Abduction, Part 2

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The whole way there she thought about what the office would be like and she imagined there would be signs for miles ahead. Signs that said, “UFO’s are REAL!” and “Believe! We Are Not Alone!”

She imagined there would be a giant banner outside with little saucer silhouettes all over it and something about visiting Area 51. As serious as she took the whole thing she still thought with each passing mile about how this could be a dead end. A lost lead from a crazy man. Over the twelve hours drive she thought a lot of things, not least among them that she was crazy too. That maybe Brian just went away and she imagined the abduction thing.

No. She only imagined that in the darker moments, the times between stops on the long interstate to Arizona.

Those were the same times when she wondered why she was driving most of the way across the country to follow up on a lead given by such a strange man as “Greg Smith.” But those were not all the times along the way.

Other times she thought of what Brenda might be like. How odd she must be, probably a crazy old cat lady with a tin foil hat and an old SUV covered in nutty bumper stickers. That would be her, the woman with the strangely lilting voice who refused to speak over the phone, who said she had to come in person. That same woman who didn’t bat an eye when Megan said she was half a day’s drive away.

Of course it turned out when the GPS finally led her to the address in Pheonix she was at a tiny little strip of nondescript offices with no signs out front for anything more than Brenda Vanzetti, Investigator.

Just a strange little strip of doors and signs off a major intersection with nothing to set them apart but the generic 90’s architecture and the slightly weathered parking lot baking in the hot south western sun. Parking, she sure enough saw an old Jeep Cherokee with a bunch of bumper stickers on the back parked in the lot and some of those little stickers people have now of family members on the back window. This one was a woman stick figure, an alien, three cats and two little saucer shapes.

Megan’s heart fell when she saw that and it was a few moments before she realized she’s stopped, staring at it with tears running down her cheeks. Crying until she saw some angry old woman get in the thing with a huff, turning the key three times before it started. For a brief moment she locked eyes with Megan as she pulled out and said through the open window, “If you’re here to see that charlatan Vanzetti, don’t waster your time. She’s crazy!”

Wondering if the implications were for good or ill Megan walked on down the little strip of offices until she saw the little board with Brenda’s name on it, hanging down like all the others. The one right before it was for a Planned Parenthood. She took some bizarre comfort in that, like all the controversial offices were clustered about one another and somehow no one cared. They were just as anonymous as the State Farm agent down the way.

Except you didn’t have to ring a bell and wait for someone to pull the dead lock at a State Farm agent. Here you did but the secretary who opened the door was no less young, chipper, and generic than the one at the insurance office as she asked your name and showed you the waiting room. “Brenda will be right with you.”

And she was, at that. Brenda Vanzetti, investigator. Not frazzled, old and crazy but prim and fairly young. Megan had a hard time telling her age but most women are like that when their hair is pulled tight and they’re wearing a vaguely business like skirt and blouse. Her handshake was oddly strong and for the briefest instant Megan’s heart spiked with hope again, for the first time since the man at the library sent her here. Perhaps she would find Brian after all.

“Megan Matthews?”

She looked at the woman closely again before sitting, wondering if she could see in her eyes the sincerity she hoped would be found there. “Yes. We spoke briefly on the phone. I’ve just driven in from Portland . . . I was hoping you could help me.”

Brenda coughed gently before looking behind Megan at the door and the shuffling some papers on her desk. “Yes. His name was Brian?”

And at the sound of his name she could feel the tears start to well out onto her cheeks before drying up in the hardness of her resolve to find him. To find them. The ones who took him from the beach, the lights shining on them in the night.

“Why couldn’t we speak over the phone?”

“I’m sorry, I’ll explain later. For now–”

“Please!” Suddenly her temper crested and she had to have the answers now. “Just tell me what you know about these aliens or whatever they–”

“Stop.” Looking at Brenda, her eyes as hard and dark as fresh formed steel, Megan’s words died in her throat and she fell silent.

“They aren’t aliens.”

