Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sample Sunday: Fixing Collateral Damage

I recently joined to a local writing group. About half are non-fiction, technical writers wanting to branch out into fiction.  So when the group leader suggested everyone try their at a short story, it was intriguing. When the word count max was set at about 1000, I bit my tongue.  They really wanted a short short.  Okay I was game. At the same time, I was experimenting with formatting checks and balances. So I could kill two birds with one stone.  A short piece for the assignment that also lent itself formatting experimentation. So here is the rough draft of my modern horror take on an old fairy tale.

It's pretty much a first draft, but was fun to write. I may expand it out into a longer short-

What do you think?

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Once upon a time there were three pigs.  One lived in a house of straw, the other lived in a house of sticks and the third lived in a house made of brick just outside Branson, Missouri.  Well, they weren’t real pigs, just very sloppy. And the first house wasn’t straw but it was a double-wide with a straw tiki bar out back.  They had each been featured on the reality show “Hoarders”. That is where he found them.
Brad was the star of The Fixers. He and his crew would swoop in and do an intervention.  It might be a bad relationship, or a home in disrepair.  Brad had met the Poricy brothers when a neighbor had emailed his producer, Mike, about the state of their three adjoining properties.
The producer, Brad and the station hired psychologist, Lila Hood had met all three siblings separately and together. The vote was two out of three, Lila was her usual soft-hearted self.  Brad thought maybe if he could get the hot Caribbean redhead in sack, she would come around. He and Mike agreed that the brothers had no idea they needed help. They were a wash out, lazy shuffling brain dead wastes. Lila insisted that their apathy was part of the disease.  Majority ruled, ratings ruled.
But Brad and Mike had other plans. While the reality of human networks were ratings.  Brad’s pack wanted order.  Packs thrived on order from their members and those in their territory.   And the Poricy brothers lived in their territory.  As alpha wolf of his pack, Brad had to set the tone.  Mike was his second, his sergeant-at-arms.  The neighbor who had called the station was Luke Farkas, a beta looking to advance.  Brad had to admire his initiative, as long as he didn’t over-reach, then Brad would have to take him out.
Brad and Mike decided they would smoke out, George, the youngest Poricy. He lived in the tiki-bar trailer and his brothers didn’t appear to be home. If he stumbled into the woods, they would be waiting under the light of the full moon for him. The pack would eat well this night.
But George didn’t behave as expected. He dragged his slow sorry ass over to his brother, Sean’s clapboard house. No problem.  As Alpha, Brad was patient. So the next month passed.
One Friday after a staff meeting, he stopped Lila in the hall and suggested dinner.  He was not surprised when she said yes. They always did, eventually. What was a surprise was when this flame-haired bombshell suggested they go to the rib place south of town on Route 65. Even better was the way she chowed down. He half expected her to suck the marrow out of the bones. The downside was when she left him at the curb. “You know,” she said, “I don’t shit where I eat.”  He would get her past the work arrangement. In fact, after he was done with the Poricy Brothers, he would consider turning her. Her argumentative spirit was a pain in a human but would be an asset in a mate.
During the day of the next full moon, Brad had Mike and a few betas adjust the electrical system at Sean Poricy’s house and disconnect the ground wires.  The weather forecast was for a line of violent thunderstorms to move through that night. It would be blamed on lightning. A loud boom and the pounding of rain on the roof of his F350 pick-up set the stage for what was to come.  Brad checked his watch and counted down the seconds.  As if planned a bolt split a tree halfway down the street. Within moments, the dance of flames could be seen in the windows of the wooden clapboard house.
“Two down, one to go.”
“Sir.” Mike had dropped his head into a submissive position even as he gestured toward the house. “You might want to look at this.”
“Shit. They are too brain-dead to die.”  Brad watched as George and Sean Poricy stumbled across the side yard to big brother, Seabrook’s house. They swatted at each other trying to smother the flames that ate away at their limbs.  A silhouette, Seabrook, appeared just off the porch. He doused his brothers down with a hose like he was watering the lawn. The three vanished inside Seabrook’s brick walls.
“Sir, what shall we do now?”
He thought about Lila and his plan to turn her.  “We will not wait until the next full moon. You and I will handle this tomorrow.”
Mike nodded. “This is a tougher hunt than we thought it would be.”
“And all the sweeter for it.”  Maybe he should turn Lila now, he thought, so they could share this kill together.
Lila was “on location” for a special report when Brad looked for her the next day. He shrugged as he headed for his office. There would be other meals they could share, other full moons.
Just after moonrise, Brad, Mike and Luke Farkas, the beta and neighbor, crept across the lawn of Seabrook’s house.  The soft glow of table lamps created shadows of figures behind the curtains. Brad counted three, then a fourth figure moving around. The fourth was clearly not a Poricy; it did not shuffle or slouch.
Luke must have spotted the figure. “There’s someone else in there. Shouldn’t we wait.”
“Collateral damage is to be expected.” Mike answered.
Brad saw Luke’s nearly imperceptible flinch. “Luke, if you are ever going to more than a beta lackey you must commit to the cause. Packs survive on order and authority. Humans must learn that as well.”
“It’s time.”  Mike opened his door.  Brad as Alpha took the lead. Lessons would be learned tonight by the humans and by Luke. The men carried no human weapons. Once inside the house, the plan was to shift and finish this business in their wolf form.  If Luke was unable to shift outside of a true full moon, as a powerful Alpha Brad could force the change on him.
As they climbed the porch, the door swung open and Lila faced them.  Her eyes glowed with dancing flames. She had shed her corporate garb for a flowing robe of Caribbean hues and patterns.
“I’ve been expecting you, gentleman. Please come in.” She extended her hand to Brad and Mike as they entered. Clearly, she understood Luke’s status in the pack.
Brad looked at Lila and then at the brothers. They stared back at him with dead-eyes. Saliva dripped from their snapping jaws. Zombies.
A fog began to settle over his brain. He turned in time to see Mike slide to the floor.  Brad tried to shift to counteract whatever Lila had done to them, but couldn’t.
“Don’t bother, Alpha. Lila’s magic is too strong. All it took was a touch of her hand.”  Luke laughed and then raised his voice in a howl of triumph.
Lila leaned over Brad. Behind her, Luke stood only his hands had shifted. Brad couldn’t remember how had he gotten to the floor. He heard Mike scream in pain and looked to see Seabrook rip flesh from Mike’s abdomen.
“Why?” Brad asked. He struggled to stay conscious as her lips moved. But he caught only pieces.
“… power of groups… control.. humans.”
Luke caressed Lila’s hair with his claws as he leaned in close.
The last voice Brad heard before Sean and George tore into his flesh was Luke’s
“Collateral damage.”

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