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There was a dead body in the back seat, and it was staring at Mike.

"It's not staring at you," Sandie told him. "Actually, I'm not sure that it can see."

"It?"

"Well, it's not a he or a she. I… didn't exactly check, but it was kind of hard not to notice…"

"I don't think I needed to know that."

And still it stared.

Mike kept a firm hold on Sandie's hand until they got on the Loop and she needed both hands to drive. She looked grim and determined in the green glow of the dashboard lights. It talked to her, she said, talked to her in dreams the way angels were said to do sometimes. Whatever was riding in that weird, hairless body, it was no angel. He watched Sandie's face carefully, keeping tabs on the thing in the back seat from the corner of his eye.

The bluegrass bar was called Hat Bands, and business was just beginning to pick up for the night. Rows of cars clogged the tiny parking lot, forcing Sandie to look for a space around back.

There was a noise from the back seat as Sandie shut off the engine. The thing had not moved, but its eyes were closed. The noise came again in time with the strains of twelve-string that drifted through the parking lot. It was humming along.

"Better?" Sandie asked. "Do we need to go inside? God, I could use a drink."

The thing thrummed softly, a sound that was almost like a voice.

"Not really," Sandie answered. "I mean, I guess, but it's pretty much just for communicating feelings, unless you use a code…"

Mike frowned hard. The thing in the back fell silent.

"What's it telling you?" he asked.

Sandie rolled down the window to let the music in. In the open yard behind the fence, a fiddle was reeling.

"It wants to know why you're pissed off," she said. "And if you could maybe stop it, because everyone inside is having a good time, and you're kind of ruining it."

"You mean I taste bad?" He shot a glance back at the dead body, half expecting to see it making a face. Nothing had changed.

"Pretty much, yeah."

Mike bit his lip. "Sandie, this isn't right. Whatever that is, it's not human. We don't know anything about it. I would really rather know what's going on, here…"

"Wouldn't we all?"

Then she was out of the car, adjusting her ponytail and the light jacket she had put on over her tee shirt. She popped open the back door and pulled the creature out, leaving Mike to scramble to catch up.

"You're missing the point," he said at the door. "I'm afraid you're putting yourself in danger. Physical, mental… possibly spiritual."

"Yeah, well, so did the Good Samaritan." Sandie plunged into the bar, dragging her eldritch shadow, bellowing for a beer even as she searched for a table.

"Five years of sleeping through homilies," Mike muttered, wide-eyed, "and that's the bit she manages to pick up…" He rolled up his collar and stuck it into a pocket, trailing after his friend.

The thing sat there glassy-eyed, as still as the salt shaker that seemed to command its attention. It was unnatural, Mike thought, but that only made sense, given what Sandie had told him. What he was seeing was constructed. What was inside was the problem, be it spirit or demon or artificial intelligence. Mike could not even be sure that he believed that there was something inside, but those blind black eyes made it easier to imagine the incredible.

The eyes were what made it hard, Mike decided. Sandie said that the thing was in pain, confused and sick and lost, but the eyes did not show it. The windows to that soul were heavily shuttered. Blackout drapes. If there was anything inside, not a flicker of it showed.

Sandie leaned over. "Hey," she said, half-shouting over the noise from the stage. "Don't worry about it, okay? We'll get this done and get out of here. No problem."

Mike managed a halfhearted smile, but he seriously doubted that. Sandie had gotten herself saddled with far too many stray dogs for him to believe this would be any different.

The thing blinked and moved its spidery, white fingers on the tabletop, probing at the profanities scratched into the wood. PENNY MORALES IS A B- trailed out from underneath a pale hand. One fingertip followed the lines of the P, picking up some marker and potato chip crumbs as it went.

"Where is it going to go?" Mike asked. "If it's going to heal up or whatever and then you're done with it, where will it go?"

Sandie shrugged. "Dunno. It's got to come from somewhere, right? Maybe it can suck up enough happy to go home."

It did look healthier than it had, or at least as healthy as one could expect from a dead body. The eyes moved occasionally, and it had actually turned its head slightly toward the stage, where two banjos were dueling to the death. Still, Mike did not think that it would be going anywhere any time soon, at least not under its own power. It had barely been able to walk a straight line when they came in, and flying off into outer space or wherever it belonged had to take a lot more energy.

"I'm gonna get a beer," Mike said. Maybe it would help with the urge to run far away from that thing. He stood up and went to the bar rather than flagging down one of the waitress in the heavy-duty ranch boots; they had a tendency to dangle their winnebagos in one's face, and the last thing he needed was an asthma attack.

"Shiner Bock," he roared at the tiny Hispanic man behind the bar. The man had a panicked look about him, like someone who was very new to the business of bartending. He cupped a hand to his ear and shouted something back, but the drum kit had started up a decidedly non-bluegrass percussion interlude, and placing an order became an exercise in lung capacity.

