Interview With A Werewolf

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I double-checked the padlock on the cage while waiting for the werewolf to appear.

It took over a year to arrange this interview. As you can imagine finding a werewolf is one thing. Getting a werewolf to talk is quite another. A footnote prior to the interview; werewolves can talk. Who would have guessed?

Full disclosure. I’m a writer for International Horror magazine. I’ll be taping this interview to make sure I record it faithfully.

Since I’m just waiting for the prearranged time, I might as well give you some back story information. For starters, my connection to a friend of the werewolf’s, Conrad Standish, is what made this possible. I met him quite by accident while traveling in the West Yorkshire area of England. My rented car broke down and I had it towed to the nearest mechanic’s shop in Blackshaw, a little town of less than 900 people. Conrad was the only mechanic in town.

My Renault Mégane sputtered and died as I was driving on a country road towards a friend’s house. As I waited for Conrad to even look at it, I decided to get a pint at the local pub. After ordering a Guinness, I took a seat at a small table near the north wall and people-watched while I sipped on it. It was noon and I was hungry, so I ordered some bangers and mash. By the time I left at 2:00 o’clock, I was feeling the effects of the three beers I drank.

It was a short walk across town to Conrad’s shop. I was relieved to see he was looking under the hood. I didn’t want to disturb him, so I stood quietly nearby and waited. I could hear him grumbling about something, but couldn’t quit make out what it was. When he popped his shaggy head out from underneath the hood I suddenly felt a shiver down my spine. It made no sense. It wasn’t because he was so big. The only thing I could think of was his eyes were strangely bright and golden in color.

He said he had to wait for a part tomorrow and closed up his shop. I asked him where a good place was to eat dinner?

“That pub,” he answered, pointing at the one where I had lunch.

“Will you join me then?” I asked, expecting to be turned down.

“Will ya be buying mate?” he asked with a big smile.

We started with a couple of Guinness’, moved on to some quality Irish whiskey and stayed until the pub closed and we were as drunk as a couple of lords. We talked about everything under the sun, including werewolves. I told him about my job writing for the magazine. He found the subject of werewolves to be fascinating, so much so, that he shared a secret with me. He knew a werewolf!

I poured us both another tot of whiskey when he told me that. My excitement grew as he shared the werewolf’s tale.

“He was once a proper English gentleman,” Conrad explained. “But he was bitten by a wounded werewolf when he went outside his house one night to investigate a racket that woke him up in alarm.

“He shot the beast with his double-barreled shotgun and it howled in rage and attacked him. It was a friend who saved his life when he plunged a silver candlestick into the werewolf’s back and it came out in front – piercing it’s fierce heart. Sadly, the beasts’ bite made him a werewolf.”

“Pardon me mate,” I injected, “but is this werewolf, nearby?”

“Aye,” Conrad assured me.

He poured us both another shot and went on with his story. It turned out that the werewolf was his boyhood friend.

“We didn’t talk about his affliction after the attack, but every full moon he asked me to chain him up in the cellar of his house. This fateful attack happened many years ago. There were times when he either forgot to ask me to lock him up, or he chose to roam free as a beast for his own reasons. But we have remained mates through thick and thin.”

Hoping against all hope, I asked Conrad if there was a way I could interview his friend without him tearing me to pieces? More importantly, I wanted to know if werewolf’s could talk?

“Aye, they can talk all right. I’ve never had trouble understanding him when he was chained up and we were having a conversation. I always keep in mind however that he’s part beast, and like any wild thing he could turn on a dime and attack if unshackled. It’s part of his terrible affliction and there’s nothing to be done about it.”

“Can I ask you for a favor? “I’ve nowhere to stay tonight. Might I sleep on your couch?

“Aye! I’m a bachelor and don’t have some missus to break our balls when we stumble through the front door!” he roared, laughing so hard that his face turned beet red.

I admit that I have some trouble remembering everything that was said last night. Conrad was up early and having a cup of tea when I rolled off the couch and stretched. After greeting me he went to the stove in the kitchen and broke a couple of eggs into a frying pan. Our breakfast of fried eggs, black pudding, and baked beans was accompanied with orange juice. 

As we walked over to his shop I asked him how soon he could set up an interview? He informed me that tonight was a full moon and he could set something up at his place if I wanted. Of course, I eagerly agreed. That night he revealed how the interview could be safely conducted. Long ago he built a steel cage in his root cellar so that his friend could visit him on full moons for a change of pace.

Which brings me to the big night. After checking that the padlock is secure, I’m ready for the interview of a lifetime. My cassette is loaded with a three-hour tape and is recording now. That should be more than enough time.

Wait! Do you hear that? (deep growl) The trap door is opening. My God! Look at the size of that beast! (The werewolf approaches the cage)

“So, you want to talk with me?” it growled in barely audible English.

“Yes, I have so many questions to ask…what’s your name?”

“Conrad,” the werewolf snarled as he slipped the key into the padlock! “You’ve already had your interview, now it’s play time.”

As It Stands, some writers will do anything for a good story.

The Maze of Xipe Totec

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Doris sobbed in pain as she stumbled down the dark tunnel looking for a way out of the maze.

