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FIRST MOLT

KaksosetFIRST MOLT
by E.C. McMullen Jr.
Copyright 2013

“I hurt, Papa!” Mellick cried softly. Her tone wasn’t a mewl but the skin-scraping voice of a child in agony.

Her father Toenz, stood by and heard, but there was nothing he could do. First molt is always painful.

Her little brother Sume, at the other side of her bed, looked from his sister to his father and back again. He was silent. Mother told him what would happen, but he looked with hopeful expectation to his father all the same.

Was there nothing Papa could do?

Mellick endured as best she could, because she too knew that this was part of growing up. Didn’t make things any better, but at least she knew she wouldn’t die.

There was the sound of tissue ripping and though she tried to be strong, Mellick drew a sharp breath before her scream.

Embarrassed at having let the scream escape, she cut it off as fast as she could bear.

Mother Myra stood at a distance.

Her child writhed in pain and there was nothing she could do. Yes she went through first molt too, as did her brothers and sisters but they weren’t her children. Mellick was her first.

Myra’s anger at her own helplessness came out in her voice.
“Any blood yet?”

Opposites attract, but not for Toenz and Myra. Everybody knew they were two seeds in a pod and like Myra, Toenz was handling his first child’s first molt with bad grace.

“Would I still be here if there was?” Toenz snapped.

Myra was ready to take exception to her husband and drive her sharp mouth right through his head. But this hot flash was chased down and extinguished, by the cool knowledge that he was only feeling as helpless as she.

Already Toenz was reading her mood.

“Not in the warrior’s nature,” he recited by rote, “to stand idly by.”

Myra raised her shoulders in a smile. “Especially Cloak Warriors.”

They knew each other so well. Still they each gave off the scent of anger and, at a moment like this, it was a danger to them all to be too close. So Myra remained at the doorway, not daring to approach.

Pain and worry exuded from their children, keeping them safe from harm, causing protective emotions in their parents. But because their parents could do nothing they were frustrated. And because they were warriors their frustration turned to anger.

Like a projectile hitting stone, there was a sudden sharp crack and Mellick cried out, louder than before.

“She’s bleeding!” Toenz shouted in joy.

Sume bristled in happiness.

“Ow. Ow. Ow.” Mellick hissed, trying hard to push down the pain.

“It will soon be over, Mel!” Sume assured.

“What do you know?” Mellick growled.

“Hurry!” Myra scolded and stepped far from the doorway so they could pass.

Toenz scooped up his bloated daughter and turned for the door. Sume looked at him wistfully. Toenz looked to Mellick and with the slightest pause, she nodded. Toenz lifted his son in his other arm and carried them both through the house and outside. Myra stayed back. The soiled bed had to be undone and remade for Mellick’s return and rest.

Toenz carred his children toward the beach, footfalls silently gliding right into the cold shallows. Once deep enough, he gently lowered Mellick into the water. The soothing brine was almost immediate and Mellick’s blood bloomed.

Toenz released his daughter and let the ocean gently carry her out to the depths. Sume held on to his father’s shoulder, watching from his high vantage point.

They lost sight of Mellick but her blood was having an affect.

Here and there the waters splashed and churned as the blood scent ignited frenzy in the nearby Janks. The creatures got their bearings by thrashing about, trying to detect the source of the blood.

One was quicker than the others and shot toward the beach, where Toenz was certain his daughter floated, hatching from her chrysalis.

The Jank breached the surface, raising up to deliver death, its beak descending for attack, when the water below it erupted in one hundred flashing, whipping silvery tentacles, grabbing the Jank and quickly rendering it defenseless.

The startled Jank first fought to escape and used its beak as a sword, slicing Mellick’s tentacles this way and that, but it was no use. There were too many, they were too fast, and they rapidly speared their way into the beast’s flesh, sliding into muscle, connecting to nerve, controlling the animal.

Against its furious will, the Jank helplessly surrendered itself as Mellick’s host.

The other nearby Janks, sensing the unexpected danger, turned and fled the area.

Tired from the molt and weary from capturing her host, Mellick forced herself to swim back against the tide, toward her father and brother.

