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·1006 words·5 mins
Short Story Deadlines For Writers

“What is thiiisss?”

Max, not taking his attention from the stove, yelled back, “No idea. I found it nosing around the trash cans a few days ago. It seemed friendly enough, so I brought it inside, and finally found a use for that empty aquarium tank.”

“Did you give it a name?”

“I call him Jewel, since that’s what that purple patch on the top of his head looks like. Hey, food’s ready, if you are.”

Max portioned out the food onto plates. Catherine, entering the kitchen, selected a wine bottle, and uncorked it.

“What do you think it is? It looks absolutely alien,” Catherine said, as she filled two glasses.

“I’m going to give Bob a call here in the next day or so. He’s some big shot now in the Zoology department at the University.”

“Bob the Slob?” Catherine said with a laugh as she returned the cork to the wine bottle.

Max chuckled, and said, “Yeah, I can only imagine what state the specimen labs must be in over there. I’m pretty sure Rick and Dan thought it was well worth losing their deposit instead of trying to clean up his room after he left.”

“No doubt!”

After their meal, the two retired to the living room. Turning on the television, they decided on a show, and settled in. After about an hour Max noticed a faint glow from the corner of his eye. Catherine had also noticed.

“Whoa!” she yelled as she leapt from the couch, and headed for the aquarium.

Jewel seemed to be sleeping on a small bed of bark chips. In a back corner of the tank there was a small pile of oval blue rocks that glowed with a faint neon like luminescence. Catherine reached in to get one, but Max stopped her, grabbing her arm.

“Hey!” Catherine blurted, giving Max a dirty look.

“You really want to touch those? What if they’re … poisonous or something,” Max said, fumbling around for an explanation that sounded persuasive, and failing.

Catherine blew a raspberry with her lips, and shrugged off Max’s hold on her arm. Reaching into the aquarium, she gingerly plucked one of the blue stones from the top of the pile.

She rolled the small stone from one hand to the other. “It’s heavier than I thought it’d be. It really does feel like a rock.”

Holding it up, she gently tapped on the glowing surface with a red painted nail.

“Careful!” Max whispered.

A sound like running a straight comb across the corner of a table grabbed their attention. Jewel was standing, staring at Catherine. The creature’s mouth was producing the odd sound as it fluttered.

“You better put that back. I’ll call Bob in the morning,” Max said.

“I don’t know, Jewel seems a little upset. Here, let’s just put this out of sight,” Catherine said as she wrapped her hand around the rock, and put it behind her back.

Jewel seemed to calm down, looked around, and started to make chirping noises.

“Oh, I think he’s hungry!” Max said, and headed to the kitchen. He returned with a small plastic container. Opening it, he shook out a few dozen meal worms into the aquarium. Jewel chirped, and started devouring them with gusto.

“You sure that’s a he?” Catherine said.

“What? Oh, I don’t know … I mean, sure?” Max replied.

Catherine laughed, and said, “Okay, Einstein! Say hi to Bob for me. I can’t wait to hear what he does when he sees this thing. I have an early day tomorrow, so I better get going.” Catherine gave Max a gentle kiss, and left.

Max watched the little creature as he listened to Catherine’s car leave the driveway, and head down the road. Jewel finished eating the meal worms, and curled back up on the little bed of bark chips. Max returned the plastic tub to the fridge, and pulled open the drawer at the bottom of the stove. Removing an aluminum baking pan, he returned to the living room, and sat it on top of the aquarium. Satisfied, he headed upstairs, and to bed.

Max awoke to the sound of a crash. Grabbing his phone, he saw it was a little after 2am. Sliding out of bed, he fetched a baseball bat from his closet, and started down the stairs.

The whole of the downstairs was bathed in a blue light. As he peeked into the room he saw the cause of the crash. The aluminum pan was lying on the floor. The aquarium was swarming with small glowing creatures. There were hundreds of them pouring over the sides, and onto the floor. With a start, he felt a sharp pain in his toe, and looked down to see a swarm of the creatures engulf his foot.

With a scream, he raced up the stairs, and into the bathroom. Spinning the spigot in the tub, he swatted and rubbed the creatures off his foot, which was now burning with intense pain, and starting to swell.

That’s when he remembered that Catherine had left with one of the rocks. Limping to the bedroom, he picked up his phone, and yelled, “Hey Siri, call Catherine!”

“Calling Catherine…” replied a calm voice.

“Pick up, pick up, pick up,” Max muttered, as he tried to ignore the burning pain that was now climbing up his calf.

After a few moments Catherine’s voice growled from the speaker, “Dude, it is TWO in the morning!”

“Catherine, get rid of the rock. It’s …”

“What? Yeah, I got it, it’s right … wait, where’d it go?”

Max heard her voice fade as she put her phone down.

“Catherine! Get out of there!”

The pain was now to his thigh, and he could feel a line of itching crawling up his back.

Her voice faint, he heard Catherine say, “What in the world? They’re everywhere! Oh my …”

A sharp scream blasted from the phone speaker as Max saw the screen go dark, covered by a swarm of glowing hungry creatures.