Trees and cloud cover made a velvet darkness that hemmed in her flashlight. She couldn’t see much beyond her toes. But that didn’t matter in this well-kept wilderness with it distinctly defined paths.
At first, her brain rejected what she saw, but it was too obvious to dismiss. Tree roots were weaving through the undergrowth.
“Okay, Bent. Unless a cool monster comes up, we’re taking off. The damp is killing me.”
The dog whuffed from behind, sounding more preoccupied with whatever animal had pissed on the towering pine trees the night before.
“Don’t patronize me.”
Pale morning light barely brightened the tiny camper, but it was enough for Chelsea. She found her underwear quickly. The bright-white cotton glowed on the kitchen table. But her bra eluded detection.
She swore under her breath, not wanting to wake Carla. She didn’t exactly regret sleeping with the other monster hunter, but…
*Oh no, I exactly regret this.*
Chelsea watched the fire, ignoring the surrounding revelry. People laughed and drank, ate and flirted. These monster hunters could celebrate. They hadn’t seen Gene die. Torn apart by sea fairies.
*Neither did you. *
The cold spray tasted of salt. Despite the chill in the air, Chelsea leaned over the side of the boat, letting her tumble in the wind. She had thought the prairie to be endless, but watching the ocean merge with the horizon reordered her perception and her soul.
*I had forgotten what the true edge of forever looked like.*
It wasn’t a beach you swam at, even if the weather co-operated. And if the wind, rain, and fog ever did let up, the water would shock the breath from you no matter the time of year. Chelsea wasn’t there to swim though.
The Blind Bronco had never looked better to Chelsea as the cold, relentless wind blew her and Bentley through the door of the trailer. The bar stood immaculately clean, as always, and Florence smiled at her.
The teen aged beauty queen gestured to a stool. “Welcome back. I thought we’d seen the last of you.”
The last five months in the Dakotas had ground cattle-drive chic into her wardrobe, and these people were pure urban working class. It was all baggy denim and hoodies as far as the eye could see. Her fringed leather duster and matching black Stetson stood out to say the least.
Are you okay?” She hadn’t meant to ask, but the question slipped out.
He shook himself. “Yeah. Just. Stuff. You know.”
“Oh, believe me, I know about “just stuff.” I’m comprised of about ninety percent “just stuff”.”