So Very

At a distance, he looked old, bent, off-balance. Up close, not much changed about him, save for what he hauled on his back: a metal lawn chair.

It was loaded with a bed roll, a cooking pan and a canteen, that swung precariously from the left corner of the chair. He had fashioned a set of shoulder straps to the frame, which made his already gaunt body seem as if he were a walking skeleton.

“‘So-very-on-the-road,'” I thought.

Once home, I pulled out a lawn chair, set it in our yard, where I relaxed, feeling kingly and it promptly collapsed.

If

A Crowned Lady
Parades sadly
Through cities,
Into hills,
And valleys,
Beyond the Southern Cross.

She prays fervently
And all I do is
Touch my forehead,
My stomach
My shoulders.
Up to down,
Left and right,
As if condemned.

Perhaps I should
Be more afraid
But strangely
I find myself calm
Or the waking dead.

All the while I joke:
Toilet paper hoarders,
People who react,
Who do not act,

Me, myself and I,
Absorbed by ‘what if,’
and
Benjamin Moore paint,
Green,
Color code 33a352.
And like blood,
It covers my hands.

Thrashing in still of night,
The overhead fan cuts
The rooms quiet darkness
Like an executioner’s ax.
But still…
there is that code
And the fact that
No fact begins with ‘if.’

Tacos, Tapatío and Terror

It came to me as a high, whining sound, the kind of sound that only a dying jet engine can make as it falls to earth. I had jus’ stepped out of a business when I heard it, looked up and watched as a T-38 Talon trainer came rocketing vertically into the center of the parking lot.

The aircraft didn’t explode upon impact. Instead the crash came with a deafening roar and air-blast that knocked me down and blew me into the street.

Instead of erupting into flame, a small static discharge lept from the craft, zapping me, rendering me too weak to get up and continue running. Seconds later that firework sparkler-like discharge became a complete conflagration as a detonation finally took place.

All around me I saw people suddenly bursting into flames, the feathers of birds began to burn as they flopped about. This was quickly followed by trees, cars and buildings spontaneously exploding into a firestorm.

By this time I was laying in the gutter, between the sidewalk and street. But it was not enough, as I felt myself becoming engulfed by the hot tongues of flame that danced over my body.

This is how I woke up this morning: trying to capture my breath and understand that I wasn’t really on fire. It was nothing more than another night-terror, this time aided by a meal of two tacos and a dose of Tapatío before bedtime.

I’ve not been back to sleep…

The Touch-up Artist

An artist, that’s all Paul wanted to be ever since he could remember. All throughout school, kindergarten to twelfth grade, he turned out pieces of work, from paintings and drawings to sculptures, that ‘wowed’ everyone.

That was over four decades ago, when they said he’d be the one to go places, setting the art world’s trends for his generation. Time, unfortunately, has a bad habit of destroying such tributes and then eventually the individual dream of the one praised so highly.

Today, Paul sits on the hard wood floor of a newly built home, touching up the places where the large construction brushes and sprayers had missed their mark. He’ll go home this evening, far too tired to even think about his own forgotten craft.

Outta the Mouth

Guess I scared a child today while at the hardware store. The boy, wearing a mask,  was in the cart his mother was pushing when he looked at her and said, “That old man looks weird without a mask.”

Embarrassed, his masked mother shushed the kid and then apologized to me. I smiled and said, “No apology needed, I affect some children that way.”

As she hurried from the paintbrush aisle, I heard the boy ask her, “I thought my mask made my voice invisible?”

I’m still chuckling.

Box Store Bandida

It was a trip to the home improvement store that I didn’t want to make, but had to as I am changing out the light fixtures in our guest bathroom. After spending less than half an hour gathering what I needed, I proceeded to the cash resister.

As I’m standing in line, a properly masked couple came up behind me, maintaining the perfunctory six-feet between us, when I hear hims say, “Hon, please mind your own business.”

She ignores him and proceeds to get my attention by saying, “You should have a mask on. Don’t you watch the news and know what’s going on. There are federal government guidelines…”

I hold up a finger, which brings her comments to a halt, then smile, “I chose not too wear one because they don’t work when it comes to viruses. And like you, I don’t believe everything the federal government tells us.”

“What do you mean, like me?”

“See, those cigarettes in your purse? The Surgeon General, thus the Federal government, has been warning about the hazards of cigarette smoking since 1964 and yet — here we are.”

While I can’t be certain, but judging from the movement of her well-sewn and colorful mask, I think her mouth opened and shut twice as she tried to think of a return. As for me, it was my time to pay as I stepped up to the cashier.

Behind me I heard the man say, “I told you to mind your own business, now didn’t I?”

The Pink Wall

It was a pink wall, a simple, plain, pink wall. On it a single spot, a dark brown stain from where I was sitting.

As I sat there staring at it, I wanted terribly to get up, go over to it and clean it from the wall. It was such a perfect wall — and it was such a vulgar stain.

Then two men came in the room and checked my restraints. I stared at the that stain, knowing it would be my focal point, and that it was blood-splatter from the last person to sit in this dead man’s chair.

Shadow Puppet

Mackenzie listened attentively to her Grandpa Zeb’s scary story, this one complete with shadow puppets. Then, sooner than she liked, it was time for bed where she found it hard to fall asleep.

Abruptly, a small inky figure scurried through her bedroom, along the far wall, illuminated by the full moon’s glow. Mackenzie screamed with all of her might, sending Grandpa Zeb racing to her aid.

“A shadow!” she pointed, terrified, heart in her mouth.

Unable to find anything, Grandpa smiled before he pronounced, “Must be that one of my puppets got out. We’ll look for it in the morning.”

Time Zoned

She simply ‘popped out’ of nowhere. Henry Wagner was so shocked, he was unable to speak at first.

“You saw that, huh?” she asked.

“Yes,” Henry answered, “And now you’re gonna microwave my brain or something, make me forget?”

“No, that’s only in the movies. We never worry about someone seeing us because people are rarely believed when it comes to stuff like this.”

“That makes sense. So, how’d you do that?”

“I’m a time traveler.”

“Ah.”

“Mined telling me what year this is? Sometimes we get it wrong.”

“Sure, twenty-twenty,” Henry answered.

“Perfect,” she replied, “First Year of Quarantine.”

Pauper’s Heart

When Jackson was a kid, he was going to save the world. He did know how, he didn’t know when, he jus’ knew that it was his destiny.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t, didn’t save the world. Worse yet, he couldn’t even save himself.

Jackson died yesterday, next to a dumpster in an unnamed ally, of old age and malnutrition. Authorities picked his body up and took it to the county morgue, where it remains unclaimed and unnamed.

