The Hunter and the Gorilla

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Avery’s passion was to kill (and mount) rare and endangered animals.

He would go to any length to hunt one for his private collection. There was never a question of morality with his hobby. He was unencumbered with a conscience. Free to think independently. He was a self-made man, an inventor who earned millions from the many patents he owned.

It took two years for his private museum to be built near his favorite mansion in Blue Sky, Colorado. He took out his previous kills that were in storage and displayed them in natural-looking scenes. He spared no expense in lighting and stage craft for each animal. He looked forward to sharing his private museum with his fellow hunters who thought nothing of laws when it came to the chase.

As he inventoried his collection he realized that he was missing a key animal. The endangered mountain gorilla. In particular, a silverback gorilla. So, he went on his computer and started to make arrangements for a hunt in Rwanda. He’d have to call all of his connections in Africa to arrange such an illegal hunt.

The Virunga Mountains, Western Rwanda

Rwanda’s largest National Park, Parc Nacional Volcans, is a haven for rare and endangered mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. It’s home to five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains.

Deep in the forest there roamed one particularly large and intelligent Silverback gorilla. He was the leader of a troop of 50 gorillas. At six-feet tall and 500 pounds he was unopposed by males from other troops. Like most gorillas he could eat 40 pounds of food a day.

He preferred to eat vegetation such as wild celery, shoots, roots, fruit, tree bark and tree pulp, but had no problem eating small animals and insects in a pinch. The lordly Silverback spent his mornings and evenings eating. The middle of his day was spent napping or playing with other gorillas. Submissive gorillas groomed him until he sent them away.

The dominate Silverback and his troop claimed a territory of 16 square miles. This Silverback however, was like no other because he was highly intelligent and had the thought process of a man. He spent his life watching humans from afar and quickly determined they were dangerous when they carried certain objects that made a loud bang and killed up to a long distance. Without their weapon, he realized, they were practically helpless. Years of observation taught him a lot about hunters and the local natives. Under his leadership, none of his troop had fallen prey to the professional big game hunters. He taught them to avoid men at all costs. The big Silverback often felt lonely with his complex thoughts, but members of his troop always cheered him up.

It was raining the day that Avery showed up with two guides at the foot of the Virunga Mountains. They pitched a tent and waited for the rain to stop. When the rain subsided a blue bird with a purple comb, and a yellow and orange beak, cried out in alarm. Other birds picked up the cry and carried it deep into the jungle.

The big Silverback knew what the birds were saying. Danger. Men nearby. He got up from his nest of leaves, cutting his nap short, to investigate. Before he left he warned his troop not to come in contact with the deadly men. Then he plunged into the forest in search of the enemy. It was dark before he discovered their camp. They had barely penetrated the vast forest’s interior. There were two tents. A lantern glowed inside one of them. He could see there was only one shadow inside. Then someone merged from the other tent. A Rwandan guide. He started walking directly towards the Silverback’s concealment. He stopped just short of the tree the Silverback was hiding behind, opened his cargo shorts, and relieved himself. The smell of the warm piss suddenly enraged the Silverback who roared and went after the guide! The man tripped just outside his tent and screamed! The Silverback pounded his ham-sized fists into the guide’s face and torso. In his blind rage he sank his fangs into the man’s neck.

Another guide popped his head out of the tent, saw the angry gorilla and ran for his life. Avery stepped outside of his tent with a high-powered rifle just as the Silverback slammed into him!

The power of the charge sent Avery flying backwards a few feet. The Silverback pounded his chest and roared in rage as Avery, still on the ground, pulled his pistol out and shot him! The Silverback felt a flash of pain in his chest and realized he had to run away. Avery fired five more times at him as he tore through the bushes. Two of the bullets hit him. One in his right arm. The other in his back. His blood pumped out rapidly as he lumbered through the thick undergrowth and vegetation deeper into the interior. He knew he’d made a fatal mistake in confronting the camp.

Avery bent over and tried to get his breath as his chest pounded in pain. He suspected he had broken ribs. It didn’t matter though, he told himself. He was going to get that Silverback. It would be the crown jewel of his collection. When the other guide returned he helped wrap Avery’s torso with Ace Bandages. He had to double the guide’s fee for him to go on. Despite the pain Avery was insistent. He’d get his trophy.

Two of the young males in the Silverbacks’ troop found him sitting down with his back against a tree. They immediately knew something was wrong and chattered fearfully while picking at his wounds. Their wails of alarm attracted other members until soon the whole troop surrounded him. Some of the females cried and hugged their offspring as they sensed the severity of the Silverback’s wounds. Finally he was able to get enough strength to stand up and called for the troops attention. He called one of the larger males over to him. The Silverback had discovered this male was as smart as he was. Sparing no time he instructed the male to lead the troop into new territory. Further into the vast mountain network. The male accepted his role and herded the troop away, leaving the Silverback to die alone.

