"There," she would point, "You don't want to step in that valley." And so Pepper would walk around it.
"There," and she would gesture to her left, "We'll have to climb over that ridge." And Pepper would follow as instructed.
After a time, the repetitive environment of The Dune started to bore Pepper. He began watching his feet as they crossed over the grassy expanse. He pretended, for a bit, that the grass was actually shiny green water, and that he was floating across as if by magic. This entertained him satisfactorily for a few minutes, but then his attention began to wane. He stared up at the sky, which was clear and blue and very little clouds. What clouds there were, were small and wispy. Pepper imagined they were messages send out by Indian tribes. You could only decipher them if you were another Indian. Since Pepper was not, he could only speculate their meanings.
"You don't say a lot," Pinkie said, startling him out of his reverie.
"Well, hermits don't usually have people to talk to."
"So your skills are a little rusty?"
"Yes, I suppose." Pepper was a bit unnerved by the conversation that appeared to be starting, as he'd never really conversed with a murffle before.
"Well, if we're going to live together, we should probably learn to converse, and since we will be walking for a while, now would be a good time to practice," Pinkie stated logically.
"So," she said, "What do you think of the weather?"
"Yes. Are you pleased with the weather? Does it disappoint you? This is called small talk, you see, and it is a very valuable skill to have."
Pepper thought to himself that under his original plan of hermitting, he would have never needed the small talk skill. "I don't really know what I think of the weather. What does one think about the weather, anyway? I think perhaps it could do to be a little cooler, but other than that, there is not much to say."
Pinkie nodded. "Perhaps there is nothing to say. But that is when you use your imagination and come up with something to say about the weather, even if it is untrue, because later, you might find yourself discussing something entirely different and there you are, in the middle of a conversation."
Pepper nodded thoughtfully.
"So," Pinkie said, encouragingly, "Why don't you try it?"
"Well..." Pepper wracked his brain for something even remotely imaginative to say. "I find the weather to be...rather...mysterious."
"Mysterious?" Pinkie said, startled. "How so? I am interested now, and please continue."
"It is mysterious, because it seems to exist, but then again, it seems to not exist. You cannot see the weather, it is merely there."
"Hmm. You can not see it, that is true, but you can FEEL it. If you can FEEL it, it must exist."
"Well," Pepper theorized, "You can FEEL the wind. The wind certainly exists. And you can FEEL the sun, so you know that exists. You can FEEL rain, you can FEEL snow, you can FEEL sleet. But weather, that's just a concept."
"But wind, sun, rain, snow and sleet are all PART of the weather concept. Therefore, weather exists."
"Not so, not so, weather only exists if you believe it is weather, but you could call it anything you want. You could call it the buffalo, but that wouldn't change anything."
Pinkie shook her head. "But you just contradicted yourself. You could call 'rain' 'the buffalo' and it would still be rain. How you label something has no bearing on whether or not it exists."
"Well, if you ask-"
"Stop," The murffle said out of nowhere, halting immediately and thrusting her arm out in front of Pepper to stop him.
"What is it?" Pepper said.
"Shhh..." Pinkie shushed, placing a tiny, slightly crooked finger over her lips.
"...what is it?" Pepper asked again, this time at barely more than a whisper.
Pinkie pointed. She had not moved her other arm from across Pepper's chest, as if afraid that dropping it would cause him to spring forward into whatever it was she had stopped for. Her face had a new odd look, one that Pepper had yet to see in his short time of knowing her. There was, for the first time since he'd met her, a trace of fear in her eyes. It was slight. But it was there.
He searched across the field to where she was pointing. He couldn't see anything. He squinted, and searched a little bit harder, but still, he saw nothing.
"I don't see anything," he whispered.
"That's because... that's because you're not supposed to. IT'S out tonight." Pinkie's voice shuddered ever so slightly.
"IT?" Pepper repeated.
"You know all about IT, of course, having been in The Dune before," Pinkie said quietly, but her matter-of-fact tone had returned.
Pepper nodded. Even though he didn't know anything about IT. But he could guess, from the way that Pinkie was shaken, that IT was nothing he wanted to meet face to face. If, in fact, IT had a face.
"It isn't night time," he whispered, and Pinkie turned finally to look at him. This was the first time since they'd met that she had looked him full in the face, and he noticed that her eyes were such an intense shade of green that they practically glowed. They reminded him momentarily of his Lucky Thing, and wondered if perhaps they were made out of the same substance.
"It isn't night time...yet," she said.
And Pepper could tell by the way she said it that this part of the conversation had ended. Pinkie finally dropped her arm, crossed in front of Pepper and gestured for him to follow.
"Come on," she said. "We'll go this way for a while."
Chapter 1: Pepper
Chapter 2: Pinkie
Chapter 3: Dune
Full Story at pepperadventure