About Freaked Out
Author: Kiernan Kelly
Word Count: 21300
Page Count (pdf): 76
Series: Midnight Rodeo Book 5
Date Published: 03/06/2017 second edition
Publisher: Evil Plot Bunny
File Types available: pdf, epub, mobi
Love and compassion, when least expected, help the hopeless soar.
Gargoyle Killian has the unenviable job at Darque and Knight Rodeo of wrangling the sideshow acts. When he meets Micah, one of the freaks from a new troupe contracted to perform, he’s instantly drawn to the poor, pathetic creature. The more he learns about Micah’s situation with his reprehensible handler, the more determined he is to protect Micah.
Trapped painfully between two forms—man and snake—Micah knows nothing about his past except for what his handler tells him. The attentions of the gargoyle boost his mood, but what can Killian do to help him find the truth he seeks?
A soft, intermittent shuffling sound was the only indication that the six-foot square pen, cast in deep shadows and set four feet below the catwalk, was occupied. Micah kept to the dark shadows, unseen, although his view of the catwalk was unobstructed.
Several people leaned over the PVC pipe railing, staring intently, waiting, and whispering among themselves. Behind them, a ratty velvet curtain surrounded the area and kept it separate from the rest of the sideshow attractions.
“Do you see it?” The girl was in her mid teens, blonde, wearing Daisy Dukes cut so short they’d likely get her jail time in some states and a plaid shirt tied at the waist. Her eyes shone with excitement. She smelled of shifter, a smaller cat, lynx, maybe. “Where is it?”
Her boyfriend, big and beefy, definitely a bear shifter judging by his potent, almost rank odor, slung an arm around her and tugged her in. “Relax, babe. It’s just gonna be some guy in a rubber suit. These things ain’t real, Daisy. Everybody knows that. It’s like the one about the guy who got stuck midshift. It’s an urban legend — a scary story kids tell each other at summer camp, for God’s sake.”
She pouted and pulled away from him. “It is so real. It said so on the sign, and we paid our money, Darryl. Two bucks each. It better be real.” A low growl replaced her pout. Her inner kitty was irritated.
“I know how much it cost. I’m the one who paid for the tickets, remember?” He frowned down at the pen, as if just realizing he’d forked over his hard-earned cash for something that now seemed likely to be a rip-off. “Hey! Come out where we can see you!” He rattled the railing for emphasis. “Hey!”
A hefty man dressed in an old-fashioned, moth-eaten tuxedo and red-lined cape, stepped up onto the catwalk. A closer look at his craggy features and bulky body — not to mention his body odor, which reeked of onion, catfish, and gone-over liver — revealed his true nature to anyone with a nose. He was an ogre if ever there was one.
Emmet’s booming voice caught the attention of the handful of marks, drawing their gaze from the pen. “Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome! I assure you, the creature you about to see is every bit as real as you and I. It was spawned deep within the untamed jungles of the Amazon, the product of a violent encounter between his mother, a direct descendant of the legendary Montezuma, and the hideous Aztec snake god, Quetzalcoatl. Cursed at the moment of its birth to live a half-life, it is forever frozen between its man and snake forms. Behold, the Aztec Snake Man!”
A light, weak and yellowed, flashed on, illuminating the pen below. Inside, a creature huddled in the shadowed corner, its arms wrapped around its knees, head tucked down.
The crowd strained forward, trying to see. Impatience ran through them like electricity, snapping tempers.
“Hey! Get up!” Someone threw a handful of popcorn into the pen. An apple core followed, hitting the creature on the back of the head. It bounced off and rolled away on the dusty earth. “Make him get up, mister. We can’t see.”
“Yeah, we paid good money. Make him move where we can see him!”
The big man reached over the side of the platform and pulled up a long pole. A long, sharp nail was affixed to the end. Angling it into the pen, he poked the creature with it. “Get up! Earn your keep, you scaly bastard!”
The creature jumped and batted the pole away. A hiss rose from the pen as the creature slowly unfolded itself and turned its face up toward the light. It resembled a man, if a bit shorter than average, perhaps five foot six, with a firmly muscled, lithe body clad in nothing but a pair of ragged board shorts.
Its skin had an overall greenish hue under the yellowed light and was covered head-to-toe in what appeared to be small, iridescent scales. Only its eyes seemed human. Dark gold, liquid with emotion, they flicked from person to person as if memorizing the faces of the people who taunted it. It hissed again and bared a pair of needle-sharp fangs at the crowd.
“Keep your hands out of the pen, folks! His bite is more venomous than a cobra’s!” The man withdrew his stick and stepped back, letting the crowd ogle their money’s worth out of his star attraction.
The creature howled, an undulating cry calculated to tear at the nerves of even the bravest of the marks. The fat man hid a grin. “Think of the agony it suffers. It does not shift, ladies and gents! It is incapable of changing its form, doomed forever to appear as it does before you, a hideous beast, half man, half animal. Mind you, you may think captivity is cruel, but it’s for the creature’s own good. Should it ever get free, it would kill everyone it came across, man, woman, or child! The only option aside from keeping it chained in the pit below us is to put it down like a rabid dog.”
A strange, unnerving rattling sound was followed by the creature’s attempt to scale the wall. Its nails scraped against the smooth surface of the pen, unable to find purchase.