Thread Count

It’d been several weeks since the latest international crisis had begun. Now over, Charlene and Will needed desperately escape their home, their place of confinement.

After spending a week dining, dancing and spa-ing, the couple returned home.

Following dinner the next evening, Will came down with a massive ache on the left side of his head. Two-days later, he sought medical aid.

His usual doctor could find nothing wrong, offering only a pain med and the name of a specialist. By day four, Will lay in their bed, with the room darkened to prevent the shooting pain daylight brought.

Not wanting to, but finding it necessary, Charlene began changing out their bed linen. She discovered, not only spots of dried blood, but a hole in his pillow case.

“Seems heavy, to me.”

Taking it, Will agreed as he began examined it. It was then that he discovered the large lump inside.

Pulling the case apart, Will rooted through the batting and pulled an insect from it. The black-brown thing wiggled violently, trying to escape, exposing a lengthy proboscis and an explanation for the blood spots.

“Lucky it found your pillow and didn’t hatch inside your head,” the university’s entomologist said.

Triumph

The Dragon screams into the afternoon air, bursting into the far-reaches of Earth’s atmosphere and towards perfect darkness.
Below, and with several cities burning due to rioting and violence, the two man crew has no idea that their journey to space comes at the end of civilization.
Satan hails it as a total victory.
And the Book of Revelation states it so.

Woman in White, Part 3

One very old man, Tomas’ Alcala, a seer, watched as she approached his small patio. She hesitated for a moment, feeling his energy as it raced out to meet hers.

“I know it’s you,” he said, as she finally approached.

“Who am I you silly old man?”

“La Llarona, of course, and far more beautiful than I ever imagined.”

“Flattery will not save you.”

“I did not think so.”

“Then be dead, old man.”

“Before I go, and I know I must, will you do an old man a favor?”

“Perhaps.”

“Will you sit and enjoy a drink with me as I’ve not had a woman grace me with her presence in years.”

“You are a silly old fool,” she said, “But yes, as I’ve not been invited to sit and drink with anyone in more years than you’ve been alive.”

“Thank you and pardon me as I step inside to get the Cuervo.”

Within a minute the man came back with two glasses filled quarter of the way with tequila. He hand on to his guest.

“Cheers,” she said as he downed his in one swift gulp.

She followed suit. No sooner had she emptied her glass than she pierced the night with a shrill scream and doubled over in pain.

“What have you done to me, you old fool?” she hissed.

He smiled, “I added a touch of chlorine bleach to our drinks to help kill the virus.”

She shrieked again, a wail so high pitched that the neighborhood dogs began to bark and car alarms start blaring. With fiery eyes, she glared at him and vanished in a blink of an eye.

Señor Tomas’ Alcala was found dead the next morning. By then he had been taken into the bosom of Santa Muerte, who welcomed him as a hero.

Woman in White, Part 2

Throughout the next 60 days, the woman in white appeared and then disappeared. In her wake she left left nurses and doctors sick and fighting for their lives. She did likewise to law enforcement officers, paramedics and firefighters.

So many places, a woman, acting as if she were there to help, could go and so many places she could spread her disease. But then, the unthinkable for her happened.

At first, all children were immune to the virus as she spread it from one place to another. However, she could not protect them from the virulent sickness as it struck. one child after another, down.

She screamed as the first of the children were taken to the morgue, never to breathe again. She screamed louder when she watched the woman she called ‘sister,’ accept their small bodies to her bosom.

She returned to her old ways for a week, perhaps two. Then, she returned with a vengeance that seemed as strong as her hatred for what she’d done centuries before.

Determined to prevent any more children from dying, she focused solely on the elderly. They dropped by the hundred in her deathly wake.

He were taken in to the arms of the lady she had once call ‘sister.’

Salamander Surprise

“Jus’ be careful when you go down by the creek.”

“Is the water deep?”

“No.”

“Fast, then?”

“Don’t think so.”

“Cold?”

“Probably.”

“Then why the warning?”

“The salamander.”

“You’ve got to be kidding?!”

“No, I’m not.”

“Okay.”

That damned salamander was twice the size of a gator and it swallowed him in one gulp.

Woman in White, Part 1

Manny and Julio tucked themselves under the awning to the left of the school doors, where it was the darkest. This is where they did business most nights and were waiting for their next customer.

Across the street and catty-corner from the school came a lone figure; a woman in a short dress, cut above her knees, with a flowing white train breezing behind her. She was tall, dark hairs and shapely, definitely a Latina.

The two men watched in silence as she casually walked by. Their surprise was more than mild, when she looked their way and smiled broadly.

She continued to walk down the uneven sidewalk, her heel-clicks growing fainter with each step.

It was Julio that said it first, “I don’t feel so well all of a sudden.”

“Me neither,” Manny confessed.

“Weird, right?” asked Julio.

“Yeah, dude,” answered Manny, adding, “I’m gonna head home.”

“Good idea.”

The woman continued down the street, passing beyond one overhead light to the next. Soon she was joined by another woman; also of Latin descent and dressed much more conservatively.

“I she you’ve done away with your mask,” the woman said.

“Why not, it is the 21st century after, sister.”

“Don’t call me sister.”

“Whatever.”

“Is this necessary?”

“Is what necessary?”

“Spreading this virus?”

“Yes and it’s easier on my vocal chords, too.”

“You know it isn’t any of these innocent peoples fault don’t you, that you drown your babies over a worthless man?”

“There’ no one innocent here or anywhere,” the woman in white said as she faded into the darkness, leaving the other woman by herself.

Soon that woman, too had faded into the night time.

A Slot-monkey’s Experience

Filled with slot canyons, Capitol Reef National Park lives in the south-central Utah desert. I love exploring slot canyons.

Experienced slot-monkeys know to tell someone where they’re going and to never go alone. Breaking both rules, I went in with only my day-pack.

Now, should I come to a fork, I’ll pick either left or right, and will stick to that, making back-tracking easier should I come to a dead-end. On this day though, I got lost.

