Michael Maine was born in Columbus, Ga, where he resides with his wife, Susan, their five children, three cats, and dog. A graduate of Kendrick High School in Columbus, he currently attends Full Sail University.
THE LYCAN OF CALYPHON COUNTY
Monsters are real. I don’t know how to begin this any other way, as my mind wracks to find a way to tell you this in a way you’ll believe. Especially when it’s coming from your ninety year old grandfather, suffering from what the doctors are calling the strangest case of late Alzheimer’s that they’ve ever seen. Two years ago, even two months ago, it was simple for me to reach back into the mists of my life, to pull from the memories that I’ve collected in my long existence on this Earth. They way your grandmother looked on our wedding day in the country, the smell of the strong coffee she would make for me in the mornings, the feeling of the dew on the leaves of the cornfields that our family grew so that we could eat. The love we would make at night, laying together afterward with the window open, as I smoked my hand rolled cigarette and she told me about all the the things she wanted from the Sears - Roebuck catalog. The feeling of your father’s hand when I held him for the first time, his tiny digits wrapping around my calloused index finger. I can still remember these things, thankfully, and I hold onto them with the tightest grip my mind can muster. But there are other, darker memories of my time here, that I would be glad to feed to the jaws of this thing that is eating away at my brain.
Memories of blood, and things that cannot be easily explained.
In the summer of 1942, our hometown of Calyphon, Georgia was not the modern masterpiece it is today. It was a small rural community known simply as Calyphon County, more dirt roads and pine trees than high rise office buildings. Farms stretched as far as the eye could see, livestock and horses grazing within their gated pens, hired hands tending whatever crops the brutal heat would allow to live. I was ten years old that summer, happy to be out of the confines of our small, one room school building, free to pursue whatever adventure my small world held for me. Provided that the chores your great-grandfather gave me were done, of course. I ran through the corn fields that I would inherit with his death in 1955, fished the deep ponds that dotted the pine forest that surrounded the county, wrestled (and fought) with my friends, and jumped into deep piles of hay. Even though the world was at war a million miles away, right here in the county life was good.
In August of that year, however, it all changed. A farmer on the outskirts of town was awoken one night by the sound of his hogs screaming in their pen. He later recounted to the town (over many whiskies at the local saloon, more often than not) that what he saw as he dashed out the screen door of his kitchen, in his bed britches and cocking his double barrel, was the biggest damn wolf he had ever seen.
“It looked at me,” I heard him say to my father one night. “It had one of the piglets in its hands. It had hands like a man, I tell you - then it bounded off on all fours like a regular wolf, just bigger.”
It had hands like a man.
The people in town blamed that little detail on the farmer’s tendency to imbibe - he was what you would call the town drunk, and the good people of Calyphon were content to have him (and his stinking pig pens) on the outskirts of the county. After a couple of weeks, the town settled on the idea that it was probably a coyote, or a wild dog, that had gotten into the pen. After a month, nobody was talking about it anymore.
Then Herbert Messer woke up one morning to find his dog, a massive English Mastiff named Prince, ripped to pieces at the base of his porch steps. When the Sheriff and some town men came to investigate, they found tracks all around the body. Wolf tracks. The drunk was telling the truth, they decided, and formed a posse to find the animal. They hunted the forest from one end to the other and back again, never finding any evidence of the wolf. I can still see the lanterns, if I think hard enough, bobbing up and down in the forest. I stood on the porch of my house, watching them with my mother (my father had gone with them, of course), thinking that they were like fireflies in the dark.
Things were tense in town after that, with the fear of this animal on the loose. Children were shuffled inside before the sun went down, the Sheriff and his deputies patrolled the country roads, and guns were loaded at bedsides when the population lay down for sleep. I remember my father loading his pistol while he sat on the edge of his bed, the sound of the cylinder spinning before he slammed it home and placed it on his nightstand.
When the wolf had not been seen for another couple of weeks, the town’s spirits lifted a bit. Enough that the mayor of Calyphon announced that the annual harvest barn dance, cancelled initially because of the wolf attacks, would be held on time after all. He made this announcement in the town square, atop a freshly constructed platform that reeked of pine sap. I was in town with my father, running errands, and I had been left to my own devices for a bit while he conducted business in the general store. Munching on a candied apple I bought with a penny, I stood in the crowd that surrounded the platform, listening to the mayor go on about tradition and how the good people should not live in fear. The sheriff was on the job, he said, and would soon have the wolf strung up on that very platform for all to see.
