How An Urban Legend Saved The Earth

Lester was an urban adventurer that thrived in the underbelly of great cities worldwide.

In some ways he was the “Banksy” of modern exploration. Like the artist, he hid his identity, only leaving behind clues that he’d been there. He was a small man, barely five feet-three inches tall, and a 110 pounds soaking wet.

His travels were legendary among explorers worldwide.

He’d explored so far into the depths of the catacombs beneath the Eternal City of Rome, it would take decades before archeologists ran across his mark.

He was the first modern man to explore the hidden underground tunnels and chambers beneath the Giza Plateau. His mark is written on the underground walls of Cappadocia, in Turkey. According to people who have made him an urban legend, he explored all seven levels in one week.

It’s also rumored that he discovered an enormous underground labyrinth in Egypt full of hieroglyphs on endless stone walls. It was said the hieroglyphs contained all of the knowledge of ancient Egypt.

But Lester’s greatest, and most unheralded, achievement was saving the earth.

He was on one of his usual one-man expeditions looking for a secret 5,000-years-old city hidden somewhere beneath Death Valley, when he discovered an underground tunnel in a cave not far from Scotty’s Castle.

The first cave he looked into turned out to be an old mine. There was still a pickax, some drill bits, and a wooden box that looked fairly modern, containing sticks of dynamite. He made a mental note to tell the rangers on his way home.

He didn’t think the second tunnel he went into was very big, but it was 120 degrees outside and the shade in the cave felt good, just stuffy. But as he went further inside he came upon a hole in the ground at a dead-end.

Shinning his flashlight down he could see there was once a wooden rope ladder, but it was badly deteriorated. Undeterred, he pulled out his rope and climbing equipment. It didn’t look like he would have to repel down too far down as he could see the bottom.

Once he was down on the dirt floor he unhooked his harness. The rope and tackle were secured by a steel spike in the floor above. He shined his flashlight down a long dark tunnel and slowly walked into the darkness.

After two hours he was starting to think he was wasting his time, but he knew knowledge never came easily and kept walking. When he saw the first sign on the wall he stopped and studied it with growing excitement.

It looked like a ball with rings around it and was carved into the Borax crystals on the walls. To him it looked like a planet. Excited, he moved on looking for more signs on the walls.

He walked for two more hours before deciding to stop and take a break and eat something. His excitement had worn off and he was hungry. As he bit into his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he thought about the marking he saw. Was it a planet?

Feeling refreshed, Lester resumed his search. Twenty minutes later he found another hole. As he stopped and flashed his light down it he saw something metallic. There was a rope ladder which was in much better condition than the first.

He had to make a decision. He didn’t have enough rope to repel down. It was still hanging from where he anchored it. He’d have to climb back up, leave the cave and hike  back to his Volkswagen bus for more rope.

Or, he could take a chance and use the hanging ladder. It didn’t take him long to decide. Adventure was in his DNA. He cautiously climbed down the rope until he came to the bottom and saw he was in a large open cavern with a metallic floor!

It’s shiny floor gleamed in the twilight created by his flashlight. He followed it to another open area where there were rows of metal tubes as far as he could see. He went up to one and saw that it had a little porthole that displayed a yellowish light inside. Then he saw a pale face, and it blinked!

He fell back in surprise and horror!

He’d always explored the secrets of past civilizations with gusto, never dreaming that he might actually run across a civilization that was still viable, and unknown to mankind. He looked in the port-hole again just to see if it was his imagination playing tricks on him.

No such luck. The face was still there and now both eyes were open and staring at him!

Then he felt a tug at his brain and a voice inside his head said, “Let me out. The button is below the glass you’re looking through.”

Lester broke the spell and got the courage to ask, “Do you mean to harm me, or others above us?”

The thing in the tube narrowed its bulging eyes and loudly commanded Lester to let it out!

“It’s our time now! You pitiful earthlings will only be kept alive as slaves to serve us when we take control of this planet!

He grabbed his head in pain as the thing tried to get a foothold in his brain. He staggered backwards, and dropped his flashlight which spun around on the metallic floor sending tiny beams of light throughout the cavern.

It took every bit of Lester’s intestinal fortitude to fight the creature trying to take over his body. Then he broke free, and ran out of the cavern! His mind was fuzzy but he managed to reach the rope ladder.

About half way up it started tearing loose! In sheer panic, Lester scuttled up the rest of the way and laid down on the dirt floor exhausted. He hoped he was far enough away that the creature couldn’t attack him again.

After a few gulps of air to steady himself, he climbed up his rope and reached the top floor of the cave safely. Only adrenaline kept him going as he went back to the first cave and retrieved the box of dynamite.

He knew it was a risky and stupid thing to try, but he had to do something about the creatures in those tubes. He took out two sticks and carefully tucked them into his leather belt before repelling back down to the next floor.

He went to the last hole with the good ladder, and lit both sticks and tossed them down the hole! The explosion filled the cave with dust and the concussion made his ear bleed. Somehow he was still alive.