To make matters worse, a thunderstorm had begun unleashing buckets of rain somewhere beyond both the hearing and sight of the canyon’s bottom. I had no way of knowing what was coming my way, until it was too late.

By that afternoon, a stream of water began trickling, then flowing, and finally cascading through the slot. After chimney climbing till it was too wide, I chanced wading the torrent, where a misstep swept me under.

The slot narrowed, trapping me when my pack got caught. Almost out of air, I slipped my straps and corked through the rest of the gap.

It spit me out into a shallow pool ten feet below the slot. Landing on my back, my head bounced off the rock floor as small rocks, pieces of dry wood, a couple of drown lizards and a half-eaten deer carcass pelted me.

Fairly battered, severely scraped-up and bruised, I scrambled down the rocky ledge and limping back to my truck, never seeing my day-pack again.

Rejection Slips and Green Stamps

Finally, I rid myself of all those rejection notices accumulated over the years by shredding them. I had another plan for them, but then I remembered being eleven.

Mom and Dad collected Green Stamps.

With sheets of stamps about the house, I decided to use a few to redecorated my half of the bedroom that I shared with my brother. I wet and applied a couple of hundred to my wall, top to bottom, side to side.

That evening, when my parents saw what I’d done, the ass-whipping commenced. It’s this memory that sprang to the forefront of my mind while contemplating wallpapering the room where I write, with rejection slips.

The shredder’s grind is a comforting when compared to the slap of a belt being yanked through pant loops. It’s also better than the shouts of an angry wife.

In Good Company

As a kid, he was fascinated with two things: stories about ghosts and the Marine Corps. While he grew out of the ‘ghost’ phase of childhood, he fulfilled his dream of becoming ‘One of the Few,’ graduating from boot camp in late 2002.

Two years later, the Lance Corporal stood his ground with his ‘battle buddies’ in the Iraqi town of Al-Fallujah. The Corps earned this victory every step of the bloody way.

He found himself being shipped home shortly after the final push. He’s again indulging himself in the ‘ghost’ world, enjoying his afterlife with others also buried at Arlington.

Axe Man, Part 2

Not only did he murder them using an ax, then chop them to pieces, scattering their body parts, he beat and raped them. And while the cops investigated Lulubelle’s disappearance as a possible victim to the man now dubbed, ‘The Axe Man,’ no evidence was ever found.

Slowly, Toby amassed more and more information. He used message boards, visited the dark-web, those hidden places few knew about, and searched open public records.

His work always turned up the same names, K.T. DeWitt, an employee of W.S. Hepperton Processed Meats Plant of Ames, Iowa. He was never really considered a suspect since his wife had made a couple of calls to family during the time he was working.

The other name that kept popping up on Toby’s radar was a guy named King. It appeared that he’d never been spoken too about her disappearance, not by the cops, not a single reporter, no one.

Eventually, all of Toby’s suspicions fell on King, first name Steve, Steven or Stephen. After a week, he’d become convinced that King was the murderer, the Axe Man, as he appeared connected to other strange activities through out the US, but mostly along the eastern sea-board.

To smoke this murderer out, Toby opened threads on ‘Chan 4′ and ‘Chan 9,’ of the dark-net. Within minutes he had a most singular answer: “This is a Stephen King short-story, dumb ass! S.K.”

Toby typed in the name ‘Stephen King,’ on Wikipedia: “Stephen Edwin King (born September 21, 1947) is an American author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, and fantasy novels.”

Toby reached over and turned the power to his computer off, utterly embarrassed, and mumbling, “Fucking Stephen King,” though he’d never heard of the author until that moment.  He switched off his desk lamp and pushed away from the black screen.

Within two years, Tobermory Blodgett would be studying to be his pipe-fitter father’s apprentice.

Axe Man, Part 1

Throughout his twelve short and unexciting 12 -years of life, Toby Blodgett, slang for Tobermory, had always wanted to be a murder cop, a homicide investigator, and at the very least, an armchair detective. And happily for him, his father, a pipe-fitter, had little understanding of the computer, the world of Internet, its world-wide-web and the ability to search out most any information on any subject at any time, day or night.

It was an article that intrigued him and Toby took off researching, searching, and learning all he could about the disappearance and possible death of Cynthia ‘Lulubelle’ Simms-DeWitt in 1997, nearly 11-years before Toby was born.

According to a report, her Subaru was found parked nose-down in a ditch along side a desolate Nevada ranch road, near the town of Caliente. Her driver’s side door was open, the rear view mirror ripped from the post on the windshield and on the floor, the front seat covered in blood.

Authorities quickly discovered that the blood wasn’t human. It was that of a dog.

Lulubelle was known to have a Jack Russell Terrier named ‘Frank,’ with her. However, there was no sign of the woman.

Toby would later learn from another article that the dog, presumed to be Frank, was found lying dead and ‘crow-picked two rises away.’ The entire idea of the dog’s death left his stomach turned and sick.

But Toby knew he had to swallow-down the bile and press on if he intended to solve the case.

In 1997, law enforcement believed a man had been prowling the back roads of Nevada for at least three-years, murdering women. Four of the women were transients and the fifth, a rancher’s wife.

Waking Thought

Way too much of this,
A bit too much of that,
Not enough in between
Left my waters muddled.
And not a drop was had.
So what the hell gives!
Shit that is head-trapped,
Bouncing from ear-to-ear,
Top to bottom inside-out.
Maybe those bad memories.
Perhaps not enough sleep.
Must write it all down.

Totem, Part VIII

The old man ignored the comments: “As they made me ready, a riot broke out, fire, destruction, killing. It was prisoners attacking and ending the camp, giving death to the guards and others that had power.”

“What is ‘riot?’ a girl-child asked from the row closest to the old man’s knee.

“It is violence made by many people towards someone or something,” Grandser answered, “In this case, it was the camp and the people that make the camp work. I made it it out of the execution chamber and as I was running to get out of the camp, I saw the man with the bird head and I tore it from his shoulders as a trophy and kept it.”

“It is the same bird head on your totem?”

“You ripped the bird head off its body?”

“Did you get blood on you?”

