Chuck Wendig: One Last Day

This week’s Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge is The End of a Long Journey.  I tried to come up with a different idea but all I could think of was my mom and the last day we spent with her as a family.  It’s not fiction, but it’s all I got.


ONE LAST DAY

 

We sang.

We laughed.

We told stories and shared memories built up over all of our lifetimes.

She lay there in her bed, gently reclined so she could see out.  She was watching, listening, unable to speak but telling us with her eyes how much she loved seeing us all together again.  How special the day was.  How special we all were.

We had known this day was coming.  Since her diagnosis it had been inevitable that it would arrive.  It was just a matter of when.

“When” was today.

We gathered at the hospice center that morning, each of us arriving in our own time, coming in until we were all there.  We sat in the lobby until a counselor took us into a private room and told us what would be happening that day.

I wasn’t really listening.  Forgive me; I was a little distracted.  I knew they were going to disconnect her from the ventilator and then we were going to spend the day with her and show her how much we loved her and how much she meant to us.

They had us tell her good bye before they disconnected her.  They said there was a chance she wouldn’t survive it.  That was when we truly let her go, I think.  Tears fell like rain and we held each other when we weren’t holding her.  Finally we left the room.

She made it through with no problems, though.  In our hearts, we’d known she would.  She was always a fighter.  She always came through.

We spent hours with her that day, and our love and laughter ignited her spirit and she smiled and the sun came out from behind the clouds.  For the first time in months she was as she had been my entire life.  For the first time in months she was completely with us and we embraced her, physically and emotionally.  We gave her everything we had until it overflowed then she gave it back to us two, even three-fold.

It was one of the greatest days of my life.  It was a day I will never forget.

We said good bye to her again as we left, but it wasn’t final this time.  We’d told her that good bye earlier in the day.  This one just was just a regular good bye, a temporary one.  We’ll be back tomorrow, we said.  We’ll see you then.  We kissed her cheek and hugged her neck, and we told her we loved her.  She smiled out at us, making sure we knew that she returned the sentiment.

She slipped away from us just before my wife and I arrived back the next morning.  We gathered together again and we cried, but we’d told her good bye the day before.  She knew we loved her.  We had given her one last day of love and family and of all of us together.

She was gone, but she was still with us.  She is with us still, in our heads and in our hearts, and in our souls, where she will always live, strong and joyous and dancing up a storm.

 

Chuck Wendig: Jumper

This week’s Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge is One Word Titles.  Chuck provided ten words and said, pick one and use it as your title and give 1,000 words or less.  I chose “Jumper” and came up 930 words to go with it.  Not sure what it means, but here it is.  Please to enjoy, and feel free to comment and let me know what you think.


JUMPER

 

A young man stood on a basketball court in a gymnasium in Spain, on the right side of the court, just outside the three-point line.  There were ten seconds left in the game.  The clock was ticking down towards zeroes.  His team was behind by a single point.  He dribbled the ball, eyes scanning the defense as his teammates wove a complex offensive pattern, trying to find an open shot.   A defender crouched in front of him, hands up in classic defensive position.

Nothing was developing so he changed the play, holding up a fist.  He motioned to one of his teammates and the boy came over and set a pick, presenting an obstacle for the defender as the young man took three steps to his left.  His opponent got tangled up in the pick and was unable to follow, allowing the young man to break free and see the basket clearly.

He took a moment to gather himself and rose into the air, his right arm going up, the ball coming off his fingertips and arcing away towards the basket, carrying the winning points with it.  As it traveled, the buzzer sounded.  The game would be over when the ball reached the hoop.

 

In a flat in London, a recent university graduate awoke from a short nap and prepared to go out for a late night dinner.  Nothing fancy, but he was hungry.  He checked the outside temperature on his phone.  It was chilly out.  He’d need a jacket.

He looked around and found a couple of alternatives lying about but neither one appealed to him.  One was too sporty, the other a bit too posh.  He wasn’t feeling either of those this evening.  He wanted something a little more down to earth.

He remembered the package he’d gotten from his grandmother the week before and grinned.  Brilliant.  It would be warm and earthy, and Gran would be so pleased when she heard he’d worn it.  It was the perfect vibe for a casual evening.

