All I own are Abby and the other OC that appears in this chapter.
There went the battered blue doors to a deserted Subway restaurant. They sailed all the way across the food room before crashing into the far wall and being reduced to splinters as a result.
No one was going to be using those doors for a while.
"Hmm…," hummed the bulking black bear that stood in the entrance. Golden-brown irises scanned the room in slight curiosity. The entire area was in moderate dishevel for some reason—whatever said reason could have been, Vincent didn't give a darn about. His ears perked up the moment his powerful nose caught a whiff of the food selections stored at the distant counter.
"Well, I'll give the human who came up with this Subway idea props…at least this place's got real food."
Vincent wasn't joking.
All the other restaurants he had, ahem, "visited" earlier in this town had all been those murderous fast-food joints—nothing but food (if the slop those places had could even be called that) full to the brim with fat, trans fat, cholesterol…
For crying out loud, the list could go on and on!
Vincent couldn't suppress the urge to mutter to himself in disgust. 'Bleck…why so many damn humans don't mind stuffing those guts of theirs with crap like that…'
The black bear momentarily left his thoughts on hold to shake his head in bafflement.
"I don't even want to know."
He had seen copious times what the "food" at those death trap excuses for eateries did to humans. He was in no rush to find out what that stuff would to him.
Dismissing such thoughts from his mind, Vincent easily closed the distance between the counter and himself.
The moment he reached the food selection, Vincent stooped over to see what sort of morsels this place had.
"Let's see," pondered the bear, rubbing his "chin."
'I can get regular foot-long Italian bread with pepperoni, pepper jack, tomato, and onion or I can pick toasted rye bread with American cheddar, a few pickles, olives, lettuce, and a dash of mustard.'
The entire glass barrier for the food was thrown out the window and instantaneously smashed to bits by its impact with the ground seconds later.
'Or I can just make this a smorgasbord.'
In a few seconds, Vincent had managed to create a monstrosity of a sandwich, complete with all cheeses, sauces, condiments, meats and vegetables.
Actually, scratch that last part—the sandwich had nearly all vegetables.
That last part was due to the lack of jalapeños.
Vincent deplored those scorching little suckers… almost as much as he deplored a certain raccoon.
Regardless, the black bear smirked in satisfaction at the meal he had whipped up for himself.
"So nice…and all mine," the ursine chuckled in satisfaction. Vincent settled his caboose into a chair behind him and settled his feet on a nearby table.
'Finally, some decent grub…'
Reclining back in the chair, which was already sagging from the added weight, Vincent unhinged his jaw to orally accept the edible delight...
Only to be jolted out of his seat by an unfamiliar voice…
Land on the floor back-first—hard...
…Then receive a face full of his ill-fated lunch.
Even past the food remnants that the covered the bear's eyes, one could tell right off the bat that the bear was well past anger now.
He was going on livid.
'Somebody's in for a very...very…very unhappy ending.'
And Vincent was going to make sure he himself drenched out every possible ounce of enjoyment from bringing about said ending.
Emitting a threatening growl, the black bear furiously wiped the slop from his eyes and shot up, his broad back to the perpetrator responsible, muscles rippling in his shoulders in preparation for the up-coming beat down.
"Y'know, if there's one thing I hate the most in this world," Vincent started in an alarmingly chill tone.
The next words, however, were tainted with primal fury.
"It's being interrupted during my 'me' time."
Indeed, Vincent began cracking his knuckles ominously and swiftly revolved in place to see the smartass he'd been given the pleasure of murdering.
He never would have expected what he saw instead.
Slightly further away in a simple suburb off the edge of town, the morning sun scampered up a vanishing dark blue sky, auburn light casting evanescent shades of red and gold while also illuminating a crisply groomed blue jay that descended upon a deserted, crimson birdhouse and landed on the outreaching, wooden post. The azure avian coughed daintily to clear his throat a bit and then uttered a soft, merry tweet. Then, hopping along the length of the post and towards the entrance, the blue jay poked his head to view into the miniature house…
He pulled his head out immediately afterward and kicked the accursed structure!
