The Skin Traveler
© 2001 Laura Fink / All Rights Reserved http://www.clockdomain.com
Episode Two - "The Gray, Blue, and Green"
The buzzing in Tock's head faded, and he found himself outside in a forest at mid-day. "Toto, we're not in sewer, anymore", he said to a nearby squirrel. The squirrel, whose name apparently was not Toto, didn't answer. Before Tock could instinctively withdraw into his shell, sound of voices arrested his attention. He craned his neck to see what was happening. In a clearing, a scraggly group of men seemed to be arguing with one man who stood on a tree stump. Behind them stood tattered remains of four or five tents that probably used to be white. Tock crawled closer to get a better look.
"We're done for, I tell you. Hain't no chance under heaven we'll make it out of here. Let's up and take to forest, every man for himself!" This cry from crowd drew a general response of cheers.
The man on tree stump shook his head, sadly. "God's truth, we're in a bad spot," he said. "We've got no proper food, medicine, or clean water. For six days we've had no contact with our commanders, and we can ill afford another encounter with enemy such as we had yesterday." At this, crowd murmered fearfully. "But men! Take courage! According to my calculations, we may very well find General Grant's forces nary a day's walk from this spot. Alone, you may be captured. Together, we'll salvage what's left of our honor and make a stand. Who will follow me?"
Tock was now right under their noses, posing as just another creature of forest. He watched anxiously as men muttered amongst themselves. One of them spoke up. "I say let's take until sundown to decide. Then in morning, we either split up or carry on together, as Andrew proposes. What say ye'?" There was a chorus a "yeas", and men moved apart. Tock crawled to where Andrew now sprawled alone under a tree. Tock mustered all his courage, and dared to speak.
"Eh, excuse me, sir." Andrew opened one eye and looked upward. Not seeing anyone, he closed it again. "Eh, down here. It's me, turtle." Andrew turned his head cautiously, then drew in his breath.
"I'm having a bless't vision, that's what it is. Not enough sleep, probably."
"No doubt, that's reason," Tock answered sensibly. "But listen, I want to help you. Can you please tell me where we are, and when?"