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The sharpest tool we had was a bottle opener.

The big man blinked, uncomprehending.

How did this happen?

The full moon added to the light of the bonfire, illuminating bodies scattered where they tried to escape. None was in one piece.

The big man took one aimless step then another, refusing to absorb the meaning of his surroundings.

We were supposed to be giving thanks…

Business at the commune had been killer these past few months: personal care items were up, the microbrew had gained some popularity and, best of all, the summer’s crop of White Widow had topped out at twenty-three and a half percent THC. It was while he and Greta were smoking some of the fruits of that first harvest, lying naked in bed on a beautiful summer morning, that she’d come up with the idea.

Mother Gaia has shown us such bounty. We should offer our energy to Her, to give thanks and praise to Her glory.

Best energy I know, he’d replied, is sex.

When they’d set up that morning for the orgy, the sweet summer grass had tickled their ankles. Oak trees spread green-leafed shade over them, and even the moss coating the stone hollow where they’d set up the bonfire had been bright chartreuse. Greta had said the vitality was a good sign.

Someone expressed reservations about messing with weird religions.

This isn’t “weird,” Greta had said. We’re all about positive energy.

Now the green was gone, withered, freezer burned to death on the first of August. The foliage had shrunk to husks, trees twisted and gnarled. He tried to understand how this could be.


What happened to him?

He couldn’t stop shaking.

“I’m gonna come back for you. Mister Fizz made me bigger and stronger than you.”

Beneath the bloody horror he saw Greta’s face. “Baby…” he whispered, extending a trembling hand.

Her head rolled to the side, exposing the jagged edge that nearly severed it from her body…

The next thing he knew he was fumbling through the pockets of the jeans he’d stripped off hours—years—ago. Drying blood made his grip sticky, but he managed to untangle his cell phone.

9-1-1 Operator. What is the emergency?

“You have to come! They’re all dead!”

Calm down, sir. Who is dead? Where are you?

“Blue Moon Bay. In a field, about a half mile northwest from the commune. The Churner’s Commune. You have to come now!

The thing had burst from the heart of the black bonfire, an icy white lance that blinded him when it struck. His stomach had gone numb; he didn’t remember, didn’t want to remember, anything beyond that.

The Churner’s Commune?

“Hurry! I think…I think I killed them all.”

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