Eating Clouds

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Chapter 8: Black Soup

Chapter 8: Black Soup

Above the ceiling made of leafs, the little elf still hovered unaware of what had occurred below him. He hadn’t seen any shadow or felt any pain, like the little boy had. In fact, he was busier with searching the horizon, looking for anything familiar.

Everywhere he looked there was green. Only green. A whole lot of green. And now the sky was starting to show red shades and clouds were starting to form. Clouds that could contain anything.

Rain, of course, wasn’t unfamiliar to the little elves, but it was a rare event. Eddy, for example, had only experienced rain three times in his life. The first time, he was only a rookie at the academy. His entire class stood with their noses against the windows made of shaved crystal.

The second time was during work. He’d gotten a cleaning job for the day, making sure the town square looked stunning for the harvesting festival. He’d screamed loudly when the first drop landed on his glasses.

The third time there was this huge storm, which almost flooded entire village away. It rained for three weeks straight, making the rivers overflow and damaging houses and other properties. There was an admirable amount of casualties and wounded, which left deep scars with Eddy himself.

He shook his head, waving off those horrible thoughts. He had to get back to this beloved village he’d risked his life for.

The round little elf narrowed his eyes and flew a couple feet to the East, where he’d spotted something blue in the green. It probably was the river they’d just come from. The boy and the elf had first walked a few miles into the forest to find the best pearmelons. But now they had to go back.

“Stupid, stupid squirrel” the little elf said to himself.

In silence he dug through his memories of the geography of this land. If he remembered it correctly that river right there was the Yellow Stream, which is part of the Blue Stream, which is where the village is located across. But the more he thought about it, the more unsure he got. It might as well jus be the Green Stream, or the Purple Stream.

Eddy scratched the back of his head. He regretted not paying attention in school.

Looking at their options right now, Eddy figured it would be best for them to just make their way to the river closest and then take another look from up high. It was a temporary solution, but the little elf was still somehow proud of himself.

He spun around graciously, his wings throwing glimmerings around him. It were these moments where the little man didn’t understand why the elves in the village called him ‘useless’ or a ‘good-for-nothing’. He’d figured this out on his own, and he was the one brining a human to the village.

From the corner of his round eyes, Eddy saw a shadow rising behind him. He swiftly turned around, and at the same time dashing back. He wanted to do a warrior’s cry, but changed his mind quickly.

The space behind the little elf was empty. There was nothing out of the ordinary. The horizon, the roof of leafs under his feet, and stuffy clouds moving by like snails in hurry. Did he imagine it?

The little man frowned. Was it getting dark, maybe?

Eddy gasped. Already?! That wouldn’t be good. That would bring him and the human boy in a lot of trouble, because the wolves would come out at night and haunt the forest. None of the two looked like they were able to protect themselves from anything. The little man would have one advantage by being so small and being able to fly away when necessary, but the boy…

Eddy looked around the sky once more, but besides it turning slightly orange it seemed as if they’d have about four or five hours left before the wolves would start hunting. But what was that shadow, then?

What could it be, so high up above the trees? Surely not a wolf, so Eddy concluded.

An enormous bird? Nah, birds were friendly, they’d come to play or beg for food. Not disappear the moment you turn around.

A dragon? No, they went extinct before this forest even existed.

Another little elf, then? Why would he or she be spying on Eddy? It wasn’t like he was doing anything illegal.

Still, Eddy’s cheeks reddened at the idea that the Lord would have someone watch him. Maybe it was a way of recruiting members for Exploration Squad, which was basically Eddy’s dream coming true.

“Hello? Is someone there?” he asked in his own language. Secretly, he hoped someone would just come forward, congratulating him on his acceptance into the E-squad. That he would be brought for the Lord, who would reward him with a golden metal and free pearmelons for life.

Several fantasies flashed before his eyes, mixed up with reality and then completely disappeared when it stayed silent. There was no response from anyone. Like always.

But that would change. Eddy could feel it. The moment he’d bring the human boy into the village, his life would change. No one would look down on him ever again. No one would ignore him, manipulate or embarrass him. His grandfather would look up to him instead of down. The girls would walk up to him, not away. His neighbour would share her winter stockings not out of pity, but admiring.

Today was the day Eddy’s life would take a drastic turn. And maybe not the way he’d anticipated.

The first sign was a black dot in the orange sky, which was growing at a massive speed. It seemed as if the sun had spilled some black paint while colouring the horizon. A moving black drip of paint.

The eyes of the little elf widened as he realized the shadow from earlier was heading for him. Feeling as if someone just threw a bucket full of water over his head, the little elf watched as the black figure neared and neared. If his feet were still on the ground, his legs would be shaking.

