The first thing Jack felt was white hot pain flashing across the back of his head, tingling down his neck.
Then he felt Beth’s lips on his own.
Her eyes fluttered open, and she sat back, gasping.
“Hey,” he said.
“You’re awake! It worked. Thank goodness!”
He got his arms working, slid them back, angled himself up. He blinked.
She was trying to stand, leaning heavily against the tree. Her legs were shaking. She was shaking all over.
“I thought… I thought your hair was glowing for a second there,” he said, frowning.
“Its just the sunset. Come on. Can you stand?”
“Me? Worry about yourself,” Jack said, getting his feet under him. He stood dusting off his pants.
“Well, there’s your snow, Beth,” he said.
The tiniest of flakes were sifting down from the sky.
“I don’t want it now,” she mumbled. “‘Snow, snow, go away, come again another day.’”
“It doesn’t go like that,” Jack said.
“Come on, Jack,” she grabbed his hand, “we better get going before the Dark comes.”
“Don’t you mean before it gets dark?”
She tugged on his hand, starting off after her red yarn trail at a tired lope.
They were only five minutes along the path before the yarn snaked up into Beth’s pocket.
“Now what?” she asked, staring at the tangled handful she withdrew from her coat.
“I can’t believe you actually reeled it in behind you.”
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking right. Why didn’t you bring any to leave behind as you came looking?”
“Don’t change the subject on me!”
“The subject is yarn trails. It didn’t change.”
“Well, lets change it to ‘we’re lost.’”
“We’ll just loop it around here,” Beth wound it twice around a low hanging branch. “And then we’ll keep going in the direction we’re going now. “
“But we don’t know if this is even the right direction!” Jack said, wincing as his raised voice set his head to pounding. Black spots danced before his eyes, and he shook his head. That made his stomach want to flip-flop, and he leaned over, taking deep breaths, hoping the dizzy spell would pass.
“Jack, you don’t look so good. All the more reason we need to move!”
“I’ll be fine. Give me a minute,” he gasped.
Beth waited, her eyes darting this way and that.
“Jack, we can’t wait any more. We need to go. The Dark is coming.”
He straightened up, pale, his dark eyes glittering. “Beth, there’s still plenty of light to see by. We’ve got at least another hour.”
“I didn’t say it was getting dark, I said the Dark is coming.”
“You’re not going to explain that to me, are you?”
“Jack, weren’t you ever afraid of the Dark when you were little?”
His throat went a little drier.
“Which way?” she asked. “We shouldn’t stay still for too long.”
“I don’t know!” he said. “You pick one.”
“You’ve lived here longer. You have a deeper connection.”
Jack cast about, first to the right, then left. The woods were mostly to the north of home, and the sun was setting….
“This way!” he said, starting off.
Beth took his hand, the red yarn playing out through their fingers.