He crawled back to his rope and used the last of his strength to climb back up. He lay there in the darkness for a while coughing and trying to get his breath. Minutes passed and the dust began settling down enough to see his way out of the cave.

He picked up the wooden box outside and brought it back into the cave. He set it down and pulled out his lighter. He lit one of the sticks and laid it next to the box and staggered out of the cave as fast as he could.

He was surprised that the explosion wasn’t bigger than it was. It still made an impressive tower of dirt and blanked out the sun for a moment. He felt confident that no one else would ever stumble upon the creatures beneath the desert floor.

His only regret was that he forgot to leave his mark down there. Then he smiled, and told himself this was one adventure that wouldn’t contribute to his legend…and that was okay.

As It Stands, this story is for free spirits.

 

The Star Child

Jericho was the only person in town who could see a spook, or spirit as Reverend Ledbetter called them.

No one in Titusville, Kentucky, doubted that Jericho had the ability to see, and communicate with the dead. He was always a strange child that defied description.

For starters, no one ever tried to pick on him in school even though he made an easy target. He never bullied anyone. He tended to be a loner, but spoke with other students and teachers when he had to.

There was something powerful that emanated from Jericho. There was a certainty in his eyes that belied his age. He was neither short, nor tall. He wasn’t stupid, nor was he the top of the class.

He was every man by the time he graduated from high school. He could disappear in crowds effortlessly. Nothing in his features made him stand out.

If not for his ability to see and talk with spirits, Jericho would have gone through life unnoticed.

Instead of leaving tiny Titusville like most of the other kids did when they graduated, Jericho was content to stay in town and scratch out a living as a handyman and carpenter.

He lived with his elderly parents in the house he was born in. The house was located near the downtown district in a small residential area.

One afternoon while Jericho was repairing a neighbor’s fence, an alien from a nearby solar system trying to disguise itself as a restless spirit, approached him with a question, “When shall I go to heaven?

Jericho stopped hammering and turned around to fully face the apparition.

“Never!” he harshly replied, “You’re a fraud!

Surprised to be discovered so easily, the alien took on its true form.

“Perhaps the rumors are true,” the alien said. “Maybe you are the star child.”

I don’t know anything about a star child. The dead choose to talk with me. I’m nothing more than a sympathetic soul bent on leading a quiet life.

“Your modesty humbles me…for a moment. But I’m not here to admire your ability to speak with the dead. I’m here to warn you to stop! My master, Lord Lucan of Antares, doesn’t like it. You’ve been stirring up some lost souls that he’s collected around the solar system and they now believe they have hope.”

“Get out of here, whatever you are! Take your warning and shove it up your master’s ass!”

When the alien left, he went back to work on the fence and finished it before the sun went down. That night as he ate dinner with his parents, he sensed an underlying tension. Like they wanted to tell him something.

After dinner, they all went to the living room. Instead of picking up a book, like he usually did after the evening meal, Jericho’s father said he had a story to tell him.

It started with the fact that he was an orphan. They found him near the wreckage of a small metal capsule in the forest. He was only an infant, so they took him home and raised him.

They agreed that some day they would tell him what they knew – little though it was – when they felt he was ready. One thing that amazed them both was how much he came to resemble a little of each of them in his features.

“This is that day,” his mother spoke up.

“Why today?

“Because our time is running out,” his father explained. “Some alien-looking thing came by today and threatened to kill us if you didn’t stopping talking with the dead.”

Jericho bowed his head for a moment and tried to collect himself. “Who was he? The alien thought he might be someone called the star child.”

His parents watched his confusion with sympathy. Their world was turned upside when they first found him. Now it was being turned upside down again because they raised him. Neither, for even a moment, considered asking him not to communicate with restless spirits.

It was an ability they accepted because of their love for him. Both were ready to die for him now.

“Mom and Dad, would you do me a favor?

They both quickly nodded yes.

“Can you take me back to that place in the forest where you found me?”

There was a slight hesitation before his father said, “I’ll do my best son, but my legs are old and weak. Along with my memory.”

They drove to the edge of the forest. His mother stayed with the pickup truck while his dad picked out a trail and followed it. After an hour they came upon the partly buried capsule. Vegetation had nearly engulfed it.

“Thanks dad. Now you head back before it gets dark.

“Good luck son…if I never see you again.”

When night fell Jericho attempted to do something he’d never done before; summon up a spirit – and not just one – but hundreds! Soon he was surrounded by spirits. He discovered they all weren’t just earthly spirits, but spirits from other races in other planets too!

He looked through the canopy of trees and saw stars twinkling brightly in the heavens. It was like they all were waiting for him to speak. With the support of other alien spirits, Jericho put together a team to stop Lord Lucan’s evil reign.

When it was done he felt pain in his earthly body. It only lasted for a moment before he died and his free spirit was able to assume his destiny as the star child.

As It Stands, this tale was a twist on the superman story.

