The ‘Thrill Pill’ Man’s Gamble

 

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2194 – New York City

For the first time in mankind’s history, there were no wars on earth.

Peace reigned, thanks to technological advances and genetics. Poverty no longer existed. There was enough food and housing for all. There was one worldwide government led by a president who served a 10-year term.

Crime was non-existent. The factors that led to crime were eliminated from the collective DNA of most of the people on earth through 100 years of genetic engineering. But not all of them.

There were the unaffected, whose DNA was post 100-years ago pure Homo sapiens. They experienced emotional ups and downs, unlike the rest of the sedated world population. These outcasts lived in the fringes of the cities.

In the sewer systems and old subway tunnels mostly, but also in the massive landfills.

Above ground, as each person drove or walked to work, there was strict order. Routines ingrained in each brain. No road rage. No late trains. No violent crime. No guns or weapons of any kind.

Romance was gone, replaced by a passionless urge to procreate. There were no sports teams. There was no competition anywhere in the new global society. Conversations were casual and without complaints. Everyone had a place in the new world order.

Everyone but the outcasts, of course.

Despite being outcasts, they had a functioning society of their own. It wasn’t always pretty, but was crudely effective. In it, there were scientists who managed to operate in temporary labs located in the long abandoned subway tunnels.

The New York outcasts had no way of knowing if there were others like them hiding in cities around the world. Their world was defined by underground tunnels and landfills. If they were caught above ground they’d be gently restrained, their DNA tested, and then executing by lethal injection.

Among those scientists was a man named, Abraham Orlins, who was considered the most intelligent and creative among them. After years of experimenting, Abraham came up with a “thrill pill.”

It was part of his, and his colleagues master plan, to regain their place above ground once more. The pills, that only worked on humans missing certain DNA markers, were a one-hour realistic, exciting, experience that left the taker forever changed.

The emotional charge was addicting. Just like he knew it would be.

The pills were water-soluble allowing them to be used two ways; swallowed whole, or dissolved in a liquid.

After discussing the pill’s properties, the small group of scientists decided to put the first batch into the city’s water system. The complex system relied on a combination of tunnels, aqueducts, and reservoirs to meet the city’s daily needs.

Abraham and one of his colleagues, Clive Warner, were picked to deliver “Abe’s Thrill Pills” as they were darkly dubbed, to the nearest reservoir. As soon as it was dark outside they surfaced and headed for the reservoir.

Just before the sun rose, the two men returned, tired but triumphant.

It took longer than they thought. They observed the daily traffic above for several days before the first incident happened.

A speeding car slammed into the rear end of a delivery truck. Both drivers got out of their vehicles and fought like two honey-badgers to the horror of the onlookers!

By the next day, traffic was no longer flowing. The streets were clogged with abandoned vehicles. Arguments and fights broke out in the boardrooms of the skyscrapers and in the grocery stores.

As visitors came to New York and were exposed to the water, they didn’t want to leave. A growing awareness among the residents that it was the water which gave them their thrills resulted in entrepreneurs bottling it and selling it worldwide.

No one knew how to stop the spread of growing violence. Armed groups of angry men were seen beating and robbing innocent people. On the other hand, passion and romance attracted everyone – angry or not.

Abraham continued to pour his Thrill Pills into the waterways, and even managed to get them to people who were happy to sell them for profit. One entrepreneur passed them out as party favors during a government function for members of the new world order and the President.

Excitement grew among the underground community of New York. Abraham and the scientists had come forward and told them what was happening.

“Soon, my brothers and sisters, we’ll be welcomed with open arms and will assume our place above ground, the way it was intended to be,” Abraham assured the underground community.

Six months later the first nuke hit New York City.

As It Stands, my cynicism about humanity often creeps into these short narratives.

The Time Assassin

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2037 – A secret location in Mandan, North Dakota

He opened his eyes and the bright lights made him blink.

A white room. He was lying on a bed in the center of the room. White sheets and covers. He was dressed in white pants and a white shirt. His feet were bare. His head was bald. His face was smooth and hairless.