That was the first time I saw Emily Woodruff.
She was there with her aunt, in a bright white cotton dress and short boots, wearing a bonnet that barely contained the golden brown locks that fell to her shoulders. She held her aunt’s hand and looked as though she was hanging on every word the mayor was saying. When she turned slowly and made eye contact with me, it was like the world around us slowed to a crawl and then disappeared. For that moment, it was just us. My father eventually found me, and the spell was broken. She turned back to the platform and my father led me away by the shoulder, a little upset that he couldn’t find me when he came looking for me. I helped him load the goods onto our wagon and we rode back home, the whole way questioning him about Emily and her family.
“Her family is from Calyphon,” my father said. “They own most of what you’re looking at around us, and have land outside of the county as well. I knew her father well when we were your age, and her uncle.”
“I’ve never seen her before.”
“You wouldn’t have, Russell, not even on Family Sunday at church. Her daddy went to school upstate and became some howdy - do with the army after graduation. Moved himself and his new bride to Paris shortly before Emily was born.”
He spat over the side of the wagon, the reigns steady and sure in his hands. I sat silently for a moment watching the backside of our horse as it pulled us up the road at a slow trot, its tail swiping at the flies that buzzed mercilessly about. I turned to ask the question he had been waiting for, the answer out of his mouth before I could open mine.
“She was attacked in Paris,” he said. “That’s why she’s here. Her daddy felt it would be better to send her home to her uncle. Safer.”
“A lunatic is what I’ve heard. Awful things that I won’t repeat to your ears, never mind that you’re only ten and don’t need to hear them.”
I was silent again, staring ahead and watching the flies while my father drove. I don’t remember any more conversation during the trip, but when we finally arrived home I had only one thing more to ask him.
“Do you think she’ll be at the dance?”
I can see him clear as day right now, the sleeves of his work shirt rolled to the elbows, the bag of sugar in his hands he was pulling from the bag of the wagon. He put it back down and wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand, looking at me with his normally hard, piercing eyes. Now, however, they were soft and understanding.
“She is pretty, isn’t she?”
My face burned with embarrassment, and I looked down at my bare feet playing in the dirt of our yard. I could see my father’s smile in my mind, however, and it did little to help. I stuck my hands in my pockets and found comfort in what I found in them. I don’t remember what was in them (a bottle cap perhaps, or a baseball card - my pockets were never empty), but I do remember that when my fingers closed around them I could look my father in his eyes.
“Prettier than the first fish of summer break,” I said, smiling.
My father laughed to the sky at that, and my face burned again. I grabbed my pocket totems a bit tighter, the smile falling from my lips. He saw I had become upset and patted my shoulder, chuckling lightly.
“I’m sorry, son,” he said. “I’ve just never heard it put that way before.”
He kneeled down in front of me, one knee in the dirt, and grabbed both my shoulders. His smile was gone, replaced by the stern father I had always known. He looked me square in the eyes for a moment, then nodded to himself.
“She’ll be there,” he said, “with her aunt and uncle, her cousins, and the rest of the whole town. If you like this girl, go talk to her. Dance with her, if she allows it, and show her a good time. But be careful.”
“What do you mean, Daddy?”
“She’s not like us, son,” he said. “just remember that.”
He took one more good look at me while I thought about what he said, then stood to finish unloading the wagon. I grabbed a couple of small items to help, and on the way back from depositing them in the house, he broke the silence that had fallen.
“We need to get this done quick,” he said, “if we’re going to make it back to town before the shops close.”
“Why are we going back, Daddy? Did we forget something?”
“Well,” he said, “You can’t go to the barn dance in that outfit, can you? Especially if you’re trying to impress young Ms. Woodruff.”
I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at the back of his shirt, at the dark V of sweat from his neck. Then I looked down at myself, at the bare dirty feet, the torn britches and faded shirt I wore to town. When I looked back up, he had turned, leaning against the back of the wagon and smiling.
“Now can you?”
I whooped with joy and ran to help him finish.
The days dragged after that, the time until the barn dance seemingly so far away. I kept myself as busy as possible, helping to tend the corn fields and the few animals we had on our farm. At night, my body would ache from the work, my young body sore and almost immovable in the morning when I rose to the rooster’s crow. My father said nothing more about the dance, and simply watched me wear myself out each day to make sure that I wouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to see Emily again by shirking any of my duties.
