A Tall and Small Collection | Soren |

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Chapter Twenty-Four | Revelation

Soren calmed his breathing as his heart pounded in his chest. It wasn’t just a nervousness that wracked his body – it was an excitement. The water training had gone better than any of them, Ashlynn and his younger brothers, expected. In fact, they were putting it to the test now.

Ashlynn had removed the soft cast completely and, though it was still achy, the once injured Borrower could now stand on both legs without aid. It was a tremendous success, but they were far from done.

Soren had an itch – a running itch. The eldest Borrower had been confined for so long, hindered by his injury, that the prospect of running, even slowly, was too tempting to pass up; and that was where he was now. Dorian and Rey stood as the finish line marker across the room. They were just as anxious and giddy as their older brother – arguably more than him if Soren was being honest with himself.

Time slowed as he exhaled nervously. The tingling in his fingers and leg sent chills through his body. He was a spring ready to be released. Soren remembered how fast he used to be – how quick he could dart from one end of the room to the other. Silently, he hoped he could achieve that once again. He watched with bated breath as both Dorian and Rey raised their hands.

“Ready? Set? GO!” they cried out in unison. Soren’s body tensed as he lunged forward. The ache in his leg became a burning pain quickly, but he pushed through the sensation traveling through his leg. He winced involuntarily after the first three steps, but that was all. He pushed his legs, willing them to go faster with each step – and, temporarily, they did.

The air rushed through Soren’s messily tossed hair. Air filled his lungs and, as he ran, he couldn’t help but remember the draw on his instincts to run for cover. He darted for a spot under the bed, imagining the old days of sprinting for the protection of his life.

The oldest Borrower crossed the finish line without even realizing it. Dorian and Rey cheered and chased after him, tackling him to the ground the moment he slowed and spun around just under Ashlynn’s bed to face them. For the first time in a long time, the trio of brothers laughed. Really laughed.

While Soren pulled them tight and they held him close, they simply laughed at what they had just witnessed. Excitement. Joy. Pride. Disbelief. All of it. Like a burdenous weight lifted from their chests, Soren smiled and ruffled his brothers’ sandy blonde hair. They beamed at him, the light finally returning to their blue eyes. Finally, things felt normal.

That is… until Ashlynn opened the door to her room and came into the bedroom.

She shut the door behind her quickly. Something that looked like a hard plastic container that she explained was for food “to-go” was in their human counterpart’s hands.

“Soren?” she called quietly. She locked the door behind her. There was a faint tremor to her voice that Soren hadn’t heard. Immediately, he knew something was horribly wrong. Dorian and Rey, picking up Soren’s sunned demeanor, quieted as Soren smiled reassuringly at them, untangled himself from their grasp, and stepped out into the open.

“Here Ashlynn!” he called. Their eyes met. Now he knew there was definitely something wrong. She took two long strides toward him and knelt with the container. The brisk approach was still a bit jarring and unnerving for the four-and-a-half-inch person, but it no longer created an involuntary jump as he reached Ashlynn. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

Ashlynn’s jaw clenched as she held out her hand for him to climb onto. Now Soren was nervous. Apprehension settled just above his diaphragm, creating an uneasy flutter. “I need your help,” was all she said. The now suspicious Borrower stepped onto Ashlynn’s open palm which trembled slightly.

“Just tell me what’s going on,” said Soren reassuringly as Ashlynn brought him up to see the top of the box, which she hadn’t opened.

“He’s… he’s really hurt…” Those three bone chilling words were enough to make Soren’s head spin.

“He? One of us?” asked Soren as he felt his heart sink and triple in pace.

“Yeah…?” muttered Ashlynn. “The kid I’m watching today, right now actually… he thinks this guy is a doll – a toy. I’m not giving him back, but there’s no way I can fix all of these injuries right now and definitely not on my own. I… Soren… this is really bad. I don’t want to rope you in, but I don’t think I can save him on my own. Please.”

Ashlynn had gone above and beyond for him and his brothers. Soren remembered what condition he was in and could only imagine what this other Borrower looked like if Ashlynn was this unnerved. All of these things plus helping a fellow Borrower culminated in only one obvious answer.

“Of course, but I don’t know much about first aid. I’ll help where I can,” agreed Soren. Ashlynn nodded with a nervous glance to Soren and to the lid of the box. She stood carefully and brought him to a small standing desk in the corner of the room. She set down Soren before taking a shaky breath, opening the box, and setting it in front of Soren.

“Just… prepare yourself, okay?” she prefaced as Soren approached.

“Yeah, sure thing.” Soren braced himself, noticing Ashlynn’s nod and nervous glances, as he approached the figure in the box. Instantly, Soren felt a torrent hurricane of emotions: disgust and gut-wrenching nausea at the injuries; worried that he could do nothing; pure, unadulterated hatred; an almost sense of poetic justice. Soren hated he felt all of these things, but he couldn’t stop feeling them as he looked at the round, squarish features of the blonde-haired Borrower.

The Borrower was Brady.

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