He felt stiff like he’d been laying down for a long time. He wasn’t sure where he was at.

“Good morning Josh…” a mellow feminine voice greeted him from hidden speakers.

It’s time for today’s mission.”

He sat up, stretched, and watched a hidden door slide open. He felt slightly dizzy when he stood up, but it went away immediately after he took a step. Down a long corridor with overhead lighting.

He stopped when the corridor abruptly ended. A sliding door opened and he entered.

The room was full of computers and technical hardware not found anywhere else on earth. Three male technicians with long white coats were taking turns viewing a small monitor.

One of them became aware of Josh who was standing there and waiting for instructions.

“Josh! There you are! Come over here and take a seat,” he said, gesturing towards an adjustable reclining chair with wires and cables attached to it.

He obediently sat down.

The technician, Eric, pulled an electronic headpiece down from above Josh’s head and secured it with a strap under his chin. Lou, the second technician punched a code into a computer and a thick glass shell lowered down over Josh.

Perry, the third technician finished instructing his computer and a thick titanium shell lowered down over the glass one. Eric spoke into a speaker, “How are you doing Josh? Are you ready?”

The monitor he was watching went blank. “Yes,” he replied.

Lou punched in the time machine’s coordinates:

November 22, 1963 at 12:30 p.m. Dallas, Texas, Dealey Plaza.

Josh stepped into a grassy area and pulled out a Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5-millimeter model 91/38 Italian rifle from beneath his trench coat. No one paid attention to him when he took aim and fired the fatal shot that killed President John F. Kennedy.

He quickly covered the rifle back up and headed for the Texas School Depository. People were running around in a panic. No one noticed him enter the building or plant the rifle on the second floor.

Back in 2037

The three technicians watched the titanium shell’s glow fade away. Perry and Lou sat down and began typing at their computers. The titanium shell rose and disappeared into the ceiling. The glass shell followed.

Josh was still in the chair. Unconscious.

While they waited for him to wake up they ran the video of the assassination again, making sure there were no slip-ups. They had a duty to country. Failure was not an option.

Josh was a one-in-a-million freak. He was the only one who had ever survived their time machine. They couldn’t explain it. They just knew he was special. They were able to control his memories with drugs so that he never recalled any of his missions.

When he wasn’t on a mission, he ate and slept for his country. That’s what they told him. For his country. He was a patriot. A 21st century Captain America. When the Commander-In-Chief called he must always be ready.

As It Stands, imagine how our government would misuse time technology!

It’s All About The Type of Meat

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Newcastle upon Tyne, England – Standish Manor

The lord of Standish Manor was a renaissance man. His interests were vast, from cooking to painting portraits of friends and family.

Always a curious child, Hayden Standish grew up in a wealthy family that entertained his every whim.

He was always on the lookout for new experiences. When he was old enough to travel on his own, he went on a world tour that lasted for three years. He visited great cities in Europe and Asia, soaking up their cultures and cuisines.

His most enjoyable experiences were when he left the beaten road for most tourists, and discovered small villages and towns with unusual customs and laws.

He traveled to Bulgaria, and through the Balkan mountains, to the burning desert sands of the Kalahari desert in Southern Africa. He braved the frigid temperatures of the Antarctica, and the humid jungles of South America.

During his travels he kept a notebook full of the recipes of the food he ate. He would immerse himself in the culture to fully appreciate the experience of each dish. He also carried an artist’s pad and pencils to sketch his culinary experiences.

Among the delicacies he sampled were fried cow brains, puffin hearts, drunken shrimp, escamole (ant larva harvested from the roots of the agave plant), Hakarl (fermented basking shark), live octopus seasoned in sesame oil and chopped up before your eyes (it’s still wiggling when you eat it), tuna eyeballs, bullock’s balls, and A-Ping (fried tarantula).

Just before returning home to England, Lord Standish visited a small town – Ardara – just outside of County Donegal in Northern Ireland. While in France, he met a gourmet chef there who strongly recommended Ardara’s famous stew.