Finally, the day came. The morning of the dance I woke up late, the sun already high in the sky, the humidity of the vicious summer giving way to the breeze of fall slowly but surely. Panicked, I threw on my working clothes and ran outside, cursing myself for my laziness. My father was on our porch, in his rocking chair, sipping coffee and looking out at the fields. Hands that he had hired before the harvest season were in the rows, picking and shucking, throwing the fresh cobs into wheelbarrows.
“Morning, lazybones,” he said. “Did you sleep well?”
“What time is it?”
“Almost noon,” he said, blowing on the steaming mug in his hand. “Your mother and I thought you were going to sleep the day away and miss your reward.”
Placing his mug down, he reached down beside his chair and grabbed a box that was tied together with a thin piece of twine. He handed it to me, picked up his mug, and began slowly rocking again.
“This came for you at the general store yesterday. Just in time, too - I was worried that we’d ordered it too late.”
I pulled the twine and opened the box, the lid falling to the porch. The tissue paper inside crinkled loudly as I folded it over the sides of it, almost dropping the whole package when I saw what was inside.
It was my suit. The suit for the dance.
I ran to my father and hugged him hard, the now lidded box tucked under my arm. He smiled and patted my back, his coffee mug held out carefully so as to not spill on me or the suit that was simply too fine for words.
“Hurry up and try it on,” he said, “in case your ma needs to make some adjustments.”
I ran like lightning back into the house to do just that, almost knocking my mother over as she came outside with the coffee pot to refill my father’s cup. I remember her smiling, watching me ascend the stairs to my room, our eyes meeting for a split second before I made it to my door, shutting it behind me.
So many smiles, considering the tragedy that was to occur that night.
We could hear the bluegrass playing down the road before we even made it to the barn, the sides of the road lit with torches that guided everyone to the dance. When my father guided our wagon into the yard, I could see the barn doors were wide open, the music blaring from within mixed with the laughter of the children running around the yard itself. There were a couple of automobiles parked there, old Model T’s that only the wealthiest of Calyphon’s citizens could afford. The children ran around them in their new clothes, playing tag and squealing with joy. The smell of popcorn and fresh cider from the apple orchards was everywhere.
I hopped down from the wagon, taking a good look at myself in my brand new blue pinstripe suit, white shirt and tie. I had bathed twice that evening, scrubbing my skin pink with water from our well, heated on our wood burning stove. My father gave me some of his hair tonic, and my mother shrieked with delight at the sight of me before I left. I was dressed to the nines, and ready for Emily to see me.
My father and mother, also dressed in their finest outfits for the occasion, gave me leave and went to the beer stall to find something to quench their dusty thirst before going inside. I walked through the barn’s wide double doors, the oil lamps hanging on the posts lighting the inside like a small sun. People were packed inside, clapping and stomping around a clear space in the center, where a man with a fiddle danced while he bent his bow to the strings. A square dance was going on, and right in the middle of the figures, clapping and laughing fit to burst, was Emily Woodruff herself.
I suddenly felt weak, my tie choked me, and my feet were like leaded weights. I wanted to run, to hide, to find somewhere that she wouldn’t be. I turned to do just that and saw my parents watching me, my father holding a mug of frosty beer, the head spilling over the side as he raised the mug to me. Go ahead, son, he said to me with that motion. Go on. Throwing caution to the wind, I started clapping and danced my way into the circle.
When I finally made it to Emily, her eyes took me in as she clapped her gloved hands. She wore no bonnet tonight, and her long hair was free and wild. In an immaculate flower print dress, she took my breath away. I bowed to her deeply and extended my hand, some grownups around us laughing at the sight. She curtsied low, took my hand, and we were off. My dream had come true, and again I felt the world slow around us until it seemed that we were the only ones there. After a while, the fiddler ended his song and was met with thunderous applause and yells. Emily leaned in and whispered into my ear, the hair on my neck rising from the feeling.
“I saw you looking at me that day,” she said. “At the mayor’s announcement.”
I guess she saw the look of shock in my eyes, because she took my hand and squeezed it tightly.
“Don’t worry. I was looking at you, too. You look very handsome tonight.”
