Windsurfers

“Oh, that’s not good.”

            The insistent beeping didn’t stop. In fact, it increased its pace beeping like an annoying wake-up alarm. The view outside the view port remained a majestic view of the Earth floating serenely complete with fluffy white clouds. It was oblivious to the danger. Ryan Sharpton ruffled his dark hair and glanced down at the scanner. The asteroids were coming in hot. He may have been generous in saying it wasn’t good. This was fantastically, terrifically awful! The Earth was doomed in…

            “Four minutes,” Felicia shouted from the corridor, “what’s taking so long? I thought you said you could rig up a shield generator in your sleep?”

            “I can, I did!” Ryan waved his hands at the jerry-rigged shield generator. He’d even slapped an eco-friendly power core on to it. It was fantastic! Made from a hologram projector, a digital camera, a sat nav, and a wireless router. It would utilize the solar sails on the space ship and the hundreds of satellites orbiting the earth to create a temporary barrier.  Only it wasn’t working! The programming was perfect. He’s made it stupidly idiot proof. It was basically supped up Linux. It had started to boot then the power had cut out. If he didn’t fix it, North America was going to be one giant smoking crater. He ripped open the panel on the side of his lash-up and shoved his hand in up to his elbow. “Something must be loose or maybe too tight?” He jiggled a few wires. Lights flickered weakly on the panel before dying out again.

            “Ryan, the guards aren’t going to stay unconscious forever,” Felicia shouted. “Shit, three minutes! This is a helluva first date!”

            Letting out a shaky laugh, he resisted the urge to kick the entire setup. Felicia was so right. This was not exactly how he wanted to spend his weekend. He should have never taken Felicia to see that observatory in Mauna Kei, Hawaii. They could have gone windsurfing. She had even suggested it. Ryan was the moron who wanted to see the best view of space in town. They could have been sipping mai tai’s after an evening of close, very close sailing.

            The evening had started off pleasantly enough with a luau in a lovely pink hotel near the white sandy beach. Ryan had just finished up a conference for the Amateur Astronomical Society of North America. He was a founding member and the only one with a degree in astrophysics and a PhD in physics. He had cornered a few professionals into doing a panel since the group was mostly day players and older retirees, hence the conference being set in Hawaii this year. The Luau sported the traditional roasted pig in the center of some lovely fruit and poi. Felicia had been tweaking pieces of pork and drinking. She was slim and petite, dressed in a lovely white sundress decorated in little planets. Blonde with dark roots and a generous mouth, she was gorgeous. Catching his eye, she had saluted him with her fruity drink in a traditional half coconut.

            “I don’t know you,” he had said brilliantly.

            “You don’t,” she agreed, giggling, “do you want to get to know me?”

            He wanted to face palm, grimacing at his awkwardness.

            “Yeah, think I might erm,” Ryan trailed off his face was 6000 degrees Kelvin.

            Luckily for Ryan, Felicia had been just the right amount of drunk to find his lack of cool amusing. She had suggested windsurfing. He had countered with the observatory.

            The low atmosphere shuttle bus had dropped them off at the base of the observatory. Giggling and drinking out of her hip flask, they had shared stories on the way to the top of the mountain. Felicia was an amateur astronomer and a professional astrologer.

            “I’m all about the stars, Ryan,” she teased and asked if he was a Leo. He was an Aries.

            Once inside, he had shown his credentials to a bored woman in a blue jumpsuit named Sandy. She’d waved them into the telescope room. “No idea why anyone wants to come in here tonight,” Sandy said as she unlocked the doors. “I’m not strictly supposed to let anyone in here. It’s against the rules. But I don’t think it will matter much after tonight.”

            “Are you quitting?” Felicia asked.

            Sandy shrugged. “Let’s just see how this night plays out.”

            “She seems…nice,” Ryan muttered as Felicia arched a brow at him.

            “I think this is the worst first date, I‘ve ever been on, or the greatest, I can’t tell yet,” Felicia said stepping into the room. Ryan was too busy trying to save their asses to classify the date. Felicia was hot and hadn’t run off when he was being him, so, meh. The impending doom wasn’t great. She continued, “We tied up the guards. I couldn’t explain the situation to them fast enough, so Sandy knocked them out with a moon rock! She smashed a case with a broom handle and brandished that rock like a well, like a rock. Sandy is brilliant! Three minutes, by the way.”

            “Windsurfing would have been wetter,” he remarked and sighed. He was destined to never say anything clever or cool in front of Felicia.

            “Yeah, it would have been,” she said, kneeling down next to the generator, her sundress torn at the edges. She winked at him. “Still…end of the world.”

            “Right.”

            They had spotted the space station first. The telescope was strong enough to see the astronauts inside. “We could wave,” Felicia said practically purring into his ear.

            “That station is full of soldiers, training for the next alien invasion,” Ryan remarked. “We wave and they see us, they might shoot. Let’s look at Mars instead, much safer.”

            “The Mars colony sees us and they might shoot. I heard they were thinking of breaking away from Earth. I had a cousin who went. She sends video messages twice a month. Everything looks a bit dusty.” Felicia nodded at the night sky. “I almost went but I wasn’t sure how to do astrology without being able to tell when Mars was in retrograde.”

            Ryan snorted. “Yeah, that might be a problem. Isn’t that how we know if everyone’s about to go crazy?” He asked calibrated the telescope by entering the parameters for the area of sky he wanted to scan. He’d done this once or twice back in New York at One World. It was easy if you were comfortable with star maps. “Next year, they’re supposed to be building a shield to protect the Earth from… uh oh.”

            Felicia glanced up at the viewscreen. “Is that what I think it is?”

            “If you think that’s a massive amount of asteroids that couldn’t possibly have gotten this close to Earth without us noticing, you are unfortunately, correct. This is so bad.” His fingers flew over the keys. “And weird.” Scan after scan appeared on the screen. “These are the scans of the same area for the last month. Notice anything?”

            “No asteroids.” Felicia frowned. “How’s that possible? And how has no one noticed?”

            “It’s insane. Our group should have noticed… Any of the amateur groups could have seen this if they had the right telescope. It’s not a hologram… For a month this place saw nothing. And on the viewscreen?”

            “Loads of deadly asteroids,” Felicia muttered. “Wow, did I pick the wrong guy to hit on at the luau. What do we do, call the government?”

            “You hit on me? No, I… Nah, there’s only about twenty minutes left before we all die, I wouldn’t want to wake them,” Ryan said. “Honestly, they’re not going to believe us if the other observatories are still showing clear skies. There’s not time. It’s gotta be us and we’ve gotta get up there.”

            He rushed out of the main room and over to the bored woman in the jumpsuit. “Do they have a transmit here in the observatory? I know they’re new tech but it’s an emergency. Look alive, Sandy. We’ve got a situation.”

            “Those things aren’t safe,” Sandy said, dismissing him. “Take a shuttle bus. They can get you anywhere you need to go on the island.”

            “We need to get to the space station,” Felicia told her, “Don’t think the shuttle bus can handle space travel. The new said they were much safer now. People are using them up to the moon base. Surely it can get us to the space station without pulping us?”

                      “We do have a transmat,” Sandy said, perking up, “I’m not supposed to use it. It turned one of the astronomers into soup last week. The odds are probably in our favor now.”

            “Yeah, I am feeling lucky,” Ryan said, giving Felicia a smile. “What do you think?”

            Felicia kissed him, shocking the hell out of him. Several seconds in, he caught on and pulled her up against him. They broke apart to breath. “What was that for?” he gasped.

