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Fickle Flame

Page history last edited by Volkes_Wagon 11 years, 8 months ago

     "Runo, dear?"

     He turned in the direction of his mother's voice. He had raised his head, but his eyes were still a few inches below the tall grass. "Over here!"

     "Where?"

     "Here, Mom!"

     He waved his hand high above his head. He could hear his mother push through the grass, thick shoots crackling under her feet. The dry blades rasped against her dress. "Oh, here you are, Runo! I was worried you had gotten lost!"

     "I never get lost," the boy said proudly, a smug smile on his face. "I've never been lost in my life."

     His mother stepped next to him and tousled his hair with her hand gently. She had thin lines of worry around her mouth, and her eyes had seen too much for her age; but hers was the kind of beauty that never faded. Her green eyes were a pair of jewels set in a soft pale face. She had long red hair, and when she bend down next to her son the two seemed like bright specks of fire in the golden field. "What were you doing so far in the field, dear?"

     "I found something. I want you to have it."

     She regarded him with open curiosity. Runo triumphantly revealed his prize - a sandmouse squirming between his two hands.

     "Oh!" she gasped.

     "You like it?"

     "Why, why of course, dear." There was a sliver of impatience in her voice, but Runo was too pleased to detect it. She held out her hands. "Shall I take it?"

     Runo laughed and reached forward to hand her the sandmouse. He could feel the hot life inside it struggling, each heartbeat and rapid breath was more intimate now against his palms than when he heard it. He opened his hands.

     The sandmouse leaped sideways, missing his mother's hands and landing on its feet. It shot past her feet, aiming for the safety of the tall grass.

     And Runo threw himself forward after it, in the instinctive way a dog chases after its prey, with a brief and vicious snarl. His hands flew forward. Within a moment his small hands were clamped in an iron grip around the animal. It gave a small squeak of terror.

     "I got it!" Runo cried, looking over his shoulder. "Mom, I did it! I got it, look-"

     He felt the wild struggle in his hands, and the violent breathing of its small lungs. He could crush its ribs with a twist of his fingers. Its heart was erratic. He listened with delight to the chaotic sounds of its life.

     And then, all of a sudden, there was silence.

     Runo flinched. It was almost a feeling of pain. He held a hand against his ear and looked up at his mother, the limp creature in his other hand.

     "Mom, it's quiet now."

     "Is it? Has it calmed down?" She turned him around and looked at the pile of fur.

     "But it - it's too quiet. I don't like it."

     She looked back and forth between his eyes and the thing in his hand. "I see...well, Runo..."

     "How do we make it loud again? I liked it when it was loud. It was fun."

     "Runo..." She drew him close and met his golden eyes. She looked away. "Dear, this sandmouse can't make any more noise."

     "Why?"

     "It's dead. The excitement was too much, I suppose - it's little heart couldn't take it, and it died."

 

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