The day before.

Eric and Doris were on vacation celebrating their fifth anniversary. They were in a rented motor home at an RV Park just outside of the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho.

They were sitting outside at a picnic table eating their breakfast when they saw an old man going from one parked RV to another, stopping and talking with the owners and handing them a piece of paper. What caught their eyes was his clothing. He wore a long-sleeved red shirt covered in beads hanging from his scrawny neck. His wide-brimmed hat was topped with two large peacock feathers sticking out from the headband. His jeans were worn thin with age and he wore moccasins.

They watched him with curiosity as he slowly walked over to them with the aid of a twisted walking-stick taller than he was.

“Howdy folks!”

“Right back at ya,” Eric said cheerfully.

“Having a good time exploring?”

“Well, we haven’t done anything yet. We just got here,” Doris explained.

“Pleased to meet you both. My names Charlie Sweetwater. I live a short ways from here. Not too far from the Snake River, and just a mile from the Maze of Xipe Totec.”

“What maze?” Doris asked, “I don’t recall reading about one in our tourists guide.” 

The old man smiled and said, “There’s many things to see in this world that aren’t in tourist guides for one reason or another,” he suggested.

“Isn’t Xipe Totec an Aztec god?” Eric asked, changing the subject.

“He is, my friend. When the Spanish drove the Aztecs out of Mexico they fled to many places in this country. I am a descendent of those Aztecs. I know this area well, and have been sharing the location of the Maze of Xipe Totec with visitors who come to this place to camp for many years.”

“Where is this maze,” Doris asked.

“Here, I have a simple map for those who wish to explore the maze. You should also know there’s a legend about Aztec golden idols and other artifacts made from pure gold hidden in its depths.”

“Thank you for sharing that Mr. Sweetwater,” Doris said.

“If you wouldn’t mind, there’s little work in this area for a man of my age. People’s donations help me get by...”

“Certainly,” Eric said, and stood up and fished around the back pocket of his cargo shorts, pulling out a wallet. He peeled off two twenties and handed it to him.

“Thank you. Enjoy your stay,” Charlie said, as he set off down the road towards the next RV.

“Was that you feel-good donation of the day?” Doris mocked Eric.

“Hey, it was an interesting story, and just look at this authentic map that directs us to a maze in a cave somewhere that’s supposed to be full of Aztec treasures,” he teased.

“Okay,” Doris moved on, “What is our agenda for the day?”

They sipped coffee for another hour before deciding there was no place they wanted to see nearby.

“Wanna leave early and head for California?” Doris asked.

“What about the maze?” Eric said while holding up the map Charlie gave him.

“Really Eric? You believe that old man’s maze story? It’s just a way for him to make money from warm-hearted and well-to-do tourists.

“I know you’re probably right, but what else is there to do? We wanted to spend at least a day, or two, in each state. The maze isn’t that far from here. If we don’t find it, we’ll still enjoy the hike. It’s a beautiful day.”

Between driving and hiking, it took them three hours to find the cave. Both were amazed one was really there. They took off their backpacks and pulled out flashlights.

Eric pulled a rope out of his backpack and tied one end to a pine tree near the cave’s entrance. “You have your rope too, right?” he asked her. She nodded.

“Are you sure you want to explore that cave?”

Yeah, I have to admit I’m curious. I’m glad I brought my camera along.

They weren’t walking that long before they came to the end of Eric’s rope. “Now what? Do you want to keep going?” he asked while shinning his flashlight ahead. In reply, Doris took out her rope and tied it onto his. “Let’s go.

They followed the twists and turns and got stuck in a dead-end several times. Using the rope they were able to retrace their steps and go in a different direction. After an hour they stopped to rest and drink some water from the bottles in their backpacks.

Doris heard the sound first.

“Do you hear that?” she cried out.

“Hear what…what the hell is that?”

“Sounds like chanting...” Doris guessed with a growing dread in her voice.

“But who? What? Are there other people in here?” he wondered out loud.

Then they saw them.

They were short, maybe three-feet tall, and dressed up in ceremonial Aztec trappings. Some appeared to be priests with red robes. Others were bare-chested warriors who held obsidian swords and knives at the ready. The priests continued chanting as the warriors slowly moved forward in fighting stances.

“Run!” Eric shouted.

Doris didn’t need to be told. She was running, when a small spear hit her left shoulder from behind. She stopped and pulled it out with her other hand while Eric fought with the spear-thrower. When she bent down to retrieve the rope he screamed “Go!” as two more warriors attacked with their swords!

Doris accidently dropped her flashlight but kept stumbling forward into the darkness using her good arm to hold onto the rope. She heard Eric’s scream of pain and then there was silence. She would have to find her way out if she didn’t want to die. She could hear the sound of bare feet as the warriors stealthy followed her in silence. She held onto the rope and kept moving. Hoping to escape the maze.

The next day.

Charlie Sweetwater watched as the state patrolmen looked around, and inside, Doris and Eric’s RV. He sighed in pleasure that his offering was taken by Xipe Totec. It had been a long time since he’d found willing victims.

As It Stands, park rangers at Craters of the Moon National Monument will neither confirm, or deny, that Charlie Sweetwater is a local legend.

