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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Short Story Sunday: Delta Gamma Nu


Every Sunday (okay...most Sundays), I will post a short story for your enjoyment and/or derision. All feedback is welcome and appreciated.


“Hey pretty girl!”
Angela Waite stopped drumming her fingers on the bar, put her drink down, and glanced up. In front of her stood a mountain of a man clad in flannel and faded blue jeans. His face was bright red, sweat pouring everywhere from the copious amount of alcohol he’d been funneling since the sun went down over Arkham. He definitely wasn’t ideal, but good enough for now.
“Hi there,” she replied, batting the eye lashes she’d curled out to a ridiculous length. “You go to Miskatonic?”
Flannel’s eyes had already dropped down to gaze at one-size too small green halter top she was wearing, but the sound of her voice caused them to dart towards the floor.
“Uh, yeah…sort of,” he stammered. “I used to be on scholarship, but um…”
“So you play for the Squids?” 
She pushed her chest out slightly and leaned forward.
“N-not anymore,” he replied, backing away. “Got probation for alcohol and some other...stuff.”
Angela pressed her lips close to his ear and began tracing her fingers across his neck. “I won’t tell anyone you’re out here drinking if you take me home with you.”
The man backed away like he’d been burned, stumbling over a nearby barstool and nearly crashing onto the floor.
“I-I can’t. Got to go back to my uh…people.” 
He clumsily spun around and scrambled over to the group of similarly clad boys by one of the pool tables. Once he was safely back with his people, they all began laughing and clapping him on the back. They thought she couldn’t hear them, but every statement about her being a ‘slut’ or them ‘not wanting to get herpes’ was crystal clear.
What the hell is everyone’s problem? Angela thought, drumming her fingers on the wood bar top again. Most guys seemed too afraid to hit on her, but the ones who did got even more scared when she responded aggressively. Didn’t they realize what an easy score they were passing up?
She looked down at her chest, which had been augmented far beyond what would be considered anatomically normal for a human woman. It wasn’t a part of herself that Angela was particularly fond of, but she'd hoped it would help attract more suitors. Instead, it just led to lots of leering and cat calls wherever she traveled by foot. 
She remembered one man in particular who requested that she allow him to "holler at that ass" and began to follow her. Angela responded by turning turned and walking towards him, closing the distance with a devilish grin spread across her face. She’d assumed the look would indicate she was ready and willing to interact, both verbally and physically. To her surprise, however, the man immediately turned tail and ran in the opposite direction.
Incidents like that had been both surprisingly commonplace and unbelievably frustrating. Whenever she approached a man who made aggressive overtures in her direction, his bravado instantly evaporated. In its place would be a blubbering, incoherent coward, completely unaware of what to do when he actually managed to hook the prize.
“Idiots,” Angela hissed, licking the last bits of salt off her glass before reaching for the water sitting next to it.
Maybe she’d gone about this all wrong. Perhaps these men didn’t want a woman to assertively make it clear she wanted to copulate. Maybe they wanted to feel as though she’d been seduced by their nonexistent wiles.
After finishing her drink, Angela pushed up the mounds of silicone over where her heart was supposed to be, took a deep breath, and slunk down into her chair. Instead of eyeing the room like a creature on the prowl, she made herself appear meek and slightly timid, as if she was looking to be rescued rather than searching for a target.
It didn’t take long for someone to take the bait.
“You feel like making some bad decisions tonight?” said a man with blond tipped hair and Greek letters emblazoned across his grey shirt.
Angela's first instinct was to lean forward and reply with a list of all the things he’d get to do if he took her home. This time, however, she faked a giggle and darted her eyes from side to side, doing her best to look both shy and a little scared.
“I guess so. I was thinking about just going home though…”
“Well why don’t you just come home with me?” Blond Tips replied, moving in so close she could smell the booze sweating out of him.
“I probably shouldn’t. I’ve had way too much to drink,” Angela lied.
Tips got even closer, pressing his entire perspiration-soaked body against hers. “Well you can’t be driving home yourself then, can you? I’m sober. Just come back to my place and if you feel like leaving after a while, I’ll take you back to yours.”
