Stolen Souls

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During the American Civil War photography was still in its infancy.

The men who photo-documented it would forever be assured a place in photography history.

Men like Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan, James Gibson, George Barnard, James Gardner and William Pywell, covered all of the war’s struggles and camp life.

There was one photographer however, Weldon Wall, whose works during the war between the states were all destroyed just after the war in 1866.

He sometimes shared his photos of dead bodies during the war with amorphous beings rising from them.

His peers thought it was trickery and blasted him for re-touching the images which they suspected he was going to sell to their grieving relatives. Actually, it was much worse than that.

Wall, a loner, didn’t have an assistant, so it took him even longer to process the images, feeding the rumors. His wagon was always well away from the others and he never associated with them, despite numerous invitations.

These intrepid men with their traveling labs recorded the bloody fields of Antietam to Gettysburg. Their daguerreotypes, unlike Wall’s, were destined to be viewed for generations.

Wall, a physic vampire, never attempted to sell his collection. Each of the photos represented stolen souls. They were caught at just the right time escaping the bodies. His work was more diabolical than anyone could have guessed.

He kept the photos locked up in a steamer chest. His plan was to capture as many souls as possible before the carnage was over in order to make a deal with the devil. He wanted immortality, something a physic vampire could only achieve by making a deal with the Great Deceiver.

After the Union victory, Wall went back to his hometown of New York with his collection of over 3,000 photos. He kept them in the bedroom of his rented apartment. The moans of the trapped souls were a lullaby to his ears.

He waited patiently for the devil to contact him after performing the rituals required to summon him. He repeated the ritual every day. The soul’s groans would also help attract the Dark Lord.

The night finally came when the devil appeared in Wall’s apartment.

At first, the devil was amused at Wall’s sheer audacity and listened to his proposal. By the time he was done speaking the devil had heard enough. The fool really thought he could dictate terms to him!

Wall had opened the steamer trunk and was standing beside it expectantly as he waited for a response.

The crude fire brigade did their best to save the apartment building but it was engulfed in such intense flames they could only retreat and stand back and watch.

The next day the newspaper had a short story on the front page about the mysterious fire and speculated that a photographer might have accidently started it when developing a photo.

As It Stands, the devil will always get his due.

The ‘Thrill Pill’ Man’s Gamble

 

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2194 – New York City

For the first time in mankind’s history, there were no wars on earth.

Peace reigned, thanks to technological advances and genetics. Poverty no longer existed. There was enough food and housing for all. There was one worldwide government led by a president who served a 10-year term.

Crime was non-existent. The factors that led to crime were eliminated from the collective DNA of most of the people on earth through 100 years of genetic engineering. But not all of them.

There were the unaffected, whose DNA was post 100-years ago pure Homo sapiens. They experienced emotional ups and downs, unlike the rest of the sedated world population. These outcasts lived in the fringes of the cities.

In the sewer systems and old subway tunnels mostly, but also in the massive landfills.

Above ground, as each person drove or walked to work, there was strict order. Routines ingrained in each brain. No road rage. No late trains. No violent crime. No guns or weapons of any kind.

Romance was gone, replaced by a passionless urge to procreate. There were no sports teams. There was no competition anywhere in the new global society. Conversations were casual and without complaints. Everyone had a place in the new world order.

Everyone but the outcasts, of course.

Despite being outcasts, they had a functioning society of their own. It wasn’t always pretty, but was crudely effective. In it, there were scientists who managed to operate in temporary labs located in the long abandoned subway tunnels.

The New York outcasts had no way of knowing if there were others like them hiding in cities around the world. Their world was defined by underground tunnels and landfills. If they were caught above ground they’d be gently restrained, their DNA tested, and then executing by lethal injection.

Among those scientists was a man named, Abraham Orlins, who was considered the most intelligent and creative among them. After years of experimenting, Abraham came up with a “thrill pill.”