"Shiner Bock."

"¿Qué?"

"SHINER. BOCK."

"¿Qué?"

Mike flapped one hand and pointed at the tap, then traced the silhouette of a bottle in the air with two fingers. The patron next to him was laughing hysterically into her whiskey.

"SHINERBOCK!" Mike shrieked as the drum fell silent. Half the bar turned to look at him with understanding grins.

"That's how you know the band is good!" someone called from the corner. He hoped that it had been Sandie.

The band packed up, and a dozen couples vacated the dance floor. A dull throb of conversation picked up to replace the music, and a few people left.

The chalk board by the door said that there was one more band scheduled before closing time, but no band was in evidence. Either way, there were perhaps forty-five more minutes before everyone was kicked out. Forty-five minutes for Sandie to decide how she was going to handle this, whether she was going to leave the thing to fend for itself or commit to keeping it around for an indeterminate length of time. Mike wished that he could be a good shepherd and recommend helping those in need, but that thing just creeped him out too much. He felt an unpleasant conviction that it was eventually just going to up and eat someone.

And when he turned around, it was looking at him. At least, it was looking in his general direction, though with no more focus than ever. Sandie was saying something to it, though he still could not figure out why she talked when it apparently could read her mind. Then he saw an expression on its face, a real expression, one of understanding, and the thing opened up like a twenty-piece ensemble.

It was deafening. The wood floor shook, and the beer in Mike's hand bubbled up and foamed over. It was a perfect encore of the last tune, a fiddle piece with some spiffy mandolin work in the middle, note for note, pitch for pitch, beat for beat – only amplified by a factor of twenty. A few light bulbs exploded.

Every patron ducked and clapped their hands over their ears, and Sandie was shouting, and somehow all three of them got out without being stopped. His ears were still ringing too loudly for him to hear the sirens, but Mike saw red and blue lights racing West down the Loop as they sped away.

In the back seat, the thing looked very lost.
Woo! Surprise POV change!
Does it work? Do you have a good idea of what's going on, here? It's intentionally a bit vague, since we're in Mike's head, and Mike has no idea what's happening, but I was hoping to strike a balance...
Anyway.

Chapter 1: [link]
Chapter 2: [link]
Chapter 3: [link]
Chapter 4: [link]
Chapter 5: [link]
Chapter 6: [link]
Chapter 7: [link]
Chapter 8: YOU ARE HERE
Chapter 9: [link]
Chapter 10: [link]
Chapter 11: [link]
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:iconyogateacher:
YogaTeacher Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I love how different all your characters are, very unique and imaginable; not at all stereotypical even though they could be. I was on hiatus for. This story for a while, but I saw it in your...eh, caption, description? Forget what that's called... and I'm glad I came back because this whole thing is extraordinary! I'm sort of fascinated by this thing...
Reply
:iconcontraltissimo:
Contraltissimo Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2012
Haha, nice to see from Mike's point of view. :)

But I'm with him. That thing is FREAKY. :fear:

You know, I have been thoroughly enjoying your impeccable Grammar Nazism thus far; I can see you're one of those people that actually gives a hoot about that. So I feel morally obligated to point out the line "one of the waitress".... Did you mean waitresses? :)
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2012  Professional Writer
Oh. Oh, wow. Yes, that was supposed to be plural. xD Thank you so much for catching that! That's one of those ones I may never have seen. .__.
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:iconcontraltissimo:
Contraltissimo Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2012
Haha, I always hope people would do the same for me. :laughing:

Except on that other comment I posted on an earlier Siren chapter.... please ignore that. :facepalm:
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2012  Professional Writer
That's what my lovely betas are for. :heart: I dig them much, because they see things I don't. >>;
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:icon914four:
914four Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Picking up where I left off. I really like how you sort of reprised the first chapter at the beginning of this one. One thing though, winnebagos? I just had a Steve Martin flashback...
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2012  Professional Writer
xD Yes, I admit that I got that from Steve Martin. It's something my family says all the time, and I had typed it out before I even realized that not everyone would get it. Decided to keep it anyway.
Reply
:icon914four:
914four Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I'd keep it, it's just strange enough that it works :-)
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:icontigzzz:
Tigzzz Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
WOoooooooOW
Reply
:iconavalon620:
Avalon620 Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2012  Student Writer
Erm.... I THINK I'm following it......

The non-zombie thing is an amplifier. ;p
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2012  Professional Writer
Plug it to a guitar and go!
Reply
:iconazurenoon:
AzureNoon Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2012
This is awesome. I love your characters.
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2012  Professional Writer
<3 Thanks!
Reply
:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2012   Writer
:+fav:
This is still my favorite work by you. Well--there are more than this, but Sandie and her friends are irresistible.
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2012  Professional Writer
<3 Aww, thanks. They love you, too.
Reply
:iconthecheshercat:
TheChesherCat Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Love the repetition of the sentence structure from the first chapter. It really helps establish the POV shift immediately. :D
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2012  Professional Writer
Yay, that's what I was going for! :dance:
Reply
:iconmagdalagarza:
magdalagarza Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I loved the PoV change, to tell the truth. It's an interesting contrast to Sandie's, and it's great to see her interaction with the thing from another person's perspective. Mike definitely sounds like a real person as well as a priest, and I think his reaction to the creature was pretty realistic. I'd be all suspicious too, and probably wondering if my good friend Sandie were being hypnotized or something.

