Fear

They met during the night like thieves planning 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.”

The Mercenary’s Story of Redemption

I know that I’m dying.

The nurses try to act like I’ll survive, but they know it’s just a death watch. The same goes for my doctor whose expressionless face can’t hide the fact that my mangled body was on borrowed time.

Their all probably glad that they speak Spanish, and can pretend they don’t know English and have to answer any tough questions I might ask.

There were no family or friends waiting for me outside, or by my bedside. I’ve been a lone operator for too many years without making attempts to reconnect with my family in North Carolina.

My best two friends from high school died by my side during a raid in a filthy little village in Southern Sudan. The locals were ready for us and we walked into an ambush. It was a miracle I escaped from that death trap.

I always wanted to be in the military. The moment I graduated from high school I enlisted in the Marines. After serving three combat tours in Afghanistan I came back to the states feeling restless.

I wanted more action than what I got in Afghanistan which was a lot of sitting around on firebases or going out on patrols. In fairness, I did get into a few furious firefights that saw heavy losses on both sides during a month-long campaign in Kandahar city while forcing the Taliban out of the area.

I don’t feel any physical pain right now because they got me doped up good with some heavy-duty pain-killer. I’m full of lead that the doctors said they didn’t want to extract for fear of killing me. They’d rather I just die without their help.

I hope the two government soldiers at my door didn’t intimidate you.

I’ve been a mercenary for ten years before my luck ran out on this last mission. It’s my last mission that I wanted to talk to you about.

I was working for the government here hunting drug traffickers when the group I was with were ambushed. Someone didn’t do their advance intel very well and the resulting firefight was fierce and short.

I managed to escape and ran into the jungle where I knew my training would help me elude my pursuers. Throughout the afternoon I kept moving deeper into the vast jungle. When night fell and the slight light that penetrated the forest canopy during the day was gone, it was nearly impossible to see.

I found a mound of rocks big enough to sit on. It was in a small clearing and a shaft of moonlight illuminated it. It felt like a special place. I rested and listened for any sounds of pursuit, despite the fact I was sure that I lost my enemies.

I don’t claim to be a good man. I’ve killed too many people in my line of work to pull that argument off. My thirst for action finally proved my undoing, as you can see. But I like to think I’m a good man at heart.

It’s just that the gods of war saw something in me. Enticing me with exotic locals and customs. I worshipped them in every firefight I ever got into. My blood boiling with the excitement of death-dealing.

After sitting on the mound of rocks for a couple of hours I saw a faint flickering light in the jungle ahead of me. I unslung my Heckler & Koch MP5K and cautiously moved towards the flickering light.

I was crawling by the time I got near enough to make out a small fire pit surrounded by what I first thought was indigenous people. But the more I focused and watched the light illuminate the small gathering, the more I realized they didn’t look human.

Shadows danced on faces and bodies straight from a nightmare!

The monstrosities were cooking a small mammal over the fire. They were shorter than a normal human and thickly built. There appeared to be males, females and even children in the group.

I couldn’t help notice that they didn’t seem to have weapons. I could faintly hear them talking in an unknown tongue. They seemed like a peaceful people. I slung my weapon back on my back, and cautiously stood up.

As I approached the group they stopped talking and looked at me with naked fear! I held my hands up to show them I meant no harm. It was the strangest sight I ever saw. This group of really ugly, husky dwarves.

As I stood watching them gunfire broke out! I watched them get slaughtered. As their murderers came out from concealment I turned my weapon on them! Not sure how many I killed.

Obviously, they pumped me full of lead too. But not before government forces killed the remaining attackers and took over the area. They buried the dead dwarfs in a deep hole dug by an old bucket loader that belched smoke and threatened to die itself.

I watched how efficiently they did the job as the medic was treating me. Then they brought me here to this hospital and said they notified the American embassy.

What I want to tell you is there’s something going on here that the government doesn’t want the rest of the world to know about. What I saw was pure evil. Would you, when you leave here, tell someone what I told you?

