Archive for the ‘Short Story’ Category

Short Story: Holding Cell

October 24, 2011

Frank Leggaro slowly opened his eyes. Something felt wrong. His normally plush bed felt hard as a rock. Frank’s back was stiff and the warm air was making Frank sweat. Frank usually kept his central air at a crisp 65 degrees. This was not 65 degrees. His blanket seemed too heavy. Where normally Frank could count each of the 500 threads in his comforter, running his fingers over this piece of cloth left a lot to be desired. With growing concern, Frank shook himself awake. Frank began to realize he was not in his palatial home but some place else. Some place far away from his comfort zone.
Eyes wide open now, Frank’s first clear sight was a concrete wall. On that wall there were tick marks and rude sayings. Things about mothers and where the authorities can stick it. The light filtering in around Frank was that of the fluorescent kind, harsh and bright. Frank knew those sorts of illuminations were found mostly in government buildings and once again he wondered where he was. When he turned onto his other side, away from the concrete wall, he got his answer. He saw three sets of bars. He was in hail. And he had no recollection of how he got there.
The last thing Frank remembered was taking another shot of tequila with his colleagues. This was in celebration of Frank’s latest successful prosecution of a low-life criminal scum. It was a particularly tough case since physical evidence was scarce and Frank had to rely on eye witness accounts, but he was sure the stirring testimony of the witnesses would put the thug behind bars. And Frank was right. He was able to use that testimony to hammer home his points about justice and got the guilty verdict.
But now thinking back to that case and the trial itself, Frank could recall very little of the specifics. When he tried to picture the thug, he saw only himself. Frank sat up in the bed and shook his head. He was sure he drank too much the night before and was in the local drunk tank. Not going to be a gold star next to his name for this one, he thought. Yet, for apparently drinking copious amounts of alcohol, Frank’s head was clear. Frank thought it odd that he had no hangover. He was sure he blacked out due to his drinking though, as he has done before.
Frank called out to no one in particular to gauge his situation. “Hey, what am I doing here? I think I am fine to leave.”
As if in response to his question, whispers from nearby and unseen cells rose up.
“Larceny. Breaking and Entering. Rape.”
Frank staggered off his bed and towards the iron bars.
“I said, what am I in here for?”
Once again, voices, speakers unseen, rose around him, this time louder.
“Assault. Resisting Arrest. MURDER!”
Frank flashed back to a trial. One of the million he had tried. Except, once again, he was the one sitting in the defendant’s chair. And the voices crying out to him all merged into one, that of a judge listing charges against Frank. Now Frank’s head was pounding. He sat back down on the hard cot.
Frank had run the gamut of prosecution in the ten or so years he had worked at the District Attorney’s office. He had the highest success rate and rumor was that he was on the short list to become the next state Attorney General. Some politicos were in office last week, or at least Frank thought it was last week, gauging his interest. Of course he was interested, he said. Any potential landmines in your case history, they asked. No, he replied, pointing out that it was varied, full of many examples of his aptness for the job. One of the men leaned to his left, towards the man who seemed to be in charge. They whispered, almost conspiratorially, to each other. Frank could only make out one word, “railroaded”, but the bossman brushed it off and smiled at Frank. They left the room with promises of a bright future ahead for Frank.
Frank knew there were some fellow litigators who felt he pushed his cases through too quickly. Frank did not care for that criticism and always dismissed it. After all, all his convictions were based on some form of evidence, whether it be a fingerprint or a witness account. Thinking of witnesses, Frank once again flashed back to his last trial and this time a real memory popped up. He saw his star witness, a little old lady of about seventy, crying, pleading for it to stop, saying she’ll do anything. Frank snapped back to reality and his current situation.
Frank took stock of his surroundings and situation. He bounced, really propelled himself up and down, on the hard cot. He counted each bar, 66 in all. He counted each tick mark on the wall, 333 in total. He read the scribbles on the wall.
“Lou can suck it!”
“Death to all!”
“Frank Leggaro can rot in hell!”
The last sentence caught Frank’s attention. He saw his name everywhere after that.
“Frank is Unfair!”
“Swift Justice is No Justice, Frank!”
“Frank LEggaro is the Last Railroad Man!”
And then one that seemed to be a novel in itself.
“Why’d you put me in here, Frank? I was innocent. You knew it. You knew the case was flimsy. But I looked like a criminal, didn’t I? And that was enough for you. The authorities put us in front of you and you did whatever it took to get that conviction. If we were so innocent, we wouldn’t be there in the first place, right Frank?”
Then sprawled underneath that, in angrily written letters:
“HEY HEY FRANKIE HEY, HOW MANY WITNESSES DID YOU MAKE CRY TODAY?”
Frank ran his fingers across the engravings. He could feel a heat radiating from them. An impossible warmth that burned his fingertips. A deep fear gripped him. He almost jumped out of his skin when a voice came from behind him.
“That one’s my favorite, though I liked it better when it was used against LBJ.”
Frank turned around. A man in a sharp suit was smiling at him behind the bars. Must be the warden, thought Frank. Then a contradictory thought: Why would the drunk tank need a warden? Maybe he was a fellow lawyer, sent to retrieve Frank. But the man looked different from every other lawyer Frank had met. All Frank knew for certain was this man was somehow in charge. As frank took a step towards him, the man momentarily seemed to morph into the judge from his vision, the man who “sentenced” him. Frank tossed that thought off and saw the suited man once more. He went to the bars and placed his hands on them. They were even hotter than the letters, as if closer to the unknown heat source. Frank pulled his hands away in pain and the suited man continued smiling.
“Where am I,” Frank asked.
The suited man just laughed. “I thought you would know where you sent your victims, I mean defendants, after you won, Frank. Or do you not care what happens outside of your court? And yes, I am implying pre-trial as well!” The man laughed heartily again.
Frank was scared but determined to get a straight answer. “Look, I don’t know who you are-”
“-and I am enjoying that immensely.”
“But I don’t care for your implications and I don’t care to be in here. So tell me the fine and I’ll pay it and I can get out of here.”
The well-dressed man nodded his head. “Yes, we’ll soon sort this out. As we always do. That’s the fun part. You see there is no fine. At least one you are paying in cash. No, I am sorry, well really happy, to say that you’re in here for a while.”
Frank’s face drained of color. “What did I do last night?”
The suited man thought for a second. “You woke up, yelled for a little bit, read the wall, then I showed up.”
“Wait, what? I meant what did I do to get in here?”
“Oh, that was many nights ago. I am afraid what got you here was the ole firewater.”
Frank furrowed his brow. “I knew it. Public intoxication? Don’t tell me, DUI?”
The other man smiled again. “Oh, both. But you weren’t caught, you sly dog.” The man winked.
“But you said…”
The man waved his hand. “I said you weren’t caught, not that nothing happened. You ran some red lights. Unfortunately, the last one you ran, you hit another car. A minivan, I believe. What happened to its passengers, I don’t care. They aren’t here, that’s for sure.”
“Oh God,” said Frank.
The man shrugged. “He shouldn’t be of concern to you.”
“So, manslaughter?” asked Frank, trembling.
“And murder.”
“Murder? But I didn’t-”
The suited man’s demeanor changed. He became deadly serious and to Frank, deadly terrifying. “Frank, you haven’t gotten it yet, have you? You are always so slow. 333 marks on the wall? One for each of your convictions. Your memory loss? No, nothing dawning? You never get this one your own. That’s why I am here. Frankie, my boy, you are dead.”
Whatever color Frank had left on his face turned pale. “And I’m here to be judged?”
The man regained some of his jolliness and laughed. “No. You’ve already been judged.”
“But I didn’t get to defend myself!”
“Imagine that. We had some witnesses though and they totally vouched for you.”
Frank felt reluctant to ask, but he managed to squeak out, “The verdict?”
“Yes, the verdict. The only thing that matters, right? Guilty on all counts. Of sending innocent men and women to the chair or to stabbing by shivs or their suicides and not caring. Murder. Manslaughter, as I said earlier.”
The suited slowly seemed to be getting larger and bigger. “Your punishment, I am sure you are wondering, is simple. You will wake up in this cell, confused and disorientated. How did you get here you will wonder. Then why you are here you will ponder. You will be accused of crimes you didn’t commit by voices you are powerless to quiet. You will face your victims in the plainest way possible. And then I will come to you, seemingly to offer salvation but really damnation. And each day it will be the same. And each day it will seem to be a new terror for you.”
“But I was only looking for justice!”
The man smiled his widest yet, revealing an impossible number of teeth. “And so are the forces I represent. Only difference between them and you though is they get things right. Their conviction rate is 100%.”
Frank’s trembling returned. “Who, who are you?”
The suited man was much larger now than when he first appeared before Frank. His suit was ripping at the seams. Horns were growing out of his forehead. His eyes appeared on fire and that fire was burning Frank up.
“Why, I’m the judge, jury and executioner. Everything except a lawyer.”

