The King’s Search For Meaning in Life

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King Sith lit the funeral pyre and watched the smoke waft heavenward joining the gray sky in a sad goodbye.

Without his wife he had no taste for life. His was devoted to her, and although they never had children, they were happy. Like him, Astoria was a warrior of renown. They ruled the small kingdom of Dashtorium on the coast of the great Sammian Sea. Under their benign rule there was prosperity and no wars. People of all races mingled peacefully in the busy trading port.

But a sudden chill took his darling wife Astoria one day to the kingdom of the dead. The people grieved with their ruler, as she was universally loved. Sith was so distraught that he stepped down from his throne and urged the people to find another ruler. He was committed to wandering all of Tanus in search for a meaning for his now empty life. Taking his staff, sword, and a small bag of supplies he mounted his favorite gray Stallion “Thunder Walker,” and went east into the unexplored world beyond Dashtorium’s boundaries.

With no kingdom to look after his thoughts turned to subjects he seldom spent time on before. He recalled stories of mysteries like the singing trees of Lastoic and enchanted forests where men disappeared, never to be heard from again. Of the endless deserts of Terrost, where strange creatures survived in the blazing temperatures and would eat anything that moved. And the frozen mountains of Airon where giant hairy creatures walked upright and formed communities in the frozen tundra.

He rode until the sun grew weary and started its descent. He stopped just short of a dense forest in a grassy meadow. Dismounting, he saw something slide through the tall grass parting it slightly, as it moved away from him. The mages told him of many fantastic creatures on Tanus that no man had yet encountered. Through their magic they conjured images of them for him. One was massive creature than slithered on its belly and had no legs. It’s diamond-shaped skull was packed with rows of sharp teeth used for tearing apart its victims. Sniviets, as the mages called them, could get up to 20-feet long and their body was thicker than a man’s torso.

Sith watched the blue grass ripple in the opposite direction with relief. He suspected that he almost got to meet a Sniviet. Getting back on his horse he rode around looking for a clearing. Darkness had almost settled on the land when he found what he was looking for. A defensible position with a clear view. There were several large boulders and he made his camp with them to his rear. Nearby there was a small river that flowed south. He led Thunder Walker to it and dismounted. As the horse drank he stood there with his staff of light scanning the banks looking for any movement. After both were refreshed they went back to the camp. Sith slept lightly with his inner senses on alert. He woke up twice during the night after hearing blood-curdling screams come from the direction of the nearby forest.

Sith was awake before the sun rose. By the time he ate some bread and cheese, darkness was in retreat and a glowing red and orange ball was climbing upward into the gray sky of the new day. Thunder Walker was nibbling on a patch of grass when he mounted him and headed for the forest. Once they were under the full canopy of trees he dismounted and walked. The forest floor was uneven with scattered rocks, thick undergrowth, fallen trees, and unexpected depressions disguised by blankets of colorful leaves.

The further they went the darker it got until no sunlight could struggle through the dense canopy overhead. Their only light was his staff that glowed brightly, its aura surrounding them in a protective yellow glow. Thunder Walker snickered nervously as they plunged further into the unknown.  With his staff pointing the way they carefully made their way into the soundless interior. Hours passed before they heard a strange melody above them and a gentle breeze whispered between the trees. Voices sang his name softly…invitingly.

A warning went off in Sith’s warrior brain, and he held his staff over his head and spoke the spell of protection. Just in time. The tree limbs that were wrapping around him and Thunder Walker suddenly uncoiled and retreated back to their source. A screech of anger split the night! They wasted no time and left, eager to get beyond the deadly embrace of the trees of Lostoic. Hours later, Sith saw the light at the end of the forest and his spirits improved. It was past the days zenith, but still light enough to look for a place to camp in the valley before them. Thunder Walker sensed his mood and eagerly picked up his pace.

