[Story] Story a Week 17

[[ Using a new prompt list for now with one-word prompts. I rolled and got “horse”. So this is a very old horse character I used to RP on a horse MU* (don’t judge me!). She is a mustang who has had quite an interesting life. ]]

Tempest looked out over the valley where their small herd grazed. The last of the evening sun had faded, and the air had grown cool and misty with the promise of rain. The warm days would be here soon enough, and so would the foals. She looked forward to seeing her new foal, of course, its tiny hooves and sweet breath, watching them all play together and meeting their father and siblings. Her son, Tristan, kicked up his heels and chased the other boys instead of grazing. She knew it would be time for them all to leave very soon, and she wasn’t sure if her heart was ready. More than that, though, she found herself thinking of the foal that she had lost, back when they had lived in the forest. Most times she had no cause to do so, and letting the sadness in served no purpose but to upset her, but she couldn’t help it. Sometimes the memories were just too strong, too persuasive to keep away.

She had been the herd’s leader then, as she was now, but for some years they survived all on their own, without a stallion. They didn’t need one. Tempest and her second, a fierce mare called Ironhooves, were more than enough to meet any challenge. The dense forest where they slept provided protection from predators, and sweet roots and berries when they had eaten their fill of grass out on the plains. Of course there were those who called them foolish, and every stallion who passed by took it upon himself to prove himself to them. It never worked, they were all chased off, bleeding and humiliated.

Heart-Seer had been different, though. He was striking to look at, the purest white with eyes the color of a clear summer sky. Tempest had never seen a horse that looked like him. But more than that, he had a serenity and wisdom about him. Whenever he spoke, his words carried ancient truth. They didn’t like him at first, of course, and tried to chase him off as they had the others. But Heart-Seer did not run or fight back, he merely asked to stay and graze. Tempest was doubtful, but they allowed him to stay. He was polite and deferred to Tempest in all matters, which perplexed her. He told them stories, fanciful tales about humans and about the gods. Tempest liked those  stories the best, could imagine the horse goddess galloping across the sky making thunderstorms. Perhaps as he’d planned all along, the herd gradually accepted him, and when her season came around again, Tempest found herself wanting a foal for the first time. Ironhooves scoffed at the idea, but even she was excited to meet the herd’s first baby.

Fate, though, had other plans. Heart-Seer disappeared one night, and though she searched endlessly, Tempest never did find him. It was as if he had vanished from the forest altogether. Ironhooves said that humans might have taken him. Tempest preferred to think that the gods had claimed him, to run at their side. It was less heart-breaking to consider than the other options. At least she would still have the foal, some part of him to hold onto. But a great drought struck the plains, and their surrounding forest, and lightning struck a dried tree and burned much of it. The herd was forced to move on, during the hottest part of the summer. Without Heart-Seer to protect them, Tempest and Ironhooves had to defend the herd against predators and would-be conquerors. Food was scarce and the days were long. It took them many weeks to find a place that was both unclaimed and safe enough to stay. And by then, it was too late. The foal within her had stopped moving, and she felt her heart stop moving with it. Ironhooves showed a rare gentleness as she comforted Tempest, and she told how the little colt would join his father among the gods in the sky. It didn’t help, not really. The pain was like a physical thing, dragging her down and pressing on her heart. It wasn’t fair to lose both of them, why was she being punished like this?

Tempest shook her head, trying to free herself of the thoughts. Titan touched his nose to hers, reassuringly. He was the stallion who had joined them after they found the new territory. He told them he had once been with the humans, but he escaped. When he arrived, he still had rope tied around his head, and he carried their smell on him. He was a dark bay with white socks, larger than any horse Tempest had seen before. Ironhooves wanted to chase him away, but Tempest felt defeated. She couldn’t do it alone anymore, and she wanted his help. He was polite enough, and proved to be a good father to the foals. But he wasn’t Heart-Seer. Was he watching her, even now? She wondered if he would be pleased. Their herd was safe and growing, their foals healthy and the grass good. Tempest studied the stars, wondering if he was among them. She thought that she saw one twinkle; a bright big star with a smaller star beside it, and she was reassured.

[Story] Story a Week 16 – Leporine

[[ Prompt: Write a story about a word you pick out of the dictionary at random.