The Town That Learned Not To Discriminate

(Author’s Note: I’m bringing this story back by popular demand. A lot of people have been telling me it’s a good story for the times we’re in. I wrote it about a year ago under the title: FEAR.)

Cafe on Centre Street (the Main Street) in downtown Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida, USA

They met during the night like thieves panning a robbery.

But they weren’t thieves. They were some of the most prominent people in Elsdale’s population of 1,623. Community leaders led by the small town’s mayor, Jasper Corning, a corpulent man who found walking difficult.

Ever since the family of strangers moved in, people talked about how different they were. Of particular concern, they were Muslims. The two women wore hijabs that covered their head, hair, and necks.

The three men wore traditional Taqiyahs (round caps) and had long dark beards. To the white majority of Elsdale it was like being invaded by a foreign country. They spoke another language and lived by Sharia Law, which the townspeople feared would somehow take over the American system of justice someday.

The two women, Manahil and Eshal, went to the general store, and the post office, once a week. Every purchase they made at the store was scrutinized by the owners who shared their observations at the VFW bar every evening.

The postmaster worried every time a package came for the Muslims that it might have bomb-making materials inside. They got lots of letters in their post office box. It was always packed tight by the time the women came by for their weekly visit.

The Muslims lived in an old two-story house just outside the city limits. When they purchased the house – with cash – word quickly got around town. Very few people had actually talked with the Muslims. Mostly Manahil and Eshal when they were on their weekly errands.

Hector St. George, the towns only banker, talked with the three brothers, Aaban, Rayyan, and Zayan Azimi, while handling the transaction. The bank had repossessed the house years ago, and no one seemed interested in buying it.

Until then the Azima brothers appeared with lot’s of money. They even opened a bank account, which secretly thrilled St. George (he didn’t want the others thinking he was getting chummy with them) who worshipped money more than any god.

The towns sheriff, Roscoe Winters, a Vietnam veteran with undiagnosed PTSD, spends most of his time on a computer reading about conspiracies in America, and drinking too much at the VFW bar.

As the weeks turned to months, the rumors surrounding the Muslims grew like a malignant cancer. They held orgies; the men were secret ISIS members; there was a stockpile of weapons in the old house, and on it went.

Fear replaced curiosity in the little community after six months. When the women came to town they could feel the tension, as accusing eyes followed their every move. As the stares seemed to grow more malignant they told the men what was going on.
The three brothers were dismayed, but not surprised. They seen this kind of thing before when they bought their first house in upstate New York after immigrating to America five years ago.

When their parents were murdered by extremists in Iraq they took the family fortune and fled. Two of the brothers, Zayan and Aaban, were married to Manahil and Eshal. The eldest brother Rayyan never got married, because his childhood sweetheart was viciously murdered by thugs before they could.
Fear finally materialized into action.

That’s why the community leaders were gathered at night in the mayor’s house. The rumors had some of them fearing for their lives. The sense that one day they would attack the town with automatic weapons shouting “Allah Akbar!” swirled among the group, sending shivers down some spines.

“Okay boys…settle down. What are we here for?”

“Because you asked us too Jasper,” Larry Henderson, the general store owner, replied.

“Thanks Larry. Now that that’s established, what are we going to do about the Muslims?
“I think we ought to search their house and see what they’re up to,” John Baker, the postmaster said.

“There’s one problem with that Johnny, it’s called a search warrant. I don’t have one,” Sheriff Winter said, after downing a shot of 20 year-old Scotch.

The group broke out into a babble of suggestions that were going nowhere when the mayor shouted, “Enough! We ain’t getting a damn thing done here crowing like a bunch of roosters with no hen in sight!”

The room settled down to inaudible grumbles.

“Here’s what we can do. Larry, you can say you overheard the two women talking about making bombs. The sheriff can go to the county judge tomorrow and get a warrant to search their house. How’s that sound?” Murmurs of agreement echoed around the room.

“I’ll leave before noon tomorrow to go see Henry (the county judge) and get that warrant. Right now I’m going to have a few beers. Anyone with me?”

Everyone in the room, except the mayor who was sitting in his favorite office swivel chair, followed the sheriff out the door and into the night.

The next day.

Sally Yates, a waitress at the only restaurant in town, “Chuck’s,” was the first to hear the roar of motorcycles. The noon crowd had thinned down to two old customers who were known to spend most of the day there drinking coffee and talking.
The loud intrusive roar made her look out the window. Her pulse quickened in fear as the riders of six motorcycles dismounted from their Harley’s. They were all members of the Mongols, one of the most feared motorcycle groups in America!
Sheriff Winters had a shot of bourbon with Judge Henry Goodnight in the judge’s library. The judge had signed the warrant without question.

Back in town.

The bikers took over the restaurant and chased the two old men away. They were having fun baiting Sally who gamely tried to pretend everything was all right while taking their orders. The fun and games finally stopped, and their leader assaulted Sally!
Later the bikers roamed around town looking for more trouble. They went into the general store, and when Larry tried to stop them from helping themselves to whatever they fancied, they beat him and left him for dead!

