Bane Warrior

The Soul Harvester had been at work for at least three weeks, and the body count kept rising. Some friends in the department kept me posted on the situation. I waited for the fateful call from Barrister that they set the bounty. When I get the call, I go to work. The bounty would be big: this Harvester had taken down three cops already. He tore them to pieces. I assumed the Harvester was a male: good odds.

My name is Derek Sawyer, and I used to be a cop. Now I’m known as a Bane Warrior. For all dark magic there is a bane, some are simple, some require a magic spell. There are banes for light magic as well, but the Order does a much better job of keeping those banes secret. The Red Hand, an organized crime syndicate, ancient as recorded history, claims to have dark magic that has no banes. I had yet to see any of it, and the Red Hand sent assassins to take me out twice.

The phone rang, and I smiled. The caller ID showed the prosecutor’s office. That will be my bounty, I thought greedily. I pushed the answer button on the phone and asked, “Barrister?”

“No. Assistant D.A. Brown. There’s a Harvester.”

“Yes, I read the paper, Mr. Brown.”

“We’ve set a bounty. How soon can you bring him in?”

“What’s the bounty?”

“Fifty grand, alive. How soon?”

I smiled. Fifty grand would keep me in booze and cigarettes for another year, not that I drank. “I need access to a fresh crime scene: half hour or forty-five minutes within the kill. He’s been hitting mostly public places? Seems to like bars on the south-side?”

“That wasn’t released to the papers.”

“I do more than read the paper, Brown. Why fifty? Usually they’re twenty-five.”

“He took down one of our Bane Warriors this morning. Wasn’t much left of the detective–scraped up as much as we could to bury.”

“Who was it?”

“Jericho.”

“Damn, the fifty grand is for the harvester alive. How much if I kill him?”

“None if you kill him, Sawyer.”

I take some pride in bringing them in alive, but Jericho was my friend. Still, I won’t know until the very end if I need to kill.

Brown interrupted my silence. “It says in your file you spent six years with the Order, and most people that stay that long never leave. Why did you, Sawyer?”

“The Order refuses to take sides. I like to stand and fight.” On that note, I pushed the end call button on the phone and started to mentally prepare a list of all the banes I’d need to lug around. Jericho had been one of the best. I needed to pack the heavy guns. I had a rather expensive custom coat with extra pockets and loops for various rods. Most magic users had something to carry their components with, either a coat, or a satchel with lots of pockets.

Once I had everything stashed in my coat, I locked up the office and headed to my car. I would tell you about the car, but likely you would be jealous. I had a hangout on the south side, a sushi-bar-coffee-house. They had lost their liquor license years ago, but they catered to smokers, and I could drink coffee and snack on wasabi piled high on sushi. I didn’t speed on my way there, no need to. I took a parking spot right in front of the joint and walked inside, taking my usual booth by the door.

A tired old Japanese lady came up to me. “Coffee? California rolls?”

“Yes, both please.”

She nodded and wandered off. I set my cell phone on the table and waited for my coffee and rolls. I wasn’t big on raw fish most of the time, so I went for the California rolls. I just liked having something to pile wasabi and soy sauce on and eat. After a while the old Japanese lady brought me eight rolls and hazelnut coffee, and I proceeded to snack. I lit up a cigarette and tried to relax. This Soul Harvester would be a tough takedown. An hour passed, and another, the sun set in its usual, casual way.

As I went to open a fresh pack of cigarettes, my phone rang. I snaked it up and answered it, “Where?”

“Joe’s Pub, on Wayne, you know the place?”

“I’ll be right there.”

I disconnected and threw a twenty down on the table and darted out to my car. Sixteen blocks or so, made in record time. When I had a bounty, I had a license to speed from the city. I hopped out of the car and sprinted into Joe’s Pub; the police at the door waved me on through. They had cleared the bar of civilians. A police Sergeant, named Dawson, saw me and said, “In the men’s room.”

I turned towards the wall with the restrooms and went in. An overweight, white male lay sprawled on the floor in a pool of blood with his throat cut, but with a smile on his face. He had been in bliss; he had been charmed before the Harvester finished him off. I looked around, detectives filled the room: collecting and looking for evidence. I cleared my throat, then, “Leave, all of you.”

I needed a bead on the killer’s aura and having a half dozen humans in the room with me would mean trying to sort them all out. The room emptied, and I started to chant TrueSight, a simple spell for auras and the like. A blue and green mist-like aura filled the room, odd I thought as Soul Harvesters are almost always red and black aura. This guy had once been with the Order. I pulled an inch diameter pearl out of my left pocket and focused on the aura. In my mind’s eye, I could see the killer walking casually down the street about eight blocks away carrying a large bag. I walked out of the bathroom and nodded to the waiting detectives.

I stepped out of the bar and hopped in my car. I punched the accelerator down heading towards the Harvester. After a few blocks, I pulled up next to him and growled, “Hey, you there!”

He turned. A short, pudgy, pale-skinned magic-user, he pointed at himself with his right index finger, as if asking, “Me?”

I shouted, “Yeah, you.” I slammed the car in park and jumped out of it. The killer looked around himself as if checking to see if he was surrounded.

He smiled and said, “Watch the pretty lights…”

Just then a spiral of flashing lights emanated from the magic-users eyes, a simple charm spell. I am highly immune to charms. I raised my right hand, palm outward, as if to say, “Talk to the hand,” and projected blackness into his eyes.

The killer realized his charm wasn’t going to work, and he turned and bolted down an alleyway. I ran after, shouting, “You don’t want to make me run!”

I am a fast runner. I know how to push my muscles with the aid of magical strength, and I soon caught up to the killer and grabbed him from behind. He howled. He turned and faced me tossing four rocks to the ground and starting a chant. I reached inside my coat and pulled out a silver rod with a rubber grip and started focusing magical energy.

As the Harvester chanted, the rocks grew into humanoid shapes—Rock Demons. They snarled and hissed as they took shape and charged me. I aimed at the left-most one and whacked it on the leg with the silver rod. It created a resonating frequency vibration shattering the Rock Demon. I focused great strength into my hit and swung backhanded at the right one catching it on the head. The head and shoulders shattered, and the body crumbled. A third one came at me in the center, and I brought the rod down on his right shoulder, rending it into two big pieces.

The fourth Demon loomed taller than me and had a look of sheer determination on its gnarled face. I focused my magic and aimed for its knee, but it didn’t shatter. The Demon smiled and reached out for me. I pulled in arcane power from around me and aimed for the midsection, two quick shots, “Whack! Whack!” And the beast turned to pebbles and jagged stones. Simple matter of the second hit the rod still had a resonating frequency, and hitting with a vibrating object creates a significantly stronger vibration.

The Harvester took off in a run again. This time I chased after him and pushed him down to the ground. I growled, “You’re coming with me.”

He rolled over and pulled something out of his pocket, a cigarette lighter. He struck fire with it and started a chant to summon a Lava Demon. I snaked my hand into one of my pockets and pulled out a vial of simple water, pulled the plug, and poured it on the ground while simultaneously calling out, “Jacqueline!”

The water from the vial stopped in midair and fine mists started swishing past me from all around towards the water. Jacqueline is a friendly Elemental I knew from when she was still human. She started to take shape as a humanoid statue of water while the Lava Demon rose to its whole height of lava and fire. Jacqueline smiled and said, “He’s mine!”