It took two days for Avery to stumble across the dying Silverback. He looked at him defiantly and showed his teeth as Avery raised his rifle to finish the job. Then a pack of angry mountain gorillas, led by the smart male, swarmed over him and the guide! They were flung around like rag dolls until they quit moving.

Afterwards the gorillas covered the dead Silverback in leaves, as the smart one, their new leader, instructed them.

As It Stands, this tale is in recognition of the endangered animals on our planet.

Back To ‘His Image’

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Truman’s dream came from an ancestral memory of when humans walked the earth. Before the great morph, and the changes in their anatomy that forced them to live under the sea.

He saw people walking in deserts, forests, mountain trails, and paved streets in massive cities. They were all able to breathe the sweet air they took for granted. It was before the gills started showing up in babies. Before fingers and toes were routinely webbed. It was in a time before mankind unleashed dooms-day bombs that nearly destroyed the planet and it’s inhabitants.

He didn’t question his dream. As usual, he just wished it was longer.

The ocean was a dangerous place, but twisted evolution made it even worse. When the first humans were forced to be water-dwellers they were confronted with monstrosities in the dark depths and quickly preyed upon. But as millions of humans morphed and banded together, they learned how to survive the terrors in seas across the planet.

Truman’s job in the colony he lived in was to provide food. He and many other “gatherers” constantly sought plants, and small forms of sea life, like crabs, lobsters, and oysters to feed the colony’s five thousand inhabitants. It was a daily job. A way of life. Part of the tapestry of their city under the sea.

After bringing back his daily quota, Truman spent most of his time exploring. Sometimes his friends came with him and they found ancient shipwrecks replete with artifacts in gold, silver, copper, and precious stones like diamonds and rubies. They would study them and admire how light danced through the diamonds as the lighting above beamed down through the depths and passed through them. They’d spend hours trying to figure out what the corroded pieces of metal were. Especially the massive metal tubes scattered near some wrecks. Without disturbing the artifacts they’d go back to their city. They were useless in the world Truman lived in.

The dreams started when he was eighteen years old.

The early dreams were like going to a school and learning simple lessons. As the years passed by, the messages became more complex and would puzzle him for days afterward. In the last year his dreams became a tour of another age. He saw humans with varied skin colors, but without scales like his. They built fantastic machines that flew in the sky and rumbled across the earth. They erected architectural wonders all over the world.

Truman jealously guarded his secret dream life. It was a wonderful escape from his dull existence. People would just laugh at him, and he didn’t want that. His temper could lead to getting him kicked out of the colony. That was a scary thought.

In the dream a man appeared and asked Truman questions. The odd thing was he was able to answer him! He temporarily felt a wave of nausea and then they were both standing on a beach. Truman started to panic when he realized he was out of the water, but the strange man reassured him it was okay. And, it was. Somehow he was able to breathe. He looked up and down the beach. It seemed endless. Turning away from the water he saw sand dunes leading to a garden. He knew what a garden was. He learned that lesson early on in his dreams.

“Do you want to explore?” the man asked.

“Can, I?” Truman hesitantly asked.

In spite of himself Truman woke up. His heart was still beating fast with anticipation. “Damn!” he muttered out loud.

Picking up his corral spear and knife, he slipped out of the common sleeping room and went in search of food. He was daydreaming and not paying attention when the mega shark appeared directly ahead of him! As fast as he was, there was no way he could out swim the massive creature. It’s four eyes, and the two tentacles that grew from its misshapen head with eyeballs on their ends, looked at him hungrily. He’d never been cornered before by a monster this large before. It’s sheer size was a horror to behold. He cleared his hunter’s mind and held the spear up and planted his web feet firmly. He held on as it pierced the largest eye on its head! The beast thrashed in agony and churned the water around so strongly he was flung to one side. His survival instinct urged him to swim in the opposite direction as fast as he could. It was an hour before he felt it was safe to come out of the cave he found in his flight. Despite what happened, he couldn’t go home yet and began looking for food.

The stranger came to him in his dream that night.

They were on the beach again. He was able to breathe air again. “How?” he asked.

“Those plugs in your nostrils and ears.

“Can we go to the garden?” Truman wondered.

“Yes, of course. Follow me.

As they walked through the beautiful garden with lush fruits hanging from trees, Truman asked where the animals were? The stranger smiled and said, “The construct isn’t complete yet. I have a lot of work yet to go. I’m reconstructing another age.”