Northern Ireland

Ardara’s hilly streets were lined with gift stores and stores selling the famed Donegal wool. A pub, The Rebel’s Revenge, was Lord Standish’s destination. He introduced himself to the chef, and ordered a bowl of his famous stew.

He was immediately impressed with the first mouthful, chewing it slowly and savoring the tender meat base.

Lamb right?” he asked.

“It’s a secret recipe that’s been in my family for over two hundred years. I regret that I can’t answer your question, but please understand it’s our biggest culinary draw,” the chef replied.

“My compliments sir. It’s the best stew I’ve ever eaten.” 

That night, Lord Standish laid awake for hours in his hotel bed, thinking about the savory stew. He got up several times and looked out his window. He had a perfect view of the pub across the street.

The next day he went back for more. And the next day. And the next.

When a week went by he realized he had to have the recipe. No amount of money had moved the chef to share the secret ingredients. He could tell what everything was in the stew, but the meat.

It preyed upon his waking thoughts and dreams like a prowling tiger. Then one night, he got a break.

It was well past midnight. He was standing up and staring out his window when he saw a light flicker momentarily in the pub. Curiosity already aroused, he got dressed and walked out into the tiny lobby area.

A clerk was sleeping in a padded chair behind the check-in counter, as he opened the door. He expected a bell or something, but nothing happened when he went out.

The pub was dark again. He walked around to the side alley looking for a rear entrance. Rusted trash bins and stacks of wooden crates greeted him. Then he saw the back door. It was slightly ajar and light was seeping out from the crack.

Cautiously, he approached it and tried to peer inside without touching the door. It was only an inch-wide gap and he didn’t see anything at first. Then he made out what looked like a human leg on the floor!

Shocked, but unable to help himself, he stood there and stared at the naked leg. He heard the chef’s deep voice telling someone to separate the ribs and to set the entrails aside. He listened to the sound of meat being hacked apart for several minutes.

When he saw a shadow come cross the leg on the floor, he turned and ran blindly into the night! He flew head-over-heels after tripping on something in the alley. The terrified Lord Standish barely made it back to his room before he started vomiting.

One year later.

Lord Standish invited his friends and family to a dinner party.

Recovered from his initial reaction, he now whole heartedly took on the special stew. A connection with a local corrupt funeral home owner provided the necessary meat on a fairly regular basis.

The main dish, Lord Standish’s Stew, was a hit with everyone in attendance.

As It Stands, this is another one of my cautionary tales where I point out you should always know all of the ingredients in something you eat.

 

The ‘Sleepers’ Mission For Humanity

 

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2068 – The former city of Los Angeles now called, Last Hold by the inhabitants

After the second nuclear war there were no cities left standing. They were all ruins.

Survivors worldwide, clustered into small groups that became tribes. There were no more functioning governments after 2049.

The modern technology that eventually led to the world’s destruction was gone. Lost. Broken. And, no one left to fix them. Communication between countries collapsed. No cell phones. No electricity. No computers.

The citizens of Last Hold were a collection of survivors from along the West Coast of what was once the United States of America.

The seven leaders of Last Hold lived in the ruins of the once magnificent Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library. The ground floor was all that remained of the once four-story Italian Romanesque architecture.

Two massive, hand-chased bronze doors, weighing a ton each, lay flat and covered in debris. The once elegant stained glass windows, chandeliers, light fixtures, custom furnishing and cabinetry were reduced to scraps on the ground.

The remains of a double-sided grand staircase that once led down to the ground floor from the first floor, still stubbornly stood. The marble, granite, and travertine floors on the ground level were fractured and uneven.

It was here that all the resident’s gathered everyday to get their work assignments from the seven leaders. Everything from the precious vegetable gardens to disposal of human sewage was organized and crudely efficient.

Everyone in Last Hold had a daily mission to complete. The small militia patrolled the library’s perimeters day and night. Scouts roamed for miles around looking for threats to the community.

