Prairie Doctor

In the middle of the field stood a covered wagon, its canvas stained and yellow. As raindrops fell, a cloaked man crossed the prairie, carrying one glass jar in each hand. He pulled back the cover and hoisted himself up into the wagon. A woman lay on some blankets to one side. On the other was a long, makeshift table with various glass jars and bottles, some of them with steam rising. Next to them were small wicker cages- one containing a large frog and another housing an assortment of large black beetles. The man pulled back his cloak, revealing sunken cheeks and intense, staring eyes. He knelt beside the table and set down the jars, making notations in a notebook. The woman rose up slightly from the blankets. “You don’t have much time, Emereck,” she said. “I know Sara,” he replied. “But watch this.”

He poured some orange liquid from one of the jars into a large bucket. He stirred it with a wooden ladle as purple steam began to rise. Then he ladled some of the steaming concoction through the wicker bars onto the back of the frog. It twitched and squirmed and two large lumps appeared on its back. Emereck opened the little cage door and the frog shuffled out, the bumps increasing in size. Soon the bumps appeared to be growing fur. The more they grew, however, the more clear it became that it wasn’t fur but rather feathers. Soon, as the frog squirmed and croaked, the lumps grew into two white-feathered wings. As soon as they were complete the frog took off, flying in circles around the inside of the covered wagon, bumping into the canvas and the arched wooden supports.

Emereck opened the front flap and the frog flew out into the light rain. Sara joined him, watching the frog soar over the prairie and disappear into the trees. She turned to Emmereck, her eyes sparkling. He grabbed her face and they kissed.

Soon Sara knelt on the ground and hunched over, revealing her bare back. Emereck brought the bucket to her side and ladled the steaming liquid over her bare back. “Aahhh!” she said, squirming. “It burns!” But soon there were two lumps growing out of her back too. She tried to reach back and feel them. When she did she smiled and gave a nervous laugh. Emereck splashed more of the liquid onto her back and now she thrashed around, knocking jars and bottles crashing to the wooden floor. Emereck tried to grab her but she threw him aside. She let out a terrible, ear-piercing scream.

Emereck struggled to his feet and faced Sara, whose eyes were changing, her pupils narrowing like a cat’s. Huge wings rose up from her back but they weren’t soft, feathery wings like the ones the frog had grown. They were big, black bat-wings, veined and hairless. Emereck screamed and scrambled backwards but Sara jumped on him and tore his neck open with her teeth.

Leaving him choking and gurgling, she took off out of the covered wagon, huge bat-wings carrying her high above the field as the sky darkened and thunder rumbled.

Inside the covered wagon, the black beetles crawled out of their broken cage over to where Emereck lay, stopping to drink his blood as it flowed from his broken neck. “Sara,” he managed to whisper, his voice weak. “Come back…”

Copyright © 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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