CHILL ~ Robert Spotts
Frank drew the pentagram in yellow chalk, measuring the lengths carefully, on the stone platform in the grove in the forest. He checked the lengths carefully a second time and, when satisfied, placed a white candle at each apex on the star. He lit the candles, knelt near the apex pointing north, opened the book, and began the chant.
Hocus Pocus, Harum Scarum!
Oh great demon, Lord of the Dark,
Into my pentagram, your backside park!
The wind increased its speed, swirling about the grove. Clouds appeared and covered the moon. The surrounding trees began to shake. White smoke began to appear in the center of the pentagram. Frank grinned; the spell worked. The column of smoke turned black, grew, and slowly coalesced in a scaly, naked, and red demon, ten feet tall.
The demon looked around, checked its appearance, and said, "Be right back!" Then he disappeared with a pop.
Frank frowned. The demon was supposed to stay and do his bidding. He blinked when the demon reappeared with a loud "POP!" Now its attire was different. It was wearing bright lime-green Hawaiian print jams and smoking a huge joint of Maui-Wowie.
"I require your services! You must obey my commands!" Frank shouted.
The demon looked at Frank and slowly shook its head.
"Man, you are so medieval," the demon stated. "Chill, dude!"
Robert Spotts has been writing for about ten years.
AN AFTERNOON STROLL ~ Fred Waiss
A year ago the Earth did not have visitors. An alien space ship passed by, scraping the Earth's atmosphere for about an hour and showering the planet with radiation and particulates human science had never imagined. Then, it accelerated to beyond the speed of light and vanished. Thirty-six hours later another ship, possibly in pursuit of the first, shot along the same path at the same speed, again showering the planet with radiation and substances that human scientists had never conceived possible. And then it, too, sped up and vanished.
The worries over what effect the dregs of those passages would have on the next generations were quickly dispelled when it was discovered that the changes wouldn’t wait for the next generations.
The sparrow was not paying attention and the squirrel was. Silently it crept closer to the bird, taking advantage of leaves and branches to cover its approach. The bird was simply sitting, perhaps dozing. It perched well out on a thin branch that was too weak for any predator. Perhaps it thought it was safe.
The squirrel crept closer, to the base of the bird’s tiny perch branch. The squirrel opened its mouth. A tongue longer than the squirrel’s length shot out and wrapped around the sparrow and dragged it back to a waiting extended maw.
The sparrow screamed an eerily human-sounding screech and dug its claws into the wood to resist the drag. It folded its wings forward and the tiny hands on the ends of its wings grasped the tongue and tried to pull away from it. It pecked and bit viciously at the organic lasso.
But the squirrel was too determined and the tongue may as well have been flexible steel for what the sparrow’s efforts accomplished. The bird was dragged inexorably and quickly into a mouth that had distended like a snake’s, and it disappeared within as the jaws closed.
We could hear the tiny bones crunching as the squirrel laboriously chewed up his meal.
Clover and I had been taking our usual afternoon walk when we stopped to witness that little drama. We’ve been pretty faithful about taking those walks since we got into our fifties.
“Do you wonder if the squirrel even remembers when he couldn’t and wouldn’t do that?” Clover asked.
“I’m sure he doesn’t. Critters like that don’t have memories like we do. For them, what is, is and was and will be. It’s up to human beings to maintain a sense of wonder and memory of how things are new and reflect on the changes.”
We continued our walk. Across the street, Bob had extended his legs to fifteen feet so he could get his dumb dog out of the tree. Actually, it was only a puppy and just wasn’t learning very quickly. This was the third time this week that the pup had chased that same cat up that tree, using his cougar-like legs and claws to bound and scramble up.
And then the cat would leap off a high branch and glide like a flying squirrel to the next tree and the pup wouldn’t be able to get back down.
I found the pup interesting. He showed that the changes wrought by the alien ships did breed true.
Further down the block two older dogs—a white terrier mix and a black lab—had torn into the two-foot anthill in front of the vacant house. Bright blue ants were pouring out of the hill like lava from a volcano, and the dogs were lapping them up like candy. The ants swarmed over the dogs, but the canines seemed not to notice.
We walked on. The ants were much too involved with survival to worry about crossing the street to bother us. There were other hazards, though.
A diamondback rattlesnake was flying right at us, mouth open and fangs dripping venom. They’ve really increased their range since they acquired flight.
By reflex, our four arms shot out and nabbed the thing in mid-air ten feet from us. Clover grasped it behind the head, very neatly avoiding the attempted bite, and in front of the first wing pair. My right hand grabbed it in front of the second pair of wings and my left behind them. It thrashed and writhed. Its tail rattles sounded like a buzz saw.
We retracted our arms and brought the thing within normal reach. Clover kneeled quickly on the sidewalk and pushed the snake’s head against the concrete while I gripped it tightly and tried to subdue the thrashing.
Clover extended her right index fingernail till it was four inches past her fingertip and shaped like a dagger blade. She drove it neatly through the snake’s head, and the thrashing stopped at once. She withdrew the nail and looked at it. The point had impacted the cement, but hadn’t chipped.
She grinned proudly. I fetched a rubber band out of a pants pocket and handed it to her. She wrapped it neatly around the snake’s mouth to keep it closed.
I pulled off the wings. They were about eight inches long each and I just left them on the grass.
I mimicked Clover’s trick with my own fingernail and slit the snake skin lengthwise. She hung onto the head while I peeled the skin off and tossed it on the grass with the wings. The vulture robins would be along very soon to tussle with the toads over the discards.
I pulled a chunk of meat off a rib and offered it to Clover. She popped it in her mouth and chewed enthusiastically. I helped myself to a piece. Raw rattlesnake is a bit gamey, but gamey is the new gourmet fare.
“Better save the rest. Daisy, Jim, and the grandkids are coming over tonight. If we don’t save them some we’ll never hear the end of it.”
“I suppose so. Daisy said they’ll bring over some of Jim Junior’s first kill. She wouldn’t say what it was, though.”
I looked around. Robins and toads—maybe a dozen of each—were lurking nearby, waiting for us to desert the area. And no doubt some of them would be eating each other before they were through.
“It’s getting crowded around here. Let’s get this in the fridge.”
We hadn’t intended to hurry, but circumstances got shaky. Some of the robins decided that they needed that snake meat more than we did and they started stooping at us, claws extended and beaks open, showing those nasty little sharp teeth. I hung onto the snake with my left hand. On my right I extended all five fingernails to about six inches, stretched the arm an extra two feet and worked on repelling the attack. Clover used both her hands and arms the same way.
Pretty soon there were three or four bloody birds flopping on the ground—which was enough for the rest of the flock to descend upon and forget about us. We hurried home and got the snake in the fridge.
Later that evening we all sat down to a dinner of grilled snake and lizard legs (from Junior’s first kill) along with fresh veggies and iced tea.
“So, how was your walk this afternoon?” Daisy asked as she passed the veggie bowl.
“Same ol’, same ol’.” I answered.
Clover added, “Nothing we haven’t seen before.” Then she turned her attention to Jim Junior. “So, Jimmy,” she leaned toward him and asked eagerly, “Tell us about the lizard.”
♦ Fred Waiss is a former high school teacher and coach who writes poetry, articles, short stories, novellas, and novels as the muse attacks; as an author he considers himself a work in progress.
♦ This author's generous contributions help make P&S possible.