No One Will Ever Believe Me Anyway!

While told it’s uncommon, it happens. Further, Doc says it could be a residual from having missed a few days of medication and not to worry about it.

She also told me that the drawing of the humanized bunny rabbit holding a carrot was pretty good. And with as much cheekiness as possible, I told her she was crazy because I believe the drawing is downright frightening.

I added, “It would have been better had I not been sleep-drawing when I did it.”

After returning home, I took Buddy-dog for a walk. We’d hadn’t gone far when I managed to pick up a pebble in my sneaker.

Sitting on the sidewalk, Buddy seated next to me, I pulled off my shoe and dumped the tiny rock out. Since I had my shoe off, I set it down and began readjusting my sock.

Then Buddy began to growl. As I looked to see what was setting him off, I saw this small human-like hand reaching out, pawing at the shoestring.

Grabbing my shoe as I jumped up, half-frightened, then half-amused at myself, I realized I was sitting partway on a drain, and the hand was that of a raccoon. By this time, Buddy was sprinting home.

Now, had it been a rabbit or a red balloon suddenly coming from the grate, I would have joined Buddy in racing for my life.

Eighteen Years Forward, Three Days Back

Yes, I battle mental health issues and I ain’t afeard to admit it.

Where, how, and who made the error does not matter, especially if I goofed. What matters is that my medication finally arrived from the VA after three days late.

The last time I was in this position, I did it to myself, falsely believing I didn’t need medication. My only symptom then was tremendous ‘anger.’

I struggled with and was royally wiped out by a new set of withdrawal symptoms this time.

The crinkling of paper or heavy plastics drove me wildly insane. My wife was opening a bag of chips (crisps for you across the pond,) and I swear to the Almighty, I about lost it because of how amplified the sound became.

The light was a difficulty too. Not only was it excessively bright, but it seemed to emanate from objects that usually only have a bit of reflective quality, and it made me sick to my stomach at times.

Lastly, color — my goodness — colors can be so loud without making a sound! My wife has an iPad with a light blue case, and it was this case that stabbed me through the head with its blaring.

It needs to be said, but I was tempted to self-medicate at various points but fought off the urge. The other is that I spent a lot of time hiding in my darkened office.

In explaining to a Marine friend how hard it was, he claimed he could tell. I must have wrinkled my brow or something because while I said nothing, I was thinking, “How?”

“Your hair is standing on end,” he answered to my unasked question.

I laughed hard at this because I have a crew cut, and while I am still not fully back to ‘myself,’ I am on my way to recovering my damned mind.

The Getaway

She desired a getaway from the hustle and bustle of her everyday city life, so she made the drive into the country, having booked a week’s long vacation at a small cabin in a forest above a river. The night was beautiful as she sat on the front porch, under the eve, enjoying the sound of a slight breeze rolling through the branches of the ancient trees and the splash and gurgle of the water from someplace below where she sat.

Having exhausted her basket of picnic supplies and the half bottle of red wine she’d brought with her, she drove into the nearby town to purchase a few supplies for the next couple of days. With plans to sit on the covered porch again, she had heard a long guttural cry from deep in the woods and believed it wise to remain inside.

Instead, after a steak dinner, she sat in front of a small blaze in the fireplace, sipping some inexpensive port and relaxing. Shortly after nine, she began her routine before bed.

As she stood in front of the mirror, patting her face dry, she heard a terrific thump on the opposite side of the building. Quietly, she turned off the bathroom light and approached the far window of the small interior, parting the curtain aside to have a look.

Lorri heard nothing.

She returned to the bathroom, switching on the overhead light again, as something once more thumped on the wall, only louder this time. Lorri froze in place and leaned out the doorway to peer at the window.

She quickly jerked back, sure she had seen a shadow cross from one side of the frame to the other. Again, she snapped off the light and listened.

Again, Lorri heard nothing.

But this time, she left the light off and walked over to where her purse lay. In it, she had two things she felt she needed, her cellphone and a snub-nose 38 caliber handgun.

She returned to the fireplace and added two more logs to the dying embers. Lorri pulled the quilted blanket that came with the rental over herself as she sat in the chair, half afraid to fall asleep.

Morning found her still in the chair, having fallen asleep. She woke stiff and tired, having slept poorly.

She got up and slowly moved to the window from the night before. As expected, there was nothing to see.

As Lorri showered, she concluded that it must have been raccoons that had made the noises from the night before. She made a mental note to double-check before she left to tour one of the many seaside villages.

Dressed, she went outside and to the far side of the cabin. As she was beginning to reassure herself that there was nothing to worry about, she saw something on the ground that looked like it did not belong.

