Categories
Comedy

Big Snow

Big snow.  They said it’d be the snowstorm of a generation or a century or a new all-time record.  The fridge at home seemed more dark, bottomless, empty pit than fridge, and the little demon vultures would devour me if they weren’t fed.  Little did the demon vulture children know I got a recipe for them too if things go dark.  Had to get the milk and bread.

Why my husband was unable to go to the store was anybody’s guess.  If he did go, he brought home every kind of doughnut they made and five kinds of fruit flavored candies.  No protein.

Big snow.  I raced down the freeway in heavy traffic.  No time to waste, never any time to waste.  Barreling along in the left most lane at, at least a hundred and ten miles per hour.  Not kilometers.  On this little crap stretch of highway that connected where I lived in Ohio to the nice grocery store at the other side of town.  Must get the grocery store rewards.  Must get the good, grass fed milk.

A line of cars in the middle lane blocked me in the far-left lane.  I had to get over.  Less than a mile before my exit.  I dropped my automatic into second gear, flipped off the air conditioned defrost, and floored it.  Engine whined like it would give up the ghost, but it never has before.

The car pushed forward, but no breaks in the line of cars.  I turned on my turn signal and tried to squeeze in.  The car behind me closed the distance until the two cars on that side were bumper to bumper.  I tapped the brake to sneak in behind that lady in the red minivan.

She looked me dead in the eyes and Slowed Down.

We were side by side.  I had a choice to speed up, slow more, or try to ram her off the road.  I punched the gas.  So did the smiling woman in the red minivan.  Doom.

No matter what I did, she wouldn’t let me get over.  She kept making eye contact and laughing.  The exit I needed floated past.  Then the minivan sped up enough I could slide closer to an exit lane.

I have a dash cam, and I took a picture of her license plate.  I had friends in high places who could quietly get me info.  Not that I was a violent person, but every so often violence has been a problem-solver in my life.

I took the next off ramp.  Construction for miles and miles.  One lane in parts navigated by an automated traffic light at each end of the stretch.

Where you would just sit and wait while a stream of cars rolled past from the other direction, then you had this tiny window of time when drivers in front of you couldn’t find the gas pedal.  Nearly an hour later, I walked into the best grocery store.  The place was a madhouse with people blocking entire lanes staring at boxes of mac and cheese like they all different.

Big snow.  So I got three giant five-pound bins of trail mix.  The kids loved it, and nutritionally it wasn’t a complete protein, but I needed happy kids.  And I didn’t need to cook it.

Two loaves of bread and three half-gallons of grass fed milk.  All the essentials plus black licorice of every type they had.  I needed it.

I drove home in the left-hand lane, and the speedometer hovered around one hundred miles per hour.  That exact same red minivan pulled up beside me.  Same lady, same stare, same cackling laughter.  She obviously had the intent to block me in again.

Just chilling right there next to me matching my speed.  What did I ever do to the blonde lady in a parka?

I stood on the brakes and got behind her.  I pushed the little button on my dash cam to take stills, even though it’d been pushed earlier.

I made it home, and hubby and the kids were happy for the large supplies of trail mix.  I emailed the picture of my new nemesis to my cousin, the county clerk.  She replied back with an address and name.  I grabbed a baseball bat and headed out.  None of my kids played baseball, I just had the bat.  Not sure where it came from.  Maybe a used sporting goods store or someplace.  Zombie apocalypse preparedness.

I pulled up at her house and honked my horn, until my nemesis stepped out.

I climbed out of my vehicle with the bat in hand.  “You!”

“Yes, me,” she replied.  “Maybe next time when somebody tries to pass you, you’ll let them.”

“Pass me!  You were on my right.”

She seemed to notice the bat for the first time.  “Yes, because you were putzing along in the left lane.”

Putzing!  Putzing!  Time for the bat.  I rushed her.

She pulled a low caliber pistol out and winged me on the right thigh.  Bullets hurt.  Even small ones.  I went down.

She phoned authorities.  I ended up temporarily in a wheelchair in jail.  Third time in county lockup for me.

I was going through the food lines, and some woman I swear wearing that same parka, cut me off.  I almost jumped her.  Almost.  Likely would have hurt me more, with the leg.  Leg hurt bad when I wasn’t jumping people.

We never did get that Big Snow they promised.

Categories
Fantasy

The Vanguard

I kicked my heels into the horse to keep up with the others, and for the first time since the start of this ordeal, I thought to myself, I’m too young to die. The horse galloped forward, and in the distance, the edge of a great field of tall grass lined the horizon.

The tops of black helmets rose up in the distance climbing up the slope of the other end of the field like a line of obsidian specks. A line of black as far as the eye could see dotted the edge of the horizon. I rode at the front of the vanguard, so far in the front, that I was only two places from High Lord Kirl who led the charge. Kirl drew his blade, and I instinctively drew mine in a flash with the rest of the vanguard. I remembered back to the stories the elders told around the fire about The Throng: stories of hellspawn and demons.

As the distance closed between us, The Throng’s long pikes and shields glimmered in the morning sun. They wore pitch black plated armor from head to toe. A great volley of arrows flew up from the rear ranks of the enemy. Kirl raised his sword high. He grimaced with concentration and shouted out a word from our cryptic ancient tongue. The swarm of thousands of arrows changed paths as they descended, landing harmlessly to the left and right of us.

Galloping at full speed, we closed the distance to The Throng in a flash. The enemy pointed their pikes down at us and met our charge. A pike caught me in the gut, and I jumped upwards careening high over the first line of footmen. It hurt, but it didn’t pierce my chainmail. The smith promised me it would be good for two or three solid blows then no better than common steel.

It threw my mind into gear with the pulse of adrenalin raging through my heart. I’m going to die, I thought to myself. I plunged my sword into the chest of the closest of my enemies, and in a flash, the high points of his life echoed through my psyche. His first true best friend, his first experience with a woman, and his training with The Throng. It rushed through me, and I pulled my sword free.

The sword drank up the thin glaze of blood and gleamed clean and shiny in the sun. An enemy tried swinging at me, and my blade moved out of instinct parrying the pike. I pushed the blade through the faceplate of the other soldier, again, another life flashed before my eyes. My anger flared like a tiny burning chunk of charcoal in my chest. These people were the same as we are–why do they attack us?

In a heartbeat, I thought back to my own life. Three months ago, it changed on a new year’s morning with my youngest sister jumping on my bed shouting, “The call-to-arms! The call-to-arms!”

I growled at her. “Get out of here.” Thinking, could it be true so early in the year and just three years after the last invasion?

I rolled over in bed and went back to sleep. I wasn’t about to give up my warm bed over the cries of a six-year-old. Then a few minutes later, a firm knock reverberated on my door, which I knew to be my dad.

“Yes?” I asked.

“They’ve called the conscription, Son. Get up and get breakfast.”

I crawled out of bed, ran my fingers through my hair, and headed to the kitchen for breakfast. I made my decision as I jumped down the last three steps of the stairs. I would fight. Mom set a plate down on the table and poured me a cup of milk.

“They’re expecting everybody to report today, Memnock,” Dad said. “You don’t need to take anything with you. Just go down to the town center after breakfast.”

“He shouldn’t have to go,” Mom said. “There are rules. We already lost one son. He doesn’t have to go.”

Dad glared. “I faced The Throng three times, Woman! It’s not a death sentence.”

Mom reached up and touched her eye like to rub back a tear. “I miss Jericho.”

“We all do. There won’t be many this time what with the last conscription being just three years back. He’s needed. We’ll still have Jacob.”

I spoke quietly between bites, “I’m going to fight.”

Mom and dad simply nodded. I finished the last of my food and went to my room, what used to be mine and my big brother’s room. I wanted to at least be wearing my best pants and shirt. I donned my coat and headed to the front door. My little brother eyed me and looked down at his feet.

I ruffled the little bugger’s hair. “Don’t worry, Jacob. We’ll break their line. We’ll send them running back to the ocean.”

Jacob twisted his head out of my reach obviously preferring not to have his hair ruffled. “I want to fight!”

I thought silently to myself, if I fail you might just get your wish. “You’re too young, little brother.”

“I’m too young for everything but chores!”

I laughed and reached for his head a second time. He dodged out of the way and ran. I headed downstairs.

My mom, dad, and little sister waited at the door for me. I nodded to them. “Well, I’m off.”

Mom tried to smile. “Just remember, you don’t have to do this. You can change your mind.”

Dad sniped, “He’s not going to change his mind.”

I smiled. “Goodbye.”

I made it to town and some soldiers directed me to the army’s training field. When I made it there, a soldier told me to stand in line. One by one young men would step into a tent, then step back out of the tent through a separate opening wearing a blue bandanna on their arm. When I got to the front of the line, I kept hearing someone cry out right after a person stepped into the tent. It came to be my turn, and I stepped into the twilight. A shirtless, veteran fighter, with rippled muscles and scars, sat behind a low burning fire of embers. He looked me in the eye. Then he whipped his hand out from behind his back and threw something at my face. I caught it. I cursed. It hurt my hand, a chunk of iron, and it would have hit me right in the face!

“What’s your name?” The fighter asked.

I almost threw the iron pellet back at him. “Memnock.”

He wrote down my name in a book, glanced at me again. “Your brother was Jericho?”

“Yes.”

“You look like him, and just like Jericho, you’ve made it into the vanguard. I’m putting you with Lord Patrick.” He stepped forward and tied a red bandana on my left arm and pointed towards a flap in the tent. “That way.”

“What do I do?”

“Find Lord Patrick and tell him you caught the iron.”

I stepped through that tent flap into the troop compound. I went from person to person asking about Lord Patrick until I finally found him with a group of well-dressed men wearing purple tunics with gold borders. I told him I caught the iron pellet. He grabbed me by the shoulder and grinned like a starving carnivore that just grilled a thick steak. I simply stared back at him.

“Most young men hear about the test, and make a conscious choice. If they want to be in the vanguard, they try and dodge the iron. If they don’t want the glory, they let the pellet hit them.” He shook his head. “They just close their eyes and hope not to lose a tooth.”

“I never heard of anything like it. What’s it mean to catch the iron?”

“Boy, it means either you got very lucky, but you’re actually inept, and you’ll be one of the first to die, or it means you were born to fight in the vanguard. You’ll ride by my side, and I’ll be right next to High Lord Kirl.”

I smiled, hoping for the latter. Lord Patrick turned to face the other lords and seemed to ignore me.

“What should I do?” I asked.

Patrick pointed to a pile of rusty old swords. “Take one of those swords, go to one of those trees in the field over there, and hit it.”

“Then what?”

“Hit it again. Until you can’t hit it anymore.”

I nodded. I went over to a stack of swords and picked out one of the less rusty ones. The edge of the blade looked dull and here and there it had nicks in it. I tested the balance. It clearly weighed heavy towards the point and seemed far heavier than it needed to be. I walked back over to Lord Patrick and cleared my throat. “Excuse me, my lord, will I carry this sword into battle?”

Patrick shook his head. “You surely won’t be fighting a tree when the time comes either. We’ll forge a blade for you to use.”

The next day, in the chow tent, I gave up trying to count how many young men had a fresh bruise on their face from the test of the iron.

A few weeks later, I was summoned to the armory tent. I stepped inside, and Lord Patrick waited. He handed me a sword in its scabbard. “There’s your fury blade, Memnock. Take it!”

I took the sword and drew it. I hefted its weight and smiled. The balance was perfect and the edge razor sharp. Suddenly it purred in my hand like a young kitten almost. I looked to Lord Patrick. “It’s alive?”

“Yes, forged with dragon’s blood, attuned to you. It has your name on the hilt.”

I looked and indeed carved on the hilt was the word, Memnock. I smiled and sheathed the sword. Months passed as the army trained and trained. On the eve of the battle, I met Kirl for the first time. He had piercing hazel eyes and a tightly trimmed beard. He stood next to a boiling cauldron of red liquid. Patrick waited for me. An ancient hag poured some of the liquid into a silver cup and held it out to me.

“Drink it, Memnock,” Lord Patrick said.

I took a sip. “Eww, what is it supposed to taste like?”

“Dragon’s blood,” Kirl said. “Drink it. It’ll prepare you for the battle tomorrow.”

I drank it down. It burned in my stomach. It tasted of ash, soot, copper, and salt. Setting the cup down, I looked to the lords.

“In the battle tomorrow,” Kirl said. “You’ll be at Lord Patrick’s right, if he should fall, form up with me.”

I pondered the situation. “What if you fall, Lord Kirl?”

Patrick laughed with some passion. “If he falls, Memnock, all is lost.”

“My boy,” Kirl said. “If I fall in combat, you can consider yourself in charge. Advance. The plan is a simple one. We need to punch through the body of The Throng and reach their command pavilion, hopefully killing some or all of their generals. In the past, if we’ve reached their command pavilion, they’ll order a retreat. We’ll have to give chase. Understood?”

I nodded. Both lords seemed to ignore me at that point–I looked to Lord Patrick. “What should I do?”

“Most men try to sleep, some know they can’t and just stay up, play dice, and watch fires burn.”

I knew that meant I could do whatever I wanted, a rare luxury in military life. “Thank you, my lord.”

As I walked towards my tent, my thoughts drifted. The earth below my feet seemed to get swampy and mushy. It felt odd, but I felt strangely at ease. I wanted to get plenty of sleep so I went into my tent and lay down on my mat. I drifted off into endless colored dreams. I dreamed of so many things it felt like an afterlife’s worth. Dreams of harvest time played over and over in my mind intermixed with dreams of my family, and then there were the dreams of women, dozens of dreams of women. I woke to the sound of thundering drums. The first time they’d played the drums since the start of my conscription. They thumped so loud, and my head felt so strange that it felt like they vibrated through the very Earth. I donned my chainmail and strapped on my blade. I stepped out of the tent, and a beautiful vixen of a maiden ran towards me carrying another silver cup of red, frothy liquid.

“Memnock!” She shouted out.

My first thought was that I dreamed, but that I should play along. “Over here.”

She stepped towards me and held out the silver cup. “From High Lord Kirl.”

I took the cup and drank it down. The sheer acid taste of it burned my throat and woke me to the reality that this wasn’t a dream.

* * *

As the battle raged around me, I struck down opponent after opponent, trying to fight my way back to the rest of the vanguard. With each enemy I struck down, I seemed to breathe in their life force and grow stronger. My blade stayed clean and sharp the entire time, then I noticed it started to cast off white light and move faster than I could possibly swing it myself. That’s when a behemoth of a man struck down Lord Patrick with one swift blow to the neck sending his head flying off.

He stood a hand and a half taller than me and almost twice as wide with black hair and pale blue eyes. His arms and legs rippled with muscle. Unlike the other enemy warriors, he wore no armor save for a horned helm and leather protecting his groin. His axe blade glistened red with blood in the stark morning light. Blood of my fallen brothers.

I charged him aiming with all my strength for the point on his neck where it attached to the shoulder. He flashed his teeth at me. Then he moved the axe with a swiftness I couldn’t believe and our blades stuck together. We both jerked back at the same time pulling the blades free. He examined the edge of his axe peering intently at the new dent. My blade didn’t lose its edge. I redoubled my effort striking over and over at his face and neck. For every strike I made, the axe flashed.

He flipped his grip on the axe, and I saw it out of the corner of my eye aimed for my neck. I ducked straight under it, and an exposed kneecap presented itself as a golden opportunity. I lashed out with my sword slicing an inch deep cut right through his leg. My enemy screeched in pain and dropped his guard. I didn’t have time to revel in it. I spun around, lopping his head off.

In a circle around me, the fighting had stopped and both sides watched. Then I heard a low roar from my side of the line. A great splattering of lightning crashed down around Kirl. The word ‘Rally!’ sounded louder than thunder from him. I ran like the wind through the tall grass and over the bodies to where Kirl stood.

I reached the high lord first. The Throng surrounded us, but more of the vanguard approached. I looked to Kirl. “Why do they attack us? They’re no different from us.”

“It’s because we use magic, Lord Memnock. Don’t you feel the power flowing through you?”

I paled at the thought. Why not use magic? Magic strengthens the farmer’s plow. Magic seals the grain silo. Magic heals wounds. I took note though. Arcane energy flowed through me like never before.

The vanguard finally formed up around us. Kirl howled. “Advance! Advance!”

My guts pulled me forward into the hornet’s nest of enemy swords and pikes. In the distance, with just a few more ranks of enemies in the way, the honor guard flags of the enemy war generals rustled in the wind.

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Categories
Fantasy

October

The full moon above twisted the shadows into shapes of demons and specters. I clutched at Jessica’s hand as we walked through the woods looking for refuge. October is upon us, echoed through my mind, and the beasts and goblins reigned like tyrants this year. First, they overran the big cities conquering humans in a blood rite unseen for countless centuries. What awakened the monsters this October? They advanced through population centers like hordes of flesh crazed maniacs. The metropolises stood devoid of human life soon enough, and the devilish masses started crowding into small towns in the night across the weeks before Halloween. Only in the tiniest of remote rural locations did humans still walk the earth.

We were in the process of fleeing from their dark carcasses that seemed to bleed pieces of reality. We needed to find a house and quick. The moon lit the trail a bit, and I whispered to Jessica, “Let’s run…”

So, we ran. A light in the distance sparked in the blur of a slick grey fog. A simple house fleshed itself out in our vision the closer we ran. I saw the hell hound on the porch, and I knew the wicked creatures were ahead of us…

Jessica pulled on my hand, and the canine with jagged contours of solid obsidian wrapped tightly across a skeletal form looked up at us. Well, at me, right in the eyes. It made a deep guttural growl that sounded more like gravel grinding on gravel than a dog’s growl.

I said in the most hushed of tones, “The dog!”

“He’s on a chain! Come on!”

We ran up to the door and knocked. A humanoid shape answered with hewn rock arms and legs and a fat, plump belly. The entity of deep cut edges laughed a throaty crackle. The abomination’s clothes were a shifting, turning array of colors in paisley patterns. The thing’s adornments made me stare at the mind-numbing shapes as they morphed between dreams.

It shouted in a broken, choppy voice, “Look, honey, trick or treaters! And they’re dressed as little humans!”

A second granite like figure stepped down the hallway with a kaleidoscope of colors weaving out tales in the fabric of her dress at a lightning pace.

Jessica and I held out our bags.

The female rock thing said, “Did they say ‘Trick or Treat’ yet?”

“No. Wait, maybe they did… Get the candy.”

The female promptly returned and dropped two full sized candy bars into each of our bags.

We ran.

We pulled to a stop, and Jessica started eating a treat.

“We can’t keep doing this,” I said. “It’s been almost a week!”

“Do you have a better plan? No, these creatures think every day is Halloween, we have the perfect costumes, and we have to eat!”

“I don’t even like candy!”

“Damn you, Lucas, and your diabetes! I give you all the fruit we get, don’t I?”

“We got apples once in six days, and they were covered in caramel!”

“Come on, we can get three more houses in before dawn.”

* * *

Part II

We slept the day away under a willow tree by a rolling stream. Hunger ate away at my insides and my hand shook. I reached in my bag, pulled out a bag of disgusting gourmet chocolate treats with a crunchy candy shell, and ate just enough to quiet my stomach and calm my nerves.

Darkness fell on us as the sun set, and we were off. We hit house after house that night. With the rising sun, we collapsed in a ditch by the side of the road.

I slept for a while, but the grip of hunger woke me, and I ate gummi candies until the shakes began to subside.

A voice shouted, “You kids! Are you alright?”

I looked. A man in an army uniform, with a machine gun at his side, crouched at the edge of our ditch with one knee bent. His hands were on his knees, and he was smiling wide.

The most primal of thoughts raced through my mind. This man might have food!

I nudged Jessica. She rubbed at her eyes and looked around.

“Are you kids alright?” The soldier man asked.

“We’re ok,” Jessica said.

“We need food!” I said.

The soldier laughed. “Come along with me, and we’ll get some food in you.”

Jessica and I ran at the soldier and hugged his legs tight.

The man patted our heads. “Come on. Hop in my jeep.”

We climbed into the back of his jeep, and he started driving.

“You kids are lucky to be alive,” he said. “We’ve been pushing the rock monsters back, but they’re heavy in this region.”

We nodded. We rode maybe a mile, maybe two. The encampment didn’t have a wall or even barbed wire around it, just a cluster of tents and vehicles in a field of hay.

“My name is Myers. If you need anything, look for me,” the man said.

He showed us to a tent, and we stepped inside. It had a big rectangular table in the center with four chairs around it.

“I think we have roast beef or turkey sandwiches today. What do you guys want?”

“Roast beef!” I said.

“Turkey!” Jessica exclaimed.

Myers took off in a run. Jessica and I smiled and in perfect unison started rubbing our hands together like the gleeful man plotting his escape from a tyrannical situation.

Myers returned with clear plastic packages. At first, I didn’t notice anything strange then I more closely examined the package he set in front of me. It looked like food, but there was something strange about it. It had rough contours and looked like it had been made of rock pieces mortared together. I couldn’t wait. I took a bite. Imagine biting into a gravel with mortar and sand sandwich. Rocks. Sand. Mortar. Jessica and I spit our bites out back into the plastic containers.

“What’s wrong?” Myers asked.

I noticed it finally. Myers was all straight lines and painted solids, not like a real person. Jessica stood up, and I followed her lead.

“Umm, we left something back by the side of the road,” Jessica said. “We’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“Oh, no, you can’t leave,” Myers said.

Jessica yelled, “Hiya!” jumping into the air and throwing her foot at Myers head. He sort of crumpled into a ball of lines and solid colors.

Jessica and I ran to the flap in the tent and took a look around. The coast was clear, and we walked calmly away from their camp.

“You kicked Myers in the head!” I exclaimed.

“Yeah.”

“How?”

She stopped walking and turned to stare at me. She reached out with her finger and poked me in the chest. “I’ve been telling you for years that I study Kung-Fu.”

“Yeah, but I…”

“You never listen to me.”

“I didn’t think they’d teach you how to kick somebody in the head,” I said.

“What do you think you learn at Kung-Fu?” She asked.

“I never thought about it. I thought it was maybe like dance class.”

“Come on, we’ve got to find our candy bags. Let’s run.” She pulled at my hand.

“No! We’ve got to find real food!”

She sighed.

“We have to find real food, or I’m gonna die, Jessica.”

She nodded.

“What are we going to do?” I asked.

She looked at me. She spoke softly, in her little I’m perfect we’ll do as I bid way, “First, we’ve got to get our bags. We have to eat something. Then, I have a plan.”

We walked and walked looking for our bags. Finally, just after dusk, we spotted them.

We ate a little bit then we started looking for a house. We knocked on the door.

The rock monsters gave us candy, as expected. But we didn’t run.

Jessica used her, please I’m cute voice, “My friend missed dinner. Is there any way you could spare a roast beef sandwich for him?”

The male rock monster looked to his female companion. Both creatures began to rub their chins.

