The Girl in the Mist
Spike slunk back toward the man and sat on his massive haunches. He whined and hung his black head, mane drooping in the humid gloom of the misty dawn. His broad chest rumbled with a growl as he peered from between the last trees at the edge of the forest, his glowing eyes taking in every detail of the rocky, tide-lashed shore even as his pointed ears sagged.
The creature, looking like a cross between an enormous wolf and a nightmare, sent a thought to his companion, “I have failed.” He laid down flat on the ground with an audible thump that shook the bushes. “It is hopeless.”
Even reclining, Spike’s head still reached to Carter’s waist, and Carter was unusually large for a human. The man had an unfavorable look, his brow heavy and a permanent scowl on his wide face. His black hair hung in matted strings over his face and past his shoulders. Even still, his light brown eyes shone with intelligence and humor. A few gnats buzzed around his head and he idly swatted at them as he sent a return thought, “We shall hunt again, little one, don’t be discouraged.”
The sun was beginning to rise in a fiery orange ball over the eastern horizon, clearing the mists from the rocks where the surf incessantly pounded. Alejandra tiptoed to the water’s edge and set her basket on a spray-wet stone. She was young, not yet having seen sixteen summers, but she moved with a surety that spoke of experience. Slender and lithe, her form was wrapped in wide strips of wool, swaddling her from thigh to chest. The heavy cloth of her garment clung like a second skin where the spray had reached it. She hummed under her breath as she stared out over the waves. The tide was out, leaving many small pools in the porous rock. The girl’s hums turned into a soft song and small silver fish began leaping from pool to pool, drawing ever closer to the small girl and her basket as she raised her arms to the gray sea.
Man and beast froze into immobility as they rounded a point to face into the wind, “There she is,” Carter whispered, “be careful, you mustn’t spook her.” He didn’t add, “like last time.” Spike did not need the reminder of his previous failure. Carter patted the creature on his wide skull and let his fingers linger in the long fur.
Huge body almost at ground level, Spike crept forward one silent pace at a time. His malevolent eyes were focused on the girl’s lithe form as his black tongue darted out to run across his slavering jaws. His stomach rumbled hungrily and he froze, frightened that his prey had heard him. She showed no sign of alarm, so he inched another step. Two. Two more.
Alejandra spun, mouth open and eyes wide. Her body trembled, knees suddenly weak. She screamed as the huge beast charged.
Carter grinned as his pet monster broke into a sprint after his hunting beast. His heart beat a tattoo as he anticipated the sight and smell of blood.
Alejandra suddenly grinned and held out her hand, fingers spread wide, her eyes intense. “Halt!” she commanded. Spike slid to a stop on the wet rocks, frozen into immobility and sank to the ground at the sound of the girl’s voice. Every muscle strained at he attempted to move, to finish his charge. He could not. Alejandra pointed to her side, eyes bright, “Come.” She held out her hand.
Spike slowly regained control of his muscles and rose rigidly. He began to totter toward the girl on stiff legs. His mouth still watered involuntarily, but the thought of devouring her had flown away like the morning mist. He obeyed the simple command and approached meekly.
The beast rubbed his head against the girl’s hip as she began to idly scratch through the thick, coarse fur. “Good boy,” she murmured. Alejandra looked up as Carter approached, “Looks like you have more training to do, Papa. I felt him immediately. He must control his thoughts better than that.” She embraced the animal and whispered, “Don’t worry, Spike. You are young. You will learn to hunt in time.” She held him at arm’s length and smirked, “But you will never be able to sneak up on me.”