Gray and fleshy, it appeared to be much like the upper portion of a squid, yet it had no tentacles and was missing that giant eye squid’s possessed. She picked up a stick and poked at it.

It did not move.

Still using the stick, she lifted it off the ground and returned inside, where she dropped the thing in the garbage can in the kitchen. She’d decided to deal with it when she returned from her outing that evening.

The sun was slipping beyond the horizon when Lorri pulled onto the gravel road that led to the cabin. It had been a full day, and she could hardly wait to get inside, prepare some dinner, and go to bed.

She grew alarmed when she saw the front window to the left of the door was ajar. She couldn’t remember if she had opened it and left it open or not.

Lorri got out of her vehicle, gun in hand, and approached the cabin. She turned the door handle only to find it still locked. She slipped the key in and turned the handle.

Lorri walked through the place, checking everywhere. The closet was empty, as was the bathroom and cupboards throughout the house.

Nothing.

Satisfied that she was alone, Lorri sealed the window and locked it. She also closed the front door, locking it and then moving a chair in front of it, tucking the back up under the door handle as an added measure.

That evening, Lorri had cooked a thick piece of salmon in the fireplace. It was more than satisfying as she again relaxed in front of the open hearth, sipping on the last of her wine.

Slightly after ten, she decided to go to bed, using it for the first time since she arrived. Within minutes after washing her face and brushing her teeth, she fell asleep, head comfortably deep in a soft pillow and under the thick quilt.

Something thudded against the house, and it woke her up. Lorri looked at the time on her cell phone; three in the morning.

She lay quiet and unmoving as the noise came again. She had her hand under her pillow, and in that hand, she gripped the snub-nose revolver.

Then the noise came again. But this time, it sounded different, closer, and less hollow.

Suddenly, Lorri scrambled from the bed and turned on her light. She had realized that the noise was inside the cabin.

Handgun at the ready, she tiptoed towards the front of the place. In the middle of the room stood a figure.

Without waiting or warning, she fired and watched and listened as it writhed and screamed before vanishing into nothingness. Lorri retreated to the bedroom, grabbed her cellphone and purse, and raced outside to her vehicle.

What she’d seen, she did not know and did not wish to wait to find out what it might be. She drove to the largest nearby town and checked into the first motel she found offering a vacancy sign.

The following day, escorted by a sheriff’s deputy and the cabin’s owner, Lorri returned to pack her belongings.

“You must have left the door unlocked and a bear got in,” the sheriff’s deputy said as he inspected the room.

“Yup,” the cabin owner agreed, adding, “Bears can even open a door like a human being.”

Lorri knew better but chose not to argue with the men. If she had shot a bear, there would be blood, if not inside the cabin, then on the porch or ground surrounding it.

She had already put up with enough questioning over the firearm she legally possessed.

She finished cleaning what mess she had made, dropping the trash in the kitchen garbage. It was then that she discovered that the thing she’d put in the plastic pail was what she’d seen that night.

As she got in her vehicle, but before closing the door, Lorri heard the deputy say, “Ph’nglui yaah ot vulgtmoth Cthulhu, any closer ng Y’ would mgep mgep l’ h’ ah’n’gha.”

“I know,” the other returned ominously. “C’ need l’ h’ or’uh’enah mgep nilgh’ri else bug wrong.”

“Weirdo,” Lorri said as she turned for home.

Nevada’s 2020 Elections Keep Rearing Its Ugly Head

In recent months, clerks in three Nevada counties have resigned in the middle of their terms, and two more have announced plans not to seek re-election. Reasons cited include health issues, family, burnout, and threats.

Storey County Clerk-Treasurer Vanessa Stephens
Carson City County Clerk Aubrey Rowlatt
Lander County Clerk Sadie Sullivan
Mineral County Clerk-Treasurer Christopher Nepper
Nye County Clerk Sandra Merlino

Polls in both Clark and Washoe County are directed by appointed registrars, while in Nevada’s other 15 counties, clerks run the elections.

Congress Purposely Looking in Wrong Place

Amazon spent $20.3 million lobbying Washington lawmakers in 2021, while Meta, formerly known as Facebook, spent $20.1 million, the most either company has spent in a single year.

The Senate is taking steps towards passing the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which would ban large tech companies from using their platforms to give their products an advantage over competitors.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, if passed, would bar Big Tech companies from giving their products preferential treatment on their platforms. For example, Amazon couldn’t bump its products to the top of its marketplace ahead of third-party products.

Some tech executives have voiced opposition to the bill. Google’s legal chief, Kent Walker, published a blog post claiming the act will “threaten America’s national security.”

