Story Updates

Hello!

So I’ve taken some time when my current my work schedule allows to revise the first two chapters of The Artifact. Since they were originally written as a improvised story–and I didn’t expect to write a Chapter Two–I went back and revised the story and characters a bit more. I plan to work on the other chapters and continue the story by using word prompts. Eventually a final product may find its way to Amazon or another outlet, but you, dear readers, get to see the process from the beginning. Hopefully, that is just as exciting as where the story goes.

Until the next update, enjoy the revisions:

Chapter One: Metamorphosis

Chapter Two: A Threat Born from Isolation

 

 

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Update: Hurricane Harvey

I was writing for a bit and work was a beast this summer. However, now a real beast slammed through Texas in the form of a Category 4 hurricane. I had power issues for awhile, but I was pretty much spared the full force of the beast. I will no doubt be helping people recover when and where I can, so I will my hiatus on the site will last a little longer.

Take care, everyone, and if you are on the Texas coast, be safe and help where you can. If your in northeast Texas, Houston, or southern Louisiana, hunker down for a bit. The rain is on its way.

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A Bridge Into Prehistory

Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls, Oregon, is a gorgeous overlook at one of many spectacular falls in the Columbia River Gorge. It is also a glimpse into the ancient world. In geologic terms, the glimpse is fairly recent, mammals were the dominant vertebrates when the Earth laid the groundwork for the tourist attraction. However, it is amazing to be reminded that the world was still a frightening display fire and ice even when mammals dominated the Earth.

Multnomah Falls has carved the rock around it into a curved amphitheater-like structure, displaying the relentless power of water over millions of years. The lichen and moss-covered rock—all 662 feet—is basalt, an igneous rock formed as lava cools. Basalt is more commonly found in ocean basins when lava mingled with the deep ocean waters along the ocean floor.  Island chains, like Hawai’i, are also formed from volcanic basalt. So, what is a basalt canyon doing in Oregon?

The basalt that Multnomah Falls cascades down is part of the Columbia Plateau. This rock formation was formed between 10 to 15 million years ago. Lava poured out across present day Washington, Oregon, and Idaho through cracks in the Earth’s crust. Over millions of years uplift in the region rose the basalt flats, and the Columbia River cut through the area creating the Columbian River Gorge. More recently in geologic history were the Ice Ages. The freeze and thaw cycles during the Ice Age supplied the water that would erode through the basalt to create the spectacular Multnomah Falls. Melting snow and a natural spring, still feed the falls to this day.

This is what you are truly looking when looking at these looking at these pictures. This one post was 15 million years in the making. This is the slow, but relentless, dance of our Earth.

In 2014, a year after I took these pictures, a large piece of rock broke free from the falls and damaged the railing and bridge walkway. It was repaired, but it is a reminder that these processes will continue and everything will be unrecognizable in another 15 million years.

Bridge

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Benson Bridge just above the base of the Falls.

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Looking over Benson Bridge to the Falls below

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Looking out at the main Falls and the basalt canyon behind it

© 2016 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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Chapter Six: Hairless Rats

Older Chapters can be found here: OneTwoThreeFour, and Five

“I can smell them through the hull.” Mendin growled just loud enough for the soldiers and the Terran prisoner near him.

He especially wanted the soft human prisoner to hear it. He was still a prisoner for a few more minutes. Mendin stared down at the soft male, not a pinnacle of the species, if there was such a thing. His eyes did not sparkle with the pride of battle or the defiance of a man who wasn’t afraid to die. No, this Terran rat was a coward, a peasant. He did not have the courage or the fortitude to chart the stars like those who fell before him at the artifact. For some reason, though he was important.

It was unlikely that this whelp fought up the ranks to earn this prestige, unless the humans also promoted through subterfuge and treachery. Maybe poison or assassination while his target was defecating rose this puny example up through the ranks. Whatever it was, this man would hardly last moments in the Curtani labor camps. The most wretched of the Curtani probably had more fortitude than this human, maybe any human, did. Perhaps it was good to be rid of him so quickly, he would have been a waste of resources for so short a stint. Probably not even worth a petulant sacrifice to an Eater.

