Judy disappeared in a flash of light. Stud stood looking at where she had just been. He was filled with terror. As much as he loved her, as much as he wanted her, there was no way that he could do the same thing.
“Well, aren’t you going to follow her?” Kit said.
Stud shook his head, backing away from the small cave. “I can’t go in there” The sadness overwhelmed him. All he wanted was some comfort food. His mom’s meatloaf. He could make that happen. There was beef, bread, eggs, a splash of milk. Mashed potatoes and meatloaf. “Let’s go home, Kit.”
“Are you sure, Stud?” Kit asked. The disbelief and disappointment were obvious in his voice.
“She wouldn’t want me out in the real world anyway.” As he was about the swing up on Countess, he saw mushrooms growing at the foot of the tree. He crouched down and picked the mushrooms. They’d be delicious in his meatloaf.
“Those aren’t edible,” Kit said.
“Sure they are. I’ve had these before.”
“Those aren’t food, Stud. Killing yourself can’t be less terrifying than following her.”
The terror still clenched at his belly. “Let me think on it, then we’ll come back.”
Kit shrugged. “Okay. But you try to feed my family those mushrooms, I’ll kill you myself.”
~ ~ ~
Stud pulled his meatloaf from the oven. It smelled just like his mom’s.
It wasn’t ideal, but he wasn’t going to leave this safer place for another. If she was just going to keep falling down time holes, what could he do? Who could blame him?
So he served up his dinner and it tasted as good as he anticipated. Kit and Sylvia watched him carefully for the next hour or two after dinner. They ate a separate dinner, but were kind of compassionate to him.
He’d build a house for himself, he’d just make a life here. Without Judy, what was the point of it? Maybe he should have followed her.
They cleared the dinner dishes and he stayed talking with them. It was pleasant. He’d have to find his own place after this. Maybe higher on the hill. He’d keep watch where O’Keefe and Butch were, watching over his family, even though whatever was going to happen to the land after him wasn’t going to matter.
They laughed and visited. He was relaxing into the night and their relationship. The younger couple was going to be whatever he’d need them to be. He could guide them and help them and they’d all be together.
That night he went off to the stable and climbed up into the hayloft. Boomer watched him and growled, then climbed up the ladder to lay with him. If Boomer’d had his way, they would have followed Judy to wherever she had gone.
He was probably right.
“I know, buddy,” Stud said, scratching the dog’s head and ears. He whined and laid his head across Stud’s chest. Boomer was a good dog. Of course he would have made the right decision.
With a shiver, Stud decided he’d go back to the cave tomorrow and follow her. It was stupid to stay here.
He rolled over in the hay, still petting the dog when a twitch hit his belly. Something terrible was cramping his belly.
Kit was right. Those mushrooms weren’t food.
His stomach gurgled again. He had to get outside and he had to get there fast.
He stumbled down the ladder and out into the night.
The terrible sickness washed over and through him. Would they find his poor little corpse? Would he get buried next to Butch along the edge of the field?
“Remember when those time travelers showed up and the dumb one ate mushrooms and died?”
What wonderful lore to get passed down through the family.
The pain tore through his belly and was more than he could handle. He was going to die. That’s the only answer. His comfort food had killed him.
If Judy had gotten back home, she’d never know what happened to him. He’d be lost to the world. If she got back home, she’d take care of his cows. He knew she would.
He prayed that she was home. That at least something was as it should be.
He tripped as he was running to the woods and hit his head. Blessed blackness took him and hopefully he would stay there.
He was too stupid to live.