Then they helped themselves to the hand guns behind the counter in locked cabinets. They broke the lock off with ease, and the leader passed them out to the others. He located the ammunition and gave each a box. Armed, they went back out and headed for the VFW Hall. By now, people had seen them and were running for cover. The main street was deserted by the time they reached the VFW Hall.

The patrons inside didn’t have a chance. They were caught unawares and herded over into a corner of the room, while other gang members looted the bar. The group settled in for some serious drinking.

Unfortunately, Sheriff Winters didn’t even notice the main street was deserted. It was getting near dark and his first thought was to go to the VFW Hall for a quick drink, or two.

The room went silent when the sheriff walked in. Someone dropped a bottle on the floor and the shooting began! Rosco was hit immediately in the left arm, but he manged to draw his service revolver and return fire!

One of the biker’s spun around and fell to the floor, bleeding from a chest wound. Bullets sprayed the room like angry bees as everyone tied to get out of the line of fire. Rosco was hit again in the right side of his chest but kept moving and somehow got out the door and into the street.

A lone biker followed him and popped off two misses. Rosco turned and calmly fired back at him. One of the bullets found its mark and the biker staggered back inside the VFW Hall, leaving a trail of blood behind him.

Rosco summoned up the last of his strength and headed towards the nearby general store. Larry lay near the doorway, battered beyond recognition and barely alive. Rosco went to him and looked for a pulse. He was alive. Rosco’s wounds weakened him so much that he passed out.

Manahil and Eshal felt more uneasy than usual when they got to town. The streets were deserted. They went inside the general store and found Larry and Rosco passed out on the floor. Larry’s wounds soaked his shirt with blood.
The women quickly checked them out and found gauze, band aids, and tape, and treated them both right there. Eshal was looking at Larry’s wounds and easily recognized them as bullet holes. She had seen her share in war-torn Iraq.
Manahil went to the phone on the counter but only got a buzzing. Someone had cut the phone lines. Making a bold decision she told Eshal that she was going for the men. She knew Rayyan would know what to do.

He had fought in the Iraqi armed forces until Saddam Hussein took over, and he had to run from the purge that followed. He was a captain in the special forces. The other two brothers had no military experience, but grew up in hard times when they had to use weapons to survive the government’s attacks.

Rayyan listened calmly as Eshal told him what she found. Nodding he turned to his brothers and said, “We cannot let these people be slaughtered by those men. Allah would never forgive us.”

The brothers both nodded, and the three of them headed for town.
When they got to the general store they found Manahil listening to the sheriff’s heart. She looked at Rayyan and said, “He’s barely alive. We must get a doctor.”
Meanwhile Zayan and Aaban were behind the counter picking a lock on a chain that covered a row of rifles. There were repeating Winchesters, hunting rifles, and two AR 15’s. They took the two AR 15’s and asked Rayyan what he wanted.
“The Winchester is fine,” he said as they rummaged for ammunition.

As the three men set out to find the bikers Rosco woke briefly, “The VFW building,” he croaked and passed back out again.

The biker’s Harley’s were still parked in front of the restaurant. Rayyan started one up and gunned the engine! He drove it down the street and sat outside the VFW Hall. Zayan and Aaban both pulled up next to him, and they all three revved their engines.
Inside, the sound immediately caught the biker’s attention. One of them was dead, and another was badly wounded. Three innocent hostages were killed by errant bullets. The remaining four Mongols roared in anger and charged out the front door…into a hail of gunfire!

The next day.

Sheriff Winter’s got help in time by the town doctor, who was able to stabilize him and have him transported to the country hospital in nearby Turnsville. County police and the FBI were all over the town talking to witnesses and processing the crime scenes.
Mayor Corning was visiting Rosco when he handed him a piece of paper. It was the warrant.

“What about this,” he asked.

Rosco took it, and tore it in half.

“It’s about time we quit letting fear rule our lives,” he said.

As It Stands, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

An Incident Under A Waxing Moon

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Seth and Eli had no choice. They waited until nightfall to make their break.

It was a waxing moon and they felt exposed under its bright light, but if they stayed where they were the Yankees would eventually find them. The union army under McClellan had split the Confederate forces in half that hot afternoon in July, seizing a decisive victory by capturing or killing half of Lt. Col. John Pegam’s men, and routing the rest.

Seth and Eli were among the many Confederates who were escaping to nearby Beverly, and on over to the Shawnee Trail. They were separated from their unit in the chaos of retreat. Seth was wounded. A Yankee mini ball hit him just below his right knee, shattering the bone. It was bound up hastily by Eli who helped him walk by supporting his wounded side with one brawny arm. Seth was weak from loss of blood and they were hiding in a thicket near a farmhouse.

They would have to cross an open field to reach the forest that led to Beverly where the Confederate forces were fleeing. Eli looked up at the sky and cursed the bright moon.

“Time to go Seth. We’ve got to find a place to hide before the sun comes up and McClellan’s boys catch us.”