She walked closer to the Demon and put her water hands out in front of her and projected a water stream from them at the Demon. Jacqueline sucked in all the water from the air for blocks around, and it became like a strong wind. The water threw up debris of stone and steam off the Lava Demon. I started to approach the Harvester with one intent: getting close enough to cast a Frost spell on him. Then I could get the choker on him and bind his hands.

The Harvester drew a ninja sword and hissed. “Come and get me, Bane Warrior.”

“Come along quietly, and maybe I can talk them into a life sentence.”

The Harvester charged me, and I pulled a bit of pulverized salt out of my pocket and blew it in his direction while imagining a snowflake and focusing on cold. The Harvester stopped dead in his tracks. I walked up to him and connected a collar to his throat, so he couldn’t incant any more spells. Then I bound his hands behind his back. I looked to Jacqueline and the Lava Demon. Jacqueline had clearly won, and she stood there grinning.

I pulled out my cell-phone and rang headquarters, letting them know I had the Harvester.

Jacqueline walked up to me and put one of her water hands on my cheek. “Still doing good deeds for a living, eh, Derek?”

“This one took out Jericho.”

“And you let him live?”

“I wouldn’t get paid if I killed him.”

“When are you going to find the one who murdered me?” She asked.

“It was the Red Hand, you know that, and I can’t fight an army.”

“You could, Derek, you could.”

Check out my Codename: Bear series on Amazon. A fun secret agent story.

Potato Vengeance

I never cooked a potato before. I lived at home until I was 19, and I got a place with my oldest friend, Ben. He was a year older than me and promised we’d make great roomies. My mom loved to prepare meals, but she refused to teach me anything, swearing I’d marry and not have to cook.

Here I was 19, broke, and hungry. Ben had some potatoes in a bag on top of the fridge, and I was bent on cooking one. We had no Internet back then because we were too poor. I grabbed one of the potatoes and put it in a frying pan. Nothing happened. I knew how to make cold cereal with milk, so I did that instead.

Ben came into the kitchen. “Why is there a whole potato in a frying pan?”

“I was going to cook it,” I said.

“Maybe rooming together was a bad idea. You’re eating my cereal, and you’ve threatened one of my potatoes.”

“I need to eat!”

He pointed at the potato in the frying pan. “Step 1: Wash the potato. Slice the–”

“Wait! Let me get a notepad.”

“You don’t need a notepad. Slice up the thing, add some oil to the pan, and turn the heat on.”

I nodded and eyed the plant with dire intent. Was a potato a plant? It was a root for sure. I wish I could look it up. I wanted to know what the potato was called, scientifically speaking.

Washing the potato, I started to hum a bit. The potato started to hum with me, but I couldn’t be that far gone. I sliced into the potato, and it let out this tiny little scream. It may have been the sweetest sound I ever heard. I finished the cut. Then I cut it again. A small scream like an angel in anguish followed. I danced, heel-toe, heel-toe. I knew right then I’d be a master chef.

I put the pan on the burner and poured in a little oil. I felt the heat with my hand, and it seemed hot enough. I threw the twenty or so pieces of sliced root into the oil, and twenty or so howls of horror followed. I found my true calling, finally. Nineteen years on this planet and I knew my place.

The screams died down, and I put the taters on a plate. I added a bit of salt and feasted. My feet dragged me to the local library, and the researching of potato recipes began.

Baked potatoes seemed easy. Stabbing into the potato with a fork to create tiny vents caused the greatest wailing of pain you could ever imagine. I stabbed it over and over, all the while reveling in its cries of no and stop. I put it in the oven without preheating. I turned the oven up to 150. The potato begged. Finish me, it cried out in this glorious voice. This went on for some time. I showed it mercy. I turned the heat up to 350.

Butter and salt went on my victim. It was good. Mom should have taught me how to cook. She taught me things like how to butcher a common house cat, but not how to prepare a meal.

I went to work, but my mind wasn’t there. Customers would ask for a half pound of sliced ham, and all I could think about was the precious screams that came from a potato as it’s diced.

Ben and I ran into each other when I got home. “I see you like potatoes,” he said.

“I love to hear them scream.”

“Huh?”

I did a little shrug thing and wondered when I’d get a chance to cook again. We were out of potatoes though. I tried cutting up an apple, and the thing just laughed and laughed with every cut, like it enjoyed it. I went to the store and got two 20 lb bags of baking potatoes. The first potato out of the bag I cut in strips, and that was pleasing. I heated up about a half inch of oil in my favorite marble coated pan and dropped the strips in one at a time. Each piece screamed. Each one warmed my heart.

They tasted good, and I added a little cayenne pepper to them.

I went to sleep for a while. I’m not sure how long. I felt like I hadn’t seen the sun in ages, and it was creeping through my window. Damn having a window facing east. Ben was sitting at our kitchen table eating cereal.

“Do you have work today?” He asked.

“No.”

“I was going to suggest cooking some sweet potatoes and a ham, but we have enough baking potatoes to last for a month.”

“Sweet potatoes?” I asked.

He drank the leftover milk out of the cereal bowl. “They’re very tasty, and they’re healthy.”

“Do they scream?”

Ben closed his eyes and shook his head. Within three days we were preparing sweet potatoes. They had these deep voices and got very threatening when stabbed with a fork. It was no fun at all. The higher pitched cries of terror from the baking potatoes were better.

“I don’t like sweet potatoes,” I said.

We weren’t even done cooking, and Ben, being pretty smart, noticed this. “You haven’t even tried them yet.”

“They don’t scream.”

“I’m worried about you,” he said.

Don’t worry about me. We ate the food. Taste wise sweet potatoes and ham was a nice meal. Would have been better with some dinner rolls though. I began to wonder about Ben. I wondered what would happen if I cut him? Would he scream? I bet he would.

I went and got my hand cuffs and taser. I shot him with the taser, and oh did he scream. He was worried about me? I cuffed him.

“What are you doing?” He yelled.

I started cutting on him. He screamed even better than the potatoes.

Check out my Zombie Flick! book on Amazon A true horror-comedy that puts the fun back in Zombies.

Snakes & Gypsies

This story was written for an Ed Davis writing class.

My new friend, Jessica, wanted to go to a Gypsy camp and have our fortunes read. I agreed, largely because I wanted Jessica to transform beyond just a friend, so I’d pretty much do anything she’d want us to do, other than genitalia piercings. None of that for me.

The Gypsy camp was located on a farm just outside of town. Tents, buses, pickup trucks, and minivans littered the fields. Jessica seemed to know where she was going as she led us to a tent with a gold moon painted on it. She stepped inside, and I followed. An ancient woman, with gray hair down to her hips and a toothless grin, sat in a well worn leather chair. A coal fire burned on a round platform in the center of the tent. Animal skulls were hung about strategically. The old hag tossed some sickly sweet incense into the fire, and a hazy, bluish smoke filled the tent.

Jessica said, “Our fortunes, please.”

I shrugged.

The old woman reached behind her and pulled out a copper bowl. “Twenty dollars each.”

“WHAT!?” I howled.

