Sunday, April 29, 2012

Issue Eighteen, Volume Three

From the Desk of the an Editor
Hello and welcome everyone to Issue Eighteen, Volume Three of Larks Fiction Magazine! In this issue we are presenting to rising stars of the fiction world with their magical, fantastical, and whimsical views of life.
In news the cover image and formatting for the March Edition of the electronic Larks is nearly ready. It was going to be finished today but Daniel was under the weather and unable to finish it. It will be done this week however!
April’s electronic edition will be out next weekend. Look for it soon in our Smashwords store!
Jessica Rowse
LFM Editor

The Giant-Killer’s Wife Wants a Real Man in Bed
By Elizabeth J. Kepsel

I looked forward to having a troll-slayer, a giant-killer, a capturer-of-unicorns and a tamer of wild boars as my husband. He didn’t seem much at first – short, balding, and, worst of all, boring – but I had faith he’d entertain me in one way. From the moment I heard of his reputation, I prepared to become a prize he would take by the hand – and to bed.

But what’s the first thing he does as my royal lord? He falls asleep on our wedding night, just passes out before I can get something more from him than the chaste kiss he planted on my cheek after the wedding ceremony. I was eager enough to forgo common decency and climb over to his side of the bed when he started snoring, loud enough to rattle my eardrums. I chalked it up to so much wine and excitement; though disappointed, I was willing to wait. He arose at dawn the next morning like a vulgar common man. I knew little of warriors – perhaps that was part of their training, to rise with monks and bakers.

Come evening I donned a lacy gown that displayed every curve. I swapped his wine for juice during dinner, played coy and doting and pretended to listen to his mundane tales. I even fed him bits of aphrodisiac that some of my ladies recommended, yet he still turned from me after an innocent peck on the cheek.

“Darling,” I cooed, squinting in the darkness across the expanse of our marriage bed.

He rolled, twisting the sheets with his thorny feet. “Mmm?”

I whispered my invitation, and he grunted. “V’ry well, lass,” he said, more yielding than excited. I expected passion, lust, and rapture, and was met with regret at having ever asked. He crawled over, climbed on top of me, and soon was done, turning away and going to sleep. I lay in the same position he left me in for hours, wondering if all wives faced such disappointment. In the early hours before dawn, when my loathing seemed greatest, I heard it – my oafish husband, muttering in his sleep.

“Fetch me that leather, boy,” he said. “I need to make those shoes by this afternoon.” He rolled over, muttering under his breath about buckles and polish.

I could barely stand the shame; my husband was no warrior. I was in bed with a cobbler.

The next morning I approached my father, waiting until my husband rode off to hunt, an idiotic belt proclaiming the noble deeds for which he was chosen as my husband. “Killed seven with one blow,” it boasted. He didn’t last seven seconds the night before.

“Father,” I said, approaching his throne. He smiled at me and, waving away one of his advisors, asked how I was. “I fear that my husband is not what he seems.” I told him what I’d heard the previous night, though I left out my misplaced hopes for desire.

We planned how to get rid of my pathetic husband; maybe then, I thought, Father could find a real man to warm my bed. That evening, we arranged guards to wait outside my chambers, and when my husband – the word made me feel ill – began speaking in his sleep, they would arrest him. I would not be married to a cobbler for long.

My husband ignored me once more that night, and I lay awake, ears anticipating every grunt and groan that sounded from the other side of the bed. “Fetch me that leather, boy,” he finally said, louder than the previous night. Every syllable rang out, more stilted than his normal voice. “I need to make those shoes by this afternoon, or I shall remove your own feet for your impetuousness! Do not doubt a man who has killed seven with one blow!” His voice grew with each word, until he finished with a mighty roar. Footsteps swiftly receded from outside the door; a servant must have tipped my husband off to the fear the guards held of him. He soon was snoring, safe from harm.

The next morning father consoled me, saying that it was better to have wed a clever cobbler than a knight who knew his way under the covers. No one dares heed my disagreement.

The End

About the Author;
Elizabeth J. Kepsel graduated from Northern Michigan University in the Spring of 2012 with her Master's degree in writing. Kepsel, a native of Northern Lower Michigan, spends much of her time writing flash fiction, usually in the form of retold fairy tales.

