Dr. Floyd’s predatory smile wasn’t ever pleasant to behold. He beamed at Max. “Four!”
The slip. The soap. But no suds.
Hot noon sun. Dusty dirt track. A ribbon of black in the distance with those funny boxes zooming by periodically.
Max scanned the flat horizon for any clue of trees to hide behind or a location for securing some protection from the sun. If the good Dr.’s experiment settings were consistently getting longer, Max would be in for another long stay. A faint ribbon of thicker green promised to be the tops of some trees, but perhaps growing in a valley just over the edge of the short prickly yellow field.
Max set a brisk pace perpendicular to the dirt track he’d started with. When he could just make out that the ribbon of green was something other than taller grass, he heard some hooves cantering up the dirt track. He doubled his speed.
Max cleared the shallow rise, found the row of wiry bushes, and crouched behind them. He watched the slow black horse cart make its way up to the black ribbon that the much faster boxes were zooming down. By the time it had its back to him and was far enough away for Max to consider it safe to move, Max was quite hot and sweating. Just as he stood and began moving down the row of bushes towards the direction the cart had come, a glint of light caught his eye from the buggy.
To Max’s horror, that glint probably meant some rudimentary sort of reflective surface meant to redirect view rearwards. The confirmation of his theory proved accurate. The horses stopped abruptly. Max ran for it. If they had to get the horses to turn things around, it would give him that much more lead time.
A wiggly mirage of a house outline appeared in the distance. Max ran on. Another short row of green appeared next to it. When the house resolved into firm lines, Max could see it had a sharp angular roofline. Max’s eyebrows were beginning to seep sweat into his eyes. He wiped at them with his sweaty arm. A glance over his shoulder told him the black horse cart had indeed made a course change back towards the building Max was seeing. When Max looked back forwards, he was able to make out a very clear Victorian Era house. Small footprint, taller than it was wide, simple trim, steep roof angles, but something was a bit off. The shutters around what appeared to be windows were in fact painted in place. As Max neared, even the windows revealed themselves to be simply outlines of trim, not actual windows. Even more astonishing was the fact that the house seemed to be shrinking in size as it grew nearer. When Max got to it, he realized it was shorter than his shoulders.
Max put the odd midget building between himself and the road. He stood, hands on his knees, and caught his breath. As he did so, he noticed that on this side of the little house a small ramp lead up to a small doorway. Inside he heard the clucking of some startled hens.
Max smiled in realization.