The council of seven leaders also had a sacred mission; to monitor the sleepers, a group of 24 men and women who voluntarily became cyborgs to save mankind’s technologies. They were designed to survive, and sleep for eternity, or until such time as mankind could use them without destroying itself and the planet.

The accumulated knowledge of every civilization on earth rested in the sleepers memories.

Only the council of seven knew of their existence, deep below the ground floor in a sealed vault built a half-century before.

It was agreed on from the start that only certain people would know of the sleepers existence. When one died, the other six would pick a suitable replacement.

The whole purpose for the secrecy was to avoid another nuclear holocaust. The founders who made the arrangements and recruited the volunteers to be cyborgs, believed that mankind wasn’t ready for the advanced technologies that nearly wiped out the human race twice.

In 2068, one of the seven died from old age.

The remaining six, all seniors now, interviewed a young man who they felt would be suitable to carry on their sacred duty awhile ensuring that another generation would be there to carry on.

After the acceptance ceremony and vows, he was given one of the seven keys to the vault. His name was Adam. There was one important thing about him that the other six did not know…

Adam had a weakness for beautiful women. More than once in his life he’d been taken advantage of by a lusty woman with her own designs. Shortly after gaining his new status in the community he met one of the most beautiful women he’d ever saw.

Her name was Eve. When he playfully hinted one night that he had a secret, she pleaded with him to tell her. Eve was always a curious person and could not let that pass. After weeks of pleading, sometimes with tears in her eyes, he agreed to tell her if she promised not to tell anyone else.

She lied.

As It Stands, using the Bible’s story of Adam & Eve, I decided to update it with a twist or two.

Revenge of The Kentucky ‘Coon’ Boy

cute-raccoon-taylor-momsen-zoo-Favim.com-114927Brownsville, Kentucky, 1869

Elijah Watson petted the big raccoon snuggled up against him on the porch.

He liked to sit out there most of the day while his big sister cleaned and cooked inside.

When someone went by, on horse, or just walking, he always waved and smiled at them. Most folks in Brownsville ignored his odd behavior. There were some however, who went out of their way to be kind to him.

Mr. Buell at the General Store always had a piece of hard candy for Elijah. It was common knowledge he wasn’t right in the head, but he was considered harmless by the townspeople.

According to the town elders, Elijah was six years-old when he saw his parents murdered by two Confederate soldiers who thought they were hiding a slave. They didn’t even notice the frail little boy huddled in the corner as they light the furniture on fire.

A neighbor who saw the smoke quickly gathered up the townspeople and organized a bucket brigade to keep the fire from spreading. It was Elijah’s sister Sarah who raced into the home and rescued him.

That was the last time he spoke. Months after the horrific event Elijah wandered away from their temporary tent home one night. He went into the forest and roamed around unafraid of animals.

At one point he discovered a raccoon caught in a trap. The cruel steel teeth were sunk into the raccoon’s rear leg. It was lying there exhausted from struggling. Without hesitation, Elijah summoned up all of his strength and pulled the trap open.

The startled raccoon managed to hobble away, but not before it sat there and looked Elijah in the eyes. A silent communication passed between them.

When Sarah found him the next day he was still wandering around aimlessly in the forest. After that Sarah kept a closer eye on him. One day she came out to the porch of their recently rebuilt home, and found him sitting next to a huge raccoon.

Her first instinct was that it may be rabid, out in the day like this, but the longer she looked it became apparent it was enjoying being petted by Elijah. She watched the unusual scene with interest for over an hour before it left.

When she questioned Elijah about his new friend he smiled. She hadn’t seen him smile since their parent’s violent deaths. She smiled back at him.

Since that day, the raccoon would come by at different times and snuggle up next to Elijah for a few hours on the porch. Folks got use to the odd sight after a while. One evening when Elijah went outside to get some firewood his raccoon friend showed up with six other raccoons.

On closer inspection Elijah could tell five of them were smaller and younger, and the other was nearly his friend’s size. It was his family. A delighted Elijah sat down on a log and took turns petting them as each one approached him.