In April 2021, the European Union accused Apple of illegally disadvantaging music streamers with its App Store rules following a complaint filed by Spotify in 2019. In November, the EU denied an appeal from Google to overturn a $2.8 billion antitrust fine it received for favoring its shopping service in search results over competitors.

But not one word about Big Tech’s meddling in U.S. Elections by limiting political posts and news stories, deleting, blocking, or canceling voices they find disagreeable.

Tech Elites Help Communist China Achieve Supremacy Over U.S.

In 2015, the Obama Administration held an official State Dinner at the White House for Chinese President Xi. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla, seven months pregnant, were there.

When the Zuck got to speak to Xi, he asked the communist dictator to give his unborn child a Chinese name. Xi declined.

It was not the first time the Facebook cofounder extravasated over a Chinese official.

A high-ranking Chinese official named Lu Wei visited the social media platform headquarters in 2014, he gave him a tour, including his private office. On the Zuck’s desk was a book of speeches and comments made by Xi.

The Zuck explained to his guest that he bought the book for himself and his staff as a guide.

“I want to make them understand socialism with Chinese characteristics,” the Zuck said.

Facebook teamed with Google and its CEO Eric Schmidt in 2016 to build an undersea cable linking San Francisco, Hong Kong, and China. They chose to partner with the Chinese company Dr. Peng Telecom & Media Group to provide the link.

Dr. Peng, financially backed by the Chinese-linked China Securities Finance Corporation, worked closely with Huawei and military defense contractors in China. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission blocked the project, in 2020, saying it presented “‘unprecedented opportunities’ for Chinese government espionage,” according to the U.S. Justice Department.

In 2017, Google announced the opening of an AI research facility in Beijing. The Google AI China Center included “a small group of researchers supported by several hundred China-based engineers.”

Their research includes machine-learning that would classify, perceive, and predict outcomes based on massive amounts of data, precisely the sort of work that military and intelligence officials would want from AI. This cooperation happened the same year that the Chinese Communist Party laid out its “artificial intelligence development plan.”

The plan explains that “AI has become a new focus of international competition,” mastering that technology enhances “comprehensive national power,” and that it would lead to the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

Collaboration between American tech companies and Chinese military-linked research labs has enormous implications for our national security. As the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence announced in its final report, “Authoritarian regimes will continue to use AI-powered face recognition, biometrics, predictive analytics, and data fusion as instruments of surveillance, influence, and political control.”

The chair of that commission? Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk acknowledges that Chinese entities stole software code from his company Tesla, a competitive and national security problem. The same software used by SpaceX works closely with the U.S. military.

For years, Musk said he would never build a facility in China, claiming that he was happy with his production in the United States. But in 2015, transcripts of a meeting in China were leaked, indicating he had plans to build a factory there.

He quickly declared that the transcripts were inaccurate, refuting them on Twitter.

“My comments in China weren’t transcribed correctly. Tesla will keep making cars & batteries in CA & NV as far into future as I can imagine.”

Then in March 2017, Chinese government-linked Tencent Holdings bought a five percent stake in Tesla, followed by Beijing rolling out the red carpet as Chinese government-backed banks coughed up $1.6 billion in subsidized loans. And the regulatory red tape to build in China was eliminated by government authorities.

The plant got built in less than a year. And Musk has since become a Beijing booster.

In January 2021, he explained in an interview how Beijing was “more responsible” toward its people than the U.S. government.

“When I meet with Chinese government officials, they are always very concerned about this,” he said. “Are people going to be happy about a thing? Is this going to serve the benefit of the people? It seems ironic, but even though you have sort of a single-party system, they seem to care a lot about the well-being of the people. They are maybe even more sensitive to public opinion than what I see in the U.S.”

In Hand

“Don’t call the doctor,” she said. “I jus’ want to fall asleep with your hand in mine.”

So he continued to hold her hand as he told her about the past, how they met, their first kiss.

Then she whispered, “I love you.”

He returned her words and gave her a soft kiss on the forehead. She fell asleep peacefully and forever with her hand in his.

My Wife’s Sense of Humor

My wife, while at the kitchen counter, said this morning, “I am amazed when I look at you, not because of your looks, but because everything I have ever wanted is right in front of me.”

Because she sounded serious, I started to get all choked up over her words. Then I realized it was the bagel she had prepared for breakfast to whom she was talking.

We had ourselves a good laugh. Thank goodness I had not taken a drink of my hot coffee at that moment, or I may have given myself an unwanted but scalding nasal cleansing.

I’ll See

Indeed, I prefer to window shop as opposed to shopping for real. Unfortunately, window shopping does not work when buying groceries.

Today, I went to the market for a can of condensed milk but couldn’t find it. I finally asked a person stocking the shelves where I could locate it.

