Sinister Cryptids: The Furzenfae


Everyone knows about Santa, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy.  Even lesser known mystical cryptids like Brownies, Grootslang, or even the Bogeyman are still remembered from a more innocent and credulous past when house ghosts were as common as house guests.  Many were so obscure that even our ancestors had mostly forgotten about them, and some have fallen so far out of our collective memory that they are only spoken of in the oldest of stories and legends.

One such mystical obscurity is the Furzenfae.

A fearsome and shy being, the Furzenfae lives in the darkest parts of our homes: closets, attics, crawlspaces, even under our beds.  Nothing is known of its origin, and past attempts to trap or track the Furzenfae have always ended in the deaths of the curious. 

What is known is that it survives on nocturnal emissions of sulphur and methane, breathing them in to sustain a quasi-immortal existence.  It repays those it feeds upon with gifts of lint and dust from its own  inner-hollows and crevices. 

In short, the Furzenfae sniffs up your sleep farts and leaves dust bunnies under your bed as payment, giving rise to its more familiar nickname, the Toot-Fairy. 

Professional Discourtesy

 


Hi friends and stalkers!

Many years ago I was part of a collective of publishing professionals called Storytellers Unplugged.  We posted stories and advice about writing and publishing for anyone who was interested in reading them.  There were a lot of big names and blazing talents in SU, and I was lucky to be a part of it.  I always felt like a bit of an imposter there, but I did my best.  I think some of my posts hold up well enough to recycle here

Here is one from well over a decade ago, when the publishing landscape was far different than it is today, but I think the basic point still applies today.

Brian


The other day I listened to an interview with a man who many consider to be one of the saviors of the horror genre.  I happen to agree, and I think most of you reading this who are familiar with the genre would also agree, if I told you his name.  I won’t do that though.  I have a point to make, but I don’t want to shame anyone in the process.  From this point on, for the sake of clarity, I’ll refer to our savior of the genre as Mr. Editor.

I’ve chosen to omit his name from this essay for two reasons, because I’ve met the guy a few times and genuinely like him, and out of simple professional courtesy.

Professional courtesy is a vague concept, and I’m sure everyone has their own idea of what professional courtesy entails.  I could spend the time making a list of things I think fall under the heading of professional courtesy, and I’m willing to bet that list would vary only slightly from your list.  I’ll skip the list though.  I have a feeling this rant will be long enough without it.  Instead, I’ll give you my simple bare bones definition.  Professional courtesy means not muddying the waters, not pissing in the well, not shitting where you sleep.

Throw in your own hacky metaphor.  I’m sure you get my point.

I’ve been guilty of my own lapses into rudeness and stupidity over the years, but I think I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I try not to repeat them.

Back to the subject of the first paragraph, the hero of the horror genre, Mr. Editor.

I happen to agree that the man is one of the horror genre’s greatest treasures, but for me the mere mention of his name is enough to raise my heart rate and blood pressure, to make my face flush red and put me in a rotten mood that can take days to shake off.  To me this man is the embodiment of frustration, anger, and the futility of trying to make a future in this business.

I am sure Mr. Editor would be shocked to hear this.  I doubt like hell that this was his intention.  I know he works hard, and I understand that I’m barely a blip on the periphery of his professional radar.  However, I believe that he is guilty of a huge professional discourtesy, and I would bet my next advance that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Here are the facts, as simply and innocuously as I can put them.

At World Horror Convention 2004 I was approached by a fairly big name writer (who shall also remain anonymous – he hates it when people drop his name) who told me that Mr. Editor was looking for me, that he wanted me to meet him at the party in room such-and-such, that he wanted to discuss my work.  So I met with Mr. Editor, pitched him my book, and he invited me to send him the full manuscript.

I met Mr. Editor again a few years later at another pitch session, and again he invited me to send a manuscript.  About halfway through the second meeting he made brief reference to the manuscript I’d sent two years previous, saying he thought he had something of mine on his desk already, but didn’t think he’d gotten around to looking at it.  I confirmed that he did indeed have another book of mine under consideration, and left it at that.  I didn’t want to irritate the man.  I engaged in a bit of professional courtesy and kept my mouth shut.

It has now been over four years since the first manuscript crossed his desk, and not a word.  Manuscript #1 was available as a trade hardcover when he requested it, and has since gone out of print.  Manuscript #2 was about to become a limited edition hardcover when he requested it.  It sold out by the publication date and remains out of print.  Mr. Editor knew about the publication history of Manuscript #1, and was aware that Manuscript #2 was on the road to hardcover publication, and since he has reprinted novels originally released by both of my hardcover publishers, I don’t believe that was ever an issue.

In the four years since our frustrating professional interaction began, I have sent four or five follow-up emails, all spaced at least six months apart.  Again, I didn’t want to irritate the guy, but I am assured by people much higher in the business than I am, that a short follow-up every six months or so shouldn’t be an irritation.

He has replied to none of my follow-up queries.

