Lowell works in a flower shop. Or… well, he did. Until he met Marka. A young girl covered in weird tattoos who came from underground while having a massive fight with a giant demon monster.
Weird, right? Not really the sort of thing you want to get mixed up in. Well, Lowell did and now he’s got to figure out how to deal with a weird subterranean warrior girl and a city that isn’t particularly welcoming of strangers.
Cover Art by: Emmy Wahlbäck
I NO LONGER OWN THE BIKE
MEET THE AUTHOR
This is the area of the site where Randall P. Fitzgerald pretends that Randall P. Fitzgerald isn’t writing Randall P. Fitzgerald’s own biography.
Randall was raised in rural North Carolina and is currently living in Portland, Oregon. He’s trying not to let the constant motion sickness caused by rapidly moving plaid destroy his productivity. Other than that, he writes books. Sci-fi and fantasy, probably. Maybe with some other stuff in there.
Requisite snide remark about Portland out of the way, Randall is continuing to refer to himself in the third person and it makes him sick. He’s going to stop writing this bio now.
Really good unusual narrative. I liked the minimal dialogue and the fact that the narrator had no idea what was happening.
Well worth the read. Interesting story, good writing and excellent imagery
KEEP IN TOUCH
It was pissing down with rain and cold outside. That sort of late autumn Seattle that you can’t quite escape even when you’re inside. If they had a problem with the cold, the flowers didn’t seem to show it as Lowell walked around watering them a last time and turning off the lights. He could feel the chill through the single paned glass of the large front window but he was used to the cold by now.
When the plants were all seen to and everything was in its place, he moved to the back room of the shop to grab his coat. It was a ragged, old olive-drab canvas thing that regularly got mistaken for army surplus. He traded the shop’s apron for the coat and left the room, making his way out to the exit.
The door pulled open and let in the sounds of the rain outside. It was a quiet night, otherwise. The neighborhood generally was at this time of night. He pushed his key into the lock on the door and shimmied it a few times. The door never wanted to lock. Every night he closed, it was the same.
The key finally turned and sounded a metal thunk and he let his complaint end there. He pulled the key free of the lock and looked up at the store. It was hip for a flower shop, run by some daughter of a friend of his mother’s. She was a nice enough girl, maybe about five years younger than him. She was tattooed and pierced, like so many tended to be. The girl had her life together though. Or at least she had an idea of what it meant to have her life together.
She insisted the shop be open until ten, but Lowell could scarcely remember a time they’d had a customer past, say, eight. There was a pizza place at the end of the block, and he often closed early to get a slice or a plate of spaghetti before he headed home. Tonight, the allure of poor eating decisions didn’t pull at him like it so often did and so he stayed until he was meant to.
He sighed at the darkened windows and turned toward the street. There was no traffic to speak of so Lowell left the protective cover of the awning over the shop. The rain immediately dotted his head. A few seconds later and the dots turned to full wet. The street was running with thin rivers as he moved across and turned at the far sidewalk.
The walk to his apartment wasn’t a particularly long one and that was part of why he’d taken the job when his mother urged him to. The apartment complex was a fairly modern one, the sort that overcharged for rent because the building was more rectangular than the older ones. As though you couldn’t carpet some old hardwood floor. With the money he pulled in at the flower shop, there was no doubt he’d have not been able to afford it. He hardly paid attention to the checks anymore, just sent them off to his mother who handled it and tried to keep his father from being too blatantly disappointed in what their son had become.
The job was the first time he’d been out of the apartment in years, it felt like. He’d been there just over six months now and it was easy enough. There was certainly an amount of pathetic to his lifestyle. Nearly thirty and still being paid for. It wasn’t as though they couldn’t afford it, he figured. And he was contributing now, even if it was pretty meager.
It wasn’t something he thought of particularly often but every now and again there was a sense of guilt that he wasn’t doing enough. Probably pretty common among people in his situation. He was running through the typical justifications when the sound of thunder and the rumble of the ground brought his head up to look around.
The night was dark and the streetlights were their ugly, orange brand of dim. He looked up at the street with drops of water moving down the side of his face waiting for another flash of whatever lightning made the thunder. If it was close by, he’d want to hurry up. A few seconds went by, and without a flash to be seen he shrugged and looked back down to keep the cold drops from assaulting the bare skin of his face.