Full Moon Gala
By Lachlan David

It was only Gabe’s second week on the job as a part-time security guard, and he was already running late. He grabbed his hand radio and pulled on his jacket while he raced toward the front door. He didn’t even take the time to acknowledge his wife, Valerie, who was sitting in the living room watching some late-night talk show.
“I don’t even get a kiss good-bye?”  she said when she noticed he was leaving.
“Yeah, but hurry. I’m supposed to be there in fifteen minutes. I don’t want Larry waiting on me.”
Valerie caught up with him just as he opened the door and gave him a quick kiss. “I wish you didn’t have to work two jobs,” she said as she followed him out to the porch in a pair of sweats and an old t-shirt.
“I’ll be fine. It’s just temporary, you know, until we some of these bills paid off.”
“Yeah, I know. But by the time you get home from the plant then take off for work again, I feel like I never see you anymore.”
Gabe looked at his watch. “Listen, can we talk about this when I get home? Seriously, I’m going to be late.”
Valerie didn’t even answer him. She shook her head, went back in the house and closed the door. Gabe considered whether he should go back and apologize, but he really didn’t have time. Instead, he got in the car and left for work.
He only had a minute to spare when he arrived at his assigned patrol, the Desert Fashion Hub. It was a collection of small boutiques and eateries surrounding an open air plaza landscaped and decorated with a Southwestern flavor. Paths ran like wheel spokes from the outer perimeter to a wood-slatted patio in the center. The middle of the patio was open to the sky, and except for where the palo verde trees in nearby planters hung over the edge, the moonlight shone down on a brick mosaic in the shape of a playful kokopelli on the ground. That was where he found his partner, Larry, waiting for him. Gabe noticed his short, round silhouette when he entered the mall. Then his silver mustache, comb-over hair and twinkling, gray eyes came into focus as he approached him.
“Eight o’clock, right on the button. Cutting it kind of close, there, aren’t you?” Larry said as they met under the patio.
“Yeah, sorry. I had to put in a little overtime at the plant today, so I was running late.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that.” Larry gave him a slap on the shoulder. “I was just afraid maybe you’d talked to some of the guys at the main office and decided not to come back.”
“I’ll admit, this isn’t the most exciting job I’ve ever had. But I think I can handle more than a week or two of it. Maybe even three or four,” he laughed.
Larry smiled, exposing a set of crooked, tobacco-stained teeth. “You sound like me when I first started this assignment. But that was seven years ago.”
“Seven years? Seriously? They don’t move you around once in a while?”
“They’ve offered a few times. But the truth is, this is the most interesting assignment they’ve got. And right here,” Larry pointed down at the kokopelli mosaic under their feet, “is the best place in the whole mall.”
Gabe looked around at the patio overhead and the planters that framed the outside of it. The trees and flowers were just beginning to bloom, and on that particular night, while the gibbous moon was shining overhead, it created a somewhat serene setting. “Yeah, this isn’t bad,” he admitted. “If I could just sit here and watch the stars or something, it might be kind of nice.”
Larry laughed. “Oh, the others haven’t told you the stories yet, have they?”
“I guess not. What stories?”
Larry leaned in close as though someone in that deserted mall might overhear them. “This place is haunted. I’ve seen it myself.”
“That’s right. That’s why they can’t keep any security guards on this assignment. Except me, anyway.”
Gabe studied the old man for a moment. He wanted to believe Larry was just giving the new guy a hard time, but the look in his eyes was dead serious. If this was a joke, Larry was doing an excellent job of pulling it off. “That’s nothing unusual,” he said. “There’s always a lot of turnover with security guards.”
“Yeah, but not as much as here. About once a month, when the moon gets full, strange things happen. This spot under the patio builds up some kind of energy, almost like it’s alive. Then things start moving around. At first, you just catch a little something out of the corner of your eye. You think it might be a shadow or something. But then it happens again and again until you find yourself spinning in circles trying to catch whatever it is that’s running around here. But you never do.
“Yep, it’s happened to all of us here. Scared the bejeezus out of me when I first started, but I was so curious about it, I stayed to try and figure out what it was. All the other folks, though, they won’t stay. Next thing I hear, I’m getting a new partner. Sometimes they leave even before they’ve seen it. The guys who’ve been here before start talking about it. Then before you know it, the new guy’s requesting a transfer. That’s what I thought might have happened to you.”
