Friday, October 6, 2023

“‘Til Experience Change Thy Mind” • by Julie Frost


I felt the fracture before I got the call, and had already shrugged into my reinforced leather duster and strapped on my sword when the phone rang. “This is Simmons,” I said, heading out the door of my office and clattering down the fire stairs. “Where is it?”

“Downtown Event Center.” The Chief of Police was usually a pretty put-together guy. We’d seen some things together—and this had put a quaver in his voice. Crap on a cracker. “It’s a real mess, Shane, and everyone saw something different. Do you have anything for me?”

Walking would be faster—the Event Center was two blocks away—so I didn’t bother with the car. “Rift opened. Critter came through. Don’t know what kind yet. What’s the event?”

“Spiritualist convention.”

My stomach clenched, and I swore softly. Bunch of idiots fooling around with matters they didn’t really understand. I picked up my pace. Whatever had burst through the rip in reality needed to be dealt with before it escaped into the larger city.

“I’ll let you know what I find,” I said, and hit the end button right before I arrived.

Leaflets and bookmarks littered the bloodstained entrance. A dead woman lay sprawled on the sidewalk just outside. She’d gotten that far before she bled out. I gritted my teeth and didn’t pause, shoving the door open with more emphasis than I needed to, hand on the hilt of my sword.

The place was eerily quiet, the attendees trying and failing to fathom the unfathomable. I threaded through the shell-shocked crowd and stopped short in the doorway to the Main Hall. Most of the carnage had been confined to that room, where they’d been holding the Spotlight Séance when catastrophe struck.

The bodies were sliced open with razor precision, and the red-soaked carpet squelched under my shoes as I took wary steps inside, sword drawn now, thanks. Information was sketchy. A monkey. A demon. A wolf. A rat. Scratch sketchy, these people were downright useless.

“We thought it was safe,” an older man blubbered, cradling a lady’s body. Their wedding rings matched. His grief was a live thing in the air, a black aura of anguish surrounding him.

Safe, at a séance. A wholly stupid and completely faulty premise, one they’d paid the ultimate price for. I snorted, but inwardly, not wanting to exacerbate his pain.

My nostrils flared, finding another scent under the copper stench of blood. A feral creature not of this world and not of the next either. I picked my way past the chaos of overturned chairs and crying conventioneers to the stage and lifted the table’s cloth, ignoring the eviscerated medium. Him, I had no sympathy for. He should have known better.

The creature snuffled, cringing and shivering against the table leg, and covered its doglike head with over-long, hairy arms tipped with three fingers and five-inch claws. Fangs peeked out from under its lips. Bipedal, sporting cloven-hoofed feet and huge amber eyes with slit green pupils, it would stand under three feet tall.

Just a baby.

That didn’t mean I was stupid enough to sheathe my sword, however. That many dead meant the thing could rip me apart double-quick, if it took a mind to. I wanted that weapon in my hand and ready for use.

For now, at least, the creature wasn’t in attack mode. I hadn’t lived this long by letting my guard down, but the sword tip lowered a few millimeters. Pointing at its chest instead of its throat.

“Trapped,” the creature whispered, regarding me between bloodstained fingers

“I know,” I answered gently. “You couldn’t get out, and you were afraid.”

“So many. So big. So loud.”

“Would you like to go home?”

It nodded. “Please?”

“Of course.”

I spoke the spell that would send it back—and also, incidentally, kill it. It might blab about soft prey to whatever else was on the other side of that gateway, and we couldn’t have that. 

“Amateurs,” I growled, slamming the portal shut.

Julie Frost is an award-winning author of every shade of speculative fiction. She lives in Utah with a herd of guinea pigs, her husband, and a “kitten” who thinks she’s a warrior princess. Her short fiction has appeared in Weird World War IV, Talons and Talismans, Straight Outta Dodge City, Monster Hunter Files, Writers of the Future, StoryHack, and many other venues, including, of course, Stupefying Stories. Her werewolf P.I. novel series, Pack Dynamics, is published by WordFire Press, and a novel about faith, hope, love, and redemption, set in Hell, Dark Day, Bright Hour, will be available on Amazon soon. Visit her on Facebook at




Robert said...

Excellent Urban Fantasy tease. A start of the book, the hook.

Made in DNA said...

This is so damn good. Does the Lady Frost have master classes?