Welcome to what will hopefully be the first instalment in a new serial. A Small Town is a rural-themed Urban Fantasy focusing on the goings-on in a small town along the Queensland coast. I won’t say too much, but suffice it to say that humans aren’t alone.
As always, I welcome the feedback. However, keep in mind that this is effectively a first draft hence it may not be as refined as a final draft. There are a few things that I will find useful as far as feedback is concerned:
- What do you like or dislike about the characters? e.g. physical description
- Did the scenes play out in a logic and fluid manner?
- Were the descriptions of scene and setting clearly described?
- Did any of the sections seem especially difficult to comprehend? Why?
Thomas Dunham had lived with his single mother Maia in Brisbane for as long as he could remember. However, that time had come to an end when her health had declined months before. The two of them were now moving eleven hours up the coast to live with his Aunt Peggy and her husband, Allan. Peggy was a nice lady, to be sure, but he was leaving behind childhood friends in the hopes of helping his mother get better. It was the biggest change in all of his seventeen years.
His mother sat in the driver’s seat humming a song that he was unfamiliar with. In spite of her health, his mother had remained in good spirits. The problem was that her over-abundant enthusiasm still led to her overdoing things. She was never one to sit still for any length of time, but he hoped that the move would encourage her to slow down at least a little bit.
The young man stared out of their cornflower blue Camry, miles upon miles of sugarcane now a blur of green and light yellow as they drove past. It had been like this for much of the trip, the cane-crushing season drawing ever closer. He’d never lived in a farming area before but found himself mildly curious about what growing a crop such as sugar cane entailed.
He continued staring out at the terrain, taking in the dozen or so cotton-ball clouds covering the peaks of nearby mountains. He smiled slightly, enjoying the stillness of it all. There wasn’t the chaos of hundreds of vehicles speeding about, no road rage or blaring speaker systems – just the clouds and the mountains and the fields of cane.
On occasion, the cane fields below were broken up by paddocks of horses or cattle. He’d been told by his aunt that some of the people in the area raised beef cattle. He thought of the doe-eyed creatures as he saw them munching away at tufts of grass, oblivious to their fates as hamburgers or steak dinners.
In stark contrast, the horses were for recreation. He wasn’t even remotely inclined to ride a horse. It wasn’t that he was scared of the beasts, more the awareness that he preferred to stay inside playing a first-person shooter or reading a book on hardware. He considered the possibility of that changing during his time in their new town, but he thought it unlikely.
His wandering mind was brought to attention by the car slowing down. He looked to the front to see a police officer waving cars down while the local fire brigade went to work cutting through the driver’s side of a heavily smashed black sedan ten meters away. The vehicle was nearly unrecognisable, but the taillights suggested a Skyline GTR. The slightly mangled number plate read: DEV-666.
“What an odd number plate…” His mother said. “I bet the custom plates set the owner back a bit. Some people have money to burn, I suppose.”
Thomas turned to face his mother, “What is odder is that I don’t see another vehicle. How the hell did it get that banged up?”
His mother shrugged, “Don’t know… and likely won’t know either…” She rolled down her window and stuck her head out to try to take in more of what was going on. “I can make out a paramedic taking care of somebody just past the fire truck,” she offered before putting her head back inside of the vehicle.
He took off his seatbelt and leant over to his mother’s side. Sure enough, he could see a tall man in sky-blue overalls tending to an unseen figure on a stretcher. He noticed another police officer wandering about as well. The hand gestures suggested that she was in charge of the scene. Curiosity sated, Thomas sat back in his seat and replaced his belt.
“So, how far are we from the turn-off?” he asked, changing the subject.
She touched her chin thoughtfully with slender, pale fingers, “I am guessing.. maybe half an hour. I suppose that I might as well find out given that we’ll likely be here for a while.”
She grabbed her phone from the middle console and brought up a navigation app. While she amused herself with the task at hand, Thomas drummed his fingers upon the dash.
Just then, he caught a reflection of something in the glass. Something very large had exited the cane field nearby and was walking up to their car. He turned to look.