The distraction of the sound was enough to remind him of the cold and the canvas jacket did little to keep it out. He shoved his hands into the pockets of the coat and pulled it down tight over his shoulders, picking up his pace. Usually he didn’t mind the half-mile or so walk back to his apartment, but the cold was more biting than he’d expected it to be when he left that morning.
There were a pair of nondescript red brick buildings that he always passed just before the turn to the street where his apartment was. He’d never paid them much mind though he’d used the thin alley that ran between the buildings as a shortcut a time or two. He thought about doing so now, as he approached the buildings. There was a little square in the middle of the alleyway that held industrial trash bins and not much else other than the refuse of the companies.
He came to the alleyway and looked down. There was an orange light in the little square where the trash bins sat and he thought he saw movement. A girl, a small one. He closed his eyes just for a second to wipe away the rain and when he opened them, she was gone. He squinted down the alley, hoping to pull more light into his eyes somehow, but it didn’t help.
The light went out first, and the alley went dark. Lowell had taken half a step forward when the blast of too hot wind hit him in the face. The wind was strong and grew to something more like a shockwave in the space of half a second. He heard the crack of the thunder from before, but now so much closer and so much louder. The force rolled over his body at the same time as the cold, wet concrete met his back. He could feel his head strike hard on the ground below and for a second the world went away entirely.
He opened his eyes as quickly as his body would listen and the world spun in front of him. A blur of red brick and black sky. He pushed himself up onto a sore bottom and did his best to look down the alleyway. It was pitch dark but he could see the shifting of dust.
Lowell forced himself to his feet and the vague picture of the girl flashed across his eyes. He’d seen her, he knew it. What was she doing there? At this time of night especially? He hurried into the alleyway with what little speed he could manage and thick dust began to clear in the rainfall. He had made it halfway to the little square with the trash bins when he considered his phone. Whatever the issue was, he needed to call for help. For himself, for the girl. Maybe there were workers as well.
He pulled out the phone and was greeted with a rectangle of cracked glass over a black screen. The buttons did nothing. He shoved it back into his pocket and moved forward to the square. It was close now and the dust was dying down. That was where he saw the source of the sound that put him to the ground.
There were holes, one in the ground and one along the wall of the far building. Bricks fell away from what was left of the wall and he saw a girl pushing herself up. She took a low, awkward stance under the drape of a strange cloak. Her hair was light and hung in tight dreadlocks over a pale face, dirtied with the dust of the debris. She stared with steely eyes across the small yard.
It took Lowell a moment to realize that the two were not alone in the yard. He could hardly comprehend what it was he was watching, even. A girl, no more than twelve, maybe thirteen at the most. What was she looking at?
His eyes tracked across the yard and found her target. For a moment, his brain refused the shape of the thing, telling him that there must be some mistake. Muscular, slimy legs reflected the world just barely and the ambient light of the city gave away the figure. He strained to put together a thought about it. A six foot long frog with the legs and teeth of a tyrannosaurus? The words rolled through his mind and he almost laughed until the beast craned its rounded, knobby body back on the too thick legs and let go a roar.
The sound shook him to the core and nearly took him from his feet again. He looked away and covered himself with an arm. The roar was not only loud and throaty, but hot. The air in the small square heated to the feel of a wet summer day and Lowell forced himself to look back. He could see black dripping against the pale concrete. It was too dark to be any other color. A black, thick sludge oozing out of a ragged tear in the underside of the creature.
When the roar was down, Lowell’s wits returned. He looked around for something, anything. This girl would die, there was no doubt to his mind she would. The beast shifted, never looked away from the girl. Its breathing seemed somehow ragged, but what was ragged for such a monster? There were no bricks close enough so Lowell took a step forward into the square proper. Should he distract it? She could get away then. He wanted to yell to her, yell at the beast. He wanted to yell in general.
He felt his foot lift for another step but before he could take it the girl vaulted from her position on the bricks. It was the motion that caught his eye. She was across the yard faster than the muscles in his neck could respond. He just caught the blur of the girl’s body slide under the snarling creature. It snapped jaws shut too slow to catch her and the loud clack of sharp teeth echoed briefly in the broken square.
The girl was under the monster now, one foot on the ground and the other drawn close to her chest. He could see the cocked leg glow a black-lit purple just before she forced it upward. The beast grumbled as the meat fought the inertia of the bones beneath. Black ooze trailed the body into the sky and the squat body wriggled in the air, trying to right itself. The flailing was unsuccessful and the bricks caught the full weight of the falling mass of flesh and skin.
