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.

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.

The Dark Mass and the Coming of Styrian

The Chronicles of Styrian – Book One

No one on Venus felt safe since the dark mass was discovered.

The warrior wizards who ruled the planet didn’t know how to stop the dark mass that was heading for their world. They watched it eat planets in another solar system and shuddered.

No amount of arcane knowledge was going to stop that hurdling mass – estimated to be traveling at 667,0000 miles per minute – from hitting Venus. It was the Venusians misfortune to be in the path of such a destructive elemental force.

Venus did have a chance to survive, albeit a thin one.

Living high in the Shoonic mountains that crisscrossed Venus’s north pole, was a hermit who had a son. His name was Styrian. The boy was touched by the gods and processed skills unknown to Venusians.

He was raised from infancy by the hermit Malgorn, who found him in the middle of a forest by a stream. Apparently abandoned. He took the babe to his home in the mountains and raised him like his own.

Malgorn was a book hoarder and his entire wooden cabin was cluttered with them. Every wall had multiple shelves of books. They were stacked up in the corners of the two- room house that Malgorn built when he was a young man.

Styrian listened to Malgorn read until he was old enough to read himself. Among the many useful things he learned was to recognize eatable tubers, a mainstay of their diet. The two forged a bond from the start.

Watching Styrian read a book one day, Malgorn wondered for the thousandth time where he came from? It sure wasn’t Venus. He was twice the size of the tallest Venusian. His heavily muscled pale white skin contrasted sharply with the dark green scales of Venusians.

Yet Styrian thought nothing of their physical differences because he was raised by Malgorn, who he considered his father. Even after he was told about his vague origin, Styrian claimed him as his father.

Malgorn always believed Styrian had a major purpose in his life. That he was meant for great things. That he could even be a god.

So when a message came from Malgorn’s brother, who lived in a major Venusian city, he felt it was destiny calling. He sent the messenger back with a message; “Take heart, salvation may come soon.” 

Malgorn went to Styrian and told him about the malicious dark mass that ate planets, and how it was coming their way.

Styrian was an adult now, and looked more like a god than ever before. His long blond hair fell down over his brawny shoulders like a cascade of gold. His pale green eyes blazed with hidden knowledge and strength.

“Then it is my time, father,” he said, after hearing about the threat.

“Will I ever see you again?” the aging Malgorn asked, with a slight tremble to his voice.

“You’ll always see me among the stars,” Styrian promised, and disappeared.

As Venusian wizards and scientists watched, the dark mass slowed down and turned away from Venus, speeding off in the opposite direction! They witnessed great solar storms and raw displays of energy crackling a million miles away.

Then it was over.

Malgorn looked to the heavens every night after the dark mass was gone. One night he noticed some stars were brighter than the rest. As he focused his old eyes on them they formed into an outline of Styrian holding a planet in his right hand!

In another universe and galaxy, Styrian found himself missing Malgorn. He stopped the dark mass, but destiny kept calling. His fate was to be a legend roving solar systems and other dimensions in search of adventure.

As It Stands, Book Two of the Chronicles of Styrian takes the reader to a world of ghosts and magic spells that seduce him into madness.

The Awakening

Listen to this story  narrated by Otis Jiry, master storyteller.

Leaders, scientists and citizens alike turned out on the spacious grounds of the capital of Luna Astra, to see the awakening.

Ever since the earth ship was discovered cruising aimlessly near the moons of Janus, the scientists of Alta Juret, had been studying its sleeping occupants. They ascertained they were from another solar system, and a planet called Earth.

They were scheduled to be awakened today.

The ship’s navigation system were crude compared to their technology, but they found a weapon system that was unknown to them. A series of laser cannons that far exceeded the impact and distance of their own weapon systems.

The discovery caused great debate among the scientists and the leaders of Alta Juret. To some, the weapon system signaled a warlike race that was more interested in conquering than visiting.

Others suggested that there might be even more things they could learn from the sleeping occupants in the clear pods, filled with fluids that kept the bodies inside alive. After studying the life support system that kept the 25 crew members incubated in a suspended state, the scientists won out, and it was decided to let the ship’s inhabitants live.