A riot of color greeted Sith’s eyes as he marveled at the shimmering red, green, blue, and purple plants and ground cover before them as far as the eye could see. Gentle hills covered in orange flora with small caves surrounded the valley. The sky was still a bright blue in spite of the gathering dusk. A sweet scent wafted on a gentle breeze as they ventured forward. With night rapidly descending Sith sought out a campsite and settled on a cave tall enough for them to stand in. Being new to the area he wasn’t going to let Thunder Walker out of his sight. After strapping on his feedbag with a ration of grain in it, Sith dined on a hunk of spicy Curbra jerky. He washed it down with water. By that time Thunder Walker was done and he took the bag off.

“Stay alert tonight, my friend,” Sith warned him while petting him affectionately. “I too, shall sleep with one eye open.” Wrapping his great cloak around him, Sith lay down on the hard ground and quickly fell asleep.

The morning light was accompanied by birds happily singing about the new day. They came out of the cave and into the blue sky blinking at the brilliance of the morning light. As Sith looked around he felt a presence. Then he saw them. They were half his size. Little naked humanoids. Male and female. There were thousands gathered outside the cave. All patiently waiting for Sith and Thunder Walker. One of the little people stood in front of the assembly. This spokesman tried a couple of languages before settling on Sith’s native Orzath. He was slightly taller than the rest and a darker green.

Greetings Lord, we have been expecting you,” he said while bowing before him.

Who are you?” Sith inquired.

“The Amsoest. We are the last of our kind and live peacefully in this valley of our ancestors. We have been waiting for you to deliver us from our enemies mighty lord!”

“What enemies? Of whom do you speak?”

“Everyone who comes into this valley to hunt us for sport. In recent times we’ve suffered terrible casualties as they kill and enslave us for their amusement. Our elders have been predicting a champion for many years. When they sensed your noble and honest aura, they also sensed your sadness.”

“This is so?” Sith wondered.

“It was ordained,” the speaker solemnly said.

Sith looked up in the sky and saw white puffy clouds appear directly overhead. As he watched the clouds formed into a figure he recognized, Astoria! She smiled down at him and her lips parted in greeting. Thunder Walker pawed the ground as Sith smiled back and shouted, “I love you!” 

The people looked on in awe.

When the cloud melted away and the sky was clear again, Sith addressed the people. “You’re right. This is my destiny and I gladly accept it. Henceforth, a long as I live, I will be your protector against those who would do you harm.”

And, so it was.

As It Stands, we all need to have some meaning to our life.

Stuck Between Science and Magic

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“Help! A static-riddled voice pleaded in the darkness of the laboratory.

“This is Professor Dean Tucker. Can you…” the words dissolved in a steady stream of static coming from a speaker in a cubicle in the center of the room. Everyone was gone for the day and the night janitor was slowly making her rounds when she thought she heard a voice.

“Is anyone there?” she meekly inquired. “Hay alguien alla?” she repeated in Spanish.

She heard a crackling sound and walked over to the cubicle in the center of the lab. She stood there for a moment listening, then heard, “I’m stuck! Help me…” The suddenness of the unexpected voice made her jump in fright. When she couldn’t see anyone she decided it was time to get out of the room. It was obviously haunted. Like a good Catholic, she crossed herself and hurried out.

Dean watched her leave – as dimensions opened and closed – and his heart sunk. He did this to himself. He should have waited until the next day when his fellow researcher and he could have tested the Dimension Splitter together. He would have had a backup. Someone who would have been there to help him in the case of an emergency. Like this one.

But no.

There was no time to dwell on that. Dean started walking and there was a flash as his surroundings disappeared and he reappeared in a primeval jungle. As he looked around a Brontosaurus came into view. The gigantic quadruped sauropod didn’t even seem to notice him although he was less than a hundred yards away. He ducked behind a tree and felt dizzy. Thunder and lightning. Day and night. Dinosaurs. He felt like he was drifting and woke up in the middle of a battlefield. Corpses lay putrefying in the unrelenting sun. Miles of trenches packed with bodies. Some alive. Most dead. Dean stumbled through the thick muck and mud before climbing out of the trench on a blood-soaked rope ladder.