Without moving his head, the little elf looked around. Panic rose from his belly to his throat. What was he supposed to do? This unidentified thing was flying towards him and looked really angry, but he didn’t know why. What had he done wrong this time?

It would take too long to try to hide in the trees. The shadow would catch him for sure.

Eddy was out of time. He held his thin arms straight alongside his round body, his feet clung togheter and his chin high, hoping to somehow look brave. In only a few seconds, the black thing and the little elf would clash, and in those last few seconds the little elf figured he could always try to evade the shadow at the last minute, if he was fast enough.

The dark thing crossed the sky like a swift knife through a painting. It seemed to almost rub the roof of leafs with its own shadow blurring over the bumps and unevenness of nature. The closer it came, the bigger it got. It seemed to have taken on the shape of a triangle, now that it was moving so fast.

Eddy clung his fingers together, and let out a soft wheeze as he realized the thing wasn’t slowing down. It would come at him and swallow the little elf in its darkness. A few feet remained, and the little elf squinted his eyes.

A cold breeze slapped Eddy in the face, throwing him back a few feet. He let out a cry which he wished no one would ever get to hear about and desperately tried to regain his balance. He blinked a few times, his sight blurry from the horrible backflip, and then realized he’d lost his hat again.

The curse words were stuck in his throat as his eyes caught the pool of darkness a few feet away from him.

It was truly spilled paint. A flying mass of black paint. It moved around like a living being, but it didn’t seem alive like the little elf and the human boy were. Yes, it seemed to have a way of thinking, and instincts, and even knowledge. But it had no personality. The cold aura and trembling air around the darkness both suggested a killing intent, nothing more.

Physically, it didn’t look like any kind of animal, or human, or elf, or anything. It was just as attractive as a bowl of spurring bean soup.

Eddy stared at the darkness, not knowing what to do. The mass seemed to watch his every move, and was waiting for him to flee, so it could catch him. As in a game.

Almost paralyzed the little elf hovered in the air, with his wings slowing down every second. A sudden breeze went through his brown curly hair, and if he wasn’t frozen in fear he would’ve frowned at the odd occurrence. It hadn’t been windy at all that day. Only a warm, calming breeze, not a slap with a cold towel. The temperature was also going down, as if someone was blocking the sunlight. The cold wrapped itself around the little man like a coat made of ice. It made his whole body tremble and his teeth clatter.

Suddenly an odd sound came from above. It was the sound of blankets being slapped together. The danger wasn’t only in front of him, but also above him. Were there two of them? Were they the same thing? Was this even real?

His throat felt sore. He wouldn’t be able to call out to anyone, like he’d done before. He couldn’t warn Ozzy.

Their chances seemed unfavourable. Escaping had a miniscular percent of succes.

They probably wouldn’t see the sunset after all.

Taking all this in consideration, it felt like Eddy’s head was about to explode. But right before the fireworks would go off, the fire was put out.

For a moment there was nothing. No thought in his head.

There was only fear. Something you feel when threatened. It doesn’t necessarily have to involve your life and the future of your existence, but fear is fear. Scared. Anxious. Afraid. Whichever you prefer.

It’s the kind of feeling that stops the world from spinning. Everything freezes. Your mouth is dry, your ears are filled with water, you smell things which aren’t present at the moment and all you really want to do is lie down and wait for it all to be over.

Eddy’s heart bumped gallons of blood through his tiny body, but he was still too cold to move. The nerves in his lower body spread out like plastic marbles bouncing about, telling him to get away while he still could. Or could he?

No, he couldn’t. His central engine, his brain, his mind. It was all empty. It was all over the place. Someone ripped out all his memories, emotions, senses and put them in the wrong spot. Every single thing crossed one another. He saw the smile of his mother and felt rage. His father who turned his back on him, mixed with happiness. His grandfather shaking his head, feeling confusion. The White Guards who pointed at him and laughed. The maid of the Lord who blushed and pointed at a hole in his trousers. The squirrel that called out for help. The laughing face of a dwarf.

A dwarf?

No. That can’t be right.

That’s not a dwarf.

It’s Ozzy. Ozzy….Ozzy…

A giant ship broke through the ice which kept his mind frozen. The waves caused by the shock pushed every memory into one bulp, every emotion back to its own puddle, his senses put back in his brain like rods in a construction. The little elf blinked with his eyes, and slowly the world opened up for him.

The darkness had surrounded him. He could hear the prattling of the black soup, see the bubbles pop and feel the cold breath against his skin. But he wasn’t cold. He knew exactly what to do.

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