“I’ll see,” he said, disappearing around the corner.

He never came back, so I called on another employee.

She said, “I’ll see,” before walking away.

So, I decided to search a little more, sure that I had missed it the first time around. I had — it was on Aisle C.

In the Silence of the Nevada Printing Press

“A Nevada ink slinger working on a daily paper was required to stand, rarely to sit, before the type case for long hours every day, six days a week, picking up individual pieces of type, called sorts, and arranging them in a composing stick to make lines of type. It is no wonder, with the long days and wearying drudgery attached to the job, that when a printer found himself with no more ‘p’s’ or ‘q’s’ – and a real need for ‘q’s’ or ‘ps’ – he was said to be ‘out of sorts.'” — Chic Di Francia, Master Printer, Virginia City, Nev.

The past two weeks have been a time of worry for the Comstock Chronicle and the Dayton Valley Dispatch newspapers.

For years, a company in Carson City printed the CC/DVD. Unfortunately for us, this printer sold its press to an outfit in West Virginia. Along with our two papers, all newspapers in Nevada must go out of state for printing; California, Utah, and Arizona.

In short: no newspaper will be printed in Nevada as of Thu., Feb. 3. It is a disheartening realization for those of us who value the feel, odor, and sight of a printed news page or have ink coursing their veins.

I suggested to my wife that we buy a printing press and go into business, filling this niche, but the idea went over like a ‘fart in church.’

Here is the difficulty, the CC/DVD is not even a ‘Mom and Pop operation,’ but more of a ‘Mom operation.’ Other small papers in our area have people who can drive to out-of-state places to pick up and return overnight, but this paper does not have this capability.

Worse yet, we are in an area where snow, as we had last December when 16-plus feet fell in the upper passes, crippling the roads for days, leaving people stuck on one side of the divide or the other, and bringing commerce to a halt. Larger outfits overcame this by flying their papers in, but many of us cannot afford such an expense.

Anyway, things are looking up as ‘Mom’ in this ‘Mom operation’ is purchasing a Xerox machine, reducing the newspaper size to 11-inches by 17-inches single-page newsprint, and hand-folding the pages. All this after finding a new building from which to begin printing.

It means a little more work, but it will be well worth the extra effort.

 

 

Be the Light

When the man awoke, he was looking into the concerned face of a police officer. It took him a few extra seconds to understand that he was bleeding from a head injury.

“Do you remember what happened?” the officer asked.

“I picked up a rock that was painted black with yellow lettering that read, “Be the light.”

“What happened then?”

“A kid in a face mask asked if he could see it, so I handed it to him.”

“And then?”

“Then I saw a bright light when he hit me with it followed by darkness until I opened my eyes.”

Little Birdie

“I heard you lost a couple of sheep this week,” she said.

“Yeah, I did, a cow, too,” the farmer returned, adding, “Gone, vanished into thin air like they never were there. And who told you?”

“Oh, a little birdie told me,” she smiled.

“No, really, who did you hear it from because I’ve only complained to two people about it, and one of those was the Sheriff?” he asked seriously.

“I told you,” she said. “I heard it from a little birdie. Honestly, I am telling you the truth.”

Then he saw her Pterodactyl.

God’s Refrigerator

“Uh, Houston?” Baker asked, “Are you seeing this?”

“Affirmative,” Houston came back.

Baker was the Commander of Lunar Exploration One. His second in command, Wilson, was standing closer to the object inspecting it, and taking photographs.

They were inside the dark half of the moon, the beams of their helmets the only illumination available and then penetrating the black by only a few yards. Both men stopped, staring at what they had found in the immense darkness surrounding them.

“What does it look like to you?” Houston asked.

“It looks like my grandma’s refrigerator,” Baker answered. “But I don’t recognize the brand.”

“What is the brand?” Houston asked.

“Sierra, Mike, Echo, Golf,” Baker returned.

“It’s plugged in,” Wilson interjected.

“To what?” the voice from Houston asked.

“A rock,” Wilson answered. “Should I unplug it, see what happens?”

“Negative,” Houston said. “The brand is Italian.”

“Italian?”  Baker asked as if his hearing had deceived him.

“Yeah, Williams, in Flight Control has one,” Houston returned.

“Roger,” Baker stated, “I think we should open it, see what’s inside.”

“Standby,” Houston instructed.

The two lunar explorers stood silently, looking at the refrigerator than at one another, when Wilson asked, “You don’t think the Russians are playing a trick of some sort, do you, Cap’n?”

Baker didn’t get a chance to respond as Houston returned, “Roger, L-E One. Go ahead and open it.”

