The Matriarch – Part 4

The fourth installment of a short story my husband wrote for Halloween. You can catch up with Part 1 here , Part 2 here and Part 3 Here.

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The Matriarch – Part 4

THURSDAY AFTERNOON

Ursula sped down the highway in her beat-up hatchback with a white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel. “God, those things are hideous!  Where did they come from?  How did they….”

“Not important right now,” Greg answered curtly.  “Their Queen is dead.  Without her, their numbers can only dwindle.  We need to keep them from getting their hands on this one.  I know a safe place we can go.  Once we get there, I can answer all your questions.  Or you can just leave, and you’ll never see either of us again.”

“Is that thing still alive?  Why don’t we just kill it, too?  Who cares if I never see you again?  I’m going to be wondering about everyone I meet for the rest of my life!  And about people I’ve already known for years!”

Greg sighed.  “Because, for lack of a better term, you could say we’re vegetarians.”

“Wait….what do you mean ‘we’!?”

Greg shook his head. “Homo Sapiens are omnivores by nature, capable of surviving on a variety of diets.  Like most predator species, they possess forward binocular vision as opposed to having their eyes on the sides of their heads like horses, cattle, or other prey species.  Their digestive tract benefits from the ingestion of fruits and vegetables, but also excels at digesting the proteins and fats from other animals.

“Many humans decide to forego their ability to consume animal matter, despite having the biological capability to do so, out of the belief that it is not ethical to consume other animals.

“Now, consider Felis Domesticus, the common house cat.  They do not possess such an adaptable digestive tract.  They are obligate carnivores.  They evolved to hunt, catch living prey, and eat it.  If there is not sufficient animal protein in their diet, they will die.  Perhaps it is a mercy that no feline species evolved self-awareness and sapience the way humans did.  If such a being ever felt guilt over their consumption of other animals, they would have to live with such guilt.  Or die from it.

“Miss Thelstein, my people are not obligate carnivores.  We are obligate parasites.  And the universe is cruel enough that we evolved to be intelligent enough to empathize with the suffering and pain we cause to our host organisms.  But we cannot survive without those hosts.

“Those of us that feel this empathy are a minority.  A hunted and persecuted political faction among our species.  The others happily invade and infest the human race with no reluctance other than being cautious enough not to get caught.

“But now that faction has lost their brood-queen.  Their time is over.  When they realize this, they will seek revenge.  I must keep my Queen safe until their death throes are spent.

“No.  Not dead.  Dormant.  In stasis.  I won’t wake her until a suitable host is found.  And she would not find you suitable.  For ethical reasons.

“The body I inhabit had already been taken by one of those who did not feel empathy towards our hosts.  When I destroyed him, the central nervous system of the host was too ravaged to survive without continued connection to one of our kind.  It was too late for me to help him, so I took the body.  Not ideal, but I can inhabit this body without violating our code.

“Violent criminals.  Those of your species who do deliberate harm to others.  If we are obligated to be parasites, we can at least take the ones you would be better off without.  No, it’s still not consent.  But they don’t get that from their victims either.  It’s as ethical as we are capable of being in order to survive.  It will have to be enough.”

The Matriarch – Part 3

The third installment of a short story my husband wrote for Halloween. You can catch up with Part 1 here and Part 2 herebiohazard-2696875_640

The Matriarch – Part 3

WEDNESDAY NIGHT

“Easy, Number Nine.  Mr. Allen gets the point.”

Greg coughed as his airway opened, and he massaged the bruises Nine had left on his neck.

“It would inconvenient for us to find someone else for this task,” said shark-boy.  “Your background has allowed you an unusual degree of independence, but any further flippancy will not be tolerated.  We can find someone else, if necessary.”  The shark-grin became a frown.  “You will do this task for us.  And you will not survive failure.”

Well, thought Greg, that’s that, then.

He took a deep breath, bit his tooth until he felt a break in the surface, and let out a long exhale as though he were sighing.  He’d just killed them all, even if it would be hours until they realized it.

