Shannon Thompson is back on Friday Fiction again today. She has kindly provided an excerpt from her brand new book, Take me Tomorrow. You read it here first!
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Plants scratched at my heated face, but my entire body remained still. From the brush, I watched as Argos lowered to the ground, his fur rising, his canines bared. His keen brown eyes locked on his prey, a tall boy with broad shoulders and frayed, blond hair that hung in his eyes. The plain black t-shirt he wore made his skin look tanner than it actually was, and the right sleeve was ripped into pieces. He could’ve been living in the forest for days, but he didn’t seem bothered by his disheveled appearance. He seemed comfortable with it, like the forest had grown into him, and he definitely wasn’t afraid to attack my dog in order to survive.
“Down!” I shouted, hurdling out of the trees, and my dog’s paws dug into the dirt.
Thunder rolled across the clouds as the boy’s eyes locked onto mine. His chapped lips parted as if he was going to speak, but Argos barked, and the boy stepped back. Even then, his gaze remained locked on me. His irises were as green as the forest.
“Heel,” I commanded, and Argos walked to my side before sitting down.
The boy’s eyebrows rose, a light dancing in his eyes. “Oh, good. The demon has an owner.”
His voice was rough, as if he hadn’t spoken in days, and a smudge of dirt coated the side of his face where he had wiped sweat away. Even though his tone was sarcastically carefree, his stare was intense, shadowed by the setting sun. I recognized the stillness in his expression. It was a predatory look, the expression of an animal preparing an attack.
I raised my knife, and the blade flashed. “What are you doing here?”
His mossy eyes focused on my weapon. “Don’t you think the dog is a big enough weapon?”
“He’s trained to attack.”
His chin lifted. “Are you, too?”
I tensed. He wasn’t afraid of my knife, dog, or me. The muggy air was suffocating, and my curly hair scratched against the nape of my neck.
“Who are you?” I demanded an answer, holding my ground with Argos at my feet.
The stranger simply stared, his lips pressed together in a thin, white line. We remained frozen, neither of us willing to move first, except for Argos. My dog walked forward, growling. The boy bent his knees as if to prepare for a fight.
“Heel, Argos,” I repeated, keeping my eyes on the stranger. If he wouldn’t look away, I wouldn’t either.
A thin, red scrap curled down his bicep to his forearm where his shirt ripped. He kept one hand on the strap of his backpack while his other hand pressed a piece of paper into his palm. A black watch wrapped around his wrist, and when I looked back to his face, his eyes grew shadows beneath them. He couldn’t have been much older than me, but he looked at me as if I were a naïve child.
He waited a moment before he spoke, “So, you like the Odyssey, then?” he referred to my dog’s name.
I ignored him.
He shrugged at my focus and gestured to my knife, “Do you even know how to use that?”
“Get out of here,” I threatened, thinking of all the times my father had cautioned me about the woods. Tomo addicts would collect in our acres after curfew. I was only supposed to check the woods during the day, and this was my karma for checking them at dusk. “I’ll call the police.”
“I don’t think you’ll call the police.” His laugh mimicked Argos’ quiet growl. “Or don’t you know those are illegal?”
My eyes flickered to my knife for only a moment. Throwing knives were illegal. I knew that. He knew that. Everyone knew that. Any kind of weaponry was illegal. The State deemed them too dangerous for the general population after the tomo massacre. My father had never listened. Using his governmental status to protect us from randomized searches, he welded knives in our basement and taught me how to fight with them properly.
The boy’s arrogance infuriated me. “Get off of my property.”
His eyes studied my face quickly, quietly, and undoubtedly efficiently, yet his expression was blank. “This is your property?” he asked. “You’re sure?”
I nodded, and he looked to his side, dropping all eye contact. My toes pressed into the ground, and my calves burned. A predator never turned their back on their prey, yet he did effortlessly. My father taught me to always face someone with a weapon, but here he was – shifting away as if I didn’t exist.
His eyes glanced at the black face of his watch as he ran a finger over the screen to clean the dirt off. When he looked up, he studied his surroundings instead of me. When his jaw locked, Argos barked, and the boy leapt back, so startled that I was sure he had forgotten we were standing right in front of him. He even dropped his paper.
When he leaned forward to grab it, Argos leapt towards him, snarling. Rage flashed behind the boy’s glare. Before he could do anything, I snatched up the slip of paper and shoved it deep into my pocket.
The boy straightened up, and his rage averted toward my pocket rather than my knife. Apparently, taking his piece of paper was more of a weapon than my knife was.
I didn’t say a word. The boy, on the other hand, opened his mouth to speak, only to have a car horn interrupt him.
Argos’ ears perked up as a red car drove into my driveway and stopped somewhere near the edge of the forest − only six acres away. The intruder leaned up as if his height allowed him to see over the trees. When he rocked on the back of his feet, he spoke, “Someone’s here.”
I kept my blade up. “I don’t care.”
He smirked. “You sure?”
“Sophia!” my name ripped through the trees as the sky continued to darken. Lightning shattered across the clouds. “Sophia! Argos!” I recognized my friend’s voice immediately. Miles was here.
The stranger grinned, flashing his teeth. “Sophia?”
I glared back. “I can stop Argos, but I can’t stop Miles.”
His head tipped to the side, and his blond hair sheltered his eyes. “Miles,” he repeated the name like a simple statement.
Miles yelled again, “Where are you?”
“Over here,” I screamed backward, keeping my eyes locked on the boy as I dropped my voice. “Get out of here, and don’t come back,” I ordered.
Instead of taking the moment to run, the boy glanced down at my pocket where I kept his paper. I tensed, waiting for an attack.
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