Darkness of Sun Mountain (Part 1)

Beneath Sun Mountain, east of Carson City and above Virginia City, in the rugged passes of the Sierra Mountain Range, men continue to toil, wrenching silver from the depths of the earth in untold qualities. Yet more than precious mineral is hidden amid the rocky crags and deadly holes of the miners’ jack; the old people – cho’er-ja koe’kro – or what once had been those ancient people — still secretly dwell.

L.C. Howard came into the Nevada territory from the Ocean State to find his fortune, instead he discovered his calling as a brazen outlaw first, then as a town’s marshal. He found the work much more to his liking, with the wild nights of an ever increasing population, free-flowing whiskey and the even freer women of the bawdy houses.

“I tell ya Marshal, Thurlby was standing right there and then he was gone,” Bartholomy complained.

“Maybe he quit the claim and packed her in,” Howard replied.

“Naw…he jus’ up and disappeared,” Bartholomy continued, “He was right there one minute, gone the next!”

Howard studied the ground and where the old miner pointed. He saw a set of boot prints left by the Cornish hard-rock miner, but little else.

“Well, I don’t see any blood or drag marks, and he didn’t fall in a hole, so I got nothing to go on,” Howard stated.

“Well, something happened to him…” Bartholomy started.

“Tommy-knockers, perhaps?” Howard interrupted.

“That ain’t real, Marshal, and you know it,” Bartholomy growled.

“Well, until I have more to go on,” Howard said sternly, “I can’t do anything about a man who seems to have vanished like you say he’s done.”

Howard turned and followed the narrow path back down the mountainside and into the growing city. He didn’t want to say anything, but he couldn’t get his mind off the fact that the disappearance of Thurlby made five people having gone missing.

He stepped into the shade cast by The Riesen House and peered back up the hillside. It looked like nothing more than it was, a vast landscape of escarpments and crevasses, littered with the unkempt hovels of miners and the shallow diggings of mine shafts.

Howard strolled towards his office, but first he needed to stop by the land office. He needed a decent map.

The Dread, Part Two

The unearthly din neared the surface and so uneuphoniously threatening, the two young men turned and fled. Once in the safety of the truck, they sped over the rough and ungraded roads, back to the paved security of Main Street and U.S. 95.

Stricken with an incorporeal fright, they refused to acknowledge that thing they knew, as naming it would confirm its existence, however they accidentally invited it back into their now settled and placid lives one afternoon, five years later, when they bumped into each other at the Gold Bar in the Sparks Nugget. After a few drinks, the memories spilled out, with one memory standing out beyond the rest that both attributed to a folie à deux.

There in the jingle-jangle of coins striking the tin pan of one-armed bandits and the cacophony of excitable voices, they took turns describing the strange sounds and the hideous decay their panosophic learning acquired in the instant ahead of flight.

As Jimmy talked of the moment he  fled, Eddie interrupted, “I…I…I saw something that’s left me frighten ever since.”

“Saw what?” Jimmy asked.

“A pair of gray, rotting hands and a blue-chalked face,” Eddie continued, “I think it was one of those dead miners and it pointed a bony finger at me and whispered, ‘We are coming.'”

“That’s jus’ your imagination,” Jimmy chided Eddie. “You need another drink.”

“No! I tell you they’re coming for me,” Eddie muttered argumentatively, “I know it.”

Jimmy sat at the bar long after Eddie left, draining his sixth beer and sipping a whiskey, all the while believing his best friend since grade school had lost his mind.

A week later, Jimmy received a telephone call from Tasker, Eddie’s only brother. His voice was a whisper at the end of the line, “The corner of Eddie’s house, where his bedroom was, was swallowed up by a sinkhole.”

Tasker went on to explain, “Eddie’s had this strange fascination with the mines beneath Virginia City. He told me that he could hear the distant, muffled sound of pickaxes and he had the crazy idea that something from one of the old glory-holes was searching for him. I thought he was nuts.”

Jimmy shuddered at the implication.

The Dread, Part One

The blaze wasn’t a serious one. It was discovered while small and attacked for some time at close quarters, yet the insignificant flame developed into a deadly disaster.

That was 1911.

For sometime since, the old Belmont mine has been left to rot, abandonment and what ever nervy tourist or rock hound wishes to explore its depths. But the locals around Tonopah know the  ineffable horrors dwelling in those depths of the isolated silver mine.

Miners complained about the many bad omens surrounding the dig. Along with the ever-present disembodied voices, attributed to Tommy Knockers, there were the numerous carrion crows living in the subterranean vaults as well as the neighing of startled horses along the numerous passageways at unseen entities.

But the miners’ pleas went unheard, resulting in the catastrophic fire that led directly to 17 deaths. Their bodies, including that of ‘Big John’ Murphy lay in the hard ground of the Old Tonopah Cemetery.

Whispers exchanged over mugs of beer and shots of whiskey at the Mizpah tell of possible survivors — trapped miners entombed in the tunnels honeycombing the earth’s pyretic bowels beneath the town. And how occasionally, the ground opens up swallowing things: dilapidated sheds, corners of houses, vehicles and sometimes people.