“I submit, Great One.  How exactly can I serve you?”

Shark-boy, unaware of his now-inescapable death, went back to grinning.

“We believe we’d found the upstart rival queen that disappeared thirty years ago.  She’s been in stasis all this time.  Revive her.  Earn her trust by helping her find a new host, and she’ll think you’re one of hers. The upstarts will flock to her, and you will destroy them one by one.”

 

 THURSDAY

Ursula screamed as Dr. Allen crouched over the prone body of the Director and tore off the Director’s shirt.  Then her eyes widened and her scream died as Dr. Allen clutched an elongated worm-like creature and peeled it off the Director’s spine.

Her breath came in shallow bursts as Ursula stared in disbelief at the hideous creature in Dr. Allen’s hands. She couldn’t help but notice the horrifying similarity to the unknown specimen in the cylinder.

Dr. Allen dropped the worm on the floor, then crunched the eyeless head under the heel of his shoe with a nauseating squelch.  Yellow ichor covered his shoe and pant leg and dripped from his fingers where he’d gripped it.

He looked at Ursula. “Your Director was under that thing’s control for weeks.  This whole Special Exhibit idea was part of its plan.  You’re not one of them, but I don’t know how many of your coworkers are.  You are in danger. We need to get out, and if we run across anyone else, let me do the talking.”

Ursula blinked, flared her nostrils, and held up a finger.  She turned and grabbed a wastebasket just in time to not get any vomit on her clothes or shoes.

“Okay,” she said, her brain spinning as she tried to come to grips with truth of the ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’.

Dr. Allen strode over to the other specimen, the one still in the glass cylinder floating in a clear liquid, and picked it up.  “All right.  Follow me.”

 

WEDNESDAY, 3:30 AM

Greg took his temperature.  Ninety-eight-point-seven degrees Fahrenheit.  The fever had broken.  He felt tired and dehydrated, but his bio-enhancements had helped him to survive the virus.  That was a relief.  He’d had this body for a long time, and it wouldn’t be easy to replace if it died.  Not with all the enhancements he’d made to it since its acquisition.

It had originally been host to one of the Great Queen’s prime offspring.  Shortly after helping his own Queen-Matriarch enter bio-stasis and go into hiding, he’d begun working out how to steal the body and masquerade as an agent of the Great Queen.

Once he’d gotten the body, he’d waited patiently for a chance to act.  Now it was time.

Shark-boy, Number Nine, and the others would be dead by now.  After the limo driver had collapsed, Greg (he’d gotten used to thinking of himself as the name of this host body) had broken the window to the front area and taken the wheel.  He’d driven the limo into a ditch and covered it with brush and branches to hide it as well as he could while his body’s boosted immunity fought the virus.

By the time the Great One and her Primes managed to disengage from their dying hosts, it would be too late.  There were no other suitable hosts for miles, and they could only survive a few minutes without a host.

It would be hours before the Great Queen’s other agents began to suspect something was wrong.  Until then he would continue to pretend to be one of hers and recover his own Queen-Matriarch.

“Oh, Momma Look!” Never Ends Well

At least, it never ends well for me.

So, when we were at Home Depot of all places, and that come out of my daughter’s mouth, I knew I was really in trouble.

What had caught her attention? An eleven foot dragon. Yeah, she’s totally my kid.

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This one.

I have to admit, she has good taste. But it looked HUGE in Home Depot. I couldn’t imagine how big it would be on our suburban front lawn.

Of course, she reminds me that we have no other decorations. Which, she’s not wrong. I don’t suppose the three little pumpkin walkway lights really count. I love watching the kids dress up at Halloween, but I hate anything macabre. You can keep your ghosts, skeletons and dead brides, thank you very much!

But she’s now at the age where she really wants to decorate for the holidays. Unlike my husband and I who were known to go without even a Christmas tree before we had kids.

I told her I’d think about it, hoping she’d forget. Of course she didn’t forget, and she reminded me about it for the next two weeks.

