I was sitting by the bend in a river, minding my own business, enjoying the fresh surface air. But then an owl hooting shocked me out of my reverie and back to the real world, and I remembered what I was there for. I stood up and started back towards the old maple tree behind me. I stopped and bent down to pick up an acorn I saw at the foot of the tree. I stood and turned around.
And ran straight into a person.
I was thrown backwards into the tree. I cracked my head, and then fell to the ground, dropping the acorn on contact. Pain shot through my head.
“Ouch,” I croaked. My vision was foggy, and I had to fight to stay conscious. The person I had ran into was standing over me, looking down at me. I just had time for the shock to register and think, He’s a Mud Man, before I felt a sharp pain in my arm. Then everything went black…..
I shot into an upright sitting position in my bed, covered in a cold sweat. I looked around. I was still in my room, in bed, at home in Haven. I was perfectly safe.
I breathed a sigh of relief and got up to open the window. A cool night breeze blew in, rustling my hair and helping cool me off sufficiently. I laid my head down on the windowsill, laying my head on my arms. I laid there, breathing deeply in the cool air, until I fell asleep again, this time my dream was better, and I slept soundly the rest of the night.
The bright sun light shining through my window woke me. I blinked, clearing the spots from my eyes, then stood and stretched. I looked over at the alarm clock on my nightstand. It read: 8:27. For a moment I started to panic, then I realized my alarm didn’t go off because it was Saturday, and I didn’t have it set to go off on Saturdays or Sundays, since there was no school. I sighed and walked down to the kitchen to find something for breakfast.
Holly was already up. She smiled slightly when I walked in. “Your dad called,” she said.
“Great,” I muttered.
“He said he can get you this weekend, so when we’re done eating you should go pack a bag.”
I groaned. “Do I have to go?”
“It’s the first time he’s decided to get you in a month,” Holly said. “At least give it a shot. If you decide you want to go home, I’ll come get you, but you should at least go for a little while.”
“I know,” I sighed. “But I hate it there.” My dad is terrible. I absolutely hate him. He and my mom were divorced, at least they used to be. She was dead now, which was why I lived with Holly. She had always been a close family friend, so when she got word of my mom’s death, she stepped in to keep them from sending me to my dad’s. He was nowhere near stable enough to have a kid around the household. My dad didn’t care about me or my mother, so when Holly stepped in to try to get me, there was no one to dispute it. He didn’t even try, just signed the papers and handed me over. My mom had died three months ago, and I’d been living with Holly ever since. We were not actually related, but she was the closest thing to family I had. “He waits until he thinks I’m asleep, then gets drunk. Then I’m up til two-o’clock in the morning.”
“At least he waits until he thinks you’re asleep,” she pointed out. “Thats progress. It shows that he is at least trying.”
“Obviously not very hard, seeing as how he hasn’t dropped the drinking all together,” I countered. “And besides, I am trying, after all, I agreed to go, didn’t I? It’s just so hard. I don’t see how mom and dad ever connected.”
“He used to be different,” she sighed. “But he made some mistakes. He used to be a good person, but a few little mistakes and all of that changed. He isn’t the man he used to be.” She stopped and looked down at the table as her communicator beeped, making us both jump. She looked at the screen, which read TROUBLE, and rolled her eyes and pressed the answer button.
“Captain Short,” the commander’s voice blasted through the speakers. “Get in here! We need to talk.”
Holly groaned. “Seriously? This is supposed to be my day off. Can’t it wait?”
“No!” the commander roared. “Now get in here! ASAP!”
“Fine,” she sighed. “I’m on my way.” The she severed the connection without waiting for a reply. She looked up at me and said, “Go get dressed and shove some clothes in a bag. We have to leave, and you’ll have to take your stuff with you. I’ll have to call your dad and tell him he’s to pick you up from the Police Plaza.”
I nodded, then raced up the stairs to my room. I quickly grabbed an old backpack and shoved all my overnight stuff inside, making sure to grab a set of spare clothes to wear today. I ran in the bathroom and got dressed, then raced back out to the kitchen, where Holly was already waiting, dressed in her LEP jump suit and ready to go. We jumped in the car and sped off towards Police Plaza.
Ten minutes later, we were opening the door to the commander’s office.
“Captain Holly Short reporting for duty,” she said.
The commander heaved a sigh of relief when he saw her. “Thanks for getting here so quick, Captain,” he said. “I’m sorry to call you in to work on your day off, but I wanted someone experienced on this one.”
“What is it?”
“We’ve got a crazed troll. Wild and bloodthirsty. Looking for food, I’d say. It’s smashing everything in its path. We’ve been tracking it the past three miles, and it hasn’t stopped yet, with the exception of when it came across a farm. It killed three cows, then left again. It’s keeping up a steady pace, though there doesn’t seem to be any certain way it’s going, just running around wildly. Probably following the smell of flesh.” He shrugged.
“What kind of troll?” she asked.
“Bull, and its fully grown,” the commander answered.
Holly groaned. “Alright,” she sighed. “I’ll handle it. Where is it?”
The commander grinned. “That’s the part I think you’ll like,” he said.
Holly narrowed her eyes at him. “Just tell me, Trouble, I’m not in the mood for guessing games.”
“Dublin, Ireland,” he said.
She crossed her arms. “Okay, very funny, stop messing around and tell me.”
“I just did,” he said.
“Yep. I’m dead serious.”
She sighed. “Fine. How soon does the shuttle leave?”
“Whenever you’re ready, I’m going to tell Foaly to send the order as soon as we’re done here.”
“Okay, I’ll leave as soon as her dad comes and gets her,” she said.
He seemed to notice me for the first time when she said that. He looked me over. “This is Samantha?” he asked.
“Yes.” Holly smiled slightly, then motioned for me to follow her. “Come on,” she said. “Your dad will be here soon.” I nodded, and we turned to leave.
“Hey, Holly,” the commander said. She turned around. “Say hello to Artemis for me.” Her face turned red, and she stalked out of the room. I followed her.
“Who’s Artemis?” I asked. She didn’t answer. “Holly?”
I hesitated, then asked, “Can I go with you?”
“No! Are you insane?! Normally I might say yes, but this is police work. It’s dangerous. If I said yes, I would knowingly be putting you in danger. If you got hurt, I’d never forgive myself.”
“Pleeease?” I begged. “I promise I’ll stay out of your way.”
She sighed. “It’s not a matter of you getting in my way, it’s a matter of your safety,” she said.
“I’ll do whatever you say,” I said. “I promise.”
“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I could tell you something million times over, and you could try to do it, but sometimes you run across a situation that is out of your hands, and believe me, in a situation like that, things can spiral out of control very quickly.” She shuddered and muttered under her breath. I didn’t quite catch it, but it sounded like something about sneaky mud boys and tranquilizer darts.
We finally made it outside, and I breathed in deeply the crisp morning air. We went and sat down on the steps. She looked down at me. I wasn’t looking at her, but at my feet. I hoped I didn’t look too disappointed. She sighed and put an arm around my shoulders. I laid my head down on her arm.
“You’ll have to miss school,” she said quietly. “And I’ll have to call your dad and tell him you’re not coming.”
I looked up at her. “Is that a yes?” I asked.
“There is one condition,” she sighed. “You have to do everything I say, whether you like it or not. I have to be able to trust you to do that, or you can’t go. If something happens and I tell you to go, I have to be able to trust that you listened so I don’t have to worry about you. Understand?” I nodded. “Good. Now, lets go. I’ll call your dad on the way.”
We got up and walked to the car.