Three Attackers: Free Fiction for Fyretober October 23, 2023
Carol looked at the gravestone. “I wonder where they buried Gil.” Then she shook her head. “No, that’s not right, the authorities found his body.”
Wayne asked, “Gil?”
Wanda gripped his shoulder. “I’m sorry, hon, I forgot to tell you. He drowned in a fishing accident while you were in the coma.”
“Yeah,” Carol said. “Fishing accident.” She squeezed past Paula, brushed back the autumn olive bushes, and knelt to read the headstone:
10/31/1963 – 10/1/2023
loyal friend of the pucas.
I was proud to be your muse.
Wayne said, “His muse?”
Kevin nodded. “He always joked about having a muse, but so do half the writers I know. It looks like it was literal in his case.”
Hubs said, “This has to be a joke. Ye can’t just bury a body in the backyard. Not in America!”
As she used her finger to trace out the letters carved into the granite, Carol shook her head. “It’s not a joke, it’s the missing piece. We’ve all been looking for Emil, and he’s been here all along, buried in this backyard.”
“It ain’t legal,” Hubs insisted.
Wayne shook his head. “It’s only illegal if the authorities notice. And aside from us, no one has. Emil’s been here this whole time, buried in plain sight.”
“But how did he get here?” Wanda asked. “Did they kill them somewhere and drag him here just to hide him?”
Carol answered, “They didn’t bother bringing Gil’s corpse here. They let him be found where they drowned him. No, there’s another reason he was here.”
Wayne furrowed his brows and thought, at last remembering his last conversation with Emil. “He told me to come here for sanctuary. He must’ve done the same thing. But all he got for it was dead.”
Paula shook her head. “And that’s not good enough!” Carol watched her stomp up the back porch of the house, three cement steps leading up to a landing with a big oak door. She set the box down of the step and said, “All right, Mr. Puca, whatever your name is, I’ve got your share of the grain harvest from Jonathan Ross in Outer Galway. Do you want it or not?” She hammered on the door. “Well?” After long seconds of silence, she added, “Damn it, give us sanctuary then!”
As if in answer, the skies overhead started to darken. This was unlike any sanctuary Carol had ever imagined. She watched as Paula, frustrated, kicked the carton and then turned away from the door, mouth open to talk to the others.
But Paula said nothing. Her eyes grew wide, and she pointed into the tall grass of the fields south of the house south of the yard.
Everyone turned to follow where she pointed as the sky grew still darker, clouds now bringing an early twilight to the neighborhood. It should have been difficult to see anything in the dense brush; but Carol saw three distant figures approaching, the only clear visions in the darkness that had fallen. They were half a mile away or more, and yet as distinct as if they stood in front of her. And they were closing the distance.
One was a tall, shirtless red devil with leering eyes and curled black horns. Standing to his left was a tall, muscular human figure, but with his head a misshapen rounded blob, three times normal size for a figure that tall. The creature’s body glowed with golden light as if he burned within his skin. Within the massive head, the eyes were flames, and the mouth was fangs backed with fire. Even at this distance, Carol thought she could count the teeth.
To the devil’s right was a deeper darkness, and within those shadows walked a figure, black as the interior of a collapsed mineshaft.
All three figures walked swiftly, and with strides that spoke of self-assurance, as if any obstacle would just fall before them.
“What the fuck?” Wanda said.
Wayne answered, “I told you, hon, pucks. It’s all real.”
Hubs shook his head. “Pookas are fairy tales from back before my Grandda’s day. They’re not real.”
Wind started to rise, whistling through the scrub trees. Wayne shook his head. “They’re real. They’re real, and they’ve used their illusions to hide among us all this time. Somehow Emil knew that.”
Kevin stepped up beside Carol and took his glasses off, squinting into the distance. “If they’re real, shouldn’t we run?”
Wayne paused, then continued, “I don’t think they can hurt us. Their power is illusion, the Mathematics of Influence. They can make us see and do things that can lead us to hurt ourselves. Maybe running away is exactly what they want, to lead us into danger.”
Then suddenly a cackle of laughter rolled across the fields, and everyone turned toward the golden hued figure as it opened its mouth impossibly wide. It vomited up a gout of flame, which flew through the air and directly at them.
“Down!” Hubs and Wanda shouted simultaneously as they pushed others to the ground. The mighty ball of flame, crackling like a forest fire, smashed into the dry old maple ten feet in front of them. Instantly the dry leaves of the tree were engorged in flames, lighting up the area, casting strange shadows that danced on the back of the house and across the yard.
“That’s not an illusion!” Kevin said.
Carol was frightened and angry. “They grabbed my wheel and tried to kill me!”
“Damn!” Wayne said. “Yeah, I forgot that.” Everyone backed away from the blazing maple and looked at the oncoming pucks.
