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Kasady Family Values

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Lisa Prescott looked out at her front yard and sighed contentedly. The grass was perfectly manicured, and her tulips were in full bloom. An ideal life was her actual reality, but the work was never done when you were a stay-at-home mom. The kids were still in school, and Dave, her distantly loving husband, was working hard doing his job while raising the self esteem of his female coworkers by complimenting their looks.

It was a warm summer day, and Lisa lifted a hand to shield her eyes from the bright sun. She caught sight of her next-door neighbor, Girnath the Destroyer, drifting towards the newspaper from this morning, and waved politely to the god-like creature.

The levitating alien’s many eyes all honed in on her at once, and Lisa got the feeling that she was being stripped down to her very molecules in some other dimension. The sensation ended when Girnath raised one of her long, incredibly thin arms and waved back.

Girnath and her husband, Mark the Destroyer, were the only alien/human couple on the street. Every time Lisa looked at Girnath, the air felt cold and distorted for a half an hour afterwards, but they were good neighbors. The same could not be said of Sharon Stout across the street, who had the gall to flirt with Dave after they accidentally got locked in the Jones’s cellar together during the annual neighborhood barbecue.  

Silly Dave hadn’t realized he just needed to move the deadbolt, but that’s why a husband always needed his wife.

Lisa retreated inside her perfect house to monitor the meatloaf she was readying for dinner. It would be finished by the time Dave and the kids got home, and she was excited to present it to her hungry family. Lisa flitted around her kitchen, preparing the sides, but froze when she heard the doorbell ring.

“Who could that be?” She internally chastised herself when she realized she asked the question out loud. She had to be careful with that. Dave didn’t like it when she talked to herself, and she briefly considered taking some of her soothing pills before he got home. Lisa shook her head. Maybe later.

Instead, she walked from her kitchen, and through her expansive living room with bay windows to open the door and greet whoever was on the other side.

“Hello, how can I help you?” she asked, and was pleasantly surprised to see and kindly looking man about Dave’s age on the other side.

“Hello, ma’am,” the man said with a polite smile. “I’m awfully sorry to bother you, but my cat got out and I saw her run into your backyard. Do you mind if I look around for her?”

Lisa’s first thought was the man before her was rather handsome. He was only slightly taller than her, with bright green eyes that seemed to shimmer like emeralds in the late afternoon sun. Curls of red hair bounced against his forehead, while a smattering of freckles decorated the bridge of his long nose. He reminded her of the grown-up version of Howard Stern’s character in Happy Days.

“Not at all,” she said, immediately.

“Well, thanks a lot, ma’am,” he said, taking a step back from her. “I just didn’t want to scare you. I swear, I’ll make it quick and I’ll be out of your hair.”

Lisa couldn’t stop the twinge of disappointment at his retreat, and before he turned around entirely to head towards the backyard, she spoke.

“That gate is tricky to work. You can come through the house if you want.”

The mans thick eyebrows rose in genuine surprise. “You sure about that, ma’am?” he asked, rubbing the back of his head with a bashful smile. “Didn’t anyone tell you it’s not safe to invite strangers inside?” He sounded embarrassed, and Lisa was immediately endeared.

“Well, what’s your name?” she asked.

“Ha, it’s Cletus,” he said. “Cletus Kasady.” He held out a hand for her to shake and she took it without hesitation. She was further disappointed to see a wedding ring on his finger.  

“I’m Lisa,” she said. “Lisa Prescott. See? Now we aren’t strangers.”

He let out a soft laugh and looked up at her through lashes that were copper in the sunlight. Lisa didn’t miss the careful way he angled himself towards her, and it made him appear shy. Her eyes travelled to his toned arms, and she couldn’t fathom why. “I guess we’re not. Well, if you insist.” She moved out of the way as he entered the house and looked around her living room. He let out a whistle. “My, your home sure is lovely.”

“Thank you,” Lisa said, tucking a strand of blond hair behind her ear. She didn’t mean to flirt. She was a married woman, and she certainly didn’t want to be like Sharon flirting with every man who wasn’t her husband. Still, it was hard to ignore the very handsome elephant in the room.

