Among the trees

Photo by Geran de Klerk

Hugh searched the dark cluster of pines for the robot, but nothing moved between them.

“There's no use waiting for it,” Emma said.

“I know...”

His sister shifted in her tracks and hiked her bow tight against her shoulder. “It doesn’t need us. It’ll come when it's ready.”

He closed his eyes and listened for its heavy and familiar footfalls. Only the sound of the gusting wind in the treetops could be heard.

She put her arm around him. “Come on. Let’s go back to the tavern and warm up over a drink.” She tugged his arm, and he finally relented.

He walked beside her down the path.

“I know you’re worried, but you have to let it go.”

“But what if it doesn’t return?”

“Then it doesn’t.”

He glanced at her.

She shrugged. “It’s its own being, and you’ve got to respect that.”

He nodded. “Okay...”

“What?”

He hesitated before continuing. “Where does that leave me?”

“What do you mean?”

“Before I found it, I was nothing. But now, I’m Hugh, the tamer of robots.”

“So?”

“Well, without one, I’m no one again.”

She stopped and stared at him. “That's the reason for all this foolishness?”

He didn’t respond and only stared at her.

She smiled. “You’ll always be a robot tamer. No one can take that away from you. You just might have to wait a little longer before you can practice it again.”

He nodded and looked back through the pines. Still, nothing moved. He nodded again and said, “Alright, come on then.”

They continued down the path.

She was right. She always was. The robot wasn’t his and he had to let it go.

But he’d found it out in the woods, and there was a good chance there’d be others like it.

And tomorrow, he’d start looking for more.