Monthly Archives: December 2015

Creepypasta contest

Just received confirmation on my entries for Bogleech’s 2016 Creepypasta cook-off. The contest still has a few days left for entries, so if you’ve got anything I’d highly encourage you to submit. The more people submit, the more we all get to read!

Bogleech 2015 creepypasta cook-off

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Fire and Ox Blood

The fire in the kiln roared with many voices. It mouthed around the pots; sucking like a great, hungry beast. Sam shielded his eyes with a chunk of green glass and tossed another log in the firebox.

A brick fell. Sam listened to the cursing as it was set back to right. Skip lurched into view. No one had ever been able to get a straight story on what happened to his other leg, but the man walked with an unmistakable gait. He was grinning as he approached the kiln.

Sam tossed another log. The fire was nearing its peak, nearing three thousand degrees. Even the ash of the wood itself was turning liquid, dripping onto pots. Kiln tears, they called them. Tears of joy.

Skip let out a hoot and sat on a pile of wood near Sam. The man was never quiet. Even when he wasn’t talking he was jingling his keys, sucking his dentures, making sure you knew he was there.

“Please don’t,” Sam said when the other man took out a half-smoked butt.

“What’s one more?” Skip cackled, and lit up anyway.

Sam watched the kiln. The bricks had gold cracks in-between, as if the fire itself was mortar.

“Helluva thing,” Skip said. He just couldn’t let five minutes go by without a word. “All my stuff make it in there?”

“Yup. There was room.” Especially after he’d cracked three of Erin’s full-size figures during the loading process. They stood off to the side in the slag heap.

Skip took a long drag and let the smoke go in a dirty cloud. It didn’t smell clean, like woodsmoke. It smelled like the man’s insides.

“Been thinking.”

Sam tossed another log.

Skip took a sidelong look. “Been thinking,” he said again, “’bout the August show.”

“Space is all rented.”

“I know, I know.” Skip seemed distracted. He took another puff. “I was just wondrin’…”

Sam tilted his head back and listened to the fire. It really did sound like it was talking. Breathing. Like it was alive.

“Since, well, that gal Erin is short a few pieces…” Skip looked over slyly. “Wouldn’t there still be space?”

“She paid for her space eight months ago,” Sam responded automatically, “she’s still got enough pieces to set up.”

“Oh I know, I know all that.” Skip was grinning, flicking his butt out. “but still, say, if she was to pull out…”

Sam didn’t answer. He looked up at the chimney, at the atomized carbon that drifted barely-visible on the night breeze.

“You ever hear the story of the first red?” he asked.

Skip’s grin flagged. “No, can’t say that I have,” he admitted, still watching Sam with a calculating expression.

Sam took a deep breath and reeled his head back.

“Dates back to China,” he said, “some early dynasty. With the very first wood kilns. There was a load of pots being fired for the emperor. When they broke open the door, they found that some of the pots, rather than turning green, had developed the most vivid crimson glaze. Oxblood, they called it.”

Sam stopped a moment, listening to the kiln. If you had a good enough ear, you never had to rely on pyrometers or other equipment.

“When the emperor saw the glaze, he declared it to be magnificent and immediately demanded more. But there was a problem.”

Sam stopped to throw another log on. Three thousand degrees. Hotter than a crematorium.

Skip was shifting uneasy in his seat. He looked like he wanted to change the subject, but didn’t want to push Sam. Sam was one of the few potters who still tolerated him.

“Know how they got the red?”

Skip shook his head.

“A rooster wandered in through one of the vent holes and died in the flames. The smoke from his body reduced the atmosphere in the kiln, made the vivid reds. But the potter didn’t know that. He tried everything he could to reproduce the pots for the emperor, and failed every time.”

Skip was squirming. He never liked to sit still very long. He had ruined six bisque loads so far by wandering off for a cigarette at the wrong moment. He also had a tendency to gesticulate when he talked, which led to a few tragedies at the pottery wheels.

“Finally, in despair, the potter flung himself into the kiln when it was in full flame. And they had their crimson pots again.”

Sam stopped talking abruptly. He could feel Skip’s discomfort at the silence.

Skip rocked in his seat. Finally, he said, “look, we don’t have to talk about this now. It’s getting late.”

Sam rose and picked up another log. “Yes,” he said, “it really is late.”

 

A week after they started the fire, they broke down the door of the kiln. Erin was at the forefront with Sam, short blond hair caught up in a kerchief. She whistled low and picked up a pot.

“Just look at that red,” she marveled.