 “Where is this?”

Somewhere between reality and the renaissance of the earth,” the stranger explained.

Have I died? Or, am I still dreaming?

“Dreaming…but some day…

Truman bolted upright and looked around the room. It was almost empty. Only a few sleepers remained. Once again he was disappointed that he wasn’t still dreaming. The stranger sounded so encouraging. He knew something special was happening and wanted to be part of it. Sighing, he got up and started his day.

Months passed by without The Dream. Truman was distraught. He no longer explored or hung out with his friends. He gathered his daily quota of food, then went off to be by himself.

The dream came back one night.

The stranger, whose white beard was longer than the last time he saw him, appeared weary, but satisfied.

The construct is nearly finished. Are you ready for a new life?”

“Yes!” Truman quickly answered.

“You still have the blood of the first man I created. And the soul of a good man. Now I give you the body of a true man,” the stranger said. “Welcome to paradise…Adam II.”

As It Stands, was mankind ready for redemption?

Another Day At The Zoo

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Like many of the other younger humans in our enclosure, I like to interact with the aliens that pay to come and visit us.

I’m a third generation captive so the novelty of being on display doesn’t affect me in any way. My father, mother, grandmother and grandfather, still have major issues with our way of life. Especially my grandfather, who we call Papa. He gets to talking about when he was a soldier in an army that fought the first wave of aliens when they invaded Earth back in 2068, and it’s hard to stop him. The old boy is still pretty passionate about losing something he calls “his freedom.” I admit that I really don’t understand what he means by that, but I humor him.

We have everything we need here. Food, water, housing, and even entertainment. The neighborhood I live in has immaculate yards and custom homes. No two look alike. My family lives in a two-story house that is said to be a perfect copy of an 1880 Second Empire Victorian home. Right down to the furniture inside.

Forgive my rudeness. My name is Thad. I’m the youngest in our house at 78-years-old. I’m in the best shape of my life and I enjoy running 5 K races. A good game of full court basketball still gets my juices going. My Papa, at 124 years-young, is still a force to contend with on the tennis court. He often talks about living longer than he ever dreamed. He grudgingly admits that something the aliens put in our diet has extended the normal lifetime of humans.

My father, an only child, became immersed in a religious book called the Bible, at an early age. He gathered followers for years sharing his belief about following the Ten Commandments in it. When I was in my 20s, he made me read it, from end-to-end. Once he told me that although it appears we live in the Garden of Eden, we were, in fact, living in hell. That we were nothing more than trained apes content to live meaningless lives. His face always got red whenever he talked about it, and his eyes lit up with a fury that was barely contained. Afterwards I would feel vaguely guilty for reasons I didn’t understand. I never dwelled for long on his passionate diatribes. Life seemed good enough to me.

I never tire of seeing new species from around the solar system stare through the unbreakable glass, full of curiosity. Sometimes I’m able to communicate with universal signing, and learn about life on other planets. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Martian. He was ten-feet tall, thin as a rail and had extraordinarily long arms. We signed back and forth for hours before he took a picture of me and moved on to other exhibits. It was an exhilarating experience learning about life on Mars. When I came home and told my father he got angry and started quoting passages from the Bible. After that, I didn’t talk about what I did during my days.

My favorite visitors were from Venus. Not only were they polite but beautiful to look at. They reminded me of a book Papa showed me once about fairies. They were only a few inches tall, and had wings. They would visit in large groups of a hundred or more, and would spell out simple words in the air, like “Hello, and goodbye.” Because my father taught me to read, I had no trouble picking out the words. It was fun. Sometimes their little bodies would light up in brilliant colors. They could put on quit a show. In turn, they enjoyed having me tell them about my life. They seemed particularly interested in our food distribution system. I explained that the zoo staff flew into the enclosure once a week and dropped off supplies in a central location – the House of Food – where a trained staff of humans distributed the food throughout our community. One of the most popular food items was a ready-made soup that was irresistable to human taste buds. My Papa says it’s that soup that’s extending our lives. Our zoo keepers called the soup Ska.

The only visitors I didn’t like seeing were the Saurins from Jupiter. Not because they of their huge scaly reptilian bodies, but because of their fierce dislike of humans. They let us know that they’d rather eat us, then watch us. Their large baleful eyes hypnotized prey before they struck. I still shudder recalling a time that I was caught up in that deadly stare. If it wasn’t for the glass between us, I would have been his next meal. After that I learned not to look into their eyes.

One evening when I was having a bowl of ska, I discovered an eyeball! I was shocked and wondered how it got in the soup. To my untrained eye, it looked like a human eye. My stomach heaved for a moment at the thought. My brain raced through numerous possibilities – none of them good. Try as I might, I couldn’t see how an eyeball got in there by accident. When my father got home that evening I showed it to him. He was silent at first, as he carefully examined it.