In spite of her exhaustion and with a sense of warrior’s pride, Mellick rolled in the shallows to show off her prize.

Toenz and Sume raised their shoulders in a smile. Toenz set Sume into the water, as he would need both arms to carry Mellick and her host back home.

Back at the house, Myra stood in the doorway, bristling with happiness.

“When I molt,” Sume said. “I’m not going to cry.”

“Oh!” Mellick sneered through her new mouth. “You are such a liar!”

END

Story by E.C. McMullen Jr.

Art: Kaksoset / Twins, by Timo Sälekivi. Find tsalekivi at Facebook.


wb2016Capture a copy of 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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THE WHEEL

TheGarden

Art by Aron Wiesenfeld

THE WHEEL
by E.C. McMullen Jr.
Copyright 2013

Morning in our kitchen and my big sister Leni was talking futility again.

No one takes her seriously. Mom ignored her and Pop taunted her.

“Ah, the morning’s teen angst!” he mocked theatrically, filling his to-go cup. “What would we do without our Daily. Drama. Dour. Jour?

Mom and Pop shared a warm hug and a kiss. Then Pop gave Grandma a kiss on the cheek, which she leaned into. Scowling Leni got a quick kiss on top of her head, which she shook off.

Pop noticed but in good-nature, took no offense. “She casts aside my affections. Oh, the ta-ragedy of it all!” he wailed, giving me a quick wink and a nod as he walked out the door. His voice trailed back to us, “If ennui wants me, I’ll be at work.”

“Dad!” Leni groused, “You’re such a-!” But Pop was already gone and the door closed.

Leni turned her attention back to the news and deeply sighed. “Nobody understands the hopelessness of the Suicider.” (I was pretty sure she made that word up). Leni shook her head sadly, murmuring. “Eight story fall. Imagine such hopelessness.”

“Such drama,” Grandma scoffed. “Suicide is only for attention.”

Outraged in a snap, my sister nearly shouted, “Attention? You think people kill themselves for attention? That is so crue-”

“Why else would they leave a note?” Grandma posed, unfluttered by Leni’s anger.

Leni’s open mouth huffed in shock, but said nothing.

“But Grandma,” I said, as I was only eight years old then, “How can anyone kill themselves if they don’t commit suicide?”

Asking Grandma anything required patience. Grandma was forever measuring her words and reconsidering them. Her answers were slow and punctuated by thoughtful pauses. Pop said Grandma spoke in ellipses.

“Everyone knows the way,” Grandma said, then turned her head as if in realization. “They know … how to get there,” she explored the thought. A glint of revelation came to her eyes. “Although… they often don’t know when they’ve arrived.”

Grandma blinked, surprised by her epiphany. “So I’ll tell you,” she said.

“Whether you live near a paved street, a dirt road, or just a path, it’s the same. You merely step out of your house at night, and walk to the end of the road.

Take the steps up to the House That Isn’t There. On the other side of a row of trees, you’ll find the -”

“Trees?” Leni snippily interrupted. “Well what if you live in a desert? Or the city?”

“Or just somewhere with no trees?” I added.

“Like Iceland!” Leni erupted. “They have no trees in Iceland!”

“There will always be the line of trees,” Grandma answered. “They are the borderland between you and your destiny. On the other side of the trees, the giant wheel will appear and wait for you.”

Leni was rudely incredulous. “A wheel?”

“What kind of wheel?” I asked.

“The kind you ride,” Grandma intoned.

“Like a Merry-Go-Round?” I asked hopefully.

“Or a Ferris Wheel?” Leni burst in unexpected enthusiasm.

“Either, or something else,” Grandma said. “It will be your wheel.”

“Why a wheel?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Grandma shrugged. “The wheel was the first machine human hands ever made. Hm.”

She turned the answer over in her mind. “Some say machines will replace us. Maybe there is something to the idea that… our own creations deliver us to…” Grandma trailed off, then threw up her hands. “Whatever is next.”

“So you see the wheel. Then what?” Leni asked, now caught up in Grandma’s tale.