“Oh, wow, bay windows.” Cletus walked over to the rather pretty view of the lawn, if Lisa did say so herself. He smiled again, only it was different than the shy one he had outside: sharper and stretching the scars on his lip she hadn’t noticed before now. It was then, some dormant part of Lisa Prescott told her that she should get him out of her house as soon as humanly possible.

Cletus waltzed over to the mantle of the fireplace and studied the family photos. He stopped at one of her late mother Gertrude and picked it up without asking.

“Oh, please be careful!” she exclaimed.

Cletus’s eyes snapped to her in a way that reminded her a bit too much of Girnath. Without the sun to fill them, they were as empty as broken beer bottles. Lisa swallowed and controlled the tremble in her voice. “That’s the only picture she allowed us to take before she passed.”  

“Ah.” Cletus put the photo back with a great show of carefulness. It felt like a show, at least. Lisa got the impression that he actually wanted to toss the frame directly at her face. “Sorry. I’m new around here.”

“Oh?” Lisa started to walk towards the kitchen, and he followed her without complaint. She kept her smile in place. “I couldn’t help but notice your ring.” She instinctively put herself behind the kitchen island as soon as they entered, and thankfully Cletus didn’t follow.

Instead, a flicker of a genuine smile put her back at ease. He twisted the silver band, the sharp lines around his eyes softening. “Yeah, my wife and I got hitched recently. It was a really big wedding. Almost a bit too much excitement for me. So, we were looking at quiet neighborhoods like this one. We got a kid too. Born a couple days ago.”

“Oh, that’s lovely,” she said, taking her eyes off of him briefly to check on the meatloaf. Dave wouldn’t be happy with her if she burned it. “I have two girls myself. Ashley just started kindergarten and Kaitlyn is the smartest girl in her third-grade class.” When she looked at Cletus again, he was headed towards the sliding glass doors that led to the backyard.

“Well, thanks for letting me get my cat,” he said as he slid the door open. “But you seriously need to be more careful with who you let into your house, Mrs. Prescott.” His flat, empty eyes fixed on her, and the scars grazing his lip made his smile look all the more off-putting. “Not every guy is as nice as me.” He exited the house, and Lisa couldn’t stop the sigh of relief that vacated her lungs.

She certainly had to be more careful. Cletus was handsome at first, but there was something off about him that gave her the heebee jeebies. Lisa found her chopping board and grabbed a carrot, ready to prepare the side dish to her famous meatloaf. All she needed was her knife.

Where had she put it?

She was always misplacing things. Dave said she’d lose her head if it wasn’t attached to her shoulders. Susan, her friend from spin class, always said that was mean of him to say, but it wasn’t a wife’s place to question the man of the house.

“Where the dickens did I put it?” she asked herself out loud again as she started to open nearly every drawer in the house. “I can’t cut carrots with just any old knife.”

“You looking for something?”

Lisa let out a gasp and whirled around to see Cletus standing at the glass doors. She cursed herself for not locking them.  “Oh! D-Did you find your cat?”

“Nope.”

“Sorry to hear that. You can leave out of the back,” she suggested, doing her best to remain polite.

“Already tried. You were right. That latch is tricky,” Cletus said.

“Oh, okay. Well, I’m sure if you leave some milk out, she’ll come home,” Lisa assured with a light laugh to break the sudden tension in the room. Cletus didn’t laugh with her.

“What are you looking for, Lisa?” His question sounded more like a demand than an actual question.

“Oh, I’m just looking for my…”

Cletus pulled her knife from behind his back.

“Oh, you found it!” she said with a relieved smile. “I would have never heard the end of it if Dave didn’t have his carrots!”

Cletus made no move to hand it back to her, and instead reached behind himself once more. There was an audible ‘click’ and Lisa’s smile wavered.

“Why are you locking the door?”

Cletus took a step towards her and his breathing turned heavier.

“Where did you say you lived again?” she asked, moving back and startling as she bumped into the cabinets behind her.