The two men awkwardly walked towards the tree line. Seth had his loaded rifle in his free hand. It seemed like forever before they entered the forest. They pressed on for two hours before Seth had to rest. Eli scouted around and found a small cave. He helped Seth inside. It was barely big enough for both men and smelled like bear. Eli sat up with his back against the rear, and rifle across his lap. It left enough room for Seth to lay down. He was in obvious pain, but didn’t complain.

They were best friends and were raised in the same small town in Virginia. As boys they hunted together and spent lazy days fishing. That all changed when the war started. They signed up to defend their home and state like the rest of the boys in their community. It was a year since the War of the States broke out and both young men had seen their share of fighting in numerous skirmishes, leading up to the Battle of Rich Mountain.

Eli was starting to fall asleep when he heard a strange noise and simultaneously smelled something rank. Like a skunk. He leaned over to the narrow opening where he’d pulled some bushes in after entering the cave. He peered through the brush and saw something that scared the hell out of him! It was at least eight-feet tall, and looked like a giant hairy man. It was standing mere feet away from their hiding place and sniffing the night air like a great hound.

The moon was bright enough to slash through the forest canopy exposing the creatures face. It was the stuff nightmares are made from. It’s head looked too small for its huge body. Protruding fangs and lifeless eyes, like a sharks, stared into the night. It’s grunts sounded similar to a boar.

Eli was afraid to move a muscle, and hoped Seth wouldn’t wake up and start moaning. He saw the thing bend over something and gradually became aware that it was a body. A flash of blue uniform under the moon’s unforgiving gaze, told him it was a Yank. Streams of light filtered through the trees around the creature as it bent over and casually tore off the mans arm and started chewing on it!

Nothing in Eli’s life prepared him for the horror he was witnessing. He saw men die on both sides off the battlefield, but their violent deaths paled beside the nightmare unfolding in front of him. The thing had plucked the other arm out like a chicken wing and tossed the bones of the other in his direction. Eli flinched. He forced himself to remain calm. Wild things could sense fear. He learned that as a boy growing up in the hill country. The man-thing tossed the other arm bone aside and bent over the body again, coming up with a trail of intestines in it’s large mouth.

At that moment Seth woke up, and groaned out loud!

Eli quickly put a hand over his mouth and prayed it didn’t hear him. Seth’s eyes opened in surprise and Eli put a finger to his lips. The grunting outside stopped. He could barely make out the beast’s movement. It was amazingly stealthy for something so large. The creature suddenly hunched down and looked in the opposite direction in time to see a Confederate soldier with fixed bayonet charge it!

There was a terrible roar of rage when the bayonet pierced the beast’s breast, but it didn’t go down. Still standing, it slowly pulled the bayonet out, to the soldiers horror. It grabbed the rifle and threw it down while reaching out with his other massive arm for the terrified soldier.

Eli was already moving and scurried out of the cave and took aim at the beast’s back and fired! It kept plunging forward and grabbed the soldier with a scream of anger and tore his head off with it’s bare hands! Turning, it saw Eli standing 20-feet away and roared with increased rage. Eli barely had time to fix his bayonet on his rifle when it charged. Bracing himself, he thrust his rifle forward and stabbed the creature’s bloody breast before it knocked him over!

The force of it’s charge sent him backwards several feet and he tumbled roughly on the forest floor. As he scrambled to his feet he saw Seth crawling out of the cave. He calmly leveled his .36 caliber Navy revolver and fired six shots at the beast. It turned away from Eli and turned on Seth. Eli screamed “No!” and pulled his hunting knife out and started to take a step when more gunfire broke out!

Three Union soldiers appeared and were firing volleys at the beast! It let out a terrible scream of agony and finally lumbered away in the opposite direction. They could hear it smashing its way through the deep forest for minutes afterward.

Eli looked over at the Union soldiers, who lowered their rifles, and cracked a wry smile, “I never thought I’d be so damn glad to see some damn Yankees!” he said, as he held his arms up in surrender.

As It Stands, you never know when you and an enemy might end up on the same side one day.

A Love Story: The Last Genius

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Minds like his only came once in a generation. From the moment Michael stood up and walked at two years-old, he effortlessly absorbed the world around him.

Everything he read and saw was stored instantly in his amazing brain. By the time he was five-years old he’d learned to fluently speak a dozen languages, solve simple calculus equations, and was at college-age learning level in English, History, Electronics, and Computer Science.

His parents, confronted with having birthed a genius, did their best to keep up with their wonder child. Michael had a good disposition and was always quick to help someone. His parents did their best to shelter him from unpleasant circumstances, and encouraged him to keep learning. He never went to a public school for obvious reasons, and got his education from a series of tutors in multiple disciplines.

Because his parents were wealthy, cost was of no concern in getting the best tutors available. By the time Michael became a teenager they ran out of teachers, despite a worldwide search. To keep him challenged, they built a fully equipped laboratory and a fabrication facility in town, so he could have places to experiment and invent.

Because Michael seldom came into contact with people outside of his family sphere, he had little (if any) manners, and could be unintentionally rude when talking with his employees at the lab, or his fabrication center. Newspaper and magazine reporters followed his young life as he set scholastic records every year. Every university in the country wanted him to join their staff. Among his many admirers in academia was the US government intelligence agencies, who considered his genius something to be weaponized.