“Please?” I whimpered.

The male smiled a wide toothy grin of razor teeth.

“We don’t have any roast beef,” the female said.

“But we grilled bratwurst an hour ago. We have some left,” the male said.

Jessica looked at me.

I drooled. “Bratwurst would be great.”

“Mustard? Ketchup? Pickle relish? Fresh onions?” The female asked.

I smiled. “Mustard and onions!”

The female wandered into the kitchen.

The male said, in a choppy, haggard voice, “My name is Johnathon. My wife is Bethany.”

“I’m Jessica.”

“Lucas.”

The woman returned carrying a flat, crystal, square plate hosting not one, but two bratwursts in buns. I grabbed the plate and sat on the floor with the plate resting on my knees.

Jessica kneeled down and tried to grab one of the brats.

I twisted out of her reach. “Get your own.”

Jessica looked up at the rock monster pair. Bethany cackled, with a high-pitched voice, “There’s another one in the kitchen, deary. What do you want on it?”

Jessica whispered, “Mustard and relish, please.”

I feasted.

Bethany returned carrying two of the crystal plates. The first carried a brat, which she held out to Jessica. She took the plate and sat down on the floor. Bethany held the second plate out to us, and it had two forks and four heaping bowls on it, coleslaw, baked beans, potato salad, and macaroni salad.

“Leftover from dinner,” Bethany said and set the plate on the floor between me and Jessica.

The two rock monsters left us alone in the hallway, and we stuffed ourselves like pigs.

At the end of the food, I said, “I feel much better.”

“Me, too.”

Jessica lay back on the floor, and stretched her legs out. The food was starting to work on me, and I felt a bit groggy.

“I’m tired,” Jessica said. “We’ve been running and walking nonstop for ages.”

“Me, too,” I said.

I lay down on my back and stared up at the ceiling.

“I’m going to close my eyes for a few minutes,” Jessica said. “Wake me up in a little while.”

“Ok.”

My eyes closed soon enough. I woke to the rays of the sun and looked around. I lay in a bed, a bunk bed, and I could tell from the pace of her snoring that Jessica was in the bed above me.

I nudged her mattress.

She groaned.

“Wake up, Jessica,” I said.

She poked her head over the side of the bed and looked at me.

“You didn’t wake me,” she complained.

“Yeah, yeah. What are we going to do?”

She blinked her eyes a few times. “You know what? I bet they’re cooking food again.”

“This is our chance to escape! We’ve got to get out of here!”

“We’re getting breakfast first!”

I sighed.

We heard a knock on the door. Johnathon opened the door. “I hope the beds were alright… Bethany has breakfast on.”

We followed Johnathon downstairs. Bethany hummed a wicked tune while she stirred up a small feast of bacon, eggs, hash browns, and toast with jelly.

Jessica and I ate our fill. Bethany moved to clear the dishes.

“Bethany, let us get the dishes for you,” Jessica said.

Bethany smiled. “So polite.”

“It’ll be our pleasure,” I said.

Jessica and I started clearing the tables. Jessica washed, and I dried.

“Are you kids going to take off your costumes?” Bethany asked.

Jessica grabbed my hand with a fiercer grip than I would have imagined possible. In fact, she may have broken a bone or two in my hand.

“RUN!” She shouted.

I ran. We both ran.

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Categories
Uncategorized

Goblin Soup (Revised)

Heather brushed a few errant strands of straight, brown hair out of her eyes. “You know there’s a goblin living in the woods…”

I raised one eyebrow. “Which woods?”

“That little chunk of woods between Willow and Vine.” She pointed in the direction of the woods with her right hand, but then lowered her arm.

Ben fingered the hole in his pant leg with his thumb. “That’s like four trees and two shrubs.”

She shook her head.

The wind drifted through our playground kicking up little dust storms of dried leaves and dirt. I looked in the direction of Willow and Vine.

I was distracted when Angie punched me on the arm and then bounced back a step with her fists up. “Chicken!” She stood thin as a rail and had pale skin stretched over bony arms and hands. She wore tan pants and a white, button up shirt. The hitting started last year, and I didn’t know, if a sign of affection or abuse.

“What?” I asked.

Angie still held up her fists. “You’re afraid of the goblin.”

Ben laughed. “There isn’t any goblin.”

“I’ve seen it.” Heather nodded. “It said, ‘Good morning, my lady,’ to me.”

Angie poked me in the chest.

Ben stopped picking at the hole in his pants. “They want you to go check it out, Jeff.”

My brow furrowed into knots, and my eyes squinted.

Angie moved in close to me and put a fist within an inch of my face. “The woods, Willow and Vine, after school.”

Why I let her boss me around, I don’t know. I could just clobber her. With my luck I’d fracture bones in her face or do serious damage, end up in juvenile hall. If I’m murdering somebody, I want to get away with it like the neighbor’s cat.

The bell rang, and we raced back to our classrooms. Math, after lunch, then art, then history, then the four of us were walking towards our homes. Towards Willow and Vine. We stood on the edge of the vacant lot, and I looked from one friend to the other. The lot was overgrown with weeds taller than me, a few shrubs here and there, and this dense little cluster of trees in the center that could easily be hiding an elephant.

Angie kicked me on the shin. “You’re it!”

I seriously considered just breaking every bone in her body, let the ensuing small blood clots finish her. “Why can’t we go check out this goblin together?”

Heather threw her hands into the air. “I’ve seen it.”

I looked at Angie and Ben.

“You think Angie hits hard…” Ben said.

“Come on, guys. This isn’t right,” I said. “We’re supposed to be friends.”

Angie pointed at my face with a rigid index finger. “Into the woods! Make the goblin come out!”

I started walking towards the center of the woods. The real reason I complied was I hoped to find marijuana plants. Harvest season in this climate, and you never know.

I pushed past weeds and shrubs on a sort of trail that wound and twisted its way through the property. I walked and walked. Then I stopped. I should have made it to the other end of the lot by now. I turned to look back at my friends. Forest surrounded me and nothing more.

“Hello!”

A flock of birds took off from one of the trees. I started to retrace my steps. I walked and walked. Hunger and thirst started to get to me. I came across a stream and smiled. I took a drink of the water. I had to!

“Aren’t you worried about pollution?” A voice asked from behind me.

I turned to look. A short creature with dense brown hair all over its body looked at me. He seemed humanoid, I guess, but only a foot tall. He held a wooden pipe in his right hand and wore brown pants and a green shirt. His ears were big and pointy, and his eyeballs were huge for the size of his skull. He only had three fingers and a thumb on each hand, and each finger was adorned with a sharp claw. He had a distinct chin and a short nose with flaring nostrils.

A backpack was slung over one shoulder, a belt pouch on his waist, and a tiny dagger maybe three inches. “I said, aren’t you worried about pollution?”

I shook my head. “You haven’t had the tap water around here, have you? Are you a goblin?”

“I’m James Fourtooth,” the tiny creature said. “I’ve been called many things.”

“But some people call you goblin…”

James shook his little head. Then he turned to leave.

“Wait! I need to get out of the forest,” I said.

“Why did you come here?”

“My name is Jeff. My friends sent me to find you. They want to meet you.”

James shrugged.

I knelt down to be level with the goblin, and he sort of backed away a bit. “At least, show me the way out of the forest.”

“No, see, your friends knew the forest is enchanted, and they just wanted to get rid of you. You’ll find you can survive off nuts and berries and fruits. As you grow older, you’ll learn to hunt and trap for meat. It’ll take months, but you’ll learn how to make your own fire.”

My eyes opened wide. “Help me!”

“You must do me a favor. I will show you the way out of the forest, but you must bring me something in return.”

“Wait, bring you what?”

“I need two 3 lbs. bags of fresh apples.”

“What?”

The little creature’s eyes narrowed into slits. “There isn’t a single apple tree in this forest!”

“I don’t have any money for apples.”

“Then I guess you’re doomed,” James said.

“Hey!”

The goblin winked at me. “You could steal the apples. Just walk into the grocery store, pick out two nice looking bags, and walk out with them.”

I looked from the goblin around to make sure no one overheard.

“Come on…” The goblin said.

“I’ll do it!”

The goblin pointed to his left. “Walk straight that way, and you’ll reach the edge of my domain. If you don’t return within 3 days, I’ll come looking for you.”

I started walking in the direction the goblin pointed in. Within a few steps, I turned to go around a bush, and my friends were standing there pointing at me and laughing. I walked up to them.

“Did you see the goblin?” Ben asked.

I whimpered.

“You were in there for like an hour,” Heather said.

Angie stomped on my toes. “I bet he was in there wanking.”

“Oww! I was not! If you hurt me again, I swear I’ll spill your guts on the pavement.”

“Jesus Christ, Jeff,” Ben said. “We better go home.”

We all went our separate ways. I went directly into my garage, and hopped on my bike. I pedaled like mad for the corner grocery store. I leaned my bike against a post and walked inside the store. The Granny Smith apples were closest, and I grabbed two bags. I started walking out the door. I made it to my bike. Somebody shouted, “Did you pay for those?”

I threw the bags in my oversized basket on the bike and took off. I raced all the way to Willow and Vine. My heart thumped in my chest, and my legs burned. I climbed off the bike and walked into the woods with the apples. Within a bit, I found myself at the stream again.

“Granny Smith?” The goblin asked.

I smiled. “They’re the best apples.”

“They’re disgusting. I specifically asked for Red Delicious!”

“You did not! You said apples. Granny Smith are my favorite!”

The goblin fingered the dagger on his belt. “Red Delicious!”

I glared. “Tell me how to get out of the woods.”

“You’ll bring me proper apples!” The goblin said.

“Tell me how to get out of the forest.”

The goblin pointed in a different direction than last time. “If you don’t return within three days, with the right apples, I’ll come looking for you.”

And I thought to myself, yes, if you come looking for me, I’ll punt you across town…

I started walking in the direction the goblin pointed. Soon enough, the familiar sight of my bike greeted me. I pedaled home. My mom was sitting on the porch waiting for me with a scowl. I sighed.

“Where have you been?” she asked.

“Long story.”

“That’s not good enough, Jeffrey. I was this close to calling the authorities.”

I looked her in the eyes and whimpered. “Would you prefer the truth or a lie?”

Her left eye squinted. “Would I believe the truth?”

“No.”

She waved at the front door. “Get inside. I’ll cook us some dinner.”

We ate canned corn, dinner rolls, and black beans & rice. I went to sleep early.

The next morning on the walk to school, Heather joined me. I mean, she came running up to me. She grabbed my arm and made me stop.

“What?” I asked.

She grinned wide. “I slept through the night!”

“So?”

“Well, lately I’ve been having these nightmares…”

I nodded. She kissed me on the cheek and took off in a run towards school. I shook my head. School passed quickly. In fact, the next couple of days seemed to just fly by. On the third day, I lay down to sleep.

My mind started to drift as I slipped into my slumber. Then I saw the goblin. He showed me his teeth and drew his tiny blade. Forest surrounded me. The goblin came at me, and I kicked at him. He jumped up real high and cut me on the arm. It hurt bad! I opened my eyes, and I was in bed, safe and sound. I curled up with my pillow, and drifted off. Soon enough, I was in the forest again.

The goblin came at me, and I ran. He chased after me and stabbed me in the calf. He must have hit a nerve because the pain was worse than last time. I woke up. I stared at the wall. I paced my room. I crawled back into bed. Soon enough, I was in those damn woods, and there was the goblin with his little dagger drawn.

“What do you want?” I shouted.

He charged me and jumped up slicing into my face with his knife. The pain woke me. I took a hot shower and waited for dawn. It was Friday, but I didn’t even head to school. I pedaled my bike to the grocery store. I went in, and found two nice bags of Red Delicious apples. I looked around, and the coast was clear. I casually walked towards the entrance. A manager stepped in front me. “Are you going to pay for those apples?”

I moved fast. “I’m hungry, my mom lost her job, and we don’t have anything to eat.”

The manager sighed.

I did my best to look pitiful. I pretended Angie just hit me. I wanted to throat punch this guy so hard, juvenile hall echoed in the recesses of my mind.

The man grabbed for one of the bags. “You can have one but don’t come back without money!”

“I need two!”

The man glared at me. “Put both bags back where you found them.”

I gauged my odds. I kicked the man in the shin and ran. He didn’t give chase. He was kind of pudgy to be honest.

I put the bags in the basket on the bike. I raced to Willow and Vine. I walked into the woods, and soon enough I made my way to the stream. I shouted, “Where are you?”

“Behind you.”

I turned.

The goblin did a tiny dance. “Give me the apples.”

I handed over the apples. He sampled one.

“Which way is out of the forest?” I asked.

The goblin ignored me and kept on eating the apple.

“Which way?” I asked.

“Do you know what whiskey is? Cause I happen to need some,” the goblin said.

I shook my head. “I only seen whiskey in old John Wayne movies.”

“Well, you need to find me some, at least a liter. Bourbon whiskey.”

“You’re insane!”

The goblin laughed. “No, I’m in charge.”

“I want out!”

The goblin shook his head. “The only way out is for you to send somebody into these woods in your stead. That’s how Heather got away from me.”

“What!”

“Get me the whiskey. Maybe I’ll let you go forever then.”

“I don’t even know what whiskey looks like!”

“It comes in bottles. Adults keep it around the house just search for it. The label on the bottle needs to say BOURBON.”

I shivered just a bit.

The goblin pointed. “That way will get you out of the forest.”

I started walking. I biked home. Then I remembered, school day. I ran all the way to school. On arriving, I was quickly escorted to the principal’s office. “It’s past lunch, and you’re just now getting here? We tried to reach your mother at work, but we couldn’t.”

“I’m sorry.”

The principal rubbed on his chin. “Where have you been?”

I did it. I started to cry. The best solution I could come up with.

“Oh dear Lord, not another one!” The principal exclaimed.

I cocked my head to the side.

“Where were you!” He asked.

“I didn’t sleep last night, and I was on my way to school, and I fell and ripped my pants, so I had to go home. I just lay down on the couch for a moment, but I slept and slept.”

The principal nodded and nodded. I stopped crying.

“Get to class!” He said.

I ran to class.

Heather, Ben, and Angie caught up to me on my walk home. Angie punched me on the arm, but not hard enough to justify slicing her into pieces. “How’s Jeff today? Late for school much?”

I turned to face Heather.

“I had no choice!” She said.

I shook my head and started walking. Ben and Angie chased after me. Heather went the other direction.

“What’s going on?” Ben asked.

I paused. “Oh, nothing.”

“Something’s going on,” Angie said.

I looked at Angie and smiled. “You haven’t seen the goblin yet…”

“There’s no goblin,” Ben said.

I pointed at Ben’s chest. “You haven’t seen him either. He’s pretty cool.”

Ben shook his head. Angie punched me in the kidney. She was hot, clearly insane, but besides just flat out decking her, what could I do?

I started walking. Ben and Angie walked alongside me. Ben turned to go to his house. Angie walked next to me.

“You want to meet the goblin,” I said. “He’s so cool.”

Angie smiled. “I’ll go into the woods, if you go with me.”

“Ok.”

We walked to Willow and Vine. We pushed our way past shrubs and bushes. Soon enough, we were in a dense forest. The stream babbled, and I took a little drink.

“Two for the price of one!” The goblin howled.

Angie and I turned. The goblin stood there with a massive grin.

“Which way is out, goblin!” I said.

The goblin shook his head. He pointed at me. “You’re in charge of the Bourbon.” He pointed at Angie. “You’re in charge of the cigarettes.”

“What?” Angie asked.

My eyes narrowed into tiny beads. “You said if I got somebody else, you’d release me!”

The goblin started to dance and then stopped. “If she had come in alone, I would have, but now, the rules have changed.”

“What rules? What’s going on?” Angie asked.

I didn’t want to answer.

The goblin pointed at Angie’s chest. “You have essentially two choices. Stay in this forest forever, surviving off nuts and berries, or you can bring me a pack of cigarettes. You have three days to return, if you don’t return by then I come looking for you.”

“I don’t know anybody who smokes!” Angie said.

“How do we get out of the forest?” I asked.

“I’ll give you three days too, to bring the whiskey.” He pointed off in a direction, and I started walking.

“Wait!” Angie yelled.

I stopped walking.

She pointed at the goblin. “You did this to Heather already. We suckered Jeff into coming in here. If we send in somebody else, you’ll release both of us?”

The goblin nodded.

I started walking again. Angie hurried to catch up to me. We made it out of the forest. She stopped walking, and I stopped. She tried to hit me with a right cross hard enough to knock me on my ass. I grabbed her write and tried to contain my rage enough to not break her bones.

“Angie!” I shouted.

“What happens in three days!”

“The goblin will invade your dreams.”

“Ha! I’m not afraid of a dream!”

I spent the next three days doing my best to find a bottle of bourbon, to no avail. The goblin haunted my dreams, and I simply stayed up. At school the next day, Angie looked like she hadn’t slept a wink. Heather, Ben, Angie, and I were eating lunch. Angie gave Ben a curt little smile. “You haven’t met the goblin yet.”

Ben shrugged.

“You’re both trapped now?” Heather asked.

“Hush,” Angie whispered.

Ben stuck his finger in his macaroni and cheese. “I wish they gave us more macaroni and cheese when they served it, and it’s not even hot.”

“You want to meet the goblin,” I said.

Ben nodded. “No.”

Angie picked up her tray and stood up. “I’ve got to go.”

Heather followed her. “See you, guys.”

I gave Ben my best friendly face. “You need to meet the goblin.”

He poked me in the chest. “No, you need to kill the goblin.”

“What?”

“Get yourself a good-sized rock. Bash his skull in. Heather told me everything. It’s up to you.”

“But… I’ll be trapped in the forest forever.”

Ben shook his head and whispered, “The goblin is the source of the magic. Finish him, and the forest will return to normal.”

“You don’t know that!”

“Better you than me.”

The school day passed away uneventfully. The four of us were walking home.

“I’m going to kill the goblin,” I said. “Come with me and wait for me to come out of the forest.”

“Yes,” Ben said.

We made it to the edge of the vacant lot, and I found a nice rock just bigger than the palm of my hand. A plan formed in my mind, and I carried the rock behind me as I walked into the forest. After a while of wandering, I came up on the stream where I always met the goblin.

The goblin stepped out from behind a shrub.

“I’ve got something for you, but it’s a secret,” I said.

“Oh?”

“Yes, let me whisper in your ear what it is.”

The goblin pranced about a bit and then cupped his hand over his ear. “What is it?”

I leaned in close. I swung that rock on his head as hard as I could. Blood flowed.

“You’ll be trapped forever!” The goblin howled.

I hit over and over. The goblin lay still. I put my hand on his heart. No beat. I tossed the rock aside and started walking back the way I came. Walking and walking, I came upon the stream and the goblin’s body. I tried again. I got nowhere.

Ben’s words echoed in my mind. “The goblin is the source of the magic.”

I took the goblin’s knife off his belt and hacked off his head. I held the head in my hand and started walking. I stepped past a tree, and Heather, Angie, and Ben all laughed and clapped. I smiled and tossed the head at their feet. “One dead goblin.”

Ben picked up the head and lifted it as if to test its weight. “This is just enough to make soup.”

Heather went, “Ewww…”
 

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Categories
Fantasy

Iotha of Lynken

This is set about 500 years Before Juxta, Magi

Iotha’s dad looked him in the eyes.  “I’ve taught you the blade and bow.  Everything your grandpa taught me.  Tomorrow at dawn, the trials.  Sleep.”

The man and boy could have been twins if not for one was grown, both skin dark as night, brown eyes, thin but muscular.

Yeah, Iotha would sleep.  The fire still burned in the center of their campsite.  The boy sat cross-legged and stared into the twisting and turning flames.  Thoughts strangely calm.  He curled up on the ground and arranged his blanket above him perfectly.  He dreamed of this day a thousand times.

In the end, he slept.  Dad shook him awake just before dawn.  They ate a feast of fresh apples and jerky.

“Do you need luck, boy?”  Dad asked.

“No, papa.”

Crowds were forming up in a field of short grass.  Iotha took his place in line with the other boys.  The spectator stands filled to the brim.  The king and queen sat at the topmost level.  The queen wore a purple dress.  The king’s ranger leathers were worn, but fit snug, like all the rangers running around herding boys into lines.  A jewel encrusted crown made of gold sat on the king’s head.  It looked heavy to Iotha.

Boys chose wooden swords from barrels.  Every boy in line gripped it in a tight fist.  Iotha looked his opponent in the eyes.  He was thin and wiry, with long blond hair and crisp blue eyes.

The horns sounded.  Iotha advanced with a bit of caution in his step.  He used a one-handed grip on the sword.

Iotha raised his left hand up and made squeezing motions with it.  The other boy looked up at the hand.  Wham!  Iotha threw his right fist wrapped in the sword hilt at the boy’s nose.

The boy fell and stayed down.  The men around Iotha cheered.  Presumably for him, but who knew?

The ranger sergeant called for the healer.  An aged man came running with a blaze of blue fire in a walnut-sized sapphire gem connected to a gnarled wood staff.  This new man with gray hair and a white cloak knelt to the downed boy and said some intricate chant.

“He lives,” the old man said.

“Did I win?”  Iotha asked.

Some ranger shoved a wooden chip in his hand no more than a half inch long with two lines carved in it.  Iotha had his answer.  He needed two more like this one, and they would call him ranger.  It went in his belt pouch and bet it was tied tight.

The adult rangers once again herded the boys into rows five across.  The smallest boys were at the front.  Iotha stood in the middle.  Once again, the horns bellowed.  Iotha pushed against the ground with everything he had.

Boys shoved him, and Iotha did a bit of shoving.

After a mile running, he crossed the line close enough to the front.  A second wooden chit was handed to him, and it too was put away.

The horse race lined up next.  Iotha climbed onto his mount and something seemed wrong.  He knew in his heart, a lazy horse.  Still they tried.  No chit was put into Iotha’s hand.

Dad howled from the stands.  “Finish it!”

Bows and quivers were passed out to every boy.  Over one hundred posts lined the field with a hanging wooden disc.

The glorious horns sounded.  Every boy let fly their arrow.  Every boy hit their mark.

Rangers had them back up ten paces.

A few boys missed, but on their honor, a gust of wind filled the field along with the horns.

They moved another ten paces.  Iotha hit the disc.  All that mattered to him.  It reached a point where less than half the boys were in line.  That was it.  Yet, they continued.  In the end, Iotha stood in a row of only five boys.  They all missed.  The distance proved too great.

A third piece of wood landed in Iotha’s hand.  He had three.  Practiced all his life, he was in.  A warm glow filled his insides and bled out into every extremity.

The king shouted loud.  “Say goodbye to your families.  Find your sergeants.”

Iotha embraced his father in a great hug.  Both squeezed each other tight.  No words were said.  No words needed to be said.  Only regret was Mom was in the ground instead of there, but according to The One True God she watched from above.