The Power Of Love

Love recoiled when Alex was born. 

He never got to suckle at his mother’s warm breast, because she left him with the Catholic Church, who named him Alexander, after the saint St. Alexander of Jerusalem.

He was born on March 1st, 1951, at the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway, Ireland. The overcrowded facility offered shelter to orphans, unwed mothers, and their children.

Times were hard for many Irish. There were more than a dozen other places like Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home throughout the land. The majority of children who died at these homes were buried on site, in unmarked graves. It was one of many secrets kept by the nuns (and their superiors) who ran the homes.

Growing up, Alex barely fought off starvation, like his peers. The weaker ones died and disappeared. The children heard the nuns and priests talk of love – Agape love, and other aspects of love – but couldn’t picture what love looked like.

The nuns never smiled, and were perpetually angry about something. Even the priests who came to bless the children at certain times of the year, frowned while preaching. The constant struggle to find food – between meals of mush with mystery meat – caused the children to be wary of one another.

As soon as a child was five-years-old, they were put to work. They worked at menial tasks inside, and outside in the fields until darkness fell. There were no chubby children there. Even the dominant ones – who managed to scavenger food better than the others – were thin and sickly looking.

One day, just after his twelfth birthday, Alex ran away.

He was hardened by the way he was raised, and willing to take his chances anywhere else, but the home he grew up in. What little food he brought with him, wrapped up in an extra shirt, only lasted two days before his stomach was growling with hunger.

He walked along the main road, after sticking to the woods, on the third day. A car would pass now and then, but no one seemed interested in a young boy. It was a rural area and travelers probably thought he lived nearby.

If he wasn’t so thirsty, his water ran out with his food, he might have been impressed with the endless green rolling hills ahead of him. It was big world, and he was just getting a taste of it.

Exhausted, Alex sat down on the side of the road. It was getting dark and he was weak from thirst and hunger. After a while, he fell asleep on the grass.

When he woke up the next morning, he was in a house on someone’s couch! A middle-aged man with black hair and beard, was sitting in a chair watching him.

“How is it that yer out, and ’bout on yer own?” he asked him.

“Please sir! Don’t take me back!” Alex cried out.

“Easy lad…no need to talk ’bout that okay? I din’t care what yer story be. It’s yer plans from here, that interests me.

Alex looked into the man’s eyes. They were dark brown with hints of gold. A deep scar stretched across his right cheek. He had a broken nose. His expression was neutral.

“I need a place to live,” he said, with fear dancing in his eyes.

“I see, lad. I’ll let you live with me, but ther be rules ye must follow.”

Relief poured through Alex’s body as he agreed to the mystery man’s request.

“Sir…what shall I call you?

“Call me Da,” he said, standing up.

The man looked at the skinny boy nervously tapping his fingers on his knee and smiled. This naive boy would fit very nicely into his future plans.

“Are ye hungry lad?”

“Yes sir…er Da!

“Well then boy…I’ve laid out some food for ya in the kitchen. Help yerself.”

As Alex bit into an apple he thought about how nice the man’s face got when he smiled. Was this love?,” he wondered as he took another bite.

Da, aka Seamus Brennen, was a lifelong thief. He made his living stealing from rural farms and homes far from the big city police. His old assistant was caught by the police six months ago and he’d been looking for a replacement since.

Finding Alex was a God send – even through Seamus didn’t believe in God. He was still young enough to train him in the tools of the trade. It was the devotion in Alex’s eyes that assured him he made the right pick.

The key to Alex’s attention was praising him as he learned how to pick locks and where to look for money in most homes. Their partnership flourished for seven years as they moved from one rural area to another, always a few steps ahead of the local police.

Alex was nearly a man now and like a son to Seamus. His wide shoulders and slender waist made him look like a body-builder. He was also taller than Seamus, with wild blond hair and hints of a beard.

His loyalty, and love, were always there. He never had trouble with his conscience, despite his religious upbringing.

One day, as Seamus took a nap in the car under the shade of a tree, Alex went for a walk. Hours later he came upon a young woman milking a cow in a field. He could see a barn not too far away, but no other people.

Like most young men of his age, Alex was curious and also getting funny feelings when around women. He watched her for a few minutes before slowly approaching. She was beautiful! Her long golden hair fell in ringlets as he stared in awe.

He thought, “This is what a princess looks like.” 

Suddenly she turned around and looked at him…and smiled. His heart did an Irish jig and he attempted to smile back. When he got closer, she was still smiling and asked him what his name was?

He blurted out his name, as his cheeks grew red with embarrassment, “Alex…and yours?

She picked up the milking pail and asked him if he’d like a drink of water?

“Oh, aye…” he stammered awkwardly.

“My name is Sarah. Follow me…”

He followed a few steps behind, admiring her youthful body in the plain white dress she was wearing. He felt a giddiness like nothing else before. She was singing an old shepherd’s song as they came to the barn.