“It’s a human eye!” he suddenly blurted out.

“How do you know?” I asked.

Turning to me with a look of pity he said, “We’re the only animals left on earth son. The rest have been eliminated a long time ago by humans, and finally the aliens.

I was so shaken by this information that I stood there with my mouth agape and couldn’t form any words. I shuddered at what it meant. When Papa came home and confirmed my father’s opinion, I was horrified. It meant that we were eating parts of humans. The mysterious meat base to the soup had to be human flesh. The eyeball was a packing accident. Despite my family telling others about it, there was a lot of skeptism. I stopped eating the soup immeditely, as did other members of my family. But the community at large continued to eat ska.

The effects from not eating the soup became apparent weeks later as my family and I began showing signs of rapid aging. My Papa was right about the soup being responsible for our advanced ages. Somehow, the aliens had developed a way of slowing aging down considerably by using humans and a combination of chemicals.

Papa and Grandma died of old age last night. Their skin was so wrinkled I barely could recognize them. My father and mother are so frail they can no longer walk. Their days are obvisiously numbered. I can’t walk a 100-yards now without being exhausted and out of breath. I haven’t touched a basketball since that dark night of discovery. I pass my days now waiting for aliens to come visit our little community.

When they do, I give the international sign for help. It’s all I can do. Perhaps someday, another race will rescue humanity. I’ll keep trying as long as my body lets me. I’m not afraid of death, but the idea that someone will be eating my body is the hell my father has been preaching that we live in now, for years.

You’ll have to excuse me now. I think I see a group of Venusians coming this way.

As It Stands, sometimes what we take for reality, is merely an illusion.

Peter’s Supernatural Super Band

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Peter started collecting musical instruments used by famous deceased musicians when he became rich on Wall Street.

His ongoing collection was not open to the public because some of it was stolen. It was his pride and joy. Only people he trusted implicitly got to visit his Music Room, located in his 19-bedroom mansion, in upstate New York.

Peter was a mystery man with no known surviving family members. He was a self-made man, and a wizard. His ability to predict when stocks would go up, or down, or even the future, came from long years of training by the Coven that raised him.
When the witches sent him out on his own he was 21-years old and savvy in the ways of the world. Getting rich was easy. Entertaining himself was more difficult at first. Until he discovered a love of music.
It became all-consuming. He went to operas and rock concerts for years before developing a passion for musical instruments. Then one day a Wall Street trader acquaintance asked him if he would be interested in buying a rare piano?
“How rare?” Peter asked.
“It’s been hidden for seventy-five years, and it’s owner no longer wants it. It’s the last Grand Piano Sergei Rachmaninov played on Russia soil before the Leninist regime seized his estate near Tambov in 1917, ” his acquaintance explained.
“He moved with his wife and two daughters to Denmark before relocating to New York the following year. Left behind was this European-made Grand Piano hidden by a first cousin who later smuggled it into the United States, and a safe warehouse,” he added.
“It’s condition?”
“Excellent. An expert has kept it in tune.”
“Why sell it now?”
The owner is old, and perhaps getting a little senile according to his grandchildren. It seems he’s been visiting the warehouse for years “listening to Rachmaninov play,” and telling his grandson that the famous musician is the one playing the Grand Piano.
Peter smiled. the biggest smile he had for decades and asked, “How do I get this piano? Money is no problem.”

To Peter’s delight, the story was true. It wasn’t long before he was striking up stimulating conversations with Sergei Rachmaninov. It didn’t take him long to go in search of other famous musical instruments whose owners had died. He worked with all of his financial and magical connections to hunt down the objects of his newly discovered hobby.

His next acquisition was Jimi Hendrix’s favorite black 1968 Fender Stratocaster with a maple neck. Despite playing many different guitars, including some Gibson Flying Vs and Les Paul Customs, the Stratocaster was his baby. He was buried with it in 1970 after dying from a drug overdose.
It took black magic to retrieve the guitar, and to entice Jimi Hendrix to play it once again. He had to conjure up female groupies to solidify the arrangement but it was worth it. Peter never tired of listening to him play his hits like Foxey Lady, Purple Haze, and Wild Thing.