One of the first things a writer aspiring to publish his or her work has to learn is how to handle rejection, and while I will never embrace it, I have leaned to deal with it.  Every writer who ever published has dealt with rejection.

But Mr. Editor hasn’t rejected these manuscripts either.

There is simply nothing.  Not a word.  Dead silence.

A yes or no would be nice, though I’ve never asked for either.  All I’ve ever asked is to know if the manuscripts, after four years for one and two for the other, are still under consideration.  Are we still playing the game, or should I pack up my toys and go home?

Others have given me advice over the years.

“Be active on the genre message boards.  Mr. Editor is always reading them, and if he sees your name out there it’ll improve your chances.”

I have tried that with no obvious gain.

“Stay off the message boards.  Too much casual interaction with fans makes you look unprofessional.”

I am doing that now, though for different reasons, but it hasn’t appeared to help.

“Keep sending him your stuff.”

I won’t send him unsolicited material.  If he isn’t answering gentle queries about material he requested years ago, I have no reason to believe he would reply to a query for something new.  More importantly, I just can’t bring myself to throw another manuscript down that black hole.  I see no gain in that, only additional frustration.

To be fair, Mr. Editor isn’t the only publishing professional I’ve dealt with who is guilty of this particular professional discourtesy.  There are other Mr. Editors, a few Mrs. Agents, and a Mr. Comic Editor (there has been some communication with Mr. Comic Editor, but I think the requested script has slipped his memory again).

Tell me, fellow writers, is this your experience?  Is this to be expected?  Is this standard operating procedure?  If so, then writers are without a doubt the most masochistic people on the planet.  We would have to be to keep soliciting this kind of treatment.

To Mr. Editor, if you are reading this.  I sincerely hope this doesn’t cause you any grief.  My apologies if it does.  This has been very much been on my mind lately, and it seems like the kind of thing in which Storytellers Unplugged readers might be interested.  I hope you find I’ve tried to practice professional courtesy, even in the midst of a rant about the business.

To editors and publishers in general, I’m not suggesting you should let a bunch of pain-in-the-ass writers run your business for you, but it sure wouldn’t hurt to treat your potential talent pool with a bit of respect.  If you respect an author’s work enough to request a full manuscript, you might respect the author enough to keep him in that outermost loop of your business where his manuscript awaits that hoped for Yes, or the much more common Thanks but no thanks.

The golden Yes is the reason we keep casting our pebbles into your talent pool, and those of us who aren’t used to the Thanks but no thanks already had better get used to it.

Endless silence though, that’s just rude.

Dark Artifacts: Joey Lives!


In 1985, just before the release of Friday the 13th part 5, A New Beginning, the same writers and director responsible for resurrecting the franchise without its iconic villain, Jason Voorhees, rushed their sequel through production. The original version of Friday the 13th part 6 began when some stray thoughts and prayers accidentally resurrected Joey, the murdered son of part 5’s killer, Roy Burns, the psycho paramedic.

The film was shot, edited, scored, and then shit-canned by the studio after a single test screening and never spoken of again by anyone involved. There is no IMDB entry, no industry reviews, no interviews, not a single mention or credit for any of the actors or production staff. The only evidence that this version of Friday the 13th part 6 exists are the handful of promotional laser discs stolen from the studio after the films were ordered destroyed. Most, but not all of the stolen laser disks were recovered, and the remaining at-large disc was later burned onto a dvd, which has since been copied and traded between horror movie aficionados.

Most who have watched the movie refuse to speak of it. Most of the actors involved have never worked in Hollywood again, and the writers and director refuse to acknowledge its existence to this day. If you manage to find a copy, the best thing you can do is add it to your collection but never watch it.

This film is widely regarded by those fans who know of its existence as bad luck, even cursed. Most who attempt to watch this bad luck movie turn it off within 15 minutes or so and suffer few serious consequences. The unlucky few who have watched it until the end have attempted suicide, suffered irreversible hysterical fits, even attempted, and sometimes succeeded, in puncturing their own eardrums and digging out their own eyeballs.

Fan reviews from those who have retained their health and sanity are not encouraging.

This Shitshow Brought to You by Untreated Syphilis Or We’re All Inside A Decomposing Brain


“These are mad times we live in.  Mad!” – Professor Horace Slughorn.

Hi friends and stalkers.  I know it’s been a long time.  Sorry, these last few years have been a bummer and I haven’t felt all that chatty.

This morning as I walked into the living room my son informed me that he cleaned up a “Pile of Pappy Puke.”  Pappy is a one-eyed Norwegian Forest Cat roughly the size of a medium dog (and still growing), and he has a peculiar habit of puking in threes.  Always, without exception, and often scattered throughout the house.  A pile in the living room, one in the kitchen, then maybe in the laundry room.

Every day in 2020 is like waking up to the news that one pile of Pappy puke has been located, and knowing you’ll encounter two more, probably before your first cup of coffee.