I’d like to die knowing that I did something good – if even, only once. One more thing, don’t make eye contact with those guards on your way out.

As It Stands, we all have good hearts, but sometimes we ignore them in the quest for thrills.

A Day in the Life Of Others

Shane was a unique child with a secret.

As long as he could remember, he was able to step inside other people’s bodies and minds. As a child he accidentally discovered this power one day when he suddenly found himself in his father’s body, looking out his horn-rimmed glasses!

Because he had an unfettered imagination, the experience didn’t scare him. His curiosity was unquenchable. He didn’t try to understand what happened. He accepted it without reservation, and learned to revel in his take overs.

By the time he reached his teens he was able to control his power. The days of haphazard take overs were gone, replaced with an iron will that only used his power when he wanted to.

His parents, family, and friends never suspected that Shane had such power. In all outward appearances he was a normal kid. Instinctively, he knew not to tell others about his ability to inhabit someone else’s body.

Over a period of years Shane honed his abilities to both inhabit, and control a host body. No amount of book learning could have taught him what he knew about people’s habits, and what really motivated them.

Because Shane had developed a conscience and had a good heart, he didn’t try to exploit his power. By the time he was 19 years-old, he’d cut back to just a couple of take overs a week. The novelty didn’t entirely go away, however.

There was nothing more fascinating than being inside someone’s thoughts and actually controlling them physically. A lesser person probably wouldn’t have been satisfied with just visiting a host. They might have used the host to do bad things.

The incident at the Mall.

One afternoon, as Shane was cruising the mall people watching, something attacked his mind! He felt an evil presence trying to take control of him! The assault was so sudden that he had to sit down on a bench and collect himself.

Summoning up all of his will power he drove the thing from his body. The encounter left him badly shaken and for days afterward he couldn’t get it off his mind.

He came to the conclusion that someone like himself was out there – and they had attacked him. He also came to the conclusion that his attacker was someone totally unlike himself.

Whoever it was, they were hostile and aggressive. An instant enemy. A dark presence.

The next attack came while Shane was having his first cup of coffee for the day. He was sitting in his favorite lounge chair sipping coffee and still chasing away the cobwebs after a restless night, when the attack came!

This time he could see an image in his head. A man who looked exactly like him! His dark eyes were glittering with rage and hate! Shane could feel him tugging at his control, trying to mentally overpower him.

The physic struggle went on for minutes. Once again, summoning up all of his power, Shane drove the angry presence off. This time he felt weak afterward. The confrontation had drained him.

It also made him realize that he could no longer just passively wait for the next attack. He might not win the next encounter.

It came to him that the best thing to do was get proactive and start searching for his silent enemy. He was going to reverse the situation by attacking his enemy first.

He spent hours concentrating on a physic defense to thwart unsuspecting attacks. When he was satisfied with the results he turned his power outward, using it like physic radar.

Old lore has it that we all have a doppelgänger, a twin, somewhere on earth. It’s considered a harbinger of bad news in some cultures. Still other traditions say that your doppelganger is an evil twin.

Shane found his evil twin living just a city away!

When he attacked him he had success, at first. He found out his name was Vince and he was a serial killer with no conscience and a lot of rage. Then he was bumped back hard into his own head!

The die was cast.

What followed was a classic case of good versus evil. The two men fought mental battles daily, each trying to wear the other out. But they were too evenly matched for one to gain ascendancy over the other.

The battle came down to a physical confrontation after two weeks.

The combatants agreed to meet in a park one night and take their fight to a new level. Shane went to the agreed upon meeting place during the day and hid a gun in the roots of a giant ancient Oak.  Just in case.

They agreed not to come armed, but Shane didn’t trust his evil twin. He learned enough to know Vince wouldn’t think twice about cheating on an agreement. He spent the rest of the day meditating and centering his physic forces.

There was a full moon that night. When the two men approached one another the animals in the park went silent. The ground shuddered when they flew at each other like wild beasts!