He’ll be buried in a pauper’s grave in three months, only grave diggers in attendance. Only God will ever know his name and the hero he had been in his heart.

But, no one was saved.

My Body, Right?

“I don’t wanna wear a mask when I go out,” he said.

“But you have to do it to protect other peoples lives,” she retorted.

“You mean like how you aborted your baby last year?” he asked.

“Hey, my body, my choice,” she screamed.

“Exactly!” he snorted.

All the Hard Days

It was 1979, early spring, and San Antonio, Texas was already dry, hot and dusty. I was 18-years-old, sweaty and on my own for the first time in my short life and the furthest I’d ever been from home after having joined the US Air Force.

Somehow I’d managed to wrangle a weekend pass and was spending as much time acting like an alcoholic on a binge, a nattily dressed civilian and a confused tourist in the River Walk District of town. Drinking and sight seeing lead me to the Alamo,where I spent more than a few hours regarding it’s hallowed ground with reverence.

It was here that I encounter a strange life-event, one that I still find hard pressed to tell properly, let alone fully explain. I was looking at the hand-carved stone archway over the front entrance, when a much, much older, short, heavy-set Mexican woman walked up and stepped in front of me.

Facing me, and before I could say anything, she took my right hand in her left and pressed a wood-bead rosary and crucifix hard into the fleshiness of my palm and said in her heavy accent, “All the hard days are coming.”

“What? I don’t understand,” I said, trying to pull my hand away.

“You will,” she returned, “Not right now, not for a very long time, but you will understand and you will know when.”

She quickly turned and walked away beyond the far corner of the old mission building that was the Alamo, leaving me holding that rosary and wondering what she’d meant. And for years, I’ve wondered and am still wondering at her words.

“All the hard days are coming,” she’d said.

New Quarantine Airport Codes

While flying around your home during this time of quarantine, social distancing and isolation, do not forget to log your correct destination prior to, during or following landing:

Living Room –LVG
Dining Room — DNG
Kitchen — KTN
Bath Room — BTH
Master Bedroom — MBR
Child’s Bedroom — CBR
Guest Bedroom — GBR
Office — OFC
Garage — GRG
Patio — PAT
Backyard –BKY

When the time comes to return to Work, use the code: WRK.

The Thermos

Even for a Spring morning, the breeze carried an unusual chill across Nevada’s Pyramid Lake. I was skipping a day of work to do some fishing.

Whatever it was, it glinted, even under the water. Not certain of the depth, I decided to chance it and wade from the shoreline to see if I could retrieve the silvery object.

Mid-thigh, I reached it and was able to barely get my fingers on it. I ended up using the thicker end of my fishing pole to push it into the shallows where I could finally grab it.

“A coffee thermos,” I thought, once I had it in hand, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it open.

An hour later, I was home and seated at my work bench, where all of my tools lay scattered. I found a small compartment on what believed was its back, that I spent some time trying to pry open with a large flat-head screwdriver.

As I worked to get it open, I discovered two large metal clamps, each large enough to close around my wrist and each had identical markings that looked like hieroglyphic inscriptions. The did not appear to be holding any part of the device together and I couldn’t think what they might be for.

Placing both of them on my wrists for safekeeping, I continued to work on the two-inch by two-inch hatch. Finally, I got it open, finding a button that glowed red, but I didn’t give it very much thought as I pushed it and the glow changed to green.

Save for an audible click from the two metal rings, I was now calling bracelets, the sudden silence was profound. It were as if the entire world had stopped making moving and I stepped out my back door to see if that were the fact.

As I stood on the porch, I noticed the dogs. Both looked as if they’d been running, one chasing the other – but now they were frozen in place, including the youngest, airborne, having stopped as if the world halted.

In the kitchen stood my wife. Her face was frozen in a smile, her eyes locked in a distance glassy stare, as if she’d been thinking some happy thought.

Racing back inside, I pushed the lighted button to red and the world returned to its noisy self. The next morning, I could hardly wait to show my best friend Gary, my discovery.

We stood in the restroom as I pulled it from my backpack.

“What in the hell is that?” he asked.

“Dunno know,” I answered, “But I do know what it does.”

“Yeah, what?”

“Better that I show you. Here put this on your wrist.”

“What’s this for?”

“You’ll see,” I answered as I pushed the button.

Gary’s eyes widened with both surprise and a touch of trepidation at the expanse of silence that settled on the both of us.

“Come on, follow me,” I said, as we stepped out into the hallway.

All around us, people stood still, each appearing to be in motion, in conversation, alive. Yet not one person moved, not one person made a sound, not even a sign of breathing.

“Where’d you get that thing?” he asked and I explained.

All that day, we wandered around the city, exploring and snooping. We even made a stop at our favorite watering hole to have a couple of drinks.

We finally returned to the office and made plans to undo what we’d done. This is where things went wrong, and why I am writing this down, though I fear no one will ever be able to read it.

With my back turned, Gary struck me in the head. The blow dropped me to the floor, splitting my scalp open, causing it to bleed fiercely, but it didn’t knock me unconscious.

As he reached for my bracelet, I rolled over and kicked him in the crotch with all of my might. He fell to his knees as I raised up and hammered home a solid punch to his face, knocking him backwards.

Quickly, I grabbed at his bracelet, holding onto it for dear life. We ended up rolling around on the floor, kicking and punch at one another.

Suddenly, Gary went still. I rolled away, realizing I had the bracelet he’d been wearing in my hand.

After sitting for a few minutes with a clothe pressed onto my head, I got up to retrieve what I’d begun calling the ‘thermos.’ In the struggle, it had been bounced from the corner of my desk to the other side of our work-space.

Concerned for it’s operation, I opened the back of the device and saw that the light was now red. I looked around me and knew it was broken, it was off and yet nobody moved.

Stuffing it into my backpack, I had to hurry home. I wanted to see if I could repair the damage, plus I has the second bracelet and I wanted to share it with my wife, should it work.

After a long walk home and with darkness falling, I pushed open the front door and closed it be hind me. I wasn’t prepared for what I found, her naked, straddling our neighbor and my friend Bob, in our bed.

Immediately, I forgot all of my plans as I slumped against the bedroom wall and to the floor, with the flesh-bearing and bare flesh statuary in front of me. I sat there lost in my thoughts.

Finally, I got up and went into the kitchen where I located an unopened bottle of Crown and took a healthy draw. Finally and after draining half the bottle, I collapsed on the couch and slipped into an unfitful sleep, with the hope that when I wake everything would be all better.