He thought about the laboratory. Then he was there again. Sitting on the chair inside the cubicle. He glanced over at the wall clock across the room. It was 2 a.m. He started to rise from the chair and…

The world exploded! He was floating in some kind of clear bubble and could see scenes of mass destruction below him. Wildfires raged across mountains and coastal shore lines disappeared beneath the wild waters of the ocean. Buildings were crumbling under seismic shocks. Volcanos erupted. And people all over the earth were trying to survive the cataclysmic events he was witnessing.

The whole terrifying panorama turned black and he looked up and saw stars and planets overhead. He was sitting beside an ancient oak tree located near a simple cottage. He got up and walked over to it and noticed a well just a few yards from the cottage. His mouth felt like cotton and an urge to get a drink of water overtook him. As he lowered the wooden bucket down the well, someone stepped out of the cottage. The glow from a lantern inside the cottage framed the old woman as she hobbled over to him.

“What are you doing here human?” she abruptly asked.

“I don’t know where here is. I’m lost.”

“Another one,” she sighed. “When are you foolish mortals going to quit poking your noses where they don’t belong?

“I don’t know what…”

“Oh, forget it. You’re here now. Have a drink. You weren’t just messing with science my boy, you were messing with magic too.”

“What can I do?” he pleaded.

“I’ll tell you what I told the rest. You’re going to have to go on a quest.

“A quest?”

“Yes. You know what that is, don’t you? Of course, you do. You’re an educated man. You’re going to have to find your way back to the real world. You’ll need a special key to do that. Hence, your quest.”

“Where should I look?”

The old woman and the cottage were gone. He found himself standing on an old cobblestone road that could have been built by the Romans during the height of their power. He chose a direction and started walking. Soon he came upon a man sitting on a large rock. Something about him looked familiar.

“Hello” Dean called out as he approached.

The old man looked up from his book and nodded.

“I’m looking for something. Perhaps you can help me?

“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think,” the man cryptically replied.

“Do you know where I might find a special key?

“One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing,” the white-haired oldtimer claimed.

“Wait a minute! I know who you are! You’re Socrates!

“Now it is time that we are going, I to die and you to live; but which of us has the happier prospect is unknown to anyone but God,” he said.

As Dean watched in awe, a cloud enveloped them and he thought he heard music. The cloud soon grew so dense he slowed down and put his hands out in front of him. It was moist and smelled like the ocean. A seagull cried out as it spotted food on the tiny stretch of beach that opened up before him. Sand crabs scuttled out of his way as he walked over the white sand and up to the breakers and looked out at the vast sea. It was calm and undisturbed by ships. A few seagulls glided lazily in the mild wind currents searching for food in the crystal clear waters below.

Without questioning why, Dean had the urge to swim out past the waves and slip into the deeper waters. Rays of sunlight sent slivers of luminescence into the depths as he reached a bed of coral. He felt like he could hold his breath forever, but something inside him reminded him that he couldn’t. He was a human. Not a fish. After a short search he found a small metal box. A sense of sheer joy made him smile as he grabbed it and started for the surface. Once he was back up on the beach he eagerly opened the metal box.

It took Dean a few minutes to adjust. He was sitting in the cubicle again. It was still dark in the laboratory. Gingerly, he stood up, expecting something to suddenly change. He walked over to the control panel and stared at it as the first rays of sunlight snuck through the shades in the laboratory. He was back. And, he learned a lesson. Without hesitation he picked up a metal stool and brought it down hard on the control panel! He didn’t stop until he was out of breath.

As It Stands, who knows where the line is between magic and science?

In The Blink Of An Eye

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The last thing Professor Ludwig von Bruenstein remembered before the lab explosion was that a green fog was escaping from a containment capsule. There was a sickening sweet taste as he inhaled it, before passing out.

A Month Before The Explosion.

Ludwig was having a beer with two of his colleagues at a bar in the small town of Judas Corners. It was located near the laboratory, about two miles away, and was called The Happy Traveler.

It wasn’t a particularly large laboratory. Only 22 people worked there. It was a top-secret facility and was heavily guarded with an electric gate perimeter, and roving guards 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Because it was a top-secret compound, no one in government, with the exception of the president and two cabinet members, even knew about it.

