First - Previous
The boxy skeleton and green monsters were still there, waiting for me, on the other side of the local highway. I crossed back a few blocks further down, where there was a little bit less traffic, a shorter timer on the traffic light, and fewer street lamps. My bicycle glowed softly in the darkness, and my pack weighed heavily on my back.
Still, there were no regular cars (not counting the living ones on the highway) and no other people as much as I could tell.
The darkness of the night was heavier over here, though my headlight cut cleanly through it. I rose mostly quietly, my heartbeat pounding lightly in my ears, my breath giving me a beat to set the songs in my head against.
There was always something in my head, but when I rode, it was usually music. Random songs that I found approprate for the setting, or inappropriate ones that just meandered into my head.
Then, ahead of me, in the brush at the side of the road, I thought I caught the shape of a white canine head. I breezed past it more quickly than I could double-take, but now that the image was in my head, the shadows more and more seemed to take that same shape. The darkness writhed as they moved, and the road started to evolve.
It was a slow process, but as details came into my head, I found them slowly becoming imprinted on the world around me. I pulled out into the center of the road, lest the undergrowth start to encroach on it, and at the moment of admitting such reasoning to myself, it did exactly that.
Before I could stop myself, I mumbled, "Don't think about elephants."
To my left came a great rumbling, and the earth started to shake once more. This time, however, it was less like a giant running and more like a...
I pedalled faster, grabbing the horns of my my bicycle so I could hold myself higher off the seat more easily and put all my weight into downward pressure, and thereby into forward momentum.
The bushes started swaying, and then fading behind flying dust clouds as the herd drew closer to me, and finally came astride. They were not quite bearing down on me, but it was near enough that I didn't stop pounding at the pedals until there was a good margin between the stampede and I. At last, I let my body sag back into the seat, my legs now only spinning reflexively as my muscles finished their adrenaline-fueled fervor. My bicycle slowed to something more reasonable, and I turned to look toward the source of their spook.
A curtain hung in the air, still now, and behind it, a swath of a world that didn't belong here. The elephants had run though that, and I shivered. I would have stampeded too.
I pushed my bike along a little further, exhaustion creeping up on me now that the adrenaline had drained. The world looked like nothing I'd seen before, so I suspected my apartment no longer lay down this route; I would need to find somewhere to stop soon before I fell off altogether.
This time, I pulled at the scenery with my mind, doing it intentionally now, slowly drawing in parts of world that I knew until it was changed into somewhere I could rest.
"Around the next bend," and there was a bend in the road just coming into the beam of my headlight; "there will be a small campsite, just a simple cloth tent and a sleeping pad," and I rounded the corner and it was there.
I didn't doubt then, when I peered into the the wooden barrels that I hadn't called for, that they would contain some fresh vegetables. Low and behold, they did. I chained up my bike to the tent stakes (more out of habit than actual security), made up a small and simple snack to quell the aching in my stomach, laid down on the pad, and closed my eyes. I was asleep in moments.
Next - All parts of Only Sweeter.