I used one of the words of the day from dictionary.com — “leporine”. ]]

 

I love the day after Easter. Who doesn’t? All through March and April I’d resisted the siren song of jellybeans, chocolate-covered marshmallow, those little sugary chickens and, of course, the chocolate bunnies. But now I stood before the candy aisle, gripping my shopping basket tightly as I surveyed the options before me. All of it was on sale. Yeah, I know, it’s bad for me. Did I care? Not one bit. It’s only once a year, after all. I wasn’t too picky about what I put into my basket. I knew it was all good. Peanut butter filled eggs, the little crispy chocolate coins, orange jellybeans in a carrot-shaped container. There were some bedraggled plush bunnies and ducks too, bright ribbons tied around their necks. I wasn’t interested in those, but they had other decorations too. Little decorations for your table or your mantel or wherever you’d put a little ceramic rabbit holding an egg. It wasn’t like I had any particular desire for that kind of thing, but I dug around on the shelf anyway.

There was one that drew my eye, for some reason. It could generously be described as “homely”, made of some rough, coarse brown material like burlap. The eyes were black buttons, and it felt like it was stuffed with straw. No bright friendly ribbon around this one’s neck; rather it had a sort of primitive and slightly menacing look to it. In other words, I loved it. The weird little rabbit was tossed into my basket atop all the bags of candy. Why not? It was only a couple of bucks.

At home, I unloaded my stash into the cupboard. I live alone, so I didn’t have to worry about anyone stealing it. Really, it was more an effort to pace myself so I didn’t eat all of it a once. I managed to eat only the jelly beans and a few of those chocolate eggs with the gooey white stuff in the middle. I know, some people hate them. I can’t get enough of them. I needed a place for the strange little rabbit. I don’t have a fireplace, so no mantel. I set him up next to my collection of movie discs, his rough texture and appearance a sharp contrast to the sleek lines of my entertainment center. He didn’t seem to belong there at all, but he didn’t seem to belong anywhere, really. Hey buddy, I can relate.

When I woke up from my sugar coma, the little rabbit wasn’t there. I found him on the kitchen counter. I tried to assure myself that I’d just forgotten to put him up, and maybe he’d somehow fallen from the entertainment center… and rolled all the way into the kitchen and righted himself. Or more likely, I’d just forgotten. It wouldn’t be the first time, and not the last either. It was also oddly warm to the touch, as if someone had been holding it for a long time, or it had been in the sunlight on a windowsill. It was unsettling. I set it on top of my nightstand, and set to cooking some actual food that wasn’t shaped like an egg or bunny.

I guess my stomach wasn’t happy about all the candy I’d eaten, because the thought of eating anything at all was decidedly unappealing. I pulled some vegetables out from the drawer of the fridge. That was healthy, right? Surely it would counter my indiscretion from earlier. And more importantly, I wouldn’t have to cook them. Before I realized it, I’d finished the whole bag of carrots, several stalks of celery, and a bundle of spinach. I’m not normally what you would call a health food nut, so the fact that I even had that much in my refrigerator is kind of amazing, to say nothing of devouring it in one sitting.

Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw something dart across the room. As I don’t have any pets, my first and most alarming thought was — rat. I armed myself with a broom and went looking around, flipping lights on. The strange little rabbit was on the kitchen counter again. Had  I just seen it dash across the living room on its own? Of course not. That would be absurd.

But it kept happening. No matter where I would set it, the odd little rabbit would always return to its perch on the counter. I thought about just throwing it away, and I tried it once, but it was out of the trash bin and back on the counter within an hour. Also, other things are starting to happen. Things that I don’t know how to explain. My feet ache all the time and I could swear they’re getting longer. So are my teeth, the front two anyway. They were always just normal teeth, not perfect but okay. The middle two are definitely longer now. It’s not just my imagination. And I can hear things no one should be able to hear. Like people talking several floors above. They’re not just being that loud. I’m afraid something is happening to me, and it has to do with that little rabbit somehow. I’m more afraid of what will happen if I try to get rid of it.