Gabe chuckled and shook his head. “No, I haven’t heard anything about this place being haunted. You’re the first to mention it. You still come back, though, huh?”
“That’s right. I wait for it every time there’s a full moon and try to catch a glimpse of it.”
“So, what is it? Some kind of lost spirit? A goblin maybe?”
“Not sure. I never get a good look at it. The only thing I know for sure is it’s harmless. No one’s ever been hurt by it. Sometimes I almost think it’s playing with us.”
Gabe looked up at the moon that was just edging over the opening in the patio. “It looks like we’re going to have another full moon pretty soon.”
“Four more days.”
“All right, then. I can’t wait. I want to see this thing first-hand.”
Larry smiled when he realized Gabe wasn’t afraid. “I’m sure you will.”
The two men began patrolling their sections of the mall, Larry circling the parking lot on the outside, and Gabe circling the plaza on the inside. They finished their shift at midnight, and Gabe was finally able to go home to be with his wife.
 When he pulled up in front of their small house, it was dark and quiet all except the front porch light and their cat, Mookie, meowing to be let in. She purred and rubbed against his legs as he fumbled with his keys. Then she slipped past him through the door when he opened it. By the time he got to his bedroom, Mookie was already waiting for him.
He opened the door slowly to avoid waking Valerie, but the horseshoe her mother had insisted they hang over the doorknob in hope for future grandchildren rattled against the door. Mookie ran in, jumped on the bed and began purring loudly as she kneaded the blanket near Valerie’s feet.
Valerie shuffled her legs under the blankets then rolled over. “How was work?” she murmured almost incoherently.
“It was okay,” Gabe said as he undressed for bed. “Not much happening. You know, same as the last time.”
Valerie didn’t say anymore but fell right back to sleep. As Gabe slid next to her under the covers and placed his arms around her, she sighed and snuggled against him. He kissed her softly on her bare neck and considered waking her up, but they both had to work in the morning and needed their sleep. They would have to wait until the weekend to try again for their first child, something that had eluded them since they were married three years ago.
Four nights later, Gabe was still assigned to the Desert Fashion Hub with Larry. He hadn’t forgotten the old man’s story, but it had escaped him that this was the night of the full moon. The two men met in the parking lot when Gabe arrived.
“I’ll take the parking lot tonight,” Gabe told Larry after they greeted each other. They had developed a pattern of alternating which side of the mall they would patrol. Gabe took the plaza the night before, so it only made sense that he would take the parking lot that evening.
“Nope, not tonight,” Larry said. “You get the plaza again.”
Gabe was curious about the old man’s insistence. “Why?” he asked.
Larry’s eyes gleamed, and a mischievous grin curled up the ends of his moustache. “It’s a full moon tonight. Remember?”
“The ghost?”
“That’s right! It usually comes out around the end of the shift, and I want to make sure you see it.”
Gabe laughed mostly from amusement, but there may have been a little bit of uneasiness, as well. He didn’t believe in haunted places, but Larry was so determined to prove it was real, he began to doubt his own skepticism. “Okay, that... that sounds like a plan. You take the parking lot and I’ll take the plaza. We’ll see if the goblins come out tonight.”
The men parted ways and Gabe circled the plaza for the first half of his shift with little more than the gnats and an occasional mosquito to keep him entertained. Everything else was still and quiet as he shined his flashlight into dark storefront windows and planters filled with desert flora. At ten o’clock, he heard footsteps echoing through one of the entrances. He shined his flashlight in that direction to find Larry coming back to check on him mid-shift. He had stopped in front of a soda machine and was feeding a dollar into the slot when Gabe found him.
“Have you seen anything yet?” Larry asked when Gabe’s light landed on him. He leaned over and fished his coins out of the change dispenser then stood up with a cold can of root beer.
 Gabe met him in front of the machine and pulled a dollar out of his own pocket for a drink. “Not yet.”
Larry took a few gulps from his can and belched. “Don’t worry. It’ll happen. Some nights I can feel the energy building up under the patio beforehand, but nothing happens until the moon’s straight overhead. It’s like it has to shine right on that little Indian guy with the crazy hair. I think he might have something to do with it.”
“You mean the kokopelli?”
“Yeah, that thing. I can never remember all those Indian names.”
“Maybe he’s the one who’s running around here.”
“Could be. Like I told you, I can’t get a good look at him.”