She knew he was lying on both counts, but as long as he made good on the part about taking her back to his fraternity house, she could risk a drunken car ride for it.
As they stumbled out of the bar, Angela pretended to be drunk, noticing that every slurred, explicit statement she whispered into his ear made him hold her even tighter. After arriving at his jeep and climbing inside, she grabbed his arm pulled him to her mouth. His tongue was unbearably dry, one of many disgusting obstacles the others had warned her would she would face. She forced herself to keep kissing him, though. This was part of the process. It didn’t take very long before she felt his hands fumbling around the back of her top.
“Wait,” she whispered. “Let’s get back to your place first.”
Instead of heeding her request, he pulled her even closer, his hands hardening from fumbling fingertips into knobby, vice-like grips. Angela pushed away, careful to hold back enough so that he wouldn’t become scared or threatened.
“Your place,” she cooed, lowering her eyelids and smiling.
Tips looked at her again for a moment, his expression changing from lustful to annoyed. “What if you pass out before we get there?”
Angelia sighed before reaching over and grabbing his crotch. “I’ll be fine. You just make sure you’re ready.”
Tips smiled, suppressed a belch, and started the engine, filling Angela with a sense of relief. This guy definitely wasn’t catch, but if everything went like it was supposed to, it wouldn’t matter. After faking her way through a little foreplay and screaming like a humpback whale in heat, she could leave him sleeping and satisfied while escaping back to her home. He would never have to see her and she would never have to think about him. Then it would be time to begin the nine month task of fulfilling The Elder’s requirement for—
“S**t!”
Tips’ jeep hit a curb and lurched up into the air, crashing back down onto the street so hard it felt like the vehicle might crack open.
“Sorry,” Tips whispered as he swerved back into the right lane.
“It’s fine,” Angela replied, almost forgetting to make herself sound like she’d been rattled. Unfortunately for her, Tips actually did seem to have been shaken by the near death experience. That made him want to talk so that he could calm his nerves.
 “So…where you from?”
“Ipswich,” she lied.
“Local girl, huh? That’s cool. I’m from Boston. Parents wanted me to go to Harvard, but Miskatonic was a lot cheaper, ya know?”
Angela nodded, hoping that her silence would help end Tips’ attempt at small talk. Instead, he grabbed her arm and yanked it towards him.
“I was talkin’ to you! Are you even listening to me?!” His eyes were ablaze, lust and anger burning into a glare.
“Sorry baby,” Angela replied, carefully pulling his hand away. “Just want to get to the house and get things going, you know?”
Tips smiled and turned his focus back to the road, where the car was still swerving, but not as much as before. After a few more near misses (one of which included a stop sign that "came out of nowhere") they made it back to the Alpha Sigma Sigma fraternity house. Both the City of Arkham and Miskatonic University police departments had been predictably ineffective, allowing them to drunkenly weave their way back to campus without being stopped. Considering how explicit The Elders were about not leaving a trail, a wreck or a DUI would have been disastrous. But now here she was, about to fulfill the first part of her task. Angela had never considered it her destiny, but she understood why the ritual needed to be done. The next part would be even more difficult, but at least that would be taken care of at home, surrounded by her family and the water.
“SMITTY!” a shirtless man bellowed from one of the second story windows. “You bringin’ home another piece of ass!”
“Hell yeah!” Tips shouted back.
Angela forced a drunken-sounding giggle and smiled. It made the skin over her bones crawl when boys spoke of her like bait on a fishing hook. They’d never dare to say those things if they really knew who she was. What she really was. For now, though, she would play her part and get what she needed, leaving ‘Smitty’ happily oblivious to the sacred ritual he’d taken part in.
As they stumbled through the front door, Angela leaned up for a kiss while pushing him away from the house’s main entryway. She kicked off her green heels as they backed into the bedroom, pausing to shut the door behind them before contining to pull each other’s clothes off . She was just about to push him onto to the bed when he beat her to it, shoving her so forcefully that she almost hit her head against the wall. It was the first time that evening that she’d felt scared, but the sensation quickly passed. No matter how aggressive he got, there was nothing he could do to her. Even if it meant disobeying The Elder’s commands, there was no way she’d allow a mouther breather like this to treat her like a scavenged whale carcass.
