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Solitary Creatures by Melanie Clark - Part 4

When the time came to be reborn, Buck chose to return to New Mexico. Part of him wondered why as he cut a jagged route across Albuquerque, a threadbare patchwork of a city held together by 300 years of nepotism, theft, and willful procrastination.

It was late afternoon by the time he arrived at his uncle Javier's property. There was no immediate sign of damage to the barn or the ground around it. There was no lingering scent of juniper to indicate recent rain, no animal tracks or broken fence. Buck squinted at the cloudless sky, as if he could somehow discover a trace of an aircraft that had long since passed overhead. The barn door creaked slightly, scraping along the rocky ground as it opened to reveal nothing, save for a few tiny shoe prints leading to the old Mercury Comet. A surge of energy coursed through Buck as he scanned the barn, jaw and fists clenched, feet squarely planted, ready to fight as his instincts and training dictated. Yet he was completely disarmed when his eyes came to rest upon the ethereal figure of Frances Wheatgrass asleep in the front seat. Her legs were tucked up underneath her skirts, her breath as soft as the wool of her cardigan. Buck relaxed his body, exhaling as he realized he had no opponent, no enemy.

* * *

Francis the man had pursued Frances the woman relentlessly, confronting Dolly at her garden gate, demanding to see Frances and the gateway tree. He demanded to know why Dolly refused to provide proof to the world about the existence of the Fair Folk, why she protected such a bizarre and fascinating creature—the world needed to know!

Frances ran to the back of the house and hid in the larder. She heard Dolly’s assertions and Francis’ protestations as she curled up, squinted her eyes, and grit her teeth, heart pounding. The sound of blood in her ears was suddenly overwhelmed by a tremendous thunderclap. It was midwinter. Frances’ eyes snapped open. She was no longer in the larder in the house in Essex, but in the back of a barn in the mountains of New Mexico.

It took her some time to exactly determine where—and when—she was. She peeked out between the slats of the wooden barn, seeing plants she had never seen before, a gritty, hot wind blowing against her face. Frances turned back around and leaned against the wall, observing her new interior. The barn had been neglected, but it was sturdy against the breeze. She looked up to the rafters and brought her gaze downward, hoping to find a horse she could talk to. Instead she found an enormous metal carriage, with windows on all sides, and a wheel where the coachman would usually sit. Unsure of how to open the door, Frances crawled in through an open window and sat herself in front of the coachman’s wheel. The excitement of seeing something new tempered her fear and dismay, if only for a moment. She peered intently over the gauges, attempting to understand what she was looking at. Frances rested her gaze on the center of the coachman’s wheel, and finally saw something she recognized: the head of Mercury in profile, with his winged helmet. She wondered if this was perhaps his coach! What she could not understand at the time was that she was sitting in the driver’s seat of a 1964 Mercury Comet. Her brief excitement turned to anxiety, then exhaustion, and finally, to sleep.

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Buck Bleibtreu was in his truck when he got the call about a disturbance on the far corner of his uncle's property. Buck was always mobile, tracing the patterns of the back roads across the cracked sk