Jessica rapped her knuckles across my temple real hard. Yes, I’ve learned more than once how hard Jessica can hit. She claimed she studied Ninjitsu, and it’s all about hitting other people’s soft spots with your hard spots. All I knew was it worked. Still, she had this brown and blonde hair cut real short, plus the nicest breasts I’ve ever seen.

Jessica and I each put $20 in the bowl, and the old hag stashed it in a rusty iron chest. She said, “My name is Myra. Let me see the girl’s hand first.”

Jessica held out her right hand, and Myra began to caress the lines in her palm. Myra spoke in a soft voice. “You’ll live well into your eighties, but your health will start to fail in your sixties. You’ll have two children, but not by the man you’re with.”

I whispered, “Drat!”

The Gypsy woman released Jessica’s hand and reached out for mine.

I provided my hand, and Myra traced along the lines of my palms and fingers. It sent a kind of shiver up and down my spine. Myra whispered something, closed my hand, and pushed it away.

“What?” I asked. And yes, for the record, what is my favorite word.

She closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair. “Your future forks too many times to be sure of anything.”

“What a waste of $20!” I said.

Myra’s eyes opened wide. “You want me to lie? Do you want me to tell you about every possible fork and where it leads? I could spend a year talking about all the different forks in your future, and there’s no telling on any one which way you’ll turn.”

“I want my $20 back!”

Myra glared. “No refunds!”

“This is a sham.”

Myra smiled. “You really want your money back?”

“Of course.”

Myra fumbled around in the iron chest. She pulled out a sack of something and the twenty. She dumped the sack onto the fire, and it filled the room with a noxious cloud of yellow smoke. She said a little chant in a language I’d never heard and handed me my twenty.

Jessica and I ran out of the smoke filled tent. I drove her home. I leaned over to kiss her. She pulled back and whispered, “No, we’re done.”

“We’re just getting started, baby-doll.”

“No. Myra said we’d never have kids together. Why go any further.”

I tried to nuzzle in close to kiss her and my kiss landed on her shoulder. “Gypsies have been wrong before.”

Jessica opened the door and climbed out. “She put a curse on you, stupid fool.”

She slammed the door shut. I drove home. Curse, my ass.

A few days passed while I hunted for a new woman. You know, going to parks watching for women with big dogs, going to the grocery store at odd hours not buying anything in particular. I would go to bars, but alcohol is poison. Except Long Island Iced Teas, those are mostly iced tea anyhow.

I came home from work one day, and in the space separating my screen door and main door, there was a snake.

It was about two to three feet long, brown with tan diamonds running down its back. I ran. Well, in truth, I screamed, then I jumped, then I ran. I made it back to my car and drove to a payphone. One of my friends kept snakes as pets, so I figured I’d call him first. He didn’t answer. So, I had to call another friend. He came over with his camera and six-year-old daughter in tow. The snake was gone when he opened the door though. The child said, “I had to get up from my nap, and there’s no snake.”

Yeah. A snake. And my friend didn’t get any pictures. I’m sure it was the poisonous variety too.

Another week passed, while I stalked different parks and grocery stores. I was on my way to the kitchen for a nice cold beverage, and the faintest of hissing caught my ear. Another snake, this one well over three feet long and solid black, was just chilling on my countertop. I started to back away. It started to move towards me. I ran out of the house. Brilliantly, I forgot my keys but remembered to lock the door. I didn’t even have my wallet on me. Luckily, I’m old friends with a locksmith, and I called him from a neighbor’s house. I’m on good terms with my neighbors. Very important.

My locksmith friend, George, showed up in good time with his toolbox. George said, “There’s a snake inside?”

I nodded.

“I’ll unlock the door,” George said. “But the snake is all you, man.”

“What!”

“Grab a brick, and brain the stupid thing, or are you afraid of a little snake?”

“Of course I’m afraid of a snake! Snakes kill to eat!”

“You said it was black, right?” George pulled a simple little gun-shaped tool out of his toolbox and inserted it into my door lock. He clicked it a couple of times and twisted it. “You’re unlocked. The only black snakes we get around these parts are constrictors. It’s not poisonous.”

“It’s huge!”

“All the more reason you have to deal with it and not me. Call animal control if you’re that much of a pussy,” George said.

“Thanks for unlocking the door. Got any plans on Saturday?”

“Saturday, hmmm…”

“There’s that new zombie movie. I haven’t seen it yet.”

“I’ve seen it, but I’ll see it again, if you want,” he said. “Matinee on Saturday?”

“Yeah, I’ll call you.”

George winked at me. “Are you going to kill the snake?”

“I’m calling animal control.”

“HAHAHA!”

George left, and I went back to the neighbor’s house to call animal control. They arrived pretty quickly.

Two of them stepped out of the van. One said, “What’s the problem?”

I wondered which one was the comedian. “There’s a big-ass snake in my house.”

“How many feet is a big ass snake? What color is it?” The second man said.

“It’s at least eight feet long, a foot around in the middle, and it sits up like a spitting cobra.”

Both men laughed.

“It’s maybe three feet long. It’s solid black,” I said. “It’s in the kitchen. Ignore the pot plants in the back bedroom.”

Both men glared. One hissed out the words, “If we find pot plants, we’re calling the sheriff.”

“The stuff is entirely medicinal.”

The first one howled, “It’s still illegal in this state.”

“Oh, well, we’re real close to the border with Canada.”

Both men glared at me again. I think they practiced that. “Please get the snake. You won’t find any pot plants.”

One said, “We had better not.”

They bagged the snake then drove off with it.

I didn’t sleep well that night.

In the morning, I ate my typical breakfast of Greek yogurt and cereal. I had work, but not for another hour. I poked around on the internet reading the news. A very low hissing sound grated against my ears. I turned. In the doorway to my den, a slender green snake with red eyes perhaps two feet long lay in the entryway.

I pondered my options while the snake inched its way into the room. I was still barefooted, but I chose flight. As I ran past the snake, it bit me on the foot. I stumbled and fell. The pain was unbelievable. I mean, I could describe it, but you wouldn’t believe me. Honestly though, I don’t have a very high pain threshold.

I crawled to the phone and dialed 911. The snake was coming after me for another nibble, and I bashed on it with the fireplace poker until it stopped moving. It felt good. I put the carcass in a brown paper sack and went outside to wait for the medics. The ambulance came and took me to the hospital. The doctor wanted to know what kind of snake it was, and I said, “The mean kind!”

“No, what color, did it have any markings.”

I smiled. “I have it with me. It’s in this paper sack.”

The doctor looked in the bag. Then he started punching up websites on the internet. “These aren’t native to this region. Not even to this continent. It’s a Willow Asp, native to India. Relatively poisonous. You could lose your foot or your life, if we don’t treat it.”

“So give me an anti-venom and send me home.”

The doctor shook his head. “We don’t stock this anti-venom at this hospital. I’m going to have to start calling other hospitals.”

He started making calls. The pain was bad, so I whimpered a lot.

The doctor finally said, “Good, Good. We’ll CareFlight him to you.”

The doctor turned to me. “Ever ride in a helicopter before?”

“No.”

“You’re going to love it!”

They wheeled me to the helicopter, and strapped me in. A paramedic rode with me in the back. We took off. The paramedic said, “Willow Asp? Native to India?”

I said, “Apparently.”

“You know India is the ancestral home of Gypsies.”

“What do you know of Gypsies?”