“I didn’t."

Then, realizing the situation she was in, Lisa Prescott let out a soft,

“Oh, shit.”

Cletus leapt across the island. His hand left a sweaty print on the marble top, just before he crashed into her. Lisa’s scream was cut off by Cletus’s hand over her mouth as he drove the knife into her chest. Lisa barely felt it, as she scrambled against him. Her hand reached behind her as she threw various spices and cooking utensils at him. So, murder was how he got such great arms. Go figure.

The angle he forced her into made it nearly impossible to hit him, and clouds of paprika and Grandma Gertrude’s secret blend filled the air. They both to coughed. Cletus backed up, and Lisa attempted to run, only to fall sideways onto her pristine kitchen tiles.

Dave was not going to be happy about the blood stains, but she could apologize later if she managed to survive. Lisa attempted to claw her way towards the living room where she left her cellphone.

“Now, don’t put up a fight. I gotta make sure the house is ready for when my lady shows up!” Cletus stood over her, and she could see her own blood on his hands. Huh, he had nice hands too. His wife was a lucky lady. Lisa took a moment to think this, and then immediately remembered she was in the process of being murdered, and went back to panicking.

His eyes were as empty as when this inconvenient nightmare started. With little flourish, he grabbed her by her hair, flipped her over and stabbed her again. Lisa heard the blade scrape against her ribs. She tried to scream, but only a choked gurgle came. He plunged the knife into her stomach.

“W…Why?” she managed through the blood pooling in her throat.

“Because you have bay windows!”

He stabbed her again.

“Because this neighborhood is close to a school that has a healthy diversity of aliens and humans!”

Stab.

“Because I’m in love with your kitchen island!”

Stab.

“Because it looks like you have a walk-in pantry!”

Stab.

“But most importantly of all,” Cletus leered down at her. She could barely see the whites of his teeth as black spots danced in her vision. However, the green of his eyes penetrated the darkness. She could see those just fine, and they were full of mirth and what Lisa could only describe as evil. “Most importantly, because I feel like it.”

The knife came down the final time.

The kids would be home soon.

 

***

 

 

Dave Prescott walked up to his front door and smoothed down the front of his suit. His secretary’s self-esteem wasn’t going to raise itself, and so he was home later than intended. He had shot a text to Lisa informing her of such, and her response was odd, to say the least.

K sounds gud

That wasn’t like Lisa at all, but then again, the girls were probably home, and she had a lot on her plate keeping a house in check. As long as she texted him back, then there would be no need for a stern talking to. Sometimes it was hard to be the man of the house. He didn’t like making Lisa feel bad, but her womanly emotions often got in the way of her logic, and she needed a firm but loving hand to keep her on track.

Dave entered the foyer and walked through the living room, smelling the meatloaf in the air. He sure did love Lisa’s meatloaf. And by Lisa’s meatloaf, he meant his mother’s he had Lisa practice until she got it right.

He entered their spacious kitchen he designed himself, and stopped when he felt his top-of-the-line work shoes step into a puddle of something wet.

“Oh no, the tiles!” he cried when he realized he had stepped in blood. “Lisa, did you let in another home invader?” Dave walked around the kitchen island. “I told you to stop letting strange men in the house!” He paused when he spotted what remained of his poor wife.

Lisa, the love of his life (probably) was sprawled on her back in a pool of her own blood. Dave’s mouth fell open in horror, and he placed a hand over his chest to still his racing heart. Lisa’s blond hair was smeared with red, and her lips were parted in a silent scream.

By God.

If Lisa was dead, that meant….

“The meatloaf!” Dave cried just as something hit him in the back of head.

The world went black as the bloody tiles rose up to meet his face.

When Dave woke, he was sitting upright, and it took him a moment to realize through the throbbing pain in his head, that he was tied to one of his lovely kitchen chairs. They were part of a set he got on sale from SEARS for an absolute steal!

“Well, good to see the man of the house is awake,” a man’s voice said. Of course, it was a man. It was always a man.