The soldiers grunted humorously as the Terran shuttle slid into the hangar bay. Mendin watched from the hanger control bay as the back of the shuttle opened and several squads of Terrans scampered out from the vessel like vermin. They surrounded the vessel with weapons lowered. Mendin knew they were reflexively ready for any trouble. Mendin glanced at an Curtani ensign who operated the hangar magnetic fields and its security system. A touch-holo panel two meters away from Mendin controlled defense turrets within the hangar.

Mendin grunted. The Terrans would be unprepared for that. All he had to do was push the ensign aside and press the glowing ephemeral control switch. Lots of dead Terrans.

“Mendin?” Captain Firehoon asked, stepping before him.

Mendin raised his head slightly to stare at his superior. This was a Curtani deserving of respect, taller, stronger, and smarter than him. Only his betters deserved a command rank. He glanced back down at the fragile Terran chained to his wrist. No soft Curtani would order Mendin around, ever.

“We have our orders,” Firehoon said. His unflinching stare made Mendin feel that he was shrinking.

Mendin held himself at attention. “Of course,” Mendin said. His tone was submissive and he refused eye contact.

“You have a doubt.”

Mendin nodded slowly.

“Speak!”

“This human rat could give us more information about the artifact than we know.” Mendin’s hands clenched around the metal link that held the prisoner close to him. “It would not take much to make him talk.”

“We have our orders. The crew of this vessel is at risk. The Terran vessels outnumber us and we have difficulty matching their firepower in an even firefight.”

Mendin lowered his head again. “The good of the people.”

Captain Firehoon said nothing else and took the lead. Mendin followed behind, tugging at the chain holding the victim one last time. The prisoner tripped and shouted a curse at the treatment. Mendin smiled.

The troops followed behind.

At the entrance to the hangar bay Mendin and his squad met three more squads of troops. The doors opened and Mendin began the long march to the Terran shuttle. He counted thirty armored Terran rats trained and ready for betrayal. The shuttle boasted three particle turrets that could lay waste to everything within the hangar bay in a short time. Probably even the defensive systems he had fantasized about using. This whole situation was a loss. He had lost his squad, the artifact, and, now, his prisoner.

What had Inagrin said about the Cetus 3 incident? A misunderstanding? Terrans involved themselves in an affair they had no control over. The Eater Sacrifice, a holy ritual where a lottery chose members of the lower castes to be sacrificed to the higher castes. It was a competition, a hunt, to prove that the strong held power over the weak. If there was any doubt in the sect’s leadership the weaker caste would not suffer at the hands of the stronger as the gods decree. The Terrans involved themselves and upset the order’s power structure. It will take decades for the turmoil to subside.

“They had not been invited to participate!” Mendin growled aloud.

Firehoon stopped and turned slowly, giving time for Mendin to realize his outburst and lower his head in repentance.

“Is there something you wish to add to the coming exchange?”

“No, Captain.”

“Do not speak further until this affair is finished.”

Mendin only nodded.

Mendin moved forward to keep pace with the Captain. His eyes locked on to one Terran soldier. He focused his ire and hate toward this nameless, mammalian rat. The soldier locked eyes with him. A mistake.

Captain Firehoon stopped 3 meters from the Terran shuttle. He stood erect, imposing and clasped a fist to his chest in a salute of honor.

Mending winced inside: of honor. Reluctantly, he followed suit pounded his chest with his fist while staring at the one soldier he had picked out. The Curtaini troops behind followed with the salute.

A uniformed Terran walked through the mass of armed soldiers, placing an open hand on the right side of his temple. He was shorter than half of the men he commanded. How soft was his flesh to be a leader? Mendin thought. How many soft humans commanded the strong to die? This is why the Terrans needed an alliance, they were weeding out the strong among them.

“You will release our man to us,” he said.

