Featured Fiction
// Scott Moraes

The vomit projected hot and thick. Greg stood behind her looking everywhere at the same time; dodging unseen aerial attackers while trying to hold Victoria’s hair away from her face. He stumbled; she stumbled; and they both fell. She screamed as she floundered in vomit trying to regain her feet. Looking up the stars became a meteor shower and cacti loomed like predators. She picked herself up, her head bouncing in figure eights. Seeing Greg distorted, she backed from him into a looming cactus and screamed as it grabbed at her, stabbing her. It roared and reached and she screamed again. Knife, she remembered, her knife. And then it was in her hand; shiny, little, blurred, and streaking as it swam before her eyes and then she was the attacker.

Greg watched stunned as she eviscerated the cacti, oblivious of the inch long needles that tore at her clothes and flesh. He was fucked. This was by far the strongest mesc he had ever done. He was struggling for control and beginning to get scared for Vickie. She was a first-timer. The fire, must rekindle the fire. Light always helped.

He began collecting kindling. Every twisted, stunted piece of wood looked like a severed zombie limb crawling through the dirt. He gathered what he could and piled it on the coals of the fire. He gathered dry needles and leaves as the world swam in and out of focus; the cacti seemed to lean in as if they wanted to kiss him, stab him, hurt him … the needles caught quickly once he was able to steady the lighter and draw forth flame.

Vikki had torn apart two cacti but she was tiring; the light from the fire drew her. She was bleeding from countless cuts and her clothes were tattered. She frightened Greg and he backed out of the light and watched as she crept closer to the fire.

Victoria felt empowered; she had vanquished two attackers and now this, this fire was her prize; its warmth so good, its flickering beauty hypnotic. She felt at peace as she stared into its incandescent depth.

Gecko-Man crept slowly between the cacti. Using his nose and mouth and tongue he scavenged through mummified cacti remains and dry needles, rooting larva and beetles from their nighttime lairs. Every time something scurried or slugged, he slurped and gnawed and crunched contentedly. And then he saw the light: a burning that caused an itch in the back of his skull. He twitched but couldn’t take his eyes from it. He slowly moved towards it; only the light existed. It grew stronger and brighter as he edged his way around cacti and outcropping rocks.

As he approached, instinct kicked in and he skirted wide. He moved circularly, never taking his eyes from the beautiful flickering light. His feet slipped and he slid before catching himself, but still his weight pulled at him. He had reached the edge of the canyon wall and he was slipping; he pulled and clawed, sending detritus tumbling to the rocks below, but managed to regain his footing.

Greg heard the sound but it didn’t register; he was too lost in his own mind as he stared into the flames from outside the radius of light. Victoria, however, jumped instantly to her feet and turned to face it. She moved quickly and with purpose into the darkness beyond the fire’s reach. Her attackers had returned. She screamed, and threw herself at it, brandishing the knife once more.

Greg heard the scream and watched as Victoria walked into the shadows after it. He found her tumbling in the dirt with another person; limbs writhed, and Vikki screamed in rage. Greg tried to separate them, grabbing at arms and legs; something bit him, then knocked him to the ground. They were on top of him, thrashing; he was trapped, one arm pinned beneath him. Panic settled deeply and he screamed; the two thrashing bodies on top of him paused.

Taking advantage of their stillness he thrust his pelvis up and twisted, freeing his arm. He heaved, pushing out with both hands, and then they were gone. The world went incredibly silent for a moment. A muffled thud sounded from below, but he was already wandering off towards a shadow that had drawn his attention, once more lost in the depth of mescaline. A coyote howled nearby and off in the distance a siren began to whine.

//Scott Moraes, writer
//Graphics by Caitlyn Neufeld

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