He untucked his shirt, knowing it would heighten the effect, and opened the box on his dresser.  He ran his hands lovingly across the prickly wool, knowing that Gran had made it with her own hands.  How could he not wear it?  He slipped it over his head, heedless of the mess it made of his hair, and looped his bag over his shoulder.  He put on a cap, and headed out into the night.

 

In Atlanta, Georgia, a woman who was tired, too tired, had reached the end of her rope.  She stood on the raised edge of a highway overpass, her arms held straight out to the sides, looking down at the highway thirty feet below.  There was no traffic; the police had diverted the flow to an alternate route.  Officers stood below her as well on either side, not quite close enough to touch her.  They didn’t want to take a chance on spooking her, after all.

She had lived a rough life.  Her husband was gone, her job had laid her off, and her children were grown and had left her as well.  There was nobody left and she didn’t have anywhere else to go.  There was nothing else to do.  She had thought that if she came here she might get an idea of what her life could be, but it wasn’t happening.  Nothing was coming to mind except to keep looking down.

She sighed.  The officers tensed, knowing something was about to happen.  She turned her head and looked at each of them in turn.  “I’m sorry,” she said, and she closed her eyes and bent her knees.

 

In San Diego, California, a young mother came out of a supermarket with a full cart of groceries and two children in tow.  She buckled the kids into their car seats and put her groceries into the trunk of her car.  She climbed into the front seat and put the key into the ignition.  Nothing happened.  She tried again.  Only then did she notice that the radio hadn’t come on and the interior lights were off.  Her battery was dead.

Groaning, she got out of the car and looked around.  A man was just climbing into his car across from her.  She held up a hand.  “Excuse me?”  He looked at her.  “My battery is dead,” she said.  “Can you help?”

As it turned out, he could.  They both popped their hoods and he connected their batteries together while she stood beside her car, the back door open, talking to her boys, telling them what was going on.  She heard a small pop and hiss when he put the clamp on his own battery and knew that it had sparked.  He got into his car and turned on the ignition.

After his engine roared to life, she got behind the wheel of her car and turned the key again.

 

Many things happen in this world.

A game is lost when a last-second shot spins out.

The love of far-away family makes an ordinary night on the town special.

A life ends while others watch helplessly.

A car starts and a mother takes her children home.

These things and more happen all around us every day and we are none the wiser because we are engrossed in our own situations.  We move from place to place, from moment to moment, without any awareness of our own place in the world.  We plod slowly along, when we should be jumping forward in leaps and bounds.

Be bold.

Engage with the world.

Jump.

 

Chuck Wendig: The Pirate King of Pre-K

This week’s Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge is called, F**k You, That’s What.  Simply put, the assignment is to defy authority in 1,000 words or less.  I used 987.  I wanted to have fun with it instead of being angry and nihilistic.  I thought about it and decided that pirates were all about chaos and rebellion and would fit the theme nicely.  Since I’ve only ever seen the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, I decided to do pirates my way instead.  I hope it works for you as well.  Please to enjoy.


THE PIRATE KING OF PRE-K

Miss Kimmy checked the timer on her phone.  Two minutes left and counting.  She had started the timer when she brought the kids outside for recess.  25 minutes of playing, then back inside for snacks and a nap, if they weren’t too wound up.  Maybe she’d put in a DVD instead.  Frozen, perhaps, or Zootopia.  That was one of the new ones that they all seemed to love.

She saw that Jamey, Todd, and Melody were in the tower at the very top of the playfort.  Jamey was shouting something she couldn’t quite make out.  She smiled.  She knew that tower was Jamey’s favorite place because it was made to look like the bridge of a ship.  There were portholes, a ship’s wheel, even a Jolly Roger flag flying from the top of the tower.  The boy was a handful, but he did have an active imagination.  She wondered who he was today, what adventures he was having.

The rest of the playground was chaos, twenty-five four year olds tearing around, shrieking, laughing, playing all sorts of games.  They swarmed the bottom levels of the playfort, climbing the ladders, scrambling across the monkey bars, going down the slides—“Colin!” she shouted.  “Feet first next time!”  She shook her head.  She had almost missed that one.  These kids were quick!