“Yes, yes and no,” the old man answered looking towards where the questions came.

“How come you did not die from the Grand Pan, Grandser?”

“I do not know, child. I do not know.”

After a short pause, Grandser said, “I am tired now, you should go back to your parents.”

Junior took up the challenge, directing the children from the house and telling them to go to their home as it was getting dark and wild dogs would be setting upon the village soon. This caused the children to hurry, though it had a couple of years since a child had been snatched by any pack in the area.

As Grandser laid back on his pallet, he looked up at the head that everyone knew as that of a bird, which it did look like, and smiled knowingly whispered, “I need to tell Junior the full truth of it, before I am dead.”

The 87-year-old man, and quite possibly, in his opinion, the oldest man on Earth, fell into a fitful sleep, with the last thing seen that night being the ‘Plague Doctors’ mask, where it lived on his totem.

Does God Know

Things will never be the same
Pulled apart and misshapen
This is how Evil wanted it
Destroyed but controlled
It feels like a certain death
Unaccompanied and alone
Could God know where I am?

The tides of ocean water
Pulling back, spitting forth
No souls to be saved
Not a body dragged out
Those waves are flames
Burning everything to ash
Does God know where I am?

And while in deaths throe
I am dying slow and uneven
And I am dead and unburied
Skin peeling like tree bark
My bones become the dust
Wind scatters me piecemeal
Will God know where I am?

Totem, Part VII

“No, I am not lying,” Grandser said, feeling a bit hurt by the accusation, as he countered, “Can you see the wind?”

“Yes.”

I am not talking about seeing the clouds move by, that is jus’ the affect the wind has on the cloud.”

“Can you see the wind?”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“Dust devils, leaves moving…”

“That’s not the wind – that is dust and leaves that you see – not wind, you idiot,” a little girl spoke.

“She is correct,” Grandser interrupted before a fist-fight could start, “We see what the wind does, but we can not see the wind.”

Junior spoke up, “You must listen and stop interrupting Grandser while he is talking.”

“It is okay, Junior. Question are good things to answer.”

“Yes, Grandser,” Junior responded, “Continue about the head.”

“A man in a large mask came in and was going to have me killed, saying I was weak, because I had let a man take my food and then I was dangerous because I killed him for taking it.”

“That is crazy, Grandser!”

“Your story makes no sense, Grandser!”

“You talk funny, like many endless circles, Grandser.”

Totem, Part VI

It took them another month to get beyond what had been Fallon and the naval air station that had been so vibrant years before. Here the land also reclaimed what man had so carefully cultivated.

Farm land, long fallow, no longer held food fit for a man to pick off the vine and eat. Not even the apple tree, once so plentiful, bore fruit that was sweet.

He pick and ate anyway.

One morning, he found himself riding down a steep grade, the old US 95, off to his left, fractured or missing in all places, when he smelled smoke. Refusing to get excited and expecting a grass fire, he rode the big bay towards the odor.

Much to his surprise, as they rounded a large set of rocks, he came into a clearing that held a small campfire and three people. They stood near the blaze and stared at the figure on the horse, and the man astride the animal sat staring back.

He held his hands up as a gesture of peace, something he’d recalled reading about once in a book about knights and chivalry. He felt hot tears well up and slip down his sun baked cheeks as the male of the trio raised his hands likewise.

They were survivors from Yerington, where a total of nineteen people, including a new baby girl, resided. They took him in and he has been with them ever since.

Objects

The Objects sat in the quiet space of the gods and the plains of baser thought.

“Let’s be quick, before we are medicated,” whispered Reason.

Loneliness and Sadness swept through and were gone, making their energies known.

“There is nothing quick about any of this,” Elder Object said.

Then Middle Object protested, “Why must we be so worthless.”

No answer, for none was to be had.

Younger Object said “Let’s do something fun!”

Memory, stenographer of the group screamed, “Sex, lets have sex.”

Elder Object cried, “Pipe down, Memory. Recall ‘What can’t get up…”

The two Objects and Memory finished, “…can’t get out.”

Id laughed, “Christ, old boy, you need some new material.”

Meanwhile, Machismo stood at the mirror, touching itself, laughing like an idiot while its companions, Fear and Paranoia hid away, wrapped in each others comfort.

Middle Object snorted, “Why’s it always the female that calls for sex and has to transcribe these meetings?”

“Because we’re caught up in a man’s world of male pronouns,” Intelligence answered before anyone could interrupt.

“Go sit down, Intelligence, you weren’t invited to the party,” Ego shouted.

“Quiet, Ego!” Elder Object commanded.

Ego slunk off, butt-hurt and angry into a shadow, “Screw you, Freud!”

“Food!” called Hunger.

Not one response came as it loudly grumbled away to fend for itself.

Elder Object finally answered Middle Object’s question: “Who said it was a ‘she’ or ‘her’. ‘They’ is plain enough.”

Intelligence quoted, “But pure language! To be or not…”

“You can go away too, Mr. I.,” Elder Object said.

“Talk about the needing for new material,” Middle Object declared.

Younger Object cried out, “I wanna drink, I wanna forget.”

“What do you want to forget?” Middle Object asked.

“How worthless we each are,” Younger Object frowned.

“If we drink,” Memory said, pointing at Machismo, “We fuck, we forget our worthlessness and I want that.”

Elder Object snored, fell asleep, having heard all the machinations all before.

“Let’s fuck,” Memory shouted merrily, as Elder Object sputtered out wet and sticky.

Anger got pissed and Humor giggled.

Totem, Part V

Food was in short supply once he slipped beyond the fence. And while it didn’t take long for him to realize he wasn’t being chased and that no one would ever be chasing him again, he quickly became aware that he might starve to death if he didn’t reacquaint himself with wild-game hunting.

Strangely, he befriended a pair of dogs, an Australian shepherd and a Collie, who seemed more than willing to trade their wildness for a rub on the belly and a scratch behind the ear. These new companions proved to be wonderful hunters and often returned with small game to be cooked and shared.

