“‘Bout time, Mina Late,” Jacob said as soon as Wil entered the car. His breath came in puffs; Rob had started the engine as soon as she’d opened the door to the backseat and they must have been sitting without heat until then.
Wil did not see fit to answer such rudeness even if he were cold. She turned away from the scoffing youth, settled her purchases near her, and closed the door.
“Get buckled, Mina,” the driver gruffed. He grunted and engaged their vehicle in a backwards, then forwards motion.
“But, of course,” she replied, securing her person. Who knew what bandits or ruffians they might encounter on their return trip? She sighed and rested her dainty chin upon her dainty fingertips as she gazed out at the passing landscape.
The world had changed.
Centredom hadn’t always been so dangerous. Even Wil could remember bright, sunshine mornings, laughing brooks, singing fairy folk, and trusting villagers. Then, out of nowhere, The Thing came. The Thing was everything and nothing; but, most of all, it was everywhere.
Sunshine turned to windy grey. The laughing water suppressed itself to a muted murkiness. Fairies disappeared. And, as Wil had just witnessed at the market, weary villagers interacted in wary ways.
“Didja remember to get dinner this time?” Jakob interrupted her thoughts to tease.
Wil continued to study her memories and outside view. It wasn’t the young man’s fault, after all. She knew his pointed sarcasm stemmed from The Thing. The Thing touched the heart of all that lived and felt.
Night and lighted night panned across her pensive, regal face. They moved quickly. She felt fortunate in not meeting with any delays, particularly any influenced by The Thing.
Just as she thought to thank The Goddess for their safe arrival home, she heard a loud *pop!* from quite near. Immediately thereafter, the even gait of the vehicle she sat within altered to a wobbling sashay.
Their destination arose just ahead. Wil glanced at their driver as she attempted to keep her seat. His jaw set. They were going to make it. Another lurch, many bumps, and a sharp turn landed them beneath the shaded corral: their goal.
“Well,” Rob said after a few seconds. “Let’s see about making dinner, huh?”