Iotha found his sergeant, a giant of a man called Floyd.  He had a deep brown complexion.  The first thing he showed Iotha was proper saluting, but definitely not the last thing Floyd would teach.  They rode with a troop of almost two hundred on horseback to a walled fort. A place called Raleg, founded over five hundred years ago.

Heck, Lynken was supposedly only around about the same age, even though people lived in these parts since the dawn of it all.  Since Iotha was now one of Lynken’s cadets, he desired to know a little history.

The most important thing quickly implanted in Iotha’s mind was the fact that Cadets couldn’t get booze of any kind.  None.  He cried himself to sleep the entire four years in Raleg.

Floyd lined up the group of cadets from Iotha’s trial.  An officer approached, and the cadets in perfect unison saluted.  The officer returned the salute but never said his name.

He spoke in a loud voice that carried.  “I’m going to teach you the Codex.  It’s a secret of the rangers that everyone must master.  Do what I do.”

Iotha had acquired a rusty, old, thick sword with no edge at all.  All the cadets had one similar.  The officer held his sword up high, then made a downward motion with it, while stepping forward.

None of the cadets moved.

“Do it!”  Floyd shouted.

The cadets moved.  The officer repeated the motion-step.  Over and over across a field.  Glory be, after lunch they did their left hand.  Iotha knew for sure, if they’d continued past nightfall, his arms would fall off.

A boy next to Iotha whispered to him.  “Years of this.  Years.”

“Dad never mentioned it.  Not one word of it.  My name is Iotha.”

“Mine neither, I’m Jose.”  He had a deeper tan on him than most of the other boys, and straight black hair.

Jose’s squad garrisoned in the same barracks as Iotha.  They had seen each other before, but never introduced themselves.  Potentially, Iotha’s first friend in the rangers.

Cadet life grew monotonous to say the least.  Chopping firewood.  Some days helping out in the fields.  Planting, weeding, and harvesting.  Skills every boy already had.  The Codex seemed the key to it all.  Special forms and motions for countering multiple opponents.  Making the enemy pay in blood and limbs for every ranger that falls.

Jose was a good friend, to a big degree because he had two older brothers in the rangers and every so often, Jose would have a flask of this or that to share.  They often spoke of women.  Jose acted like he was a great conqueror and could bed almost any unattached woman he chose.

Seasons turned as seasons turn.  Iotha was assigned to a full-time squad, with Jose and Floyd in the lead.  Both young men now carried a real blade at their side plus a bow and quiver.  They rode horses, and were well-versed in taking care of them.  Access to booze.  A silver piece a month in pay.  The good life.  How the king could afford the amounts of booze they drank was a puzzle, but maybe it was the chief output of Lynken.

The king assigned them to border patrol on the eastern edge of Lynken.  Across that border was Tercia, a land of ogres, peasants, and a necro mausoleum on every street corner.  Some questioned if the peasants who farmed were actually animated dead.

Bands of ogres bled sometimes into Lynken to maraud.  The patrol had a fifty mile or so of expanse they were responsible for.  They spread themselves maybe a little too thin sometimes, looking for trails.  Twenty-four in the squad in total, but patrolled in three-man troops.

A few hundred yards ahead, tracks in mud.  Iotha sounded it out.

“Be wary,” Floyd said.

Iotha and Jose nocked arrows.  Floyd hopped off his horse and drew his blade.  He stared deeply into the tracks for a few moments.  “At least thirty, but no more than fifty.  Two wagons.  Tracks heading into Lynken.  Iotha head north, gather the men.  Jose head south.”

Iotha kicked his horse into a solid gallop.  Within an hour, he and nine other men headed south towards where Floyd waited.

They arrived the same time Jose and the others arrived.  No sign of Floyd.  But a lot of blood on the ground, what the earthen ground of Lynken hadn’t sucked up, and a couple of limbs.  A leg and an arm.  Not human.  Ogre.

The other sergeant, Allen, pointed at the tracks.  “Headed back into Tercia.”  Allen rubbed his chin.  “Either they captured him, or they took his body to feed their necromancer dark arts.”

“We ride!”  Iotha shouted.  Twenty-three men howled.

They headed into Terica following the trail.  The terrain slowly changed and devolved.  Where in Lynken, small copses of trees were common, and various ground covers battled it out for territory.  In Tercia, it turned rockier and dryer.  At best, a short grass or weeds grew, but many times the ground was no better than barren gravel.

Iotha rode in the lead.  He saw them first, but the others saw too.  Iotha drew his blade in a quick flash, and the other rangers charged barely behind him.  The ogres were tall, bulky figures with thick arms and legs.  Their skin shone a deep tan, and hair grew in seemingly random, coarse, black patches.

The first ogre fell to Iotha’s blade across his throat.  Blood jetted at least three feet.  The second, his blade pierced through the eyeball and Iotha flipped the weapon upward through the top of the creature’s skull sending brains splattering.

In this time, half the ogres readied slings, and fist sized rocks started flying like messengers from god.  Iotha cut down a third ogre with a stab to its heart.  Truth is they were all males, but to a human they were an it.

Three fist sized projectiles hit Iotha in the same instant.  One to his throat, another on his chin, and the third just above his left eye.  Darkness engulfed him, and the ground knocked the breath out of him like a cruel stepbrother.

He rose above himself and watched the battle below.  The ogres fled.  A tall man, taller than a tree stood in the distance.  He wore bloodstained plate armor with a blade strapped to his back, and a second hung from a belt on his waist.  His arms and legs were thick.

An image flashed in Iotha’s mind of the three chits in his belt pouch.  Two cuts on it.  One of the chits disappeared, and Iotha jumped awake.

He rode in the back of a wagon, in between two other men.  One was Floyd, dead as nails.  The other had a torn undershirt wrapped around his head.

Jose drove the wagon.  He shouted.  “Iotha is awake!  He lives!”

Iotha let out a throaty roar of a laugh.  “I don’t die that easy!”

Jose leaned back and quietly whispered.  “We couldn’t even find a pulse on you, my friend.”

“I live and breathe.”

Iotha had a crazy urge to check on the chits in his pouch.  Two left, either a trick of his friends, or a trick of gods.  If they planned to bury him, they’d bury him with the chits, so not his squad.

Iotha hopped out of the wagon and back on his horse.  They made tracks to a nearby temple of The One True God in a small town.  The priest said prayers over Floyd.  The ranger squad gave the wagons and loot collected off the ogre party to the temple.

Men took turns digging the grave.  Dug it deep.

The town sported a small pub, and most everybody had a few drinks.  They quickly made Iotha tired and sleepy.  He limited himself and slept in a barn.

The next day he felt himself again.  Allen, the sergeant, tasked him with returning to Raleg and reporting on the fight.  Allen gave him a sealed letter to carry.

The trip to Raleg passed quickly as traveling alone was akin to traveling like the wind.  A lieutenant read the letter and went on a massive rant about planting seeds to start a new war.

“They crossed into Lynken, and they had our man,” Iotha whispered under his breath.

The lieutenant turned beet red.  “Pick up your squad’s pay, and you can take a gallon wineskin for the road.”

Iotha acquired both, but he made sure they filled the wineskin with a potent liquor and not wine.  He saved the whole thing until he made it back to his squad, and they grinned like idiots and passed it around.

Patrolling the border was a task to dull the mind and senses.  The same stretch of miles every day.  Iotha counted months as the seasons moved.  How Jose kept finding kegs seemed a mystery to all.

A rogue scout approached their main camp one day.  They knew him as Malik.  He bore a parchment for Allen.

He read it and cleared his throat.  “They need us more on the southern border.  For some reason we’ve seen giant spiders outside the Wastes.”

“Giant spiders, oh my!”  Iotha said.

“The small ones are six feet tall.”

“Oh.  My.”

They acquired wagons and covered a wider area when they hit the right spot on the border.  One could see a distinct line between Lynken and the Southern Waste.  The ground itself turned to nothing but sand along the edge.

They rode in pairs, Jose and Iotha together, camped under the stars right next to the Waste.  The spiders were not known to be nocturnal.  Their eight eyes needed light to hunt.

Weeks passed.  Up ahead, one of the spiders, a big one, stepped on Lynken soil, directly in front of them.  Jose and Iotha drew blades and charged.  The beast appeared hairy as hell and looked as if it carried offspring on its back belly.

It stood eight feet tall at least with pincers on the front of its face.  Each leg had three joints to it if you counted the shoulder joint where they attached to the upper body.  The plan?  Charge it, pierce it through the brain.  Done deal.

“Arrroooo!”  Iotha howled.

The spider had other ideas.  The damn hellspawn.  She leaned back on her hind legs and used her front four legs as spears to meet their charge, stabbing through both horses.

The rangers leaped off to the side and landed on their feet.  They advanced.  They mostly hacked away at those front four limbs, while the limbs tried to pierce them.

Jose cut clean through a leg on his side, and gross black ichor spurted out on his hand.  He screamed as if it burned.

Iotha closed in for the kill, but as his blade sliced a great hole in the creature’s skull, the spider’s leg punched a wound clean through Iotha on his upper right chest.  A blow one would expect to be mortal.

He fell backwards and lay there twitching.  He drifted above the scene.  Jose was below trying to stomp out as many baby spiders as he could.  Iotha’s life blood pooled on the ground.

A man stood in the distance wearing bloodstained plate armor.  He held a double-sided axe in his hands, and a sword across his back.  His hair and beard were blood red, but whether natural or bloodstained, Iotha didn’t know.

The two chits in Iotha’s pocket appeared in his vision.  One disappeared, and he drifted down to his body.

The sound of a shovel digging made him stir awake.  “Hoy!”  Iotha said.

Jose turned to look and turned white as a ghost.  “I’m digging your grave man, and you’re alive?  You could have stopped me sooner!”

Iotha chuckled a bit but he still had pain in his chest.  “I need a healer.”

Jose moved like lightning.  Iotha lay there staring up at the sky focusing on the fluffy clouds and breathing.  Yes, quite nice to breathe.

Jose returned later with a young man carrying a bent staff from some hardwood tree.  This new man, clearly a druid, wore a simple light green robe and sandals.  A rune marked wineskin was slung over one shoulder.  He examined the front and back of the wound on Iotha.  He spoke a low chant.

“You should be dead.  The flesh has sealed itself up well, but your ribs are still broken,” the druid said.  “I’ll address those.”

A second chant soon followed, and the druid groaned either from exhaustion or pleasure, Iotha never knew.  What Iotha did know is his breathing became easier and more effective.

The druid frowned.  “No alcohol for at least ten years.”

“What?”  Iotha asked.

Jose laughed bright and happy.

“None for you too,” the druid said.  “It’s all mine!”

Iotha growled like a starving wolf.

“Seriously,” the druid said, “The wineskin is druid’s wine, heavily diluted, you need it.”

“Clearly I need it, all that grave digging,” Jose said.

The druid took a drink and handed it to Iotha.  He drank too and a blessed taste of apples and honey.  They passed the skin around.

The druid stumbled home.  Jose hunted up a rabbit for their dinner and started a fire.

Iotha looked in his belt pouch, other than a few coins, only one trial chit remained.  “I’m retiring after this.  I feel my time is up.”

“Twice I’ve said prayers to the One True God over your corpse,” Jose said.  “I understand, my friend.”

A handful of acres was part of Iotha’s retirement, but he had to take it along the frontier with Tercia or the Southern Waste with the mean giant spiders.

He chose the southern frontier.  His neighbors helped him build a house with everything he needed.  He found a woman to marry who loved his scars and wanted at least three wagonfuls of children.  The boys among them Iotha trained as his father trained him.  The way of things in Lynken.  Men training their sons.

The sons joined the rangers everyone.  The daughters married.  Iotha grew to the ripe age of 53.  His wife perished from some plague.

News came of an invader from the south, threatening Lynken’s longest standing ally, Weslan, to the west.  A ranger rode into town looking for volunteers.  Iotha stepped forward.

The ranger sergeant said, “No man over 50.”

“On my honor, I’m 49,” Iotha said.

“Okay.”

A thousand-man army of rangers rode like hell itself danced on their heels.

Weslan was a land of Magi, but the horde from the southern wastes was over ten thousand strong.  Hold the line while the Magi rained fire and lightning was the order of the day.

Men drew lots for which ones would be in the frontmost line, for every man wanted a place, and the line would be too thin.

Iotha considered himself lucky to draw that lot.  More damn giant spiders, but these had riders on top of them, and metal covered their legs.  The horde of enemies approached on foot, each carrying a sword.  Iotha cut down their ranks at least a half dozen times, while magi rained lightning all around and threw balls of fire.

A curved blade cut into Iotha’s gut in the end.

He drifted up above the battle.

The familiar man with blades and a bloodstained plate armor stood in the distance and waved, come hither.

The End

Categories
Comedy

Squirrels seem quite harmless

Fred looked around for the first time and noticed he indeed existed in a cage.  Perhaps he’d noticed it before, perhaps he hadn’t.  Today it mattered more than yesterday.

He looked over at Ruth, the other caged squirrel.  “We’re trapped.”

“We had this talk yesterday, and every day before.  The lid is too heavy,” she said.

Fred stretched up to the top of the lid and pushed.  It budged but not all the way.  He clearly stood tall enough but lacked strength.

Push the lid up.  Hold it and wait.  Let it fall.  Repeat a million times.  The door opened and Fred lowered the lid and went back to chasing Ruth around, almost like they were lovers.

The tall creature, Fred didn’t know the species of, said, “How are my two favorite test subjects?”

Fred and Ruth had learned the creature’s language quickly enough, but why this creature would have two harmless squirrels in a cage was anybody’s guess.  And neither Fred nor Ruth could recall anything prior to being in the cage.

The squirrels seemed to communicate at a higher frequency than the tall creature, and neither squirrel had said anything directly to their captor.

Fred wanted out.  He would be out, if he had to lift that lid a billion times.

He didn’t stop, maybe it was a thousand or a billion, he didn’t count.  One day, the lid lifted high enough he could push it to an angle.  Freedom, blessed freedom.

He had seen the tall creature working some device with a screen and various input devices.  He wanted to try it, whether it was just a mathematical machine or a gateway to another dimension.

The device with the screen sat next to his cage.  His curiosity piqued.  Two apparent input devices were wired directly into the machine.  One had just a few buttons and the creature moved it around.  The other had like a hundred buttons.

Fred started to experiment.  The device seemed simple enough.  Various tiny pictures on the screen that loaded different…  He didn’t know what they were called, but each small image seemed to open a new bigger image that was different, with more small images in it.

He found something called Google.  That was the beginning of the end.  Footsteps in the hall.  He jumped back into the cage and replaced the lid.

The tall creature tapped the cage.  “Two more weeks, the study will be over.  I like you guys but the process failed, and euthanasia.”

Fred had never heard this term euthanasia, but it seemed very important.  Once the tall creature left, Fred was on Google moments later.  Euthanasia.  Death.  The end.  The tall creature was going to kill them.  He explained it all to Ruth.  She didn’t believe at first, but he convinced her.

An escape needed to be planned.

The windows were all locked down.  Ruth found a tiny mirror.  From where it came, they didn’t know.  She could reach her paw under the door and see down the hallway with it.  For hours they were left alone to research Google, and you know, lift heavy stuff, because one you start you can’t stop.

Finally, Fred stared down the hallway on the mirror while Ruth researched on Google.

She screeched.  “I found it!”

“The building plans?”

“Exactly.  You gotta see this.”

They traded places.

Fred’s eyes glazed over as his squirrel brain processed the map.  An emergency exit map, and a stark red line was drawn from where he was through the hallway, and out a door to the outside.

Ruth scaled a cabinet up to a big round silver button with a symbol on it.  She threw her entire weight into it.  A click sounded and the door opened as if by pure magic.

“There’s another button at the door to the outside,” Ruth said.

The human creature left half-empty water bottles everywhere, and Ruth sewed a strap to carry one of those on Fred’s back.  She also sewed a tiny backpack for herself to fill with food from their dispenser.

No more planning was required, the two handicapped buttons worked like magic charms, and they raced through woods mere moments later.  Two of the humans saw them on the way out and screamed, but it may have been due to the large amount of muscle on Fred’s frame.

The first squirrel they encountered fell ill almost instantly.  Fred and Ruth took turns nursing the poor thing back to health.  He called himself Jarack and seemed to be waking as if from a long coma.  He perceived the world with new eyes.

The next squirrel and the next, fell ill.  They didn’t realize it but they spread a gene-splicing virus.  They just knew they’d start talking to a new squirrel, and the squirrel would fall ill.

Soon they had a band of at least twenty squirrels.  Fred and Ruth didn’t know how to survive in the wild, but they learned and learned.  They scouted in the human areas of the world.  A younger human was walking down the street staring into a cell phone.

Fred saw first, this was what he needed, access to Google.  Fred led the charge and soon enough they overtook the young human and bit him until the phone fell.  Their pointy teeth proved sharp enough to draw blood, and the young male left a trail of blood behind him as he fled.  Frank carried the phone back into the woods.

Poor kid likely got a beating for saying squirrels stole his cell phone.  But the amount of blood involved, it’s possible he collapsed before he made it home.

The virus spread and spread, and soon hundreds of squirrels traveled in a pack.  They were especially on the lookout for humans carrying groceries from cars into houses.  None suspected a giant mass of angry squirrels to attack.  Except the kid who lost the cell phone, he suspected.  Assuming he survived and hadn’t bled out.

A lot of the squirrels got into lifting rocks and other squirrels to add mass.  So now it’s hundreds of angry, hulked out squirrels who have access to the internet.

Luckily the battery died on the phone as they looked up a recipe to make gunpowder.

It was time to step up their game.

Six of the squirrels heaved a giant rock at a window to a human house.  They raided the pantry for nuts and snacks, mostly raisins and applesauce, a little trail mix.  Plus, a glorious charger for the phone they possessed.

Exterior power outlets existed on almost every house.  So soon enough they had the mighty Google again.

The virus they carried spread like pure wildfire.

With Fred at the lead, they killed their first human for food.  A little old lady, but they needed protein what with all the lifting they were addicted to.  It took hundreds of bites to finish her off, but humans were the oppressor.

Fred oversaw the process of making their first long rifle.  They skipped muskets in the evolutionary chain of gunpowder.  The projectiles were too tiny to make it very far against wind resistance.  So, they made the device bigger and bigger.  Only the hulkiest squirrels could fire one, but the projectile traveled straight and true.

After months of engineering and painstaking work, they essentially realized they’d produced a 380 auto, only in single shot.

Full scale war against the oppressive humans raged on almost every continent on Earth.  But it wasn’t just about the oppression, of which there were a million units, but squirrels found human flesh quite tasty once they’d tried it.

Categories
Comedy

Events

I moved in with my husband when we married.  A painless experience except the spankings.

A gas grill sat out back on the porch.  The thing was so easy and convenient.  For a while, I cooked with it.  My dad, when I was a kid, used both gas and charcoal at different times, and I always knew which from the taste.

One day at the store, I bought a small charcoal grill, charcoal, wood chips, and lighter fluid.  My husband was unimpressed and I quote, “We’re a gas grill family.”

Piss on that.

I had never actually lit a charcoal fire, but I’d watched a hundred times when Dad did it.  I followed all the steps, and soon I had a pyramid of glowing coals.  I added Mesquite wood chips, and three six-ounce burgers followed.  Cheap USDA Select ground beef, but it was 73% lean and usually tasty.

I paid close attention to make sure nothing got blackened, besides you know a little black.  Flip a burger too often it’ll never cook.

My husband was truly impressed with the meat and let me dole the spanking instead for a change.

I did it again the next day with steaks.  I put the Mesquite chips on.  Somebody whistled, and I looked up.

A lady stood at the edge of our yard holding a bowl of something.  “I smelled your grill, I’m your next-door neighbor to the north.”

What did she want though?  Like why would smelling my grill mean interrupting my precious solace?

“I brought coleslaw,” she said.  “Surely you have enough meat we could share.  I’m Beth.”

“Jennifer.”

“Jen.”

“Jennifer.”

So, we had dinner with Beth.  The coleslaw was tasty, and the bacteria in the human gut love cabbage and other forms of indigestible fibers.

Beth was maybe forty years old with a cotton dress on.  Blue eyes and light brown hair but not blonde with just a few hints of grey.  She Never Stopped Talking.

Technically, she was the first guest in our house since we married.  Maybe a good thing.

A couple of days I didn’t grill.  Work kept calling me in.  I was odd one out at the company, and I’d get called in if a shop was short a person.  Best job I could get.

Seemed to be grilling with charcoal was the only way I could curb my husband’s insatiable hunger for flesh.  I started bratwurst and had a dread feeling so I cooked a whole package of six.

Beth showed up with a man in tow, wearing khaki shorts and a red shirt.  They had a younger male maybe twelve wearing perfectly matching khaki shorts and red shirt.

“The adult male prototype is George,” Beth said.  “The younger prototype is Sam.”

That is not how she introduced them, I embellished that.

All three of them carried containers or something, and after the amazing coleslaw, curiosity piqued.

The boy, Sam, held up a pan of brownies cut in perfect squares.  “Caramel brownies.”

Clearly, these people were welcome at my house.

George held out a bowl.  “Potato salad.”

Beth smiled wider than ever.  “Fruit salad.”

“Welcome,” I said.  “Hubby is chopping up onions and heating just a bit of chili if anybody wants chili dogs.”

Before any trolls can interrupt, yes, chili brats are an interesting concept, but if you haven’t tried it, shut your trap.

All too much stimuli for me in the end.  I found myself hiding under a weighted blanket in the dark.  Hubby brought me a midnight snack of nachos with cheese and jalapeno wheels.

He let me have the bed to myself and slept on the couch.  I did drift off in the end before it got too late.  He was savage in the morning but I needed it as much as him.  We synced up perfectly with the events at eight times a week, any less and a dire melancholy set in.

Soon it was time to grill again.  Two slabs of ribs.  I think I used more mesquite than charcoal.  Not only did Beth’s clan show up, but another couple who claimed to be my neighbors from south of my house.

The newcomers brought loaves of French bread with butter and garlic, and all told we had six side dishes to go with the ribs.  Nobody left hungry.

I retired early to my blanket fort.  Too much.  My husband made sure I wasn’t hungry, providing fruit flavored candies of every variety.  One night under the blanket wasn’t enough and I hid partway into the next day.  Lucky work didn’t call.

Not so much hiding, but I needed the dark and quiet for long periods to recharge my battery after so much chitter chatter from everybody.  And their seeming expectations for me to reply.

My husband admitted that the first time I grilled, he called Beth, and secretly invited her over.  The rest of the people were not his doing, and he insisted it was my grilling bringing them over.

I wasn’t giving up the charcoal, but I did acquire a bigger grill with more room for big helpings.  The crowds always drained me, but the time off from certain events, led to better events.