Vince didn’t bring a gun, but he did bring a hunting knife! It came out within minutes of pounding each other with their fists! He slashed Shane’s arms as he tried to protect himself. He finally broke away and retreated towards the ancient Oak.

Vince followed closely, roaring like a murderous beast in pursuit!

When he reached the tree he turned in time to dodge Vince’s thrust with the knife. The gun lay barely concealed at the twisted base of the tree. Shane ducked under another wild slash and retrieved the gun in one motion.

He didn’t stop shooting until the revolver was empty.

The next day, while treating his knife wounds, intrusive thoughts bothered him. His encounter with his evil twin had left him sullied. No longer could he say he never killed anyone. It felt like a fall from grace.

There was also that new little voice in his head that talked about things that were evil.

As It Stands, I’ve always been fascinated with twins.

The Price For Being Wrong

2089 – The Live or Die studio of TV’s favorite game show

“Not another cancellation!” the producer wailed.

“I couldn’t do anything about it,” the director claimed.

The fact of the matter was, it was getting increasingly difficult to find people desperate enough to be a contestant on Live or Die, where Losing means a horrible death, and Living means being rewarded with a huge cash prize.

The desperately poor and the homeless, where 99 percent of the contestant populations came from, were thinning out after twenty-five years of producing the show. The talent scouts sent out to recruit volunteers had to become more inventive to get warm bodies for the show which ran five days a week.

In a last attempt to provide a steady stream of contestants, the show’s lawyers lobbied politicians in Washington D.C. to make a law allowing prisoners to volunteer for the show. There were certain restrictions – like no one who committed a capital crime, such as murder, would be allowed to participate.

The law was passed for several reasons.

One, the producer’s brother was the president of the United States.

Two, there was no shortage of corrupt politicians on both side of the aisle to support the new law.

Three, The president’s base was full of avid fans of Live or Die.

The show promoted it’s new format for weeks before introducing the first contestant.

Volunteer contestant Raul Castile, who was serving a life sentence for dealing illegal drugs across the country, got the call.

The show’s two hosts, Drew and Lorna, escorted Raul onto the stage. The in-house audience was rumbling excitedly, and broke out in applause when they appeared. Tension crackled through the eager audience that was already smelling blood.

“Thank you…thank you! I’m pleased to announce the first edition of the Prisoner Phase of Live or Die,” Drew said.

Lorna walked to stage left and pointed out two doors – both painted black with gold handles.

“The one thing that hasn’t changed about the game is we still only have two doors. Heaven or hell? Life or death? Who knows?” Lorna asked the audience.

“It’s your time Raul!” Drew shouted, to everyone’s delight.

Raul walked over to the two doors and studied them for a minute. hell,” he thought, “It’s better than being locked up the rest of my life.”

He opened the door on the right.

The moment he passed through the threshold he was grabbed by two robotic arms! The android took him over to a metal operating table, slamming him down hard on the cold surface.

Restraints popped out and secured him firmly on his back. Raul’s howls of horror thrilled the audience who were sensing a coming blood bath. The android put on a tall white chef’s hat and waved to the audience.

The deafening roar that followed set the scene to come. The android held up a power saw and brought it down! Raul’s right hand fell to the stage floor. His left hand quickly followed.

The audience was chanting “More! More!” as Raul’s life blood spurted from his wrists. With a flair worthy of the best showman, the android lopped off Raul’s feet and bowed to the audience.

When the android picked up a plate from the metal tray next to the bed, the audience quieted down and watched in fascination as it produced a knife and a fork. The android delicately sliced off a piece of meat from Raul’s chest. Then another. Until he had a plate stacked high with human flesh.

Raul was still miraculously alive, but his screams were reduced to whimpers when the robot fed him the first piece of meat!

The crowd went wild! The producer and the director stood backstage and smiled. The show would go on. The one thing they learned over the years was that contestants that got away weren’t very popular with the public.

It was an action show, and as such it was time to change the rules. Unknown to anyone, but some crooked politicians, the producer, the director and some stage hands (sworn to secrecy), both doors would now have a nasty surprise!

