Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

How did everyone miss a cabin in this Protected Nature Zone for so long? The windows are covered in ivy and the veranda is thick with brambles.
“Hya! Hya! Bellit, come now! We must away!”
The shouted sentence comes from a woman standing in the doorway, like a beacon of creamy white against the inky darkness within. Must be a companion of the elderly woman spotted earlier.
From the copse nearest the hut strides a huge bird, it’s golden beak catching the dying light. Snowy plumage shades to midnight blue at the tips of tail and stubby wings. Great legs the colour of dried blood end in wicked blue-black claws.
“I come, Yega, I come. Calm yourself.”
It speaks! I lean too far and tumble out of the tree, a frantic grab missing the only branch that might have saved me. Hitting the ground loosens the death grip I have on my phone. I watch it spin away as things fade swiftly to black.

A cool hand rests against my brow, then briefly strokes my temple. I smell mint as my head is lifted and a warm drink is pressed against my lips.
“Drink, manchild. That was a marvelous fall.” The voice is not quite husky. It makes me shiver as I swallow.
“His body knows you.”
Her chuckle is throaty. My eyes open of their own accord. Silver hair frames a face so angular it could be called inhuman, if not for the green eyes that turn it from alien to so desirable my breath catches.
My mouth moves. No words come out.
She smiles: “Chatter cheapens the moment. You’ll speak again, but never of this.”
Her eyes seem to get larger. The entrancement is broken by an enormous hooked beak appearing above her head. It cants and eyes like shiny night regard me. Whatever that is, I’m sure it’s amused.
“He’s thinking. That can get in the way.”
“I’m not a fool, Bellit. That restorative had lust and forgetting blended in.”
Snatching a look about, I see I’m in a rather traditional bedroom. Through the opening on my left, I see the traditional theme continues into the lounge. My gaze catches on the lights flickering across the oddly curved console under a window on the far side. Through the adjacent doorway, dense brambles frame my view of treetops passing smoothly, like I’m looking out the window of a train.
This? Wha-?
The sound of cloth sliding over skin brings me back to a vision that reduces me to nothing but the urge she wants.

I awake lying against a mossy trunk. A massive headache pounds behind my eyes. Stupid thing to do, falling out of a tree. Why was I up in it? Can’t remember. I’m naked! Scrabbling into a shivering crouch, I see my stuff piled against a nearby tree. Just how hard did I hit my head?
Dressing, I check my gear. The uniform is scuffed and torn, but fixable. Nothing that’ll stain. The taser is a write-off. Likewise, binoculars and phone. The memory cards are gone, too. At least I stuffed the car keys into my socks before tucking them in my boot.
I did?
Was I pranked while lying unconscious after falling out of a tree? An on-duty officer would be good sport. Hopefully, nothing shows up on social media.
By the time I trek back to the car, I know what I’ll say: I was returning to my vehicle, after thoroughly investigating the designated area, when I slipped and fell. The sighting? A hoax, most likely. Nothing to report.