 

[Story] Story a Week 15

[[ Prompt: You are a kid’s imaginary friend. He’s growing up. You are fading away. ]]

It’s almost 3:30 pm. Zoey will be home any minute now. I check the table to make sure everything is perfect; every tea cup centered neatly on its saucer, the napkins folded into triangles. The teapot sits in the center, I can picture the white ribbon of steam. I seat myself in my usual place, and wait. It seems to be taking way longer than usual. I go to the window and pull back the curtain. There, in the driveway! I see Zoey, swinging her pink backpack as she walks. There’s another girl with her, a friend from school I guess. I check the table to make sure there’s a cup for her. We don’t often have visitors to our tea parties, but I always like to be prepared.

The front door clatters, and the girls race up the stairs into the room. They throw their backpacks onto the bed, and open the top drawer on Zoey’s dresser. I’ve seen her open that one before, it has lipstick and other weird things to put on your face. Once or twice Zoey has put them on me, but I can’t say I liked it very much. They don’t taste very good, either. But today Zoey doesn’t even glance in my direction. She and her friend are taking turns, putting the makeup on each other. It’s like I don’t even exist. I wait there at the table for a while, the tea getting cold, before I retreat to the closet. I don’t like the closet. Closets are for monsters, and I’m not a monster. Not the bad kind, anyway. I’ve never seen myself, because only Zoey can see me. But she’s drawn pictures of me, plenty of times, and she always draws me the same. I have shaggy purple fur with blue splotches, little horns on my head and down my back. My paws are big and friendly.

“You’re too old for an imaginary friend”, Zoey’s mother tells her. Zoey used to just laugh at that, but now I worry a little. Maybe she is too old. I set up the tea party every day, but when was the last time Zoey actually joined me? When is the last time we went walking in the woods behind the house, or reading stories late at night? Zoey still does those things, but she doesn’t ask me along anymore. She goes with her brother, or with her friends from school, kids in the neighborhood. I know some of them have imaginary friends, too. I’ve talked to some. They tried to tell me this would happen. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen some of them recently, either. I don’t know what happens to imaginary friends when their children forget them. Do we move somewhere else? Or is it more serious than that? Do we simply cease to exist altogether?

It’s true I’ve felt strange, but I have nothing to compare it to. I figured it was only sadness, or jealousy that made me feel this way. Had I only imagined feeling more tired, less ferocious, weaker than before — or was it some consequence of being forgotten? All my life, I have been defined by Zoey — she is the one who can see me, who named me. What will happen to me if she forgets? It’s a frightening thought. I would ask the monsters in the closet, if any were here. I get the feeling they, too, have long ago left this place.

 

[Story] Story a Week 14

[[ Prompt: Based on a real news article

Here’s the (rather unsettling) article that I chose: If Spiders Ate Humans. Depending on your view of spiders, I guess this could be considered a horror story 🙂 ]]

Ordinarily, she had no reason to seek out others of her kind. She was sleek and shiny, her legs thin and strong, her body marked with intricate patterns of brown and black. But more importantly, she was a dreamer. She would often perch, at the apex of her web, her foremost legs touched together in thought. She watched everything, and wished to learn all there was. The idea had come to her rather suddenly, a few evenings ago. One of the big creatures had blundered through her web, shrieking. Hours of work — and any potential for supper that evening — destroyed in just an instant. After the big creatures had gone, she set to work making the extensive repairs necessary, grumbling all the while. How thoughtless of them! She’d heard the stories, too, of others who lived inside the big creatures’ dwellings. Though it was warm and dry, prey was a bit more scarce and there was a constant danger of being killed by the giants. She had always felt this to be exaggerated — they clearly had no hunting prowess. Their food was brought in from somewhere else, already packaged. She supposed that there must be some giant-sized hive that they all went to. At least ants and bees could bite and sting! These big creatures had no such defenses. It was offensive, frankly, that she and her sisters should have to live in fear of them.