Not for the first time she wished she had an assistant teacher like the toddlers did.  She kept asking.  They kept telling her there wasn’t room for it in the pre-k budget since their state funding had been cut.  She sighed, and considered again applying at Dolly’s, the private daycare down the road.  No problems with funding there.

The timer reached zero.  The alert tone sounded.  “That’s it!  Everyone line up to go in!” Miss Kimmy called.

 

Jamey the Pirate King stood on the command deck of the Recess, surveying his domain, pointing and calling out directions in his best pirate voice.  Todd the Pirate Prince sat at his feet, his hands gripping the wheel mounted to the rail, turning it to follow Jamey’s calls.  Melody the Very Nice Princess sat beside Todd, staring forlornly out through a porthole, unable to move because she had been captured by the pirates and was being held prisoner.

They heard the alert tone sound and Miss Kimmy call them to line up.  Melody stood up.  “Where d’ye think ye’re goin?” Jamey drawled, in his best pirate accent.

“Arrrrr!” added Todd.

“We have to line up and go in,” she said.

“I’m the Pirate King,” said Jamey, “and I say we’re not goin’ anywhere!  Sit back down!”

“Arrrrr!” added Todd.

Melody looked uncertainly towards the door, where a few other kids were starting to line up.

Jamey shouted now, loud enough to be heard by all the children across the entire playground.  “The Pirate King isn’t going inside!  If ye’re loyal crew, get back to yer posts!”

 

Miss Kimmy groaned.  Oh, not again.  Jamey did this every now and then.  Several children had already lined up at the door, but those still heading towards her slowed, looking to see what she would do.  A couple of the students in line took a step toward the playground.  “Uh-uh,” she grunted.  “Don’t even think about it.”  They froze.

She waited to see what Jamey did next.  Usually he’d call two or three more course changes then head into port.  He looked over and caught her eye.  Then he grinned.  “Take her out to sea, Mister Todd!” he shouted.  He pointed toward the parking lot on the other side of the fence.  “That way!”  With that, the rest of the class scattered, a few staying in line, the rest heading back out onto the playground.

Miss Kimmy sighed.  It was going to be one of those days, then.  She was definitely sending her resume to Dolly’s.  She stalked out onto the playground, heading for the playfort.

 

Jamey saw her coming.  “A sea monster!” he shouted.  “Quick, Mister Todd, bring her to starboard!”  Todd’s arms pumped for all he was worth.  Melody considered making a break for it while Jamey was distracted.  A moment later, she did, leaping to her feet and heading for the nearest slide.

“The prisoner is escaping, Cap’n,” called Todd.

“Let her go,” said Jamey.  “We have a monster to worry about!”

“It’s a big one, sir!” said Todd.

Miss Kimmy was tall enough to see into the tower as she walked towards it.  She called out to the two pirates as she tried to herd the other children back to the door.  “Time to go in,” she said, and jerked her head in the direction of the building.

“I can’t do it any more, Cap’n,” said Todd, as the sea monster roared at them from a distance and he left the wheel, bolting for the same slide Melody had just gone down.

All the kids were in line now, except for Jamey.

 

Jamey the Pirate King stood alone on his bridge, the wheel spinning uselessly, the monster looming as it got closer.  He could feel the ship begin to rock as the waves of the monster’s approach struck its timbers.  He gritted his teeth.  He wasn’t going to go down without a fight.

He clambered up onto the railing of the ship.  The monster’s eyes widened and it increased the speed of its approach, its hands out in front of it as if to catch him and hold him.  Jamey wobbled for a long moment, arms pinwheeling, then caught his balance and did what he had seen his brother do to their mother last week, heedless of the fact that his brother was still grounded for doing it.

He showed the monster both of his middle fingers.

The monster stopped and gaped in astonishment.  Jamey the Pirate King took full advantage, leaping out from the railing towards the waiting monster, teeth bared, bellowing his defiance into the teeth of the wind.