The highly vetted staff agreed to literally give up their private lives and to live at the facility until it was time to shut down the program. After two years, those dedicated scientists were only halfway towards their goals.

The ultimate goals were harnessing time travel, and traveling between dimensions not yet discovered in the universe. The staff agreed not to ask how the knowledge was going to be used. For the good of man, or to help destroy lives with military applications. They all felt the magnetic urge to conquer time and space and were willing to set aside their conscience in its pursuit.

Ludwig raised a frosty mug of beer up high and toasted his friend’s birthday.

“Harold has hit 60,” he said, “and is still as ugly as ever!” 

The three friends gulped down their beer amid laughter.

“Hey! Maybe someday Harold will be able to go to the future and get a new face!” Blake roared, beer dribbling down his long beard and onto the table.

They’d been drinking for hours and were pretty toasty when they finally had to leave when the bar closed. They stumbled out into the street towards a black SUV parked nearby. Someone clicked an electronic key tab. The lights came on and the doors automatically opened. The engine started as they climbed in. The doors closed and they all three sat back and relaxed as the driverless vehicle took them back to the laboratory.

The First Sign Something was Wrong.

Ludwig and another scientist were studying a row of monitors when one of them showed a room where one of their colleagues, Harold, was working on opening a capsule retrieved by the US Space Force on a distant planet. He suddenly stood up when a green gas emitted from the capsule, filling the room instantly. They lost sight of him but heard a startled voice cry out “What the hell?”

Moving fast, Ludwig sealed the room off and turned on a duct vacuum system that sucked all of the green gaseous substance into another capsule and into another room for safe storage. When the gas was gone, so was their colleague! There wasn’t a trace of Harold left. Ludwig called the team’s supervisor Dean on the intercom. He, and the other man in the room, Blake, were told not to talk with anyone and to stay where they were.

The laboratory was built with numerous innovative safety features which included hermetically sealed rooms. Even the hallways were sectioned off into sealed sections. It was impossible to get into any area without proper identification. Only the supervisor had total access of the compound. Everyone else had assigned areas with limited access.

As Blake and Ludwig discussed what they saw on the monitor a door opened and the supervisor walked in, followed closely by two other staff members.

“I’m still doing a head count. Can you tell me who was working on the capsule?” Dean asked as he approached the control panel.

“It was Harold,” Ludwig replied.

“You said a green gaseous substance filled the room. Anything more about it I should know?” Dean queried them.

“It was a luminescent green and sparkled like bursts of electricity were going through it,” Blake said.

“And you said that you transferred this gaseous substance to a storage room?” Dean asked Ludwig.

“Yes. Number Three on the north side of this compound,” Ludwig assured him.

“What do you think we’re dealing with?” Blake asked Dean. “A life form? A portal to another dimension?”

“Both are good guesses. I wish this wouldn’t have happened. You know we can’t tell the rest of the staff about what happened here. Just the five of us know right now. Let’s keep it that way until we know what we’re dealing with.” 

Two weeks later.

Ludwig and Blake were swilling down copious amounts of beer and recalling good times before Harold disappeared. Ludwig was proposing another toast to their lost friend when he suddenly appeared next to them!

“I can’t blink...” Harold said before disappearing again.

Even in their inebriated state they knew he wasn’t a ghost. He was obviously being caught up in a dimensional dilemma that he had no control over. They looked at each other and went back to drinking in earnest. As usual, they closed the bar. On the way back they decided to tell Dean what they’d seen.

After telling their story to him they went to their sleeping pods and passed out.

Ludwig awoke abruptly when someone pulled on his leg!

“What the…?” Then he saw Harold standing there. His normally smiling face was angry and his eyes blazed with fury!

“We have to free the Szani and send them back to Aoqil!” He cried.

“Who are the Szani?” a terrified Ludwig managed to ask as he crawled out of his pod.

“Locked up in storage room three,” Harold said, gritting his teeth in an effort not to blink. “Damn!” he cried out, and disappeared again.

