Tags: capricious, julie cox, serialized fiction
Welcome to Fox Pass, Texas, a small community where the people are friendly and the mythical creatures aren’t so mythical after all. Capricious by Julie Cox follows the adventures of satyr Luke and his fellow myth-folk in a town that borders a whole lot more than Mexico. (Do you need to start at chapter 1?)
Luke woke with the dawn, as he had for the past several hundred years. Sally lay beside him, significantly more rumpled than she had been the night before. She was, Luke had just discovered, an active sleeper.
She breathed deep, almost huffing, the lines of worry on her face slackened. Her dark hair lay in a careless tangle around her face; her spaghetti-strap pajamas were pulled askew by her midnight squirming. Luke bit his lip, looking her over, so touchable and pretty. He could see the outline of her breasts against the thin pajama fabric, and the cleft of her cleavage, the curve of her hip where her shirt had pulled up in the night. He ran a hand down her side; she muttered in her sleep, like a grumbling squirrel, and was still again.
She looked so peaceful and sweet while she was asleep, and Luke wanted to kiss her on her soft, plump cheek. As he leaned over her, she stirred, and smacked him in the nose as she threw her arm up. Wincing, he disentangled their limbs and went to the kitchen to make coffee. Kissing would have to wait until she was more engaged.
To his surprise, someone else was already up. There was hot coffee in the carafe and a hiss of steam rising from the percolator. Luke poured a cup and walked out onto the front porch, where Charlie sat hunched over his clutched mug.
“You’re up early,” Luke said by way of greeting.
“That recliner is not made for extended napping.”
Charlie took a drink, slurping like a child. “August came back late last night. Or early this morning, however you want it. He didn’t catch his horse.”
“That’s the weirdest freaking thing,” Luke said. “I never seen anything like that. There ain’t many myth-folk got a second half to them like that.” The idea of having something run off with a bit of his soul was unsettling. He took out a crushed pack of Camels and fished out the least bent one, lit it, and drew in a lungful of smoke.
“I’ve seen it before,” Charlie said. “I… well, I’ve studied, we’ll leave it at that for now. I think the closest equivalent outside our own sphere of magic is the witch’s familiar. It’s like a separate entity, but neither can exist fully without the other. To have a schism like that must be distressing. Did anything happen to it while you were on the other side of the gate?”
Luke chewed over the question for a minute. The horse had been out of sight several times during their otherworldly trip, but nothing he knew of had distressed it. “Only thing I can think of is, his eyes changed color from red to green.”
“Huh. They were red in our world before you went into the gate?”
“They were green when I saw it. I guess the significance of that depends on what made his eyes glow in the first place, which is a question I don’t know that even August would know the answer to. My first guess would be some kind of ectoplasm, given what they are.”
“The only other time I’ve heard that word,” Luke said, “was in Ghostbusters.”
Charlie waved his hand dismissively. “It’s an otherworldly discharge, like the physical manifestation of psykinetic energy before it’s dissipated.”
“Now you’re just trying to use big words. You got a thesaurus in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”
Charlie gracefully ignored Luke and continued his analysis. “If it changed color when it entered the portal… I wonder what changed. Does the portal act as a filter of any kind?”
Luke shrugged. “It’s got to, I suppose. Otherwise any old thing could come waltzing in or out, ya know? Most times, if you’re not a native to a world, you gotta be called to come through, or be a specialist in spirit walking. Which August and his horse, being ghosts, would be.”
“So maybe instead of adding something in… the portal took something out.”
Luke was silent, digesting this piece of information. He rolled the cigarette, mostly gone, between his thumb and fingers. “Huh. Like passing milk through a cheesecloth.”
“I don’t know why you would do such a thing, but I suspect you get the idea.”
Luke patted Charlie’s head. “You’re young. Soon enough you’ll be using phrases like ROTFL and young folk will look at you the way you’re looking at me.”
“Still doesn’t seem real, the whole living forever thing.”
“Well, it ain’t really living forever, is it? You’re not the same person every time. Really, you’re not. And the memories aren’t there all the time; you gotta go looking for them, or you might even forget they’re there, like a box of pictures under the bed. Good thing, too, because we’d all go mad otherwise. Then one day you gotta go dragging them all out looking for something in particular, and come across stuff long forgotten that punches you in the gut or makes you laugh out loud.” He sighed. “It’s a wonderful, terrible burden and privilege.”
“Better than the alternative.” Charlie’s face took on a thoughtful expression. It suited him, Luke thought. “Do you believe in heaven?”
Luke shrugged and put out his cigarette on the bottom of his boot. “Don’t know. Ain’t never been.” He stuck the butt of the cigarette into the coffee can full of butts. There seemed to be one of those coffee cans, rusted and half full of butts and sand, on every front porch he’d ever known. He stood up. “C’mon. Let’s go pester a ghost.”
Julie Cox lives in Texas with her husband, children, and ever-expanding menagerie of animals on their farm. She runs a small online yarn business, teaches yarn spinning, and is the associate editor of Gearhearts magazine. She has numerous stories published with Circlet Press and elsewhere. For her full list of published works, see her website at www.lazypifarm.com.