Jimmy Brannigan set out to explore the place that day, wanting to put to rest the rumors of misfortune and fright. He and Eddie Mann, his best friend slowly drove the length of Dynamite Road, then towards the peak of Ararat Mountain along Mountain Loop Road.

Soon they were hiking across the the old rucks, the man-made landscape, abandoned, nature working to reclaim what it once possessed. The gravelly tailings wheezed at the two, after decades of exposure to temperamental Nevada winds.

Walking up the hill, they avoided the mud puddles, formed by a midnight thundershower. Clouds of mist still hovered above the hole threateningly, whispering, ‘turn back,’ to return to the familiar comforts of the town below: Cisco’s, the Burger King, even the Clown Motel and the haunted historical, but still dismal cemetery next to it.

Beyond, lay the trail, marked by a rusty chain-linked fence. They approached, mindful of the eroded metal fencing poking up out of the gelatinous earth; sharp and menacing.

Twenty paces further and they were upon it: the Desert Queen shaft! And it was more blasphemous than imagined.

Their imagination was settled tales of people falling in; curious children  mysteriously disappearing; pets that strayed to far only to vanish. All were declared victims of whatever roamed the unfathomable passageways at the bottom of that accursed pit.

Then — movement from below. The movement came in the form of a sound: a shuffling, labored progression; the sound of frail, ashen hands clutching blindly at unseen hand-holds in the rocky sides of the crumbling shaft.

First

The metal extension ladder still stands against the cabin, where I placed it. To bad that I’m at the foot of it, neck broken, unable to move. Cooper, my half-shepherd, half-wolf and mostly wild, is tied outback. No one knows we’re here and I can’t help wonder which of us will starve first.

I think I heard Coops dog door, if so, he’s free and hungry. So now I know.

The Eldritch Fireball of Candelaria (Part 4)

After a couple of hours, traveling back across the desert, Charlie offers, “By this time Billy was looking like hell, you look…you still have color.”

“Maybe Billy didn’t infect me after all,” Jack says.

“It’s a good possibility,” Charlie replies.

Very little is said between the two riders as they trail their way back to Candelaria. Charlie looks over at Jack, who has his head down, chin on his chest, sleeping, but still holding his red and swollen hand.

“Hey,” he says as he falls back to Jack’s position, “You still alive?”

Without warning, Jack’s head pops up and growling like a frenzied beast, he throws his body on top of Charlie, knocking him from his horse. The unsuspecting Charlie finds himself gripped between the monstrous jaws of Jack, who is biting down on Charlie’s right shoulder.

Still clutched in Jack’s teeth, Charlie draws his gun and fires a round directly into Jack’s face, ending his daemon life. Both horses have taken flight, but Charlie knows that catching up even one of them is useless.

Instead, he sits in the sand, under the shade of a Joshua Tree, thumbing the hammer of his pistola. No one will be around to hear the blast as he willingly puts a bullet in his brain.

Back at Mud Lake, the water effervesces as the stygian object dissolves into elsewhere nothingness. Later that night, under a gibbous and pale moon, the enigmatical desert-scape shall come to life with eidolon beings of a frog-like nature.

The Eldritch Fireball of Candelaria (Part 3)

He was interrupted by a sudden guttural growl from an animal he didn’t recognize. He turned to look in the direction of the sound and was met by a horrific sight: Billy was sitting up, drooling and manically bellowing.

“What the…” is all Charlie can get out before Jack lets out a painful howl.

Billy has the outside of Jack’s left hand in his mouth and Jack is clubbing Billy with his free hand, while screaming, “He ain’t dead!”

Finally Billy lets go of Jack, who staggers away holding his hand. Meanwhile Charlie is stunned, staring at the once-dead Billy in absolute shock. As for Billy, his chin and lower jaw are dripping in blood, his skin has no color real coloration, and the look in his eye is so wild he could be Satan himself.

Billy shambles to his feet and rushed Charlie.

“Don’t let him bite you!” Jack yells.

Jack, nursing his teeth-torn hand, pulls his revolver and fires at Billy. The thunderous explosion from the barrel of his Single Action puts Billy on his back.

“Is he dead?” Charlie asks.

Jus’ then Billy starts to move again.

“Impossible!” Jack shouts, as Billy stands up.

Charlie waits for Billy to charge. This time, instead of running to avoid a nasty bite, he fires point blank in to the man’s head.

“That did it,” Jack says then realizing something, “Uh, I’m not saying we need to shoot anybody, but…”

“I already thought of that,” Charlie says, “Let us cross that bridge later, if we need too.”

The Eldritch Fireball of Candelaria (Part 2)

A deep gash covered the flats in a straight line along with bits of dusky rubble. The sand, where the object had collided with the ground, had become a glass scoria, where bits of phlogiston from sage brush still smoldered in tiny flickering flames that naturally put themselves out.

But what was most interesting is what was in the lake itself. As the riders drew closer they could see an atramentous stone, obelisk in shape, and with hideous designs hewn along its four sides protruding from silt.

One of the riders, Jack leans over from his horse, looking into the water, “It goes all the way down.”

They all peer into the lake where he’s pointing. All they could make out was a silhouette.