That was how the idea began, and she turned it over in her mind as she spun, arranging the silken threads into their design. Why did it have to be that way? Yes, the giants were big, but that was all they had in their favor. She was quick, and clever, and agile. She was a skilled huntress and spinner, and — more importantly — there were many more of them. At first she mentioned the idea in passing to her nearest neighbor, a lady with a stocky build and attractive black and white stripes on her legs. But she scoffed, saying it was impossible and foolish. Undeterred, she reached out to others. There had to be some who could see the truth of it, were tired of living in fear. Eventually, there were. A long-legged spindly fellow from the garden, and several youngsters were the first to join her cause, perhaps reluctantly at first, but as time went on she was able to sway more and more to her message. The more she told about it, those new devotees would go and tell others, ones further away that she could not ordinarily reach. But they needed a signal, a catalyst to put their plan into action. That was what she sought now. A sign, perhaps, that they could all heed, to rise up and defy the giants. Her forelegs twitched excitedly at the idea of it. What would they do first? The giants could easily break ordinary web, so they had to find other solutions. She had learned from the indoor scouts that the giants were afraid of one individual moving quickly. No doubt the sight of hundreds at once would have the desired effect, to herd the giants into the desired place, like blind prey. Venom would be a powerful tool here. One injection would not be enough to bring a giant down, but she theorized that a thousand might be. At the very least, it should distract the giant enough that they could strike. Her jaws clicked excitedly. What did they taste like? It would be a feast of legend, all of her followers dining together in glorious victory. Risky, no doubt, but she could already taste the hot, delicious juices.

Loosing a line of silk, she descended from her perch. It was time to find the others and spread the word.

[Story] Story a Week 13

[[ I didn’t use my prompt again, it was weird… hopefully back to some good ones soon. In the meantime I decided to continue Tamazi and Harvian’s story because it’s been ages! ]]

They kept to the plains as they traveled south, avoiding the roads. The ground was more rocky than Tamazi was accustomed to, harder beneath her paws. Nor did she recognize all of the plants, though Harvian seemed to. Once they had found a safe place to rest, he hurried off to gather them. He returned with his arms full of fragrant herbs, carefully breaking and crushing them into one of his jars. This he mixed with a little liquid from a small vial, and he carefully dabbed it onto her cuts. “This should help them heal faster,” he explained. “At the very least, they should hurt less.” He still had a sorrowful expression, his ears still drooped backward. “I never meant for any of this to happen.” Gingerly, he lay a black paw over one of the deeper cuts. “Your coat is ruined.”

Tamazi managed a small amused smile. “What sort of Hunter has no scars?” She had already begun to weave tales of her glorious battles that had left their marks upon her, but nothing she invented was more outlandish than what had really happened previously — tangling with a drake and the strange magical deer. She imagined the Hunters gathering to study each mark with interest. It was true, they hurt less now. The feeling of helplessness and humiliation was far worse, and that was fading now. “But you never explained all of that,” she said. “What you said to them. About a prophecy.”

“Ah,” said Harvian, replacing the lid of the jar. “That might not have been completely true. But it worked, didn’t it?” Tamazi frowned briefly. She didn’t like that he had misled her — being in a prophecy sounded very exciting — but at the same time, he was right. And she didn’t mind misleading those villagers one bit. “Besides,” Harvian added. “It might be true. We haven’t yet reached the temple.”

“What’s the Ascension?” Tamazi asked, settling down on the grass. They were well hidden here, in a tangle of brush. She felt secure enough to rest for the first time in a long while.

Harvian prodded the coals of the fire before getting under his blanket. “The dragons live above us in the heavens, but they always have one representative here on the earth, to serve as their eyes and see their will done.” Tamazi nodded, she knew that much. Her own people didn’t need any dragons, but she’d heard stories about them from the males, some of whom had travelled to distant lands before joining their clan. “The exact process isn’t well known, but a drake is chosen and elevated — changed — to take that role. The last recorded Ascension was hundreds of years ago, the Empress and her son.” Tamazi nodded.

“At present, Miraluna has no one to represent her. There is a void of power, and when that happens, others will move to seize it. Like that drehl kiraal, in the swamp. No doubt there will be others as well,” said Harvian. “I am to see that the Ascension is completed without any interference.”

Tamazi blinked. “You?”

Though it was dark, Tamazi could see the corners of Harvian’s muzzle turn down to a frown. “The Empress gave me this task. I once served at her court, but–” he shook his head. “Rumors and nonsense. There were some who called my loyalty into question. She gave me this duty to prove myself, you could say.”

“So it’s a punishment?” asked Tamazi.

“In a way, I suppose. You’re very astute, Tamazi. You would have done well at court.”

Tamazi mulled over the word. “Is that good?”

