Brad looked about the shop, finding monster masks meant for the American holiday of Halloween.
“There’s nothing here,” he said. “I might find something in a sporting shop.”
Teyata ignored him, flipping over a large cardboard box filled with marked down headwear. She began to pick through the assorted head coverings as Brad watched, unconvinced she’d find anything. It occurred to him that he forgot to pray. With only Teyata and himself on this earth, he sometimes went about his daily routine without conferring with God.
He prayed briefly in his mind.
“What about this?” said Teyata, just as he said “amen.”
He took up the black garment from her extracted claw. It was nylon and completely black. Slipping it on, he placed his video receptor goggles over his eyes. The image he saw looked right; no longer human.
“What do you think?” he asked.
Teyata began to laugh. “You look like a giant bug.”
Brad laughed sheepishly. He had to agree. Barring the lack of wings, he did seem insectoid, but at least the colours expressed a warning.
“So do we go to the mountains now?” he posed.
“Not yet; you still need claws.”
Brad stared, perplexed. Didn’t his hatchets, daggers, grenades make for enough claws?
“Claws that come out with your mind,” explained Teyata.
“There’s no such thing.”
“Yes there is,” Teyata blurted.
Brad studied her expression, seeing no give. Whether these claws existed or not, she believed they did.
He sighed heavily. “Where?”
“Four days from here. In the direction of the mountains, so it’s not out of our way.”
Brad nodded approvingly. “So we get these claws and go to the mountains then?”
Brad’s brows furrowed. “No?”
“Once you get the claws, you’ll have to go through the final ordeal. Then if you pass, we’ll be on our way.”
If? queried Lisa.
Brad’s expression didn’t seem concerned, nor determined. His confidence had grown to a point where he’d simply get on with the task without reservation. If he failed the first time, it didn’t matter, he eventually overcame every challenge Teyata threw at him.
“Then let’s go” he said, running out of the shop.
Lisa fast forwarded his route as he skipped onto the escalator’s metal division and slid down to the ground floor. Although not as fast as Teyata on the sprint, he seemed to move even more fluidly. Without wavering, he slid onto the tiled floor and ran out of the opening sliding doors. Their sped up gait took them across the square onto the road briefly, before bounding over the side rails into the neighbouring bushland.
Teyata took to the trees as Brad stopped on the ground, looking up to confer with her.
“Pause,” said Lisa. “Rewind.”
The projection went back to when they spoke.
Brad angled his head, looking into the branches almost directly above him.
“Can I try climbing through the trees like you?”
Teyata leaned her head low as her tail twitched. Her expression seemed thoughtful.
“I ‘spose you’re going to have to learn sooner or later. It’s safer up here than on the ground. Okay, come up, but it’s going to take a couple of days longer to get where we’re going.”
Brad ran, bounding from a rock and catching hold of the lowest strong branch. He dangled a few seconds, before kicking at the trunk for traction, then slowly scrabbled onto the bough.
“Graceful,” Teyata said snidely, then bounded into the branches of a neighbouring tree.