 

Chuck Wendig: Salvation, Chapter One

This week’s Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge prompt is called To Behold The Divine.  The story is meant to be from the point of view of either a god, or someone who has to deal with a god.  I wrote about Arthur Edwards, a man who lives in a future where everyone who believed in God left Earth to go out into the rest of the solar system and left the nonbelievers behind.  Living on Earth, Arthur is an atheist but he had a dream about God and has decided to go out and preach the Gospel anyway.

I originally wrote this during NaNoWriMo in 2015.  It was going to be the first chapter in my NaNovel that year but I never took it any further, for a number of reasons.  I love the character and I hope to come back to him someday, either by continuing this idea, or in some other form.  Please to enjoy.


SALVATION, CHAPTER ONE

Arthur awoke.  He opened his eyes, the light shining into them through the open curtains.  He gasped as he remembered that the window was at the head of the bed, not the foot.  He awoke again, and opened his eyes.  It was dark.

He rolled over onto his chest.  He propped up on his elbows and looked out the window above him.  Yep.  Still dark.  The corners of his mouth turned up in a slight grin.  Now that, he thought, was a dream.  Hell of a dream.

He nudged Niecy, still sleeping beside him.  “Hey.”

She swatted feebly at him and mumbled random sleepy syllables.

He nudged her again.  “Hey.  Babe?”

One of her eyes opened just enough to show white in the moonlight.  More fuzzy mumblings.

“Wake up, Niecy, really.”

She groaned and sat up in bed.  She pushed the covers off and swung her legs over the side of the bed.  She stood and swayed uncertainly for a moment.  She straightened the nightshirt she was wearing and shuffled towards the door.  He started to talk, and she held up a hand.  Without turning to face him, she said, “If you are going to wake me up at—what time is it?”  When he didn’t speak, she gave a little “come on” gesture with her hand.

He grinned again.  Still propped on his elbows, he looked over at the screen.  “3:30,” he said.

She nodded.  “If you are going to wake me up at 3:30 a.m. in the morning, Arthur Edwards, you can damn well wait for me to pee before you tell me why.”  She walked out the door.

He watched her go, admiring the view.  Even now, after almost three years together, he loved to look at her.  He could hear her as she went about her business in the bathroom.  He rolled back over and sat up in the bed.  Before long she came back in.  He admired the view from this angle just as much as he had the other.

She saw him staring and wagged a finger at him.  “None of that,” she said.  “I know you didn’t get me up just so you could look at my boobs.”

“I might have,” he said, a pouty, defensive tone in his voice.

“Bull.  You’d let me sleep so you could get a better look.  You’ve done it before.  Tell me I’m wrong.”

He laughed.  “You know me so well.”

“It’s why you love me,” she said, and she climbed into bed and sat beside him.  “Now tell me why you really woke me up.”

He sighed.  “Do you believe in God?”

“God?  You mean…you mean God?  Like the Bible and angels and Jesus and all that?”  Arthur nodded.  “Of course not.  You don’t either.  No one does any more.  Everyone who believed in God left Earth a long time ago.”

“I had a dream about God,” Arthur said.  “There was music and light, and I think God was there.  There was so much more to it.  I’m not sure I can even describe it all.”

“You woke me up because you had a dream?”

“I can’t explain it, babe, I…” his voice trailed off.  “It felt so real.  Can I tell you about it?  Maybe that will help.”  She nodded.  He took a few second to collect his thoughts, then began.

“I was sitting on the porch watching a bird fly by overhead.  Suddenly the bird turned towards me and started getting bigger.  I thought it was falling out of the sky but then I realized it was a hoverbug and it was coming right down on top of me.

“It kept getting bigger and bigger, then it landed in the yard.  Right out back there in the clearing.  It was a twelve-seater.  The hatch opened up and this guy got out.  He was dressed in white and was playing some crazy notes on a trumpet.  I never heard anything like it.  He was spinning around and bopping all over the place, then three girls got out.  They were dressed in white, too.  They were singing.  No words, just sort of ‘ooo-ooo-ooo’ in this really weird harmony.  It was almost like it kept wanting to crash and burn, but it didn’t.  It blended with the trumpet and made a really cool sound.

