the earthbound traffic and suddenly turned down an alley only to rocket skyward once more and vanish into a dilapidated skyscraper, a turn Dawson barely made.
"I think I'm going to be sick," Dawson moaned as he fell off his broom and onto the rotting floor.
"Just make sure you're standing far away from me when you do it." Brook grumbled and landed with all the grace of a lame sloth. "Could you be any more of a spoilsport?"
"I could have had a great day of cruising, but no. I had to go and bring you along."
"Brook, keep your voice down."
"Or you'll what? Make me wish I had?"
"No." Dawson began as he swallowed back a lump in his throat. "But he might."
Brook turned to follow Dawson's nod and gasped at what she saw. A monstrous creature lay curled up on the decaying floor before them, sound asleep. Its great chest heaved with every breath, causing the mass of fur and feathers to shake like leaves in an autumn wind. Its dagger-like talons scraped against the crumbling floor as it gave chase in its dreams.
"The Wind Beast," Dawson gasped. All color drained from his face.
"I thought it hung out in the mountains," Brook muttered out of the corner of her mouth. "It's supposed to like the narrow passes or something."
"I guess he wanted to see the town."
"Let's get a closer look."
"What?" Dawson hissed as Brook ventured towards the sleeping creature. "That thing could have us for lunch."
"Well, you wanted to avoid the truancy officer."
"Not that much."
"Oh, come on. You're not scared, are you?" Brook taunted him by wiggling her eyebrows.
"Uh, yeah. You would be too if you had any brains."
"You know, they say that if you can get a feather from the Wind Beast you will be able to ride the wind."
"I'll stick to my broom, thanks," Dawson muttered. He eyed the still slumbering beast and prayed it was a heavy sleeper.
"Such a killjoy."
"Please don't say kill."
"You really need to loosen up there, straight arrow." Brook all but laughed as her lips bent into a devilish smile at the thought crossing her mind. "I bet you're too chicken to get a feather."
"Do and I'll give you a kiss."
"Well…." Dawson rubbed the back of his neck and looked towards the floor so Brook couldn't see his cheeks turn bright red with her words. He cursed himself for even considering doing something that dangerous. Somehow he doubted Brook would kiss his corpse.
"Come on, Dawson, I dare you."
"Well I…I double dare you."
"Then I trouble dare you," Brook answered smugly. She folded her arms and gave Dawson a superior glance. Nothing beat a trouble dare. "Times two." Except maybe that.
"Brook, this is crazy."
"You wouldn't back out of a trouble dare, would you?"
Dawson swallowed hard. He pulled on his shirt collar and wondered where all the air in the room had gone. Where was that truancy officer when he needed him? He'd take a strict lecture from his parents over being mauled by a mythical creature any day. Not to mention all the grief he'd get at school for backing out of a trouble dare. A trouble dare times two at that. He'd never live that down.
Taking a deep breath, Dawson drew himself up to his full five feet of height and started towards the wind beast. Somewhere behind him he heard Brook gasp. Clearly she'd thought he'd never do it, never go anywhere near the piecemeal of fur, feathers and claws before them. Dawson continued to put one hesitant foot before the other and found himself within arm's reach of the creature all too soon.
"Dawson," Brook squeaked as he reached out and took hold of a feather.
The Wind Beast chose that moment to wake up.
Before Dawson knew what was happening he found himself face to face with the beast and wishing himself anywhere else. He opened his mouth to scream only to have the air vanish from his lungs as the creature howled and began thrashing around. Fur, feathers, and Dawson all become a blur as the Wind Beast twisted its mismatched form first one way then another, sending Dawson hurtling towards the far corners of the room as the beast roared its objections.
"Dawson!" Brook shrieked as the room shook with the force of the struggle.
If Dawson heard Brook's cry he gave no sign. The beast began to circle around, forming a miniature tornado with its movements. Brook had to hold on to a derelict pipe as wind filled the room, threatening first to pull everything in the room to its center and then to fling it as far as possible. The few pieces of ramshackle furniture hurled themselves against the walls as the wind became more violent. Brook clung all the more to her forgotten plumbing.
Just when Brook began to wonder if the Wind Beast had eaten Dawson he flew past her, screaming, and disappeared over the edge of the hole they'd come through.
"No!" Brook screamed as Dawson vanished from sight.
As though aggravated by her cries, the Wind Beast flooded the room with more wind until Brook could no longer withstand the force and lost her grip on the pipe. She flew over the edge to join Dawson as a smear on the sidewalk.
Brook screamed as the wind hissed in her ears. Her eyes remained locked on the pavement rushing up towards her. Somewhere above her the Wind Beast flung itself out of its hiding place and back towards the mountains to live in peace, but that was of little concern to Brook now. Certain she would hit the sidewalk at any moment she screamed anew and squeezed her eyes shut. But the sudden stop she felt wasn't her head smashing against the street below. It was an arm wrapping around her waist and pulling her back upwards.
"You can open your eyes now," Dawson's voice chuckled in her ear.
Brook opened her eyes and found herself standing on the ledge of a building in Dawson's arms.
"Are we dead?" Brook forced the words past her dry lips in a whisper as a gentle wind pulled at her hair.
Dawson removed one hand from around her waist as Brook let her question fade away. In his hand was a glossy silver feather from the Wind Beast.
"I really can fly with this thing." Dawson laughed and tickled Brook's neck with the tip of the feather. "Can I offer you a lift back to the ground?"
"So long as it isn't the express." Brook forced a dry laugh and kissed Dawson on the cheek. "I did promise you a kiss," she added, when Dawson gave her a puzzled look.
"How about we play hooky again tomorrow? This time I get to pick what we do."
"And we're going to what, try to find our brooms?"
"Sorry, I don't like to make plans blindly."
"Not even if I trouble dare you?" Dawson let a smile spread over his face and pulled Brook a little closer as though holding her back from the wind flowing past them like a river.
"Not even if you trouble dare me."
"Well..." Brook let her voice trail off as she looked at Dawson and smiled. "Nothing really beats a trouble dare times two."
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