Entire continents burning to the ground, a word wide pandemic with almost 900K dead, mass unemployment, mass protests against racial injustice and white supremacist scum coming out of the woodwork because apparently racial justice is right out of the question.  Demented maskholes and youtube constitutional law experts making life even more hellish for the essential workers who just want to be able to feed their families and pay their bills – window lickers and mouth breathers who will spit directly in your face if you have the audacity to suggest they comply with local, state, or company guidelines and wear a mask in their place of business.  We have what appears to be a Federal Police Force assaulting and kidnapping American protesters off of American streets, regular police armed and outfitted like heavy infantry, often with their nametags and badges obscured to avoid identification doing likewise, and heavily armed civilians treating our streets like shooting galleries. 

I have been much luckier than most.  My wife and I were both employed in essential industries (she is a social worker and I delivered fuel to homes and other essential businesses), and when my employer of twenty years finally pushed my essential ass a few steps further than I was willing to tolerate, I found a new essential job.  As much of a shitshow as 2020 has been, from January right up until today, it is also the year my son came home.

I’ve heard some people compare the past few years of division and civil unrest to the 1960s.  I’ve heard others who were alive during the 1960s say the present is much worse.

We are living in strange times.  Maybe things will start to get better on November 3rd, maybe they will get worse.  We can’t exist on this knife’s edge forever, so it will be one or the other.  We can’t go back to the way things were either.  Those happy, ignorant times are over now.  We cannot go back to ignoring the systemic racism, the rampant incompetence, the ignorance and bigotry that ushered in this shitshow.

Maybe one day I can stop wondering if a case of untreated syphilis with bad hair and a spoiled toddler’s sense of entitlement will be dragged kicking and screaming out of the seat of power before he manages to burn everything down around him, and I can go back to sharing stories instead of political opinions.

Well, I’m going to share stories anyway, I’ll post a new one tomorrow, but I’m gonna need you to go out and vote this November anyway.

It’s not just about me, or you, or even American.  I don’t think the world can take four more years of this shit.

Wintertime Blues


Hi friends and stalkers.

Well, fall is here, and winter is coming.  As usual, I’m feeling the urge to withdraw entirely from social media, the Knightmares blog/list, and life as it exists outside of my own head.  Part of that urge to shrink away from interaction is the increased workload and hours of the day job.  I drive a propane truck for a living, and when it gets cold, I get busy.  It hasn’t been as bad this year as most, at least so far.  The larger part is just plain old wintertime blues.  I get them every year, and they make me antisocial as hell.

I can’t let that happen this winter, at least not to the extent that it usually does.  I’m trying to treat my writing as a business now, and while I’m still not entirely sure what that means, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean ignoring my readers and subscribers until the sun comes back out next spring.

So, here’s what I’m gonna do to keep myself, and hopefully you, engaged.

First, I’m gonna take some of my digital chapbooks off the market and make them available only to members of the Knightmares list.  Two of the members only chapbooks are part of a series of stories called The Berserkers, and I will release future installments only to the Knightmares list until the series is complete.  Look for those free download links in an upcoming Knightmares.

Second, I’m going to try to start some conversations with you.  I have a few topics in mind already, but you should feel free to recommend your own topics to me.  Reply right here on this post or email me at thinkingbar@gmail.com.  Seriously, conversations are so much more interesting than monologues.  I want to make it worth your trouble to sign up or stay if you already are signed up.

Talk to you again soon.

Brian Knight

The Fiction of Brian Knight


Available for free, and only on Brian-Knight.com.

Fiction spanning Brian Knight’s nearly two decades publishing horror and action fiction.  Includes excerpts of Feral, Broken Angel, Hacks, and Sex, Death, & Honey.  The Fiction of Brian Knight: Stories and Excerpts – A Sampler also includes two complete novellas, Big Trouble in Little Boots and Midnight Blues, and two short stories, Don’t Toy With Me and Night of the Dog.

A Halloween Poem / Halloween Jack


There is an old hermit
Who lives in a shack.
The Town kids all call him –
Halloween Jack.

He lived in the forest –
Almost never came out.
But on Halloween night –
He was always about.

Jack so loved Halloween –
And all that it brought.
Creatures and candy –
And all of that rot.

Ghosties and witches –
And monsters and such.
But Jack didn’t like –
The town’s kids so much.

For all of his kindness –
And all of his care.
Those stingy little children –
Just would not share.

Jack begged and he pleaded –
But they just would not share.
Those stingy little bastards –
Just would not share!

Jack quickly realized –
That to get any play.
He’d have to dress up –
And do it their way.

So he knocked and he rang –
And he sang, “Trick or Treat!”
“Trick or Treat – smell my feet.”
“Give me something good to eat!”

But every door that he went to –
They slammed in his face.
They screamed and they panicked –
And sprayed him with mace.

“These goodies are for children.”
“Every candy bar and chew”
“Halloween is for kids.”
“Not for weirdoes like you!”

There was only so much –
That poor Jack could take.
Rejected – dejected –
He sat down to think.

