I huddled in a far corner, behind and beneath the strange creatures I now thought of as my friends. Muse was wrapped around my neck. But even if he hadn’t been cutting off my air, I wouldn’t have been able to breath.
Slow, limping footfalls echoed through the chamber.
I thought about the chains and cages, so incongruous to an art room. I thought about the coolers of fruit and raw meat, and all Muse had speculated about our host. Could it really be true? It probably wasn’t. Mr. Jenkins was such a nice guy! But what if that was just a cover? what if he was really a master killer posing as a hermit? Maybe the reason he’s a hermit is because he was on the run from the law in some foreign land? What is he going to do to me? Are those torture cages? Is he going to eat me?? Oh nononono how am I going to get out of this? How am I going to survive?!?
Shutting my eyes tight, I hugged myself harder until I was compressed into a little ball. Every footstep was like thunder to my frighted mind.
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…” I whispered to myself in the dark.
Another step fell. Thud.
“Hail Mary, f-full of grace,”
“Hail Mary hail Mary hail Mary hail Mary!” My heart was racing out of my chest, maybe it knew the end was near and was trying to save itself. I trembled and put my hands over my head. The old dwarf had stopped, and I just knew he was standing right in front my of corner.
I prayed he couldn’t see me. Maybe he’d think it was just the animals and would move on. And then while he was distracted I could… what? I couldn’t just leave? we were tunneling through solid earth! Did I expect myself to try and drive this thing? He’d catch me before I even got it going straight. What was I going to do? He’d get me eventually, and I didn’t think I had the guts to kill him first. I was a dead girl!
Just at that moment the lights come on. The old dwarf whistled a command, and all the animals jumped away, relieving my pitiful self, sobbing and cowering in the corner.
I couldn’t dare look up. I had Muse wrapped around my face like a security blanket, waiting for my impending doom.
“Um…… M-miss? Are you… are you alright?” said the dwarf sanding only slightly over me, concern lacing his voice.
Very slowly, I unwound myself and looked up at him. “You’re… you’re not going to eat me yet?” I asking, blinking my red rimmed eyes.
Mr. Jenkins looked absolutely mortified and embarrassed, “Oh my! n-n-n-no I would never!”
“R-really?” I sat up and wiped the last of the tears from my eyes, “Then…. why do you have cages and chains in here? And the coolers of meat and fruit?”
“And the hose and drain in the floor?” Muse added, propping his chin on my head. I nodded, as eager to learn the answers as my companion.
“The hose is for washing the paint of the floor,” replied Mr. Jenkins innocently, “and those cages and food coolers?” he looking over his shoulder, “those are for training.”
“Training what?” Muse asked, narrowing his eyes.
“F-for the creatures,” Mr. Jenkins explained, gesturing to the funny animals around us, “sometimes a-after I make them… they are upset and don’t know how to act. Those cages m-might look mean… but they really a-a-aren’t. It’s… it’s just safety.”
One thing he said popped out at me, so I cocked my head to the side and asked. “Wait… you made all these funny animals?!”
The little dwarf looked positively bashful at my look of amazement. But indeed, my marveling was not over exaggerated. The animals, in looks and action, were quite impressive. With detailed fur and well balanced bodies -even if they were oddly shaped. It was with his next sentenced that my awe and respected for the old dwarf grew immensely.
“Yes, I painted each of them.”
I continued to stare, then finally exclaimed, “Wow that’s amazing! And makes so much sense!” After all, I was in a room full of art supplies, paint that came alive, and magical animals.
Mr Jenkins stood nodding and smiling, but was wringing his hands nervously, as if debating what he was about to say. Suddenly he seemed to come to a decision and a big, if rather guilty, grin spread across his face, “they… are… my family.”
GASP! A hermit with a family! Who woulda thunk such a thing??
Part 6 Final