            “For luck…” she said, as if he was an idiot. She patted his chest.

            “Two minutes,” Felicia hissed.

            “Not helping,” Ryan insisted as he pulled several strands of wires out and switched them around. “Negative to positive… not like hot wiring a car, or is it? Why won’t you turn on?”

            “Hey, Ryan, where would you be without us?  Sandy and I got you up here and held those idiots off. I’d say we are helping!”

            “Yes, sorry, stressed. Did Sandy get the canon working?”

            There was a rumble and the lights dimmed. Felicia made a face. “Yes?”

            “Good, great,” Ryan grumbled, throwing the cables down. “Those asteroids will bounce off my shield like super balls if only the stupid thing would TURN ON!”

            Felicia frowned. “Kick it.”

            “You can’t be serious,” he growled.

            “Just do it!”

            He kicked the generator. The lights came on green. “Oh shit, that worked! I can’t believe that worked!”

            The space station lights flickered as power was diverted from the solar sails to power the force field. One by one the satellites contributed to the shield. Ryan let out a bark of laughter as the blue haze of the force field snapped into place.

            “We did it!” Felicia jumped into his arms. He spun her around in a circle laughing.

            Sandy appeared in the corridor looking disappointed. “The guns stopped working! I was shooting things! It was awesome!”

            “Yeah, Felicia said kick the shield generator and that worked!” Ryan pulled Felicia against him.

            “It always works on TV,” Felicia said. “Besides, Aries love to kick things.”

            Sandy’s eyes lit up. “That’s amazing! This is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, ever. Wow, I’m so glad I hacked all the observatories to keep them from noticing the asteroids. I mean, I was looking forward to a huge apocalypse but this is so much better!” Sandy put her hands on her hips and let out a loud whistle.

            Ryan just sputtered, “Wait, what?”

            “Oh, yeah, I was looking forward to watching the world burn. All this technology and life had gotten a bit boring. Thought I’d spice things up with a mass extinction,” Sandy said, eyes glittering. “Dibs on using the transmat first on the way down. I am shocked we didn’t turn inside out. Last guy who used it, Eric, he was a meat puddle…He twitched for a bit.” Sandy made a face. “I’m so glad I took that correspondence course on the dark web.” She walked off down the hall.

            Ryan stared after her. “I’m going let the guards loose on her if she doesn’t get pulped by the transmat. I can’t believe it. She’s got to be a genius.”

            “No, she’d have to be a super genius. There are four major space observatories and hundreds of smaller ones. The amount of planning and programming…” Felicia sounded impressed.

            “She’s insane!”

            “No, we are. This never happens when you’re windsurfing,” Felicia said.

            “Or seeing sea turtles in a submarine,” he offered.

            “Yep. Let’s untie the guards and see if they have a shuttle we can use. I don’t want to be soup.”

            “You’d make a lovely soup,” Ryan said and face palmed. “I have no idea why you hit on me.”

            “Let’s talk about it on our second date.”

            The end.

Notes: I wrote this for a client. It wasn’t what they were looking for at the time. I did love the story because it was fun. I expanded it a bit from the original and I hope you enjoy it.

Honey, I’m Home

I used to have pets. They were good company but one by one they died and I didn’t have the heart to replace them. I had been single for a decade. Still youngish at 40 I wasn’t worried about it. I was lonely sure, and nights were a bit cold in my drafty apartment but I managed. I even got in the cute habit of yelling out, “Hey honey, I’m home,” every night as I tossed my laptop bag onto the hall table and my keys into the bowl.

It was a silly thing to do. It wasn’t hurting anyone and for a fleeting moment it made me feel like I was in a 50’s sitcom and my significant other would be waiting in the living room, maybe not in a dress wearing pearls with a martini but maybe with a pizza and some mixed drinks. And if they weren’t there in real life, online ordering apps handled the pizza end of it.

Friday, I opened the door after a long day of being called an idiot and all I really wanted to do was skip right to the drinks. I opened my mouth to greet my imaginary partner and sighed. What was the point? Shrugging, I ignored my black mood and called out, “Honey, I’m home! Did you miss me?”

“I did, darling,” a voice called back.

I dropped the laptop bag on the floor. The tantalizing scent of pineapple and ham pizza drifted to me in the foyer. I walked down the hall to the living room. Curled up on my sofa was a petite brunette with a pixie cute in silky striped pajamas, holding two drinks. “I made you a seven and seven. We’re out of rum,” she said and made a face. “It’s gross but it gets the job done.” she took a sip to prove her point and grimaced. “I am sooooo um, well drunk. Work was traumatic. You?”

“I-ah, it was also traumatic,” I replied wondering if I had had a stroke.

She waved for me to come closer. I did, magnetically pulled to the sofa. I collapsed next to her and she handed me the drink. I sipped it, coughing. “Gah, this is revolting.”

“Mm,” she agreed.

I gave her a sidelong glance. Her eyes were so brown they were black. Her skin was a nice medium tone like a natural tan and a hint of cleavage could be seen where she had misbuttoned the top two buttons on her pajama top. Shapely legs were pulled up under her and she had one hell of a wicked smile.

“You are my dream girl,” I told her.

Her cheeks flamed red and a giggle escaped her. “You’re in a mood,” she commented, flipping the pizza box open. “Get a slice in you before you puke up all that whiskey.”

I ate a slice. It tasted fine, not like LSD or any other hallucinogens. Not that I would know. Listen, it tasted like ham, and pineapple and lovely mozzarella.  My drink tasted like suffering which is what whiskey always tasted like to me, so it wasn’t the food.

“How long have we been together?” I asked.

Her smile faltered, “Janie, don’t ask questions like that. It makes me think you don’t want me here. Don’t you want me here?”

Something in her eyes glowed oddly. I blinked and it was gone. My dream girl smiled and grabbed my free hand. Her nails were manicured in a matte black giving me the illusion of a wolf’s claws. Her skin was warm and the scent of pizza, whiskey and something wild hit me. Her smile was wistful.

“I do want you here,” I replied. “I must have hit my head or something at work today, honey. I’m sorry.”

That pleased her and she squeezed my fingers. The black in her eyes started to fade to a root beer. She tugged on my hand until we were half in a cuddle. The shock to my system was instant. I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had wanted to touch me, let alone huddle up on the sofa together. Her warmth seeped into me.

“Am I dreaming?”

She frowned. “Janie please.”

“I’m just… happy you’re with me,” I said when her breath hitched, eyes flashing black again. Whatever she was, she wanted to be with me and as she placed a gentle kiss on my cheek, I realized I wanted her to be with me too. “I can’t remember your name.”

“Janie,” she warned.

“Fine,” I said. I wasn’t allowed to ask or know who or what or where she came from if I wanted to keep her. Was I that lonely? Had I been fooling myself with my little game? Had I called something into existence? Someone? Was she a demon? Did I care?

She slid her free hand up my thigh.

No.

I did not care.

“Do you want me to stay,” she asked, a hint of points showing in her smile.

“Yeah,” I said, “Stay with me.”

Her smile was brilliant.

Honey, I am home.

End.

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Take Out

The house music boomed, making her hot blood pulse. Cloven hooves tapped out the beat setting the anklet to jingling with its tiny golden bells. Her wings were furled but the black feathers gleamed purple and green with iridescence. Her fellow demons had laughed at her for sneaking out of the Underworld to visit humans without being called by them. Soul-stealing was a jumping business in this economy. No need to go on soul scavenging trips when sad little pathetic humans were tripping over themselves to get talents or wishes granted.