It was part of his, and his colleagues master plan, to regain their place above ground once more. The pills, that only worked on humans missing certain DNA markers, were a one-hour realistic, exciting, experience that left the taker forever changed.

The emotional charge was addicting. Just like he knew it would be.

The pills were water-soluble allowing them to be used two ways; swallowed whole, or dissolved in a liquid.

After discussing the pill’s properties, the small group of scientists decided to put the first batch into the city’s water system. The complex system relied on a combination of tunnels, aqueducts, and reservoirs to meet the city’s daily needs.

Abraham and one of his colleagues, Clive Warner, were picked to deliver “Abe’s Thrill Pills” as they were darkly dubbed, to the nearest reservoir. As soon as it was dark outside they surfaced and headed for the reservoir.

Just before the sun rose, the two men returned, tired but triumphant.

It took longer than they thought. They observed the daily traffic above for several days before the first incident happened.

A speeding car slammed into the rear end of a delivery truck. Both drivers got out of their vehicles and fought like two honey-badgers to the horror of the onlookers!

By the next day, traffic was no longer flowing. The streets were clogged with abandoned vehicles. Arguments and fights broke out in the boardrooms of the skyscrapers and in the grocery stores.

As visitors came to New York and were exposed to the water, they didn’t want to leave. A growing awareness among the residents that it was the water which gave them their thrills resulted in entrepreneurs bottling it and selling it worldwide.

No one knew how to stop the spread of growing violence. Armed groups of angry men were seen beating and robbing innocent people. On the other hand, passion and romance attracted everyone – angry or not.

Abraham continued to pour his Thrill Pills into the waterways, and even managed to get them to people who were happy to sell them for profit. One entrepreneur passed them out as party favors during a government function for members of the new world order and the President.

Excitement grew among the underground community of New York. Abraham and the scientists had come forward and told them what was happening.

“Soon, my brothers and sisters, we’ll be welcomed with open arms and will assume our place above ground, the way it was intended to be,” Abraham assured the underground community.

Six months later the first nuke hit New York City.

As It Stands, my cynicism about humanity often creeps into these short narratives.

The Time Assassin

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2037 – A secret location in Mandan, North Dakota

He opened his eyes and the bright lights made him blink.

A white room. He was lying on a bed in the center of the room. White sheets and covers. He was dressed in white pants and a white shirt. His feet were bare. His head was bald. His face was smooth and hairless.

He felt stiff like he’d been laying down for a long time. He wasn’t sure where he was at.

“Good morning Josh…” a mellow feminine voice greeted him from hidden speakers.

It’s time for today’s mission.”

He sat up, stretched, and watched a hidden door slide open. He felt slightly dizzy when he stood up, but it went away immediately after he took a step. Down a long corridor with overhead lighting.

He stopped when the corridor abruptly ended. A sliding door opened and he entered.

The room was full of computers and technical hardware not found anywhere else on earth. Three male technicians with long white coats were taking turns viewing a small monitor.

One of them became aware of Josh who was standing there and waiting for instructions.

“Josh! There you are! Come over here and take a seat,” he said, gesturing towards an adjustable reclining chair with wires and cables attached to it.

He obediently sat down.

The technician, Eric, pulled an electronic headpiece down from above Josh’s head and secured it with a strap under his chin. Lou, the second technician punched a code into a computer and a thick glass shell lowered down over Josh.

Perry, the third technician finished instructing his computer and a thick titanium shell lowered down over the glass one. Eric spoke into a speaker, “How are you doing Josh? Are you ready?”

The monitor he was watching went blank. “Yes,” he replied.

Lou punched in the time machine’s coordinates:

November 22, 1963 at 12:30 p.m. Dallas, Texas, Dealey Plaza.

Josh stepped into a grassy area and pulled out a Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5-millimeter model 91/38 Italian rifle from beneath his trench coat. No one paid attention to him when he took aim and fired the fatal shot that killed President John F. Kennedy.