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I’ve got a piece on another blog!

Another announcement, relatively minor. I’ve got a piece running in the eclectic flomm blog. It’s an opinion piece, a little different from my usual fare, but please check it out!

I also have two pieces in the American River Review, which will be throwing its release party tonight at 7:00pm sharp! Yours truly will be doing a reading, which I may be able to take video of(depending how nice my seat neighbors are.)

See you in the funny papers

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The Furry Family at Giggle Park

The book came in a bundle of clothes and toys she had gotten from Michaela, otherwise Sofia would never have read it. The characters were small, squat people in furry suits who played and bounced all day in a cross between a heavily-frosted cake and a theme park. The kind of sugary treacle she so loathed in children’s products. But Deacon was six and hadn’t quite started on his ‘too old for this’ phase so she brought the book out at bedtime.

“What’s that?” he asked, foot hanging out of his balloon quilt.

She tucked it back in. “A book from Michaela. You remember her and Sawyer, don’t you?”

“The bossy girl.”

“She gave us this book,” Sofia said with a smile, “so I thought you might like to hear it.”

His little face drifted into placid content after a few pages, and he was asleep by the time she closed the book.

Dear God, the saccharine tone was obnoxious. But he had liked it. She had a hard-bitten rule not to dismiss children’s media simply based on her adult preferences, and so she read it to him the next night. And the next. And the next.

 

The shift began gradually so that she hardly had time to notice anything at all. In general, Deacon began acting more cutesy and younger than he was, and sometimes he would ask for the book in the middle of the day. It seemed harmless enough, so Sofia indulged him.

The only visible symptom Deacon developed was what her mother called, ‘mentionitis.’ He couldn’t let a single event go by without comparing it to something in the book. This seemed normal, until the day Sofia took him to the supermarket.

“How’s about rigatoni for dinner, squirt?” she asked, dumping cans into the cart.

He didn’t answer. She turned to find he was weaving his fingers into the wire of the cart, mouth a downturned bow.

“What?” she asked.

“Mrs. Fur only cooks sweet things for her family,” he said.

She ruffled the hair on his forehead. “That’s because furries have a much simpler digestive system,” she said, “if a human ate like that, they’d get so sick they’d start talking funny.”

Deacon’s frown deepened. He refused to move with the basket when she got it rolling again, so Sofia sighed and tugged on him.

“Come on, Deacon,” she said, “don’t be a brat.”

Deacon was staring death at her.

“What?” she asked.

“Mrs. Fur only calls her family sweet names,” he said, tears pooling in the corners of his eyes.

Sofia rolled her eyes. “Oh stop it, Deacon.”

She jumped back as the boy erupted into a scream as if he’d been hit. Sofia felt her resolve draining as she hunched away from the accusing stares all around her.

“Deacon, you have to stop this,” she said weakly, “it’s just silly.”

Deacon’s response was to take another lungful of air and continue screaming. Abandoning hope, Sofia grabbed him up and ran from the store. Deacon began thrashing like a shark on a fishing line. It was all she could do to manhandle him into his booster seat.

Deacon bit her. He was missing his front incisor so her flesh flooded into the gap as the edges of the neighboring teeth dug in and drew blood.

Sofia cried out and thrust him back into the chair. Deacon was crying, but it was all breath. What tears began in the store evaporated, now the rest of his face scrunched up as if attempting to make room for his mouth.

Sofia had to hold him down with one hand as she struggled to buckle him in, praying that nobody was calling the cops on her. She peeled out of the parking lot, tires screeching in the same octave as her son.

She put him to bed as soon as they got home to the apartment. He rose, cranky, in time for dinner, but wouldn’t give more than one-word answers before bed again.

Sofia sat up that night. He had never been a cranky child. Even as a baby he had never cried. What was the sudden drastic shift in temperament?

 

The next day, with Deacon safely ensconced at school, Sofia paid a visit to his pediatrician. It wasn’t reassuring.

“So, no fever, chills, or aches?” Dr. Bachman asked, tapping through WebMD.

Sofia shook her head.

“No recent head injuries?”

Sofia thought a moment, then shook her head.

“No dietary changes?”

She shook her head.

Bachman tapped away. “So, these sudden mood changes, they started fairly recently?”

She nodded. “Do you think it could be some sort of early-onset disorder?”

“Could be,” the doctor said mildly. He was still looking at the computer.

Sofia looked down at her folded hands.

“He’s never really been an imaginative child,” she said, “but he’s become…dissatisfied with reality. Angry, even.”

