Chapter Thirty Five
Something gripped Emma’s shoulder and her eyes shot open.
Expecting to find herself back inside the shaman’s tent, she screamed when she saw the green slider was hanging from the side of the cliff, directly above her hiding place, flailing its tentacles as though trying to grab something close by.
“Emma!” a familiar voice called and she turned just as Adam skidded under the wooden tower.
“Adam?” she asked dreamily. “Is it really you? Is this a dream?”
“A dream? Emma, have you lost your brain? This is no dream, it’s a rescue! Come on!”
It was then she realized what the slider was reaching for, and why it had stayed along the canyon walls. It was chasing Adam!
“You mean you—“
“I lead the sliders here to distract the ogres! And before you say it, it’s only a stupid idea if they eat us, so let’s go while the ogres are fighting them off!”
Adam pulled Emma by the arm to leave but she resisted, yanking him back towards her. Their faces were close, huddled in the tight space under the wooden beams. So close now to the boy she thought she would never see again, Emma wanted to say so much to him. She thought she would never see him again and now here he was, rescuing her. But there was no time, and her head still swam with the shaman’s drugs—
Emma pressed her lips to Adam’s.
Electricity shot through her and goose pimples spread down the nape of her neck and along the backs of her arms despite the heat from the massive bonfire close by.
She let him go and stared into his eyes, wide and dazed like a flash of bright light had suddenly blinded him.
“What… was that?” he whispered, keeping hold of her. Now that he’d found her he never wanted to let her go again.
“I don’t know,” she said quickly. “But I felt like doing it.”
The wooden structure shuddered and they both looked up as the top beams splintered and wood rained down. The slider was tearing apart the tower to get to them from above.
A tentacle descended down like a blood viper searching for a mud mouse in its burrow. Sharp barbs expanded along it as it grew closer to them. There was no time. They needed to run.
Giving Emma one last wide-eyed look, Adam grabbed her hand and they both scrambled out from under the wooden tower just as it collapsed, dust and dirt exploding as heavy beams crumbled into a large pile.
“There’s nowhere to go!” Emma screamed as they met the chaos around them.
Adam saw she was right. Ogres fought the red slider to their right, the green slider had already changed course and was moving on them, and they were blocked by the raging bonfire.
“This way!” Adam yelled as he led them around the bonfire. “We can put the fire between us and the slider!”
Emma began to move but caught sight of the probe not far away.
“Wait!” she yelled, and, with no time to explain, dropped Adam’s hand and ran out towards the large black object.
Sliding to her knees, she peered into the open hatch at the control panel inside. There were two red switches and a yellow button with letters written across it that she couldn’t understand.
Catching sight of her, the slider dropped from the side of the cliff and heaved its massive body towards her. Chunks of rock exploded as it pounded its barbs into the ground, pulling itself along.
“Emma!” Adam screamed, trying to get her attention.
She looked up and saw the slider approaching. Without thinking she turned back to the probe and plunged her thumb into the yellow button. A whirring sounded deep inside the probe and she backed away just as the slider’s thick tentacle descended upon her.
Rolling away just in time, it barely missed her and smashed against the probe with a sickening slap, sending it sailing through the air.
Emma didn’t wait to see where the probe landed. She was on her feet and running towards Adam in a flash.
He reached out and she grabbed his hand as she ran by. They were gone, rounding the bonfire to escape the monster hunting them.
Adam lost sight of the slider when they reached the other side of the fire. He breathed a quick sigh of relief. He knew sliders well enough to know they were easily confused. If it lost sight of them, it would likely turn its attention to the ogres and leave them to their escape. If they kept moving, they could get to get to the—
A tall, muscular ogre dressed all in bones stepped in front of them and Adam skidded to a halt. He found he couldn’t move. For ten years he’d been haunted by the fearsome figure peering down at them with deep, bloodshot eyes and suddenly he was ten years-old again, looking pure evil dead in the face.
The ogre raised the metal spike and thundered a roaring call. “Chi-tu! CHARA!” he bellowed, about to bring the spike down in a monstrous stabbing sweep.