After petting each of them they hurried off into the darkness. The biggest one, his friend, sat and looked at him for a while. He came up and brushed against Elijah like a big cat. Then he scampered away.

Meanwhile, Sarah was wondering what happened to him, and stepped out onto the porch calling his name. He appeared with some split wood a moment later, and grinned at her in that loopy way of his.

As fate would have it, the two men who killed Elijah and Sarah’s parents came though town one day. They tied up their horses and went into the saloon. Hours later the two men came out of the saloon staggering and drunk as lords.

They managed to make it to the boarding house across from where Elijah was sitting and petting the raccoon. One of them spotted him and started laughing. That brought the other back out and they stumbled across the dirt road to where he sat.

“Oh Lordy! Look at the Coon Boy!” one of them laughed.

They saw a frail young man and easy prey. Inside the house, Sarah heard the commotion on the porch and grabbed her rifle and ran out the front door. The startled men backed up as she leveled the shotgun’s twin barrels at them.

She didn’t recognize who they were because she wasn’t in the house when her parents were murdered, but a grim glimmer in Elijah’s eyes told a different story. He knew who they were.

Threatening all kinds of retribution, the two drunks made their way back to the boarding house and to their bedrooms.

Despite Sarah’s pleading, Elijah wanted to stay outside longer. She finally gave up and went inside. He waited patiently. When the raccoon showed up he petted it, and asked, “Will you kill them for me?”

The next day the boarding house maid found the two bloody bodies in their beds. They were torn to pieces by wild animals the Sheriff said, after examining the corpses.

“Gotta tell you boys, I ain’t never seen these kinds of wounds. Looks like a bunch of varmits ganged up on ’em.” 

Sarah couldn’t believe her ears when Elijah asked for more milk that morning at breakfast. The rest of her life she made sure to tell everyone about the miracle.

As It Stands, one persons revenge can be another’s miracle.

A Cautionary Tale: Immigrants From Earth

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When the first of the immigrant ships from Earth arrived on Mars there wasn’t too much concern on the inhabitant’s part.

There was plenty of room on the planet. The Martians themselves were a peaceful species divided up into tribes that answered to a Supreme Council. The leaders of the Council met with the earthlings shortly after they landed.

The Captain of the ship, Lance Elliot, told the Martians that Earth was no longer safe to live on. It was badly polluted and climate change was creating havoc on every continent of the world.

Volcanos, earthquakes, drought, flooding, and wars were killing millions of people every day Captain Elliot explained.

We are immigrants who just want a chance to live in peace,” he concluded.

“What of our atmosphere? It’s deadly to you earthlings,” one of the leaders asked.

That’s true, but we have brought materials, and the technology, to build a dome with an ecosphere we could live in,” Captain Elliot countered.

Let us meet again tomorrow at this place. We must go home and discuss this matter further now.”

The next day.

Once the translator transmission signal was established between the two groups again, the Supreme Leader spoke,

We have given much thought to your request. We have been aware of your activities for hundreds of years. We don’t want the same scourges to destroy our world. Having said that, we have decided to let you stay for a trial period of twenty years.

You will be required to clean up your own messes and not pollute our planet. No military weapons will be allowed. We hope you will be good neighbors, and you can count on us to do our best to have friendly relations.

Know this, we are two different species, and the chance for misunderstandings is great. We must be honest with one another. We will leave you now to build your new home. You can always reach us through the communications signal we have established.

Peace.”

Captain Elliot and his officers returned to the ship and gave the order to start unloading their supplies.

More immigrants continued to arrive on Mars. They were from nations around the earth. They all accepted the terms the Martians presented. Each new community selected a leader whose task was to maintain good relations with other immigrant communities and the Martians.

Deep below the Martian crust, there were three immense cities housing millions. The one thing the Martian leaders were adamant about was there would be no contact between themselves and the earthlings.

Only leaders, would meet with their leaders in pre-arranged spots on the surface. The two populations weren’t going to mix. The earthlings were never going to see where they lived.