The next day seemed like the same day and perhaps it was, but trying to wrap my brain around that idea left my head spinning even more than it was. I was very confused as I sat up and tried to convince myself that it had all been a terrible dream caused by a night of binge drinking.

Slowly, I stumbled back down the hall only reconfirm that it was not a dream, but in fact a reality, albeit, a harsh one and on pause.

After doing my best to clean myself up, battle the ache of my head, and the aching in my head, I thought about what I should do about my situation. But first, I had an idea and it involved my soon-to-be ex-wife.

Standing at the side of the bed, I collapsed the bracelet around her wrist. She jumped as she came to ‘life,’ and looked at me in horror and shock as Bob lay still beneath her.

Knowing that she now knew, that I knew what she and Bob had been doing behind my back, I yanked the bracelet from her, leaving her frozen in place, half-on and half-off the bed. It was the best revenge I could think of as I headed back out to my tool bench to see if I could repair the ‘thermos.’

That was nearly a week ago and I have still to fix this thing that is making my life a living hell. Ironically, this hell I’m in isn’t because I’ve lost two friends and my wife – it’s because of isolation, the lack of human contact and of sound.

Finally, I have returned to where this all started, Pyramid Lake. The water is like a piece of glass and there is no breeze unlike the last time I was here and further, my legs hurt because along with people, motor vehicles do not operate and I had to pedal a bicycle the twenty-five miles to get here.

Perhaps, I should toss this thing back in the water, lay down and wait for death to take me, unless that’s been halted, too. I find myself wishing and praying that I’d never found the damned thing.

But before I chuck it out into the deep, I do something either proving my total stupidity or proving me to be somehow fortuitous. I opened the back of the ‘thermos,’ and gave the button one final push.

My stomach turned over at the sudden heavy rush of sound and other life that bombarded me. Dumbfounded, I looked at the ‘thermos,’ and saw that the light wasn’t lit, neither red nor green glowing, and that’s when I realized that the diode has simply burnt out.

With elation, I have returned the ‘thermos’ to my backpack and I’m preparing for my long ride back home.

From sightly beyond 36-thousand miles above Earth, tucked unseen inside the Van Allen Radiation Belt, a trio of scientist from MACS0647-JD, watch in disappointment. Only one of them moves to make the notation of, “Roaisem meg roulmoja,” into their ship’s communication log, which translates to “Lesson not learned.”

Slice

For whatever reason, ‘Top Side’ delivered fifty pizzas to our ‘in-country’ platoon, all pepperoni and cheese. None of that mattered as it was different from the usual c-rats we were used to getting as a nightly fare, three times a day.

All fifty pies disappeared within minutes of being served, save for a single slice, with a single piece of pepperoni on it.

“Who want’s the last slice?” someone bellowed, as he picked it up from the now empty box laying on our stand-up table. The question touched-off a sudden brawl, as several Marines scrambled for the precious ‘back-in-the-world’ morsel.

Allergy

Though I’m not a fan of honey, I’m not allergic to it, nor am I allergic to a bee’s sting, though I was stung more than a hundred times once. But I am allergic to the hive and it’s droning ever on.

Heaviness of Early Morning

The sun wasn’t even up when a huge bang shuddered its way through the house and our dream-time. It was so loud and frightening that the dogs jumped from the bed and raced from the bedroom growling wildly.

I awoke thinking, “What the hell – did a car jus’ drive through our front room or something?!”

Immediately, I scrambled for my britches and a shirt, got dressed and headed out the front door to search for the cause of this massive noise. I quickly found it.

My neighbor had opened the heavy steel door to the extra large garbage bin he’d rented, and it slammed into our fence, which is connected to the corner of our home, causing the bang to echo loudly down the wall.

“Sorry, it was an accident. Didn’t realize how heavy the damned thing was,” he said.

I smiled, “Accidents happen, besides I’ve been promising myself to start getting up early again instead of sleeping in like I have been.”

“Well, again, sorry for waking you,” he said.

“No problemo,” I responded in pseudo-Mexican.

While he works in his backyard, my wife and I are enjoying some of the 70’s and 80’s soft-rock sounds of our childhoods.

Pure Democracy

Free association writing time…again…

The trail was supposed to be well marked with a series of red arrows pointing the way to the meeting area. But a rain storm caught up in a wind storm had blown many of the markers down or left them dangling haphazardly from the trees on which they’d been affixed.

That’s how the trio of women became lost. Using the democratic system of voting rather than common sense as taught years ago by ‘Blue Bird’ troops everywhere, the elected to move on, to see if they might find their way out of the woods.

By dark, they were so far off course that they, again via the democratic system of three to nothing, the stop for the night and seek shelter amid some toppled trees. The darkness proved to be a long nightmare as none of the three were able to really sleep, the crack, the crunch, the snapping of twigs left them awake and frightened.

Come sunrise, exhausted and hungry, they each crawled stiffly from their places and greeted the warmth of a new day with lengthy stretches and big yawns. Each was happy to have survived the nighttime and though bone-weary were ready to struggle through the coming day.

“Hey, look down there,” one cried out. She had slipped away for a minute or two in order to relieve herself.

The other two rushed to her side. Down the steep but muddy and somewhat treacherous slope was the lodge from which they had left on their hike the day before.

“So, let’s put it to a vote,” one said, before asking, “Do we go straight down the hillside or should we go find the trail back?”

The women raised their hands.

Not Your Grandpa’s Fairy Tale

Out of gratitude, and after being saved by a man, a savage she-wolf secretly turned into a human in order to become his loving wife. They lived happily for years without him ever knowing her secret.

Then late one night, under a full moon, the man looked inside her dressing room only to discover her true nature. Mixed with her human form, she turned back into the savage she-wolf, killing her husband, before she disappeared into the darkness, never to be seen again.

On full moon nights, she can be heard baying skyward and in shame for what she’s done.

Hard Up

If I were a betting man, and I’m not, I think most ‘social isolating’ men in the US are so hard up for current sports programming, that they’d watch foreign soccer matches, even if they didn’t understand a word being said. Best bring on the beer and chips, if they do.

Night Terrors Return

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve have a night-terror. Again, I was being violent in my sleep, being physically attacked by another person. I wish I were able to figure out why these occur like they do, why they disappeared for the while and why they’ve returned.

My continued battle with insomnia is bad enough, but jus’ getting to sleep only to have this happen, sheesh! So, here I am, sitting at my computer, that I had shut-off an hour-and-a-half earlier, logged on and writing.

On the plus side, I finally got my unemployment filed. However, I received a message from the website saying I have to call them to complete the interaction. That ticked me off at first, then I saw the ironic humor in it and found myself laughing at it instead.

Think I’ll go lay down, try to get some sleep. Not!