Keith Moon’s second drum kit – A Ludwick Black Oyster Super Classic – with 2 toms and a bass drum plus, the previously lost – but now found – original snare drum, cost Peter two million dollars. Moon, who died in 1978, was another restless spirit recruited by Peter, to play his favorite instrument. Peter found that he had a particular fondness of drums and managed to buy Jon Bonham’s first drum set – a four-piece Trixon in Sparkling Red. Bonham, who died in 1980, got along great with Moon, and the two played competing solos deep into the night. In fact, the men knew each other when they were alive.
Bonham would lead off with a Led Zeppelin’s song like Fool In he Rain, showing off his speed, power and fast bass drumming, while Moon would counter with I Can’t Explain, one of the Who’s first big hits.
The real score in drums came when Peter had to pay a thief to steal Buddy Rich’s original drum setup. It included a 14×24 bass drum (with a moleskin patch and a wooden beater), a 9×13 rack tom, two 16×16 floor toms, and a 5×14 snare drum.
His Avedis Zildjian cymbals, which included a 20″ ride, two 18″ crashes, a pair of 14″ hi-hats, and a 6″ splash, shimmered as Peter looked at them. The set had his preferred wood-tip sticks—slightly heavier than a pair of 7As.
Buddy (also conjured up by Peter), died of heart disease in 1987. He was widely considered one of the most influential drummers of all time and was known for his virtuoso technique, power and speed. He never failed to bring the house down with a solo performance of a medley of songs from West Side Story.
With Buddy, Peter had assembled a trio of drum-players for the ages. To him, the cacophony of noise they all made when jamming was the music of the spheres.
It took a long time to find just the right brass trumpet. He finally found one made by Henri Selmer of Paris for Louis Armstrong. He managed to entice Satchmo to stop in a couple of nights a week and jam with his supernatural band. Armstrong always opened the evening with a soulful hit that made him famous; What a Wonderful World.

As the years went by he coaxed other dead famous singers and musicians to come by his mansion and perform. Some on a regular basis, and others like Elvis Presley who only came by on Sundays. Some came by a couple of days a week like Duane Allman.
Every night stars like Jim Morrison, Janice Joplin, Buddy Holly, Jim Croce, and Minnie Riperton could be seen mingling in rooms throughout the vast mansion. The Grateful Dead’s pianist Keith Godchaux, and Sergei Rachmaninov were perhaps the oddest pair to listen to, as one would play a few notes, then the other would follow them up with his own until the two styles wove a magic that captivated listeners.

As Peter got older he finally decided to share his supernatural collection of stars and invited special friends to spend the night, to hear the poltergeist’s talk about their careers and play their favorite instruments until the dawn.

As It Stands, this tale evolved from a conversation with a friend about haunting melodies from beyond the grave.

In The Blink Of An Eye

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The last thing Professor Ludwig von Bruenstein remembered before the lab explosion was that a green fog was escaping from a containment capsule. There was a sickening sweet taste as he inhaled it, before passing out.

A Month Before The Explosion.

Ludwig was having a beer with two of his colleagues at a bar in the small town of Judas Corners. It was located near the laboratory, about two miles away, and was called The Happy Traveler.

It wasn’t a particularly large laboratory. Only 22 people worked there. It was a top-secret facility and was heavily guarded with an electric gate perimeter, and roving guards 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Because it was a top-secret compound, no one in government, with the exception of the president and two cabinet members, even knew about it.

The highly vetted staff agreed to literally give up their private lives and to live at the facility until it was time to shut down the program. After two years, those dedicated scientists were only halfway towards their goals.

The ultimate goals were harnessing time travel, and traveling between dimensions not yet discovered in the universe. The staff agreed not to ask how the knowledge was going to be used. For the good of man, or to help destroy lives with military applications. They all felt the magnetic urge to conquer time and space and were willing to set aside their conscience in its pursuit.

Ludwig raised a frosty mug of beer up high and toasted his friend’s birthday.

“Harold has hit 60,” he said, “and is still as ugly as ever!” 

The three friends gulped down their beer amid laughter.

“Hey! Maybe someday Harold will be able to go to the future and get a new face!” Blake roared, beer dribbling down his long beard and onto the table.

They’d been drinking for hours and were pretty toasty when they finally had to leave when the bar closed. They stumbled out into the street towards a black SUV parked nearby. Someone clicked an electronic key tab. The lights came on and the doors automatically opened. The engine started as they climbed in. The doors closed and they all three sat back and relaxed as the driverless vehicle took them back to the laboratory.

The First Sign Something was Wrong.

Ludwig and another scientist were studying a row of monitors when one of them showed a room where one of their colleagues, Harold, was working on opening a capsule retrieved by the US Space Force on a distant planet. He suddenly stood up when a green gas emitted from the capsule, filling the room instantly. They lost sight of him but heard a startled voice cry out “What the hell?”

