5/Ignorance Is Bliss
Nash’s quirked eyebrow spoke for him. My senses were focused on him, the way his face was shaded, the defining silence, and abrupt end of the tempest. A sudden unease crept up my spine. Foreboding settled in the pit of my stomach. I hadn’t realized how close he had gotten until the electricity snapped at the touch of his fingertips to my elbow. It felt natural to settle in his arms, like old friends reuniting. His touch melted my anxiety and replaced the silence with his heart thrumming against my ear.
“What was that about, hm?” Nash’s arms constricted around my form.
I took my time to answer. How could I sound sane? Oh I just had a dream, for the past week, of this exact moment and now that it’s here I feel like something bad is going to happen? A heavy sigh escaped my lips. “Déjà vu.” I tried for nonchalance and shrugged out of his embrace. With the look he gave me, he wasn’t buying my excuse. Putting some distance between us, I busied myself with snapping off the last of the dry branches from the trunk blocking the cave entrance. Nash began speaking but a light outside of the cave distracted me. “Hey I think someone came looking for us.” My voice crescendoed with excitement. His body crouched next to mine and stiffened. I was pulled back into the cave with bruising force. “Hey watch-!” A hand covered my mouth before I could finish. Nash’s own lips pressed firmly together with a single vertical finger sealing them together. I nodded in understanding. He motioned me over and with one fluid motion scooped a handful of dirt and rocks over the fire. Without another thought I mimicked his actions. The fire was quickly snuffed out and darkness enveloped us both. A whimper escaped my trembling lips. Familiar arms encompassed my squatting form.
Nash pressed his lips to my ear and in a low whisper encouraged me to move to the far corner of the cave. “Shh you’re doing great. Ok sit here, I’ll be right back.” My fingers gripped his shirt as I vehemently shook my head from side to side. As if he could see me in the pitch black. “It’s alright. I’ll be right back.” Reluctantly, his shirt slipped from my fingers with one last whine as protest. My ears tuned into every step he made until it was impossibly mute. I closed my eyes to the bleakness, the ebony behind my eyelids a relief from the obsidian night.
Thoughts consumed me, worry for my friends, mother, and Nash. Nash, the mysterious man who healed from wounds that should’ve killed him. The man from my nightmares.
Footfalls entered the cave and grew closer, sure of their path. Was this Nash or someone else? Did I even want it to be Nash? He was obviously in something I didn’t need to get involved with. Fingers snaked around my arm and I screamed in response. My heart kicked in my chest even when Nash’s whispers attempted to calm my nerves.
“I want to get out of here Nash, please.” My voice wavered and my eyes wondered not seeing his form even though his lips had brushed my ear moments before. He grunted in response and hauled my body up. With ease my body was hoisted into his, my arms locked around his neck. Nash moved us expertly out of the cave, unlike how we arrived previously. My feet made contact with the sleet covered ground. I blinked adjusting to the gentle starlight peeking through the canopy. Nash laced his fingers in mine and jerked my body to trek behind his.
“Wait, do you even know where we are?” Nash shrugged. “Do you know how to get out of here?” Another shrug. I groaned in frustration. “Are you at least going to tell me what THAT was about?”
Nash about-faced a grim expression replaced his usual teasing smile. ” ‘That’, was what almost killed me. ‘That’, is what will kill you too.” He swerved on his heels and continued to drag me forward. I looked back in time to see what looked like a hunched form on the ground next to the cave mouth, a red sheen tinted in the bleak night.
“Oh god. What have you done?” My voice was just above a whisper, wavering in shock.
His answer wasn’t immediate. “We’re alive, that’s all that matters.” The steel edge of his tone ended the conversation. My mind began to deny all logic, replacing what I saw with an animal body. The light I saw before could’ve been the tapetum lucidum membrane reflecting the starlight; plenty of night predators had it. Even so, how did Nash kill an animal of that size without a loud struggle?
“Jessica, the people after me will know someone helped me. If they find you...” Nash’s voice trailed off ominously.
I was almost too afraid to ask. “Who, is after you?”
A long pause ensued. I almost reiterated when his silence was broken. “Seth.” The name sounded like a curse from Nash’s lips.
“We need to go to the police. Tell them about this Seth guy and I’ll be a witness. We can-” My plea was cut off by one word.
“No!” A guttural snarl snapped the word like a whip. Our pace quickened and I began to see flood lights from the campus ahead. My excitement quickened my stride until I was leading him out of the darkness.
“Look! The campus is just beyond. We can get a phone and ambulance and the police.” His hand jerked back, our joined fingers knotted and held me just out of reach of the forest edge.
“Jessica look at me.” My excitement melted away at his tone. Our eyes met and I gasped at the eyeshine in his gaze.
“Tapetum lucidum.” I said the words as if they were a prayer.
“What?” His brows knitted in confusion.
“You’re eyes.” Nash’s grip tightened at my response. He blinked harshly as if to rid it from his sight. The gold flecks that shimmered in the cave, glowed in the dark. For the second time that night my heart thundered in my chest. “What are you?” My tone reflected my horror.
Nash’s eyes snapped open honing in on mine instantly. “I’m what’s going to keep us both alive.”