“I have a little Gypsy blood in me,” the paramedic said. “My great grandfather was a Gypsy.”

“What do you know about their curses?”

The paramedic’s face darkened a notch. “You don’t want a Gypsy curse on you.”

“Yes, I’m beginning to understand that.”

“Just have it taken off.”

“How?”

The paramedic pointed at my swollen foot. “It’s all so simple. Find a Gypsy camp, find a seer, and pay a modest fee.”

“How much of a fee?”

“Most will do it for a few hundred bucks.”

“Ha! Screw that. I think I’ll pick up snake hunting as a hobby instead.”

Check out Winter’s Line on Amazon. A story about a young man who becomes a lawman.

Long Day, Long Night

Long Day, Long Night

I originally wrote this for a writing class with Ed Davis.

I’m not crazy. The snake was huge. I answered a knock on my door at 10:13 am, and the snake stood there with a malicious grin on its scaly face. It had a laptop belted around its midsection, and it held a club upright in the end of its tail. I answered the creature’s questions of debt solvency and promised to make further payments. It claimed it needed a blood sample, and before I could protest, it bit me on the arm. The beast slithered off, and I crawled back into bed.

I couldn’t sleep. I watched the picture of friendly wildflowers on the wall as it seemed to flow in and out with the wind. The colors sparkled in the bright rays of the sun. The wildflowers appeared to grow and bloom and then wither. Slowly, in tiny little clicks, it hit me there was no picture of wildflowers on the wall. Centurian is at it again, slipping hallucinogens into the water. I pushed myself out of bed and started to pace the halls. I thought I killed Centurian last time, but my nemesis must have escaped.

The hallways seemed infinite, but in truth they simply turned right over and over until I reached the door to my room again. There were a few open spaces with chairs and TVs, but mostly the hallways were lined with doors. Doors that were either locked or led to private rooms like mine.

I started watching the news for any clue to what might be happening. Nothing. My eyes started to lose focus as I viewed the television, and I had to avert my gaze. The floor shifted under my weight to the left and right as if I was on a small boat or raft. I tried to ignore the unsafe conditions while making my way through the passageways again, hoping some exit door would be unlocked.

A spider easily an inch big, crawling up the wall, grabbed my attention. Slowly, as I watched, it began to grow bigger and bigger until it was nearly a foot across. Then it popped like a balloon, and the shattered shell of a corpse dropped to the ground. I went to the phone and placed my palm on the reader. A sign above the phone read, “Federal Asylum #12, ext. 205.” A voice chirped, “Good morning, George.”

I said, “Speed dial one.”

The phone dialed, and soon enough my diligent sister appeared in the video. I said, “Centurian is at it again!”

My sister, Bethany, nodded. “Mmmmhmmm.”

“Boot my computer and feed a water sample into the analyzer.”

Bethany said, “Sure, George, sure.”

A man caught up in a swirl of twisting tobacco smoke looked at me and smiled. “Centurian?”

“Yes!”

The man, drifting in and out of his cloud of noxious fumes, laughed.

“Do you want a sub or pizza this Sunday when we visit?” Bethany said on the video phone.

“Damn it! Are you going to turn the computer on and feed the sample into the analyzer, so that the machine will start crunching on an antidote?”

“Yes, George, I will. Pizza or sub?”

I stopped to think. I had a sub last time. “Pizza.”

The lunch bell sounded, and I hung up the phone. I went to the eating area and palmed the dispenser. A tray of food ejected out of a slot. The food was as bland and tasteless as any food could be, but I had a hard time stomaching it as I kept seeing tiny motions out of the corner of my eye when there was nothing there. The fruit punch dripped with sweetness and sugar, and I had to wonder how healthy such a concoction was. A ferret, easily four feet tall with frazzled, wild hair, approached my table. The ferret wore a tight fitting white lab coat and high heels. It held out a cupful of pills, and I sighed. “Centurian is loose.”

The ferret smiled. “You know the doors are locked.”

“Yes.”

The ferret pushed the cup of pills under my nose. “Take your medicine.”

I took the offered pills and began pacing the halls plotting my next move. In truth, the doors in this place were locked all the time. Still, there had to be a way out. Something I had forgotten. I paced and paced.

I noticed a sea turtle, and I knew enough to know he was in charge.

The sea turtle had a name tag, “Dr. Naples.” The beast waved at me with one appendage.

I shouted, “Centurian is loose!”

The sea turtle smiled. “Let’s sit down, George.”

The turtle’s reptilian shell shifted under the fluorescent lighting. The individual pieces of his carapace seemed to move and slide along its back as if it were sorting out some puzzle. I sat on a bench. He pointed at me with what I thought was his arm. “You’ve been coming along very well over these last few months.”

I howled, “I never should have retired!”

The turtle nodded.

“You need to release me,” I said with my right fist clenched.

“Oh, not until your treatment is finished, dear boy. As long as you suffer from delusions, your place is here.”

“They aren’t delusions! Centurian is putting hallucinogens in the water supply. I’ve stopped him before.”

The turtle pulled his head partway back into his shell. “Centurian is a myth.”

I snarled. “He’s as real as you or me.”

“Some philosophers would say only one of us is real, young man.”

“I need to get out of this place.”

“In time. I expect over the next few months, if you continue to progress, you’ll be a free man.”

“We don’t have a few months!”

The turtle stood up and took a few steps away. “I have other patients and piles of paperwork I must see to. Has talking with me helped?”

My lips curled into a frown. “No.”

“That’s good.”

I began pacing the halls once again.

William stood in one corner of the room flipping the channels on the television. He lit up a cigarette and smiled at me. He wore a red sweatshirt and navy blue sweatpants. The end of the cigarette seemed to singe the very air with an unholy glow of burning metals.

William said, “Centurian?”

“Bad news always travels fastest.”

“Is your remote working?”

A streak of brilliance like a wicked thought crossed through my mind, and I spoke aloud in error, “Yes, my remote. I forgot about it altogether.”

I ran for my room. Typing a keycode into my locker, I withdrew my precious remote. I pointed the device at the closed door in my room and pushed play. Nothing happened. I locked the remote back up and lay down drifting off into a rigidly vivid dreamscape plagued by unkillable foes and assassins.

The dinner bell woke me, and I ate with the patience of a man plotting his escape path. I paced the halls trying every door leading to a new level or outside. All remained perfectly secured. I lay down for a while, sliding in and out of a sleep riddled with tales of viruses and chemical agents.

I went for yet another walk. This fine looking young woman who easily resembled a walrus sat at a table reading a book.

Sitting down across from her, I tried to get her attention. She picked at one of her tusks with her fingernail. I shivered the words out slowly, “Centurian is back at it.”

The walrus woman nodded her head.

I said, “My remote is broken!”

The walrus shook her head and put her book down.

“You’re one man,” the walrus whispered.

My eyes turned into a steely cold glare, and I whispered, “I’m the best.”

The walrus reached in her pocket and withdrew two AA batteries. Rolling them across the table at me, she grinned wide. Snatching up the batteries, I took off in a run towards my room.

I made sure the door was closed behind me and punched the keycode into my locker. I pulled the battery cover off my remote and tossed the old batteries into the trash can. Feeding the remote the new batteries, I twitched a little bit. Pushing the play button on the remote resulted in the most beautiful metallic click sound one would ever hear. I locked the remote back up. The door opened.

