Welcome to Capricious by Julie Cox, a Texan tale of love and magic. NSFW.
A new chapter appears every Tuesday. This week is Chapter Eight. Listen to the audio version at Nobilis Erotica here!
Luke grabbed the shotgun that was always right inside the door and was off the porch before he realized it was full dark, with only the waning gibbous moon lighting the scene before him. The screams in the yard were garbled, inhuman, but easy enough to pinpoint. Saul wrestled with a creature in the moonlight, his bright white fur streaked with something darker. Luke raised the gun.
“Saul, move!” he yelled.
The dog was hurled through the air at him. He sidestepped and brought the gun to his shoulder again. He fired and only afterward realized what he had shot at. Spikes, claws, and wrinkled, slick skin like a mange-ridden dog. He’d shot at a chupacabra. He was sure of it.
What he wasn’t sure of was whether or not he’d hit it. There was blood all over the ground, but a lot of it was the dog’s. He turned slowly, looking for the chupacabra, and stared into a blue-tinged landscape that was achingly familiar yet terrifying.
The chupacabra landed on his back with all four feet worth of claws. Luke screamed and threw himself against a tree. The beast’s grip loosened, and he bucked, flinging it up onto his horns. He butted against the tree and heard a crack. He hoped it was a chupacabra skull and not the tree or his own horns. Luke tossed his head, and the beast went flying. He crouched in the grass for long minutes, listening and waiting. Nothing.
Saul whimpered. Luke went over to the dog and tried to pick him up with one arm. The dog weighed more than a hundred pounds, and Luke had to half drag him to the pickup. But Saul wasn’t the only one he was worried about.
“Sootie!” Luke screamed.
He opened the door to the truck, threw the shotgun onto the seat, and hauled Saul onto the floorboard. He stopped for a moment and looked out into the night. “Sootie!” he cried again, and his voice cracked. He called out for her again and again, his heart breaking. He felt suddenly weak, like his own legs wouldn’t hold him up. The gouges in his back burned as if they’d been doused in alcohol. The hair on his neck stood up. He held his breath for a long moment, listening. Something was breathing nearby. It wasn’t the dog.
Luke backed into the cab and shut the door. He was relieved to find he still had his keys in his pocket. He started the engine and pulled out of his parking spot.
The back window of the cab exploded inward in a shower of glass. Luke grabbed the gun off the seat and fired blind out the window. When he looked, half turned in his seat, he didn’t see anything. Either he’d hit it and knocked it away… or it was on top of the cab.
Luke gunned the engine and made it almost to the end of the drive before he hit the brake. The truck skidded hard as it hit the potholes, and the chupacabra flew off the top of the cab and into the passion flower vine by the mailbox. Luke raced out the front gate, over the cattle guard and roared down the road toward town.
He didn’t see or hear Sally when she came in, as he was sitting on the edge of the hospital bed, staring out the window. The first he knew of her was her arms around his neck, carefully avoiding the bandages on his back. She held him, and he cried all over again, shaking in terror and grief.
Saul had died before Luke could reach the veterinarian, so he turned the car around and went to the hospital instead. The doctors, after examining his wounds, blood loss, dead dog, and mauled truck, had declared it a puma attack. Everyone at the hospital looked at Luke with something like dumbfounded amazement. Luke agreed with the sentiment, though for different reasons.
Orson arrived after Sally, trembling with rage and vowing revenge in surprisingly flowery and epic language. August and Cormick arrived at the same time, followed shortly by all kinds of other citizens of Fox Pass whom Luke had no interest in seeing at three in the morning. Everyone wanted to know the same thing–how to kill the creature that had attacked him. Theories were put forth, including traps, hunts, bigger dogs, armored dogs, and vorpal blades. Glen proposed that last bit, and the room grew quiet while Cormick ascertained that no, the goblin did not in fact possess a vorpal blade. He had just read about them, which astounded everyone. They hadn’t known he could read.
“It’s simple,” August said.
The assembled magical creatures turned to look at the headless horseman, who leaned against the windowsill, his skull sitting on the rattling air conditioner beside him.
“You hunt it the same way you hunt anything else, by anticipating it,” August continued.
“You can’t anticipate a foe if you don’t know anything about it,” Orson growled.
“But we do already know enough about it. We know it’s nocturnal. It’s small but powerful. It’s a predator. And we know what it hunts.” He looked at Luke. “Goats, and whatever gets in its way.”
“I’m not a goat,” Luke said.
“Something thinks you are.”
Luke tilted his head. “You got a theory?”
“I’ve been looking into the border violation. As you surely already know, the reason Fox Pass is such a well guarded gate is that it is a very thin gate. It’s easy to go through this world and into the next if you have the keys. But because there are so many of you here, it’s hard for strangers to get through. Your own magic does that. But you know that, I’m sorry, I’m just tired and repeating to myself what I’ve found today. With Leo the centaur’s help, of course.”
Luke saw most of the people in the room exchange uneasy glances. They clearly hadn’t known.
“So if what came through–which we have to assume was the creature that attacked you–”
“The chupacabra,” Luke said.
“Right. We’ll call it that until we know for sure. If the chupacabra came through without anyone knowing about it, without any magical triggers going off, that means that someone who is already a part of Fox Pass let it in. Not only that, someone summoned it to the gate and guided it through.”
Luke felt the room turn cold. “Are you sure?” he said softly.
“Beyond any thread of doubt.”
His guts seemed to turn to water. Looking at the faces around him, he was pretty sure it was a common feeling. Before he could say anything, Orson spoke for him.
“All of you get the fuck out,” Orson said. He directed a troll named Alan, who happened to be a cop, to take everyone who had heard August’s theory down to the station and repeat to them over and over that they were not to tell anyone else the story until they were so sick of it that they could almost convince themselves they hadn’t heard anything. Cormick turned pale and excused himself to compile some lists. August and Orson said they would go to Luke’s place and see what the damage was. It was only as the room emptied that Luke realized Allison was there, and she gave him a smile as she exited, leaving him alone with Sally.
When everyone else was gone, Luke put his hand on Sally’s.
“I had a dream about you,” he said, “while sleeping out on the porch before all this happened. It was nice.”
“I bet it was,” she said, without a trace of sarcasm. After a few quiet minutes, she climbed onto the bed and curled up next to him. It was some time before he slept, and even then, he was troubled with dreams. Only Sally’s quiet voice, telling him it was OK, kept him from slipping into nightmares.
* * *
About the author: Julie Cox is the author of Chasing Tail and numerous short stories in Circlet Press erotica anthologies. She 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.
Welcome to Fox Pass, Texas, a small community where the mythical creatures aren’t so mythical after all. Satyr Luke’s comfortable routine is thrown into disarray when he becomes the target of enemies who won’t hesitate to hurt his friends to get to him. Struggling to save his town—and to sort out his feelings for his friend Sally—Luke faces the adventure of a lifetime in Julie Cox’s Capricious.
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