“Let’s jump in,” offers Billy, “Where we can get a better look at it.”

“Wait,” exclaims Charlie, “No one is going in that water. Look at the fish, they’re bellied-up.”

Suddenly Billy sees a frog-like creature in the sand a few feet away, crawling around near the waterline, “Look at this, it’s alive.”

By now, and having dismounted, Billy picks it up, “It feels slippery.”

As Billy turns it over Charlie notices that not only is the misshapen creature a green-color, it also has a silver-tint. Then Billy yells out, the thing has bitten him between his thumb and pointer finger.

“Blood,” Billy blurts out, showing his wounded hand to the other two.

Minutes later Billy starts convulsing. And in less time, the seizing stops and Billy lets out a long, agonizing groan before he dies.

Charlie lets out a heavy sigh, “Don’t touch his body.”

“Ain’t we gonna take him back with us?” asks Jack.

“No,” Charlie replied, “Were going to leave him here and come…”

The Eldritch Fireball of Candelaria (Part 1)

From the Nevada State Journal, February 6, 1894, “Last Thursday night the people of Candelaria were startled by a dazzling flash of light….The explosion was followed for three or four minutes by a terrible ripping and hissing noise and the afrighted people expected to see the very sky with its bright stars come down on their heads.”

The explosive boom brought the whole town outside and with it, talk of who saw it and what was its cause. At first the people though one of the mining companies powder bunkers had gone up, but that wasn’t the case.

As it disintegrated in earths upper atmosphere, it screamed a death knell of metallic thunder for three minutes, before skipping off the rocky crags of hillside to the south and east, disappeared beyond the horizon. Many said it might have come to rest in nearby Summit Springs others remained uncertain.

Three men volunteered to track it down and after a day and a half, riding and cutting sign, the trio rode up a small rise in the Nevada plain, where they could look down at Mud Lake. Not only was it the site of the impact, the water had become overly endowed with an unnaturally green-hued slime.

Pellegrino in the Desert

Seated outside by a giant umbrella tree for shade, the man watches bees and other assorted flying insects flit from leaf to upturned leaf, searching for the water of a night time dew. Each hover effortlessly from above, looking deep into leafy folds as other’s disappear inside their depth, only to reappear seconds later in search of more.

Near the man’s foot, movement; a Great Basin Skink with its bright blue tail, lizard movements, quick and cautious. It stops, one short dash and then another from rocky flower beds, reaffirming its place in the food chain, to the base of a wild Star Gazer, with spindly green leaves and splendid orange-yellow petals, perfect pitchers for the hidden moisture the tiny reptile desires.

Moving a quarter of a mile in little lizard length, he pauses before starting up the skinny stem of the flower, where glistening in the morning shine is that singular dew drop. Thirst refreshed, it darts to a nearby rust-colored rock, a hillock to one so diminutive in stature, to rest and bathe in the sky one’s glow.

To the corner of the man’s eye, floats a darting sight, a hummingbird on the wing. Its resplendent feathers resonate through the warming of the early hours, buzzing to and fro then gone; a magical trace only God can provide.

The man’s eyes return to the lizard and searches for one no longer there. Gone, warmed enough to seek out food before the dry earth becomes too unbearable to its diminutive touch.

Such is a morning time in the summer’s heat of oppressive breeze, dust and survival. The man must also retreat inside as a touch pellegrino awaits his drying taste buds.

Lulu Belle: The Deeper Pain

The following day, and against the doctor’s wishes, Hutch checked himself out of the hospital to return home. He pulled into his driveway jus’ as Deputy Melton was preparing to pull away from the curb in front of Hutch’s home.

“Heard you left the hospital,” Melton greeted Hutch as both men exited their vehicles.

“Yeah, needed a decent cup of coffee and a little more bracing than a couple of Tylenol,” Hutch held up a brown paper bag in one hand and the sleeved-paper cup in the other, then strangely found himself smiling.

“Sorry about Lulu Belle,” Melton offered.

“Thanks,” Hutch said with a heavy sigh, “Twice she saved my life, but I doubt you came here only to offer your condolences.”

Hutch’s directness caught Melton off guard, “You’re right. I came here to tell you that the guy you killed, also killed Mr. Whitehouse or at least the rifle he used to shoot you is the killer’s weapon.”

“Anything else?” Hutch asked impatiently.

“Well, we still don’t know who the shooter is, no hits from CODIS as of yet, and the rifle is reported to have been stolen out of Idaho about a year and a half ago.”

“You’ll let me know if and when you find anything out, right?

“You bet, Mr. Fitzgerald.”

“Hutch…please, call me Hutch.”

“You got it. Hutch.”

“If there’s nothing else, you wanna come in have a couple of shots with me? No fun drinking alone. Besides, I’m drinking to my other, even deeper pain.”

Melton wrinkled his brows, not understanding the reference.

“Lulu Belle,” Hutch quickly answered his puzzlement.

The deputy looked at his watch, “Sure, what the hell!”

Happy to have company, Hutch slipped the key into the deadbolt, turned it, pushing the front door open. He didn’t expect the overwhelming silence.