They also decided to let the ship’s internal alarm system wake the occupants up, rather than interrupting their slumber, and possibly causing a problem.

A team of scholars were assigned to the ship (Columbus) – which was docked at the Alta Juret International Landing Station in Luna Astra – to study the computers which held copious amounts of information about mankind.

Throughout history, mankind lashed out like an angry and spoiled infant; making war, and living in luxury among defeated foes. Building great monuments to civilizations that disappeared in the chaos that swirled around the entire world’s history.

There were times of peace when great inventors and geniuses flourished.

Earthlings were builders and destroyers. The ate other species on their planet, but also kept some for pets. Humans were a paradox that puzzled the scholars as they pored over the many writings, ranging from fiction to non-fiction.

Today was the day.

The ship’s system slipped into a new mode earlier in the morning when the scholars saw the liquid being drained from the pods. Scientists quickly came aboard, and documented the process.

The pale naked bodies looked vulnerable under the blue lights that made them look even whiter. There were males and females. As the scientists and scholars watched, gases poured into the pods, obscuring the view of the inhabitants inside.

In minutes, the gases were gone. Slowly, one-by-one, the humans woke up. They were all groggy and slow to focus their eyes and senses. The scientists and scholars watched them closely.

One of the scholars, who had taught himself to speak earth languages, said “Greetings” to the crew in 12 different languages. The pods opened and the humans emerged – now wide-eyed – at the sight of the Alta Juret scientists and scholars.

One of the human males said, “We come in peace” in English.

The newly bilingual scholar, Ves, answered in kind, “Welcome!

As the earthlings dressed in blue uniforms, Ves called the waiting Security Council outside, and informed them they were all getting ready to leave the ship. A ripple went through the crowd as word got out.

When the stairs extended from the earth ship, the crowd pressed forward to get a better look. Ves came out first. Then gasps escaped the crowd as they watched the humans file down, with only two-legs, and two-arms each!

What a novel sight. The earthlings didn’t look complete, unlike the inhabitants of Alta Juret, who had four-legs, and four-arms each. Children laughed at the sight and the adults smiled. These earthlings didn’t look so terrible at all.

As a matter of fact – maybe because they were half the size of the Alta Jurtetians – the earthlings looked like frail children. There was nothing threatening about them at all. The crowd exhaled and broke up after watching two hours of ceremonies involving the leaders of Alta Juret, and the crew of the Columbus.

Day Two – Aboard the Columbus

The crew was gathered around Captain Marty Delwar, who had a map laid out in front of him. He pointed to sections of the map with a silver telescoping pointer, emphasizing a spot with a couple of taps.

“Sergeant, I need you and six others to cover the main building while we make our assault on the nearby transmission towers.

“The object is to take out their communications – at least the ones we know of – before they have time to organize a resistance,” Captain Delwar explained.

The crew of the Columbus armed themselves with laser guns. The crew were all special forces members from four countries on Earth. Highly skilled, and very professional. They represented Earth’s last chance at colonization.

There were no more ships to send out. The Columbus was a collaboration of many nations, utilizing the last of their technologies in hopes of escaping a dying planet.

Outside the ship.

Ves was sitting in a room in front of a row of monitors, along with the head of the Security Council, watching the earthlings via the hidden spyware they planted.

They listened to the captain speak. Ves sighed. He argued more than anyone that there might be hope for mankind. It looked like he was wrong.

“Do what you have too,” Ves said with a touch of sadness.

As It Stands, mankind is doomed, until the urge to kill and conquer goes away.

Vision Quest On Mars

Pa’ah stopped walking and took a seat on a piece of the rubble that once was a great Martian city, and now was only a pitiful ruin.

It had been days since he left the caves. Days since he’d eaten a full meal or drank as much water as wanted. He slipped the pack off his back and set it down in the cracked and blistered soil.

He could hear the Great Leader’s voice in his head.

“You must go out onto the barren surface of our planet in search of a vision.”

He remembered balking at the suggestion and even dared to question the Great Leader, who knew all, saw all, and ran the whole show. The candles in the cave flickered under his growing wrath and Pa’ah changed his tune quickly.

