The Brusters were proud of their baby girl Delaney. She was a beautiful.
Her brilliant blue eyes captivated everyone’s attention, and she had a sweet disposition.
Until she turned five years-old.
That’s when the demon came to her one night and promised to always be her best friend. She was sitting on the edge of her bed and pouting, because she had to go to bed early as punishment for kicking the cat, when a sympathetic voice said, “That wasn’t fair.”
She looked around the room but couldn’t see anyone. “They didn’t have to punish you like that,” the soothing voice asserted.
“I can’t see you. Where are you?” she asked.
“Close you eyes, DeLaney.”
She meekly obeyed. The first thing she saw was a cute little black puppy.
“OOhhhh!…she squealed in delight.
“Keep your eyes closed.”
Eyes closed, she reached out to pet the puppy, but he was just out of her reach. That night she listened to a bedtime story by the invisable puppy.
She couldn’t remember it in the morning but vaguely remembered dreaming about puppies. At breakfast, she asked her mom and dad if she could have one. They were both surprised at her request.
Delaney had never mentioned wanting a pet, even though many of her friends had pets. They both agreed it would be good for her, and took her to the closest animal shelter.
She walked up and down the cages petting the puppies. When she came to the cage where a little black mutt was waiting she stopped and petted the eager pup.
“This one, Mommy and Daddy,” she said, smiling happily.
As soon as they brought the puppy home, she named him “Max.” They became inseparable. When Max started talking when no one else was around, DeLaney wasn’t scared, or surprised.
He told her where he’d be waiting and the minute she saw him at the shelter she knew it was him. Her parents noted that from that day on she quit acting like a spoiled brat. It was a small miracle that made life around the house go much smoother.
Twenty years later, DeLaney and Max moved out and bought a one-bedroom house just outside the city limits. A three-hour drive from her parents house. Close, but not too close.
Thanks to Max’s help, she had a successful start-up business that sold for more money than she ever imagined.
Max always had the answers to anything DeLaney needed to know. The only thing she knew about Max was that he was cast out from living with the other demons, and exiled to her dimension.
DeLaney, never was a social type, and was more than happy to have Max to go on long hikes in the nearby national forest. As the years passed peacefully by, she realized Max wasn’t aging. Again, like everything about Max, it didn’t surprise her.
In fact, the thought comforted her in her old age. She did worry about what Max would do without her, however.
Their favorite walk was on a trail overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There were places along the way where they could set and stare out at the vast sea, talking about every subject under the sun.
DeLaney was spry enough at 91 years-old to take care of herself. With Max’s help, of course. She never regretted not getting married, or having kids. It just wasn’t her. She was too independent to have a close relationship with anyone but Max…her lifetime confident and best friend.
One day, while indulging in her newest hobby of oil painting outside in the great outdoors, DeLaney dropped her brush, and died from a massive heart attack. Max was there when she went down.
His howls of grief attracted two young hikers who came upon them. The man bent down and took her pulse. He looked at the woman and shook his head sadly. She called 911. When they tried to catch Max he ran away.
The priest blessed the coffin one more time, and the workers lowered it down slowly into the grave. There were no friends or family to mourn her loss. When the priest and workers left, Max came out from behind the bushes that lined the perimeter of the cemetery.
Without hesitation, he laid down on DeLaney’s grave.
Then a miracle happened.
The supreme being who banished Max to be with the demons forgave him for his transgressions and brought him to the Elysian Fields where DeLaney was waiting for him.
As It Stands, this tale (no pun intended) was an exercise in exploring unusual friendships.
He woke up screaming!
Ever since Jake Jones returned from combat duty in Afghanistan he was plagued by nightmares.
They were so real that he woke screaming every morning, bathed in sweat, with bruises and even scratches on his body.
The Army psychiatrists said he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and put him in counseling, and fed him pills that were supposed to help.
While he was patient at the White City VA, in White City Oregon, the doctors observed his bruises, cuts and scratches on him every morning. The consensus was they were self-inflicted, despite Jake’s denials.
He refused to speak during group counseling so they had to resort to one-on-one counseling. His doctor experimented with every anti-psychotic medication available but none of them helped.
All the doctor knew about Jake was that he was wounded twice in 2009. He was among 3000 U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division that moved into the provinces of Logar and Wardak to push out the Taliban.