Lulu Belle: Six-to-One

Hutch didn’t have time for tears as in the distance he heard the fast pace of an oncoming runner. Hutch reacted by crawling like a wild animal into a nearby drainage ditch at the far end of the dirt piles.

He burrowed beneath the dried clusters of sage brush and freezing snow, the thorns and goat-heads driving themselves into his hands and knees. In spite of the pain, Hutch moved slowly to the opposite end of the berm and near where Lulu Belle lay.

By then the sound of the running feet had dribbled away to a near-noiseless creep. Then came the unmistakable double-click of a bullet entering the chamber of a rifle.

Hutch froze in place.

It was the sound of crunching bits of sage and minor gravel that gave the shooters’ position away. Taking a deep breath and knowing it could be his last, Hutch stood.

He was two feet lower than the man with the rifle. Hutch already had his arm, revolver in hand, outstretched before the man could respond.

In rapid succession, Hutch squeezed the trigger of the forty-four; each round striking its mark with a bone breaking thud. Then it was over.

Dropping his now empty gun, Hutch drew his knife intent on finishing the job had the six well placed rounds hadn’t done what they were designed for. As Hutch scrambled over the berm, it became immediately apparent that he need-not employ his blade since the body of the man lay unmoving and unbreathing.

Turning back, Hutch retrieved his weapon, reloading as he walked back to where Lulu Belle lay. By then the wound in his side from a bullet solely meant for him, but mostly absorbed by Lulu Belle’s huge bull mastiff body, was beginning to ache.

Despite this, Hutch sat next to Lulu Belle and grieved the death of his best friend.

Lulu Belle: Spring Fever

A new year had come and Spring was beginning to show, melting winter away one warm digit after another. By this time, while George’s murder was not forgotten, Hutch’s life continued on and he felt the need to stretch his legs.

Still chilly, he pulled his long coat on, covering the pistol he had holstered to his hip and tied to his thigh. Behind that, he carried his favorite long knife.

“Better prepared, than not,” he told himself as he slipped a knit stocking on his head and with Lulu Belle standing next to him, locked his front door.

They took their time — or rather Lulu Belle took her time — smelling anything and peeing on everything. What might have been worth five minutes on any other day, became more than a quarter hour of stop and start.

Finally, they stepped off the asphalt and beyond the cement barrier that had the words, “No Trespassing,” stenciled across its front. The K-wall had been there for more than twenty-years and no one on foot, bicycle or dirt bike paid the warning any mind.

Lulu Belle ran ahead. She’d dislodged a large jack rabbit and gave it a wild chase.

Unable to catch it, she trotted back to Hutch, who decided to take the trail, which splintered in two directions, to the right. He reached down and patted the large dog on the head, who in turn gripped his hand gently in her mouth, an act she’d began and continued since her puppy hood.

Letting go of Hutch, she ran up and onto a berm of freshly dug dirt recently moved for an upcoming housing development. Lulu Belle bounced between the multiple piles as Hutch laughed and continued along the trail.

The cold of the morning air was suddenly split at the thunderous sound of a rifle shot. Lulu Belle howled in pain and tumbled wildly through the air, landing near where Hutch had been standing.

As for Hutch, he felt a burning sting slice through his left side between his hip and rib cage. The sharp blow sent him sprawling and tumbling to the ground a few feet from Lulu Belle.

Quickly, he crawled over to the dog. instantly concluded that she was gone. He placed his forehead to the side of hers and whispered, “I’m so sorry, girl. I’ll be back.”

Lulu Belle: One Shot, One Kill

“It’s a damn good thing you had your dog with you,” commented the Deputy Dan Melton

“I suppose so – and what a time to go wandering around the desert without a gun,” Hutch replied.

“Kind of glad you didn’t have one,” stated Melton.

“Yeah, why’s that?” Hutch asked.

“She had kittens and we would’ve never found them had you killed her,” the deputy answered. Then he offered, “Too bad she was put down before we learned she didn’t killed Mr. Whitehouse, but was only claiming him as her kill.”

“It is a shame – but then she already had the taste for man, so that made her a real danger to the community — especially since we have so many kids and elderly living around here,” Hutch returned.

There was a pause, then Hutch asked, “So, if the wild cat didn’t kill George, what did? Natural causes?”

“No,” answered Melton, “He was shot in the head at some distance. Detective’s believe it was done sniper-style.”

“Holy shit,” Hutch shuttered, “And we walked right into it.”

Lulu Belle: The Find

It was Lulu Belle that caught scent of the odor first. The bull mastiff paused and sniffed the air with vigorous huffs of breath, before turning around to look at Hutch.

At first the big dog didn’t want to continue, but Hutch, absentmindedly unable to recognize the dogs body language, urged Lulu Belle to move forward. Instead of pressing down the path, sniffing the ground and the surrounding brush, the dog had her head lifted high in the air and her usually wagging tail tucked between her hind legs.

“There it is,” Hutch smiled.

Lulu Belle whined softly as the continued to approach the site.

“Hallo the camp,” Hutch called out.

No answer. No movement.

“Hallo the camp,” he hollered again.

Continuing towards the spot where he could see the tent covered with a brown plastic tarp, Hutch caught the smell Lulu Belle had first noted back on the trail. He knew that odor, the odor of death.