Not his best of ideas...
The ill-tempered bird's only reward consisted of a throbbing foot, which he nursed by rubbing with his wings and shouting profanities at the same time. He hopped up and down on the post for a few minutes until his mind could run out of insults for his potty-mouth beak to spit out...or until he fell off—whichever event came first.
"YEOW," he wailed piteously in a baritone, African-American toned voice, "damn it, those stupid humans—can't even bother themselves to change a freakin'—"
Frozen in mid-rant, the avian, his agony completely forgotten, swiveled his head around to see who had just spoken to him...and so cheerily, for that matter. He lowered his claw and wings as the sun finally broke free of the horizon, casting more light on the scene. Yet still, the blue jay saw no one.
He could only raise an eye-ridge in perplexity as he narrowed his eyes a tad, continuing to crane his tiny head all around still. "Hello? Who's there?"
'I coulda sworn I heard another bird.' After all, ever since that new and (quite frankly in the opinion of both the local animal and human population) bizarre exterminator had come onto the scene, only critters of the winged variety had the gall to venture near the humans' neon green backyards.
The blue jay sighed in relief, thankful that he wasn't starting to lose his mind, and then angled his eyes and head downward…
...Only to come face to face with the expansive emerald eyes of a gigantic black bear, who had somehow climbed up via a tree right next to the pole, too...!
"GAH!" screamed the blue jay shrilly.
"GAH!" screamed the bear back just as shrilly. The ursine almost lost (his?) grip and had to reaffirm a steady grip on the tree.
At this point, the avian had his back to the front of the birdhouse, his chest heaving from the tense situation. Yes, he could have flown away, but—'Wait a sec, what am I thinking? Of course I can fly away!'
Deciding not to berate himself yet for his own fear-induced slowness, the blue jay opened his wings and dashed off into the air, managing to escape the audacious "attacker." He could have sworn he heard a voice ring out, though, but the air was already rushing in his ears, so oh well. Besides, who would ever want to listen to the person having you as dinner?
Blue Jay laughed loud and haughtily as his wings beat triumphantly. Even without looking back, the haughty avian could easily imagine the ursine's look of disappointment and outrage at being denied a meal. "Did I disappoint, buddy? Did I? Well, too bad, so sad! Ha, ha, ha!"
Eventually, of course, he had to land—hey, flying's not easy when you're doing it on an empty stomach—so Blue Jay made a touchdown on the outpost of another birdhouse...strangely identical to the one he'd just left. However, he was feeling far too good about himself to give a hoot about details.
In fact, in a flashy demonstration of bravado, Blue Jay cleared his tiny throat before saturating the early morning atmosphere with his rich, booming voice.
"Yes sah, don't evah belittle the insurmountable wit and cunning of the final descendent of the Azure bloodline! For I, Anthony Aristo Azure, am more than a match for the simpletons and brutes that dare to oppose me! Yes, even at my most vulnerable, I stand here today thanks to my god given skills as well as to my evah inquisitive mind! So I beseech to all before me: rush not into challenging the brilliant and handsome Anthony Azure! Nah, tremble instead under the glow of my superiority." And like a preacher at the pinnacle of an almighty speech, the bird threw his wings out to the sides in encompassing pride! "Tremble, ha, ha, ha!"
Then he lowered his wings, the limbs exhausted from the demanding flight. Regardless, Anthony's satisfaction and good mood were far from spent. "Ah," he sighed contently, crossing his wings over his chest comfortably, "I amaze even myself sometimes. Best speech I've made all week."
"And it was very pretty, too!" Ah, how wonderful still!
'An audience…?' Anthony mused in pleasant surprise, putting a wing to his chest in exaggerated gratitude, 'Well, to disregard a fan's enthusiasm is no part of this daring and—might I add?—handsome bird's nature!'
As such, Anthony, with his best winning smile (toothless of course—he is a bird after all), smoothly swiveled his head to offer well-deserved appreciation to his "adoring fan…" "Thank you, kind—"
Unfortunately, his bravado fizzled out instantaneously as he came face to face, once again, with the same bear as before! Feeling far more dumbstruck than terrified at the moment, Anthony could only bring himself to slowly raise a feathered "finger" to the larger mammal's face, stuttering out lamely, "B-but...how did you…?"
