Where Katie HidAugust 6, 2018
The autumn leaves crunched under her feet like cornflakes, as Katie ducked underneath the fallen trees.
Hide. Just long enough.
She panted, her little heart beating fast underneath the winter coat. She wiped away the sweat that ran down her forehead from underneath her woollen hat.
Hide first, fix the rest later.
Katie reached a river that twisted through the forest. It splished and splashed a little as the water lapped at the bank, but it was nowhere as foaming and fierce as the rivers on TV. But her daddy had told her to be careful with that, because you could easily slip on a wet rock and fall in and hit your head and drown, no matter how shallow it was.
She ran along the river, then, and found a huge tree lying by the bank. She walked around it, to where its roots stuck out. It looked like a witch’s secret cave, like if she knocked or said some magical words, the roots would part and an ugly old hag would come out, waggling a skinny finger to lure her in and cook her.
The tree had left a hole in the ground. Shallow, but still deep enough to lie down in and maybe not be seen. Perfect!
She got down on her stomach, the ground wet and cold against her hands.
Only now she allowed herself to giggle.
Daddy would never find her there.
She checked her watch, the one with Lady Starshine, the Princess of Outer Space, on it, where two rockets told her that it was almost four o’clock. If daddy didn’t find her in the next five minutes, she could pick desserts.
Cheesecake sounded good. She had seen a Lady Starshine cake the other day, complete with a Staff of Liss as a candle. That one. She would pick that one.
She tried to make herself as small and flat as possible behind the big tree. Only five minutes to go.
Leaves crunched behind her.
“Unfair,” she said.
Daddy would pick apple crumble again. Worse, even. Home-made apple crumble, where you had to worry how many worms were ground up in there. Yuck!
She got up and wiped her hands on her jeans. “Unfair. I almost-”
She turned around, and the man in front of her wasn’t daddy. She had seen him before, in the store around the corner, where he had often given her a lolly or a small bag of sweets for free.
“Hello, Mr Fowles,” she said.
“Hello, little lady!” He smiled and showed a row of straight white teeth. Like her daddy’s daddy, who had bounced her on his knee and told her these were his third teeth, and she had told him if she had lost something twice already, mummy and daddy wouldn’t buy it a third time.
The man wore thick leather gloves, even though it wasn’t that cold, and he was rubbing his thumbs and index fingers together. “What are you doing out here all alone?” The man’s voice was higher than her granddaddy’s. Softer, too.
“I’m not alone,” she said. “My daddy’s right behind me.”
His hands balled into fists and he looked around at the trees. Maybe he knew they were playing and wanted her to win as well. Maybe he didn’t like apple crumble either.
“But I don’t want him to find me,” she said. “Not yet. Because I want a Lady Starshine cake, and maybe, if I can hide for an extra fifteen minutes, he will be even more proud of me and maybe I can get two cakes or maybe one each day for the rest of the week and a staff of Liss as well, like a real one, I mean, not just a candle.”
The man smiled again. “Hiding, huh?”
“I might know a good place to hide.”
She beamed. “Really?”
“Oh, yes.” He licked his lips, probably at the thought of the Lady Starshine cake. Maybe he would ask her to share it with him, if he helped her, but that would be fine. If she actually got a Lady Starshine cake every day for the rest of the week, she’d happily share one with him.
“Let’s go!” Maybe if she could hide for a whole week, daddy and mummy would take her to the Land of Liss theme park, where they had real horses that you could pat and ride and feed and brush, and there was also a real Lady Starshine you could take pictures with.
She bounced up and down, the ground soft and slippery underneath her shoes. “Show me! Show me!”
He held out a hand. She took it, the glove cold against her skin as it wrapped around her little fingers.
“You’re right,” he said above the rustling of the leaves. “We have to be quick now.” And he pulled her away, darting through rows of trees, so fast she could barely keep up.
She giggled, slipping, skipping, almost flying. “And it’s really a good hiding place?”
His hand gripped her tighter. “Oh, yes. If we’re lucky, it might be weeks before anyone finds you.”by
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P. T. Corwin writes mainly fantasy and science-fiction short stories. His work has appeared in Schlock Quarterly and Aphotic Realm. He is a member of the Newham Writers Workshop in London. Follow him on Facebook and learn more here: www.ptcorwin.co.uk