When James awoke, he found his mouth horribly dry and his stomach horribly empty. He gave a desperate glance around the room for any food; anything that could possibly even resemble food. Scrambling out of bed, he went to the window, which gave hot morning sunlight. He leaned forward and peered outside, looking for something to eat. Longingly, he even watched the edges of the pond, with its gentle wetness… "I wonder…if I jump from here, could I make it into the pond?" No, needed to stop thinking such crazy things. Why throw away your whole life—all that he had accomplished—in need of a little water?
He wiped a layer of sweat from his forehead. It was steamy already, and if it were to get much worse, well, he didn't know how long he would last without getting water or something to drink. "I must conserve energy," he said, breathing deeply. His left hand stayed on his hair, constantly keeping it in shape despite the glaze of sweat.
Touching his wounded cheek, he found that it still was not healing. He checked his arm, and it still hurt just as much as it had after he'd first acquired it. Something inside the wound seemed to glint a bit in the sunlight. He picked out of it a blood coated piece of triangular glass. How did that get in there? He had scraped it on a fallen branch; there was no glass on fallen logs.
Confused, James gingerly took the piece of glass and placed it inside the wardrobe. "How—did that—get in there?" he stumbled, still thinking about the shard of glass. Finally, he went back to bed and attempted to fall asleep, but it would not work. Hunger and thirst still gripped his brain. Turning and tossing and closing and opening his eyes was what he did for the rest of the day, and then, for the rest of the night. At the slightest noise, may it be a squeak or scurry of a rat or a creak of the floorboards or swift wind through the trees, James found himself sitting up straight and peering through the dim light to the door with an odd eagerness.
A thought entered his head now, in the dead of the night, which made him still and thinking. "Could I escape?" James said quietly through his pillow. "He would have considerable trouble seeing me through the dark." He could just get out of bed and run downstairs and out the door and into the forest, and dive into the pond and do the backstroke in the moonlight. "But no," he thought, "the hallway is lit up with torches, too, so…" Should he do it, he wondered. Risk his life…"I might even be able to find my car…"
In these thoughts, James fell asleep. When he awoke, he was met by that same dreamy atmosphere, and when he saw that goblet of water on the bed next to him, he wondered if it were a mirage; just another part of this atmosphere. But he reached out and touched it, and it was real, filled with real water. He downed the warm water in one gulp, and immediately he felt better. "But the Thrid came here in the middle of the night?" James thought, panicked. "And I had not heard him? What if the water was poisoned, or drugged?" For a while, he found himself wondering what he had just done, but in the end, he decided that it was water, in the least, and any addition would only make him die faster, which would end his pain and hunger.
With a creak not too different than that of the floorboards, the door sighed open and in the doorway stood the Thrid, clad in the same black cloak he had worn during their last meeting. James turned and gasped, for he had forgotten how frightening the thing was. For a minute, they just stared at each other, James wondering what was happening. "Follow," croaked the Thrid, and he vanished from the doorway and down the steps. Without a word or a thought, James followed, watching his captor's figure agaisnt the cold stone.
Down, down they went, until they reached the lit hallway James had been chased through two nights ago, and at once his fear and anticipation grew and his confidence halved like a stepped on twig. The Thrid opened a door to the right and went inside. There was nothing in the room but a large armchair on the far end. Rock wallpaper and rock carpet and rock tile. "He wants me to tell him a story, now," James thought, and he frantically gathered together ideas. The Thrid made it clear that James needed to sit on the rock floor as it went to the armchair and sat down.
A snarl surprised James because it had not come from himself or the Thrid; but now he saw a cage to the Thrid's right containing a strange-looking wolf. It had a brown coat of fur and a turned up nose and its green eyes store into his own, slobbering and sniffing and touching the cages thick grey bars every now and then. "It has a pet wolf?" James thought, and tried not to look at the cage or its contents. "How had I not noticed that before?"
"I'm waiting," the Thrid said.
"Uh…uh…" James stuttered. He simply could not find words to say. All the ideas he had prepared had deserted him. "The, erm…" The wolf's eyes seemed to get scarier and scarier and the Thrid's stare seemed to grow fiercer and fiercer wit each moment of untold story. But he still could not think of anything to say. "I'm too hungry to think of anything," James thought, "and too scared, and too hot, and too thirsty." But then, just as it had happened a few days ago, a last resort popped into his head.
"Once," James started, his confidence boosted, "there was a monster called the Thrid. It had three horns and eyes set on capturing a small castle overlooking a pond—"
The Thrid's eyes suddenly became bloodshot and its green cheeks turned into an angry brown. It got up from its chair and began slowly walking towards James, seething and drooling down his chin as his eyes grew smaller and smaller with mounting rage. "Never!" The Thrid shouted as James scurried backward on all four limbs until his back touched the wall. "Never ever will you—you filthy scum!" Exaggerating each syllable with a snort and a stomping step, he grew closer as James realized that this was the wrong story to tell.
As if second thought, the Thrid lurched over and unlocked the wolf's cage, and it came barreling over at the crouching James, shocked and horrified once again. Sickeningly, he realized that this wolf had not four claws on each paw but five as one of them dug into his chest, feeling the thing leap on top of him. Screaming, he attempted to fight back, but it would not do anything at all. The Thrid came over to James's side and kicked him in the hip. James felt a dazzling pain run down his thigh and up to his head as he rolled over toward the opposite wall with the momentum of the kick. Now, being on top of the wolf which was staring madly up at him, he pushed it off him and looked around the room quickly for anything to defend himself with, but his eyes instead ignored the four flaming torches and went to the window a few feet away. As the wolf righted itself and the Thrid prepared to charge again, cursing relentlessly, James flung himself out the window and into the air, which rippled through his body and his hair, and he saw the misty pond come closer—just a few more seconds and he would be bathed in cool wetness.
Now, he could not see anything but the hot humidity that was the fog, and he opened his eyes. He did not feel any wetness at all. "Could there not have been a pond at all?" he asked, still falling headfirst through the mist. "Could the pond have just been layers of mist upon mist upon—?"
He landed. He was sitting in a cushioned seat and staring into a white billowing air bag. The windshield in front of him had been shattered by a large tree and he could see smoke out of the corners of his eyes. Also, he could see the road behind him in the side mirrors. The gashes left from clashes with the Thrid still existed. Tilting his head back, James took the comb from the dashboard, and with momentous effort, he attempted to get it to his hair but his eyes closed, finally; and his arm dropped; finally.