She didn’t want a soul for the devil. She wanted one for herself, a pet human, a friend, or lover. She dressed the part, in a form-fitting black leather dress that did nothing to hide her ample bosom and long neck. Her tail, hooves, and horns were all painted with purple glitter. The party would be the perfect place to snare a tiny beating heart.

A human male with dark eyes and fluffy hair approached her with a bottle in each hand. He was thin, shorter than her by half a foot, although as a demon she was nearly seven feet tall and taller still if you measured the horns curling back from her head. He had horns as well, paper-mache ones painted in vermilion. The beers were sealed.

“Wow, great costume! Are you a demon?” he asked, “I’m a demon. I couldn’t get the wings right but I did the tail.” He spun and wiggled his butt. “I put a string on it, so I can control it. Made it out of weed barrier. I’m a landscaper. You want one? It’s sealed.”

The whirlwind of conversation amused her. She nodded and he popped the cap off of a beer with his bottle opener shaped like a shark. He handed it to her, popped his own cap and clinked his bottle into hers. “Cheers!”

“Cheers?”

He drank half his beer in one go. She followed suit, unsure of the drinking customs in this time. He winked and polished his off. She raised her eyebrows. He grinned brightly. She was unsure of how to proceed, so she stared. The smile on his face dimmed.

“Am I bothering you? I can go. Only, everyone inside is dressed as TV characters and you and I are the only demons. Thought it might be fun to hang out with another demon for a bit,” he said.

She grinned, showing him miles of sharp pointy teeth. “Yes, we demons should stick together.”

“Good, great,” he said, laughing in relief. “Want another beer?”

“Yes,” she said, amused with her new human friend.

He disappeared and reappeared with a small bucket full of them. She let him open her beer for the second time and he flipped the caps into the bushes with a bit of flare. He took a sip but didn’t chug it, so she copied him.

“So, what made you want to be a demon for Halloween?” he asked.

Ah, humans did like small talk. Demons not so much. “I was looking for someone to go home with.”

He flushed. “You-what?”

“I came here to find someone to take home. Haven’t had any company in a few centuries,” she explained, knowing he would never believe her honest truth. He would think her funny with metaphors.

“Oh,” he replied and downed his beer. It seemed to give him strength for the next moment he offered, “I could go home with you. If you want me to.”

Sometimes it was too easy.

fin.

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Slaughter

“I’m going to carve 100 pumpkins,” Laura said.

My daughter held up a rusty steak knife and lightning flashed behind her. Thunder rolled across the heavens and all thoughts save two were blown from my mind on a Halloween breeze:

  1. Where the heck was I going to get 100 pumpkins?
  2. When did my daughter get that steak knife?

“Darling,” I said, “that’s a lot of pumpkins. You’re seven. Last year we did two and we both needed to have a nap.”

Laura wielded the knife like an ancient Viking warrior. “I must have pumpkins, Daddy.”

“Great, I’ll bring the car around.”

My little princess sheathed her rusty sword in a little scabbard she had made herself from one of those felt sheets that were foam instead of felt, so a foam sheet thing from the craft store and I made quick calculations on both of our tetanus shots. She was unconcerned. I decided to roll with it. We had had a tough year and if pumpkin slaughter would make us feel better, why not?

Out of the car as soon as it stopped, she drew her steak knife and charged the patch. I handed my credit card to a surprised teen with bright blue hair and an apron that said, ‘Happy Acres.’ I should have known she would eventually go on a berserker rage. It was in her blood. I had once tried to cut down a tree with a butter knife while in a similar mood. I texted Carrie, my wife, a picture of our daughter dragging pumpkins into a pile by their stems with the caption, ‘bonding.’

I waved at the teen and he brought me a jug of cider. I chugged it. Laura was now randomly stabbing the pumpkins. I sighed and approached the murder scene. Laura grinned up at me. She was dripping in pumpkin juice and had managed to get the top off of one of her unfortunate victims. I offered her the jug of apple cider.

She took the jug and handed me the knife. I stabbed a pumpkin. I know I should have taken the knife and been a responsible adult. I didn’t. I just stabbed the pumpkin again, forming a crude triangle eye. My daughter doused herself in apple cider and let out a war cry. Another rusted piece of cutlery appeared in her hands, a spoon this time, and she attacked the guts of a scalped pumpkin.

Her wide gray eyes were bright with excitement, joy, and an eensy bit of crazy. I called the teen over as my little Viking carved her first pumpkin by caving its head in. “We’re going to need more cider,” I told him.

“And donuts,” she said as she bit into a pumpkin, growling.

God, I live for Halloween.

End.

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The Apple Thief’s Friend

The deer was not majestic.

Behind the chain link fence, the deer had his tongue out in a blep. He was scrawny and undignified. Lane eyeballed him and he stuck his tongue out at her before blinking. Lane, dressed in deer patterned leggings and an oversized sweater, held her white bucket tightly. It was loaded to the brim with gala apples.

“No,” she told him.

The deer tilted his head and licked the fence. Lane rolled her eyes at the deer. She pointed to the ‘no deer in the orchard sign.’ He was unimpressed and stomped a delicate hoofprint into the wet ground. Nose twitching, he tilted his head toward the gate.

Lane’s sister approached her with her own bucket brimming with Granny Smiths. “I’m going to make a pie and some turnovers before I let Mom turn the rest into apple butter or oooo jam! Whatcha doing?”

“Talking to this deer,” Lane told her sister.

Allison was in black leggings but her sweater was a smaller version of the one her sister wore. She did her hair in the same braids as Lane even though hers was cornsilk to Lane’s fawn-colored hair. They had the same green eyes but Allison was not one to talk to deer.

“Deer don’t have vocal cords,” she remarked.

It was just like Ally to be literal and factual and scientific. Lane ignored all of it and pointed to the deer who was still scrawny, still undignified, and still offering her an unobstructed view of his tongue. Lane huffed.

“He wants to get into the orchard,” Lane remarked as the deer bobbed his head as if in agreement. “I’ve told him deer aren’t allowed by indicating the sign.”

“Deer can’t read,” Allison countered.

“It’s a pictogram,” Lane argued. “See,” Lane said to the deer as she pointed to the cartoon version on the sign, “This is you, and this is no. Savvy?”

The deer stared. Blinked twice.

Allison shook her head. “I’m going to get some Winesaps too. You coming?”

“In a minute, I’m in the middle of something here,” Lane said.

Allison bounded away with her bucket of apples. Lane stared at the deer. The deer stared back.

“I’m not letting you in,” she told him.

He blepped.

“Seriously, you can’t come into the orchard, it’s not allowed,” Lane insisted.

The deer’s eyes went from hers to the gate and back again.

“No.”

The deer’s eyes went from hers to the gate and back again.

“No, stop.”

The deer’s eyes went from hers to the gate, paused, he pawed the ground, and looked back again.

Lane looked to the heavens. When she looked back, the deer was still there. The deer was still staring. He was still poking his tongue out at her adorably with his scrawny undignified person. Lane opened the gate, stepping back out of his way. He bowed.

“Yeah, you’re welcome. If anyone asks, I was never here.”

The deer slipped into the orchard and disappeared into the trees.

The End.

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Hay into Blood

At night DeShawn watched the stars. He could just about see them from his small room in the basement. There was only one of those half sized windows but he was lucky and it overlooked a grassy field. He loved to see them twinkle and slowly change positions as the seasons changed. The stars were his comfort, his company. He loved the night.