She showed him a bench to sit on and went and pumped water from the well, after taking the milk into the house. When she returned with a full tin-cup of water he was trying to compose himself. He had zero experience with women. Da saw to that.

They sat and talked twenty minutes before someone called Sarah from within the house. He felt an electricity, but being a virgin he wasn’t sure what to do or say. Before she went into the house she asked him to come back tonight, and meet her here by the barn.

Their eyes locked for another moment – she smiled sweetly – then hurried off into the house.

When she got inside she went up to her father who was standing near the window looking out. Two of their neighbors were sitting by the cold fireplace with shotguns across their laps.

“Just one,” she reported. “The other one must be near by.”

The men discussed how they’d ambush at least one of the thieves who had been haunting several counties for nearly a decade. They’d catch them in the act if the damn police couldn’t!

When Seamus woke up Alex was sitting at the base of the tree humming a tune. He looked guiltily over when he saw Seamus was watching him. The smile left his face.

“Did ye take a good nap then lad?”

“Aye.”

‘Tis a good thing. We ha work to do tonight,” he smiled and opened the car door.

Alex got in. They drove down the road for a mile, before Seamus pulled off the road and into a grove of trees.

“Will we stay in the county tonight?” Alex anxiously asked.

“Aye! Our targit for tonight is nearby,” he said, getting out of the car. They snacked on chunks of stale bread and waited for nightfall.

Alex followed Seamus. There was only a sliver of a moon peeking out from the dark clouds. When they came to a familiar barn Alex froze. This was where Sarah lived. There was the bench they sat on.

Seamus picked up on his apparent confusion and concern.

“What’s wrong lad” he whispered.

A war was going on in Alex’s head. Was it love at first sight with Sarah? He knew Da loved him. Hadn’t he taken care of him all of these years? But she made his heart leap with her golden hair and luscious lips! Her eyes promised heaven if he returned that night.

“Let’s leave…” he nervously whispered back.

“Say what…?”

Then Seamus saw movement on the side of the house. Men with guns!

Without saying another word, he followed Alex who was now on the ground and crawling in the opposite direction towards their car. They could hear angry voices in the night as they furiously crawled for their lives.

It wasn’t until they got back in the car, and were miles down the road, before Seamus found his voice, “Thanks lad! How did ye know?”

When Alex told Seamus about his visit to the farm while he was taking a nap, a single tear slipped out of one of Seamus’s eyes. This kid he adopted for a life of crime loved him enough to admit what he did, and then saved them both from a certain ambush and possibly death.

“Ye know Alex,” Seamus said the next day, “I know some pretty lassies that would love to meet a lad like you!”

Alex blushed. “Thanks Da,” he said with all of his heart.

As It Stands, love doesn’t always come perfectly packaged, but can be counted on to do the right thing.

Undying Love

A spark of life suddenly animated Arnaud Harte’s moldering corpse. 

His body had been thrown into a large hole with hundreds of other French soldiers after the Battle of France – also known as the Fall of France – against the Germans months before.

Now, he clawed at the dirt surrounding him with supernatural strength until he broke through to the surface.

His uniform was rotting off his decomposed corpse as he crawled out of the hole into the moonlight. Anna Marie, the love of his life, was in danger! He clearly remembered telling her, before going off to battle, that he’d always protect her…no matter what.

The German patrol was tracking Anna Marie and the other five members of the French Resistance in a forest near Paris. For two days they had eluded the Germans, but they were wearing down and several were wounded. Anna Marie was among those wounded.

The German pursuers had made camp and were setting up a perimeter when Arnaud shambled over to one of the sentries and grabbed him from behind! He never saw the thing that choked him to death. Fortunately, he didn’t feel it bite into his face!

Arnaud took his bayonet and went hunting for another sentry. As he approached another sentry the man suddenly turned around and saw him! He screamed in terror and fired a round at Arnaud, which passed through his body with no effect.

What the sentry saw was a vision from hell! It wore a ragged French uniform over it’s decaying flesh. It’s teeth were exposed in a death mask created by rigor mortis. The hallow eyes burned with hell fires. Patches of stringy hair hung from it’s partly bald head.

He meant to fire again but the thing had swiftly moved in and stabbed him in the throat with it’s bayonet. The soldier’s terrified eyes grew dull as Arnaud kept stabbing him. When he finished he went looking for another victim.

When the German camp awakened early the next morning, Hauptmann Reinhard was already barking at his men. Then he started getting the reports. Every sentry that night was dead! Not just dead, but dead and horribly mutilated!

A pall settled over the remaining soldiers. Each one felt a fear like nothing they’d ever experienced before. They had to hastily bury the bodies as Hauptmann Reinhard was eager to pursue the French Resistance fighters.

He didn’t know what to think about the men’s deaths. In all of his years in the military he’d never seen anything like it. They were all partly eaten! He couldn’t let the men know his concerns though. He had a job to do.

Later that day, shortly before the sun went down, the Germans caught up to the French fighters. In the ensuing firefight four Germans and three of the French fighters were killed. The two French survivors crawled away into the underbrush as night fell.