Three in a Row, Part 2

kellyiconRick had avoided the Three-in-a-Row for as long as he could, but first kicks of the newborn winter had been cold and fierce, with temperatures falling into the low twenties overnight and accompanied by a wind full of ice and sharp as knives against the skin. With no where else to go, his choice had been between a slow death from hypothermia or a couple months in a supposedly-haunted house. He choose the house.

Truth be told, it wasn’t that bad. At least not for this part of town, anyway. It was quiet, and the brick walls kept out the wind, if not the cold. Bundled under thin blankets and an even thinner denim jacket, he rubbed his hands in front of the small fire he had managed to start. The warmth from the flames melted the ice from his blood and brought the feeling back into his fingers. The newspapers burned well, and whoever was here last had stacked a bunch of ’em against the wall of one of the rooms. Small mercies, he supposed.

The wind moaned outside, and Rick shivered under his layers from more than just the cold. The rumors about this place were many and each one more gruesome than the last. Murders of every kind had supposedly been committed behind its walls. When he was a kid, he and his brother went over article after article about the nineteen different murders investigated by the police, pouring over police reports and court records, reconstructing the murders in their room and posing theories on how some of the more infamously-unsolved cases may have been committed. But the cold in his joints and the rumble of his empty belly were quick to remind him that those days of macabre escape from the dull safety of suburban life were a lifetime ago, and now the place’s unruly reputation was a reminder of how easily people like him disappeared from the streets in this part of town.

In the end, however, the Three-in-a-Row just happened to be another empty building full of wind and old, forgotten memories. A bit of a disappointment, really. A house with such a gruesome reputation really should be more than just a –

Rick didn’t think he really heard it at first. It sounded like music, a few tiny notes carried along through the air. But that couldn’t be possible. No one was here but him, and no one was fool enough to play the violin at three in the morning on a cold winter’s night. Rick was about to dismiss it as a trick of the mind, something that happened when you spend too much of your time by yourself. You start hearing things just to keep yourself mind busy.

But, no, there it was again. Rick stood up, stepped carefully around his fire and walked toward the sound. He was sure it was a violin, but it wasn’t loud enough, didn’t fill the room like a proper violin should. He eventually found himself in one of the back rooms, the room he found the newspapers in, staring into the dark. The wind rushed in through a broken window, whirling Rick’s hair around his face and neck. Rick peered into the dark.

“Hello?”

No answer but the music. It was louder here, but still somehow off.

“Is someone there?” He tried to believe his voice was shaking from the cold, but he knew better.

Again, no answer. But then –

“No, no, no, you’re still doing it all wrong!”

Rick jumped back, nearly tripping over himself and into the hall. It sounded like a woman’s voice, and she must have been so close to him he could have reached out and touched her.

“It’s not right, it’s not right. That’s not the song at all! Oh, Tabitha, I’m sorry…”

She didn’t seem to know he was there, listening to her. He regained his footing and moved slowly into the room. He squinted at the darkness, and this time he could make the outline of a small woman bundled in jackets at the far side of the room.

He stepped closer, and reached out for her shoulder.

Abduction, Part 1

kellyicon The storm roared overhead, splattering the library’s windows with fat drops of rain. Megan tossed her head back and forth, shaking drops of water from the ends of her dark curls, and walked toward the information desk. A man stood leaning his arm against the counter. His long, disheveled gray hair obscured his eyes, and Megan couldn’t tell his expression. By the way his hands twitched, like a constant, unconscious spasm, she guessed he was as nervous as she was.

“Mr. Smith?” she asked, and she extended her arm in greeting. The man started and stared at her with wild eyes as gray as his hair. After a few, uncomfortable seconds he seemed to realize who she was, and shook her hand.

“You’re…Miss Matthews?”

Megan released his hand and nodded. “Thank you for meeting me out here, Mr. Smith.”

“Call me Greg,” the man said.

“Greg, then. Thank you.” Megan tried a smile, but the man wouldn’t meet her eyes; instead, he looked anywhere but. He had crossed his arms over his chest, his hands continued to twitch, and he looked every an inch on the edge of some kind of anxiety attack.

“Shall we find some place to sit?” Megan suggested. “The library has rooms we can use for up to an hour at a time. It’ll be quiet, and more importantly, private.”