Tips/Smitty was just about to take off his pants when someone behind them began slamming the door and calling his name.
“Damn it,” he hissed. “Just wait right here, alright?”
“Not going anywhere,” she replied with a smile, which immediately dropped when he turned and walked out the door. 
As soon as the door closed, two other men’s voices began fervently whispering. Just like at the bar, she could hear every word that they thought was being exchanged in secret.
“Smitty man, you owe us!”
“Yeah! This is part of being a brother, you s***head! We’ve hooked you up a million times before and that girl in there is completely drunk off her ass.”
“Fine, fine,” Smitty replied, shushing his friends. “I guess I got greedy. But can I at least have a turn with her when you two are done?”
Angela couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Smitty had seemed like a bit of a jerk, but she figured he would have at least spoken up for her out of a selfish desire to have her for himself. Instead, he seemed more than willing to let his two companions treat her like a piece of squid meat.
The strange sensation of something crawling over her skin returned, this time twice as strong. She didn’t care anymore about completing her task that night. She’d just head back to Innsmouth, restock on supplies, and try again next weekend.
“Not sure you’d want anything that Ryan’s torn through, but you’re welcome to it once he’s finished,” the first man replied before opening the door.
“Hey pretty girl,” Smitty said in a normal voice, completely unaware that she’d heard the transaction being brokered on her behalf. “This is Ryan and Collin. They are really good guys and wanted to hang out with you for a little bit if that’s alright.”
“No, it’s not,” she replied, no longer bothering to pretend that she was intoxicated.
“Dude, I thought you said she was wasted!” the one named Ryan exclaimed.
“She was,” Smitty responded. “Did you take something while we were out there?”
“Just a little time to think,” Angela responded coolly. “This isn’t a good idea. I’m going home now.”
As she got up to leave the room, the one named Collin stepped back and closed the door, blocking it with his massive frame. “Sorry doll, but we haven’t had a chance to get to know each other yet.”
“Get the hell out of my way,” Angela hissed. She’d spoken so quickly her human voice momentarily faltered, causing the last few syllables to end with a gurgle.
“Nice,” Ryan replied. “She’s still totally drunk.”
Before Angela could react, Ryan had pushed her back onto the bed and was pinning her legs against it with his knees. He then grabbed both of her arms with one hand and held them down over her head, using his free hand to unzip his jeans. “You guys watch the door. It’s been a while, so you won’t have to do it for very long.”
Smitty looked slightly uncomfortable, but didn’t move to do anything. Collin, on the other hand, let out a loud guffaw while clapping his hands together. Angela had already decided to defend herself, but his amusement over the situation sent her kill instinct into overdrive. A black tentacle shot out of her mouth before she had time to realize what was happening. Once it wrapped around Ryan’s neck, however, she was fully aware of what was happening…and squeezed. A shower of blood and flesh exploded from where her attacker’s head had been, causing the other two men to cry out as they fell back against the wall behind them. The tentacle retracted into Angela’s mouth as she shot up off the bed and landed on her feet, which gripped into the floor so hard the hardwood panels cracked and splintered beneath them.
Her eyes quickly glanced over at a full length mirror across from the bed, which Smitty had likely put there so he could watch himself and the girls he brought home. Unfortunately for him, the drunk girl he thought he’d taken into his bedroom was no longer there. The halter top, green skirt, and much of the fake skin remained, but the scales covering her true form had begun to burst through, shimmering against the blue lava lamp resting on a nearby nightstand. Her fins popped, exposing the black blades that ran down her arms and back. She wasn’t sure if Smitty and Collin could see them, but there was no doubt they saw her eyes, which were now glowing with their natural, yellow hue.
Even out of the water, this was when she was most beautiful. A descendent of the Great Old Ones. A sister of The Deep. A daughter of Y'ha-nthlei.