Hutch cautiously approached the tent. From near it, he could see the legs of a person, face down on the ground.

As he stepped towards what he knew to be the body of George, Lulu Belle sprang in front of him, hackles up from the nape of her neck to the base of her tail. The big dog refused to allow Hutch by.

“What’s wrong with you?” he chided the dog.

As if to answer, a mountain lion screamed, causing Hutch to freeze. Meanwhile Lulu Belle remained planted between Hutch and the still hidden cat.

At first Hutch couldn’t see the cat crouched amid the sage. It was only when George’s lifeless remains shifted, that the cats play of concealment became obvious.

Hutch stepped forward and grabbed Lulu Belle by her collar, forcing her back. At first she did not want to go, but finally after a sharp whimper she followed Hutch’s command.

The pair quickly retreated to the paved roadway of their neighborhood and to home. It was there that Hutch called the sheriff’s office to report what he’d found.

Lulu Belle: George

The old man walked up and down the street a couple of times each day. And each day he looked more and more haggard and ragged.

It was obvious to Hutch that he was homeless and probably living out among the sage brush with the jack rabbits and coyotes. On what he figured to be the tenth day, Hutch took a cartoon of eggs, a short slab of bacon and the fixing to make biscuits out to the old man as he walked by.

“George Whitehouse,’ the old man called himself.

“Hutch Fitzgerald.”

“Thank you, Hutch,” the old man said as he headed back from wherever he’s come from.

Three days later, Hutch, enjoying a cup of coffee, saw him coming from up the street and quickly went inside his home and grabbed the small bag of groceries and some hand-me-down clothes he’d set aside for George. Again, the old man appeared thankful and for the next three summer months, Hutch continued to supply George with a few necessities.

It was late September when George failed to appear. At first, Hutch wasn’t concerned, thinking that perhaps the old man had returned to town, where the living might be easier as the coming cold months had begun to set in.

On the twelfth day of no George, curious to see where the old man had established his camp and thinking that maybe a little clean up might be in order, Hutch wandered out into the desert, a wide space on the map,  that separated two large area neighborhoods. It didn’t take him very long to find the well-tracked path leading to the homeless man’s secreted encampment.

Pull

The young man was lead to a small cell with a door marked “pull” in red lettering on its interior. He stood in the middle of the room, listening to the jangling of the keys as the attendant locked the heavy metal door.

Above the door frame, in a simple cursive font: “A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 1977

Within minutes the bored young man had seated himself against the far wall and watched the gray door expectantly with its bright lettering and the quote above it. After an hour, a calm female voice spoke through the small speaker in the CCTV camera in the corner of the room, “Thank you for your assistance in this experiment. You can leave the room at anytime.”

Convinced the experiment was fixed, because try as he might, the door would not swing open. Frustrated, the young man grew angry, finally demanding to be released.

Soon an older man, in a knee-length white medical coat entered his cell, saying, “You’ve been able to leave this room anytime you wanted.”

“No I couldn’t,” the young man argued. “The door’s been locked.”

“No — it’s never been locked,” the examiner stated, stepping to the door and pushing it open.

Advice to the Young Man

Invent yourself
Then reinvent yourself
Work hard — play harder
Dirty hands and filthy sweat
Filthy mind and dirty laughter
Frequent the neighborhood watering hole
The local dive
Drink cheap whiskey
Drink expensive beer
Stay away from mini-umbrellas
And learn to ride a horse
Rope a cow
Ride a bull — bareback — and
Drive a stick-shift
Own a crappy truck
Walk
Keep a nice home
Mow your own lawn
Mow the neighbors lawn
No grass — get some
Shower daily or
Take a bath
Preferably with a Redhead
No Redhead —
A Blond
A Brunette
Preferably all at the same time
Only once
Keep the Brunette
And get a dog

Blink

He awoke alone in his very familiar room, yet there was a subtle difference, which he picked up on immediately. It was a minor stab of guilt from the night before, after having done something he had never dreamed of normally doing.

Attempting to put the memory aside, he tried desperately to return to sleep. When that didn’t work, he buried his head in his pillow, but to no avail.

That guilt eventually turned to paranoia as he stared at the double set of eyeballs that return his stare from over his bathroom sink. He blinked first, and knew at that moment that if he didn’t turn himself in to the cops, those same unblinking, unapologetic eyes that stared at him would never let him rest.

They bore into him, creating a certain kind of madness. He needed to take action and quickly, before insanity became his norm.

The opening sentence to his statement, his written confession, began: “Because the bulbs in the vanity above my bathroom sink refuse to blink, and because they are all knowing of my guilt, I am giving this freely and without coercion…”

Silly Human Notions

How the practical joke had taken a turn for the worst for him. He was now locked in the refrigeration unit with a dozen dead bodies and no one knew it, save for himself and the man he’d scared half-to-death.

“I never thought he’d run like that and lock me in here,” the would-be-prankster said as he groped for the heavy parka left on a nail behind the door for such an unfortunate event.

Slumping to the floor, he listened to the gentle hum of the power-plant as it fed chilled air into the dark chamber. He never realized, until now, how absolutely pitch-black the make-shift morgue was with the lights turned off outside and the door latched closed.