Wilson was standing in front of the refrigerator and was closest to the handle, so he grabbed it. Baker stood on the other side in case something should escape from it.

The inside light came on as the door opened. Wilson fully extended the door then came around to look inside with Baker.

Not only was there a bright yellow bulb emitting light, but the back of the refrigerator was also teeming with flora and fauna. Green leaves and grasses waved in a slight breeze as oversized insects buzzed back and forth.

There was a long silence as Wilson and Baker watched. Houston remained quiet as well.

Then a low growl came from someplace in the back of the refrigerator. No sooner had it faded than a large reptilian eye appeared, blinking, studying the two astronauts.

Wilson slapped the refrigerator shut and backed away.

“What the hell was that thing?” Baker asked.

“A velociraptor,” Wilson panted in fright.

The refrigerator shook and thumped violently for about fifteen seconds as the pair backed away from it and towards the Lunar Crawler. Then it went silent.

By then, the astronauts were aboard the crawler and making way for the relative safety of their Lander.

And Women are from Venus

“You know I don’t like crowds,” Les complained to his supervisor.

“Sorry, but you got the short straw, dude,” the other man said.

Thousands of people gathered in Las Vegas for the tech show, and Les was one of them. He did his four hours at his companies booth, then retreated to the privacy of his hotel room.

Day three and Les found himself restless. So he wandered about the convention floor, looking at the sights and checking out many of the new electronic gadgets on display.

That evening instead of staying in his room, Les visited one of the after-hour parties. While he was still uncomfortable in the crowded room, he did order a rum-and-coke, forcing himself to nurse the drink as he sat at the bar.

He watched and listened as people gabbed and chatted up one another.

Sheila had spent the day as a display model for the convention. She was hungry, and instead of going home, she decided to go to an after-hours party.

“Perhaps I’ll get lucky,” she thought.

Les was getting ready to leave when Sheila stepped up to the bar next to him and asked, “Is this seat taken?”

“No,” Les answered. “By all means, sit.”

Before he knew it, they were chatting and laughing, and he was buying their drinks. It was something Les had not enjoyed since his early college years.

“Wanna come back to my place?” Sheila asked. “I only live a couple of blocks from here.”

Not believing his good luck, Les sprang at the idea, saying, “I’d love to.”

Sheila quickly disappeared, saying she needed to slip into something more comfortable. As Les waited, he studied her unusual stereo equipment.

“Interesting,” he said. “Ham radio?”

Hearing her step into the living room, he turned to find Sheila standing in her bedroom doorway naked, smiling at him.

“Care to join me?” she asked.

Though Les tried to remain calm, he found himself fumbling to get undressed as she stepped back into the room. He could hear her pulling back the covers, exciting him even more.

“Where would you like to start?” Sheila asked.

“I have no idea,” Les blushed.

“Well, let’s start with a little ’69,'” she responded as she pushed Les back onto the bed.

He reached up and cupped her butt cheeks in his hands and greedily pulled her to himself. Les didn’t even have the chance to scream before his head disappeared into the sharp-toothed, eel-like maw.

A few minutes later, Sheila leaned back against a pillow, so full that she figured she wouldn’t need to feed again for another Earth month. That would give her time enough to clean up her mess and finish setting up the communication equipment to contact her home planet of Venus.

To Prevent a Murder

Lieutenant Edwige Barre found the wind from the mountainside much colder than she expected. It was nighttime, 19 January, and there was a blanket of snow covering the streets, and more was threatening.

She had to hurry, as she didn’t have much time and didn’t want to get caught. Her all-black bodysuit and the shadows would help camouflage her movements.

Though alone for this part of the mission, Edwige was a member of a much larger team. Five other time-transitioning units were training to continue the experiment, should this one fail.

“What happens if we change something and some members disappear?” she had asked.

“We don’t think anyone will be affected, but if that does, we’re five-deep, and someone will take our place,” the project director said. “That includes you and me.”

To know anything more beyond preventing the murder of this woman was above her pay grade.

Not only was she selected because of her physical skills and courage, but also like the woman and man she was tracking, she spoke French and Cajun fluently. She was also the average height of a woman for the time and could blend in if somehow she were to become trapped.

It had been a painful transition from where her journey started, and her body felt like a pincushion, her mind slightly muddled. She had never experienced anything like it during her lengthy training period.

Though disoriented, she found the female target’s home with ease. Entry was even less of a problem as she forced the backdoor open.

While the team had no idea of the home’s layout, it took Edwige seconds to locate the bedroom and slip beneath the bed. While she didn’t have any way of measuring time, she figured she had less than 30 minutes for her target to return home.

Juliette was angry. For all the good she did for Virginia City, its people still treated her like a two-bit whore.