The End

Categories
Horror

Werewolf’s Tail

Emily peered into the dark recesses of her school locker seeking out her tattered book of poetry. She simply knew it was in there somewhere, perhaps behind her Unicorn covered notebook.

She felt hands squeeze her breasts and a bulge rub against the crack of her ass. She shrieked and spun around. John let go of her and laughed. Then he walked away. His locker was just seven lockers from hers and had been since the start of high school four years ago. She snarled.

He looked her over. Black dress as always, black eye shadow, black lipstick, and black fingernails adorning pale white fingers. She was the typical Goth chick in his mind.

He turned back to his locker and started working the dial.

Emily decided to make her move. She wanted a date for the homecoming dance, and John the football player would serve. She summoned every last bit of courage, and approached him. She tapped him on the shoulder. He turned to face her. She moved in to kiss him on the lips.

He stepped backwards and hissed. “Don’t do that!”

“Why not? You started it.”

“I wouldn’t want to be seen with you.”

“What? Why not?”

“You’re a Goth chick! I have standards.”

She glared, and then turned away. She went back to her locker and found her book of poetry. She made her way to her ancient Pinto and drove home. After dinner, she and her mom were doing dishes in the kitchen when her mom said, “You know it’s a full moon tonight.”

Emily nodded.

Mom continued, “Well you know how your father gets during the full moon. You should stay at a friend’s house tonight.”

Emily sighed. She didn’t want to spend the night in the woods, and if she called upon any of her few and far between friends, they would freak out when they learned the truth. So, she’d spend the night in the woods like so many other nights over the years.

Emily’s mom could see her resistance, and her mom spoke quietly, “Just be glad this isn’t the dark ages. Be glad you weren’t born male.”

Emily nodded. “I know. I know.”

Emily went to her room. She stripped naked. She put on a red silk robe. She went downstairs. Her dad smiled at her.

“I’m sorry, honey,” he said. “You just don’t know what it’s like for males.”

“I’ve heard this story a thousand times, Dad. I’ll run through the woods. I’ll be fine.”

“Thanks, honey. I’m glad you understand.”

She didn’t understand though. She hated it. She walked out to the back porch and noticed a faint glint of the moon rising on the horizon. She felt a stir in her belly.

* * *

John played football that night. Hell, he more than played, he scored two touchdowns, sacked the quarterback, and intercepted two passes. He played the whole first half and the last quarter. His teammates called him Iron Man for playing offense and defense. His coach reminded him after every game that he’d have to choose offense or defense when he made it to college.

He hadn’t gotten any offers to go to any colleges, but with almost a year of high school left and most of the school’s football season left, there was still time. He’d be on the local 11 o’clock news on two channels for sure.

The buses dropped them off at the school, and he was counting on his sister to pick him up. His sister was a no show. He waited. He stood alone in the parking lot in the moonlight. He knew in his heart his sister was off blowing some hobo or stoned out of her gourd, so he started walking. The path was lit with streetlights all the way home, but nearly three miles. He knew if he cut through the woods it would be closer to two miles, and he knew the way, and he had the moonlight.

He took off in a slow jog.

He made his way down a well-known path when he saw the eyes. Just two eyes that flashed in the moonlight off to the side of his path. He slowed, and stopped. A wolf bigger than any canine John had ever seen stepped directly into his path. Mostly grey except its face which seemed to be painted with strips of black.

“Nice doggy,” John said.

The wolf smiled a canine smile and started wagging its tail. John held his palm out below the animal’s nose, so it could get a good sniff of his scent. The wolf sniffed at his hand. John petted the animal, and it wagged its tail even more. John smiled, and thought to himself, I’m not going to die after all.

The beast bit down viciously on John’s hand, and out of reflex, John smacked it upside the head with his left. The wolf let out a yelp and ran into the woods.

John looked at his hand. It bled bad. He took off his shirt and wrapped it around the puncture holes. He took off in a jog again keeping pressure on his right with his left. By the time he made it home, the shirt was soaked, but the bleeding had mostly stopped. His mom screamed when she saw him.

“Let me see,” his dad said. “Unwrap it.”

John gingerly unraveled the bloodstained shirt from his hand. His dad looked, grabbed his hand, and turned it this way and that. “Wiggle your fingers.”

John wiggled his fingers.

“You need stitches,” Dad said. “You need a Tetanus shot. You likely need Rabies shots.”

“It’s barely a scratch!”

“You’ve never had a Tetanus shot,” Mother said, “so now is as good a time as any. And if a dog bit you it might have rabies. If we could find the dog, we could find out if it has rabies.”

“It was a wolf!”

“You shouldn’t go through the woods!” Dad exclaimed.

“It was my sister’s fault! She was supposed to pick me up.”

His parents nodded. His dad grabbed car keys. “Let’s go, boy.”

“I don’t want to go to the hospital!”

“Quit being a cry baby,” Mom said. “You’d think they intend to cut off your penis. Tetanus is fatal. Rabies is fatal. You need shots.”

John sighed. His dad started making tracks for the garage. John followed. They drove in silence to the hospital. The doctor stitched him up. The doctor gave him two shots that he would rather have not had. The doctor gave him the bright news that he’d have to come in for more rabies shots over the next 28 days unless they found the canine that bit him.

The doctor handed him a white envelope. “Take this before bed tonight.”

“What is it?” John asked.

“Just a little something to help calm your nerves.”

“What is it?”

“Just a five milligram Valium. I’ve seen you play, you’re good.”

“What is Valium?”

“It’s a sedative,” the doc said. “It’s like a little treat. Take it.”

“Keep it, doc. Drugs aren’t treats.”

“Good for you. Your family doctor will likely administer the rest of the Rabies shots.”

“Ok.”

John’s dad was asleep in the waiting room when John emerged. They drove home in silence. John wanted to say so bad, “Why don’t you ever come and watch me play?” He knew the answer though. His dad hated sports. He considered them a waste of time. John should be concerned with a real job, not playing with his friends.

* * *

As the moon set that morning, Emily donned her silk robe and went into the house to take a shower. She was tired, so tired the weariness seemed to creep into the joints between her bones. Her stomach growled its empty growl. She decided the shower could wait and started foraging through the kitchen for food. She ate and ate. She headed towards the stairs and her room, but the couch lured her in with its soft cushions and warm blanket.

School days passed by, and John made no more moves to grope her. Word around the school though was he still didn’t have a date for Homecoming. There were at least four girls ready to put out for him, but he seemed intent to make them fight over him. Perhaps he planned to do them one-by-one. Perhaps he preferred boys. The girls talked and talked about his reasons. None were sure one way or the other though.

A quick month passed, and John found himself walking home through the woods from a football game once again thanks to his whore of a sister. The moon crept up into the sky, and a gut-wrenching tightness descended on John’s insides.

He stumbled to his knees and hands. His back arched in pain as he felt his muscles stretch. His skin started to tingle and then burn as hair grew into a fur coat. His mind started to slip, and he ripped all his clothes off. His hands grew into paws with sharp claws. His arms stretched out as his gut wrenched. He knew hunger. He knew nothing else. He started to run sniffing at the air. He smelled what he knew in his carnal heart to be a rabbit.

He chased down the scent until he found the rabbit. He practically ripped it in two and feasted on all but the bones and fur, and in his fury, he ate some of the bones and fur, too.

He started racing through the woods searching out another rabbit. He saw a squirrel out of the corner of his eye and tried to chase it down. Then he heard a howl in the distance. He ran towards the sound, for it sounded pretty. He saw a grey wolf with black streaks painted on its face. The wolf turned its butt towards John, and John knew in his heart that the other wolf was female. His rod sprung to attention, and he had no choice but to carnally mount the other wolf.

As their bodies separated, the other wolf ran into the woods. John just lay on the ground panting, satiated and hoping for another rabbit. He saw another squirrel and chased it down ripping it to pieces and feasting on the tender flesh and innards.

As the moon set, John’s body and mind wrenched its way back into human form. He was naked, alone, and in the woods. He took off in a run towards home. He jetted past other houses and made his way through the back door of his house. He ran to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. His hands and face were covered in blood. He hopped in the shower.

He stood under the pelting hot shower and pondered his fate. Was he a werewolf? Was he going to turn into a wolf again?

He climbed out of the shower and dried off. He got dressed. He heard his mom shout, “Breakfast!”

He raced downstairs. He ate like a fiend, asking for seconds and then asking for thirds. He looked to his mom and dad. His sister wasn’t around, of course.

“Mom, Dad, remember that wolf that bit me?”

“Of course,” Dad said.

“Last night I turned into a wolf, Dad.”

“What!” Mom howled.

Dad nodded.

“You’re doing drugs!” Mom said.

“I am not!”

“LSD is a bad drug, John,” Dad said. “Don’t ever take it from anyone. Are we clear?”

“I turned into a wolf!”

“You just had a bad acid trip, honey,” Mom said. “It happens if you’re doing drugs.”

John sighed. Then he realized. Maybe somebody did slip him something. He shrugged it off. What are you going to do, he thought.

Monday arrived. John was at his locker. Emily approached him. “Hi, John.”

John turned on her and said, “What do you want?”

Emily smiled at him.

John noticed the makeup again for a second time. Emily was the werewolf.

“So, we’re going out?” Emily asked.

“We’re not going out.”

“What?”

“You’re a Goth chick.”

“I am not!”

“You wear all black,” John said. “You wear black lipstick. Black everything.”

Emily frowned. “I look good in black.”

“I can’t go out with a Goth chick.”

Emily’s eyes narrowed. “You want me to wear a pink miniskirt and matching halter top?”

John smiled. “Yes.”

Slap!

Emily turned and left him to his fate. She knew, without the right concoction of herbs, he would be an uncontrollable monster. He would kill. He would be hunted. He was doomed. She smiled.

* * *
Part II

John’s thoughts began to race between his harsh new reality and the everyday events unfolding before him. His math teacher lectured on the greatness of the cosine function while John’s mind drifted ceaselessly to that bitch of a werewolf, Emily, who bit him and infected him with the lycanthropy. He would turn into a wolf again, and that thought echoed in his head over and over. As the day progressed, the muscles in his neck began to ache from the stiffness caused by his errant thoughts. He walked in a trance to his locker. Emily put a few books in her locker and slammed it closed.

He chased after her. “You gotta help me!”

“Why would I do that?”

“I’m a human being!”

Emily smiled. “Not any more. Now you’re a creature of the night.”

John glared. “If you don’t help me, I swear, everyone in this town, hell, everybody in the state will know you’re a werewolf.”

Emily’s eyes opened wide.

“Help me,” John begged.

Emily smiled. “My dad takes an herbal concoction. It helps him keep his humanity when he changes.”

“What does he take!”

“I don’t know. I take a different herbal mix. I’ll have to ask him.”

“Ask him when you get home. Call me.” He scribbled his number on a piece of paper and handed it to her. She hesitated. Then she took the number and stuck it in her pocket. They caught their separate buses home.

Emily’s house was empty, and that suited her plans perfectly. She went into the basement. She grabbed the shelves just so and pulled a section of wall out of the way. She reached in the secret room and hit a light switch. A thick book sat under a simple incandescent bulb in the center of the alcove. Emily stepped up to the book and paged to the index. She found the remedy to halt the transformations and wrote down the herbs and dosages. She closed the book and resealed the room. She went upstairs to her room and dialed John.

He answered, “Emily! Did you talk to your dad?”

“I talked to Dad, yeah. Here’s what you need to take to stop the transformations.” Then she rattled off the list of ingredients and dosages.

“Thanks a million. I guess you’re not a bad person, even if you are a Goth chick.”

Emily glared. “I’m not a Goth chick!”

“Yeah, yeah. Look, where do I get this stuff?”

“The best herb shop in town is on the south side. It’s called the Willow Connection. It’s on the corner of Elm and 15th street.”

“I’ll Google it!”

John hung up the phone. The computer produced a map, and John quietly approached his sister’s door. He knocked on the door.

“What?” His sister shouted.

“I need a ride, sis.”

“Walk.”

“You know the deal. Mom and Dad pay for your car, and you have to give me a ride if I need a ride.”

“Shitty deal.”

“Come on.”

“What do you need a ride for?” She asked.

“It’s a long story!”

John could hear his sister growl. She opened the door and poked her brother in the chest in a very painful way. “Where?”

“Elm and 15th street. I have a map.”

She didn’t say another word and headed straight for her car. They rode in silence. They pulled up outside the shop, and she snarled, “Hurry.”

“I need a few things. You gotta wait.”

“Hurry.”

John raced in the store. Nearly pitch-black inside, and no signs for anything. A woman wearing a long dark dress smiled a wide bright smile, and spoke in an almost musical tone, “The light will damage the potency of some herbs. Can I help you find anything?”

John nodded. “I need Horny Goat Weed, Cinnamon, and Cayenne.”

The woman tilted her head to the side, and one eye opened wider than the other. Her complexion radiated life and had a smooth flawless nature even though the wrinkles implied she was at least forty if not fifty years old. “This way.”

John followed her down the first aisle.

“That is an interesting combination of herbs you need,” she said. “We have all three, for certain. I can’t directly recall what the combination does, something ancient if my fogged memory serves at all.”

The horn sounded on John’s sister’s car, and John said, “I’m in a hurry.”

The woman grabbed a bottle off one shelf and held it out to John. Then she moved to another aisle and grabbed another bottle. Finally, she went to a refrigerator and withdrew a final bottle.

“How much?” John asked.

The horn sounded again from outside.

“Quickly! What do I owe you? She won’t honk again.”

The woman nodded. “Make it an even twenty.”

John handed over the money and took off in a run for the car.

His sister hit the gas and merged into traffic without bothering to look behind her or even into any of the mirrors. “What’d you get?”

“It’s not important.”

“You used up your one free trip this month, and it wasn’t important.”

“The rule isn’t one free trip a month,” John said. “It’s whenever I need a ride!”

“You’ve got a bike,” she said. “You’ve got perfectly good feet.”

“I swear if you don’t let up, I’ll find your stash and flush it down the toilet.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“I’ll do it.”

She glared at the road and slowly pressed the gas down until other cars flew by like turtles struggling against a strong headwind.

He started taking the pills every day. It eased his mind, if nothing else. Day by day, he could feel a change ever so slowly creeping into his body. He watched the calendar waiting for the full moon. It was due to rise at 7pm, and John went outside to wait.

The moon rose, and John’s body began to twist and contort. He howled, “Stop the transformation my ass!” His fur began to grow and his hands and feet turned into paws. He was the wolf again. He took off in a run towards the woods and freedom. He killed a rabbit and ate it raw. Through the night in simple little stages, he forgot his name, he forgot his family, and he forgot his life. The moon set.

Emily sat on her back porch in her robe, waiting. The wolf stepped into her backyard and eyed her. She smiled at it and whispered, “Come’ere, boy.”

The wolf smiled and walked up to her. She patted it on its head. He sat on his hind legs, wagged his tail, and barked once ever so politely.

“I will call you Benjamin,” Emily said. “I’ll feed you every day. I’ll play catch with you. We’ll go for long runs on the bike trail.”

The wolf barked again.

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Categories
Literary

The Gypsy Camp

Tracy walked up to her sister’s front door and let herself in. Tim vaulted down the stairs shouting, “Aunt Tracy! Aunt Tracy!”

He grabbed her in a hug. Tracy’s sister stepped into the hallway grinning from ear-to-ear.

“You know, Tim, you’re to be good for Aunt Tracy today,” Beth said. “It’s just a short trip to OSU to drop off your cousin’s laptop, and then Tracy is taking you shopping for some new clothes for your birthday yesterday.”

“I know I know.”

“Don’t be running off or nothing!” Beth said.

“I’ll be good!” Tim cried and began running around the room with his arms out like an airplane.

“He’ll be fine,” Tracy said. “I’m going to do what grandmother did to us at his age.”

“What are you going to do to me?” Tim asked; his arms dropping down as he stood still.

Beth looked at Tracy with a wicked grin. “Good, make sure you get the money. You know how they can be. I want my cut.”

“You’ll get your share, sister of mine.”

Tim looked to his mother and then back at his aunt.

Tracy grabbed Tim’s ten-year-old hand and pulled him out of the house. “Come on, Tim. To the bat mobile!”

Tim and Tracy ran to her vintage black Corvette convertible and climbed inside. Tracy gunned the machine to life and started speeding down the road.

“We’re getting at least one video game for my birthday along with clothes, right?” Tim asked.

Tracy laughed violently. “I have bad news for you.”

“Aww.”

Tracy plotted her next move with methodological precision. “You’ve heard of the gypsies in school, haven’t you?”

“Gypsies?”

“They are tribal nomads traveling the earth moving from place to place. They are originally from India, but they migrated through Europe and to North America.”

“Oh,” Tim said.

“They live in camps and have a rich heritage.”

“Ok.”

“After we drop off the laptop at your cousins, we’ll stop and get clothes as promised, and then we’ll stop at a gypsy camp, and I’m selling you to them.”

“What?” Tim asked.

“It’s time we sold you to the gypsies, so you can start earning your keep harvesting in the fields and rooting out weeds.”

“You are not!”

“Harvesting the Jalapeno and Habanero peppers will be the worst of it for you. The spicy oil gets on your hands, and the smell makes your eyes water. Most people can’t help but rub their eyes, and that makes them burn even worse.”

“You lie!”

“Your mother and I were both sold to gypsies as slave labor when we were ten. Parents get one hundred dollars for every year of life of the child. You’re worth a cool grand. Your mother and I stole from travelers and merchants in order to make enough to buy our way out of slavery. You’re a bright kid. I’m sure you can do the same.”

“You did not!”

“We did.”

Tim’s eyes were wide, and he very slowly started shaking his head back and forth.

“It’s not all bad. They’ll feed you well, and they are great cooks.”

Neither said anything for miles and miles as highway raced past them. They parked at OSU and Tracy fished the laptop out of the trunk. They rode the elevator up 16 floors to Jen’s dorm room and knocked. It took a moment before she answered, but when she did, her eyes lit up brilliantly when she saw the laptop. “Oh, mom. Thank you SO much. I can’t believe I forgot my laptop.”

Tracy nodded. “This is why I wanted you to go to school close to home, my dear.”

Jen knelt down to Tim and poked him in the stomach. He giggled.

“And this one is ten now, prime time to sell him off,” Jen said.

Tim cocked his head to the side, mouth gaping wide. His eyes shifted left and right between aunt and cousin.

“Yes, we were thinking the same thing,” Tracy said.

“You’re not going to sell me!”

Jen rolled her eyes. “It isn’t that bad, Tim. You’ll find ingenious ways to make money with the gypsies, and if you scrimp and save, you’ll be able to buy your freedom. And food, oh my god, the food is so good.”

“We have to go,” Tracy said. “We’re buying him his work clothes today.”

“Yes, he’ll need good strong jeans and thick cotton or wool shirts. And boots, those are essential. Oh, and get him a good knife. I was so glad grandma packed a sturdy knife with my things.”

“He’s kind of clumsy. He might cut himself.”

Tim stared at Jen.

“Yes, all boys are clumsy,” Jen said, “but he’ll need a knife for sure.”

“What am I going to need a knife for?”

“To fight off bandits and thieves, Tim,” Tracy said.

“Huh?”

“Enjoy school, Jen. I’ll see you at thanksgiving.”

“Thanks again, Mom.”

Tim seemed rather distracted, so Tracy grabbed his hand and pulled him along to the elevators. They made it back to the Corvette, and they headed south on the interstate.

“You know, after you’ve been with the gypsies,” Tracy said. “They’ll likely teach you how to put a gypsy curse on someone.”

“A curse?”

“Gypsy curses are quite powerful. I’ve seen a man with a gypsy curse lose his leg over it.”

“What?”

“A thief once broke into an old gypsy’s house and stole her life savings. The old woman put such a strong curse on him that they had to amputate below the knee. They call him Pegleg now.”

Tim didn’t say anything, but he seemed lost in thought. The flea market signs started to appear by the side of the road. Tracy pulled the vehicle into a parking space, and they started wandering around. Tracy had Tim try on blue jeans and thick cotton shirts. They purchased a number of articles. Tim carried the bags while Tracy searched the aisles of the flea market moving from booth to booth. Tim trailed behind her burdened by the heavy clothes and work boots. She finally stopped at the booth of a knife seller and began to examine each item with hell-bent eyes.

“There, that one,” she said, “with the bone handle, curved blade, and leather sheath.”

“That’s a nice knife,” the merchant said. “It’s a discontinued model, so it’s on sale.”

“You’re getting me a knife?” Tim asked.

“Jen was right. You’re going to need one.”

Tim whimpered a little quite quietly.

“Selling him to the gypsies, eh?” The seller asked.

“That’s right,” Tracy said. “I want you to throw in a whetstone and oil.”

“My pleasure.”

Tracy paid the thirty-two dollars and stuffed the knife into one of the bags of clothes. The look on Tim’s face was utterly priceless.

“Come on, Tim. To the bat mobile!” Tracy said.

Tim didn’t move.

Tracy grabbed him by the shoulders and pushed him along to the car. Once they were moving again, Tracy said, “You’re going to behave when we get to the gypsy camp? You’re not going to make a fuss or run away? I’ll have to take less than a full thousand for you if you give them trouble.”

Tim didn’t say anything.

“You don’t want to give them trouble, Tim. You’re always giving your mother trouble, and that’s no good. You don’t want to mess with the gypsies.”

Tim started to cry. “Please don’t sell me! I’ll be good!”

Tracy laughed and pushed the accelerator down on the Corvette.

Tim tried to wipe the tears out of his eyes, but there were entirely too many.

“We’re not going to sell you,” Tracy said.

“Really?”

“Yes. I was just teasing you. The knife you can keep since your father says you’re old enough.”

“You tricked me!”

“And you got a new knife out of the deal.”

“You shouldn’t trick me like that!”

Tracy smiled as the hand painted sign saying “Gypsy Camp” loomed in the distance. She took the exit and steered the car in the direction the signs pointed.

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Categories
Romance

Moondance

John marked the day on the calendar with a black x. The day after his 83rd birthday. Weary old hands, he thought. His hands were of note because they were marked with wrinkles and age spots. In fact, his whole body bore the marks, but he always promised himself not to regret days spent, even if spent idly. He climbed out of bed and counted his extremities to make sure he still had everything he was born with. The aches were bad in the morning for him, but he took his Aleve and wandered to the bathroom. He had only been up twice in the night to pee anyhow. He climbed in the shower careful to hold the handrails. John summoned his will and forced his hands to scrub soap all over his body, careful to only brush against the few open sores he had.

He dressed, not in completely fresh clothes, but only worn once or twice since being washed. He grabbed his four-legged cane in his good hand, and began the brisk walk to the dining hall. Years ago, they offered to deliver his food directly to his room, but he said, no. Oatmeal, toast, and a single turkey sausage link waited on him in the eatery. They allowed him a quarter teaspoon of brown sugar in his oatmeal since he never acquired any form of diabetes. He eyed the room as he ate.

