#13.1 "Vicious Little Predator"
The breeze that blew past me had an edge to it, slicing across my arms to make the goosebumps ripple over my skin. I tried hugging my arms close against my chest, but the wind was so strong, what would be the point?
Where was my kitten? I scooted closer to the small knot of trees at the back of the yard. It was always full of debris and weeds, the trees were dwarf-size, more like large shrubs than anything, and Juniper loved to hunt and explore all the fascinating things that were used to us just leaving them alone.
“Juniper!” I called.
The leaves rustled. She was in there all right. Naughty kitty! I made kissy noises. “Come on! Do you want food? Let’s go eat, hey?”
More rustling, then a little grey head popped up. Beady golden eyes stared at me, the little ears twitching.
“That’s it, Juniper! Come on, honey!”
I made sure to get her attention before walking away. Sure enough, I was only halfway to the house by the time the tiny furry body brushed against my ankles.
I bent down and picked her up. That’s when I noticed the wings sticking out of her mouth.
“Oh! Juniper! Did you eat a dragonfly?” The small, purple body hanging from her mouth had an odd shape. I rubbed my kitty’s chin, trying to coax her to spit it out or swallow it. “No bugs in the house, Nips! That’s disgust—“
I didn’t get to finish the word before she hurled the wet, floppy thing into my hand. I was so surprised that I dropped her onto the stoop and she zoomed through the open door. I almost threw the bug away, too, before my brain realized that this was no insect.
“What?” I gasped, laying it out on the kitchen counter so I could examine it under the light.
Dragonfly wings attached to a humanoid body with purple skin, and some kind of blue-green iridescent scales over that. Red hair, saturated with kitten saliva, grew from its head. My vicious little predator had pierced its abdomen, drawing tiny beads of blood from the puncture wounds.
"Nips!" I groaned, prodding the tiny body with trembling fingers.
A fairy; a genuine fairy, laying on my kitchen counter, possibly bleeding to death. My mind buzzed, as if I suddenly couldn't figure out what was real and what might be hallucination. Grabbing the kitty lest she get curious while my back was turned, I made for the small First Aid travel kit in the desk drawer. The smallest piece of gauze was enough to wrap around the fairy's abdomen twice. I used a dry dishcloth, wadded up, as a cushion to lay it on. All that was left to do was wait until it awoke... if it ever would.
#13.2 "A Real Fixer-Upper"
Prompt: The science engineer looked at me and shook his head. "I'm afraid I have bad news. We found trace elements of an unknown chemical element in the house you just bought...."
Buying a house should have been a process, an arduous ordeal. All the papers, the forms, the money, the insurance... I seemed to recall the number of times we moved, and the amount of paperwork my parents had to sift through every time...
“What an age we live in,” I mused to myself as I swiped my Comprehensive Identification Card on the TitleDex. It whirred for a few moments, and from the slot below dropped a title with my name and information printed on it. The realtor technician smiled and took the honor of formally handing the title to me and shaking my hand.
“Congratulations, Cedric. You are now the owner of the illustrious Gateway Manor. Inspectors will be by tomorrow, just giving the house one last check-over, and you can begin moving in immediately.”
“Wonderful!” I replied, gazing over her shoulder at the derelict heap that had remained abandoned since the start of the twenty-first century. “I’d like to hire the movers for Thursday, then.”
The realtor nodded. “That can be arranged.” She tapped the comm in her ear and walked away, signaling an end to our business.
Or so I thought.
The call came the next day, Wednesday, just after I had told my wife to start boxing all our belongings so the movers could just pick them up right away.
“Cedric Holmes?” asked the voice at the other end.
“Yes,” I replied. “Who is this?”
A heavy sigh. “This is Mark, the chief inspector for your new home.”
I detected a hint of dread in his voice. “Ah, yes; is everything all right?”
A long pause. “You’ll want to come see this, sir.”
I begged an early lunch and took the fastest line to the Manor.
The entire house was nearly invisible under the massive, hazmat-yellow tent somehow thrown up around it. I stride for the door until I saw someone emerge.
“What the heck is going on?” I demanded of him.
The science engineer looked at me and shook his head. “I’m afraid I have bad news. We found trace elements of an unknown chemical in the house you just bought...”
My mind whirled, drowning out the rest of his words. Trace elements? Unknown chemical? What humbug was this?
I pushed past him to enter the house. He tried to scoot back and stop me.
“Sir, you can’t go in...”
“The heck I can! I own the place! I can do what I want!”
“Sir! It could be dangerous—“
I slipped through the opening.
The entire house was crawling with men in yellow jumpsuits, waving scanners and scraping walls. They all stopped dead when they saw me, unprotected.
I stood still too—I didn’t really know what I was doing there, any more than they did.
In the silence, I heard it.
A rasping, creaking, oozing sound. It seemed to come from the stairwell. I carefully sidled in that direction.
At first, it looked like nothing... but then, as I squinted, I could see that the stairs didn’t quite look like stairs. A sheen seemed to take up the space from the first step to the hallway above. But in spite of being a hazy sort of substance, it seemed to maintain its shape, not spreading any further than those walls.
“What...” I mumbled to myself, shuffling forward. I could hear the muffled murmurs of frightened scientists, but no part of me cared about them. It was my house—what did I have to fear? It was just smoke, wasn’t it?
I placed my finger against the wall of haze. It offered little resistance, welcoming my fingertip into its surface like a gooey pudding. I tried to pull back—but my finger stuck there in midair!
“What the—“ Before I could ask the scientists for help, the sticky fog slithered over my hand, swallowed my arm, and finally dragged my whole body into that space!
I closed my eyes and cringed, expecting a face-full of old wood and splinters all over my legs and arms... But as soon as the cold sensation closed over my back, I staggered forward over an uneven, but soft, surface. I opened my eyes and lifted my head.
I had gone from inside a dirty old house on a grey day to standing on a short hill under a clear-blue sky.
What had I gotten myself into? More importantly... How was I going to get back?
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