Something jumped from the shadows then, landing on the ogre’s head and scratching wildly.
“KoKo!” Emma screamed as the ogre in bones grabbed the animal roughly and ripped her from his face. He threw the animal away and a loud yelp sounded someone unseen as KoKo hit the hard ground.
The ogre went for Adam again and Emma shot into action. Throwing herself into him, she shoved Adam out of the way and the ogre’s attack missed him by mere inches.
The ogre stumbled forward and fell to one knee, grunting what sounded like a curse.
Before she could escape, the ogre reached out quickly and grabbed Emma by the neck. He lifted her into the air as he rose to full height again.
Seeing Emma in danger, Adam snapped out if his paralysis and rushed forward to try and knock the ogre off his feet. But it was no good. Using his lower arm, the ogre knocked him away with a powerful blow and Adam fell onto his back some feet away.
Fighting against his tightening grip, Emma kicked her legs and squirmed uselessly to escape. The ogre barely seemed to notice as he brought her closer to his face and roared, gnashing his rotten teeth. She saw his brow has been split open; a deep wound dripped red blood over his eyes, obscuring his vision.
She screamed as he moved her closer to the bonfire to throw her into its raging flames. Sweat dripped down her brow and hot cinders licked her bare back as he held her to the fire.
He growled once more and brought his arm back, ready to throw her.
Emma shut her eyes and readied herself for the end. At least she’d seen Adam again. Against all odds he’d come for her. Maybe this was as good an end as could be had by anyone.
She felt herself rising higher into the air and opened her eyes. They were both being raised and she noticed the ogre’s cries had changed from anger to something closer to pain. He let her go as he struggled against his attacker.
Emma fell to the hot earth beside the fire and looked up to see the ogre in bones torn apart by two powerful tentacles. She didn’t move. She could only watch and listen as he screamed in agony and his suit of bones rattled, rattled, rattled before breaking into a thousand pieces and raining down around her like a hailstorm.
She lay still next to the fire, doused in blood, surrounded by bones, expecting the slider to reach for her next. But for some reason it didn’t see her anymore. Instead, it stuffed what remained of the ogre in bones into its maw, pulsated grotesquely for a moment, then slid away, presumably distracted by the battle raging on between the warrior ogres and the red slider.
Adam slunk in beside her and they both sat still for a long while, hand in hand and breathing deeply.
Watching the light from the fire dance off Emma’s bloodstained face, Adam thought she looked very different than last he’d seen her. She was fierce and radiant like something wild had awakened within her. Why had he never seen it before? Seeing her now—like this—ignited a passion deep within him too and he felt, oddly, like he wanted to devour her. He wanted to bring her to him like she had done to him before. Lips to lips, body to body.
But there was no time.
“Follow me,” he whispered, pulling her by the hand.
It took a moment for Emma to respond, but when she did it was with kind eyes. “I will,” she whispered back, and the two of them disappeared under the fire’s eerie glow.
KoKo scurried up beside them and Emma beamed. She had assumed the worst when the creature hadn’t emerged from the ogre’s attack. She was clearly hurt, but okay.
The three of them moved low and quick towards the hidden staircase they’d found when they were young, all those years ago.
When they reached it and Adam began to climb, Emma looked back at the carnage they were leaving behind. Piles of broken ogre bodies littered the valley, most torn to pieces. The red slider let out a deep bellow as the remaining ogres stuck it with multiple spears. She couldn’t see the green slider. Perhaps it had retreated.
Emma knew that in due time the ogres would kill the red slider and all would be quiet in the valley once more. And while she would be long gone, what had happened to her there would be with her forever. And like so many things she would never understand, why any of it had happened the way it did would remain a mystery.
Anticipating the climb, KoKo jumped on Emma’s shoulders and the girl turned back and towards the steep staircase. Adam was nearly halfway to the top of the cliffs now and would soon disappear over the edge. But he would wait for her there. Adam—her Adam—would wait for her always.