They spent near three-years moving about the wilderness, hunting and surviving, where learned to eat foods that would disgust another ordinary and rational person. Soon the clothing he’d escaped with were worn away and eventually he began to wear the skins of the larger animals he’d killed or had found already dead and partly eaten.

In that time, he’d not seen another human being and had learned to be alone and solitary much like a male bear. Slowly, he made his way back through the mountains, passing through what once had been Redding and later Susanville.

Neither appeared as they had when people inhabited them, nor did they look like his dreams, the ones he held onto in order to cope with being being imprisoned and forced to labor for those he did not know. Because of sadness, he didn’t linger, proceeding on into what had once been Nevada.

It was south of Susanville and north of the long forgotten and overgrown, weed infested Janesville Cemetery, that he found an older horse, one familiar with the human, and who at first was indisposed to being ridden again, but who after some gentling became another companion the was grateful to have. The Bay proved to be gentle and seemed to enjoy carrying him along barebacked.

Little looked the same as he dropped in the Cold Spring Valley. Overgrown with weeds and tangles of thistles and vines, collapsed overpasses and fallen bridges.

Nine days later, he passed through the Hidden Valley and over the hillside from which he used to escape. The valley, Spanish Springs, was empty, devoid of life, save for a number of wild horses and a pack of dog that looked to be half-bred with coyotes or visa-versa.

This had been home and now it wasn’t. While he stayed for two days, he finally decided to continue southward.

Totem, Part IV

Finally, he began: “It was the year 2012, a year of unrest that it began. I was many years younger than I am today and by 2015, the upheaval was so bad that martial law was enacted. When that didn’t work, they arrested people and moved them into camps for their protection.”

“What is a ‘camp,” Grandser?” a child asked.

“It’s like a village,” the old man answered, “Only we were made to live there and could never leave.”

“How did you get food then, Grandser, if you could not leave?” another little voice asked.

“Men brought it to us at the end of our work day,” Grandser answered, “And I was put in Camp Nine.”

“How many is ‘nine?”

Grandser held up all eight fingers and a thumb.

“I was there until the year 2020, the year of the Grand Pan,” he said, “I escaped during that year when prisoner in the camp began rioting. I was to be killed because I had killed a man who stole my food…”

“I would kill a person who stole my food, too” another small voice spoke out.

“Shh,” hissed Junior, “Let Grandser continue and quit speaking while he is talking. Mind your elder!”

“But what is the ‘Grand Pan,’ Junior?”

Grandser rescued Junior before he could answer, “It killed many people, more people than there are now in the whole world. Men, women, children fell dead quicker then they could be buried. This is what I believed started the rioting — this and fear.”

“But what was it that did the killing?”

“Something that you could not see unless you had a special tube to look through?”

“A tube?”

“Like a hollow tree, only much smaller like this,” Grandser demonstrated, holding his hand up to show the size of what he meant, using his index finger and thumb.

“You do not make sense, Grandser,” a boy near the back started, “Something we can not see? A tube that is a hollow log? I think you are lying!”

Old Man of the Lake

Wrote the day after Washington State’s Mt. Saint Helen blew and thought at the time it might be the start of a song. So silly. Can hardly believe it’s been 40-years since…

Spirit Lake
May be gone
Harry Truman
May be gone

But their
Memories
Live on
And live on

The she blew
And his legend
It grew and grew
Harry’s big end

Spirit Lake
It is Gone
And Harry
He’s gone

But their
Memories
Live on
And live on

The Mountain
She will renew
After her pain
Nature so true

Harry is gone
And Spirit Lake
Remains gone
Legends live on

But their
Memories
Live on
And live on

May 19, 1980

Totem, Part III

Work crews were quickly established by the overseers. They made life a living hell for the weak, disabled, the starving, which there was much of the latter days of concentration.

Since he was ‘single,’ he was assigned housing with a female, a girl actually barely 14-years old. He was threatened with violence if he failed to procreate with her by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, she was sickly, terribly frightened and cried for her mother nearly every night. Eventually, she died – possible from starvation or maybe a broken heart – but probably both.

With her death he was transferred to a barracks where other single men lived. It was while confined to this open floor plan that a young man, much larger, stronger and athletic came to live after being reassigned from a different living facility.

Soon, he made it clear that he was the boss within their barracks. And with that, he began stealing the food cubes, a single days ration of nutrients each man was given.

He decided that taking from the preteens and teens was not enough. He began taking the food from some of the older men.

When it happened to him, he let it pass the first time. It was the beating that he was subjected to the second time that convinced him that the bully would not be allowed to get away with his actions.

The third time, he struck the bully so hard in the side of the neck, that the much larger man fell sideways and struck his head on the floor. He lingered for three days before he died.

A Missive from my Tree House

From my disorganized card table writing desk, in a dimly lit room we call the ‘library,’ on a blustery afternoon in May 2020, I am writing. There are a few things on my mind including my wife’s health, my health the Corona Virus, the continued Nevada state lock down to prevent its spread.

Those are the ‘bad’ things caught in the plaque of my aging mind. Other things pushing their way about up top is the fact the both my wife and I are healthy, we have a roof over our heads, good food, clean clothes and each other.

But for right now I’m in another place, my secret tree house, and no, you cannot come and visit with me while I’m here. It is simply for me.

It is where I dream, imagine, work things out in my head. It is my lonely place and no foreigners are served here, because I’m the only one with a passport this this kingdom.

Feeling above it all, I realize that should I climb any higher or move my fort closer to the stars, that I might tumble down, hurt myself. That is how fragile a writers mind is in real life.

You have one of these places, too – I’m sure of this. Only you call it something different and it looks, smell and feels different from mine.

Your tree house might be your dinner table, bed, couch, the attic or basement, an old outbuilding, the bed or cab of your truck, or maybe the table you eat at while on break from your job. And no – I am not allowed, and no one should be allowed entry because you are the only one with the proper papers to gain entry.

Those papers might be a notebook, a piece of typing paper or a computer. It might include a keyboard, a pen, a pencil or all of the above in which you mark passage from your kingdom to the other world, the one that is work-a-day, pedestrian as the upper crush is wont to say, the place were the cracks in the sidewalk or gravel road trips up from time to time.