The red devil had raised his hands into the air, and they were starting to glow with an electric arc between his fingers. Suddenly the clouds above started to flash with cloud to cloud lightning, and Carol saw that it flashed in time with the pulses between his fingers. She knew what was coming next. “Everyone take cover! Lightning!”
But looking around, she saw no cover to take. Most of the trees had already lost most of their leaves, and others were scrawny, not good protection. Then she remembered that being under a tree was one of the most dangerous places to be in a thunderstorm. “No, get away from the trees!”
But it was too late. With a wrenching gesture as if he pulled the lightning from the sky, the devil thrust his hands in their direction. A massive fork of lightning came from overhead.
In that same instant, Carol heard the sound of a door springing open, and Paula shouted from the doorstep. Carol didn’t even have time to turn and look as suddenly a big white rabbit leaped over her head, hands raised with a green glowing light between them and around them in a giants half sphere. “Éirigh as!” the hare shouted as jagged tongues of lightning hit the green and splintered into a thousand dancing lights that lit up the yard.
But the white rabbit wasn’t done. It drew the green light into a narrow cone that shot out into the field in time to intercept another ball of flame and shove it back toward the golden figure. The fire engulfed the creature, and is cackling suddenly became shrieking as it turned and fled.
The black shade continued its fast march through the fields, but the red devil stopped, glared at the rabbit, and drew its hands together. It gathered lightning from the sky into a massive glowing ball, and it hurled the energy. “Fealltóir!” it cried as the lightning flew impossibly fast.
The hair tried to swing the green cone to block the attack, but with only partial success. The ball lightning was slowed in its progress, stopping just short of the rabbit; but there it exploded, knocking him to his ass.
Then the shade was in the backyard, running not toward the rabbit but straight toward the open back door. Carol suspected that had been its true objective all along; and she had to do whatever she could to stop it. She didn’t know what the shadow was, but she threw herself in front of it, low enough to take out its knees.
Suddenly she was in absolute darkness, with neither light nor heat. As if all the warmth fled her in moments, she shivered uncontrollably. Hypothermia set in at once.
The last thing she saw was the white rabbit leaping to her aid.
Wayne cursed his foolishness. The red puck had taken his wheel and driven him off the road. He should have remembered that pucks weren’t restricted to just illusions. The devil had told him that they could take direct action when they needed.
Then he saw the white rabbit in a death grapple with the man in black. From what others said, Wayne sensed that the figure was but a shadow to others, cloaked as it was in the Mathematics of Influence; but he saw a tall, black cloaked king wearing a gold crown set with onyx stones. At the king’s belt was a black-hilted sword; but he and the rabbit were wrestling, hands at each other’s throats. The king hadn’t yet drawn his weapon, and the rabbit seemed to have none.
Maybe this was Wayne’s chance. He dashed across the grave mound – “Sorry, Emil.” – and came up behind the black king. While the puck was distracted, Wayne made his move. He grasped the black hilt and drew the sword from its sheath.
“Ná!” the king shouted as he turned toward Wayne.
Step one in Wayne’s plan had worked. He hadn’t figured out a step two, but he’d better hurry up with it. He wasn’t going to swing the sword. It was cold, freezing his hands. He didn’t want to drop it, but he also didn’t dare try to swing it. So he just backed away.
That was when Wayne got lucky, he realized. The king wanted that sword more than it wanted to fight the rabbit. More even than it wanted into the house. He turned and stretched his arms to their limit, reaching for Wayne; and this gave the rabbit time to get a better, stronger grip – and the rabbit seemed strong indeed. He grabbed the king by neck and crotch, hoisted him over the rabbit’s long ears, and with a mighty toss threw the king more than a quarter-mile – right into the red wooden devil. The two went down in a heap, and there was a bright flash of red light. When Wayne’s eyes adjusted, all three figures were gone.
Wayne turned back to where the rabbit stood over Carol. Hubs had practically teleported to his wife’s side and was rubbing her arms and legs to try to warm her up.
Wayne looked around, stunned. Wanda and Kevin were helping each other off the ground. Paula looked like she had been tossed right off the back porch and lay in a heap beside it. And Carol…
Wayne walked over to Hubs and put a hand on his shoulder. He couldn’t tell if Hubs himself was cold from Carol’s touch, or if Wayne’s own hands were still numb. He said, “We need to call 911 for her…” Then Wayne realized that he didn’t even know Hubs’s real name.
But before Wayne could ask, the puca said, “No…” Its voice was rough, hoarse. Its ears sagged, its whole body sagged as if it were a rag doll. But it reached down to pick up Carol in his arms. As the rabbit started shuffling to the back door, it turned back and said, “Now… Sanctuary…”
The good folks at Fyrecon have declared this to be Fyretober: a month of creative prompts, encouraging writers, poets, and artists to share their explorations. Today’s prompt: Phoenix light sail,
You know the drill by now: the story has a mind of its own, and is no longer interested in the prompts.