“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah,” Greg said, and Megan wasn’t sure he realized he was repeating himself. “Yeah, that sounds…good. Let’s do that.”

Ten minutes later they were making themselves comfortable in a small room on the second floor. They were seated on the opposite sides of a small, rectangular table, and Megan was reminded of police procedural shows where the cop sat opposite the suspect while the former was being questioned in an interrogation room.

Appropriate enough, Megan thought as she pulled out her recorder. After all, this was a kind of interrogation.

“I thought we might just start with you story, Mist – I mean, Greg. Tell me what happened. I’ll save my questions until the end.”

Greg still wasn’t looking at her, with the exception of the occasional glance of the eyes in her direction. It seemed an awful amount of willpower on his part just to stay in his seat.

“Ain’t much to tell,” he started. His voice was soft, and Megan leaned in to hear him better. “And I’ve told it often enough. I tell you the same thing I told all the others.”

“That’s what I’m here for,” Megan said.

“So were all the rest,” he said, and Megan didn’t need to strain to hear the bitterness in his voice. “Like I told them, I don’t remember anything…before. Not my name, or my family, where I was born. I just liked the sound of ‘Greg,’ and Smith’s just a name that made it hard to pick me out of a phone book or internet search. After a while, you get sick of hearing the phone goin’ off every day as every rumor-mongerin’ newspaper or cracked conspiracy nut lookin’ to talk to you. You understand, I ain’t too keen on people these days.”

Megan nodded, but didn’t say anything. She tried, but she couldn’t think of anything else she could say that might convince him she wasn’t here to mock or trick him. He had probably heard all the platitudes in the book, and then some.

“The thing I remember most is the lights. Bright ones, like the ones that light up football fields when the teams play after dark. Floodlights, I think they call them, shining down on me from the ceiling. Anyway, that’s what became my day and night while I was there. The lights on – day. The lights off – night, and time to sleep.”

“Did they…hurt you?”

For a moment, Greg’s eyes lost their panicked look and became thoughtful.

“Hurt’s not the word I’d use. There was never any pain. Everything was dull – like I was drugged for an operation or something. It was hard to care about anything: where I was, what they they were, what they wanted. Kind like an out-of-body experience, almost.”

Megan suppressed a sigh of relief. At least Brian wasn’t in pain, wherever he was.

“What happened next?”

“Nothing happened,” he said, and at Megan’s sound of protest, he said, “It’s the truth, Miss Matthews. Nothing happened. Everything went dark. Guess they knocked me out or something. Next thing I knew, I’m wandering the high way, without a clue in the world who I am or why I was there or how long it had been, begging for rides to the nearest town.”

It was Megan’s turn to be thoughtful. “Why do you think they wiped your memory?”

“No idea, Miss. Maybe they don’t want people to be able to do what you’re trying to do, and track ’em down. Or maybe it’s all some kind of sick experiment.” He shrugged. “I’ve stopped worrying about it, ’cause I know I’m never gonna find out.”

Megan’s hands bunched into fists on her laps, clutching at the fabric of her skirt. “I will,” she said, and her words rang with the force of an oath. “I swear I will.”

For the first time since they met, Greg looked directly at her, his head cocked to the side like a bird. “Why are you so concerned about this, Miss? If you don’t mind me saying, you’d probably be better off staying far away and going on with your life.”

“I will when I find them,” she said, staring directly back at him. “And take back what’s mine.”

Greg lowered his gaze to stare at his lap. “Your boy, boyfriend or lover or husband, whoever he is to you – he’ll turn up again, Miss. You’ll see.”

“Mr. Smith,” Megan said, willing her voice to stay steady, “you told me your story, so I’ll tell you mine. They took him in front of my eyes. We were out by the beach, by ourselves, when that light came for us. It chased us for what seemed like hours. Then he pushed me away, into the sand, and got caught himself. He screamed, then disappeared. He was caught saving me. I don’t care whether they’re monsters or aliens or what have you – I’m going to find them.”

