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The Young Girl and Death

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Art: The Young Girl and Death, Marianne Stokes, 1900
Text: Feo Amante, 2017

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SUMMONING LOVE

normanlindseySUMMONING LOVE
by E.C. McMullen Jr.
Copyright 2016

Water and, of all things, feathers gently fountained from Flutestuf’s pentagram. He slowly shook his head in puzzlement.
‘Well, it’s not like I’m summoning a demon, after all,’ he thought. Those like himself, who practised the Magik Arts, gave a rather simple banner to whatever lay beyond the veil of reality. There was this world and on the other side was the Otherworld.

Flutestuf was part of a small cabal of Mystics who suspected that the Otherworld in truth consisted of many worlds. He’d prepared himself accordingly. Unliked by even the natural beings of his own kind, Flutestuf was determined not only to be loved by another, but to love another.

He would experience the dreams and nightmares of poets.

Witches and Wizards shunned love and lovers, called it a lie, a myth for the weak. Maybe Flutestuf was weak.

He looked to the large mirror he’d set against the wall. It was the best mirror he could find. Framed in lavish gold it revealed every hairy hoary detail of Flutestuf’s wicked face. If the poets told the truth, one day he would stand before that mirror with his one true love and at last, not only see love’s reflection in her face, but see what love revealed in his own.

By the Gods he was sick of his face!

It was time for a change and he wanted, needed to believe that love would cure him of his own repulsion. He needed to be loved. He Needed to Love!

There was the slightest of splash behind him and he turned to see the feathers blanketing the water’s surface, parting. Fingers rose followed by… Flutestuf felt himself involuntarily gasp – just a little – the rising fingers were followed by the loveliest hand he’d ever seen.

Then the loveliest arm he’d ever seen!

Another arm! A back and shoulders rose up without a head, but where the head should be mist swirled around, creating for the creature from an Otherworld, a head and body that could live in this world.

Flutestuf was giddy, his patience tormented. If he was sitting in a chair he’d be on the edge of it. As it was, he crouched down upon his hooves, gazing in wonderment as the rest of the fogbound body rose from the water, draped in the feathers that refitted themselves into the slightest of clothes.

The vapor moved away from him, but no, fog formed flesh into a lovely young woman reclining nude before him. Well, not entirely nude with the feathered clothes, but such accoutrements only accented her delightful nakedness.

His Satyr soul wanted to bray out loud in delight. Flutestuf repressed his goat instinct to savage her innocence. He’d had that before, often, his entire life. He was beyond bored with the disappointed orgasm-aftermath of following his loins over his heart.

Her face formed. Her nose, lips (he felt that he’d cry if he dared kiss them), and eyes. By the Gods her eyes! They gazed at him, in him, surely into the deepest part of where even he feared to look.

He felt his heart beating, punching, bullying his other parts within to get out of its way. This is what the poets said, wasn’t it? When the heart does this, it’s love?

But what was happening to his own body, even while this lovely being formed before him? His Satyr nature joined in celebration with his heart. Flutestuf’s rod was rapidly enlarging, emerging from its sheath, storming out of his hair. He closed his legs over it while it was still possible, before it swung up erect, hard and demanding, as if a sword ready to duel.

Painful. He fell to his knees as if in supplication to the beauty before him, but it was really to adjust his engorging member, already straining at its moors.

Resist! He had to resist his bestial nature. He knew all there was to know about mere rutting. He wanted love!

His heart wanted love. His body wanted rut. They worked together to conspire against his mind, so desperate to contain them.

Yet there was his distinctly male gaze.

Flutestuf gazed at those eyes which gazed so warmly, acceptingly, lovingly back at him. Was even his own Mother’s love ever so complete?

Flutestuf gazed at this beautiful creature’s breasts, loving eyes of their own that saw everything and nothing. Oh yes. Surely that was their poetry. He would write poems to his love’s eyes and breasts.

He gazed at her fully formed legs and between them. Her gender was still forming there. Oh please let it not be a penis again.

This was not Flutestuf’s first attempt, and the last time he’d summoned a young Succubus, both nymph and satyr in one form.

He named it Scha and they’d enjoyably dallied for a time, but eventually Flutestuf realized he didn’t actually love Scha. For all of Scha’s youthful femininity, it still emitted a mild yet distinct male spoor.

