Short Story Sunday #4

March 9, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Posted in Father/Son, Short Stories, Teen, Writing, Reading, YA, Young Adult | 1 Comment

Short Story Sunday

Thanks to the Internet gods (Comcast) for allowing this week’s short story to post on time, and thanks for checking out short story number 4. This week, meet George who takes his son on a traditional family fishing trip only to discover that there’s more to fishing in the wilderness than meets the eye, and ‘survival of the fittest’ may just have been replaced with ‘survival of the tech-savvy’.

BAIT AND SWITCH

By William Meikle

“Are we there yet?”

George Watkins sighed and turned to look downstream. His son Bobby was thirty yards behind, and dawdling.

I guess were just too far from the TV and the video games for his liking.

“Nearly,” George shouted. “It’s just round the next bend.”

“You said that ten minutes ago,” Bobby wailed.

This trip up the Monongahela was supposed to be character building, a chance for George to bond with a kid he was rapidly losing to the enticements of the internet and games machines. He’d thought that a fishing trip would bring them closer together.

So far it wasn’t going according to plan.

“Come on son,” he said. “There’s a big trout up there just waiting to be our supper.”

The boy kicked at some pebbles, sending them scuttling into the river. He never raised his head.

But at least hes following.

When they turned the corner they saw the creek spread out before them, with the rock shelf and ruined cabins at the far end.

“Why did people live out this far?” Bobby asked.

George took this as an encouraging sign. At this stage even a simple question was progress.

“Well there’s mine workings all over these hills and . . . ”

But the boy seemed to have lost interest already. He fished a cell phone from his pocket and put his head down again.

George sighed and set his sights on the rock shelf, their campsite for the night. Ten minutes later they pitched camp in the ruins of the Taylor and Nichols cabins. Rather, George got the tent up and started in on collecting firewood for later, while the boy moped around trying to get a signal on his phone. George resisted the urge to bawl the kid out, trusting that the lure of fishing would grab as quickly as it had taken hold of George himself at the same age.

Wait until we get that first nibble of the day, George thought. Hell come round soon enough.

But even after they’d set up on the riverbank and George had caught a fine two pounder for supper, still Bobby remained resolutely unimpressed.

“If you don’t cheer up, I’ll feed you to the Ogua,” George said.

The boy’s head finally rose from where he’d been staring at the phone, even though it was currently switched off.

“What’s an Ogua?”

George smiled inwardly.

Ive caught him.

“It lives hereabouts,” he said quietly. “The Iroquois say it’s as big as a bear, with a hard shell like a turtle and a thick tail that can break a man’s back. By day it stays under the water. But at night it comes out, looking for deer . . . or anything else it can drag away to its den.”

Bobby’s eye’s had gone big and wide open.

Time to reel him in.

George waved in the direction of the ruined cabins.

“That’s why the folks who built these here dwellings had to leave. The Ogua got all their cattle . . . and they were afeared it was coming for them next.”

George looked out over the still river, remembering how his own father had told him the story, in this same spot. He cast the line, sending the weighted lure over to the far bank where it landed with a soft plop.

He was remembering his own father’s story, and the insistence, the sincerity with which he’d told it. The Ogua might, or not be real, but one thing was for sure, George’s old man had believed it, and had made George believe it, for a time at least.

Now if I could only get through to Bobby. Maybe we could both believe.

“Its den is about there I reckon,” he said. “At least that’s where your Great‑Granddaddy saw it, back in Fifty Five. It gave him such a fright his hair went white. And do you know . . . ”

He never got a chance to finish. The boy’s cell phone rang, the blast of tinny music breaking any spell George had woven.

“Yay. I got a signal,” Bobby shouted, happier than George had seen him all day.

He was on the phone all the time while George got a fire going and cooked the trout. He only put it down to eat. George tried to interest him in the beauty of the sunset, but the boy sat there, head down, thumbs working frantically, lost in a world George would never understand.

He did get the lad to switch it off as they got into their sleeping bags. Bobby wanted to stay in the tent. George preferred to lie out in the open, like he had in his youth. When he woke to take a leak around midnight he saw a tell tale blue glow from the phone’s display just inside the tent. By then he was too dispirited to get into an argument about it.

First thing in the morning, were outa here. Itll be best for both of us.

After that, sleep wouldn’t come. He lay on his back, staring up at the Milky Way and remembering nights such as this with his own father; the anticipation of the fishing to come the next day, the feeling of closeness with his old man he feared he’d never achieve with Bobby.

It was nearly two o’clock when he rolled onto his side. There was still a faint glow from the tent where the boy lay.

Enough is enough.

He moved to climb out of his bag.

And that’s when he heard it . . . a soft slump as something pulled itself out of the water, barely five yards from where he lay.

Bobby!

He rolled, still cocooned in the bag, ignoring the stones and twigs that poked and prodded even through the nylon, making for the boy’s tent.

“Bobby!” he said in a whisper that wanted to be a shout. “Get out of there.”

Something big moved across the ground towards him, twigs snapping and pebbles tumbling with small splashes into the river. Above that there was breathing, a liquid gurgle.

