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“Next time, I’ll fursuit”: Furry Tea Party 2024 finishes with mayor’s thumbs up

Global Furry Television - Wed 24 Apr 2024 - 01:49

迎宾市长、捷运游行:以茶会毛 2024 成功举行
Categories: News

They Serve and Protect

In-Fur-Nation - Wed 24 Apr 2024 - 01:15

We caught up with author Janet Racciato at WonderCon, and she told us about her latest self-published fantasy series called Old Souls. The idea goes like this: “Have you ever met an animal who seemed different, who knew how to do thing that it shouldn’t? What about the news reports about wild animals saving people or entering buildings for no apparent reason? What if you learned that these animals, these Old Souls, were waging battles against the powers of darkness? This war has been raging since the beginning of time. The demons sent by Ahriman have been called abonsam, goblins… and gremlins. But while their names may have changed over time, their purpose has not. The only things stopping the creatures from causing chaos and suffering in the world are the Old Souls sent by Ahura Mazda. Now the creatures are after a little girl destined to be an instrument of the light, and a special Old Soul named Zada has been appointed to keep her safe.” Zada’s Story is available now in paperback.

image c. 2024 by Janet Racciato

Categories: News

Coming Out Furry at 50

Ask Papabear - Tue 23 Apr 2024 - 07:57
Dear Papabear,

How does one come out as furry? I am an older gay who has always wanted to be a furry. My generation never really accepted furry, to say the least. I have spent over 15 years wishing I could just be me and express what I truly want to be. I have been out mostly my whole life, but never able to express what I want to be to any of my partners or even now, my husband. It's hard trying to fit into the gay lifestyle much less trying to me something that makes you even more of an outcast.

Today, I saw some vids of furry cons and other activities, and all I could do is cry. I just wish I knew how to be a part of something I never could admit is me.

Dozer von Droolstein (age 50)

* * *

Dear Dozer,

A good way to prepare for such an announcement is to surround yourself with supportive people, and I can't think of a better place for that for you than in my Silvermuzzle and Greymuzzle Facebook groups. If you don't have Facebook, there are graymuzzle (or greymuzzle) groups on other social media such as Discord, Furry Amino, and Telegram.

It's funny, but I have received a number of letters like yours over the years, and it seems to be true that more people are uncomfortable coming out as furry than coming out gay. I suppose this is because in recent years being LGBTQIA+ has gained some (reluctant) acceptance in American society (still lagging behind western Europe, but getting there), while furries are still generally not accepted. Oh, we've made some strides forward, but the conservative backlash inflamed by the MAGA movement set us back a bit. 

Anyway, "coming out" furry is done rather the same way as coming out gay or lesbian or trans. To begin, you should first come out to those you trust with your feelings the most, which means to those who you feel accept you for you. Even if they find furry weird, they will support you and, hopefully, get used to the idea. This was the case with my husband, Michael. I told him early on in our relationship that I was a furry. Now, mind you, his daughter had already told him some negative things about Bronies, so when I told him I was a furry (he later confessed to me), he wondered if I was "safe" to be around (he has severe PTSD from being in active combat and can be nervous about things that aren't normal, and he had some bad ideas about Bronies thanks to his daughter). Anyway, I slowly got him used to the idea and started taking him to cons (he absolutely loves BLFC in Reno), and even adopted his own fursona (a dragon-bear hybrid) even though he really isn't a furry. He makes a real effort to support me and my work in the fandom. Other people may surprise you about being supportive. I never told my ex-wife about it, until she called me one day and asked if I was a furry. This seemed to come from out of the blue, but she had discovered the fact by googling my name one day. Anyway, I hemmed and hawed (I didn't think she'd like it) and finally admitted it, and she said she thought it was very cool and wondered why I hadn't told her before. Then there was my late husband, Jim, whom I told very early in our relationship and he accepted me right away. So, you never know.

After you tell the people you are more comfortable with, you can start working on the ones you are a bit more iffy about. If they have never heard of furry, this will make it easier because they don't have any preconceptions, so you can give them an appropriate definition right from the start. What I usually do is explain that it is rather like people who cosplay as superheroes and such at comic-cons only we focus in particular on anthro-animal characters such as what you would find in Kung Fu Panda or Zootopia. Now, I don't know whether you're a hobbiest or a lifestyler furry at heart, but it is best to start such people off by explaining it as a hobby.

The third group of people are the tough cases. These are the people with either incorrect, preconceived notions about furry ("oh, you want sex with animals"--um, no, that's zoophilia, dear) or are conservatives who believe Fox News-style nonsense such as we demand to have litter boxes in schools or that we bite people who displease us. I suspect this recent uptick in anti-furry sentiments is a symptom of the backlash against the trans community that we are seeing from religious and politically conservative people. In other words, such people conflate their antipathy for one group of unconventional people (trans) with another (furry) because of their fear and hatred for those who are different. Also, there are quite a few trans folk in the furry community, so it kind of gets combined at times. Hey, we're all queer in our own way, and normies don't like that. (Shhhh, mostly because they want to be odd, too, but are too afraid of normie society to do it, so they redirect that fear into hate; just one of those dumb psychological things that humans do).

Anyway, you really are under no obligation to come out to closed-minded people, so don't worry about them (and be careful about work; some bosses can be very anti-furry, and I have heard of some furries being fired from their jobs after they are "found out" because there are no laws against furry discrimination).

Now, you ARE lucky in that you are doing this at 50 rather than 12. It is much easier to tell people you are furry in middle age than when you are dependent on judgmental, controlling parents or navigating the hostile hallways of a school building. Since you are, I assume, financially independent, you can go about your way as you please. That's a good thing. 

You know, there are two big reasons why the furry fandom has so many LGBTQIA people in it (as well as those on the autism spectrum and with social anxiety issues in general): one is that they are trying to find an accepting community, and the other is that furry helps them express the real them that is inside. Being furry and participating in the fandom can be very therapeutic. In fact, there are studies that show it helps people with autism. Becoming active in the fandom can therefore not only help you find yourself as a furry but also as a gay man. You will find a LOT of supportive people and--I guarantee it--make many new friends.

So, go ahead and start telling the important people in your life who love you like your husband. Then be prepared to answer any and all questions they may have. It might be a little unnerving at first, but you will feel so much better when you do, and you may even be  pleasantly surprised by the reactions you get. 

Good Luck! Hope to see you joining one of my Facebook groups soon!