Then Bachman jokingly said, “it didn’t happen after you read The Furry Family at Giggle Park, did it?”

The smile faded from his face when he saw the look on Sofia’s.

“How did you know?” she asked lowly.

Bachman tried to smile again. “That’s a very popular book right now.”

He seemed uncomfortable under her stare.

“Some families find it difficult to deal with children’s popular media,” he said evasively, “they may show a profound lack of understanding towards the child’s feelings; the child may pick up on this and act out accordingly.”

“I see,” Sofia said.

“Like many such crazes, I’m sure this book is just a phase and in a month or so he will be fixated on something else.”

Sofia paid him for nothing and left.

 

She visited Michaela to ask if Sawyer had been enjoying any fits of pique lately. She stopped mid-sentence when she saw the wound high on Michaela’s cheekbone. Crusts of red puckered the pink skin like clumsy stichwork. Michaela gave a dry laugh and pointed to it.

“My little princess,” she said.

When Sofia’s look of horror didn’t abate, Michaela tucked a lock of copper hair behind her ear and rolled her eyes.

“She’s been having quite a temper lately. I think she might be hypoglycemic.”

Sofia cleared her throat. “Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that. I’ve been having trouble with Deacon lately.”

“It’s that bread you’re feeding him, isn’t it? I’m telling you, once you go gluten free, the change is amazing.”

Sofia forced herself to smile. “No, actually, he’s giving me trouble about a book.”

“Oh, that thing. Yes, Sawyer went ape for it. I had to give it away to get a little peace.”

Michaela touched another strand of hair away from her forehead. She had a shoe-shaped bruise just below her hairline.

“So the book…affected her?” Sofia asked.

“Worse than those awful Shrek movies. I don’t know what she sees in the stupid thing.” Michaela arranged her cardigan decorously on her chest. “I have some more books if you want them. Some cookbooks. Easy, even if you’re not a natural cook.”

“I have a doctor’s appointment,” Sofia lied and fled.

 

It was just a book. She paged through it just to be sure. No subliminal messages hidden in the illustrations, no secret meanings that she could see. All the book did was present a world so impossibly perfect and sugary that real life looked like hell compared to it.

Maybe that was it. That was all. It spoke to kids on such an effective level that its voice was stronger than parents or peers, seducing them away from reality.

She would stop reading it. In time, he would forget.

 

That night in bed she brought out Hunches in Bunches and Deacon’s face fell.

“Where’s my book?” he asked.

Sofia cleared her throat. “Sweetie, mommy needs a break from that book. And you know, sometimes you can love a thing too much. It makes everything else harder when you only have one thing to love, because you can never get anything else done. Do you see?”

Deacon was beginning to shake. “I wan’ my book,” he said.

Want,” Sofia said, “and I’m sorry, but the answer is no. What do you do with the answer you get?”

Deacon did not respond ‘you don’t throw a fit,’ nor did he actually throw a fit. Instead his face churned into a look of hatred so concentrated she worried about his face muscles.

I wan’a read about Mrs. Fur,” he said in a strained voice, “I wan’a read it for sleepytimes.

She had never, not once, used that word to describe bedtime.

“You can have this book,” she said in the calmest voice she could muster, “or you can have nothing.”

I want my book,” Deacon screamed. He threw himself backwards and began pounding on the wall with his feet.

Sofia forced herself to walk out.

 

She looked at the book again. The asinine illustrations of the family of humanoids wearing full-body fuzzy parkas bouncing and singing and being generally cute. The short, simple words that flowed from end rhyme to end rhyme.

Something thumped against the wall in Deacon’s room.

Was there something hidden in it? Something she couldn’t perceive with her adult eyes, something that perverted children’s perception so that they gradually lost the taste for anything besides the book?

It was a quick trip to the incinerator chute.

That night was broken up by random noises of things being tossed in Deacon’s room. Sofia barely slept. In the morning, they were both going to the pediatrician. They would get medication, or therapy, but they were working on this.

 

“Deacon?” Sofia called. She wiggled the chair she had wedged beneath the knob until it came loose. “Are you ready to be good?”

The door swung open on a scene of chaos. Everything that could be was broken. Furniture upturned in a show of strength impressive for a six-year-old.

And in the middle of all it, like a baleful god, was her son.

Deacon’s face gathered into a snarl. His lip drew down to display the broken fence of his bottom teeth.

“Where’s my book,” he whined, “I wan’ it.”

His posture was hunched and knotted. He stood more like an ape than a little boy, arms flexed to show muscle.

