Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

250 words –

Woz waited by the doorway to the labyrinth for the green light to come on. He was a professional gamer who traveled around the galaxies taking on challenges created by the Game Changer. The challenges always incorporated alternate realities, and reality.

The red light was on a timer. When it changed Woz entered the maze of dimly lit tunnels and followed the directions written in laser lights on the smooth metal walls. This challenge involved finding a crystal key to open the door to eternity.

When Woz encountered a door he went in without hesitation. The inhabitants inside bowed and called him an angel. He ignored them and went back to the endless passages seeking the crystal key.

Eons passed in the lonely search. Worlds were created and destroyed. Civilizations rose and fell into dust. Woz wandered from one dimension to the next, always re-appearing in the luminous tunnels. Never losing sight of his goal to find the crystal key.

During a time of solar systems defying gravity for gamers like Woz, he emerged from the maze to witness the birth of a dwarf planet and discovered a crystal cave. Inside, there hung hundreds of identical crystal keys swaying to gentle hidden melodies. They were bathed in a blue light.

Because the Game Changer doesn’t play by any rules, he had nothing better to do than make fools of gamers like Woz, who saw the challenge for what it was, but still played the game. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The Sea Dogs Chant

An adventurer am I

sailing the seven seas

until I die

chanting

give me wind and a blue sky!

and seas so calm

the days fly by

I am a sea dog

keeping the ship’s log

plotting places to go

it’s a good life you know

chanting

Give me wind and a blue sky

and seas so calm

the days fly by

On the bridge I stand proud

free and loud

a sea dog avowed

chanting

Give me wind and blue sky

and seas so calm

the days fly by

The Fickle Gods Own Bartender

600 words –

“I’ll have a scotch on the rocks when your done serving those sissies at the end of the bar!” a belligerent customer bellowed.

Willie the bartender glanced over his shoulder at the loudmouth on the other end of the bar while continuing to serve the two men beer and pretzels.

He’d seen his type before. A mean drunk. Rather than violently kick him out, which he had every right to do, Willie walked over to him and looked him straight in the eye. Something in his stare caused the rowdy customer to instantly calm down.

“You sure you haven’t had enough for the night buddy?” he asked. The would-be customer slid off the bar stool and muttered that he was taking his business elsewhere as his unsteady legs propelled him towards the door.

In Willie’s world, the bar was a waiting room for restless souls, not yet gone on to any reward, and not likely too either. The tortured souls who sat at his bar looked for advise and solace. They were confused and he found that most were looking for heaven. They came to the bar to learn about their next step in the process of passing from one life to another.

They told him their life stories over shots of tequila and whiskey; wondering why their drinks didn’t make the misery of this alcoholic purgatory disappear.

Then there were those carefree souls who laughed and partied through the endless nights, calling Willie, “St. Peter,” and begging him to escort them through invisible Pearly Gates. But it wasn’t Willie’s job. All he was supposed to do was listen and offer his two-cents worth while serving endless alcoholic drinks.

Long ago Willie realized his karma was damaged beyond repair. That was why the gods (there had to be more than one) put him where he was. A lifelong alcoholic who drank himself to death and was resurrected as a messenger between worlds. What irony. The gods sense of humor was impossible for Willie to understand. He was a hostage for eternity.

One day all that changed.

The god of chaos sent other deities spinning through dimensions and worlds unborn, in a burst of cosmic energy that tore souls loose from the places they were stuck. Adrift, the souls turned to space, eagerly looking for new landings. New starts.

Willie found himself on earth again. It was 1923 and he owned a whiskey distillery that supplied gangsters from Chicago to New York. As he watched the last truck pull out, packed with crates of his signature booze, Willie had a nagging feeling that the good times weren’t going to last. He was rich beyond his wildest dreams, but business was just too good to walk away from. Besides, he felt alcohol was part of his destiny. His rise to glory.

Willie was on to something. He just didn’t realize it then.

When the mobsters attacked his distillery one night he was killed playing a game of poker with his two bodyguards. His suddenly rich wife buried him quietly.

Dimensions shifted. Alternate universes collided. The gods fought for time and space. New worlds were springing up in far away solar systems. Galaxies groaned as solar systems stretched and contracted, collecting stars like seashells on earth’s beaches.

And Willie found himself pouring a beer from behind a long mahogany bar while listening to a sad soul’s story. He sighed because he knew it was going to take a very long time.

The gods shrill laughter echoed throughout the heavens, and meteors continued to scream through outer space on a mission to mock mankind.

First Contact

500 words –

Terence adjusted the dial and listened breathlessly…

As the leader of the NASA team that designed the special instruments that could record electromagnetic vibrations in Space, he was given the honor of being the first person to activate the scanner. The team then transferred the vibrations into sounds their ears could hear.

There was no doubt it was a major scientific breakthrough and the highlight of Terence’s career. It took his knowledge and skill to take the recorded sounds, a complex interaction of charged electromagnetic particles from the Solar Wind, ionosphere, and planetary magnetosphere, and make sense of them.

He listening long into the night and went home dreaming about making contact with an alien civilization. The team all took turns monitoring the devices in 24-hour shifts which meant he didn’t get to go back for four more days.

