"I don't understand." the girl shivered. She was frightened. And in her bleached-white tenseness, she looked too much like Ellen.
They were back at his childhood cottage in Lake Eerie. When things got tough he always seemed to come back. It was where he held those cherished memories of his mother and father together. It was where he'd proposed to Ellen, where Jasmine had been born.
"It's probably nothing. Probably a bear." Samir made Henry say in an patronizing tone. "Best be safe, love. Go inside. Down to the basement. Put a movie on. I'll telephone the Sheriff."
Samir wore Henry's body like a winters' coat--snug and warm but ultimately unfeeling. He felt slow and sluggish.
The form he wore was dictated by the environment. Until he could determine who controlled the setting, he couldn't invest too much energy. If it was his dream-theater, then he could make all the changes he wanted without major repercussions. But if it was his adversary's, he'd have to conserve his energy.
And if it was a Leaper construct, they'd have to work together to get out. Something they'd only ever done once before. That first time.
Samir moved Henry to the kitchen first. He clumsily pulled a crystal decanter from the counter, and poured himself three fingers of hundred-year-old port. Then, with a stillness born of ancient purpose and resignation, he moved to the wood case that held the hunting rifles Samir's father had never let him use.
Henry loaded the shells into the W.W. Greener double-barrel, with practiced patience. Samir may not have ever used the rifles, but Henry knew what he was doing. And though the bigger man was afraid, he seemed competent.
Outside, another howl, prolonged and drawn out, ending in a low growl that was far too close. Henry's hands shook and Samir almost cursed. He couldn't keep themself steady. Henry's fear spiked and clutched at his throat, drawing ribbons of ice along his spine.
"Honey!" Ellen called from the basement. "That sounded really close!"
Something clinked lightly in the main room of the cottage, and Henry spun, chambering a round.
A knotted and writhing form materialized from the darkness outside. It pressed against the window, bony three-fingered hands pressed flat against the glass, leaving oily streaks.
The leaper pressed it's snout against the glass, turning its' head first one way then the other, to face each individual yellow-fired eye towards him. Then it grinned, showing two rows of needle-sharp teeth separated by stripes of black gums.
Samir noted that this leaper had an elongated skull--it would lack depth-perception with the eyes set so far apart. But it's black fur and bony body probably meant that it moved extremely quickly.
"Sweet Jesus." Henry gasped and lifted the rifle to his shoulder.
Samir tried to cry out, tried to stop Henry, but the big man pulled the trigger, shattering the only real protection he had from the Leaper. The glass formed a natural boundary of light.
Downstairs, Ellen screamed and he could hear her moving up the wooden stairs.
A charred smell pervaded the air as tendrils of smoky blackness surrounded the Leaper. It was thrown back onto the slatted-wood of the balcony, under the impassive eye of the cruel moon.
Samir cursed, the words heavy on Henry's lips. He moved the big man down the stairwell, each clump-clump-clump reminding him of the moments of time slipping away from them.
Ellen stood on the landing, her eyes saucer-wide. She started to say something, but only stammered. Henry reached for her, intending to comfort her, but Samir pushed and Henry grabbed her hand roughly and pulled. "We need to leave. Now!"
"I don't understand." Ellen said. "What's happening? Was it a bear?"
"Yes." Samir said. "I hurt it. But I didn't kill it. The gun jammed." he lied. "We need to get to the car and head into town. Tell the police."
Even if it was just a dream, he couldn't lose Ellen. Not again.
They crested the stairs and Ellen gasped when she saw the plate-glass window overlooking the lake, the splinters of glass all around. She stopped when she saw the black shadow stand up on the balcony, snuffling and groaning as it rolled one shoulder then the other.
Gold-fire eyes lit up briefly, and Samir made Henry pull Ellen towards the front door.
"Go!" Samir snarled, and Henry nearly threw her at the front door.
Outside, Ellen fumbled with the keys, then abruptly stopped. "H-Henry..." She said, swallowing hard. "I can't feel my feet."