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Short Story: Alone in a Crowded Room

October 17, 2011

The young man looked around the ballroom with detachment. In between the four walls were males of all ages. From young boys to old gentlemen, the young man observed them all. To the man, they all had familiar yet strange faces. By the man’s recollection this was probably the twenty-third such gathering he has attended, though he didn’t remember them all.
The women were likely in the next room over. He never saw them when these events occurred. The organizers made sure to keep them separate. The man was disappointed over this fact. He wanted to meet one and he was sure the separated women and he would have a lot in common. But maybe that was why they were kept apart, mused the man.
A boy ran up to the man and pulled on his shirt. “Hey Mister, when’s your birthday?”
The man smiled down at the boy. “November 12th.”
The boy looked around. “Oh, mine’s October 11th. That boy has the same birthday as me!” The current boy pointed to another lad and giggled. The man just nodded. The boy ran off to play with his birthday buddy.
“They get younger every year,” said an older voice to the man’s left. The man turned to face the speaker and recognized him from previous meetings.
“I guess,” said the man.
“I remember when it was just me and maybe another dozen guys,” said the elder.
“How long ago was that?”
“I don’t know, maybe forty years?”
The young man looked at the old guy. “And the women?”
The retiree just shook his head. “We interacted a few times then I guess we started asking the wrong questions of each other and that was that.”
The man was going to ask what questions those were but he was interrupted by a commotion on the other side of the room. Two middle aged men were shouting and pushing each other.
“I told you last year to stay away from my wife!”
“I can’t help it if she is attracted to me.”
“She isn’t attracted to you, she is attracted to me!”
“Well maybe I just have a better personality!”
No matter how much we grew up, we still remained like the boy and his friend, thought the young man. As the older gentleman focused on the ruckus as the two men were pulled apart, the young man studied the elder’s face. The ravages of time as plain as day, observed the man. My future, more than likely. Maybe I should ask him about his medical history. Can never be too careful, though I am sure my doctor knows all about what I should expect, the man darkly thought.
“This happens every year. Someone ignores the rule that we don’t socialize outside of this room and it causes problems. They never learn,” the old man said, clucking his tongue. He noticed his compatriot looking glum. “What’s the problem, young man? You don’t look so well.”
“Aren’t you sick of this? You of all people, who’ve seen this year after year? A founding father of sort. Each year we live our lives trying to forget who we really are and every year we dragged back here and reminded. It’s like the outside world is the illusion and this room is the cold, hard reality. I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to see you next year and go through the usual pleasantries. I don’t want to be reminded of my misspent youth or my predestined future. I want to see you out there in the world. I want to meet a woman who I can tell the whole truth to. I am tired of being another face in the crowd.”
The elder gentleman’s eyes narrowed. “That’s dangerous talk. You know how many of those initial dozen men were lost when they voiced similar concerns? Seven. They killed seven of my friends, friends I was so close to, as you would know, friends who were essentially me. All to prove a point. We are special but not irreplaceable. The old man laughed bitterly, a crack in his previous upbeat armor. “No, we are far from irreplaceable. But they still want us, need us. They gave us a good life, no? They helped us become lawyers and doctors. Pillars of the community. All they ask for in return is this yearly meet-and-greet and us to keep our mouths shut as to how we became doctors and lawyers.”
The two middle aged men were back at it, yelling at each other, each face getting redder with anger. They wouldn’t stop, which meant someone with authority would have to step in, thought the young man. As if on cue, a door swung open and two men in labcoats came through. A calm quiet overcame every man and boy in the room. A deathly pale appeared on the faces of the middle aged men, each look mirroring the other’s. The men in labcoats grabbed one of them. It didn’t matter much to them which one. The captured man struggled but soon was resigned to his fate.
“I hope you enjoy her, you bastard!”
As soon as the man was hauled off, the room was alive again with chatter. Soon they’ll come for us all, for the checkups and the cover stories, mused the young man. Same as it always was and same as it always will be, My past, present, and future are all contained within this room.
The old man clapped his younger friend on the shoulder. “Cheer up. I hear a rumor big things are afoot. They may designate one of us as potential presidential candidate. Seems the current administration doesn’t look too kindly on this project. Of course, the quickest way to solve that problem is to install me or you in the White House. Hell of a risky move, given the possibility of,” the old man nodded in the direction of the departed man, “but maybe it is time for a little publicity. You would like that, wouldn’t you?”
The young man sighed. What did it matter? He would still be in his preordained life, still forbidden to say anything or do anything unique. He was no snowflake, especially in this room. He doubted one of them becoming President or world famous would mean liberation for the rest of them. It would probably push the others further into seclusion. That famous person may be the Ace of Spades, but the young man would still be a Six of Diamonds. And they’d all still be just a card in a deck full of them, the man once again glumly thought.
The young man looked around the room one more time and saw the collection of faces. The young boy whose face he once saw in a mirror in his parents’ house years ago. The old face he’ll soon see in windows as he walks down the street. He was no different from the men around him he despise. It was hard for Designate A112, also known as Alan Durtz of Millwood, Nebraska, to stand out from his cloned brethren.

Short Story: It’s Not My Fault (Lamentations of a Clown)

October 10, 2011

It’s not my fault I am a clown. Goofy faces and slapstick came naturally to me growing up. It was easy to drop the “class” part of “class clown” after school. Though it became even easier in clown college when I was in “Clownonomics 101”. The teacher was a real stickler.

It’s not my fault kids are terrified of clowns. They run screaming from me at birthday parties. Throw peanuts at me during the circus. Cry a river when I go around at Halloween. How would you like it if your main clientele was repulsed at the sight of you? Dentists need not reply.

It’s not my fault that I can’t make ends meet. Job security is not in my line of work. See the previous paragraph. Humor is subjective and so is payment.

It’s not my fault that serial killer dressed up like a clown to kill those people. I don’t need to hear about it every time I put on my costume. I don’t need cops pulling me over and peppering me with questions every time a dead body pops up. I obey the law and resolve my problems with pies. That is, I bake pies to relax, not throw them into other people’s faces. That is a nasty stereotype.

It’s not my fault my wife left me. She ran off with Terry, the mime. Said he was a cut above me. He just shrugged at me and walked away, fighting an invisible wind gust. I just watched them pantomime out of my life, slightly amused.

It’s not my fault my shoes are too big and inconvenient to wear, especially while using public transportation. My car (it’s not a clown car!) is at the mechanic. The carburetor is broke or something. I don’t know. Those mechanics are the real clowns, I tell ya. I have to take the bus until it is fixed. So excuse my shoes and my red nose. By the way, the red nose doesn’t make a sound when you honk it so quit touching it. That’s the reason why I had to get reconstructive surgery on my nose a few years ago.

My life’s a joke and it’s not my fault.