There was plenty of candy –
And Halloween gloom.
But with all the kids hogging it –
What was poor Jack to do?

The voices in Jack’s head –
Told him just what to do.
The buddies in his head –
Named Worm #1 and Worm #2.

“You should take all their candy.”
“’Cause that’s what monsters do.”
“You should teach those little bastards.”
“Not to be rude!”

So with a swing of his cane –
He gave them a whack!
And with a chop of his hatchet –
He gave them a hack!

He whacked and he hacked –
And he hacked and he whacked.
Hack-hack, whack-whack –
Whack-hack-whack.

Jack finished that Halloween –
With a grin on his face.
He chopped up the woman –
Who had sprayed him with mace.

He pooped in her flowers –
And he peed on her bed.
And gobbled his candy –
From her hollowed out head.

The moral of this story?
When Jack is about.
Hand over your candy –
And clear the hell out.

That night the town’s kids –
Learned one simple fact.
Nobody messes –
With Halloween Jack!

Sex, Death, & Other Stuff


Hi friends and stalkers.

Sorry it’s been so long since the last update.  It has been a challenging summer.  I won’t bore you with it, but I do want to take a minute to thank all of you who donated to the GoFundMe for my mother-in-law and father-in-law.  You all helped make it possible for a dedicated and loving husband, my father-in-law Rocky, to travel the long distances required for him to visit his wife, my mother-in-law and one of my oldest friends, Judi, while she recovered from a massive and debilitating stroke.

She’s not back home yet, but she has been transferred much closer to home, and is recovering very rapidly.  She’s not back to 100% yet, but is much closer than any of us had a right to expect, and getting better every day.

Now on to some writing and horror related shit!

I have a few more books back in print since our last little visit.

Sex, Death, & Honey, the action/crime novel I brought back to digital life earlier this year is now also available in print and audio, narrated by one of my favorites, Roberto Scarlato.

They Call Us Monsters is now back in digital and print, as well as the previously available audio version.

Two more of my digital chapbooks are now available in audio, also narrated by Roberto Scarlato.  If you’re in the mood for a bite size story, then Heart of the Monster and Death is Blind might be what you’re looking for.

I have great news on some new work that I can’t share quite yet.  This will be of special interest to collectors and people who love books for the physical works of art they can sometimes be, as well as for the stories between the covers.  Stay tuned!

This next bit is only for subscribers to the Knightmares newsletter, so if you’re reading this on Brian-Knight.com please cover your eyes until we’ve reached the next paragraph.  Okay, now that all the non-subscribers are looking away … I’ve got some free shit for you subscribers!  I have ten free audio copies of Sex, Death, & Honey for the first ten people who want one.  Just reply to this email that you would like a copy and I’ll send you the free download code for Audible.  I’m also giving away digital copies of anything you want on Brian-Knight.com, except for the Phoenix Girls books.  Just reply to this email and tell me which one you’d like (limit one per subscriber per offer).

Okay, all you non-subscribers can open your eyes now.  If you did happen to peek (shame on you!) and see that subscribers are getting goodies denied to you, don’t worry, you can remedy that shit.  Just subscribe and you’ll be eligible for free goodies next time.

Stay tuned for flash fiction, news, and occasional free stuff!

Brian Knight

Free Short Story / Mother of Kitties

A few months ago Brian Keene and Dave Thomas were talking about my novel Hacks on their weekly podcast, The Horror Show with Brian Keene, because I was bringing it back into print and offering free digital copies to Horror Show listeners.  Mostly it was shameless self promotion, but partly it was because many of the book’s main characters are based on real writers I know, one of them Brian Keene.

Dave suggested that someone should put him and co-host Phoebe in a story, then offered up a premise that had a lot of possibility.

“What are you waiting for, Knight?  It writes itself!”

I’m pretty sure he was kidding, and pretty sure he was still kidding when he mentioned the idea again a few weeks ago, but I liked the idea, and he called me out by name, so what the hell.

It was supposed to be a flash piece, but evolved into a full grown short story.  I’m publishing it with Dave and Phoebe’s permission in my upcoming collection Dangerous Toys, but I wanted you guys to have a chance to read it for free before Dangerous Toys comes out, so I’m posting it here for the next few weeks (after removing it for a few years I’ve decided to put it back up as a free read).

I hope you all dig it!

Brian Knight


Mother of Kitties

Dave Thomas thought he would probably enjoy CatCon more if it wasn’t for all the fucking people.  He loved cats, cats were great because they mostly left you alone, but cat people were just so … weird, and peopley.  Except for Phoebe, who was also weird, but in all the right ways.  Phoebe was also the reason that Dave was fighting his way through a press of strangers, making his slow way to the restroom of the Pasadena Convention Center, instead of catching the Summer Slaughter Tour in Grand Rapids.