Las Vegas’ Lost Murder Victim

The year was 1993, when now-convicted serial killer Samuel Little was preparing to head out of Las Vegas and back to Los Angeles, in his 1978 yellow Cadillac Eldorado. While still in Vegas, he says that he met a black woman near Owens and Jackson and later killed her.

Little describes her as a thin, dark-skinned, African-American woman, about 40 years old, around five-foot, five-inches tall and between 110 and 120 pounds. He believes the woman had naturally short hair but wore a long-haired wig.

He also remembers the woman pointing out her son, a black male who was somewhere between 19 and 23 years old at the time. After meeting the young man, Little says he took the woman to a motel room, where he strangled her to death.

He claims that he placed the woman’s body in the trunk of his car and drove to the outskirts of Las Vegas, where he pulled off on a remote road and rolled the woman’s body down a steep slope. He then threw her clothing out of his car while traveling down another side road.

Because of the lack of remains or a missing persons report in this case, Little’s account of killing this woman has yet to be confirmed. If you have any information linked to the woman depicted in the sketch, please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit at tip online at tips.fbi.gov.

The Muscheyowok’ Forest Giants

She followed her Grandpa into the woods behind his home. She’d never been allowed to go there, but at seven-years-old, she was a big girl now.

He had told her the name of the forest as they stepped onto the trail that lead through the tall Redwoods, but it was so hard to say, she jus’ stayed with, “I tell the truth” woods. Grandpa said that if she were to say anything, it would come true in these woods and she believed the old man.

She was trotting to keep up with his longer strides, and when he realized this he found a fallen log and sat down on it. As she scrambled up next to him, he was busy packing tobacco into his pipe and lighting it.

“Are their fairies and dwarfs in these woods?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said delighting in her childhood imagination, adding, “And giants, too.”

She looked around, “I can see a fairy over there and there are two dwarfs looking at us from under those ferns in front of us.”

He smiled.

“Are they dangerous?”

“They can be. Fairies never, dwarfs sometimes, when they’re being mischievous, and giants always.”

“What keeps them away?”

“Tobacco and tobacco smoke.”

“How does that work?”

“The Yurok Indians offer tobacco to the Spirits to keep themselves and their families safe. Sometimes they leave it in a single spot, or they let it spread on the wind or they smoke it.”

“So, is that why those three giant’s behind us won’t come any closer?”

“That’s right,” he said as she looked down at her.

It was then that he took note of her face, the terror in her eyes, the slight tremble in in her lower lip. He turned and looked behind them.

To both his shock and amazement, he saw three very tall giants standing behind them. He jumped from the log and turned to face them.

The three didn’t move.

With no time to figure out how such mythical creatures could be, he instructed the little girl, in a near whisper, “Get under the log and hide. And when the giant’s follow me, you get up and run back to the house as fast as you can. Understand?”

“Yes,” she whispered back.

He gently tapped the glowing cherry from his pipe, crushed it under foot and then yelled loudly, waving his arms frantically, “Follow me, you ugly beasts!”

The three giants sprang back at the sudden commotion.

A second later the old man took off at a sprint up the trail and the three giants followed. And though his legs carried him quickly, they were no match for the giants, who gained on him in less than half-a-minute.

One of them grabbed him up, then held him upside down, shaking him aggressively. Everything in his pockets fell to the ground, including his gold pocket watch and he even lost his glasses as they slipped from his nose.

“I’m done in,” he thought, “But hopefully she’s made it home by now.”

As the giants grunted over their upcoming morsel of food, they failed to notice the tiny figure that stood in their midst. She had her grandpa’s pipe and was filling it with tobacco and lighting it a quickly as she could.

She breathed in and then breathed out and with a violent cough, sent up a large blue cloud of smoke, then shouting and waving her arms, “Let my Grandpa go!”

The trio stood there, confounded and puzzled by this child’s behavior. Never in their hundreds of years had they seen one so young, so little, act so brazenly.

“I said, let my Grandpa go!” she hollered and stepped forward, before blowing out another cloud of tobacco smoke.

The one dangling Grandpa upside down, dropped the old man with a thud. Unhurt, but very frightened, he got to his feet and quickly walked over to his granddaughter.

Smiling, she handed him the pipe and he took a long, large drag from it’s bowl and stem, before turning on the giants and heaving a breathe of dark blue smoke in their direction. The three took several steps back before turning and running away, disappearing into the Muscheyowok’ Forest.

“You were right Grandpa, tobacco smoke does keep us safe,” the little girl announced.

“But only because you didn’t run away like I told you to do,” the old man weakly smiled.

Then with some haste, Grandpa grabbed the Granddaughter’s hand and began making for home along the trail. He had only a short while to figure out what to tell his wife and worse yet, his daughter, the girls mother about what had happened.

Handy-woman

An old joke, reworked…

A blonde teen, wanting to earn some extra money for the summer, decided to hire herself out as a “handy-woman”

She started canvassing a nearby well-to-do neighborhood. She went to the front door of the first house, and asked the owner if he had any odd jobs for her to do.

“Well, I guess I could use somebody to paint my porch,” he said, “How much will you charge me?”

Delighted, the girl quickly responded, “How about $50?”

The man agreed and told her that the paint brushes and everything she would need was in the garage.

The man’s wife, hearing the conversation said to her husband, “Does she realize that our porch goes all the way around the house?”

He responded, “That’s a bit cynical, isn’t it?”

The wife replied, “You’re right. I guess I’m starting to believe all those dumb blonde jokes we’ve been getting by email lately.”

Later that day, the teen came to the door to collect her money.

“You’re finished already?” the startled husband asked.

“Yes,” she replied, “And I even had paint left over, so I gave it two coats.”

Impressed, the man reached into his pocket for the $50.00 and handed it to her along with a $10.00 tip.

“And, by the way,” the teenager added, “It’s not a Porch, it’s a Tesla.”

Spirit Mimic

“For several years a mockingbird perched in that large pine by our home,” she stated.

“Have you ever seen it?” her friend interrupted, before adding, “We don’t have mockingbirds in this area.”

“No, I’ve never seen it, but I know that it would mock our Labrador Retriever’s bark, baying back at them throughout the evening,” she added.

“But, I’m telling you,” the friend repeated, “We don’t have mockingbirds in this area.”

Professor Henry Hearthstone listened intently. It was obvious to him that a Spirit Mimic had established an unearthly presence in the woman’s tree and very likely remains there today.

Those Few

Last night, I went to the grocery store. When the cashier asked me how I was doing, I answered, “I’m doing great!”

“And how about you, how are you doing?” I asked in return.