The men finished their drinks together then went back to patrolling. As Gabe strolled around the plaza, he tried to convince himself that the ghost story was no more than an old man’s yarn. But after a while, he caught himself wandering toward the middle of the plaza to see if he could feel the energy. He stood on top of the kokopelli and waited. After a few seconds, he even lifted his hands in the air, palms flat, as though he was expecting rain.  
“Do you feel it?” he heard Larry’s voice cutting through the semi-darkness.
Gabe’s face flushed hot as he realized he had been caught. He expected Larry to start laughing at any moment then tell all the seasoned security guards at the main office how he had suckered the new guy into thinking this mall was haunted. “I can’t say I do,” he admitted and turned around to find Larry standing at the end of a path with a large, meandering snake etched into the surface. “I guess I fell for it, after all.”
“You didn’t fall for anything,” Larry insisted. “You just wait. When the moon gets higher, you’ll feel it.”
“Yeah, okay.” Gabe walked out from under the patio feeling like an idiot, while Larry retreated back to the parking lot.
The rest of the night moved slowly. After walking countless circles around the mall, Gabe finally stopped at a bench located alongside one of the concrete paths and rested his feet above an etching of a large bear. He wasn’t supposed to sit down on the job, but he had a good view of the entire mall from where he was, so he doubted it would get him in trouble. Besides, he had caught Larry doing the same thing just the other night.
The mall became quiet with only the slightest breeze to rustle the leaves on the palo verde trees and a few crickets chirping in the shrubs. He looked up to see the moonlit sky, but it was difficult with the trees overhead. One grew in each of four large planters, and when they were much smaller, they probably made a nice compliment to the sage and agave that grew around them. But over the years, they had been allowed to grow too large for such a confined space. They created a canopy over the entire plaza and even covered much of the patio. They looked unkept and out of place.
Gabe was pondering all of this when something skittered through the shrubs next to him. The same thing happened on a previous night, and it turned out to be a stray cat that kept him company for the rest of the evening. It had probably returned to visit him. As he approached the shrub to coax it out, he heard the sound again. This time, it sounded like it was in the tree above him. Gabe looked up, but he didn’t see anything.
“Here kitty, kitty,” he said and gave a little whistle. Then he noticed it. Something moved just out of sight and headed toward another tree. Gabe turned around to see it, but again, nothing was there.
 There was more movement in the tree tops, then in the shrubs. Then something pattered across the concrete path to another planter. When he turned in the direction of the movement, the leaves were still moving as though something had been there, but he never caught sight of what it was.
A chill ran through him as he realized this could be the ghost Larry was telling him about. “This is crazy,” he whispered to himself. He knew it had to be a cat. Just to prove it, he went straight to the patio and felt again for the mysterious energy Larry had mentioned. This time, the hair on his arms and the back of his neck stood up, and the air around him buzzed with a lively, melodic current that made no sound. There was music in the air, but it was tangible, not audible.
The trees rustled again, and this time, he saw the leaves scatter. He tried to follow the movement, but as Larry said, he found himself spinning in circles while trying to catch a glimpse of the creature. He came close a few times, but it was always just out of sight.
When he had completely lost track of where the creature had gone, he finally looked up at the sky through the opening in the patio. Some of the tree branches had grown past the edges, but for the most part, he had a clear view. The full moon glowed right overhead. And when he looked down at the plaza floor, a jagged beam of moonlight broke through the branches and framed the kokopelli under his feet.
“Larry!” he hollered when he realized this had to be it. His voice echoed back to him from the storefronts.
The radio hanging from his belt crackled, and he heard Larry’s voice. “I’m coming, Gabe. What’s going on in there?”
He felt a little silly that he hadn’t thought to use his radio. He detached it and hit the button. “I think I saw it! That ghost thing you were telling me about.”
Larry whooped into the radio. “You saw him? Is he moving around?”
“Yeah, it was moving, all right!”
“He’s something, isn’t he?” A moment later, he heard Larry running into the mall as fast as his old legs could carry him. “Where’s he at?” he called out from across the plaza.
“I think it’s gone.” Gabe was surprised to find he was actually disappointed.
“Yeah, that fella doesn’t hang out here for very long. I’m just glad you got a chance to see him.”
Gabe was almost dazed by the experience. He kept looking around hoping he would catch another glimpse of the creature before the night was over.
“You’re not going to run out on me now, are you?” Larry asked as he placed his hand on Gabe’s shoulder and gave him a shake.
