NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.
Coldwater Elementary School ~ Coldwater, N.M.
The doorknob rattled. “I’m busy!” Gloria growled, not bothering to look up.
The door opened with a creak. I could have sworn I locked that door, she thought. And those hinges sound like shit. I’ll probably get to bring my own WD40 to fix them, since we apparently can’t afford necessities around here.
A small boy stood in front of her desk.
“Out,” she snapped. “I don’t have time to deal with you right now.”
The child giggled, a deep, rattling sound that sent a chill up her spine. “Oh, I think you do,” he said in a voice that sounded at least 35 years older than the face it came from. Before Gloria could react, the child shimmered, his body expanding and distorting into something dark and shapeless that loomed over her desk.
“They’re mine,” the thing hissed.
Gloria whimpered, barely comprehending the words the creature was saying.
“They’re mine,” it repeated. A spot near the middle of what should have been the thing’s head disintegrated briefly before resolving itself into a mouth with a set of fangs. The mass stretched, shivered, and took the form of a man with a horse’s head. “Not yours. I didn’t give you permission to touch them.”
Gloria looked around wildly.
“There’s no one to help you, Mrs. Henley. No one at all. You shouldn’t be working so late by yourself. Not that anyone could protect you from me.” The creature’s reptilian eyes were horrible to look at, but somehow, she couldn’t make herself look anywhere else.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” she gasped.
“Oh, but you do.” The creature moved its mouth in what might have been a smile. “You thought you knew what they were, and you took it upon yourself to try to run them out of town. Fool. I have plans for them. I have plans the likes of which your feeble little human mind can’t begin to imagine. Plans you wouldn’t have the stomach to carry out, even if you had the ability. I have plans. The little goddess and her fae friend are precisely where I want them. How dare you try to interfere with that?”
The creature leaned across Gloria’s desk. She flinched away, her mind flailing for something to latch onto before her grip on reality abandoned her altogether.
“G-goddess?” she managed.
The creature giggled again. “Did you think you were looking at ordinary banshees? Something out of one of your human horror movies? You recognized them as fae, but your halfarsed little attempt at research didn’t go far enough. The woman is bean sidhe. The girl is … something more.” The creature glared at Gloria. “She and I have met before, you see. She nearly destroyed me. But I survived. I survived, and it’s my turn to destroy her. You tried to interfere with that, and you must be punished.”
It moved as if to slap her, but instead of striking her cheek, it slashed her torso open with what looked like a hawk’s talons. Bloodstains bloomed across her tattered shirt.
The creature brought its face close to hers. It reeked of pond water and death. “Humans ought not to meddle in things they don’t understand.”
Clutching her side, Gloria closed her eyes against the pain, her hands slick with blood. She wanted to call for help, but she was afraid to let go of her wounds. She had a sick feeling that if she pulled her hand away to reach for the phone, her internal organs would come spilling out of the gashes in her body. So she held the wound closed as best she could, weeping and praying and hating all of the otherworldly creatures she couldn’t understand.
Somewhere far away, just before she heard the outer office door click shut, a child’s mocking voice drifted back to her: “Thank you, Mrs. Henley.”
The voice was the last thing she heard before she passed out.