There would be no lucky prisoners (as he promised the White House), and the show would have more action than ever before.

As It Stands, this dystopian view of the future was inspired by how extreme our society is becoming.

Night Missions

I hate it when people interrupt me.

It makes me crazy sometimes.

I live alone in a small one-bedroom house in east Los Angeles. I’m retired Marine Gunny Sgt. Alan Todd Singleton. I try like hell to lead a quiet life. I go to the VFW Hall every afternoon for a beer…or two.

Sometimes the language gets salty when too many beers are consumed and a fight breaks out during these afternoon outings. I’ve lost track of how many morons have interrupted my conversations in the last year, and how many tough guys I punched out for the offense.

But, I have to be careful these days because the management is threatening to ban me if I get in another fight. I’ve taken to drinking at the bar now, and not at a table with others. I banter with the old Marine bartender, but avoid getting into any lengthy conversations with him.

The only reason I go to the VFW is to remind myself that I can be sociable. A normal guy. It’s a way to keep in touch with the human race without getting too intimate with anyone. I have too many secrets. Too many things that burden my conscience.

It’s the nights that are really bad for me.

Things happen. Violent things. My memories of my night excursions are almost always vague the next day. A convoluted series of snapshots and conversations. Sometimes I have to clean blood off my arms, face, and clothing – which I usually just burn.

One thing is terrifyingly clear; I hunt humans at night. I never stopped after coming back from my third tour-of-duty in the Nam. That was in 1970, and this is 2018. I’ve lived all over the United States these last few decades.

You can see why I would have to keep moving. Too many deaths in one area over a period of time attracts too much heat. The cops set up taskforces and the pickings get slim. Then it’s time to move.

I’ve managed to last a year here in east LA, but I suspect my time is coming to an end. Maybe forever. Skill and dumb luck will only take a man so far. I’ve beaten the odds thus far. I know that.

Especially after last night. The weird thing is I remember almost everything that happened.

I was walking aimlessly on North Eastern Avenue near the Santa Ana freeway, when three home-boys stepped out of a front-yard and blocked my path on the sidewalk. They laughed and flashed gang signs at me.

I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I never took Spanish in high school.

The volume of their curses rose and they all three pulled out their switchblades – slowly swaying them in front of me. I grabbed the first wrist, twisted it, took the knife, and slashed the gangster’s throat!

It wasn’t like I moved that fast, but I never wasted a move, and immediately grabbed the arm and wrist of the second assailant, twisting and breaking it like a twig. The third attacker lunged, as I threw the second down one down with a judo move.

I moved sidewise and let his momentum carry him by me…off balance. Then I tripped him and watched him hit the concrete sidewalk with a thick thud. His neck was twisted at an odd angle and partly hanging off the curb, when I turned my attention back onto the last remaining attacker.

He was crying and holding his broken arm, and didn’t put up any resistance when I put him in a chokehold and snapped his neck like a dry branch. No one came out of the houses. I was alone with three dead men, and thinking, “Mission accomplished.”

I think it’s time to go. The media is blasting about last night’s murders. Cops are as thick as fleas in my neighborhood this morning. Groups of  angry, and probably scared, gangsters are patrolling the hood…looking for answers. Looking for me.

A week later. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

It was easy finding a VFW chapter with it’s own hall here. Lots of old military farts like me come to retire. Ex-Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force. We all like living in the sun. Keeps our old bones warm.

I wonder if there are any others like me out there that still carry out night missions?

I’ll tell right now…I wouldn’t be surprised if there were. I haven’t met one yet, but it seems like I can’t be the only trained killer in America that continued his craft after leaving the military.

I don’t mean by going to work as a mercenary or glamor bodyguard. I mean regular guys like me that chose to stay out of the limelight…and hunt. Guys who don’t need an audience when they slay their prey.

True hunters, like myself. Think about it.

As It Stands, as a veteran, I’m always exploring issues that deal with the military.

