Fiction: Ghosts In The Machines (Excerpt; 2009-2010)

A low, hooting cry stirred Mechebe from his fretful nap, bringing his half-conscious mind to full awareness in a heartbeat. His eyes flared open as his tufted ears lifted vertical, swiveling to pinpoint the direction of the summoning warble. Sleep had given him no peace of mind, and now waking brought the pivotal announcement into unavoidable proximity. He took a deep breath, released it, and lifted his long, bearded muzzle from his crossed forepaws. His toes were tangled, claws placing sharp curve against sharp curve; the massive talons dangling from his dewtoes were the only ones exempt from his unconscious expression of anxiety.

He looked up, seeking a glimpse of the sky past the evergreen canopy. The shade of blue suggested afternoon, but the bloody tinge to the wispy clouds belied that and told him it was evening already. The sun was fleeing the sky in hopes of rest, much the same way Mechebe had fled the center of the territory in hopes of serenity. He wished the sun better luck than he had found.

“Ready?” came a sharp, light voice behind him. Mechebe didn’t look, pulling his paws apart gently before pushing himself up from his bed of mulch and moss to stand on four strong legs. His luxuriously long tar-black fur kept a few dried leaves as prisoners; he shook off when he heard the tell-tale crinkle-crackle from beneath him.

“I am restless from waiting,” he answered after another deliberate breath failed to bring calm, stretching his legs and flexing his ankles. His tail, long and thick and smooth, hung in a low curve behind his haunches, kept as still as he could manage; the barbed tip alone twitched, made of age-fused spines that grew like a lizard’s rattle-tail.

“You’re worried,” remarked the voice, accompanied by the sound of sniffing.

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