Stepping gingerly into the closet, I climbed onto the rungs in the back wall. The floor in there wasn’t to be trusted. I typed another keycode into a keypad on the wall, and the floor dropped out. I climbed down, and cool air came from below. I reached a landing and touched around for a light switch. The hallway was narrow and poorly lit, yet I made my best possible time.

I pushed one final door open, and the outside air hit me in the face. I took off in a run towards my base. My legs pushed against the ground, and my pulse thumped. I reached a large, multi-story house surrounded by a well groomed lawn complete with shrubs dotted with tiny red berries. The door was locked, and my hand found its way to the buzzer.

My sister answered, and I stepped inside.

She held out a bottle of aspirin. “George! Your computer said take two aspirin to counter the effects of the hallucinogen in the water supply. It’s been all over the news, too.”

I nodded, walking past her towards the stairs. She reached out and grabbed my arm. “Take the aspirin.”

I popped two aspirin in my mouth and pounded up the stairs to the top floor. I reached a simple door and opened it. Linen closet. I started grabbing shelves and removing them, discarding their contents into the hallway. Once the closet was empty, I stepped inside and closed the door. Tiny green lights illuminated the space.

Speaking quietly, I said, “My name is George.”

White light filled the closet, and the floor started pushing me upwards to my base. I started noticing the distinct lack of hallucinations. Praying a silent thank you, I stepped through the doorway into my lair. I went to the computer and started tapping into the imagery satellites. I looked at every access point for the water supply. Each one looked untouched. I started to wonder. A quick analysis of the operating system onboard the satellite showed a Trojan process. I tried to clean it, but it was quite malignant. I uploaded a newer version of the satellite operating system and waited.

I had imagery. The computer beeped a warning. Apparently, the Trojan reported that it was active across the network. My mind snarled as I realized I didn’t have much time. I sorted through the imagery until I found Centurian. He had three cronies with him, and they were dumping drums into the water pipeline at a water tower.

After I donned my fiber armor, my hands instinctively reached for my clubs. The oaken clubs attached at a belt loop and possessed a magnet in the end to keep them steadily attached to my thigh, so I could move freely. I sported four of the 16 inch long, 42 oz clubs, and my eyes wandered to the stairs leading to my transport. I shook my head and whispered, “I am the one.”

Climbing upwards, I reached the transport on the roof. I twisted the throttle all the way up and turned the wheel in the direction of Centurian. The satellite imagery showed on my console. The cronies were waiting at the base of the water tower, and Centurian was doing something on top of the tower. I pulled to a stop and jumped out.

I howled, “Arrroooo!” A club materialized in my hand as if by a will of its own. I charged the first of the cronies. My club worked its magic, and the man went down. The second man pulled a gun, but my armor casually deflected the projectile. I clubbed the shooter good.

The third man fell to his knees and shed tears. “Please, mister,” he said. “Don’t hurt me!”

The club flashed three times in the night air, and the man crumpled into a ball on the ground.

Centurian, dressed in royal purple robes and black shoes, smiled at me. “George! I’m ready for you this time!”

Counting how many steps away he stood, my eyes narrowed.

He reached in his robes and withdrew a Mark IV Death Ray. “This weapon will cut through your armor and–

I knew that thing took four seconds to charge, and I whipped my club at the device. The death ray went flying. Centurian’s face bent all out of shape. “You win, George, again. I’ll go along quietly. Call the authorities.”

I advanced on him and beat him some. Not enough for him to suffer any permanent damage, but enough that he was out cold.

I pressed the call button in my armor. Within moments, there were police transports and hospital evac units on the scene.

A Doberman and a German Sheppard approached me from one of the police transports. The Doberman said, “Time to go back, George.”

“No!” I shouted.

The German Sheppard sighed. “You must go back. You have an extremely violent personality, and society must be protected from you.”

“I do not have a violent personality!”

“You just beat four men half to death,” the Doberman said.

“They deserved it! I barely injured them.”

A typical housecat with yellow stripes and a white lab coat approached from one of the medical units.

The Doberman looked at the housecat. “He doesn’t want to go back.”

My grip tightened on my club.

The cat smiled and shook her head. “But, you know, George, they’re having biscuits and gravy for breakfast this morning.”

I chirped, “Biscuits and gravy!”

The Doberman smiled. “With fresh pineapple!”

I tossed my club to the side and jumped into one of the medical transports. “Come on, let’s go, let’s go!”

The cats and dogs smiled. The transport took off, and soon enough we were back at the medical compound. They led me through hallways until we reached the secure double door into my ward. I stepped through the first door, and the walrus, who gave me batteries, stood there smiling. I said, “We’re really having biscuits and gravy?”

The walrus smiled. “Oh, yes, and fresh pineapple.”

I jumped up and clapped my hands. The first security door locked, and the second security door went click. I ran for the kitchen. I put my hand on the tray dispenser. My eyes narrowed as I cataloged the items on my tray. Oatmeal. An orange that had bruises from being kept in a freezer. A plain bagel with no sign of butter or cream cheese. I stuck my finger in the oatmeal: lumpy and lukewarm. I let out a little whimper.

William approached, and he laughed. “What did they promise you this time? French toast with thick cut, hickory bacon?”

“No.”

He said, “What then?”

“Biscuits and gravy with fresh pineapple.”

William grabbed up his tray. “You know we only have that on Christmas.”

I sat down to eat my food. William sat with me. He spoke between bites, “What about your remote?”

My food fell to my tray as I raced to my room. My locker opened easily enough. I pulled out the remote and tried it. Nothing happened. I opened the remote to look at the batteries. They were gone. I closed my eyes.

R.A.E.C.E. Genesis is really cool military sci-fi that you need to read on Amazon.

The Slight Army

The Slight Army

This story was originally published by Print Static Movement.

The spiders have been like an invasion of late. There is one that setup camp by my driveway along a wall and a support post. He has his web and a little web cave that he scurries into when he hears a noise. He is black and furry and most likely of the deadly variety. The other day I saw a larger one of apparently the same type nearly an inch long scooting down the inside frame of my front door. I just saw one climb down the string controlling the blinds in the window.

I live fairly close to wooded areas, and often, I will find small snakes in my yard or on my porch. The spiders I don’t mind as much as the snakes. Snakes carry far more venom in their bite, and they are not so easily squashed. The snakes are good though because as small as they are they eat the spiders.

The spiders were becoming quite numerous, so I started killing them one by one. I would smash them either with my foot or a book or anything handy and then leave the carcass as a warning sign to the other spiders. This worked for a while, but soon there were dead spiders in almost every room of my house.

And the cat is no help. He watches the spiders and acts as if he will pounce upon them, but he never pounces. He just watches. Perhaps I need a new cat. I wonder if there are special breeds for hunting spiders. But, I digress.

Killing the spiders seems to work. Less and less spiders show themselves on an almost daily basis. Still, I kill the ones that do invade my sanctuary. Slowly I began to notice a change in the spiders, not so much in the spiders themselves for there was still a wide variety, but in their behavior. They would seem to stop when they saw me and then duck for cover before I could squash them. Soon I took to carrying a shoe with me, so I would have a projectile weapon to use against them.