She stormed down the hillside street from Piper’s Opera House, where Mark Twain was lecturing, towards her small home on D Street. On the opposite side walked Jean Marie.

He called out, “Bonjour, Mademoiselle Juliette!”

She did not return the greeting as she continued hurriedly down the street.

Jean Marie looked back at her in anger and gruffed, “Ignoré par une pute maudite.”

Jean Marie spoke no English and could barely order the beer he was drinking. As he stood, back against the far wall, the loner thought about Juliette’s snub and growing angrier by the minute.

After four more beers and six shots of whiskey, he left the saloon and wandered about the town, looking for a place to sleep that was out of the wind. Then he had an idea.

The door to the house opened and closed. Edwige could hear Juliette muttering about her treatment and how one-day people would realize how much she had done for this ‘trou de merde’ of a town.

Within a couple of minutes, Juliette was in bed, and less than half an hour, she was sound asleep. Quietly, Edwige slipped from her hiding spot and took a position in the far corner of the room, near the closed door.

Then there was a loud thump from somewhere beyond the bedroom.

“Jean Marie,” Edwige thought.

The noise startled Juliette from her sleep, and she rolled over to listen. Juliette pulled on a pair of crinoline drawers she had at the foot of her bed, then picked up a piece of wood as she got out of bed.

How she saw Edwige, the Lieutenant had no idea. She was practically invisible in her black clothing and the lightless room.

At five-two, Edwige was nearly a head shorter than the woman with the piece of wood, who was now swinging wildly at the dark figure cornered in her bedroom. The blows were landing, but not all of them with efficiency.

Edwige tried to get out the door but couldn’t as the woman would not let her near the handle. So, she decided she had to fight back, striking the woman in the head with the butt of her Glock pistol.

The blow sent Juliette back and against the bed frame, but it didn’t stop her. Instead, she rushed Edwige, and the two ended up on the floor, Juliette straddling her smaller opponent, manually strangling her.

Unable to breathe and amazed at how strong her target was, Edwige picked up the piece of wood and clubbed Juliette in the side of the head. On the fifth strike, Juliette finally slumped forward, unconscious.

Then Jean Marie tried to enter the bedroom, shoving the door against the still trapped Edwige. As Edwige wiggled from under the woman’s body, Jean Marie moved away from the door.

It took all of Edwige’s strength to get the half-nake woman onto her bed. It was then that she noticed that Juliette was bleeding severely.

She started to administer first aid, but the woman gained consciousness, grabbed a pair of scissors from her nightstand, and stabbed Edwige in the stomach. Surprised, Edwige tried to stand up, but again the scissors found their mark, this time in Edwige’s right shoulder.

Knowing she could die if she didn’t stop her attacker, she jumped on top of Juliette and pressed her left forearm into the woman’s throat. In response, Juliette rammed the scissors into Edwige’s lower back, piercing her left kidney.

Within a minute, the battle ended, and Edwige pulled herself from the unconscious body of Juliette, collapsing to the floor. Then she heard the door open and instinctively rolled over and clambered to her feet, prepared to defend herself.

“Mon Dieu!” Jean Marie exclaimed, springing on Edwige, punching her, and yelling, “Meurtrier.”

Her strength zapped, Edwige fell back on the hardwood floor and waited for the man to strike her again. Instead, he got to his feet and checked on Juliette.

Understanding that she was dead, Jean Marie turned back to Edwige and kicked her. He was in the process of kicking her a second time when she vaporized before his eyes.

The violence of his kick, married to the sudden lack of a target, caused the still intoxicated man to flop violently onto his back.

“Type A, stat,” said the emergency room doctor as she worked feverishly to save Lt. Barre’s life.

The injuries were many, and blood leaked from nearly all of them. The Lieutenant tried to remain awake but finally slipped into unconsciousness.

It would be two more days before she could speak and be coherent in doing so.

“So odd the way it went down,” the project’s director said.

“It was Jean Marie coming into the house as he did that caused everything to go off the rail,” Lt. Barre said. “It had to be.”

“Well, you’re fortunate to be alive,” the director said. “I guess we can’t change the past after all.”

“Yeah, why’s that?” Lt. Barre asked.

“According to the historical record Juliette Bulette still died in 1867, murdered, and Millain went to the gallows the next year for the crime, continuing to claim he was only there to steal, but that someone else killed Juliette,” he said.

“Oh chère Dieu,” the young Lieutenant exclaimed, suddenly feeling violently sick to her stomach.

The Doom of Sagebrush One

The craft glided gently to a stop exactly as programmed. Commander “Skeeter” Caster removed his helmet and smiled at the camera mounted over the control dash, happy that the first test of their hyper transonic-warp engine had worked.

