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?)
August did not react well to being informed that metaphysically ripping out the corrupt influence on his magic would hurt. Orson whipped behind him and put him in an armlock, and Sally warned August from the door that the shotgun was, in fact, loaded and in capable hands. Luke, whose head was still spinning, could do little more than threaten loudly in colorful language. Cormick went for his cell phone in the kitchen, to call in what few reinforcements they had left.
Luke felt a pang of pity for August as Charlie stalked toward him. He looked more than afraid; his face was clouded with the rage and disbelief of betrayal.
“I’ll get it over with as fast as I can,” Charlie said. “Like a Band-Aid.”
“Charlie,” Sally said, not lowering her gun, “are you sure this is a good idea?”
“Hell no, I’ve never tried it like this. I don’t know that anyone has ever tried this.”
“No, I mean…. Dropping your magic entirely, letting yourself be nothing but your myth. You’ve worked so hard to be good, to come to grips with your duality.” Her eyes filled with concern, though the effect was diminished since they were looking over the top of a shotgun. “I just don’t want to see you get hurt, sweetie.”
Charlie smiled at her, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Trust me,” he said. He turned back to August and all but stepped out of his own skin.
The transformation was not at all like how it was with normal myth-folk, who flickered back and forth between their selves like a chameleon changing colors. No, this was like a skin-walker, Luke thought. The magic that made Charlie look human peeled away from him like the skin of a butchered animal. The beast within was terrible, his emaciated body as big as a man, with wings that made him seem much larger. He walked on all fours, using the claws on his wings like a bat as he moved across the thin beige carpet. His face and neck were long like a horse’s, but with an enormous maw of jagged teeth. Nothing of the quiet young man Luke had kissed the night before seemed to remain.
August screamed as the creature rushed upon him. The devil roared and sank his teeth into August’s chest, over his heart. Luke gave a shout and rushed forward but was knocked off his feet by one of the great leathery wings. Luke flicked his eyes to Orson, just visible above August and the devil. He was still holding August fast, looking grim but steady.
The devil was no longer biting but sucking, his throat working in steady gulps. August was still screaming, but something else, something far away and almost beyond the bounds of sound, screamed too. Orson fought to keep control of August, who struggled frantically now with the deep, racking sobs of one who felt death pressing in on him.
The devil let go of August and fell away, mouth dripping red. Then the creature was Charlie again, as if it had slipped back into Charlie’s skin, and it was Charlie who was wiping blood from his mouth and drawing deep, ragged breaths. His knees buckled, and he fell backward onto the bed, leaving a bright red slash of a stain on the floral comforter. August hung limp and silent in Orson’s grip.
Sally was the first to speak. “Charlie? You OK?”
Charlie shook his head. “Nope.”
“Going to be OK?”
“August?” Luke pressed.
August picked up his head and slowly swung round to look at Luke. “When I get out of here,” he said, “I’m going to kill you all.”
“Gonna have to clear that with the council, lawman,” Orson said, and dropped him onto the floor.
“The council,” August breathed as he sat up, arms shaking with the effort. “I… don’t remember….”
“You have amnesia?” Sally said, incredulous.
“No, God no, I almost wish I did. I… I just don’t remember the meeting with the council that sent me down here. It’s like it’s been erased.”
“Or a false memory that’s been corrected,” Luke said.
To his surprise, August said softly, “Could be.” He accepted a hand towel from Cormick, who had rejoined the party, and pressed it to his bleeding chest. “God,” he said, wincing, “that was horrible. Just about torturous—” He stopped, and a strange, faraway look came over him. His eyes flew wide, and he struggled to stand, pressing against Sally’s parents’ antique wardrobe. “Cormick. I think I may know where the missing myth-folk are. Come with me.”
“Ohhhh no,” Orson said, laying a heavy hand on August’s shoulder, “you’re not going anywhere with anyone alone for a while.”
“Fine,” he said, suddenly in a great hurry, “then you and some other of my assaulters come with me. I have to see if this blurry memory that’s surfacing is real.”
“You get a phone call,” Orson said, and handed him a cell phone.
“My stars and garters, does no one have any respect? He’s injured!” Allison said. “I’m going to get the first aid kit.”
Sally was sitting by Charlie, an arm over his shoulders, talking low and nodding. Luke approached them carefully and sat down on the bed as well.
“That was some trick,” he said.
“Don’t expect to ever see it again,” Charlie said.
“Hope not to. I can see why you have a hard time playing well with others. That is about the most violent act of magical surgery I ever seen, and I’m older than Christianity.”
“Psh,” Sally said, “I’m prehistoric.”
“It’s not a contest,” Luke said, smirking over Charlie’s head.
“Says the loser. Charlie, baby, you sure you’re gonna be all right?”
“Yeah,” Charlie said, straightening. His features suddenly hardened. “Excuse me,” he muttered. He hurried to the master bathroom, almost running into Allison, who emerged with the first aid kit. A second later Luke heard retching.
“OK, thanks,” August was saying. He closed Orson’s phone, handed it back to him, and breathed out a long, low sigh. “I owe you all an apology, and a thank you. It seems the council never sent me down here… and I do know where the missing myth-folk are. It could have gone tremendously worse if you all hadn’t recognized what was going on, for me as well as you.” He shifted the bloody towel on his chest. “Though your methods leave something to be desired.”
Sally’s bright smile was full of a terrifying malice. Over the sound of her friend being sick in the bathroom she said, “You can thank Charlie when he’s done throwing up your evil.”
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 and teaches yarn spinning. She has numerous stories published with Circlet Press and elsewhere. For her full list of published works, see her website at www.lazypifarm.com.