This story was written for a contest called project 100…the prompt was “umwelt.”
Now that the contest is over, I am adding my work to this blog. Hope you enjoy!
Project100-A14: Umwelt By Patrick O’Scheen
The small, pale creature extended a hand containing bread crumbs. The strong scent of vulnerability invaded the relative darkness. “Go ahead and take it.”
It was always like this. At first they might seem to be gentle and giving, but then he would find himself poked and prodded, tortured and tested. He let out a low growl as the diminutive being slowly approached. He heard his stomach answer the noise with a gurgle of its own. He was hungry.
With the flick of a long tongue, he pulled the offered meal into waiting jaws and chewed. The salty crunch seemed dry and clung tenaciously to his incisors. Maybe the creature carried more. He sniffed the air in an attempt to discern the presence of another morsel.
As he licked the last bits of food from his long teeth, he examined his benefactor—-thin, short—probably gristle. There would be little point in eating it. He stared, fixated on the motion of one of its spindly limbs as it extended toward him.
“Easy boy,” the noise issued from between pink slits.
Cowering in fear of the inevitable touch, he closed his eyes tightly and crouched. He had not expected the soft pleasing nature of the connection. Relaxing under the tender strokes, he let himself enjoy the feeling—relish the next caring brush of the extended digits through his thick hairs. He could bite—show it who controlled the interaction, but something inside of him was calmedby the sensation upon his skin.
“I have to go for a while. I don’t want to leave you here…but I’ll be back. I promise.” The small form stepped backwards and climbed the planks toward the light where it had first entered.
Lifting his head with some difficulty, hewatchedthe creature go. The familiar thud of the door left him in echoing darkness. He was alone again, only able to dream of the encounter. Maybe it would return with more to eat. He would allow its kind ministrations, even welcome them. If only it would come back…
Without an understanding of the passage of time, he waited, watched, listened. Shuffling to a position against the far wall of his containment, he strained his ears in the silence. The constant thump of his heartbeat was the only distinguishable sound. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep.
A clatter of metal on metal, the sound of something pushed closed woke him from his restless slumber. Someone opened the door above and a beam of light penetrated the still air forming a visible shaft in the dust that lifted from the dirt floor.
“Look, Joey. I’m telling you nothing good can be in old man Devlin’s cellar.” A rattle and a clump announced a larger specimen similar to the one before. He idly wondered if it also had something for him to eat. It moved into the light and he could see it held a shiny object that cast a beam of illumination.
“I am telling you, Pa…” The small one hesitated.
“Joey, go back to the car,” the intensity of the creature’s call resonated in an increased pitch as it gestured to the lesser. The ray swept his confinement as if it could find him. Fear welled in the pit of his stomach and he tried to flatten himself against the rough surface of the exterior as the larger one approached him slowly.
“But, Pa…” The plaintiff bleat underscored misery.
“I said git!” The tone had become louder and there was a ferocity to the sound.
“No, Pa!” The tiny being refused to respond, as it had apparently been directed, and it clung to the other’s lower limbs.
“It could be rabid or dangerous,” the taller specimen crouched in a posture that suggested it would defend. A glimmer of reflection hinted at a weapon that was aimed toward the center of the enclosure. The large creature moved forward and the trace of the brightness played over the scene.
Caught in the full force of the radiant stream, he whimpered mournfully his head drooping to the floor in a pitiful motion of acknowledgement. This would be the end. He should have known they would come and take away what little he had left. Snarling in a last effort to claim a dignity that was far beyond repair, he flashed his teeth and heard them draw in their breath. They saw him clearly now. It would soon all be over.
For moments that seemed like eternity there was absolute quiet and the larger being raised and pointed its weapon in his direction with an unsteady hand. He shuddered involuntarily as he drew in what he knew would be his last taste or air. He shut his eyes tightly expecting he would soon feel the pain of death.
“No, Pa!” Again the cry of sadness filled the chamber. A soft touch played upon his head and a gentle sensation stiffened the hairs down his back. It was not as he had expected. He cracked an eye open to look directly into the tiny face.
“Joey, I’ll run and get the old blanket from the car. I won’t guarantee he we can fix him, but we will take him home, son.”
He felt the gentle touch around his ears and heard the small one whisper “It’s going to be all right, boy. I promise.”