SHORE 2: HOSPITABLE SHORE

“Tom, please get our guest another drink while I fix supper.”

“By all means, Catherine.”

The prim and proper manner of my hosts still struck me as odd. They sounded like an English couple, yet looked… well, they looked like huge cats. I was fair pickings when they found me washed up on their doorstep, but instead of being supper, they invited me to the meal.

“Here you go,” said Tom. His long tawny tail swished back and forth. “I’ve added a restorative. Wouldn’t do for you to get sick after Catherine prepared such a lovely meal.”

I took the cup, thanked him, and turned away. Tom’s luminescent gold eyes made me shiver. They’d been nothing but kind and gentle, but it was hard to ignore long sharp fangs. Not to mention, the retractable claw Catherine used to gut tonight’s dinner. The pan seared fish smelled magnificent, but I couldn’t help but wonder what was on tomorrow’s menu.

I pushed that thought away. It wouldn’t be good form to turn into a bowl of quivering Jell-O.  “Where are you folks from?”

Catherine’s golden bronze fur rippled as she cooked, making her dark spots move around. “We originally came from planet Mau, although Tom and I grew up just outside of London. Our ancestors have studied your species for several thousand years.”

I put the cup of juice on the table before it spilled. My mind struggled to wrap itself around aliens and sentient cats. “A tiny, pacific island is a long way from London.”

“This isn’t an island, dear,” said Catherine. “It’s our spacecraft. London got too dangerous with all the cell phones and cameras. That’s why we don’t go outside until after dark. Humans have come a long way, but you are still way too unpredictable and violent.”

Sad to say, but she was right. And I was nothing but stray dog, a wild animal.

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SHORE 1: AN INHOSPITABLE SHORE

My skin felt like over-cooked bacon. There was no water or food on this island, only a few spiny shrubs. Dehydration would probably get me first. Already my tongue felt thick and heavy. It would have been better to have drowned with the rest of the crew. Instead, I floated for days before washing up on this sandy deathtrap.

It was midday when I collapsed on the coarse sand. Something snapped in the scrubby growth. I opened my eyes. The sun hung low. I strained to hear past the steady crash of waves. Another rustle, even closer. Maybe it was something to eat. I scanned the landscape.

A dark shadow moved toward me. Two giant eyes peered from the darkness. Vertical slits reflected yellow in the failing light. My stomach twisted. To have come so far only to be eaten by a beast was fate’s ultimate cruel prank.

I forced my cracked lips open. “Make it quick.”

The beast towered over my prone body. Instead of death, furry arms scooped me up like a babe. I was too stunned and exhausted to fight. It carried me down a ramp into a bunker and place me on a bed.

“Catherine. We have a guest.”

Another creature appeared. “Poor thing’s dried out and terrified, Tom. Bring me some cactus juice.”

I sipped the offered juice and let my feline rescuers fuss over me. If this was a hallucination, it was a good one. If not, I’d have an interesting story to tell.

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Lost Footing

Wendy clung to the rock wall twenty feet off the ground. Ripped and bleeding fingernails weren’t her biggest problem. The tingling in her fingertips was.  She bit her lip, fighting for control.

“One normal date,” she mumbled. “Is that too much to ask?”

“Are you okay?” asked Jason.

The cutest guy in school graced her with a smile that only increased her racing heart. How could she not say yes to a rock climbing date? So what if she had the agility of a glue stick. He was hot and she was the weird girl no one talked to. But rock climbing? What was she thinking?

Every muscle ached, trembled as she searched for a new handgrip. There were none in sight. The tingling ran up her arm. Panic began to close in. She chanced a glance at Jason and his bulging muscles only to find him studying her. There was no laughter in his look, only concern.

“Wendy, don’t worry about falling. You’re on a belay line.”

“I don’t want to quit. My foot is slipping.”

He scrambled sideways across the rock like a squirrel. The moment he touched her, the tingling flamed through her body. She gasped and began to fall. Jason grabbed her hand. A blinding flash sucked them away.

Instead of dangling from a rock wall, they landed in a wooded clearing. So much for normal. Tears stung Wendy’s eyes. She waited for Jason’s condemnation, the fear that others had displayed at her powers.

He stared at her, his deep-brown eyes wide. Then he smiled. “Wow. That was one heck of a jolt. Can’t wait to see what you do on our second date.”

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Forever Hold Your Peace

Blaine eyed the neatly displayed refreshments just outside the chapel and clenched his fists. Fruit punch and tea weren’t what he wanted, unless they were spiked with bourbon. His stomach twisted. This had to be done. It was his duty, just like serving in Iraq. He pushed open the doors just as the preacher asked if anyone had any objections.

“I sure as heck object,” Blaine’s voice boomed across the chapel.