Years passed by peacefully. The great experiment, as some leaders called it, was going very well. Better than expected. Millions of earthlings relocated successfully there.

One day, a dome community that called itself Little Italy discovered a network of tunnels just outside of the dome area. Two miners went deeper underground than was agreed on in the Mining Provisions for Natural Resources Act signed two decades ago.

The miners didn’t have to go too far into the main tunnel before they stumbled upon ancient Martian funeral artifacts. Statues, fine pottery, and solid rock coffins were all carefully arranged to celebrate the dead.

When the two miners returned to the dome they brought death with them. Deadly ancient spores clung to their spacesuits, even after the decontamination process. The next day when people started dying, the leader of Little Italy went to the nearest dome community and warned them about a mysterious sickness that struck them.

That warning was passed on to all of the other communities by their leaders. Within two days every earthling on Mars was dead, thanks to the leaders who unwontedly spread the invisible death.

When the Martians saw what happened, they weren’t surprised.

As It Stands, mankind didn’t deserve a second chance after destroying the earth.

 

 

 

The Pleasure House of Pindor

 

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Pindor, Venus – circa 2339

Entry into the Pleasure House of Pindor was based upon a point system.

It was the goal of every Venusian to someday go to a Pleasure House. Every city had one.

They accumulated points by serving the government. Depending upon their position in the government, some added points faster than others.

For instance, gardeners were highly prized. Only the best were hired to take care of the planet’s greatest national treasure – the Passion bush, which bloomed year-round.

Venusians weren’t allowed to enter the point system until they were of age and actively serving the government.

Dorin was only months away from being qualified to serve the government. All of his life he listened to his elders sing the praises of the Pleasure Palaces. Going to one meant an eternity of peace and joy.

For years, Dorin walked past the Pindor Pleasure Palace on his way to school. He memorized the beautiful towers and golden domes, often dreaming of them. His curiosity was so great about what happened in the Pleasure Palaces, he often plotted ways of sneaking inside one.

With two weeks to go before Dorin could work for the government, he found a way to get inside.

After carefully casing out the front door from behind a lush Passion Plant (known throughout the solar system for their beauty) that surrounded the building, Dorin saw three people approach.

Two government officials in their pale green uniforms escorting a man in white robes.

One of the officials held up a small metal disk and the door slide open. Without thinking, Dorin followed the group before the door closed. Once inside he dropped down to all fours and stayed as far behind the small group as he could.

Still, if one of the officials had turned around he would have been spotted in the bright light of the lavish entryway. Murals with Mindor Birds flying over green hills graced the opulent room.

Rare Venusian artifacts were displayed on tables and shelves on one side. Soothing celestial melody came from hidden speakers. The whole effect was encouraging to Dorin.

He saw the small group enter a doorway that glittered with rare elements. Surprising even himself, Dorin got up the courage to follow them. When he opened the door there was a hallway that ran for about fifty-feet, before splitting off left and right to two more corridors.

The trio had disappeared.

He picked the one on the right, and immediately saw a row of windows and doors. Cautiously, he peeked through the first window. He was in time to see a doctor give the man a shot in the arm.

The man sunk to the ground and died with a smile on his face. Two white-clothed orderlies threw the body on a cart and wheeled it out the door. Shocked, Dorin backed away from the window.

His heart was beating so fast, he could hear it. He wanted to run, but some perverse curiosity urged him to look into another window. He almost screamed! Inside was a meat rack with dead Venusians hanging from their feet!

A row of butchers were chopping off arms and legs and placing heads and torsos on a conveyor belt that disappeared into another room. Plastic barrels of the limbs were carted off by more workers.

Numb with shock, Dorin moved down the hallway and peeked into another window. He watched with growing horror as torsos and heads were put into large grinding machines that turned them into a lumpy pulp.

Connected to the grinding system was a belt carrying buckets of the pulp to metal containers with Plant Food written on them.

As It Stands, controlling people can only be achieved when they buy into a great lie.