Papabear

TigerTails Radio Season 15 Episode 24

TigerTails Radio - Tue 23 Apr 2024 - 04:41

TigerTails Radio Season 15 Episode 24. Join the Discord Chat: https://discord.gg/SQ5QuRf For a full preview of events and for previous episodes, please visit http://www.tigertailsradio.co.uk. See website for full breakdown of song credits, which is usually updated shortly after the show. If you like what we do and wish to throw some pennies our way to support us, please consider sending a little tip our way. https://streamlabs.com/tigertailsradio/tip * Please note, tips are made to support TigerTails Radio and are assumed as made with good faith, so are therefore non-refundable. Thank you for your support and understanding.
Categories: Podcasts

Episode 555 - Doing What To Haggis?

Southpaws - Mon 22 Apr 2024 - 15:05

We're all in one room and recording again, wow!

We've got ren faire chats, LVFC being 21+. nobody is watching the same shows, a discussion on animal cognition research, ai slop, and more.

Thanks for supporting us on Patreon, you rock~

LINKS

Scientists push new paradigm of animal consciousness, saying even insects may be sentient (msn.com)

LVFC 2025: Ad Vegastra on X: "LVFC has prepared a statement after tonight's Board meeting. tl;dr: LVFC shall remain 21+ indefinitely. https://t.co/TizC85Jllf" / Twitter


Telegram - https://t.me/+ovmcomYdNVBmMDgx

Episode 555 - Doing What To Haggis?
Categories: Podcasts

S11E2 – A Perfect Con - Nuka, Roo, Sammy, and Vaos are joined by Charlie, our new announcer and cast member, as they talk about what they think helps make the perfect convention experience. - This episode was originally livestreamed on our YouTube.

Fur What It's Worth - Mon 22 Apr 2024 - 09:00

Nuka, Roo, Sammy, and Vaos are joined by Charlie, our new announcer and cast member, as they talk about what they think helps make the perfect convention experience.

This episode was originally livestreamed on our YouTube. You can view the livestream here.

NOW LISTEN!

SHOW NOTES Thank you!

Timid Grizzly and Zayne for the emails!

To all our listeners!

PATREON LOVE

THANK YOU to our patreons! You help us keep the show going!

Uber Supporter Tier

Anthallo

Tails Bursting out of Pants Supporters

Nuka

Fancy Supporter Tier

Black Baldrik, Lufis the Raccoon

Deluxe Supporters Tier

Tenax, Plug, MephistophEli

Plus Tier Supporters

  • Ausi Kat
  • Chaphogriff
  • Lygris

McRib Tier Supporters

  • TyR
  • Mengx3
  • Victor Mutt
  • Ichigo Ookami
  • Christian
MUSIC
  • Intro: RetroSpecter – Cloud Fields (RetroSpecter Mix). USA: Unpublished, 2018. ©2011-2018 Fur What It’s Worth. Based on Fredrik Miller – Cloud Fields (Century Mix). USA: Bandcamp, 2011. ©2011 Fur What It’s Worth
  • Patreon: Inflammatus – The Tudor Consort, Creative Commons 2019
  • Closing: Cloud Fields (RetroSpecterChill Remix), USA: Unpublished, 2018. ©2011-2018 Fur What It’s Worth. Based on Fredrik Miller – Cloud Fields (Chill Out Mix). USA: Bandcamp, 2011. ©2011 Fur What It’s Worth.
S11E2 – A Perfect Con - Nuka, Roo, Sammy, and Vaos are joined by Charlie, our new announcer and cast member, as they talk about what they think helps make the perfect convention experience. - This episode was originally livestreamed on our YouTube.
Categories: Podcasts

Rise Up, Defenders

In-Fur-Nation - Sun 21 Apr 2024 - 01:54

Later on at Golden State Fur Con we met R. A. Meenan, author of the Zyearth Chronicles series of books. Which go like this, according to the web site: “A magepunk world with magic gems, dragon A.I.s, anthropomorphic characters, supernatural summons, magic mobs, time travel, war, deep platonic friendship, hints of romance, characters all over the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and creative swearing!” Which sounds like a great place to start! Shadow Cast is the first book in the series, and details for all four can be found at the web site.

image c. 2024 zyearth.com

Categories: News

Special Episode - Spotlight on Cassidy Civet

Bearly Furcasting - Sat 20 Apr 2024 - 05:00

MOOBARKFLUFF! Click here to send us a comment or message about the show!

Hello, Bearly here.  You are tuned in to a special episode of BFFT.  In recent months a Canadian furry; Cassidy Civet has been at the center of a swirling torrent of controversy, from being unceremoniously removed as Guest of Honor at a recent con, to having panels canceled without notice at other cons.  Cassidy took time out of her busy schedule to talk with me about these things and the state of the furry fandom.  Please be aware that this episode is serious and it is just Cassidy and I.  Regardless of your opinion of Cassidy, I urge you to listen with an open mind.

This podcast contains adult language and adult topics. It is rated M for Mature. Listener discretion is advised.

Support the Show.

Thanks to all our listeners and to our staff: Bearly Normal, Rayne Raccoon, Taebyn, and Ziggy the Meme Weasel.

You can send us a message on Telegram at BFFT Chat, or via email at: bearlyfurcasting@gmail.com

Special Episode - Spotlight on Cassidy Civet
Categories: Podcasts

Do You Speak Not You?

In-Fur-Nation - Sat 20 Apr 2024 - 01:59

At WonderCon we met Josh Oaktree, the founder of Oak Tree Comics. Their mission is simple, and stated right on the front page of their web site: “A children’s book publisher where imagination meets environmentalism”. To that end they created the Art and Oakie Ask series of illustrated graphic novels for young readers, featuring the wordless adventures of young Art and their friend Oakie the ambulatory oak tree. In Do You Speak Tree?, Oakie tries to speak up for his forest home — but he only speaks “tree”, and no one understands. Perhaps Art and their crayon skills can help out? This was followed by Do You Speak Bear? and, most recently, Do You Speak Bee? Oak Tree also features a nature-themed fantasy comic series called Thorn the Unicorn, and a very unusual picture book called The Weird Animal Hour, which we’ll leave to them to explain.

image c. 2024 Oak Tree Comics

Categories: News

Cats Are Better Than People

In-Fur-Nation - Fri 19 Apr 2024 - 01:58

Look, we’re just quoting the artist! Honestly! We met Helen Asia at her table at WonderCon, and admired her various feline designs on everything from t-shirts to enamel pins… to a complete Cosmic Cat Tarot Deck. You can visit her web site and see more of what she has to offer. Interestingly, we met her at a con in Southern California, but all her items are priced in British pounds…

image c. 2024 by Helen Asia

 