Short Story: To Be Continued…

October 3, 2011

Vance fumed in his chair. He was ready to lead across the desk where his editor sat, Vance’s latest manuscript in hand. Vance thought it was best story yet, one that destroyed all his previous ones.
“I can’t accept this, Vance,” his editor said.
“Why not? It’s the next chapter in the ‘Flights of Fancy’ series you asked for.”
“It’s the last chapter,” the editor roared. “You kill of Pilot and Gunner. You crash The Scout.”
“But they do defeat Dr. Madd-”
“Not before he sets fire to Globerra. You literally scorched the earth so you wouldn’t have to write any more stories in the series.”
Vance leaned forward in his seat. “I don’t want to write any more of these trite stories. I’ve been writing them for ten years. I am sick of catering my style to kids and arrested development adults. I am a serious writer. I want to write serious things. This world,” Vance gestured towards the manuscript, “is dead to me.”
“But the movie rights and the theme park rides-” the editor started.
Now Vance was in a full rage.
“You aren’t hearing me. I don’t care anymore. I don’t want to even think about these characters again.”
“Your contract-”
“-ends with one more book. That is the book I am handing in.”
The editor was flummoxed. “We’ll sue you.”
Vance smiled. “Go ahead. I too can buy the best lawyers. After all, you made sure ‘Flights of Fancy’ was profitable for all.”
Vance got up to leave. Nothing would change his image as a writer of fluffy fantasy more than a lawsuit where he could show how he wasn’t kid-friendly. Perhaps he could even show some of the unfinished drafts of his other stories and say that the publisher rejected, though he never even showed the drafts to anyone, and fish for a new company. For once, he would be able to control his own PR and he would make sure that the furthest thought from anyone’s mind was Globerra. He would say the movies stunk, he would say his own writing stunk. He would be born anew like a phoenix, he thought.
As Vance exited the office, his editor made one last plea. “Vance, c’mon. Think of your fans. Think of what you created.”
Vance cast a look over his shoulder and smiled again. “No promises. As far as I am concerned, that manuscript in your hands is the last I will ever be associated with the series. As far as I am concerned, everything connected to ‘Flights of Fancy’ can rot in hell.”

Vance pulled up to his house, head full of ideas for his next novel. A hard-boiled detective story. Or perhaps that tale of the neglected boy he had been kicking around for a while. But, he said to himself, absolutely nothing to do with magic, flying devices, or mad scientists driven to destroy whole worlds. Vance chuckled to himself over that last item. He had succeeded where Dr. Madd had failed. He had destroyed Globerra. The secret was to be God.
Vance entered through the front door and threw his keys on a nearby table. He was almost too deep in thought. He nearly missed the sound of someone knocking about in his kitchen. He momentarily thought about calling the police, but still high from his triumph over his editor, he decided to confront the intruder on his own. He crept towards the kitchen, full of confidence.
When he rounded the corner into the kitchen, all the color drained from his face. There, rummaging through his fridge, was someone dressed as Pilot, the main character in the “Flights of Fancy” series. Aviator glasses, leather jacket with the words “Scout Pilot” embroidered on it, thick boots.It was Pilot alright, thought Vance. A fan had broken into his home, in full costume, to rob him. Vance’s earlier rage returned.
“Get the hell out of my house!”
Pilot turned to him, then looked behind Vance and shrugged. From Vance’s back, a hand came onto his shoulder. Then a voice, one only Vance thought he could recognize, spoke. Vance was sure it was the voice he thought in while writing the character Gunner.
“Sir, please calm down. We aren’t here to hurt you.”
Vance spun around. Sure enough there was a man dressed as Gunner. Vance eyed the man’s gunbelt with suspicion. Got all three mag-guns there, Vance observed. Another nice attention to detail. To the left of Gunner was Dr. Madd, lab coat flowing to the floor like an ancient robe. Dr. Madd’s glasses were illuminated blue as they were in the books. The ludicrousness of the situation hit Vance and he started laughing.
“Well, the gang’s all here! Who sent you? My editor, no doubt. Trying to convince me not to kill you three off. Sorry, not gonna work. But hey, you can keep those costumes. They look professionally made.”
Pilot rejoined his compatriots, sandwich in hand. He spoke.
“No one sent us. We came for ourselves. We’ve come to plead for our lives, I guess.” Pilot took a bite out of sandwich. He made a face. “That weed was not millsprouts, Gunner.”
Vance laughed again. “Millsprouts? I think I mentioned that Pilot liked millsprouts in one sentence in the second novel. You guys certainly did your homework. Except one thing. Pilot and Gunner would never work with Madd.” Vance jerked his thumb in the direction of the old scientist.
Madd spoke in a deep voice that seemed to come from the earth itself.
“Annihilation breeds strange bedfellows. They needed my portal technology and I needed their knowledge.”
Vance’s eyes took on the mocking tone his words conveyed. “And what would that be knowledge of?”
“Of you, Vance. They said they would know how to convince you, what your line of thinking would be. After all you wrote a lot more of them than you did of me.”
Vance laughed again. He just couldn’t help it. “Yes, you were never fully fleshed out or so the critics said. I just never cared for you. Now, if you excuse me, I am going to call the police.”
Vance went to grab a nearby phone. Gunner quickly drew a sidearm and shot towards the device. The phone was forced out of Vance’s hand and stuck to the wall behind him.
“I don’t want to hurt you, sir, but I won’t hesitate to keep you listening,” said Gunner.
Vance was amazed. “That isn’t a prop. That isn’t possible. The sticky gun does not exist! Who…who are you people?”
Dr. Madd replied, “We’re your creations. But we are also our own people. We lead our lives independently of you, but you still guide us. And we know what you want to do. You want to kill us, blot us out. We can only live in the world you give us. And as much as I want to destroy that world, I want to save it. I am not ready to go into the darkness yet just because you are bored and spiteful. I know spite and I know it leads no where good.”
Pilot stepped forward. “You want to crash The Scout? Fine. It is a mighty airship but there are others. But you want to kill my best friend? Me? Then we have a problem.”
“We used all my technology to get here,” said Madd, “to get us to you. To convince you not to set in stone what you think we deserve. To show you we are worth saving.”
Vance was bewildered. “This must be a nightmare. My subconscious not read to let go of the cash cow. No way Pilot, Gunner, and Dr. Madd are in my house.”
Gunner, twirling his stick mag-gun in his hand, smiled. “We are here. We will get what we want.”
“I won’t go back,” Vance yelled. “I am a grown man. I will not write fairy tales! You won’t make me!” Vance leaped towards Gunner, trying to get one of his guns. But Vance wrote Gunner too well and the character drew a second sidearm and shot the author. Vance was frozen in place, a look of horror on his face and his hands out in a desperate grab for his sanity.
“Get him to the portal,” barked Madd. “We can’t leave him here. We’ll have to take him back. Time for Plan B.”
Pilot and Gunner looked at each other. Pilot smiled grimly at his friend. “Strange bedfellows indeed.”
The duo picked up the man who had given them life and carried him, following Dr. Madd into another part of the darkened house.

A new manuscript arrived on the editor’s desk the next morning. It wasn’t Vance’s best work, the editor thought, but it wasn’t the hatchet job the previous draft was. At the climatic battle where Pilot and Gunner couldn’t stop Dr. Madd from blowing up the world but were rather killed, along with Madd, in the explosions set by Madd, a new character arrived. Calling himself The Creator, he claimed to be in charge of Globerra and stopped the world from burning with a wave of his hand. He said he was their god and he could decide their ultimate fates, not then.
The editor was perplexed as to why Vance would essentially write himself into his own story. The editor wasn’t too fond of the use of the Deus Ex Machina either. But with the emergence of The Creator the series had a new villain and new life. Pilot, Gunner, and Madd teamed up at the end of the manuscript and swore to fight The Creator, saying only they would control their destinies.
It was a suitable endpoint for Vance’s take on the series, the editor thought. A new writer could easily come in and continue the stories. The editor would allow Vance to continue on with whatever endeavors he wanted to seek. Yes, the editor ruminated, the “Flights of Fancy” stories would last another decade at least now with this new character, The Creator. The Creator would be the new face of the franchise. And Vance would finally be free of it, the editor thought. Vance finally got what he wanted.

Short Story: Unidentified Flying Object

September 26, 2011

Of the 152 people on Flight 647, including flight crew, on that faithful day, the final tally stood like this, a year after: 31 suicides, 23 accidental deaths, 12 legally declared insane, 6 in jail for highly violent crimes, 41 simply disappeared off the face of the earth, 29 refused to talk at all about it, and 20 told and sold their story, all widely different from one another, to whoever would listen. Those 20 who did speak were deemed quacks, perhaps better suited to be in those nice white jackets 12 of their brethren were fitted for. The black box, which would tell the real story, or at least a part of it, passed quickly around appropriate government agencies, of which the FAA was not deemed to be one of. Yet, even if it was only for the briefest of moments, all 152 passengers on Flight 647, the decorated pilot, the child traveling to meet his father, the high school aged couple, knew what they were experiencing. Something unusual. Something terrifying. Something unidentifiable.