“What was that?” he said as he held his breath to listen, “Nothing…jus’ my mind playing tricks on me.”

A couple of minutes later, he heard that same odd sound. This time though, it seemed to be closer and he felt the small hairs on his neck and arms begin to stand on end.

“Hello?” he asked, trying to sound calm. Again, nothing and as expected, no answer.

For a few minutes all was quiet, even the hum of the refrigeration unit had ceased. He listened for any sound coming from outside and the possibility rescue.

He physically jumped at the sudden and unexpected restarting of the refrigeration unit as it kicked on, beginning another cooling cycle. His reaction caused as few seconds of nervous laughter as he realized the stupidity of his predicament.

But then, there was that noise again, as if something were inside the unit, moving. In his mind, he knew that nothing, save for himself, was alive in the former shipping container – but still he couldn’t help clinging to what he believed were ‘silly human notions’ and further, he couldn’t help letting them slip into and out of his mind.

Again, that sound came – and this time he was certain it was closer and more over, he felt whatever movement made through a vibration in the metallic flooring. He stood up, back pressed against the wall.

“Who the hell’s there?” he demanded.

Refusing to be played for a fool, he slid into the nearby corner to his left and stepped forward, certain that the pathway across the narrow room was clear. However he found it wasn’t as he bumped into a gurney holding a bagged and stiffened corpse.

Putting his hands out in surprise, the fingers of his right hand brushed against something slick, clammy and repulsive, like loose skin. He shrieked in uncontrolled terror and fell back, striking his head violently on the floor as he dropped from fright.

When next the temporary morgue was again opened, the would-be prankster was found dead where he’d fallen. In his hand was a single latex glove, slick and clammy to the touch of one groping in the dark, and loathsome like the touch of loose skin – and death.

On This Day a Few Years Ago

Two-hundred and forty-six people went to bed anticipating the following mornings rush to catch flights. Another 2,606 people crawled between the sheets, ready for the next morning’s routine hustle of office work .

Three-hundred and forty-three firefighters and eight paramedics laid down, resting up for a hectic morning shift. And finally, 60 police officers turned in, each braced for a morning filled with stress.

By 10 o’clock that coming morning, each person had breathed their last and a stunned nation was left momentarily heartbroken.

From a Coffee and Donut

On his way home from his 12-hour overnight shift, Buzz stopped at the local 7-11 to fuel up his truck. In front of him, at the counter, was an older gentleman wearing a Korean war veteran’s hat. He thanked the old man for serving the U.S. and Buzz bought his cup of coffee and donut.

After gassing up, he got in his truck and drove home. When he pulled into his driveway, a car pulled up to the curb, and out stepped a guy Buzz didn’t know.

The guy said, “Hi, my name’s Gordon and you bought my fathers stuff at the gas station a few minutes ago.”

Thinking he may have screwed up, and seeing the old man in the passenger seat, Buzz responded, “Yeah, I hope that was okay?”

Gordon moved closer, toed the cement like a child about to admit to having been bad, and half-smiled, “My dad has Alzheimer’s and barely remembers who I am most of the time, and you — you look like my son Bobby, who died in Fallujah, back in 2004.”

There was a slight pause, and Buzz felt a lump forming in his throat as he fought back the desire to tear up saying, “I’m sorry for the loss of your son. I can’t — nor do I wanna even imagine what that must be like for you.”

“Thank you, I appreciate that,” Gordon said. “Anyway, when he came out of the store and got into the car he said, “Bobby jus’ bought my coffee. ‘Hell of a kid you got there, Gordy.’”

Another pause came as Gordon cleared his throat and continued, “I don’t know what you said to him, but my dad hasn’t used my name, let alone my nickname in over a year and he hasn’t said his grandsons name in ages.”

“Thank you,” Gordon said as he offered Buzz his hand.

Once Buzz grabbed it, Gordon pulled the slightly smaller Buzz to him, and gave him a hug. After a few seconds, he released Buzz, then with tears glistening in his eyes, Gordon returned to his car and drove away.

Buzz fumbled with his keys, his hand nervously shaking and hot tears streaming from his eyes, as he unlocked his front door. All he could now think of was his long deceased father, also a veteran of Korea, and how he wished he could talk to his old man once more.

An American Pie Breakdown

America’s culture began its current transformation in the 1960s and the song ‘American Pie,’ by Don McLean, released in the autumn of 1971, was the near-perfect vehicle describing the sense of loss of an ‘innocent time’ in our country…

A long long time ago
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while
But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
So…

Buddy Holly’s death on February 3, 1959 is a traumatic time-point signifying the beginning of a change from adolescence to adulthood as well as American culture. Holly died in a plane crash that also took the lives of Jiles Perry “J. P.”Richardson Jr. known as ‘The Big Bopper,’ Richie Valens and pilot Roger Peterson.