He’d be honored to be the first vision quest seeker to go back to Mars ancient past (above ground), he assured the venerable one.

“Yes…what a great opportunity for me to serve our people,” he humbly said, after dropping to his knees. He was just being stubborn, he told himself.

The thought of wandering around the barren dunes and wastelands of Mars wasn’t very pleasant. But, what if he did come up with a vision on how to save the whole race? He’d be a hero.

He would have to survive first. The rough landscape and rolling dunes went on forever, with very little variation. Some dunes had jagged rocks jutting out of them that formed odd shapes that reminded Pa’ah of the toys he played with as a child. Their spidery silhouettes seemed to dance in the heat and growing shadows.

Dotting the forbidding landscape were ruins of cities that once stood proud in an age of enlightenment. In an age when Martians could freely roam the surface of the planet. In an age when Martians weren’t warlike.

The time came when technology that was used for peaceful purposes became perverted by corrupt Martians who wanted to conquer other worlds. To colonize the universe. To be the masters of the universe.

The resulting war between the worlds nearly destroyed the universe however. Planets like Neptune and Jupiter were obliterated, while others suffered damage that would take generations to repair.

There were no winners. Only losers. The survivors on each remaining planet were thrown back to primitive existences.

Pa’ah reflected on all of this as he shaded his eyes and looked off into the distance. His normally pale skin had turned mahogany in a day. There were patches of red sunburn on his high cheek bones. His normally black hair, was bleached white almost overnight.

The bright sun caused him to squint, narrowing his usual bulging eyes into slits.

The vision came to him the next day while he was walking through what was once a massive arena surrounded by rows of shattered seats sinking into the hot sand.

In the vision

Pa’ah is showing his people how to make space ships. He is the Great Leader now and his knowledge of everything that will take them to another universe to start over in a promised land. To a land of milk and honey.

When Pa’ah finally returned to the cave entrance his supplies were all gone. He was barely able to keep walking, but some inner strength kept him going. He had to share his vision. For the good of all Martians.

When he appeared before the Great Leader and his Council of Twenty-four, Pa’ah was tired and weak, but he didn’t hesitate to speak. He told them that he could guide them in building ships that would take them to  new worlds. This newfound knowledge was branded into his brain he explained.

Sadly, everything Pa’ah said was interrupted by the Great Leader as treason and insanity. He led the people! Not this burnt husk of a Martian who obviously had gone mad in the deserts above.

Because the Martians didn’t believe in killing lunatics, Pa’ah was locked up in a cell. To keep him quiet, his jailors provided him with means to write and draw things. This he did for many years before quietly dying in his sleep one night.

The collected works of Pa’ah were stolen shortly after he died. There was a lot of finger-pointing and accusations, but they never surfaced.

The ritual of vision quests continued, but no one else ever went to the surface again. Not surprisingly…no one has ever had a vision since Pa’ah’s.

But, a Martian did come forth the other day bearing promises of salvation and space ships. For a price!

As It Stands, there are no saints, just survivors.

The Messenger

Listen to this story as narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

Urtan never asked for the mission.

The enormity of it made his guts rumble in protest.

But the Supreme Council of Creations wanted him to go. He heard of their plans just hours before appearing before the august group, from a friend. They were waiting for him in the throne room right now.

He paused outside the great doors and sighed. He had no choice.

It was his duty. The Elders of Eras Minor had made him a Lord because they trusted him, and believed he could handle any task. Straightening his stance, he stepped forward as the huge doors opened.

“We have a mission for you Lord Urtan …” one of the four elderly men said from atop a high four-way throne of alabaster.

“Mankind is destroying their own planet. We’ve watched for eons as they developed more terrible weapons and polluted the skies, the sea, and even the air. Our scientists say that if we eliminate all life on earth there’s still a good chance we could restore the planet’s environment.”

“What then,” Elder Ohji?” Urtan meekly asked.

The last speaker quickly replied, “We colonize. We know how to treat a planet. Look at all of the planets that belong in our confederation.”