Mother didn’t let him keep the window open during the day, but at night he opened it and star gazed. The sun was so bright it would probably hurt his eyes. Mother said it was a ball of fire, high in the heavens and not to worry about it. He’d never see it. He sighed. Mother never let him leave the room. She said it was for his own protection. Mother said others would want him if they knew and she said he looked different from the other children.

Mother’s skin was warm and honeyed. That must be what normal people skin looked like. His skin was almost the same color as charred wood. His eyes were as green as new grass, Mother said. Tall and thin with elegant fingers that stretched long enough to do the delicate work Mother left for him. He wove straw into dolls. He made necklaces with the thinnest silver chains and fragile beads of glass. When she was pleased with the work, she gave him cakes decorated in rainbow sprinkles. When he broke a bead, or his hay doll wasn’t as pretty as she’d like, she left a dirty cup of water and the crusts from a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was enough for him to smell the jelly, smell the peanut butter but never taste them.

DeShawn loved the delicate work and he tried to make his necklaces resemble the stars that he just felt knew him and loved him. The night was his true friend. When the moon was full, he would stand in the beam of light that blasted into his small basement and made his skin glitter and shimmer. He would bathe in moonlight all night long, feeling more awake and alive than on the moonless nights.

Tonight he was bathing in the silver light when it cut off suddenly. Worried, DeShawn raced to the window. If Mother had found out he opened the window at night and blocked it, he would die!  There was a shadow leaning against his window. It was probably a rabbit or a raccoon. He tapped. The shadow bounced away. In seconds it was back but the light bled in around it. The shadow backed off a bit and resolved itself into a face.  The face was rounder than his own, yet still sharp, and silvered by moonlight. She was scared but she tapped back. Grinning, he placed his long fingers on the window. The girl put her hand up to match and a wonderful sound escaped her, light and breathy.

“Open up!” she called through the glass. She mimed unlatching it.

He did and a blast of icy air hit his face. She made the sound again, her eyes crinkling pleasantly. He found his mouth turning up in the corners, the feeling making his face stretch pleasantly. She reached her fingers through and grabbed his hand and shook it up and down. Her skin was several shades lighter than his but still a wonderful rich brown and her skin was cool in the winter air.

“Tia,” she said.

“DeShawn,” he replied.

“Come out,” she ordered. “I’ll buy you a soda at the corner store. I found some quarters in the laundry room. We can share a bag of chips.”

“Why?”

“I’m lonely. I’m not the type of girl that can keep pets or friends. I was sitting here because it’s the best view. You have the best view,” Tia said, awestruck.

“What’s lonely?”

“You, you are lonely. You want to be my friend and eat chips with me,” Tia informed him.

Accepting that, DeShawn asked, “What are chips?”

Tia made the sound again and it felt different this time. It was at him instead of with him. He frowned. She reached a hand through and tapped him on the nose. He sneezed. She made the sound. He echoed her, feeling oddly light. “Potatoes sliced thin, fried and salty as all get out. You’ll love them. Come out.”

“The door is locked. Mother is afraid someone will steal me away in the night,” DeShawn confided.

“Of course she is,” Tia said, “She should be. Your mother sells magical necklaces and dolls that can control others. Papa says she must have a changeling in her basement. I told her it was stupid. But here you are in her basement. Do you make necklaces?”

DeShawn nodded. “What’s a changeling?”

“I don’t know. Papa is old and he says ‘old ways are the best ways.’ You seem too young for the old ways. Come on, do you want to eat chips with me or not?” Tia asked impatiently.

“Doesn’t anyone else want to eat chips with you?” DeShawn asked.

Tia’s eyes were full of tears. “No, I told you; no pets, no friends. They don’t like me here. Do you like me?”

DeShawn felt funny as if his eyes were stinging. He reached out to touch her hand. She gripped tightly. The skin of her hand was cool and smooth, and a bit spongy. It was interesting to touch someone. He turned his mouth up again. Mother never touched him. Would Mother’s hand feel like Tia’s? Was that what touch felt like? His own hands felt thinner, less spongy.

Tia had touched him. She wanted to feed him and she liked the view.

“I like you.”

“Can you come?” Tia asked wistfully.

“Will you take me to a place where I can see all the stars?” DeShawn asked.

“Sure, we can go anywhere you want,” Tia said. “We can go out on the ocean in a boat. We can climb a mountain. We can do anything as long as you take me with you. I don’t want to be lonely anymore.”

DeShawn felt funny. His face was wet. Was this lonely?

“I don’t know how to get out,” he said.

“Take my hands,” Tia said. “You’re skinny enough to slip right through if I help pull you.”

DeShawn stared around at the only home he had ever known. There wasn’t much to look at, it was a dark room with one frayed rug and a dirty old cot. He grabbed a few of his shirts and a pair of jeans and wrapped them in his blanket. He left the dolls but grabbed a necklace. Maybe Tia would like it. He handed the bundle to her. She took it.

He felt his nerves fray. “I’m scared.”

“Me too,” Tia said. “What if you don’t like me?”

“What if I promise to like you?” he asked. “Will you show me how to live outside my room?”

Tia nodded. “I’ll show you how to live under the stars. Promise to stay with me forever.”

“Okay, I promise.”

He piled boxes of beads and hay up. Standing on them, he reached for her hands. She gripped him and pulled. She was strong! He struggled through the small window and flopped onto the grass. Tia stayed with him, while he touched the grass and felt the cold wind on his skin.

She stared at him. “That was too easy,” she said and slapped a bracelet onto his hand. It burned against his skin. “I’ve always wanted to have my own faerie.”

DeShawn shivered. He stood to run as Tia’s eyes flashed blood red. “What are you?”

“A monster,” Tia said. “A vampire that you promised to stay with.”

“Is that why no one likes you?” DeShawn asked. He wanted to leave but felt compelled to stay. The need to stay was tingling in him, warring with the need to go back home where he was safe.

“People don’t like you if you kill and eat them,” Tia said.

“Are you going to kill me?”

Tia showed her mouth full of sharp teeth and made the sound again. “No. I really am lonely.”

DeShawn sighed, shoulders relaxing. Tia was still better than Mother. Tia grabbed his hand again and squeezed in a friendly manner. She let go, and stepped back, giving him space that he wasn’t sure he wanted. He liked the feeling of connection. Maybe it would be okay. He was still afraid.

“I think I was too.”

“Not anymore,” the vampire said. “Your promise protects me from your magic. So you can’t hurt me. And I did promise to show you the stars. I can formally promise not to eat you if it will make you feel better. It’s not as binding as a fae promise, but I am a monster of my word. Besides, you already loved and lived with a monster most of your life, what’s one more?”

DeShawn stared at the night sky. He could see so many more stars from this monster’s side. He reached for her hand.

The End.

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Salt Water Taffy

“So, you come here often?”

I was an idiot. I have no idea how to be suave, so the sentence escaped my mouth in a rush of adrenaline. It was definitely a ‘panic pick up line.’ I am too much of a coward to ever speak to people. I get tongue tied, make a few noises, panic and leave. I’m not stupid. I know she was just people and I’m people too-erm, a person too-but anxiety is crippling.

She stopped shoveling salt water taffy into a box long enough to look up at me with her wide spaced sparkly gray eyes. Those eyes did things to my insides. Everything was suddenly too close and too warm. I had never in my life seen eyes that deep and full of glitter. I’m not poetic. She had glitter eyes.

Stunned, all I could do was stare and I try desperately to remember how to breathe. A large tee covered her from neck to mid-thigh like the tackiest dress. ‘Lifeguard’ in red swam across the shirt and it was soaking wet in spots. She or the short or the shop itself smelled like something had crawled out of the high tide. She was shoeless.