Categories: News

False rumour about furries’ “disruptive behaviour” in schools lead to protest

Global Furry Television - Fri 19 Apr 2024 - 01:09

关于兽迷“在校捣乱”的不实传言引发学生抗议
Categories: News

Bringing (Buff) 3D Models to Life w/Gruff [FABP E43]

Fox and Burger - Thu 18 Apr 2024 - 22:00

In this episode, we bring you “Just Gruff.” He’s... just Gruff. Nuff said. Learn more about Malaysia and how Gruff brings 3D modeling to life! ---- Timestamps: 00:00 Teaser 00:29 Intro 01:06 Guest intro 03:08 Meet Gruff! 05:56 Growing up in KL 09:54 Runescape and Pokemon 13:03 An all furry guild in Guild Wars 2 15:51 Getting into 3D modeling 21:11 Selling 3D models at cons 25:29 FURUM and Malaysian furries 28:33 Let’s go to Infurnity 32:40 Making grass and anthro figurines 36:40 Gushing over Von Lycaon 39:52 2D vs 3D art 42:01 Future plans 46:54 Social media shoutout 47:42 Outro ---- Social Media: Official FABP Twitter: https://twitter.com/foxandburger Michael: https://twitter.com/foxnakh https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK9xoFQrxFTNPMjmXfUg2cg Burger: https://twitter.com/L1ghtningRunner Gruff: https://twitter.com/justGruff https://www.furaffinity.net/user/justgruff/ https://bsky.app/profile/justgruff.bsky.social https://justgruff.gumroad.com/ ---- Footage Credit: https://twitter.com/justGruff/media https://www.furaffinity.net/user/justgruff/ https://news.softpedia.com/news/Guild-Wars-2-Will-Be-Free-for-a-Whole-Week-Starting-September-25-459807.shtml Other pictures and video provided by Pixabay, and guest’s and host’s personal footage. Intro/Outro Music: WatR - Fluid ---- The Fox and Burger Podcast is one segment of our production house, Fox and Burger Productions. The podcast’s goal is twofold: 1, to know more about the Asian furry fandom; and 2, compare and contrast the Asian fandom with the Western one. If you have a guest that you would like to see on the show, please PM us! We will also take questions for our guests, so don’t miss this opportunity to know some amazing furs.
Categories: Podcasts

Cute, Round, and Available For Your Home

In-Fur-Nation - Wed 17 Apr 2024 - 01:21

Another artist we ran into at WonderCon this year calls themselves Thousand Skies. Simply put: Their products are adorable. They’ve got stickers, enamel pins, plushies, fashion accessories, even squeaky toys for your pets… Corgis, ducklings, red pandas, tiger cubs, whatever is cute and rounded it’s their specialty. Take a look at their web site and you’ll immediately find just their most recent offerings — with much more to be found if you dig.

Image c. 2024 by Thousand Skies

Categories: News

TigerTails Radio Season 15 Episode 23

TigerTails Radio - Tue 16 Apr 2024 - 04:37

TigerTails Radio Season 15 Episode 23. Join the Discord Chat: https://discord.gg/SQ5QuRf For a full preview of events and for previous episodes, please visit http://www.tigertailsradio.co.uk. See website for full breakdown of song credits, which is usually updated shortly after the show. If you like what we do and wish to throw some pennies our way to support us, please consider sending a little tip our way. https://streamlabs.com/tigertailsradio/tip * Please note, tips are made to support TigerTails Radio and are assumed as made with good faith, so are therefore non-refundable. Thank you for your support and understanding.
Categories: Podcasts

Where’s Kuzco When You Need Him?

In-Fur-Nation - Tue 16 Apr 2024 - 01:59

It’s always fun to come across a skilled artist with a unique and readily identifiable style. Sita Cardenas (or Retronerd as they call themselves) certainly fits that bill. We met them at WonderCon last month. Their specialty is fan art of gaming, anime, and comic book characters drawn in a distinctive style based on classical Aztec art. You’ve never seen the like! Look at their web site to see what we mean. They offer their art on pins, stickers, coffee mugs, and other cool items — not to mention they sell originals too.

image c. 2024 by Sita Cardenas

Categories: News

S11E1 – Growing Up Digital - The cast is back with season 11! Klik, Roo, Sammy, and Vaos kick this season off with discussing growing up in a digital age. Join us as we talk about what it's like growing up in a world where digital devices are everywhere.

Fur What It's Worth - Mon 15 Apr 2024 - 09:00
The cast is back with season 11!

Klik, Roo, Sammy, and Vaos kick this season off with discussing growing up in a digital age. Join us as we talk about what it’s like growing up in a world where digital devices are everywhere. Along with what it was like growing up before the modern conveniences, and hassles, that now dominate our world.

NOW LISTEN!

SHOW NOTES Thank you!

Timid Grizzly and Zayne for the emails!

To all our listeners!

PATREON LOVE

THANK YOU to our patreons! You help us keep the show going!

Uber Supporter Tier

Anthallo

Tails Bursting out of Pants Supporters

Nuka

Fancy Supporter Tier

Black Baldrik, Lufis the Raccoon

Deluxe Supporters Tier

Tenax, Plug, MephistophEli

Plus Tier Supporters

  • Ausi Kat
  • Chaphogriff
  • Lygris

McRib Tier Supporters

  • TyR
  • Mengx3
  • Victor Mutt
  • Ichigo Ookami
  • Christian
MUSIC
  • Intro: RetroSpecter – Cloud Fields (RetroSpecter Mix). USA: Unpublished, 2018. ©2011-2018 Fur What It’s Worth. Based on Fredrik Miller – Cloud Fields (Century Mix). USA: Bandcamp, 2011. ©2011 Fur What It’s Worth
  • First Break: The Sky Is Beautiful – Rshand, Argofox, Creative Commons 2023
  • Second Break: Attraction – Rewayde, Argofox, Creative Commons 2023
  • Third Break: Right Here Beside You – Spence, Creative Commons 2020
  • Patreon: Inflammatus – The Tudor Consort, Creative Commons 2019
  • Closing: Cloud Fields (RetroSpecterChill Remix), USA: Unpublished, 2018. ©2011-2018 Fur What It’s Worth. Based on Fredrik Miller – Cloud Fields (Chill Out Mix). USA: Bandcamp, 2011. ©2011 Fur What It’s Worth.
S11E1 – Growing Up Digital - The cast is back with season 11! Klik, Roo, Sammy, and Vaos kick this season off with discussing growing up in a digital age. Join us as we talk about what it's like growing up in a world where digital devices are everywhere.
Categories: Podcasts

Issue 20

Zooscape - Mon 15 Apr 2024 - 02:21

Welcome to Issue 20 of Zooscape!

