“Lasting Impression” came into my mind with the image of a strange creature fading into the woods. I thought it might be a good origin story for Sheriff Audrey Harper in “Sasqwhat?” and then the story rolled out from there (and in typical PANTSER fashion, the creature wasn’t what I first thought it was, either.).
Here’s the Blurb
Cryptozoology was not where she planned to take her life, but a sighting on a college field trip in the Ozarks sends Audrey’s future plans in a whole new direction. If only she knew what she really saw…
“Lasting Impression” is a speculative fiction short story.
And Here’s This Week’s Excerpt
Audrey knew what she wanted out of that week in the Central Missouri Ozarks – she thought the change of scenery might help her think of a unique topic for her eventual thesis. If nothing else, she could hone her observation skills as she studied the local wildlife. She had no interest in participating in that other kind of wild life that her peers were busily engaged in. As cute as she thought Roger was (well, especially as cute as he was), she was glad that they’d segregated the guys and girls in their own cabins. By the third night she found that didn’t mean much to Beth and Julie and their nighttime visitors’ raging hormones, and it wasn’t long after dark before the cabin became noisily coed, and not much of a place for sleeping.
She lay there and tried to ignore what was going on in the next bed, but even if the springs hadn’t been so loud, that wasn’t happening. She thought about getting Professor Daugherty to put a stop to it, but she was barely considered one of the gang as it was. If she did trudge over to the faculty cabin to tattle, she would lose what status she had with the others. Then it occurred to her that Roger might join the party. Audrey had no idea what she would do if that happened, but whichever way it went, it would be more embarrassing than she wanted to deal with. She rolled off the bed and dragged her sleeping bag out into the night.
It was a cool night, with wisps of clouds trailing across the half-moon. She found a fairly flat spot a little ways from the cabins, slightly elevated so the bed of pine-needles and leaves was dryer. She crawled into her bag. She was kept awake at first by the hardness of the ground and the ruckus from her classmates, but they eventually quieted down. She saw a couple of the guys leave the girls’ cabin for their own, but she didn’t trust them to stay away, so she remained outside, watching clouds glide across moon until exhaustion took over.
She woke to more creaks and moans from the cabin – she had been right not to trust that the orgy was over. She was about to close her eyes and ignore what they were doing when the door to the boys’ cabin opened, and she saw Roger step out onto the landing. He took a couple of steps toward the girls’ cabin, then stopped. She could see his head moving back and forth like he was arguing with himself, but whatever he was saying came to her as a barely audible whisper, and she thought she heard her name. Finally, he shook his head and went back inside.
Right then, part of her wished that she hadn’t left the cabin, and that she had been there and that Roger had made a different decision. She felt suddenly hot, despite the night chill. Oh, what was she thinking – that was craziness. But maybe not – maybe she could have…
She heard a twig snap somewhere behind her, and her hot flush was replaced by a chill up her spine. It could have been some small animal – maybe the raccoons they had seen scrounging around the trash cans when they first arrived, but they had been warned that sometimes mountain cats would come down this way. She felt even more foolish now for being out there alone. What had that Ranger Thomas said to do – bunch together so you look like one large animal? But it was just her – maybe she could use the sleeping bag to seem bigger, like a bear or something.
She tensed, ready to jump up if she needed to, and rolled her head slowly toward the woods. A pair of eyes glowed a bright blue in the shadow of the trees, looking toward the cabin, and then it stepped out into the moonlight – a tall, lanky, inhuman-looking scarecrow, with blue, rubbery looking skin. Its arms were long and spindly – they reached almost to the ground, and there were fingers, but they fluttered at the ends more like tentacles. It had a lipless mouth, but there was no nose below those searching eyes.
She froze, hoping it wouldn’t notice her, but it turned its head her way, and then it – changed. The body filled out a little so it wasn’t so spindly, and the eyes lost their glow, and she thought her eyes must have been playing tricks on her, because now it was obviously Roger. He smiled that smile he had, and her heart fluttered like a silly teenager. Then he stretched his arms over his head in an exaggerated yawn and tromped off into the woods without a word.
What did Audrey just see? How will she respond to this rationally? Or can she?
“Lasting Impression” is a speculative fiction short story, due for release on January 21st. It’s available now as a FREE Smashword’s Presale (that means that you can read it FOR FREE, BEFORE its release) – here’s the link:
“Lasting Impression” is also available as a preorder until its January 21st release day at several online retailers, including:
Honest ratings and reviews are, as always, appreciated. Hope you enjoy it!
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William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
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