So one day he looked at himself in the mirror and saw – no love. No amorous stranger cast its expression upon his features. He only saw his face: His foul, unloving face.

His time with Scha was a lie, but it wasn’t Scha’s lie. It was his own.

He’d allowed the beauty and pleasure of Scha to distract him from his heart’s true pursuit and it eventually disgusted him. He sent the broken-hearted Scha back to the Otherworld, wherever that was. Frightened and crying as it sank back into the pentagram, Scha affirmed and reaffirmed its love for Flutestuf: pleaded for mercy even during the act of its transition out of this world.

None of Scha’s entreaties touched Flutestuf, whose heart slept through the wringing emotion while his mind pondered on the mechanics of what he witnessed.

Nobody really knew the nature of transition between the worlds of a summoning. What did these beings do on their own worlds? What daily lives were they torn from when summoned by the Magik Arts to this world? They seemed to have no memory of the other place. Surely they weren’t merely lined up like dolls sitting upon a cosmic shelf, waiting to be brought by the act of a summons.

When Scha left his final scream upon this world, Flutestuf only shrugged and turned away, entirely lost within his own thoughts. ‘For that matter, what place are we summoned from when we are naturally born into this world?’

When his friends heard what he’d done with Scha they were circumspect yet decidedly disapproving. No one openly expressed outrage or offense, of course. No practitioner of Magiks ever does to a sibling of the Arts. The experts may, sure. The Sorcerers and Sorceress may direct their powers at will and for that reason alone are best left to their own devices. But among those who were not the actual source of magik but must coax it into being – the practioners: Witches, Wizards, and Mystics like himself – declaring scandal against another member of the Arts was a perilous indulgence.

“One must have a care when dealing with maledictions.”
– Cugel the Clever

Flutestuf eventually realized he’d lost their company. Not that practitioners were ever fraught with festive bonhomie in the best of times, but his cabal had no time for Flutestuf anymore. The change was clearly chilled.

Flutestuf missed the periodic sharing of new discoveries, but oh well, they too were a distraction from his goals and anyway, practice makes perfect.

No remorse existed within Flutestuf. After all, a bee, to be a bee, must seek out flowers, not other bees. Flutestuf wanted a flower so complete that he’d never return to the hive.  All the better now that the hive no longer wanted him.

The vapor between her legs parted, breaking Flutestuf from his reverie.

Yes! A lovely vaginal cleft! A mons and vulva swelled beautifully around it, sprouting soft down. He looked up to her face. The fog of summoning seemed to be having a difficult time with her hair. It must be creating quite a mane up there, but he no longer worried that the horns of a male would appear.

She smiled at him. Had any living creature ever offered him the kindness of such a smile before?

A worm of thought slithered into his mind. ‘Am I worthy of such wonder?’

Flutestuf brushed the thought aside, ‘No I’m not, and if not I will be. I will make myself worthy of love.’

Already kneeling, Flutestuf bent forward, practically on hands and knees before the awe inspiring goddess appearing before him. He wanted her to have a name and he wanted her to already know it.

‘Please, my goddess,’ he thought. ‘Only divulge this one secret from where you came. Share with me this one part of your past, of a life lived that makes you whole and real and I’ll never inquire for more.’

Instead she slightly pursed her lips, reached out with that loveliest of lovely hands, and stroked his furry cheek.

Flutestuf, disappointed in the maleness of the still forming Scha, never allowed the creature to touch him until long after the completion of summoning. Scha had to goad and seduce him into relenting to its embrace.

Not so with this female creature who wholly defined acceptance and love. At her touch, tears welled up in Flutestuf’s eyes.

A slight blemish appeared on her tummy. A small insignificant mole. Flutestuf pulled himself away from scrutinizing it. No matter. He didn’t summon perfection and who was he to ask for it?

As her hand pulled away he reached for it, grasped it, and brought it to his lips. He gazed longingly, achingly into her eyes as he kissed the back of that loveliest of lovely.

Her eyelids darkened as flesh wrinkled around them. The innocence faded, revealing jaded knowledge. These were an experienced harlot’s eyes, though they clearly loved him no less.

Any human man, real man, would desire such love even more. To be chosen by an experienced lover, well versed in the consequences of  choice, was so much more preferable than the childish choosings of an inexperienced waif.

Flutestuf was satyr not human, so not a real man. His kind did not, could not, appreciate any but nymphs and human virgins.

What was happening to her?