Dave squeezed his eyes shut for a moment to clear his vision. When he opened them again, two blood-covered hands sat a plate of slightly burned meatloaf in front of him. No carrots. He must be in Hell. Dave attempted to move his arms to gauge his ability to stand, and quickly figured out he was practically cocooned to the chair with rope.

“Wh-What?” Even one word left him nauseous, and he felt so inexplicably tired despite getting the proper eight hours of sleep the night before. He heard the chair furthest from his right squeak against the tiles. He looked up, and the first thing he saw was a man with bright red hair covered in blood—presumably Lisa’s.

The next thing he saw was Lisa’s corpse sitting right next to him, and across form her, the bodies of his two girls, Ashley and Kaitlyn. In front of Kaitlyn was a spelling test with a big A plus written in red ink. Well, her A plus was great, but a corpse wasn’t going to beat Jeffery Sturgess’s little wiz kid at the annual spelling bee.

“I’d say I was sorry about your family, but I’m really not, and I’m working on my issues with honesty.” The red-haired man’s voice brought Dave’s attention back to him. He sat next to Lisa with his chin in his hand. “Key to a healthy marriage is being honest with each other, and I guess you’re as good of a practice dummy as any.”

“Glad I can help,” Dave said in an oddly sincere voice given the circumstance. “A little white lie here or there won’t hurt though. Women can be fragile.” As he spoke, the man stabbed a knife into the table, and stood abruptly from his chair. Dave didn’t even have time to panic before the man was snarling directly in his face.

“I tell my wife everything! You mean to tell me, you had all of this,” he made a gesture to the comfy kitchen, “and you lied to kind, sweet Lisa here?” The man placed a hand on Lisa’s shoulder and her head lolled limply to the side. “You see, Mr. Prescott, I love my wife. Did you love yours?”

Dave’s eyes went to the knife jutting out of his beautiful mahogany table. “Well, Lisa and I are, uh, were high school sweethearts. I was captain of the football team and she was the captain of the cheerleading team. We got married right after we graduated high school and she waited for me while I was in college.”

The red-haired man held his gaze for a little while longer while Dave fidgeted against his bindings. “You didn’t answer my question.”    

“Of course I love her!” Dave said. He looked at his recently deceased wife and sighed. “Well, loved her. You did dispatch her on meatloaf night, though. Which is a shame. I feel like if you had tried it, you would have thought twice about murdering my entire family.”  

“Doubt that.” The man stepped back and ripped the knife out of the table. He seemed agitated in the way he paced around the kitchen counter. He reached into the pocket of his red jeans, pulled out a cellphone, studied the screen and then tossed it unceremoniously on the island. “Fuck! Where is she?”

Dave watched the man’s back. He was tense, every muscle rigid through the black material of his shirt.

“Say, I feel like it would be kind of rude to call you Mr. Home Invader, so can I get your name?” Dave asked.

The man looked at him over his shoulder, and the angle made his cheekbones appear sharper. “Cletus. Not that it matters.” Dave picked up on a slight Brooklyn accent. Cletus picked up the phone and started to pace around the island again.

“I’d say it does,” Dave said kindly. “You seem anxious.”

“I get twitchy when I haven’t seen my wife in a while.” He looked up from his phone and pressed his index finger against his temple. “It gets real screwy up here, and she’s about the only person who can sort it out.”

Dave pressed his lips into a thin line and spared glances at his recently deceased family.

“You got something you wanna say to me, Dave?” Cletus asked. The question didn’t actually sound like a question. More like a warning that Dave should not, in fact, say anything regarding the corpses around him.

“Oh, just that I’m glad you found someone who’s willing to help you with whatever mental illness you’ve got going on.” Dave meant it as a compliment, but Cletus was already on edge, and Dave barely managed to duck his head as a cast iron pan came flying at him like a frisbee.

“I ain’t mentally ill!” Cletus screamed; his expression unhinged with rage. “I’m married with a kid, and perfectly well-adjusted!”

“Golly, you’re right,” Dave said sincerely. He couldn’t help but wince at the damage done to the wall behind him. “I shouldn’t have assumed that. Sorry, Cletus. I hope you don’t think less of me.”