He answered, and then following a minor pause thanked me for asking ‘because so few people do.’

My Americana

Another exercise in free association writing…

With hot coffee and cup in hand I stepped out into the morning, moving from my front porch to the sidewalk. That’s where I sat down – mot jus’ anywhere, mind you – but right over the numbers that address my home.

The sun warmed my back and I sipped from my cup and thought, “Aside from the breeze, this is a glorious day.”

Minutes later I could see a woman and two dogs walking my way. She is young blonde, slightly over weight and tall, but nice looking.

With her are two labs, one black the other a yellow. The yellow is not tethered, trusted not to run off, smart, while the black lab is on a lead.

The yellow lab, true to her nature, comes over to me in a cautious manner to check me out: “Is he a threat,” she is assessing, “No, he smells okay and has good energy,” and returns to her human’s side.

“Beautiful day, isn’t it?” she asks.

“Wonderful,” I reply, “A great day to soak up some sun!”

The entire conversation in a nutshell. She proceeds up the street, turning to disappear at the next corner, either to continue her walk or to return home.

As she walks from sight, I see my neighbor driving towards me. I didn’t even notice that she had left.

With a big smile, she waves and wheels her car into the driveway, and once out says, “Had to go get the boys some milk for their breakfast.”

“I know how that goes,” I smile back.

Then she adds, “I’m taking half a day from work today so I can get started on our backyard.”

“Oh, cool,” I answer back, having forgotten that she’s been working from her house since the establishment of ‘social distancing,’ and such.

“Well, have a good day,” she says jus’ before disappearing inside, “And enjoy the sunshine!”

“Thank you. Will do,” I shout a second too late as her front door has already thumped closed.

“Morning,” I hear from across the street.

It’s my other neighbor. He’s putting out his American flag.

I holler back, “Good morning! How are you doing?”

“We’re doing great,” he returns, including his wife in his statement, as he walks back to his front door, “Have a good day.”

“You, too,” I call out as his screen door squeaks and the door itself, slaps shut.

I take the final swallow of coffee from my cup, concluding that this is a good point at which to retire back to my humble abode. Besides, my wife will be backs soon from her daily walk and I want more coffee before I sit down to write.

Waxing Whiskey

“Why in the hell do you make it sound like you’re a heavy drinker?” my wife asked, “When we both know that you’re not.”

“Persona,” I answered, “Strictly persona.”

“I don’t even know what that means,” she returned.

“Well, persona means…” I began.

“I know the definition,” she said in frustration, “I jus’ don’t get why you want that to be you persona. It’s not a very flattering.”

“Yeah,” I replied, “But it does make me seem a little more of a character than the flat, two-dimensional person I really am.”

“Still doesn’t make any sense to me,” she finished.

“Well, I can’t make myself any taller or even anymore devastatingly handsome than I already am, can I?” I shot back.

“Oh shit,” she said, rolling her eyes at me with her broad smile.

Spreading More Than Yellow Journalism

Two Los Angeles Times reporters are traveling throughout rural California, (including Crescent City, Del Norte County, where I grew up,) filing news stories about how people are dealing with COVID-19. So, imagine coming from a heavily populated area with a number of infected and deaths to small towns where they’re not seeing the same numbers. Ignorance supreme.

View from Above

NASA’s $1 billion Juno spacecraft completed its eleventh trip around the planet Jupiter, sending back a bunch of new pictures, and yet no one could maintain the camera in Jeffery Epstein’s New York jail cell.

It Doesn’t Mean What It Says

Lovely, the fake news services are at it again…this time Reuters.

Posted on another social media site that a number of Martial Law activities were introduced to the US following 9/11 in the form of the so-called ‘Patriot Act,’ and not only remain in place, but continue to be built upon. It was pulled down after being deemed ‘fake information,’ thus violating that sites community standards.

Pishaw!

A Fresh Kind of Hell

By the Nevada government closing down all school’s, where my wife took a job in food services, after retiring from the sandwich shop she worked at for 30 years, she’s been forced to collect unemployment. But the effing system has been over-worked and on Friday they pulled it down to repair whatever the hell they repair on it, and it has been even slower.

Now we don’t know where her check is and we can’t find a single live human to speak to it about — not with out a projected wait time of 11 hours. Such bullshit which I’m calling a fresh kind of Hell.

Cashless

“I don’t know why I let you talk me into this,” she complained, “It’s nothing but bullshit.”

“At least it got us out of the house after being locked up for so long,” her husband returned.

“Yeah,” she continued, “But I’m not gonna buy into the idea that all this quarantine crap we jus’ went through is them, whoever ‘them’ is, grooming us to be strictly a cashless society.”

“Can we please, at least stick it out?” he asked.

“No!” she declared, “I’m gonna go get our money back.”

“What money?” he queried, reminding her, “I used our debit card.”

Underworld

In 2006, NASA downgraded Pluto, which is named for the Roman god of the underworld and judge of the dead, from a regular planet to a dwarf planet. Not to be a full-on conspiracy theorist — but it kinda makes sense now why all this shit’s happening.

Free Association Whiskey and Writing

Not even 10 minutes ago I was falling asleep while reading, put down the book, turned off my light and BLAM-O, I’m wide awake, my single piston brain firing away for all it is worth. I have no idea what in the hell this is all about.

So, I’m up writing and working on my third shot of whiskey since sunset…

Now to the real meat of my mind; writing. I thought about quitting it altogether, but I don’t think I can because it has been a part of my life for so long it would be like cutting off a part of my body. Here, take my pecker instead, I don’t use it save for a pee-straw and I think we have a couple of real plastic straws (not the paper one’s you get in California) in one of the kitchen cabinets that I can substitute for that thing.

Wait, another sip is needed…

Since not writing is an unacceptable stance to take, I think how about simply writing everything into one of the several spiral notebook I’ve got stashed away in this house. Maybe, maybe not.

Then I think: how about no longer writing stories and instead doing something like a ‘live journal.’ That’s an idea worth considering – I mean I am not getting famous, nor am I getting rich plying words to a blog – so why not write nonsense shit throughout the day and take some of the pressure of developing a story each time I wanna post something.

Let me have another taste for good measure…

Honestly, writing comes pretty easy for me as I have, in my effed-up manic-depressive, PTSD’d brain, idea upon idea of stories rolling around. It’s jus’ I don’t always have the energy or desire to pull them out my ass and set them to computer font (which is Liberation Serif 12.)

It’s been like this all my life and I can’t curtail it now. If I did, I am afraid I’d have a complete melt down because it is the ability to let words free flow, like they are now, that keeps me in the half-sane state of half-assed confusion I’ve managed to carve out in this juncture of my life.

