Flash Fiction: Good-Humored Dislocation (437 words)

Marus tried to remember the exact moment they had realized they were lost, and could not. It had been a slow thing, he knew, a staging of one tree after another that had turned out not to be that tree. They pointed at one tree, then a second, then a third and fourth, which did not deliver them back to the road after the correct number of strides between precise turns toward the sun. Somewhere in between Marus had suspected. By the end he had been sure, but it felt as if he had been sure for a long time.

But he tried to recall, because for a little while – for hours really – being lost had not been a bad thing. It had been a joke, and then an adventure, and then just one of those things that happened and was easy to shrug off. Now, it was horrible, and it would have been nice to know the time limit on good-humored dislocation.

Wandering between the trees, tired of picking directions, he shoved his hands into his pockets.

“Have we gone this way before?” Kieda asked behind him. The question narrowly avoided being an accusation, and Marus decided to ignore it.

“We have,” Lillin said. She was walking backwards ahead of him and Marus wanted to tell her that marking this path with a different perspective than the rest of them wouldn’t help them any.

“Shouldn’t we turn around then?” Kieda asked.

“We’ve been that way, too,” Lillin told her.

“Of course we have,” Kieda said. “Because we just came from that way. But there was a tree back there–.”

“There are trees everywhere,” Lillin muttered.

Kieda took a shallow breath as if that would keep her from saying something she shouldn’t. “–With the right twist. We should go back for it.”

“No,” Lillin said.

“No?” Kieda repeated sharply.

“It wasn’t the right tree.”

“How do you know?”

Lillin shrugged. “I know.”

“We should turn around.”

“Fine.”

“We have to find the road.”

“I would settle for find my sense of humor again,” Marus said, quickly, before they could snap anything else at each other.

They were both quiet for half a moment.

“When did you see it last?” Lillin murmured. It was a thin joke, but he appreciated it.

“An hour ago,” Kieda murmured. “At lunch time.”

Marus blinked, then he laughed softly. Of course.

“That’s it,” Lillin said, turning around to look ahead again. “The next moving thing I see, I’m hunting and eating.”

“I’ll help,” Marus told her. They flashed a smile at each other.

“I will definitely help you eat it,” Kieda assured them.

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