A group of Afghan Federal Guards fought alongside the Americans. They were the first wave of an expected surge of reinforcements originally ordered by President Bush and increased by President Obama.
One day Jake and his squad were exploring caves looking for enemy insurgents. They came upon a group of old men and some young Taliban fighters and a deadly firestorm erupted.
When it was over half of Jake’s squad was dead or wounded. Jake suffered a bullet wound through his left shoulder. All of their enemies lay dead except one old man. He had been hit several times and was sitting with his back to the wall.
When Jake approached him blood was running out of the corner of his mouth and he was muttering something. Scott, the team translator came over and listened to the old man’s fading words. When they stopped, Scott turned to Jake and said “This guy has cursed us 1000 times over. Too bad that I don’t believe in that crap.”
Jake was medevaced to safety and returned to combat duty three months later. All of his remaining team members were gone, dead, or returned to the United States.
Three days after returning to his new unit his platoon was ambushed. Jake was the only one wounded. This time in the chest, just missing his heart. That’s when the really bad nightmares began.
While recuperating in the hospital the first one happened. One moment he was sipping water through a straw and sitting up in a hospital bed, and the next he was in an unfamiliar place that looked a lot like the province of Wardak.
Three old men approached him with long canes. He stood there, powerless to move while they beat him and chanted ancient curses. He could feel every blow. When he couldn’t stand the pain anymore, he screamed…and woke up with a nosebleed.
A nurse ran into the room and comforted him as she washed the blood off his face and beard. In her report she noted that the patient had somehow inflicted injury upon himself while sleeping.
The same thing happened for three nights in a row before he was transformed to a mental ward and strapped onto a bed for his own safety. When the nurse checked on him the next morning he had a black eye and more bruises on his chest.
The stunned staff immediately launched an investigation to see who had attacked him. The night nurse said no one had entered the ward, and the security guards verified her story.
The nightmares continued, but the beatings stopped. He was released back into the general population and assigned a new doctor two weeks later. Jake was a pale shadow of himself having lost fifty pounds since his second wound.
The nightmares morphed from beatings to ghosts of dead Afghani children, women, and old men surrounding him with sad eyes. They were the same old men in the cave that he helped kill.
He continued to wake up screaming until one day he decided that he’d had enough. He tied his sheets together, firmly securing one end to the ceiling fan and wrapping the other around his neck. Then he kicked the chair away from beneath his feet.
As It Stands, this tale was an exercise in mixing a real mental problem with the supernatural.
During the American Civil War photography was still in its infancy.
The men who photo-documented it would forever be assured a place in photography history.
Men like Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan, James Gibson, George Barnard, James Gardner and William Pywell, covered all of the war’s struggles and camp life.
There was one photographer however, Weldon Wall, whose works during the war between the states were all destroyed just after the war in 1866.
He sometimes shared his photos of dead bodies during the war with amorphous beings rising from them.
His peers thought it was trickery and blasted him for re-touching the images which they suspected he was going to sell to their grieving relatives. Actually, it was much worse than that.
Wall, a loner, didn’t have an assistant, so it took him even longer to process the images, feeding the rumors. His wagon was always well away from the others and he never associated with them, despite numerous invitations.
These intrepid men with their traveling labs recorded the bloody fields of Antietam to Gettysburg. Their daguerreotypes, unlike Wall’s, were destined to be viewed for generations.
Wall, a physic vampire, never attempted to sell his collection. Each of the photos represented stolen souls. They were caught at just the right time escaping the bodies. His work was more diabolical than anyone could have guessed.
He kept the photos locked up in a steamer chest. His plan was to capture as many souls as possible before the carnage was over in order to make a deal with the devil. He wanted immortality, something a physic vampire could only achieve by making a deal with the Great Deceiver.
After the Union victory, Wall went back to his hometown of New York with his collection of over 3,000 photos. He kept them in the bedroom of his rented apartment. The moans of the trapped souls were a lullaby to his ears.
He waited patiently for the devil to contact him after performing the rituals required to summon him. He repeated the ritual every day. The soul’s groans would also help attract the Dark Lord.
The night finally came when the devil appeared in Wall’s apartment.
