"SunTa? I'm going outside. Do you need anything while I'm out?" Gremlin called from the foot of the stairs. He waited a few moments for an answer, but receiving none. He shrugged and headed to the front door. "Oh, Hell. A door lock."

He opened the door and gingerly stepped through it, then closed the door and locked it, placing the key in his pocket. That should have been a simple task, but for Gremlin, this was a major ordeal. Seconds after locking the door and pocketing the key, he turned around, had both hands now on the doorknob and was shaking the knob, checking that it wasn't loose. He knelt beside the door and looked into the keyhole, then pulled out a screwdriver, which he always kept in the many pockets of his long green velvet coat, and set about to tighten each and every screw. All the screws on the door lock and all the screws on the hinges of the door as well. Next, he checked the lock again.

Satisfied that no thieves could break in while he went around the yard checking the damage, Gremlin attempted to step down off the step into the veranda. Fear and dread swept through him. He felt certain White Rock would somehow get through the lock and kidnap SunTa again, as they had done a few months ago. Gremlin swung around and checked the lock again. Ans again tightened each screw.

He repeated this a few more times before finally, getting a foot away from the door, but, now couldn't go any further because his hand was rigidly gripping the knob and no matter how hard he tried he simply could not force himself to let go of the door. Frustrated that his phobias were getting the better of him again, he tried to check the damage to the yard without leaving the enclosed screened-in porch.

Gremlin stood in the doorway looking out at the damage. So much damage. It was as if a giant mimic had swallowed the entire town, chewed it up, then spit it back out. He needed to check the yard. And the cars. And the sheep. The sheep were locked in the barn with Antares, where he had put them yesterday, hopefully safe from the storm. The fence, however, was in disarray.

"Damn. No way that's repairable. And fencing is so damned expensive these days. Oh, bother. Stupid hurricane."

Five hundred head of sheep, and no fence around the field to keep them from running loose all over the town. That was going to have to be his first priority: calling fence installers and having them bring in a new fence for his sheep. Can't leave the sheep in the barn and they can't go outside until their field is fenced back in again.

He tried to step out of the foyer onto the veranda, but, in order to do that, he also had to let go of the front doorknob.

"Damn it all," he scolded himself.

He realized his paranoia was running away with him once again, but he couldn't help it. How many times had he tested to determine if the front door was bolted?

Too many.

Too many to count.

But here he was, stopping in front of the door once again.

He stared at the door. It was damaged as well, but nothing a little paint wouldn't fix. Worn down timber, sandblasted from years of hurricanes beating at it each fall. But it wasn't autumn this time. No. It was August. Not hurricane season, and yet, a hurricane had just pelted the town.

"What is a hurricane even doing this far north? So much to so do. I need to repaint the shake siding, too. I need to make a list. Everything I need to do, and what needs doing most and what can wait til later. The fence has to be fixed today. I can repaint the house next years, if the jackasses from the town hall don't send bitch face Dan around again. You'd think, chipped paint was a crime around here. What the hell is someone like him doing being code enforcement officer. There is no ordinance that says I have to repaint my house ever summer, but tel him that, oh no!"

Gremlin stared at the chipped paint on the side of the house. All the blue pigment gone and, like the door, it was bare exposed wood once again. He had not yet removed his hand from the doorknob. Too many thieves had broken in over the years, for him to ease his paranoias of forgetting to lock every door.

He looked down at his feet. He was up to his ankles in beach sand. Fine grains of white beach sand heaped against the side of the little bungalow. Beach sand. So peaceful. So innocent. Yet the strength to eradicate everything in its path provided enough wind. Sand. So deadly in the right conditions.

A loud cackling shriek laughed from overhead. He peered up and frowned bitterly at the flock of seagulls on his roof. As if the storm hadn't accomplished sufficient damage. Now seagulls were adding piles of bird poop to the roof of his house and snickering at him while they did it.

"Stupid birds. Damned hurricane. Blasted sand."

It looked like the beach was right in his yard, what with all the sand piled in dunes on top of his lawn. Weeks of clean up, that's what he had to look forward to.

"A sensible person wouldn't remain on the coast, in the path of every hurricane," he told himself as he surveyed the damage. "Ah well, when was the last time anyone accused me of being sensible? Spend all my time playing video games or running from drug dealers or hiding 500 years in the past, and hang out with psychotic Elf Necromancers and their pet Liches."

The gale was mostly died down now. But the odour of up churned kelp, dead fish, and rotten crabs wafted in off the water now, permeating the air with more stench than a bog. The stench was so strong he could taste the briny salt in his mouth from all the way over here. He stared out at the Atlantic Ocean. Its waves still roared savagely. The grey silt and muddy ivory foam now obscured the normally lovely green water. The carcases of dead sea life spat out across the beach. Though the hurricane passed, it'd be weeks before the smell went away or the waves became safe for tourists again.

"The Coast Guard'll be clearing up dead harbour seals for weeks before they'll be able to open the waterfront to visitors again," he declared as he watched at the dead animals tossed about by the waves. "Well, at least the rain has stopped. Wait... did I latch the door? Damn!"

He swung back to the front door yet again. Yes. Locked. He knew it was locked. He had just checked a half a minute ago. He knew it was locked. Checking again? Why? OCD. That's what his psychiatrist called it. Advised him to force himself to stop rechecking locks whenever he caught himself doing it. But how?

"Stop checking the lock and go check your car," he said out loud. "You are only going down the driveway. No need to lock the door. Just let go of the doorknob. It's not that hard."

He closed his eyes and twisted the doorknob once again. It refused to budge. His sweaty hand slid around the burnished brass knob. He could hear the tumbler straining against the gleaming metal. The door was locked. He could let go.

Finally he spun from the door and headed down the driveway to check on his orange metal flake 1974 AMC Gremlin, the one with the yellow flames painted on the side. Yes, the one, as in, he had more than one AMC Gremlin. More than one that was orange. People said he was crazy to have them. Too old. Too impractical. But he'd bought them new. So many memories were created in those automobiles. He couldn't bear to sell them.

This one, though, the orange metal flaked one. She was his favourite. His first car. He'd painted her himself. The car he's adopted the name of as his own name in recent years. He hated the name GhoulSpawn. Being a half-Elf/half-Demon was hard enough without his jackass of a father giving him a name like GhoulSpawn. Who name's their son GhoulSpawn?

Metal flake, difficult to do. Metal flaking her. So much sanding. And repainting. And resanding. Twenty layers of clearcoat on MTD's 1971 Tangerine Fizz big bass flake. Made for speedboats and ATVs, not cars. And not produced in over 40 years. It'd be hell to repaint her. Nearly impossible to match that colour. During storms like this, he wished he had a garage to keep her in. Sandblasted by the hurricane, no doubt her paint job would have suffered damage.

Gremlin had finally made it to the front step of the porch. He was almost outside. He turned back toward the house to yell towards the upstairs bedroom window: "SunTa! I made it off the porch! In a few more hours, I might actually make it to the driveway!"