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Tracy Robbins Osburn learned her ABC's at the age of three in order to get an early jump on her passion of reading short fiction and poetry. In one of her more recent discoveries she found that she not only could say her ABC's, but could scrawl them as well. Her credits to date include three poems published in The Best of 1997 and The Best of 1999 Ohio Poetry Day award books, as well as her pet project webzine.

Tracy is also a graphic designer and illustrator and currently works as art director for the internet development division of an advertising agency located in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Dark Planet is designed and edited by Lucy A. Snyder. If you spot any errors, or if you have any comments, please contact her at lusnyde@cyberus.ca.

All materials copyright 1996-2000 by their respective creators. No stories, articles, poems or images from this webzine may be posted or published without the written consent of their creator(s).

Cold Love

by Tracy Robbins Osburn


     The hole was dark, but not as dark as the reflection mirrored in the small one's eyes. Crouching at the muddy rim, he squinted into the cool, earthy breeze that rose from the blackness of unknown depths. She was down there, somewhere. Soft and delicate. Brilliant blue eyes and unwavering smile, beacons to his fevered mind.
     "I'm coming." His deep rasp broke into misshapen echoes against the walls of the hole. "Don't despair."
     Pressed into either side of the mouth's slick sides, his thick, short fingers combed the cool mud for purchase as he began a careful descent into the belly of the earth. Grunts and gasps punctuated the rapid fall of heavy feet upon a steep and uneven surface. Down and down he climbed, his barrel chest heaved as it coaxed more effort from taxed lungs.
     "Where are you?" His gravely voice reached into the unseen depths while his tired body clung in the throat of the hole. "Please, I will help. Where are you?"
     A whine came from below. Its weak falsetto crept over his skin with the feet of a thousand centipedes. Shivering in disgust he murmured, "It still lives."
     With a heave he continued his climb into the steeply sloping hole. The blackness slowly gave way to a dim luminescence which described an opening into the ceiling of an underground cavern. The only way out was a 15 foot fall. That or a grueling climb up -- unthinkable without her. He dropped.
     She was there, crushed in its grip. Crumpled, broken, its pale watery eyes fell on him like leaches. "Help me," it said as it clenched her arms in its filthy grip. Miserable sobs brought spittle to its swollen lips. And as it drew her nearer to its puffy face and stringy matts of hair he could stand idle no longer. With both hands and heart he reached around her tender body and pulled. The broken thing squealed and thrashed as he wrestled to win his love from its grip. He easily succeeded.
     "No, my dolly!" it pleaded. "Please, please give me back my dolly," it moaned, dragging pale, broken sticks behind as it reached with slimy arms to cling against his legs. It was more a reflex than anything else that caused him to kick out in disgust. The creature crumpled into a whimpering heap of dirty rags. He turned his back and became conscious of how tightly he now gripped his prize. Despite her lack of complaint he admonished himself to hold her more carefully.
     She felt like a cloud in his arms.
     "Everything will be all right."
     He searched her huge blue eyes for any hint of anxiety but found none. Her implacable smile filled him with joy. "Yes, you know I will protect you," he murmured as he stroked the silky curls down her back. "I will."
     The broken thing's sobs faded from his mind as he carried his smiling love toward the cavern's source of light.
     A short trek brought them to an opening which had been hidden from the cave's exterior. There, the small one found release into the open air of the forest.
     "See," he whispered, "I told you everything would be alright." Her smile spoke of unwavering confidence.
     Exhausted, he found a place in the shade to sit. Stroking the silky hair down her back, he rested, murmuring words of love and admiration. She smiled encouragingly as he listed her virtues. Her bravery, her calmness, her beauty. She smiled as he bent to kiss her soft cheek. Her brilliant blue eyes mirrored the spark in his as he drew back with a lovesick sigh.
     "I'm hungry," she demanded.
     Startled, he blushed in embarrassment.
     "Oh my darling, forgive my neglect."
     Climbing into the old oak, he set her high among shielding branches. "I'll be back soon with some food," he promised.
     She smiled.
     An hour's search brought him back with an offering of fruit and berries, which she ignored.
     "Please try them," he coaxed, holding plump red berries close to her smiling lips. "I picked only the finest for you my darling."
     She looked on in silence.
     He cracked walnuts, collected wild fruit, spitted rabbit, roasted mushrooms, smoked fish, and offered eggs to no avail.
     She would not eat.
     "I must rest," he murmured into her soft neck while stroking the silky hair down her back. "I must rest."
     "I'm hungry," she said.
     He gripped her hair in frustration and shook her as anger washed over his weariness.
     "I love you," she cooed.
     The anger drained away.
     "Yes. Oh my love, I'm so sorry! I will find something that you can eat. I swear I will not rest until you have eaten."
     Resolute, he set out again. "She is used to their food," he thought.


     "Max! Wake up!" the old woman whispered as she shook the sleeping form of her husband.
     "What is it?" he grumbled.
     "Wake up," she insisted, "There is someone downstairs."
     The old man knew there would be no more sleep until he had checked out the situation. He groggily reached for his rifle and headed down the staircase. A few minutes later, a loud blast brought screams to the old woman's lips.
     "Max! Max!"
     "It's alright Nancy. I hit it, whatever it was. Call Jones from next door, it ran out of here trailing blood. I'm going after it."
     "Oh Max. No! Oh, please be careful."
     "Don't worry honey, it was just a wild animal of some sort. Get me a flashlight, would you?. Thank you. Call Jones and send him after me. I won't be long. It's wounded, I just need to go finish it off."
     Kneeling down outside the front door to pull on his boots, the old man dipped his finger in the trail of blood. He shook his head as he flipped on the flashlight and headed out into the woods.
     The wound spilled blood between his short fingers despite his effort to hold it in. "I have to get this back to her," he thought as he struggled through the once yielding underbrush. Desperation pushed to keep him somewhat ahead of the heavy footfalls which trailed closely behind.
     The old oak loomed dark upon dark in his vision.
     "Oh my darling, look what I have brought," he called, fumbling the blood-soaked loaf of bread as he reached to pluck his golden-haired love from the tree.
     She looked on in disinterest. Her implacable smile glimmered with a radiant cold that his laboring heart could not hope to abolish.
     "I am dying," he rasped.
     She smiled.
     "Oh my God! Jones! What in the hell is it?" cried the old man.
     Jones stumbled across the last few yards to catch up. There at the old man's feet was a small, bloody, creature which looked half man, half nightmare. Gaping in awe, Jones found his voice.
     "Christ Max, I've never seen anything like it. It looks like a dwarf, or maybe a goblin."
     "It's still alive, but not likely for long," said the old man as he kneeled down for a closer look. "Oh my God Jones, look. Isn't that little Jenny Fisher's doll? You know, the girl that went missing from O'Delly's orphanage a few weeks ago."


     His heavy eyes followed her smile as the pale thing lifted her into its arms. Her wide, brilliant eyes fell upon the tall abomination. "I love you," she said.
     The words were as chill as death.