The flight started off with nothing unusual. Captain Stuckey got the plane off the runway towards the Bahamas only a few minutes behind schedule. There were only a few last minute cancellations, one at the gate even. That was not common, but it was not unheard of. The older gentleman had simply walked to the gate, took a look around, then told the nearby attendant that he would not be flying with them today. The attendant just nodded and pushed a few buttons. The man turned around and walked crisply away, a certain quickness to his step.
As Captain Stuckey taxied off the runway with his less than full plane, Chris Chamberish and Diane Wickers squeezed each other’s hands. The couple, barely eighteen, were jetting off for their honeymoon. They had secretly wed a few days earlier by a city judge and funneled their graduation money into this trip. Their parents thought they were going with a bunch of friends to celebrate. Chris and Diane were, but not with any friends and not for graduation. They were celebrating their holy matrimony and the new life growing in Diane’s stomach for four weeks.
Little Ricky Macintosh was on Flight 647 because a year earlier his dad had broken his sacred vows to his mother and ran off with Ricky’s babysitter to Nassau. This was the first time since then that Ricky would be seeing the pair. Part of Ricky hated his father for abandoning him. Part of Ricky hated his father for taking his favorite babysitter away from him. The eleven year-old by was nursing a crush on her for quite a while when the drama exploded. Ricky was nervous and afraid which was compounded by the fact that his mother wanted nothing to do with the elder Macintosh and sent Rickey on his on to the foreign country, passport in hand.
There were others on that flight. Twin sisters Wendy and Jo, already giggling about the guys they were going to meet on the beach. Pete Decklin, former big time gambler, desperate to get out of the country at any cost. Little old ladies and strapping young men. Families and bachelors. Flight crew, like Roger and Sarah, who had just completed the safety instructions that no one ever pays attention to. Roger and Sarah were planning something wicked a little later in the flight, after they served the beverages, something they could get fired for, but nothing that would be too memorable. The usual eclectic bunch that populates a flight was on Flight 647. All the passengers, all the flight crew, all of them played a key role in the events that transpired that day. Because without them as witnesses, the madness would have never caught on like wildfire.

The sun had set behind the plane and the beverages had been served. Roger and Sarah eyed each other nervously. What began as a joke in the airport lounge was about to become a reality. They knew about the risks to their jobs. But being a flight attendant was boring work. Barely anytime to spend in the cities and dealing with cranky customers. Roger called to the front of the plane, saying he and Sarah were going to check the garbage as a passenger said she lost a watch/ It was going to be smelly in the back near the bathrooms, so no one should come near. It was a lie, but one that would keep the other crew members away. As for the passengers, well they treated Roger and Sarah like wallpaper, so they wouldn’t notice their absence. The pair slid into the bathroom and clicked the door shut.
Captain Stuckey, unaware of the shenanigans of his crew, sat back in his chair, letting the atuopilot work, and admired the emerging stars. Stuckey fancied himself of an amateur astronomer. He felt it romantic that a pilot could still navigate and guide himself by the heavens in this century. There was Orion and there was his belt. The Big Dipper. Mars.
Except Mars was moving. And in the wrong part of the sky. His co-pilot was checking some gauges when Stuckey nudged him.
“Hey, Bob, what do you make of that?”
Bob, the co-pilot, looked up. “Probably another plane.”
Stuckey shook his head. “We were the only flight out of the airport to be heading this direction at this time of day in this flight plan. We are over the ocean. I doubt we would have any commercial traffic.”
Bob glanced at another gauge. “I suppose.”
The moving light slowly came closer. It was no longer one solid color. It seemed to be running through a gamut of colors. Stuckey was amazed.
“Anything no the radar, Bob?”
Bob glanced up again, then down towards the instrument panel. He then sat up straight, suddenly interested. He stared intently at the object.
“No, and we should be getting something at this point. Maybe there is a malfunction in the-”
Bob didn’t get to finish his statement as he immediately suffered a seizure and collapsed, dead in his chair.
Stuckey stunned as the ball of light came even closer to the plane, filling the entire cockpit with pulsating illumination. If anyone was looking from the main cabin to the cockpit door, they would swear there was a spotlight inside. Stuckey, shielding his eyes with his hand, grabbed the radio and tried to call out. First to the object, but there was no reply, only a single, low-toned hum. Stuckey then switched frequencies to emergency channels but only got static back. Then that low-toned hum from the main channel infected the other frequencies leaving Flight 647 in total communicative blackout.
As the light moved away from the front of the plane towards its left side, Stuckey once again squinted. He could almost make out a pair of beings amidst the light. But he didn’t know if that was the truth or just his eyes playing tricks on him. He shuddered. He didn’t have much time to think about it as he slowly realized the autopilot had turned itself off and shut down, leaving him alone to fly the plane. Despite the unbelievable fear gnawing in his brain Stuckey shakingly resumed his pilot duties. It never occurred to him to warn any of the passengers or the crew.
Back in the main cabin Chris and Diane were huddled over a magazine. It was Chris who first noticed the UFO. He watched it uneclipse itself from the front of the plane. He watched it silently, enraptured.
Diane noticed his lack of focus. “Honey, what is it?”
As if in response, Chris’s eyes grew wide. He slammed his head repeatedly against the back of the seat in front of him. He didn’t stop until he passed out, blood over the floral pattern in front of him, his eyes no longer wide, but dead. Diane opened her mouth to scream but nothing came out. She had seen the craft by now and tried to scream again. Nothing. A million thoughts raced through her brain then they all seemed to disappear at once. Diane went catatonic. She wasn’t even aware 9 months later that she gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
It wouldn’t have mattered if Diane made a sound in terror, no one would have paid her any attention. The light, still cycling through every color in the spectrum, had caught the attention of everyone in the main cabin. Seemingly basking in the attention it was now receiving, the light performed some quick loops around the fuselage, impossibly close, and making a rainbow around the plane. In the bathroom, where Roget and Sarah were punching their club card, the light spilling in around the door was something of a coitus interruptus. Roger couldn’t perform any more. For some reason, unbeknownst to even herself, Sarah found this hilarious. She madly laughed. Roger put his hands to his ears to block out the cackling and to temper the suddenly boiling blood in his veins.
“Stop that, you bitch!”
Sarah did not stop. In fact, she laughed even harder and louder, becoming overwhelmed by it. She started to cry around her laughter. All Roger could see was red, from his rage and from the outside light. He grabbed Sarah by the temples.
“I said stop!”
He then snapped Sarah’s neck. She fell silent, her mouth opened in a permanent guffaw. The rage had given Roger the strength to take another person’s life. Looking down at the sprawled body of the girl who was only a few minutes earlier his lover, Roger began to weep. Later, he had to be forcibly removed from the compartment by the officials.
Wendy and Jo, upon seeing the light, immediately swapped personalities. Wendy was previously the more outgoing of the sisters, with a quick wit and saucy comment. She now felt the need to draw up within herself, to become more quite and shy. She didn’t want any embarrassment. Jo, the mousier of the two, would suddenly feel confidence to be more outspoken and speak her mind. It would lead to much confusion upon their return home. They looked so much alike that even before Flight 647 that is was not rare that they would get mistaken for each other. But it increased hundred-fold. So much so that Wendy and Jo swapped lives. Jo was now Wendy and Wendy was now Jo. Not even their parents knew the difference. And over time, it did seem like they acquired each others memories. Wendy remembered going to computer camp when it was Jo who went. Jo remembered the first time a boy kissed her, which was really Wendy’s first time. The psychic connection twins seemed to have under normal circumstances was irrecoverably twisted by the UFO.
The old woman in Seat 11B thought she saw Jesus in the light. She immediately got down on her knees and prayed. When the man seated next to her started talking in German, she took this as talking in tongues and fell further into her religious stupor. The man, to his own astonishment, kept on talking in German. The man could never master a foreign language, having failed high school Spanish twice, yet it seemed like he could now give a speech in German that even the Kaiser would be jealous of. He would never return to speaking in his native English language.
Pete Decklin looked around the cabin is dismay and confusion. He saw all the chaos and did not know what to make of it. He tried to shake awake the person who was seated across from him in the aisle, but the man turned away. When Pete grabbed the man and forced him to look at Pete, Pete instantly recognized who he was: Johnny Nice, Pete’s bookie. The man who had spooked Mr. Decklin so much that Pete jumped on the first flight out of the country and landed on Flight 647. He had once seen Johnny Nice punch out a lackey, send him to the hospital, for forgetting the car key. Pete stumbled backwards.
“No! How’d you know?”
Pete turned and ran down the length of the plane. He ran into another passenger: Johnny Nice. He turned away and yelled out in horror. Faces, serene and calm, turned to see what the commotion was. The faces of a dozen Johnny Nices. Pete clawed out his own eyes to avoid looking into the scarred face of the man with the misnomer of the last name “Nice.”
Ricky Macintosh was on Level 5 on his Min-Gaming-System when the UFO approached. The light from the craft joined the glow from his game and a certain calmness came over him. He found himself no longer mad at his dad or his former babysitter. He felt he had no need for anger. His worry over the big test in school next week was forgotten. He was sure he would pass. He put down his MGS and say back in his seat. Ricky instantly fell asleep despite the high wattage of the UFO and the screams of his fellow passengers. He dreamed of grand things: graduating high school at the top of his class, running his own company, his Presidential inauguration. But first he saw himself becoming the mascot of the doomed flight. He saw press conferences and reporters hinging on his every word, not believing him, but waiting to hear what the cute preteen would say happened. He smiled in his sleep.
Eventually the craft slowly left the eyesight of the plane and disappeared into the night, silent. In its wake it left psychos, sociopaths, and death. Disbelief and shock. Captain Stuckey, still haunted by the death of his co-pilor, managed to send out a message for an emergency landing fifteen minutes after the UFO left. The craft had accompanied Flight 647 for 82 minutes, though for the people inside, it seemed much shorter. Stuckey was hailed as a hero and the fuselage as a chamber of horrors. The initial consensus of the authorities was that a terrorist released a nerve agent on board, leading to mass hallucinations. That was the cover story given by someone in uniform when the plan landed. Then it was said there was a drug cartel operating the airline and they were trying to ship LSD to the Bahamas. Some of it leaked into the beverages and caused the horror. Finally, the blame was pinned on Roger, the flight attendant. It was reported that he went by another alias, one that linked him to a serious of serial killings in the Midwest. Story ended up that he went on a murderous rampage on the flight, sending the witnesses into shock. The tale went from being an attack, to an accident, to one raving lunatic. In none of these explanations was there a mention of a bright light or a UFO. Something extraordinary happened on Flight 647, but something that the general public accepted as occurring within the realm of our known reality.