Harvian chuckled. “Yes, it means you see things that are in plain sight. It’s not as common as you might think, especially there.”

On the fourth day, Tamazi saw the shimmering spires of the Temple reflecting the light of the Huntress’s eye. She thought it first an illusion, but she called to Harvian, and once she pointed it out, he saw them too. Her wounds had mended well, and though they felt a little stiff, she felt good enough to run for some of the way. Harvian clung to her back so he wouldn’t be left behind. Excitement and eagerness drove her forward, but she was afraid too. It was the largest building she had ever seen, imposing in its size and majesty. No doubt it would be filled with people, and they likely felt the same way about her as the villagers had. She would let Harvian enter first, and ensure that it was safe.

As she drew closer to the Temple, awe stole the breath from her, and she had to stop to catch it back again. It was built of stone, gleaming white and luminescent in the Huntress’s gaze, but the walls and arches were so thin and delicate that Tamazi was afraid she might knock them over with a careless swing of her tail. The tops of the arches had been cut out so that the light shone through them in intricate patterns, and there were large circular openings around the perimeter, these she was sure aligned with the Eye at different hours of the night. It was the most beautiful thing Tamazi had ever seen, surely overseen by the Huntress herself. No ordinary person could have made this.

Harvian seemed in awe as well, his whiskers twitching excitedly as they approached. He agreed to enter first. Tamazi waited at a safe distance, crouched in the swaying grass. She could see the temple attendants, in their long white robes with hoods that covered much of their faces. From where she waited, she could not hear what they said, but they seemed calm and they raised no weapons. At one point, their heads lifted and turned toward her. Harvian waved to her excitedly.

The building was so bright and pristine that Tamazi wished she had washed herself before coming. She felt scruffy and out of place, and it did not help that all of the robed people were watching her intently, she could tell that even behind the robes. Inside was even more beautiful; the Huntress’s light shone through the openings in the arches to throw a pattern of circles upon the floor that mirrored her phases — opened, blinking, and closed. Kamara would love to see this, Tamazi realized. She would have to bring her here, one day. In the very center of the temple floor lay a mosaic, depicting the dragon Miraluna entwined around the Huntress’s opened eye. As Tamazi stepped onto it, a gasp rose from the temple attendants. Tamazi froze in fear, her eyes widening. Had she done something wrong? The temple darkened, as the Huntress’s eye blinked closed. She had heard of it happening, but never witnessed it herself. Harvian, too, seemed shocked, his jaw open in amazement.

The temple attendants, one by one, fell to their knees around her.

[Story] Story a Week 12

[[ Prompt: Signs

Another stab (get it) at a horror story, about something that’s scary to me: Getting lost. ]]

The car hurtled down the road, the dual beams of its headlights shaking whenever it sped over a bump or crack. It was an old country highway, little used now that the major interstates had been put in, and Jack hadn’t passed any other cars since he’d started driving. Of course, it was late at night too, and only a fool would be speeding around these blind corners in the darkness, fog clinging to the road’s flanks. Only a fool, Jack thought, or someone with a death wish. He glanced in the rear-view mirror, but he could see no lights behind him. He was well over the speed limit for the old road, but no one seemed to have noticed yet. Even in the dark woods beyond the road, he saw no glints of houselights nor streetlamps. It was as if the night had swallowed him and his car alive.

Frowning, Jack checked the dashboard. The digital numbers informed him that it was well after two in the morning. Probably still another fifteen minutes to the main highway, at least. He punched on the radio button to help fill the silence, but it was a mangled mess of static with some talk radio mingled in. He couldn’t hear enough of either to make it worthwhile, and trying to discern it made his head hurt. There were probably deer here, too. That would be the last thing he needed, a deer leaping through his front windshield. Jack returned his attention to the road, searching for any hints of movement from the darkness beyond the road.

He sat up straighter when he saw the silhouette of a sign emerge from the shadows. As the car sped closer, the letters came into view: Pierron 5, I-50 7, River Falls 11. Jack exhaled a sigh of relief, it was only seven miles to the highway junction, maybe five minutes. Then everything would be okay. He gripped the wheel and eased the car a little faster.

