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Kentucky, 1869…

After watching the massacre of Moran's men in 1929, Arbutus had decided to return to her own time. The incident had left her troubled and even questioning her admiration of Dupres. It was hard for her to remember that he would one day sacrifice himself to save her. But of course, that is the reason she was here, to make him change his mind.

She told him everything and begged him not to save her in the future.

"I assure you," he said, without emotion or apology. "I would never do such a thing for love. There must be another reason that even you do not know."

She just looked at him, knowing that he would do it all over again, when the time came.

"Really," he went on. "I don't love you."

She sighed in agreement. " I know…but you will."

He accompanied her to the tree and as she began to climb up, she looked back over her shoulder at him. She caught his eye for just an instant before he turned his gaze to the distant sky. Pretending that he wasn't watching her.

Kentucky, 1883…

Nothing had changed in 1883 except Arbutus. She was not surprised to find Dupres' taxidermy still sitting in the abandoned museum. And herself, still free and physically sound.

Though troubled and restless, she found her bed and quickly drifted into a deep and vivid dream.

She was back in the tree where she had been born. As she peered out of the nest to see if her mother was nearby, she lost her balance and fell to the ground. Unsure of what had just happened, she lay very still in the deep grass, afraid to make any sound.

Suddenly a dark figure appeared above her. A creature similar to her mother but this creature was coal black with long pointy ears. The creature's eyes were gentle and calming. They seemed to plead for Arbutus to follow and she did. She followed the strange black squirrel through the meadow and into the deep woods. Arbutus was astonished to see that the woods, which were green and lush, opened into a new meadow that was cold and white. She stopped just before the warm ground beneath her stopped. But the black squirrel continued through the sparkling whiteness for several feet and then turned back to the baby Arbutus.

Something pulled at Arbutus to follow but she could not seem to let go of the soft warm ground where she stood.

And then she awoke. And she leapt from her bed and scampered onto the branch where she caught a glimpse of something moving away from her. It was too dark to see but as she cautiously moved forward, she stepped in something very cold. She bent down to see what it was and gingerly placed her tongue on it.


to be continued...

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