They ran as fast as they could through the underbrush, pushing branches aside as they rushed through. Sounds of pursuit began to reach them from trees behind them. Cran fired a few wild shots backwards to discourage those sounds. Then he took the lead as Wilbur’s adrenaline started to wane and the pudge he’d shepherded through years of bad meals and rich desserts began to weigh on him.
Up ahead the trees thinned as the ground rose up to a ridge. Wilbur breathed heavily and a pain pierced his side.
At the top of the ridge Cran stopped. “Awww Crapola,” he said then added some choice words under his breath. When Wilbur got to Cran’s side, his heart sunk. Across the small valley from their position a group of men had fanned out across the ridge.
“Unquus Labs,” Cran said.
“Are you sure?” Wilbur asked.
“Insignia on their arms.”
A twig cracked behind them and brought them out of their reverie. Cran pointed to the right. “We go this way and try to make for the river.”
As he spoke Wilbur caught the faintest shimmer of white in the trees to their left. “No, we go left.”
“That’ll be suicide. The trees run out a half mile up there. We’ll be sitting ducks.”
“I saw something that way. We need to go left.”
“It’ll get us killed.”
“I’m going that way.”
“Suit yourself,” Cran said and took off toward their right.
Wilbur set off toward the shimmer as fast as the pain in his side would let him. As soon as he got to the spot where he’d seen the shimmer, he saw another shimmer of white like the flank of a horse several hundred yards ahead. Behind him he heard shots and Cran screaming in pain.
Wilbur stopped and turned back. The trees blocked his view except for a few flashes of light. He wavered, unsure whether he should go back or not. He looked at his hands and saw them clearly, knowing he’d probably be visible if he headed back. Though he had no idea how to utilize his new power, he had begun to understand how it felt when it was working: the buzz at the back of his brain, the translucent sheen on the parts of his body he could see.
A whinny sounded on the wind behind him. He turned and followed it into the hills.
Wilbur followed the sightings to a small clearing. In the center stood one of the most beautiful things he’d ever seen a stallion unicorn. His hide was white like fresh fallen snow or the light given off by a full moon. His horn was twisted the way Cran’s was, but far more majestic like a wizard’s wand. A deep sadness shone through his eyes. A rush of images crashed through Wilbur’s mind. A child crying. The number four. Spring blossoms. A stall in a barn. A medieval sword. A mouse reaching for the cheese on a lever. As Wilbur reached him, the unicorn vanished.
“There he is!” came a shout from the ring of trees lining the clearing. Wilbur turned to run, but another agent from Unquus labs was behind him. Everywhere he turned he saw the Unquus labs logo, a raised weapon, and no escape. He put up his hands and went down to his knees, wondering why the unicorn had betrayed him.
Deep in a corner of the underground complex lay an old man on a hospital bed in a sound proof room. Tubes and wires and bandages covered much of his body. His body had an odd shape, too wide and flat, like a Jello mold left out in the sun. On the floor beside the bed sat a young man with hair deeply in need of a comb, a cross between Einstein and a television antenna. He worked in a notebook that he turned round and round as he added numbers and lines and squiggles and dots and ancient runes. “Bur-sy, Bur-sy lived in Jersey, came to Cray and gave it mercy,” the young man said without looking up. He repeated this again and again in a sing-song manner.
The old man coughed. “Hmm…” He said. “Yes, my jabberwock. He is here or rather, he’s coming.”
***End of Infusion – Book 1***