Excuse me as I…ahh…

Yeah, that ‘Live Journal’ idea is sounding more and more like the way to go. Practical, no plot lines, no work-in-progress, no main characters…’cept little ol’ egotistical me.

The Pain

“I don’t believe having a baby is as painful as getting kicked in the nuts,” he stated emphatically.

“Pig!” she countered, in anger, “How can you say such a thing?”

“Women have babies, complain about the pain, but then turn around and have a second,” he explained, “I’ve never heard of a man in his right mind ask to be kicked in the balls even once, let alone a second time. ”

“You’re such a fucking misogynist,” she growled, before storming away and locking herself in their bedroom.

He sat on their couch, knowing it would be his bed that night.

The Finster Hollow Short-cut

Peter lived in the small town of Virginia City, Nevada all of his life. Therefore he knew the rules about Six-mile Canyon’s short-cut.

The first was the easiest to follow: don’t use the short-cut. The second and third were to be followed if it were to be used – not at night and never under a full moon.

As for the short-cut, it ran throughout the entirety of the town. And it was known to be cursed.

Peter however couldn’t recall anyone ever having fallen victim to the curse. Further, he’d used the short-cut several times, becoming convinced that the so-called malediction wasn’t real.

One night, the 16-year-old had attended a going-away party at a friends house when he decided to use the short-cut to get home before his midnight curfew. Dark though it was, and with a full moon hidden behind a band of clouds, Peter turned down the cut.

Almost immediately he tripped over a vine or branch and fell to the ground. As he got to his feet, he found himself being tethered by tendrils that wrapped themselves tight about his head, waist, arms and legs.

Even as he struggled to escape, he felt himself lifted from the ground and splayed in every direction. The pain was eminence, but death came quick as Peter’s head was ripped violently from his neck followed by other parts of his body.

Within minutes, nothing remained of Peter, but the town’s quick fading memory of his existence and the Six-mile Canyon curse.

Yellow Pee

I’m tired of drinking water only — and all day long, jus’ to have my pee remain yellow. Also tired of my wife yelling at me, telling me to quit eating the finger paints. I already ran out of the body paints. When all the paints are gone, I’m gonna start on the Elmer’s Glue.

Returning to Twelve

My wife thinks I’m acting worse than a pre-teen me. And I have to agree with her on this one.

Hell, I don’t even care how this missive is received, jus’ as long as I’m doing something besides staring at the ceiling fan. Fan — short for fanatic and not fantastic!

I’m old enough to remember being on restriction for the entire summer, locked down in my bedroom with a radio and a set of encyclopedias. I read the entire effing set and was still bored shitless out of my mind. Not only did I read, but I also wrote as well as tried to teach myself to type on an old and broken typewriter my dad salvaged from the dump one day.

So yeah, with YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime viewing, either exhausted or found to be wanting, I’m out of options. Because of this, I’ve returned to my childhood ways: playing outside, running in and out of the house, leaving one or more doors open and complaining that I’m bored.

Now my wife his threatening to use her only wooden spoon on my ass if I don’t straighten up. And if she does end up using it, at least it’ll be something different from our generally TV/Internet laden day and evening.

Oh, and god-damn that refrigerator of ours and it’s continuous siren-song of fat-filled humming and buzzing. When the wife isn’t looking, I intend to drive a few metal screws into the doors and permanently seal its gaping maw shut.

The little bastard in me is on the loose, so get your son-of-a-bitchin’ spoon ready, hon!

By the Sword

It was the
Sword he was
To fall upon.

After all, he
Had done it
Many times before.

We expected nothing
More from him.

So when he
Lifted it up,
Leaning the sword
Against his neck,
Hanging his arms,
Resting on it,
We were not
At all surprised.

He was though,
Having no idea
How sharp that
Blade really was.

His heads rests
Far afield and
Out of sight
While his sword
In memory, hangs.

His Death

Life had been a series of cheap, rundown hotel and motel rooms. Befitting a predator; pedophile, sex trafficker, pornographer, abuser, who never saw his own ending coming, face down, midway between the toilet and bed.

Etiolated claws reach for him, ripped labrum stretching in a rictus of evil. The thing has his aspects, twisted into the visage that truly lies beneath his own dying skin.

“Come,” the cadaveric creature whispers hoarsely.

His blackened soul yells, screams, begs, but Death ignores his pleadings as it scoops him up, carrying him towards the hideous tear in the black-and-blue bruise of sky. As it rises, obliteration enlightens him, bringing its hideous aperture close to his decaying ormer.

There’s a putrid stench caressing his front-piece, stinking of gin, bologna and cheese and cigarillos. The breath of his own death.

Asked my wife that when this ‘self-isolation’ stuff is over, could I take her out on a date. She said, ‘Sure,’ and gave me a fake phone number.

The Outer-edges

Where most husbands created a ‘man-cave,’ Jasper Clarke had a study. It’s here that he had been spending longer than normal hours, reading, writing, and in essence, studying everything he could about COVID-19.

He thought it a wise use of his ‘self-isolation’ time.

A self-directed courses in virology wasn’t his normal interest, as usually he’d be searching out something more specific, more understandable, more relatable to his chosen genre of horror-fiction. But at the moment, Jasper Clarke couldn’t find any greater horror than the one the country and the world faced at that moment.

If ever there was a Lovecraftian monster roaming the outer-edges of both imagination and reality, Clarke couldn’t find it, and yet he couldn’t tell from the majority of his Internet searches, whether the virus was as great or less a threat than being made out.

Abnormal, accursed, amorphous, antediluvian, blasphemous, cyclopean, daemonic, eldritch, fetid, gibbering, indescribable, iridescent, loathsome, squamous, unmentionable, unnameable, unutterable. This left Clarke more than worried, because here was a true monster that defied all description.

Not only was the threat otherworldly, in the form of unseen, but to the real world, his world, this could be a monster so great that it might never be able to put back in the shadows. Because of this, sleep refused to fill Clarke’s eyes or head as he sat at his desk into the darker hours of the early morning.

Questions abound: does hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin work? Certainly they can inhibit the ability of malaria to act, but malaria is a parasite and not a virus.

But further more, can any component within the COVID-19 virus be effected by these two common drugs? There seemed to be nothing but opinion over opinion, those for nay, those for yay, on the subject.

Plus, he couldn’t help but recall how his father had suffered from malaria over the years. And even with this first hand knowledge, he couldn’t tell if he were on the right path to a good horror story.

Next was the use of ventilators. Should they be used in only the most dire of circumstance and could they be the cause of lung damage as witnessed in x-ray after x-ray?

