Phosphorus’s Glow and Life’s Oxygen
By Cherie Reich
Linia cocked her head to listen for Griffon or her friend Barinia, but she could no longer hear them. Good. She was far enough away from them. All their smooching had grated on her last nerve. Some camping trip they’d had.
She crept closer to the sleeping draken. Pegasiflies buzzed around it in lazy circles, and the draken’s feather-tipped tail swished to swat them away. Steam floated from its nostrils. A leafy frond blocked her entrance to the animal’s nest, but she easily shoved the leaf aside and entered. If she couldn’t get to the cave, then she wouldn’t be able to check out the supposed hieroglyphics inside. No draken or annoying Griffon was going to stop her.
Her toes sought out each step. One wrong move and the draken would awaken. Heat and the scent of rotten eggs greeted her at the cave’s entrance. Her nose wrinkled, and she pressed her hand under her nostrils. Disgusting! But it didn’t deter her as she scurried into the cavern.
Darkness collapsed around her. She gulped and held out a hand to feel her way. Why didn’t she bring something for light? Or at least her backlit Litras? She tugged her lower lip between her teeth. If she left now and returned, it might be too late. The draken wouldn’t stay asleep forever.
Indecision seized her in its icy grasp. But what was that glow farther back? Curiosity broke the spell, and she stumbled forward. The faint white luminescence of the phosphorus rocks lit the cave. And upon these stones were the hieroglyphs.
“Wow,” she whispered to herself. Her fingers hovered over the ancient markings. If only she had time to decipher them . . .
The ground rumbled, and she bumped against the rock. Was it a cave in? A tremor?
No, it was much worse. Reddish eyes flashed from the cave’s entrance as the draken snorted.
The creature slipped into the cave, its nose sniffing the air. Did drakens eat Perseans? Linia didn’t know, but she didn’t really want to find out either. Her back pressed against rough stone. Should she run for it? The draken blocked the entrance, but could find another way out?
Flames burst from the draken’s mouth, and Linia screamed as heat lapped around her. She would die here.
“Please, stop.” Her words couldn’t have any effect on the beast, but it did stop and look at her. She held up her hands. “I don’t mean you any harm.”
The draken lowered and leaned its feathered head closer to her hands. Did it understand her? Could she befriend it?
“It’s okay,” she whispered, fear draining from her and pooling at her feet.
Then, blue light filled the entrance. She gasped. “No!”
The draken tensed and trembled as electricity flowed through it. When it collapsed upon the ground and the light vanished, tears streamed down Linia’s face.
“Are you okay?” Griffon jogged into the cave and wrapped his arms around her.
“You k-killed it.” She breathed in snot.
“It was going to eat you. What were you thinking about running off like that? Barinia and I’ve been looking for you.” His words gave her no comfort, and she shoved away from him.
“The draken wasn’t hurting me, and I’m fine.” She slapped away her tears. “How could you do it, Griffon?”
He shook his head. “You sure know a great way to treat your shining savior. How about giving me a kiss for saving you?”
Her fingernails dug into her palms. She’d rather punch him in the mouth than kiss him. Instead, she pushed past him and scurried around the poor draken. The tears burned her eyes again. How could he do that?
“Where’re you going?”
“Leave me alone.” She picked up her pace and brushed away the pegasiflies swarming the entrance.
At the sound of her name, she ran from the cave and Griffon. The hieroglyphics were forgotten, but Griffon’s actions were not. She didn’t even stop when she saw Barinia as she packed her belongings to leave.
The image of that electrocuted creature singed her mind and crushed her heart.
Alezandros grabbed Sophisa’s hand and helped her over building rubble. Her gloved fingers tightened around his. He breathed deeply as the mask rustled against his nostrils. The cold Medusan air would freeze their nose hairs, if they didn’t wear the masks, but he regretted it hid her pretty face. Her long locks writhed along her back and stroked his arm. In some ways, she was more beautiful now than any time before.
“Isn’t this wonderful?” he asked her.
Her green eyes pierced into him, but he didn’t detect her general warmth. “I don’t know why you like coming out here, Alezandros. It’s cold and scary.”
