Working today on the proofs for my forthcoming, debut novel Natalya’s Tale… so here’s a lovely excerpt… enjoy!~
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The next day dawned darkly, the sun never quite appearing; it did not seem as if it were merely overcast, however, so much as they seemed to have entered a mystical realm of eternal twilight. World of Shadows, indeed, thought Natalya.
As they continued on, Natalya began to feel a growing sense of foreboding—and she didn’t think it was merely the loom of dull, gray, twilight skies. The day was still and uneventful, but she just felt… creepy! As if dire and heinous happenchancery lay in wait. Katara couldn’t explain it, and only offered the tidbit—via her antennae’d GPS—that they were in Wales. This of course prompted Natalya’s query: “Britain!?” and Katara’s response: “Wisconsin.”
As evening once again settled in, and there had been no sign of Lars Landuc or any evidence of his passing this way, Natalya contemplated heading west again toward Denver.
“Either way,” Katara pointed out, when Natalya made the suggestion, “we’re looking at spending the night here. And, though I agree it’s a pretty sinister setting, at least there doesn’t seem to be anything sinister going on.”
“I guess,” Natalya agreed, reluctantly. “It’s kind of weird though, hey? I mean, I don’t think I’ve seen so much as a squirrel or a bird—or anything—all day.”
“Yeah, well, let’s hope the same is true for all night…”
As if in response to her fervent hope for nocturnal placidity, there was the rustle of foliage just off the path ahead of them. Both on guard for trouble, Natalya and Katara exchanged a wary glance, the former moving closer to the latter instinctively before remembering Katara was really only a butterfly.
“I wish I had a weapon,” whispered Natalya. “A sword or something, you know? Don’t knights on quests have swords?”
“Number one,” retorted Katara, “you’re not a knight. And, number two, do you even know how to use a sword?”
“Then you’d probably impale yourself.”
Further discussion was quelled as the rustling of foliage resumed—this time in the bushes behind them. Was it going the other way, or were there more than one?! They turned toward the sound just as it leaped onto the path to confront them.
Natalya and Katara shrieked in unison, Natalya leaping into Katara’s arms—and passing entirely through her. Again, she thought, disgruntled, just a butterfly with a hologram, dammit!
But the beast before them did not attack, instead merely regarding them with glowing, baleful red eyes—all four of them! It lowered its upper head (because it had two) toward them, angling its ram’s horns menacingly, and snorted a mucousy wad of fiery snot in warning while indignantly stamping one of its hooves.
“What the—?!” began Natalya. “It looks like…”
“A double-decker goat!” exclaimed Katara.
Natalya realized it was true—the creature looked like two goats fused together! As if one goat torso had been affixed to the top of another, the bottom goat head (its horns not like the big, spiraled mountain goat horns of its other head, but rather mere nubby stubs) peering inquisitively out at them from beneath the looming, demon-goat visage of the upper head. The legs—actually just a single set—were sturdier than those of a typical goat, rather more like stumpy cow legs; and what had been legs for the upper goat in the fore were now short, primitive arms ending in three-fingered hands, and in the aft were tentacles with crab-claws at the ends, writhing about, presumably, as protection for its delicate underbelly. And it was blue—deep, dark blue, nearly purple.
The lower head—which appeared almost human—stared intently at Natalya and Katara, the beast swaying subtly back and forth, side to side, the heads lolling lackadaisically, almost hypnotically, as if challenging them to action. Softly it began to hum.
“Oh, my god,” gasped Natalya, enthralled by the mesmerizing gaze of the creature. “It looks like—”
“Like Maurice Chevalier,” Katara finished, ominously.
With a bleat of anticipation, the creature leaped straight up in the air, landing tensed and ready to attack. It began a jolting, Frankenstein’s-monster-like shuffle toward them—as if trying to dance?… and then it began to sing. The lower, Maurice Chevalier head, eyebrows waving with Parisian joviality, crooning some bubbly, French show-tune (or something)—and the upper head, with a visage of sheer, hungrous violence, eyes blazing, pulpy bile dripping from its maw through the gnashing mouthful of needled fangs, growled a guttural counterpoint to the lower head’s melody. With measured deliberation, the beast closed on them.
“I think,” said Natalya, backing away, “we might want to get the hell out of here?”
Her suggestion met with silence, Natalya glanced back at Katara—and just caught the disappearing glimpse of a butterfly flitting the other way, around a bend in the path, and then gone!
“Unctuous soporific,” muttered Natalya, fuming.
About to dash after Katara, Natalya hesitated. Seized by an overwhelming déjà vu, her attention fogged, and she found herself thinking back to her youth… and Aunt Olga! Her mother’s sister—who had (more or less) raised Natalya after Natalya’s mother had died. Aunt Olga, too, had been something of a double-decker goat—though, of course, only in a very primordially epistemological sense. And (perhaps) odor. Much like the creature before her now, Natalya’s aunt had also often tried to mesmerize with an hypnotic dance, swaying back and forth in sleepy, sweeping languor—though in Olga’s case it was not truly for the purpose of entrancing prey for (presumably) nefarious purposes, so much as it was a drunken swagger.
Now that she thought of it, Natalya wasn’t so sure the double-decker goat wasn’t inebriated as well. Suppressing a laugh—no sense pissing off the creature, after all—she decided to deal with it in the same way she had Aunt Olga. As the beast swayed to the left, Natalya mirrored its disjuncted stagger; as it veered right, she followed suit. After several repetitions—approaching step by step, its hind-tentacles flowing in syncopated waves, and Natalya’s reflected retreat (sans the tentacular waviness); it was definitely on to her ploy, its Maurice Chevalier head tilting questioningly to the side, even as the goatier head above began growling more vociferously, ever more fiery snot being blown with indignation from angrily flared nostrils. The dance picked up the pace, back and forth—feints thrown in, twice to the left, now three times right, trying to catch her off guard! But Natalya had had years of practice with Aunt Olga, and never missed a beat.
After this had gone on for far longer than Olga had ever lasted—as she would inevitably get dizzy, bang into a wall or something, fall down, lose consciousness, and start to sleep it off (often) in a puddle of her own vomit—Natalya began to wonder if she had guessed wrong about goat-goat being drunk!? But, no, even as she doubted, the creature confirmed her conjecture as, with a unison hiccup from both heads, it slumped to the ground—albeit much more gracefully than Aunt Olga ever had. The upper goat head already lagging listlessly to the side, tongue lolling, the lower Maurice Chevalier head once more gazed up toward Natalya and said: “Foo?” And then it, too, sagged to the side and began to snore…….
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—Mishka Zakharin ©2015