“Flynn! Flynn!” Elias screamed as he jogged. His voice was breaking every now and then like a young boy breaking into its teen years. He didn’t mind. He was frantic. His mouth felt like sandpaper from shouting, he trips and falls but immediately gets up and continues his jog. Noah went on the other side. They split directions. Noah’s direction was towards the flower valley while Elias’s was back to the camp. Please God, tell me he’s going to be fine. He tripped on another fake twig and landed on a clear ground. Weird enough, it was as if someone swept the whole area from rocks.
The camp was near he could see Madrid cleaning, tucking in the folded tent at the back of the caravan. Elias raised both his arms and waved as he ran towards her. He shouted Madrid’s name. His voice echoed.
“What’s happened? Are you alright?” Madrid asked worriedly. She immediately closed the doors and faced Elias. Her brow shot up as she cupped Elias’s face. “Elias?”
Elias crouched down, his palm planted on his knees. He was trying to catch his breath. “Flynn… It’s Flynn, he’s missing!”
“Oh my God,” She hurried to the caravan. “Let’s go. It’ll be faster by car. Where’d you last seen him? Did he run off? Have you seen any strangers?”
His stomach flipped. It was like back at the restaurant. He could feel Madrid’s questions stabbing him. He tried to think she meant it literally but all he could hear is her saying how the fuck can you lost him? How useless can you be? Elias held on to the side of the caravan for support as he climbed inside the passenger seat. “Near the flower valley. We were going there but all of a sudden he’s not there…” Elias buried his face in his hands as Madrid started the engine.
“Don’t worry. Flynn must’ve seen something. Caught his attention. He’ll be fine, just a little lost that is,” Madrid said, her voice was calming but Elias couldn’t look her in the eyes. “Any chance you see something quirky around here? Any clues?” She rolled down the window and started shouting Flynn’s name.
The wind blew coldly to his face. He kept an eye out but his mind racked on the things he’d seen a while back. He was so consumed he didn’t notice anything except for the patch of ground that was clear of stones and the statue. He started shouting Flynn’s name with his might. His voice was raspy and rough.
“Anything?” Madrid asked again.
Elias thought for a second. “I thought he might have gone to the valley. The statue. He was curious about it yesterday, but Noah said he warned him against it,” He paused as he tried to recollect what he knew about the two, “But then again Flynn’s really looking up to Noah. I’m 99% sure he would stand by his word. But still…” Elias shook his head. His mind was everywhere. Then he held up a finger. “There’s this huge ground patch. It’s kind of unique since there were no stones on it. It’s like someone swept the area-“
Madrid stepped on the brake all of a sudden sending Elias’s face centimeters from the glass. When his back hit the seat, he spurted out, “What the hell?” She faced him, her eyes glossy not with worry or sadness but fear. It made Elias’s heart rate double. Before he could utter a word, Madrid spoke.
“This clearing, where’d you find it?”
“All the way back? About 10 minutes from the camp-“ He was cut off again by Madrid swerving the caravan to where he was pointed. Her brow knitted, there was fierceness in her eyes. Elias gulped as he squeezed the edge of his seat. “What was that?! What are you thinking?” She stepped on the gas and Elias automatically prayed for his life. The trees were thick and even though there was a path for vehicles it was still too narrow and one wrong turn could end in a crash. “Madrid!” He shouted.
Madrid looked over the front and then stepped on the brake once again. This time Elias’s forehead hit the glass with a loud thump. Surprisingly, the glass didn’t crack, he’s not sure about his skull though. Madrid went out. Elias followed with his palm on his forehead, he could already feel a bump growing. Great.
The clearing was in front of them. Looking at it now with all his focus, Elias was shocked at how big it was. It was larger than their camping grounds. Stones, branches, and other things were scattered on the edges of it. Even the trees around it were bent slightly.
“Madrid, what’s this?” Elias asked, not removing his eyes on the scene.
She held up a finger and crouched. She looked at the sky. Her eyes wide and alert. Elias did the same thing, but he wasn’t sure what he was looking for. The sky was clear blue and empty. Then she shot a gaze around them casually hiding at the side of the caravan.
“We’re not safe here,” Madrid said, breaking the silence.
