Excerpts

Fractured Fragment Friday: Mysterious Cryptid Leaves Varying But “Lasting Impression”

Today is the release day for “Lasting Impression.”

The story 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

The job at Grayson’s Veterinary Clinic had only been intended as a way to fund her stay while she tried to track down the shapeshifter. She had hoped to gain some amount of useful skill to help her in her studies, but she was sorely disappointed, although nail clipping and bathing could be useful skills if she didn’t straighten out the mess she was making of her academics. The one-time assist she had given Dr. Grayson with a problematic foaling at the Jackson’s had been a rare and uplifting moment, but the couple of  vaccination runs she’d made to local farms and the rest of her chores were just that  – chores. Not what she had ever envisioned as her life’s work, especially now that she had a purpose.LastinImpressionCover

The internship paid next to nothing, but she had a room to sleep in at the clinic so she didn’t have to worry about how to pay for that. She had planned to spend some time each night in the park watching for the creature to reappear, but she wasn’t free to stake it out just anytime she felt like it; the room came with its own requirement that she be there overnight any animals they had to keep overnight.

Audrey had thought that setting up by where she had first seen the thing would be her best bet, but by early July she had made several unsuccessful forays hiding out by the cabins on her free nights. She had borrowed a Sony Handycam from the department, along with a night vision lens, and talked Roger into rigging it with a motion detector and timer. He seemed more than happy to help, and she wondered if he was building up to something, but he was also curious about what she was up to; Audrey didn’t dare tell him the real reason why she needed the camera, so she had hightailed it out of there with a flimsy excuse about finals before anything happened.

She set the camcorder to surveil the woods on nights when she couldn’t be there, either because she had patients to monitor, or if she just needed to sleep. There had been little to show for her efforts so far, unless she wanted to turn in those raccoons for raiding the tenants’ trash.

The summer was starting to look like a waste. After the fourth of July celebrations she was wondering if she could salvage what was left of it as she assisted Dr. Grayson while he cleaned up the peppered flesh on Bowser’s haunches, where the old hound had made the mistake of turning its back on the Jenson twins and their fireworks.

“Those kids are nothing but trouble. They need a good switching, don’t they boy?” old Matt Singleton said as he smoothed Bowser’s ear with a gnarled hand.

Bowser whined in agreement.

“Well, you shouldn’t have had him up on the ridge. You know how the Jensons like to hang around up there and harass people,” Dr. Grayson said.

“I had a right to be there,” Mr. Singleton said.

“There’s no such thing as ghosts, Matt,” Dr. Grayson said.

“Just because you say so doesn’t mean it’s so. Plenty of others have seen them,” Mr. Singleton said. 

“You didn’t see Mary, though, did you?” Dr. Grayson asked.

“No, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t, neither. Are we done here?” Mr. Singleton asked.

“Yes, we’re done,” Dr. Grayson said.

Audrey helped Grayson lower Bowser from the table to the floor.

“Let’s get out of here, boy,” Mr. Singleton said.

He left the exam room, with Bowser padding along behind him. Dr. Grayson started shelving unused supplies while Audrey wiped down the table.

“What’s this about ghosts?” she asked.

“Matt’s wife died in the spring, so he goes up to Chandler’s Ridge looking for her,” Grayson said.

“”Why would he think she’s there?”

“Just some local foolishness. Ginnie Walker swore that she saw her late husband Tom up on Chandler’s Ridge about six years ago, and people have been going up there ever since when they’ve had a death.”

“And they see the people they knew?” she asked.

“That’s what they think. Most are disappointed, but some say they saw their loved ones materialize as solid as they were in life. I think they’re just seeing shadows in wisps of fog, and their grief fleshes them out,” he said.

“Do they only see who they’re expecting to?” she asked.

“If they see anything, it’s always someone they’re thinking about,” he said.

“Do the ghosts ever talk to them?” she asked.

“Well look at you – been here a month and you’re already fitting in. They’ll make you a local yet,” he smiled. “You do understand there are no ghosts?”

“Yes, of course,” she said. “I’m just curious.”

She knew there was no such thing as ghosts, but that wasn’t the only thing that could take on someone’s appearance.

“Some say they’ve tried to speak with the spirits, but no one has ever claimed that they talked back,” he said. “You can finish cleaning up in here – I need to run by the Jackson’s before I head home.”

Audrey remembered how her shapeshifter had imitated Roger, but it hadn’t talked, either. Maybe it couldn’t do voices, or at least not good enough to pass for the real person. But it was still managing to look like the deceased. She had thought it had seen Roger and imitated him, but what if it had read her mind while she was thinking about him?

 

Shapeshifter? Ghost? What is it that Audrey is really hunting?

“Lasting Impression” is a speculative fiction short story, It’s available now at several online retailers, including: 

Honest ratings and reviews are, as always, appreciated. Hope you enjoy it!

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Reaching Out

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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