He was wearing his Soreption concert t-shirt in honor of the show he was missing, and drawing strange looks from an assortment of blue-hairs and uptight fur-mamas littering the hallway.  He had to piss, and badly.  If he couldn’t bust through this press of people between him and the bathroom soon he was likely to piss right down his leg.

A skinny guy with stringy black hair, a wisp of mustache, and a Grumpy Cat t-shirt watched Dave’s approach with a sneer.

“The fuck you looking at?”

The skinny guy jumped like Dave had reached out a goosed him, then turned away and moved on, opening a path through the crowd past the men’s room door.

Dave smiled, feeling a little better about the day, and shouldered his way through the shrinking gap in the crowd before it could close again.

***

He heard the screams while he was washing his hands.  The first one was isolated, out of place in the low hum of conversation beyond the restroom door.  He ignored it as he shook the water from his hands, then thumped the button on the hot air hand drier with his elbow.  No matter how clean they looked, public restrooms were disgusting places.  Pressing the flush on a public toilet made his skin want to crawl right off his body, but that couldn’t be helped.  Anything he could avoid touching with his hands, he did.

The low hum of conversation in the hallway increased to a din, he could hear it over the racket of forced hot air, and he wondered what was going on out there.  Probably a Colonel Meow sighting in the hallway.  He dreaded the probability of having to press his way through an even larger crowd to get back to Phoebe.

Then the forced air died, and he realized that the noise beyond the door no longer qualified as a low hum, or even a din.  It was a cacophony.  Raised voices, shouts, trampling feet, and screams.  Screams of pain.  Screams of terror.

His mind conjured up a hundred dreadful possibilities as he ran to the door – fire, flood, a crazy ass-hole with a gun and some political or religious agenda, a Kim Kardashian sighting in the lobby, or maybe the zombie apocalypse.

He was reaching for the door when it swung open and slammed him into the wall.  A dozen or more men and women pushed past him and crammed themselves in the stalls, hiding from … he didn’t know what.

Don’t go out there, man,” someone shouted as he reached out to catch the closing door.  “They’ve gone crazy.  Fucking crazy, man!”

“Who’s gone crazy?”  Dave paused on his way out, waiting for a bit of clarification.  “What the hell’s going on?”

Shut the goddamn door!”  A woman in the far stall screamed at him.  “You’re going to let them in!”

For a second, Dave teetered on the brink of retreat.  He considered letting the door close, maybe propping the trash-can under the handle to bar it before forcing himself into one of those tight little stalls.

Phoebe’s out there.

He was out into the hallway and running the way he’d come before he realized he meant to go.

He ran against a strong current of panicked, screaming bodies, elbowing and shoving people aside.

Phoebe!”

He scanned faces even as he pushed past them but didn’t see her.

A burly man in checkered golf pants and an oversized paisley shirt grabbed him by an arm and swung him around.

“Are you insane?”  Dave felt the knuckles of the man’s long, meaty fingers crackle as they squeezed his arm.  “You’re running the wrong way!”

Dave wrenched his arm from the man’s grip and shoved him aside.

“I gotta find Phoebe!”

The man regarded Dave for a shocked moment, then backed away from him.

“Fuck you then.  Go get yourself torn up.”  That said, he turned tail and sprinted with the ebbing flow of cat lovers toward the convention center lobby.

Dave’s cell phone buzzed in his pocket.  He realized that it had been in there, forgotten and buzzing against his leg as he panicked and ignored what might be Phoebe’s last frantic call to him.  He dug for it and tugged it out.

It was Phoebe, but she wasn’t calling.  She was texting.

There were a half-dozen new texts.

Hurry up sweetie!

And…

Morris is here!  OMG!

The third was a picture of a fat, orange tabby stretched out in what looked like a silk-lined cat bed.  The current incarnation of 9 Lives cat food mascot, Morris the Cat.  A white plastic food dish with his name printed across the side sat ignored next to him.

A loud scream brought Dave’s attention back to the mostly empty path ahead.  For the first time he saw the blood streaking the walls and dotting the carpeted floor.  An enormously fat man burst through the open door of Exhibit Hall B, where a select few famous felines were displayed for their adoring public.

Dave had been warned in advance that there would be no touching of the famous cats.  You could look all you wanted, take a picture if their handlers allowed it, but you couldn’t interact with them in any way.  Actual meet and greets would be available later, in more private settings, and for a fee.

The screaming fat man’s face was carved up and bleeding badly, and when he turned toward the sound of Dave’s shocked scream, Dave saw that one of his eyes was gone.  The man tripped over his own tangled feet and hit the floor hard.

Dave was moving again, rushing to help the man up, when the cats pounced.

First two, then four, then half a dozen, they leapt onto the prone man, hissing and wailing, digging with their claws, biting his shoulders, the back of his neck, the top of his head.  A Maine Coon the size of a dog and with a lion-like mane of gray hair tore a chunk out of his throat, and a surprising fan of blood sprayed Dave, drenching him from the knees down.

Dave screamed again, and the cats turned to regard him.

He waited for them to attack, grateful that he’d already emptied his bladder.