The captain nodded respectfully. He presented an open hand to Mendin, never taking his eyes of the Terran officer. Mendin, still holding a Terran’s attention, passed the chain to Firehoon. A smile pursed Mendin’s lips. He picked up a murmur among the Terran troops around him. It was working. He had frightened doubt into their minds.

Just fire one shot, Mending thought. Let me mistake a move for a threat. Any move.

“Silence, soldiers!” the Terran officer shouted.

The troops went silent. To Mendin, it was like a slave controlling his masters. Inconceivable.

Captain Firehoon passed the prisoner to the Terran leader. Three soldiers released the prisoner from his bounds and escorted him through the throng of soldiers and into the shuttle.

The Terran leader locked his hands behind his back and said, “The Terran Alliance is grateful for your cooperation. May we begin to have friendlier relations after this show of good faith.”

Mending was livid, though he did not show it. The Terran was patronizing the captain on his own ship.

“Unlikely,” Firehoon replied, “you have guns aimed at my ship and my people. There is no good faith here.”

In unison, the Terran leader and Firehoon turned from one another and walked through their prospective troops.

The Terran troops scampered back into their shuttle and it soon departed.

Mending returned to the control room of the hangar bay, still angered. Terrans were all vermin. He wanted another chance at them. Not a simple skirmish that ended in a tense diplomatic arrangement, but a brutal war that ended in unconditional surrender.

© 2017 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

Scamper

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The Myth of Permanence

My philosophical side attempts to welcome change, knowing that nothing is permanent, especially within of a mere human or even the lifespan of human civilization. I was wandering at Big Bend National Park when I took this photo. Right on the trail is the fossil of spiral shell that once housed an ammonite. An ammonite is a mollusk, closely related to a squid or octopus. The entire line of ammonites (though many families and species) existed from the Devonian period up until the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs in the Upper Cretaceous. This group of mollusks existed for over 300 million years. It’s incredible to think of an order of organism surviving that long. That’s many order of magnitudes longer than Homo sapiens have existed, let alone human civilization. Come to think of it, we are the last of our line. There are no more hominids like us in the world. Yet, we seem to have this notion that we understand eternity, that we can contemplate forever. I do not believe we can, nor do I think we were ever supposed to. Everything in this universe changes, everything is transient. Even the fundamental elements that make up the universe are created in massive supernovas and altered within our nuclear reactors.

Just take a moment and let it sink in that this fossil was of a creature that lived in the open ocean. I stumbled upon it while hiking a desert trail on the border between Mexico and Texas along the Rio Grande Valley. At some point in the last hundreds of millions of years this creature died, was fossilized on the seafloor, and then the seafloor uplifted for the fossil to be left near a river bed in a desert.

Play your verse and play it true, but you are only a snapshot in the grand interplay of the universe. Perhaps, if you are as lucky as this mollusk, you can leave behind a good-looking fossil.

Transient

And to cheat a little this also works for this weeks challenge. 🙂

Delta

© 2017 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

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The Camera Loves You, Baby

When I’m taking photos, I focus on landscape vistas to capture the places that I have wandered through. Sometimes a single event, plant, or animal, sparks my interest. Then all my attention is centered.

This happened on a beach hike at Mustang Island State Park in Texas. It was a windy, cloudy day. The Gulf of Mexico was a rolling mess, washing over the beach and my feet. Energetic waves pounded the rocky jetties. Not long into my hike, sea spray coated my glasses.

Due to the high winds, the birds along the beach would waddle or frantically flap their wings to hop away from me as I strolled pass. The gulls, who could get airborne, would flap wildly in place. If I was taller, I may have been able to pluck them from the sky. Among these birds, there was a gorgeous great blue heron that decided I should have to walk around it. This was my first time seeing a blue heron on a beach. In VA, I saw them constantly around wetlands and lakes, but not on the beach. The high winds had grounded it, so it strolled along the surf zone.

I was able to take a few pictures of the heron as it watched me walk around it. Eventually, it grew tired of my probing photographs and left the beach. It had the strength to lift off from the beach, flying close to the berm, and catching the updraft to gain altitude. It eventually perched on the dunes, surveying the restless sea.