It’s easier to stare trauma in the face when it has the face of a cat. Art Spiegelman knew this when he chose to tell his father’s story, Maus, in the form of a graphic novel featuring mice, cats, pigs, and dogs rather than normal humans. It’s hard to look straight at the horrors and atrocities humans commit. Throwing in a little fur softens the hard edges, making it possible for us to reckon and wrestle with the harshness of reality.

Most of the stories in this issue wrestle with the darkness we have to face in this world, but they’re also beautiful, occasionally funny, and if you stick it out to the end, you’ll find one that’s just outright fun.

* * *

The Unbearable Weight of a Photograph by Jelena Dunato

The Last Life of a Time-Travelling Cat by A.P. Golub

Night in the Garden by Marshall L. Moseley

Proper Pedagogy by Jessica Cho

Rusty by Steve Loiaconi

Honey Harvest by Spencer Orey

The Three-Piece Giant by Gabrielle Steele

* * *

As always, if you want to support Zooscape, check out our Patreon.  Also, you can pick up e-book or paperback volumes of our first ten issues bundled into three anthologies, complete with an illustration for every story.

Categories: Stories

The Three-Piece Giant

Zooscape - Mon 15 Apr 2024 - 02:16

by Gabrielle Steele

“The top badger was terrible at playing its own game.”

Alana stood one step shy of the quaint stone bridge, gripping her sword as she stared at the furry red leg that stuck out from beneath the frayed edge of the giant’s shirt. The battered clothing suffered an abundance of arrow holes, and its original owner had clearly met a rather gruesome end. A shiny black nose was poking through one hole mid-torso.

“I say, giant, can you hear me all the way up there?”

“We– I can hear you just fine.”

The voice coming from the shadows of a heavy hood was far too high-pitched for a giant. How had the villagers fallen for it? It was bad enough they only had one bridge leading to the spring paddocks. But it wasn’t Alana’s job to point out such foolishness. Her job was simply to remove the so-called giant. Honestly, a real giant would have been easier to deal with. They didn’t have magic. The large red and gold puck badgers of the fae forest did. They were weak when docile but dangerously feral if offended. The safest action was to play along.

“Mighty giant,” Alana said. “This bridge is surely too small for you, and the villagers think it best you find somewhere more suitable.”

“We’re quite happy here, thank you.”

Alana fought the urge to roll her eyes. The top badger was terrible at playing its own game. “The villagers need to reach their paddocks. If you like it here, you can fish just as easily from over there.” She pointed at a rock jutting out from the riverbank like a small pier.

The top badger whispered something down to the middle badger, whose muffled whispers seemed aimed at the bottom badger. With as much grace as possessed by a newborn foal, the pillar of badgers turned towards the rock. Two snouts appeared – one from between shirt buttons, the other above the waistband. Stern whispers passed up and down the column, then the extra snouts disappeared, and the badgers shuffled back to face Alana.

“It looks awfully cold,” the top badger said.

“What if the villagers offer you a blanket?”

“That would be kind,” the giant’s chest said.

“Shut up, Rusty,” the top badger hissed; then he looked at Alana with narrowed eyes. “That shan’t do. We like this bridge. It’s pretty, and the fish don’t notice us so much.”

“Someone as skilled at fishing as you could surely escape the notice of a few fish. Now though, this might interest you. I hear the fish around here can’t resist creeping close to listen in on a good song.”

If there was one thing Alana knew well about puck badgers, besides their extreme dislike of being laughed at, it was that they loved the sound of their own voices, especially in song form. The sound had been deemed so terrible, there were tales of it shocking birds so badly they fell dead from their perches. Listening to an overtired child screeching for hours would seem a joy in comparison.

The giant turned to confer with itself; then it wobbled about, its clothes sagging and bulging as if a huge deathfly larvae were about to burst out. Just the thought made Alana’s hand shift towards her sword. The undulating stopped, and when the giant turned back, a different badger had taken the top position — it had much rounder, friendlier eyes, as well as a large golden hoop hanging from its left ear.

“What songs do the fish like?” the badger said, who sounded like Rusty, previously the middle badger.

“Tales of the open ocean, my friend. They long to swim in it, but alas, the salt shrivels them until they’re nothing but sea slugs.”

“Those poor mites,” Rusty said, looking sidelong at the river. “I’ve the perfect song to soothe their souls.”

As he closed his eyes and opened his mouth, Alana did two things. First, she shoved wax plugs into her ears which, being one of a problem-solver’s most important tools, she kept tethered around her neck. Second, she tossed a piece of stale bread upstream of the bridge, in a place where some scree blocked the swift current. Not a crumb escaped the gluttonous fish, whose dark shadows now filled the calmer channel.

Rusty closed his mouth, and Alana plucked her earplugs free before he opened his eyes. He whispered to the middle badger, who whispered to the bottom badger, and the giant staggered to the bridge’s low wall. It would have been easy to push them in and earn her coin, but Alana wasn’t interested in murdering such harmless creatures — harmless to those with the sense not to insult them, that is.

Leaning forwards, Rusty peered over the wall. “Well, I’ll be a–” But Alana never got to hear what, for Rusty’s foot slipped, and the giant’s head went tumbling into the river. The giant’s chest and legs screamed in horror, and each jumped separately to stand on the wall.

“Brother!” the shirt and trousers shouted together.

The pieces of clothing went flying, and both badgers dived in after their brother. In truth, Rusty would have been better off had they not. He’d already caught hold of a thick root and was busy pulling himself to the bank when his brothers slammed into him. He lost his grip, and the current caught all three of them. They thrashed about, making it painfully clear they didn’t know how to swim.

With a tremendous sigh, Alana unbuckled her sword and leaned it against the bridge wall with her pack. She pulled off her boots and socks, shirked her tunic and trousers, then dove into the frigid water wearing nothing but her smalls and the cloth that bound her breasts. Her chest froze, but she forced herself to breathe through the chill. Cold shock was the danger of rivers, one that had almost cost Alana her life as a child and that now had the badgers flailing as if they felt suffocated. All they did was waste their energy.

A fair swimmer, Alana caught up with the three silly creatures easily enough, but she had no way of hauling them all out together. She looked about and tried to form a plan, but the moment she was within reach, the fools caught hold of her. Two grabbed her arms, while Rusty wrapped his little arms around her neck, his vicious claws sinking into her flesh. Unable to move her arms, the weight of the badgers dragged Alana under.