So, we went back to get the eleven foot dragon. When we got to Home Depot, the thing was sold out. Even the floor model was gone. This was back at the end of September, and I was shocked. A quick search with my phone showed no other Home Depots with guaranteed stock in the area. But I could still get it online.

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Thank goodness!

So, I assuage my daughter’s crushing disappointment that she isn’t getting it that day with the fact that it will arrive in three to five days and we probably wouldn’t have had time to put it up that weekend anyway. She trudges back to the car, but at least I got her out of the store without a scene. There’s more than one reason why I do so much shopping online!.

The dragon arrived, my husband put it up for her, and she is now totally excited. So excited, in fact, that when she and her sister saw the dragon deflated the next morning on the way to school, they both were super insistent that I needed to “fix” the dragon.

Raising a pair of dragon lovers. Couldn’t be more proud!

 

Do you decorate for Halloween? If so, do you go all out, or were you like us with our three little pumpkins? Any of your neighbors go all out? What’s the best or worst display you’ve seen?

Zelda Breath of the Wild Costume

I’ve learned my lesson on waiting until the last minute to get Halloween costumes. Don’t do it. Start early. Get what they want.

Sure, they might change their mind as you get closer to the day, but that’s when you can point to their closet of dress-up clothes and the costume you bought and say choose.

We went to a super hero birthday party earlier this summer, and DD1 loved her Super Girl costume. I was hoping this meant Halloween was going to be a slam dunk this year. I figured I’d get her some blue leggings to go underneath the skirt, and some long underwear to wear under the costume and the leggings and we’d be set.

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Halloween where I live.

So, I broach the subject with her, thinking this was going to be an easy Halloween.

Stop laughing.

She says she likes her Super Girl costume, but she really wants to be Zelda from the game she plays with DH. Specifically, she wants to be the Zelda in the blue dress. I figure this is a new and very popular game, how hard this can be.

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Screenshot from the game. This dress. Yeah. Not the easy blue tunic and pants Link has on.

I can hear you laughing harder. Stop it.

I head over to Amazon, and while there are so many Link costumes out there that you can’t count them all, there are NO Zelda costumes. Not in the blue dress she wears at the castle. Not the blue riding outfit she wears through most of the story cut scenes. Not the white ceremonial dress that she wears as her kingdom is destroyed.

None of them.

Okay, Amazon failed me. That never happens. But there are other places.

I check Target, Costume Express, Walmart, Halloween Costumes.

Nothing.

I delve deeper into the depths of the internet, going to places like CJCosplay and Miccostumes. While I can find the adult version of the Zelda costume, I can find nothing for little girls.

I go back to DD and ask her if she’d be willing to go as Zelda dressed in Link’s champion’s tunic. She can pretend to be the hero saving link. No, she doesn’t want to look like a boy.

Grating at the social pressure my daughter’s already succumbed to, I go back to looking.

I check eBay and Etsy. Nothing.

I even send a message to several of the sellers who have the adult women’s costume, but none of them can help me with a kid’s size.

Finally, we turn to my crafty sister who can actually sew. Not my hack job of using some stitch witchery, but I mean really sew. And well. She even had a side business making vintage doll fashion reproductions before her work hours made it impossible to continue.

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She actually made this.

That outfit up there, she actually made out of some kind of silk. That she lined and did finishing stitches and a bunch of stuff I don’t understand. You know where ALL the crafty went in our family.

Anyway, we show her pictures of the Zelda outfits from the game. After studying them, my sister says the trim will be the hardest part, but even that won’t be bad if we can find a pattern. We head out to Joann to see if we can find a pattern.

After pouring through every pattern book in the store, we find nothing even close. My sister says she could make a pattern for it. It’ll be harder and take longer, but if her niece really wants it, she’ll do it.

Of course her niece really wants it, so we start looking for fabric. This store is huge, and there’s not a bolt of fabric in it that’s even close to the blue Zelda’s wearing.

Resigned, my sister says we might be able to find the fabric on eBay.

At this point, I tell her it’s okay, DD1 will just have to go as something else.