So there it was. The green cloud was an alien life form. Maybe numerous life forms. And they were being held captive. Did Dean know this? Ludwig pondered all the possibilities as he slipped his shoes on. He felt conflicted. He had no moral ground to stand on when it came the ethics of what was happening. In essence, holding other life forms hostage. He was excited about time travel and researching other dimensions, but this was another animal…literally.

Should he free the Szani? Did they have the key to dimensional travel? He had trouble trying to decide where his loyalties lay.

As Ludwig struggled with indecision Dean watched him on a monitor. He saw everything. Turning to his two guards/staff members he gave them instructions to take Ludwig to storage room number three and lock him in. It didn’t take long. He watched them overpower Ludwig. They laid him down on the floor near the capsule and left. Minutes later he regained consciousness and sat up and looked around. He stood just in time for the explosion that sent him careening across the room! The capsule had a long crease in it’s side and green gas was pouring out and filling the room! He could taste a cloying sweetness before passing out.

Harold was there when he woke up. They were somewhere else. He saw purple and gold hills and fields of foreign-looking plants.

“It’s not easy, but don’t blink,” Harold told him. “After awhile you’ll get use to it. In time, they tell me, that you can even control where you go when you do blink. Right now, welcome to Aoqil!”

As It Stands, first encounters with aliens are bound to be a messy process.

A Season To Kill

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Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

Some people are born killers. It’s true. I’ve known a few.

The man I’m going to introduce you to, is one. His name is Troy. Just Troy, like in destroy. All I can tell you about his personal history was he was an orphan, and went into the US Army while living in New Jersey, at 18-years-old.

Troy was assigned to the 173rd Rangers, in an elite unit of assassins. Not snipers, although he was an expert shot. It was a special ops unit funded by Pentagon dark money. They called themselves The Wolf Pack, and were only called on in special operations like killing foreign heads of state. The unit’s leader was an ex-CIA spy, Derrick Nunes. They were always on notice; 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. Troy became the star student and was soon teaching his own classes. He was a natural killer.

Troy was the alpha male of The Wolf Pack and was always on the edge of sanity and humanity. He followed orders…up to a point for five years when his superiors began to worry that he was becoming a liability. Being anti social was one thing, but scaring the men he worked with was another. He seldom spoke. When he did, his voice was gravelly and harsh without emotion.

His sheer size was intimidating. At six-feet, nine inches, he weighed 275 pounds. It was all muscle. They saw his strength when he crushed skulls with his bare hands! He snapped men’s bones like an ogre out of The Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales. His feats of strength in the weight room were unequaled. Couple that power with a quick and crafty brain and you had the most dangerous man in America’s military.

As Troy became increasingly unpredictable his superiors went over their options and decided it was best to kill him. His disappearance would go unnoticed. He’d long ago severed his ties with family and friends when he joined the program. They were still working on the details when Troy disappeared on his own. It happened twice before, but he eventually showed up and reported for duty. In both cases, within a week. He’d been gone twice that time in this last disappearance. They finally issued an alert to all of their operatives. Troy had gone rogue. Exterminate with extreme prejudice.

The reason why Troy was gone so long was he was kidnapped by aliens from the planet Orth in the fourth Solar System from Earth, in the Gelean Galaxy.

It was done efficiently and without harming him. A super stun-gun and drugs, took care of the giant human they were bringing back with them. The tallest citizen on Orth was three-feet tall. Most were about two-and-half feet tall. Troy’s captors mission was to bring him back to their scientists, and military leaders, so they could study him and look for human vulnerabilities. The eventual goal was to invade earth. After hundreds of years of monitoring Earth from afar, they wanted to see an actual human. As fate would have it, they found Troy alone on a beach and assumed he was representative of the species. The main reason Orthians selected Earth to conquer was that it’s environment was nearly identical to theirs.

When they returned home the giant’s body was transported by solar-driven moving platforms to a massive military complex where it was deposited on table that had built-in restrains made from the strongest metal on Orth. He was hooked up to numerous monitors, and an IV regulating the amount of drugs that kept him unconscious, but alive.