A Dagon.
Collin was still screaming. That was good. He should be terrified. These pathetic, warm-blooded masses of hormones had no idea who or what they were dealing with.
Despite being considered young by the rest of her family, she’d been alive longer than they could even imagine. Her kind may have been driven back into the depths, but this world was still theirs. She was one of many born with the ability to blend into the humans’ world. It was their sacred charge to breed more--to lay the groundwork for complete infiltration. But first and foremost, Angela was a warrior. And warriors are not to be disrespected.
Collin stopped screaming long enough to scramble to his feet and reach for the door. Angela was there in a flash, blocking his way as he’d tried to do to her before. She cocked her head for a moment, breathing in the delicious scent of fear and urine radiating from Collin’s pants. She initially thought he was going to beg, but his motor functions were too far gone to form coherent speech. Behind her, Smitty was attempting to open the window. Angela wanted to take her time with this, but she also couldn’t risk there being any witnesses to what she really was. Her race’s destiny depended greatly on its existence remaining a local legend.
Collin was now cowering against the door, weeping so hard that his entire body had begun to convulse. Angela squatted down in front of him, unhinging her hips so that her upper torso remained completely upright between her knees. She took Collin’s chin in her hand and pulled it up, staring hard into his eyes. After making sure that his eyes were locked into hers, she opened her mouth so wide that she lost sight of him for a moment. In the next instant, the sharp incisors near the back of her throat sliced down onto his neck. It only took three tugs to pull his head free.
Smitty tried to scream, but no sound came out. By the time his body forced him to start breathing again, Collin’s skull had been spat out by his feet, gleaned of all its flesh. Angela turned her large, yellow eyes towards him, half slithering and half stalking in his direction until he was curled up beneath her.
Wa'a guung su aftftugh shan su gu na ha'n?” she hissed, moving her head from side to side. Smitty stared back at her with a blank look of confusion and terror.
Were you really going to allow them to harm me?” she asked in the tongue of the world above, no longer trying to hide the gurgling that followed each syllable.
“I-I don’t know,” he stammered in reply. “I didn’t know what you were! If I’d known--”
Even in this insipid form, I should have still demanded your respect.  You were not brought forth in a mound of eggs left in a cold, dark place. You were birthed from the inside of a female…a process of pain that was taken willingly upon your behalf.
Angela lifted her right hand, extending a set of black claws from each finger. She placed three of them under Smitty’s neck, lifting his head so that the tears and snot pouring from his eyes and nose ran into his mouth.
It is a process I will have to undertake as well. A curse given to me by my Innsmouth ancestors so that we may have ones who hide among your kind. You were to be the one to plant the seed. Instead, I shall cull your bloodline for both our races. Yuia' tuiaft thaftft ftia'n un C'shiaftia't tughs!”
Her claws cut into Smitty’s throat with a wet rip, causing blood to pour out onto the floor. He barely had time to gasp before his life had expired.
“Whoops,” she said in her human voice, glancing around at the death and destruction that she’d caused.
Her fins and claws retracted back into her skin as she walked over to retrieve her green heels. There wasn’t much about her human form that Angela enjoyed, but she’d developed a strange and protective affinity towards the various articles of footwear she’d acquired in the last few weeks. After slipping on her shoes and straightening her skirt, she gave Smitty’s head a light kick, causing it to detach the rest of the way from his neck.
“You idiot,” Angela sighed. “All you had to do was get laid. Was that really so difficult?”
By the time she reached the window, the pounding on the door had turned into a cacophony of sharp bangs. The boys outside were trying to knock it down. The cracking door frame meant that they would succeed, but not before she’d escaped and started on her way back to Innsmouth.
Angela dug her hands into the window frame and pulled. It easily snapped up and opened, bringing the cool breeze of Arkham’s sea kissed autumn air rushing into the room. She carefully stepped out onto the roof and into the night, making sure to stay in the shadows where the other fraternity housing complexes wouldn’t be able to see her.
Before leaping down onto the ground, she turned and looked back towards the window, where she’d encountered something that made her feel empathy towards the surface for the first time in her life.