“Sagebrush One to Groom Lake, I’m outside of our solar system, and it took less than 78 seconds, 77-point-7 seconds to be precise,” the Commander said. “I’d call that a success.”

Groom Lake was once known as Area 51, but that was years ago, and now the Sierra Nevada Space Agency, a private corporation, owned the property, using it to launch spacecraft. Skeeter had started with the company as a lowly flunky five years before the agency won its first federal contract, and now he was their lead test pilot.

After a minute of staring out into the darkest void he had ever seen, the test pilot looked back at the camera and said, “Okay, let’s get this baby turned around so we can come home.”

Skeeter pushed a couple of buttons on the dash, and the craft jumped to life, swinging to its portside with a violent shutter. Before the ship could line its nose up for home, half-a-dozen buzzers sounded, and several lights flashed on the dashboard and the side panels.

“Uh, Sagebrush One to Groom Lake, jus’ had a wicked shimmy as I started Charlie two-seven thruster,” he stated as calmly as he could.

As the ship continued to rotate to its left, he pulled his helmet back on and began the process of responding to the flashing bus lights and turning off the alarms that accompanied them.

“What the…” Skeeter began, “Groom Lake, I have a ‘collision imminent’ alarm that is refusing to turn off. And there is nothing out here to run into.”

As he said that, he saw the glass of the forward screen begin to cobweb. If it disintegrated completely, Skeeter knew he had made a one-way trip into nothingness, and no one would be coming to save his ass.

While betraying his fright, he said, “Groom Lake, we have a structural failure. The forward screen is fracturing, and I don’t think it will hold much longer. Please tell my wife that I love her and that…”

“That is it,” the Centers Director said into the hotline, “All communication ceased, and we have not been unable to reach Sagebrush One for the past 15-minutes. I don’t want to say it, but I know everyone’s thinking it.”

There was a long pause before the Director spoke again, “Yes, sir. I’ll notify the team.”

Andrea Caster was at the kitchen sink when the cat hissed, then jumped from the window sill of the breakfast nook and dashed into one of the bedrooms.

“It’s only a cloud crossing over the sun, you silly cat,” she laughed.

Then Wiley, their Doberman, began to bark as if he were in a panic. Andrea decided to investigate and stepped outside onto the back patio.

Above her floated a gigantic object, motionless and noiseless. It was so large that it blocked out the sun.

Behind her, she heard the telephone ringing, so she returned inside and answered it.

“Wait, what are you saying?” she asked her mother-in-law, who was on the other end of the line crying. “No, that can’t be. It was a test flight, that’s all.”

The front doorbell rang, and Andrea dropped the phone.

She knew it to be true. Her husband was dead.

Still, Wiley continued to bark. But jus’ as sudden his barked turned to a whimper, the kind of whimper he made when Skeeter arrived home.

Andrea rushed to the door and threw it open. There stood to solemn-faced men in suits and a youthful-looking priest.

“No, no, no,” she screamed.

“May we come in?” the priest asked.

Andrea stepped back, still screaming. They entered.

Suddenly the backdoor opened and banged shut. Andrea and the three men looked, only to see Commander “Skeeter” Caster standing in the dining area with a dazed expression on his face.

The shadow disappeared, and the sun was shining bright again.

Vanished Rock

Buddy and I are jus’ now back from our daily hike. We would have been home sooner had I not had to search for, but never find, what I was expecting to see.

For nearly a quarter-century, I have been going to the same place to sit and relax, meditate, pray and allow my imagination to go free. It is, or was, a large boulder that I could climb to the top of, whether raining, blowing, snowing, or in the blistering heat.

It took me over half an hour to fully grasp that the boulder, the size of an average home, was gone. There is nary a sign of it, not even a gaping hole where one should be.

Instead, the ground is flat and filled with Pinion and sagebrush.

Twine

Dad, can we stop and see that ball of twine we heard about yesterday?” my son asked.

“Sure,” I said as we approached Exit 13 that led to the town.

Twine Town isn’t its real name. I don’t want to remember the name, let alone have a desire to say it aloud.

We stopped there to see the world’s second-largest ball of twine. It was started in 1933 by Henry Johnson in memory of his two children, who died one early morning after they lost the guideline from the barn to the house in a blizzard.

The boy and girl froze to death, less than 10 feet from the back porch. Mrs. Johnson lost her mind with grief, dying a year later after being placed in an asylum.

Henry Johnson died twenty years later when the ball was only seven feet around. Since then, Twine Town has held an annual festival, said to be on the anniversary of the children’s death, adding twine and increasing its circumference a little at a time.