And while I suspect you, like the hundred others that may or may not read this, I don’t expect a response. All I can hope for, even without knowing the results, is that this inspires you to feel, think and write.

Totem, Part II

The first days of martial law were difficult. He had spent much of the time prior to the great lock down preparing for that specific eventuality.

Not only did he locate a hiding spot in the hills above and west of their home, he inlaid it with canned foods and bottled water. Elsewhere, he dug a deep hole and using a large plastic construction bucket with a lid, his his families important papers, a few pictures and a number of books, including the family bible.

He had been forced to escape early when soldiers arrived in the neighborhood and began rounding people up. He engaged with them, having fired a couple of shots at them from his rifle, as they loaded his wife and son onto a transport vehicle.

He never saw then after that and he ended up hiding for several days in the small coyote den he’d found earlier. He lived off the canned food and water he had with him as he waited for the soldiers, who had searched three weeks for him, left the area.

Eventually, and in great sadness he started over the hill to the far valley and across the grassy plain of Hungry Valley towards northern California. He intended to pass through Susanville, skirt Redding and make his way to the North Coast, where he had family and friends.

His plan fell through on the sixth day, as he was arrested by a posse and turned over to officials who transported him in shackles to one of their many regional encampments. It would be five-years, give or take a few days, before he would feel the hint of freedom – and by that time, the world had become a very different place.

Totem, Part I

With my many apologies to Jack London…

The old man sat under his own personal totem. As he did he, watched the ground squirrel he trapped in a loop earlier that day, roast over the open pit fire in front of him.

His stomach growl loudly and he thought, “It is a good thing to feel hungry after a long and hard day.”

“Grandser,” Junior asked, “Will you tell us how you came to your totem?”

“Let me have my meal first, boy,” the old man answered, knowing that his eldest grandson was known for his impatience.

“Sorry, Grandser,” he said, backing out of the plank hut that the old man called his home.

A few minutes later, and before he could finish eating, the children of the Yerington tribe began gathering around him and his fire to hear how the old man came to have the bird head that lived above his padded pallet that double as a seat and his bedding.

The old man made his audience wait as he slowly finished each greasy morsel of the common vermin that he felt fortunate enough to have captured. Like so many times before, Junior kept the youngsters in line as they grew restless for the story.

Shaken not Stirred

UPDATE: US-95 is now open.

Because of my ongoing battle with insomnia, I wasn’t in a deep sleep when it happened. As it did occur, I thought perhaps my wife was rolling over roughly or maybe both dogs had decided to re-situate themselves at the same time.

I was wrong on both counts…

What began as a rolling jerk, ended with a harsh crack coming from somewhere deep in the earth. This was the result of a magnitude 6.5 quake that occurred at 4:03 am, some 35 miles east of Tonopah, Nevada, a rough couple of hundred miles (as the crow flies) north of Spanish Springs, where we live.

So far, very little damage has been reported, other than on US 95, between Coaldale and Mina, after a large fracture was found crossing all lanes of the highway. The road, a main link between Reno and Las Vegas, is closed for the time being as repairs are made.

And thankfully, no injuries or deaths resulted from the ground’s upheaval.

By the way, my wife believes she was also awake at the time, remembering the shaking because she thought I was having another night-terror. As for our dogs, while we were shaking, neither of the little shits stirred a muscle.

Orenda

Again — where does inspiration come from? Here’s another example.

This time I’m using a prompt-service (#vss365) which provides a daily word to build a story around. In this case, each paragraph is a separate ‘tweet’ (on Twitter) that I’ve built into a near 300-word tale.

Johnny Red Legs crept through the crags to his hide. He needed to learn what was killing his sheep and this moonless night was perfect for the task. The Vietnam vet set up his sight looking down the valley using an old Starlight scope. Soon he saw an orenda-like figure.

The 72-year-old man laid still as the thing moved closer. The brightness of stars in the clear skies made the movement of the odd being startling. Soon Red Legs became aware that ‘orenda‘ might not be the correct description of what he was witnessing. It was too human.

(But…)

As the pale-being drew closer, he could tell it wasn’t at all human. At a certain point the old Marine sniper no longer cared whether it should be considered ‘orenda‘ or not. He touched the trigger of his thirty-aught-six and in-between breaths and heartbeats, squeezed.

Orenda or not, the figure twisted and fell, dropping out of sight. He heard the echo of his rifle’s shot roll down the valley where it was met by the harsh howl of a coyote. Red Legs stayed hidden until sun-rise, and only then did he venture out to see what he’d shot.

It was far more than orenda, Red Legs realized. The pasty, white sheen of empty skin, now hardened like dried paint, was a creation of evil. Then he remembered how Coyote had howled at it’s death, and he knew that his valley was home to an ancient and evil changeling.

“You are speaking of Yee Naaldlooshii,” the medicine woman said, “Navajo, not Paiute or Shoshone. I have never heard of such an orenda this far north.”

She paused, looking to the distant mountains, “Bring me that skin, Johnny and we will rid Hungry Valley of this evil.”

Home Away

The hamlet, with even cobblestone paths, manicured lawns, trimmed hedges and perfect facades, is idyllic. Flowers bloom everywhere and not one vehicle is in the street.

The air breathes of vanilla-bean, baked-bread, lemon-drops, ocean breezes, and I’m confused, lost.

A woman walks up, “Hello, dear, how did you get here?”

“I’m not sure,” I answer, as she takes my hand, guiding me to a bench under a blue jacaranda tree.

“It’s okay. It happens every once in a while. We have all the time in the world to figure it out.”

Her voice is pleasant, but her skin is chilled.

Where Dry Food isn’t an Option

Where does a story come from? Went to the store. Bought a bag of dog food. Came home. Saw a picture of a friend’s new tiny puppy ‘Poco Diablo,’ a supposedly messy little terror…and Voilà! 

“I didn’t take you literally, when you said, ‘it takes a village.’ I thought you meant everyone pitching in to help out.”