And could the problem actually be not a lack of oxygen but an inability to transfer oxygen, because there was a difference. But again, he was uncertain given the myriad of differing opinions he discovered.

He felt a chilled sweat coat his body as the idea, could this confusion of fact and opinion, be purposeful? He shuttered at the thought.

Then there were the numbers, numbers that failed to register to the level of pandemic, yet people were dying. This much Clarke knew and fully understood.

Further, Clarke could not get beyond the fact that he could see basic freedoms being shed and that with their shedding came a loss. But of what? Nefarious didn’t cover all of the bases in this situation, even for a seasoned horror-fiction writer.

Then he stumbled onto something called ‘Event 201,’ an exercise between the US and China, portrayed as a ‘doomsday scenario,’ with an ultimate outcome of “world wide vaccines and RFID chips.” This discovery tied into a real-life program called, ‘ID 2020,’ which has the same goal in mind, which Clarke read about earlier in the evening.

It was 3:13 am when Clarke decided to begin tapping at his keyboard:

“There are things outside the confines of my home, right outside this window,” Nate Olson wrote in his private journal, “Things seen and unseen and both as deadly to the body and soul as either.

Olson decided at that moment that he should remain hidden in his study, in his home, holed up, but prepared to repel and terminate any monster that came for him or his family. And if he couldn’t do that, he’d terminate his family.

“That is the fear of the thing,” he added, before turning off his desk lamp.

Jasper Clarke coughed hard, realizing he was too winded and exhausted to continue.

Fight or Flight

Shaving kit, check. Three pair of underwear, check. Three tee-shirts, check. Three pair of socks, check. One pair of pants, check.

All the bare essentials one needs for a two day trip home in a single bag. Check.

Seven that morning, check-in counter, 90-minutes before boarding: “I’m afraid there will be a fifty-dollar charge for your carry-on.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Sorry, sir, but that’s what it will cost for your carry-on bag.”

“No one told me it would cost anything extra for less than ten pounds of clothing and an effing shave kit!”

“Sorry, sir, but it’s company policy.”

Decisions.

Inside Time

The time continuum does not really exist, never has; it is simply a science-fiction writer’s construct. I learned this, this morning as I ran into myself coming out of a grocery store.

I looked at me with as much surprise as I did when I recognized that stupid look on my face, that one that is so familiar to me. We stood there, dumbfounded, lost in our surprises as other shoppers move by us in rapid succession without seeing either of us.

“How are you?” I finally asked.

“I…I…I’m…” I stuttered, learning that I was using my voice.

As I stepped back to allow me to exit the door way, I vanished, evaporating like a million-upon-million pixels into the wintry atmosphere. I never got the chance to answer me or ask me how I was doing.

From there, my entire day has been a series of a thousand micro-shifts and wavy distortions, much like heat coming off asphalt, and all of them in my mind. And now, this evening, as I lay in my bed, it comes to me that I might be singular to only me and how I am the one who vanished.

Perhaps I’ll still be here come morning, or maybe, I’ll be here when the sunrises.

One More Day

The patrol of guardsmen, dressed in their desert camouflage, is easing through the higher sagebrush, each with their M-4 Carbine held at the ready. Their eyes squint against the blazing sun, searching for their human prey, this one, who is in violation.

While they makes almost no sound, their shifting movement give their positions away. And because they do not know it, nestled motionless in the sand near their passing boots, the last one moves by me.

Unfortunately, one ‘tail-end-Charlie’ will never return to his family again and I will survive to hunt and to be hunted one more day.

Boredom

“Gotta cigarette by chance?” my new neighbor asks as he sit down on the sidewalk’s edge, a few feet from me.

“Sorry, no I don’t,” I answer.

“’Bout to have myself a nicotine fit if the wife doesn’t hurry up home soon.”

I think about asking him if he has a beer, as a joke, but then I think better of it.

A pearl white Escalade cruises by. The woman behind the wheel acts as if she doesn’t see us as we get all neighborly by waving at her.

From the other direction comes a woman walking her dog; a Bull Mastiff. She guides him off the sidewalk, not wanting to deal with us two lumps of humanity or perhaps knowing that her dog will either want to make friend’s or rip our faces off.

Half right. The dog takes a shine to me, licking my face and begging for a belly rub, but only after he growls brutishly at my neighbor.

“Don’t take it hard,” I say to him, “Little kids and dogs love me. It’s women who find me unattractive.”

The woman pulls hard at her dog’s leash and leads him away without a word.

“Did I say something wrong?” I asked.

“Damned if I know, buddy,” he answers.

We both laugh. But the chuckles end quickly as his wife wheels into the drive and he goes into their house behind her without a word.

I smell my right arm pit, then my left, wondering if it’s me.

Then I have a wonderful idea. I race into the house to search the freezer for a hidden bottle of Sangria that I find tucked behind the ice cream sandwiches, a bag of mixed vegetables and an ice-encrusted box of fish sticks purchased last year.

Once outside, I return to my spot on the sidewalk, twist off the bottle’s cap and take a healthy gulp. No sooner had the mouthful reached my stomach, a cop slows to a stop, rolls down his window and commands, “No open containers in public.”

Quickly, I retreat ten feet backwards into my yard of dormant winter grass. The cop roll his window up and continues to move down the road.

My mind drifts to the idea of laying back and falling asleep. Instead, I take another couple of gulps from the bottle.

Here comes the cop again, this time from the opposite direction. The glare he gives me as he passes tells me how badly he wants to stop, provoke me into doing something stupid, so he can put his nickle-plated bracelets on me and race me to jail.

I raise my bottle in salute to him and watch as he slips beyond the parked cars lining the street.

Another couple of mouthfuls and I put the cap back on. I then lay back and close my eyes, allowing the warmth of the alcohol course its way through my entire body.

When I awake, it’s raining and must have been for sometime as I’m soaked clean through to my skin. I get up and go inside the house.

“I can be jus’ as bored in here as out there,” I say as if the world were listening, “And I can do it while dry and warm.”

The Great Society Box

“Before you is a box and key,” the tribunal inquisitor said to the newest ten initiates, “You’re to keep both with you at all times. Guard your box with your life. Do not unlock it, open it or even look in it. Those are your instructions. The Great Society shall see you again in 40 days.”

On the fortieth day, the ten gathered before the tribunal, each with their box in hand. Nine of them were dismissed immediately, which left the tenth initiate confused as he had violated all the rules given him regarding entrusting of the box.

The greatest infraction was having unlocked, opened and the looking inside of the box.

“Were you disappointed?” asked the inquisitor.

“At first,” answered the initiate, “But after some reasoning I realized that the hand-hewn stone is meant to convey a meaning and I understand that meaning to be ‘foundation.’