“Then another guy got out.  He was wearing a grey suit that was really ragged, almost like it was falling apart.  He looked right at me and spoke, but I couldn’t understand.  It was like I was hearing a bunch of people talk at the same time and they were all speaking different languages.

“I shrugged.  ‘I don’t know what you’re saying,’ I said to him, except I didn’t say it in English.  I was speaking some language I had never heard before and suddenly, I could understand the other guy.

“‘You diggin’ it now?’ he asked me.

“‘I don’t have a shovel,’ I said.  I couldn’t help myself.  (Niecy punched him on the arm.  “You are so stupid,” she said.)

“‘You are so stupid,’ the guy told me (“Smart guy,” said Niecy).  ‘But I gotta know:  are you ready to see what’s next?’  All this time, the trumpet is still wailing and the ooo-ooo-ooo  girls are still doing their thing.

“So I decided to just go with it.  ‘Yeah, dog,’ I said.  ‘Lay it on me.  Bring it right down to Earth.’

“‘That’s what I thought you’d say,’ he said.  He pointed at the guy with the trumpet and suddenly the guy hit a note so high I thought the horn was going to break from the strain.  Two more guys came out of the hoverbug.  It might have only been one guy, but I think it was two, kinda blurred together.  It was hard to tell, because as they came out, a light shined into my eyes and I could hardly see.

“I caught a glimpse of a bright yellow suit and maybe a beard, but I’m not sure.  I held my hands up in front of my face and closed my eyes but it didn’t help.  That light just punched right through and hit me right in the brain.  Sounded like the light was singing too.

“The trumpet hit a note, and suddenly it sounded like a whole band was playing, and the girls were singing and there was suddenly a whole chorus of them, not just three.  And over it all I heard this booming voice saying, ‘CAN YOU DIG IT?’   I didn’t dare make another shovel joke.  I just nodded the best I could.

“The girls were singing ‘Hit the Road, Jack’ and the trumpet—band, whatever—was playing this crazy, funky, horn line, and through the light I could sort of see someone dancing.  A spin, a drop into a split, then back up.  It was too much.  I shouted.  I couldn’t hear myself.  I screamed.  The horns just got louder.  Then I heard laughter.  Rich, vibrant laughter.  ‘YOU’LL DO,’ the booming voice said.

“And the light got even brighter, and I woke up.  I opened my eyes, and I was looking out the window, but it was down there”—he pointed at the foot of the bed—“and it was like the light punched me in the eye.  I suddenly realized that the window was in the wrong place and it woke me up for real.”

“What a crazy dream,” said Niecy.  “And you think it was about God?”

“How well do you know the old Christian stuff?” asked Arthur.

“Not real well,” she said.  “I never bothered to learn any of it.”

“I learned a little bit,” he said.  “Enough to think that the guy with the trumpet was Gabriel, and the guy in the grey suit was the Holy Spirit, and he taught me some other language.  They say he could do that for people.”

“Who were the singers?”

“Just some angels, I guess.  And the guy in the yellow suit and the booming voice at the end was God himself, or Jesus, or both of them together.  I guess.”  He shrugged, then sat quietly for a few seconds, his eyes narrowed in concentration.

“Arthur,” said Niecy.  “You’re making me very, very nervous.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I was just thinking.  I think I know what the dream means.  I think I know what it’s saying.  They kept talking about ‘can you dig it’ and all that.  I think that means I’m supposed to build something.”

“You’re not a builder,” said Niecy.”

“I’m not supposed to build a building or anything like that,” said Arthur.  “Something else.  Something real.”

“Realer than a building?”

He nodded.

“What’s realer than a building?”

God,” said Arthur.  “I’m supposed to build God back up.  I’m supposed to dig God out of the hole we put him in all those years ago and rebuild him.”

Niecy closed her eyes and shook her head.  She reached up and rubbed her forehead, then stuck a finger in her ear.  She wiggled it around as if cleaning her ear out.  “Do what, now?”

“I have to bring God back,” said Arthur.

“You don’t believe in God,” she said.

“So?”

“How can you bring back a god that you don’t believe in?”

“I don’t have to believe,” said Arthur.  “I just have to tell people about him.  They’ll hear it and some will believe it and eventually someone else can take over for me and I can come back home.”