There were still twelve Germans left, counting Hauptmann Reinhard, when the firing stopped. It was a moonless night and the wind whispered through the trees. A wolf howled forlornly.

Anna Marie was bleeding from two wounds. One in her left arm and another in the chest. Joan Fournier, her fellow resistance fighter, was hit twice in the chest and was barely alive. They both lay hidden in a thicket of bushes. Anna Marie had a revolver with three shots left.

The German soldiers were dispirited. They couldn’t get their comrades deaths out of their minds. All of them were hardened infantry who saw several major campaigns. None of them had ever seen anything like it. Four sentries were stationed around their small perimeter.

The wolf stopped howling and the creatures of the forest were unnaturally quiet. Arnaud snuck up on a sentry and drove his bayonet through his throat! Then he sunk his teeth into the man’s face and ripped away flesh!

By the time Arnaud killed the other three sentries the sun was coming up. One of the first soldiers to awaken walked outside the perimeter to take a piss. When he saw the mangled body of his comrade he screamed uncontrollably. The rest of the camp came alive and men grabbed their rifles as they sprung up from their sleeping bags.

Hauptmann Reinhard had his Ruger out and ordered two of the men to investigate where the screams were coming from. Arnaud waited until the two new arrivals came upon their screaming comrade to attack!

He drove his bayonet into one man’s mouth and grabbed the other’s rifle from him. The other soldier went down like an ox when Arnaud shot him in the head!

It was time to end the chase once and for all.

Arnaud walked into the camp where the four surviving Germans were. He started shooting and they retuned fire. Their bullets however had no effect on Arnaud. Pieces of his decaying flesh flew off from the impact of the bullets.

The last German alive was Hauptmann Reinhard. When the smoke cleared he was lying on the ground but trying to get himself up. Arnaud walked over to him and gave his best death head grin. Then he brought the butt end of his rifle down on Reinhard’s skull!

When Arnaud found Anna Marie she was barely alive and unconscious. Next to her was her friend Joan, who had passed away during the night. He sat down next to her and held her hand as she took her last breath.

Somewhere in another world, they were alive and healthy again; and still very much in love.

As It Stands, a violent love story is off the beaten track.

Time out of Time

Something went terribly wrong with Dr. Vincent Van Buren’s time machine.

The first time he used it, in 2018, everything went well. He took a quick visit to North Kingstown, Rhode Island in 1950, the year he was born, and returned in the allotted ten minutes to San Diego, California.

There wasn’t much room in the time machine. It was basically a round ball with a seat inside and three collapsible legs to stand on outside.

Van Buren was a genius. All the technology he used was far in advance of anyone else in 2018.

World scientists were aware of some of his work, but the majority thought he was a well-educated eccentric with delusions. His papers on time travel were jeered by his colleagues.

He never let the naysayers get him down. He prepared all of his life for this moment…when he would become a time traveler. That time was now as he readied himself for his next visit to the past.

He wore a black jumpsuit that had pockets in front, down the sides, and in back. In them he carried things like a compass, a pocket knife, length of rope, dried meals, nutrition bars, first aid supplies, a magnifying glass, and an extra battery for the taser gun he wore on a utility belt.

When he sat down inside he had just enough room to put two canteens of water between his feet. All the controls were within his reach. There was a small monitor that was hooked up to a camera on top of the time machine, providing a panoramic look outside.

This time he set the controls for ancient Egypt’s Old Kingdom period (2686-2181 BC). He chose the Great Sphinx of Giza for his destination point.

Then he was there.

The time machine was just a few feet away from the enormous Sphinx as he looked at the monitor. It was night, but a full moon lit the desert landscape as Van Buren pushed a button and the hatch door opened.

The interior lights profiled him as he stepped out in time for two Egyptian traders to see him. He could hear shrieks of terror as they urged their camels on to greater speeds!

“They either think I was a god, or someone really evil,” he thought while walking over to the base of the Sphinx. His studies told him that it was located on the west bank of the Nile, near Cairo, and that the sphinx was believed to be the pharaoh Khafra.

Van Buren marveled at the traditional blue and gold horizontal bands on the nemes headdress. The body was red. The face was yellow, a traditional color for men in ancient Egypt.

The Sphinx’s black beard was striking. In Van Buren’s time archeologists had just recently discovered the broken-off beard buried in the sand.

He lost track of time while walking around the Sphinx, but his wristwatch beeped, reminding him that it was time to get back. A few minutes later he settled in and waited for the auto pilot to take over.

He was still waiting an hour later!

Something was horribly wrong!

He tried not to panic. It wouldn’t help anything. He pulled out an emergency tool kit and started to dismantle the main panel when there was a bright flash and he was thrown back in his seat!

The sphinx was gone. He could see a primordial jungle outside. Then he saw a sight that made his blood run cold! A Tyrannosaurus rex was chasing a smaller dinosaur and they were coming his way!