“You’re not going to budge, are you,” he said, and it was more a statement than a question. “I’ll help you, if only because you’re the first person who listened to me and believed me.” He took a piece of white printer paper and scribbled down an address and a number. “Call this number, speak to Brenda. She’s been studying this longer than you’ve been alive, probably. She might be able to help you.” He folded the paper in half and handed it to her.

Megan took it, and for the first time in weeks she felt the tiniest beat of hope.

More on this Week…

Hello everyone!

You’ve probably noticed that our posts have been running late this week. Due to unforseen events, we’re pushing the stories from this previous week and moving forward into next week with these same stories. And Kelly should be joining us so that means another story for you all!

Just though you all should know. Thanks for checking in and take care!

bernicons

This Week on SSS

Hey everyone! Just wanted to give you the head’s up that this terrible winter season has hit Kelly hard again and she will not be posting this week either. It threw us off too and we can’t wait for her to come back next week, weather permitting.

 

Thanks for checking in! Take care!

bernicons

Like a Ribbon in the Sky, Part 2

bernicons            Stephen ran alongside Greycia over the debris, leaping over torn asphalt and dodging the frayed electrical wiring. His eyes were glued to the sky. “Any sign of it, Grey?”

Greycia roared and he saw the tail. The barrier hadn’t scared it off just yet.

“Alright! Let’s go!” Stephen leapt off a pile of turned over cars and fell freely into the air. Greycia leapt to him and Stephen landed on her back. “Okay-”

A piercing screech ripped into air and the creature’s giant tail whipped for them. Greycia’s pearly eyes glimmered and a gradient of pink and blue shielded them from the brunt of the attack. Stephen gripped his ebony hands into Greycia’s plush fur and cringed. He was not worried about the shield giving way; rather he knew that Greycia wouldn’t like her fur being pulled out.

The cry faded and the tail began to withdraw. “Go! Go!” Greycia was already gone. She dashed up a building that’s foundation had given way to the force of the serpent and threw herself and Stephen into the air toward the monster’s tail. Greycia roared, barring her diamond fangs; fuchsia and aqua energy thrust out from her paws and propelled her forward.

Stephen’s heart jumped into his throat; they were going to miss. but Greycia had her razor teeth at the ready. Just as they were about to fly over the creature, Greycia dug her fangs into its scaly, leafy tail.

It’s cry of pain drowned out the world. Stephen screwed his eyes shut and threw his hands to protect his bleeding eardrums. He felt Greycia’s body moving but he didn’t know where.

He opened one eye and then the other. Greycia had gotten them upright on the serpent’s back and was dashing up the winding path, digging her shimmering claws into its flesh as she went. Stephen removed his hands. Still nothing. No sound. He shouted out to Greycia but could not hear himself. Greycia’s hears perked up, his only clue that he had spoken words at all.

Fuck… fuck… is this permanent? Maybe Gran and Calven will know how to fix this. Maybe… All the fur on Greycia’s back stood up straight.  Her ears cringed down in pain. “Greycia!” He shouted. Within a moment she looked back at him and continued forward. That must have been bad… I couldn’t… wait…

Stephen told Greycia to plug up her own ears with her powers. They’d be deaf but they’d be deaf together. He nudged his heel into Greycia’s rib and with new found vigor she raced forward.

This thing must be a mile long… Stephen looked behind him. The serpent had flown away from the city. … But why?

There was no time to think. Greycia had reached the head and a high pitched sound had returned to Stephen’s ears. So far the deafness had been a shield and now it was wearing thin. Greycia reared back, her eyes glowing. A pink and blue sword of energy appeared before them. She roared, Stephen heard it, and threw her paws down toward it’s skull.

And then the serpent shook it’s mighty head, hurling Stephen and Greycia into the open sky. Fuck… Stephen had always thought his last thought would be more elegant and now he was mad at himself for not living up to that standard. He waited for impact.

Cold. Freezing fingers gripped his shoulder. Stephen’s eyes flew open.

“You got to work on your technique, Jackson!”