And it was so completely perverse how he spoke high in his throat, in a baby voice he had never used before. He didn’t even sound human.

Sofia whispered, “Deacon.”

Her underused hind brain sent signals to her feet and she began backing away.

“I wan’ it,” he repeated more forcefully, fingers curling into talons.

You are not a monster, Sofia thought listlessly. You are a six year old boy. You didn’t even weigh eight pounds at birth. You kiss me on the hand every time I drop you off at school. You’re not going to kill me.

With an unholy howl, Deacon launched himself at her.

He tore after her throat, screaming nonsensically as he beat her with every available limb. Sofia’s startled muscles flew into action. She tried to pry her son’s hands from her vitals, finally managing to fling him away. Deacon hit the upturned mattress and sprang back, launching himself at her legs this time. Sofia could not kick her son, not even now, so she tried instead to fall on him, confine him with her weight. It only half-worked. Deacon clawed and spit at her, trying to pry his legs from beneath her.

She didn’t know he had grabbed the bookend until he hit her with it. L. Frank Baum’s bronze head thudded into her collarbone. Sofia fell back with a cry of pain.

Deacon got to his feet, cords standing out on his neck. Spittle flew from his mouth as he breathed heavily. He raised the bookend like a club. Sofia crawled backwards, unable to decide between righting herself or grabbing for a makeshift weapon. Deacon screamed. Someone answered him.

Sawyer appeared at the window. She had to’ve shimmied up the fire stairs to do it. She had a feral expression equal to Deacon’s, and her cashmere jumper was soiled and torn. A few strands of red hair were caught in the crack between her canine and incisor teeth. She had a knife.

With a howl, the little girl launched herself at Deacon. They fell to the floor, scrabbling at each other. Sofia managed to get to her feet.

With the ferocity of tigers, the two children writhed around, trying to draw first blood.

Sofia had a single moment of doubt, a single moment where parental urge nearly overcame instinct, and then an errant tooth hit her in face as Deacon screamed. Shaking, she turned and fled.

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Habit

Darryl made it a whole six days before the craving kicked in this time. He didn’t even bother locking the door to the basement and all its coffins, he just grabbed up a few things and ran.

His sleep-deprived logic being what it was, though, the things he packed didn’t have much in the way of practicality.

He tied the cigarettes and the cough medicine up in the one extra shirt he brought and abandoned the awkward weight of the umbrella after three blocks. Then he just ran and ran, sucking oxygen greedily as he pelted the asphalt with his feet. He ran without a plan or a map, on and on in a straight line. He felt strange in the naked daylight. He knew he must look strange to the people passing by, with his patchy stubble and his greasy, much-worn t shirts.

He collapsed on a street that was far beyond his starting point, but still not far enough. His blood wheezed in constricted veins. His stomach pinched.

On the street, between a boutique and a hardware store, was a diner. He scraped himself up off the pavement and went in.

The diner was practically empty. A sour old woman sat in the far corner booth, glaring out the window. Two men sat at the counter, five seats apart, each nursing a coffee. The waitress was topping off one of their cups. She looked too young to be working at such a place. Her name tag had metallic backing, he couldn’t read it with the glare from the front window.

The waitress looked up. “Sit down, if you’ve a mind.”

It sounded less like an invitation and more like a stern missive from a teacher. Darryl immediately dropped to a stool. His weight fell too close to one edge and he tilted dangerously. Darryl grabbed the counter to save himself. The other two counter-dwellers glanced over then away.

The waitress came over, steaming pot in her hand. “What do you want?”

It had been so long since anyone had asked him that question, Darryl felt he had to savor it. To stall for time, he took another look at the waitress’s name tag.

“Suzanne,” he pronounced carefully.

She looked taken aback. “Yes?” she asked.

Darryl set his elbows to the counter and tried to look as natural as possible.

“Well—” he began.

He stopped.

He had never even considered money. When money was required, it was given to him in very specific amounts. His pockets were so empty they were practically vacuums.

Suzanne read something in his panicked expression. Without being asked, she set a white cup on the counter and filled it to the brim. She left and returned with cream packets and the white sugar dispenser. Darryl waited until she drifted to service another customer before he accepted it. He dumped half the sugar into the cup, washing down the syrupy mixture by sucking down each individual cream packet.

The man on the end left, pulling on a trucker’s hat. The old woman crankily called for ketchup. The man to Darryl’s right got up, spilling change on the counter. The old woman demanded a fresh pepper shaker, hers was stale. Suzanne lingered over a spot on the counter, wiping in patient circles. The old woman got up and walked to the door, teetering on orthopedic heels and shooting venomous glances at the counter.