With Michael’s parents as protection, he rebuffed all offers, especially the ones from the government. He wasn’t into politics or playing patriot games. He just wanted to be left alone to his own devices. His altruistic nature led him into looking for cures for diseases and making advanced exoskeletons for disabled people. His curiosity led him to study extra-sensory perception, and how he was able to instantly remember everything he saw.

When he turned fourteen his hormones kicked in and he discovered girls. The one subject he didn’t know anything about. His parents were forced to pay several female employees hush money for not telling about his amorous advances. It was his father who arranged for a high-class madam to visit Michael’s wing of the family mansion one night to indoctrinate him in the art of love. The next morning the madam demanded twice her normal charge for an “overnighter.” She told his father she earned it, and not to call her again for a repeat performance.

His parents knew Michael was eccentric. How could he not be? He was a genius. He lived a rarefied life.

One morning, the day after his 17th birthday, his chauffeur dropped him off in the circular driveway in front of his lab. When he got out he saw a young girl laying down on the lawn next to the parking lot. She was wearing a red silk dress and lying on her back, with arms and legs spread wide. Not moving. His curiosity took over and he went over to where she was and knelt down next to her.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

No answer. He bent down and put his head on her chest and listened for a heartbeat. Without warning, she sprung up to her feet and laughed in his face! He stumbled backward in surprise, but quickly recovered himself.

“Who are you?” he bluntly asked.

“Alice,” she said in a sing-song voice, “…here to take you down the rabbit hole!”

Michael smiled. Intrigued, he played along and asked her, “And where would that be dear lady?”

Take my hands” she instructed him. “Now, let’s dance.

They danced around the lawn in a slow waltz at first. Soon the pace picked up and they were swing dancing. Time was suspended. When they came to an abrupt stop the lab was gone, and they were in an open field surrounded by gentle hills covered with wildflowers. In the distance he could see what appeared to be a gleaming city with stately towers.

She took his hand, and they walked side-by-side towards the city.

Fifty years later.

Michael woke up and thought he was having a bad dream when he heard gunfire nearby! How could that be? His head felt thick and his thoughts were uncharactistly jumbled, making it hard for him to focus.

Where was Alice? Where was he?

Michael barely recognized his old lab. It was demolished. The rubble extended down the street and to other buildings. No one was on the streets, but he could still hear people shouting. The city looked like a war zone. The sporadic gunfire heightened the effect. He couldn’t imagine what happened.

Nothing in his memory bank gave a hint. His memory from the past fifty years was rapidly fading as he tried to recall what Alice looked like. He had no idea how many years had passed since he left his parent’s house that day. No amount of logic would solve the mystery of the chaos around him. The only thing to do was to find someone to talk with. But who? And, where?

Pulling his cape around his tunic, he walked down one side of the street, cautiously peeking into the rubble for signs of life. A sudden crack of gunfire, and the concrete wall next to him exploded! He crouched down and crawled towards some rubble to hide. Someone warned him not to move, and there was a quick exchange of gunfire. A minute later a man in ragged clothes and carrying an AR-15 motioned for Michael to come over to him.

“It’s safe enough for a few minutes” the man said, “Now, get over here so we can get out of this sector with our hides intact!” Something in the man’s voice made Michael trust him and he ran over to him and jumped the barricade the man had set up.

“Pleased to meet ya pilgrim. I’m Dan. What’sha doing running around in that outfit,” he asked with a child’s curiosity.

“It was all I could find to wear,” he said, instantly regretting the lame excuse.

“No problem pard! We all do what we can with what we find.”

“Can I ask you a question Dan?”

“Shore…why not?

“What’s happened here? Why is this city in ruins?”

Dan looked him over for a moment. “Are you okay? Hit yer head or sumthin? Ya don’t have to answer Pard. The war twine us and the Ruskies has been going on for fifty years. When the nukes didn’t kill everyone, we sent our military survivors to attack them and they did the same with us.” 

“Do we still have a government?”

“I doubt it. Haven’t seen any organized resistance in a decade,” Dan said. “I live with a dozen other people and we always stay on the move. It’s time to catch up to them. Follow me.”

The moved cautiously through the ruins for an hour before Dan stopped and whistled. A return whistle brought a smile to his face. When they came out they couldn’t contain their curiosity about Michael, and swarmed around him like natives seeing silk for the first time. There were seven men, three women, a little girl, and a little boy. They all took turns touching his cape.

After spending a week with the little group Michael knew what his mission in life was. It fitted into his belief of helping people. There was a whole generation that went without education. Without the internet, libraries, schools, or teachers.

The reason for his genius finally became clear.

When he lay dying 25 years-later, he got a visitor. The people gathered around him didn’t see her…but Michael did, and accepted her request to dance.

As It Stands, my odd love story for your consideration.

The Irresistible Call of Adventure

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It was the voice that convinced Remy to go further into the cave.

He initially went into the cave to escape the blistering heat outside. As an old desert rat, treasure-hunter, gold miner, and seeker of riches, he knew better than to challenge the sun at its apex.