The most prominent species grew to about a half inch long and was covered in black fur with a white diamond on their back although the white diamond could have been light glinting off their many eyes. The next most prominent species was of the daddy-long-legs variety with a bulbous body attached to eight thin, long legs. These grew to at least an inch long from toe to toe. I felt safe around this type because I was fairly certain they weren’t poisonous.

The last kind was the most fearsome, growing as much as an inch and a half long with black and red bodies with red legs. This kind would sometimes rush at me when I went to crush them, but luckily I was skilled by now at crushing spiders, so they never sunk their fangs in me. I was thankful for this because surely those fangs were dipped in some fatal neurotoxin.

I have a few friends, and one came by my abode the other day. She shrieked on reaching my computer room. I asked, “Yes?”

“All the dead spiders!”

“Yes. I leave them as warning to the other spiders not to come around.”

“Clean them up!”

I nodded. “They’re doing a good job keeping the other spiders away.”

“If you say so, Ash.”

I smiled. We opened up our lab work on the computers and started plugging away at the numbers. I offered to make tea, and she said, “Please.”

I went in the kitchen, and a brown spider appeared running across the counter. I didn’t have my shoe with me, so I crushed it with the tea cup, sending it straight to hell where it belonged. As the tea finished, I shouted down the hallway, “Sugar? Honey? Lemon? Milk?”

She shouted, “Honey!”

I squeezed a dollop of honey in both cups of tea and went back to the computer room. In the hallway on the way, a daddy-long-legs inched along the floor, and my foot happened to flatten it.

I handed over the tea. She smiled and took it. “I’ve got the lab worked out, I’m getting 1.0 for the first dataset and the expected .5 and .25 for the second and third datasets…”

I smiled. “Show me.”

She showed me the calibrations on the computer. “My work here is done.”

“OK, Samantha, I’ll walk you out.”

“I can find my way, Ash, so long as the spiders don’t get me.”

My head bobbed up and down. “They seem to get more aggressive all the time.”

“You shouldn’t kill them. They prey on other insects.”

I shrieked, “Some of them are poisonous!”

“Poisonous spiders are very rare…”

“If you say so… I’m killing them.”

Samantha downed the last of her tea and grabbed her books. She fled the scene without even another glance at the hordes of dead spiders splattered here and there on the wood floors.

As she stepped onto my porch, a rather handsomely large spider of the red-legged variety inched its way directly in her path. She said, “Don’t kill it, Ash. They eat other insects. You’ll be up to your ears in mites, beetles, and flies if you murder all the spiders.”

I smiled at her as she left and then jumped up and down on the likely poisonous red-legged monster.

I went to the computer and did my write-up for the lab when I noticed a slight bite on my ankle. I looked down, and there was one of the rodents injecting me with something. It died under my cruel fist. I looked, and as I watched, tendrils of poison spread out along my leg. It started to swell up. My first thought was emergency room, but then I realized my second thought, no health insurance.

The wound in total was no bigger than a quarter, so I soaked it in hot water and lanced it. With a squeeze, pus came out of it for a while, more pus than I would have believed possible. The pain subsided afterwards. I made myself a ham salad sandwich and grabbed an apple.

I fell asleep after lunch, and when I woke up, I examined my ankle. The swelling had subsided, and the flesh was back to its original color. I rubbed it a little, and it didn’t hurt, so I decided not to be bothered by it. I ordered Chinese delivery and ate it in front of the television.

A spider, an especially furry one, inched into my view on the floor of the living room. I moved to squash the creature, and it darted under the television. Cursing at the little demon-spawn, my fist shook in anger. The leftover Chinese went in the fridge, and my hand grabbed up a spatula from a drawer. I went to the television and tried to get the spider with the spatula. The spider was nowhere to be found. I did find some loose change under the television, which I pocketed.

I was tired for some reason and looked down again at the spider bite on my ankle. There was barely a mark. I went into my bedroom and lay down, thinking I would take a short nap. Sleep hit me with an iron mallet in an instant.

A few hours passed, how could I tell how many, I was asleep. Then I noticed difficulty breathing, and I opened my eyes in fright. I could barely see. White silky webs had been stretched across my eyes. I tried to wipe them off, but I couldn’t move my arm. I looked down at myself, and through the web, I could see more webbing all across my body.

I flipped into a berserker rage. My vision narrowed, and my stomach tied itself into a knot. Strength pulsed through my body like a gift from an ancient ancestor. I wrenched my right arm free and scraped at the webbing on my face allowing my eyes to work and letting fresh air in my lungs. Spiders were all over my bed: the pesky little black furred kind. I kicked at them and lashed out with my arms scattering them to the floor.

I looked at the ground, and the spiders had formed up into ranks and rows: ten spiders across a row and five deep in perfect formation. In between each brigade of the red-legged bastards was a good sized spider of a variety I hadn’t seen before. Huge eyes dotted its face. Black and yellow hair ran in lines across its carapace body. It had pincers the size of needles, and they dripped with venom.

I howled a mighty war cry, “Aarrroooo!” and leapt out of bed at the phalanxes of spiders.

The yellow haired variety jumped at me as I stomped on spider formations one at a time, laughing maniacally. I batted the yellow haired monsters out of the air as they got near me.

A tiny drum beat echoed, and en masse the whole of the spider horde turned their butts at me and shot silk. Hundreds, nay thousands of strands of silk hit me at once, and I was engulfed. Then one of the yellow haired spiders jumped below my reach and got a good bite of my leg. I cried out in pain and squashed the spider under my palm. But, it was too late. The venom worked its natural wonder, and I fell to my knees. Then I collapsed on the floor, and the faintest of cheering filled the room…

I went into convulsions and lay there twitching for a solid fifteen minutes. When my body calmed down, I found I couldn’t move, but the spiders were still there watching me. A thousand tiny voices spoke in unison, “Now, after those two bites, you can hear us. You have slaughtered many of our kind, and that needs to stop.”

Paralyzed with fear and poison, I tried to nod. The tiny voices spoke again, “We are intelligent, and we believe we possess souls. We do not want mankind to know because we do not want to be subject to their scientific process. You will stop killing our kind.”

I whimpered, “You’re invading my home…”

“Only to hunt. Not to lay eggs. If we laid eggs in here, there would be thousands of our young everywhere. If you don’t change your ways, then you will see a green spider with black stripes down its body and black legs. When you see this spider know that you are doomed!”

I whimpered some more and lay there in my paralysis. The army of spiders dispersed to parts unknown. A few hours later I was able to move.

Check out Evelyn’s Book, a precursor to Winter’s Line. In truth a comedy about magic and witches and old boyfriends.

For a Lizard

For a Lizard

By Geoffrey C Porter

This story was originally written for a class with Tim Waggoner.

For a lizard, I was a late sleeper, but I enjoyed my evenings just the same. I always woke up thirsty and hungry. I slept between two small shrubberies on the edge of some giant’s structure. I don’t know what to call it. The giants would go in and out of it. I only noticed because it was imperative that they didn’t step on me.

There was water nearby, and I darted down the trail towards it. Ahhh, the wonderful trail which only us lizards seemed to use; however, one time I saw a snake on the trail. I could make good time on the trail. At the end of the path was the lake all the lizards drank from. It was fed by a box sticking out of the wall of a bigger structure. Every few seconds a drop of water would splash from high above into our lake.