I didn’t know what to say to that, and I think I stammered and stuttered to find a reply. She smiled, her hand warm in my own.
“I’m thirsty,” she said. “Can we get some cider?”
Holding hands like two young lovers, we walked outside to the stalls and grabbed two mugs of fragrant apple cider. We walked in the yard as we drank them, Emily’s eyes watching the cloudy sky above. When we reached a bench on the side of the barn, we sat and finished them in silence, the night breeze playing with the flames of the torches all around.
“It’s a beautiful night,” I said, unable to think of anything else.
“Not as beautiful as you look tonight, though.”
I regretted those words the instant they left my tongue but she only smiled at me before casting her eyes back to the sky. When our eyes met, I swear they reflected the light from the torches. I don’t know if it is what happened later that causes me to remember it that way, but I remember they looked like the fat shiny silver dollars that my father sometimes got at the bank. She reached over and grabbed my hand, squeezing it with a strength that surprised me.
“Thank you for the dance,” she said, “but I think it’s time for me to go home.”
“Yes,” she said, standing from the bench and straightening her dress. “I don’t sleep well at night, and I’ve found I sleep better the earlier I go to bed.”
I walked her to her uncle, who was already waiting by his automobile, impatiently looking at his watch. Her aunt was in the passenger seat, a look of worry on her face. Before she went to him, she hugged me tightly, and again I was amazed at how strong this small girl was. She’d give some of my friends a run for their money wrestling, I wagered. She kissed my cheek, and I was tickled by something on her face. It reminded me of when my father would grow his beard in the winter, and his whiskers would brush my face when he kissed my forehead at night.
She got into the car and I watched them drive away, the dust from their tires kicking up as they sped down the road. At the time, I didn’t know why they left so fast - the uncle drove like old Satan himself was right behind them. I put it out of my mind and turned to head back to the dance and find my friends. I looked up as I walked and saw the full, fat moon coming out from behind its cover, its beauty to me paling in comparison to the angel who just left.
We heard the first howl not long after that.
The music and dancing stopped immediately, and everyone inside the barn rushed out the yard. It was completely silent for a heartbeat as everybody listened - the howl had been very close, and came from down the road a bit. My father went to the wagon and grabbed his rifle, loading it as he came back to the crowd, instructing my mother to watch me. Other rifles appeared in the hands of the other men present, and I was shuffled inside the barn with the women and children.
Then it came again, closer this time.
The women shrieked and cried, closing and barring the barn’s door. The men took torches and headed down the road, guns at the ready. I was suddenly worried about Emily, worried that she had run afoul of the awful beast that had reared its head again that night. My mother took her eyes off of me for one second and I was away, squeezing through a crack in the back wall of the barn. I ran down the road after her, watching the torches in the distance bob up and down again like the night on the porch of my home.
I ran until my lungs were bursting from my chest, terror and worry driving me on. About a mile down the road I came upon the Woodruff’s Model T, its doors open and engine running. The exhaust burned my lungs as I investigated, knowing in my heart that I would find Emily hurt, or worse.
It wasn’t Emily that I found on the ground next to the car, but her uncle.
His throat had been torn open, his blood pooling on the dirt around him. His lifeless eyes were open, and I could see the moon in them when I kneeled to check on him. There was no sign of Emily or her aunt. A shot in the woods to my right startled me, and I heard the men of the town yelling that they had sight of the wolf. I plunged into the woods, through the sticker bushes and low hanging tree limbs, my resolve to find Emily renewed. Another shot pierced the night, and I heard a scream of pain that must have come from the creature, but it sounded almost human to my ears.
“Got the bastard,” I heard someone yell. “Get after it!”
Time slowed again for me as I pushed through the dark trees, the only light for me the silver beams shining from the moon above. I don’t know how long I ran through them, but eventually I came upon something that stopped me dead in my steps.
On the forest floor, writhing in leaves and bleeding from a large wound in its chest, was the wolf. It whined and whimpered as it lay dying and I swore that I recognized the pitch of its voice. It saw me and reached its hands (it did indeed have hands like a man) out, its claws pointed and deadly. It collapsed back to the ground, and what happened next nearly drove me out of my young mind.
I watched the creature shrink in on itself, its bristly coat disappearing as it pulled back into its hide. Its muzzle, filled with razor sharp teeth and spittle, seemed to melt away as the definition of a human nose began to take shape. Its claws retracted, and soon became normal fingernails on a normal hand. A hand that I had held that night.
