Gone with the Nerd
Flynn blew out a breath. "Zoe, just go on inside. In fact, go get the key and bring it back to me. That way you can lock yourself in and feel safe."
"No way, Jose. If those things are aliens, a silly old lock won't keep them out." Out here in the dark she was ready to believe every creepy story she'd ever heard.
"I don't know that Bigfoot's an alien species. It's only one theory. If you locked the door you'd be perfectly fine and then I can conduct this search without putting you through a boring ordeal."
She shook her head. "Nope, I'm staying and I'm walking."
"That makes no sense. I'm probably less protection for you than a locked door, when it comes to that."
"So I'm not being logical. We both know that's your strong suit. Lead on, Flynn. Let's walk that line."
"Okay, if you insist. Come on over this way."
She followed him several yards away from the cabin. Glancing back at it, she wondered if she'd made the right choice. She could be inside that cozy little place where lights glowed and doors locked. Instead she'd thrown her lot in with Flynn out here in the wilderness.
She realized that she loved nature, but she liked it best when it was on the tamer side. Like city parks. When they'd been standing next to the cabin, nature had seemed a little friendlier than it did when she was face-to-face with the forest primeval.
"We'll walk side by side about three feet apart, until I tell you to stop," he said. "If you see anything, we can use the lighter to see it better."
Zoe tried to quiet the jumpy little squiggles in her tummy. What am I looking for, exactly?
Anything unusual," Flynn said. "Recently broken branches. Footprints.
What kind of footprints?
Like a humans only bigger. Maybe around twenty inches or so.
Twenty? She gulped. How b-big are these guys supposed to be?
Some have been reported at fourteen feet, but thats He paused and took a closer look at her. Youre scared to death, arent you?
She shook her head and tried to stop shaking.
You are so. Dont torture yourself. Lets go back to the cabin and Ill get the key so you can lock yourself in.
No. I want to do this. She clenched her hands into fists and willed herself to be calm. Flynn wasnt afraid. Instead he was fascinated. Thats what she had to go for total fascination. Shed had no idea learning to be a nerd would be so scary, though.
Okay, she had the answer. She would pretend this was a scene in her latest film, not reality. That would be the reverse of her usual thought process, where she had to convince herself that the scene was real. Funky. She could do this.
Stepping about three feet away from him, she started walking, keeping her eyes on the ground. Twenty-inch footprints. Oh . . . my . . . God. If she saw one, shed freak out, scene or no scene.
Of course she saw one. Flynn!
He came quickly and snapped the lighter to produce a tiny flame. Then he drew a quick breath and crouched down with a murmur of delight.
Zoe was not delighted. Pressed into a patch of soft dirt was a human-like footprint, but no human had made that print. Her entire forearm and hand would fit lengthwise inside it, no problem.
She stood staring at it in the wavering flame of the butane lighter. The longer she stared, the more light-headed she became trying to process what she was seeing. She didnt realize she was squeezing Flynns shoulder until he doused the flame, stuck the lighter in his pocket and stood up.
Its okay, he said, drawing her into his arms.
Her whole body was stiff with shock and she could barely make her lips move. What . . . what is that? It was a silly question. There was only one answer.
Dont be afraid. He pulled her close. Then he took off his glasses and slipped them into his other pocket.
What are you doing? Another silly question for which there was only one answer.
Im commemorating the moment. He leaned down, his breath warm against her mouth.
She wasnt supposed to allow this. For some reason it was a very bad idea. But in the face of a twenty-inch footprint, she couldnt remember why.