I don’t remember the rest of the day very clearly. I was given medication to calm my nerves, and then there was a dark room with bright lights, and a person with bad hair and sharp teeth who told me exactly what had happened to me. She had me repeat the story back to her verbatim several times before I was taken to a media room and interviewed for the Evening News.
At last, when I was nearly staggering with fatigue, I was released to go home.
When I awoke, it was nearly noon the next day. As I lay in my bed recalling the day before, it all seemed like a bad dream, scarcely real at all. The elements I remembered most clearly were the little things: the crushed flowers I had lifted, the little bird who hopped near me and tilted her head, and the wind in the oak leaves.
I jerked physically in surprise, hearing the snarl of a Protector Wolf, as an unexpected memory came out of the confused melee of images. I remembered the sunlight on Ostrich eyelashes, the inane reporter. . . Malory. . . his name was, and black lips drawn back over sharp white teeth.
“That was a close call,” I said aloud and got out of bed. When my feet touched the floor, full realization hit me. I could not drive across the city to reach my work place. My car was still in the forest. And I had no money to have it towed.
Being broke was as familiar to me as skipping meals. I could not remember a day when there had been enough of everything. Jobs were scarce, and if I did not show up for work, my job would be given to someone else within 24 hours. Yesterday might be excused, seeing as how I had appeared on National TV as a lucky survivor. But today. . . at best, I had 6 hours leeway before my job was history. And then my flat. And then my life.
There was only one solution. I had to go back into the forest and get the Nissan. And I knew exactly who would get me there.
Guy Egareva made the drive over the pass every day as a delivery driver. He had more horror stories to tell than anyone else I knew. And Guy had been hinting he’d like to take me out for months already. I looked at the clock. He would be heading south over the pass in - 10 minutes!
I was dressed in the same clothing, having fallen asleep within moments of reaching home the night before. I stuck my feet in my boots, and ran out the door.
When I reached main street, I ran to the coffee shop where Guy always stopped, and arrived just as he was coming out the door with his styrofoam cup of the latest and greatest Morshmucks special.
“Jan—ey!” He said in his slow, permanently-surprised way. “I saw you on TV.”
“I need a ride, Guy. To get my car. It’s still out there. Could you - would you give me a ride on your way over the pass?”
Guy was speechless. He just stood there staring at me with his mouth open. This did not alarm me as he frequently looked that way.
“Do you have a jack that works? Mine was broken.” I continued, going around his delivery van and getting into the passenger seat.
“Uh. . . Uh, yeah.” Guy said and got into the van slowly, still glancing at me with mixed expressions of confusion, alarm, shock and delight.
So I ended up back in the forest again, facing the greatest danger of my life.