Laying on the ground, naked and dying, was Emily Woodruff.
She looked me in my eyes, blood pouring from the corners of her mouth and from the gaping wound in the center of her chest. Recognizing me, she smiled before her eyes shut for the last time. I ran to her, cradled her in my arms, not caring about the slick blood that was staining my fine new suit. I felt her warmth leaving her immediately and, not knowing what else to do, screamed blue murder for help.
I was still screaming when they pulled her lifeless body from my arms.
They never found the body of her aunt, and it was assumed that the wolf had torn her to pieces or consumed her before the makeshift posse had killed it. Emily, they said, had probably cast her dress (which they found torn to pieces the next morning) in an effort to escape the wolf, either to climb a tree or dive into one of the many ponds for safety.
The short minded fools thought that the bullet meant for the creature had missed, striking her instead. I said nothing to change their mind. After all, who would believe me? I kept my silence, and when the wolf was never seen again life went on in the county as it always did. Unlike the two other attacks, however, this was never spoken of again. Either for respect for the family, or guilt for Emily’s death, anyone who would bring it up was shushed into silence.
But I think somebody knew the truth.
Eventually, decades later, people would come to our sleepy town in search of the legend of the Lycan of Calyphon County, as it was to be called. I remember you asking your father about it when you were young, having heard about it from some of your schoolmates. Being a man grounded in what he could see and feel, and not fairy tales of werewolves and monsters, he never believed in the story. He gave you the same explanation that he’d grown up with, the “official story” of the incidents.
But the legend was true. Every word of it.
Which is why I’m telling you this now, hoping that your mind is not as closed as your father’s, before I forget the details to the ravages of this damned disease. I’ve read the news reports lately, and the things they describe as the workings of an unknown animal remind me of that night so long ago, of the wounds I saw on Emily’s uncle.
I believe it’s happening again.
I don’t know how I know this, nor do I know why I feel so strongly that it is connected to this tale I’ve recounted for you, but I feel it in my bones that this all started with Emily coming home to Calyphon. I’ve instructed the family lawyer to deliver this to you after I’m gone, which I also feel will be soon, sealed as it will be so that your father can not interfere with my message.
You need to be prepared.
Dark days are coming to the county again.
The box lay on the top step, its silver color shimmering like a snake’s scales. Bryson simply looked at it for a moment before unlocking his door, picking it up, and taking it in with him. He took the package into his living room, placing it on his coffee table. He sat on his couch, tossing his keys on the table beside the box. They rang loudly in the room, seeming to echo beyond the boundaries of the walls.
Bryson leaned forward from the edge of the couch, both hands grasping the simple lid and lifting it up. A sound like a thousand dying breaths seemed to rush out of it, the wind from those breaths bringing gooseflesh to his arms. Inside, a small stone dagger nestled in what looked to be purple velvet. Too small to be of any practical use, but he knew it was merely symbolic.
Behind him, over the couch, a darkness like oily smoke began building, shaping.
His eyes looked over the runes written on its stone blade, in a language that had died on the lips of its forgotten people over 10,000 years ago. He read them easily, having learned them from his teacher many years before.
“Here, your end has found you.”
BEHOLD YOUR END, MORTAL.
The voice from behind he heard with his mind, not his ears. He jumped to his feet to face its source and saw the darkness that had swollen behind him. The dagger fell from his hands, struck the edge of the coffee table and clattered to the floor. Within the darkness, a figure writhed within, seeming to swim in agonizing strokes. Something similar to the darkness surrounding the creature dripped from its outstretched claws, burning sizzling holes in the back of the couch as it sought to close the gap between them. Bryson backed away slowly, minding the table as he moved toward the front door.
YOU THOUGHT TO ELUDE MY MASTER? NO MATTER WHERE YOU HIDE ON THIS PLANE WE WILL FIND YOU.
Bryson turned the corner from the living area to the the front room of his house, the pictures of the last decade of his life staring at him through the glass of their frames. A small side table flew from the living room entrance, striking the wall and ending some of the gazes in a shower of splintering diamonds and wood.
WHY DO YOU RUN? WHERE IS THE BRAVERY YOU DISPLAYED WHEN YOU MURDERED MY MASTER’S SON? WHEN YOU KIDNAPPED HIS GRANDDAUGHTER?