No one seemed to have noticed her but me. They were all blind, probably, because her hair was shockingly pink and down to her t-shirt covered butt. And on top of the bright hair and outward weirdness, she was the most attractive woman I had ever seen.

“It’s Salt Water Taffy Season,” she told me, smiling with bright white teeth, “I love saltwater taffy. Do you like it?”

“I ah, it um get’s stuck in my teeth,” I reply brilliantly.

Her gray eyes flood with worry. “You have to suck on them until they get soft,” she tells me.

“Thanks,” I said and got a soft smile as my reward.

She tossed her hair over one shoulder and went back to trying to fill the box with all the salt water taffy the store had. Once the box was full, her eyes met mine again, calculating. With a wide wink, she stuffed the entire box under her shirt and raced out of the store. The teenager watching the register didn’t give chase. He hardly even looked up from the magazine he had spread over the counter. In an even tone he said, “Hey, you stop.”

I slipped out of the shop a few seconds later so the teenager wouldn’t think I was in on the salt water heist, not that he would care. He was definitely up for employee of the month. Once out in the bright sun, I scanned the crowd for pink. The boardwalk was teeming with children, parents, and couples. Giant stuffed animals trailed from tired parents’ obscuring the view. I walked from one end of the boards to the other before giving up. The thief was gone. The disappointment I felt was a punch to the gut. She was the most interesting person I had spoken to all summer and now she had vanished into the air. I went home.

I tried to give up on her but the Salt Water Taffy Thief stayed with me. Every time I was near a shop or on the boards, I couldn’t resist the urge to hunt for her. Sometimes I thought I would catch a glimpse of her but it was always my imagination. Still, I kept my ear to the ground for any more salt water taffy heists. There were three. A man at the pizza shop told me pounds of the stuff had gone missing. He didn’t know she was the pink haired beauty I had met.

I spent every summer down the shore watching the house for a friend who hated the tourist season but hated the idea of renting more. The house was on the bay with lovely color themed rooms and it was a great way to recharge after teaching ten-year-olds all year. And because I was practically a local, I preferred to go down to the beach after most of the families and the lifeguards had gone home for the day. I would set up my blanket, slather on sunblock and pull out a book to read. A week after I had seen the thief, I did just that.

The lingering heat forced me out into the ocean. I swam out past the breakers and rolled onto my back, only doing what I had to do to stay afloat. Blue sky arched above me with not a single puffy cloud appeared to ruin it. This is how the world should look; serene and blue, not noisy and full of spitballs.

Before I knew it the blue was deepening, darkening. I sat up and started to tread water. The sun had slipped down to the edge of the water and as I watched the sky turned a magnificent crimson tinged in cinnamon before fading into a dark plum. The ocean ate the sun and left me alone. I sighed. It was time to go back to the house.

Except the shore was much farther away than I remembered it being. I rolled my eyes at my own stupidity. I struck out with long strokes. I wasn’t worried. I was a strong swimmer. I was more annoyed that I was going to ruin my peaceful moment with a dash for the beach. A tail slapped the water near me. Startled, I spun to see if it was the soft rounded dorsal fin of a dolphin or the more vertical, straighter of a shark.

The slap happened closer to me. I backed away and continued to head for the shore. The current picked up and at first, I thought it would be a bro and toss me up onto the beach. Instead, it dragged me backward, closer to the tail slapping the water. But the ocean was crueler still and I hadn’t checked to see what the undertow was before swimming out. A large wave crashed over my head and I was dragged under.

I was in inky black unable to tell up from down as the currents buffeted me. Things brushed my legs and arms. My lungs burned. I wanted to exhale. I didn’t. I knew better. What was in my lungs was all I had left. I made a decision to strike out in a direction. I had no idea if it was up or down. The water was numbing my extremities now. The pressure in my ears was building and the things were terrifying. I still didn’t know whose tail had been within slapping distance of me and where it was now.

I chose wrong. The pressure increased. I spun around to try again. Flailing, I was lost in the dark, cold water. My mouth opened and bubbles escaped. Heaviness filled my bones. I was too tired to panic. I stopped fighting.

I shot forward gasping for breath. I flailed and a strong hand gripped mine, squeezing it. Confusion flooded me as sunlight hit my skin and soft blanket met my legs.

“Safe,” a familiar voice told me. She repeated the word until it seeped into my sun-warmed skin.

My saltwater taffy thief sat beside me with her cloud of pink hair. It was damp and curling around her face making her a pink fluffy angel. She was grinning. I smiled back. Surrounded by saltwater taffy wrappers and sitting on my blanket in her bare feet, she fluffed my hair affectionately. She was wearing a lemon yellow muscle tee with a whale on it and nothing else.

“Hi,” I said, dazed.

“You want one,” she asked, holding up a plastic bag full of candy.

My stomach felt like it was full of saltwater. My head hurt and my sinuses burned. I was dry but since I had sat up, water was trickling out of my ears and I could feel sand everywhere and I mean everywhere. Sugar was the last thing I should be putting in my battered body.

“No thanks. I’m not hungry. What happened?”

She sniffed. “You didn’t listen to me. I slapped the water to get you to go away from the bad currents but you swam right into them.”

“You slapped the water? I thought I saw a tail. I thought you were a shark!” I exclaimed to giggles.

“Lucky you, it’s still Salt Water Taffy Season and I was near the beach. I dragged you out.”

Bemused, I thanked her and offered, “You can get salt water taffy all year long. They don’t stop selling it after the tourists leave.”

She shook her head like I was a particularly stupid specimen of the human race. I couldn’t blame her. I felt that way about myself most of the time. “Can’t steal it if there’s no crowd to disappear into. As it is, I’ve hit my last store. I have to be careful and not steal too much. I can’t get caught.”

“Why not buy some?” I asked.

“No money,” she said and her gray eyes brightened, the sparkle swirling. I felt like I could drown in them which was unfortunate after my almost drowning. “I don’t have a job. Jobs are a weird concept. Do you have one?” she asked.

“A job? Yeah, I teach math,” I told her.

She counted out loud as she ate candy and I grinned. I wanted to see her again. I wanted to see her again and again.

“Do you live out here?” I asked.

Bobbing her head, she gathered the wrappers and raced them away to a trash can. In seconds she was back, stretching long pale legs out beside me. The skin was just a bit too pale, almost like the underbelly of a snake or a fish. She took large handfuls of her hair and finger combed it until it behaved. Her body was lean if well-muscled.

“Do you have a home,” I asked.

She glanced out at the water and ignored the question.

“What’s your name?”

No answer came and she bumped my shoulder before standing up. “Stay out of the bad currents.”

“Wait,” I called.

She walked out into the waves. Halfway out, she turned back to wave at me. I waved back.  Seconds later a tail slapped the water.

Three days later I bought all the salt water taffy I could find and left it on the beach.

Fin.

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Espresso

           “Emily, your lover the professor is here,” Amy sang out.

Emily’s popped up from where she was focusing on restocking the teas to see the tall lanky frame of her favorite customer. Today he was in check slacks and brown jacket with actual leather elbow patches, adorable. His brown hair was messy and his briefcase had bits of paper sticking out of it.

“He looks frazzled,” Amy remarked, serving black coffee to grumpy customers.

Emily ignored her. She was busy making her professor a double espresso.

“Jake!” she called and held her breath.

Her professor’s eyes slowly came to life as he smiled brilliantly at her. He took the cup she placed on the counter. Their fingers grazed one another over the cup. Emily’s heart raced.  Normally the tips of his ears would turn pink, he would keep smiling and beat a hasty retreat without saying a word. Emily would hum happily for hours afterward. Brian and Amy would laugh at her insisting she had scared him off but not today.