“You have a choice. You pass between the trees and take your seat on the wheel, or you don’t.”

Mom stopped her puttering to listen to Grandma and it seemed in that moment, as if  silence physically stood in the room with us, blocking all sound but our own.

“And if you do?” my sister asked quietly.

“If you do, the wheel will turn and take you around, but when your place on the wheel returns, you won’t be in it.”

“Where will-”

“I don’t know where you’ll be, but nobody will ever see you again.”

My sister and I thought about this.

“Wow.” I said in hushed awe.

Leni’s face crinkled up.

“Wait a minute,” she asked, all sneer and sarcasm. “How do you know this?”

Grandma’s eyes looked past us far away to a place we could never go.

“When I was a child, I shared a room with my big sister, Lise. She was never a happy girl, but in her last week, Lise was … different in a way I was too young to understand. It made me uncomfortable and I didn’t sleep well.

One night, Lise got out of bed and, in her nightclothes, walked out of our room, down the hall, down the stairs, and out our front door.”

“I put on my slippers and hurried after her. I nearly caught up, then checked myself. Something about the way she moved kept me back. She moved …  she was …” Grandma searched for the word, then used one of Leni’s. “Ethereal. So I followed apace.”

“Followed a-what?” I asked.

“I followed a ways behind her,” Grandma said. “I was only nine and wearing bedroom slippers, so I felt every pebble, acorn, and twig beneath my feet. But Lise walked so lightly, nearly floating. It was almost hypnotic. My, we walked such a long, lonely way in that cold night. So long I started to wonder if the sun would ever rise.”

“Finally we came to the end of the street. Three stone steps led up from the walk to a House That Wasn’t There. Everything was there for a house. A mailbox, empty property, a barren square for a foundation, even a street lamp to light the house number. But no house.”

“My sister walked up the three steps and, just as she entered the place where the house should be, a circus wheel,” Grandma nodded to Leni, “like a Ferris Wheel, rose up from behind a row of trees. Then it did nothing else but tower over us, waiting, and my sister walked toward it.”

Grandma paused again, remembering the moment. “I felt a dreadful finality about that wheel. When Lise vanished from view, I was suddenly so frightened for her. So scared that I broke from my trance shouting, “Lise!”

No answer.

I hurried cautiously, staring up at that oppressive thing as I neared it. What kind of grown-up would operate such a thing? Who would I meet? And what would he do? Then the Wheel seemed to breathe a sad, rusty sigh, and turned.

I was certain what that meant: Lise was riding that awful thing! I broke into a run, between the trees, shouting “Lise! No!” and arrived just in time to see the big wheel rise her up and away into the dark night.

I stood there helpless, watching the Wheel turn, my sister growing smaller as she slowly rose high up, to the top, and eclipsed the moon.

The moon was so bright I blinked in its glare. I waited for my sister to circle back. As small as I was, I was determined to take her hand and pull her away from this terrible place. But when her chair returned it was empty. Only the prints of her feet remained on the footboard.”

“So what did you do?” my sister asked quietly, once more captivated by Grandma’s story.

“Frightened and alone, I ran home crying, losing my slippers behind me. I ran all the way back down that long, lonely street in the night. Even with such a great distance again, the sun never rose and the moon never moved. And because I was by myself and the night was strange, I thought I must surely be lost.”

“But just as I felt I would never find my way back, I recognized the houses on our street, and ran all the way to our home, back upstairs to our bedroom, and just as I did, I woke up in the daylight and my Mother’s arms.”

“Huh?” I blinked.

“Oh,” Leni said, disappointed. “It was only a dream.”

“The sun rose after all and all was light,” Grandma continued. “My Mother held me… crying on my head… while father and our doctor carried Lise’s body from the room.”

My sister opened her mouth to speak, or maybe it just opened by itself, but no sound came out. Leni only stared as her eyes went wet.

END

Story by E.C. McMullen Jr.

Art: The Garden, by Aron Wiesenfeld. Find aron.wiesenfeld at Facebook.


wb2016Find yourself going in circles? 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.