Niecy stuck a finger into the other ear and wiggled it again.  “What do you mean, ‘come back home’?  Just where are you going?”

“How can I bring God back if I stay here, Niecy?”  His eyes were shining, now.  He was starting to feel it.  “We’re in a little house in the middle of nowhere.  Our net connection doesn’t even work half the time.  How can I talk to people from here?  I have to go out there.”  His hand swept toward the window.

“What are you talking about?” she asked.  “Do you think you’re suddenly going to be some great religious guy and get on a rocket to Titan or something?”  She crossed her arms and frowned.  “Arthur, I am not going to Titan, do you hear me?  There is methane in the atmosphere there.  I will not wear a filter.”

He laughed.  God, she was cute when she got indignant.  “No, Niecy, we are not going to Titan.  Why go to Titan?  They already know about God there.  I have to travel around here on Earth and tell people about him.  I don’t know, Niecy.”  He paused again.

“I still don’t know what you’re trying to tell me, Arthur.”

“I don’t either, but I really do think I have to go do something.”

“Because of the dream you had.”

“Yes.”

“The dream about a hoverbug.”

“Yes.”

“And a guy with a trumpet.”

“Yes.”

“And another guy in a grey suit.”

“Yes.”

“And ooo-ooo-ooo girls.”

“Yes.”

“And bright lights and God dancing.”

“Yes.”

“You’re tired, Arthur.  It’s almost 4 a.m. and I think you’re tired and you woke up out of a wild dream and you’re so caught up in it that you’ll believe anything.”

“I need to—”

She held up a hand.  “You need to go back to sleep.  I need to go back to sleep.  When we wake up, you might not even remember this dream.  Don’t change our lives just yet.  Sleep on it.  We’ll talk about it more tomorrow.”

“You’re right,” he said.  He leaned across the bed and gave her a hug.  “I shouldn’t have woke you up.  I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” she said, and she gave him a gentle kiss.  “Just get some sleep.”

They lay down beside each other, and held each other’s hand as they always did in bed.  Niecy soon drifted back off to sleep.  Arthur never did.  He lay there thinking back over his dream, listening to the trumpet, the ooo-ooo-ooo girls, and the voice of God.

 

Chuck Wendig: Burn

This week’s Chuck Wendig challenge is Create Your Own Monster.  We had to come up with a monster and write about it for up to 1,500 words.  I remembered I had created a pretty cool monster last year in one of Chuck’s genre mash-ups.  So I decided to do a sequel to this story and see what had happened to my Southern Gothic/kaiju fire-breathing possum.  His name is Possumgeddon, and the story is called “Burn”.  Please to enjoy.


BURN

Possumgeddon had come out of the swamps of South Georgia in a swath of fire and destruction.  He had been born in a dark ritual that had gone horribly wrong.  Those that created him had paid the price for their mistakes.  He was nearly thirty feet tall and more than twice as long.  His eyes glowed orange, heralding the release of a sheet of flame and heat that spread out over nearly an acre at a time.

In the six weeks since he had been emerged he had rampaged across half of Georgia, laying waste to Waycross, Tifton, and Albany before turning south towards Florida.  Thomasville was in his sights as he stormed down Highway 19 and it was only a matter of time before he crossed the state line and moved into Tallahassee.  The football team at Florida State was good, but Clemson wasn’t nearly as strong an opponent as Possumgeddon would be.  The Tomahawk Chop isn’t going to do anybody any good against a thirty feet tall possum that breathes fire.

He had been pursued by both hunters and paparazzi.  The hunters, military and civilian alike, had been unable to bring him to a stop.  His skin repelled bullets, shells, even small rockets.  The paparazzi pursued him on foot or in cars as they were able, and from the air at all times.  His exploits featured on several live YouTube channels, Facebook pages, and Snapchat feeds.  He had more followers than the President, the Pope, and April the Giraffe combined.  It seemed destruction trumped childbirth.  @possumgeddon was the fastest growing account on Twitter and regaled the world with boasts and predictions of what he would do next.