A loud crunch sounded as the bricks shifted under the weight of the strange animal. Lowell watched it writhe as more of the black ooze fell out of the hole in its body. The hole was facing front now and he could see a rough tear running across half the underside of the creature, deep near the mouth and shallower as it ran down. A miscalculated attack that was meant to gut the thing.
A red-orange blur shot across Lowell’s field of view and slammed into the side of the misshapen lizard. It jerked as the brick landed and shattered against its thick hide. Another followed and Lowell shifted his gaze to the girl.
Her eyes could see nothing but the enemy before her as she flipped bricks onto her bare feet and sent them flying at an impossible speed toward the dying animal. She took a few steps forward with every brick she shot across the yard with practiced precision.
She had nearly made it to the pile of fallen bricks when the giant frog beast had managed to right itself. It was unsteady on the bricks, but it squared itself at her and managed a choppy, barking roar. Less than half the sound it had mustered before. The girl broke into a slow jog and closed on the beast. It opened slavering jaws wide and lurched at her. The monster was slow and tumbled over the girl as she slid under his attack. Fangs again slapped shut on nothing but air.
She was quick to stand and turn, flipping a brick over onto the top of her foot. Her enemy rolled over and wriggled to its feet, turning as best it could with whatever innards it called its own leaking out onto the ground. The girl kicked her foot the slightest bit and put the brick standing upright on her foot. The black-lit glow covered her legs again, and she kicked up with insane speed. The air seemed to crackle around as the brick found the soft, slick underside of the drooling head.
There should have been some sense of resistance, but the brick slid into the creature with incredible ease and fired through the roof of the skull, sending monster brains all over the yard. The monster reeled and stumbled backward, falling over in the clearing a few feet back from the girl.
She breathed heavily, staring down at it, warily. It didn’t move but she kept her eyes on it. At least, she did until Lowell took another step. The sound from her side caused the girl to spin defensively and look at him. Her eyes went wide.
“Ah… I… hello. Are you…” Lowell looked to the dead thing on the ground, a monster from some other world. “Are you alright? Is… that thing?”
He came close to her and she stared at him, putting herself again into a defensive position.
He stopped in place and held a pair of empty hands forward. “No, no! It’s okay! I’m here to help!”
The girl cocked her head to the side, suspicious. The glow was gone from her leg now. She squinted her eyes a bit and then wobbled. Before Lowell could move to catch her the girl collapsed onto her face in a pool of rainwater and black monster goo.
Lowell rushed to her side and flipped her over. He put his head close to her mouth and felt cool breath escaping, her chest rising and falling rhythmically. He leaned his head back and let out a sigh, closing his eyes in the rain. When he opened them again, he realized the scene around him for what must have been the first time. The corpse of the monster was leaking groans and hisses as bits of unfamiliar organs leaked out into the concrete below.
He looked to the thing and down to the girl. This was not normal. That was an understatement. For some reason, he thought of the pizza place. Even a cold slice would be pretty great right now. Even if he had to pick off pineapple or something.
He realized he was staring at the girl when the sirens cut through the fog in his pizza-addled mind. Police. Not good. Not good at all. He stood and turned toward the alleyway. He had no explanation for this. Who could have an explanation for any of it? What the hell had even happened? He looked to the hole on the ground. Was it some… some like… sewer thing? Like a flushed pet? Those urban legends were stupid but… he looked at the dead frog monster.
And what about the girl? He looked to her on the ground and a wave of stupid washed over him like a wave he wasn’t quite ready for. He knelt down and lifted the girl up. She was incredibly light, lighter than he had expected. Lighter than a girl her age ought to be. The feel of the cloak told him that it was made from the same stuff that the beast lived in. It was dense and felt like dead skin full with memory foam. He looked down at the sleeping girl. If he could not make sense of the scene, what hope was there in leaving her for the police? The scenes of a million films flashed through his mind. Men in white lab coats and long needles and other ridiculous crap like that.
The sirens were closing now and he’d made up his mind. He turned for the far side of the square and the alleyway beyond, giving the hulking pile of dead monster a wide berth. He began to run, not wanting to be anywhere near the thing when authority figures arrived. He couldn’t say how close the police were when he exited the alley, but he saw no lights and slowed his run to a slight jog.
He sighed, turning to move away from where he guessed the sirens originated. Looking down at the girl, he laughed to himself. “Well… this is fine.” He shook his head and made for home.