"Ouch! What the heck was that?"
I looked at him, eyes squinted, as he glared at the ground behind him, then I shrugged my shoulders. "Dunno. But watch where you walk. Lots of roots and things here. You might stumble."
"I did just stumble," he mumbled behind me as I turned and continued on.
His constant grumbles and stumbles were starting to get to me. I'd barely known the guy a few weeks, but he hung around more than my best friend, despite my pleasant (and sometimes less-than-pleasant) hints for him to leave me alone. So when I decided to take a hike in the woods, he, of course, showed up right when I was leaving. Now I was trekking through the peaceful, beautiful forest, listening to his uttered complaints and audible moans.
We had been going uphill for awhile, and I admit, I was starting to get tired when we stumbled upon a clearing. I'd been in these woods before, but I'd never seen this clearing. There was a small house in the middle. It was white with bright cotton candy blue shutters (yes, cotton candy can be blue). The house was sparkling clean and the door was a dandelion yellow.
"I don't like this," my obnoxious companion muttered behind me as I stepped a bit closer.
I glanced back at him, but moved forward again. The house was surrounded by pretty little flowers. When I paused to sniff one, the door opened and an old lady hobbled out, followed by her decrepit cat.
"Hello there," she said and I returned the greeting.
He remained silent, drawing her stare. "I see you've finally come, Rupert."
He glared at her. "My name is not Rupert! It's Shawn!"
"Shawn, Rupert, it makes no matter. I've been waiting for you. You think you could escape, but you cannot."
I looked between them both, annoyance and a slight affection in her eyes, confusion (mixed with a small bit of understanding) and fear in his.
"Um, what's going on?" I asked.
She laughed, something similar to, but less bitter than a cackle. "Rupert here is my pet. He has been since the beginning. He was quite an intelligent friend, really. But a strange... accident, you could say, caused him to gain the ability to leave me. And apparently, he found a new master."
I shook my head. "Oh no. I'm not his master. I met him at the coffee shop and he's kind of latched onto me. You can have him back. He's creepy."
Rupert looked at me, appalled. "I was being nice."
"Bub, that's not nice. That's creepy."
The lady laughed again and crept toward us, mumbling and digging through her pockets. "Now, where did I put that.... Ah! Here it is. Now, hold still Rupert."
His eyes grew wide and he attempted to run away but stumbled on a root that had grown up just behind him in a very short time. He lay moaning on the ground as the old lady approached.
"Hippity pippity, rankity boop. Rupert must come back and try my new soup," she chanted twice before tossing what looked like a handful of cinnamon onto Rupert. He sneezed and snorted before the air around him fuzzed. I blinked and there standing before me in Rupert's place was a wrinkled old donkey.
**Origin of the story: There are 15-minute writing dashes at Milk Wood in Second Life every day at 5amSLT and 6:30pmSLT. This story is from the 4-15-11 morning dash, using the prompt "stumble." I ran out of time at the end and never finished it.**