It didn’t pay to be kind. She should have let them drown, given it was their own stupid fault. Yet, she couldn’t bring herself to push them away to save herself. With all her might, she kicked her legs, driving them back to the surface.

Alana sucked in a chest full of air. “Kick your legs, you little weasels.”

Rusty’s claws bit deeper. Full of anger, the badgers would surely find the stubbornness to survive. Alana only hoped they would forgive her once they were safely ashore.

Together, the four of them kicked, churning the water like the flesh-eating fish of Murir. Alana steered them towards the left bank, where a thick root stuck out into the river, and beyond it… By the gods. It wasn’t the river that near deafened Alana. It was a waterfall.

“Make a chain if you want to live, weasels,” Alana shouted over the roar.

In a surprising display of intelligence, the badger holding her left arm shuffled down to her hand, followed by Rusty, who pulled himself around the other badger’s back. When the third badger didn’t move, Alana ducked him beneath the water for a few seconds, then bared her teeth at him. He soon moved across, settling between Rusty and the other badger instead of taking the end position. Coward.

“Grab the root, Rusty,” Alana yelled.

Hearing his name seemed to spur Rusty into action. They all kicked and stretched as they sailed towards the root with terrific speed. Rusty grabbed hold, sinking his claws in, but the speed of the river wrenched his paw away.

Alana searched the bank for anything else they could grab. There was a thin root just before the fall — their last hope. She flipped onto her back and started kicking against the current, hoping to slow them. The badgers did likewise, but their little legs were slowing. Even Alana felt drained, frigid as the river was. She kept kicking, pushing herself even as her chest burned for more air.

Alana wanted to shout at Rusty to grab the root, but she hadn’t the breath. He stretched his arm out anyway; then Alana did what she needed to. One by one, she prised the claws from about her hand, then pushed that badger towards the bank. Exhausted, she gave herself up to the river. Rusty stared at her with wide eyes, his paw wrapped about the root. Then the world tipped, and Alana took a deep breath before she struck the water far below.

Lost in darkness, Alana couldn’t tell up from down, or if she were conscious at all. Numbness had claimed her body. Her head struck something; then she faded into true darkness, the metallic taste of blood sharp in her mouth as she went.

* * *

“Is she dead?”

“Can we eat her?”

“Rats, the pair of you. She saved our lives, and you’re thinking about eating her?”

“I only asked.”

Alana groaned as her eyes slowly opened. Blinding light made her head pound, so she closed them again.

“Did you see that, Peapod?” Rusty said. “You can’t eat something that’s still alive.”

“What do we do with her then?”

“She looks badly hurt,” Rusty said. “I don’t think human legs are supposed to bend that way, and her head’s bleeding an awful lot. Say, Walnut, go fetch Old Willow. He’s not far downstream.”

“Right-o, brother.”

The world went blissfully quiet again, save for the hushed whispers of Rusty and Peapod. It sounded as though they’d moved away, or perhaps it was Alana who was far away. She couldn’t feel her body beneath her neck, and her head hurt so much she wished she’d drowned beneath the falls. A wave of nausea overcame her, and she vomited. With no way to turn her head, she began to choke.

“By the great lord’s fine stripes,” Rusty said.

“What do we do, brother?” Peapod said.

“I don’t–”

“Stand aside, stand aside,” said a deep, commanding voice. “Dear me, I’ve never seen one this injured before. My bag, little one.”

Over her choking, Alana heard the rustle of a jute bag being dragged over stone. Someone turned her head, bringing another wave of dizziness upon her. Her stomach emptied, clearing what had choked her.

“This is beyond my skill, my friends,” Old Willow said. “I fear to give her my pain tonic, for she has no control of her functions. You must call for the White Stag.”

One badger let out a little squeal of fright as another scurried away. Alana couldn’t blame them. The White Stag was infamous. They were both a stag of snowy pelt and a woman with unnaturally white skin, as if no blood ran through their veins. Indeed, that was probably true, because their favourite meal was the blood of men, particularly those who had recently dipped their wicks, be it in man or woman. Being a fair maiden upon a noble stag, it was easy for them to seduce any man. So Alana had heard.

The world seemed to get further away. Alana could guess her injuries. A broken neck and a cracked skull. There was no coming back from that. Old Willow would have been better to kill her himself than call for the White Stag, who was notoriously jealous of beautiful women. Perhaps Alana’s injuries were enough to protect her from a long, agonising life as a snowflake passing through flames and reforming in perpetuity.

Two badgers squeaked, and even Old Willow drew in a sharp breath. Swift hoofbeats sent bolts of agony through Alana’s head, but they quickly faded. Given how wet the ground was beneath her head, she must have finally bled out. It was a good life, but she shouldn’t have saved those damn badgers.

“Saving them is the only reason I’m healing you, human,” a melodic voice said.

As if by magic, which it probably was, feeling spread through Alana’s body. There was no pain, not even the ache in the tooth she’d been planning to have pulled. She opened her eyes and marvelled at the beauty of the stars above. Except they weren’t stars, for the sky hadn’t yet darkened. Laughter like the chiming of a tiny bell made Alana sit up and scoot away. Such a fair voice could only bring trouble.

“Humans are adorable when they’re afraid, don’t you think, Old Willow?” the White Stag said through the woman’s mouth.

Old Willow nodded quickly in reply, eyes averted. Alana couldn’t tear hers away. Both of the White Stag’s forms were beautiful. They glowed with a faint white light, and twinkling sparks of life floated through the air around them. Snowy felt coated the stag’s antlers, and the woman’s hair, even her eyebrows, were the same soft white. Her pupils, though… They were blood red.

Rusty sidled up to Alana and nudged her with an elbow. “You must thank them,” he whispered. Then he let out a whimper and scuttled away as the White Stag’s gaze moved to him.

“Thank you indeed,” Alana said, knowing one must always be polite and honest where fae creatures were concerned.

The woman grinned, and the stag snorted, tossing its antlers up and down. “It makes a pleasant change to find an educated human. There is a condition to your healing, however.”

Alana swallowed the stubborn lump in her throat. “And that condition is?”

“I rule the Araethan Forest here, so I have sensed you creeping within the border. You have always been respectful, which is why I have yet allowed you to live. I am sure you will soon find your healing to be a curse, however. You will live among us, solving our problems now, not those of humans. Stray from this task, and I shall undo your healing in an instant.”