In his moment of terror, a part of Van Buren’s brain recalled that it must be the Late Cretaceous period in what was in his time, North America. One of the dinosaurs slammed into the time machine and sent it spinning down a slope!

The Tyrannosaurus rex let out a roar of victory when it caught the smaller animal. For the first time in his life, Van Buren thought about death. He suspected he was close to it right now. He watched through the monitor – the camera was still miraculously working – and saw the bipedal carnivore rip his meal apart.

The stabilizers were still working or he would be in an even more awkward position. Suddenly the curious carnivore saw the time machine. It started moving in his direction when…there was a flash, and he was somewhere else!

It was raining outside and he couldn’t make anything out. His heart was still beating fast and he felt faint. He reached into one of his pockets and pulled out a nutrition bar. As he chewed on it he tried to organize his thoughts.

He was afraid of stepping outside in case the time machine decided to move on. Why it was happening mystified him. Then it happened again.

This time he saw sunshine.

He was in the middle of a field of wheat. He looked at the monitor and idly wondered where he was now. He was as startled as the man who stepped into view swinging a sickle!

He stopped and warily moved towards the time machine. He was divided between curiosity and fear while looking at the camera. Van Buren guessed he was a European peasant from his clothing, pock marks on his face, and blackened teeth. The antique sickle fit with his guess.

“Sacrebleu!” the man cried out in surprise.

Then, in a flash, he was gone!

When Van Buren was able to focus his eyes again on the monitor all he could see was snow. The time machine was sitting in an arctic tundra with no civilization in sight. He was glad that the climate control inside was still working.

Hours passed this time. He quit looking at the monitor. There was nothing to see but whiteness. He wondered if this was finally it? He couldn’t get the controls to work properly, and he was at the machine’s mercy.

Exhausted, he nodded off. 

When he woke up he was in his laboratory! He immediately pushed the button to open the hatch and crawled out. His legs were numb from sitting. His elation at this turn of events was short-lived however, as the time machine disappeared again!

All of his work was gone! Who would believe him now? A sense of despair gripped him and he slunk into a depression. Family and friends couldn’t get him to leave his lab for anything.

After a while they all gave up. The courts said he wasn’t crazy and he could do what he wanted. All Van Buren wanted, was for his time machine to return again someday! He’d be there waiting.

As It Stands, time travel can be a tricky thing.

Blink If You Can Hear Me!

The huge cargo ship, Alushion, lumbered on in space, dwarfing some stars as it hurtled towards its destination.

The crew didn’t know what they were carrying, nor did most care. The majority of the 32 man-crew were old-timers who had been with the ship for years. There was one new crew member however.

His name was Gorm, and he was assigned all the shit duties aboard the ship. He was pretty sure that it would take years before he moved up enough to where he wasn’t cleaning bathrooms and grease pits.

But he didn’t plan on being a crew member forever. He was a former reporter for The World News in Gallax’s biggest city Aahorn. He quit his job because his editor wouldn’t let him write stories about state corruption and slavery.

What made him make the big move was a tip from a trusted informant. Gallax’s biggest cargo ship was carrying more than minerals and Gallaxian steel. It was also covertly carrying slaves!

Gorm was sure his editor wouldn’t let him go undercover and investigate it. So he quit and applied for a menial job as a crew member aboard the Alushion. He was in luck. One of the regulars was in an accident and they needed a replacement.

The adventure of it all appealed to Gorm’s endless imagination.

He would write a tell-all book about slavery that would catapult him to fame and wealth. Civilized Gallaxians abhorred slavery, but there was a criminal element that specialized in it.

Every city on Gallax had a problem with residents disappearing. No bodies ever showed up. The authorities seemed unable to do anything about it. There were hints of what was going on, like when one man escaped.

He was blinded and never knew that he was hidden in a building near the International Space Station. But he did hear broken conversations and shared those with authorities.

The slavers were well-organized. How they got their captives off world was a mystery. There were so many possibilities the authorities were stumped. Private ships, military ships, commercial travel ships, cargo ships, and on, and on.

There were literally thousands of possibilities to hide slaves.

The slavers would wait until they had at least 200 captives before transporting them. The captain of the Alushion was a corrupt scoundrel with high government connections. His arrangement with the slavers paid him three times his captain’s salary.

The whole scheme was the brainchild of Lancor Mey, the leader of the biggest underworld gang on Gallax. He partnered up with the ship’s captain, Kanor Olk, and for the past ten years they transported thousands of Gallaxians off world and to other planets that provided eager buyers.

The ship actually had two crews; the one that authorities saw consisting of 32 employees, and the one they didn’t see that consisted of three employees whose only job was to take care of the captives.

This was made possible by having a false hull that was converted into an area where the helpless captives were put in plastic pods that sporadically emitted sleeping gases. They were hooked up to feeder tubes which the small crew was supposed to monitor.