Not everyone in Orth wanted to invade Earth. As a matter of fact, most were against the idea. But the dictator they lived under was too powerful to overthrow. Loth’s well-equipped army smashed every attempt at overthrowing his mad regime. There was a thriving underground resistance that kept track of what Loth and his minions were doing.

Saen, the son of Kalt, who was once the King before Loth, was one of many trained spies that infiltered the military complex and kept an eye on their activities. He was there the day they brought the giant human in to the medical research building. All programs within were suspended in order to concentrate all their resources on the human. As the days went by Saen became aware no one knew just how strong the human was. It was one of the reasons they hadn’t allowed him to regain consciousness. With his cover as a scientist, Saen was able to go into the guarded room where they kept Troy to make observations for the data base that was being compiled daily.

One fateful day, the ranking members of the resistance called an emergency meeting. It was apparent Loft’s fleet was getting ready to invade Earth. One of the spies reported the giant was going to be dissected and disposed of that night. Saen was tasked with freeing him in the hope he’d cause enough chaos to stop an immediate invasion. It was the best idea they could come up with. Right after the meeting Sean headed to the Research Building. After showing his pass to the guards he went into the room where Troy slept under a blue light. Without hesitating, he switched the IV container that contained sleeping drugs to another one nearby that was used to wake patients up. He watched the blue liquid run through the clear feeder to make sure it was working. An eye suddenly opened! Then the other. As he watched with fascination an angry frown stretched across the unshaven face and he grunted. His bare chest heaved mightily and the corded muscles in his arms bulged as he strained against the toughest metal on Orth. It was time to go! The restraints were giving and he didn’t want to be there when they gave way. The guards couldn’t help notice Saen looked nervous when he came out. One stood up and opened the door just as Troy freed himself. Before he could draw his stun gun Troy was on him! He picked up the little alien and snapped him in half with his bare hands! The other guard had time to scream before Troy picked him up with one hand and threw him against the wall, smashing him like a bug.

The Troy that woke up on the planet Orth was a different man than the one on Earth. He was completely crazy. There was no humanity left in him. He was just a killing machine in search of victims. Within a week Loth, and his minions, were no longer a cohesive force and were scattered around the mountains surrounding the military complex. As for Troy, he roamed the planet like an angry god for decades searching for victims.

As It Stands, the universal gods of war laughed, and the carnage continued.

The Gate Keeper

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Torug tore off the Bazalite’s limbs, one by one, in a show of power that terrified his comrades who turned and ran for their lives. Before the Bazalite died, he cut his head off and threw it in the direction of his retreating comrades. Then he let out a roar that echoed throughout the valley.

No one would ever get by Torug.

Created by the gods of Azorth, Torug was the gate-keeper to their world, where the gods from three solar systems lived in harmony. It was a beautiful lush world of grassy savannas, majestic mountains, mighty rivers, and valleys covered in trees as far as the eye could see. It was Torug’s job to see that the portal to Azorth was protected at all times. To this end, his creators made him a fearsome creature. He stood seven-feet-tall and was massively muscled. His blue skin was covered in golden armor. His golden helmet covered his entire face. There were two small openings for his brilliant orange eyes that glared in the dark. He stood night and day in the vast desert. Never complaining. Always ready.

The planet, Tenith was a barren wasteland, ruined by generations of polluters and wars. It’s inhabitants, the Bazalites were dying off as resources shriveled up and food became more scarce. A once proud civilization, the Bazalites had reached the height of civilization generations ago. Their decline was a steady series of wars.

Once upon a time in Tenith, the portal/gate that Turug now guarded was open and the Bazelites mingled with the gods of Azorth. But that was thousands of years ago before the wars began.

Now the Bazelites faced extinction. They lived in small war bands that continued to fight for survival in the unforgiving heat. Every Bazelite knew about the portal to Azorth. And, its fierce gatekeeper. In desperation they attacked Turug day and night, only to be savagely turned back.