Above him was an eight foot tall, misty blue bird, two of those feet were its long neck alone, with a twelve foot wingspan. The tips of its wings were dusted in a snowy white and it’s talons and long beak were see-threw; made of ice.

Stephen heard a familiar roar. Greycia hung in the ice darter’s other claw. She looked upset, but otherwise intact.

A woman with long black hair and a yin yang necklace peered over the shoulder of the giant bird. “Need a hand there? Or a talon?”

“Harper!”

“That’s my name! Don’t wear it out!” Another roar. Not Greycia. The serpent had spotted them. “Yikes! That one looks like a stinker!”

“Get me and Greycia back on its head!  We can take it!”

Harper winked. “Only if Nen and I don’t first!”

Stephen smirked. “After you, Miss Quercus.”

 

***

            Serena hid behind a dumpster and tried to silence herself. She hear footsteps and she clung to the man’s jacket like it was a magic cloak that would protect her.

The footsteps drew nearer. Tears stung her eyes. But then she paused. No, she wasn’t going to cry. She had to get up. No one was going to safe her this time.

Serena stood up and stepped out from the dumpster and faced her four eyed amphibian pursuer. “Stop! Don’t come any closer!”

The Farthest Pole – Part II

tjiconShe’s running like a mad woman and she stumbles and almost falls. Martin stands up and takes a step in her direction, as if acting on instinct or perhaps just his good nature to run over to help, but doesn’t go any further than that one step.

She is new. New is bad. If she is coming out from Augusta like that, all torn and tattered, then something must be up. People the line themselves up with the CFD don’t just up and leave, not alive anyway. At least not from what I hear.

“Hey,” she shouts, noticing Martin. She runs faster, “Please… please help me!”

Martin curses under his breath. If he was on his game, he would’ve taken cover the moment he saw her. But the closer she got the more he could see of her. She was a looker, that’s for sure, even with her eye make-up streaking down her face. Young, blonde, and she had a nice pair to boot. They bobbed like lures that had caught a hit, Martin couldn’t help be distracted. The girl stumbled again but she fell this time.

Martin ran over to her. “You alright, miss?” She was trying to push herself up, but it looked like she fucked up her shoulder and her arms are scrapped all to hell. Martin reached a hand down to help her up.

“I… I was coming into town,” she stammered, taking hold of Martin’s arm, “and this… this… THING came out of nowhere and…” As soon as Martin lifted her to her feet, he twisted her arm behind her back and his other hand put a knife to her throat.

“I fish enough to know bait when I see it,” he said.

She stomps on Martin’s foot and then does a near back somersault over  her own arm. She doesn’t let go of Martin’s arm the whole time and her quick movement throws him of balance and he falls to the ground, the knife flying from his hand. The woman grabs her shoulder and pops it back into its socket. Martin tries to scramble to his feet but the girls boot hits him square in the face and Martin lands a couple feet away on his back.

“You ain’t as big a fish as you like to think you are, sweetie,” says the girl. Martin touches his nose and almost seizes with pain. “You’ll be fine,” says the girl kicking him lightly in the side, “get up.” Martin rolled over slowly and started to push himself up. “C’mon, I ain’t got all day.”

Martin stood to his feet, “What the fuck you want?”

“How many people y’all got around here.”

Martin spit blood. “I don’t know. I keep to myself.”

She nodded over to the river bank, “What you do with all them fish then?”

“Mostly throw ’em back. It’s just for the sport really.” Martin was almost proud of himself. He might of gotten his ass handed to him by chick but at least he was man enough to stand up for himself. And he wasn’t taking any of her shit either. At least that was until her palm slammed straight into his nose. It felt like an explosion went off in his face. He stumbled back but managed not to fall.

“I’m not fucking around you little shit. I said I saw something on my way here and that was the damn truth.” Martin might’ve been stupid enough to give her lip again but he couldn’t overcome the pain enough to string together a sentence.”

“I’m guessing you figured I was CFD, huh?”

Martin nodded.

“So a guess you heard we were monsters, then. Ten feet tall with razor claws and steel teeth. That we hunger for flesh, thirst for blood, and get off on death.”

Martin nodded.