DD1 and I had the “no breath of the wild costume” talk. There were tears, and she was very upset. I even offered to buy her the Elsa costume from the Disney Store, but she wasn’t having it.

Later in the week, DH broke out our ancient Wii and brought out Zelda Twilight Princess. While Zelda isn’t much in that story, DD1 approaches me the next morning. She asks if she can go as the Zelda from Twilight Princess. She says she’d be willing to go this route so she can still be Zelda. Her tenacity will serve her well in the future. Her tenacity will serve her well in the future. Her tenacity (yeah, I keep telling myself this, hoping it’ll make me feel better!).

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I can’t find one anywhere!

I sit her down and we look for a costume together, so she can see what’s out there. Not much.

A seller on Etsy has one that’s okay, and there’s a really pitiful looking one with reviews that include the dress tearing in a single wear from several Amazon reviewers.

I can’t find anything else in a child’s size anywhere.

DD1 is upset. She says it’s not fair how many Link costumes there are. Why aren’t there any Zelda ones.

I have no idea.

If Disney can go from Cinderella to Merida and Elsa, why can’t Nintendo give us more Zelda like from Smash Brothers and the corresponding merchandise?

Hey Nintendo, look! Here! I want to give you money.

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Now make a game with Zelda as the hero and a costume to go with!

 

How about you? Your child ever want to be something for Halloween you just couldn’t do? How did they take the disappointment? How did you deal with it, other than trying to bribe the company to make one?

 

Children and Birthday Parties

So, last year I waited until the end of September to start thinking about DD1’s birthday. I learned kid’s birthday parties are sorta like weddings. You have to plan them far in advance.

By the time we started, it was far too late for most things, so we ended up hosting it at home.

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This was extremely stressful, and frankly, the party was only so-so for my daughter and her friends.

October starts my busy season at work. It’s also Halloween, other family members’ birthdays, including immediate family. Yeah, it’s a pretty full month. Let’s just say her party last year was half-baked, but we got away with it because most of the guests were four.

We won’t get that luxury this year, especially as DD1 will be in kindergarten. So, I started planning early.

I’m not Pinterest mom, but we can do better than putting everything together the night before the party. Yeah. We were real organized last year.

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So, so true.

So, here’s what I’ve come up with:

 

Dance Birthday

The dance place she dances at hosts children’s birthday parties. They provide an indoor venue (critical as we can have snow in October), and one of the instructors takes care of entertaining the monsters children. They also take care of the invitations, set-up and clean-up.

I’m leaning towards this because I’m really busy already. I bring the birthday child and cake. They do everything else

 

Water Park Birthday

There is a small indoor water park in our area. They offer birthday packages where the kids can play in the pool and on the water slides, then afterward they had a room for the monsters children to eat cake before I send them home.

However, this would mean getting into a swimsuit to help monitor them in the pool. I’d really rather not, but it’s an option.

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Not this kind, but I’d like it better!

Other

  • I’ve checked the YMCA, but all kids have to be 6 and older.
  • I asked her about bowling, and she said yuck. Didn’t like the bowling field trip at school and quit after less than one round.

 

As I’m offering the two choices above to my daughter, she proposes a third: an at-home Zelda party.

I squirm. I explain to her that our house is pretty small, she couldn’t have nearly as many friends over.

  • Read: I don’t want to clean and prep for the party. Or clean up afterwards. Or entertain monsters children for two hours.

She says she doesn’t care. She’ll just have fewer friends over. I try again, explaining that not many other children are going to know who Zelda is. She says she doesn’t care, they can come as other princesses.

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Not sure why it’s called Zelda when all you ever see is Link.

So, I back off. Maybe we can convince her later if we phrase it right.

We try again at dinner the next day, and I explain that the dance place has themes and she gets to pick the one she wants. She seems pretty happy about doing the party at the dance place and picked the princess theme.

Then, comes an awful, rushed, hectic morning. We’re finally in the car, with everything we need (I’d forgotten something and had to turn around twice), and now DD1 has me again trapped in the car.