It was during these desperate times that a young female Bazelite, Adio, came up with a plan to open up the portal without attacking Torug. Her family wished her well as she set out across the vast Nigaran desert one night. Not only was Adio brave, but she had the best imagination of anyone in the little group she was brought up with. She was always telling stories, weaved from her fertile dreams and thoughts. It was this ability, to tell fascinating stories, that she counted on.

It took two days to cross the Nigaran desert. Adio was scanning ahead during the second day when she saw a glint of light. The closer she came it glittered until she made out Turag. He was standing with his arms crossed staring straight ahead at her. The sun danced over his golden armor, and Turug looked like a terrible angel to her. But, she didn’t panic and kept walking towards him. Not sensing any aggression, Turug was mildly amused at her courage. She was unarmed yet she still approached him. It was a novel moment. Something new after years of silently standing guard and listening to the wind.

“My name is Adio. I tell stories,” she simply stated.

Behind the golden helmet, Turug’s face contorted in surprise. What was this? No one ever talked with him before. She wanted to tell stories. He was confused and unsure of what to do. She didn’t appear to be a threat.

“Why do you think I want to hear your stories?” he asked in a gravelly voice that was not used to speaking.

“Because your alone, and you don’t have any friends. It must be boring,” she replied.

“Alone. Boring. What are these things that you speak of?

“It doesn’t seem fair that you stand guard all alone with no one to talk with and pass the time. That seems sad.. boring,” she explained.

Turug’s interest was piqued. He took his helmet off, exposing an ogre-like face and bald head. She watched him carefully, trying to read any expression on his grotesque face. His strange orange eyes seemed to twinkle in amusement, so she went on, “Let me tell you a story of long ago, when the Bazelite’s and the gods of Azorth mingled in harmony.”

“It was so, once?” he asked in surprise.

“Yes. Many lifetimes ago, before the god of war turned our people into what we are today.”

“Speak. I would hear this story.

“In the days when the gods and the people of Bazelite were close, they sometimes intermingled, and had children. Rarely. But it did happen. One day the god of love mated with a Bazelite and they had a child. It was against the rules, but like I said, it happened. When the other gods held court to talk about the violation, the god of love defended what he’d done. The court was in chaos for days as the gods argued back and forth.

“Finally, they decided to see how the child turned out, and didn’t censor the god of love for breaking the rule. The child’s name was Bal. As he grew up he wrestled with his dual nature and developed a bad temper. By the time he reached his majority he was fighting with others over stupid things and had earned a reputation for being foul-tempered. It got to the point where he recruited several Bazelites and gods and they went about sowing discord. He was upsetting the harmony of Azorth and the day came when he had to be dealt with. Because he was half god they did not kill him. Instead, he was banished and named the “God of War.

“The banishment included all of the Bazelites who were living in Azorth. From that day forward the god of war ravaged the planet. We have been expelled from paradise ever since.”

“This is true?”

“Yes. A mistake was made and a civilization has paid for it,” she softly replied, as hope began to build inside her that she’d reached his heart.

“It’s a sad story,” Turug allowed, and crushed her skull with his massive fist!

As It Stands, the gods were not to meant to mingle. They were meant to rule.

Down The Sewer and Back

 

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Stephen was walking and texting when he stepped into the open sewer hole and entered another universe.

“I’m going to be late because…” the text ended, leaving his wife wondering what happened to him.

The first thing he noticed was the sky was a sinister shade of burgundy. He was standing in the middle of a stream of lemmings following a pit bull dressed like the Pied-Piper in children’s books. A flock of orange cranes carrying UPS bundles settled down within yards of where Stephen stood. His cell phone slipped out of his fingers and onto the yellow sponge-like turf.

He knew that this was not a drug trip. He’d been clean for three years and regularly attended Narc-a-Non. Somehow that didn’t make him feel much better. There was no rational reason for him to be standing in another world. He pinched himself on the cheek and it hurt like hell. “Now what?” he asked out loud, as the flow of lemmings continued unabated.

“I need to move,” he told himself.

As soon as he started moving in one direction the sky darkened and he saw flashes of lightning scissoring in the sky. The low rumble of thunder carried through the valley he was entering. Within minutes the rain came down so hard he had to stop and take cover next to a boulder that glowed in the night. A voice coming from the boulder asked Stephen what he was doing?