By the Gods it was the magiks!

He touched her before summoning was complete and the still working spell was changing her to suit him. But that didn’t suit Flutestuf at all.

He didn’t want a female version of himself. He wasn’t aspiring to be himself! Flutestuf knew that he was a worthless, miserable grotesque of a creature, rightly shunned by others and even his own kind. His former Cabal, made of various creatures both living and undead, found their past acceptance of him based on a shared common passion for the Magiks.

He pulled back as the fog around her head evaporated, leaving coarse hair like his own. The hair between her legs also grew coarse and long, like his own, and goat hairs sprouted all over her body.

Flutestuf fell back from the change in horror and his hand fell upon the sacrificial knife he used to cast this blood spell.

“Damn it!” he cried out. ‘Everything is going wrong! Again!’

Her knowing, experienced harlot’s eyes saw his terror, knew his thoughts, yet because she still loved him, she reached out to calm his fears. Flutestuf would have none of it. He threw himself forward, half into the circle, and angrily slashed her.

With his naturally inhuman strength and the madness of his bestial urges, he hacked her beautiful flesh from muscle, muscle from sinew, sinew from bone. He hacked deep into her bone, again and again through the heady spray of hot blood and her harrowing screams. Her screams of loss and betrayal cried out, until her brief, tragic life was no more.

There. Her beauty was also no more. Her love was a thing of the ever expanding past. Whoever she was and wherever she was from, she could remain a cypher to him.

“It was lust, not love,” he lied to himself.

He knew he was lying and he hated himself for it. No, hate wasn’t a strong enough word.

He despised himself.

Nearly exhausted from it all, Flutestuf left the bloody circle and wobbled over to the mirror.

He collapsed before it, stared at his mocking ugly self.

“You,” he accused it. He stabbed his knife deep into his thigh. Then he pulled it back out and repeatedly stabbed his legs with every word.

“You! You! You! You! You!”

The pain was nearly overpowering but the exsanguination wouldn’t last. Healing spells are one of the  first things a knowledgeable practitioner casts upon themselves.

“You’re ugly!” he cried to the mirror. “And hateful! Filthy! Cold and remorseless! You aren’t worth love!”

Flutestuf threw the knife away and broke down sobbing at his own wretchedness.

“Nobody has ever loved you,” he murmured. His mumble became a shout, “And nobody ever will! Never until you change!”

He grabbed the mirror’s frame with both hands. “Change you disgusting thing! Why won’t you change?”

Flutestuf sobbed in despair and searched for where the knife clattered off to. He set the mirror back, went for the knife, returned to the mirror, and stabbed himself through the heart.

Almost instantly he collapsed from the blood pressure drop.

When he awoke, he looked around himself, then wrenched the knife from his chest, where his heart had healed around the wound, and collapsed again, as before.

When he came to a second time, he dejectedly stood, tired self-loathing evident in his every move.

Tearfully, Flutestuf pressed his solemn head against the mirror, his horns clacking against the surface.

“Why was I born me?” he sobbed. “And why? Why must I stay me?”

He moved back and stared deeply at his reflection.

“You,” he said pointing at the mirror. “You are not worth tolerating or accepting.”

He tapped the mirror with the point of his claw. “You must be a better person. You must. You must be what you want to be.”

He backed away, turned his hand and tapped himself. “I must work to see in the mirror what I wish others to see in me. I must. I will.”

He breathed a deep sigh that would have been melodramatic to most humans, except Flutestuf was sincere.

“But when?” he asked himself.

Flutestuf shambled off to his room to sleep. So much work and nothing to show for it. So much left to be done. He counted on his precious mirror to one day reveal a real him that he could be proud of: a him that he and the world could respect. How long before he’d see that in the mirror?

Never outside of his self-indulgence.

Flutestuf was forever doomed to a long, loveless, brutally miserable life. For a mirror, like all reflections, only shows us the reverse of what everyone else sees.

END

Copyright 2016 by E.C. McMullen Jr.
Art by Norman Lindsay.


wb2016Increase your worth by buying my book,
WILLOW BLUE.
It’s my second collection of critically acclaimed Supernatural and Drama Thriller short stories with all of the Weird Sex, True Love, Monsters and Mayhem, you’ve come to expect (or should by now). Available in paperback for $8.00 or in Kindle for only $1.99. Buy the paperback at Amazon and the Kindle eBook is free! The tales will last you longer than latte!