The clack of military boots on a tiled surface echoed down the hallway. The older gentleman who once cancelled his ticket on a plane entered an unmarked room.
“Status report!” he barked.
“Sir, it seems like the experiment work. More than 75% of the subjects have been adversely affected. The hysteria ray was successful.”
“Good. My scouting paid off. Can you imagine it? We don’t need to send troops into a warzone anymore. Just flash a couple of bright lights and the enemy will destroy themselves from within. International law can’t get to us if we aren’t doing the actual damage. Just a shame we have to test it on our own civilians,” said the older man.
“How should we proceed?”
“We need to make sure this wasn’t a fluke. Let’s run it again.”
“Under what conditions?”
“Any plane, fling at night, over a stretch of the earth that is desolate. A good scientist always repeats the experiment as exactly as one can.”

Short Story: The Last Case of Detective Moore

September 19, 2011

There was no better example of the phrase “better to burn bright than to fade away” than Detective Alvin Moore. He represented both sides of that axiom. Lined on the walls of his office were the newspaper articles testifying to his ability to burn bright. “Mob Rings Busted” and “Millionaire Murder Mystery Solved” headlines tell the story of how Det. Moore once stood proudly, a crackerjack detective who was even envied by the FBI. Rumors persisted he turned down job offers from the G-Men and Scotland Yard. The magnetic force that was Det. Moore drew in even foreign agencies.
One article though was not hung and framed on the office walls. It was in a desk draw, at once buried underneath supplies and constantly available to be read by Moore. It was the last article written about in a while. The headline: “Authorities Too Late to Save Boy”. The photo: a weeping mother. Not pictured, a family friend, one Det. Moore, bending over a sheet-covered body of a boy no more than six years old. Staring at the face of the boy until the coroner pulled him away. Still staring at the boy in his mind.
On top of that desk with the drawer containing the unhung article was a man fading away. Slumped over, sleeping off his liquid breakfast, which he had ate all of as the empty bottle of gin could swear to, was Detective Moore. His office could use a maid. But she left four months ago when Moore could no longer pay her. His secretary left two months ago, more out of frustration than lack of payment. It wasn’t like Moore didn’t receive customers and cases. His reputation, slipping as it was, still carried a lot of weight in this city. But Moore simply turned them away or, even worse, took them up only to quickly lose interest and drive and abandon the case and the people who were hopeful for his help. The last person who walked through the door marked “Alvin Moore, Private Investigator” left with a black eye. It was a new low for Moore. But then again, it seemed like every day brought a new low. Until this day.
The door bell rung out as the entrance way was opened. A spiderweb fell apart and sent the eight-legged creature away from the bell, onto the ground and into the hallways. The intruder that disturbed its home was careful not to step on the scurrying arachnid. For this, the spider was grateful.
As the door opener stepped into Moore’s office, backlit by the light spilling in from the hallways, Moore dozed lightly. The unknown person took a few steps towards Moore and pondered why Moore was chosen in his current state. The empty liquor bottles, the discarded and overflowing trash on the floor, the unkempt appearance of the lump of mass sleeping on the desk seemed to be indication of the unworthiness of this version of Moore. Surely the Moore from the articles on the wall could have accomplished something, but not this one. Those framed articles burned brightly in the intruder’s eyes. Maybe it was possible for that Moore to still exist. Finally, the intruder called out, in a strong feminine voice.
“Detective Moore? Detective Moore, please wake up…”
Moore mumbled something then slowly blinked awake. He reached for the empty gin bottle, still half-asleep, and knocked it to the floor. It shattered into little pieces. That spring Moore to attention. Instantly, the last mists of sleep were gone.
“Goddamn it! I could have gotten a few cents for that at the plant. Plus there might have been a few drops left…”
The woman started again. “Detective Moore?”
Moore spun around, noticing the woman for the first time. He blinked again in rapid movements, not believing his eyes. Never before had Alvin seen such beauty. Long flowing blond hair, a figure that an hourglass would die for, and her eyes. If eyes were the window into the soul, Moore was sure this lady’s soul was full of wonderful things.
“Excuse me, ma’am, but surely I must be dreaming or you wandered into the wrong part of the city, cause dames like you don’t come around here.”
“I assure you, Detective, I know where I am and you are certainly not dreaming.”
Moore started cleaning up his desk. “Well, Miss, I haven’t had a visitor in a while.”
“Yes, since you punched out a Mr. Brandon.”
Moore stopped cleaning. “You heard about that?”
“There is little I don’t know about you, Detective Moore.”
Moore collapsed into his chair. “And yet, you are still here.”
“Yes.”
“Why?”
“My boss has a case for you,” the woman stated.
“Your boss?”
“Yes.”
“Why isn’t he here?” Moore asked.
The woman moved closer to the desk where Moore was sitting. “He knew you would be more open to listening to me than him.”
Moore looked over the beauty once again. “He certainly got that right.”
“The case is simple. You need to recover an item. An artifact of sorts. We know who has it. We know where he is-”
“Then what do you need me for?” Moore interrupted.
“My boss does not care to interact with these sorts of people. Plus, he is a very busy man.”
“So you get the guy with nothing but time and blood on his hands?”
The woman took a deep breath. “Not exactly. Believe it or not, my boss actually likes you. Liked how you helped those who could not help themselves. He considers this job payment in return for all of that. It is a very simple case.”
Now it was Moore who took a deep breath. “Well, I am at a disadvantage, you see?”
The woman furrowed her brow in confusion. “How so?”
“It seems you and your boss know all about me, yet I don’t even know your name.”
The woman smiled and her eyes twinkled. “It’s Angie.”
Moore got up from his chair, spent a few seconds straightening himself and thinking things over and walked over to Angie. He took her hand and shook it.
“Pleased to meet you, Angie. And I’ll take the case.”
“You’re not even going to ask about the money?”
Alvin smiled. “Something tells me you are good for it. And that you are the sort of person who can’t help themselves.”

