Virgulle’s Vestral 27

Saturday 6th August 2011

Seek and hide

TOPS of trees in the valley shake to the pulse of the drone’s truculent wings. A fierce beam of light bursts from its belly, like a pillar of white smoke, turning to the colour of ash everything caught in its glare.

“Come on!” shouts Tom.

And we are running over the grass, away from the building, between slabs of stone, under thick branches and down the slope to an overgrown corner of the pen, where we burrow through a narrow breach in the mesh of bough and creeper that hides a quarried shelter, dark and private, a place of secrets from the forgotten days of childhood.

The ache in my shoulder screams as I squeeze into the bower, groping forward until my hand finds Tom’s ankle. He instructs me to keep still and wait for the drone’s searchlight to pass over us, but suddenly he himself moves, wriggling his leg, causing me to loosen the grip on his ankle and, no longer able to remain balanced on my arm, to fall on to my side with a grunt of discomfort.

“I said not to move!” he hisses.

“I not moved. You moved!”

“I had to. You were tickling.”

“What is tickling, please?”

“Keep still!” he orders, as the drone-torch jumps over the wall of the pen, illuminating the stone sentinels to our right. “Oh no, there’s a gap! Up there! A bleed in great hole. They’ll see us!”

The bright white light rushes down the slope towards us.

I look up to where Tom is pointing, can see the black sky beyond. He is right. If the beam shines upon the open ceiling of our shelter, we will be visible to the seekers above. There is no time to gather foliage with which to mask the gaping window, unless––

The light strikes us with the intensity of a whip. Tom huddles below me in a knot, his chest juddering in a rhythm matching that of the drone’s clatter; my back burns under the strain; branches creak; the ground trembles. I close my eyes.

Then, suddenly, it is past. Heat, light and noise are gone, moving away to worry another target.

I sigh, finally able to rest my weary, leaf-like feathers.

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