“My mission?”

“You are going to judge if mankind is worth saving. When you report back in seven days we’ll consider what you found before deciding humanities fate, ” Elder Ohji explained.

Urtan bowed and walked out as the lights dimmed behind him.

Earth.

No amount of preparation and study could have prepared Urtan for the experience of living among people who seemed in a constant state of chaos.

Because the Elders had been monitoring earth for eons they knew what Urtan had to have to blend in with the humans. Fortunately, the people of Eras Minor looked a lot like humans.

He was provided with money and earth clothing; a pair of blue jeans and a plain blue t-shirt with a pocket. The sandals on his feet felt awkward, but he liked the feeling of the air tickling his toes. No hat. They also added a mustache that caused him to sneeze at odd times.

Sitting in a small diner in Boise, Idaho, one morning, Urtan witnessed his first fight among humans. Two heavily tattooed bikers got into an argument with two men wearing all black with red armbands sporting swastikas.

Customers panicked and ran out the door as the brawl intensified. Knives were drawn and used with deadly effect. One of the bikers was bleeding badly from a deep gash to his belly, and one of the black-clothed men lay on the floor bleeding out from a dozen wounds that would shortly take his life.

Urtan never left his table. When the police came he told them what he saw. Afterwards he thought about the senseless violence and what had spurred it. He came to the conclusion that cultural differences could cause violence.

After reading newspapers that reporting on world events, it was apparent that not only could individuals be reduced to combatants over trivial matters, but countries could, which often led to all-out warfare.

He found that humans were quick to hate and slow to forgive. Urtan went to airports, concerts, horse races, and colleges. He watched TV news every night at 5:00 o’clock. He mingled with people in community parks, and went to a National League football game where opposing fans broke out in drunken melee.

He talked with homeless people from Idaho to California. He made a point of taking public transportation everywhere he went. He listened to and observed people closely. His disguise allowed him to blend in with the erratic humans wherever he went.

By day four, Urtan was beginning to think there was no hope for the human race. Hate and fear was a toxic mix, and most humans seemed to have plenty of both. He witnessed violence, in one form or another, every day.

There was one interesting thing about the humans that gave Urtan pause.

They often adopted other lesser species, like dogs, cats, and horses. Where Urtan was from it was just the opposite; lesser species were treated harshly, and were never kept as pets.

It fascinated him how some lesser species were considered food, while others were literally adopted into earth families who loved them. It made Urtan wonder if there was flicker of hope for mankind.

Could he justify saving the world because humans had pets they pampered? He thought about what the Elders would say. It was unlikely they would see that as a reason not to wipe out all the living inhabitants of earth.

With one day left before he had to return to his planet, Urtan went for a walk in a small town in the California High Sierras. Snow had fallen the night before and blanketed the little main street with a coat of white.

He noticed that there was a man lying on a bench in front of a gift shop. He had pieces of cardboard on him for a blanket and was shivering. A tiny dog peeked out from his place next to the man’s face.

As he watched two young boys came by. They stopped and looked at the man and dog, then left. But an hour later they returned with blankets and some supplies. The elderly man wept as he gave his dog some of the food they brought.

The boys stayed with the man for an hour. Talking with him and encouraging him. When they left the old man wrapped his blankets around himself and his dog and curled back up on the bench.

Urtan was impressed. Could it be that when the humans are young they did have good hearts? That would make a good argument for their survival. The chance that a new generation could bring positive change to the world was there.

Eras Minor 

The Elders listened attentively to Urtan’s report.

When he finished they conferred among themselves briefly and the eldest one said, “It sound’s like you think there’s hope for humanity. Frankly, we’re skeptical of your optimism, but intrigued by the story of the two young earthlings who showed so much compassion.

“So here’s our decision; we will give the earthlings another 100 years to prove themselves worthy of living in the universe. Then we will send another messenger to make that determination.”

Urtan bowed. He was at loss for words he was so happy. He wasn’t going to be the messenger of death after all.

As he walked down the marble corridors that led to his room in the palace, he wondered, once more, if there was really hope for the human race.

As It Stands, man is his own worst enemy.