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Suspense Science Fiction

As the creature approached us, each foot sinking into the viscous mud and popping out effortlessly with a snap, I shoved Dani behind me with my left arm while the right one, bloody and broken, dangled uselessly by my side.


Thirty yards away.


We stumbled backwards until our backs met the giant black oak we had passed halfway through the Kumeyaay trails we were hiking.


Twenty yards away.


It took its time slithering up the path, golden eyes flashing with something that seemed like amusement as it enjoyed the total domination it had over us.


Ten yards away.


*******


"Damn this field trip," I moaned into my pillow, deeply regretting the choice to volunteer as a chaperone for the Third-Grade Earth Day Hike. "I still have a story to write."


"You know Dani loves it when you go with her," my husband said as he rolled over next to me, pulling up the faux-silk eye mask that allowed him to sleep in past sunrise.


"Of course she does, she's been stuck with you and my mom for the last three years," I teased.


"Hey now," he said, tossing the covers to the side, "I kicked ass at field trips and so did grandma!"


"I'd try to tempt you with the moms to dads ratio, but having five sisters really sucked the sparkle out of a clam bake for you, didn't it?"


"I could never hide my love of sausage parties from you," he deadpanned, and we both laughed hard enough to get me coughing. "You're not getting out of it," he said once we stopped laughing, "or the next one since you know Charlie will burn this house down if she doesn't get a mom field trip too. Take your meds, and I'll put the kettle on for your coffee. You'll have plenty of time to come up with something for the contest."


"Yeah, yeah, yeah."


I watched him and his twin stretch, languid tigers, after he rolled out of bed beside the floor to ceiling closet mirrors spanning the length of the wall. He carefully stepped out of his pajama pants and folded them neatly on his pillow, followed by whichever graphic tee was slept in for the week, and then rounded the foot of the bed to grab clean underwear from the drawer before he opened the Gates of Heaven. The "blinding light at the end of the tunnel" kind of morning zest that only comes with an eastward facing bathroom window.


I reached over and tugged open the drawer to my nightstand, rummaging blindly until my fingertips felt the familiar shape of the orange bottle and my ears heard the telltale rattle of prescription medication.


*******


I couldn't help but notice the songbirds. Their melodies, their disagreements, their constant calls of parenting, of foraging, of flirting, all of this continued on in earnest while the beast feasted upon the children first, gobbling up the stragglers who ran the slowest.


Sixty yards away.


One of the mothers--short, black bob, really cute yoga pants--tripped on a clump of lake reeds that had dried back to a gnarled knot from the heatwave-receded waters. It was only one of the many dead things, half-submerged landmines in the gooey mud, and the second after she kissed the ground, the monster fell upon her, its mouth unhinging like a snake to swallow her whole, just like the children.


Fifty yards away.


Amidst the chaos, I found myself barely holding onto the leash of a rambunctious and muzzled Labrador, who seemed far too excited at the prospect of splashing in water to notice all the seriousness racing toward us from the far end of the lake. The pup's human dad had dropped the leash to run to his human son while my Velcro daughter was at my side, her clammy hand in my clammy hand. I had called the dog over and grabbed the muck-covered lead, and within seconds, whimpering with ignorant desire, he began pulling us toward the green water with its slime-slick stench. I tried to pull him back, but with my poor grip and his determined strength, his leash slipped from my grasp, and he bounded into the reeds.


Forty yards away.


*******


"...and then Liam made his book on the solar system. Do you remember the cover I showed you? It was so professional. It looked like a real book." She took a breath. "I chose to do my book on Billie Eilish because she's fascinating. And fun! There's a lot of interesting facts about Billie Eilish. Whoa! Look at the edge, I wouldn't want to fall down there," she continued as we passed a slope leading to a near-still stream struggling through the dregs of what happens when nature meets the suburbs and creates a veil between this world and the next.


"Then don't fall down there," I said, making her giggle.


"I won't! That's why I'm walking on this side," she said with her hand firmly and warmly snuggled in mine. "What if you fell instead, mom?"


"It would be the worst!" I said.


Caw! Caw! Caw! A crow in the not too far distance seemed to agree, or laugh. I wondered if it was the same one who swooped down from the treetops as we left our neighborhood and sailed along the open passenger side window for three houses to see me off for the afternoon. Or to remind me that I had a story to write.


*******

I could see something coming out of the water, shiny and iridescent, about a footfall field or so down the far side of the lake, just to the left of the kids building their water filtration devices with cut-up plastic water bottles, coffee filters, cotton balls, sand, and what was supposed to be rocks, but since no one could find any rocks, they used the millions of empty shells surrounding us in all directions. Evidence this land was once completely submerged under water for miles in all directions.


Ninety yards away.


Only a few of them saw the second creature before it reached the shore. Long, jelly-like tentacles swarmed from the water as a smooth body followed, slithering like a snake and gleaming like an oil slick where the sun hit it. Only an unseen tail remained in the murky water, and the mouth, so big I could see it from where I stood, with its rows of undulating suckers lining the inside, incredibly efficient at guiding the bodies of those fruitlessly trying to flee, large and small, fighting or frozen, into its waiting gullet.


Eighty yards away.


From the corner of my eye, movement flashed, and I whipped my head around to see three more creatures begin to rise from the depths. They truly looked like something that had been frozen in time, only recently melted free and ready to wreak havoc once more, for in order for some to live, some must die. We all have roles, and now that this beast had awakened, it seemed all too clear that we humans had suddenly been relegated to the role of prey. Of food.


Seventy yards away.


*******


"Mom....Mom! MOM!" Dani shouted, grabbing my arm as I wobbled dangerously close to the edge of a steep slope, scribbling in my notebook. "You almost fell! Why are you smiling?"


"Because I've got it," I whispered, "I've got my story."


April 30, 2022 03:57

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1 comment

Kristina Raynor
18:10 May 07, 2022

I would really love any feedback anyone has to offer, positive or negative!

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