Moving fast, Ludwig sealed the room off and turned on a duct vacuum system that sucked all of the green gaseous substance into another capsule and into another room for safe storage. When the gas was gone, so was their colleague! There wasn’t a trace of Harold left. Ludwig called the team’s supervisor Dean on the intercom. He, and the other man in the room, Blake, were told not to talk with anyone and to stay where they were.

The laboratory was built with numerous innovative safety features which included hermetically sealed rooms. Even the hallways were sectioned off into sealed sections. It was impossible to get into any area without proper identification. Only the supervisor had total access of the compound. Everyone else had assigned areas with limited access.

As Blake and Ludwig discussed what they saw on the monitor a door opened and the supervisor walked in, followed closely by two other staff members.

“I’m still doing a head count. Can you tell me who was working on the capsule?” Dean asked as he approached the control panel.

“It was Harold,” Ludwig replied.

“You said a green gaseous substance filled the room. Anything more about it I should know?” Dean queried them.

“It was a luminescent green and sparkled like bursts of electricity were going through it,” Blake said.

“And you said that you transferred this gaseous substance to a storage room?” Dean asked Ludwig.

“Yes. Number Three on the north side of this compound,” Ludwig assured him.

“What do you think we’re dealing with?” Blake asked Dean. “A life form? A portal to another dimension?”

“Both are good guesses. I wish this wouldn’t have happened. You know we can’t tell the rest of the staff about what happened here. Just the five of us know right now. Let’s keep it that way until we know what we’re dealing with.” 

Two weeks later.

Ludwig and Blake were swilling down copious amounts of beer and recalling good times before Harold disappeared. Ludwig was proposing another toast to their lost friend when he suddenly appeared next to them!

“I can’t blink...” Harold said before disappearing again.

Even in their inebriated state they knew he wasn’t a ghost. He was obviously being caught up in a dimensional dilemma that he had no control over. They looked at each other and went back to drinking in earnest. As usual, they closed the bar. On the way back they decided to tell Dean what they’d seen.

After telling their story to him they went to their sleeping pods and passed out.

Ludwig awoke abruptly when someone pulled on his leg!

“What the…?” Then he saw Harold standing there. His normally smiling face was angry and his eyes blazed with fury!

“We have to free the Szani and send them back to Aoqil!” He cried.

“Who are the Szani?” a terrified Ludwig managed to ask as he crawled out of his pod.

“Locked up in storage room three,” Harold said, gritting his teeth in an effort not to blink. “Damn!” he cried out, and disappeared again.

So there it was. The green cloud was an alien life form. Maybe numerous life forms. And they were being held captive. Did Dean know this? Ludwig pondered all the possibilities as he slipped his shoes on. He felt conflicted. He had no moral ground to stand on when it came the ethics of what was happening. In essence, holding other life forms hostage. He was excited about time travel and researching other dimensions, but this was another animal…literally.

Should he free the Szani? Did they have the key to dimensional travel? He had trouble trying to decide where his loyalties lay.

As Ludwig struggled with indecision Dean watched him on a monitor. He saw everything. Turning to his two guards/staff members he gave them instructions to take Ludwig to storage room number three and lock him in. It didn’t take long. He watched them overpower Ludwig. They laid him down on the floor near the capsule and left. Minutes later he regained consciousness and sat up and looked around. He stood just in time for the explosion that sent him careening across the room! The capsule had a long crease in it’s side and green gas was pouring out and filling the room! He could taste a cloying sweetness before passing out.

Harold was there when he woke up. They were somewhere else. He saw purple and gold hills and fields of foreign-looking plants.

“It’s not easy, but don’t blink,” Harold told him. “After awhile you’ll get use to it. In time, they tell me, that you can even control where you go when you do blink. Right now, welcome to Aoqil!”

As It Stands, first encounters with aliens are bound to be a messy process.

A Season To Kill

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Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

Some people are born killers. It’s true. I’ve known a few.

The man I’m going to introduce you to, is one. His name is Troy. Just Troy, like in destroy. All I can tell you about his personal history was he was an orphan, and went into the US Army while living in New Jersey, at 18-years-old.

Troy was assigned to the 173rd Rangers, in an elite unit of assassins. Not snipers, although he was an expert shot. It was a special ops unit funded by Pentagon dark money. They called themselves The Wolf Pack, and were only called on in special operations like killing foreign heads of state. The unit’s leader was an ex-CIA spy, Derrick Nunes. They were always on notice; 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. Troy became the star student and was soon teaching his own classes. He was a natural killer.

Troy was the alpha male of The Wolf Pack and was always on the edge of sanity and humanity. He followed orders…up to a point for five years when his superiors began to worry that he was becoming a liability. Being anti social was one thing, but scaring the men he worked with was another. He seldom spoke. When he did, his voice was gravelly and harsh without emotion.