Moore arrived at the address given by Angie some time later. Not surprisingly, it was in the rundown section of town. No wonder Angie and her boss didn’t want to step foot here. Doing so would probably lower the property value of where ever their shoes traveled to after, thought Moore. But the detective was used to prowling these sorts of neighborhoods. Filth attracted filth and somehow a chain would appear each junkie or floozy Moore shook down until he reached the person he was looking for.
There was no need for any of that in this assignment. The only thing Moore thought he needed to shake was his leg so he could get this over with and make to his bottle. But even Moore had to admit it was nice to be out doing the good work as he exited his car and the warm light of the sun hit his face. A little thrill went through the detective as he walked on the weedy, broken pathway to the dilapidated house where he was sent.
Moore rapped on the front door. No one answered. He knocked louder. Still no one answered. While contemplated whether or not to kick the door in and if he still knew anyone of the police force that could cover for his lack of a search warrant, the door cracked open.
Meth-head, Moore thought as the little sliver of open door revealed a strung-out man. As soon as Moore opened his mouth to introduce himself, the meth-head started to slam the door shut. Moore quickly put his foot in the door and pushed it wide open, send Meth-Man flying backwards. More stepped into the house with little other fanfare.
Blinking a few times to adjust to the lack of light, Moore began to question Meth-Man. Meth-Man hadn’t bothered to move from his new position on the floor and decided to curl up in a little ball.
“So where is it?”
“Where’s what, you jerk? I have right, you know!”
“Which went up in smoke when you burned those rocks. Where is, well hell, I don’t know, they didn’t tell me. Where’s, uh, the artifact?”
“This ain’t no museum! I don’t know what you are talking about.”
Moore surveyed the scene. He silently cursed himself for not being aware he was being sent on a wild goose chase. Moore blamed the hangover. And the woman. Two things in life he could do without, Moore humorously thought. Nonetheless, the detective felt the old responsibilities coming back into his blood and knew it was his duty to at least look around for something that could be this mysterious object he was sent to retrieve for Angie and her boss.
The room was bare, littered only with drug paraphernalia and little else. No furniture, an air mattress, dirty dished. A step up from homelessness but only barely, Moore said to himself. More was just about to call it a day when he spotted something that didn’t belong. A flash of purple out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Maybe it was just a trick of that eye, maybe that was failing Moore or Moore was failing it. But Moore felt drawn to that purple mass anyways.
He walked over to the object and saw what it was: a stuffed purple bear. A purple bear acting as a drug mule, that’s funny, Moore thought. However, when Moore turned the bear over looking for telltale signs of rips and tears, he found none. Moore had seen a darken splotch. Blood. Dried a long time ago. Moore felt some unknown anger and horror rise in him.
He turned to Meth-Man, who was now crying. “What’s this? You some sort of pervert? Or you just a momma’s boy?”
The meth-head just sobbed louder. He finally choked out some words.
“I didn’t mean to! I just needed some money. The bitch was rich, she just should have paid. No one would have gotten hurt!” Meth-Man broke into hysterics. Moore knew he had found his prize. He was just clueless as to what it meant.
As Moore stepped outside back onto the broken pathway, he had to rapidly blink again to adjust to the new light. When his eyes were refocused, there was Angie again, outlined by sun, standing by his car. She smiled at him and the stuffed bear in his hand.
“Ah, I see you found the item.”
Moore rushed up to her. Angrily, he said, “Is this some sort of joke? This is the ‘artifact’? It’s a stuffed bear, for Chrissakes! Is your boss having trouble sleeping at night and wanted his Bearie back? God!”
“Now, now Detective Moore, you of all people should know the value of keeping around a memento of one’s past. But this item isn’t for my boss. Rather, it is for,” Angie paused, “a mutual acquaintance. And we are going to deliver it to her now. It’s been gone for far too long. Then you can get your reward. Into the car, Detective Moore.”
Moore gruffly followed the orders of Angie and placed himself behind the wheel of his car. He kept the stuffed animal on his lap on the drive. Something inside of him wanted to keep it near. As if the thought of losing the bear now would mean he would finally lose the last grasp on reality he currently enjoyed.

The day was near its end when Moore and Angie finally arrived at the upscale manor. Angie had let the detective drive in silence on the way over. A feeling of dread and anticipation had washed over Moore. He only was dimly away for the drive, despite being behind the wheel, and was even less aware that he was out of the car, bear in hand, and knocking on yet another door when the manor door opened. Detective Moore stood in shock as to who answered the door. In turn, the woman who answered the knocking stood in shock as well.
“Alvin, is that you? What are you doing here? I haven’t seen you since that day…” Tears welled up in the eyes of the woman. Just like in that photo in the newspaper article when Moore failed to find her son in time.
“Cynthia, I don’t know what I am doing here. It’s kinda crazy. I was hired to find something by this woman, see? I had to get something for her. Then I came here with her,” Moore turned around to point out Angie in his car, but the setting sun was too bright to see anything in that direction. “I, uh, didn’t even realize where I was. And-”
Cynthia noticed the purple bear Alvin was holding for the first time. She broke out in fresh tears.
“My god, Alvin, where’d you get that?” She grabbed the bear from out of his hand.
“Well, you see, that’s what I was hired to get.”
“That was Teddy’s bear! It was our secret joke. Teddy’s bear. Never let it out of his sight. It disappeared when he went missing. It gave me a little bit of solace in those first hours that where ever he was, he at least at that bear.”
“What?”
“I thought I’d never see it again. Thank you, Alvin, for finding it. Dear god, I prayed for something of Teddy’s from that day to come back to me. I have his pictures and his old toys, but nothing that was so much a part of Teddy as this bear. Thank you. I have to go now or I am going to turn into a puddle on my front steps. We should talk about this some time soon. I can’t believe this!”
Cynthia slowly closed the door. When Moore turned around, there was Angie again, smiling, her eyes twinkling, as the sun finally dipped below the horizon behind her. The detective smiled back, finally at peace.
“Your boss is one tricky devil. Pardon the phrase.”
Angie just laughed. “He’s been called worse. Once, even to his face.”
“Why me?” asked Moore.
“Because, as I said, you were driven not by the money or the fame or the glory, but by the desire to help. That is not a common trait nowadays.”
“I have to tell you, hearing this from you rather than a burning bush helps it goo down a lot smoother.”
Angie smiled widely. “My boss would like to see you know.”
Moore sighed contently. “I expected as much. And I ready to see him now too.” Detective Alvin Moore, celebrated investigator, walked with the most beautiful woman he had ever seen past his car and into the sunset. Case closed.

