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Stories that Won’t Leave You Alone – Arielle Pierce & “Dark Menagerie”

I didn’t want to write this story.

I told myself I wasn’t going to write this story for Storm Moon Press’ Dark Menagerie. There was too much on my plate. My kid needed new shoes, the dinner needed cooking, the house needed cleaning. My ongoing novelette twink/bear series was going well, and the latest needed another chapter to it, and there were yet more stories piling up in my head.

But then I thought about Key West, and how amazingly beautiful it was, how the humid air clung to your skin whenever you moved. How the wind blew over the palm trees that all but engulfed the Victorian homes lovingly restored by the permanent colony of gay men. And I thought about hurricanes. About how exciting it must be to watch them come to you on this island, their black clouds darkening first the horizon, and then inching closer until that would be the only thing you could see. Before the winds hit, and the rain, and the thunder.

How fun would all that be? And, to top it off, the natives not only stay but they have a huge party during the entire thing! Madness…

So, writing this story had to be done. Plus, there was the thought of dolphin shifters, something I haven’t seen done much in m/m romance. And I love dolphins. When I was a teenager, I daydreamed about moving to Florida and training to be a marine biolgist. I particularly love the odd species, like Atlantic Spotted, and rough-toothed and spinners. When I was about twelve, I read and re-read Karen Pryor’s Lads Before the Wind so many times that my copy pretty much fell apart.

Nathan, the main character in my story, just naturally formed in my head, using all the knowledge about dolphin behaviour from all these years of reading about them. I did my best to ignore him, but he also did his best to poke me in the head day in and day out until I relented. And, for me, everything was there, pretty much a m/m combo of all the things I love: the tropics, the weather (hey, I’m a Brit, we’re all a bit potty about the weather!), dolphins, and gay men. How could it go wrong?

So, I began writing.

The story opens with Nathan, a young Atlantic Spotted dolphin shifter, being chased into the shallows by two bottlenose shifters (all us Discovery channel watchers know exactly what happens to young, male spotted dolphins when outnumbered by bottlenosed ones). I knew weeks ahead about that scene, but then Nathan led me by the hand and introduced me to his story, and to the parallel world of various shifters within this already eccentric island. Even now, months later, he and all his friends still bounce around my head, wanting more of their stories told. I really loved this world, I hope you all do as well.

Here’s a quick excerpt:

500 (1)Paul didn’t notice.

He didn’t notice the smell of the sea hanging heavy in the room when Nathan came home. He didn’t notice the time of the evening, that the clock was a full hour later than when Nathan had left. He didn’t notice the wild look in his lover’s eyes, the same look Nathan always got when he touched closer to that core that said he was merely a dolphin walking in the skin of a man. He didn’t notice.

He didn’t care.

In the days that followed, he only cared that the house was getting messy, that his little partner wasn’t keeping it the way he liked. He did notice the dust on the TV screen, the toilet paper put in the wrong way, the dog hairs on the bed. And he let Nathan know.

Nathan felt as though he were going mad. And maybe he was. It was all lies, his life. He could see it in the way Paul’s friends treated him, in the sly little looks he got on Duval Street from time to time. From Matthew, the fat old skinwalker, who was in town less and less as the call to be a manatee grew stronger in his Soul. From delicate little Alisha, her doe eyes settling just a little too long on Nathan’s face, full of pity that he no longer joined her in trips to the empty keys, where she ran as a deer and he swam in his dolphin skin.

And then there were Sam and Tyler, smirking and making lewd remarks whenever they saw him at the market in the morning, or sitting at the bar with Paul on the hot afternoons. Paul’s ears were as deaf as his eyes were blind. Every rude whisper he never heard. As long as his lover was beautiful and the bruises didn’t show, he didn’t care. Nathan was as careful to cover up the abuse as he was of keeping the inner core that was dolphin a secret.

Dark Menagerie Anthology – Now Available from Storm Moon Press!