I lapped up water and more water to gather up my strength for the trek into the woods where the prey lived. I had to cross one of the giant’s roads, and the giant’s vehicles would zip along the strip trying to crush me. I smiled for I would be eating soon enough. Assuming it was a good day to hunt. If worst comes to worst, I could hunt in the giant’s refuse pile. There was always a good breakfast to be had if you were prepared to go through the garbage and risk the giant’s ire. Being a lizard from a long line of talented lizards, I’m not too proud to go for the easy pickings if I get hungry enough.

I took off in a run towards the road. I looked left, and the way was clear. I didn’t miss a step. I had my momentum built up and galloped with all four legs across the hot asphalt. I crossed the stretch of cool grass separating the lanes and looked to the right. The road was quiet and empty. I ran as fast as my little lungs would let me.

Ahhh, the shade and cool green foliage of the woods stilled my racing heart. I stopped underneath a fern and started telescoping my eyes about. I zoomed in on spots and specks here and there looking for life. I saw a spider, and it wasn’t anyone I knew, so I waited for it to come close to me. Once within my talented reach, I lashed out at it with my tongue lassoing it. Mmmm, crunchy.

Then I paused and looked around. I swallowed the spider. The tiniest vibration came through the ground, and I said to myself, “Ants.” I looked and looked. They rounded the edge of a tree. An entire row of them. They just kept coming. When there were more of them in view than I could possibly eat, I jumped in close and started harvesting them in threes and fours with my tongue.

After the buffet, I went back underneath the fern and smiled. I didn’t bother looking for more grub. I could barely move; I was stuffed so full. No way could I run back to the lake like this. Perhaps it was time for my nap. I took a careful look around to make sure there were no giants, and I closed one eye. I thought back to those tasty ants, and I slowly drifted off to sleep.

When my eyes opened, the sun was setting low in the sky. Once again, I was thirsty. I ran across the road again to the lake and drank my fill of the water. Wendel approached the lake while I drank, and he said, “Have you seen the signs?”

Wendel was a rather stupid lizard with mostly green scales and a few freckled blue ones. I said, “No.”

He smiled. “Somebody put signs up on the trail.”

I laughed. What would lizards need signs for?

I considered going across the road again and hunting some more, but I am rather lazy for a lizard, and I wouldn’t want to get fat. I hit the trail to go home. That’s when I saw it, the tiniest little wooden sign on the side of the trail. It said, “Looking for more?”

I paused. Was I looking for more? Other than a female lizard I had everything, and sometimes there were female lizards at the lake: pretty ones, too. One I talked to was named Jill.

I kept going down the trail. I saw another sign. “Do more with your life.”

I paused. What was I supposed to be doing? I eat, I forage, and I sleep. I’m a lizard, golly.

I started going down the trail. I saw a sign that said, “Wake up and do something.”

I said, “Huh?”

I turned around and headed back to the lake. Wendel was still there, and I walked up to him and said, “Who put those signs there?”

“Nobody knows.”

I hissed a little bit. “Somebody has to know.”

Wendel looked me in the eye. “Did you see all the signs? Or did you turn back to talk to me?”

“I don’t know.”

“They make more sense if you see them all.”

I followed the trail again. The last sign said, “Get a job.”

I froze in my tracks. I started running down the trail to see if there was another sign. “Get a job” was the last sign. What is a job?

I walked back to the lake hoping to encounter Wendel again. Instead I saw Jill. I said, “Hi, Jill.”

Jill smiled at me and asked, “Have you seen the signs?”

“Who do you think put them there?”

“It had to be the giants.”

I asked, “Why though?”

“Who knows why a giant would do anything. Want to breed?”

“Ummm, not right now, I want to know what this ‘job’ thing is.”

“You don’t want one of those, Jeremy. They suck the life out of you.”

“What is it though?” I asked.

“You really don’t know?”

“No.”

“You know how we hunt insects? Well, a job for us would be like you hunt insects, but you don’t eat them. You give the insects to another lizard. That lizard gives you something called ‘money’ for the insects you catch. Then you ‘buy’ insects to eat with the ‘money’ you have.”

“Would the ‘money’ I make from hunting insects be enough to buy more insects than I could hunt?”

Jill chirped a few times, what must have been laughter. “You’re an idiot. Maybe we shouldn’t breed.”

I sighed. “But, I’m good looking. Isn’t that enough to breed?”

“You’re good looking, but you’re kind of clumsy and stupid.”

“I am not!”

“Eh, I’m out of the mood anyhow. See you around.”

I went down the path again past all the signs to my shrubberies. I tossed and turned all night. The next morning I hit the trail again, and this time there was a new sign, and it said, “GEICO Insurance.”

I was at the lake, and a giant turned the corner carrying a crate of some kind made out of shiney metal. The giant looked down at me and said, “We’re not going to hurt you, little guy.”

I froze in terror. A giant had never spoken to me. He said, “We need a new mascot, and you’re just the looker we’ve been looking for.”

I paused. I wanted to run. I really wanted to run. But the curiosity engine of my mind was overpowering my reflexes with a desire to know what was going on. The giant reached down with its paw and scooped me up and put me in the box. The giant said, “You’ll like your new job, little fella.”

Check out Juxta, Magi on Amazon. Delicious epic fantasy.

Necropsy

Necropsy
By Geofrey C Porter

The meal steamed. The seven-year-old boy, Mathew, wore his lucky red hat, despite that being against dinner rules. He sat leaning forward into the table clutching knife and fork. His eight-year-old sister, Heidi, was in her pink dress with yellow flowers. She sat across from him with darting eyes shifting between the rib roast and the front door. Jerry, their dad, took off his apron and tossed it in the general direction of the kitchen. The front door opened, and in stepped Beth with wide eyes. She wore a tight gray business suit that showed off her well formed body.

The children shouted, “Mom!”

Jerry said, “Hi, honey.”

She waved her hand at the spread of food. “What’s this?”

“I got a raise.”

“You didn’t tell me!” Beth said as she tossed her purse onto the mantle. “You bought all this food!”

“It only kicked in two weeks ago. The prime rib was on sale, honey, and the kids never get enough meat in their diet.”

Beth shook her finger at her husband. “They get meat at least once if not twice a week.”

Jerry sighed. “Ground beef hardly counts.”

She breathed in the smell of the food. “I watch our—“

“Let’s eat!” The young boy said.

Jerry started slicing half-inch thick steaks off the rib roast and doling them out to everyone. Beth sat down and tucked a napkin in her shirt collar. The kids reached for rolls, green beans, and mashed potatoes all in turn. Their dad cut his portion of the succulent fare into bite sized cubes before taking his first taste.

Jerry said, “I forgot the milk.”

The kids nodded and chewed.

Jerry got up and started filling glasses.

Kitler, Beth’s Siamese cat, jumped onto the table. The feline stole up a bite of pre-cut flesh off Jerry’s plate. He set two glasses of milk down in front of the kids. “Get that cat out of here.”

Beth speared a green bean with her fork. “Awww. He’s so cute. He thinks he’s human.”

Jerry got two more glasses of milk and sat down. “Shoo!”

The cat turned and hissed at him. Jerry reached for the cat, mistake number one. The cat swiped at him cutting into his finger with enough rip to draw blood. The cat took another bite of steak off Jerry’s plate. “Beth!”

She grabbed the cat and cuddled with it.