Elias pushed down his annoyance. “Maybe if you could tell me what’s happening…”
“It’s some kind of prehistoric species. Mutated, new line, but most probably a prehistoric one,”
“What?” Elias said then he chuckled. He looked at the clearing and that’s when it snapped. Something was here. Something big, strong, with huge wings that could flap and send stones varying in size flying away. Elias gulped. “We need to find Flynn.”
“Are you near here when you found out you lost him?”
Elias scanned the surroundings and nodded when he saw the path where Noah juggled the tree chip.
Madrid cursed. “He’s around here, then. Heard anything while you three were walking? Seen anything?”
“If I have seen or heard anything you’ve already heard it from me. There’s none, Madrid. I don’t know. We were talking and all of a sudden he’s not there!” Elias couldn’t stop himself.
Madrid blinked at him and then in a swift motion she grasped his sleeve and dragged him towards her. She was strong. He noted that. His knees hit the stones. Madrid hushed him. I wasn’t even going to say something. Then the sky darkened as the wind started to blow violently. It was unusual and the fear in Madrid’s eyes reverberated through Elias. His heart thumped on his chest as he slowly looked up.
Few meters above them is a gigantic creature. It’s scales were coal-colored and matted with bits of moss. Its wings stretched as far as the trees allowed. It steadied in the air, very still. It flapped its wings every now and then to maintain its altitude. Then slowly, as if it already decided where to go, it glided among the trees and towards the north. The sky then revealed its hue as soon as the creature was gone.
“That… What the… fuck is that fucking thing?” Elias breathed out while he scrambled to his feet with his trembling legs. Now he knows what it's like to be a newborn deer.
Madrid was already making her way back inside the caravan. “I don’t know what that is. It doesn’t look like a natural species,” She banged the top of the caravan and gestured to Elias to get inside. “We need to follow it. I think that’s what Flynn saw.”
Is it possible that Elias and Noah missed that thing? They were in a conversation, and they got pretty deep in it but surely, they’ll see that huge creature in their peripheral vision at least. But then again, the creature moved so subtly. There was no noise but the casual flap of its wings, yes it still has a distinct subtle noise, but it’s almost impossible to hear it if you’re not paying attention or if it's far.
They kept their distance from the creature as Madrid followed its shadows. Watching it glide between the tall trees, its movements were gracefully fluid. It was like simply swimming under the waters. The creature was as wide as their caravan, maybe a bit bigger, not including its wings which were incredibly massive. It has arms and legs that look too muscular.
“Don’t ask for your jaw later,” Madrid said, a smile playing along her lips.
Elias shut his mouth. “I’ve never seen a thing like that.”
“You said something about natural species, right? This isn’t it?”
“Natural species by classification of the Gardens of Adam are the ones from our world. Not touched by any of the scientists on the ship.” Madrid glanced at the creature, “That isn’t one. I mean, I’m kind of sure no flying animal has arms and legs, at least nothing’s been discovered in our timeline and look at its left leg,”
Elias craned his head almost touching the windshield. There was a loose gold band on its left leg. It looked like it had been gnawed or pulled, it’s almost torn to pieces, but it still clung to its leg.
Madrid pointed at it. “That’s the band they put on experimented ones. I knew it because one of our neighbors…” She cleared her throat, “One of my neighbors in the apartment has this pet cat with four ears and a curled tail,” She leaned towards Elias without removing her eyes on the road, “It has a gold band on its leg. Says she just purchased it from the foot of the Gardens of Adam, cost her more than two hundred lion coins she said and a…”
“What?” Elias asked. Madrid chuckled. She was blushing. “And what?”
“Oh, nothing, nothing. Ah, those guards,” She exhaled.
“So, if a cat costs more than two hundred coins then what the hell is that gigantic thing doing out here? It escaped, didn’t it? Holy…” Elias took his head with both of his hands.
“Cheer up, Elias. I think we’re almost there,” Madrid said in a low voice.
The caravan moved slowly as it descended downhill. At Elias’s right the flower valley seemed so close. The statue was nowhere in sight since it was still far below and could only be seen at the topmost part.
“We left Noah,” Elias realized, then it snapped in his head, “We left Noah! Goddamn it!” He squeezed his face to the glass. “Madrid! Pull up! I think I saw Noah,” The caravan was moving slowly, careful not to catch up in the creature’s line of vision.
“Wait, don’t think of going outside!” Madrid said in a panicked voice.
Too late though. Elias opened the car door and stepped out.