“Sorry boys,” she sighed. “But you just don’t treat a lady like that…or a fish.”





Sunday, September 24, 2017

Short Story Sunday: Night Song



Every Sunday (okay...most Sundays), I will post a short story for your enjoyment and/or derision. All feedback is welcome and appreciated.


For Madeline, there was no better therapy after a long day than running through her neighborhood’s nature trail, especially at night. A moonlit sky, soft earth beneath her shoes, and the chorus of insects and swamp creatures filling the crisp autumn air calmed her nerves better than any glass of wine ever could.
She knew that jogging alone after dark wasn’t the safest activity she could choose, but it was something she'd never felt safe doing back in the city. Now that she’d made enough money to move out to the suburbs, however, the risk of being mugged was significantly less. In fact, the only other people she ever seemed to encounter were neighborhood teenagers clumsily making out with each other by the dock.
Madeline still kept her eyes and ears open, though, as much for her own protection as to take in the beautiful night song that nature seemed to be singing just for her. The harsher chills of fall didn’t hit the coast of South Carolina until much later than most areas, meaning that the insects and creatures normally driven into hibernation or death by winter’s preamble were still alive and well. Frogs croaked, crickets chirped, and cicadas did…whatever they did…all coming together to create a symphony far more beautiful than anything on her iPod. The only sound bold enough to intrude upon their performance was the rhythmic crunching of her shoes over the gravel-lined trail.
The mix of endorphins and natural beauty had made her nightly runs a ritual of serenity she rarely missed. But now, with the southern-tempered fall season, it was like a full recharge for her soul. The pulse of the forested swamp and the perfectly cool-but-not-too-cold air breathed much needed life into her spirit after hours of staring at a computer screen.
So when the night creatures’ performance came to a sudden and jarring halt, the silence caused Madeline to freeze in the middle of the trail.
“What the hell?” she whispered, peering back into forest.
Madeline waited a moment before gingerly moving her left foot in front of her right. As if in response, a lone cicada called out before quickly going silent again. She waited for another chirp to signal that everything was back to how it should be, but the only rival to the alien and unsettling silence was the beating of her own heart inside her ears.
After waiting a few more seconds, Madeline began to move forward again, measuring each step while shifting her eyes from one side of the trail to the other.
“This is stupid,” she thought, painfully aware of how loud the crunching gravel beneath her shoes had become. “Just because the critters went mute doesn’t mean I have to be quiet.”
Madeline stooped over, picked up a nearby rock, and tossed it back in the direction from which she’d come. After the stone skipped into the woods, she was answered by nothing more than continued silence.
“Okay, I’m not the damn Orkin Man!” Madeline bellowed at the empty path behind her. “You guys don’t have to stop your conversations on account of me walking through your turf!”
Madeline chuckled to herself, amused and a bit embarrassed at her attempt to engage insects and amphibians in confrontational dialogue.
“Guess it’s going to be a few cold ones and a movie tonight,” she whispered. “This stroll through the woods just went from relaxing to all types of creepy.”
After throwing another rock down the path for good measure, Madeline began jogging at a much brisker pace in the opposite direction. Before the inexplicable silence had descended upon her, she’d nearly made it to the end of the trail. Fortunately, it still wouldn’t take very long for her to get back home from there. The path led through more wooded areas before opening onto a bridge that crossed a large creek running through the neighborhood. After that, it was less than a mile of well-lit and unwooded lawns to reach the welcome safety of her home. It was strange to think of her nightly jogging path as something to be scared of, but the purposeful silence in the air that evening was more than a little unsettling.
As she neared one of the trail’s intersections, the sudden chirping of a lone cricket caught Madeline by surprise. She attempted to turn towards where the sound came from, but more chirping immediately added to the first one, this time from all directions. Before she could turn back to where she’d been facing, the cicadas and frogs joined in, as well.