At first, the devil was amused at Wall’s sheer audacity and listened to his proposal. By the time he was done speaking the devil had heard enough. The fool really thought he could dictate terms to him!
Wall had opened the steamer trunk and was standing beside it expectantly as he waited for a response.
The crude fire brigade did their best to save the apartment building but it was engulfed in such intense flames they could only retreat and stand back and watch.
The next day the newspaper had a short story on the front page about the mysterious fire and speculated that a photographer might have accidently started it when developing a photo.
As It Stands, the devil will always get his due.
Earth’s sister planet Panole Siris – Tedn Galaxy
During the Second Cycle of Aton,
They searched for D’an for two straight days before catching him hiding in the caves of the Atmont Wilderness Territory.
Prior to that, D’an’s life was spent traveling and studying other civilizations. He was a genius who roamed the planet alone. He visited the largest cities in Panole Siris Major, and trekked through the blazing deserts of Panole Siris Minor.
He claimed no one place as his home. He taught himself the disciplines of math, physics, biology, archeology, and digital technology. His powerful brain was capable of remembering anything he ever learned, and saw.
Whenever he came to a city, or small village, his reputation preceded him and he was welcomed. He always shared knowledge that benefited their lives. It was considered a high honor if he came to where they lived.
While visiting the city of Evermist, D’an was approached by two men who asked him to meet with their master. He graciously accepted the invitation and followed them to a mansion in the wealthy Ka Corners section of the city.
Their master, Khel Oreda, was one of the richest men on the planet. His guides took him inside, then excused themselves and disappeared down a long corridor.
D’an waited for him in the massive entryway, casually noticing the signs of wealth everywhere. Sculptures made from rare metals graced the ornate shelves around the room.
Finally, Khel Oreda made his grand entrance down a marble stairway that ended where he stood waiting. He was a short squat man dressed in clothing that glittered when he moved.
“Thank you, kind sir, for coming,” Oreda said.
“How could I turn down an invitation from someone as important as you,” D’an replied with a smile.
“No banter then, if you don’t mind. I’ll get right to the point. I need you help.”
D’an’s calm expression never changed. “I have been known to help people. It’s in my nature. However, I do have limits regardless of the stories you may have heard. I’m not always able to assist.”
“Then hear me out, and let me know if you can. Please, take a seat in the chair right there.”
Oreda paced back and forth for a moment before speaking, “I want immortality. I want you to help me live forever. If there’s one person on this planet that could do it…it’s you! I’ve prepared a laboratory that I think will impress you, stocked with all of the latest technology known today.
“If you help me, I will make you the second most wealthy man on the planet. Just think of the many projects you could finance to help needy people? You’d be able to buy anything your heart desires.
“Will you help me?”
“A very ambitious project sir. Will you allow me to think about it for a day?”
“Of course. You can spend the night here,” Oreda offered.
“Thank you, but I have someone waiting for me. That’s why I came to this city.”
“Tomorrow afternoon then. I’ll see you out.”
Atmont Wilderness Territory.
The moment after D’an left Oreda’s mansion he decided against helping him. He was uneasy with the request. It just didn’t feel right. What he wanted would have repercussions somewhere down the road.
Within an hour D’an had secured a ride to the Atmont Wilderness Territory. It was a place he sometimes came to meditate at. There were fruit trees and bushes with eatable berries to live on. Wild potatoes could also be found.
The caves provided shelter from the elements. But not from pursuers! The two men who guided him to Oreda, appeared one day and forcibly took him captive.
The City of Evermist – Oreda’s Secret Laboratory
“I’m really disappointed in you D’an. I hoped you, a man of many sciences and disciplines, would jump at a chance to extend life forever. Now, what will I do with you? You ran off like a frightened school boy instead of the greatest genius of our time!
I could torture you until you agree to help me. I could turn you into a zombie and let you wander around the putrid slums of this city until you die of starvation. Or, I hope your listening closely, I could give you another chance to change your mind. What will it be?”
As he spoke D’an formed a plan.
“Plainly my best choice is to cooperate. With that in mind, I’ll attempt to do something no one before me has done. I’ll need time to inspect what’s available here, and to request anything I may still need to grant your …request.”
Three Months Later.