At first he only went in a few yards. With the help of his flashlight he found a comfortable spot on a large outcropping of rock to sit on. He pulled the canteen off his belt and took a short swig of it. Just enough to wet his tongue and throat so he could swallow. He looked at his old Timex wristwatch that still glowed in the dark after 50 years, and decided to take a quick nap. He relocated himself on the ground with his back to the granite wall, and pulled his baseball cap (that said Lakers on the front) down.

When he woke up an hour later the first thing he noticed was a horrible smell. Standing up carefully, there was only a small clearance between the roof and his head, Remy took a few steps further into the cave and shone his light down into its dark depths. He didn’t see anything, but the smell told him something was wrong. It smelled like death. Decaying corpses. Humans turned into torches with napalm. The fat in their body fueling the flames and causing a greasy smoke that clung to whatever was near.

That bad. If Remy wasn’t an adventurer at heart, he would have left the cave right then. But his curiosity, which had nearly cost him his life before, was too strong. When he heard the voice in his head that cinched it…he had to go further inside and find out why it was calling him.

He double checked the contents of his backpack. Extra ammunition for the old Army .45 he brought back from the Nam, and carried on his web belt. Enough dried, and canned food for a week. A Vietnam-era metal mess kit, plus P-38. A compact First-Aid kit. A compass. A flip phone (a concession to his grown daughter) with minimum functions. A charger for the phone which was only good if it could be plugged into an electrical outlet. A local map of the area he was in. A folded up plastic poncho. An extra t-shirt, and pair of socks. Extra batteries for his flashlight. A metal flask filled with Bushnell’s Irish whiskey. Along with the .45, he had a flashlight, two canteens, and a k-bar knife hanging on his web belt.

Caves didn’t scare him. He’d been in a few hostile ones in Vietnam and Cambodia. He took his bearings with the compass, mentally noting them before pushing on further. After an hour he stopped when the cave abruptly broke off into three directions. The already stale smell of the damp cave was enhanced by the sickening smell that drove him on.

The air was getting thin as he pondered which way to go. His sense of smell wasn’t so acute that he could tell which cave the stench was coming from. They all smelled like hell to him. Then he heard the voice.

“Chests full of old Spanish gold and rare jewels…”

“Where?” he roared, his voice reverberating down all three tunnels.

“Down here…down here waiting for you…” the voice promised.

Remy knew, on one hand, that he shouldn’t be listening to a voice in his head. After years of PTSD counseling he knew it wasn’t right to respond to a voice in his head. It was the fine line between sanity and insanity.

But, on the other hand, he’d responded to voices (one’s he didn’t tell the psychiatrists about) before and things had worked out. He picked the tunnel to the right and started walking as he debated with himself about the value of voices with messages. After walking for eight hours he took his backpack off and sat down on the damp ground. He rummaged through it until he found some beef jerky and his plastic poncho. He unfolded the poncho and slipped it on. It afforded some protection against the dampness. He finished his meal off with a swig of water and whiskey. Before falling asleep it struck him that he was getting use to the foul smell.

When he woke up the first thing he did was look at his wristwatch and turn on his flashlight. He’d slept eight hours. That was two hours more than his normal rest. He wondered how much the thin air weakened him. As if in answer, he got dizzy when he stood up. It took a couple of minutes to be able to bend over and retrieve his web belt. He felt a little better after sipping some water. His first decision was to go back the way he came until he found the crossroads again. It took him over eight hours because he had to stop and rest several times.

When he came to the opening for the three tunnels he sat down and pulled out his metal flask and took a healthy swig. He sat down and took his compass out and studied it for a few minutes under the flashlights beam. He was exhausted and decided to camp right where he sat. After eating, still wearing the poncho, he curled up on the ground and fell asleep. An hour later he woke up, startled by an overpowering smell stronger than what he remembered earlier.

Instinctively he reached for his web belt and his gun. He drew the .45 from its canvas holster, before slowly standing up. The smell was so strong he felt like vomiting. Then he saw the eyes – hundreds of them – glaring at him from all three tunnels! The only option left was a strategic retreat.

The things in the tunnel made a low chattering sound in anger. Some grew more bold than others and came closer so that he was able to see their short, squat, hairy, naked bodies, clutching weapons made from human bones. Their faces were disfigured parodies of humans and they were covered in vile-looking boils. Some had three arms One had two heads, and hopped angrily on one leg.

Remy backed up and kept the flashlight in front of him. When one of them burst forward and came within a few feet of him he fired his gun three times, then turned and ran as fast as he could! Gun in one hand and flashlight in the other, he stumbled but never stopped running. It seemed like forever before he saw daylight and the cave’s opening.

He was blinded by the sun and held his hand in front of his eyes. He looked back at the cave’s entrance once, expecting to see pursuit. None came. As he hiked back to his old jeep he decided this was one adventure he wouldn’t share with anyone.

Especially with his friends who warned him to stay away from the Yucca flat region of the Nevada Test Site near Area 51.

As It Stands, some of us are born adventurers that will always be looking for treasure, but not necessarily finding it.

Man Overboard

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A very inebriated passenger on a cruise ship, Webster Wycoff, was walking on the upper deck one night when he lost his balance and went sailing over the railing and into the dark sea below.