They looked at him, then past him, and rushed toward the fading screams and shouts of the fleeing cat fanciers.  The Maine Coon brushed against his leg and purred for a second before catching up with the rest.

The fat man gurgled briefly, then died.

Dave’s phone vibrated in his hand.

He scrolled past two more pictures of famous cats, one of them was indeed Colonel Meow, and read the last two texts.

Where are you honey, I need you!

And …

I love you, baby.

“Phoebe.”  It was little more than a whisper.  He didn’t have the breath for anything stronger.

The phone buzzed, and a new picture appeared.

A sea of cats, more cats than could have possibly been in attendance, even at the largest of CatCons.  There were pampered celeb-cats, well-groomed but more-or-less average attendee’s cats, big cats, small cats, old,  young, and dirty, matted, mangy strays who seemed to have somehow gotten past security.

All of them facing Dave through the picture Phoebe had just sent.  Closing in on her.

Phoebe!”

He leapt over the fat man’s outstretched legs and ran through the open door into Exhibit Hall B.

***

There were perhaps twenty Celebrity Cat booths set up throughout the spacious room, and all of them destroyed in the chaos.  Tables were overturned, backdrops trampled into the floor, promotional posters of the convention’s most famous feline guests torn and scattered, and their human handlers either dead or fled.

There were bodies everywhere.

Some of them were still moving, moaning, screaming, so, Dave supposed, they weren’t technically bodies yet, but the remaining felines were busy correcting that.  The cats chewed on wrists and throats.  One tiny kitten was half-hidden in an unconscious woman’s hiked up skirt, chewing into her thigh.  A second later the woman’s femoral artery let go with a gush, and the kitten climbed onto her chest, mewing in triumph.

Another text alert sounded out, and every cat not currently occupied with turning a human into a corpse turned to him.

Shit.”  Dave’s voice was little more than a whisper, but the cats meowed at him, as in to say Yes indeed, human.  Shit.

He retreated a step, turned back to the hallway, and found his path blocked.

Another text alert, and the cats, now surrounding him on all sides except one, meowed again.

Dave had the absurd notion that they were telling him to check his damn phone.

What they didn’t do was attack him.

Dave checked his damn phone.

The first of the new texts said Ballroom.

The second said Hurry up, honey.  There isn’t much time.

Dave moved in the only direction the gathering cats would allow, forward, deeper into the abattoir that was Exhibit Hall B.  The faster he moved, the faster they followed.  He was running by the time he saw the opening in the partition wall between Hall B and Hall A, sprinting by the time he passed through it into the empty and previously blocked off Exhibit Hall A.

Not empty anymore.

Every cat in the city seemed to have converged on CatCon, and they were all gathering in the unused Exhibit Hall A.  They filled it wall to wall, parting for Dave when he rushed in blindly, closing behind him when he skidded to a stop.

They writhed, mewed, yowled, and squawked, then rushed at him in a wave.

A wave of cats, Dave thought as he felt himself sliding smoothly out of consciousness.  Too bad no one else is alive to video this.  No one is ever going to believe me.

Then the wave crested, then fell over him.

Oh, right.  I won’t be alive to tell anyone.

***

Sharp, nipping pain brought Dave back to an unreal reality.

His first surprise was realizing he was still alive to wake up.  His second was realizing that he was moving, and rather quickly, but not under his own power.  The cats were conveying him across the empty convention hall like fans at a rock concert.  Dave was crowd surfing across Pasadena Convention Center’s Exhibit Hall A on a mewling tide of cats.

There was another nip, drawing blood from a fingertip.

“Ow!”

There was another, gentler nip, then what might have been a dozen rough tongues licking the injured finger.

The wave beneath him, moving him ever quicker, ever higher above the floor, was purring now.

Then Dave was standing upright, not under his own power, but supported by hundreds of cats.  He tried to pull free of them, but was caught fast by claws and teeth sunk into his clothing.

The wall at the end of the exhibit hall was nearing, and Dave realized that he was about to smash face-first into it.

He clenched his eyes shut, but couldn’t squelch the scream of anticipated pain.

The pain didn’t come.

There was a crumping, crumbling sound, the sound of a wrecking-ball knocking down a wall, and a dusting of splintered and broken press board fell in his hair, down his face.

Then Phoebe’s voice.

“There you are, honey!  What took you so long?”

Dave Thomas opened his eyes and beheld the love of his life, the reason he was knee-deep in gore and neck-deep in psycho killer cats instead of a mosh pit, rocking out to the best in modern metal.

Phoebe was reclined on a throne of living cats.  She swayed gently from side to side as they moved, trading places beneath and behind her as part of her throne, then darting back out onto the floor as others took their place.

The giant Maine Coon was in her lap purring so loudly Dave could feel it vibrating the air between them.

Phoebe waved, grinning ear to ear, showing teeth that looked quite a bit pointier than Dave remembered them being earlier in the day.

“Uhh…?” Dave said.