Jack saw no signs — nor lights — for the town of Pierron, but that wasn’t really unusual way out here in the woods. Many so-called towns were nothing more than dots on a map, not even a gas station or a diner to mark their place. It was odd there wasn’t even a traffic light, though, but maybe there were so few cars this way they didn’t need it. Jack glanced at the clock again. He should be reaching the junction any minute now. But the old highway stretched out for miles before him, it seemed, no sign of a ramp or light anywhere. The signs couldn’t be wrong, could they? That seemed unlikely. He didn’t want to risk pulling over. Jack wrestled his phone out of his jacket pocket and brought up the map application. Though he didn’t know his destination, exactly, the GPS should show his dot moving on the map. He could see the highway crossing on the map, its thick blue line overlapping his thinner purple one. So it was all fine. Everything would work out okay.

But maybe he’d missed it? Was the ramp very small and unmarked. Jack began to worry again when he had driven another ten minutes and still not seen it. The bright green letters on the dash read nearly 3 am. He certainly should have reached it by now. Should he turn around and go back? Jack considered it. He could just turn around on the old highway, there was no one for miles around. But if he hadn’t missed it, he would just be wasting more time. He pressed forward, sure that he would reach it soon. And sure enough, he saw the green square of another road sign up ahead. Pierron 5, I-50 7, River Falls 11, it read. Jack stared at it in disbelief. Why would they put the same sign up twice? Some kind of weird mistake, Jack assured himself. He’d laugh about it with his friends later, maybe post it online. Still, it left him with a feeling of uneasiness. He checked his phone again, and his dot still looked the same distance from the junction. Of course, the map didn’t tell him the scale, so maybe it was just a lot further than he thought. But the sign had said seven miles. According to the clock, and his odometer, he’d definitely gone more than that.

He slumped back in the driver seat, trying the radio again. Maybe it would get his mind off of everything. Drowned by static, he thought he could pick out a song he knew, but he couldn’t really be sure. It was better than the silence, he decided. He veered around a turn, after which opened another long stretch of road. There was another sign here: Pierron 5, I-50 7, River Falls 11. Two was a mistake, Jack didn’t know what three was. A practical joke? He wasn’t laughing. As the miles passed, there were more signs. Every one read the same thing: Pierron 5, I-50 7, River Falls 11. Despite the cold night, Jack felt sweat trickling down the back of his shirt. Had she done this somehow? It seemed impossible, but suddenly the impossible was no longer out of the question. Reluctantly, Jack looked over to the passenger seat.

His date didn’t answer. She stared straight ahead, her eyes fixed in terror, just as she had looked when Jack began to stab her.  

[Story] Story a Week 11

[[ Prompt: Words we hate

I don’t “hate” any words so I started to think about who might hate words, and which words they would hate. ]]

Paul stepped off the train into the brisk spring wind, deceptively cold despite the evening sunshine. He clutched his coat together and ensured that his briefcase was secure before turning down the street to his apartment. Like Paul, everything about it was tidy and meticulous, no unnecessary clutter, no dust beneath the furniture. Stepping in the door, he removed his shoes and coat and put them in their proper places. He crossed the living room with a few quick strides, laying his briefcase down on the coffee table. It was Friday evening, but he was eager to start working again.

He often brought work home with him, and this weekend was no exception. Paul regarded the possibilities of two whole days of uninterrupted work with something like excitement. No interruptions, no coffee breaks, no bothersome conversation from co-workers. He worked as an editor for a large company, overseeing copy for all of their advertisements and publications. Originally he had worked only in the advertising department, but his diligence and drive had soon earned recognition and he was given extra projects to do. Paul couldn’t have been more happy; each was like a treasure hunt that could be savored over and over. This weekend’s project was a good one, an entire instruction manual. He could only imagine how many mistakes he might uncover and reveal.

He went to the kitchen and started a pot of tea, taking the time to collect his pens and sticky notes. These he arranged neatly beside the manuscript. The water would still take a few more minutes to boil, Paul realized. He went to his computer and opened the browser to the news section. Three grammatical errors before he even scrolled down. Appalling! Paul scoffed to himself. Editing took hardly any time at all, they even had programs to do some of it for you now, though nothing could replace a real person, he thought. His teakettle whistled, and he went to pour it, returning to the desk again with his drink. Embarrassing! Who could attach their name to such sloppy work? Paul clicked down to the comments section of the first article, and he nearly dropped his mug in horror. There ought to be a test, he vowed, in order to be able to post things online. Or at the very least, someone to monitor these things. He began to type furiously, correcting each mistake that he saw — and there were quite a few.

