Today, I’m taking off like a big bird for the Kentuckiana Authors Book Blitz at 300 Spring, Jeffersonville, Indiana, from 12 to 5. Many authors! Much books! Y’all come!
I’ve been working on the last story for SHIFTY, a collection of stories set in the world of my fantasy trilogy, SAGE. I finished the first draft and had Charlie read it and read it aloud to Mom.
Mom liked it, but Charlie didn’t. He says I write well, but he generally doesn’t like the content. Not a fantasy fan, Charlie. This particular story disgusted him — which is not necessarily a bad thing — because it deals with people being treated as pets, who are treated as ultimately disposable.
This pet, Frayce, survives her mistress, and is taken into the country and abandoned. Most of the pets we’ve had since we moved here have been abandoned by city folks. Cats and dogs, though, not red-headed people.
SHIFTY should be available by … well, by the turning of the year.
The Lost Pet
excerpt from “At the Turning of the Year”
by Marian Allen
Sharina’s father walked Frayce past the plazas and parks and into the woods.
Frayce wished he would talk to her, so she could talk, too. She wanted to talk about Sharina. She wanted to tell him how her heart hurt without her mistress, but well-trained pets don’t speak unless they’re spoken to.
He unbuckled her harness and dropped it to the ground. He pulled a small package covered in stiff paper out of a pocket and unwrapped it.
Even if she hadn’t been hungry, the aroma would have set Frayce to drooling. Roast meat! Maybe some would fall to the ground and he would tell her to “clean it up”!
To her amazement, he waved it at her and said, “Do you want it? Is it good? Go get it!”
He tossed it into the dried underbrush.
It was hers! All of it! She plunged after it, parting the brittle weed stalks, kneeling on the frozen ground so her nose could sniff where the delicious lump had landed.
Found it! She bit a chunk off and swallowed it, half-chewed.
She ate the rest of it more slowly, licking every drop of grease from her fingers. How funny, that he had always scolded Sharina for giving her people food, and now he gave her more in one go than Sharina had done in her life.
She looked around, half-hoping there would be more.
He was gone.
She went back to where her harness and leash still lay.
“Master?” She was allowed to call out for people, if she didn’t make a nuisance of herself. She strained her ears for his answer. She called louder. “Master? Master?”
Where could he be? Had he wandered away and lost her? Had he lost himself?
She searched and called until darkness fell. Darkness. Darkness more frightening than the warm stuffiness of the clothes closet her mistress’s little brother had shut them into for a long moment to tease them. With this darkness came a cold such as she never remembered feeling, even when her mistress had taken her up to the rooftop garden to see the winter stars.
The stars were here, too, twinkling more lavishly and brilliantly than on the rooftop, but looking at them reminded her of her lost mistress and her lost home. For, with the darkness, came enlightenment: she had been brought out into the wilderness and abandoned.
She remembered naked pets creeping close to the family picnics, and Sharina’s father and brother throwing rocks at them until they slunk away. She remembered Sharina’s mother shaving gold off her monthly household ingot to give people who went out and fed the feral pets, and Sharina’s father snarling that it would be more merciful to put them out of their misery if they couldn’t survive on their own.
And now he had made her one of them.
She curled herself into a tight ball, her wrapper lapped around her and over her head, and cried until she slept.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Have you ever had a rescue animal? Did you ever wonder what they had lived through before they found you?