Cletus watched him for a few minutes, his chest visibly rising and falling with every breath. “You gotta be fucking with me,” he muttered.

“No, no!” Dave said. “It truly was rude of me to assume anything about your mental health. Besides, mixed up heads are way more prevalent in women. My Lisa, for example, had some pills to help her focus on the important things, like making dinner and cleaning the house.”

Cletus’s eyes narrowed, but he said nothing and went back to staring at his phone screen. “Your wife was a nice lady,” he said after a moment. “I liked her a lot.”

“Why did you kill her then?” Dave asked.

Cletus shrugged a shoulder, his focus still entirely on his phone. “No reason. I mean, I want your house, but I could have gotten it without killing you.”

“Uh huh,” Dave said. “How do you figure that?”

“My wife and brother-in-law have more money than God. They would have made you an offer you’d be an idiot to pass up. Probably would have been easier than dealing with the cover up for this mess.” Cletus sharply inhaled through his nose and started to text. “But I needed to do this my way.”

“Good on you for taking control of the situation like a real husband should,” Dave said. “It’s always the man’s job to provide for his family.”

“So I’ve been told,” Cletus said, disinterested. His cellphone rang, and that on-edge tenseness in his jaw relaxed as he hit the receive call button. “Hey baby, where are you?” Cletus walked toward the stone archway that led to the currently dark living room. Dave looked at the stove clock. It was close to ten. He’d been out for awhile then, and judging by the enviable muscles in Cletus’s arms, he was lucky to just be out. “Yeah, yeah, no I’m fine. I’m just waiting for you. I know it’s out of the way.”

Cletus made his way back to the island and pulled out a stool to sit on. “Oh, no, honey, you gotta turn left at the Arby’s. No, I don’t need anything from Arby’s.” Cletus ran a hand through his hair and rolled his eyes, although the gesture seemed more amused than annoyed. “Alright, I’ll see you in a few minutes. I love you too.” He smiled softly. “Oh, the kid’s fine. He’s enjoying some quality time with his old man. Been an absolute angel.” There was a pause. “Alright, bye babe.”

All the tension bled out of Cletus’s shoulders and he nearly slumped against the island.

“Sounds like she got lost,” Dave said.

“She’s almost here,” Cletus said. “Better get the kid.”

“Kid?”

Cletus placed two fingers in his mouth and whistled. Kaitlyn’s slumped head moved and from behind the curtain of blond hair concealing her face, and a wad of what appeared to be red and blue goo dripped down onto the table.

“You get your fill, kiddo?” Cletus scooped up the goo and let it twine itself around his fingers. It certainly was alive. Very alive, and making chittering sounds.

“That’s…that’s your kid?” Dave asked, keeping his smile in place.

“Yup, this is my pride and joy,” Cletus said. “He’s got his mama’s color.”

“It’s a boy?”

Cletus looked at the goo and then back at Dave. “I’m not really sure, to tell you the truth. I’m just guessing.” Two thicker tendrils extended from the infant alien in Cletus’s hands to touch his cheeks. “Don’t you worry,” Cletus said in a babyish voice that was horrifically creepy. “Your mama is gonna be here any minute. She just passed Arby’s, which you can’t have because dead meat makes you sick, yes it does! Yes, it does!”

Just when Dave was about to ask if the baby was actually Cletus’s, he heard the front door open. Cletus paused his baby talk, and a wide grin that made the two scars on his lip stretch awkwardly lit up his face. He hurried over to the entryway of the kitchen and called into the darkened living room, “I’m in here, baby!”

Judging by the slight vibrations beneath his chair, whatever entered the house was big. Cletus didn’t go into the living room, but over his head, Dave saw two reflective eyes appear. A low rumbling followed as the eyes swayed with every step the creature took towards the kitchen.

It definitely wasn’t Girnath. She was the only alien on the street, and had way more than two eyes. Cletus practically trembled with excitement, so there was no question that this was the wife. Of course. Cletus struck him as a man with more exotic taste. Dave himself had no problem with humans dating aliens, to each his own, but when the creature walked into the light of the kitchen, he had to bite back a scream.