And that part where Mike screamed into perfect silence...? I laughed out loud. Man, that always happens during concerts or parties -- and then you just want to sink into the floor out of sheer embarrassment.

Also, I think it's really cool how I still have no idea what this creature is. It eats and emits music, and comes from outer space!

The last line was also darling. It makes the creature sound vulnerable somehow? And therefore cute.
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2012  Professional Writer
<3 I'm working on working clues in slowly. There should be a more complete picture within a few chapters.

The creature, in my head, is a little too weird to be relatable and definitely too weird to be attractive, but at the same time cluelessly adorable. Like Data. :B Or Mork.
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:iconmagdalagarza:
magdalagarza Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
>>> at the same time cluelessly adorable
Aw, I love it already. Frankly, the image I have of it in my head right now is a jazzed-up E.T. -- even though I know it does have a human body. XD
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2012  Professional Writer
Pfft. Thanks, now I'm going to have that in my head, too.
Reply
:iconlittlefishpenguin95:
LittleFishPenguin95 Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I absolutely LOVE this story. Please keep writing. I think I will die if you stop. :tighthug:
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2012  Professional Writer
<3 Then I shan't stop.
Reply
:iconlittlefishpenguin95:
LittleFishPenguin95 Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Yay! :heart:
Reply
:iconashdancer:
Ashdancer Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2012   General Artist
The brilliance of this story makes me smile.
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2012  Professional Writer
>w< Awww, thanks!
Reply
:iconlizardhound:
Lizardhound Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Must. Have. More.
I'm glad It got some food. Or nutrition. Or energy. Or whatever you call it. I actually Like the Thing. Mike seems cool, poor confused worried man. Go Sandie for helping It and dragging in Mike!
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2012  Professional Writer
More to come! Probably not for a little bit, though. .__. Work is picking up.
I like Mike. There has to be a voice of reason. xD
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:iconlizardhound:
Lizardhound Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Meh. Work... :S I'm still a schoolkid.
Hahaha, you're right :P
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2012  Professional Writer
Lol, school. I envy you. :<
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:iconlizardhound:
Lizardhound Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
It's not that great at the moment... final exams coming up.
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2012  Professional Writer
Ew, yeah. Weird stuff happens at finals time. (That was when I discovered that I can fit a whole pear in my mouth...)
Reply
:iconlizardhound:
Lizardhound Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
such as runaway plots? you mean?
What, a whole pear? That's crazy... O_O
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:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2012  Professional Writer
Well... that and other things.
And yes. It was three in the morning or so, the dining hall was still open, and I had been awake for nearly seventy-six hours. It seemed like a good idea at the time. At least until I couldn't get it back out. .__.
Reply
(1 Reply)
:iconkay-march:
Kay-March Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2012
It continues to intrigue me, to know what's going to happen next, but I feel this long spaces with the characters are drifting the real
rythm of the story.
Uou should put some intense movement between the characters soon... something about them, perhaps something about their past or into their future, connecting them to the now action...

Do you get what I'm trying to say? Perhaps I'm not making sense... (because I enjoy reading your stories)
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2012  Professional Writer
Yeah, I know I'm guilty of becoming too fond of my characters. xD
There will be stuff happening, though.
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:iconkay-march:
Kay-March Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2012
goody goody...
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:iconchoke-ice:
choke-ice Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2012  Hobbyist
yeah the balance is fine, what is shiner bock anyway?
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2012  Professional Writer
xD It's a beer pretty much exclusive to Texas. I enjoy it.
Reply
:iconchoke-ice:
choke-ice Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2012  Hobbyist
oh ok, so I finally get to find out what the 'things' name is soon?
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2012  Professional Writer
In a way. You'll see. :) ~woooo, mysterious~
Reply
:iconpeace-love-fantasy:
Peace-Love-Fantasy Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I absolutly love this point of view! Mike is really great and his confusion makes the story very interesting and i just want to keep reading! Great Job! ^-^
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2012  Professional Writer
xD I like Mike, too. Honestly, I think I like him more than Sandie. Of course, she's got a slightly better idea of what's going on than he does.
Thank you!
Reply
:iconconstantina-rosa:
constantina-rosa Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2012  Student General Artist
:love:
I love this story so much. Its amazing.
Reply
:iconquiestinliteris:
QuiEstInLiteris Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2012  Professional Writer
<333 Thanks!
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