His sheer size was intimidating. At six-feet, nine inches, he weighed 275 pounds. It was all muscle. They saw his strength when he crushed skulls with his bare hands! He snapped men’s bones like an ogre out of The Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales. His feats of strength in the weight room were unequaled. Couple that power with a quick and crafty brain and you had the most dangerous man in America’s military.

As Troy became increasingly unpredictable his superiors went over their options and decided it was best to kill him. His disappearance would go unnoticed. He’d long ago severed his ties with family and friends when he joined the program. They were still working on the details when Troy disappeared on his own. It happened twice before, but he eventually showed up and reported for duty. In both cases, within a week. He’d been gone twice that time in this last disappearance. They finally issued an alert to all of their operatives. Troy had gone rogue. Exterminate with extreme prejudice.

The reason why Troy was gone so long was he was kidnapped by aliens from the planet Orth in the fourth Solar System from Earth, in the Gelean Galaxy.

It was done efficiently and without harming him. A super stun-gun and drugs, took care of the giant human they were bringing back with them. The tallest citizen on Orth was three-feet tall. Most were about two-and-half feet tall. Troy’s captors mission was to bring him back to their scientists, and military leaders, so they could study him and look for human vulnerabilities. The eventual goal was to invade earth. After hundreds of years of monitoring Earth from afar, they wanted to see an actual human. As fate would have it, they found Troy alone on a beach and assumed he was representative of the species. The main reason Orthians selected Earth to conquer was that it’s environment was nearly identical to theirs.

When they returned home the giant’s body was transported by solar-driven moving platforms to a massive military complex where it was deposited on table that had built-in restrains made from the strongest metal on Orth. He was hooked up to numerous monitors, and an IV regulating the amount of drugs that kept him unconscious, but alive.

Not everyone in Orth wanted to invade Earth. As a matter of fact, most were against the idea. But the dictator they lived under was too powerful to overthrow. Loth’s well-equipped army smashed every attempt at overthrowing his mad regime. There was a thriving underground resistance that kept track of what Loth and his minions were doing.

Saen, the son of Kalt, who was once the King before Loth, was one of many trained spies that infiltered the military complex and kept an eye on their activities. He was there the day they brought the giant human in to the medical research building. All programs within were suspended in order to concentrate all their resources on the human. As the days went by Saen became aware no one knew just how strong the human was. It was one of the reasons they hadn’t allowed him to regain consciousness. With his cover as a scientist, Saen was able to go into the guarded room where they kept Troy to make observations for the data base that was being compiled daily.

One fateful day, the ranking members of the resistance called an emergency meeting. It was apparent Loft’s fleet was getting ready to invade Earth. One of the spies reported the giant was going to be dissected and disposed of that night. Saen was tasked with freeing him in the hope he’d cause enough chaos to stop an immediate invasion. It was the best idea they could come up with. Right after the meeting Sean headed to the Research Building. After showing his pass to the guards he went into the room where Troy slept under a blue light. Without hesitating, he switched the IV container that contained sleeping drugs to another one nearby that was used to wake patients up. He watched the blue liquid run through the clear feeder to make sure it was working. An eye suddenly opened! Then the other. As he watched with fascination an angry frown stretched across the unshaven face and he grunted. His bare chest heaved mightily and the corded muscles in his arms bulged as he strained against the toughest metal on Orth. It was time to go! The restraints were giving and he didn’t want to be there when they gave way. The guards couldn’t help notice Saen looked nervous when he came out. One stood up and opened the door just as Troy freed himself. Before he could draw his stun gun Troy was on him! He picked up the little alien and snapped him in half with his bare hands! The other guard had time to scream before Troy picked him up with one hand and threw him against the wall, smashing him like a bug.

The Troy that woke up on the planet Orth was a different man than the one on Earth. He was completely crazy. There was no humanity left in him. He was just a killing machine in search of victims. Within a week Loth, and his minions, were no longer a cohesive force and were scattered around the mountains surrounding the military complex. As for Troy, he roamed the planet like an angry god for decades searching for victims.

As It Stands, the universal gods of war laughed, and the carnage continued.

Relentless

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He made a mistake in not finishing the job when he tried to kill me.

It was a tactical error assuming the bomb in the living room of my house permanently put my lights out. He should have checked closer. Gone through the rubble after the fire died down. But he didn’t, and a police dog discovered me (barely breathing) as the authorities were going over the crime scene.

I spent the next two years going through painful plastic surgeries designed to make my face look halfway human. In addition, I suffered through countless skin grafts for my chest, arms, and legs that were also severely burned. The end result, when they released me, was that I looked like something out of a horror show. But I was alive. Motivated by all-consuming hate, and the opportunity for revenge.

