I couldn’t feel the heat from the fire, but that didn’t stop me from leaping away when the sight of flames triggered a flight response. My primitive mind said singed bottom coming, although I was non-corporeal and not at risk. Pots and pans came into view, and I could see a dark-skinned woman enter the room. She’d wrapped her hair with colorful cloth and a white apron around her ample waist. A shaggy dog followed her. Buzzy, I assumed and immediately merged.
My intrusion distracted Buzzy; he didn’t see the swat coming. “Get out of my kitchen, you flea mop. You’ll get fed when I’m ready,” the cook yelled, a wicked looking broom in her hand. Buzzy and I bolted through the door and took off for parts unknown.
Before I knew it, trees were all around us and I’d completely lost my bearings. Thankfully, Buzzy’s nose could smell coffee from the kitchen and I knew we hadn’t exceeded my safe range by much. The broom hadn’t done real damage, however it struck where the arrow had hit my former merge partner and for some reason triggered a sharp pain that put Buzzy to flight.
Feeling pain sustained by a partner is an unpleasant side effect of merging for the mana. Receiving pain from the mana can be an unpleasant side effect for the partner also, as Buzzy now knew. Worried we might get too far from the portal, I urged Buzzy to think about food. He froze. His shaggy head rose up, and his snout swept the air for a scent. He caught one that I couldn’t identify. To me, it was musty like an old sweater. Buzzy saw the world in smells as much as light. I couldn’t do it, even merged. He trotted toward the smell, which wasn’t in the direction of the coffee and portal. The trees thinned and I could see a split-rail fence. The nature of the smell became clear to me when a small herd of ewes and lambs came into view. Buzzy bound over the fence, ears back and head down; he headed for the nearest lamb.
Oops, too strong of an urge, it overrode his training. I had to think fast and couldn’t plant an image of his master, because I hadn’t seen him yet. The cook’s image was out of the question. Experience with male canines taught me that three things ruled them: pack, food and sex. I planted a sexual desire. He stumbled as if someone had yanked his tail. Confused for a moment, he recovered his footing and sniffed the air. We took off running, towards the coffee this time.
The object of his desire was so near, but so far. I felt sorry for Buzzy. He pawed the shed door, drooling with anticipation; her ripeness was palatable to him. The shed kept him at bay. One crisis averted, and not wanting another, I suggested food again, but less intensely. Buzzy resisted, but hunger finally won out, and he rambled to the kitchen door.
“There you be,” the cook said. “Where’d you get to? Now, you stay and I’s get you some vittles.” Relieved to be near humans, I let Buzzy do his own thing for the rest of the morning. He found a shady spot near the front door of the magnificent home designed by Jefferson and kept a lazy watch over the grounds. But, so far, I hadn’t learned much about my when-where. It seemed idyllic, but I wondered how long that image would last.
David P. Cantrell is an author and member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.