Author: Hillary Lyon

Moony stepped back to eye his handiwork. He called to his assistant. “Get over here and tell me what you think.”

Rollo rolled up beside him. “It’s sublime! The coloration, the fine detail. Especially the eyes—they’re so life-life! It’s sure to fool the other—”

“Ducks,” Moony finished for him. “We call them ducks.” Brush in hand, he walked up to his latest decoy to put the finishing touches on its plum-tinted lips.

* * *

Like most denizens of this over-crowded city, Sebastian kept his head down and avoided eye-contact with strangers—and he was surrounded by nothing but strangers. Exiting the subway, he waded against the flow of commuters rushing in like a river of oblivious bodies, rudely shoving and malodorous.

This evening ritual exasperated Sebastian, wore him down—until he bumped into one particularly clean and moderately attractive body. Their crash caused her to drop her book. Sebastian dived to the grimy concrete floor to retrieve it.

“Sorry,” he grinned sheepishly. He glanced at the book’s title: ‘Whittling Wooden Decoys.’ How refreshing, he thought, here’s somebody with an uncommon, quirky hobby. Wonder if she’d like to get coffee, and discuss decoys.

He handed her the book. Their hands touched briefly, and the hard, protective shield covering Sebastian’s tender heart cracked. “Say, would you like to grab a cappuccino?” The stranger smiled, bobbing her head. The shield fell away, bit by bit, and by the time they were sitting in a java joint, Sebastian’s exposed heart warmed to the point of glowing through his shirt.

“Luminous,” the woman commented. “Good sign.” She raised her cooling mocha latte to her plum-tinted lips, but didn’t drink. Instead she blew bubbles.

Sebastian nervously chattered like an old dot-matrix printer, noticing she rarely spoke. A good listener! He happily noted. Maybe she’ll come back to my apartment with me. . .

He laughed awkwardly. “By the way, my name’s Sebastian . . and you are?”

“Scaup,” she declared. “From New Zealand.” In his burgeoning infatuation, he didn’t notice she had no accent. “Go to my place,” she stated, her round, dark eyes glistening.

Exiting the shop, Sebastian couldn’t help but notice how Scaup wiggled her tail and tossed back her feathered hair. A sure sign of excitement!

Her place turned out to be an alleyway dead-end. This can’t be right, he worried. She must be new to the city. She’s lost.

With a surprisingly firm grip, Scaup grabbed his hand to lead him into a cone of light shining down from . . . That’s no streetlight, Sebastian panicked, looking up into the dark sky. He dropped his to-go cup of coffee. That’s a—

* * *

“She’s lured an excellent specimen,” Moony gloated. “As I knew she would! Scaup’s one of my finest decoys.” He gently wiped the dried mocha latte foam from Scaup’s plum-tinted lips before placing her in storage for recharging.

“He’ll make a fine addition to any collection,” Rollo piped up. He rotated the stasis case; inside, Sebastian was frozen in mid-yell, eyes clenched tightly shut. “A prime example of a healthy young Earth male. No scarring, no unnecessary markings, disease-free.”

Rollo turned to his boss. “Will this ‘duck’ be exhibited live, or stuffed?”

“That depends on the vote of the Society,” Moony replied, then added wistfully, “But he’s so perfect, I might just keep him for myself.”