“Well, it is cold out here,” he said as they walked hand in hand along the old city paths. His foot knocked a rusted-out can out of the way. “But scary? No, not really. Everything’s dead out here. It’s just the leftovers of our civilization.”
“Leftovers . . .” She scoffed. “Why couldn’t we have a normal date? It’d be nice to return to Bellami’s.”
“Bellami’s is great, but what about adventure? It’s not every day we get to come to the surface.” He pressed her gloved hand to his mask. If only he could kiss it through the fabrics. “Come on, this isn’t really that bad, is it?”
“Well . . . I suppose not.” She lightened up a little bit. “I suppose it is kinda—”
“What was that?” Her voice rose in pitch.
Alezandros pulled her closer. His heart pounded with excitement instead of fear. Could something exist at the end of their world? “I’m not sure.”
“Let’s go.” She tugged on his arm.
“Wait a minute.” He didn’t budge when the kanog emerged from an abandoned building.
Its purple tongue lolled from its mouth. Its fur was patchy, and Alezandros could count every bone in its body, if he wanted. Weren’t kanogs extinct? He’d never seen one except in old pictures. His grandparents had had some of the last ones as pets.
The creature growled again.
“Alezandros,” Sophisa whined.
“Wait. This could be the last of its kind. We should help it.” He extracted himself from her grasp and crept toward the animal. “Shh, it’s okay, boy. We won’t hurt you.”
“Don’t go near it.” She didn’t follow him closer.
The kanog lowered and bared its sharp teeth. The growling increased until it barked.
“It’s okay,” he said again as he reached out a hand toward it. If they could take it back . . .
The creature leapt toward his hand and sunk its teeth into it.
He cried out, jerking his hand away from its fangs as the growling stopped with a quick yelp and nothing.
A stone kanog stood poised for action, as if it never existed.
Alezandros spun around, blood flying from his injured hand. “What did you do that for?”
Sophisa’s eyes widened as if he slapped her. “That monster bit you! You could have an infection now. We need to get you to a healer.”
“I’ll heal just fine on my own.” His hand stung, but the kanog was probably just hungry and scared. It didn’t mean to hurt him. Besides, Medusans were fast healers. It wasn’t like it tore off his merdre limb!
“Let’s go back underground.” He no longer wanted to be up here with her. Her reaction seemed to suck the oxygen from his lungs.
“Good,” she said with as much finality as he did.
Alezandros glanced back at the frozen creature. Poor thing. If only he had done something differently, the kanog might still be alive. He shook his head in dismay.
They left without holding hands.
Defying Gravity by Cherie Reich
Book Description: Homesick upon the SS Perseid, Linia, a young linguist, thinks she signed up for a mission of peace, but her crew members have another plan: attack the planet Medusa.
Bored with his dying planet, Alezandros, a space cruiser pilot, joins the Medusan Army in his quest for adventure.
When the SS Perseid clashes with the Medusans’ space cruisers, Alezandros and Linia’s lives intertwine. Sucked through a wormhole, they crash upon a post-apocalyptic Earth and are captured by cannibals. In adjacent cells, Alezandros and Linia cast their differences aside for a common bond: escape. But when romantic feelings emerge between them, they might do the unthinkable because for a Medusan and a Persean to fall in love, it would defy gravity.
Book Links: Surrounded by Books Publishing http://sbbpublishingandeditorialservices.wordpress.com/
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0077DBKS4
Amazon DE https://www.amazon.de/dp/B0077DBKS4
Amazon FR https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B0077DBKS4
Amazon IT https://www.amazon.it/dp/B0077DBKS4
Amazon ES https://www.amazon.es/dp/B0077DBKS4
Author Bio: Cherie Reich is a writer, freelance editor and library assistant. She enjoys writing horror, fantasy, and mysteries, but she doesn’t let that stop her from trying other genres. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies, and her e-books include Once Upon a December Nightmare, The Best of Raven and the Writing Desk, and Defying Gravity. She is a member of the Virginia Writers Club and Valley Writers and placed third in Roanoke Valley’s BIG READ writing contest.
Author Links: Website http://cheriereich.webs.com
Twitter @bookworm0753 https://twitter.com/#!/bookworm0753