DO NOT DISTURB
A fireball roared past overhead just as Berens stumbled, almost falling to his knees. The hair on top of his head curled and crisped in the brief, blast-furnace heat.
The fireball exploded far down the mountain path. The brief glare ahead outlined Kasparov in silhouette, the fluorescent letters IFAR big and bright on the back of his windbreaker. Berens struggled to his feet and resumed running after his companion and fellow member of the Institute for Advanced Research.
“Let’s go…to the Hörst Mountains…you said,” gasped Berens, pulling up alongside Kasparov. “It’ll be…an adventure…you said.”
“Shut…up,” retorted Kasparov, wheezing like a set of bellows.
Together, they hurdled a fallen pine tree blocking the mountain path. Behind them, loud and close, thundered the crash of other trees as they splintered and toppled to the ground.
“Folklore research…what could go wrong?…you said…” panted Berens, “Check out…legend of…Sleeping Dragon…you said.”
“Will…you…shut up!” hissed Kasparov.
They stumbled, almost tumbled, racing down the narrow mountain path. Stones loosened from the scree slid treacherously beneath the soles of their hiking boots. The ground beneath their feet trembled as they skipped and slipped along.
“Scientific…curiosity…you said.” Berens’ breath whistled as he sucked in air. “F-f-f-find…the truth!…behind the legend…you said.”
“Jussst…sssshut…up!” answered Kasparov, almost gagging for breath.
Both felt a sudden wave of heat behind them. Berens dodged right, Kasparov left. Another fireball exploded on the path in the space they’d both occupied a moment before.
Berens, coughing and choking, crept out from behind a tamarack’s blackened trunk. Looking across the cratered path, he saw Kasparov struggling free from the charred clutches of the underbrush.
“Mix business…with pleasure…you said,” Berens panted, leaning for support against the hot trunk of the tree. “Fresh air…nice scenery…local beer…It’ll be…fun!…you said.”
Kasparov glared back at his co-worker. He took a deep breath. “Shut.” Another deep breath. “Up!”
Their heads both snapped around at a rumbling roar from back up the mountain. As one they began running again, away down the path. The ground shook, sending them both flying through the air before the earth rose up again to smack them in the face as they landed.
“So tell me!” shouted Berens, levering himself up, spitting out dirt and pine needles. “Are we having fun yet?”
Before his partner could reply, a gigantic shadow loomed over the two, eclipsing the daylight.
A re-engergized Kasparov leaped to his feet and streaked down the path, arms pumping. A frantic Berens followed, struggling to close the wide gap between them.
“Just. Shut the hell. Up!” Kasparov screamed back over his shoulder at Berens. “Shut up and run!”
Angry roaring chased after them down the mountain.
Food for Thought
The difference between fact and fiction, the real world and fairytales, hinges on belief, what we assume and agree upon as real and imaginary. Reality is the official record, while the imaginary is legend and dream. Existentialists
Chamberlainin Do Not Disturb posits that the world exists only because the individual believes it so. Still, we might remember Balin’s advice to Bilbo in the second Hobbit movie: “If there is a dragon sleeping down there, don’t wake him up.”
About the Author
Gregg Chamberlain is a community newspaper reporter, four decades in the trade and looking forward to retirement. He lives in rural Ontario near the Canadian capital city of Ottawa, with his missus and four cats, who allow their humans the run of the house. He has close to two dozen fiction credits in the sf, fantasy, horror, and mystery genres, including “When Things Go Wobbly”, a microflash mad science piece in SciPhi Journal issue 3.
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