With my model gone, I kept walking on. I didn’t realize how good the pictures were until I returned home and uploaded the photos. By this time, I had cleaned my glasses and the great blue heron’s vibrant plumage finally came into focus for me as well.

Focus

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Another Update

Hey Everyone,

So this is a quick update about future plans. I will continue two of the stories inspired from WordPress’s daily word prompts (The Artifact and It Came From the Wizard’s Cellar). I like the serial format and I will continue the inspiration from the daily prompts. I haven’t decided whether I will alternate each week between the two serials or write a quick story for each serial each week. For the moment, my schedule may only allow for weekly updates on Wednesdays. I will still be adding other poems and short stories as they are completed. I want to do Monday weekly updates as well with stories and poems that have nothing to do with the above serials.

I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of improvising a story with a single daily prompt. It’s been a great experiment. Also, I think I made some fun characters and a bit of universe building. I’m polishing up the older pieces from the serials to be released again. Who knows, perhaps a book or novella will be born from these stories. I don’t really know, but we are going to find out. I enjoy the experimentation these stories have given me. It’s been a fun ride.

I have other ideas for a couple more serials as well. There are a few thematic horror stories I always wanted to test out as well as another fantasy story. These other serials will not be using the daily prompts (I don’t think so anyway), but I’ve been inspired to pursue them.

Anyway be on the lookout for a continuation of the Daily Prompt Serials (hey, it’s catchy) as well as some polishing of the older segments.

There is so much more to come on this journey.

 

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Passage

A look back in time,
I was a tall, slender figure
Leaning against
a thicker planted post.
my limbs stretched over
A crossed skeleton
supported by the post:
a gardener’s vision.

In the Spring,
when I was lush and green,
I provided shade,
shelter,
to those sitting
underneath
the wooden bones:
the weary,
the passionate,
the miserable,
the victorious.

Time Passes

Now I am thicker, taller.
My trunk has grown
around the post,
intertwining
old bones with new growth.
My limbs are heavy.
They spread over
And through
the broken, skeletal mess.

A young gardener
meticulously removes
the thin bones
from my branches.
I am enough shelter,
a more pleasing site,
for next flock
solace seekers.

All that remains
of the time before
is a wooden post
held firmly
in my breast.

© 2017 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

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It Came From the Wizard’s Cellar Chapter Seven: Poor Acclimation

This is the conclusion of this story. For the earlier chapters see Chapters 12345

 

“I suppose the green, spooky glow bodes ill for us,” Darren said. He was tired. The adrenaline was wearing off from his heroic stunt to save his friend. He had had enough of this beastie.

“Not certain, Darren,” Esmeralda said. She scanned the flickering green light along the walls. Her eyes then fell to the floor in the hallway, the source of that nightmarish glow.

“Well, there is only one way to know for sure.” Marcus grunted and stood to his feet. He picked up his bent shield with a smile. He brandished it toward Darren. “My sweetheart has served me well this time around.”

Darren rolled his eyes. “We really need to have a conversation that shields are not the same as barmaids.”

Marcus tapped Darren twice on his head as the warrior walked passed him. The floorboards creaked from the stress of his weight and the collapse of the floor ahead. Marcus cracked his neck. Darren cringed, he heard that sound over the tortured murmuring and chanting from below.

Esmeralda moved forward as well. She reached a hand to Marcus’ shoulder. Her voice was low, but full or urgency. “I have a hypothesis about what is happening down there. If I’m right, I’ll need you and Darren’s help more than ever.”

“You got it,” Marcus said with a smile. He pushed out his chest as if he had been given a challenge.

“Whoa,” Darren said, walking forward, “no speaking in riddles, Ez. What exactly is it that you think is happening?”

“My classmate summoned something from an outside reality and it consumed her and many others,” Esmeralda began. “This world is so alien to it that I think the laws here are causing it great pain. If Clarice used a portal to summon it and the portal is not closed, the thing may be near the portal to lessen the pain, or heal it, or increase its power. I mean to close that portal.”