The Dauphin County Horror

Listen to master story-teller Otis Jiry narrate this story here 

You can also find it on Creepypasta

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 1981

People began disappearing in the fall of 1979.  Not long after The Three Mile Island accident happened on March 28th.

The partial meltdown in reactor number 2 of Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI-2) in Dauphin County, caused widespread panic. Locally and nationally. Despite company denials, radioactive gases and radioactive iodine were released into the environment.

Nuclear agency experts assured the public there was no lasting damage done. The radioactive gases that escaped would soon dissipate, they told Dauphin County and Harrisburg residents.

The incident was rated a five on the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale: Accident with wider consequences.

It wasn’t long before residents in Dauphin County reported seeing strange things in the woods in the aftermath of that accident. Strange lights and colors. A local farmer disappeared without a trace, leaving behind a bewildered family.

A year later, a couple of hunters claimed they saw a man-like thing tearing a deer apart – limb by limb – on their way back to their pickup truck. It was dusk.

When asked by friends at the bar afterwards why they didn’t shoot the thing, both men said they didn’t want to take the chance of killing a man. It was hard to make the figure out. He could have been a really big strong man. As far as they could tell, he wasn’t breaking any laws.

That night, on their way home, one of the hunters asked the other, “Why didn’t you say something about that thing eating the deer’s raw flesh? How it tore pierces of meat off the legs with its bare teeth?

“Who would have believed us?

“But, it’s true.”

“Don’t you understand Bob? It sounds like crazy talk and people would be laughing at us. You don’t want people laughing at you. Do you?

Henry dropped Bob off at his trailer. He didn’t want Bob to know how shaken he was. He wasn’t sure what they saw in the woods, but the next day when he backtracked their trail he found freshly broken deer leg bones, half a rib cage, and a skull with the eyes missing.

In the following months people began disappearing. Authorities searched everywhere. Including the woods. People were warned not to go out alone after dark. A dark pall had descended over the county. Fear.

Coffee shops were crowded with old men trading conspiracy theories like baseball cards. Bob and Henry went hunting again. They were both combat Vietnam veterans and never tired of one another’s company. Or hunting.

Both men lived alone. Bob’s wife had died of breast cancer. Henry was divorced. His wife couldn’t stand living with his PTSD. Both men carried Remington Model 783 Bolt-Action rifles, with 3-9×40 scopes. They were both expert shots and trackers.

For weeks they hunted for deer, and signs of the mysterious man who now haunted their dreams. Was it a man? If not, what? It was obviously powerful. And elusive.

The county sheriff was frantic. People continued disappearing. The word was getting out to the world. Something bad was happening in tiny little Dauphin County. National reporters were seen around town talking with residents. Sniffing around like curious squirrels on the scent of a story.

Henry adjusted his new Pulsar Challenger GS 3.5×50 mm Night Vision scope. He’d made a decision. He was going to “return to the jungle” and hunt the thing out there. He didn’t tell Bob. Both men were in their late 30s, but Bob wasn’t in as good as shape as Henry was. There wasn’t a pound of fat on him, unlike Bob who was losing the battle of the bulge to sweets and pasta.

As Henry prepared for his hunt, donning camos, and filling ammunition clips, he thought back to his days in Vietnam as a tunnel rat.

A flashlight and a .45 caliber pistol were all that stood between him and death when he slithered into the enemy’s tunnels. He was bit once by a venomous snake, but survived thanks to a savvy medic who carried snake anti-venom with him in the bush.

He packed his rucksack with enough supplies to stay out for a week. His web belt had a military K-Bar knife, two 20-round ammo pouches, two 30-round ammo pouches, and two 40-round ammo pouches,  a compass, and a length of rope. He had a custom-made sling for his Heckler & Koch Mp7 automatic pistol.

The Mp7 fired 4.6×30 mm ammunition capable of penetrating soft body armor. Henry liked that it was light – only weighing a couple of pounds but could bring on major heat. He grabbed his bolt-action Remington with the new night scope, and locked the front door. He pinned a note on the front door: “Back in a week. Visiting family.