Miss Taylor, the recreations officer, walked briskly into the room and stapled a pink piece of paper to the bulletin board. Only John called her the recreations officer. Years ago, he reverted to the mentality he possessed as a young man serving the world in World War II. John returned his empty tray to the bins unlike so many of his aged mates, and he rubbed his chin as he walked up to the bulletin board.

The pink flyer quite simply advertised an evening of camaraderie. It said there would be live music and dancing. Three different old folks’ homes were chipping in and renting a hall. Miss Taylor noticed his interest and smiled at him. He glanced at her. She stood up and approached him.

“Will there be liquor?” John asked.

Miss Taylor tilted her head to the side. “What?”

“If there’s going to be live music and dancing, there should be liquor.”

“John, there will be beer from America, and ale from Ireland. I expect they will have whiskey and vodka and every manner of mixable concoction you could imagine.”

John sighed. “No booze?”

Miss Taylor shook her head. “You don’t need booze to have a good time, and didn’t you quit drinking twenty years ago?”

“I drink on and off. Sure, I haven’t touched the stuff in 23 years, but sometimes I get the urge.”

Miss Taylor smiled. “Are you going to dance?”

John winked. “With you? Certainly.”

Miss Taylor glared with wicked pinheads for eyes. “We’re shipping women in from all over town to keep you company, and you want to dance with somebody half your age.”

“Once you reach thirty,” John said, “the goal is always to dance with a girl half your age.”

“So, you’ll attend?”

“What kind of band is it going to be?”

“We got a metal thrasher band. They call themselves Cyclops.”

John glared in turn. “If I wanted to hear lies, I’d watch the television!”

Miss Taylor nodded and smiled. “We got a good band. We spent thousands to rent a hall and have special food prepared. We’re paying them. You’re going to attend. The buses leave at 3pm on the Saturday before Easter.”

* * *

Marianne climbed out of the tub. She almost slipped on the cold floor, but she caught herself with her arm. She put on a fresh clean dress and fixed her strands of grey hair into a bow. She asked herself, makeup? Then her stomach growled and she whispered, “Breakfast.” She walked down the hallway. She grabbed her tray of food and sat at a table with her friends. They had given her half an orange, and she savored every last juicy bite of the fruit.

Jessica, the only black-haired woman in the room, and why she dyed it nobody knew, opened her mouth and whispered, “You know Bill Jenkins had another stroke.”

Samantha nodded. “That man has a stroke every week.”

Marianne simply finished off her cereal. She stared off in the distance wondering if her son would visit her soon. Her son seemed content to visit at random and wait patiently for her to die. Well, in her mind, at 84, she wasn’t due to be dying anytime soon.

Jen spoke very slowly and with a slight stutter, “I had a stroke.”

Marianne patted her on the hand and whispered the Lord’s Prayer.

“You know the fools who run this place plan a dance, on the day before Easter, no less,” Jessica said.

“Dance?” Marianne asked.

“They’re renting a hall and getting a live band. The idiots.”

“I look around this place, and I don’t see any men worth dancing with,” Samantha said.

“No,” Marianne said, “there aren’t any good ones here.”

Jessica pointed towards the outside. “They’re shipping people in from Northbrook Assisted Care and Willow Hospice.”

Samantha shrugged. “There aren’t going to be any good men from those places either. They need to go to the local college and round up some young men for us.”

Marianne smiled. “I wouldn’t know what to do with a college student. I might hurt the poor thing.”

“I know exactly what I’d do with a college student,” Jessica said. “I’ve got handcuffs that I’ve been saving for years.”

Marianne laughed.

* * *

Easter weekend quickly approached. John’s arthritis kept doing a number on his legs, but Miss Taylor convinced him to go out to socialize. He climbed with a grimace into the bus. His hands shook, and he had to remind himself all the women at the dance would be ancient and haggard. They arrived at the hall, and John leaned heavily on his crutch as he wandered the course of the buffet line. A woman caught his eyes for a fleeting moment. She had grey hair and spiderweb wrinkles around her eyes. John’s eyes wandered down to her torso, and she still had breasts. He sat down to eat while the musicians began hauling instruments to the stage.

John ate his roast beef and smiled. The horseradish sauce tasted nearly perfect. He looked over the crowd of aged and infirm. His eyes stopped on the ancient woman with spiderwebs around her eyes. Her eyes were green and shined with vigor darting about from person to person and place to place. They fell on John’s eyes and stayed there. Out of nowhere, she winked at him, and he looked away.

The band finished their setup, and the singer tapped his microphone, “Evening ladies and gents! We’re here to entertain you. I hope at least a few of you have the get up and go to dance! We’ll start with something nice and slow.”

The piano began to play a slow dark tune. The drums whispered along with the melody. A guitar chimed as if from far away. John looked around. For the third time, his eyes fell on the ancient hag with the bright eyes and tangible breasts. She met his eyes, and after a few moments, her eyes narrowed into a grimace, and she frowned.

John sighed. The band played its dire tune. The singer didn’t sing. He simply stood their tapping his feet. The tune’s melody picked up a little bit, and the singer began to slowly chant, “Dance. Dance. Dance.”

No one danced. John remembered the woman’s wink and forgot her frown. He leaned his cane against the table and pushed himself to his feet. He walked over to her table. The women all stared wide eyed.

John held out his hand. “May I have this dance, my lady?”

“Do you fancy yourself a gentleman?” Marianne asked.

“I’d rather be a horny teen.” John smiled. “But alas, I think perhaps I am a gentleman.”

Marianne nodded.

John reached his hand closer to her. “Will you dance?”

“I have an artificial hip.”

“I promise I won’t drop you.”

The woman next to Marianne said, “Go and dance, Marianne.”

John straightened up his body and puffed out his chest like a piece of rock. “Now I know your name, my dear. In the past, I’ve always found that’s half the battle.”

“Are you a warrior?”

“I’m simply tired, and tonight may be my last opportunity to dance with a beautiful woman in this lifetime.”

“So, you expect there’ll be dancing in the next life?”

“I say my prayers.”

The song master on the stage said, “We’re going to be playing for hours. Dance.”

Marianne pushed herself up and approached John. He took her hand in his and kissed it.

“I’m too old for this,” she said.

“If it kills us, so be it,” John said. “I’ve waited long enough for death. If I must die in the hands of a woman, then that would be as good a way as any.”

Marianne smiled. They walked out alone onto the dance floor. The band began to play another slow methodical tune etched with dark notes like a deep red wine. John held Marianne close with a touch of familiarity as if they were old comrades in arms. They stepped in time to the beat of the music as pain wracked their bodies in their joints and muscles. Marianne smiled.

She felt his strong hands on her body. “Were you ever married?”

“What?” John asked.

“It’s a simple question, or are you hard of hearing?”

“No. I never married.”

“That’s ok,” Marianne said. “Marriage isn’t always a good thing.”

“I always hoped to marry, but the girls always said no.”

She squeezed him.

“Don’t do that,” he said.

“Squeeze you?”

“Yes, I could break.”

“You said you were ready to die.”

John laughed. The music stopped. The singer looked over the room. He spoke quietly, “How about something with a beat?”

The crowd laughed.

The music began to play a fiery thumping tune with high notes strung along like links in a chain. Marianne and John stepped up their pace following the beat and both pretending it was 1945. Pain shot through their bodies, but they ignored it and pushed themselves as hard as their frail flesh would allow and then some.

“You dance beautifully,” Marianne said.

“My dear, you’re a beauty like no other.”

Marianne smiled. “Are you trying to get in my pants?”

“If I had to, I could find some Viagra.”

Marianne laughed. “Dear lord, I don’t even know your name.”

“It’s Johnathon Hickle.”

“Can I call you John?”

“Everybody does.”

“I always liked that name.”

“Thank you. Every seventeenth person is named John.”

Marianne laughed so hard she worried about her spleen.

They danced in time to the quick beat of the music, and when it died down, Marianne pushed John away. He closed the distance between them and grabbed her by the waist.

The singer called out, “Any requests?”

“I’m done dancing,” Marianne said. “These tired bones ache and my legs pulse with spikes of pain.”

“It may be our last chance to dance, my dear. If you fall over dead, will it not be worth it?”

Marianne shouted to the stage, “Play Van Morrison’s Moondance.”

The singer smiled wide. The band members began to play. John and Marianne danced. Slowly, the pains began to edge away. The swelling in their joints began to shrink. Their skin began to grow smooth. The marks of age on their bodies evaporated like dew under the heat of a bright sun. Her hair began to bleed blonde until no grey showed. His hair began in spots to turn black. Slowly, as they danced to the beat, they became young again.

The music stopped, and the crowds broke out in applause and howls. John stared into her wrinkleless eyes and kissed her smooth lips. Men and women put their canes and walkers aside and stood up from their tables and approached each other to dance.

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Categories
Fantasy

Bane Warrior

The Soul Harvester had been at work for at least three weeks, and the body count kept rising. Some friends in the department kept me posted on the situation. I waited for the fateful call from Barrister that they set the bounty. When I get the call, I go to work. The bounty would be big. This Harvester had taken down three cops already. He tore them to pieces. I assumed the Harvester was a male, good odds.

My name is Derek Sawyer, and I used to be a cop. Now I’m known as a Bane Warrior. For all dark magic there is a bane, some are simple, some require a magic spell. There are banes for light magic as well, but the Order does a much better job of keeping those banes secret. The Red Hand, an organized crime syndicate, ancient as recorded history, claims to have dark magic that has no banes. I had yet to see any of it, and the Red Hand sent assassins to take me out twice.

The phone rang, and I smiled. The caller ID showed the prosecutor’s office. That will be my bounty, I thought greedily. I pushed the answer button on the phone. “Barrister?”

“No. Assistant D.A. Brown. There’s a Harvester.”

“Yes, I read the paper, Mr. Brown.”

“We’ve set a bounty. How soon can you bring him in?”

“What’s the bounty?” I asked.

“Fifty grand, alive. How soon?”

Fifty grand would keep me in booze and cigarettes for another year, not that I drank. “I need access to a fresh crime scene, half hour or forty-five minutes within the kill. He’s been hitting mostly public places? Seems to like bars on the south-side?”

“That wasn’t released to the papers.”

“I do more than read the paper, Brown. Why fifty? Usually they’re twenty-five.”

“He took down one of our Bane Warriors this morning. Wasn’t much left of the detective–scraped up as much as we could to bury.”

“Who was it?”

“Jericho.”

“Damn, the fifty grand is for the harvester alive. How much if I kill him?”

“None if you kill him, Sawyer.”

I take some pride in bringing them in alive, but Jericho was my friend. Still, I won’t know until the very end if I need to kill.

Brown interrupted my silence. “It says in your file you spent six years with the Order, and most people that stay that long never leave. Why did you, Sawyer?”

“The Order refuses to take sides. I like to stand and fight.” On that note, I pushed the end call button on the phone and started to mentally prepare a list of all the banes I’d need to lug around. Jericho had been one of the best. I needed to pack the heavy guns. I had a rather expensive custom coat with extra pockets and loops for various rods. Most magic users had something to carry their components with, either a coat, or a satchel with lots of pockets.

Once I had everything stashed in my coat, I locked up the office and headed to my car. I would tell you about the car, but likely you would be jealous. I had a hangout on the south side, a sushi-bar-coffee-house. They had lost their liquor license years ago, but they catered to smokers, and I could drink coffee and snack on wasabi piled high on sushi. I didn’t speed on my way there, no need to. I took a parking spot right in front of the joint and walked inside, taking my usual booth by the door.

A tired old Japanese lady came up to me. “Coffee? California rolls?”

“Yes, both please.”

She nodded and wandered off. I set my cell phone on the table and waited for my coffee and rolls. I wasn’t big on raw fish most of the time, so I went for the California rolls. I just liked having something to pile wasabi and soy sauce on and eat. After a while the old Japanese lady brought me eight rolls and hazelnut coffee, and I proceeded to snack. I lit up a cigarette and tried to relax. This Soul Harvester would be a tough takedown. An hour passed, and another, the sun set in its usual, casual way.

As I went to open a fresh pack of cigarettes, my phone rang. I snaked it up. “Where?”

“Joe’s Pub, on Wayne, you know the place?”

“I’ll be right there.”

I disconnected and threw a twenty down on the table and darted out to my car. Sixteen blocks or so, made in record time. When I had a bounty, I had a license to speed from the city. I hopped out of the car and sprinted into Joe’s Pub; the police at the door waved me on through. They had cleared the bar of civilians. A police Sergeant, named Dawson, saw me and said, “In the men’s room.”

I turned towards the wall with the restrooms and went in. An overweight, white male lay sprawled on the floor in a pool of blood with his throat cut, but with a smile on his face. He had been in bliss. He had been charmed before the Harvester finished him off. I looked around, detectives filled the room, collecting and looking for evidence. I cleared my throat, then, “Leave, all of you.”

I needed a bead on the killer’s aura and having a half dozen humans in the room with me would mean trying to sort them all out. The room emptied, and I started to chant TrueSight, a simple spell for auras and the like. A blue and green mist-like aura filled the room, odd I thought as Soul Harvesters are almost always red and black aura. This guy had once been with the Order. I pulled an inch diameter pearl out of my left pocket and focused on the aura. In my mind’s eye, I could see the killer walking casually down the street about eight blocks away carrying a large bag. I walked out of the bathroom and nodded to the waiting detectives.

I stepped out of the bar and hopped in my car. I punched the accelerator down heading towards the Harvester. After a few blocks, I pulled up next to him and growled. “Hey, you there!”

He turned. A short, pudgy, pale-skinned magic-user, he pointed at himself with his right index finger, as if asking, “Me?”

“Yeah, you.” I slammed the car in park and jumped out of it. The killer looked around himself as if checking to see if he was surrounded.

He smiled. “Watch the pretty lights…”

Just then a spiral of flashing lights emanated from the magic-user’s eyes, a simple charm spell. I am highly immune to charms. I raised my right hand, palm outward, as if to say, “Talk to the hand,” and projected blackness into his eyes.

The killer realized his charm wasn’t going to work, and he turned and bolted down an alleyway. I ran after, shouting, “You don’t want to make me run!”

I am a fast runner. I know how to push my muscles with the aid of magical strength, and I soon caught up to the killer and grabbed him from behind. He howled. He turned and faced me tossing four rocks to the ground and starting a chant. I reached inside my coat and pulled out a silver rod with a rubber grip and started focusing magical energy.

As the Harvester chanted, the rocks grew into humanoid shapes—Rock Demons. They snarled and hissed as they took shape and charged me. I aimed at the left-most one and whacked it on the leg with the silver rod. It created a resonating frequency vibration shattering the Rock Demon. I focused great strength into my hit and swung backhanded at the right one catching it on the head. The head and shoulders shattered, and the body crumbled. A third one came at me in the center, and I brought the rod down on his right shoulder, rending it into two big pieces.

The fourth Demon loomed taller than me and had a look of sheer determination on its gnarled face. I focused my magic and aimed for its knee, but it didn’t shatter. The Demon smiled and reached out for me. I pulled in arcane power from around me and aimed for the midsection, two quick shots, “Whack! Whack!” And the beast turned to pebbles and jagged stones. Simple matter of the second hit the rod still had a resonating frequency, and hitting with a vibrating object creates a significantly stronger vibration.

The Harvester took off in a run again. This time I chased after him and pushed him down to the ground. “You’re coming with me.”

He rolled over and pulled something out of his pocket, a cigarette lighter. He struck fire with it and started a chant to summon a Lava Demon. I snaked my hand into one of my pockets and pulled out a vial of simple water, pulled the plug, and poured it on the ground while simultaneously calling out, “Jacqueline!”

The water from the vial stopped in midair and fine mists started swishing past me from all around towards the water. Jacqueline is a friendly Elemental I knew from when she was still human. She started to take shape as a humanoid statue of water while the Lava Demon rose to its whole height of lava and fire.

Jacqueline smiled. “He’s mine!”

She walked closer to the Demon and put her water hands out in front of her and projected a water stream from them at the Demon. Jacqueline sucked in all the water from the air for blocks around, and it became like a strong wind. The water threw up debris of stone and steam off the Lava Demon. I started to approach the Harvester with one intent, getting close enough to cast a Frost spell on him. Then I could get the choker on him and bind his hands.

The Harvester drew a ninja sword and hissed. “Come and get me, Bane Warrior.”

“Come along quietly, and maybe I can talk them into a life sentence.”

The Harvester charged me, and I pulled a bit of pulverized salt out of my pocket and blew it in his direction while imagining a snowflake and focusing on cold. The Harvester stopped dead in his tracks. I walked up to him and connected a collar to his throat, so he couldn’t incant any more spells. Then I bound his hands behind his back. I looked to Jacqueline and the Lava Demon. Jacqueline had clearly won, and she stood there grinning.

I pulled out my cell-phone and rang headquarters, letting them know I had the Harvester.

Jacqueline walked up to me and put one of her water hands on my cheek. “Still doing good deeds for a living, eh, Derek?”

“This one took out Jericho.”

“And you let him live?”

“I wouldn’t get paid if I killed him.”

“When are you going to find the one who murdered me?” She asked.

“It was the Red Hand, you know that, and I can’t fight an army.”

“You could, Derek, you could.”

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Categories
Comedy

Snakes & Gypsies

This story was written for an Ed Davis writing class.

My new friend, Jessica, wanted to go to a Gypsy camp and have our fortunes read. I agreed, largely because I wanted Jessica to transform beyond just a friend, so I’d pretty much do anything she’d want us to do, other than genitalia piercings. None of that for me.

The Gypsy camp was located on a farm just outside of town. Tents, buses, pickup trucks, and minivans littered the fields. Jessica seemed to know where she was going as she led us to a tent with a gold moon painted on it. She stepped inside, and I followed. An ancient woman, with gray hair down to her hips and a toothless grin, sat in a well-worn leather chair. A coal fire burned on a round platform in the center of the tent. Animal skulls hung about strategically. The old hag tossed some sickly-sweet incense into the fire, and a hazy, bluish smoke filled the tent.

“Our fortunes, please,” Jessica said.

I shrugged.

The old woman reached behind her and pulled out a copper bowl. “Twenty dollars each.”

“WHAT!?” I howled.

Jessica rapped her knuckles across my temple real hard. Yes, I’ve learned more than once how hard Jessica can hit. She claimed she studied Ninjutsu, and it’s all about hitting other people’s soft spots with your hard spots. All I knew was it worked. Still, she had this brown and blonde hair cut real short, plus the nicest breasts I’ve ever seen.

Jessica and I each put $20 in the bowl, and the old hag stashed it in a rusty iron chest.

“My name is Myra. Let me see the girl’s hand first.”

Jessica held out her right hand, and Myra began to caress the lines in her palm. Myra spoke in a soft voice. “You’ll live well into your eighties, but your health will start to fail in your sixties. You’ll have two children, but not by the man you’re with.”

“Drat!” I whispered.

The Gypsy woman released Jessica’s hand and reached out for mine.

I provided my hand, and Myra traced along the lines of my palms and fingers. It sent a kind of shiver up and down my spine. Myra whispered something, closed my hand, and pushed it away.

“What?” I asked. And yes, for the record, what is my favorite word.

She closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair. “Your future forks too many times to be sure of anything.”

“What a waste of $20!” I said.

Myra’s eyes opened wide. “You want me to lie? Do you want me to tell you about every possible fork and where it leads? I could spend a year talking about all the different forks in your future, and there’s no telling on any one which way you’ll turn.”

“I want my $20 back!”

Myra glared. “No refunds!”

“This is a sham.”

Myra smiled. “You really want your money back?”

“Of course.”

Myra fumbled around in the iron chest. She pulled out a sack of something and the twenty. She dumped the sack onto the fire, and it filled the room with a noxious cloud of yellow smoke. She said a little chant in a language I’d never heard and handed me my twenty.

Jessica and I ran out of the smoke-filled tent. I drove her home. I leaned over to kiss her.

She pulled back and whispered, “No, we’re done.”

“We’re just getting started, baby-doll.”

“No. Myra said we’d never have kids together. Why go any further.”

I tried to nuzzle in close to kiss her and my kiss landed on her shoulder. “Gypsies have been wrong before.”

Jessica opened the door and climbed out. “She put a curse on you, stupid fool.”

She slammed the door shut. I drove home. Curse, my ass.

A few days passed while I hunted for a new woman. You know, going to parks watching for women with big dogs, going to the grocery store at odd hours not buying anything in particular. I would go to bars, but alcohol is poison. Except Long Island Iced Teas, those are mostly iced tea anyhow.

I came home from work one day, and in the space separating my screen door and main door, a snake.

About two to three feet long, brown with tan diamonds running down its back. I ran. Well, in truth, I screamed, then I jumped, then I ran. I made it back to my car and drove to a payphone. One of my friends kept snakes as pets, so I figured I’d call him first. He didn’t answer. So, I had to call another friend. He came over with his camera and six-year-old daughter in tow. The snake was gone when he opened the door though.

“I had to get up from my nap,” the child said. “And there’s no snake.”

Yeah. A snake. And my friend didn’t get any pictures. I’m sure it was the poisonous variety too.

Another week passed, while I stalked different parks and grocery stores. I was on my way to the kitchen for a nice cold beverage, and the faintest of hissing caught my ear. Another snake, this one well over three feet long and solid black, was just chilling on my countertop. I started to back away. It started to move towards me. I ran out of the house. Brilliantly, I forgot my keys but remembered to lock the door. I didn’t even have my wallet on me. Luckily, I’m old friends with a locksmith, and I called him from a neighbor’s house. I’m on good terms with my neighbors. Very important.

My locksmith friend, George, showed up in good time with a toolbox. “There’s a snake inside?”

I nodded.

“I’ll unlock the door,” George said. “But the snake is all you, man.”

“What!”

“Grab a brick, and brain the stupid thing, or are you afraid of a little snake?”

“Of course, I’m afraid of a snake! Snakes kill to eat!”

“You said it was black, right?” George pulled a simple little gun-shaped tool out of his toolbox and inserted it into my door lock. He clicked it a couple of times and twisted it. “You’re unlocked. The only black snakes we get around these parts are constrictors. It’s not poisonous.”

“It’s huge!”

“All the more reason you have to deal with it and not me. Call animal control if you’re that much of a pussy,” George said.

“Thanks for unlocking the door. Got any plans on Saturday?”

“Saturday, hmmm…”

“There’s that new zombie movie. I haven’t seen it yet.”

“I’ve seen it, but I’ll see it again, if you want,” he said. “Matinee on Saturday?”

“Yeah, I’ll call you.”

George winked at me. “Are you going to kill the snake?”

“I’m calling animal control.”

“HAHAHA!”

George left, and I went back to the neighbor’s house to call animal control. They arrived pretty quickly.