Whispers grew as he marched up to the pulpit. Not surprising considering Roy McCoy stood next to his old fiancé. That snake oil salesman swept her off her feet while Blaine was off on tour. The man had the gall to smirk at him as he approached.

Tiffany looked fantastic, the picture of health. There was no trace of the mysterious illness that only Roy could cure. Barely contained anger coursed through Blaine’s veins. He still loved her.

“Blaine,” she whispered. “Don’t do this. Please.”

Bombs and enemy gunfire were easier to face than the pleading in her eyes. Courage prevailed.

“If you don’t want me, that’s fine, but I can’t let you marry this worm.” He pulled an evidence bag with a bottle of ipecac syrup from his pocket and held it up.

“Officer Baker found this in Roy’s apartment along with a mess of other drugs. He’s the reason you were so sick, Tiffany. There’s a warrant for his arrest. His last wife disappeared. Officer Baker is waiting outside. The choice is yours.”

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FEED THE BABIES

Crack, crack. Five eggs for her little boy sizzled as soon as they hit the butter-filled pan. Their clear gelatinous goo solidified and she pulled them off the heat. Jason liked the yolks liquid.

“Morning,” said Jason. He shuffled into the kitchen rubbing sleep from his eyes. His nose wrinkled when he saw the eggs.  “Are the yolks gushy?”

After twenty-eight years you’d think he’d say thank you, but she ignored his winey tone. He was all she had.

Jason prodded the egg. Satisfied they were prepared properly, he stabbed his fork into the yolk. Oozing yellow liquid, the egg wriggled and flopped on the plate like a skewered fish. A horrific squeal rent the air. He dropped the fork and screamed. Gaping maws of jagged teeth opened on the yokes. Growling, they leaped from the plate.

She sucked in a sharp breath and opened her eyes. It was only a dream. Suddenly, Jason yelled and she raced to his room. Five tiny dragons fought over an old pastrami sandwich on the floor. Jason gaped from his bed, still wearing yesterday’s clothes.

As one, the dragonets looked at her. “Thanks for the tasty meal, Grandma. May we please have more?”

The compliment shocked her more than seeing dragons. Grandchildren. Finally. Who was she to question how?

“You’re welcome,” she said, patting their heads. “Jason, dear, you have children to support now.”

“But…”

“But nothing. Go to work.”

Ignoring Jason, she sat and read a story to her new charges.

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PORTAL

Papa?”

Davis looked at the child. Her pale face smiled as she lay in the hospital bed. Dark smudges surrounded her eyes, eyes bereft of lashes. Tubes and wires stretched from her to the bank of monitors that bleeped, dripped, and ticked. Each sound a symbol of what life had become. His baby girl, barely starting life only to have it cruelly yanked away.

Eyes clamped shut; he sucked air through a constricted throat. He couldn’t watch anymore; couldn’t bear any more pain. The doorway shimmered behind him. He’d turned away from it during the war and when his wife died. Living through life’s adversities was the best teacher, but what was there to learn from watching a death like this? One step through the portal and this experience would be left behind. He could escape the grief. But if he passed it by again would it return?

“Where’s that door go, Papa?”

His eyes sprang open. If she could see it her life was at a brink, teetering; waiting for her choice.  It meant she was like him in more ways than he thought.

“It leads away, Ariel, around the pain. But it makes you forget who you were.”

She pursed her lips a moment, thinking. “I think I’d rather stay here.”

He stroked her skeletal hand. The taut, yellowed skin felt dry. So frail, so young. All he had left. He couldn’t leave her. Every second was worth the pain. Maybe this treatment would be the cure….

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HOWARD BEAR

Santa’s village was in trouble, big trouble. A massive force of ogres, goblins, and gremlins advanced. All the land escapes were blocked. The village was unarmed and outnumbered; in short, doomed. Elves and other animals ran in panicked circles through the village, unsure of what to do.

“We’ll never get everyone off the ground before they overwhelm us,” said Santa. His big jolly belly sagged. “What are we going to do?”

Howard Bear scanned the marching troops. Monsters, all of them, out to destroy Santa’s peaceful haven. He may not have gotten his dream job, pulling Santa’s sleigh, but this was his home. There was no way he was letting those awful people win.

“I have an idea,” said Howard. “Continue evacuations.”

He ran to his workshop at the tinsel factory and did what he did best. Using steel instead of aluminum, his sharp claws slashed and twisted the metal with rapid speed. Howard raced back to Santa with bails of barbed tinsel.

“Spread this out around the village. It will keep them back long enough for you to escape.”

Howard got his dream that day. He pulled Santa’s sleigh and the last of the villagers to safety. The barbed tinsel entangled the monsters until the gnome army arrived. Thanks to Howard everyone was saved. If you’re ever in Santa’s village, check out the statue Santa had built for Howard the Hero Bear. It’s right next to the one for Rudolf.

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