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The taste of fear
Something crunched under Mara's foot. She curiously peered down at her bare feet and found the reason. A large vinyl banner, smeared with mud and trampled by dozens of feet, lay discarded. She kicked at one corner, flopping it open and read what once advertised a craft fair. A pair of knitting needles crossed on each corner. A basket and vase were outlined on the center. A big script read 2025. An old sign then. Or maybe it was new, and it was she who moved through time. She wasn't quite sure.

The darting of a black shadow pulled her gaze upward to the myriad booths and wooden stalls, their interiors all skewed and broken. Shards of pottery littered the paths. Signs dangled from their perches. Chairs upturned. Tables knocked over. Mara stalked to one such booth and picked up a necklace snapped in half. More pieces of metal glinted in the dirt nearby.

Something horrible happened here, she thought idly, and put a hand to her eyes to shade them as she scanned the scene. The sky was lit, despite the lack of sunshine, yet the gesture seemed to help her focus. A black shadow darted behind a booth. Momentarily, she thought it was a rabbit, but when the voice beckoned her to follow, a sly smile tugged at the corners of her mouth and she padded off in suit. Quietly, she thought to herself. They were suppose to be quiet.

She rounded the back of a stall and came upon a pickup abandoned in the grass. Come mistress, the whisper touched her mind, and she padded carefully around the bed. The passenger side door was ajar.

Her eyes flared wide when she saw her pet squat low in front of the door, nuzzling at the fingers of a dangling arm. The black pet peered up, it's eyes glowing like bright moons within the svelte of its fur. She came close, knelt at its side and put a hand on its head, pushing it slightly aside. It complied with a grizzly nuzzle on her own hand, but she didn't fear it's jaw snapping down on her bones as it had been chewing on the hand. She pushed the door open farther, peering inside the cab. Only for the arm to land in a thud at her feet.The torn fringes of a blue sleeve was ripped at the shoulder.

Her pet pounced on the arm, snapping and snarling at the meat it devoured. She jumped from the way and deep lines dug into the edges of her mouth. A scream in the distance snapped her head upward. She left the pet behind to its meal and stalked in search of the owner.

Three steps and it seemed she had paced three hundred. She walked beneath the limbs of a great tree in the center of the fair grounds. The vehicles of food trucks flickered in and out of view. Her dark, tilted eyes studied the logo of one aqua-colored food truck bearing the image of a squid before it disappeared from sight.

The scream did not return. So Mara stalked the area, ears tuned for any noise. At her feet the black fuzz of a pet appeared half a step behind. Then another joined its brother. Then a third. They followed her, all listening for the noise, all eager for another meal.

A creak pulled her ears toward a booth with a sign of a squid on high. Her eyes narrowed to slits as she crouched low in the hunt. The hunger twisted her stomach now. She salivated and padded softly forward. Together with her three black pets, they were a fog of death slowly rolling into the stall.

Soft. So soft. They padded with all the stalking of a wolf on the hunt. Though something about thinking of wolves made her want to snarl, she kept the growl within. Then, she froze. There. They heard it. Panting. The deep, rapid breathing of a terrified soul.

Her lips parted in a wide smile. Her pets broke from her feet, rounding the flaps of the canvas-walled tent. Their screamer huddled behind the tablecloth of the table. Handmade chopsticks were lined across the top. The claw of Mara's hand slowly reached for the nearest one and pulled it into her grasp and held it against her ear like a knife.

The panting drew in a sharp breath and went silent. Their screamer held their breath, but it was too late. They knew where she was.

Mara's lids slid low as she crouched. Every sense surrounding her enveloped her mind, even as it stretched out. Smells of rancid oil and blood mixed with dirt swirled her nose. The absolute absence of noise, of being utterly alone in this sunless world prickled her ears to every single decibel. Her blood ran cold. Her mouth watered. She was hungry and something nearby would feed her.

In fact, it already was. Fear, she hungered for fear. Delectable, filling. She lapped up the fear of the one behind the table like a leech sucking out blood. Her pets sensed it too.

Then, the screamer could hold their breath no longer. They took a barely audible breath in, but the shaking in their lungs was deafening.