“Yeah, well take everything you think you know and flush it. CFD doesn’t stand for Cthulu’s Flaying Disciples or Creepy Fuck Devils or whatever stupid fairy tale shit they’re saying now. It stands for Cataclysmic Freedom Delegation. We ain’t the fucking monsters, we fight ’em. And right now, this little town of yours has got a whole heap of the damned demons on your fucking doorstep.”

The Farthest Pole, Part 1

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The far line is always the first one to catch a hit. That’s the one thing Martin has learned for sure over the last eight years fishing in the Charleston ruins.

The first hour, when the humidity is high and sun is just kind of making its presence known over the horizon, that’s the hour when the fish bite the best here, but of course it’s been hard to build up a habit of waking up in time to have the lines set up, so he’s usually rushed. It’s easy to get used to most any habit though, and being perpetually late for the best fishing hour has been a habit he’s formed, even if it hasn’t really hurt his catch for the past few years.

But it’s always the line that’s farthest away that catches first. He’ll put them all out, slinging them into the water and propping them up in the little tube holders he’s made from scraps of PVC pipe and set into the rock of the old river walk, posting his poles one after another along where the fence used to be to keep the tourists from falling into the river. There’s never much certainty about what he’ll pull in on the line but it’s always that farthest one. Even that first time he slung an old bamboo pole over the edge, that weathered cheap thing he found in the collapsed tackle store outside of Aiken, it had only started to bounce as he gave up and walked away.

These days he keeps more like thirty poles out at a time and he brings in enough to dry on the concrete top of the Ellis Street parking garage, what’s left of it, and bring them in once a week to the trader out in the old suburbs for trade. From there the old fella there claims they go all the way to the big city, whichever big city he means by that, Martin couldn’t care less. Dealing with the trader is a bit of a trial anyway. Old man claims Martin could make “big dollars” off his genuine dried sea catch back in the old days if he had a good marketing man. As if that matters now. Still, the guy was a student in that at some college back in the old times so that’s what he’s still hung up about. Making that old money they had, like it still matters.

Not that Martin remembers and of the old times. Those were before he was born and long before he started fishing off the ruins of Charleston. Strange how he’s the only one. Most days it seems like he’s the only one in the whole city, just him and the old mule Frank. Mostly he likes it that way too. Old Frank himself is worth enough to encourage someone to kill for him and the fewer that see he’s got a good mule the better.

The fewer people he sees the better anyway. There’s a reason he’s in one of many cities that haven’t been touched in decades and not in one of the new settlements.

But all that’s aside when he sees the first pole, always that first pole he put out, an easy eighty feet away now, start to bob up and down with something on the line. Thirty is about the most poles he can have, since that’s about the max of his sight for those little twitches of the handle. Even still in his mid-thirties, that’s the farthest he can see. Never did have good eyes, but that’s fine with him either way. Not much left here he’d like to see.

And of course it’s a sting ray again. Big mother fucker too. About as big as one of the old hubcaps he’s got strapped to the side of his mule cart but no where near as shiny and not half as valuable. Not much you can do with a sting ray but stomp on it, pull it off the hook, smack it with the hatchet and hope the blood of it’s body back in the water doesn’t scare away the rest of the fish.

Just another day of always having to run for the farthest pole to catch something not worth catching. Just another day of life, not so different here in his hermitage as it was back in his old life with the rebels at that; every day goes by with much effort and loss and little to show for it. Just another day.

Another day of pushing Frank down one of the streets he’s got mostly clear of detritus, the city not much changed from when he found it aside from his own changes. The paths through the rubble to the old house he’s made his home, a strange survivor in the rubble and rough. Shouldn’t be a bad night at that, he’s still got a bottle saved from the last time he traded fish and he’s got a big old turtle in today. Turtle soup was always his favorite, back when he was with the Red Heads.

But today, about the distance of the farthest pole, there’s something out of the ordinary in the streets of old Charleston, and it’s coming right towards his cart. Today, it’s a girl, maybe a woman. Someone young anyway, and she’s upset, and her eyes are wide.