Gorm was so busy for the first three days that he didn’t have time to explore anything. No menial task was below him. On the fourth day he found himself with some free time. He was such a hard worker that some of the crew members were already letting up on him.

He learned that there were three decks and a hold of Galaxian steel and tons of minerals in it. He knew where the captain’s quarters was, the ship’s kitchen, the navigation deck, the crew’s quarters, and where the various supply rooms were.

A week later, Gorm was becoming discouraged. He still hadn’t seen anything suspicious, or heard any juicy conversations that might provide leads to where the slaves were being held.

He was starting to think he was a fool for listening to the tipster. He was stuck on a cargo ship that wouldn’t return to Gallax for three more weeks.

Then a break came.

He got to know all the crew members during his short time aboard, and when he saw a stranger slip out of the kitchen and scurry to a door that led below decks, he followed. He could hear the stranger’s footsteps as he disappeared down into the engine room.

Gorm looked at the small nuclear reactor that was the ship’s source of power. All eight feet of it was sheathed in steel plates with Gallaxian script engraved into them. Gorm was so close to the stranger that he had to duck behind the reactor when he stopped, and started to turn around checking to see if he was being followed.

Then the stranger put his hand on the wall and a hidden door slid open! Gorm cautiously watched where he put his hand. He had no doubt what he’d find if he went into that secret room.

He knew for sure there was one slaver, and more than likely others inside. He had no way of knowing how many of them. Nothing about the situation was good. What should he do?

He couldn’t stay here much longer before someone missed him. He considered telling the captain, but as he walked back to his quarters a growing sense of alarm told him not to. He really couldn’t trust anyone aboard.

After the encounter with the stranger he made a habit of going back to where the secret door was several times a day. His persistence paid off days before they were scheduled to land on Anterrean, Gallax’s main trading partner.

He was hiding behind the reactor which was directly across from the secret door when one of the slavers emerged. He hurried out. Gorm went to the spot and put his hand there.

At first he couldn’t see anything. The room was bathed in a soft blue light that didn’t throw shadows. Gorm saw another slaver slouched over a keyboard in front of a monitor. He was asleep.

As he felt his way around the room he saw another stranger stretched out on a bunk asleep. His luck was holding up. Then he came to a row of pods that held the captives. As he continued to search he found more rows. He stopped in front of one when he noticed a movement.

The captive in one pod opened his eyes and moved his head slightly.

“Blink if you can hear me,” Gorm said.

The Gallaxian blinked twice. The horror of the situation made Gorm’s blood run cold. “I’m going to try to help you,” he said.

The Gallaxian blinked again. Then his eyes grew wider!

Gorm didn’t hear anything until too late. A slaver slipped up behind him and put him in a chokehold. Darkness.

When he woke up he was in a room full of captives from planets throughout the solar system. He guessed he was on Anterrean. He felt like a damn fool! What made him think he would get away with going into that room?

He always wanted to experience adventures and to be a writer. Now he was a slave!

A slaver came into the room and roughly grabbed him by his arm, and led him outside to a platform before a group of prospective buyers.

“This pathetic creature,” the auctioneer droned, “...says he’s a writer. Who needs a writer? he asked the group. A couple of low bids were thrown out and the auctioneer acted disgusted, “I might as well slaughter him and sell his meat to the Zarks,” he grouched.

Finally a wealthy female Gallaxian made a bid that was acceptable. The auctioneer gave her the mobile control device that activated the shock collar on Gorm’s neck. It was standard slave issue.

Gorm followed her obediently down a series of well-maintained streets until they came to a big compound. His new master’s name was Illse, and she was the mistress of the large house.

“You’re job here is to tell stories to my children every night. If they like them, I’ll set you free after you tell a hundred consecutive tales.”

“Well… I don’t know…

“Writers are storytellers, are they not?”

“Yes…yes, you could call them that.”

“Good. Then we have an agreement?”

“Sure. By the way, what happens if I run out of stories or your kids don’t like them?”

“You become Zark meat,” she said conversationally.

Gorm gave a sick grin, and said, “When do we start?”

As It Stands, life is about adapting to situations.

A Journey To An Alternate Universe

Hector Perez was a cop in Cleveland, Ohio for twelve years, before he unwittingly stepped into an alternate universe.

One moment he was chasing a burglary suspect in the city’s eastern warehouse district, and the next moment he was standing alone in a deserted warehouse wearing some odd clothing! Beside a giddy feeling, he felt like he got off a merry-go-round, he felt fine.

Hector was a straight-forward kinda guy who didn’t believe in other dimensions, black holes, and alternate universes. His idea of a good time was drinking beer with his buddies and watching football games.

The sense of displacement made it hard for him to focus his thoughts. What should he do? Where was he? How did he get here? Was this a nightmare? Questions marched through his head like toy soldiers on parade.

He finally summoned up the energy, and courage, to explore his surroundings. The warehouse was huge, but empty. There were only two overhead lights, one on each end of the warehouse. Neither were on. But the sun shone through a skylight in the middle of the warehouse, illuminating a large area.