Two of them stepped out of the van. One said, “What’s the problem?”

I wondered which one was the comedian. “There’s a big-ass snake in my house.”

“How many feet is a big ass snake? What color is it?” The second man said.

“It’s at least eight feet long, a foot around in the middle, and it sits up like a spitting cobra.”

Both men laughed.

“It’s maybe three feet long. It’s solid black,” I said. “It’s in the kitchen. Ignore the pot plants in the back bedroom.”

Both men glared. One hissed out the words, “If we find pot plants, we’re calling the sheriff.”

“The stuff is entirely medicinal.”

“It’s still illegal in this state.”

“Oh, well, we’re real close to the border with Canada.”

Both men glared at me again. I think they practiced that. “Please get the snake. You won’t find any pot plants.”

“We had better not.”

They bagged the snake then drove off with it.

I didn’t sleep well that night.

In the morning, I ate my typical breakfast of Greek yogurt and cereal. I had work, but not for another hour. I poked around on the internet reading the news. A very low hissing sound grated against my ears. I turned. In the doorway to my den, a slender green snake with red eyes perhaps two feet long lay in the entryway.

I pondered my options while the snake inched its way into the room. I was still barefooted, but I chose flight. As I ran past the snake, it bit me on the foot. I stumbled and fell. The pain was unbelievable. I mean, I could describe it, but you wouldn’t believe me. Honestly though, I don’t have a very high pain threshold.

I crawled to the phone and dialed 911. The snake came after me for another nibble, and I bashed on it with the fireplace poker until it stopped moving. It felt good. I put the carcass in a brown paper sack and went outside to wait for the medics. The ambulance came and took me to the hospital. The doctor wanted to know what kind of snake it was, and I said, “The mean kind!”

“No, what color, did it have any markings.”

I smiled. “I have it with me. It’s in this paper sack.”

The doctor looked in the bag. Then he started punching up websites on the internet. “These aren’t native to this region. Not even to this continent. It’s a Willow Asp, native to India. Relatively poisonous. You could lose your foot or your life, if we don’t treat it.”

“So, give me an anti-venom and send me home.”

The doctor shook his head. “We don’t stock this anti-venom at this hospital. I’m going to have to start calling other hospitals.”

He started making calls. The pain was bad, so I whimpered a lot.

The doctor finally said, “Good, Good. We’ll fly him to you.”

The doctor turned to me. “Ever ride in a helicopter before?”

“No.”

“You’re going to love it!”

They wheeled me to the helicopter, and strapped me in. A paramedic rode with me in the back. We took off. “Willow Asp? Native to India?”

“Apparently.”

“You know India is the ancestral home of Gypsies.”

“What do you know of Gypsies?”

“I have a little Gypsy blood in me,” the paramedic said. “My great grandfather was a Gypsy.”

“What do you know about their curses?”

The paramedic’s face darkened a notch. “You don’t want a Gypsy curse on you.”

“Yes, I’m beginning to understand that.”

“Just have it taken off.”

“How?”

The paramedic pointed at my swollen foot. “It’s all so simple. Find a Gypsy camp, find a seer, and pay a modest fee.”

“How much of a fee?”

“Most will do it for a few hundred bucks.”

“Ha! Screw that. I think I’ll pick up snake hunting as a hobby instead.”

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Check out Winter’s Line on Amazon. A story about a young man who becomes a lawman.

Categories
Comedy

The Slight Army

This story was originally published by Print Static Movement.

The spiders have been like an invasion of late. There is one that setup camp by my driveway along a wall and a support post. He has his web and a little web cave that he scurries into when he hears a noise. He is black and furry and most likely of the deadly variety. The other day I saw a larger one of apparently the same type nearly an inch-long scooting down the inside frame of my front door. I just saw one climb down the string controlling the blinds in the window.

I live fairly close to wooded areas, and often, I will find small snakes in my yard or on my porch. The spiders I don’t mind as much as the snakes. Snakes carry far more venom in their bite, and they are not so easily squashed. The snakes are good though because as small as they are, they eat the spiders.

The spiders were becoming quite numerous, so I started killing them one by one. I would smash them either with my foot or a book or anything handy and then leave the carcass as a warning sign to the other spiders. This worked for a while, but soon there were dead spiders in almost every room of my house.

And the cat is no help. He watches the spiders and acts as if he will pounce upon them, but he never pounces. He just watches. Perhaps I need a new cat. I wonder if there are special breeds for hunting spiders. But I digress.

Killing the spiders seems to work. Less and less spiders show themselves on an almost daily basis. Still, I kill the ones that do invade my sanctuary. Slowly I began to notice a change in the spiders, not so much in the spiders themselves for there was still a wide variety, but in their behavior. They would seem to stop when they saw me and then duck for cover before I could squash them. Soon I took to carrying a shoe with me, so I would have a projectile weapon to use against them.

The most prominent species grew to about a half inch long and was covered in black fur with a white diamond on their back although the white diamond could have been light glinting off their many eyes. The next most prominent species was of the daddy-long-legs variety with a bulbous body attached to eight thin, long legs. These grew to at least an inch long from toe to toe. I felt safe around this type because I was fairly certain they weren’t poisonous.

The last kind was the most fearsome, growing as much as an inch and a half long with black and red bodies with red legs. This kind would sometimes rush at me when I went to crush them, but luckily, I was skilled by now at crushing spiders, so they never sunk their fangs in me. I was thankful for this because surely those fangs were dipped in some fatal neurotoxin.

I have a few friends, and one came by my abode the other day. She shrieked on reaching my computer room.

“Yes?” I asked.

“All the dead spiders!”

“Yes. I leave them as warning to the other spiders not to come around.”

“Clean them up!”

I nodded. “They’re doing a good job keeping the other spiders away.”

“If you say so, Ash.”

I smiled. We opened up our lab work on the computers and started plugging away at the numbers. I offered to make tea, and she said, “Please.”

I went into the kitchen, and a brown spider appeared running across the counter. I didn’t have my shoe with me, so I crushed it with the tea cup, sending it straight to hell where it belonged. As the tea finished, I shouted down the hallway, “Sugar? Honey? Lemon? Milk?”

“Honey!”

I squeezed a dollop of honey in both cups of tea and went back to the computer room. In the hallway on the way, a daddy-long-legs inched along the floor, and my foot happened to flatten it.

I handed over the tea. She smiled and took it. “I’ve got the lab worked out, I’m getting 1.0 for the first dataset and the expected .5 and .25 for the second and third datasets…”

I smiled. “Show me.”

She showed me the calibrations on the computer. “My work here is done.”

“OK, Samantha, I’ll walk you out.”

“I can find my way, Ash, so long as the spiders don’t get me.”

My head bobbed up and down. “They seem to get more aggressive all the time.”

“You shouldn’t kill them. They prey on other insects.”

I shrieked. “Some of them are poisonous!”

“Poisonous spiders are very rare…”

“If you say so… I’m killing them.”

Samantha downed the last of her tea and grabbed her books. She fled the scene without even another glance at the hordes of dead spiders splattered here and there on the wood floors.

As she stepped onto my porch, a rather handsomely large spider of the red-legged variety inched its way directly in her path.

“Don’t kill it, Ash. They eat other insects. You’ll be up to your ears in mites, beetles, and flies if you murder all the spiders.”

I smiled at her as she left and then jumped up and down on the likely poisonous red-legged monster.

I went to the computer and did my write-up for the lab when I noticed a slight bite on my ankle. I looked down, and one of the rodents injected me with something. It died under my cruel fist. I looked, and as I watched, tendrils of poison spread out along my leg. It started to swell up. My first thought was emergency room, but then I realized my second thought, no health insurance.

The wound in total grew no bigger than a quarter, so I soaked it in hot water and lanced it. With a squeeze, pus came out of it for a while, more pus than I would have believed possible. The pain subsided afterwards. I made myself a ham salad sandwich and grabbed an apple.

I fell asleep after lunch, and when I woke up, I examined my ankle. The swelling had subsided, and the flesh was back to its original color. I rubbed it a little, and it didn’t hurt, so I decided not to be bothered by it. I ordered Chinese delivery and ate it in front of the television.

A spider, an especially furry one, inched into my view on the floor of the living room. I moved to squash the creature, and it darted under the television. Cursing at the little demon-spawn, my fist shook in anger. The leftover Chinese went in the fridge, and my hand grabbed up a spatula from a drawer. I went to the television and tried to get the spider with the spatula. The spider was nowhere to be found. I did find some loose change under the television, which I pocketed.

I was tired for some reason and looked down again at the spider bite on my ankle. Barely a mark. I went into my bedroom and lay down, thinking I would take a short nap. Sleep hit me with an iron mallet in an instant.

A few hours passed, how could I tell how many, I was asleep. Then I noticed difficulty breathing, and I opened my eyes in fright. I could barely see. White silky webs had been stretched across my eyes. I tried to wipe them off, but I couldn’t move my arm. I looked down at myself, and through the web, I could see more webbing all across my body.

I flipped into a berserker rage. My vision narrowed, and my stomach tied itself into a knot. Strength pulsed through my body like a gift from an ancient ancestor. I wrenched my right arm free and scraped at the webbing on my face allowing my eyes to work and letting fresh air in my lungs. Spiders were all over my bed. The pesky little black furred kind. I kicked at them and lashed out with my arms scattering them to the floor.

I looked at the ground, and the spiders had formed up into ranks and rows, ten spiders across a row and five deep in perfect formation. In between each brigade of the red-legged bastards was a good-sized spider of a variety I hadn’t seen before. Huge eyes dotted its face. Black and yellow hair ran in lines across its carapace body. It had pincers the size of needles, and they dripped with venom.

I howled a mighty war cry, “Aarrroooo!” and leapt out of bed at the phalanxes of spiders.

The yellow haired variety jumped at me as I stomped on spider formations one at a time, laughing maniacally. I batted the yellow haired monsters out of the air as they got near me.

A tiny drum beat echoed, and en masse the whole of the spider horde turned their butts at me and shot silk. Hundreds, nay thousands of strands of silk hit me at once and engulfed me. Then one of the yellow haired spiders jumped below my reach and got a good bite of my leg. I cried out in pain and squashed the spider under my palm. Too late. The venom worked its natural wonder, and I fell to my knees. Then I collapsed on the floor, and the faintest of cheering filled the room…

I went into convulsions and lay there twitching for a solid fifteen minutes. When my body calmed down, I found I couldn’t move, but the spiders still watched me. A thousand tiny voices spoke in unison, “Now, after those two bites, you can hear us. You have slaughtered many of our kind, and that needs to stop.”

Paralyzed with fear and poison, I tried to nod. The tiny voices spoke again, “We are intelligent, and we believe we possess souls. We do not want mankind to know because we do not want to be subject to their scientific process. You will stop killing our kind.”

“You’re invading my home…”

“Only to hunt. Not to lay eggs. If we laid eggs in here, there would be thousands of our young everywhere. If you don’t change your ways, then you will see a green spider with black stripes down its body and black legs. When you see this spider know that you are doomed!”

I whimpered some more and lay there in my paralysis. The army of spiders dispersed to parts unknown. A few hours later I could move.

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Check out Evelyn’s Book, a precursor to Winter’s Line. In truth a comedy about magic and witches and old boyfriends.

Categories
Comedy

For a Lizard

This story was originally written for a class with Tim Waggoner.

For a lizard, I was a late sleeper, but I enjoyed my evenings just the same. I always woke up thirsty and hungry. I slept between two small shrubberies on the edge of some giant’s structure. I don’t know what to call it. The giants would go in and out of it. I only noticed because it was imperative that they didn’t step on me.

Water was nearby, and I darted down the trail towards it. Ahhh, the wonderful trail which only us lizards seemed to use; however, one time I saw a snake on the trail. I could make good time on the trail. At the end of the path was the lake all the lizards drank from. Fed by a box sticking out of the wall of a bigger structure. Every few seconds a drop of water would splash from high above into our lake.

I lapped up water and more water to gather up my strength for the trek into the woods where the prey lived. I had to cross one of the giant’s roads, and the giant’s vehicles would zip along the strip trying to crush me. I smiled for I would be eating soon enough. Assuming a good day to hunt. If worst comes to worst, I could hunt in the giant’s refuse pile. Always a good breakfast to be had if you were prepared to go through the garbage and risk the giant’s ire. Being a lizard from a long line of talented lizards, I’m not too proud to go for the easy pickings if I get hungry enough.

I took off in a run towards the road. I looked left, and the way seemed clear. I didn’t miss a step. I had my momentum built up and galloped with all four legs across the hot asphalt. I crossed the stretch of cool grass separating the lanes and looked to the right. The road was quiet and empty. I ran as fast as my little lungs would let me.

Ahhh, the shade and cool green foliage of the woods stilled my racing heart. I stopped underneath a fern and started telescoping my eyes about. I zoomed in on spots and specks here and there looking for life. I saw a spider, and not anyone I knew, so I waited for it to come close to me. Once within my talented reach, I lashed out at it with my tongue lassoing it. Mmmm, crunchy.

Then I paused and looked around. I swallowed the spider. The tiniest vibration came through the ground, and I said to myself, “Ants.” I looked and looked. They rounded the edge of a tree. An entire row of them. They just kept coming. When there were more of them in view than I could possibly eat, I jumped in close and started harvesting them in threes and fours with my tongue.

After the buffet, I went back underneath the fern and smiled. I didn’t bother looking for more grub. I could barely move; I was stuffed so full. No way could I run back to the lake like this. Perhaps it was time for my nap. I took a careful look around to make sure there were no giants, and I closed one eye. I thought back to those tasty ants, and I slowly drifted off to sleep.

When my eyes opened, the sun was setting low in the sky. Once again, I was thirsty. I ran across the road again to the lake and drank my fill of the water. Wendel approached the lake while I drank, and he said, “Have you seen the signs?”

Wendel was a rather stupid lizard with mostly green scales and a few freckled blue ones.

“No,” I said.

He smiled. “Somebody put signs up on the trail.”

I laughed. What would lizards need signs for?

I considered going across the road again and hunting some more, but I am rather lazy for a lizard, and I wouldn’t want to get fat. I hit the trail to go home. That’s when I saw it, the tiniest little wooden sign on the side of the trail. It said, “Looking for more?”

I paused. Was I looking for more? Other than a female lizard I had everything, and sometimes female lizards drank at the lake, pretty ones, too. One I talked to was named Jill.

I kept going down the trail. I saw another sign. “Do more with your life.”

I paused. What was I supposed to be doing? I eat, I forage, and I sleep. I’m a lizard, golly.

I started going down the trail. I saw a sign that said, “Wake up and do something.”

“Huh?” I said.

I turned around and headed back to the lake. Wendel was still there, and I walked up to him and said, “Who put those signs there?”

“Nobody knows.”

I hissed a little bit. “Somebody has to know.”

Wendel looked me in the eye. “Did you see all the signs? Or did you turn back to talk to me?”

“I don’t know.”

“They make more sense if you see them all.”

I followed the trail again. The last sign said, “Get a job.”

I froze in my tracks. I started running down the trail to see if there was another sign. “Get a job” was the last sign. What is a job?

I walked back to the lake hoping to encounter Wendel again. Instead I saw Jill. “Hi, Jill.”

Jill smiled at me. “Have you seen the signs?”

“Who do you think put them there?”

“It had to be the giants.”

“Why though?” I asked.

“Who knows why a giant would do anything. Want to breed?”

“Ummm, not right now, I want to know what this ‘job’ thing is.”

“You don’t want one of those, Jeremy. They suck the life out of you.”

“What is it though?” I asked.

“You really don’t know?”

“No.”

“You know how we hunt insects? Well, a job for us would be like you hunt insects, but you don’t eat them. You give the insects to another lizard. That lizard gives you something called ‘money’ for the insects you catch. Then you ‘buy’ insects to eat with the ‘money’ you have.”

“Would the ‘money’ I make from hunting insects be enough to buy more insects than I could hunt?”

Jill chirped a few times, what must have been laughter. “You’re an idiot. Maybe we shouldn’t breed.”

I sighed. “But, I’m good looking. Isn’t that enough to breed?”

“You’re good looking, but you’re kind of clumsy and stupid.”

“I am not!”

“Eh, I’m out of the mood anyhow. See you around.”

I went down the path again past all the signs to my shrubberies. I tossed and turned all night. The next morning I hit the trail again, and this time there was a new sign, and it said, “GEICO Insurance.”

I was at the lake, and a giant turned the corner carrying a crate of some kind made out of shiny metal. The giant looked down at me. “We’re not going to hurt you, little guy.”

I froze in terror. A giant had never spoken to me.

“We need a new mascot, and you’re just the looker we’ve been looking for.”

I paused. I wanted to run. I really wanted to run. But the curiosity engine of my mind was overpowering my reflexes with a desire to know what was going on. The giant reached down with its paw and scooped me up and put me in the box. “You’ll like your new job, little fella.”

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Check out Juxta, Magi on Amazon. Delicious epic fantasy.

Categories
Comedy

The Pixie

The snake reached out to me with its forked tongue. It had black scales all along its back, but green scales adorned its underside. It seemed to shake its head and then twist and turn into the tall grass. I wondered what would come by next. That damn pixie cast some spell on me, and all I can do is sit here. Then I tried moving. It worked. I pushed myself to my feet, and a tingling sensation coursed through my feet and ankles, but it evaporated as the sun finished setting.

The autumn wind rustled through the trees, causing dead brown leaves to whisper to the ground here and there. I hadn’t eaten in ages, and I kept my eyes peeled for any sort of berry or fruit, edible or not.

I started hunting for dandelions. The pixie demanded two handfuls, claiming she needed it for wine. I found one yellow flower after another and kept at it until my pockets were full. After walking back to the ancient oak tree, I knocked on the trunk.

The tiniest little creature you could imagine maybe two inches tall with clear wings stepped out from behind the tree trunk. She had kind of pointy little breasts and wide hips. Her long, black hair was neatly arranged in a bow. She wore a well-tailored moleskin dress and high heeled boots. In a high pitched, loud voice, she screeched, “Did you get the dandelions?”

“Don’t hurt me!”

The creature glared. “I won’t if you do as I ask.”

“I did what you said. I got the dandelions.”

“Show me,” she said.

I started pulling the flowers out of my pockets in a great mass.

“Hand them to me one at a time, you idiot!”

I held out one flower. The pixie flew off the limb and grabbed it. She slid through a hinged door and came back out. She started to tap her foot. I shrugged.

“I need more than one!” She howled.

“Oh.” I held out another dandelion. She snatched it and went back through the door. She came back out. I held out another blossom.

This went on for some time. I handed over the last flower. She came back out of the door, and I started to back away. She flew up to my face and tapped me on the nose with her wand. I transformed into a rock.

Being a rock wasn’t so bad. I waited. Birds liked to perch on me, and of course inevitably, the birds didn’t seem to mind pooping on their perch. So, I spent some time as a rock. Very spiritual.

One day, the pixie returned, and tapped me again with her wand.

I morphed back into a human shape. Although I might not be human, mum always said my father was a goat, but that’s another story.

I looked at the pixie. She looked at me and smiled. She had stark white, pointy teeth, and a tanned complexion. I ran. The pixie was faster though and flew ahead of me and threatened me with the wand. I stopped running and started crying. “Please don’t hurt me! I’ve done everything you’ve asked!”

She shook her head. “You haven’t done enough! I need hawk eggshells.”

I wept. She kicked me in the eye.

“What was that for!” I yelled.

“If you’re going to cry,” she said, “I’ll give you something to cry about!”

I did my best back away routine.

She waved her wand. “Oh no you don’t.” She pulled out a little pipe, stuffed it with something, and lit it with a flintlock lighter. “You’ll get me some hatched hawk eggs first.”

“Then you’ll let me go?”

She rubbed at her chin.

“I’ll get you the hawk eggs, if you promise to let me go…”

“No deal. Get the eggs first then we talk.”

So, I started climbing trees and soon got pretty good at it, too. I found some hatched bird eggs. Not knowing if they were hawk eggs, I put them in a pouch anyway and lowered them by rope to the forest floor. I stumbled upon an apple tree and climbed until I found some ripe apples. My stomach was full for the first time in what seemed like years.

I went to the pixie’s tree and knocked. She answered with a wide smile on her face.

She selected one of the egg shells and went inside. She came back out with a yellow liquid in the shell. “Drink it!”

“I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me! Let me go!”

“Drink it, now!” She shouted.

“I went inside the volcano for ash. I found you newt claws. I did everything!”

“What I’ve done to you so far is nothing compared to what I’ll do to you, if you don’t drink the wine.”

I took the egg shell and chugged it. It tasted good. I started to shrink until I was no bigger than a pixie. I felt compelled to check on the size of my manhood, but then I realized I was in public with birds and chipmunks watching.

The pixie grabbed my hand. “Now we can get married.”

 

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter
 

Categories
Literary

Turtles & Rabbits

A version of this story was originally published by Bards and Sages Quarterly.

The ancient but timeless snapping turtle sat on a tree stump lecturing on the proper application of technique in writing. I sat listening and nodding, wondering if I would be allowed to speak anytime soon. The turtle went on to claim that he was a third-generation linguistics expert, and his policies regarding technique were taught in all the best universities. My attention span for such things is limited, and I interrupted, “But, can’t I simply put pen to paper and etch the words out as they come to me?”

“Oh no,” the turtle said, “you must be inspired to plot out a great picture in the reader’s mind. You must paint a vivid canvas of colors and imagery. You cannot simply put down ideas and concepts. The writing must flow from word to word. You must assume your first draft is atrocious, and write a second draft, and finally a third draft. Some even go as far as to write a fourth or fifth draft.”

I had to interrupt again, “But, what if I’m careful, and I get it right the first time?”

The turtle cracked a wide smile, and there were bits of food stuck in his teeth. “You won’t get it right the first time. Nobody gets it right the first time. I’ve seen your first drafts, and you manage almost fifty errors per page.”

“But you’ve said in the past that the difference between a first draft and a second draft equates to improving the plot.”

“Yes, but would it hurt to fix the errors?”

“Publishers have armies of editors.”

“Will a publisher read past the first error?”

I paused at that. Would they?

The rabbit next to me whispered in my ear, “I got sex right the first time.”

“Sex and writing are two very different things!” The turtle said with a raised, high-pitched voice.

“For the reader, are they that different?” I asked. “I mean, you derive pleasure from both. Both should have a climax.”

“Writing is a skill that works like a muscle,” the turtle said. “There are countless exercises that will build up that muscle, and you must practice them every day.”

I shook my head back and forth, thinking what kind of maroon does exercises? “But I want to write a new story every day. Isn’t that exercise enough?”

The turtle shot lasers out of his eyes at me and howled. “No! The exercises are more important than any story.”

I sighed. I had heard the turtle talk about exercises before, and those talks bored me to tears. I often wondered if I was interested in this writing class, but it was the only writing class in the forest.