“They did pitch in and they were all a big help.”

“But the entire village?”

“Yes, feeding my hell-hound puppy ain’t easy.”

“Neither is explaining what happened to a whole village.”

“Don’t worry, that’s what legends and myths are for.”

The Cure

Only he knew what he had done. Marcus released the deadly virus into the environment accidentally.

He spent the next three-years working on a way to rectify his mistake. Nothing Marcus found had any effect on the continuing pandemic he’d caused.

Finally, he began to think beyond ‘flattening the curve.’ Instead, Marcus started working on a radical theory, that if successful, would not only flatten it, but end it altogether.

During the seventh-month of the fourth year, Marcus climbed into his invention, knowing what must be done and vanished.

The capsule vibrated violently and the multitude of lights, with their random bursts of colors, were disorientating for him, but the thing worked. Marcus arrived safely, destroying the capsule where it had landed, before proceeding to his laboratory.

Four-years earlier, Marcus confronted himself and as planned, shot and killed himself. He didn’t feel a thing as he blinked out of existence, smoking pistol still in hand, and all the while thinking, “Whaddya know, Einstein was right.”

These Days of Isolation

Some days seem longer than others, especially the nights. This, for me, comes after I’ve laid down and cannot fall asleep.

Sometimes I get back up and knock about until the insomnia passes. Other times I lay in bed, tossing and turning.

Neither are comfortable at the time, because of the lack of rest for my brain. It is during these times that my mind feels like it is on fire.

Much of my ‘knocking about’ time is spent at the keyboard, researching, writing, or editing.

During the day, my wife has kept me busy with around-the-house projects. Painting two walls, one in the dining/kitchen area and another in the front/living room, along with swapping out old light fixtures with new and re-framing the exterior windows of our home.

None of this falls directly in line with writing, however, I’m certain it’ll become a part of my story telling in some way or shape. In fact many of my stories are based on something that happened or at least happened and I created ‘much ado’ over it in the form of a written tale.

Call it fiction if you will, which is fine, but I like to think of my craft coming from the basis of experience, including all the so-called ‘horror’ writing I do. Dogs staring at a spot in the corner, a late night ice-cream truck driving up and down the street, the multitude of cats that like to mate outside our living room window after we go to bed.

It’s all there. These are things that I do believe others have in common with me and I simply re-work them in the monsters and shadows that the mind sometimes wishes we would ignore.

Anyway, how are you spending your ‘self-isolation?’ I’m writing and wishing you were, too.

A Western Love Story

She knew that her husband, though still very young of heart, was physically incapable of maintaining the family ranch. So she did much of the work herself as he watched from their kitchen window.

Neighbors came to help during branding season and again come birthing time. And she let him offer up advice and as much as he wanted, because she could see that his masculine spirit often ebbed into the place that looked like an invalid to him.

“Get some cold water in case that calf don’t breath right away,” or “Find someone to restring that fence on the back stretch to the east,” and “Move those forty to the lower quarter today,” he briskly call out to her, lovely his ‘El Segundo,’ turned the ranches ‘Numero Uno.’

Her favorite was “You’re such a hardworking beauty,” of course, a comment he reserved only for her. How in the last years of her life, she wished she could hear his voice say those words once again.

He passed on during their 43rd year of marriage and is buried under the large oak tree beyond the barn. She lived another 15-years mourning her husband and now lays peacefully beside him.

People still recall how she loved him even after death did they part.

Hearts

We were standing on the sidewalk, casually observing social distancing rules, and talking as we waited for the Number 17 bus to the south of town. Though I’d never seen her before, the subject of collecting came up between us and I told the raven-haired beauty with red lips, that I did a lot of collecting.

I immediately rolled off a list of items for her, “Books, comics, old pictures, baseball cards…”

“I only collect hearts,” she smiled, as she cut me off, “And put them in jars.”

Too quickly I joined in her enthusiasm as I told her, “I like to collect the two-hearts from decks of playing cards. I have at least a thousand of them, including one that dates back to the American Civil War.”

Still smiling, she stated, “I’d love to see them.”

Again, a little too quickly, I suggested, “Would now be a good time?”

“Perfect,” she responded putting her arm through mine, as our bus pulled to the curb.

The following morning, when I didn’t show up for work, the police found my body, minus my heart, on my living room floor and a drying puddle of picante sauce by my side, but no jar.

Survivor

And lastly…one can always count on current events to drum up some fresh mental hell…

This apocalypse came with varying names: COVID-19, Corona Virus, the China flu, the Wuhan flu, the Bat flu. Whatever it had been called, there were very few people left to apply any given label.

Everywhere Tom looked, there were dead bodies, some desiccated, some fully-rotted, others still fresh. There was no running water, no electricity, no fresh food and packs of dogs ran in the streets, not yet starving but very weary of their environment.

He decided to leave for the wilderness, when he saw the female stumble out of the alleyway and drop to the asphalt. With an abundance of caution and a face-mask tied tightly over his mouth and nose, Tom approached her gaunt, bony form.

Tom immediately saw the small black beads, with white lettering, much like the ovoids that hospitals used to adorn newborns with at birth. Survivors wore similar bracelets and necklaces, those being of white with black lettering, this being the state’s proof that the wearer had never contracted the virus.

This woman in this empty street, nothing more than a teenager really, lay dying on the ground at his feet. Overwhelmed by a sense to help, he bent over her, feeling for a pulse and listening for her breathing.

To late Tom felt her heated breath as she hoarsely whispered, “Finally…”

Waxing Political

It’s been a long time (at least seven-years) since anyone has considered me a reporter, journalist, or what have you. It’s also been a long time since I’ve written anything about politics, though that’s how I made my ‘bread and butter,’ in the past.

But then, a former ‘source’ has reached out to me, saying how they’ve overheard from various Congressional staffers that Speaker Pelosi is giving ‘special consideration’ to Governors for a continued effort to prolong their state’s shutdowns until November. We concluded that while neither of us know what a ‘special consideration’ might be in this case, we did agree that the idea ‘to prolong’ shutdowns are to cripple or destroy the US economy, using this against the Trump reelection campaign.