As the door swung shut, Suzanne muttured, “penny tip. Worse than nothin’.”

Darryl could not tell if he was being spoken to, and said nothing.

Suzanne gave up on the counter, tucking the rag at her waist. “If the service is so terrible, she’d do well not to come here. But then,” she sighed, “she’d have nothing to complain about.

Suzanne looked directly at him for the first time. She smiled understandingly.

“How long?” she asked.

Darryl wished he had left something in the cup, so he could tip the last little dregs into his mouth and have some barrier between the two of them.

“How long since what?”

“That’s what I’m askin’.” Suzanne said. She took a notebook from her pocket and a pencil from her hair and wrote something.

“I’ve got a place, if you’re kicking the habit,” Suzanne said, “not like a church group or anything. Believe me, I know what that’s like.”

Darryl said, “I’m not sure—”

“It’s okay,” Suzanne said, ripping the paper off and pushing it face-down across the counter to him, “you don’t have to say anything. Like I said, I understand. You can go if you want or not. It’s up to you.”

She left the paper on the counter and walked away. Darryl just looked at the paper. And looked.

 

The street lights were already coming on. They were the orange kind, they made blue shadows. Darryl sat beneath one because he did not want to step out of the pool of light.

The place just looked like a plain white house. That stalled him more than anything. The plain facade could be hiding a flophouse, or even a feelgood cult interested in liberating his soul.

His pathetic bundle dangled from one hand. The cough syrup made a liquid sound. To stave off the pangs of withdrawal, he had sloshed down several helpings of the stuff. It did not help.

He heard the rock of bad springs as someone got out of a car. Darryl’s heightened senses told him who it was before Suzanne even stepped out of the Dodge Caravan.

“Well, come in if you’re comin’,” she said. She started forward without looking to see if he would follow. He did.

Suzanne knocked on the door four times and rang the bell twice. The door opened on a pudgy Hispanic woman in sweats.

“I found the codeine,” Suzanne said, “and the Epsom salt. This is Darryl. Have you already started dinner?”

And just like that, he was in.

It was not at all what he expected. People in plain sweats or pajamas lounged around a TV or stood chatting in doorways. A few had the telltale drawn look of heroin users. One woman couldn’t stop grinding her teeth from side to side. But they were all relaxed and talking and didn’t look pursued.

Darryl almost turned and ran.

He hadn’t been in such a well-lit house in so long. It was being lived in, rather than inhabited. The prospect that he could possibly, probably, perhaps stay in this world was almost more terrifying than the prospect of being caught.

“Can you help me with the groceries?” Suzanne asked, proffering an armful of bags.

He hid his hands behind his back. His fingers were scarred with chew-marks from desperate times, when he’d sliced his incisors through his own flesh in an attempt to stem the craving.

“I’m not—” he began, but she cut him off with a smile.

“It’s fine if you’re not feeling well. Sit down, then.” She retracted the offer and went off to the kitchen. Her understanding made him feel more ashamed, so he lurked in the doorway.

Dinner was a thin stew, with tiny, easily chewable meat chunks and vegetables so overcooked they practically disintegrated. Darryl watched the others eat. Some didn’t have any teeth and pulped the stew with their gums. He had a feeling this was how most meals went.

Afterwards, Suzanne beckoned him.

“Would you mind, terribly, helping me get the linens?” she said.

Feeling a bit braver with a bowl of something warm inside him, Darryl nodded.

Calling them linens was charitable. A bunch of refugees from suburban closets of the past few decades; torn sheets with filmation cartoon characters and zebra patterns populated the cabinet.

Suzanne smiled as she handed him a pile of neatly-folded sheets. “Thank you. it’s a help.”

She touched his arm, and that was all he needed. He followed her to the beds, larger rooms partitioned clumsily in half with drywall. Some with mattresses. Some with cots. Suzanne took the sheets from him and spread them over the bare beds with care. She did everything with care, Darryl noted.

“If you’re wonderin’ why I haven’t asked you any questions,” Suzanne said out of nowhere, “it’s because if I don’t ask you anything, you don’t have to lie.”

Darryl felt he should defend himself. “I don’t lie.”

Suzanne smiled. “Well then, we should be happy with each other. I’m not gonna ask you to work, I’m not even gonna ask you to stay. That’s not what this place is about.”

She tucked in the corner of a sheet, smoothing out the wrinkles.