He opened his mouth to speak. Emily stopped breathing. He worked his jaw a few times and managed a breathy, “Thanks, Emily.”

Emily let out her breath in a whoosh as he slipped out of the coffee shop.

“He spoke!” Amy shouted startling Mrs. Clayton who came in every morning for an English Breakfast. “Hey, Brian! The professor spoke!”

Brian popped out from the kitchen covered in flower. “Emily’s Professor?? What did he say?”

“Thanks, Emily,” Amy repeated.

“He knows her name? It’s only been a year?” Brian said as an alarm went off in the kitchen. “BREAKFAST SANDWICHES ARE UP!”

A ragged cheer came from the line. Emily turned back to Amy. “It’s been a year?”

Amy nodded. Emily sighed. “A whole year?”

 ❤ ❤ ❤

“I talked to her today,” Jake said.

Diane stopped organizing her boss to gawp at him. “Coffee Shop Girl?You did? Did you ask her out?”

Jake flopped into his leather chair. “She uh, called out my name and I ahem, I ah, thanked her for the espresso by her name.”

Diane sighed in desperation. Her boss was a certified genius but he was painfully shy. “At this rate, you’ll be married in one hundred years. How did she react?”

Jake turned a brilliant shade of red. “I sort of… I um…”

“You ran away?”

“Maybe.”

“I love working for you,” she muttered. “But I can’t take this anymore. You go there every day. She makes you a drink; you come here to tell me how much you love her, and then you NEVER ASK HER OUT.”

Jake sighed. “She’s beautiful.”

“Oh, I know,” Diane remarked. “But enough is enough. Either go ask her out after work or I go in the morning and tell her I’m your girlfriend.”

Jake blanched. “What? No, you wouldn’t do that to me.”

“Damn right, I would. I will. You have twenty-four hours.” It was cruel. It was necessary. Jake needed a push.

❤ ❤ ❤

Emily wiped the tables down, humming to herself. Amy had gone to lunch and Emily was glad for the reprieve. Amy hadn’t stopped teasing her about her professor since he had first walked into the coffee shop and ordered his first espresso. Emily had remembered him, his name, and his drink. He hadn’t ever needed to speak. His smiles had been enough. But he had a nice warm baritone and Emily would have loved to hear a full sentence.

Someone cleared their throat behind her. Emily spun to face the customer ready to explain the difference between a macchiato and a cappuccino. Her professor stood there looking extra frazzled. His large dark chocolate eyes brimmed with emotion, although half those emotions seemed related to panic. He tried to speak for a few seconds before he started to retreat. Emily panicked and reached out to catch his arm. His eyes widened, flicking from her face to where she was touching him. He swallowed.

“Emily,” he began in a funny high pitched tone. He coughed and tried again. “Emily, I ah, don’t like espresso.”

“What?”

He grimaced. “No, I did that wrong. Emily, I don’t like espressos, I like you.”

Emily didn’t know what to say. Luckily, once started, her professorcouldn’t be stopped.    “I’ve been coming in here every morning for a year to get a drink from you that I don’t like because I can’t get enough of your smile. So if you don’t feel the need to call the police, wouldyouliketogetadrinkwithme?”

“Yes! She says yes,” Brian shouted from the kitchen.

Jake’s grin was blinding. “Tonight? I know it is short notice. Only I’ve wasted so much time being timid, I don’t know when I’ll get the courage to ask again.”

“Yes, I’m free after six,” Emily told him shyly, still holding onto his arm.

“Okay, great, okay,” Jake stammered. “Great.”

He moved away and right before he broke contact, she said his name softly. When he turned to face him, she reached up and pressed a kiss to his lips. He froze long enough for Emily to panic but before she could pull away his warm, strong arms had looped around her waist, securing her to him. The soft scent of his cologne surrounded her. His lips were warm against hers, as responded to the kiss. Pressing her luck, Emily deepened the kiss, exploring her professor’s mouth. Kissing him was like sinking slowly into a warm bath.

She broke the kiss to see his eyes slowly flutter open, his skin flushed and pupils were blown wide. Emily’s heart was racing. She glanced away. Embarrassed she had kissed him at work. Amy had reappeared and made it worse by clapping.

“So six?” he asked voice squeaky.

Emily nodded and he surged forward to kiss her again. His hands cradled her back and he kissed her with an intensity that sent shivers down her spine and left her fingers and toes tingling. Amy snorted. Emily pulled back, her face flushed.

“I’m sorry I made you drink all those espressos,” Emily told him.

He laughed. “I’m not.”

The End.

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Green Eyes

Eli’s eyes popped open. A skittering sound had dragged him up from the darkness to peer at the leftover glow-in-the-dark stars on his ceiling in confusion. Blinking sleep out of his eyes, he struggled to free himself from tangled bed sheets and ended up slipping off the bed to crash into hardwood floors. Stilling, he listened to the quiet house and the comforting snores of his grandmother down the hall. The woman was a terror. Waking her from her well earned ‘beauty sleep’ would have earned him a tirade. The skittering sound repeated as his phone lit up.

Crawling to the nightstand, kicking his way loose, he snatched his phone off of it and spotted Isaiah’s name. He answered, “Izzy, my grandma is sleeping. Are you trying to get me murdered?”

“Come with me to the beach,” Isaiah said, his rich baritone shaking and breathy in Eli’s ear.

Eli ran a hand over his face. “I’m already grounded for going to the movie with you. Izzy, I get in trouble again and we’ll never see each other again.”

“Eli, we’re never going to see each other again, anyway. Not after tonight,” Isaiah replied.

Eli’s blood ran cold. In seconds he was hopping back into last night’s jeans, stumbling to the window and popping it open. Cool salt-laden air hit him in the face. Isaiah stood in the spotlight created by the street light. He had a rucksack and his posture was unnaturally stiff as he waved. Eli pulled on a light jacket while jamming his wallet into the jeans and stepping into his flip flops. He couldn’t risk the stairs, so he shimmied down the oak tree. It wasn’t something he hadn’t done a million times before to spend extra time with Isaiah.

Isaiah caught him when he slipped. Eli reveled in the comfort of Isaiah’s hands on him. He spun in his arms to make it a real hug. Isaiah’s hands gripped him tightly in return. The rich scent of Isaiah’s cologne surrounded him. It was woodsy but also grassy. He took a deep breath but all too soon Isaiah let go. He grabbed Eli’s hand. Eli let Isaiah lead and it reminded him of the first time they had met. Eli had been the leader then because Isaiah had been new in town and so adorably lost. Eli had been lost too. He just hadn’t known it yet.

For several minutes they didn’t speak. Isaiah was quiet by nature, more thoughtful and observant. Eli constantly teased him, calling him a space cadet. Isaiah said he was observing the world and learning its secrets. They raced down the street and crossed over to the sand dunes. Once they were passed the playground and running on open sand, Eli stopped. It was too much. He felt too out of the loop, too surreal, and too alien.

Isaiah tugged but Eli dug his heels. Isaiah’s wide green eyes pleaded with him to move. Unable to resist him, Eli kicked off the flip flops, they weren’t helping his anyhow, and bare feet were faster on sand. He sank into the cold sand and kicked it up as he moved. Isaiah’s hand was sweaty in his. Eli wished he would speak. He trusted Isaiah with his life but Isaiah was the calm, steady one. If he was upset, there was a good reason, and his mind was going a million miles a second trying to figure it all out.