The dog had coarse brown and white fur and stood nearly four foot at the shoulder. It was a stocky creature and might have been intimidating had it not been for the playful way in which it bounded up to his window. It reached his door and sat down. Then it preceded to stare at him questioningly.
“This is weird…” Thomas thought as he considered the odd canine directly outside of his car door. “The car crash was weird enough, but this dog is even weirder.”
“Mu-mum, there is a dog at my window, staring at me.”
His mother turned to see the dog looking at them both from the other side of the passenger side window. It moved its head back and forth, letting out odd sounds in order to communicate. Maia Dunham was in momentary shock, before urgency set in.
“Let him in the back seat!” she told her son.
“What?” Thomas asked in confusion at the odd request.
“Just let him in the back. I’ll explain everything later.”
Thomas was perplexed, but he undid his seat belt and opened his door. The dog took a few steps back and followed Thomas as the young man opened the back passenger door. It stood outside for a moment before Thomas pointed to the open doorway. It moved its head up and down, barked and then jumped into the car.
The dog sat on the passenger seat and looked at him. Then it took the seat belt in its mouth and attempted to secure itself. Thomas decided to chance being bitten by the strange animal by assisting it with the task at hand. Once the seat belt was latched, the dog made a few more noises that Thomas interpreted to be a thank-you.
Moments later, both passenger doors were closed and Thomas was once again in his seat. He watched the dog through his rear-view mirror. It looked back innocently. It may not be dangerous, but Thomas was sure that it wasn’t normal either.
Traffic would resume flow ten minutes later, but it felt like an eternity for Thomas. He had expected his mother to give some sort of explanation during that time, but none was forthcoming. One thing was sure – she knew something about the dog and felt the need to protect it.
As the Camry disappeared into the distance, the figure of a lanky white-haired man in jeans and a form-hugging tank shirt strode out of the cane field nearby with a rifle slung over his shoulder. None of the emergency workers noticed as he walked near the wreckage nor did they acknowledge him when he walked past the fire truck towards the newly retrieved second injured man. The man had a large wound in his chest that was being stabilised by the paramedic ahead of a trip to a hospital more than an hour away.
The gaunt figure stopped near the semi-conscious man and bent down. The man’s eyes widened as the newcomer smiled wickedly. The paramedic reacted to the man’s distress but was promptly butted in the side of the head with the rifle. He crumpled to the ground.
“Sorry, physician. This one is mine!”
The newcomer placed a hand over the patient’s mouth and nose, the rest of the emergency services oblivious to the blue lights pouring forth from the man’s body. Just as the paramedic regained consciousness, the patient stopped seizing, his life released into the cosmos. Death took his hand away as the spirit was finally drawn down into the abyss. Such was a fitting end for a man that had willingly caused so much pain.
As for the other patient currently lying on a stretcher in the back of the ambulance, the gaunt man would not take his life this day. The tall man looked over at the man and nodded as he saw the low level of taint. He could see several thin tendrils of black and green surrounding the man’s heart, enough to suggest the occasional lie and some drug use. The gaunt man hoped that Jack Dobson would put his life on track before the universe called for the hand of death to be placed upon the man.
Only the strange man named Jaspar White and the fool dog named Egg were aware of what had transpired the night before. The Death understood the misunderstanding. The Moon-dog was still new to his gifts and had not seen the darkness within Taylor Bradley’s soul when Jaspar had come for him. Egg had not seen the murder or the rapes. He had not seen the many lives that were destroyed as a result of this man’s dark intent. The man was a predator, evil to the core.
The Death expected many more misunderstandings before Egg finally understood how to use his powers. He had no intention of killing the Dog, but he would certainly incapacitate him if the fool got in the way of future missions. As for the other presences that he had sensed, Jaspar would wait to see what part they would play in the troubles that had recently come to the region. Only time would tell.
With that thought, Jaspar White the Death moved on past the emergency responders and merged with the cane fields. The sleeping mortals were never aware of his presence bar the single paramedic. For that soul, it would seem like a dream. Death’s secret was safe for now.