His wife was asleep in their cabin when it happened. There was no one else who would miss him until the next day. The ship slipped away into the night. The shock of hitting the water instantly sobered him up as he swam back up to the surface. As he bobbed like a cork in a swimming pool, he watched the lights from the cruise ship dim, then disappear. He never felt so alone in his life than that moment.

All he knew was he was near the Bahamas. That was it. He looked up at the full moon and the stars sparkling brightly in the clear sky. All he could do was lay back and float. He didn’t have anything to cling onto to. A rising tide of panic overtook him, but he calmed himself down. Above all, he told himself, he was a survivor.

He tried not to think about what was swimming below him. Just the thought of a shark was enough to nearly paralyze him. He was one of the many viewer/victims of the movie “Jaws,” who forever afterwards dreaded sharks. Webster had no idea what kind of sharks were common where he was at. It didn’t matter. Any shark would scare the hell out of him.

To change his line of thinking he thought about his wife. They were on their honeymoon after getting married in southern California. Her name was Beth, and she was a nurse. It was because of her that he got out of the US Navy. She refused to be married to a man who would suddenly disappear for days at a time, and not know where he went, or if he’d come back. She didn’t want to be constantly worrying about him. So he retired after 15 years of service.

They had a big wedding, members from both sides of the family packed the hall they rented. After the wedding ceremony there was a joyous celebration. One of the many gifts they got was a 5-day cruise to the Bahamas. Mr. and Mrs. Wycoff were toasted numerous times.

He felt something big below him. Movement caused the water he was floating on to move slightly. He gently rolled over and ducked his head under the water to see what it was. Whatever it was, it kept going and didn’t bother to circle back and check him out. His relief was fleeting as he thought about the odds of being discovered. He was a needle in a haystack. A grain of sand on the beach. Years of training told him his shit had hit the fan, and there was little he could do about it.

A day passed, and he was still awake. Beneath the stars again. He was thirsty and discouraged when he bumped into a tangle of broken boards that looked to be part of a crude raft. Jagged boards of varying length, lashed together with rope, bobbed alongside of him. He grabbed onto them and managed to use them like a belly board, arms and legs overhanging. It was something. He was so tired that he fell asleep as he drifted with the currents.

He woke up under a glaring sun. He was only wearing a pair of shorts and a colored t-shirt. His exposed body parts were sunburned a cherry red and his lips were swollen. His mouth was so dry it was hard to swallow. What was he drinking when this happened? Awww yes…Irish whiskey. Nectar of the gods. What he would give for a bottle of water right now. It wouldn’t even have to be cold.

His thoughts became more jumbled as the day wore on. Three days later he was so desperate that he bit his arm. Savaging the wound until he was able to lick the blood that slowly seeped out. He tore a strip of his t-shirt off and bound the wound afterwards. He clung to sanity by a thin thread that night when something brushed his dangling leg! He looked down in time to see it was a great white!

It slowly circled him. He watched the fin break water like a mongoose transfixed by a Cobra’s stare. A deer blinded by the headlights. Something within Webster surfaced. A fighting spirit that would not allow him to go quietly into the night. When the shark struck, it rose out of the water displaying rows of sharp teeth and came down where he was! Webster had slipped off the boards. He bared his teeth and poked the monster in one of its eyes, pulping it instantly!

The water thrashed violently as Webster swam in the opposite direction. When he looked back over his shoulder he saw two fins in the water, but they weren’t pursuing him. They were attacking the shark he blinded in one eye. He turned away and concentrated on swimming as long as his strength allowed him. When he finally had to stop and tread water it was getting light.

For a moment he thought he was hallucinating. A small island lay directly ahead of him! With renewed strength he swam to it and crawled up onto the pristine white sand of the beach. He passed out just beyond the gently breaking waves in a shallow depression.

It was still light when he woke up. He was thirsty and hungry. Seeing the lush jungle about fifty yards away he forced himself to stand up. On wobbly legs he entered it and kept his eyes peeled for signs of water. When he saw the little freshwater stream he sobbed in gratitude. He drank too much water at first – even though his training had taught him not to – and vomited it back up. Eventually he got some water to stay down.

He was delighted to find coconuts and bananas, but he had to earn his meal by climbing up the trees for the precious fruit. In his weaked condition it took everything he had left to knock down enough fruit for a few meals.

Two days later while he was walking along the beach he saw a small plane. When it approached the island he waved his arms wildly and shouted for help. The plane circled around and wagged its wings in acknowledgement of his presence. Then it left! Stunned, Webster felt like he was gut shot! He was still sitting on the beach when a seaplane came into view. It gracefully landed in the water and the pilot waved at Webster, who had already ran out into the surf and began swimming towards the plane.

When he got aboard the pilot asked him if there was someone he wanted to radio a message to that he was alright? When he explained to the pilot who he was and what happened to him he contacted authorities. An hour later as Webster relaxed in the plane the pilot asked him, “Want to take a call from someone named Beth?” he asked with a sly smile.

“I’m fine,” he said, “as she cried out of relief on the other end. “Listen, I promise not to go island-hopping again without you. Okay?”

As It Stands, survivor stories have always made for a good read.