Darren shrugged. “Well, why didn’t you say so? Seems easy enough.”

“Then, enough talk, let’s go.” Marcus took the lead again, sword in hand and bent shield at the ready.

There was a throbbing vibration as Marcus approached the hole in the hallway. The sound rattled Darren’s his ear drums. The green light mimicked the vibrations, releasing circular auras of greenish light with every vibration. The vibrations were quickening.

“Can it operate the portal?” Darren asked.

Esmeralda rolled her eyes in contemplation. “Depending on how much of Clarice’s intellect remains, possibly.”

“Wonderful.”

With a wave of her hand, a flash of sparkling feathers appeared in the hole before them. Darren gulped, he remembered the first time she cast this spell. Marcus went first, stepping over the hole and slowly drifting down into the cellar. Darren followed with Esmeralda close behind.

The cellar was a wreck. If this had been a wizard’s laboratory, nothing would hint that. Well, except maybe the glowing vertical ellipse of magical energy casting a blinking green light into the room. The portal. But that wasn’t all Darren saw the liquid flesh of the creature gliding across the circumference of the portal. Numerous teeth gnawed on the metal brace around the glowing portal.

Esmeralda gasped. “It wants to consume the portal!”

“That means?”

“No idea. Perhaps to carry a portion of its reality with it. Lessen its pain. Or even keep its roots in this reality and its own.”

Marcus was steadfast, staring at his foes new change. “What’s the plan?”

“I have to close the portal. That should give us an edge. I’ll need your protection, this could take a bit.”

Marcus spit at the portal. “Got it.”

A face, a women’s face, peered out of the flesh, mouths, and eyes. It protruded from the creature on a neck of dripping otherworldly flesh.

“Go away!” It rasped. “This is my time now.” The face raised her fleshy eyebrows. “Time? Me? Possession? Such strange thoughts, such order.”

Tendrils of flesh erupted from the borders of the portal.

Marcus was ready. He leaped with the zeal of gladiatorial combatant. His sword sliced through the first tendril while he held his shield to glance the blow of two more. Darren was surprised by his agility. The creature’s blows had a lessened effect, but the tendrils were smaller than the pillars of flesh it had used in earlier confrontations.

“It must be too focused,” Darren mused.

He moved to confront the creature. Four more tendrils of flesh poured from the thing. It was difficult to focus with the green light flashing throughout the room. He pierced one tendril into the floor with a dagger and pin another into a splinter table. The tendril lifted the table and Darren into the air to shake him lose.

Marcus followed behind his friend and ripped through tentacle pinned to the floor and ripped through the second holding Darren aloft.

Darren dropped deftly to the ground. He rolled from another tentacle swinging into his vision. He grabbed his dagger still embedded in the amputated tentacle. As he stood to his feet, he felt something slimy wrap around his leg. It was the amputated tentacle! It pulled him to the ground.

“Shit!” he exclaimed. “They still function if not attached down here.”

Marcus carved through another tendril as he heard the warning. He turned with a start to see his first causality inching toward Esmeralda. She was on her knees covered in pulsating blue light. Her eyes were shut tightly as she chanted. She was defenseless.

“Nope!”

Marcus rushed the tentacle as he felt a second wrap around his right ankle. A third grabbed his left ankle. They pulled at him. He spread his stance and refused to budge. Slowly they pulled him from his foe. From Esmeralda.

The fleshy face appeared next to him. “Would you like to see where we come from?”

Darren rushed to action and ripped through one of the tentacles holding Marcus. In response Marcus pierced the fleshy face beside him with his sword. The electrical sparks from the blow exploded its eyes into milky liquid that pooled on the floor. It screamed and pulled away. Marcus yanked his sword out in response. The hold on him weakened. He surged toward Esmeralda.

Another tentacle shot at Marcus, smashing into his back with thunderous force. He fell to the ground, but pierced his sword through the crawling tentacle just before it lunged at Esmeralda.