“You understand why I have to transfer your brain into the cyborg I created. It would outlive your decaying body otherwise. Have no fear. Your two men are here. Nothing will go wrong.”
D’an put the gas mask over his mouth and counted to ten before removing it. His sleeping patient was ready for surgery. Hours later, the transfer was complete. He gave instructions to his two men on how to take care of him, and left, as agreed.
He was no prophet, but was reasonably sure Oreda would regret getting his request.
A Year Later.
Oreda the Cyborg was an outcast.
Civilization wasn’t comfortable with the Freak who could live forever. His cyborg body was so far in advance of the current technology that it would take 500 years before another of his kind would be created.
Historians say that Oreda was last seen wandering in the vast deserts of Panole Siris Minor searching for D’an.
As It Stands, this tale is a twist on getting more than you bargained for.
Roaring 20s – America
It was a Golden Age for magic in America, thanks to escape artist and magician Harry Houdini, and his contemporaries.
The competition among magic acts was fierce with performers like George The Supreme Master of Magic, Chang and Fak-Hong, Thurston The World Famous Magician, Alexander, The Man Who Knows, and the Black Houdini.
Some may argue that it was a time of naivety and gullibility. One thing was for sure, people were always looking for the next great trick, or escape. This story is about one of those magicians.
Pima, Arizona – The Valley of the Gila River
It was just breaking light when the Martian space ship crashed into a copse of trees near the Gila River. Two, of the crew of three, were killed on impact. The survivor was still inside an escape pod that was never launched.
When Malgog woke up hours later, he felt like every bone in his body was broken. His head ached and his vision was blurred. Somehow he got out of the pod that was partially pinned down by a massive bank of computers that shifted on impact.
Instinct told him to get clear of the crippled craft. Once outside he looked around at his surroundings. No cities. No people. That was a good. He crawled back inside of the ship and gathered some supplies.
While inside, he activated two plasma bombs. He was almost a mile away when they went off, disintegrating the ship. The glow competed with the rising sun.
Malgog was stranded. Marooned on Earth. He knew full well he’d never see the underground oceans of Mars again. If nothing else, Malgog was logical. He was also thankful that he could live in Earth’s environment.
The tunnels and caverns of Mars provided an atmosphere much like Earth’s.
As he walked through the rough countryside, he began mentally preparing himself for contact with earthlings. He had a language app on his wristband that sent translations directly into the receiver implanted in the back of his skull.
He reviewed what he learned in the Galaxy Guide To The Planets. There was a summary of mankind’s evolution and history that left off somewhere after the Civil War in America.
Malgog had two very positive things going for him; like all Martians he could read minds, and his strength was that of five men.
When he reached the little town of Pima, founded by the Mormons in 1879, he walked down the wooden sidewalk peering inside of windows. He passed the bat doors of the town saloon, and approached a man sitting on a wooden chair precariously balanced on two legs.
He had a bottle of whiskey in one hand and was mumbling to himself when Malgog said “Hello.”
It startled him enough to bring his chair down on all fours as the man looked up at the speaker. He was a tall man with a good tan and a bald head. He was also wearing an outfit like the drunk had never seen before.
It was a black one-piece affair that fit like a second skin. He wore a belt with metal pouches. The drunk, whose name was Arron, looked at the wall near where Malgog was standing and the poster on it.
The poster featured a colorfully clad magician waving a wand and wearing a cape.
“Hello, right back at you,” he replied. “Who are you? A magician? The next Whodini?” he laughed heartedly at his own joke.
An inspiration came to Malgog, and he said “Yes. I’m the Great Malgog!”
That seemed to sober Arron up a bit and he took a long look at him.
“Where’s you cape?” he demanded.
“Lost. I could use your help. I’m stranded here without any means due to unfortunate circumstances.”
“I like the name Whodini better,” he mused. “All right then friend, follow me. You can sleep on the floor in my rented room. I might even have an extra blanket. Been getting cold at night. It’s almost winter.”
Two Year’s Later.
Arron still couldn’t believe his luck. Malgog turned out to be an instant hit on the magic circuit, and he was his manager. No more Podunk towns like Pima. They had a grand house in Boulder, Colorado. Servants and all.
Malgog was so popular in the Midwest that he and Arron only picked the best venues. Their partnership was solid, and served them both well. In the main room of their elegant house there were photographs of him lifting impossibly heavy objects.