The turtle’s eyes shifted from me to the other pupils. “Don’t aspire to be as good a writer as I am. Be content if you can write one decent story in your life. Someday, you might have a great epiphany and become a great writer, but until then, you must practice and revise.”

“But… I don’t want to revise old stories. I want to write new stories.”

The turtle turned back to face me and simultaneously slumped his shoulders down low. “I have read your old stories, and they aren’t very good. You need to apply the technique of imagery and detail to each one. You need to give your characters thoughts and emotions. It’s not good enough to create a solid plot or a bit of action. You must write each story as if a blind rabbit were reading it. You must detail every image and character.”

“But, if I’m writing for a blind turtle, it seems the imagery would matter less, for a blind man has never seen a blond haired, blue eyed wench. He doesn’t need to know what she looks like. My characters are defined by their actions.”

The turtle laughed a happy little chuckle. “That’s the key to the imagery and sensory detail, for you must make a blind person see. You’ll have arrived as a writer when you can make a blind man see and a hard man cry.”

My eyes opened wide enough that they almost fell out. They almost did. “I’m a simple rabbit. I don’t want to make a blind man see, or a hard man cry. That is the work of miracles.”

“You will never be a writer.”

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Categories
Science Fiction

The Bracelet

This story was originally published in Breath & Shadow.

I took to wearing long sleeve shirts on my fourteenth birthday. Two years before, I received my bracelet, and the restrictions started. I was born with the sugar disease, and ever since I have been on insulin. The insulin doesn’t matter, for it lives in a simple little pump I wear around my bicep. I replaced the cartridges of medicine with fresh ones and watched the battery charge. I could charge it with any one of my other devices, so that didn’t bother me. What bothered me was the stinking bracelet.

Worse for some of my friends at that age. One boy I knew had failing kidneys, and he couldn’t even walk up to a drinking fountain and take a drink of water if he was over the limit his doctor prescribed. The damn bracelets controlled everything. If I walked up to a vending machine, 82.3% (I did the math) of the selections would flash red and be locked out by black screens. If I walked up to the counter in a restaurant and tried to order a large milkshake, well they aren’t really milk shakes of course, a resounding alarm will sound if the equipment is in place. The equipment wasn’t always functioning or on, so it was worth it to wear long sleeve shirts and tempt fate on some of my crueler days.

It wasn’t illegal to try and ask for things I wasn’t allowed. They have talked about it in Congress, but you know how they talk and talk and talk. One of my friends made the mistake of asking for a beer when he was 16, and they called the cops. The cops just laughed and hit him a few times with their clubs. Only two or three times, not like they would if he had done something truly heinous like playing his car stereo too loud.

I turned 18, and I moved on to college. The equipment was everywhere. I met a guy without a bracelet, and he offered to sell me a Snickers bar for two dollars. I asked him, “What do they cost from the vending machine?”

He smiled. “You’ll never know, will you?”

Having never tried a Snickers bar, I still relished in the commercials. They did make sugar free Snickers, yes, but that is beside the point. I gave Bob his two dollars, and he handed over an ice-cold Snickers bar. I was in heaven. I ate it so patiently. Of course, I threw it up later. My stomach simply twisted itself in knots until I went to the bathroom and encouraged it with my will to empty its contents.

The machines and cafeteria barely allowed me enough food to survive. I weighed in at 130 lbs. I told myself countless times standing on the scale, ‘130 lbs. is unhealthy…’ I was hungry all the time. They let me have all the celery, carrots, and plain lettuce that I wanted. Oh, and vinegar, if I wanted to put vinegar on the lettuce, that was allowed. I craved a satisfying meal. At least I could get meat, when I wanted it. Mostly. The guys with kidney disease could get a thin slice of ham with breakfast, or a cheeseburger at lunch with the smallest slice of ground beef you’d ever seen.

I could get cheeseburgers, with no ketchup. I could get a steak, but they were costly. It’s like the government wanted me to live forever. But it was like that for everyone. I heard stories about the bracelets they give the elderly. How they cause doors to lock when you’re near, so you can’t even go outside to enjoy the fresh air.

I met this girl, and she was nice. She did the most wonderful things to me. She wore no bracelet though. She used to buy these chewy, little sweet candies called Bit-O-Honey. I even tried one. Like bliss. Not the same kind of bliss being with her was like, but definitely sensory bliss in the form of taste. And the ice cream, she loved ice cream. She would buy pints of the best flavors and always offer to share with me. I couldn’t stand it. Better to starve, I said, and I broke up with her. Not the best decision I ever made in hindsight, but I burned through three insulin cartridges a week! I was back down to one cartridge a week in no time.

I grew a little older. I took on a job jumping through hoops for a big company.

I couldn’t get food. I had to eat every last calorie worth of food I purchased, or I would truly have withered away. I woke up in the nights with heavy shakes, and I would eat a four-gram glucose tablet, of which I was allowed three per day. My doctor kept me on an 1800 calorie a day diet even though I begged and begged for more. He would quote the law and offer me no other choice than to live in anguish with bitter lows constantly assailing my physique.

I still wore long sleeve shirts, and I found myself wandering the streets seeking out a store without equipment. I saw a strange sign in my quest. It read, ‘One-liter water, $2. M&Ms, small bag, $2.’

The sign hung next to a wooden door. I knocked.

Inside, someone shouted, “Come in!”

I stepped through the doorway.

A short, tan-skinned fellow with jet black hair and piercing brown eyes sat behind a counter. The lights were dim. Four coolers sat against walls. A rack of assorted candies leaned against one wall. They had other groceries available too, various nuts, cereals, rice, very common stuff.

The short man smiled. “Cash only.”

I nodded. I knew if they had no equipment, they’d only take cash. I stepped up to a rack of fruit and grabbed both an orange and an apple. I walked up to the candy selection and grabbed a box of Nerds, because I could make those last, and a Bit-O-Honey in homage to my first girlfriend. Oh, there had been a few others, of course.

The man took my dollars and smiled. He put everything in a thick paper bag, and I began to walk home. I went back to that store almost every day for a month. No more hunger for me. I even gained one pound.

It started across the Internet. New laws were being debated about increasing the strictness of the dietary management system they claimed was so effective and necessary. The laws passed of course. Thousands protested, but the laws passed.

I lasted for a week and a half before I found myself out of food credits and half-starved with bad shakes and a twisted stomach. I walked to the store, expecting to find equipment for scanning bracelets. I poked my head inside. The short, dark haired fellow smiled at me. The cash register was there. The food was there. I didn’t see any equipment to scan a bracelet.

I grabbed a banana, a package of beans & rice, and a chocolate bar.

The man took my cash, and I smiled. I peeled the banana as soon as I stepped out of the doorway. I started walking while enjoying the fruit.

Sirens howled. I walked casually stuffing the half-eaten banana in my paper sack. A cop car with blaring sirens and screeching tires pulled to a stop next to me. The cops approached me. “Halt!”

“Eh?” I said and stopped.

The cops had their clubs out.

“What do you have in the bag?” One asked.

“Essential supplies.”

The other cop said, “Show us.”

I showed them the food.

They laughed. Then they scanned my bracelet.

They arrested me. I sit now awaiting trial.

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Grab Codname: Bear, a fun secret agent story.

Categories
Science Fiction

Codename: RedCat

I looked down at the piss coming out of my dick. Pink, maybe even a little red. My step dad took it too far with his last drunken beating. Hitting me all over with a leather belt. Who hits a kid in the kidneys?

I knew enough to know I had to get away. I’d be dead before I reached eighteen. It started real slow like, a smack here and a smack there, but a twenty-minute beating as hard as he could over a B in school?

Somebody banged on the bathroom door. “Are you about finished in there? Are you in there wanking?”

My older step brother, obviously. I zipped up and opened the door. The step brother was allowed to hit me, too.

I ducked under his swing. He was slow and clumsy, and at this time, seemed more interested in using the bathroom for the night than giving chase. I crawled into bed, but I refused to let myself fall asleep. Nobody came to tuck me in or say goodnight.

I had good ears, and in that house, having good ears was a penalty. The last grunts and moans from down the hall quieted, and I knew the house would be asleep soon.

I waited for snoring, and it soon followed. My feet reached out to the floor. No way was I turning a light on. Dumped my backpack out on the bed. I had a stolen box of granola bars, and those plus two pair of underwear, socks, and a pair of pants, plus an extra shirt all went in the bag. I had twenty dollars too, a present from my real dad. Not that he gave a rat’s ass about me either, but at least I had the twenty.

The window in my room opened easily enough, and I pushed the bag through first. There I was, on the roof, a good eight or nine feet off the ground. I strapped the bag on, and climbed down to my stomach. My whole plan was to hang from my fingers and just drop a few feet down, but I scraped my belly on the shingles and slipped.

I landed on my side, but compared to some things I’d been through, not that bad. I really didn’t mind the pain, but pissing blood? The principle of the matter, who wants to live in terror their whole lives? The whole concept that it started real slow, and just kept getting worse and worse. I had enough.

I ran through our little town. A national park bordered the other side, and on the other side of that, another town, another county. If I could make it through the park, avoid bears, I’d be golden.

I crossed a dirt road and ran through the woods. The moon set, and I curled up on the ground to sleep. Best sleep I ever had in my life, and the sun woke me up. My stomach growled, but I needed to save my resources. Six twin-packs of granola bars, and it’s at least a five-day journey through that park.

I took a leak and realized I forgot toilet paper. Screw it, I needed to poop, and I did.

I got my bearings and ran. Almost stepped on a damn rattler too, but the thing paid me no mind. I didn’t stop running. Free at last. I had no plan, but I knew there had to be something better out there somewhere.

When the sun set, I ripped open a pack of the granola bars. I drank from a stream. My backpack made a fine pillow, and damn if I did not dream of conquest and fury.

Somebody said, “Wake up, kid.”

Dear god, all a dream?

I opened my eyes. The moist forest floor tickled my back. Two park rangers stood there. I was lightning, grabbing my pack and taking off in a run.

These were grown men though. One shouted, “Don’t run or we’ll taze you!”

They’re not going to taser a kid, and I was distancing them.

I felt a prick on my back, and bam, lightning raged in my body, and I fell.

They zip tied my hands behind my back, and one of them threw me over his shoulder. The other one picked up my bag and looked through it.

I cried. They put me in the back of their patrol car.

The driver hit a red button on his radio and started the car.

“You can’t make me go back,” I said.

The officer on the passenger side said, “A runaway.”

“If somebody beat you like they beat me, you’d run away, too.”

The driver turned down the road, but not in the direction of my little town, in the direction of the town on the other side of the national park.

“How often did they hit you?” The driver asked. “What did you do?”

I didn’t want to talk to these men.

“You have to talk to us,” the passenger said. “We can file charges.”

Charges won’t do me any good. “Last time I was pissing blood, over a B in school.”

“They hit you on the kidneys?”

“They hit me all over. All over.”

The radio spoke for the first time. “We’ll take him.”

The driver reached down and pushed the same red button on the radio.

“What’s your name?” The passenger said.

“Jim.”

“Happy Birthday! It’s a good thing you’re 14 now.”

“I’m 13. My birthday was last month.”

The driver pulled into a diner. “You look like you could use a meal, and since it’s your birthday, they’re having a special on pancakes.”

“I’m 13.”

The passenger turned to smile at me. “You need to trust us that you’re 14. If you’re 14, you have choices in life. If you’re 13, you’re heading off to a foster home.”

Choices? What choices? But both of these officers stared at me with huge grins.

I said the words real slow like. “I’m 14. Today is my birthday.”

“Now you’re talking, kid,” the driver said. “Let’s get some pancakes.”

One of them let me out of the car, and undid the tie on my wrists. “Don’t run. We’re not going to make you go home.”

I nodded. We went into the restaurant, and I ordered a plate of silver dollar pancakes.

The officer sitting to my left said, “Double that order, and throw in two sides of bacon.”

I looked up at the waitress. “If it’s going to be two plates of meat, make it one bacon, and one sausage links.”

Both of the men with me laughed.

I ate all that food. It made me kind of groggy, too.

One of the officers started talking. “Now that you’re 14, you can choose to go to a foster home, or you can choose to go with some friends of ours.”

“Friends?” I asked.

“They’re law enforcement. Just a different breed than us.”

My eyes started drooping, and I wanted to lie down.

“That bench is awfully comfy,” the left officer said. “You can sleep. You have time.”

I was down on that bench in a heartbeat. A great thundering woke me, and I looked outside. A helicopter was landing in the parking lot. Two men climbed out. They dressed the same in tan slacks, leather shoes, white button up shirts, and leather jackets, with bulges under their left armpits.

The two men walked up to our table and smiled at me. The officer on my left said, “Go with them, Jim. They’re good guys.”

I stood up. The left man in the jacket said, “I’m Mathew, my companion is Jeffrey.”

Both men were big in the shoulders and legs, with a narrow waist.

Jeffrey waved at the waitress. “Two to go coffees, and a ham sandwich for the kid.”

I just had two plates of pancakes. “I don’t need a ham sandwich.”

Mathew pointed at my chest. “As little as you are, you need a sandwich. You’re 14?”

“I’m 14!”

The waitress came out with two coffees and a plastic box containing a sandwich.

Jeffrey and Mathew took the coffee, and I grabbed the plastic box.

We walked to the helicopter. How could I be that important to these men to justify picking me up in a helicopter?

“Ride in front,” Jeffrey said.

I climbed in the front, and we were off. As loud as the chopper was when it landed, it was nearly silent as we flew.

“This helicopter is Chor-Tan made,” Mathew said.

“Chor-Tan?”

“Aliens who are trying to help us.”

Aliens? “Like at Roswell?”

Mathew chuckled. “You really think a species capable of interstellar travel would crash land?”

“Well, I never thought about it like that.”

There was a pause. I looked around. The ground was just a blur, sliding by below us.

“The problem is, even though the Chor-Tan are helping us, the Razdoran are trying to assimilate us,” Mathew said. “If they can pull that off, by dismantling our governments, mankind will just be their slaves.”

That did not sound good.

“How do I fit into all of this?” I asked.

“There’s a man who is helping the Razdorans,” Mathew said. “His name’s Centurian. He’s the biggest crime lord the Earth has ever known. You’re going to be his end.”

I don’t think I can do that. Wait. Maybe I could? I could bloody try. “I’m in!”

“We knew you would be. Eat that sandwich.”

I ate the sandwich. After a while, we landed on top of a parking garage surrounded by desert. An older woman in her forties was waiting. She smiled at me.

“I’m Nancy. I’m in charge of this training facility.”

They should call it Home.

“Are you sure he’s 14?” Nancy asked.

“His birthday was today,” Jeffrey said.

“Parents?”

“A fire. Burned up his birth certificate, too.”

“Convenient,” Nancy said. “Let’s look him up in the database. Where were you born?”

“I forget,” I said. “I never thought it would be important.”

“The auditors are going to have a field day. Especially as little as he is.”

I looked from one adult to the next.

“You said we needed new recruits, and we got you one,” Jeffrey said.

“Yes, now get me ten more. Just make sure they’re bigger than this one,” Nancy said.

“He just needs a sandwich or two.”

I just had a damn sandwich.

She looked me in the eyes. “Your name’s RedCat now, forget Jim.”

Huh?

“You’ll work. Study. Exercise. Train. Follow orders no matter what,” Nancy said. “Is all that clear?”

“Except the RedCat thing, can’t I get a cool name like, Scorpion or Snake or something?”

“No, you’re RedCat!”

I shrugged.

“This way,” Nancy said.

I followed her. She led me to a door in a hallway. “These are your quarters. Your schedule’s on the computer. Today you can relax, but tomorrow you’ll work.”

I wanted to hug her. And before I realized it, I was hugging her. She patted me on the back, then pushed me off her. “Try and make friends.”

I nodded.

“And eat something, please.”

I laughed. She left me alone, and I read up on agency history. Ate at meal time with a big crew of other teenagers, and I was littlest by far. Two sandwiches went in my belly at dinner.

I lay awake that night. What have I gotten into plagued my thoughts. Since when have aliens been in contact with us? I started reading more agency history on the terminal.

A messenger window popped up on my screen, from somebody named Thomas.

“If you’re not going to sleep, let’s do something. Meet me at the range, and I’ll get you checked out on our 9mm.”

Checked out on a Nine? I pulled up a map of the complex and started looking for range. I sent a message back to Thomas. “I’ll be there.”

The lights in the hallways must have been on some kind of motion detectors, because it was lit up where I stepped into the hallway, but in each direction was darkness. I ran to the right, and the lights above me lit up just ahead of my steps. Behind me was more pitch black. I tried to run faster than the motion detectors in the lights, but they were always one step ahead of me.

Thomas was a bulky fellow who obviously worked out a lot. He was in his thirties and thin as hell. He had kind of an ugly mug though, like his face was originally a typical brick or something. He smiled at me. “RedCat?”

“Jim,” I said.

“No, you’re RedCat now.”

I shrugged.

We stepped into the range proper. Fifteen stations plus a control panel. Thomas typed some stuff into the panel, and a slot opened to reveal two boxes of ammo, and a Beretta 9mm pistol that I had seen on TV a hundred times.

Thomas dropped the magazine out of the pistol and showed me how to insert a round into it. Then he gave me the box of bullets. “You can load.”

He smelled very strongly of marijuana, and I was a bit surprised. “You smoke pot?”

“It’s allowed. It helps me relax.”

I started feeding shells into the magazine. No more would fit, so I stopped.

“You don’t have to slam it in, just push until it clicks.” He handed me the pistol.

“Don’t point it at anybody unless you intend to shoot them,” he said. “At the range, keep it pointed down range.”

I pointed it down range.

He moved to one of the stations and punched a few buttons. A target materialized about fifteen feet away. He looked at me. “Pull the top of the gun backwards and let go to chamber a round. Line the sites up and squeeze the trigger like you’re trying to crush a soda can.”

I lined things up. Squeezed the gun together. Bam! It jumped in my hands, but I held on tight.

Thomas clapped. “Good for a 13-year-old.”

I stopped. “I’m 14, man”

“You had better be. And you had better remember your story when the auditors come. Plus you are too damn little, start growing!”

I stood up on my tippy toes.

Thomas laughed, but I wasn’t sure if it was because I did something funny, or he was just that stoned.

“Empty that pistol,” he said.

I did not need further encouragement.

Journal note: Auditors questioned me eight months later, but I was six inches and twenty pounds heavier. I kept my story straight. They raised a few eyebrows, but there were no further investigations.

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Buy Codename: Bear on Amazon, a fun secret agent story.

Categories
Science Fiction

Codename: Archangel

Ben turned the corner onto his street after a long run and found two men in brown leather jackets, white shirts, and tan pants standing around outside of his apartment. One was black skinned the other white. As Ben got closer, he noticed two things. The men had bulges under their armpits that surely implied they were armed, and a black sedan was parked in the lot with government plates he didn’t recognize.

Being a nineteen-year-old black man in a mostly white neighborhood, Ben suspected the worst. His fears were soon realized when one of the men said, “Benjamin Meyers?”

Ben looked these men in the eyes. Neither man was frowning or mad, rather they seemed happy.

“What can I do for you?” Ben asked.

The left man, the black guy, said, “We’d like you to meet somebody.”

The other man said, “We want to offer you a golden opportunity.”

“Sounds like crap,” Ben said. “I got shit to do.”

“You do have things you need to do, very important things. Please come with us.”

“Hell no. I plan to fill a kiddie pool with jello and get naked.”

“We’re not going to hurt you or force you into anything,” the black guy said. “We just want you to meet our boss. She’s a real nice lady.”

“What are your names?” Ben asked.

The white guy said, “Jon.”

“Mohammad,” the black guy said.

Is he lying? Is he Muslim? “You are Muslim?”

Mohammad laughed. “You were born with a Christian name, but you were adopted by a Muslim couple. Do you pray?”

How did he know so much! “I don’t pray. In my heart, Islam is the best religion, that’s all.”

“How do you feel about women?” Jon asked.

“Women are our equals in many ways.”

“Great,” Mohammad said. “We can’t use you if you believe in Sharia Law. We employ a lot of women.”

A lot of women? Maybe he should go with these men.

The men looked at Ben with questions in their eyes.

Ben nodded. “How far is it?”

“The facility is on the outskirts of downtown,” Mohammad said. “On the East side.”

“My mom is going to need dinner and a shot in two hours.”

“It’s a fifteen-minute drive. On my honor, you’ll be back to take care of your mom.”

Ben moved to the back door of the government sedan.

“Ride in front,” Jon said. “I like being able to stretch out.”

Dammit, that was Ben’s entire plan. He climbed in the front. Mohammad drove. He drove very carefully, focusing on the road. Jon seemed to be trying to nap. They were there in fifteen minutes.

They parked in an underground garage and rode an elevator up three floors. An older woman was waiting, with mostly gray hair, and thick glasses. She wore a neat and tidy combination of a jacket over a white shirt, with a blue skirt on. Ben’s instinct was to bow to her, and he did.

“You’re so big and healthy,” the older woman said. “What do you think about heavy weapons assignment?”

“I don’t even know what this is about,” Ben said. “I don’t know your name.”

“My name is Nancy. You’ll report directly to me if you enlist. We only recruit orphans. We’re a crime fighting agency, and we face off against the most notorious of criminals. A man named Centurian, who has ties to off world aliens.”

Ben stopped dead in his tracks. Off world? Off world! “What?”

“Aliens have been in contact with us for a long time, Archangel. Some help us, some want to enslave us.”

“Did you just call me Archangel?” Ben asked.

“That’s your new name,” Nancy said. “Forget Ben.”

Archangel?

“I like it,” he said.

Wait, aliens? Interstellar travel? “Advanced technology?”

“Would you like to meet our martial arts bot?” Nancy asked. “I think that is likely the most interesting technology we use in training.”

“Show me.”

“You’re interested in a heavy weapons assignment?”

“Yes, yes, that’s fine.”

Nancy smiled a big grandmotherly smile. She turned down the hallway, pressed a few buttons on a control panel. “It’s on level 20. Step inside, hit the bot like you’re trying to kill it. They won’t do more than bruise you, but this is the highest level. This is the heavy weapons beginning.”

Archangel stepped into the room. A man appeared in a set of dirty coveralls. Except a second ago, the room was empty. The man threw a punch. Archangel knocked it out of the way at the wrist. Another punch, harder. Nancy spoke across the intercom, “It’s artificial, smash it.”

The figure became kind of pixelated for a moment, then rematerialized. Archangel clobbered it in the face, and it disintegrated into nothing more than a pile of dots. Another man appeared. Archangel was quick to smash this one. The third man to appear was Asian, and he dodged Archangel’s clumsy blow. Then the bot clocked him on the side of the neck. Pain danced for a moment, and he threw a solid punch with more precision than before.

The Asian bot drifted to nothingness, and two new opponents appeared.

“No fair.” But Archangel smiled wide and went to work.