Did you write the book of love
And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?
Do you believe in rock and roll?
Can music save your mortal soul?
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?
Well, I know that you’re in love with him
‘Cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues
I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died
I started singin’…

The first sentence refers to The Monotones and their 1957 song, ‘The Book of Love;’ replacing classic religion with rebellious music; growing up and being awkward around the opposite sex, being in love and being hurt by that first love; ‘pink carnation,’ goes to Marty Robbins’ 1957 hit, ‘A White Sports Coat and a Pink Carnation,’ which sums up the loneliness and pain of teen angst.

Now, for ten years we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rolling stone
But, that’s not how it used to be
When the jester sang for the king and queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
And a voice that came from you and me
Oh and while the king was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned
And while Lenin read a book on Marx
The quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died
We were singin’…

A decade after Buddy Holly’s death; Bob Dylan (the jester), Elvis Presley (the King,) Nancy Sinatra (the Queen, since she appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show with Elvis and her father in 1959 and then as Elvis’ leading lady in the 1968 movie, ‘Speedway,’) The Beetles, (the quartet); The jacket “borrowed from James Dean” can be seen on the cover sleeve of Dylan’s 1963 album ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.’ Lenin is John Lennon; moss: “A rolling stone gathers no moss.”; rolling stone: “”How does it feel/To be without a home/Like a complete unknown/Like a rolling stone?” Bob Dylan; rolling stone also alludes to the Altamont Speedway Free Festival in December 1969 and is explained in greater detail in verse five.

Helter skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast
It landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast
Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance
Oh, but we never got the chance
‘Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?
We started singin’…

Helter skelter refers to The Manson Family and the song title from The Beatles they misused (and misspelled) to try and create a race war; it was 92 degrees on August 9, 1969, when Sharon Tate and her house guests were murdered; “The birds flew off with the fall out shelter,” is about Dore Albert’s (Herb Albert) 1962 song ‘Fallout Shelter,’ with side B being, ‘Tell It To the Birds,’; ‘Eight Miles High,’ The Byrds,; The jester in a cast is Dylan, who fractured a vertebrae in a 1966 motorcycle accident; The Beatles are the ‘sergeants’ and field is the ‘battlefield’ where the anti-war and counter-culturalist tangled with establishment authorities.

Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again
So come on Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
‘Cause fire is the devil’s only friend
Oh and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan’s spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died
He was singin’…

One place: Woodstock, Altamont, in front of a TV set, Lost in Space, a TV show and an allusion to the faltering ‘flower power’ movement; Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and the song ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash,’ where the protagonist plays with fire to promote his freedom, “So come on, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick/Jack Flash sat on a candlestick/’Cause fire is the Devil’s only friend,” as well as a photograph of Jagger, onstage at Altamont in a flowing red cape; ‘No Angel born in Hell, – the Hell’s Angels, who were hired as security at Altamont; a ‘dirge’ is a sad song often sung during funerals.

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play
And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
And they were singing…

The ‘girl who sang the blues’ is Janis Joplin; the ‘happy news’ is a mixed metaphor as Joplin says nothing and later Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison die from heroin overdoses like Joplin; The sacred store is a record store and follows the mixed metaphors of “Do you have faith in God above,’ and ‘Can music save your mortal soul,’ in verse two, by the time ‘American Pie’ was written, ‘music booths,’ where a customer could listen to a record before buying it, had fallen out of favor, the music had drastically changed from the fifties to the late sixties and early seventies; screaming children (protesters), crying lovers (parents) and dreaming poets (news reporters,) and ‘The Last Poets,’ a poetry and political music group formed during the 1960s; broken church bells referencing broken religions; ‘The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost,’ is an a religiously mixed allusion to President John Kennedy, Reverend Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy.

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

‘Bye, bye Miss American Pie’ denotes not only a longing for the ‘simpler days in the US,’ but also refers to the 1968 Miss America Beauty Pageant, where women demanding equal rights, removed their brassieres and burned them; ‘Drove my Chevy to the Levee,’ comes from a car commercial sung by Dinah Shore: ‘Drive your Chevrolet through the USA/America’s the greatest land of all/On a highway or a road along a levee…’; The Sunday family drive was a tradition losing popularity, therefore the ‘levee was dry.; ‘whiskey and rye,’ are two different types of alcoholic beverages, bourbon is a distilled spirit made primarily from corn, rye is made of a mash of at least 51 percent rye grain, one is considered the drink of the ‘rich’ man while the other, the ‘poor’ man

Finally, nothing written here is new and with the songs ambiguity it continues to generate new discussion regarding the lyrics nuances. May this serve as a platform to cause you to reflect on the songs ultimate meaning.

On a more personal note: hearing the song never fails to bring back the innocent times of hearing it blasted from Mr. Segel’s single-speaker phonograph player over and over while we played on the grade school playground during lunch recesses. Oh, how the school’s administration hated that act of rebellion on that eighth grade teachers part, and how we loved him for it.

Upon the Path of a Dogs Passing

Awoke tearful this morning, having had a lucid dream of Roxy, our Pit Bull, where she ‘spoke’ to me without saying a word. I am compelled to write down her thoughts as she conveyed them — and to do so before I am fully woke and forget her canine colloquy…

“They tell you not to cry – it’s jus’ a dog, not a person, that animals don’t know they have to die, that the important thing is not to let me suffer. You’re told that you can have another, but they don’t know what or how you felt when you held me during the last moments of my earthly life.

