I wrote a 9,700 word short story, a consequence of thinking ahead to Book 6 in the Anye Legacy series. It’s now making rounds at the SciFi monthly magazines for publication.
Rendezvous at the Lazy L
In 1920s South Dakota, a small-town physician learns that a local dude ranch is a destination for offworld tourists.
Black Rock, South Dakota — 1928
Francine Suraksin dallied at the gift store’s liquor display while her husband mooned over a Winchester rifle, a rite of departure he observed each season. The concessionaire — a tough-looking ex-policeman, ethnic Anye Kopin, pelt shaved so tight you could see skin — got to the point. “Buy it. You aren’t coming next year.”
That was a fact; after seven hundred years of adventure tourism along the retracement of 84 light-years previously untraveled since the Bronze Age, a time had arrived when non-humans could no longer risk dropping into the hills for calf-roping lessons, nature hikes and steak dinners.
An airplane might fly over, or an Anye wander into a campsite, and ‘Sasquatch sighted in South Dakota’ would burn up the Associated Press wire from Los Angeles to New York City. Not to say the lodge was closing: Loka AjJivadi — humans, transplanted to Jivada during the Anye migration — were still welcome.
The distinction loaned no comfort to Francine. She extended a claw to trace axe marks on a peg-and-mortice column, bathing in the scent of lodgepole pine, a lit kerosene lamp, a basket of potpourri. The lodge was a second home, a place she’d visited every year since she could remember. Soon she’d say goodbye forever.
She blew her nose into a tissue. Being pregnant is swinging my moods all over the place. Eyes settled on a cut-glass bottle of Kentucky Bourbon, displayed with etched shot glasses atop a weathered oak barrel. The prize clinked on its way to the gun counter, giving notice of solidarity among shoppers. “He’s right. You should get it.”
Mahat Limar have a bear-like appearance, in physique and expression, that gets in the way of divining their thoughts, but she knew wistful when she saw it. Francine touched his hand. “Let yourself have something you want, just this once.”
He wavered. “I look at these every year.”
“I’ll take this. He’ll take that.” Francine pushed her bourbon kit across the counter. “Send them to our room, if you don’t mind.”
They passed a group of Loka AjJivadi gathered for a trip to the civil war museum downtown. Their guide coached them one last time. “You can practice your English, but don’t be pushy. Remember, if anybody asks, you’re from India.”
Her husband grumbled on their way out the front door. “If the pale-skinned lady is from India, I’m from Ohio.”
“You’re jealous because you can’t go into town.” Francine sniffed. “And I doubt the locals are curious anymore.”
Another Anye couple waited on the circle by a chauffeured Hudson limousine. The lady was Raji Limar, a close cousin to Francine’s breed — with a tighter, untextured pelt, but the same perky ears, big eyes and foxlike muzzle. The man was Samudri, which was something of a surprise. He might have seen it on their faces, or perhaps was accustomed to explaining himself to strangers. “You’ve been misled to believe the ‘Dri never intermarry.” He put out a hand. “We arrived this morning.”
Francine replied. “We go back the day after tomorrow.”
Mikul was his usual effusive self. “Hoya.”
The man uttered a ritual greeting of the Zirna Zapha distributed state as he boarded — the word, ‘Areh’, eliciting a bark out of Francine. “That is a surprise. Militant businessman or gangster?”
“A little of both — attorney. Masala Kurvat; my wife, Marna.” He nodded at Mikul. “You’re Mahat limar, so I thought …”
“That I’d be a constituent.” He found a place on the seat cushion that fit his backside, then grunted the observance as the car lurched forward. “Hai!”
The Samudri laughed. “Soldier?”
“No. He’s Suraksin clan; they’re all like this. I’m Francine.” She pinched her husband’s ear. “Mikul.”
He recoiled with a grin on his face. “Tradesman. Associate District Engineer.”
Masala folded his hands, a gesture practiced by Samudri to attenuate their feral appearance. It helped, a little. “Everybody needs water.”
It was a downhill ride past grazing cows, horse corrals, barns and split-rail fences. Marna Kurvat was transfixed by the landscape. “My Gods, it’s all so beautiful.” She craned her neck as the car crossed a log bridge. ““Will we see anything we left here, or did our non-native specimens vanish into the background?”
Francine replied. “They mostly vanished. The deer look like Vidura ligu, but they’re not.”
The attorney watched an Elk watch them from the side of the road. “The H2 Conservancy must be desperate for attention; they have their fur up, again, about us contaminating this place.”
“You’re hearing about it this time because they want an exclusive franchise for Earth tourism.” Francine made a sour expression. “On the grounds they’re more ecologically responsible than commercial operators.”
“Why isn’t that in the news?” Masala cocked his head. “And how will that affect our hosts’ business?”
“I shouldn’t say.” Francine shrugged. “Maybe they’ll mention it.”
Marna Kurvat waved a hand. “I know my husband loves to discuss politics …”
Francine smiled. “What would you like to talk about?”
“I’m curious about your given name.”
“It means ‘from France’. A native woman stumbled into my parents while they were hiking. It turned into a long and productive friendship. I’m named after her.”
Marna made wide eyes. “There has to be more to it than that!”
“There is, but it’s my parents’ story, not mine. Sorry.”
“Did you know her?”
“She passed away before I was born. I will say, regardless of how it turned out, the furry tribes shouldn’t try to mix with native humans. My great-grandfather and his friends had a fishing camp in what’s now Nova Scotia, until European settlers arrived. There’s a word left over in the regional dialect from those days, a corruption of my clan name, Vadin.”
“Really? What’s the word?”
“Wendigo. It means ‘soul-eating monster’.” She glanced out the window. “Oh, look — we’re here.”