A smile stretched across Gabe’s face. This time, he was the one with twinkling eyes. “What, are you kidding? That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. I want to be here next month to check this out again.”
“Ha! I knew it! As soon as I saw you, I knew you could handle it. Glad to have you aboard, kid.”
When Gabe came home that evening, he burst through the bedroom door so fast, the horseshoe spun around the doorknob and fell to the floor. “Val, wake up!” he shouted as he turned on the light. “Guess what I saw at work.”
Valerie rolled over and blinked as she tried to adjust her eyes to the light. She wasn’t sure whether to be angry or concerned. “What?”
“Remember what I said a while back about the mall being haunted?” he asked as he undressed and threw his uniform into a pile on the floor. It only took Valerie a moment to recall it, but that was longer than Gabe could wait. “You remember, right? That story Larry was telling me. The one where I thought he was pulling my leg.”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“It’s true! I saw it myself.”
Mookie stood up from where she was sleeping at the foot of the bed and jumped off. She approached his uniform carefully and sniffed it. The fur on her back stood up, and she ran out of the room. Valerie looked after her curiously, but Gabe hardly noticed. He was too busy telling the story of what had happened that night under the full moon.
“That’s just weird,” Valerie said when he was finished. “It was probably that stray cat again. That’s why Mookie’s mad at you right now.”
“I told you, it wasn’t a cat. I don’t know what it was, but it definitely was not a cat. I’m going to wait until next month to see if it happens again.”
“Ugh! Next month. I don’t even want to think about it. I just want this job to be over.” She rolled over on her side and bunched the covers under her chin.
“It won’t be over until we get those bills paid off. That’s going to take longer than a month, I’m afraid.” He turned out the light and got into bed beside her. He tried to sleep, but after so much excitement, his brain refused to shut down. He lay there for hours before sleep finally took over.          
It had been a month since Gabe had seen the mysterious creature running through the Desert Fashion Hub. This time, he didn’t forget about the full moon but had the date circled on his calendar in bold, black marker. He arrived at work with a new-found enthusiasm that Larry noticed as soon as he saw him crossing the parking lot. “Looking forward to our visitor, I see,” he shouted from the entrance.
“Wouldn’t miss it,” Gabe shouted back.
The two men entered the mall together, but Gabe stopped as soon as they reached the plaza.
Larry stood beside him and gave him a moment to soak it all in. “Doesn’t even look like the same place, does it?”
“What happened?”
“Looks like the tree trimmers came in yesterday. I don’t think they’ve done this since the place opened ten years ago. At least, they haven’t as long as I’ve been here. God knows, the trees could use a trim, but the place sure looks bare.”
Gabe walked down one of the concrete paths and stood on the back of a turtle etched in the middle while he gazed at what was left of the trees. Their main limbs were shortened and bare. The smaller limbs were reduced to nubs. They no longer created a canopy over the plaza but were little more than large, twisted sticks rising up out of the planters. “This looks horrible,” he said.
“Yeah, it’s not too pretty right now. But they’ll grow back,” Larry assured him.
“But what about our ghost?”
“What about him?”
“With the trees all bare like this, he won’t have anywhere to hide. Do you think he’ll come out?”
Larry looked around. “I don’t see why not. We still got the bushes and flowers for him.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Gabe continued to the patio and looked up at the sky through the opening. He had an unhindered view of the stars, and the edge of the moon was just beginning to creep into the picture. The light shined through at an angle and landed on the patio floor just to one side of the kokopelli. It created a perfect octagonal spotlight unbroken by the tree limbs that usually hovered over the top.
“So, do you want to take the plaza or the parking lot?” Larry asked him.
“Maybe you should take the plaza. You missed this last month.”
“All right, then. I’ll let you know if I see anything.”
Gabe returned to the parking lot and wandered around the outside of the mall for as long as he could before curiosity brought him back to the plaza. He had only been gone half an hour. He stopped at the soda machine under the pretense that he wanted a drink while keeping an eye out for Larry. He showed up within a minute, shining his flashlight on Gabe as he approached.
“Anything going on yet?” Gabe asked him.
“No, not yet. The moon’s still got a ways to go before it’s shining overhead. It’ll probably be eleven, twelve o’clock before that happens.”
“Make sure you call me as soon as he comes.”
