The Animal

“Next,” she pushed the cardboard coffee cup down the line and leaned back as Sam nearly fell on the counter.

“Hi,” he said, falling on his elbows. “This is going to sound weird,” for a moment he paused, panting heavy. “I need you to come with me.” She blinked once. “Please, it’s a lot to explain, but I need you to come with me, now.” He tried to put emphasis on his words, to engaged her, but she only leaned back further.

“I’m,” she began, then stopped, and looked at her co-workers. “I’m kind of working, I can’t just leave,” then she added in a whisper, “And I don’t know you.”

Sam rose one hand in the air, “But you do know me, I come in here everyday at the same time, to get the same coffee.” He bounced on the counter between them, “We talk everyday, you know me just fine.” She pulled her arms in tighter, and he walked down the counter, gesturing her to follow. She only looked on, taking side glances at the queue forming by the tip jar. They eyed her, eyes raised and glanced at Sam with interest. “Jane,” he looked at her, daring her to walk away, “Please.”

“Stacie, watch the line please,” Jane made to join him, slowly. “I’m taking a five minute break.”

“Longer,” Sam coughed, but smiled as she came to a stop in front of him.

“What do you think I can do for you?”

“It’s what I’m going to do for you,” Sam leaned over the counter. “I need you to come with me, you can ask all the questions you want later, but for just now, come with me.”

“I can’t,” Jane pointed back at her co-workers, “I’m sort of busy.”

“This is more important that your job,” his tones serious, Sam leaned closer to her, pushing a sugar shaker out of the way. “This is about your life.” Jane blinked. “If you don’t leave with me now, it’s over,” he continued. “Trust me.”

“I don’t,” she said, eyes growing wide. “I don’t know you.”

“Yes, you do,” he insisted. “I come here every day…”

“To get the same coffee, at the same time,” Jane looked around, “I know. But I don’t know you, I don’t even know your name.”

“Sam,” he stuck out a hand.

For a second she just eyed his fingers as they hung still in the air, “Jane.” She reached for his hand, fingers light on his own, “But I still am not leaving with you right now.”

Sam looked at the floor, “Okay,” he broke silence. “Okay, i understand where you are coming from, but I did mention that your life is on the line right?”

“Are you threatening me?” Jane, wide eyed, looked like a fawn on the brink of flight.

“No,” Sam thrust his hands in the air, waving them in alarm. “No, I am not threatening you, I am not going to,” he looked behind him, leaned over the counter and lowered his town. “I am not going to kill you, I promise.” I did not seem assured, “Please, hear me out.”

Jane looked at a rag on the counter between them, “Really, I should get back to work.” She reached for the cloth, but Sam grabbed it from her grasp, with a smile.

“This is going to sound really weird now, and I didn’t want to go this far,” he didn’t look up from her hand. “I owe you one,” he began slow. “It has been a long time, since I have felt welcomed anywhere or,” words escaped him and his cheeks grew red. “Look, you were the best part of my lousy existence, and I know that it’s your job to make people feel awesome the moment they walk in that stupid door, but every time you said good morning to me, you made me feel like I had a friend.” He still would not look up, “I was going down a bad place, pulling myself from every social situation I was in, hiding from everyone I had loved, but here you were, friendly and expecting nothing from me, not even a tip.” Jane looked at the line coming in the door, but Sam’s hand was still tight around her fingers. “Every morning you became a step in saving my life, and I owe you one,” he finished quickly and surprised Jane by looking right at her. “Please, come with me now and let me return the favor. I haven’t had a friend in awhile.”

Jane held his gaze, opening and closing her mouth, searching for the right words, but nothing came. She looked at the rag, met the gaze of one elderly man in line, and then returned back to Sam’s blue stare. “Okay,” the word came out before she thought of it, “Okay,” she repeated, untying the apron from around her waist. “Leaving,” she shouted over her shoulders as she worked around the counter next to Sam. “Kill me, and we’re done,” she said, and Sam smiled.

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Sam looked over his shoulder as they left the coffee street. So many faces he knew, so many familiar frowns and squinted eyes, and yet even with their obvious distrust, a fist of guilt was pounding into his chest. Jane turned towards him, and he directed her into the alley towards the woods, if he could save just this one.

The town sat on the edge of a great forest, which was a certain attraction for certain group of people. The broke through the thin saplings on the edge and soon their footsteps were muffled by the pine needles that littered the floor. Sam was leading the way, on edge that Jane had come with him into the woods. The fact that she even trusted the begging look in his eyes was surprising enough, the idea that she was still following him had Sam’s nerves twisting up the back of his throat.

“So, where are we going?” Jane voice nearly made him fly to the canopy above.

“What,” he spoke quick over his shoulder, taking a breath to catch himself.

“Where are we going?” Jane took a quicker step to be at his side, “I’m not really a fan of following you into the middle of the woods.” She looked up at him, waiting for a reassuring, or un-assuring response, but Sam just looked ahead. “I’m about ready to turn back, and leave you on a solo adventure.” He glanced at her, but still refrained from speaking. Jane took a skip and landed in front of him, walking backwards as fast as he walked forwards. “Where are we going, and why is my life in danger?” Her eyes grew hard.

“I’m not sure I will be the best at explaining,” Sam looked over her head.

