by Anna Richards

Jean would teach him something about the responsibility of size.

She gave him a second to make his peace before she advanced. He quivered then ran like a rabbit, showing a flash of pale ankle instead of a tail as he bolted into the darkness. Jean roared again at the sudden removal of him - she had been denied.


Jean jumped from the step; she thought she felt the ground buckle from the impact of her, and her confidence surged. Paul had taken off into a thick line of trees, a remnant of some ancient forest where witches took the children they would devour. She followed him in. It was dark, and Jean's footsteps were heavy; but she wasn't trying to hide; she wanted him to hear her coming, to hear the weight and power of her stride. She could hear his scrambling as he darted between trees; she thought of a rat being chased by a ferret, then corrected herself - no, not by a ferret, by a great hound. 'Here I come,' she whispered. 'Here I come.' A fence ran around the edge of the trees; Jean heard the twang of it as Paul's face made contact; the sound throbbed in both directions, throwing Jean off. She ran with her hands out in front of her, taking slow, lengthy strides so she could find the trees without breaking her wrists. She had spent her life moving as if she were in a box of swords; running in the dark just required a modification. It was lucky that he stank like a patch of dirt where a bottle of gin had been dropped over a bottle of hair oil. A flash of shirt-tail broke from behind a tree, and she lunged to head him off.

Caught between the fence and a thick circle of broken trees, Paul shimmered. His white shirt trembled in front of her like a sheet on a wire. He was sweating and sickened; his head was spinning, he was running from a girl, and he thought he might have lost his testicles somewhere up inside his body. Panic had sped the passage of the gin, and his brain swam; he wished for a length of wood, a bag of nails. He cast about miserably; there was only crushed grass beneath him. As Jean focused on the stinking flicker in front of her, he began to take shape: the pale ankle through torn trouser cuffs, a greasy strip of skin under his dark hair; he looked like a lick of fat streaking across a dark window. Jean forged strides and ran as she had dreamed of running; the pursuit was almost secondary. Jean smiled, and her teeth caught a piece of moonlight.