“Bobby!” he said, louder this time.

He shucked off the sleeping bag. It was grabbed from his grasp and whisked away. He heard the sound, very close now, as whatever had come out of the water tore the nylon with loud rips.

A bobbing blue light moved somewhere to his left, heading into the woods, but George had no time to think. He headed for the other tent and almost pulled it out of the pegs as he threw the flap open.

“Bobby!”

The tent was empty. The boy had indeed heard him and slipped away. George looked around, hoping to catch another glimpse of the bobbing blue light that would show him where to find the lad.

“Over here,” a small voice shouted from among the cabin ruins. George could indeed just make out the faint blue glow of the phone.

He felt the air move over his head and something large and heavy swished, just missing him. He tried not to remember the stories, of how the Ogua could break a man’s back with its tail. He headed in a stumbling run for Bobby’s location.

The Ogua followed him. It tore the tent to shreds, the ripping loud in the quiet night. The moist breathing got louder and there was a clicking noise that George realised could only be claws; claws scratching on stone. He made out a shape in the darkness. The thing that followed him across the campground was tall, almost as big as George himself and twice as broad. A long tail, eight feet of more, stretched out behind it, swishing from side to side, balancing the creature’s stumbling forward steps on its stubby rear legs. It closely resembled a dinosaur from the old movies, but its back was protected by a thick carapace, glimmering in the moonlight like oil on tortoiseshell. The eyes were the worst; almost perfect circles, like small saucers, and milky white like fine porcelain. They tracked George’s every movement as the Ogua came forward, hands bearing long knife‑like claws clenching and unclenching, anticipating the rending of flesh.

George reached the cabin ruins just ahead of the Ogua. There was no sign of the boy as he skipped across fallen timbers and rocks.

“Bobby!”

“Over here,” a voice called. The dim blue light showed at the edge of the forest.

“Stay there, I’m coming,” he called back and ran faster.

The Ogua followed, tossing timber aside as if it were matchsticks. George fled into the woods. The boy had already moved on, the blue glow bobbing as it moved further into the trees.

“This way,” Bobby called.

“Wait,” George replied, but all too soon the blue glow was lost in the thickets. He had no choice but to follow. And as he went after Bobby, so the Ogua pursued him. He ran, almost blind in the dark, branches and thorns tugging and tearing at clothes and skin. The Ogua crashed through everything, breathing louder now, panting like a hot dog. Something pulled at George’s ankle and he let out a yelp, but it was just a twig, He tore away from it, leaving the lower half of a pant leg behind.

“Over here,” he heard Bobby shout above the noise of the Ogua. “Quick. This way.”

He ran, ignoring the hot blood flowing from numerous small scrapes and tears. Finally he saw the faint blue glow ahead of him. It was still, unmoving.

“Jump,” Bobby shouted. “Jump now!”

He didn’t think. He leapt, aware of crossing a dark void, landing hard and toppling sideward. A small hand steadied him.

“Run,” George shouted, making a grab for the boy. “It’s nearly here.”

The Ogua crashed through the trees, white eyes shining almost silver in a thin wash of moonlight. George turned to run again, but Bobby put a hand on his shoulder.

“It’s okay.”

The Ogua came on hard; then lost its footing and fell away, the liquid breathing turning to a screech as it tumbled into a dark hole, scrambling frantically. It kept trying to reach George, tail thrashing wildly, but all it managed to do was send timber and debris falling, hastening its descent.

It dropped away into darkness, the screech fading.

Silence fell.

George leaned over slowly and looked down into an old mineshaft, the walls now only partially shored. Below there was only deep quiet blackness.

Bobby came and stood beside him, a big grin on his face.

“How did you do that?” George asked.

Bobby held up the phone.

“Research and GPS,” he said, smiling.

George looked at the phone, seeing it through the boy’s eyes for the first time.

“It looks like I need someone to bring me up to date with all this new‑fangled stuff. Want a job?”

Bobby smiled.

“Okay, Dad.”

Hand in hand, father and son headed back to what was left of their camp.

George realised something else.

“You used me as bait didn’t you?”

Bobby looked sheepish.

“I saw it in a game once. It worked that time as well.”

George ruffled the boy’s hair.

“Maybe fishing is your thing after all.”

<><><>

Meet the author of BAIT AND SWITCH, William Meikle …

William Meikle

William Meikle is a Scottish writer with fifteen novels published in the genre press and over 250 short story credits in thirteen countries. His work appears in many professional anthologies and he has recent short story sales to NATURE Futures, Penumbra and Daily Science Fiction among others. His ebook THE INVASION has been as high as #2 in the Kindle SF charts. He now lives in a remote corner of Newfoundland with icebergs, whales and bald eagles for company.

www.williammeikle.com 

www.twitter.com/williemeikle
www.facebook.com/williemeikle
www.amazon.com/William-Meikle/e/B002BMOP0G/

BAIT AND SWITCH appears in Suddenly Lost In Words, Volume 2 now available at AMAZON UK and AMAZON US

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, UK!

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