“You’ve got a look about you,” she continued, “and I’ve seen that look before. You got a habit you can’t kick. I can’t save you from it. No one else can save you from it, the only one who can is you.”

She patted the bed, turning to him with a grin.

“Good one, huh? Momma beat the liquor, but it beat her liver before it left. Well, we don’t have many open spaces. You can sleep in Leonard’s room, he grinds his teeth, or you can sleep with Marcy. She’s a snorer.”

Darryl suppressed the urge to chew on his fingers. “Somewhere light.”

Suzanne raised an eyebrow.

“I have nyctophobia,” he lied, “I’m…I can’t stand being in the dark.”

She smiled at him. “Well, if you’ve a mind, you can sit up in the living room with me. Always keep a lamp on to read by.”

An old cowboy movie fuzzed in and out of being on a TV so old it had rabbit ears. Suzanne sat in an easy chair missing a leg so it had to be pressed up against the wall. There was a large black man dozing on the sofa, so Darryl sat with his legs splayed out on the floor next to Suzanne. He felt like a kid.

God, he couldn’t remember being a kid. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d used a stove. Tonight had been the first cooked meal in…years? Decades, maybe.

Suzanne licked her thumb and turned a page.

Maybe he could learn it all again. Maybe if someone else had the patience to teach him, he could have the patience to learn.

Maybe…

There was a rattle outside.

Darryl froze.

Suzanne sighed. “Damn kids.” she made as if to get up. Darryl beat her to it,

“I’m—I’ll go—I should check it out,” he stammered as he walked to the door.

Suzanne sank back down with a shrug.

It was dark outside. Darryl shrank into the porch light, making himself as small as he could. He couldn’t see anything. Maybe it was just neighborhood kids.

Burt landed soundlessly in front of him. The red plaid of his shirt and darker maroon of his vest were nearly black in the streetlight, his dead-white skin was an unwholesome orange tint.

“Now Darryl,” he said calmly, “you really need to confine your errands to a smaller field, we can’t keep coming to get you when you get lost.”

Darryl didn’t scream. Years of training went into effect and he went limp.

Burt extended his hand. Darryl obediently stepped forward for examination. Burt looked him over like a horse, even checked his teeth.

“They fed you,” he said, “such a nice gesture. Deserves a good turn, wouldn’t you say?”

Darryl was too frozen to feel horror.

Burt’s wife landed on the lawn. Save for the neckerchief that was at least twenty years out of fashion and her bored, flinty gaze she could be any other housewife.

“Stacy,” Burt said, “our Darryl’s made a few friends.”

Stacy didn’t even look at him. She was sweeping her gaze up and down the exterior of the house, sneer curling her pretty mouth.

“Well, since you’ve gone and gotten social, I suppose we can’t hold it against you.” Burt patted Darryl amiably on the head. The pat turned into a press and Darryl was borne down to the yard. “You did have us worried, but as long as this doesn’t become a habit—”

The door creaked open, spilling more light onto the lawn. Burt and his wife nimbly moved away from it in a movement so natural it was like a dance.

“Darryl?” Suzanne called out. “What’s keeping you?”

Burt made the first move. He stepped into the pool of light, squinting as he smiled so Suzanne wouldn’t see the red in his eyes. “Howdy do. Name’s Burt—”

“—and Stacy—”

“Daughtry.”

Suzanne furrowed her brow, looking over at Darryl’s rigid form. Burt moved forward a little more, drawing her attention away again.

“We want to thank you for watching after our…Darryl like this,” Burt said, extending his hand to give a firm handshake, “we don’t mean him to be any trouble. We would love it if you invited us in for a cup of coffee.”

Suzanne’s gaze was on the perfect white of Burt’s grin.

Darryl ground his face into the dirt. He almost screamed ‘no, you are worth so much more, just forget saving anyone and just run, do what no one before you had the sense to do.’

Almost.

“That’s sounds great,” Suzanne said in a dazed voice. She opened the door for the couple and shut it behind them.

Darryl was still on the ground when Burt came back out with a bowl.

“Now Darryl,” he said reasonably, “you can come help us clean up in a bit. And after that, when we get home, maybe you should take a rest. You seem to have been overdoing it lately, but we don’t blame you.”

And he set the bowl sloshing with blood directly in front of Darryl’s face.

The sickeningly sweet smell made him want to vomit through his traitorously watering mouth.

Burt was above him. Burt was all he could see.

“Come on now,” he said, “there’s a good boy.”

Tired as Darryl was, that did not stop him from crawling hand over hand to sink his face in the bowl and drink every last drop.

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