Theatre posters with examples of The Great Malgog’s magic tricks also adorned the lavishly decorated room.
His success did not rob him of his logic. He purposely stayed away from the West and East coast magic circuits. The one thing he didn’t want to do was to become so famous that people demanded to know about his background.
He could invent one, but it could eventually be debunked. Instead he preferred to be a man of mystery in real life. He never granted interviews with the press and always left by back exits after his performances.
Arron was his connection to the world. After six years Malgog retired, and they bought a ranch near Billings, Montana. Before Malgog died 15 years later of natural causes, he confessed his true identity to Arron…his one friend on Earth. He creamated the stranded Martian and threw his personal things into a lake.
But, Arron couldn’t just let Malgog’s story go untold. When he went to the press he was greeted with skepticism and laughter. Finally, his brother appeared and put the now frail old man in a home.
So, now you know the story of the greatest magician there ever was – and it wasn’t Harry Houdini.
As It Stands, this tale of a marooned Martian was a fun way to revive the Golden Age of magic.
Hunyad Castle, Hunedoara, Romania – 1453
They’re going to let me go today.
After a decade in this dungeon, my captors are granting me a pardon.
Apparently because they think I’m no longer a threat to them. Whatever. I’m watching the sunrise sneak through a small vent in the tower’s ceiling. It’s bathing me in its glow.
I heard one of the guards yesterday say they were letting me go because they thought I was crazy, and would never be able to contest for the crown. My royal blood was the only thing that kept them from murdering me.
This castle tower once held Vlad III of the Wallachian empire, called by some Dracula. He stayed here for seven years. I’ve seen traces of his writings scratched onto the rock walls. His broody presence stills stalks this hell hole.
I’ve held long conversations with Vlad the Impaler during the many nights I slept on the cold stone floor. He comes to me in my dreams and sometimes during the day, whispering strange things into my ear.
Who am I, you may ask? Just a bastard son of the noble Hunyadi family who restored this ancient castle. My mother died giving me life, and my noble father, King Albert of Hungry never officially acknowledged me. My name is John.
I’m a wart in the family line. No one wants to kill me, but I’m treated like a stray dog. And today they’re letting the dog go.
I know what my enemies see when they look at me; a frail old man with a long beard and balding head. They think I have no life left in me, and that I will wander off and die somewhere alone, unknown to future generations.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about this, and I know it’s a good thing they underestimated me so much. It led to my freedom. It’s gave me a chance to wage a blood feud against my own family.
Wait! Here they come now!
One day later.
I’m not use to walking so much. My weary body is being forced to move by sheer will power. I know the cave isn’t far from here. Vlad told me where it was in a dream.
The cave was my key to immortality, and revenge.
I was crawling by the time I reached the entrance to the cave. It was partly concealed by bushes. If I would have been stronger, I would have stood up and walked in. Instead, I had to crawl in like a worm into the darkness.
I have no idea how long I crawled. Resting against a wall, I summoned my remaining strength. I listened. I wasn’t afraid. Vlad assured me the final pain would be quick, then I would enter the new royalty of bloodsuckers for eternity.
When I heard the bats, I sat still and waited for them. Vlad was right. The pain of death was sharp. But when I woke I felt like a new man. A strange woman sat next to me, allowing the cut on her arm to drain its crimson content into my open mouth.
Her hot blood surged through my veins, and I felt a power like nothing a human could even imagine. I could see clearly in the darkness. Everything was crystal clear. When I stood up I was dizzy for a moment, but it passed.
It was exhilarating flying through the night. When I reached the castle it was still dark and the inhabitants, including the guards, were sleeping. Now, a thing of the night, I glided through the corridors until I reached my uncle and his wife’s bedroom.
The guard outside their door slept with a sword across his lap. I couldn’t resist starting my feast with him. It was over quickly. I took his sword, and cut his head off afterwards.
When I went inside I could clearly see their bed. I went up to the side my uncle was on and fed. Not too much blood, however. I wanted him to suffer. It was just the beginning. I had plans for my damned family.
Plans that would carry through future generations, and that would be referred to in the Family Bible as John’s Curse.
As It Stands, family feuds have long been the fodder of fiction writers.