Gabe took his can of soda to the parking lot to finish it then spent the next hour and a half fighting the urge to go back. He finally gave in and returned around mid-shift. Larry was expecting him and met him at the entrance.
“I was hoping you’d get here pretty quick,” Larry said.
“The energy’s starting to build up under the patio.”
“I thought you said it wouldn’t happen until later.”
“It won’t. The moon’s still not right. It needs to shine straight on that Indian guy. But something’s going on under that patio.”
Gabe went to the patio to see for himself. The moonlight covered the entire kokopelli, but it wasn’t centered. The edge of it barely cleared his arched back. But just as Larry had said, the energy was already building up. He had to stand very still and concentrate to feel it, but it was definitely there.
“It’s a little strange,” Larry said as he joined Gabe under the patio. “I don’t usually feel it this early, and it doesn’t usually creep up this slow. It all happens kind of quick-like.”
Gabe looked up. “The trees. They’re not blocking the moonlight.”
“Nope, not tonight.”
“Maybe that’s why there’s more energy.”
“Could be.”
The men stood there for a while and tried to read the energy as it passed through them. It was like listening to music playing in the far distance. They could detect there was a melody, but it was too weak to follow.
“Do you think I should go back to the parking lot?” Gabe asked after a minute or so.
Larry sighed and gave it some thought. “Why don’t you make another round or two, you know, just to make sure nothing’s going on? Then come back so we can both stay here and wait for this thing. I’m telling you, there’s something different about this night, and I don’t want either one of us missing it.”
Gabe hurried out to the parking lot and made another quick round, but unless something had jumped out at him, he wouldn’t have noticed it. His mind was on getting back to the plaza. When he returned, he found Larry sitting on a bench right above an etched deer on the path. “Did I miss anything?” he asked as he sat down next to him.
“Not yet,” Larry said.
The men sat quietly waiting for something to happen. They heard a few crickets chirping, and once in a while, one would leap through the bushes and startle them. When they realized it wasn’t their ghost, they both laughed nervously then waited again for the real show.
“Do you feel that?” Larry asked after a while.
“What?” Gabe concentrated on the space around him to see what Larry was talking about. “Yeah, there it is. Just like under the patio.”
“Right. But it’s all the way out here.”
As they concentrated on the energy in the air, the miniscule melody began to take shape.  They could feel it under their skin, then it coursed through their pulse. There was no sound, but the feeling lifted their spirits as though it was coming from a live band. The music was alive and living through them. The men began to laugh at each other as the melody made them want to get up and dance, but neither of them was brave enough to be the first.
When the melody had become so strong they were no longer certain whether they were feeling it or hearing it, something moved under the patio. Gabe and Larry jumped up immediately and backed away to the outer edge of the plaza. This time, they could see the creature.
The Kokopelli stood under a moon beam spotlight, a large elderly-looking Native American man with a hunched back, dark, wild hair and eyes to match. He noticed the men, then he looked right into Gabe. A mischievous smile spread across his face just before he placed his long, slender flute to his lips and began to play. The tune was audible this time, loud and playful. And he leapt and danced to it with the energy and agility of a young child.
Slowly, the animals that were etched into the surface of the concrete paths began to rise from the ground and take on more color and shape. There was a bear, snake, deer and turtle, each of them about the same size as the Kokopelli. They took a moment to shake their heads and stretch their limbs. Then they began to dance wildly under the moonlight to the Kokopelli’s tune. The bear stood up on his hind legs and pranced, the snake slithered in frenzied patterns, the deer leapt into the air and the turtle spun in circles.
Larry and Gabe knew they had every reason to be scared, but neither man could convinced himself to run. They were entranced by the spectacle that was playing out before them and couldn’t imagine leaving before it was finished. Even when the Kokopelli jumped out from under the patio and began to dance toward them, all they could feel was excitement. Before they knew it, the he was dancing right in front of them and reaching out for Gabe’s hand.
Gabe didn’t hesitate to take it even though his practical mind was screaming that this was insane. He followed the Kokopelli back to the center of the plaza where he released his hand and the animals gathered around to dance with him. Gabe partnered with the bear first, who picked him up and twirled him. Then he and the deer took turns leaping over the snake as it serpentined across the ground. Finally, they all skipped circles around the turtle until they were dizzy and fell to the ground.