She’s coming toward him and she’s shouting and she’s crying and even from here he can see that those clothes aren’t anything you’d see outside of the new CFD capital at Augusta. They’re torn, and she’s thin but she ain’t from around here.

That’s for sure.

Like a Ribbon in the Sky – Part I

tjiconEven from their home miles away near the forest, Stephen and Greycia could see the rift open in the sky, right over downtown. Inside the rift, a dark, violet void crackling with energy. Greycia roared, her eyes beginning to glisten and her ears darting up to a point. Stephen grabbed his helmet and jacket and they were on their way in a manner of seconds.

Stephen had wished they would get  there before the creature emerged from the giant tear in the sky, but the monstrous shape that began to wind its way out of the rift like a ribbon in the sky dashed his hopes. Greycia growled as a the serpentine beast descended upon the city and she kept growling the whole way there.

*             *             *

The creature let out a shrill cry that pierced the air and shattered the glass of every building in sight.

“Don’t let go,” shouted Serena’s mother, holding the girl tightly as she ran through the crowded streets. People had tried to get into their cars and get out of the city but most abandoned their vehicles and took to foot. The creature had emerged quickly this time and rifts as large as this one were extremely rare. No one was prepared for this.

Someone slammed into the woman and knocked her and her child down. The woman landed hard on her back and the girl tumbled from her arms. Serena screamed and collapsed her body into a ball. All she saw was a stampede of frightened people rushing all around her and she feared the would crush her like a bug beneath their feet. She felt herself being scooped into the air by a strong, hairy set of arms that belonged to a man with a scruffy face.

Serena screamed for her mother.

“I don’t know where your Mom is sweetie,” shouted the scruffy faced man, “but I gotta to get you out of here, okay”

Serena kicked and thrashed about, but the man didn’t let her go and he didn’t stop running. Not until the giant snake monster swooped down into the streets and whipped it’s body about, throwing dozens of bodies through the air. The man turned around and Serena could see the creature over the man’s shoulder. It reminded her of something her mom called a dragon that would always be on the menus and take out boxes at the Chinese place they went to. It would have been pretty if it wasn’t so scary. It opened its mouth and roared. It wasn’t loud, but it was deep and it shook the everything around them. And then Serena and the man were hit by something she couldn’t see, but it tossed them both into the air.

Serena pushed herself up. Her vision was blurry and moving like it did after you twirl around really fast and then stop. Her head hurt. Everything hurt. Everything except her left arm, she couldn’t feel that. She reached up with her other arm and touched her head. She pulled it back to see her fingers covered in red. She looked around. The people running here far away now. Everyone close to her was on the ground. Some of them were moving. The creature wasn’t that far away from Serena. It was looking around, it’s body twirling in the sky. It had big green eyes like marbles, horns like tree trunks with hair like leaves all around its head, and white scales that glimmered like a oily water.

The dragon monster let out another shriek. Serena shut her eyes and tried to wrap her arm around her head, it was so loud it hurt. When she opened her eyes, she saw the creature turning to face her. Serena started to back away. The creature opened its mouth to roar once again. The ground shook beneath Serena and she stumbled and feel to the ground. She turned her head and put up her arm, preparing for the invisible force that threw her and the scruffy man into the air moments ago. She shut her eyes and clenched her teeth in anticipation, but moments later, she still had not felt anything.

She opened her eyes. In front of her, between her and the dragon, there was a large glowing wall that stretched from one side of the street to the other and high into the sky. It was pink and see through, like a sheet of plastic. The dragon bashed up against it. There was a loud zapping noise and the dragon jerked back.

Serena heard a voice behind her. It sounded muffled and far away. She turned to see a man. His face wasn’t too scruffy. He had messy black hair and earrings and was wearing a jacket like the cool, tough guys wore on TV. Next to him was a big cat. It was had shiny, smooth fur that turned from pink to blue in the light and three eyes that looked like pearls. Two were where they were supposed to be and one was in the middle of its head. It roared. Serena thought it almost sounded like bells.

“I asked if you were okay,” said Stephen.

The little girl shook her head, “I can’t feel my arm, my head’s bleeding, and I don’t know where my mommy is.”