Want more? Buy

PERPETUAL BULLET: A Science Fiction Collection.
It’s a veritable trove of previously published Science Fiction Horror Thriller tales – plus bonus stories
Featuring: Weird Sex, True Love, Monsters and Mayhem!
Now on sale for $9.00 in Trade Paperback and in eBook for $1.99 and available for your Android Tablet, iPad, Kindle, Nook, and every other “E”!
Find it at (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, !ndigo, iTunes, KoboBooks, Smashwords, WHSmith, and more).
Buy the paperback at Amazon and the Kindle eBook is free!

Crave still more?

Look for my story Cedo Looked Like People, in the anthology, FEAR THE REAPER, edited by Joe Mynhardt. Available from Crystal Lake Publishing and available in Print for $12.99 or eBook for $2.99.

Also available from Crystal Lake Publishing, the film making guidebook, HORROR 201: The Silver Scream. Reap the rewards of movie making experience from the likes of Myself, as well as  John Carpenter, Tom Holland, Jeffrey Reddick, George A. Romero, Keith Arem, Richard Gray, also the late  Ray Bradbury, Wes Craven, plus many more. $19.99 in Print or $3.99 in eBook.

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Someone’s Knockin’ at the Door

knock-the-door

MERCY CLOCK

clockMercy had enough. In fact, in her heart she knew she was done with Clay.

It was her name, she realized. Her parents gave her this name and it informed her personality. Knowing this, she would give Clay one more chance, in her merciful consideration that, dealing with a “grounded” name like Clay, may also inform his behavior.

When the weekend came and they were dressed to go out, Mercy approached her lover while holding within her arms a huge battery powered novelty clock. It was no less accurate for the novelty.

Clay slipped on his Saturday mask. A stylized version of a 17th Century Italian plague mask, the long beak kind favored by doctors of the era. Clay’s mask was a cheap piece of plastic imitation. It was face mask only, held on by a rubber band.

Mercy expected it to be one of those days, which is why she held the clock.

Mercy: “See this clock, Clay?”
Clay: “See these eye holes in my mask, Mercy? Of course I see the big fucking clock! Duh!”
Mercy: “I’m dead serious, Clay. I will give this relationship 12 hours. When I set foot out that door you will have only 12 hours to grow up. Only 12 hours to stop your childish crap in public.”

Clay lifted his mask. His brows and eye lids screwed up as if he was preparing a riposte, an attempt to smarmily justify himself.

Mercy was having none of it.

Mercy: “I’m going for a walk now and I want you to come with me.”
Clay: “Seriously? You want to walk together this time?”
Mercy: “Yes. Clay. I want to walk together. Walk. I want you to Walk with me, not carry on like a jackass. Can I trust you to Walk with me? No antics?”

Clay didn’t answer, only pulled his mask back down so that his eyes were hidden within the dark of it. His top hat topped off his ensemble.

With Clay’s unsatisfactory behavior, Mercy was on the edge of ending it now, yet she heard herself repeat.

Mercy: “Will you walk with me, Clay?”
Clay: “I’ve got 12 hours?”

Not a caveat Mercy wanted to hear.

Mercy: “I’m taking the clock with us.”
Clay: “Oh come on!”
Mercy: “I’m taking the clock.”

It was bitter cold outside, which to Mercy felt emotionally apropos. As she walked, Clay walked beside her, still wearing that idiot mask.

‘Why didn’t I include the mask in the bargain?’ She chided herself ‘Why?’

Maybe she no longer cared. Mercy wasn’t sure if she loved Clay anymore or ever could. She’d reached the point where she wondered why she ever did. The fun of dating Clay was exciting. The fun of being in a relationship with Clay quickly lost its flavor. They didn’t hold hands, as instead she held the grim reminder of the giant clock. It either ticked up toward a new life together or down to the death of their relationship. Mercy felt indifferent to either.

A cold wind swirled the park’s late Autumn leaves around them and she side-eye spied Clay shiver. She knew his vibrato was not from the cold. Mercy looked at the clock. They’d only been walking for twenty minutes.

An unexpected flurry of dry snow whipped around them, shooing the leaves down the path. Birds blew in out of nowhere, fluttering madly to avoid crashing into the humans.

Suddenly Clay’s barely controlled vibrato turned fortissimo as he threw out his arms and flapped them.