I’m going to back up here for a moment, and give you some background.

My brothers Will and Steve, and I, started a computer software company ten years ago. Against all odds our little start-up was successful and we were barely able to keep up with all the business that came in. We all worked endless hours to make the company a success for three years. By the fourth year we decided to add a partner to the company. He promised to take us to the next level in marketing. The fast-talking computer whiz’s name was Dan Bob Binion. He was already a successful businessman when he met my brothers and I. By that time, Steve and Will were married and homes of their own. I owned a house and had a live-in girlfriend. We sold the house that we were living in and put the money into the business.

Binion was a greedy little weasel that often struck me as a modern-day Ponzi. If it wasn’t for his marketing expertise we never would have brought him aboard. He did have a lot of industry connections and the Midas touch when it came to making good deals. In his first year with us, our profits soared over the year before. The following year my brother Will died in an auto accident. Steve and I mourned him, and set his wife Sally up for life. I remember what a tough year it was to celebrate our profit with Will gone. Binion, who always kept to himself, continued to open up new markets for our latest digital products, a line we started the year before.

In the eighth year of our partnership, Steve was the victim of a hit-and-run in the parking lot of our business building. Despite cameras, the police couldn’t find the gray sedan that struck him. When I found out what happened, I fell into a deep depression and stopped coming to work. Binion kept things going for months as I grieved for my last sibling.

One day I felt good enough to go back to the office and see how things were going. As soon as I opened the door, my office manager (Sally’s sister Trish) got up from her desk and led me over to my office. Closing the door behind her she asked me to sit down. She came right to the point; “Binion ran Steve over!” she hissed.

I was shocked but quickly recovered and asked her if that were true why didn’t she tell the police? She candidly admitted she was afraid of what Binion might do.

“How do you know it was Binion?” I asked.

“Because he owned a gray BMW just like the one in the video. He didn’t drive it into work everyday though, preferring his Corvette. I saw it once before, about six months ago. He pulled it up by the red curb outside and took a box out of the trunk and set it down on the sidewalk. I remember wondering what was in the box.

“You didn’t tell the police this?”

“I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m afraid of him. He’s always given me the creeps. Especially when he first started hitting on me. I asked Sally what to do? She said she’d speak to Will and not to worry about my name coming up in the conversation.

“What happened?

“I’m not sure. Will never mentioned it to me.

As Trish spoke, a thought formed in my mind and I asked her when the incident happened? Her reply made my blood run cold. It was just weeks before Will died in an auto accident. Once that connection was made the ramifications hit me squarely between the eyes. Binion was taking over the company by murdering all of us. It was a simple but scary conclusion that made sense. It also made sense that I was going to be the next victim.

I stayed on high alert for weeks, waiting for him to make a move. Our paths crossed twice, during meetings with our department heads. That he could look me in the eye and smile, told me he was a sociopath (at the very least.) I changed my routines, sometimes canceling appointments at the last minutes. It was a deadly game of cat and mouse and I should have gotten the police involved. I thought I could handle the little weasel now that I knew his intentions. I’d stay a step ahead of him. That was my mistake. It was nearly my last one in this world. When that bomb went off I thought it was. But the gods of revenge didn’t desert me, they only disfigured me.

As I went through my surgeries I imagined that little monster was concerned that I could somehow pin the bomb on him. He tried to visit me twice, but was turned away by the doctor and the guard posted outside my door. When I was finally healthy enough to be released, I rented a room in a luxury hotel near my office and business.

That brings us up to right now.

I think he suspects that I know he tried to murder me, but is puzzled why I haven’t done anything about it yet. That’s good. I want him to worry. To have sleepless nights wondering when I’ll strike. Wondering if I even suspect him of trying to murder me? I want him to suffer. I’ve got a special location set up for him. It’s in a warehouse that I bought. It was once a slaughterhouse. It still has the hooks hanging from the ceiling where the sides of beef hung and rows of butcher block tables stained with years of blood.

I’ve made arrangements for Binion to be kidnapped today. A couple of friends of Will volunteered to deliver him to me at the warehouse. No questions asked. I’m in no shape to overpower anyone, or I would have done the job myself. It’s a challenge for me to even walk. I can’t wait for them to bring him here, and to see his fear when the blindfold comes off. I’ve got all the time in the world and a set of butcher knives Trish gave me.

What’s that?

Oh! It’s my guest! They’re bringing him in right now! You’ll have to excuse me because I’m going to be busy chatting with Binion as I butcher him!

As It Stands, revenge is best served…slowly.