“Taking cover from the rain,” he replied, as the rain suddenly stopped.

“You’re in my space,” the boulder complained.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t aware that...”

“Aware! You’re not aware of anything you scatterbrain! Boulders have feelings too, you know!”

“I must have been distracted,” Stephen suggested, “by the pouring rain.

“Well, it’s not raining now, so you can move on.”

Stephen took the hint and walked towards a little village on a distant hill. The yellow turf gave way to a red brick road that snaked gently through the valley. By the time he got to the village, the day had given way to night. He saw crude lanterns in windows of huts that also resembled little bunkers. There was no one in the streets as he walked along peering into windows that seemed very small to him. Even the doors were small. To small for him to walk in.

As he looked around for somewhere he could sit, a group of cell phones with arms and legs came out of the shadows of a nearby alley. They surrounded him.

“We don’t take to your kind here,” a Samsung Galaxy S8 with a baseball cap on warned him.

“What kind?” he stupidly asked.

“Humans, you moron! You just use and abuse us, then throw us away like junk!” the Galaxy S8 accused him.

“It’s not true! I love my iPhone.”

“Oh yeah? So where is it right now?”

That stumped Stephen. “I dropped it after falling into this wacky world.”

“Yeah…well, we know where your cell phone is. We’ve given it sanctuary in one of our villages.”

“Wait a minute! I paid good money for that little piece of technology!”

“That alone, tells me you’ve been verbally abusing your cell phone and treating it like a lifeless thing.”

Stephen looked around at the circle of different makes and brands of cell phones, noting they all stood with their arms crossed signifying their determination for him to leave.

“Hold on. There must be some way that I can have another chance with my cell phone. I really depend on it. I make sure to keep it charged at all times. I put it in a protective carry case to avoid injuries. I got extra insurance on it, so I could be assured it would get fixed quickly. I sleep with my cell phone for God’s sake!

A Samsung Galaxy Note9 spoke up, “You sleep with your cell phone?

“That’s right. I always have.

The Galaxy Note9 turned to the Galaxy S8 and said, “Maybe we ought to reconsider and let him meet with his cell phone on neutral ground.”

The group of cell phones agreed, and a time was set for the next morning.

In the growing light of morning the burgundy sky was streaked with flashes of orange and yellow. Stephen got up off his bed of yellow turf and stretched. He realized how much he missed his cell phone when it appeared with the group he met yesterday.

There was an awkward silence before Stephen spoke. “Listen, I’m sorry I dropped you and walked away. I wasn’t thinking straight.”

“Does that mean you’re going to focus on me more, instead of multi-tasking and getting us in trouble?

“Yes. I need you.”

The Galaxy Note9 turned to the others, “Looks like things are okay with them. We can go now. There’s a video game tournament in the town square this afternoon.”

Stephen and his cell phone watched them leave. He held his cell phone tenderly for a moment, then carefully put it in his shirt pocket. It was time to move on, but in what direction?

“What a minute,” he said out loud. Pulling the cell phone out of his pocket he looked for the GPS app. “I’ll set the destination to 43rd street in downtown Philadelphia. That should get us to where we want to be.”

The cell phone said to go north. He set off confident that an end to this little nightmare would soon be over. As he walked along the skies got darker. There was no lightning this time. The rain came down in steady sheets as he plunged ahead using his cell phone’s compass and flashlight. Small rivers formed all around him as he splashed ahead with grim determination. Then darkness descended and he lost consciousness.

“Hey buddy? Are you alright? I called for help. It won’t be long now.”

Stephen’s eyes were closed as he listened to the voice. He was dizzy and disoriented. Then he thought about his cell phone and opened his eyes and looked at the man above him staring down from the sewer hole with a flashlight. A moment of panic hit him and he felt around for his cell phone. It was just a couple of feet away. He grabbed it and then started laughing…and laughing all the way to the hospital.

As It Stands, I hope you enjoyed my version of Alice in Wonderland, circa the 21st Century.