There was a loud, shrill cry from the dragon beast again and flew off down the street out of sight.

“Is it gone,” asked Serena.

“Not for long, it’s not.”

“Can you stop it?”

Stephen turned to the girl, she might’ve been seven or eight. Her yellow dress and blue cardigan where ruined, torn and dirty. There were clumps of little clumps of dirt and rock in her braids. She wasn’t crying but Stephen could hear her voice shake. There was blood trickling down the side of her face and she held her limp arm with the other.

Stephen walked over to the girl and kneeled by her. He took off his jacket and put it over her shoulders, “I’ll try my best.”

There was shrill cry from in the distance, but the beast was nowhere to be seen.

Stephen stood and turned to Greycia, “You ready, girl?”

She snarled, her teeth shining like diamond daggers in her mouth.

Three in a Row, Part 1

bernicons            A little old woman sat on the small pile of fresh newspapers she had gathered to make a comfortable seat, or at least one that warmer than the cold floor. The room was dark and the chilly night air wafted in and out of the broken windows, but all things considered this was rather nice for this part of down.

There were three brick row houses, squished together side-by-side that had managed to keep standing years after the rest of the homes on the street collapsed. It was prime real-estate, but not many squatters shacked up there at three in a row because people said it was haunted.

“Haunted! Bah!” shouted the little old woman. Her wild, wiry and gray hair poked out of a dirty black beanie. She wore several layers of jackets and a worn out pair of jeans. Her socks stuck out of her boots and she could almost see her big toe. She pulled out a heart-shaped locket from her bag and opened it. “You hear that, Tabitha?” In the locket was a cut out picture of an older black woman with long braids and a toothy grin. “Them people said this place is haunted but it’s just the moanin’ and groanin’ of a neglected home. That’s all, ain’t it sweetheart?”

The old woman smiled. “But Olive’s got a treat for you tonight, sugar.” Olive kissed the picture of Tabitha and propped it up against the wall. “Ready for the show?” grinned Olive.

Olive stamped her foot three times and within a hair of a breath, a little candle lit across the room. Olive smirked.

In the light of the candle, three little shadows of three little mice appeared.  The first wore a little pink bonnet, the second wore a blue ribbon around its torso and the third wore a small string of beats as a necklace. They all scurried up onto the old fireplace mantle and took their places as if they were on a Broadway stage.

The mouse with the pink bonnet pulled out a petite flute.

The mouse with the blue ribbon pulled out a tiny violin.

The mouse with the beaded necklace pulled out a cello that was only slightly bigger than she.

“And a-one! And a-two!” chimed Olive, swinging her hand back and forth happily.

The mice began to play. The violin and cello started first, thrusting their bows back and forth. Soon the flute joined in picking up the tempo as she went. The violin zipped back and forth carrying the performance over the next valley. When she paused that cello’s deep melody made the flute’s higher notes shine through.

Olive nodded her head to the beat of the song.

The wistful notes of the flute reminded Olive of bright mornings sipping tea with Tabitha. They’ve sit out on the small back patio and play footsy under the table, out of sight so that the neighbor kids wouldn’t see their PDA. Tabitha would lay her hand on Olive’s and give her a look. Olive would smile and pull Tabitha into their bedroom. But then the phone would ring and Olive would be pulled away to work.

The cello’s strings resonated in the room. Tabitha would be left alone for hours on end, to practice her music, but would still smile when Olive returned. But one night there was no smile to return to. The door had been busted open and Tabitha was cold on the floor.

The violin’s sharp change of pace- “NO!” Olive stood up and stamped her way toward the fireplace, “STOP!”

The mice obeyed.

Olive grabbed the mouse with the blue ribbon from the mantle, with little care for comfort and yanked its top off. Inside there were little wooden gears turning and clicking away. The clockwork mouse seemed completely unphased.

Olive pulled out a screwdriver from her pocket and poked around. “That’s not Tabitha’s song! You got it wrong! I’ll fix it… then everything will be perfect…”

The wind blew by and snuffed out the candlelight.