Afterward, I got to thinking: could this be the reason why, here in Nevada, so many people, including myself, after fifty-plus days of a state mandated shut-down, are still unable to access our state’s unemployment services via the telephone and have yet to actually see a penny of our unemployment benefits?

From Uber to Goober

Then there are the times when I hear a really good story … and give that ‘cat’s tail a twist…’

“Really?” Tom complained, even though his car was empty, “A dark, rainy night, on a dead-end street and no lights anywhere. Great!”

That was his view from the front seat as he made the corner. At the end of the street stood a lone house, one that was not lighted and which looked more than frightening.

Tom took his foot off the brake pedal and allowed the car to venture forward on its own. He felt a sudden, but strong twist in the bottom of his stomach as he drew up to the front of the building.

He pushed the recall button on his cellphone to notify the customer that he was out front of the house and waiting. There was no answer.

“How long do I wait?” Tom wondered aloud, looking at the car’s clock-radio.

After three-minutes, he redialed the number. Still no response.

“Okay,” Tom concluded, “Two more minutes and then I’m pulling away.”

A sudden flash of lightening illuminated the entire area.

The sight of the woman’s face filling his driver side window caused him to scream, “HOLY FUCK!”

She opened the back passenger door, “Sorry to have scared you, but I can’t find my cellphone and I live in the cottage across the street from the main residence. I sure hope the power is on downtown.”

“No problem,” Tom said, as he battled to regain his composure.

It Creeps in the Night

Another way a horror story comes to my mind…a photograph taken…

They set up their tent under a nearby tree. After a day of playing in Frenchman Lake and then having a dinner cooked over the open campfire, they retired to get some sleep.

A slight breeze blew throughout the night and this created a plethora of tiny noises. At one point, Tom sat up, resting on his elbows to listen to what he though were footsteps come from jus’ outside the tent wall.

He touched his Colt .45, wanting to make certain that he knew where it was, jus’ in case. But the night passed without incident.

Slightly after sunrise, Tom got up to re-stoke their campfire and make a pot of coffee. Once finished, he noticed that the tree that they had set up under seemed to be farther away from their campsite than the day before.

They spent the day and evening once again enjoying the lake, floating off short, splashing around, and getting sunburned. Again they prepared dinner over their blazing campfire.

That night and into the early morning hours, there were more noises, more odd sounds, strange foot-steps coming from behind their tent. This time, Tom decided to get up and with gun in hand, investigate.

There it was – the tree they’d been camping under — sneaking back from having taken a private dip in the lake.

Creature of the Night

This is where the story-line for most horror stories originate for me… Earlier this morning…

It was their dog that first alerted Tom that there was something moving about in the front of their home. He had been in a dead-sleep when he heard the low and guttural growl of his German Short Hair as it lay at the foot of the bed.

His wife remained asleep, unaware of the dog’s persistent and resonating warnings.

At first Tom simply lay there, listening, hoping to hear also what had caught the dog’s attention. And then, suddenly, there it was – a tiny, but noticeable muffled, grinding sound.

Where was their older dog? Tom didn’t know.

Quietly, he rolled from under his covers, picking up his small flashlight, and then withdrawing his Colt .45 from the top of the nightstand. Already charged with a round in chamber, he dropped the leather holster on his pillow and moved even more quietly towards the bedroom door.

The dog continued to growl as Tom entered the hallway and proceeded to the living room. The sound, which had grown louder, came to an abrupt stop the instant he set foot in the area.

Calmly, he raised his pistol and with the flashlight under his shooting hand, turned on the beam. There it was, humanoid in appearance, standing on two legs, eye’s glowing, and unmoving at first, before it rapidly bolted out of the light’s glare.

Tom had forgotten to put the dog door down for the night and his young hunting dog was both smart enough to know not to mess with the fiend and to get his human’s attention that the alarming thing was eating from its food bowl.

“Damned, Raccoon,” Tom muttered, as he slipped the dog door into place, sliding it down until fully closed.

I Got Nothing

My ass has been dragging all day following a night spent bathing my liver in Cuervo in honor of Cinco de Mayo. I’m nearly 60-years-old and I jus’ realized that I had never ever, even once, celebrated the Battle of Puebla.

Even though I woke up on the couch, still dressed, I got up and got busy. I spent much of the day painting the remainder of our ceiling and then I barbecued chicken for our evening’s dinner.

Nothing like sweating out a nighttime drunk from one’s body to leave one de-energized even further. I’m not complaining, jus’ stating a fact.

It was while finishing up the washing of the dishes that it occurred to me that I’d forgotten to write a story for tomorrow’s blog posting. Crazy that I should forget, even crazier at how I should suddenly remember.

Anyway, I figured since I’ve no story idea prepared, that I jus’ put in a couple hundred words or so, on something, anything, even if it is all meaningless drivel. Yes, I’m driveling all over this page, which is far better I think, than drooling all over our couch, but that’s a story for another time.

I’ll do better tomorrow.

New Aged Kimchi

The mass of devotees doxolized the antediluvian chant, “…and in the mighty glory of…”

“STOP IT NOW!” rumbled the primordial being, with vigorous disgust.

“Dark One?” questioned the acolyte.

“LET US CUT TOO THE CHASE.”

“Pardon?”

“ALL OF THIS IS NONSENSE.”

“But the ancient liturgy?”

“FORGET IT!”

“But…”

“AM I NOT THE ALL-POWERFUL DARK ONE?”

“Yes, Master, you are.”

“GOOD.”

“What do you want of us?”

“BRING ME K-POP.”

“You know that’s a music genre, not a group or an individual, right?”

“YES, I KNOW. I LIKE THE CUTE ONE WITH THE HAIRCUT.”

“But, that’s…all of them.”

“KAAAY-PAAWWP I SAID!!!”

The Upward Escalator

The department store was filled with shoppers, even though Christmas 2008 had passed only today’s before. James was there like everyone else, searching the aisles and racks for hidden bargains.