Mara and her three pets lept and devoured it until there was nothing left.


Daiyu opened her eyes and peered at the empty ceiling over her bed. She smiled at the shadows, turned over in her bed and nuzzled the blankets high to her chin. When she fell into a peaceful sleep, she knew she felt the best she had in years. She couldn't wait to tell her doctor tomorrow. Meanwhile, the idea for her next novel was born, a horror thriller taking place far in the future: 2100, in a world where monsters erupted from the darkness 75 years previously, ones that fed on fear.

Edited by Daiyu, Feb 18 2018, 08:31 PM.

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"
Jet had not slept well the night before, but the meeting with Beto had gone well. He had come back to his apartment in the city and poured himself a drink and then lay back on the couch, one arm behind his head, his feet crossed at the ankle on the opposite arm. He could hear the dull drone of traffic noise, busy even in the middle of the afternoon, but that only served to lull him to sleep. He could feel himself slipping away and thought a little alpha nap would be just the thing to bring his nerves back down from the high frequency where he’d been resonating since he’d gotten Mara’s letter. And Jet slept peacefully right up until the point where he started dreaming. And then there was nothing at all peaceful about it.

Dressed as a carny, his long locks pulled back into a braid, a dirty t-shirt and jeans, work boots, a cap with the “company” logo on it, Jet wandered aimlessly around what looked to be an old amusement park, long since abandoned. To all appearances he was alone, but he couldn’t help the feeling that something was after him.

After he found the first mutilated body, retching despite the fact that he was starting to realize he had to be dreaming, he started to try to wake himself up. Melany had always talked about feeling like she could control her dreams. When they were younger and he had the occasional nightmare, she had taught him to how to escape his own dreams. But acknowledging this was a dream and that he was asleep on his couch in his apartment and willing himself to wake up did not work this time. Despite a strong urge to fight it, Jet began to feel truly afraid.

“Just a dream, Jefferson. Time to wake up!”
But still, he dreamed.

When he started to see the dark, amorphous shapes out of the corners of his eyes, causing him to spin around but always outside of his vision, he began to run, stumbling through the park. Every time he thought he saw the dark little animals scurrying around, he would turn and they would not be there. He tripped backwards over another corpse and fell into the wall of a tent and almost fell through before catching his balance.

Jet turned around, rational though completely abandoning him, and he ran. The black shadowy shapes nipped at the heals of his work boots and tried to trip him up. And as was the way with dreams, he knew if he fell, if they caught him, that it would be the end of him. He wondered fleetingly if he would die in real life if he died in the dream. He pumped his arms and ran faster, tirelessly, as only a dreamer could run.

Eventually, he felt he had lost the small dark shapes. Metaphorically out of breath, he entered a tent with a squid on the sign and stumbled to a halt at the back of the stall, all the while chiding himself, telling himself it was a nightmare, and it was time to wake up.

Jet wasn’t sure if he heard or saw something or just sensed it, but the overwhelming fear consumed him until he slid down the wall of the tent and crawled under a table, wrapping himself within the tablecloth like a child hiding from the monster under his bed. When he heard them there, he held his breath until his lungs would burst and with a whimper of utmost terror, gave in to the fear, feeling whatever it was out there devour his soul.

Jet woke with a start, falling. He landed on the floor, arms and legs obviously thrashing enough to have knocked him off the couch. His left arm was completely asleep and his heart was beating so hard it was taking his breath away. Lying on the floor on his side, he quickly assessed himself for any damage. Once he was satisfied he probably hadn’t broken anything on his short fall from the couch to the floor, he slowly sat up, rubbing at his tingling arm. He closed his eyes and consciously began to work on slowing his breathing, his heartbeat, and little by little the abject terror subsided.

he whispered aloud as portions of the dream streamed forcefully back into his conscious brain, and his heart raced back up again, an irrational thought taking hold. He looked quickly all around the room. The dream had been so real that he almost expected to see the little black smudges just outside his vision. Reassured, but still shaken, he rose and went to the bar to pour himself another drink. He would be happy when all this was settled, and they were on their way to Moscow.

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