Darren was screaming. Three severed tentacles slithered and constricted him as he writhed along the floor. He stabbed furiously at the tentacles, but his fear made his attacks useless.

Flesh from the portal reached at Darren and the tentacles that covered him. Some the flesh fused with one severed tentacle around Darren and lifted him into the air.

Darren saw a face, Jacob, beside him. He was grinning in the liquid flesh of this creature.

“Now, we get to share the same fate. And some day, I’ll find your sister again.”

Numerous mouths along the length of the tentacle began to laugh, mimicking Jacob’s grating laughter.

Darren reached at the tentacles with his daggers, but Jacob was out of his reach. “I’ll kill you!”

“Someday, right?” Jacob laughed harder with every futile swing.

A sharpened tentacle protruded from Jacob’s mouth. It leaned in. “I’ve been waiting for a little payback,” another mouth said.

Darren squirmed, but the tentacle stabbed his side. Stabbing pain ripped through Darren’s side. He felt the dagger, like an appendage, move inside of him as if little fingers were playing the piano with his innards.

However, Jacob’s head was within reach now. Jacob’s chortling laughter turned to drowning screams of pain as Darren put both of his daggers into Jacob’s fleshy eyes. Darren repeated the attack, again and again. Flesh ripped from the face tentacle and was flung across the room.

“Not me! And not my sister!” Darren screamed.

He felt the tentacles around him constrict. There was a pop from his rib cage followed by radiating pain up his chest and down his back.

This was it, this is how I go, Darren thought.

So, he kept swinging and cutting, dismembering whatever this creature was that had shaken his tiny worldview. This impossible monstrosity. He saw Marcus stand with fleshy bits all around him. They looked like giant leeches and they still inched toward Esmeralda.

Darren was nearly on the verge of unconsciousness when Esmeralda’s eyes opened. She stood with immediate purpose and blue light exploded from her. The giant fleshy leeches were blown toward him. One hit Darren right in the face. He shook it off. Esmeralda launched a blue glow from her outstretched fingers that hit the portal center mass. The greenish light turned blue and spun like the clouds of a maelstrom. The creature was being pulled into the portal and Darren with it. The flesh along the sides of the portal were sucked into the collapsing portal.

Jacob’s eyeless mutilated face still laughed. “You’re coming with us!”

“Nope.”

Marcus’ voice carried a finality. He reached his hands toward Darren and pulled him from the constricting mass of tentacles. The tentacles couldn’t hold him as they plummeted into the portal.

The creature was gone, the portal collapsed into a pinpoint of light and winked out in a puff of smoke. Darren and Marcus fell to the floor.

Esmeralda stood over them, triumphantly holding her staff. She smiled. “That wasn’t so bad was it?”

Darren slowly caught his breath. He held is rib cage and the wound. The puncture had been too small to cause a serious bleeding injury, but damn if it didn’t hurt. He gave a weak, informal salute to his friends. “Now I’m completely knackered. Can I sleep right here?”

“I think I saw a cat,” Marcus grunted.

Darren craned his neck to look around. He had not the strength to leave the floor. His body ached with the pain in his ribs.

All Darren heard Marcus laughing victoriously. It was the best laugh Darren had heard all night.

© 2017 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

Knackered

Posted in One Word Prompts | Tagged , , , , , ,

It Came From the Wizard’s Cellar Chapter Six: The Ground Floor

Like this? Read Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4, and Chapter 5

Darren stared at the gaping hole that used a porch and a front door. The stairs were crushed from the great weight of the Thing when it retreated. The inside was dark; water dripped into the building from crumbled parts of the ceiling. The stress from the weight of the Thing had torn a crack up the wall from the door frame into the ceiling. Darren stood in awe. The electricity coursing along his blades gave him little comfort. He did not want to confront something that could do such damage to solid oak.

Marcus was ahead of him. “You coming, Darren?”

Darren shook his head slowly.

Marcus shrugged. “Fortune favors the bold?”

“There’s no money in this,” Darren replied. He narrowed his eyes. “For some reason, I’m just doing a good deed.”