Surprisingly, the slightly slim bear tilted its head in a quizzical manner and blinked its expansive emerald eyes. If fear hadn't been so dominant right now, Anthony would have sworn he'd have grinned a bit at the adorable quality in the undoubtedly young mammal's gestures.
"Were you trying to get exercise?" the feminine voice rang out from the bear's maw melodically, flowing out like crystal-clear water from a babbling brook. "You flew all around the neighborhood and came right back." She even made a little circling motion with one of her paws to indicate her point.
A few moments of silence encompassed the awkward-looking duo before Anthony, despite having all sense of horror and confusion now overwhelmed by a feeling of ironic frustration, kept an even face as he gazed back at the neighborhood around him and the lady bear.
Anthony suddenly slapped a wing to his face with a distempered groan, much to the bearess's innocent amusement.
The lady bear fibbed not; this suburb, compared to others, had relatively sparse residents. In fact, one could easily take a single step and suddenly end up in the forest and vice versa. Needless to say, there weren't too many hiding places for the distraught blue jay to have flown to.
"I see, "muttered the blue jay. He had never felt so idiotic in his entire life. Well, okay, he'd been made a fool plenty of times in the past, but, hey, pride is a man's best friend, right?
"Then in which case..."
'Might as well just accept the music and face it like a man…' Anthony decided in resignation. So with an air of heavy semi-solemnness, the preacher-like avian raised his wings up to gesture a "time out."
"Now, lookie here, I know I look like a pretty decent meal, but hear me out first!" He didn't even notice the befuddlement in the mammal's eyes as he proceeded with his lame pleas.
"Ya see these wings?" He even revealed said body parts to the baffled bear. "Ya see these scrawny legs?" Then he did likewise with those limbs. "I barely even count as an appetizer, for Lord's sake! Even a housecat couldn't live off'a this—"
A calmly waved paw and a heartfelt giggle cut the frantic avian's ramble off. "Wait a minute; you actually think I came up here to eat you?"
'Wait…what?' The blue jay was now scanning the bear as if she had two heads. Up until he'd answered back, the beak had been left agape, frozen in mid-conversation by the lighthearted tone in the female's voice.
"Yeah," Anthony responded slowly, not sure where or even if she was going somewhere with that odd question. 'Does she want me in a false sense of security or somethin'?'
"...what else should I expect a bear to do?"
One blink—that was half of the bear's response; the other half was…
"Ask you for directions?"
Then there came another few seconds of awkward silence, these ones even weightier than the last…and this oddball was even smiling like a nut! For what reason, Anthony Azure did not know.
'I don't even think I wanna know, to be honest with myself.'
Even so, though, Anthony couldn't deny a sense of…fascination. Most ursines the bird had had the misfortune of meeting, whether male or female, adult or cub (though especially adult), usually tried to have him as a light snack right off the
spot. This bear, however, showed more docility than one could find in certain breeds of domesticated dog and more sweetness than could be found in a bag of Starbursts.
That word was all the bird's mind had the capability of churning out at the moment. He was still frazzled by the absurdity of this situation.
Luckily, this bear was the type of mammal that had unfathomable patience.
"So let me see if I follow you right. You just wanna to find a way to your friend."
"However, in the process of finding that way, you've done gotten yourself lost as a result...
"You got it!"
"—and now ya in dire need of somebody who can guide ya to your friend's place."
"Well, at least as close as you can actually get me…"
The current conversation between Abby and the blue jay—who had introduced himself more simply as Tony—proceeded as the two strolled down the main street that led to the town's Subway.
Well, Abby was the one strolling. Tony merely perched on her right shoulder, enjoying the ride. Plus, the bearess was just as hungry as the avian. Like a certain other black bear, though, Tony did not approve of the junk being served at the other eateries. Abby did not disagree in the slightest...probably because she hadn't the slightest idea what the bird had been talking about.