In a large empty stretch of sand where large rocks blocked the view of the town, Isaiah stopped. Eli was in good shape, Isaiah was in better but both boys were out of breath. Panting, they leaned over to catch their breaths. Isaiah stood slowly, scanning the sky, and turning to face Eli. His gaze was intense, full of emotions Eli couldn’t untangle.

“Izzy, please tell me what’s going on,” he begged.

“Last week Mr. Parker noticed. I thought I was okay but then Emma started following me around. She accidentally cut me in class. I knew. Eli, I am so, so sorry but I had to send the signal. I didn’t want to but some people dropped by my house.”

“Noticed what?” Eli asked.

Isaiah gave Eli a fond complicated look and murmured, “What you refuse to see, Eli. When I came to town I couldn’t even figure out clothes. I was so confused. I was… I am… I’m not normal.”

“Yeah right, you’re not normal,” Eli scoffed even as a weird chill raced up his spine. An image of Isaiah needing help with buttons bobbed to the surface and he has tied a tie around his arm, thinking it was a decorative band. Dozens of other memories bobbed up and Eli swayed.

“How not normal?” he asked, “Emma said the same thing to me. She said…”

Izzy puffed out a breath and asked, “What did Emma ask you?”

Eli stood up and regarded the purple black of the night sky. Stars decorated it all like diamond dust. There was no moon to obscure the view. Eli was an astronomy major. The sight calmed him as he cast his mind back to yesterday. Emma Parker from math class had grabbed him in the gym and asked him, “What’s wrong with Isaiah’s eyes?”

Eli tilted his head to stare into Isaiah’s eyes. The same vibrant, grassy green that he loved seemed to glow slightly in the low light. Isaiah turned his head a bit and it was as if they had a sheen. “She said your eyes were like a cat or a dog’s the way they reflect light. She said it wasn’t normal. But she was high. She’s always high.”

“Dilated pupils, Eli,” Isaiah told him. “She could see it. Why can’t you?”

They regarded each other. Eli was chilled by the ocean, the wind, and by the fear, he saw in Isaiah’s eyes.

“When you look at me, what do you see?” he asked and his eyes swirled again with intensity.

Eli frowned. He saw a lean boy, taller than him with muscled arms, natural hair, great big hands good for holding and his lovely green eyes. “I see you, Isaiah.”

Isaiah laughed, a choked and bitter thing dying halfway through. “You do, you really do, don’t you, Elijah?”

“Are you mad at me?” Eli asked.

Isaiah smiled and his eyes glowed a bit brighter. “No, I’m just surprised at how much I love you.”

“That’s stupid. You can’t love me half as much as I love you,” Eli teased.

“No, I bet I can’t,” Isaiah said with a grin. “I just wanted to try.”

His eyes watered. Eli pulled him into a hug. Isaiah’s breath hitched. Eli squeezed, even as icy fear slipped down his spine. Isaiah had just admitted he loved Eli for the first time and it didn’t feel like a happy romantic moment. It felt like an ending. Eli wasn’t sure he could go on like everything was okay if Isaiah left him. Isaiah made his living situation bearable. Isaiah made school tolerable. Isaiah made life better because Isaiah kind of was his life.

“C’mon stop being cryptic. Why are you leaving? Where are you going?” Eli asked, trying to be brave.

“Home,” he whispered.

Isaiah stepped away from Eli and pointed up. Eli was confused. “North?”

“I’m not… I’m,” Isaiah began and trailed off. He took a deep breath and murmured, “human. I’m not human, Elijah. Parker found out. That guy is retired FBI. He knows about all of it, Area 51, the visits, the stuff in Canada. He knows. So he knew who to call and he knew who would believe him. I’m in danger. I can’t stay.”

“Can’t stay? Alien? You’re not serious,” Eli said, denying all the memories that were congealing into a very strange mess with Isaiah at the center with eyestalks.

“El, my eyes glow. My blood is a bit pink…” Isaiah said flatly.

“I thought you were anemic.”

Isaiah grinned. “My skin is cooler than yours. When I got here last year I had no idea what basketball was and I thought baseball was the one with the paddles.”

“I thought you were homeschooled,” Eli said, feeling stupid and fighting against what felt true.

Isaiah touched Eli’s face. “You’re an idiot, sometimes.”

Eli felt heat flood his face. “I just, you were hot,” he replied with a shrug.

Isaiah looked up and grinned. “Well, I thought you were hot, so we’re even. I just, I didn’t want to leave without telling you goodbye,” he choked on the word ‘goodbye’ and Eli felt his heart cracking.

“No,” he protested.

“No?” Izzy replied.

“No goodbyes. I don’t want to be left behind.” Eli knew what he was suggesting.

Isaiah’s eyes were blazing a beautiful, unearthly green now. “What do you want?”

“To be with you,” Eli replied. His glowing eyes were strange and different and Isaiah’s. Who cared if he wasn’t human if he was still Isaiah?

“Who’s being dumb now? We belong together.” Eli told him.

“You can never come back.”

“Don’t care,” Eli told him. “We belong together. Unless,” he trailed off, doubt coursing through him.

“Unless?” Isaiah asked looking nervous.

It had been a really great year. Eli had always been a fringe character with his telescope and lack of friends. He had spent the three summers previous to Isaiah alone, reading. With Isaiah, he had still read but out loud to his new and only friend. Eli wasn’t sure who was more surprised when he was brave enough to kiss Isaiah. He should know Eli couldn’t give him up. But maybe Isaiah didn’t feel the same?

“You don’t want me to go,” Eli responded.

“Oh,” Isaiah breathed, grinning. “I didn’t think you’d want to come. It’s different.”

“Different can be good,” Eli replied. “Besides, I love aliens.”

“All aliens,” Isaiah teased.

Wind raced across the beach and the sky filled with lights. The two boys glanced up as a blueish beam lit up Isaiah. His eyes widened in panic and his hand reached out for Elijah. He took it. Eli was pulled into the circle of light.

“Are you sure?” Isaiah asked.

Eli pressed his lips to Isaiah’s. Isaiah’s arms slipped comfortingly around him, to hold Eli in place as they were taken into the air. It was going to be one hell of an adventure. He just wished he had kept his flip flops on. He couldn’t imagine spaceship floors were any more comfortable than wet cold sand. Not that it mattered as long as they were together, nothing did.

the end.

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Muddy Prints

(Written for my friend Amy B. The character names are her irl children and dogs. She asked me to write a fun story including her dogs and this is the fun result. – K)

“Lash is out,” Ralph whispered, giving his sister, Charlotte a poke. “Wake up Char, c’mon.”

The sky outside the window was silvery gray. Morning was still a long way off and Lash was out. The Siberian husky had a habit of getting into trouble if Gomez, their golden wasn’t there to watch him. Ralph shook his sister again. This time she grumbled a bit before opening her eyes.

“S’morning?” she asked, rubbing at her eyes.

“No, Lash is out,” Ralph repeated. “C’mon. We gotta go get him.”

Charlotte tossed her covers off and slipped into her trainers. Ralph was in PJs, so she didn’t bother with clothes except for her jacket and her tiara. It was sparkly with a pink boa around it and she was convinced it was lucky. Besides, a princess would never be caught out of bed without hers. She pulled the covers farther back to reveal Gomez.

“Wake up, Gomez. We have to go out,” Charlotte told the dog.

Gomez got up and beat both children out of the room. Ralph stuffed a tiny Charmander into his pocket for luck and followed his royal sister. The house was silent except for children and dog out of bed but still, they kept quiet. It would go better for everyone if they caught Lash themselves and got everyone back into bed before breakfast.