He quickly covered the rifle back up and headed for the Texas School Depository. People were running around in a panic. No one noticed him enter the building or plant the rifle on the second floor.

Back in 2037

The three technicians watched the titanium shell’s glow fade away. Perry and Lou sat down and began typing at their computers. The titanium shell rose and disappeared into the ceiling. The glass shell followed.

Josh was still in the chair. Unconscious.

While they waited for him to wake up they ran the video of the assassination again, making sure there were no slip-ups. They had a duty to country. Failure was not an option.

Josh was a one-in-a-million freak. He was the only one who had ever survived their time machine. They couldn’t explain it. They just knew he was special. They were able to control his memories with drugs so that he never recalled any of his missions.

When he wasn’t on a mission, he ate and slept for his country. That’s what they told him. For his country. He was a patriot. A 21st century Captain America. When the Commander-In-Chief called he must always be ready.

As It Stands, imagine how our government would misuse time technology!

The ‘Sleepers’ Mission For Humanity

 

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2068 – The former city of Los Angeles now called, Last Hold by the inhabitants

After the second nuclear war there were no cities left standing. They were all ruins.

Survivors worldwide, clustered into small groups that became tribes. There were no more functioning governments after 2049.

The modern technology that eventually led to the world’s destruction was gone. Lost. Broken. And, no one left to fix them. Communication between countries collapsed. No cell phones. No electricity. No computers.

The citizens of Last Hold were a collection of survivors from along the West Coast of what was once the United States of America.

The seven leaders of Last Hold lived in the ruins of the once magnificent Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library. The ground floor was all that remained of the once four-story Italian Romanesque architecture.

Two massive, hand-chased bronze doors, weighing a ton each, lay flat and covered in debris. The once elegant stained glass windows, chandeliers, light fixtures, custom furnishing and cabinetry were reduced to scraps on the ground.

The remains of a double-sided grand staircase that once led down to the ground floor from the first floor, still stubbornly stood. The marble, granite, and travertine floors on the ground level were fractured and uneven.

It was here that all the resident’s gathered everyday to get their work assignments from the seven leaders. Everything from the precious vegetable gardens to disposal of human sewage was organized and crudely efficient.

Everyone in Last Hold had a daily mission to complete. The small militia patrolled the library’s perimeters day and night. Scouts roamed for miles around looking for threats to the community.

The council of seven leaders also had a sacred mission; to monitor the sleepers, a group of 24 men and women who voluntarily became cyborgs to save mankind’s technologies. They were designed to survive, and sleep for eternity, or until such time as mankind could use them without destroying itself and the planet.

The accumulated knowledge of every civilization on earth rested in the sleepers memories.

Only the council of seven knew of their existence, deep below the ground floor in a sealed vault built a half-century before.

It was agreed on from the start that only certain people would know of the sleepers existence. When one died, the other six would pick a suitable replacement.

The whole purpose for the secrecy was to avoid another nuclear holocaust. The founders who made the arrangements and recruited the volunteers to be cyborgs, believed that mankind wasn’t ready for the advanced technologies that nearly wiped out the human race twice.

In 2068, one of the seven died from old age.

The remaining six, all seniors now, interviewed a young man who they felt would be suitable to carry on their sacred duty awhile ensuring that another generation would be there to carry on.

After the acceptance ceremony and vows, he was given one of the seven keys to the vault. His name was Adam. There was one important thing about him that the other six did not know…

Adam had a weakness for beautiful women. More than once in his life he’d been taken advantage of by a lusty woman with her own designs. Shortly after gaining his new status in the community he met one of the most beautiful women he’d ever saw.

Her name was Eve. When he playfully hinted one night that he had a secret, she pleaded with him to tell her. Eve was always a curious person and could not let that pass. After weeks of pleading, sometimes with tears in her eyes, he agreed to tell her if she promised not to tell anyone else.