“That is correct, but why did you open the box in the first place?”

“Curiosity. I needed to know what was so important that I was told to guard it with my life.”

“And did you think it was worth it, guarding it with your life, I mean?”

“No.”

“And why is that?”

“It is merely a symbol of something that can actually be torn down and reformed again.”

“That’s an interesting observation. So any other thoughts regarding what you found in the box?”

“Yes, imagination.”

“I don’t follow.”

“I used my imagination to unlock it’s final truth.”

“And that would be?”

“You rely far too much on man and not enough on God,” the initiate returned.

“Very good!” the inquisitor exclaimed, “Now that we have put your membership to a test, we shall put the same to a vote.”

“That won’t be necessary.”

“Why?”

“Because you have nothing more to offer me.”

“That is quite insulting, sir!” the inquisitor exclaimed.

“Perhaps,” the initiate countered, “But what beyond ‘curiosity,’ ‘reasoning,’ and ‘imagination,’ can you offer me in your Great Society? A place? Position? Wealth? Those things I can find for myself.”

The chamber remained stunned and silent as their would-be initiate walked from it.

And on The Sixteenth Day

Their neighbor Kelly came over for a visit, something that was severely frowned on. It was the sixteenth day of a 40 day quarantine, where everyone was supposed to remain a certain distance from each other and to isolate in their homes, save for the trip to the store for the essentials.

“Thought you said your husband was out in the garden,” Kelly commented.

“He is,” Sarah replied.

“I don’t see him,” Kelly returned, as she looked out the kitchen window once again.

“I promise you, Kelly,” Sarah stated, “He’s out there. You jus’ gotta dig a little deep is all.”

Quickly becoming my dogs. Get yelled at for getting too close to strangers, falling asleep on the couch at all hours, wandering pointlessly about the house both day and night, getting excited about car rides, constantly searching for food and staring out the windows.

Season of Quarantine

He had slipped out with the intent to be gone through nightfall. He knew all the roving patrol schedules and found that he could avoid their detection in the early hours of the morning and evening.

He crawled and slid his way across the open fields, between the many compounds, until he slipped into the treeline and up the shallow hill and into the open desert. Once there, he’d begin his hunt to put extra food on their supper table during this ‘saison de quarantaine.’

In the depths of winter on that Friday morning, he found himself tracking game along an unfamiliar, but heavily used animal trail. He nocked up an arrow and sat down to wait.

Down the path, he heard the sounds of movement; the cracking of twigs, bushes and such. Assuming it was perhaps a wild boar, he drew the arrow back and held, waiting to see his target.

Something flitted between the openings in the darker underbrush. Then, like the archer he knew himself to be, he loosed his deadly arrow.

He heard the thing strike its target with a knowing thump. This was followed quickly by a scream of pain from a beast whose cry he did not recognize.

Slowly, he moved to where the animal should have fallen, another arrow already nocked up and ready, but there was nothing to be found. Then a low angry rumble began behind him, followed by the slow blink of a pair of yellow eyes glowing from inside the thick brush.

His skill, he knew, may not be enough to save him and that supper might be late, if supper came at all.

The Stranding

The sea was at low tide and I could see the jut of rocks a quarter mile out, sticking up from the surface. It was these that I decided would make a good point to swim towards as I entered the chilled Pacific waves.

Invigorated, I climbed from the water and found that my perch was much larger than I could have seen from my vantage point on the sand. Amid the clefts and jags of this perch sat a woman, or what I believed to be a woman.

She turned to look at me and I immediately knew this was no woman in the literal sense of human. No, she was a mermaid, bare breasted, scaled and finned from the hips down.

I gasped in shear fright as she smiled a shark-toothed grin towards me.

“Poor darling,” she said in voice that sounded quite beautiful and very calming, “The tide comes in and you’ll soon drown or you may try to swim back and I’ll drown you. Either way, you become my day’s meal.”

Slightly to the south of me, I saw a small boat. I waved my arms and screamed with great panic for help.

As I did this, the thing heaved its body towards me with tremendous speed, knocking me down. It held in it’s hand a bone knife that it stabbed into my left shoulder twice and with quick succession.

Waking as the two fishermen lifted me into their boat, I struggled with them, thinking they were my eldritch attacker. Once they hauled me aboard, they quickly motored for land.

One of them told me how they had seen the seal lion attacking me. They’d seen how it had knocked me down and how I acquired the deep puncture wounds to my upper torso and how fortunate I was that they happened along.

I objected strenuously to this recreated version, before fading into unconsciousness once again.

Once ashore they said I was suffering from a fever brought on blood loss and fright attack. And they attributed my loose-tongued hallucination to these, meanwhile confirming it had been a large seal lion that had battered my stricken body.

But I know better, as later that same day, a woman and her dog were ‘swept from the nearby jetty by a rogue wave,’ while the surrounding ocean remained calm.

Imaginary Nevada: April 1, 1920

https://soundcloud.com/sierra-tom-darby/in-20200401

He knew that it had to be a spell. His mother could not be here and Brady shook his head hard to make the image shift into its real self.

The thing then, whatever it was, shot straight into the morning sky and disappeared from sight.

Suddenly others like it came running from over the rise in front of his property. He had no sooner drawn his Colt than the first arrived, springing at Brady, who blasted it with a single shot.

The battle lasted long enough for Brady to empty his gun and resort to his long knife. Brady’s horse was not so lucky.

The beast had instinctively raced to his human’s side, but had been gutted for it’s trouble. The animals sank to the ground after the fight and settled, as Brady knelt beside it.

There was only one way to ease the animal’s pain. The revolver’s blast reverberated through the stillness of the morning.

On a nearby fence post sat a lone raven, looking over the horrendous scene. The bird, Brady could tell, had but a single-eye, the other a darkened hollow and covered in scar tissue.

The connection was instantaneous as the raven and Brady became a single force.

The unlikely pair picked up the creatures’ trail late that evening and tracked them along a narrow road, which eventually split in three, the greater number of tracks moving to the left.  This is the path Brady took as well.

Soon enough, he heard the rise and fall of singing. He also recognized where the ungodly prints had lead him.

The hovel. The same place where he’d found the dozens of bodies, slain and butchered; the same place he first heard the singing and from where he’d back away knowing he was ill prepared for a battle.

The bird flew above the dwelling, as Brady entered, his Colt blazing and long knife flashing. Those that found themselves outside of the half-buried hut, ran into the raven’s talons and beak.

As the raven rested on a nearby branch, Brady collected, then stacked nineteen heads in the doorway, leaving the message clear: they were going to kill them all.