“Abigail was never his to claim,” said Bryson, breaking his silence finally. “As for his bastard son - well, he should have never disrespected my wife.”
THE WHORE WHO TURNED HER BACK ON HER BIRTHRIGHT? THE TRAITOR WHO CHOSE A HUMAN OVER HER OWN KIND?! SHE MADE HER CHOICE AND SUFFERED THE END SHE DESERVED -
“Now you’re just being rude.”
The shadow thing entered the room, its claws leaving burning prints where it grabbed the door frame to haul itself after him. The vacant sockets of it skeletal face locked into Bryson’s eyes, its voice like a rape upon his mind. He was almost to the front door, his hand very slowly moving to reach behind him.
NOWHERE LEFT TO RUN. NOW I WILL FLAY YOUR SOUL FROM THE VERY CELLS OF ITS FLESHY PRISON, RETURN THE GIRL, AND MY MASTER’S REVENGE WILL BE COMPLETE!
Bryson’s back struck the wall, his hand finding the killswitch he had installed next to the front door.
“So,” he said, “There’s absolutely, completely, no way we can talk about this?”
The creature moved with a speed it hadn’t displayed before, its dripping claws raised for the killing blow.
“I didn’t think so.”
Bryson flipped the switch, and two UV spotlights mounted above the front door blazed to life. Their light flooded the front room, illuminating a pentacle on the floor. It had been painted with a luminous mix that disappeared entirely when dry. It was invisible to the naked eye, and the foolish creature had walked right into it in hunt of its prey.
WHAT IS THISSS?!
“Circle of Mercury,” Bryson informed the creature. “Passed down as a ward against your kind for a millennia.”
He pushed himself off of the wall and approached the edge of the circle surrounding the pentacle. The creature inside was bent over in agony, still floating in the darkness which hung above the glowing circle beneath it. Symbols at the points of the pentacle seemed to pulse with power, their glow increasing with the creature’s pain. The edges of its darkness began to wither, scattering like ashes in an unseen wind. Bryson leaned forward, his eyes slits, a slight smirk on the corner of his lips.
“As a matter of fact, it tends to be lethal unless the invoker of the circle stops it.”
The shadow creature screamed then, the force of it shaking Bryson’s home and rattling the glass in the windows. The rest of the pictures on the wall fell to the floor, shattering and adding their broken bodies to that of their brethren. The creature began to come apart from the outside in, consumed by the trap it had walked into.
“Which, unfortunately for you, I’m definitely not.”
The thing seemed to suck in on itself, then exploded outward, pieces of it striking the invisible field created by the circle and the ceiling above. Then there was silence.
A smell like rotten sulphur ripped through the room. Bryson waved it away as he flipped the killswitch back off and strode through the mess, heading to the kitchen at the end of the hall. Pieces of the creature dripped from the ceiling, landing on his shoulder with wet slap. He wiped it away, cursing at the greasy stain it left behind.
A door to his right cracked open.
Abigail stepped out of her room, her delicate, clawed hand rubbing the sleep from her slitted eyes. Her tail flitted in the air behind her as she closed her door, looking up at Bryson and smiling drowsily.
“What time is it?”
“Almost sunrise, kiddo,” Bryson said, reaching out to ruffle the short black hair on Abigail’s head. He noticed her horns, which had begun growing this spring, had gotten larger. They stuck out like two bony knobs above her eyebrows, and would break through the skin any day now. They were going to need a stronger spell to hide those, and soon.
“What was all that noise?”
“Nothing much,” Bryson said. “Just another Lamia your Grandfather sent after us.”
Abigail walked over to the mess on the floor, holding her hand over her mouth and nose against the stench.
“Ugh,” she said in disgust as Bryson gently grabbed her shoulder, turning her away from the invisible circle. “That’s like the third one this month.”
“He’s not going to stop is he?”
“Doesn’t seem that way,” Bryson said, his hand guiding her back to her door. “How about I get this cleaned up and we talk about things over breakfast? It doesn’t look like you’re gonna make it to school today.”
“So what are we eating? I was thinking pancakes.”
“Yay!” Abigail exclaimed, her almost human eyes glittering with joy. “With butter syrup?”
“You got it, kid.”
Her door clicked shut and Bryson went to the kitchen cupboards in search of the mix.