Let us make our third visit to Vancouver Irrealis.
Don't want to say too much up top, as my entries into the yearlong prompts always go long. So I shall just share a picture I took of Max this morning:
He was playing peek-a-boo with the kitchen curtains. He can be heart-achingly cute sometimes.
Though the approaching sounds made him want to run or at least hide, Tristam forced himself to hold his ground. One of the few things he knew for certain was that he was safe in that grassy clearing by the pond, and that was more than what could be said about anywhere he might end up if he allowed panic to take over.
It's hard to say what he was expecting to emerge from the treeline. If he was feeling optimistic, perhaps someone to show him the way back home. Pessimistic, armed law enforcement officers. If he was wise, anything at all.
As it turned out, it was a boy.
"Oh, hello there," the child said as he drew to a halt, one strangely-fingered hand resting against a glowing tree trunk. It was a wary greeting but still a relatively friendly one.
"Hello." Tristam opened his mouth to say more before snapping it shut again. When you were utterly out of your depth it's rarely a bad idea to let someone else take the lead. He'd learned that the hard way at his last job.
"My name is Ertrob," the boy offered, rising up on his toes before settling down again. He couldn't be more than eight or nine years old, Tristam realized.
"Nice to meet you. I'm Mattris." A puzzled look appeared on Tristam's face and he tried again. "No, I meant to say Mattris."
"It's okay," Ertrob said. "You'll get used to that, Mattris."
"That... that's not my name!"
"Maybe not where we came from, but it is here."
"You're... you don't belong here either?" Tristam asked, a wave of relief flooding over him. He had found someone like him. Or rather, someone like him had found him. Whichever.
It didn't matter. He was not alone.
"Belong? Maybe, maybe not." The boy's face, lit by the blue of the trees on either side of him, looked thoughtful. "I'm beginning to think that maybe I didn't belong back there. The longer I stay in this place, the more it feels like home."
"No thanks. I want to go back, right now." Tristam looked around the grove and was unable to suppress a shudder. A question occurred to him then but he found himself reluctant to ask it. "Wait... just how long have you been here anyway?"