Black Petals Issue #96, Summer, 2021

Larger Prey
Home
Editor's Page
BP Artists' Page
BP Guidelines
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Dark Resurrection-Fiction by Michael Hopkins
A Dip in the Pool-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Far Down in the Credits-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Guilt Trip-Fiction by James Flynn
Ky'thagra's Big Day-Fiction by Devin Marcus
Larger Prey-Fiction by Richard Brown
Lover-Fiction by N. G. Leonetti
Ort's Last Undertaking-Fiction by Taylor Hood
Sail Away-Fiction by Chris Allyne
Sleeping Again-Fiction by Russ Bickerstaff
The Poison Doorway-Fiction by Dionosio Traverso Jr.
The Tick Bite-Fiction by Robb T. White
Bake Sale Inspiration-Flash Fiction by Samantha Carr
Hotel with Full Amenities-Flash Fiction by William Kitcher
Reincarnation Jeopardy-Flash Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Sex Fiend-Flash Fiction by Karen Bayly
Witches' Sabbath-Poem by Mike Collins
Blood-Poem by Mike Collins
Death's Pornography-Poem by Mike Collins
Temptation-Poem by Mike Collins
Painting Light-Poem by Mike Collins
Dark Waltz-Poem by Marilyn Lou Berry
The Last Victim of Vlad the Impaler-Poem by Mehmet Akgonul
The Bravest Ant-Poem by Mehmet Akgonul
Ain't Alien Spores-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Giant Goldfish-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Igopogo-Poem by Richard Stevenson
Megamouth Has Cavities-Poem by Richard Stevenson

96_bp_largerprey_wjsavage.jpg
Art by W. Jack Savage 2021

Larger Prey

 

Richard Brown

 

 

          The mighty jungle cat prowled silently through the grasses, stalking its prey. It was hungry, and had been driven away from its usual hunting grounds, but it knew there was prey to be found here. He had been here before, and had seen the prey.

#

          THUMP!

          THUMP! CRASH!

          BANG! THUMP! CRASH!

          “MOM! MOOOOOM!

          Shelly Willets’s stomach knotted for an instant at the first sound of the shrieks. Then, the stampede of one lone bison galloping down the dusty, wooden stairs untied the knot, and loosed a sigh filled with exasperation from her previously clenched diaphragm.

          A boy of ten, one inch short of five feet, and one pound short of an even hundred, thundered across the living room and into the kitchen. He scrambled around behind Shelly’s akimbo pose, and nimbly avoided her efforts to face him, hugging her back.

          “Eric! What did you break this time?” she demanded with a weary tone.

          “That’s all you’re worried about when the aliens are trying to abduct your only son?” he replied, panting. “Monsters want to stick their slimy tentacles up your little boy’s innocent anus, and you’re only thinking about the lightbulb, and bathroom mirror, you’ll have to replace?”

          “Eric Anthony Willets! Ten year old boys do NOT talk like that! Especially to their mothers! Go cause your destruction outside. Out!” she shouted.

          “Aw, mom…”

          “OUT!”

#

          The tiger snarled its fury in silence. It hadn’t expected the bear to drive it out of its den, and the tiger’s reactions were too slow to match the bear’s sudden wrath. The tiger was obviously slowed by hunger. It would hunt and eat, then deal with the bear later…

#

“Oh, thank God,” Shelly sighed. All that was broken were two of the whiskey shot glasses Eric’s dad sent him on his birthdays. Perhaps storing them on the top shelf of the tall bookcase wasn’t the best idea, after all. She could think of no better compromise, though. They were all Eric had from his father, aside from his bright, sapphire-blue eyes. What in the world made that lunatic think that shot glasses were an appropriate gift for a little boy? Just another indication of his mental illness, Shelly guessed.

Only one glass remained, and it was perched precariously on the edge of the shelf. Shelly moved to push it back, and stopped. Eric had lied to her! No, not quite… but he had misled her. She knew that lies from ten year old boys were normal. Straight, black-and-white lies. But verbal misdirections? Subtle deceptions? She didn’t think so.

Eric had asked if she was worried about a broken mirror and lightbulb. Implied and theoretical mirrors and lightbulbs! No, that was just too complicated for Eric. He’s a bright boy, but there had to be a simpler, less troubling explanation. Shelly swept up the heavy shards of broken glass (These are thick glass! Would a simple fall from a shelf really break both of them?) and thought about Eric… and Jack.

Eric had been pretending about some kind of alien invasion or abduction attempt, and his imagination seemed to get more vivid every month. The way he abused the furniture during his Old West adventures and prehistoric dinosaur escapades had always prevented Shelly from getting a family pet of any kind. His father, Jack, had been the same way, Shelly knew now. When they had been dating, she had been thoroughly charmed by his boyish pleasure whenever they chanced upon an empty playground. Jack would excitedly jump onto the monkey bars and exhaust himself pretending to be King Kong. He would roar, and beat his chest, and bat at imaginary tiny airplanes. When he caught sight of Shelly standing in the tower of the Big Toy, laughing, he would stop his roaring, and climb up to her. He would stroke her cheek and look at her as though she were his own Fay Wray.