Alana got up and lowered herself onto one knee, suddenly ashamed of her near-nakedness. “Your curse is a blessing, oh graceful one. To walk among magic folk and learn of your ways shall be a delight.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere with us,” they said. “Go with the brothers you have saved. They owe you a life debt, and it will take much work to pay that out.”

The woman climbed onto the stag, and they galloped away, lifting a hand in farewell.

“Well, I’ll be,” Walnut said.

“You’re lucky to have met her and lived,” Rusty said. He took hold of Alana’s hand. “Come now, lass. We’ll find you a place to stay. If we ask the trees nice like, they may give us wood for a cabin.” He tried to pull her along, but Alana tugged her hand free and turned to bow to the tall man-like creature who stood nearby.

“My thanks to you, Old Willow.”

“Off with you, lass,” he said, picking up his bag. “The White Stag will think you’ve rejected their gift if you linger.” He strode towards a willow tree downstream.

Rusty tugged on Alana’s hand. “Come now.”

Peapod took her other hand, and as they led her into the forest, Walnut danced ahead, singing a tale of the White Stag. If only Alana’s hands were free, she would have plugged her ears.

 

* * *

About the Author

Gabrielle Steele lives in Essex, UK with her husband and two mischievous younglings. She writes epic fantasy and speculative shorts, pitting poor souls against dragons, gods, and the occasional squirrel. You can view her ramblings on Twitter @eldris and find more about her writing on https://thellian.com

Categories: Stories

Honey Harvest

Zooscape - Mon 15 Apr 2024 - 02:16

by Spencer Orey

“Bugs came in looking for a safe haven, then got so hooked that they’d pay anything to keep the honey flowing. I’d been one of them. I just hoped I wouldn’t be one again.”

It was late when she buzzed into my office in the shrub. This time of the year, I expected grasshoppers, maybe someone left behind in a migration. No such luck today. She was a mantis, same species as me, the kind I’d run away from before the cockroach war changed everything. These days, I didn’t see much reason to run. Better to sit still and let her eat.

“I heard you can find anyone,” she said.

Disappointing. But at least a job would give me something to do. “Sure,” I said. “When’s the last you saw him?”

“Her,” she said. “She vanished last night. After…” She ran a front leg up to straighten one of her antennae. “After she tried to eat me. I want her to know it’s okay. That I forgive her.”

Made sense. Some mantises got the hunger something terrible, couldn’t stop themselves from biting the head off of someone they cared about even when they knew they’d regret it later. Back before the war, I never would’ve understood something like that. Now, I knew we all had it in us to do something monstrous.

“Anywhere you think she’d hide?” I asked. But I already knew where to look. There was only one place any of us went when we messed up so bad that we needed to forget everything. The hive. The one place I never wanted to see again. It was always the hive.

* * *

By the time I glided in, it was late enough that even the fireflies were done flirting. They’d settled onto tall grass stalks, giving a final flickering show to some collector spiders in the shadows who were probably hoping for another chance at dinner.

I scuttled to the door, where two cockroaches accepted my entrance fee and waved me through without any questions. Maybe they still recognized me from the old days, or maybe I still looked hopeless enough to belong in a bad place like this.

Even from the doorway, the sweet smell hit me hard. Here I was, back in the trap, after everything I’d done to stay away. And the hive was one hell of a trap. Most bugs didn’t need to sleep, but staying outside at night wasn’t safe, especially when the weather turned cold. That’s where the cockroaches came in. After the war, when there was nobody left to stop them, they’d colonized a beehive and expanded it into a business. Bugs came in looking for a safe haven, then got so hooked that they’d pay anything to keep the honey flowing. I’d been one of them. I just hoped I wouldn’t be one again.

The front parlor was crawling with flies, most of whom wouldn’t see the sky again. I shouldn’t have blamed them for wasting their short time like this, but I did. Drinking sugar water until your legs curled was no way to live. And that’s most of what I tasted in the air, watered-down honey, dripping down the walls and into the troughs. Bigger bugs were in the back. A few locusts crouched around a trough of what was probably alfalfa honey, based on the flowery spice. I even spotted a wasp, slinking away.

“Ah, the private eye returnsss,” a voice hissed to my side. “What’sss bugging’ ya today? Heh heh.”

Roach. He ran the place. We had bad history together from the war.

“I’m looking for a mantis,” I said. “A dame. Seen anyone like that tonight?”

“Maybe I have, maybe I haven’t.” Roach’s wings twitched. He knew something alright. He always did. “What’sss it to you? Finally looking to get your head bitten off?”

Right, a bite. Just like in the war, when Roach led my friends into an ambush, and the wasps bit off their heads. Nobody had been able prove he’d led them into trouble on purpose. We all suspected the roaches of being malicious, but they kept getting away. Except, when the war ended, it turned out only the cockroaches had survived without taking heavy losses. The rest of us — wasps and mantises and all the other bugs who just so happened to be the cockroachs’ natural predators — discovered we’d had our numbers thinned out. Sure, we were furious, but we were broken. Nobody could fight anymore. Any talk of revenge died in places like the hive, where we all tried to forget what the cockroaches had put us through while we gave them everything we had left. But not tonight.

“Listen up, you larva.” I lunged forward and grasped Roach’s front leg, ready to snap it free. “How about you tell me where she is, and I’ll forget I saw you here tonight.”

“Maybe I sssaw a mantisss back in framesss,” Roach hissed, legs spindling around as he tried to slip free.

I let him go. “Good. Thanks.” If she was back in the frames, things were even worse than I’d suspected. I might even be too late.

“Wait. It’d be a pity to lose a good cussstomer.” Roach massaged his leg. “Surely it can’t hurt if she ssstays a couple more daysss. How about it, old friend?” He reached out with one of his legs, offering me money, a thick roll of bills.

A bribe. A good one at that, more than I was being paid for the job. More than I’d been paid in a long time. Whoever this dame was, she had to be a real high roller to be worth that kind of cash. That or someone was paying to eat a mantis, maybe a frog on the outside. Money like that could buy me a month of the good life. It’d be easy to do as Roach said, to back off and then come pick up whatever remained of the dame’s corpse. But I didn’t need anything else to keep me up at night.

“Keep your dirty cash, Roach.” I scuttled away, past a table of centipedes, all the way to the back wall, where a rhinoceros beetle guarded the doorway to frames. I paid him and went inside.

Most bugs either couldn’t tell the difference between sugar water and orange blossoms or just didn’t care. But anyone who stayed in the hive long enough developed a hard craving for something stronger. And that’s what you could get from frames.

