Home > Hummingbird and Kraken

Hummingbird and Kraken
Author: Reese Morrison

Chapter 1




Declan kicked the tire, then stumbled back, clutching his toe through his sequined canvas shoe. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!”

This was the last thing he needed right now, the cherry on top of the pile of shit that was his life.

He regarded the smoke pouring out of his engine, trying to decide if this was the type of smoke where you poked your head in to try to guess what was wrong, or the type where you moved back fifty yards to make sure you weren’t hit by exploding debris.

Since the car contained all of his worldly possessions, he figured he might as well go down with the ship.

He popped the hood, coughing as the smoke filled his lungs and then stumbled back again. When it cleared, he could see… car parts. Like… the battery. He totally knew what that was. It wasn't smoking.

No, the smoke was coming from a car part that was underneath some other car parts. Well, that cleared that up.

He checked his phone. As he expected, there was no signal. He was out in the middle of nowhere, which was why he’d been listening to staticky FM radio instead of Spotify.

Not that he had anyone to call. He wouldn’t be caught dead calling Mike or any of Mike’s friends, which was pretty much everyone that he knew. And he certainly wouldn’t call his parents.

If he had internet and auto insurance, he could call a tow truck. Well, he was going to have to call a tow truck at some point. And then what would happen? He was pretty sure the car was in Mike’s name, even though it was supposed to be his.

He started to bang his head against the top of the car, but his toe was still throbbing from the last time the car had retaliated.

Fuck. What did people do in these situations? He was a city boy. When you got stuck and needed another person, you went into the local bodega or bar. You stopped someone on the street. Or you just looked up what you needed on your phone because, you know, there was internet.

Declan was starting to realize how stupid this whole trip had been. Which, to be honest, he’d known 500 miles ago when he was piling his stuff into suitcases. He’d wanted adventure, but this surely wasn’t the way to find it.

He’d always figured that his impulsivity would get him into trouble one day, and apparently today was the day. Or maybe the day when he’d met Mike two years ago was when his impulsivity had gotten him into trouble, and this was just the fall out.

So… stay with the car? Hitchhike? Look for a house? Were there any houses out here?

He hadn’t paid attention to the signage along the highway, because it didn’t matter how close you were to anything when you weren’t going anywhere.

He’d kind of thought that he’d stop when he got somewhere that looked good. Somewhere better than where he’d been.

This strip of indistinguishable trees on an endless stretch of highway didn’t qualify by a long shot.

Although, was that…? There was something just at the edge of where the road turned, in a dingy red color at about chest height.

Declan grabbed his backpack, which realistically didn’t have anything useful in it. Some car snacks, his pencils and sketchbooks, and a shiny, pink lipstick in case he needed a touch-up. Then he locked the car. He figured he’d leave the hood open in case anyone saw it and stopped. Not that anyone was coming by or anything.

But he felt responsible, like he was doing something.

He hiked up toward the unidentified floating red object, which slowly resolved into a mailbox on a post. It looked like something you’d see in a holiday card or a Norman Rockwell painting. It had a domed top and even one of those little flags that he thought you were supposed to put up to say there was mail inside. Though he wasn’t sure if the mail carrier or the person getting the letters was supposed to use it.

The flag wasn’t up, though. He thought about checking inside to see if there were any letters, just to know who owned the mailbox or if they were around, but that was probably illegal or something. He didn’t actually want to invade anyone’s privacy.

As he got closer to the mailbox, he could see that it was planted at the edge of a worn but slightly overgrown pair of tracks in the dirt. A road, of some sort. A driveway?

He had nothing better to do than walk down the trail. Maybe someone there could help him. Some nice elderly farm couple. Or… maybe not farmers. Unless they farmed these white trees with their papery bark and leaves that sounded like a river when the wind blew. But then the trees wouldn’t be there anymore, right?

He retreated into fantasy, as he always did when he felt overwhelmed. He imagined a round old woman who smelled like cookies and a skinny old man who smoked a pipe in the rocking chair on the porch. They would let him use the phone and serve him a big farm lunch (or a forest lunch? was that a thing?) and tell him what to do about his car. He would sit around with them in wicker rocking chairs on the porch, while the old man whittled, and the old woman added squares to a quilt.

The dirt path was a lot longer than he’d expected. This wasn’t a driveway. It was an actual road or something like that. There was just so much space out here.

He noticed a sign nailed into a tree and partially grown over by the bark. It read “No Trespassing,” but he chose to ignore it. It was so old that it probably belonged to the previous owners of the property. Anyway, trespassers were people who snuck around and stole things, right? He was just going to ring the doorbell.

Only he didn’t get that far. The road turned abruptly, opening up into a clearing with a squat, solid house covered in metal siding, a rusty pickup truck, and a scowling blond man with his arms crossed over his chest.

God, those arms. They bulged with the muscles of hard labor, sparkling with pale hair that Declan wanted to rub up against like a cat. The man was breathtakingly handsome, in that craggy, authoritative way that always got Declan going. And that scowl… Declan was such a sucker for a good scowl.

He should have probably felt scared, and maybe he did a bit. But his cock was interpreting it as the good type of scared that ended in handcuffs, spankings, and mutual orgasms.

He reminded himself that this wasn’t a gay bar. The man was probably straight. He probably beat up little gay boys. Especially the ones who liked to wear provocative t-shirts and looked better in makeup than their sisters ever could.

“Hi!” Declan said with a flounce. Which was totally not the plan. He wasn’t even sure he knew what to say to a big scowling man like that if he wasn’t flirting.

He deepened his voice and tried again. “Er, um, hello.” He hoped he had a scowl on his own face, but he didn’t think he was pulling it off. The sparkly silver paint outlining his eyes probably didn’t help. He should have washed it off before he got out of the car. And changed his shirt.

He crossed his arms over his chest, even though it was certainly too late. Maybe he looked at least a little bit serious?

Something twitched on the man’s face, but he didn’t smile. “What are you doing here?” He had the faintest trace of an accent, but not one that Declan could place. Something Scandinavian, maybe?

“My, um, car broke? And there’s smoke coming out of it. Like, big old towers of smoke. And I don’t even know where I am, except that there are a lot of trees. Which, like, I suppose local people might know which trees are which, but I can’t just say that on the phone. Because I don’t even know what state I’m in. Oh, and my phone doesn’t work. Like, the batteries are charged, but there’s no signal? So I couldn’t call a tow truck. And that’s this whole other thing because I don’t even know if the insurance on the car is still good. Or even how much money I have. Shit! I should have taken out some cash at an ATM. That’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Take out cash? Sorry… what was the question?”

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