Marcus let out a short, hearty laugh. “I’m rubbing off on you.”

Sarcasm dripped from Darren’s tongue. “Wonderful.”

A choir of painful moaning and laughter echoed from somewhere in the dark recesses of the building.

Esmeralda’s staff lit up. She shielded her head from possible debris and stepped into the building. Her voice was barely a whisper. “I’d prefer that you two pipe down a bit. We have a bit of a situation.”

Darren spit. “I didn’t notice.”

Marcus smiled. “I did.”

Marcus stepped in behind Esmeralda.

The voice in his head, the voice that had been a street urchin, pickpocket, and competent thief, told Darren to run. Live to rob another day. Yet, he strolled right in.

The crack in the wood above the door frame ran along the roof of the building. The ceiling had a gaping wound of splintered wound. Wooden planks in the floor were bent and broken on a path straight into the back of the building.

“Should be an easy track,” Marcus quipped with a whisper.

Esmeralda rolled her eyes and kept moving. “Claire, what did you do?” Her voice was barely a whisper.

“Do you think she did this to herself?” Darren asked in a hushed whisper.

“On purpose or by accident?” Marcus asked.

“Either one, I’m not picky,” Darren replied.

“Whatever she did, she’s out of her league,” Esmeralda said.

“Ha! Like us!” Darren didn’t mean to be so loud.

Laughter poured out of the dark hallway ahead. Multiple yellow points of light reflected from Esmeralda’s glowing staff.

“Oh, shit!” Darren squealed like a child.

Marcus slowly lifted his shield as a mass of flesh and eyes came into the light. The flesh looked hardened, even wooden. The eyes were numerous and randomly spread over the flesh, but they were affixed to their position and did not sink back into the body. A second tendril of flesh entered the light, attached to it was a single lamprey-like mouth.

A gurgling, female voice echoed from the mouth. “What have you done to me?”

“Claire, is that you?” Esmeralda asked.

A male voice echoed next. “Darren, you bastard! I will get you back for this!”

Darren felt ready to bolt.

Then they heard a house cat’s puny hiss. That was followed by more voices crying for help and screaming in pain.

Mimicry? Darren thought.

Marcus wasn’t waiting to find out. He moved in and sliced at the mass of eyes and flesh.  His sword cut deep. Sparks flew from the wound. Eyes close to the wound popped, expelling foul fluid across the floor. Screams of dead townsfolk increased in volume from the hit. The maw shot at Marcus, knocking him to the ground. Its mouth attached to and pressed down on Marcus’s breastplate. It would not relent.

“Marcus!” Darren yelled.

Before his better sense took hold, Darren charged the tendril and leaped. He landed, straddling the tendril of flesh. His daggers pierced into the tentacle’s woody hide. The skin was rough and leathery, not woody in texture. Liquid poured from the woods. In his hysterical bravery, Darren plunged his daggers into the tentacle repeatedly until it was severed.

Esmeralda fired a bolt of lightning from her still charged finger tips. She hit the mass of eyes and flesh. Flesh erupted from the blast creating a U-shaped valley through the fleshy mass. The roaring continued and the mass collapsed to the floor. It trembled like the throes of a body dying from grievous injury. The flesh then slowly dragged away into the dark.

“Save us!” cried the voices.

Darren got to his feet. With a groan Marcus got up. His breastplate was dented inward from the maw’s attack.

Esmeralda shot a blast of light down the hall. It lit up a dark hallway where the walls and ceiling were bent outward creating a tunnel of splintered wood. The mass of flesh dropped from the view of the light, into the cellar.

“Of course, there’s a cellar,” groaned Darren.

“It’s more susceptible to attack,” noted Marcus. “We have little time to waste.”

A thrumming sound filled the building. The sound was strong enough to make the weak foundations shudder. Green light poured up from the hole to the cellar and vomited out into the hallway.

Darren stared in awe and terror.

“Now what?” asked Esmeralda between grinding teeth.

© 2017 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.

Fortune

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