It was a loud place and darker than the main floor. The far wall was packed with bee drones hard at work making honey for the cockroaches to sell to the rest of us. Below the wall, honey dripped down into a trough before it got piped elsewhere for dilution and distribution. But tonight, it wasn’t just bees buzzing. Something else buzzed too. Something familiar. Something bad.

I twisted away as a stinger darted at me from the side. A wasp. I raised my forelegs in defense, ready to strike back.

“Hey you two! Cool it before you anger the drones,” someone called from inside the trough.

“I recognize you from the war,” the wasp slurred at me. She only had one wing but kept buzzing it like she could still fly if she tried hard enough. Honey clung to the sides of her mandibles and her eyes. She’d eaten so much she couldn’t even see straight. I didn’t recognize her. Chances were, we’d never met. But she could still hate my species.

I raised my forelegs higher, ready to slash. It’d be a good fight, just like the bad old days.

The wasp wove to the side, looking for weakness. And as she moved, I saw the bug who’d called out from the trough. It was a beetle, blue shell resplendent against the thick orange of the honey. Next to the beetle was the mantis dame. She was in bad shape, drooping in place, wide-set eyes too heavy. No way she’d last another few days of this. The cockroaches had set her on a path to her death, same as they’d done to the rest of us. My fighting a wasp would just play into their plans. I had to get her out of here.

I lowered my forelegs. “We all did bad things in the war. Things we regret.” Even talking about the war made little memories flash up at me. Stingers. Broken eggs. Cockroaches hissing with laughter. “Right now, I’m here on a job.”

“What kind of job?” The wasp feinted striking at me a few times.

“I came looking for that dame over there. Someone wants her home safe.” I decided to try getting honest. “Someone who loves her. Someone who wants a fresh start.”

“Love, huh.” The wasp’s wing stopped buzzing. “Not a lot of love around here. Not a lot of fresh starts either.”

“Not enough,” I agreed.

I scuttled closer to the trough. The mantis dame had her head lowered into the honey for a long bite. Her legs were already shaking badly. It wouldn’t be long until the roaches fished her out and fed her to whoever was paying.

When she came back up, I said, “Your gal sent me to find you. She wants you home.”

“Home? I don’t deserve a home,” the mantis dame said, voice heavy and slurred. “I tried to eat her. I lost control.”

“No, you almost lost control,” I said. I looked over at the wasp. The two of us, we’d done bad things we couldn’t take back. But this dame, she hadn’t done anything bad yet, just come close. She’d found out she had limits, same as the rest of us, and it’d scared her. I said, “You almost went over the edge, but you stepped back in time. That makes all the difference.”

The dame slurred something I didn’t quite catch, except, “…safer alone.”

“How I see it is, you want to pass your life alone, that’s your business. You can do that after you get out of here,” I said. “But if you run away from too many good things just because you’re scared, you’ll end up like the rest of us, trying to forget your way through a bad night. And trust me, eventually, they’re all bad nights.”

The mantis swayed a little in place. I could see she was almost convinced. Maybe she’d been telling herself the same thing before the honey got to her.

The wasp buzzed closer to her. “Go while you still can. There’s nothing for anyone here but bad memories.”

I offered a foreleg. “Let’s get you back to someone who cares about you.”

For a moment, I thought she’d tell me to leave again. Nothing I could do about that. Sometimes, my pedantic lectures didn’t work, no matter how honest I let myself get. We all still got to make our choices, no matter how bad they could be.

The mantis took hold and stepped one leg out of the trough. I could smell the honey on her, wildflowers, always something special. I remembered my old sweet stupor and suddenly, all I wanted was to climb into the trough myself. But if I did that, the mantis dame would lose her courage. And I didn’t need any more drinking buddies.

We headed toward the door. The mantis stopped, then turned back to the wasp. “You should come too. We can find you a place to stay.”

“It’s too late for me, kid,” the wasp said. She gave me a quick salute, then buried her mandibles in honey. She’d made her choice, as much as I hated to see it. I saluted back.

I said, “Let’s get you home.”

Roach was waiting for us outside of frames. Then I found myself staring into the eyes of the rhinoceros beetle. Up close, she was ugly, sickly white with spots. Before I could tell her to move out of the way, a second beetle slammed into me from the side. I tumbled to the ground.

“Too bad you couldn’t sssee thingsss our way,” Roach said. “Girlsss, let’s give our friend a good long drink, on the house. I’ll take thisss other one to the collector.”

I twisted and slashed with my forelegs, but the two beetles held me with their horns and pushed me to the nearest trough. I kept fighting even as they shoved my face toward a honey trough. They pushed harder, and then I was sinking in. I twisted my head to the side, but that sweet stickiness seeped onto my face, coated my antennae. It was the cheap stuff, thin and runny. Sugar water. And it smelled wonderful. I tried to lift my mandible away, but the beetles pushed my head fully in, and warm honey seeped over my face and into my mouth, my first taste in far too long. I opened my mandibles and took a full bite. Then another. I stopped fighting, and when the beetles relaxed the pressure on me, I pushed myself the rest of the way into the trough.

I started eating the honey. Then I ate some more. I ate for a long time, letting it all fade, losing track of time, losing everything. I’d forgotten this bliss, how memories could fade into perfect empty sweetness.

Then someone ruined it. They pulled my head out of the trough, then pushed me out, onto the sticky ground. The mantis dame. She said, “Looks like you get a fresh start too.”

“Perhapsss we can come to an underssstanding,” Roach said.

She let go of me. I heard a buzzing of wings, followed by a hissing scream. With my vision still blurred from honey, I saw things in little flashes. The mantis dame bit hard into Roach’s head. Far away, a rhinoceros beetle had lowered horns to charge our way across the floor. I had to help, but I was weak and slow. I wouldn’t reach her in time.

One wing buzzed loud. The wasp leaped through the air and came down hard, stinging the rhinoceros beetle in the side. The beetle screeched in pain and slammed into a trough of honey. Flies scattered into the air. Hatches opened around the floor, and hordes of cockroaches came hissing out to keep the peace. Some of the other bugs poked their heads out of the honey in languid interest.

Roach was flailing in the mantis dame’s grasp. His head was gushing fluid from his bite wound, but he’d live. The mantis must have stopped herself from killing him.

She said, “Let us out of here now, or we’ll kill you all.”

My limbs were still sticky and heavy. I could barely stand.

“Let them go!” Roach hissed. “Get them out of here!”