The first three nights there was no sign of the thing. On the fourth night – on a hunch – Henry was checking out a perimeter fence surrounding the 3-Mile Island Generator Plant when he heard a scream.

Alarms went off and two security guards ran out of a small wooden shack. Henry watched them though his scope. They ran around with automatic weapons, shouting. Two more guards appeared and they were also shouting frantically.

From his position in the tree line, Henry watched the chaos unfold. Then he saw the thing! It had a man’s body tucked under one massive arm, and was loping along seemingly unconcerned with the noise less than 300 yards away.

Suddenly he burst into a run and disappeared further down the tree line. Henry jumped up from his kneeling position and gave chase. The thing was moving amazingly fast. It didn’t make a lot of noise but Henry’s ears were still keen enough to hear it.

After a hard five-minute run, the trees opened up and Henry saw rolling hills. And nothing else! Where did the thing go? He felt exposed out in the open on a full moon that caused shadows to appear everywhere.

Henry went back to the tree line and climbed halfway up a tall spruce. He picked a sturdy branch to sit on and lashed himself to the tree. He slept soundly, dreaming about a large underground complex he discovered in Cambodia in 1970.

The next day Henry walked around the hills looking for tracks and tunnels. It was well into the afternoon when he discovered a well-hidden cave that was big enough to stand upright in. The charnel house smell told him dead things were inside.

He loosened his Mp7 and popped a 40-round loader into the gun. Turning the LED light on his helmet to bright, he cautiously stepped into the dark interior. Minutes ticked by. At one point the cave branched off to the left, before continuing on in a straight line. Henry checked out the new opening and discovered mutilated human bodies inside!

Skulls and rotted flesh in piles. Broken bones. Gnawed on bones. Flies and maggots. Scraps of torn clothing clinging to headless torsos. This is where the missing people were. Butchered and forgotten.

As Henry took in the horror his sense of survival kicked in when he heard a noise from within the cave. Something was grunting and growling. That’s not Charlie out there good buddy, he murmured to no one.

The best defense is a good offense Henry use to tell his friends. No more thinking. Time to act.

Henry stepped out into the main tunnel and fired quick bursts in both directions. The shots thundered through the tunnels. No sign of the thing. Only the scent of gun powder. He popped the loader out and replaced it with another 40-rounder. It was time to get out of the tunnel.

It took him longer than he thought. He wasn’t out of the putrid tunnel until nightfall.

Instinctively getting out of the open, Henry trotted over to the edge of the forest. He re-slung his Mp7, and unhitched the sling holding his Remington Bolt action. He held the rifle up and peered through the night scope, waiting for the thing to appear.

It troubled Henry that he didn’t know what the thing looked like. Or what it was. It was best to know your enemy. He learned to never underestimate the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. To do so could mean your life. The more you knew, the better.

Hours later he spotted movement on a nearby hilltop. He focused the scope and found himself staring at the thing’s face. It might have been a man’s face once, but the grotesque thing he saw in his cross hairs was so misshapen it was unrecognizable as any known animal.

He squeezed the trigger on his Remington. The shot caught the thing near one of it’s uneven eyes. It looked startled at the impact, but didn’t fall down. Instead, it turned in his direction and charged!

He fired the Remington one more time, and dropped it while grabbing the Mp7. In one motion he popped a 30-round clip in it and fired away. The full burst only slowed the thing down. He tried to pop another clip in when the thing slammed into him, sending him violently backwards!

The Mp7 flew out of hands as he fell. Without thinking he drew his K-bar and staggered to his feet. His nose was bleeding profusely as the thing drew itself up. It was an abomination of a man. A hideous reminder of the perils of radiation, and body transformation.

Henry was startled to hear a gun shot. Sounded like a 12-gauge. Part of the thing’s head disappeared, and another shot followed. The thing swayed drunkenly and took a step towards Henry. Two shots this time! Both barrels slamming into the things chest. A pause. Then two more shots, and the thing crumbled to the ground, both legs blown away.

