The Looalee cleaned out the deer’s body then the hunter’s. It swept up the spinal cord and into the brain, collecting phosphorus, potassium, salts, and other nutrients in the rich fatty tissue.
It had learned from previous encounters that human brains also contained information that might be useful. The hunter knew the way to the other ocean, the one the Looalee had never visited, at least not since the great continent split. But first it wanted to visit the ocean called Lake Michigan, which the hunter knew contained fresh water. How could that be?
It left the hunter and poured back into the stream, flowing with the current into a larger stream then a river. In two days, it came to a canal and a lock. When the lock opened, the Looalee followed a ship through.
The full moon and lights along the sides of the lock reflected the silver blue sheen the Looalee imparted to the water’s surface. Workman pointed and ran along the walls, shouting to the ship’s crew, mistaking the Looalee for an oil leak. Diving beneath the ship’s hull, it kept low until the final lock was cleared then flowed into the wide lake.
The fresh water had pulled precious salts from its liquid body. It needed to feed sooner than it had planned.
Bright lights and manicured trees lined a walkway along the shore. The moon was still high and sunrise a couple hours away. A car swept along the parkway, headlights ablaze. The Looalee could catch one but knew that would bring humans with flashing lights. So it combed the edge of the lake searching for someone alone. Another car’s headlights illuminated a park bench and a very small, dark woman slumped forward clutching the top of a large cloth handbag in her lap.
It rose up from the lake, flowed across the concrete walkway, and slid through the dewy grass. The woman didn’t move, but the Looalee sensed she was watching it.
It flowed onto her scuffed, torn shoes, and in through the open toes. Callouses on the old woman’s feet collapsed and blocked her pores, so the Looalee moved up her leg to enter her body. The salts in her thin decomposed spine had broken down and dissolved slowly.
“My name it Ruby,” the woman said in a frail cracking voice. “It took you a long time to get here. I’ve been waiting.”
“You know who I am?” the Looalee asked Ruby’s brain.
“Certainly. I’m not dead yet. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? You’re Death.”
“Yes, that’s why I’m here.”
“Well, since you waited so long, you might wait one day longer.”
“Why would one day matter?”
“Today is my birthday. I’m ninety years old. My granddaughter’s coming over with her little boy. He’s two months old—my first great grandchild. I’m a great grandmother. Who would have thought it?” When no response came, Ruby asked, “Perhaps Death might visit me tomorrow?”
The Looalee knew, whatever it did, Ruby would not live long enough to leave the park, probably not this bench. Her neurons were shutting down, her blood slowing, and her heart was beating away its last few moments.
It pushed potassium and phosphorus back into Ruby’s system, widened the capillaries to her heart and brain, and restored failed synapses. It felt her heart’s rhythm steady under the reduced strain.
“Where will I find you tomorrow?” the Looalee asked Ruby’s brain.
“Oh, I’ll be right here. I always greet the morning by feeding the birds. They expect me. I couldn’t disappoint them.”
“Very well, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Death. You are very kind.”
The Looalee knew Ruby would be there as she promised. She had that kind of character. But by morning, it would be far away heading to the Pacific.
First it had to feed—and fast. It flowed back down into the lake then out toward the bridge where a small boat was moored. Inside the boat, two young people were busily misbehaving, too busy to notice.
This is the fifth of my Looalee stories and the first I’ve posted. It comes in the middle of the series. The others are set on both coasts. I hadn’t planned to write a transition story then changed my mind. It is a primordial being tossed up by a seismic episode. It came ashore at the Looalee marina in South Carolina. First labeled a deranged serial killer then a monster, it was given the name The Looalee for the headline.