They ate their meal without the slightest pause for conversation.

The next morning, Beth looked into Jerry’s eyes and whispered, “I’ll be gone for two weeks.”

“It’s going to be hell for me, woman, but somehow the kids and I will try and survive.”

“You know my two cousins work shifts at the Mega-Lo-Mart, and my aunt and friend John work at Bill’s Market. If you buy meat, I’ll find out.”

“You’re going to have your family and friends watch for us?”

“There’s a half pound of ground beef in the freezer. You can eat that over the next two weeks. Have pizza delivered once, and pick up fast food once. Otherwise the meals are all planned out in the computer.”

Jerry let out a little whimper.

Beth said, “The kids have to eat healthy!”

“I want real food!”

Beth kissed him on the lips. “Meat is too expensive. It’s terrible for the environment. It’s loaded with fat and cholesterol. We’re trying to save up money, remember?”

“No meat,” Jerry said.

Beth crawled out of bed, and the whole family dropped her off at the airport. The first night of sleeping alone went well. Kitler the cat moaned all night and clawed at Jerry’s feet.

In the morning, Jerry was greeted with the wet, cold, greasy feeling of poop in his slipper. He found a similar present in his left shoe when he put it on to leave the house. The second night the cat clawed and moaned even more, and Jerry didn’t sleep. He came to the simplest of decisions.

After waiting for the kids to go to sleep, he set a plate on the table. Making eating motions and sounds with an empty fork, he waited for the feline.

The cat jumped onto the table.

Jerry went into the kitchen under the sink and pulled out the rat poison bait. He filled his plate. The cat feasted. Jerry slept better than he could even remember.

The next morning, Mathew grabbed at his leg. “Dad!”

Jerry opened his eyes.

“The cat is dead!” The child exclaimed.

Jerry smiled. “Are you sure, boy?”

“I think so.”

Jerry climbed out of bed and donned a robe. “Show me.”

The cat was in the hallway. The young girl stood over the corpse. “I think he’s dead, Dad.”

Jerry poked Kitler with his toe. It didn’t move.

“Are they going to do an autopsy?” The girl asked.

Jerry paused.

The boy reached down to touch the corpse and then pulled away. “What killed him?”

Something clicked in Jerry’s mind. Better him than a vet. “Yes, an autopsy is in order. Mathew, run and grab the big cutting board and put it on the kitchen table. Heidi, get me the big knife.”

Both kids took off running.

Jerry picked the cat up and carried it into the dining room. The boy set the cutting board on the table, and Jerry put the cat on it. The girl approached with the big knife.

Jerry took the knife and lopped the cat’s head off with a crunch of the blade.

Mathew said, “Ewww.”

Jerry cut along the cat’s belly and peeled the skin down to the paws. Then, with four quick motions, he cut the beast’s legs off and discarded the skin and paws. Off came the tail.

Heidi said, “Ouch.”

Jerry slit open the cat’s guts and pointed to various organs. “See, here are the lungs. This is the liver. Everything a cat needs.”

He pulled the intestines out and plopped them on the cutting board. He held the carcass up.

Heidi whispered, “It looks like a rabbit from the butchers.”

Mathew shook his head back and forth. “It looks exactly like a rabbit!”

Jerry’s right eye twitched.

The children looked at each other with slowly growing grins.

Jerry’s hands did this spasm thing for a few moments. “We could…”

“Yes!” Mathew said.

“We should marinate it in soy sauce and brown sugar like we do kabobs,” Heidi said with a vicious grin that she should be saving for her teen years.

They soaked the cat overnight in marinade. They started the rotisserie at three o’clock and feasted at five.

Jerry’s sleep was so calm it was like he set his head on the pillow and drifted off in an instant to pleasant, warm dreams of mountains of chocolate.

Beth returned home. It didn’t take her long to notice her cat was gone. She found Jerry in the living room. “Where’s Kitler?”

Jerry frowned. “He passed away, honey. I meant to tell you.”

Beth cried. She lay awake that night while Jerry breathed. She lay there for hours. She noticed Jerry twitch a few times, and then break out into a tiny bit of song.

“I killed the cat. The cat is dead. Rat poison on the dinner plate. Hehe.”

Beth’s eyes went wide, and then they narrowed into tiny beads.

She didn’t sleep that night at all. The next night she didn’t sleep, but she heard Jerry’s sing-song again.

“The cat is dead. I killed the cat. Rat poison on the dinner plate. Hehe.”

She fell asleep after a few hours of tears.

The next night was the same thing, except he changed his tune just a bit.

“Feast on the cat. The cat tastes good. Rat poison on the dinner plate. Hehe.”

She went to the children. “Mathew, when Kitler died, what did your dad do?”

The young girl said, “Dad said it was a secret.”

“We had an autopsy,” the boy said. “Kitler was so tender. Are we going to get another cat?”

Beth looked from one child to the other giving each one a smile. “You ate Kitler?”

Mathew nodded.

Heidi shrugged.

Beth said, “Run along, children, and play.”

She went shopping. Concentrated pesticide was the only thing on her list. She found the strongest one and bought a gallon jug. Two teaspoons of the stuff ended up somehow in Jerry’s coffee the next morning.

“This coffee sure is strange today,” Jerry said. “Is the cream still good?”

Beth shook her head. “The cream is fine. It’s a new flavor. It was on sale.”

“What flavor is it?”

“The label fell off. That’s why it was on sale.”

Jerry took another sip. “It’s not bad.”

Beth smiled, and they went about their day.

Jerry ended up on the couch, moaning. Beth sat down and felt his forehead. She said, “I’ll get you a glass of orange juice.”

Two teaspoons of the pesticide ended up in the orange juice. He drank it down. “Thanks, honey. Thank god it’s a Saturday.”

She patted him on the head. Later that night, he lay in bed, moaning. She slept like a baby. She fixed his morning coffee up special. He drank it down with a glaze in his eyes.

She helped Jerry make it to the couch, and then she retired to their bedroom to read a novel. She made it to chapter seven.

Mathew came running in. “Dad’s on the floor!”

“Oh no!”

She marked her place in the book and followed the child into the living room. Jerry lay on the floor in a painful looking position.

Heidi nudged him on the arm. He didn’t move.

“Is he dead?” The boy asked.

“I’ll feel for a pulse.” Beth reached down and put her hand on his neck.

Thump… Thump…

She shook her head and pulled her hand back. “He’s dead.”

Heidi held her arms perfectly straight at her sides and looked up at her mom. “Are we going to have an autopsy?”

Beth had the simplest thought. Better me than a doctor. “Heidi, run and get the meat cleaver. Mathew, you know the black plastic gardening sheets in the shed?”

The kids darted away.

“You always say the kids don’t get enough meat in their diet,” Beth whispered.

The children returned with the goods. Beth spread the plastic out next to Jerry. She rolled him over onto it. He groaned.

Heidi pointed at the still body. “He’s alive!”

“Oh no, honey,” Beth said. “Dead things make noise when you move them. The lungs compress and expand is all. Here, I’ll check for a pulse again.”

Thump… Thump…

Beth frowned and let out a low sigh. “See, no pulse.”

Mathew rubbed the palms of his hands together. “Are we going to have a barbeque?”

Beth’s cheek twitched as she raised the meat cleaver over her head.

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