Tom, you were so gentle — as always — and I could hear your soft voice, smell your scent and feel your hot tears. I know you truly loved me.

No one knows how many times you’ve looked me in the eye and knew that this ‘animal’ would never judge you, or the number of times I was the only one by your side or how much you’ve changed since I became a part of your life. They can’t know how many times you spoke to me as if I were a human, and that I was the only one really listening, and though I didn’t understand all your words, that I was the only one who knew you were suffering and that when things went wrong, I was the only one who refused to leave your side.

Nor do they understand that crying and mourning over my passing is one of the most noble and sincere things you could do. For me, knowing that, leaves my heart full in the knowledge that you are a good and loyal friend.

Oh, the things some people don’t know – I’d stack up against what this dog understands and does so without words but through my eyes, the wag of my tail, a lap of a moist tongue and the touch of a paw at all the right moments. You did right by me, thank you and now, let your mind be at peace and your anguish be put to rest in knowing that I’m patient and will be waiting for you when that time is right, my dear, good and loving human.”

The Magic In a Moment

Forever, I will remember going to my cousin Danny’s high school graduation and while waiting outside to go in with my parents, I turned around to see a girl I knew, Barbara (whose family had moved earlier in the year,) standing on the opposite side of the glass from me. We smiled and simultaneously placed our hands on that window, mirroring each others hand gestures, before her mom called her to join her family inside the school’s auditorium.

There is still a bit of magic in that moment.

Swamp Juice

“For a buck,” Willy said to the bartender, “I’ll have a two-finger shot.” The one-eyed man smiled while watching Willy down the green-yellow liquid.

“Wow, that’s some awful tasting shit,” Willy complained as he gasped for air, “And here, I thought it was Absinthe.”

“We call it ‘Swamp Juice,’” the bartender said, continuing to issue his singular smile.

Next, Willy turned his attention to the unengaged pool table. Dropping seventy-five-cents in the slot, he pushed the lever allowing the balls to rush down and into the front tray.

He racked the balls up, then picked out a pool stick from the wall-stand, noticing it had an odd feel to it. He studied it, realizing it was made of smooth, polished bone.

“That’s so friggin’ cool,” he said.

Calmly, he placed the milky-colored cue ball behind the service line and considered the triangular arrangement at the far end of the felted table. Then he looked at the cue ball, which to his surprise had a green jaundiced iris and a penetratingly inky black pupil, staring back at him.

The eye blinked, then a flap, best described as a unfettered fold, slid over the iris and it’s accompanying pupil. Amid a startled scream of ululated terror, the barroom for Willy fell into complete darkness.

Willy awoke in an empty field of grass near a small miasmal pond, under tenebrous sunlight. He felt as if he were suffocating, as he battled to rid himself of the horde of frogs that canvassed his body.

Hurricane Dorian’s Numbers Don’t Add Up

Generally, I stay away from stories regarding the weather. As a reporter in 2005, I survived the lies and division Hurricane Katrina brought to the mainland when it made shore near New Orleans and I decided I would avoid any and all weather related news from then on.

However, I’ve been awake most of the small hours of today, researching and studying, after a friend made me aware of the strangeness happening in the Atlantic Ocean, over the Bahamas. Here is the basic layout from the National Hurricane Center (NHC), September 1, slightly before midnight: Hurricane Dorian made landfall with 185 mile-per-hour winds.

This is a typical report and an easy headline to write. However, checking the wind speeds at both Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbour International Airports, the highest wind readings were only 15 mph and 21 mph, respectively for the entire day.

Further, between the two, the highest gust generated was only 35 mph. What makes this odd is the fact that both airports, with their Federal Aviation Administration (FFA) regulated sensors, were less than 20 miles each from the eye-of-the storm, placing them in the highest wind zones at the time Dorian came ashore.

Now, to make things seem even more out-of-balance weather-wise, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maintains buoys throughout the seas, aimed at guiding ships from one place to another. Their federally regulated sensors show that the highest winds speed recorded in the path, as shown by the NHC, was only 26 mph and the lowest came in at six mph.

While Hurricane Dorian is a real storm, and all safety precautions should be taken, including evacuating if called on to do so, the math does not add up. There is a 164 mph discrepancy between the highest reading at either airport and the sustained winds as reported at 2300 hours create a 159 mph conflict in the reported data.

There is no way to reconcile these anomalies, unless I want to head down the proverbial rabbit hole and risk being labeled a conspiracy nut once more.

Vegas Restaurant Owner Missing

UPDATE: The Clark County Coroner’s Office confirms that a body found inside a car on August 28 is that of Sharon Harrell. The cause and manner of her death are still pending.

Las Vegas police are asking for your help in locating a woman who went missing on August 23 in the west valley. Sharon Harrell, 53, owner of TC’s Rib Crib, was last seen Friday near Durango Drive and Oakey Boulevard.

Harrell is 5 feet, 5 inches tall, with brown hair and hazel eyes. Anyone with information about her whereabouts can contact the Metropolitan Police Department at 702-828-3111, or the Missing Persons Detail at 702-828-2907.