The machine in him kicked on, and he defeated the bots.

Nancy clapped her hands. Jon and Mohammad had disappeared.

“We need to get you home,” Nancy said.

“Yes.”

“Can you drive a motorcycle? We have helmets that should fit you.”

“I’d been planning to get one,” Archangel said. “I know how to ride it.”

“Then I don’t see any reason why we can’t send you home on a motorcycle. You need to be able to get to and from our facility at least twice a day.”

He wanted to kiss Nancy in the worst way.

“If it’s raining, we’ll send a car to fetch you.”

This was southern Cali, and it never rains. She showed him to the garage, the helmets, and the bike. The bike was an 1100, and Archangel couldn’t have been happier.

He climbed on, and the machine purred to life. The helmet fit, and Archangel was off for home. How was he going to explain this to Mom? Maybe she wouldn’t notice the bike, but if he went in, to what? The agency? Did they call it that or was he calling it that? He didn’t know. He had seen a sign maybe. A GPS panel came to life on the bike, but he switched it off. He knew his way home.

He walked into their apartment. Mom was parked on the couch in front of the TV. She spoke in a raspy voice, “You never came home from your run. What happened?”

“I need to start dinner, and you need your morphine.”

She pointed her clawed right hand at him. “Answer my question first. Did you meet a girl?”

He couldn’t lie to her. “I’m really not sure what happened to me today.” It all might as well have been a dream, but he had a helmet in his hands.

“Did you get a bike?”

“I did, Mom, I did.”

“Is it nice?”

“I’m not sure that I can afford to keep it, but it’s what I want.”

He went into the kitchen. It looked like a good night for a frozen pizza, so he turned the oven on. He went back into the living room. His mom was looking out the window. “That’s a brand-new bike. How?”

“It’s really complex, Mom. I promise it’s nothing illegal.”

“It’s something wrong though.”

“No, Mom.”

She got real quiet, and Archangel knew that meant she was getting angry. They ate pizza in silence. He gave her a shot of morphine for the cancer. Their phone rang, which was odd. Mom was closer, and she got to it first. She said, “Mmmmhmmm…” several times, then handed the phone to Archangel.

Nancy’s voice came through, “You made it home ok? In time?”

“What did you tell my mother?”

“I explained that I’m the source for your new bike, and that we’re a government agency through and through. You’re signed up for three classes, and two of them are starting tonight. You can come back down, yes?”

Archangel knew the way. Mom would be good until late in the evening. He had no reason to say no. “I’ll be there.”

He hung up the phone. Mom looked at him with a smile. “This new job is important?”

“Very. I’ll be home later.”

“Make me proud.”

He went back down to the bike and started it. Nancy was waiting for him with a sheet of paper and a tablet computer. “The paper is your training schedule. The tablet has all your textbooks on it.” The motorcycle had saddlebags, so he could transport the tablet. Perfect.

He looked at the paper. “Long range rifles and Gremlins tonight?”

“Heavy weapons classes. In the morning, you exercise. Afternoon is driving, martial arts, and the range. Evening is danger room and classes.”

The gremlins class was first. The woman teaching it pushed a button and a life-sized monster appeared above a table. It wore brown pants over otherwise green and black skin. It wasn’t especially muscular, but it has claws and teeth that shined like metal. Looked like Titanium.

“They breathe Nitrogen. We’re not sure what they exhale. They do poop, but it’s not like Earth poop. We don’t think they pee. Their idea of fats, protein, and carbohydrates is our idea of dirt, wood, and metal.”

The teacher let all that sink in.

“We’ve only captured them a couple of times, and our containment efforts have never been successful. They absorb metal and hard plastics through their skin. Every cage we’ve built for them has been a waste.”

Archangel looked at the other two members of the class. One was a big black guy, easily six four and well built. The other guy was Spanish, and constructed like a brick tank.

The teacher smiled at them. “I’m sorry, in my haste, I forgot to introduce everyone. Stand and state your name.”

The black guy stood up. “Tank is my name.”

The Spanish guy went next. “I’m Jesus.” He pronounced it Hay-Soos.

Archangel stood up. “I’m Archangel. Why are gremlins so important to heavy weapons? Where do they come from?”

“Their favorite food is ammunition. Gunpowder and explosives,” the teacher said. “They come from a mineral rich planet about sixty light years from us. We really don’t know how intelligent they are, or how they got here, but they’re here.”

“How do you kill them?” Tank asked.

“They can be smashed, or shot, or knifed. They can bleed out, but their skeletons, their bones, are made of metal, whatever metals they grew up around. Titanium are the most dangerous. Gremlins born in our desert regions on Earth are mostly silicon from the sand.”

“So they’re aliens?” Jesus asked.

“Very much so.”

“Can they talk?” Archangel said.

“Yes and no,” the teacher said. “When they make noise, they broadcast on radio frequencies. It’ll really throw your cell phones for a loop. Other gremlins miles away seem to be able to understand them. One reason they seem to like our deserts is a lack of radio stations. Gremlins hate it inside our cities. Too much noise.”

Archangel looked at Jesus and Tank. The two seemed content.

The teacher pushed a few buttons. “You now have a quiz to take in your tablets. After that we will review everything again.”

Boring! Still the men got the quizzes right, hell they had just gone over this stuff. Then the teacher reviewed everything again. After that class, Archangel made his way to a second classroom. Tank and Jesus followed him. The long-range rifles class was just the three of them again.

They talked about, guess what, long range rifles. Taking down a target at 500m was their discussion. They talked about fifty caliber rifles and what kind of damage that could do, as well as different kinds of bullets ranging from Teflon to Tungsten and explosive tips. There was no quiz, no review afterwards. Archangel headed back to the garage.

Tank shouted after him. “Have a beer with us!”

“I have to go home,” Archangel said with a sigh.

“Do you have interstellar law tomorrow until eight?” Jesus asked.

It was nine-thirty now. Archangel said, “Yes.”

“Beer, tomorrow!” Tank said.

“I’ll have a beer with you, tomorrow.”

Wait, he was only 19. “I’m only 19.”

Tank and Jesus laughed. “Heavy weapons is special rules,” Tank said. “We have the most dangerous job in the game, and we can get beer.”

Archangel rode the bike home. There was an envelope taped to his door. He opened it. Prepaid credit card with a note attached to it, $500. A membership card to a gym eight kilometers away. A hand written note, “Run to the gym tomorrow. Don’t take the bike. Lift your ass off. The card is in case you have any expenses. Nancy.”

Archangel gave his mom a shot of painkillers and kissed her on the forehead for goodnight. The cards for the gym and money went into his wallet.

He lay awake all night. By sunup he began to doubt his sanity. Everything seemed as real as the day before. He cooked up a batch of oatmeal for them. He put on his shorts and a shirt.

Running to the gym was no problem. Jesus and Tank showed up at the same time. All three of them were sweating and grinning. Tank spoke first, “Are we going to see who’s strongest?”

“It’s not my heavy day. I did a heavy day two days ago,” Jesus said. “Eight to twelve reps for me today.”

“I haven’t been in a gym in long time,” Archangel said.

“But you’re so damn big!”

“I have some gear at home. I lift.”

“I bet I’m stronger,” Tank said.

Archangel still wasn’t sure if all this was real. Just one long, incredibly real dream. Maybe he was dead or in a coma somewhere. “That’s ok with me if you are.”

“You’ll do a heavy day?”

“I never do heavy days. I never have a spotter.”

Tank started jumping up and down. “You’ve got a spotter today! Let’s see how much you can lift.”

They hit the weights. Archangel was strongest at curls, but Tank could out bench him by a lot. Hard to do benches with no spotter.

They took off running in opposite directions. Archangel floated home. He stopped at a grocer and picked up cooked shrimp with cocktail sauce. The credit card worked fine, but he was careful to save the receipt. He surprised Mom with the shrimp.

“I’m not even hungry,” she said.

“You’re going to eat a few, no matter. You’re wasting away. Your body needs fuel to fight the cancer.”

She frowned. “There’s no fighting this cancer, you know that. I’m on borrowed time.”

Archangel wanted to cry, but he’d cried himself to sleep enough times since the diagnosis. All people must die. “Please eat. I got them special, thinking they were your favorite.”

“They are.” She started eating, and once she started, she ate a lot. It made Archangel happy. They destroyed a half kilo of shrimp between them.

Archangel took the bike down to the Agency. Jon and Mohammad, from the previous day, greeted him in the garage.

“Nancy had to fly home last night,” Mohammad said. “You got the credit card? Jesus and Tank reported that you showed up at the gym.”

“I have the money,” Archangel said.

“Good. There are limits, but let us know if you need us to refill it.”

“Your schedule is simple,” Jon said, “three hours a week at the firing range, four hours a week driving, six hours a week on the martial arts bot, and four hours in our danger room. We only have a skeleton group of trainees here, so the equipment is mostly free all the time.”

No teachers?

Mohammad must have recognized the look on his face. “You have coaches, first Jon and me, but there will be other teachers too. Some of it, like the driving, you simply need to play with the simulator. It needs to become muscle memory. The danger room, you need to schedule with Jesus and Tank. They’re full time students, so they should have no problems accommodating your schedule.”

Archangel decided the driving simulator was most appealing. The device looked like a racing video game. Driving it was out of this world. G-Forces pulled on him through every curve. Jon watched, and repeated a chant, “Drive faster. Drive faster. The clock is ticking.”

Archangel biked home to fix dinner. Simple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but after the first one, Mom said she wanted a second, and he smiled wide. She was thin as a rail, and that couldn’t be good.

He attended a rather lengthy discussion group on interstellar law back at the agency. It seemed like the laws were set up far more in favor of the tyrannical Razdorans than Humans or Chor’Tan. It was clear from their discussion of history that the Razdorans harvest worlds for their natural resources, and they had their eye on Earth. Chor’Tan were doing everything within the law to help humankind, but there were limits. Why the Chor’Tan helped wasn’t made entirely clear in the lecture, enough that they helped.

Razdorans stood three to four meters tall, and had two sets of arms, one that had evolved as super strong appendages for smashing enemies, and another pair that had fine delicate hands. They considered creatures with four limbs to be less intelligent than them, and oftentimes were considered food.

The lecture ended, and Archangel was assigned chapters to read. Tank patted him on the back. “Time to drink!”

“I’ll drink with you,” Archangel said, “but I’ll be drinking root beer. Islam forbids alcohol.”

Jesus put his hands on his hips. “If you’re drinking root beer, I’ll drink a nice lemon lime soda.”

“Cola for me,” Tank said. “I could use some calories after today.”

Archangel looked from one to the other and realized they were being serious. When was he going to wake up? This dream had to come crashing down. How long could it last?

They drank their sodas and talked for an hour. Archangel had to get home to take care of his mother. He curled up in a ball on his bed and drifted off to the most blessed sleep he’d ever known. He woke up with the Sun. The credit card was still in his wallet. The bike sat in the parking lot, waiting on him.

Oatmeal for breakfast again, then a run to the gym for a leg workout. He talked to Jesus and Tank, and they agreed, time for a danger room session that afternoon. Neither would tell Archangel what happens in a danger room session.

The room was easy to find. It was on the lowest level of the building, below the parking garage, and essentially just one huge room with padded walls, ceiling, and floor. It spanned the whole complex. Mohammad was waiting for them. He spoke in a quiet tone. “You’ll be firing blanks. Keep moving. Standing still will get you killed.”

Easy enough. The three young men grabbed pistols and extra magazines, making sure the rounds were crimped over instead of a bullet. Tank pointed at Archangel. “You can go first.”

“I’ve never done this before,” Archangel replied.

“It’s easy. Shoot everybody. There are no friendlies except me and Jesus.”

Archangel ran headfirst into the danger room. A pixelated man appeared, and Archangel put a round in his chest. Blood flowed, but clearly a computer animation. They raced through room after room, gunning down opponents. It really wasn’t that hard, but the three young men had fast reflexes trained by countless hours at video game consoles.

They reached the end, and Mohammad clapped a bit for them. “Next time a higher difficulty level.”

“Turn it all the way up,” Tank said. “We’re ready!”

Jesus chimed in. “Yeah.”

“I’m not ready,” Archangel said.

“Go to the range,” Mohammad said.

They went and shot their pistols for an hour. Then they watched a video on how to disassemble them and clean them. They did as they were told. The powder solvent and oil smelled good to Archangel. Smelled like home.

Days passed into weeks. Archangel was focused like never before. Cook meals, morphine injections for Mom, bike to the agency for training or exercise. No time for a woman if he could even find one to marry. He got Sundays off from agency work.

One Friday morning, his mother didn’t wake up. He called an ambulance and wept. They buried her on Monday. Jon, Mohammad, Nancy, Jesus, and Tank all attended the funeral. Some of Mom’s friends and family attended too. Archangel wore a black suit and tie. Tears streamed down his face as they lowered the casket into the ground.

Archangel trained like never before. He buried himself in it. A few months passed, and Nancy summoned him to his office. Jesus and Tank were there.

Nancy offered them coffee which they declined. “We need to relocate you three to Phoenix.”

“What’s in Phoenix?” Tank asked.

“It’s our main training facility. There are three active teams there, and each one needs a heavy weapons expert. You’re those experts.”

“I feel like I’m still a noob,” Archangel said.

“You’ve all beaten the danger room simulations to the highest levels. You’re ready.”

Jesus clapped his hands together once. “When do we leave?”

Nancy pushed a few buttons on her keyboard. “Tomorrow morning. You don’t need to bring a lot of clothes, bring only what you truly need. The agency will provide clothes.”

Archangel went home. He went through the picture albums and decided he needed all the pictures. He hated to leave everything else behind, but the apartment just reminded him of his mother. Pots and pans, furniture, none of it mattered. All that mattered was the pictures.

He stowed those in his backpack and slept. He was up with the sun, and he rode down to the agency. The flight to Phoenix was quick, and the sun burned bright stepping out of the plane. Jesus and Tank both had duffel bags. A new man, Simon, drove them to the agency facility. The place was huge. Four-meter-tall walls with weapon nests on every corner. Multiple buildings, and a running track around the inside of the wall.

Simon pulled the car into a parking garage. Nancy was there. She said, “There is one final test you must achieve before becoming true heavy weapons experts.”

“Name it,” Tank said.

“Archangel will go first. You must navigate twelve kilometers of desert, take out two human sized targets, and destroy two targets with rockets. You’ll have to take water, extra rockets, a 50-caliber sniper rifle, and a double-barreled shotgun in case of snakes.”

“Snakes?” Archangel asked.

Nancy nodded. “There might be snakes.”

“Yes, Archangel can go first,” Jesus said.

“I’m ready,” Archangel said. “Do I get a GPS phone?”

Nancy reached in her pocket and pulled out a phone. “The target location and this facility are marked in the GPS already. Your gear is waiting by the gate.”

Archangel handed his backpack to Tank. “Don’t lose my bag.”

“Don’t lose your life,” Tank said. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

“Don’t even start. A little run in the desert.”

Nancy said, “Let’s go.”

They went to the main entrance. A 50-caliber rifle waited, plus a canteen, 4 rockets in a backpack, a sawed-off double barrel shotgun, plus a belt with shotgun shells in it. Archangel started putting everything on. They gave him 20 shotgun shells, 2 extra magazines of 50 caliber ammo, four rockets, and three liters of water. He held the cellphone in his left hand. His other hand fingered the stock of the shotgun in the holster on his right.

Archangel took off in a run into the desert.

He had never before really been in a desert, and he jogged past rock outcroppings and cacti. Some of the cacti looked more dangerous than other varieties, but he figured all of them would do damage. He came across a dried-out streambed and checked his phone. Although not a direct route, the streambed would bring him close to his target zone. He followed the route, dodging scorpions and big tarantulas. The spiders were bigger than anything he had seen before. He watched carefully for rattlers and other potentially poisonous snakes. Off to the side, one of the snakes slithered up the side of the streambed, but Archangel simply ran past.

The sun baked him, and he stopped for water and to check the cell. He was two kilometers or so from the targets. He drank a full liter of water and upped his pace. The sweat evaporated off his skin almost the instant it formed. If he was short on water, he wouldn’t have done it, but he stopped to take a leak. He peed right on an ant hill. Karma will get him for that later he was sure.

According to the satellite mapping on his cell, there should be a rock outcropping on his left soon, and there it was. He turned out of the streambed and jogged in a straight line. A wooden structure that had signs. Two silhouettes were set up 500 meters away, and two burned out husks of vehicles were 200 meters away on the right and left.

Archangel unslung his rifle and chambered a round. One shot to the heart on the left target. Then he worked the bolt action, then a shot to the heart on the right. One shot one kill. Perfect.

He pulled a two-part rocket assembly out of his backpack. One part was a tube with a shoulder rest, and he stuck the rocket in the end of that. He lined the device up on the first burned out vehicle and squeezed the trigger. Swooosh… Boom! One happy Archangel. A strange beeping sounded, but he wasn’t sure where it came from. He attached the second rocket to the launcher, and swoosh, boom. Archangel did a quick heel-toe dance move that would surely get him laid if a woman saw.

He checked his phone. It was beeping, and it showed only static.

Movement caught his eye. Short, 1/8th meter tall figure, covered in green and black skin, with sharp metal claws and teeth. Hell no. Gremlins. Archangel started jogging. Three of the little bastards were in front of him. He pulled his double barrel and blasted the right one, then the center one. The left one leapt at him before he could reload. The gremlin slashed at the strap holding his rifle in place, and the claws cut into Archangel’s gut. The rifle fell to the ground, and the gremlin fled with it.

“A flesh wound,” Archangel said as he slid two new shells into the breach.

He looked around. Three gremlins were staring him down. He ran for home. He ran fast. Two more gremlins dodged in front of him. Archangel blasted them with the shotgun, and slipped two more shells into the gun as he ran.

Must conserve ammo, raced through his mind. He reached the streambed and followed it. In a heartbeat, a gremlin stood in front of him. He didn’t shoot it. He intended to simply run past it. The thing reached out and clawed Archangel’s leg on the calf. The wound on his front had stopped bleeding, but now he bled on his leg, and every step he took hurt.

He looked behind him. There was distance in the way, but a small army of sharply clawed, green and black skinned monsters chased him.

While running, he pulled his backpack off, and readied a rocket. He turned and launched it at the closest gremlins. Body parts flew, but there were too many of them. He dumped all the water bottles out of the backpack and ran on.

Another pair of sharp-toothed monsters dodged in front of him. Archangel blasted them with the shotgun. He dropped one shell as he reloaded. No going back for that. He ran at his best pace. His mind drifted above the pain in his calf, above the thirst in his throat. The only thing that mattered was keeping away from those gremlins.

The agency complex shimmered in the distance. Archangel looked back. He had distanced those little bastards. Then one poked its head around a bend, then an army.

He ran with all his strength at the gate. “Open up!”

The gates slid out of the way. He jumped inside and shouted, “Close the gate!”

Some asshole said, “What’s the rush?”

“Gremlins!”

“Oh shit!”

Two of the little bastards made it through the gate, and both met up with the business end of Archangel’s twelve gauge.

Nancy came walking out of the complex, with Jesus and Tank.

The 50 caliber machine gun nests above the gate cranked to life spitting fire and hot lead at the army of gremlins.

“You brought ammo back?” Nancy asked.

“One rocket,” Archangel said, “two 50 caliber magazines, and a couple of shotgun shells.”

“You’re supposed to dump the ammo when the gremlins show up.”

That had never occurred to Archangel. To drop the ammo when faced with an enemy. It made no sense.

“We need to get you to medical,” Nancy said. “You’re now heavy weapons, full blooded.”

“You know you ran that course in record time?” Jesus said.

“I’m going to do it faster,” Tank said, “but I’m not bringing any ammo home.”

Archangel examined the cuts on him. “Yeah, yeah.”

They stitched him up at medical. Nancy showed him three pictures, two males, and one female. “This is Bear. The guy with the red hair is RedCat, and the female is Zen.”

“This is my new team?”

“We could have a formal introduction, or you could join them for a meal tomorrow. Tell them you’re their new sniper.”

Archangel grinned. “I’m their new sniper?”

“You are.”

“I’ll look for them in the cafeteria.”

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Grab Codename: Bear on Amazon, a fun secret agent story.

Categories
Comedy

Boris the Cat

This story was published by the Sinclair Clarion – A community college newspaper.

I named the cat Boris, and I suspect that he is a good cat. He cuddles with me, purrs, and plays with his toys. He has short hair and is colored white and black.

He has begun to get this glint in his eye though that he is planning something. The strange thing is: I bought 50 coffee filters just two weeks ago, and I am down to my last filter. I make at least one pot of coffee a day, and I never make more than two pots in a day. It makes no sense to me that I’d be out of filters in two weeks.

I live alone with Boris, so I have to wonder if the cat is stealing coffee filters from me, but this begs the question: what is he doing with them?

I bought a package of 200 coffee filters, and I lived my life for a while. After a month, I ran out of coffee filters again. I looked at Boris, and he raced into the other room. I chased him around the house for a while, but he got bored of that. It started to seem like the cat would stalk me. He would follow me around the house and simply watch me. Then he would disappear to parts unknown for hours. I decided it was time for professional help.

I put Boris in his carrying cage and drove him to the veterinarian’s office. I waited for my turn. We brought Boris into the back.

The vet looked at me and smiled. He wore a white coat. “How’s Boris?”

I sighed. “I think he’s stealing coffee filters.”

The vet tilted his head to the side.

“Yes,” I said, “Clearly he’s stealing coffee filters from my kitchen.”

“Is he eating them?”

“I’m not certain. I never find any remains.”

“I don’t think he’s stealing coffee filters,” the vet said as he rubbed his chin. “He has no thumbs. How could he separate one from the stack?”

“I don’t know how he’s doing it! Make him stop!”

“I could give him a shot of an antipsychotic,” he said.

“There’s an idea!” I said as I snapped my fingers.

The vet reached over to a counter and took a long drought of what smelled like hazelnut coffee. “Do you think he’s making coffee?”

I paused.

“Well?” The vet said.

I paused.

“Cats have very addictive personalities,” the vet said with a smile.

Something dawned on me… I wondered if I could get a cup of the hazelnut the vet was drinking. “Well, I have noticed sometimes when I go to make a fresh pot of coffee there are grounds in the machine that aren’t coffee. They smell like catnip.”

“Yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s making catnip tea. Is there an unused closet in the house? He might have set up a hydroponic catnip farm.”

My eyes opened wide, and I paced out a little three step circle in the tiny exam room. “He has a kitty door to the outside. He has an entire patch of catnip planted in rows in the backyard.”

“Catnip tea. Cat’s love it. Once they get in the habit, it’s hard to break.”

“What do I do?”

The vet let out this little sigh and stared off into space. “My advice is to buy the coffee filters in bigger packages.”

Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter

Buy Juxta, Magi on Amazon, a delicious epic fantasy.