Taken by the huge Gordian Knot, my twelve-year-old son walked around it, running his hand over its rough and uneven surface. After a few pictures, I stepped outside for fresh air as the room had a funky rancid odor.

After a couple of minutes, I returned to where I had left my son. Only, he was gone.

Panicked, I raced around the small quad, searching for him. Finally, I headed for the police department to help.

“Are you sure he didn’t run away or something?” the officer at the desk asked.

“He wouldn’t do that,” I answered, “Besides, he doesn’t know anyone around here, and he’s rather shy.”

“Well, your boy wouldn’t be the first child to surprise his parents by running off,” he said, “I’ll get a BOLO on the air. I’m sure he’ll turn up.”

“I’m going back over to the ball of twine, in case he did wander away and returns,” I said.

“You do that,” the officer said.

While bothered by his attitude, I left and returned to the display. As I loitered about the place, I noticed town folk watching me, some looking away when I made eye contact, others staring.

As I tried not to notice the odd behavior, I turned to look at the twine. Something flashed, then fell to the floor with a metallic sound.

Walking over to look at the object, I instantly recognized it as the silver cross and chain I had given him for his last birthday. I studied the area to see from where it could have come.

Then it struck me. My son was inside the ball of twine.

Not taking the time to think about how he might have gotten inside it, I took out my knife and cut away. A reddish mist sprayed out and into my face, arms and hands.

I hacked until I could push the upper half of my body inside the sphere and grab my son.

He was being held fast by twine, which I chopped and cut until it released him. Free, I lifted him over my shoulder and dashed for my truck.

By the time I locked the doors, a crowd of people had gathered and began beating at the vehicle’s window.

Quickly, I started the truck, and without hesitation, stomped the gas pedal to the floorboard. And though I ran down two or three people, I sped out of the town’s limits within five minutes.

I looked at my son, and he gave me a goofy little smile as he recovered from his frightening ordeal.

“How did you end up inside the ball of twine?” I asked.

“It grabbed me, opened its mouth, and swallowed me,” he answered.

That night, being some 100 miles away from the place, I left my boy asleep in our motel room and drove back to Twine Town. The place was quiet, nobody on the sidewalks, and no vehicles in the street.

With the five-gallon gas can I had purchased beforehand, I slipped into the display area with the twine and doused it, using all the fluid in the container. As I prepared to strike a match to the ball, a general alarm sounded, and the quad suddenly filled with people.

Realizing I could not escape, I tossed the match to the twine and stepped back to watch as it turned into an all-consuming blaze. As it began to unravel, I saw, much to my fright, the gathering outside the display area begin to disentangle as well.

Taking a chance, I pushed my way out the door and through the now struggling mass of unwinding humanoids. Half a second later, I was in my truck and speeding out of town.

In my rearview mirror, I could see nothing but a conflagration as the entire town disappeared in a hellish wall of flames.

For a Bowl of Turkey Soup

A friend called his wife to say that she saw a horse stuck in the feet-deep snow about a quarter of a mile above her running path. She saw it two days before but thought little of it as wild horses are constantly traversing the hillsides.

“It looks like it’s trapped,” she said, “No trail showing it had moved either backward or forward, and the snow is over its rump.”

“Poor horse,” his wife said. “Is there anything we can do?”

“I called around, and no one’s answering their phones, so I’ve left a bunch of messages, but no one’s called back,” she answered.

His wife looked at him. He knew then that he would be the one heading up the rocky hillside to see if he could coax the animal down or learn that it might already be dead.

In no time, with his heaviest snow gear on and throwing rope in hand, he headed up the embankment. It took him about an hour to reach the poor beast.

It was good and stuck in snow that had thawed and refrozen for at least three days. When the horse raised its head and looked at him, he was amazed.

Moving slowly, not wanting to scare it and get a hoof in the head for his effort, he finally got the rope around its neck and then began the task of hacking out a path out of the ice that had formed around much of its body. It was easier said than done, and an hour and a half later, the horse took its first step out of its would-be icy tomb.

Together, and very slowly, they worked their way down the hillside. He stumbled and fell, as did the horse, but it stayed with him and didn’t drag him off as he had half suspected it might.

Once they reached the running trail, they gave the horse hay, some carrots, and bits of sliced apple. It turns out the horse was not wild but had escaped its enclosure a week before, and the animal’s owners were out searching for it.

Through an online message board, they heard about a horse stuck in the snow, reaching the base of the trail as the pair were coming to it. Another day and night, and the horse would have died, as it had already given up when he made his way to it.

Britches is now home and safe.

And while he’s cold, he is satisfied. His wife is making a large pot of turkey soup that will end his internal chill.