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Where I'm From, We Eat Our Parents

John (@Wiswell) lives where New York keeps all its trees. He previously published "The Terrible" with DSF, and has had other stories appear at Fireside Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, and PodCastle. He has never tried calamari, and prefers that calamari never tries him.

His name is not "Fiend." His people don't have proper mouths, and so anytime Clarissa says his name it sounds wrong. Human mouths make it sounds like "Fiend." The homonym is unseemly, but he puts up with it for her. He'll put up with anything for Clarissa.
"They'll adore you, Fiend," she says, sitting up in her wheelchair to fix his tie for him. "Just be yourself."
"Skree," he says. His tentacles give away his nervousness, continually straying to fiddle with his tie. He keeps forgetting that the tie isn't a tentacle. They don't have non-human fashions in this city, and his tentacles keep oozing out the sleeves and neck hole of his off-the-rack Big & Tall. He feels shameful beside her in that sunflower print dress.
A moment after they ring the doorbell, out walk two aging humans. They are all measured smiles and graceful sagging. Clarissa hugs them both.
"I'm Stefanie," her mother says, waving both hands as though fanning herself. "Come inside! Dinner's almost ready."
Her father wears a charcoal gray suit that perfectly fits his two arms. "So you're Fiend? We were starting to doubt you existed."
"Skree," Fiend says, as politely as he can.
"Harrington," is her father's introduction. Fiend can't read his human tone. Are they supposed to shake hands now? Fiend extends a tentacle, but Harrington marches inside. Crap, is he already making a bad impression?
Fiend hastens along behind the man. The house stings of perfume, and Clarissa is halfway to the kitchen, wheeling alongside her mother and chatting. Fiend waves for her attention, and bumps into Harrington in the middle of pouring a drink. Harrington raises a gray eyebrow.
"Do you drink?"
It's too likely he'll devour these people if he gets tipsy. "Skree."
Harrington's mouth vanishes into a pale line. At first Fiend thinks the clawing sound is coming from inside him. Then fur blurs past the man's side, claws pattering across the hardwood and suddenly teeth sink into Fiend's lower tentacles. He skrees despite himself.
"Dexter, down!" Stefanie yells, running in to catch a fuchsia leash. Growling in front of them is a well-groomed doxie, fervently chewing on Fiend's pants and the tentacles stuffed inside. "I'm so sorry. He's scared of strangers."
Fiend restrains his other limbs from rending the doxie asunder. Harrington watches them a moment, then scowls and pours himself a cognac.
From the kitchen, Clarissa smiles to him with too much teeth.
He forces his boneless body into an upright sitting position like Harrington is doing on the other side of the dining table. The walls are decorated with framed photos from the war, of Eldritch Marines and tentacle monsters felling Unspeakable Ones. Those titans are so horrible that the photos blur around their forms. The leather of Fiend's seat smells like Unspeakable One hide. It tickles him, thinking he's sitting on the skin of the titans that once devoured his people.
Clarissa wheels around them, setting out the plates and silverware from her lap. Fiend keeps trying to help, but she pokes his flank and he stays put, sitting with her father. The doxie yips from behind the sliding door to the home theater, as though speaking Harrington's mind.
The photograph to Fiend's left is of a rifleman that looks like a younger Harrington, right down to the pout. This could break the ice.
"The war was a simpler time," Harrington says, briefly smiling at the photo of him standing astride a monstrous corpse. "I don't suppose you served."
"Skree." He hadn't hatched yet.
Harrington sips from his fourth cognac of the evening. "What do your parents do?"
They were consumed by their brood, like any upstanding tentacle monsters. But he can't say that in this man's house. "Skree."
Harrington sips, and Fiend fiddles with his tie. He wishes his tie were a tentacle. He'd enjoy a silk tentacle, and thinks Clarissa would too.
The sliding door rattles as Dexter paws at it, and Stefanie swoops by holding a porcelain serving platter. Like her daughter, she smiles with too much teeth. "This is a family delicacy."
She sets the platter down, revealing tendrils of linguini and calamari glistening in clam sauce. Sweet odors steam up and swirl over Fiend's pores.
Clarissa flares her nostrils at her parents, and for a moment Fiend wonders if humans eat their parents too.
"Clarissa's Nana invented this during the war," Stefanie says. "It's a family favorite."
Harrington is watching. Fiend hasn't made a good impression all night, and it's not like he's never eaten seafood. He reaches for the serving fork to calm things--and that's when the sliding door scrapes open. There's scuffling along the hardwood before familiar doxie teeth gnash onto his tentacles. He fights not to devour his attacker.
Then Harrington rolls his damned eyes. Fiend hisses and snags the doxie's collar with one tentacle, then binds its legs with three others. He lifts it off the ground and in front of the man's face.
Harrington gives a firm nod. "So he does have a backbone."
Fiend doesn't understand fathers. He skrees under his breath and lugs the dog to the backdoor.
"Goodness," Stefanie says. "Flexible, isn't he?"
Clarissa smirks. "You have no idea."
Harrington grips his tentacle and shakes firmly. "A pleasure, Mr. Fiend."
Stefanie beams at them, "Such a pleasure! Drop in anytime." She's been saying goodbye for fifteen minutes. Even Clarissa is embarrassed at this point, but Fiend handles it deftly, nodding his torso.
As they head to their car, Clarissa whispers, "Do you want to get Five Guys? You barely touched dinner."
"Skree." He's perfectly full.
As her parents turn away, Harrington asks, "Say, have you two seen Dexter?"
Clarissa quirks an eyebrow for a moment, then smirks directly at Fiend while calling to her parents, "Probably crapping in Mr. Nakamura's yard again."
Her father swears and runs to the backyard. Fiend keeps his eyes forward, two tentacles fiddling with his tie. Clarissa kisses his shoulder.
"Thanks for going through that."
She smiles with no teeth, all lips. "How about dessert?"
The End
This story was first published on Friday, November 4th, 2016

Author Comments

There are two kinds of readers for this story: people who have no idea what tentacle genre I'm riffing on, and people who delete their browser histories so they can fit in with the previous group. I'm not judging you, and neither is Fiend. The idea of tentacle dating has been something I wanted to write for years, although the original working title was, "You Can Lovecraft, But You Can't Craft Love."

- John Wiswell
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