Courage

By Cori Kane All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Horror

14

The howling must have ceased a while ago, but Dean hadn't noticed. Their heart was beating wildly in their chest, their breath came in short, hot bursts. Their sides and shoulders burned, their legs wanted to give out on them, but still, Dean pushed through the trees. They were vaguely aware of the thumping of paws behind them, and they more felt than knew that there were some to their sides. Dean seemed to follow a shadow of a giant through the trees and yet trusted that shadow to take them to the lake, to safety.

A root almost brought Dean to their knees. They caught themselves, but barely. Desmond slid off their shoulder and they grabbed onto her, knowing that they wouldn't be able to lift her off the ground. Dean held onto her while slipping out of their backpack, losing the extra weight. They knew they wouldn't be able to find it again, not even in daylight, but Desmond was more important. Dean took a deep breath and hoisted the unconscious body of the girl back onto their shoulder. Pain shot through their back and they groaned, but they started running again.

Dean had lost track of time even while running uphill toward the kids earlier, now they merely hoped that every new tree they passed would reveal some kind of light, some kind of sign that they were getting closer. They feared that they had hours to run yet, doubting that they would make it. The way up had seemed to take hours, now it felt like only minutes had passed since they beat Desmond with their gun.

But somehow this wasn't true and suddenly Dean saw a light in a not so far distance. Could it be an illusion? Could it be anything but what they were hoping for?

The shadowy giant running in front of them broke to the right at some point. Dean felt the loss as a short-lived disorientation. They stumbled, but through some miracle remained upright. They focused on where they'd last seen their navigator through these woods, and there a patch of lighted leave-strewn ground appeared. There was light and Dean tried to catch it. They broke into the clearing and saw the cabins. They stood dark, but further ahead the main building was lit, there were people near.

Dean gave a whimper at the sudden sense of warmth and safety. But before they could reach the stairs to the main building, something heavy knocked into them. Dean lost hold of Desmond as they were thrown sideways and rolled a few feet. When they looked up they saw a werewolf leaning over the unconscious girl, growling deep in his chest.

A black furry body smashed into him before he could get at the girl. Dean had an inkling who it was but didn't even turn their head to confirm it. Without hesitation they jumped up again, pulling Desmond into their arms. They didn't know where this rest of strength came from, but it helped them carry the girl up the stairs to the door. They kicked against it.

“Help,” Dean tried to call, but it came out as a mere whisper. They cleared their throat. “Let us in.” This time, the people inside must have heard them, because the door opened a crack. Dean pushed through it just barely remaining upright. The door was locked behind them as they put Desmond down and sacked to the side. They would have loved to black out at this point, but consciousness was still with them. Dean looked around. There were the teens and their teacher, all with big frightened eyes, looking at them.

A couple of students then made hesitant steps toward Desmond, but Dean jumped forward, leaning over her body as if still wanting to protect her. But there was something else they had to do. They checked her body for tears, for blood, for a possible bite. The werewolf who had smashed into them could have taken a bite out of her while Dean was still trying to get their bearings. They looked her over, but didn't find any blood other than on her forehead where Dean had knocked her out.

They leaned back and looked over their own body, but for a few cuts on their hands and a tear in their favorite coat, they were all right. The pain was merely from exhaustion.

“Corinne?” Dean called out and the red-haired girl looked up from where she cradled another girl. “Could you...could you take care of Desmond?” They slid over the floor to the first thing they could rest their back against.

Dean saw Corinne hesitate, but then nod. And as soon as they saw that nod, they closed their eyes and were out.


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