He found himself in a pine wood.  He liked pine woods.  They burned much more readily than the cypress and oak back east.  He swung his tail, as big around as a railroad tie and twenty feet long, in an arc that swept several jagged pines off the ground like bowling pins.  His eyes glowed, his mouth opened, and flame sprayed.  Above him, three helicopters and an armada of drones recorded everything and sent images out into the world on his various accounts.

As long as they kept their distance, he tolerated their presence.  He knew they were there.  Every so often he would look up at them and roar.  He occasionally tried burning them down, but his flame was not as effective when the target was above him.  Yesterday he had tried again and the fire he breathed had rained back down onto him and had seemed to hurt him, or at least make him uncomfortable enough to wince.

That possible weakness had been noticed and soon Possumgeddon was accosted by a herd of tanks mounted with massive flame-throwers as their primary weapon.  They spewed flame of their own but he didn’t bat an eye.  Instead he had waded in among them and smashed them to pieces.  Apparently it was only his own flame that could hurt him.

He was a few miles north of Thomasville.  He had just emerged from the pine wood into a clearing, leaving the trees fired and burning behind him, when they surrounded him again.  There were tanks on the ground, and military drones in the air.  They harried him, the drones darting in and out, trying to draw breath from him, the tanks pounding away at his legs and flanks.  His reacting to one set of attackers prompted a redoubled effort from the other.

Finally, they got the response they wanted.  The drones were low enough that he was able to spray them and several of them caught fire.  They immediately turned and dove towards him, crashing into him.  The flames caught in his fur.  They smoldered, then a gust of wind blew them alight, and Possumgeddon began to burn, fired by his own breath.

He stopped, shocked, feeling pain like he had never felt before.  He bucked and kicked like a bronco and his tail whiplashed, sweeping tanks from around him in a widening arc.  Sparks and embers flew from him, and random discharges of flame went in all directions.  One of them caught a news chopper that had gotten too close and it exploded, the wash of flame being the last thing the pilot, the camera operator, and their viewers, saw.  Around the world, people tuned in, driving traffic to his feeds and views on his channels to all-time highs.

As he burned, another wave of drones flew in and deliberately crashed into him, plunging into the flames that were burning him then rolling across his body, drawing new streaks of torment all along his back and sides.

He stumbled through the clearing, roaring and burning, leaving trails of fire on the ground to mark his passage.  He crested a small hill, then lost his balance and fell, tumbling down the back side of the slope in a tangle of burning fur and paws and tail and noise.

There was a wide pond at the bottom of the hill.

His roll took him straight into the pond.  It was deep enough that as he rolled, he was completely submerged.  The water boiled and hissed and steam rose in sheets as the flames consuming Possumgeddon met the surface of the water.

The world held its breath.  The two remaining choppers and another fleet of drones hovered, cameras and microphones pointed at the pond.

Nothing happened.  Smoke continued to rise, drifting away in a gentle breeze.  Away to the north, the pine woods and grass in the clearing continued to burn.  After a few minutes, a few drones were directed down to the surface of the pond.  When there was no reaction from Possumgeddon, they collected a load of water, which they carried up and dumped on the fire on the other side of the hill.

Nothing stirred in the water.

After an hour of waiting, the county fire department responded.  Their efforts, combined with the drones continuing to take water from the pond, got the burning woodlands under control.  The land was scarred, but it was whole.  Thomasville breathed a sigh of relief and Tallahassee prepared for the Miami game on Saturday night like nothing had happened.

Still, nothing stirred in the water.

Eventually, after several days of no activity, the last of the drones turned their cameras off and left the little pond.  One by one the Possumgeddon Facebook pages and Snapchat feeds were discontinued, the YouTube channels shut down, and @possumgeddon became a spoof account showing purported Loch Ness Monster videos and trading Bigfoot and Chupacabra theories.

Three months later, in the dead of night, unseen by any human or machine, there was an orange glow from the bottom of the pond.  A rush of bubbles rose to the surface and burst in a cloudy curtain of steam.  Slowly, Possumgeddon emerged from the pond.  His fur was almost completely gone, but was growing back at different rates in a crazy patchwork on his heavily scarred back.  His breath was coming in ragged spurts.  His eyes narrowed then glowed again, his tail twitching fitfully.

He began to grow.