There was nothing human in the face peering at him from underneath a dark hood. Its eyes were huge, nearly encompassing its entire face, but it made them no easier to read. Dave was not one to scare easy, but fear hummed from the back of his skull, getting louder as the alien lifted its chin and parted its fangs.

“Nice ventilation.” It did not sound like a woman. The voice that came out of the jagged maw was androgynous at best, but the hiss that lurked beneath its words made Dave think it wasn’t meant to speak out loud. From what he could see of the alien’s face beneath the hood, it was red, with serrated fangs and black veins that shifted and swayed with the movement of its skin.

“Welcome, babe!” Cletus said. “I know it was kind of out of the way, but you made it!”

The alien’s head snapped around. It was so much taller than Cletus, and its hands ended in jagged talons. Surely this wasn’t the thing Cletus had been talking to so sweetly over the phone. It lifted its hand, and Dave braced himself for it to swat Cletus away, but the creature instead rested its palm against his cheek. With a soft keen, it gently tilted his head back to touch its forehead to his.

“Sorry, I’m late.” The frayed edges of its enormous eyes seemed softer somehow.  

Cletus placed his hands over the alien’s, and Dave saw the matching wedding bands on their fingers. “It’s okay, Red.” Cletus nuzzled the monstrous hand as if there was no danger of its fingers closing and crushing his skull. The alien, or rather, Red, pressed its mouth to Cletus’s forehead.

Then its gaze honed in on Dave. A long, serpentine tongue snaked out of its mouth to graze over its teeth. “Who is this?” it asked.

“Red, this is Dave!” Cletus said, stepping away to make a grand sweeping gesture with his arm. “Consider him your housewarming gift! Dave, this is my wife, Red.” Dave may have been slightly off base with his tentative assumption that Cletus’s wife was a nervous wisp of a woman.  

“Oh, Cletus.” Red pressed a hand over her muscular chest. Dave could see the lines of her pectorals even through the coat. “You shouldn’t have. I might have to hassle you.”

“Don’t you dare!” Cletus attempted to retreat around the kitchen island, but Red’s long arms caught him around the waist and pulled him back against her. “Babe, our kid!” Cletus brought the squirming goo closer to his chest, although there was no real protest since he was laughing. The alien’s teeth snapped at a flyaway curl of hair and yanked on it playfully. “Ow, hey! That’s my hair!” He said through his giggling. He turned his face and kissed Red on the side of her face and let it linger. Her large pupil-less eyes shrank into tiny slits, as she let out a pleased rumble.  

Aw, Dave thought, momentarily forgetting that the delightful new family were uninvited guests who had murdered his wife and kids.

“Go finish him off, Red,” Cletus said. “I saved him for you.”

That made him remember.

“H-Hey, now let’s not be too hasty!” Dave attempted to move his legs only to find they were bound to the legs of the chair.

Red gently put Cletus down, cradled his face in her hands one last time to press her teeth to his mouth, and turned to Dave. All tenderness she displayed might as well have never existed. She moved across the kitchen floor like a tiger ready to pounce, slow, deliberate, and inevitable.

“You smell delicious.” Red placed her hands silently on the table and lifted herself onto it. Not even the tips of her talons made a noise as she peered down at him from underneath her hood. Dave tried to keep his boyish smile in place. He wasn’t sure how great the effect was on aliens, but this one seemed to be female, so maybe there was hope that she’d take pity on a pretty face.

“I appreciate the compliment, Red,” Dave said. “But this bleeding corpse next to me is my lovely wife, so let’s keep it friendly, alright?”

Red’s fangs parted with a gurgling hiss that made Dave’s skin erupt in goosebumps. Cletus remained by the kitchen island, toying with the tiny wad of goo in his arms. He seemed perfectly content now, as if he hadn’t tried to kill Dave in a fit of rage with a pan earlier.