You know where this is going. Yeah, like that.

She tells me she really doesn’t want to do a dance party. She really wants a Zelda party at home. I explain again that we can’t have as many friends come if we do the party at home. I explain again that I don’t think her friends will know who Zelda is.

She is undeterred.

She wants a Zelda party.

I told her to think about it. I have a little time yet to make a decision.

She gave me the patented DD1 look and said she’d think about it, but she already told me what she wanted.

*sigh*

How about you? Ever have to throw a child’s birthday party? Any pointers or tips?

7 Reasons Why Halloween Is No Longer My Favorite Holiday

It’s October, and many of my friends and neighbors are decorating for Halloween.

When I was a kid, I freakin’ loved Halloween! I would totally plan out my costume and let my imagination run. My mom did stop me from wearing my Wonder Woman underoos out in 30 degree weather (I wanted to be Wonder Woman for most of childhood years, but we lived in very cold places). My parents didn’t really get into making Halloween costumes, and the store bought Halloween costumes of the 1980s were awful . . .

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But man, when I dressed up like Batman, I felt so cool. And yeah, my Batman costume looked a lot like that Darth Vader one. But without the light saber.

My favorite year was the year I dressed up like a queen and got to wear a fancy party dress and a Burger King crown covered in glitter. I thought I was all that. My mom even let me wear a little of her lipstick. I truly felt royal.

Now that I’m older, however, Halloween has become a season to endure. Here are the top 6 reasons why Halloween changed for me:

 

  1. I Hate Scary Things – No scary movies, scary dolls, or haunted houses for me. I hate being scared, and more than that, I hate the nightmares it brings. Usually for weeks. I chalk this up to the over-active imagination that so many writers have. And, of course, to being a coward. As an adult, trying to avoid scary things during this time of year is always problematic. Doable, but only if you don’t channel surf. Never, ever channel surf during Halloween.

 

  1. Halloween Candy Is Not Longer Awesome – It’s no longer about making sure you hit the houses that give the best candy, then sorting through it and setting aside the chocolate while pawning off the candy corn to the one person in the world who’ll eat it. I know candy isn’t good for me, and I no longer have the metabolism of an eight-year-old to ignore that fact. I have also learned that if something is in the house, I will probably “forget” this and eat it. So, we don’t regularly have chips, candy, or junk food in the house. Except at Halloween.

 

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  1. Gotta share – And if I’m caught eating a piece of candy, DD1 and DD2 each need a piece of that candy. And neither of them can hold their sugar. Minutes after having said piece of candy, both are running around like someone lit their hair on fire. Usually whooping and screaming as if the aforementioned fire had indeed been lit. To which DH gives me a look that says he knows what happened and that the current insanity is totally and fully my fault.

 

  1. See #3 every time DD1 or DD2 gets a piece of Halloween candy they got trick-or-treating

 

  1. Can’t Take DD1 to Certain Stores – I have to be super careful of what stores I go in during this season and where we go in those stores. DD1 will cautiously peek down Home Depot’s aisles at the animatronics and ask me to repeatedly reassure her nothing is real. She still refuses to set foot in a certain store that scared her two years ago. I don’t know how she remembers anything from being that young, but boy does she.  She still points at the store and calls it the “scary place”. We haven’t shopped there since the crying, screaming hysterics when a grim reaper went off as we came through the entrance (and yes, it was her, not me).

 

  1. Can’t Take DD1 Past Certain Houses – One of our neighbors is very festive. They have an amazing Christmas display that is only rivaled by their Halloween display. Which has led me to needing to find creative ways around their house as DD1 flips out every time we drive past.

 

  1. DD1 Yells at Halloween Decorations – In her loudest possible voice. In the middle of the street as we’re taking a walk. In the middle of the sidewalk outside a shop. Or in the stores themselves. Things like: “I’m not afraid of you!” or “You don’t scare me!” Some people laugh. Some people stare. I just keep waiting for November 1st and the Santa decorations.