She lied.

As It Stands, using the Bible’s story of Adam & Eve, I decided to update it with a twist or two.

The Trash Man Cometh

 

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New York City, 1968

Without a contract, the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association went on a strike in February. It lasted nine days, but the five boroughs looked like a war zone afterward.

The citywide work stoppage meant no one picked up the city’s tons of garbage. Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island were all awash in trash for over a week.

The stench was indescribable. People were forced to walk in the debris and filth. There was probably only one person in the entire city who was happy about the stinky chaos; Luke Johnson.

Luke lived wherever he felt like. In an alley, or on a park bench. If the weather was really bad, in a pay-per day motel. But Luke wasn’t poor. He actually had a fair amount of money building up in his mother’s checking account.

Between his Social Security disability check and VA disability check, he made $4,038 a month. Tax free. His mother was his payee and his checks were automatically deposited in her account.

When he wanted money he’d go to her house in Staten Island. She lived alone since his father died five years ago. Not quite alone, she had two pugs and a very large cat.

Luke’s favorite pastime was murdering people.

Despite his mental challenges and numerous paranoid fantasies, he was clever as an animal in the wild. He set things up – like someone accidentally falling down steep stairs – where it looked like their death was an accident.

He killed for the thrill of it. The adrenaline surge was addicting. He was also creative.

When the garbage strike started he saw new possibilities. People were desperate to get rid of their trash after day one. Luke took his 1959 Ford pickup, which he usually kept in storage, and went around offering to haul people’s trash.

He wasn’t thinking about the money, however, he was thinking about the opportunities this little game offered. By the third day he had people hailing him down and begging him to take their trash.

One woman invited him inside her apartment to gather up some large trash bags. He made short work of her. The look of terror in her eyes when he pulled out his K-bar knife gave him the thrill he was seeking.

She wasn’t a very big woman. He wrapped her up in a sleeping bag and carried her like a rug out to his truck. No one paid attention as he threw more bags of trash on the sleeping bag until the bed was full.

He went to the landfill and had to wait for two hours before he got to dump his load. On his way back to the garage where he stored the truck a tune kept going through his head…

He made three kills the fourth day, disposing of each body in the same way. Two women and one man in a wheelchair. The fifth day he picked off three more victims. He was starting to have headaches from the adrenaline overload and took a break for three days.

When the ninth day arrived he heard the rumors. The union was getting what it wanted, livable wages and benefits. The sanitation workers were going back to work. But the access he had to people’s homes had inspired him.

He knew he couldn’t hold down a job, but it wouldn’t be hard to get a pair of sanitation work overalls.

Maybe have Supervisor in red letters written on the top pocket. The possibilities were endless.

“The Trashman cometh…” he crooned, as he looked for a park bench to sleep on.

As It Stands, never underestimate someone you don’t know. We are all capable of pure evil.

A Plan Of Disarray Kept The Martians Away

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2088 Earth

Day 19 of the Martian invasion

Major Eric Hammer is passing out weapons to the survivors of the New York City massacre.

That’s what it was.

The Martians agreed to parley with the current American leader, former Speaker-of-the-House, Josh Angler, at Times Square. His predecessors were all killed during the first wave of the invasion.

The Martian Warlord, Nin-el Throth, who was in charge of the invasion fleet, stood in front of his spacecraft in the middle of Times-Square, waiting for the American leader to appear.

What onlookers didn’t know was that it was a hologram of the infamous warlord, and the spacecraft was really a remote-controlled bomb. When Josh Angler appeared the bomb blew up!

In that moment, eighty percent of the inhabitants of New York were vaporized.

Major Hammer, one of the survivors, spent months searching for other survivors. He found them in cellars, and under the debris of flattened buildings – sealed in, and barely alive.

The New York Skyline no longer existed.

