Chapter 5: Concerning Concerns
Hours passed in relative silence. Small, pointless conversations arose and died as we walked, but none of us were feeling particularly comfortable around each other, especially Tom. He would often stop cold wherever he was and would begin to shiver uncontrollably. Though not exactly warm, the valley was too mild to explain such outbursts, so we could only assume that he was losing the battle to maintain his composure. He was silent, by far the quietest of us all, so we could only hope that he was doing alright.
As we walked, and when I was not concerning myself with the mystery of the stream, I found myself wondering at the sun’s odd behavior above us. I watched as it quickly circled above us, much faster than it had ever moved across the sky. To keep my mind busy and distracted, I began to count off time as carefully as I could; hoping to find out what rate of orbit it was taking, so we could predict local time more accurately. What I learned worried me.
I counted out seconds and watched the sun. It took forever, but I slowly determined that the sun moved quickly enough that every hour, it would travel about one fourth of its full circle, meaning that every four hours it would complete one orbit around the central point of the sky. I couldn’t be sure, but I could swear that I had seen it circle at least three times since we had begun our descent, meaning that it had been over half a day since the bird had released us back onto terra firma.
I had been so lost in thought that I had not realized that the others had been talking, about the flight. Rick and Bobbi were discussing all sorts of reasons as to why such a bizarre transformation had occurred, ranging from magic to quantum theory to communist plots. I sincerely hoped that the last one was a joke. Either way, two things happened as a result of their conversation. First, they realized that neither had the foggiest idea what had happened. Second, their words were terrifying Tom.
He had gone white as a sheet and had begun to mutter something under his breath. His eyes went wide and darted up and down the peaks surrounding the valley, as if seeking some terrible and unknown assailant. I shot an annoyed glare at the pair and dashed to Tom’s side. I did my best to reassure him, but his trembling refused to cease. It was only then, standing mere inches from him while trying to shake him from his terrors, which I was finally able to hear what his frightened murmurings were.
“It is coming. I cannot stop it. It is watching. It is waiting. Oh, god.” He was repeating these four sentences, over and over while his frantic eyes searched the horizon.
“What? What is coming, Tom?”
“It is watching. It is wa…” He suddenly, mid word, came to a stop.
Slowly, the color returned to his cheeks and his eyes narrowed to a more normal size and shape. He took a deep breath and looked at me, worry spread clearly across his face. He said nothing, but merely shrugged and muttered a low-pitched apology. I was unable to get any direct response after that. Worried, but still sure that the best way to help everyone was to make it back to civilization, I turned to the others.
“Don’t do that again. Until we can find someone to help, we don’t want anyone getting too worked up about all of this.” I stared at each of them in turn, until they nodded. First Rick, who looked legitimately remorseful and then Bobbi, who seemed more annoyed that someone had the gall to admonish her. Didn’t matter what she thought about it, they both agreed. “Now, let’s get moving again. We’re burning daylight.”
I heard Bobbi start to say something, probably something reminding me that the sun hadn’t moved to set since the plane mutated, but I heard her breath rush out of her lungs swiftly enough that I made a mental note to thank Rick later for silencing her at that moment.