Slipping out the back door, they stood and stared at the thick mist creeping up over everything. The trees seemed haunted, the slide seemed even more haunted and worse, there was no sign of Lash. Ralph whistled. Gomez’s floppy ears perked up but there was no answer from the husky.

“C’mon Char, he can’t have got far,” he whispered.

Charlotte adjusted her tiara to give herself a moment to think. “Wait Ralph, Gomez can find Lash. He’s a good tracker. Right?”

Gomez sneezed.

“See? He says he can,” Charlotte insisted.

Ralph started walking. “We don’t have time to mess around.”

Charlotte knelt down next to Gomez. “You are a big, good dog and you can find Lash, can’t you?”

Gomez huffed in her direction. Charlotte pet his head. Ralph rolled his eyes as the big dog sat down. Charlotte gently took hold of Gomez’s ears to get his attention. “There’s a treat in it for you.”

Gomez didn’t budge.

“Okay, two but that’s all I’ve got in my pockets,” Charlotte said, standing up.

Gomez sniffed the air before taking off down the road. The look Charlotte gave Ralph was very annoying. But he followed his sister as she took off running after Gomez. The air smelled wet like rain was coming but Ralph thought it felt too still. He couldn’t hear a single thing rustling. All the animals were asleep still, or gone. He put on a burst of speed to keep up. There was no way he wanted to get left behind when everything was so eerie.

Gomez didn’t stop at the edge of their property but dove headlong into the trees. Charlotte had grabbed his tail to keep him from getting too far ahead. The dog took this with a limited amount of dignity, occasionally stopping to give the human puppy an annoyed eye roll. Charlotte would roll her eyes back and he would be off again.

“We can’t go too far,” Ralph said.

“Can too, if Gomez says so,” Charlotte replied. “We’re already in trouble.”

“What’s a little more?” Ralph replied, snorting as his sister shrugged.

Gomez stopped. He stood stock still and the twilight bleached the yellow out of his coat, making him look for an instant like a stone statue. He stood before a circle of mushrooms, tail low and straight. Ralph pulled Charlotte back before she entered the ring. In the center of it were two large pawprints. Ralph pulled Charlotte back to see where the pawprints entered the circle.

“Lash went that way,” Charlotte said, pointing to the opposite side of the ring.

Ralph shook his head. “No Char, Lash went in this way, but he didn’t come out the other side. There’d be more prints.”

“Dogs don’t just disappear Ralph,” she said and moved forward.

Gomez growled and Charlotte turned to comfort the big dog. Ralph examined the ring from all angles. It was wide enough for a bunch of people to have a picnic inside. It smelled like mushrooms and wet grass. Gomez growled when he touched a mushroom, warning him away.

“Lash is in there,” he told his sister and dog. “It’s a fairy ring.”

Fairies are nice,” Charlotte said. “Like Tinkerbell.”

“Right, are you sure?” Ralph asked Char because he wasn’t convinced.

“Mm-hmm,” she said, bobbing her head. “‘Sides, I’m a princess. They especially like princesses.”

Ralph didn’t know anything about fairies. He liked nice normal things like numbers and video games. Charlotte was good with animals and fairies were a sort of animal. Plus, he trusted Charlotte.  “Okay, but we go together. Hold hands.”

Gomez disagreed. Rumbling, he wouldn’t move, going so far as to sit flat, facing home. Charlotte took Ralph’s hand and led them into the center of the ring. At first, they just stood in the center of the grass but the air shimmered and Lash appeared. Lash barked and crashed into them, knocking them to the grass.

“Down boy!” Charlotte exclaimed while high voices giggled around them.

Ralph got Lash to sit and spotted a boy with dragonfly wings sitting around the dog’s neck. The boy has pointed ears, bright green eyes and wore a pair of jeans and a Minecraft Tee. He also had a tiny gold crown on his head. In the air around them, more fairies were fluttering around the circle. They were all colors and wore normal people clothes.

Charlotte was mesmerized. “Wow!”

“Dance! Play,” a girl fairy commanded.

The circle expanded and they couldn’t see poor Gomez in the grass anymore. Instead, they spotted a square for dancing next to a horseshoe pit. Beyond the pit was a fire where several strange creatures with hooves for feet were roasting marshmallows on sticks. Ralph saw groups of fairies carrying large hoops and dipping them into soap to create giant bubbles.

“Look! That’s why Lash ran in here! Silly dog can’t resist bubbles!” Charlotte squealed as Lash jumped and popped bubbles.

Gales of laughter escaped the fairies. Charlotte jumped and popped a few herself as Ralph watched nervously. This was cool but if they couldn’t see the ring any longer, how could they get back to Gomez? How would they get back home?

“All dance and play to honor the king!” the girl fairy commanded.

A ball landed in his arms. It was small but the right size for kicking, so he kicked it back to a group of tiny gnomes in red or green hats. They beckoned him over. Not wanting to be rude and seeing the girl fairy still hovering, he joined the game.

They played for hours. Charlotte found herself and Lash draped in flower crowns while Ralph was shown how to play ten pins. Fairies were good fun and had loads of sweets on offer. Charlotte ate a fluffy frosted purple cake. Ralph stuck to the weird sour hard candies and Lash ate whatever no one else wanted.

Breathing heavy after another round of horseshoes, the kids sat on the grass and grinned at each other. Fairies started curling up in balls around them. Some snored softly while others quietly talked to one another while drinking dandelion tea. It was clear that the party was coming to an end.

The boy in the crown bowed low before Charlotte. “Your majesty,” he said, “you have honored me. But the party has ended.” He winked. “I love a princess at my parties.”

“Your majesty,” Charlotte said and bowed low. She kicked Ralph in the shins until he bowed too.

The king grinned and disappeared.

The girl fairy who had commanded them to play appeared. Her long pink hair floated in the breeze her glittery dragonfly wings made as she hovered near them. She smiled brightly. With a bow, she waved a wand around the circle. They blinked and spotted Gomez, still sulking in the tall grass.

Lash barked. Gomez flicked an ear. Lash barked again. Gomez hopped up and spun to see the two children and the Siberian Husky. He huffed very disapprovingly at them. Lash licked his ear and set off toward home, not worried at all about the trouble he had caused.

Gomez, with a dignified sniff, herded the children back down the path where the mist was lifting. Charlotte looked at the sky. “How long were we gone, Ralph?”

“Hours,” he replied.

“Still dark,” Charlotte whispered back.

They reached the house and the lights weren’t on. Lash was by the back door, waiting with bright, knowing eyes.

“Could be the next day?” Ralph wondered.

“Mom would have called the police,” Charlotte argued.

“Yeah,” Ralph agreed. “Should we tell them?”

Charlotte grinned at her brother. “No.” To Lash, she said, “Thanks for letting us meet your friends.”

With an eye roll, Lash went inside. Gomez did not follow. He did block the kids way back inside. Charlotte tried to go around the dog but he wouldn’t budge.

“Move! We can’t get in trouble now!” Charlotte growled.

Gomez growled back and nosed her pockets.

“You owe him two treats,” Ralph reminded her.

“He’s going to get us in trouble,” Charlotte replied.

“Not if you feed him,” Ralph said.

“Oh, alright,” Charlotte agreed. “I did promise.”

She handed the dog the treats and he inhaled them before Lash could turn up. Dropping his jaw in a doggy smile, he let the human puppies return to their beds. He joined Charlotte under the covers.

In the morning, they got grounded. Muddy footprints had given them away and parents don’t believe in fairies.

The End.

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