86.

The bright sparkled upon the sand; the wet hummed peacefully as it washed over it and retreated, washed and retreated.

Himself waddled under the shade of the leaves. There were tasty seeds here. So many tasty seeds. Dig, dig, gulp.

Something big, there. Himself gave it a passing glance. What a big bird!

What a loud sound! Ouch! Himself’s legs weren’t working. Himself collapsed, squawking weakly. So much ouch!

85.

Witches are made primarily of piss and vinegar, so you should know it wasn’t the water that did it, but the soda wash Dorothy was using to clean the floor.

83.

The First One did not know how to die.

Seeking answers, she made children. To them she gave the gift of death, so that they could teach her the trick of it.

But they loved her so, and they would not teach her.

That was long ago. The First One’s children have died. And their children. And their children’s children.

They have forgotten the First One. She has not yet learned the secret of death, first because of love, now because the children do not remember.

But the First One feels the world grow old around her. It will be a very, very long time still, but she begins to feel, in her bones, that the world itself will die. And then perhaps it will share its secret, and she can sleep, and be finished.

82.

With a roar, the captain leaps upon the mast, her pistol belching smoke and fire. One of the kraken’s eyes explodes in a gush of thick white fluid and gobs of gelatinous flesh.

The sea itself seems to roar in pain. A great green wave swirls over the deck. One massive, suckered arm wraps around the mast, wrenching it off, sending nails and splintered wood raining down on the deck, and flying off into the storm.

The captain, her laugh rising above the storm, discharges her second pistol.

“To hell with ya beast!” she cries, “I’ll follow!”

Mast, captain, monster, storm — all disappear beneath the waves. Now, the sea is flat and calm as glass. Somewhere in the deep black blood and red blood mix, then slowly disperse.

81.

She is orating. This fact is subtle: her hands twitch, rather than gesture. She mumbles rather than thunders. But her eyes are bright.

Her audience is an old dusty television: switched off. And a bony cat, stretched out in a sunbeam.

She finishes her speech, and closes her eyes, and all is still.

80.

Valiantly, the little beast charges, fangs bared, eyes filled with purpose.

“Yap!” says the beast. “Yap! Yap! Yap!”.

“Zoom!” says the car. “Zoom zoom!”

79.

The boy’s lips are a blue that is almost a black, his skin as pale as the striations in the cracked ice around him. There is an unnatural gleam to his cobalt eyes. The song that falls from his lips is sickly and sweet, like rotten candy.

The song thrums in Pastor Mike’s ears as he steps out onto the moaning ice, memories of soft flesh and those little teary whimpers spinning in his mind, the old dark hunger growing between his loins. His panting breath steams in the air as he reaches the edge of the ice and bends down, his hands grasping blindly, his lips hunting for soft flesh even as they whisper the sacred words that have always failed to prevent him from doing what he has done.

The boy rises out of the water and embraces the pastor. His lips are hard and cold. His little hands are impossibly strong. He pulls the older man down and down and down. Icy bubbles catch final screams and sparkle as they rise out of the dark and the cold. And now the water is silent and still.

78.

“You shouldn’t eat the little red ones, Little Turtle. Did you eat the red ones? Grandmother says the red ones aren’t for eating, Little Turtle.

“Little Turtle?”

77.

Travis stumbled drunkenly out into the night, the distant sound of surf thrumming in time with the fullness of his bladder.

Needled pine branches assaulted his face and he stepped away from the light of the party, fumbling with the fly on his jeans.

God, he had to pee.

His feet found the edge, and continued, and he was falling through space, warm piss flooding his still buttoned pants. The sound of surf, swirling on jagged rocks, grew and grew until it was everywhere and it was everything.