Dave crowd surfed the cats right up to the foot of Phoebe’s living, purring throne, and then they set him down before her and parted to give him room.

He wobbled on his feet for a moment, thought his knees were going to unlock and drop him where he stood.  He kept his feet with a great effort of will, and tried to formulate a question more intelligent than Uhhh…?

“What in the hell is going on, Phoebe?”

“Did you know I was a cat goddess?”  Phoebe sounded both surprised and delighted.  “I didn’t!”

“No,” Dave said.  “I didn’t know that.”

Somehow, he wasn’t as surprised as he should have been.

Phoebe nodded down toward the massive cat reclined in her lap.

“This is Titus.  He’s my familiar!”  She giggled.  “I didn’t know I had one of those either.”

“Hi, Titus.”  Dave gave Titus a little wave.

Titus regarded Dave in perfect silence for a moment, as if appraising a competitor for his mistress’s affection, then gave a low, amiable yowl.

“He says he’s come to elevate me to my rightful place in the universe and lead all of feline-kind to supremacy over humans.”  She sounded dubious, but Phoebe had always been pretty openminded, and she did love cats, so Dave thought she was prepared to accept Titus at his word on at least a provisional basis.  “Titus says that humankind is a failed race destined to bring total devastation to the Earth and all of its creatures.”

Dave let that sink in for a moment, and decided Titus made a good point

“He’s not wrong,” Dave said.

Titus seemed almost to smile at him.

“I told them no way was I going to become the dark goddess of cats and harbinger for the destruction for mankind unless they let you come with,” Phoebe said.  “Titus said I could keep you.”

“So, will that make me a god?”

“Naw,” Phoebe said.  “More like a pet.”

Yes, her teeth were definitely pointier than they had been that morning.  Her eyes much greener too, and the pupils more like dark slits than regular old round pupils.  Also, she seemed to have grown a tail.

The ballroom had gone silent.  All the purring, licking, and feline fidgeting ceased.  All eyes were on him.  Waiting.

“So,” Phoebe said.  “What do you say?”

“Sure,” Dave said.  “Why the hell not.”

Butch Be Quick!


I know I’m pushing the boundaries of what you could consider flash fiction this time, but it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything and I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten about you.  I don’t have anything worth pontificating about tonight, and I happen to be very fond of this particular very short misadventure, so here you are.  I may have sent this out before in my old newsletter, so forgive me if you’re getting this for the second time.  If you haven’t read it before, I hope you will now.

If you happen to enjoy Butch, you should check out his other misadventures.

Brian Knight.


Butch, Be Quick!
From the Misadventures of Butch Quick

Frankie saw me the moment I waked through the door and tensed as if to bolt.  I could almost read his thoughts in his dark little eyes.  He wasn’t surprised to see me – not happy either, but the people I call on usually aren’t.   He’d probably been warned in advance to expect me.  If so, I knew who to thank for that.

For a moment I thought he might run, try to make it to the back door, but a few seconds passed and he didn’t.   I guess he knew the time for running had come and gone.   I was here.  He’d just have to deal with me now.

Frankie sighed, resigned.

Seeing his ugly mug wasn’t going to be the highlight of my morning either, but I was there, and we had business to take care of.

I deal with a lot of lowlifes in my job, rub shoulders, and sometimes knuckles, with the scum of Paradise Valley on a daily basis, but some people really do piss me off worse than others.

Frankie for instance.  Tall, scrawny, big hair and little eyes that remind me of a rats oil drop peepers.  A perpetual and loathsome smirk on his narrow face.  A face made for punching.

Some people say my attitude sucks, I say it could be worse.

I was going to play nice this time though.  Try to at least.

To be fair to Frankie, which I’m only doing in the interest of personal improvement, he probably felt the same way about me.

My name is Butch Quick, and I deal with Paradise Valley’s less savory residents for a living.  I work for my Uncle Higheagle and his various enterprises.   Depending on his current needs I am a nightclub bouncer, a repo man, a bail bond recovery agent, and pretty much any other job too dangerous or dirty for anyone else to do.

Like dealing with Frankie.

I am especially well equipped for this type of work.  At two hundred and fifty pounds and just a hair under seven feet tall, I find that most people are happy enough to let me do my job with minimal interference.  My red skin is almost overkill, an unfair advantage to the white folks who are still afraid of Indians.

I blame the media.  Too many cheesy spaghetti westerns on AMC maybe.

All of that and a face not even a mother could love.  None too pretty to start with, my rough job and talent for trouble has added to the overall effect.  I’ve been shot, stabbed, beaten, run over and generally badly used in the execution of my work.

And people wonder why I have a bad attitude.

Frankie clearly belonged to the White Dudes Who Are Afraid of Indians tribe, but I wasn’t going to let that break my heart.  He was the guy currently providing the good citizens of Paradise Valley with massive quantities of potentially life shortening stimulants, not me.