Short Story: The Wreck

September 12, 2011

Many boats lined the marina. If Harry squinted, he could pretend that the watercrafts stretched to forever. But he had no time to squint or even to look anywhere except straight ahead as he loaded his own boat. Donnie made sure of that. After the incident in Ft. Lauderdale, Donnie made damn sure that Harry kept focused on the task on hand.
The current task was to bring aboard the last of the scuba gear and get the hell out of the marina. Donnie was convinced the Feds or maybe Joey Francis or maybe the Florida fuckin’ Marlins, all 25 of them, were on their tails. Salvaging wrecks was not an illegal adventure in of itself. However getting information from Joey about certain drug cartel gunner boats “mysteriously” sunk or where the higher class of yachtsmen had foolishly run aground on some reefs and laughingly called for help from the Coast Guard, and boy, those coordinate records were supposed to be private, that was a no-no. And when Donnie had decided to cut out the middleman that was Joey Francis, suddenly being on land was fraught with more sharks than out there on the ocean.
As Harry plodded along carrying some extra air tanks on the docks, Donnie was scurrying back and forth, between the nearby storage shed and The Seaborn, their boat. Donnie was in his usual mood of excitement. Or maybe it was nervousness. It didn’t help that when Donnie decided to ignore Joey Francis he started to sample some of the waterlogged product that the cartels, and others, were so set on reacquiring.
“Hey, Harry, can you move it along any faster? My dead grandmother can move faster and she lost her legs when the airline misplaced her bags.” With that insane and inane statement, Donnie burst into giggles.
Harry sighed and did not increase his pace. In fact, he momentarily put down the tanks.
“What’s the rush? You did tell me you registered The Seaborn on the other side of the state, That’s at least a 100 miles away. Right?”
“Huh? Yeah! Maybe…I don’t remember. I don’t care about that, man. This is a huge wreck we are going out to!”
Harry sighed again. “More drugs?”
Donnie started hopping from foot to foot. “No, man. A fuckin’ luxury yacht Titanic’ed out there. All these rich folk celebrating another million dollars, right into the sea. Big news. Wreck site not yet released, but ole Donnie-boy knows where it is. Nothing but the finest pickings for us!”
Harry went pale as Donnie spoke. “We grave robbing?”
Donnie laughed. “Ain’t no different than what we usually do.”
“What we usually do is steal from boats where the occupants are either long gone or otherwise removed. I don’t like dead bodies,” Harry gulped out.
Donnie laughed again. “Poor baby. Think of the bigger picture. Mainly the diamonds and the cash sure to have been on board. It will be enough, enough to pay off…and even buy some…”
Donnie got a faraway look in his eyes. Harry picked up the tanks and started walking towards The Seaborn again. Harry was lost deep in his own thoughts. He nearly jumped off the dock when Donnie snapped back to reality and started back on his excited state.
“Are those tanks full? I didn’t check them. Did you check?…Oh god, I think I see Joey heading this way. We have to go. Now! Vamoose!”
Donnie ran past Harry, grabbing Harry by the collar and flinging him and the tanks onto the deck of the boat. The extra tanks rolled on the deck, much to the dismay of the main tanks, strapped down as per local regulations. Donnie and Harry may not follow many laws, but they were smart enough to follow the ones that were out there in public.
Harry struggled to his feet as Donnie rushed behind the boat’s wheel and started the engine. Fighting back the vomit threatening to let loose from his stomach from fear of Joey and his brass knuckles, Harry looked for the tough on the dock. He saw no one. No Joey, no Feds, not another human being. To harry, it was only him and Donnie left in the whole world.

A few hours later, Donnie had calmed down, Harry had seen his lunch again, muttering to himself about how he hated getting seasick, and the extra tanks continued to roll around. The boat slowly came to a stop and the engines were cut off. Donnie clapped his hands happily and declared that they were there. He walked over to Harry.
“Think of it, Harry, a few hundred feet below us lies the modern equivalent of Blackbeard’s treasure. I would say it is a goldmine but I don’t think there are any underwater goldmines.”
Harry could just smile glumly. He wasn’t thinking about calling it a goldmine but rather another identifier, one that described the more organic contents they are liable to find down there. To divert his line of thinking, Harry chose to look at the horizon where some dark clouds were starting to collect. Oh, much better, Harry sarcastically thought. As if in response to his thoughts, a lick of lightning flashed.
“Well, let’s check our equipment and get ready. The pawn shop closes at five, don’t you know?” Donnie remarked as he walked over to the scuba equipment. He stubbed is toe on one of the rolling tanks and cursed loudly. He kicked the tank again and rolled it to the front of the boat, near the flag pole. On the flag pole hung a pirate flag Donnie jokingly unfurls and hangs on missions like these. Harry once remarked that they were phantom pirates, raiding ships that once were but are no more. But never with any trace of humans except for their possessions…until now, Harry thought.

The storm was upon them as they finished putting on their scuba tanks. The ocean was now swelling to fifteen foot waves. The boat was being tossed back and forth like a stress ball between the hands of an impatient man. The second extra tank had joined his brother at the flagpole and both had taken refuge from the storm by jamming themselves under the seating area there.
Harry already felt like he was swimming 50 feet below the surface. He turned to Donnie. “Don’t you think this is a bad omen? Not to mention pretty damn unsafe.”
“Nonsense. We get a couple of dozen feet below the surface, none of this matters. It’ll just be us and the sunken treasure.”
With that, Donnie flung himself into the black ocean. Harry soon followed. When Harry hit the water, it seemed to be 30 degrees colder than it should have been. Harry shuddered in spite of himself.
A handheld flashlight provided Harry some light, but Donnie was so far ahead of him that Harry could only follow Donnie’s light to their destination. Occasionally, there would be a bright flash of light from a huge discharge of electricity from the sky. Then Harry could temporarily see everything: Donnie swimming, a gray yacht ahead with a nasty gash and fish darting away from the human intruders in fear. Each time it happened it seemed like an old fashioned movie was being shown in front of Harry’s eyes with some frames missing.
When Harry finally reached the wreck, Donnie was struggling to get a plank out his way so he could enter the boat through the gash. Only upon closer inspection did Harry realize it wasn’t a plank but rather a human arm. And Donnie wasn’t trying to move it, but rather he was trying to pry a ring from the finger. As Donnie fought to get the ring off more and more and into his collection sack more and more of the corpse emerged from the hole. Harry’s partner was flailing about trying to get his prize and the corpse slowly started to wrap itself around Donnie. In a previous life, the corpse may have weighed 250 pounds. Donnie could barely benchpress a sandwich. Donnie, the man who was so frantic to get moving, was pinned against the hull of the yacht.
Harry was frozen in shock and some small delight and watched his best friend in crime’s grotesque facial contortions as Donnie tried to push and pull his way out of his predicament. Harry knew his partner was in desperate times when he observed an increase in bubbles around Donnie’s breather. He was surely screaming for help, Harry thought. For salvation that will never come. Harry was happy the duo was too cheap to buy a communicator with their scuba gear. Harry knew he would have been driven mad by Donnie’s pleas.
Suddenly, a light as bright as the sun illuminated the area. Harry saw more than he wanted to with this new perspective. He saw more bodies in the gash, as if they were lining up to wrestle with Donnie. He saw Donnie’s eyes grow wide looking up past Harry’s shoulder towards the surface. Harry tuned to follow that gaze when he heard a low booming noise.
Looking back at the surface Harry could almost sweat the sun was not only out but very close to where The Seaborn, the boat which served them loyally through all their capers and never judged, once was. Only the boat and the sun were one and the same. Lightning had struck the flagpole, catching the pirate flag, the boat, and most importantly, the extra tanks, on fire. The combination of highly pressured oxygen and heat had set off a massive explosion that delivered the fire to the fuel tanks.
Well, I guess those tanks were full after all, thought Harry. As a piece of debris fell through the ocean towards Harry, Donnie, and the watery grave of people too rich for their own good, Harry squinted. It truly seemed like the wreckage went on forever.

Short Story: From the Desk of Bryn Mawr – The Troubadour

September 3, 2010

From the Desk of Bryn Mawr
Cultural Anthropologist, Purveyor of Economics, and All Around Good Gal

CASE TITLE: Troubadour
Also known as: The Bard, Songstress, Musicmaker
Area of Sightings: Eastern Forest, from Maintop to Sandalwood

Lore:
The first encounter with Troubadour that was not lost to history was in 1725. There, an early settler of Bark Falls said he was out foraging when he heard a melody coming from some unexplored branch. He said he felt almost drawn to the music. When he reached the branch, something took flight, but he claims to have seen a half-Dirigible, half-bird fly away. He said the feathers were of many different colors and seemed to shine in the sun light. The other settlers were a superstitious lot and took this creature has a devil spawn. They set out to hunt and kill the creature. 6 went out. Only 4 returned. The other two went to live in a nearby town when they saw it had better houses.

Legend grew around the being. Parents often told scary stories centered on the Troubadour to warn their children against playing amongst the weaker branches. Often the stories would be about some hapless child being swept up by the tune the monster was playing and wandering out onto the skinny branch. The branch would then snap, sending the child to their doom as the Troubadour would fly away. The tale got so famous that noted fairy tale writer Young Brig Ume incorporated it into his collection. Little details were added or subtracted from this version of the tale: sometimes Troubadour would catch the falling children if they repented for their misdeeds, sometimes the animal would eat the remains of the children to take their innocence.