He stepped onto the escalator, ascending towards the second floor when he felt a peculiar and sudden shift in the atmosphere. James looked around and while he could see other shoppers, he could no longer hear the sounds of people talking or the sounds of the store itself.

Abruptly the escalator jerked and James found himself standing on the bottom step, moving upward once again. With this came a blurring of the buildings surroundings, as if it were fading out of existence.

He screamed, but no one paid James any mind.

Once again, James topped the escalator and once again came that nauseating jerkiness that flashed him, inside of a second, to the base of the moving stairway. Looking around he saw that even more of the store’s walls, floor, ceilings and fixtures had disappeared.

James held his hand up. He could see through it all: skin, vessels, muscle and bone.

He screamed again. This time his voice seemed to be further away in sound as it left his evaporating body.

James tried to turn away from, to avoid the top step, to rundown the moving escalator, but to no avail. Again the jerk, again the flash and again he began his upward ride.

Twice more this happened and as he began his sixth journey skyward, all of the building had vanished about him. And beneath him, where the step should have been, was nothing but a blank space — a blank space, which now included James.

Tasteless Morsels

the shaft dark
but for lantern light
silent
but for the sound
of the pick
and his own
ragged breath

he wipes the sweat
from his eyes
with dirty hand
and swings again
chipping away
at the plausible
one rock at a time

looking for the
gleam of possibility
oh, the bits of taste
honey and dust
dirt to mud

he folds them up
in his mouth
learns their flavors
prayers
wishes
confessions
and lies

he sings wildly
like a wind chime
seeding the storm
in verse
but all that blooms
are dark stunted buds
too late he has hungered
for the taste of what is

In the Shadow

More than a bit of a geek, David had a skill of being able to recall jus’ the right something even when under immense pressure. Such was the night that he and a couple of friends entered the old mansion to do some ghost detecting.

Unfortunately for David, it wasn’t a ghost they discovered, but rather a something far more menacing. While his friends ran off, he was left to face a vampire by himself.

She had him cornered in an upstairs room next to a window, which through shone a full and bright moon. Though panicked, David blurted out, “The moon has no light of it’s own and actually reflects the sun’s light.”

Hissing violently, she pressed herself against the wall, avoiding the glow of the full moon, while David bid a hasty escape.

The Proposal

Jim made Alice a beautiful dinner, hiding a large diamond engagement ring inside one of his magnificent crescent rolls, but before he could propose, she swallowed it. They rushed to emergency room.

After spending the entire night, the doctor delivered the bad news, “We did everything we could Jim, but her answer is no.”

Jim was inconsolable.

Score

Kevin watched as the old man struggled to reach his untied shoe. He offered to help him.

As he knelt down and began, he didn’t see the long knife secreted inside the old man’s long coat. He had only to stab Kevin once to score his 102nd murder.

As Kevin lay on the vacant sidewalk, unconscious and bleeding out, the old man got up and walked away. As he did, he withdrew a cellphone from his pocket and dialed a number.

“People are such suckers,” he smiled, “It’s your turn and you’re still behind. Call me when you score. Ciao.”

Baited

It seemed as if it were only yesterday that Scott had been fishing. But for the life of him, he couldn’t really recall when that was.

Instead, he found himself sitting idly along the bank of the river he loved so well, fishing line in and its red and white bobber floating gently down the stream. Life was great for the young teen.

He could see the men, some in uniforms passing up and down the river’s bank on the far side, as if searching for something. Scott watched as two small boats, one wood, the other aluminum, slipped by trolling the waters.

“No fishing poles,” he thought, “No fishing line in the water. What are they doing?”

He felt a slight tug on the end of his line. The smallish jerk caused the colorful float to momentarily disappear beneath the water and reappear again.

Methodically and patiently, he reeled in his line. He was slow and purposeful in his actions, bringing whatever had taken his bait, to the bank without a fight.

It was a skill that he’d learned from his grandfather when he was child.

A voice shouted, garnering Scott’s attention, “Found him! He’s over here!”

“Found what?” Scott asked himself.

This was followed by a sudden and violent yanking to his once quiet fishing line. One of the nearby boats had snagged it as it passed by.

Then Scott remembered how he’d been fishing three days before, how he had slipped in the mud, how he had struck his head on a rock and toppled into the water. He remembered it all, that very moment he saw them pull his lifeless body from the river.

The burst of luminescence and its warmth was both brief and immediate.

Hang On, There

As if crap couldn’t get any tighter, our dryer decided to take a shit this morning. I can’t make up my mind if this is more hobo, redneck or white trash of me. One 50-foot length of nylon rope, several heavy binder clips, a TV satellite, one truck, and a broken tree branch make for a good ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-your-britches’ temporary clothes line. Thankful for ‘adapt and overcome,’ plus having the tools to do it.

The pessimist sees a dark tunnel, the optimist sees a light at the end of that tunnel, the realist sees a train on the tracks of that tunnel, the train’s engineer sees three idiots standing on those tracks.

From a Dark Space

Winslow Dunnigan spoke to the dead.

He had done so since the age of seven, after a mule had kicked him in the head, knocking him utterly senseless. He never recovered from it and by the time he was ten, his parents had pulled him out of school.

He eventually inherited his family’s farm.

Edwin LeDoux made it a point to check on him regularly. One afternoon he found Winslow sitting at the kitchen table, pale-faced, sweating, confused and eyes wide.

“What’s the matter, Win?”

“Something dead wants to return.”

“When?”

“Now.”

“How?”

Before Winslow could speak, he stood and went rigid, eyes rolling up, and body shaking violently.

“Win?!”

A second later, the old farm house was rocked by a deafening explosion and Edwin was slammed through the kitchen wall into the side yard. From where he lay, he could see the viscous blood and bits of Winslow Dunnigan dripping from the ceiling slats, counter top, stove and what remained of the walls.

In the center of that now-vacuous kitchen stood three obscene figures, each torn, twisted and deformed, each out of phase, blinking and shivering, each covered in Winslow’s earthly gore and each shrieking like the unholy Demons that they were.

Edwin LeDoux’s mind never stood a chance.