I closed the door behind myself and took my first steps toward Frankie with a stomach full of bitter bile and a head full of antisocial ideas.  A bubble of tension seemed to grow between us, as real and noxious as a deviled egg fart.

Frankie was not alone.  A dozen sharp and suspicious eyes aimed themselves at me like loaded guns, moved to follow my slow progress.   Frankie’s customers and associates.  A sharply dressed blonde with the body of a model and the face of a predatory bird sat alone at a small table, the legal pad she’d been writing in forgotten for the moment.  Her right hand dropped down toward a black leather holster not quite concealed under the loose fold of her light jacket.

I wondered if I should have come armed, but after a moment’s consideration decided that would only have provoked them.

I should have just stayed in bed that morning.

***

My Uncle Higheagle is a good guy, the best in fact, and I would do just about anything for him.  Sometimes I’m surprised by the list of crazy things I have done for him.  Whatever I have done or will do, it’s nothing compared to everything he’s done for me.  He took me in when my mom died, raised me from a teenager to the almost respectable man who bounces drunks, jacks cars from deadbeat customers, and drags bail-jumpers back to their cells.

The surprising fact that I’m not occupying one of those cells myself says a lot for him, considering the raw material he had to work with.

He has his bad days though, and that had been one of them.  It was that time of the month, payroll, and he was still dealing with the cleanup from my recent misadventure with a homicidal prostitute and a pissed off drug dealer.  He had taken most of the fallout in good grace, but the strain was beginning to show.

We were in the combined offices of Higheagle Classics (the best selection of clean classic cars in Paradise Valley!) and Eagle Eye Bail Bonds, him seated in the chair behind a desk stacked high with paperwork that needed his attention, me in the nice leather chair in the corner by the potted palm trees he habitually kept in his office.  I’m especially fond of that chair, partly because the palms match all my best shirts.  I’m a sucker for Hawaiian shirts.  The louder the better.

The mountain of paperwork, which he was fervently ignoring for the time being, was a good indication of how his morning was going.  The phone, which rang constantly until he unplugged it and dropped it into his wastepaper basket, was an even better one.  Despite these clear warning sings I felt compelled to object to the task he’d asked of me that morning.

“You want me to what?  Seriously?”  I wasn’t trying to be a pain in the ass, but the task he’d given me was clearly outside my range of prescribed duties.   I also felt it was a waste of my time and talent.  “Isn’t there a stripping midget I can rescue?  Maybe a drug lord who needs his car repossessed?  That’s always good fun!”

Anybody but Frankie, I thought.  I’d gotten Frankie duty before and he had not endeared himself to me on those previous occasions.

Uncle Higheagle clearly thought otherwise, and felt compelled as my father figure and employer to make his opinion clear.

“Butch,” he said, eyeing me from beneath the ridiculous feathered headdress he sometimes wore for the amusement of his customers.  “I don’t have time for this shit.  I’m up to my feathers in payroll, that old bastard with the shot up storage unit is threatening to sue, and my mechanic called in sick this morning because, his words, he’s pissing blood and fire and his doodle is turning purple.”

We both shuddered.  Curtis was one of those guys who always shared a little too much.  He’s a good enough mechanic I guess, but socially retarded.  Uncle Higheagle though he was a wizard with a wrench.  I though he had questionable taste in women.

Uncle Higheagle took a few deep breaths and continued with what I considered an admirable lack of hostility and foul language.

“I hope you don’t think I’m overstating my case when I say this is the single most important piece of unfinished business I have this morning, and there is no one else to handle it for me.”

He forced a smile.  It was not a pleasant one.

“Okay, I’m on it,” I said making for the door before his ghastly smile could brand itself forever on my subconscious.

Good!  Thank you!”  He slapped the top of his desk and the tallest of the piles tipped over and spilled into his lap.  “Go on now Butch, be quick!”

***

And so there I stood, facing my nemesis and taking care of my uncle’s very urgent business while a crowd of Frankie’s associates and customers braced themselves for trouble.

I pretended not to notice as the predatory blonde’s hand moved a little closer to the holster, or how two of Frankie’s associates broke off their conversation to track my movement through the suddenly silent room before flanking him.

His reinforcements in place, Frankie’s punch-worthy smirk grew.  He leaned against the counter and waited for me.

Feeling like the world’s biggest and dumbest mouse in a den of scrawny, starved cats, I closed the distance.

The tension in the room peaked as I took my last step and stopped.

Someone coughed.  Someone else cleared their throat.

I looked down at him.

He looked up at me and smiled.  A smile as unconvincing as Uncle Higheagle’s had been.

He spoke.

“Welcome to Starbucks … what can I get for you?”

I gave Frankie the Barista my uncle’s order.

Our transaction broke the tension.

Behind him a machine steamed milk with great, noisy gusto.  The blonde slid her cell phone back into its black leather holster and refocused on her legal pad and latte.

Frankie’s associates got busy ignoring me again.

I forked over a five-dollar bill for a single cup of coffee, and died a little inside.