The mantis dame released Roach and grabbed me, pulling me toward the door. The cockroaches made an aisle for us, hissing in anger. The wasp buzzed close with us, darting forward with her stinger whenever a cockroach came too close.

And then we were out in the night. I still wanted to sink into honey, away from all the memories flooding back. But I knew better than to give in. And this time, maybe not all of those memories would be bad. The night was full of predators, but right now, it was a night full of bugs who could still forgive each other. A mantis had forgiven herself enough to try living again, and somewhere out there, her lover was waiting for her to return. Maybe that was enough to earn me another day.

 

* * *

About the Author

Spencer Orey (he/him) is a writer living in rainy Denmark with his insect-loving family. He is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and his short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Tales from Fiddler’s Green and Flame Tree Press’s Lost Atlantis anthology. He has a PhD in cultural anthropology, with academic interests in magic, mobility, and media dreams that he loves to weave into stories. You can find him online at www.spencerorey.com or @spencerorey on Twitter and Mastodon.

Categories: Stories

Rusty

Zooscape - Mon 15 Apr 2024 - 02:16

by Steve Loiaconi

“You’d be surprised what people will admit to when a mangy terrier is standing over them with a whirring power drill in his paws.”

Whenever there’s a crisis in Action Cove, the mayor calls in these jamokes.

Sparky is a labradoodle who tools around in a modified fire truck. Siren, the German shepherd, drives an excessively armored police car. Then you got Splash, a collie with a hovercraft; Slate, a boxer in a bulldozer; and Sting, a chow chow in a little yellow helicopter.

They take orders from Cash, an inexplicably wealthy 15-year-old with a good heart and a quaint notion of justice.

I got to hand it to them. Most days, those pups do a decent job of keeping the peace. Saving cats in trees, stopping petty crimes, putting out warehouse fires, and whatnot. Then they sing a little song and take a nap.

But a town whose entire law enforcement and emergency response apparatus is handled by talking dogs makes an attractive target for hardcore criminals. There are cases when they’re out of options, when the clock is ticking and lines need to be crossed.

That’s when they call me.

My name is Rusty, and I don’t mind getting my paws dirty.

I’m mostly Jack Russell with a hint of Doberman and a pinch of pit bull. Cash says he likes me like he likes his coffee: small, fast, and mean.

I don’t think he’s ever had coffee.

Half the time, I don’t even need to touch a guy. You’d be surprised what people will admit to when a mangy terrier is standing over them with a whirring power drill in his paws.

Up in the watchtower, I fill up my dish with black coffee. Slate is running an obstacle course; Sting is watching cartoons; and Siren is filling out some paperwork that she thinks is very important.

“Councilman Calamity is at it again,” Splash says, nudging the pages of the newspaper with his nose. Groans rise up from the rest of the team.

This stooge, Councilman Chatsworth Calamity, keeps looking for ways to shut us down. Whether it’s proposing budget cuts, advocating stifling new regulations, or — as today’s front page reports — signing contracts for some prototype robot dinosaur police force, the dude is a constant thorn in our paws.

“That city councilman is only still breathing because you twerps won’t let me off the leash,” I say, under my breath but loud enough for everyone to hear.

“We can’t just go around assassinating people,” Siren barks.

“Won’t isn’t can’t,” I say, lapping up a mouthful of coffee.

“Cash said no.”

“Yeah, well.” I glance out at the setting sun. “Cash says a lot of things.”

Sparky stumbles into the room.

“Everybody coming to my show tomorrow?” he asks.

There’s a chorus of of-courses and wouldn’t-miss-its.

Sparky is putting on a one-man show at the theater downtown. I’ve seen him rehearse. It ain’t Shakespeare, but it’s cute.

They’re always so damn cute.

“Any of you guys read my erotic Kojak novella?” I ask.

The room goes silent.

I emailed them all copies weeks ago, and it’s only 75 pages.

“Who’s Kojak?” Sting says.

It takes every ounce of restraint in my wiry little body not to leap across the room and rip his throat out.

The flashing lights on our collars break the tension.

“Cash needs us,” they howl in unison.

Everyone shimmies into their shiny uniforms and lines up for the briefing. I hang back by the window.

“We’ve got a problem, doggos,” Cash says, standing before a massive computer screen.

He taps his keyboard and brings up a mugshot and a map.

“This guy’s a demolitions expert from out west. The state police nabbed him speeding down Route 27 north of town. When they pulled him over, he couldn’t stop bragging about the bomb he placed somewhere in Action Cove. He said it goes off at seven p.m.”

We all turn to the clock on the wall. Quarter past six.

“Rusty,” Cash says, “I’ve been questioning him for over an hour and time is running out. It’s your turn.”

I nod and push past the other dogs.

“His name is–”

“I don’t want to know his name.”

I pick up my work bag with my teeth and slouch down the hall.

“Zap his nuts!” Slate shouts.

Always with the nuts, this guy. He doesn’t appreciate that there’s an art to this. None of them do. They just turn their heads, eat their yummy treats, and play their silly games.

I slide open the door of the interrogation room. Under a spotlight in the middle of the blood-and-dirt-stained linoleum, the thug sits chained to a metal chair.

He laughs when he sees me, like they always do. I lay my tools out on the floor, making sure he sees the array of knives, saws, and needles. That stops the laughter right quick.

This is the fun part. I spring back on my hind legs and swing my paw across his face. Then I hit him again and again. And again.

I wail away until hitting his jaw feels like punching a bag of kibble.

“Still not talking?” I grunt.

I retreat to the corner, and I relish the panic in his eyes when I return. It ain’t easy to carry a flaming blowtorch between your teeth without singing your fur, but it’s worth it.

“Stop,” he mumbles. “Please stop.”

My tail wags.

I power down the torch and sit attentively.

“It’s under the lighthouse,” he says, coughing a gob of blood and teeth on the floor. He gives me the deactivation code, and he tells me who hired him. I’m not surprised.

I march out of the filthy room, my head held high.

Cash lays out a plan and the rest of the team springs into action. They hurry down the slide to their vehicles. Action Cove is saved again.

“You’re a good dog, Rusty,” Cash says before he launches himself down the slide.

“No, I’m not,” I grumble. “And that’s the way you like it.”

As they race off to complete their mission, I curl up in the dark and weep.

 

* * *

About the Author

Steve Loiaconi is a journalist and a graduate of George Mason University’s MFA program. His fiction previously appeared in Griffel, True Chili, the Good Life Review, Samfiftyfour, and the Saturday Evening Post, as well as the anthologies Dracula’s Guests and P is for Poltergeist.

Categories: Stories