Anyway…Tony shook his crested head sympathetically. "Mm-mm-mm, well…," he put a wing to his chin, deep in thought. "I know some of these parts pretty well. I'll give myself that…,"
Unfortunately, Abby chose now, of all times, to get uncontrollable and perky by abruptly commencing to bounce up and down repeatedly like an overjoyed child on a sugar rush. As a result, the poor blue jay nearly slipped and had to maintain a fierce grip on the woman's shoulder—not a manageable task for the fingerless. Or the easily queasy for that matter…
Oblivious to the strong discomfort brought to her newfound companion, Abby continued her merry hopping, front paws clasped together, squealing all the while, "Oh thank you, thank you, this is so awesome of—"
Tony raised his primary feather to halt her…and regain his perch before waiting a short while for his disorientation to subside.
"BUT….I can't promise ya that I'll get ya far…or keep ya safe for that matter."
Abby's cheerfulness dissipated at those words. "What do you mean?"
The blue jay could only sigh heavily at his companion's naiveté. This young woman had much to learn about nature.
"Exactly what I mean," Anthony retorted pointedly, attempting his hardest to remain patient, "...is this…Sure, there're some parts –like the woods around this here town—that are safe and easy to pass through." He gestured a wing to the surrounding area.
"Other parts, though…they will eat you alive…literally. Believe me when I say that the forest is darker in more ways than humans and some animals think."
He stared long and ominously into Abby's eyes, waiting for effect and for the significance of his words to sink in. Indeed, a frown slowly crawled over Abby's muzzle as the dark significance and weight of her companion's words ominously dawned on her. Her eyebrows began furrowing a bit in nervousness.
Suddenly, as quickly as Tony's grim, dour demeanor appeared, it vanished, replaced by a more upbeat and whimsical air. "What you need, sistah, is a real orienteerin' expert—a professional who not only knows where to go and where not to go, but also a veteran of nature!"
Despite being slightly spooked by the avian's words form earlier, Abby quickly regained her normal demeanor then put a paw to her chin in optimistic anticipation. "Ooo…sounds exciting. Where can I find one?"
Stretching his wings out first before folding them back in, Tony merely shrugged. "Oh, there's gotta be some foo'—I mean, gentleman around here somewhere who could guide ya."
Tony suddenly gripped his stomach, from which there came a pitifully growling sound.
"But…nobody's going anywhere until this here birdy's done satisfying his aching belly, ya hear me, kid?"
"Oh, I hear you— loud and clear!" Abby replied in full earnestness, nodding her head fervently. She even stuck a finger to her chest and beamed in a manner of half-serious, half-playful dedication, making dead sure to keep her eyes on the road as she did such. "Don't worry! I'll get you to the restaurant faster than you can say—"
"Oh and, uh, one more thing, Ab…," Tony gently interjected.
Same grin never leaving her face, the cinnamon bearess shifted her vision back to her miniature friend. "Yeah?"
With a half-lidded, blank stare, Tony pointed back the way they came. "You just passed our stop."
Abby scrunched her eyebrows at the avian in perplexity before looking back the way the duo had come.
Sure enough, they—well Abby...had passed the eatery without even noticing. She instantly rubbed the back of her head and grinned sheepishly at her obliviousness.
"Oh..." was all she had to say as she retraced her steps and gaited up to the restaurant entrance. 'Ah well, I'll learn as I go along! No big deal…!' she decided blithely, shrugging off her slight "oopsy-daisy."
Tony, on the other hand, could only give a facepalm at her obliviousness. 'Oh Lord…this child ain't long for this world, is she? Oh well, might as well hang on to this one…she could prove useful in the long run.'
"So, Tony, you said we can make whatever sandwiches we want here right?" Abby, her verdant eyes trained on her fine-feathered friend, did not see the third occupant of the restaurant…and probably would have walked straight into him and knocked all three of them down if Tony hadn't prevented that event in the following manner:
"Yeah, that's the gist of it, Abby, my dear. Luckily, there ain't no humans around to catch us, so—Hey!"
And so fate began…
Just so everyone knows: the chapters are going to get longer—much longer.