“I’m A Bird!” he crescendo’d, leaping into the air.

Tiny chips of teeth ground out of Mercy’s grimace. ‘Fuck! The god damn mask! That’s the key this whole time. It feeds his stupid alter-ego.’ Why did she never notice before?

The earth didn’t want to be the ground, forever looking up at a wondrous sky. It wanted to fly and Clay jumped around her, flapping his arms with all the agile aerial grace of a pig.

“Imma Bird! I can fly! Imma Bird!” he yelled in sing song.

Passerby furtively stared or awkwardly looked away. Clay with his ridiculous antics, Mercy with her ridiculous clock, she suddenly realized what a quixotic set they appeared to be.

Only now regretting having struck the bargain and made the rules, Mercy gazed down at her clownishly huge novelty clock.

Eleven and a half more hours of this bullshit.

END
Story, MERCY CLOCK, Copyright 2016 by E.C. McMullen Jr.
Artist Unknown


wb2016Don’t live with regrets! Buy my book,
WILLOW BLUE.
It’s my second collection of critically acclaimed Supernatural and Drama Thriller short stories with all of the Weird Sex, True Love, Monsters and Mayhem, you’ve come to expect (or should by now). Available in paperback for $8.00 or in Kindle for only $1.99. Buy the paperback at Amazon and the Kindle eBook is free! The tales will last you longer than latte!

Want more? Buy

PERPETUAL BULLET: A Science Fiction Collection.
It’s a veritable trove of previously published Science Fiction Horror Thriller tales – plus bonus stories
Featuring: Weird Sex, True Love, Monsters and Mayhem!
Now on sale for $9.00 in Trade Paperback and in eBook for $1.99 and available for your Android Tablet, iPad, Kindle, Nook, and every other “E”!
Find it at (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, !ndigo, iTunes, KoboBooks, Smashwords, WHSmith, and more).
Buy the paperback at Amazon and the Kindle eBook is free!

Crave still more?

Look for my story Cedo Looked Like People, in the anthology, FEAR THE REAPER, edited by Joe Mynhardt. Available from Crystal Lake Publishing and available in Print for $12.99 or eBook for $2.99.

Also available from Crystal Lake Publishing, the film making guidebook, HORROR 201: The Silver Scream. Reap the rewards of movie making experience from the likes of Myself, as well as  John Carpenter, Tom Holland, Jeffrey Reddick, George A. Romero, Keith Arem, Richard Gray, also the late  Ray Bradbury, Wes Craven, plus many more. $19.99 in Print or $3.99 in eBook.

THE EDUCATION OF ELOISE

THE EDUCATION OF ELOISE
By E.C. McMullen Jr.
Copyright 2016

leo-paulrobert

It was directly because of Eloise’ spider phobia that she threw herself into education and study of the brain.

Was it all psychological? A mere veneer of electrical static over the cerebral cortex? Eloise pursued the idea that phobias, like her arachnophobia, were physical in nature and a physical change to the brain could alleviate the suffering of people like her.

Even better, in late 19th century, the constantly scrubbed, sterile environment required of medical research assured virtually no spiders: Certainly not on the scale of the farm where she grew up.

In 1890, at the age of 14, while her brothers and sisters were busy outside, Eloise told her parents of her plans.

Her Mother’s tone was dismissive, “What is science for a young lady?”

“Marry wisely and you could share your own farm,” her Father advised.

“And give us plenty of grandchildren,” her Mother added.

Eloise brought out her diary and firmly (though respectfully) let the leather slap upon the table. She read through page after page of how, through the years and with her learned and innate cleverness, solved seemingly insurmountable problems on the farm thanks to her ingenuity and her knowledge of science. She knew that university would be costly, but she would repay her parents many times over for this opportunity.

Then Eloise froze. Sunlight through the window fell upon a discreet spiderweb in the high corner where two walls met the ceiling. She did not see the effect her words had upon her Mother and Father, and how they glanced at each other in a silent shared pride. This moment was expected, as they long knew their daughter before she’d known herself.

With the fragile interruption of, “Excuse me,” Eloise hurried outside to wet a mop and remove the web.

The spider was small, no bigger than a dot with legs. ‘Oh my God. It is small enough to get in our hair, nose, ears, anywhere while we sleep.’

