When I started this blog, it was my intention to post a short story every two weeks, as suggested by the title Fortnight Stories. Frankly, writing that many short stories was exhausting. However, it’s been a while, so here’s a new one for you. Enjoy! ~ReGi

Martha shifted on the bench and re-crossed her legs, trying to find a more comfortable position for her rear. A soccer ball bounced against her shin. She winced slightly and looked up from her book. “Sorry!” a group of children called out in unison. Her eldest son broke away from the group to ask “You okay, Mom?”

“Sure, Honey. Just be more careful.”

“Okay, Mom.” Justin ran back out onto the field to rejoin the other tween boys. Martha smiled to herself and watched for a bit. Justin kicked awkwardly, missing the ball and flailing to keep himself from landing on his bum. The other boys laughed, but Justin ignored them and went after the ball again. Martha smiled proudly over his determination and scanned the rest of the playground for her other children.

Shawna launched herself off a swing, hit the ground with the kind of thud that used to send Martha’s heart into her mouth, then bounced back up and challenged her playmate to try and jump further.

Lindsey, Ashton, and their playmates squealed in delight as they hit water in the hole they were industriously digging to the center of the earth with their hands.

Jordan raced another boy across the parallel monkey bars, but missed the win by two bars and let himself fall with a pout. Martha bit her lip and waited tensely for his reaction. He stared stormy-eyed at the sand for a minute before relaxing and calling out to his friend for a rematch. Martha smiled to herself, glad to see that her efforts to help him deal with frustration were beginning to work.

But where was Zak?

She huffed an exasperated sigh and rescanned the area, being sure to cast her eyes to the further reaches of the soccer field. She walked around the play equipment, peering between bars and beams, ducking under slides, and double checking every known hiding spot. Still no Zak.

Martha felt a sick stomach in her feeling, but forced it out of the way. “Don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic…” she repeated inwardly. She scanned again and counted her children, being sure the five she already found were each within sight and checking to see if Zak joined them when she was looking elsewhere. The sick feeling doubled as she decided she needed to move her search toward the parking lot in case he decided to go back to the car for some reason. She put her hands to her lips and blew out an ear-piercing whistle, the signal to her other children that they needed to come to her, while she walked quickly toward the car. A chorus of “awww” and “already?” followed in her wake.

Martha reached the edge of the parking lot. Her car, apparently empty, waited across the lot. She glanced both ways to check for any oncoming traffic before crossing, first to the right, then the left. As she turned her head back toward her car, something she noticed on her left caught her full attention and she whipped her head back to that side.

Through the window of another car, she could just make out the scruffy brown hair and stripped red and blue T-shirt of her son Zac. A door opened and a rough hand shoved Zac into a car.

Martha’s heart stopped for a split-second as her mind struggled to believe it really happened, then her legs launched her toward the car.

Her other children made some sort of protest. She barked a “STAY!” that she knew none of them would dare disobey. She dashed down the parking lot as fast as her legs could run. Another moment and whoever grabbed  Zac would be in his car and gone. He saw her coming and threw himself into the driver seat, grabbing the door and yanking it closed.

Martha reached the car and jammed herself into the space between the door and the car before the man could get it closed. Instead, the hard metal slammed into Martha. The man growled at her and shouted obscenities.

Martha gripped the car top and took a deep breath to control her quivering muscles. Every cell in her being wanted to rip the man to pieces, but she knew she needed to be rational. She checked the back seat to make sure it really was Zac. His eyes, wide with fright, pleaded with her to make everything okay, wrenching her heart and sending a wave of homicidal fantasies coursing through her mind. She took another breath and faced the man, who kept trying to shove her out of the door and pulling it harder to crush her. She stared at him for a moment, trying to clear the desperate instinct and remember what the best way to handle such a situation might be. Finally, she remembered.