“Okay, If you cannot explain, then I guess I’ll just wait and see what is going to,” a loud snap caused them both to stop walking.

“Whose this,” a tall man stepped from behind a tree. “She is not,” he leaned against the tree, “Well, one of us Sam.” His accent placed him far from home, an english man in the woods of New Hampshire.

“Shut up Matt,” Sam looked down at Jane. “She is a good person, and you know how I feel about all of this.”

“I know, I know,” there was a tone in Matt’s attempt to console Sam. “You think we should warn them, save them,” he took long strides towards them. “We cannot save them though, and even if we could, it’s not like they would do the same for us.” Matt began to circle Jane, eying her with his long face. “After thousands of years of persecution,” Sam coughed.

“Enough Matt,” Sam began walking again, but neither Matt or Jane moved.

Jane raised her chin, eyes pointed into Matt’s as they stared at one another. His smile grew, teeth showing in the dimming light, “Oh, hello.” He stood up on his toes, making his giant stature even more pronounced.

“Friend of yours,” Jane asked, not looking down from Matt as he began to walk around her. Sam turned back, “I feel like, I’m getting into something a lot bigger then me Sam.”

“Oh you are,” Matt bounced around her, taking quick steps to stand by Sam. “Why have you brought her along, but have failed to give her any information of what she is into?” The both eyed Jane, but she took no steps to join them. Her long brown hair, was slipping in the work required ponytail at the back of her neck. Dressed in all black, her uniform, she began to blend into the dark spaces between the trees. Slowly, Jane crossed her arms, trying to subdue the chill that was rising with the hair on her arms. “Nothing,” Matt moved his gaze to look down at Sam.

“No,” Matt shrugged, looked away from Jane’s hard stare.

“Nothing,” Matt said with a grin, “You don’t know anything and you came into the woods with this shaggy beast?” Sam jabbed him in the gut, “I’m just saying.”

“He told me I was going to die if I didn’t,” Jane retorted.

Matt smiled, looked down at Sam, and then began walking back to where Jane stood. With each step a small twig would snap, echoing in a silent woods, and with each step Matt’s smile grew brighter. His legs were long, and walking over brambles and sticks was effortless, as he made towards Jane. Her arm’s dropped. Matt stopped in front of her and bringing his arms behind his back, he leaned forward. He heard Jane’s breath stop, and felt the adrenalin kick into her veins, and laughed. “You may probably still die,” he said quietly.

“Matt,” Sam shouted to his friends back.

Matt stood tall, and turned back to Sam. “No point hiding the truth here Sam, not now.” He walked back to Sam, arms still behind his back.

“The truth, what’s the truth.” Jane took a bold step forwards, voice breaking into the forest. “I’m going any further till I know, I don’t care what threats you have.” Sam did not respond, but Matt smiled on with growing anticipation. He bounced on his toes, practically clapping with glee. Jane and Sam stared on, but still neither made to speak first. The silence grew, and Jane shivered as a cool breeze fell into the forest.

“Oh come on,” Matt finally broke. “Sam, tell her, please, I’ve never seen the truth realized on one of their faces before.”

“Matt,” Sam spoke from the corner of his mouth. He looked back at Lily, “I’m sorry. I would love to not have to tell you this, but, Matt,” he glared at his friend. “Matt’s right.” She raised her eyebrows, “You’re right, I should tell you why I made you leave.”

“Yes,” Jane pulled her arms tighter across her chest, “It was exciting at first, but I’ve lost my enthusiasm for this adventure.” Her eyes darted between the two men, “I’m not sure what Matt is talking about, but I get this feeling that if I knew, I would not wan’t to be involved.”

“No,” Matt nodded, “I’m certain you wouldn’t.”

“Matt,” Sam looked at the ground, but there was no less warning in his voice.

“Jane,” Matt began to ask, remaining by Jane’s side. “Do you believe in monsters?” For the second time in this conversation, Jane stopped breathing.

“Matt,” Sam put a hand on Matt’s arm.

“Things that go bump in the night?” Matt continued, ignoring Sam as he tightened a grip on his wrist. Jane tried to turn, but she could not walk from Matt’s words. “You ever feel them? The violence on the other side of the street? The betrayal of your own senses?” Matt’s lips tightened with his words, nostrils growing as he panted the thoughts that had been shouted to his face many times before. “The animal behind a man’s eyes?” Sam’s knuckles where white as he watched Jane, stiff in every limb. She blinked once, returning the smile to Matt’s face, “Ah, you have.” He looked at Sam with victory, “See she has.”

Matt turned from them both and skipped over a branch. Sam watched as Jane continued to remain motionless, “Jane?” Her hand snapped into the air between them, one finger pointed to the now risen moon. Jane lowered her head to the ground, eyeing the shadows that were moving with the drifting cloud coverage. “Jane,” Sam questioned again.

“Coming you two?” Matt’s voice came from ahead. Jane snapped her head up, looking at where he had vanished into the night. Her mouth opened and closed, as she searched for the words to explain the thoughts she couldn’t cage. Jane took a deep breath and Sam stepped forwards, “Jane.”

A humming, low and deafening, came from above them. Growing in volume and size as the three of them turned their attention to the skies. Three bright lights, six bright lights, nine bright lights, appeared through the naked branches of the trees. It did not take long for the sky to disappear behind a dark mass.

(c) Kristin Bergene 2011

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