Which reminded her: she needed to scrub her room down today and bleach her sheets and pillow cases. Her Mother drew the line at washing her already clean clothes, though Eloise always gave them a vigorous shaking, turned them inside out and gave them a second shaking, then back to propers and one final shaking, before getting dressed.

Her phobia consumed her immediate attention on the tiny spider and its home, so that she didn’t hear her parents give her their blessing or begin busily figuring out the coming four years of work and savings to make their daughter’s dream come true.

It was easy for young women to enter college in 1894. Less easy for their studies to be any more serious than servile: legal secretary, nurse, housekeeper. Yet Eloise was determined and her dogged pursuit relentless. After all, in 1847 American Astronomer, Maria Mitchell, discovered a comet and was the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts. That was nearly half a century ago. Moreover, if Maria S. Sklodowska could graduate as Top Student at the great science university, Sorbonne in Paris – and Maria did do it – then Eloise could do it too.

This despite the sacrifices: Eloise was not accepted into anywhere near so prestigious a University as the Sorbonne. The lab equipment was bland even by Eloise’ inexperience (she was aware of better, as she read with a voluminous hunger). Of what there was,  the boys always got first crack at everything. Having access to only basic microscopes and other mundane lab equipment, Eloise was limited to doing brain lobe research. Ah, but such research!

With persistence and politics – for one gets nowhere without allegiances – Eloise achieved her research Ph.D with the highest honors in 1899.

There of course, were stark episodes during that time. Eloise secret phobia nearly outed her fears on more than a few occasions. Fortunately her male peers merely considered her frights a “Woman’s Weakness” and not a deeper, nearly uncontrolled psychological disorder.

Eloise constant cleaning would also have been a bit much under normal circumstances, but it was tolerated and even slightly appreciated among her fellow researchers. She was admired for her “immaculate meticulousness”, though the coined phrase was also an affectionate but knowing joke among her peers.

In 1900, the esteemed brain researcher, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, came to America and Eloise’ place of intern residency to lead a symposium. Years of studious use of the most powerful microscopes in the world, of which there were only three, allowed the famed Cajal to use one at his leisure, so that he might see and visually record, with his detailed drawings, the structure of a brain cell.

His presentation included acetate projections of his latest drawings. On the high wall of the dark theater, they towered brightly over the audience. Doctor Cajal compared the structure of brain cell dendrites to the branches and root systems of trees.

Only Eloise didn’t see trees.

There in the dark, her face lit only by the projection and its contents, screamed an uncontrolled Eloise embraced in an overwhelming horror that would never release her.

As the oppressively massive projection of giant dendrites loomed over her, Eloise saw the true physical nature of her arachnophobia.

Living within her head, festering inside her skull, every single one of her billions of tormented brain cells… were spiders!

END

Copyright 2016 by E.C. McMullen Jr.
Art: Arachnophobe’s Nightmare by Leo-Paul Robert


pb300Can’t get enough Science Fiction? Buy my book
PERPETUAL BULLET: A Science Fiction Collection
It’s a critically acclaimed trove of previously published Science Fiction Horror Thriller – plus bonus stories
Featuring: Weird Sex, True Love, Monsters and Mayhem!
Now on sale for $9.00 in Trade Paperback and in eBook for $1.99 and available for your Android Tablet, iPad, Kindle, Nook, and every other “E”!
Find it at (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, !ndigo, iTunes, KoboBooks, Smashwords, WHSmith, and more).
Buy the paperback from Amazon and get the kindle free!

Burning for more?

Look for my second collection, WILLOW BLUE and Other Stories
Five critically acclaimed tales featuring my literary twist on Weird Sex, True Love, Monsters and Mayhem! $8.00 for the paperback, $1.99 for the kindle reader or app. As always, buy the paperback from Amazon and get the kindle free!

Look for my story Cedo Looked Like People, in the anthology, FEAR THE REAPER, edited by Joe Mynhardt. Available from Crystal Lake Publishing and available in Print for $12.99 or eBook for $2.99.

Also available from Crystal Lake Publishing, the film making guidebook, HORROR 201: The Silver Scream. Reap the rewards of movie making experience from the likes of Myself as well as Ray Bradbury, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Tom Holland, Jeffrey Reddick, George A. Romero, Keith Arem, Richard Gray, and many more. $19.99 in Print or $3.99 in eBook.

CAT WATCH

catCAT WATCH
Copyright 2016 by E.C. McMullen Jr.