While the young Dirigibles were kept in fear of the mythical creature, some adults were fascinated with it. Peppered throughout history, there are records of “Troubadour Hunting Parties,” even to this day. Of course, no one has yet to come back with the monster, dead or alive. Then there are Troubadour “researchers.” These people claim to have found Troubadour feathers in the forest. These feathers are much larger than any recorded bird’s. However, most of these feathers, when put under scientific analysis, have proven to be fake, made from synthetic materials (Reference Berkeley’s work here). When whole bushes of berries are stripped bare, the Troubadour is often blamed amongst the less educated folk.

Troubadours have also been blamed for breaking up marriages. Back in the 1800s, in a small community near the border of Leaves and Paint Branch, there was a series of divorces in which the man was accused of cheating on his wife. All the men claimed that they were lured away from their wives by the Troubadour and left confused, leading them to be taken into the arms of another woman. The men said they thought the other woman was their own wife. This became known as the “Dividing Incident” and is still being debated in certain academic circles today. The small community has gained some fame for the incident and opened a tourist center focused on it. Claims that it is a viable reason for divorce in that town have been unverified.

The Troubadour is firmly planted in today’s culture, through shows like “The Search for Troubadour” and, ironically, the popularity of the novelty song “Sing Like a Troubadour” by Jewel E. Ard. The legend has become somewhat of a joke, with the aforementioned “Hunters” and “Researchers” being laughingstocks. There are Troubadour costumes available for purchase. No longer is the tale told to children to scare them. In fact, the children’s version was adapted for an animated feature film in the last decade.

Analysis:
The origin of the legend is probably rooted in the fact that early settlers of the region were not familiar with the local collection of birds. Surely hearing some of the unusual calls for the first time scared and intrigued the settlers. I even bet some of them fell to their deaths when they went exploring and forgot their surroundings. The legend achieved long term relevance when it was archived by Ume. Before that, the tale was based mainly through oral history and could have easily been lost.

I suspect that even with the lack of evidence, the legend will continue to be at the forefront of the fringe sciences. Modern “scientists” claim that analyzing the vocal patterns of the Troubadour will help with finding a suitable mate for us Dirigibles. There is even a supposed black market for the monster’s vocal box. Yes, they are selling something’s vocal box. I feel sorry for the Dirigibles ingesting that. It certainly does not help you land a date when you lean in for a kiss and your partner smells animal guts on your breath.

It is an interesting cultural trajectory to follow though. It starts off as a wondrous creature, then morphs into something to be feared by children, then something that causes “innocent” men to sin against their wives, and now, into something that is basically fun and games and spurs whole careers. What Dirigibles can’t explain soon becomes just another thing to laugh about or profit from.

Conclusion:
Since even with today’s advance technology we have yet to locate even one piece of solid evidence of the animal, Troubadour remains a myth and I do not foresee it ever being discovered.

Characteristics:
Half-Dirgible/Half-Bird
Wingspan is said to be between 10 to 20 feet.
Can either be heard singing in masculine or feminine voice (dependent on who is listening?)
May also be heard with a guitar (Modern reports)

CASE FILE 541

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Short Story: Theodore, The Socially Awkward Vampire

August 27, 2010

This is the story of Theodore, the socially awkward vampire. As you can imagine, it is hard to be socially confidant when grooming is a nigh-impossible task, what with the lack of a reflection in a mirror. In high school, he wore braces on his fangs. It made it very hard to suck blood from necks, not that he was doing a lot of necking back then. He was a bit of an outcast, though he was a member of the marching band. He played a brass instrument, because those woodwinds reminded him too much of a stake. The braces, plus the fangs, always made playing the instrument hard and the spit valve of the instrument got a steady workout when Theodore was playing. He once let his spit leak all over the section leader’s new shoes when he was talking to the leader. It was not cool.

He had a high school crush, her name was Mira. Her smile was as bright as the sun, and that hurt Theodore. She sent his bat wings a flutter. But she had a boyfriend, Doug Van Helsing. Oh, how Theodore hated Doug. He was the captain of the football team. He once scored 4 TDs in a game, and rumor had it, reached second base with Mira. Anytime Theodore would start to talk to Mira, he would stutter. Theodore would try to hypnotize Mira into coming to his parents’ place to study, but since he could not keep his eyes from darting around from shyness around Mira, it always failed. After graduation, Mira and Doug got married and had 3 kids.

College wasn’t much better for Theodore. Though he made friends with a small group of goth kids, Theodore still was socially awkward. After a long night of bloodsucking, Theodore was sweaty in his morning class. He smelled and the classmates around him knew it. He was alone in his desk when the TA asked a question. Theodore raised his hand to answer, revealing a pit stain the size of Transylvania. Everyone laughed and Theodore blushed a shade paler.

Theodore once thought a girl he liked reciprocated his feelings in college. They got drunk one night and fell into bed together. Literally, they fell into bed when Theodore and the girl walked into Theodore’s room and he tripped over his shoes. They went to sleep in each other’s arms, cuddling. Theodore was in heaven, the girl’s neck just inches from his fangs. When, in the morning, he awoke and tried for the neck, the girl turned away and said Theodore was like a brother to her and she didn’t want to ruin that by being his slave for all eternity. Theodore was disappointed. Just like the time his roommate fangblocked him with that girl at the party. Theodore was sure the girl was into his ruminations on the differences between Dracula and Vlad the Impaler.

Theodore got a good job at a blood bank after college. The pay is steady and the benefits are unbelievable. He lives alone though, his closet full of graphic t-shirts referencing pop culture from the 80s. All the 80s, 1880s in particular. He plays his CoffinBox at least 2 hours a day, with his online handle being CapedOne2 (CapedOne1 was already taken). He has no complaints about life. And the girl down the hall is kind of cute and she smiles at him every time they are in the elevator together. Maybe next time they are together, he can bring up his collection of action figures (not dolls) from the hit TV show, The 20,000 Dollar Pyramid.

Short Story: Knocks the P.I. – The Case of the Golden Engine (Conclusion)

August 23, 2010

The next day, just as Knocks was about to ring up Malory Towers on his portable phone, she swayed her way into his office. She was wearing an outfit to die for, and Knocks reflected that he almost did die just to see Malory in that dress. Malory sat down in the same chair she sat in the day before.

“Can you read minds, Ms. Towers?”

“Only those of the male gender. Of course, they are a bit easy to read. Unlike the Theory of Advanced Propulsion in the Upper Atmosphere.”

Knocks leaned back in his chair. “Funny that you mention that. Last night, as I was doing research, I stumbled upon a book. ‘Variable Geometries in Spacecraft.’ Talked about how these spacecraft can expand or contract upon entry into an atmosphere to either increase its descent velocity or decrease it. Mainly due to the amount of drag on its surface. All automated. Now that in of itself would not seem to be applicable to your engine, but it got me thinking. The main problem you laid forth was that due to internal shocks, your engines had to be designed with a specific area ratio to get them to operate properly. Yet, if the engine started in off-design conditions, it would fail. So then it struck me. Why not design an engine that had variable geometry? Allow the inlet to change its area depending on the conditions you want the engine to run at. It can then swallow any shocks and allow for operation over a wide range of altitudes. And you have this brand new engine that isn’t just an iteration on the old one, but a brand new design. One, might I add, that will have its own set of problems, but it will be bright and shiny.”

Malory smiled widely in the guest chair. She seemed to be bursting with energy. “Yes, that would work! And, as you said, it would open up a whole new field of research, one that I can tie my wagon to for a while and insure I can keep on working at Westview Aerocorp. There might even be a raise in my future because of the work you did!”

Knocks sat up in his chair, “Well then, Ms. Towers, what do you say you take me out to dinner with your future earnings? You can wear that dress, at least for the first half of the evening.” But Malory was already too far gone in her own thoughts to hear Knocks’s proposal. She kept on talking to herself as she got up from the chair and walked out the door. Something about heat exchangers and nozzles.

Knocks leaned back in his chair again. “Women. Why are the good ones always the ones who are thirsty for knowledge? Good thing I am an oasis in the desert of ignorance, so they come to me: Knocks, Principle Investigator.”

Berkeley looks up from the comic book with Knocks on the cover. “Boy, that Knocks! Wish I could emulate him!”