“GIVE ME BACK MY SON YOU NASTY PERVERT!!!” she shouted loud enough for everyone in the park to hear. She glanced around to see if the trick worked. Sure enough, every child and parent in the vicinity stared, some agape, some quizzical, but all with their attention rivitted on the car with the woman sticking out of the drivers door.

The man shouted back at her, something about Zac being his son, and yanked the door harder. Martha heard something crack, but her attention remained on the man. She screamed now, imploring others to come and help. Slowly at first, and then more quickly, other parents and adults passing by moved toward the car. Some of the other children began to trot toward the car as well.

Martha looked down at the man triumphantly. His face wore pure panic and she knew she won. She let go of the car top and reached over to open the back door for Zac.

The man swiveled in his chair like lightning and launched a double-legged kick at Martha. She grabbed for the car roof again, but too late. Her body hurtled away from the car, crashing into the asphalt and skidding to a stop. Before she could stand the man squealed backwards out of the parking spot, moments before those coming to Martha’s aid reached it. She rolled out of the way, one mud-caked tire narrowly missed her.

Time slowed. The kidnapper’s car rolled toward the street, Zac’s desperate, tear-drenched face looking back at her. Somewhere nearby people were reaching out to her, to help her up. Somewhere, someone was screaming. Her other children cried out.

Martha closed her eyes in a slow blink. She kept hidden. She never told anyone but her husband, not even her children. It wasn’t safe. But her safety didn’t matter now. Zac’s did.

Before anyone could touch her, she leapt to her feet, piercing the air with a shriek of pure rage that sent dogs to howling. She ran full speed at the car as it squealed around another car. She flew into the air, misting as she flew over the tops of cars, and landed with a heavy crash on the hood of the kidnappers car.

She ripped off the hood of the car with one claw. The would-be kidnapper cowered in his seat, his fear stench and filth staining the air. Martha growled deep in her throat and  lowered her head until her eyes were almost level with man’s, and only inches away. She flared her nostrils, blowing smoke into the man’s face. He sputtered, choked, and finally found his voice. He opened his mouth to scream. Martha cut it short with a snap of her jaws.

Martha never ate humans. She lived among them, married and bred with one, producing the most beautiful children the world had ever seen. She spit out the man, glad to turn her attention to her children. Zac still sat in the backseat, his own fear stench nearly as overwhelming as the man’s had been, but, Martha smiled proudly, not tainted with his filth. He stared wide-eyed and unsure at his mother. She flicked her forked-tongue gently across his cheek, holding her breath and being careful not to release any of the acid in the special glands at the back of her throat.

Zac flinched slightly, but did not draw away. Martha lifted him in one claw and pulled him into her chest, folding her wings around him to shield him from the hot tears of relief sliding down her face. His tiny body quivered, but he clung as any child ought to cling to his mother. Gradually, so as not to frighten him further, she misted into her human form, both arms wrapped tightly around Zac.

Zac looked up, relief, confusion, apprehension, and curiosity all fighting for first place in his expression. Martha huffed a soft laugh and nuzzled him, whispering lightly, “I love you so much, Zac.” She lifted her face only when Zac tapped her on the shoulder.

Men, women, and children clung to each other or stood on shaking legs, all of them glued to their places as if they were statues, and all of them staring in horror. Their eyes flicked from the dead man to Martha, or stayed fixed on one or the other.

Martha took a deep breath and glanced over at her other children. Justin juggled the two younger ones, who clung desperately on either side of him. The two middle children peeked cautiously from behind their big brother, curious, afraid.

Martha took another deep breath. “Come on children. Time to go home.”

Lindsay and Ashton clung harder to Justin while Jordan and Shawna ducked further behind him. Justin’s chest heaved and his eyes darted about in indecision. Finally he met his mother’s eyes. His indecision faded and he turned to his siblings. “Come on, guys. Mom says it’s time to go.” The younger ones relaxed in his confidence and rushed to Martha, who held out a hand to guide them across the parking lot to her car. Explanations could wait. For now, she was just an ordinary mother taking her children home.

Dragons holding egg

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