I don’t believe in magic, so what happened to us after the fire I can only chalk up to a reality I’ve never experienced, that can be rationally explained by science beyond my understanding.

The night before the fire our little house was rumbled by thunderstorms – lightening storms to be accurate I guess. It was all more electric than rain. Living in a farm house about 30 miles from our nearest neighbor and around 100 from the nearest town, we thought it was safest to stay indoors and not attempt driving to a safer place.

The next day we awoke to smoke.

Connie bounced off of the bed, her feet already moving, in air, before she touched floor. She ran to the window, throwing the curtains aside.

“Our farm’s on fire!”

Fearing the worst, we got on the roof. Everywhere we looked our fields of sorghum were ablaze. We were surrounded by fire.

Thinking fast I ran to the tractor to hitch the furrow while Connie got to the water pump and brought it to full pressure.

The fire closed the circle around us, but at a risky, yet not fool-hardy distance, I followed along the closing circumference of the ring, digging a shallow trench of dry moat around our house. Connie tossed the water hoses into the ditch. Then, all we could do was wait as the water slowly filled the moat.

Our house was the axis pin of the approaching fire, our livestock were getting fidgety, and I didn’t want them running into the fire to escape. it. Animals make weird choices in a panic so, except for the chickens, we tied all the livestock to the posts closest to the house.

Firebug embers floated overhead.

“We should have watered down the house,” Connie said.
“I know,” I answered. “One thing at a time.”

I ran to the wheelhouse where we kept all of our fire extinguisher canisters. Though a fire this large was unheard of, crop fire isn’t an unknown quantity on the farm.

The heat created a smoke typhoon, choking us, so back inside the house we went. Either the moat was going to work or it wasn’t. Whatever was going to happen now was out of our hands.

We opened our front door and the cat ran out.

I should correct myself.

At that time in our lives, “a” cat ran out, as we didn’t own a cat.

She ran out of our house, tail in the air like a question, and toward the moat and fire. Not knowing what was going on, but instinctive to me as a man born and raised on a farm, I immediately ran after it to bring her back to the relative safety of the house. You gotta save the livestock.

She ran through a still dry part of the moat and right to the fire’s edge. Where she approached – and this is what knocked me for a loop so hard I could only stop dead and stand there, jaw agape – the fire stopped, then retreated.

She slowed to a walk and instead of running toward one part of it, she walked along the edge of the ring. The fire backed away, the circle began widening. She walked the large ring around our house and the fire not only retreated, it shrank. That part makes sense to me. It already consumed the fuel of our fields behind it. It had nowhere else to go.

In an hour the approaching fire was out. In two hours the smoke stopped. In the distance, we could make out the rest of the fireline still burning as it moved outward in the opposite direction away from us and into adjacent farms. The circle widened as far as the eye could see. We became an oasis.

The cat that saved us, now our cat, sat on her haunches near one side of the burnt rim. And there she stays to this day.

She never moves away from that rim, even when it rains. And when it does rain, there’s no more lightning.

Year after year, little by little, our crop circle grows, extending further out into the char, and they grow well. That’s good because, for whatever reason, neither Connie or I can step beyond the circle of plant life and into the burnt area. It’s not like we bump against a wall. More like we try to move into the burnt ash and our bodies just won’t obey.

It’s the same with our livestock. Nothing that can walk or fly moves into the ash. Hopefully in time, the ring of plants will extend enough that the burnt circle isn’t there any more. Connie and I would love to see our friends and family again.

In the meantime, at least we’re alive.

Electricity works, but not the phones, the Internet, no communication at all. I’m glad we have so many books.

Another weird thing is our kitchen. All of our food in the cupboard never runs out. Not the flour, the rice, the coffee, nothing. It’s always full.

As for the cat, she never seems to eat. If I go out to her, she appreciates a kindly pet on the head or scratching her back a bit. She purrs, but remains at her post. She stays there at the edge of the circle, staring at the charred rim as if defying whatever is on the burnt side to confront her.

One more thing I should write down here is, we never named her. To us she’s The Cat. The Cat who came into our lives at just the right moment. Considering the circumstances, we feel we belong to her as much as she belongs to us.

Fact of the matter is, she’s the one who chose to come into our lives and she’ll be the one who chooses when to leave.

END

Story by E.C. McMullen Jr.

Art & Artist: Unknown. If you can prove you are the artist, please contact me and I’ll credit you.


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