At first, the returning sounds brought a welcome wave of reassurance. The night song of the swamp creatures had begun again, reducing their brief silence to an inexplicable anomaly. But as their song continued, it grew much louder than she’d ever heard before. After a few moments, the familiar, soothing cadence morphed into an almost physical presence, pushing in on her so hard that it became difficult to breathe.
Madeline clutched her hands to her head and continued jogging, then sprinting towards the creek bridge. Behind her, the ground felt as if it were actually shaking from massive wave of sound, turning into something much more tactile and close. The crunching gravel under Madeline’s feet was muted now, its rhythmic grinding washed away in a sea of agitated croaks and chirps. The night song's volume became so powerful that even the sound of her heart beating inside her ears disappeared. All Madeline could hear now was the relentless buzz of life that seemed to be closing in on her with every passing second.
Realizing that her hands were doing nothing to dissipate the noise, Madeline pulled them away from her ears and focused all of her attention on running. The shaking ground beneath her feet was making it difficult to keep her balance. When she stumbled and nearly fell into the dirt, something that looked like a long, hair-covered arm flashed by her right shoulder. Madeline's brain didn’t have time to process what the appendage had been connected to, but something primal and terrified inside of her instantly concluded that the entity was not human. Perhaps it was the abnormally fast speed with which it shot towards her shoulder—or maybe it was because the hand which she momentarily glimpsed had only three fingers, each with a thin black claw extending out from it. But Madeline did not have the current capacity or focus to process what was chasing her. All that mattered was getting out of the woods and back towards in the light.
As she rounded the last turn before the bridge, the chirping and croaking became so oppressive that it felt made her ears feel as if they were bleeding. Something warm and hungry began to breath down her neck. The night song was in sync with whatever it was pursing her, pulsating in time with the hot gusts of air that rhythmically blew her hair forward and in front of her face.
For the briefest of moments, Madeline decided to give up. The hot breath on the back of her neck was joined by something tacky and wet, dotting her elbows and stringing onto her waist. It burned, but not like fire or acid. The heat enveloping her was fatigue, radiating over her entire body like a drug that wanted to pull her mind under her fear and into a starless abyss. 
Just when Madeline legs began to give out, the crunching gravel beneath her feet was replaced by loud clacks as her shoes smacked across a wooden bridge. The sudden change in noise awoke something inside her. She was so close--just a few yards from being out of the woods and into the neighborhood. Madeline pushed towards the brightly lit street ahead. She wasn’t sure why her mind had convinced itself that being among the other houses would lead to safety, but her legs refused to entertain the debate, pumping with all their might in a desperate bid to flee the woods.
As she neared the end of the bridge, something wet snapped against the side of Madeline’s left cheek while an insect-like appendage began to wrap itself around her stomach. Bristling fibers grazed back and forth along her back, moving in manic synchronicity with the night song that now dominated the air. As the fibers got closer, something with the texture of moist leather clamped onto Madeline’s shoulder, pushing her down while simultaneously pulling with all its might to pull her back. Madeline gritted her teeth, closed her eyes, and pushed even harder towards the tree line.
The sound of wooden bridge gave way once again to gravel, the trail finally depositing her between two houses that ran up against the property line next to the neighborhood club house. As the nearby refuge of street lights blurred in a wash of sweat and tears, the sensation of countless tiny legs exploded across Madeline's back. After letting out a desperate gasp, she pushed the sensation to the back of her mind and sprinted past the final tree before diving toward the first street light. After a hard landing onto a freshly cut lawn, she immediately jumped back up and prepared to scream with whatever voice she had left--or to fight. But when Madeline whipped around to face the trail , there was nothing there but empty woods and deafening silence. No cicadas, no crickets, no frogs, and nothing trying to run her down. All that remained of her horrifying pursuit was the beautiful fall night and the manic beating of her heart.
Madeline immediately pulled out her phone and dialed 911. She breathlessly explained to the dispatcher that “someone was chasing me through the Hamlin Subdivision nature trail,” even though her description didn’t come to close to portraying what she’d actually experienced. After giving the dispatcher the address of the house in front of her, Madeline hung up and ran towards it. Despite being more scared than she’d ever been in her life, a small part of her was still embarrassed about knocking on a neighbor’s door (and one she had never met, no less) a little after 10:00 PM.