When Terrence’s turn came up again he eagerly relieved his fellow team member who was noticeably yawning. “Maybe tonight,” he thought while putting the headphones on and pushing a row of blinking buttons on the display dashboard

As he waited to hear strange repetitive sounds he was stunned to hear a high-pitched voice speaking English!

“Surrender and we will spare you…surrender and we will…”

Terence’s mouth hung open in shock. What the hell was going on?

“…we will spare you…surrender and…”

There it went again! It wasn’t his imagination taking a sanity pause. The message was a dire warning coming from deep within space!

His first thought was, “Who’ll believe me when I relay this message?

After a couple of hours the message went silent. Terence was afraid if he told one of his colleagues they think he was nuts. Then he calmed down and realized the whole thing was recorded He felt sheepish and vindicated. It only took minutes before he rewound the machine and played it back.

He listened. And listened…and there was no message. He played it back and began panicking. No! He knew what he heard. There must be a malfunction with the recording devices he told himself as his sanity slowly slipped into a dark place.

When his relief, Dr. Olsen, arrived the next day he found Terence huddled up in a corner of the lab speaking gibberish. “Their coming! The aliens are coming!” he babbled.

“They want us to surrender…” he went on.

Dr. Olsen went to the display panel before even trying to talk with Terence. He activated the program from the last 24-hours, turning the speakers up to loud, and then went over to Terence.

The project team covered up Terence’s insanity. No one heard threatening messages from space and concluded he just cracked up.

Somewhere in space: “I want to know who the idiot was that ran that surrender message before we were ready to invade?”

Unsung Hero

450 words –

The dim glow of a quarter moon filtered through the curtains and cast shadows on the walls. Walter’s eyes struggled to make out the shifting shapes that pranced across them in a creepy parade.

Were they scenes from his past? Was waiting to die a way to suddenly come into contact with that mystical part of the brain scientists and poets write about? Do revelations reveal themselves before you’re executed?

The promise of a sure death was a blow to Walter’s soul and very being. He knew only hours separated him from the firing squad and eternity. This last night wasn’t for sleep. It was a time to pray. A time to accept one’s fate bravely. It was a time to fight the growing panic that comes when a body is not ready to die.

The idea of being tied to a stake and shot like a target didn’t register with his reality. How could this be? He wasn’t a deserter! They were wrong! The reason he was the only soldier left alive was because he never stopped fighting and the enemy drifted away after two days of fierce fighting. He didn’t run away, and come back to the fort after the battle was over like the tribunal claimed.

It was a case of universal injustice.

The rising sun went from blood red, to orange, to yellow, and finally burst into an azure blue. Not a cloud in the sky. A beautiful day to die.

When he heard gunfire coming from the walls he stopped pacing back and forth in the tiny room they locked him in next to the captain’s quarters. Screams of surprise and pain! A sustained rate of gunfire told him there was an all-out assault on the fort.

The battle lasted all day, finally slowing down at dusk. Walter looked out his shattered window and saw fires burning in some of the buildings across the courtyard. Bodies were everywhere. Legionnaires and Arabs. He could see the front gate were breeched.

He took a chance and climbed through the window. Taking a rifle from the dead legionnaire who was once his guard, he moved cautiously through the courtyard – rifle at the ready. After hours of searching he discovered he was the only survivor. Before disappearing into the desert the Arabs sacked the fort and spiked the two cannons. He scavenged bodies for rations.

Why no one looked in his room during the fighting was a mystery. It looked like his luck had changed.

Two days later a relief regiment arrived and discovered Walter. He told them his story. After a 25-minute trial the captain said “Arrest this deserter! We’ll make an example of him!”

The Trouble With The Dark Lord

100 words –

Hail brave warrior!

The entrance to the labyrinth is open, waiting for you to explore the inner earth and it’s dark denizens. The Dark Lord awaits you eagerly. Fight bravely one more time and there will be a special place for you in hell – where heroes go to brag about their savagery and great deeds until the sands of time run out.

That’s the price you pay to play the Dark Lord’s game of war.

Go forth now and slay a demon to get the Dark Lord’s attention, or spend eternity with the souls of the people you’ve slain.

The Great Jackalope Hunt

200 words –

“Here’s one! It’s plain to see this animal is half rabbit and half antelope,” Long Tom Silver assured the greedy easterners who eyed the tintype photo and looked around at the vast prairie.

“Come gentlemen! Where is your sense of adventure? These creatures are all over the Western plains. Their meat is an exquisite treat! With your fine rifles you can shoot all you can eat.”

The four dandies looked at one another. The train they just got off let out a robust whistle and rolled down the tracks into the horizon. Long Tom had their horses and gear ready.

“I gotta tell you boys, there were a lot of applicants for this hunt. But like I said in the newspaper advertisement, only four men would be selected for the hunt of a lifetime. You boys made the grade.

“One last thing,” Long Tom said. “I’ll be requiring my fees for this expedition now.”  

The men didn’t looked surprised. It was what they all agreed on. Each handed Long Tom a sack of gold coins.

He took each one with a smile and gave a word of advise, “You boy’s should make a day camp. Jackalopes only come out at night,” he suggested while pointing his horse south towards Mexico.