Nearly half an hour had passed by the time he reached the end of the comments section, and realized how much time he had already used. Paul returned to his coffee table and flipped open the manuscript. As this was his first edit, there would be plenty to find, and Paul wielded his red pen eagerly. Each one felt like a small victory, seeing a work emerge from its crude origins to something sleek and polished and perfect.

He worked late into the evening, pausing only for a brief meal reheated in the microwave. The pages were slashed with red ink by the time he was through with them, a literary massacre. Paul looked up at the clock to see that it was well past midnight. Reluctantly, he laid his pen down. As much as he wanted to continue, his concentration would suffer if he did not rest. And then he would make mistakes. He moved to close the blinds, when he saw something sitting there in the window. At first he thought it was a stray cat, for it was the correct size and had luminous yellow eyes. Paul rapped the window to try to startle it away, but the animal instead leapt inside, causing him to utter a cry of alarm and disgust. It wasn’t a cat, at least he didn’t think so. It looked like some unholy combination of a monkey and a lizard; its body was covered in glossy scales and it had long thin claws at the end of bony toes.

It also talked. Well, it shrieked. The noise was awful, and Paul was sure the neighbors would hear it and complain. He was about to complain himself. The creature skittered up on top of his bookshelf.

“Should of closed the window!” it cackled, and Paul cringed.

He fetched the broom from the kitchen and tried to dislodge the thing. What was it? If he’d seen it in a movie, he would brush it off as badly done computer effects, but it was real. Wasn’t it?

“You’re literally killing me!” it howled, leaping from the bookshelf to the top of the mantel, knocking down a clock and a pair of candlesticks with a heavy thud.

“Stop it!” Paul shouted. “You terrible thing, get out.” The mess was bad enough, that could be fixed. But the awful grammar was something else entirely.

“I can’t even,” cackled the thing. Its tail writhed like a snake, knocking more things off the mantel. Though he tried, Paul couldn’t get a hold of the creature; it was simply too agile and too fast. It would have to tire eventually. Maybe he could set a trap of some sort. But what to use for bait? And what would he do with it once it was caught? Killing it would make such a mess. Truthfully, Paul was not certain that he could kill it, either. Even looking at the loathsome thing was difficult. Hearing it was certainly worse, though.

Glancing around the apartment, he saw no means of capturing it, at least not this late at night. He picked up the objects from the floor and replaced them in their proper positions. Through this, the creature continued to chatter nonsense, observing Paul from a safe distance. Perhaps, Paul thought, if I feign disinterest, it will lower its guard. But it didn’t, at least that he saw. At one point, Paul grew too tired to stay awake any longer, and fell asleep in his chair.

He awoke to the clatter of keys at his computer. The creature leapt with abandon back and forth over the keyboard, cackling and shrieking all the while. “Stop that!” Paul shouted, rushing over to the desk. The computer’s screen was filled with a mish-mash of garble, incorrectly used apostrophes, and commas. Worse, it had all been posted under his name. Paul searched frantically for a “delete” button, the creature cackling all the while.

The thing had to go. But to do that, Paul needed to figure out what he was dealing with. It definitely wasn’t talking — well it was, but not in any coherent manner. Was it some sort of monkey? But monkeys couldn’t talk, at least not with human speech. Paul studied the thing, warily. Was it a demon? He didn’t believe in such nonsense, but he supposed that didn’t matter. It was here, whether he believed it or not. And how did one get rid of demons? With exorcism, at least that’s what the movies had led him to believe. But he didn’t know any priests, nor was he eager to start asking for an exorcism, lest he look crazy. He already felt crazy with this thing occupying his home. There had to be another way; a home-made solution, so to speak. He pushed the creature out of his chair and brought up the browser: How to get rid of a demon.

The page was appalling. It looked as if it hadn’t been updated since the 1990s, and it had little spinning graphics, as well as animated pixellated candle flames. But once he got past all of that, it did have instructions to rid a house of demons. Paul looked at the creature again. It was chewing scales from its repulsive little arms. He certainly hoped the ritual would work.