He went over to a row of frosted windows and tried to peer through them. Then he noticed his clothes again. He wasn’t wearing a uniform with his service revolver. Instead, he was wearing a dirty white t-shirt underneath a red and black checkered long sleeve wool shirt. He had faded Levi’s on and cowboy boots. His leather belt had a sheath for the hunting knife in it.

Looking for an opening, he found a large sliding door big enough to drive a truck through. It took all of his strength to slide it open on the rusted track. He managed to move it far enough to go through it.

Outside there were a row of small mom and pop stores, a gas station, and a car lot. He could see a large water tower at the outskirts of the small town. It said, “The Devil’s Half Acre,” in faded blue paint.

Hector was a man with little imagination. His world was cut and dried. He prided himself on his logic. He was a good cop, a great dad, and husband. Nothing in his life prepared him for this abrupt change to his world.

He walked over to the row of stores. The shoe store had a few customers inside. As he walked to the next business, a clothing store, a man outside said, “What the hell you doing here Billy Joe? You know the law is after you!

Hector stopped and stared at him. “What? Are you talking to me?”

“You know I am, Billy Joe. Cut the shit, Mom said you better get out-of-town fast!

“What? My name is Hector. Hector Perez. I’m a cop!”

“Wuuuweeee! Billy Joe! It’s me, your brother Lester! Save that talk for a loony doc if they catch you brother.”

“No! You don’t understand! I really…”

Look out brother! That’s Sheriff Tidwell’s Jeep! Run!”

Lester grabbed his hand and pulled him. “Hurry! C’mon! I don’t think he sees us.

Hector gave up and followed him. It felt weird running from the law. Especially when he didn’t even know what he did! Lester led him into a shabby neighborhood a couple of blocks away.

They jumped fences and ran across yards until Lester stopped at what looked like a deserted house. It turned out to be his home, along with his mother and sister. Lester slammed the front door behind them.

“Didn’t you listen to your brother Billy Joe? You need to leave this town pronto!” mom greeted him.

“There’s something wrong with his head Ma. He says he’s a “beaner” named Hector Perez.”

Mom moved closer to Hector and studied him for a moment. “You okay, Billy Joe?” she asked.

Hector shook his head in frustration. “No. I’m not okay, and I’m not Billy Joe. I don’t even know where I’m at!”

Mom looked over at Lester and his sister, Marley, to gage their reactions. The worry in their eyes told her they were thinking the same thing she was…Billy Joe lost his mind. It must have happened when he killed the Sheriff’s brother in the brawl at The Alibi nightclub last night.

The word was all over town; Billy Joe Baxter killed Blaine, Sheriff Tidwell’s baby brother. The little town was fairly abuzz with the news. It was their first killing in over 60 years. The weekly newspaper put out a special edition tracing the town’s history of murders/killings going back 130 years.

Hector realized these people could get into trouble if they were caught hiding him.

“Have the police come here yet?” he asked.

Surprised at his rational question, mom said, “They came by early this morning. The sheriff, and his three deputies searched the house.”

“You’re right. I need to leave. I don’t want to endanger you guys.”

Lester looked him in the eye and asked, “Are you all right brother?” 

Hector hesitated, then said, “Yeah…I’m fine. Gotta go!

Mom came over and kissed him. Ten-year-old Marylou gave him a hug. Lester gave him a knuckle bump as he went out the door.

Hector was trying to figure out how he could logically handle his situation while he cautiously walked towards a wooded area not far from town. He took off his checkered shirt and wrapped it around his waist as he walked along in the hot sun.

When he got to the woods he saw right away it was being actively logged. A swath was cut right through the center of the forest. He veered to the left of the operations and looked for a place where he could sit down and try to plot out his next move.

He found a shady spot and sat down with his back against a tall pine tree. The sun was on it’s way down when he decided he needed to go back to the warehouse. By the time he got back into town it was dark. He didn’t have any trouble locating the massive building.

The door was still partly opened as he left it. His cop radar sensed a threat and he hesitated before entering. The sheriff stepped out from the shadows with his gun pointed at Hector.

“Had a feeling I might catch you coming here tonight. Leaving the door opened helped. Are you ready to meet your maker Billy Joe?” Sheriff Tidwell asked.

“Aren’t you going to arrest me?” Hector asked.

“Shit no! You killed my baby brother you murdering bastard! I ain’t going to let some judge save your sorry ass with a life sentence. Turn around!”

Hector complied.

The sheriff slipped his handcuffs on him and gave him a shove.

“Inside. Start walking. I’ll tell you where to go,” the Sheriff assured him.

“Time’s up Billy Joe!” He shouted, while leveling his gun at him.

Hector broke out into a desperate run across the room expecting to hear the shot any moment. Then he heard it!

He was back in Cleveland chasing a burglar who just took a shot at him from a warehouse door! He pulled his service revolver and returned fire!

As It Stands, have you ever wondered if there is an alternate universe?