The birds woke him, chirping away at some ungodly hour as was their wont. His mind bobbed upwards through the layers of sleep and into the conscious world and he immediately wished it hadn’t. His body ached all over and he groaned as he tried to move even the smallest amount. His eyes slowly opened and found themselves looking at a ceiling. He turned his head, wincing as the muscles complained bitterly, and saw he was led on a sofa in the corner of a sparsely furnished room. He recognised nothing. How the hell did I get here, he thought and where the hell was here anyway?
He rose slowly, swinging his feet on to a rug beneath him until he was sat on the edge of the sofa. Across and to his right was a door, ajar and smelling of the outside. To his left was a wash stand and mirror on top of a set of drawers. He got unsteadily to his feet and stumbled towards the basin, bracing himself against the drawers as he splashed cool water on his face. He removed his hands and looked into the mirror.
He let out a terrified, animalistic howl at the sight that greeted him and a woman in elegant black clothes and wearing what looked like a sword at her hip burst through the door. She stopped dead as she saw him, her beautiful face etched with fear. He turned back to the mirror and looked at his face again – only it wasn’t his face and a vision of brown fur and black horns stared back at him with flame-red eyes wide with fear.
“Jeremiah…” the woman said, the soft, soothing tone she used strained with fear.
“Who… who are you?” he said, his voice scared. “Where am I? What have you done to me?”
“Done? Nothing, Jeremiah, nothing. You are home. Your home,” she replied.
“But… but what has happened to me?” his hands making a disgusted sweep across his face “What have you done?”
”Jeremiah, please… I don’t know what has happened to you…”
“But I have horns!” he shouted, “Horns and fur!” he was backing away from the washstand, away from the woman in the doorway
“I know Jeremiah…”
“Why do you keep calling me Jeremiah?”
A look of pained sympathy crossed her face and her body relaxed a little, “Because that is your name. I’ll admit I didn’t recognise you myself, but that’s the only name you have said these past two weeks.”
“I don’t know what you have done, dear man, but you have obviously changed your form,” her voice was soft and gentle as she began to slowly move across the room towards him.
“What? I… I don’t understand? Where am I? Who are you?” he had backed away as far as he could, his back now against a wall.
“Please, don’t excite yourself Jeremiah. I don’t have all the answers, but take my hand and we will find them, I promise,” she was almost upon him, edging towards him, her hand outstretched.
With one swift push of his legs he leapt clean over her and was away through the door. Pain jolted through his left thigh, but he pushed on. He had to get away, to run from this nightmare. He ran out of the door and straight into a barn – it appeared the small room was built into the back – and headed for the sunlight streaming through the big barn doors. Outside he ran over grass and mud, more barn-like buildings were dotted about and the smell of animals was in the air. A path led to a road and the road to freedom, he turned and ran towards it.
Something cannoned into him from behind and sent him sprawling to the ground. A weight sat solidly on his back. He was trapped, unable to get up, his legs and arms flailing, water and mud in his face and mouth. He felt hot breath at his ear “If hyu hef hurt her, Hy vill gut hyu likes a pig!”
“Max! No! He hasn’t hurt me, he’s just scared. Please, let him up,” the woman shouted from somewhere behind him. Max didn’t move right away, instead he pressed his mouth close to the trapped man’s ear and whispered “Hyu betta vatch it bub.” before slowly getting up.
Once free he pushed himself up. His leg was now screaming and when he looked down at it he saw a muddy bandage oozing blood freely. He turned over to look at his assailant and was confronted by a nightmarish vision of a purple skinned monster with fangs and talons dressed in some form of military uniform.
“What… what are you people? Where am I?” he asked, eyes wide with fear.
The woman came slowly over to him, “Please Jeremiah, don’t be scared. We are your friends…”
“Yeah? Well maybe you should that to your tell your dog there,” he said glaring at the monster.
“DOG? Vo har hyu kallink dog? Hy schould kill hyu vor zuch han insult!” it shouted.
“Maxim!” snapped the woman, “Please, you are not helping!”
The purple creature glared, muttering darkly, and took a step back.
“Jeremiah. This is your home. I’m Eugenia, do you not remember me? You rent – rented – a room here and have a workshop in the barn,” she nodded to a building. He glanced over quickly but didn’t recognise it. He looked back into her eyes, trying hard to see if she was lying, “Are you saying you know me?” he asked eventually.
She looked saddened by the question, “Yes, of course I know you.”
“Who am I?” he asked quietly.
“You are Jeremiah Mason. This is your home. I am your friend. Please come inside, let me re-dress your leg and I can tell you everything I know,” she said and held out her hand and he looked at it for long seconds before reaching up to take it…
To be continued…
All the “Lost & Found” posts can be read here.