“Cumulus,” said Stacey.

“Right!” said Dan with the beaming pride that only the father of a 6 year old daughter can radiate.

They lay together in the park with neither blanket nor picnic basket. It was an impromptu excursion, after all. It wasn’t Dan’s day, after all. In fact, he wasn’t supposed to see Stacey without Eleanor being present. Which was ridiculous. She was his daughter, for God’s sake. What sort of danger could he possibly put her in? None. Obviously. Eleanor was the one who burned through a bottle of wine every night and who went home with strange women and who forced her daughter to go to a prison like school full of nuns and rich brats. Why couldn’t Dan see her? Why couldn’t he bring her to the park–

“That’s weird?” said Stacey.

“Huh?’ asked Dan, blinking himself back to the present.

“The cloud,” she said, “it looks like it has a tail.

Dan let his eyes focus on the sky again. He found the big, bulbous, weird shaped cloud they had been tracking as it floated over the park and then tried to let his atrified old brain see what hers was seeing. Tail? Did she mean like a dinosaur, or like a monkey. But when he tried to force the cloud into a shape, it just wouldn’t fit.

“There,” Stacey said, pointing like he could see through her eyes. Kids…

Dan suddenly held his breath. He sat up slowly, blinking. He could see that the look on his face was draining the wonder and joy from Stacey’s expression. She went stoic and pale. “Daddy?” she said.

“Shh,” he hissed.

There WAS a tail on the cloud: a long fleshy tendril that hung down from the center of is white fluffy form. It wasn’t an elegant jellyfish tendril or a muscular octopus tentacle. Instead it was a jointed and bulbous thing, like a finger with a thousand knuckles that had recently sloughed off third degree burnt skin, leaving only pink flesh and watery blisters.

“Daddy,” Stacey said again.

“Jesus,” said Dan. He sat bolt upright and grabbed her by the wrist. She squeaked in paina nd fear and resisted but he pulled himself to his feet and started to run. “Come on,” he said while she cried.

The cloud lowered itself toward the city. The tendril swept the streets. Dan couldn’t see what happened. He was too busy running. But he heard it, even from the great distance of the park, even through the muffling of the trees. Screams — horrible, pained, desperate, dying screams.


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