Shelly only saw the red flags when they came to a park where the monkey bars were being used by a group of children. Jack had chased them away while roaring and beating his chest. Shelly, horrified, had seen tears streaming down the cheeks of every child as they exited the park. Jack was committed to the institution less than three months later.

As always, these memories made her worry for Eric and his sanity. “Damn you, Jack!” she swore as she felt the wetness in her eyes. She cried for both of her boys.

Shelly mopped the floor, ensuring that there were no slivers of glass hidden on the floorboards. Then she made her way downstairs, determined to indulge her son with his favorite lunch of grilled cheese and maple syrup, followed by a trip to the beach.

#

The tiger crouched patiently. It knew that the large rodents…what did the humans call them? Crappy-berries? No… cappa-berries?... lived in this jumble of fallen and rotting trees. If he stayed motionless, one might appear. The tiger waited, and thought back to the bear.

He was mad at the bear, but he didn’t hate the bear. He didn’t want to harm the bear. The tiger reminded itself that the law of the jungle was survival, nothing more. Not revenge, only survival. Soon, the fury faded, the need to survive ruled its brain, and the bear was utterly forgotten.

A twitch! The tiger focused its sight and clearly saw a twitching nose in the shadows of the deadfall. The huge rodent soon inched its entire head into the light of the day, but the tiger waited. The cappa-berry that slowly emerged was the largest the tiger had ever seen! It would feed the tiger for the whole day. The rodent slowly wandered away from its home, stopped, sniffed the air directly in front of the tiger, looked poised to run… and resumed searching the ground for insects and beetles.

The tiger waited a few seconds more, and pounced.

#

 

Shelly turned the knob, opening the back door that led from the kitchen to the fenced-in back yard. She stepped out onto the wooden boards of the back porch, and shaded her eyes. The awning kept the porch shaded, but the yard was bright with summer sunshine. She put her left hand out to the side, bracing herself against the A-frame ladder leaning against the outside wall of the house.

“Eric, honey! Lunch!” she called.

There was no movement in the yard. Shelly scanned the property again, with a sharper focus. Alarm bells were starting to sound in her head when she saw him. He was on his hands and knees, face close to the ground, close to the woodpile.

“What are you looking at, Eric? Lunch is ready. Come in, and tell me about whatever you found-“ her words broke off when she recognized the pointed, long-whiskered head poking out from her son’s clutching fingers.

“Eric! Get your face away from that thing!” she yelled, and felt her left knee buckle in her surprise. She pushed against the ladder, hoping it would steady her while she regained her footing. The ladder slid along the house, emitting a clattering screech and sending a cascade of beige paint flakes to the wood planks below. Shelly found her balance and let the ladder move away from her. She took one small step forward.

#

The tiger heard the commotion the bear made as it blundered through the jungle. How could he not hear it? It sounded as though the bear was uprooting entire trees as it rampaged through the forest. The tiger turned to look at the bear, snarling his displeasure at the bear’s careless ruckus.

#

Shelly’s hand covered her mouth when Eric turned to look at her. His dirt-smeared face dripped with blood, and there were patches of dark gray fur sticking to his chin. He snarled at her, baring his gory teeth, and she took an involuntary step backward.

The ladder bounced off of the wainscoting on the side of the porch, and toppled.

Shelly stared at the warning in her son’s eyes. It was purely animal.

The ladder struck her shoulder and head, and she lurched forward in shock. Self-preservation instincts drove her to her knees as the drop off to the first of the five wooden steps rushed toward her. The edge of the step bit into her kneecaps, and she felt the skin split… but Eric’s wild eyes held her, and she tried to lean back too late. Momentum carried her forward, and she had to thrust out her hands to protect herself. Her hands planted on the last step, and she pitched forward face-first to the flagstones at the bottom.

The meeting of forehead with flagstone reverberated through her skull like a freight train rolling through a tunnel. She opened her eyes and saw a demon emerge from that tunnel, bearing down on her. Its eyes glowed with the feverish light of insanity.

#

The tiger watched in fascination as the bear crashed down the hillside. It landed in a heap at the bottom of the ravine, and lay unmoving.

The tiger considered the bear, then looked at the partially-devoured cappa-berry. It regarded the bear again.

The tiger approached the bear, extended his powerful, massive paws, and rolled the bear onto its back. The bear breathed shallow, labored gasps.

The tiger, king of the jungle, looked back at its rodent lunch, and decided that it had fresher, larger prey.

The tiger stretched its jaws wide, and tore the bear’s throat out.


Richard Brown is a multi-genre author, specializing in speculative fiction and middle-grade fantasy/adventure. His work has appeared in Black Petals (Issue #91) and he is currently finishing his children’s adventure series. He and his Guide Dog prowl the mean streets of the Pacific Northwest.

Site Maintained by Fossil Publications