Sniplering yawned and stretched his talons, blinked away the sleep in his eyes, and turned his neck back and forth to wake himself up.

“Is it time to go out front again?” he asked. “It seems you only wake me up when--”

“Yeah, I know. But remember, you can’t talk about that. We can’t talk about it. No one can,” Sarah snapped.

“Of course. I just wish I could see the world when things weren’t so...dark,” the Ploperheimer said. 

Sarah lowered her torch to eye level, and looked back the way she had come. She sniffed the musty cave air, and looked feebly for an exit.

“You were further back this time than you usually are,” she said. “I wish you would stay in the same part of your cave every time. I don’t want to have to get the chain again.”

Sniplering blanched at the mention of the chain.

“Please don’t do that,” he said. “Don’t worry about the way back. I’ll lead you out. 

“Sorry I was hard to find. It just gets lonely in here sometimes. I think most of the Group are scared of me.”

Sarah nodded and stepped aside to let Sniplering pass. 

Sniplering was a young Ploperheimer. But he was also the only one. At least, he was the only one the Group knew. There were others like him in other systems, but they went by different names and had different shapes and sizes. Doctors called them “fictives,” but no one in the Group had heard that term yet. They wouldn’t for several years.

But Sniplering was a good Ploperheimer, a protective fictive. For now. Ploperheimers tried to be good, but sometimes when the group suffered too much, the Ploperheimers would get confused. A confused Ploperheimer is a dangerous animal, at least to the systems they’re in. They get confused because they get tired of seeing the systems hurt. But for some reason, they think the only way to get the hurt to stop is to make the group hurt. Sometimes, the hurt can be severe.

Sniplering, though, was young, only a couple years younger than the Body. He hatched out of his egg a few weeks after the Body’s mom remarried. Sometimes, the smell of whiskey could bring him out of his cave. Sometimes, he didn’t wake up until the belt was already out. There were other times, too, but no one liked to think about those times, because those times were confusing, scary, and they felt weird. No one in the Group knew how to describe them.

When Sniplering was hard to find, Sarah was the one who went to find him. He could see well in the dark, and sometimes Sarah’s torch hurt his eyes, but he didn’t mind right now. He was in front, clacking his talons on the hard rock surface of the cave floor, with his shadow cast in front by the light of Sarah’s torch. 

He was still a young Ploperheimer, so his feathers hadn’t turned blue yet. They were still a light pink. His wings were still growing, but they were also untested. He hadn’t tried to fly in several years, but he liked to think he could if the need ever arose. He had a sharp, curved beak, like an eagle, and he had piercing eyes. He could also breathe fire when necessary, and his screech was so loud, everyone had to cover their ears. 

As they exited the cave, they passed several rooms with numbers on them. The hallway resembled an apartment hallway or a dormitorium, but Sniplering took no notice. Sarah was the only one who knew where all the rooms were, and who lived in each one. Most of the Group hadn’t met each other yet, and there were still new arrivals. Some came in as babies; others were already the same age as the body when they arrived.

Sarah moved her eyes back and forth as they passed the doors. Some stood in front of small rooms. Others opened into splendid castles and mansions. Still others hid gardens and parks from view. Sarah noticed Good Girl’s door, and Vixen. Sarah wasn’t sure she liked Vixen; she didn’t trust her. Sometimes, though, she had to get her when Stepdad was alone with the Body.

After they passed the hallway and into the light of the eyes, Sarah put out her torch. Sniplering picked up the pace, because now they could hear the body screaming. The eyes were full of tears, and they could all feel the Body cowering in fear.

Today it was the belt. Sniplering snorted and flared his nostrils. Anger lit up his eyes, as smoke poured from his mouth and nose. Holly lay in front of the eyes, lying in the fetal position, hands covering her head in an attempt to glance the blows. The Body lay in the same position.

Sarah grabbed Holly and comforted her, and led her back to her room. Sniplering ran to the front, screeching fire as he did. The Body couldn’t make fire, but Sniplering didn’t know that. He lunged at Stepfather, breathing fire while snapping his beak.

Stepfather stopped cold when he saw the change in the Body. The sniveling and screaming stopped, and something like fury took over. The Body leapt forward and sank her teeth into his hand, drawing a confused, drunken wail.

He overcame his momentary surprise to slap the Body with the belt again, sending it back against the wall. Everyone flew back to their rooms, their lairs, their dwellings, and all fell asleep. Somehow, before losing consciousness, Sniplering noticed a look of fear in Stepfather’s eyes as he beheld the Body’s eyes roll back. “If we’re hurt; he stops hurting us,” he said as he was floating backward into his cave.

For his part, Stepfather was scared. The Body had hit her head hard against the wall, and she looked awful. Her eyes lay half open, and drool ran down the corner of her mouth. Even through the mist of his whiskey, he could tell he had gone too far.

He picked her up as gently as possible, and lay her on the couch. 

“Holly,” he said. “Holly, speak to me. You’re OK.”

He kept stroking her hair and patting her arm. Momma would be home soon, so he had to think of a story. Fortunately, he married a woman who made sure she didn’t see what she didn’t want to see, so the story didn’t have to be that good. 

Still, he had to think of something. 

He heard the front door open, just as his alcohol-addled brain put up an excuse.

“Hey Babe,” he called out. “Holly slipped and fell while running through the house. I think she’s OK, but you might want to get her checked out anyway.”

Momma ran into the room, picked up her child, and rocked her back and forth. The Body started to wake up, and said, “Momma?” in a confused voice.

“Hey honey, are you OK?” she said. 

Then, to her husband, “I don’t think we need the hospital. After she fell last month and broke her arm, they’ll probably ask questions. We don’t need them accusing us of that.” 

Then she turned back to the Body.

“Now, Holly, you have to be more careful. No running in the house, remember? I need you to be a good girl.”

Groggily, the Body turned to Momma and smiled.

“Yes, Momma. I’m Good Girl.”

May 13, 2020 08:29

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Madisson James
09:53 May 23, 2020

Interesting. seems like excerpt of a great 'out there' story.


Micah Lewter
05:49 May 29, 2020

Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it.


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