Gabe laughed hysterically like he hadn’t done in years, and when he was finally able to sit up and catch his breath again, he realized the creatures were gone. The only sounds left in the plaza were his heavy breathing and Larry whooping and hollering as he ran to him.
“Did you see that? Did you see that!” he shouted and shook Gabe’s shoulders.
“Are you kidding? Didn’t you see me over here dancing with them? Why didn’t you come with me?”
“Oh no,” he said grinning widely. “That was for you, kid. Didn’t you see the way that Indian was looking at you? That was your dance.”
Gabe stood up and wiped the dirt from his pants. “Nah, why would it be just my dance? You were here, too.”
“Yeah, but I’m here every month, and he’s never done anything like that for me. He wanted you.”
They talked about it for the rest of their shift, but that still wasn’t enough for Gabe. When he came home that evening, he ran into the bedroom and practically jumped on the bed next to Valerie. “Val, you’ll never guess what happened!”
Valerie and Mookie both jumped up at the sudden jolt. Mookie gave Gabe’s pant leg one sniff, then she arched her back and ran out of the room hissing.
“What the..?” Valerie looked from Gabe to the cat, confused. “What’s wrong with you?” she snapped at him.
“Nothing’s wrong. It was the best night of my life!”
“You mean that ghost?”
“Yeah, the ghost.”
“You are absolutely nuts, do you know that?”
“Wait until I tell you about it.” Gabe stood up from the bed and began reenacting the whole scene in the middle of their bedroom. Valerie’s expression changed throughout the story from anger, to interest, to bewilderment. She had never known her husband to act this way before. When he was finished, he returned to the bed breathing heavily from all his excitement.
“That sounds... interesting,” was all she could think to say.
She nodded her head.
“Oh, come on, Valerie! It was more than interesting. It was incredible!” He wrapped his arms around her and began kissing her neck playfully, knowing full well how ticklish she was there.
Valerie laughed and squealed while making a half-hearted effort to push him away. Before long, the two of them were rolling in the sheets together and didn’t fall to sleep until nearly sunrise.
Two months later, Larry patrolled the Desert Fashion Hub alone. He had just lost another partner to the ghost in the plaza, who he now understood to be the Kokopelli. The creature’s monthly appearance had become a full-blown gala ever since the trees were trimmed and allowed the full moon to shine unobstructed onto his image. Larry had witnessed the dance with three different partners since that first night, but Gabe was the only one who had ever been invited to join in. The other two just watched from the edge of the plaza until it was over then headed right for the main office where they applied for reassignment. Larry wasn’t sure, but he thought he had seen a wet spot on the last guy’s trousers.
Gabe wasn’t the least bit afraid. He was the first and only partner to appreciate the mall for what it was. It was his wife who made him leave. Gabe said she was worried that what had happened that night was somehow dangerous. Larry suspected she might have thought he was going crazy.  The last he heard, Gabe had been reassigned to an office complex across town.
As Larry circled the inside of the mall, he heard footsteps echoing from one of the entrances. He wasn’t expecting anyone, so his pulse raced as he shined his flashlight in that direction. “Who’s there?” he shouted. But before the visitor could answer, Larry had already recognized his face. “Gabe!”
“Hey, Larry! How’s it going?”
The men shook hands and Larry gave Gabe a slap on the back. “It’s going good. I didn’t expect to see you here again.”
“Well, I took the night off just so I could come by and give you some news.”
“What’s that?”
“Valerie and I are expecting a baby. And, well...” Gabe felt a little silly even suggesting it, “we think it might have happened right after that night with the Kokopelli. ”
“Is that right? See, I told you that dance was for you. Didn’t I tell you?”
Gabe laughed. If anyone would take him seriously, it would be Larry. “Yeah, I guess you were right.”
“I know I am. Here, let me buy you a drink. How about a root beer?”
“Sure. Sounds good.”
The men drank root beer and spent the rest of the evening talking about their night with the Kokopelli. Just before Larry’s shift was over, Gabe reached into his pocket and took out the horseshoe that had been hanging on his bedroom door. “I don’t think I’m going to need this anymore,” he said and tossed it into a nearby planter. As soon as it hit the dirt, the wind picked up slightly and carried a faint melody through the air. It was the song of the Kokopelli.

The End

About the Author;
Lachlan David was a native of California who now resides in Phoenix, Arizona. She has been writing for her own entertainment for years and is excited to take on the challenge of publication. Follow Lachlan David by visiting

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