Bob stepped up to the still heaving body and ejected two shells. As he popped two more shells in he asked Henry if he was alright? Then he fired both barrels again into the midsection. They burned the thing afterwards.

As the two old friends walked away from the bonfire, Henry finally asked, “How did you know what I was doing Bob?”

“You haven’t got any family left like the note said. Other than me,” he chuckled. “I figured you wanted to hunt the thing, but didn’t want me to go along in case I’d get hurt. So I just followed you my friend, and covered your back.”

“Are we going to tell people what happened after the murders quit?” Bob wondered.

“Hell no! They’ll just think we’re crazy veterans telling war stories,” Henry assured him.

As It Stands, as the bard said, “all’s well, that ends well.”

The Liar Legion’s Last Stand

K2

Andromeda Galaxy – Westrah, Ursae

The leader of the once unchallenged Liar Legions looked down at the valley below at the armies assembling against him and his warriors.

Arken was the legion’s last surviving  general. As he stood atop Mountain Purn his mind wandered. He remembered when he joined the legions as a mere boy of sixteen. Now, 30 years later, he and his men were all that stood between the Truth Teller hoards and his way of life.

He recalled better days when there was no penalties for lying. Just the opposite, a good liar moved up quickly in the legion leadership ranks. It had been so for uncounted centuries.

But the new century saw the rise of the unrelenting Truth Tellers. They based their beliefs on the truth – no matter how hard it was to pursue. For decades they infiltrated the government and quietly took it over – a bloodless coup…at first…

That changed after the riots in Tel-Pa city when a crowd of Truth Tellers killed two of the government’s legionnaires. In the ensuing crackdown, four Truth Tellers were arrested and later executed.

That was the moment when the Liar Legions saw the writing on the wall – they were no longer in charge because of their beliefs. Three legion generals gathered all the warriors who were willing to fight and die.

The chronicles say that many of the legions men surrendered and took oaths to always tell the truth. The hard-core that remained assembled in the nearby mountains. They picked the highest point, Mt. Purn, for their headquarters.

From there, they conducted raids against the ever-swelling ranks of the Truth Tellers. A year passed, before the combined forces of the Truth Tellers were able to overwhelm the legion’s outposts.

They still faced a formidable climb to get to the top of the mountain. Arken’s warriors set traps everywhere. It was winter and the freezing winds lashed out like a living thing. Yet, the legionnaires all knew it was just a matter of time before they died defending their beliefs.

Arken looked down at the base of the mountain where tens of thousands of tents were pitched. They were color coded by divisions. Their brilliant colors reminded Arken of when he was a child playing in the flowery fields of Danber, his birthplace.

It was there that he leaned how to properly lie, and when to lie. There were rules. He was schooled in them before being allowed to join the legions. There was a time for white lies, and a time for outright lies.

The right to lie was his inheritance. Being a patriot, he happily joined the legions and rose through the ranks. He could think of no greater honor than to die defending his beliefs.

As his mind wandered one of the warriors came running up to him.

“It’s started,” he said.

Arken tore himself away from his thoughts and followed the scout to the south side of the mountain. They looked like ants below. An endless line of ants slowly working their way up to them.

By midday the ants were working their steady way up from all directions. Hundreds died in the lethal traps his men set, but the others just pushed on relentlessly.

Arden wished they’d have had more time to fortify their headquarters. The outer wall was only five-feet tall. Not enough to stop a determined warrior.

When the first of the attackers finally hacked his way up and over the wall, he was met by a shield wall of grim veteran legionnaires. Others followed. Spears stopped the first wave of Truth Tellers.

The second wave battered the sword swinging legionnaires but their shield wall held fast. The enemy had to clear thousands of bodies out of the way to resume the attack. The depleted ranks of the Liar Legions prepared themselves for the third wave.

Despite the carnage Arken was still alive and leading his warriors. His armor was battered and covered in gore, like the others. As they waited for the next wave it began to snow.

That’s when the final assault was launched.

As It Stands, this tale is an opportunity to examine the validity of belief systems.