“No. Stop. Please don’t.”
I try to pull us in the opposite direction, but I don’t stand a chance against Lily’s greater strength, combined with our forward momentum. Before I’ve even finished protesting, we are slap bang in the middle of the group of people who have gathered to study the poster. I hate crowds. Lily knows this and still she’s pulled me into one.
“A unicorn?” Hilarity and something close to contempt are obvious in the deep voice reaching my ears. “Somebody must think we’re all gullible fools.”
“Maybe it’s one of those television programmes,” another voice suggests. “You know what I mean;those shows where they trick people into making complete fools of themselves and then broadcast it on TV.”
Lily’s snickering beside me doesn’t make me feel any less anxious, and I pull at her hand, silently urging her to walk away from these people. Wilful, as she always is, she refuses to budge though, and I’m too scared to make my way through this crowd on my own or to create a scene.
“Next they’ll try and tell us vampires and shifters are real too.” Mocking laughter follows the words and fear ripples through me, making my heart beat faster and my forehead ache.
“I’m going to have a look,” someone else says. “It may be some sort of stunt or promotion. You never know, there might be something in it for those curious enough to investigate.”
And there you have it. Anger filters through my fear as I’m once again not surprised at the way the average human mind works. Why is their first thought always what’s in it for me?
“Mommy, can we go and look? I wanna find the unicorn. Please mommy, please?”
For the first time since Lily pulled me into the crowd I smile while I fervently hope this child’s mother won’t kill his still vivid and vibrant sense of wonder with harsh words. I breathe a sigh of relief when I hear her agree to the young boy’s request, and watch them as they stroll off toward the park’s entrance.
As if the boy and his mother have fired a starting gun the rest of the crowd follows and, caught in the middle, Lily and I have little choice but to move along with them.
“This is fun.” Lily laughs out loud, attracting attention from quite a few people. “Don’t you agree?”
“No!” I hiss the word in the hope only she will hear me. “Nothing good is going to come from this. Not a thing!”
I’m no longer sure which is stronger, my fear or my anger. At last she turns her head to look at me.
“Yes. And you should be too.”
Without another word Lily stops walking and both of us stand in the middle of the path until the last of the group has disappeared around a corner. Only then do we move into the bushes to our right and walk on until we reach our secret clearing.
“I’m sorry, Mari,” Lily looks and sounds contrite. “It just that their stupidity never ceases to amaze or amuse me.”
“I know.” I sigh before pulling her into my arms. When we rub our foreheads together the small bumps there, hidden under our fringes, tingle. I close my eyes, relishing her comforting presence while I realise it will be a while before we’ll be able to shift again.
This intriguing image was found for us by Theo Fenraven, who appears to have a special talent for stumbling across the weird and the wonderful. J More flashes based on this photo can be found, as always, in the Monday Flash Fics Group on Facebook.