Time for another Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction challenge. This week he gave us a list of twenty different subgenres of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. Using a d20 or some other randomizer, the challenge is to randomly select two of the genres, mash them up, and spit out 1,500 words. I got Southern Gothic and kaiju.
I don’t know a whole lot about either one. I think of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Anne Rice’s Interview With A Vampire when I think of Southern Gothic. I have no idea whether those really are good examples of the genre or not, but they’re what I think of, and that’s the feel I tried to capture.
Kaiju is a Japanese genre of stories about big monsters smashing things. Godzilla is one of the ultimate examples, but I think that even more heroic stories like Voltron, Ultraman and The Iron Giant would count as well. My story isn’t particularly heroic, though.
I hope you enjoy it anyway.
The Last Stand of Dickie Metter
The moon shone down through the giant magnolia trees in the front yard. The light glinted off the waxy leaves, giving the night a slippery, oily aspect. The orange light coming from the woods to the south bespoke something else entirely.
Mother Spencer staggered out of those woods, dazed, her skirts ripped in several places. The others followed, stumbling as they tried to stay upright. They gathered under the trees. Haunted eyes looked out of Mother Spencer’s face as she stared back the way they had come. Her voice shook. “What have we done?”
The smoke drifted upwards and obscured the moon.
They had gone into the woods not even an hour earlier. As they trekked south the magnolia trees in the yard had given way to cypress and pine, with the occasional oak standing proud and wide. Spanish moss hung down from nearly every tree and they pushed it aside in the places it crossed their path.
For the first time in nearly half a lifetime they came to the Place of Ritual, where women like them had been coming for nearly three hundred years, since Oglethorpe had first led the English to Savannah. Their people had been farming the land in this place since then and they themselves were the descendants of powerful women who had learned to harness the power of nature and the land to suit their own ends and for the benefit of the town. If that suited their own ends.
The Place of Ritual was a clearing in midst of a stand of pine trees. Generations of women had kept the trees free of moss and the grounds weeded and trimmed. In the middle of the clearing was an old cypress stump, carved with words of power and symbols of incantation and protection. Their earliest forebears had brought these symbols, and the rituals that used them, over the sea from England and they had been passed from mouth to mouth and heart to heart down through the years.
The women formed a circle around the stump, as was traditional and right. Mother Spencer stood at its apex. Her soft blue homespun dress reflected the moonlight as the clouds moved aside to let their Mother gaze down upon them. Mother Spencer looked into the sky and smiled, reaching out in supplication to the moon. “We see you, Mother. Smile down upon your daughters.”
The others in the circle gave the response: “Smile down upon us.”
Mother Spencer was the latest guardian of the words. She was the keeper of the lore and the power of the circle resided in her. Slowly, she turned on the spot, one revolution clockwise, one the other way. The others followed suit.
“Prepare the ritual,” she said.
A town had grown up not far from the Place of Ritual, back when the Place was new. No one except the women of the circle knew about the Place, or knew the true reason the town had been placed where it was. In the centuries since the town’s birth, they had used the power of the Place, focused by the aura of the town, to influence events and shape the development of the town and its people whenever needed.
Now, it was time to do it again. A mayoral election was fast approaching, and one of the available candidates was neither morally worthy of the office, nor qualified to fill it. Modern society was bankrupt, Mother Spencer had decided. The world was going to hell. She decided she had to do what she could to make things right. The old ways needed to come again.
It was nearly thirty years since the ritual had last been called. Mother Spencer, to her embarrassment, found that she remembered little of the lore she had been entrusted with. She wasn’t sure she could perform the ritual. She couldn’t back down now, though. The others had gathered and she had to follow through or be shamed before them all. It would not do. She would look as foolish as those idiots supporting Dickie Metter for mayor. I’ll remember it by the time we reach the clearing, she thought.
Fifteen minutes later they were in the clearing. She hadn’t remembered. She moved ahead anyway.
“Bring forth the offering!” She pointed at the stump. Clara Wright came forward, carrying a canvas sack. She reached in, pulled out an unconscious possum, and laid it on the stump. She cast her eyes toward the ground, unwilling to meet Mother Spencer’s gaze.
“It’s supposed to be a pig, Clara,” Mother Spencer said.
“Please, Mother,” said Clara. “There weren’t none. Clete killed the last one this morning for breakfast. We ain’t got no more. I couldn’t come with an empty bag so I got him on the way to your house.” She looked guiltily at the others. “I had to hit him with a rock to knock him out. He’d never have gone in the bag if he wasn’t out cold.”
Mother Spencer sighed. The ritual was already far enough off the track that having a possum rather than a pig probably couldn’t make it any worse. She nodded, and Clara laid the canvas bag on the ground beside the stump, curtsied, and moved back to her place in the circle.
Mother Spencer walked forward to stand beside the stump. She reached into the pocket of her apron and pulled out her husband’s hunting knife. She held it up for all to see. The moonlight glinted off the polished steel blade and serrated edge.
The circle began to chant. The women began turning, first one way, then the other. They weren’t all turning at the same rate of speed or in the same direction. Mother Spencer sighed again. It’ll have to do, she thought.
She began to shout. She couldn’t remember the exact words of the ritual, so she called upon her Pentecostal upbringing and began to shout syllables and words that she had heard other women shout in church. It was said they were speaking in tongues, a gift given from the Holy Ghost. She knew she shouldn’t be doing it, but she didn’t want Dickey Metter to be mayor. She hoped the Holy Ghost would forgive her.
Still shouting, she closed her eyes and swung the knife down. As it descended, a blue spark jumped out of Mother Spencer’s mouth. It moved down the length of her arm into the knife just as the blade penetrated the body of the possum stretched prone on the stump at her feet. There was a flash of blue light.
The possum’s eyes snapped open and he roared. It sounded like the smallest full-size grizzly bear anyone had ever seen. Not a sound a possum should make.
At the sound, the women stopped dancing and twirling and stared in shock at the stump. The possum stood up. It looked out at them, its beady eyes glowing red. Its long, bald tail suddenly shone bright orange. They had to turn away, so they didn’t see the light in the possum’s tail go out as it opened its mouth and breathed a spray of fire that almost reached Mary Damper’s shoes. The grass caught fire at Mary’s feet. The possum turned its head and blew another spray in the other direction.
Then it began to grow.
It twisted its head and roared again, louder than before. It gnashed its teeth as it got bigger and bigger. Mother Spencer began to run, heading for the woods, and the others followed her. Meg Preston was the only one who looked back, and the possum was the size of a large deer and getting bigger. In her surprise, she stumbled and ran into a tree. The possum was on her in a moment in a whirlwind of teeth and flame and glowing red eyes. It continued to grow even as it fed. By the time it spat Meg Preston’s eyeglasses out on the ground it was nearly fifteen feet tall.
The possum could hear the women of the circle as they ran, dresses catching on branches, ripping, tearing, as they continued on their frantic passage through the woods. It sniffed. It could smell them. Its tail glowed orange again and whipped back and forth. It breathed again, and the pine woods began to burn.
The women stood under the magnolia trees as the possum, now almost thirty feet tall, came crashing out of the woods in a shower of sparks. Behind it, the forest was an inferno, the pine trees and Spanish moss combining to provide exceptional kindling. The last thing Mother Spencer saw was a red eye as big around as a dinner plate and a flash of orange. Then the world went black.
Leaving the farmhouse flattened and the woods ablaze, the possum sniffed. There was something off that way, it thought, and it started up the road towards town. It wasn’t long before the screams began.
Needless to say, Dickie Metter was not elected mayor.