“I like you, Dave,” Red said. The uneven line of her mouth twisted at the corners into a ghoulish smile. Dave flinched as she placed her hand on the chair and tilted it backwards. His distorted reflection stared back at him from the opalescent white of her eyes. His throat went dry.

Being so close to her now, Red was eerily beautiful. Still terrifying—still so far removed from a human that under normal circumstances he wouldn’t look twice at her in fear for his life, but something about her was nothing short of hypnotic. Lisa had never captivated him so entirely, for love was nowhere near as powerful as the primal terror of being cornered by an apex predator.

“Do you have a walk-in pantry?” Red asked.

“Huh?” Dave blinked, remembering he hadn’t in a few seconds. “Uh, yeah. Sure do.”

She tilted her head. “How many bedrooms? The outside looks absolutely adorable.”

“Three bedrooms,” Dave said. “The master bedroom is at the end of the hall upstairs. My office is up there as well. It used to be the nursery, but with the girls getting so big, there wasn’t a need for it anymore.”

“I see,” Red said. “And central air?”

“Of course,” Dave said. “Also, the kitchen island can seat six, but we prefer the dining room table for family dinners.”

“I’ve been wanting to learn how to cook,” Red said thoughtfully. She looked over her shoulder at Cletus and then back at Dave. “We’ll take it!”

“Uh, well, the house isn’t…” Dave stole a glance at Cletus, and the look on his face was enough to make him swallow his words. “You know what? Good. You can have the house, and I’ll probably move to Guam or somewhere far away where you’ll never see me again.”

“That won’t be necessary.” Red’s voice brought his attention back to her. Ropes of saliva dangled from her jaws. She raised her other hand, and from the sleeve of her coat, three tendrils spiraled lazily towards his face.

“I don’t like that!” Dave cried.

“What are you doing?” Cletus asked. His voice was pitched with panic.  

“Y-Yeah, what are you doing?” Dave turned his face to the side and craned his neck back as far as it would go. He knew it would only buy him maybe a second before the tendrils did whatever they were going to do, but anything to live even a moment longer.  

“Just wanting to get a little extra flavor with the meal.” Red’s prehensile tongue practically slithered over her fangs. It gave Dave chills that weren’t entirely unpleasant, and he did not want to explore that part of himself any further than he had to today.

Cletus moved to the table and grabbed Red’s sleeve with one hand while still cradling the baby in the other. “I don’t want you to bond with him.” The pained look on his face was enough to make Dave feel sorry for him. Clearly, Cletus was the type of person who had very little self-identity outside of his relationship with his wife, and it showed with how sensitive he was to her every word and action. Dave was also picking up on some rampant abandonment issues. Poor guy.

Red stared at Cletus’s hand on her sleeve. As lovely as she was, Dave was almost sure this time she was about to snap and swat her human companion away. He was proven wrong again, however, when the tendrils retracted. She took Cletus’s face in her hands, and despite not being human, her eyes held so much devotion it made Dave’s heart ache a little.

“You’re right, I’m sorry.” Red brushed his cheeks with her thumbs, showing great care in not hurting him with her talons. “I got a little too excited.”

Cletus gave her a small smile. “It’s alright. Just…just that’s special.”

Red moved her hands down his cheeks to his neck, then to his shoulders, sliding them over his arms until she grasped his free hand. “Very well.” She lifted the hand to her mouth and pressed her teeth to it. The way Cletus smiled made Dave wonder if maybe that was why Lisa let him into the house. A smile didn’t look half bad on him.

Dave’s thoughts were cut short when both of Red’s large hands came down on his shoulders. Her strength was immense, and she used none of the careful gentleness she displayed with Cletus.

“Well, Dave,” she said. Her voice seemed more distorted, and the sleek, beautiful face from before was now twisted and misshapen as her jaw unhinged. “Nice meeting you, but it’s down the hatch.”

Dave remembered the plate of meatloaf Cletus put in front of him earlier and looked down in time to see Red’s foot dangerously close to it.

“Be careful of the meatlo—”

Her teeth ripped his head from his spine before he finished.