But when a kind and concerned looking woman greeted her, Madeline instantly burst into tears. This brought the woman’s husband and two children rushing to the door, as well. The entire family took her into the kitchen, where she was provided with a blanket and a glass of water. Through violent sobs and sips, she told them with the most believable version of her story that she could come up with on the spot. There was no mention of the night creature’s cacophony of angry sounds, nor did she mention how the thing that had been chasing her was almost assuredly not human. 
As the evening wore on, Madeline’s confusion over what she’d experienced slowly turned into genuine skepticism. She knew that something had been chasing her, but maybe it really was just ‘some psycho drugged out of his mind’ like the father had suggested. When the police arrived, she gave them the same story she’d told to the family, once again omitting any mention of night creatures or an inhuman pursuer. She stayed up with the family a while, telling them about herself and where she was from. The children instantly latched on to her, their adoration laser focused on the person who’d given them an excuse to stay up late on a school night. Once the police left and she’d calmed down a bit, the mother gave Madeline a ride home along with her phone number, earnestly requesting that she call if any sort of threat (or even simply the specter of fear) made her unable to remain inside her own home.
After giving the woman and hug and heading inside, Madeline began to feel the full emotional and physical toll of that night’s events. She decided to forgo her nightly shower, figuring that having to wake up a few minutes earlier for work and washing her current bed sheets was a perfectly fair price to pay for immediate rest.
Before allowing her eyes to close and letting the world to fade, however, she decided to call her best friend, Mandy.  She wasn’t sure why; it wasn’t like she could explain to her what happened any better than she’d be able to for the family or the police. But the desire to reach out to someone she could trust was urgent enough that even her extreme exhaustion couldn’t fight it.
“Maddy?” Mandy asked after picking up the phone on the second ring. “Why the hell are you calling me at 1:15 in the morning?”
“Cause I knew you’d be up,” Madeline responded, much more tersely than she’d intended.
“Well excuse me for not having a job like yours where I’d have to be there at 7:00 AM,” Mandy shot back. “And it’s not like I go out drinking every night. Sometimes it’s fun to just stay in and binge some Netflix.”
“I got attacked tonight, Mandy,” Madeline blurted out.
“Holy crap Mads, are you alright?” Mandy asked, her voice now filled with concern.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Some psycho chased me through the nature trail during my nightly walk. I got away from him though.”
“Why didn’t you just kick his ass like that one guy downtown from a few years ago?”
Madeline paused for a moment, considering the possibility of telling her most trusted friend in the world what she’d been through that evening—and if she would even be willing to believe her. “My mind just wasn’t in that mode. I think he might have had a weapon on him or something, anyway, so I just got the hell out of there as fast as I could.”
The rest of the conversation involved more questions (“What did he look like?”, “Did he say anything?”, etc.) that Madeline quickly deflected. It made her feel terrible to lie like that, but even if telling the truth was an option, she only had a vague idea of what the “truth” actually was, anyway.
“Hey Mandy, I’ve got a weird question,” Madeline said before hanging up for the night. “Did the insects and frogs tonight sound really loud to you?”
“I guess,” Mandy replied. “No louder than usual, though. Why do you ask?”
“No reason,” Madeline said after a moment. “I guess everything just seems louder when you’re running for your life from a maniac.”
After promising to call Mandy first thing when she got up in the morning, Madeline put the phone down and peeled off her sweat soaked clothes. After tossing them haphazardly onto the floor, she climbed into bed and pulled the sheets up around her, letting the sound of them sliding against her skin melt her consciousness into a blissful state of exhaustion-fueled slumber. But just before her eyes could flutter into a deep sleep, something outside her bedroom window grabbed what little of her waking attention remained. The street light that stood on the corner of her street had gone out, plunging the world around her into night’s natural darkness. The augmented blackness was almost immediately followed by a small chirping sound.
Madeline’s eyes popped open as a multitude of croaks and chirps grew in volume, slowly surrounding her home…

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