In the center of the gutted city a Martian Battlewagon acted as a temporary headquarters. It stood 10 stories high and looked like a metal insect with an attitude. It housed over five hundred Martian fighters.

During his time searching for other survivors, Major Hammer studied his enemies. He watched their tactics and took notes. They patrolled in groups of ten. Surprisingly, they walked, and didn’t use transportation devices.

One day he watched a lone unkown sniper shoot four Martians before their fired back and killed him. He wished he would have found that sniper before he went solo. But he learned a valuable lesson, the Martians could be killed with conventional weapons like rifles.

It took a long time to train the growing group of survivors in urban warfare. Handing a person a weapon doesn’t mean they’re going to be effective with it. That takes time and patience.

He was one of only three survivors who was trained in warfare and weapons. The other two were recruitment officers that were waiting for retirement. The civilians brought other skills that helped hold the group of 145 together.

Constant scavenger parties collected food and other supplies and delivered them to their headquarters underground. They set up living quarters in forgotten old train tunnels below the subway system.

The time finally came when Major Hammer felt his ragtag army was ready to wage guerrilla warfare against the Martians. He’d discovered an armory stocked with weapons and ammunition and supplied his fighters with everything from hand grenades to assault rifles.

Hiding in the rubble of the Empire State building, Major Hammer’s raiders waited for the first patrol to pass by. The Martians confidently walked past the rubble. All ten were instantly cut down in a hail of gunfire and grenades!

Following Major Hammer’s lead, the ten raiders raced back to headquarters and waited to see what would happen. There was no retaliation. The Martians were unable to locate their attackers.

The raiding party waited for three days, and went back out and slaughtered another patrol before they knew what hit them. They attackers faded away like ghosts. The Martian Army Commander withered under Warlord Nin-el Throth’s anger, as he shouted at him from the main monitor on the officer’s deck.

Patrols were doubled. The attacks doubled too. Morale among the Martian’s was starting to erode. What once started as routine patrols were now considered combat missions. Worse, their enemies seemed to be invisible.

They knew humans were behind the attacks even though they didn’t have one body to prove it.

After attacking the second Martian patrol in one day, Major Hammer’s men captured one of the aliens. Using the same voice language software that allowed humans to talk with Martians, and vice versa, they questioned the captive.

After being tortured, the Martian spilled the beans about a major attack that was coming the next day. The Martians were going to launch an all out attack. Apparently a scouting party located human movement underground with ground penetrating radar.

They knew the general area to look in. Major Hammer gathered all of the men and women and told them what was going to happen the next day.

“This is it!” he told them. “We’re leaving now. Gather your gear and follow me.”

It took all night for Major Hammer’s raiders to reach the Martian Battlewagon. They took up positions of concealment and waited for the sun to come up. A slight drizzle coated the fractured roads and the rubble that use to be a busy city.

The Martians exited the Battlewagon shortly after the sun tried to peek out from behind the gathering storm clouds. The entire attack force filed out in neat formations. Major Hammer’s raiders waited until they were out of sight.

This was the moment of truth. In exchange for his life, the Martian captive agreed to approach the ship and seek entry. Tense moments passed before the massive ramp came down.

At that moment, the raiders ran up it and spread out, killing Martians wherever they found them. It took an hour before they had control of the ship. They brought wooden crates of dynamite with them and set time delay charges throughout the Battlewagon.

The commander of the Martian task force was the first to realize something was wrong when he heard the massive explosion that went on for several minutes. His fear was realized when a scout he sent out reported back with the news the battlewagon was blown to pieces!

The Martian Army commander was left with one choice; set up a perimeter, and prepare to die.

As It Stands, I enjoy writing stories of humans fighting back against superior alien forces. Win some, lose some. You never know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colorado USA, 2377: ‘It Isn’t A Good Day To Die’

 

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A year after the Krillion invasion of earth, there were still holdouts who didn’t surrender.

They were driven to isolated – hard to get to – parts of the planet.

The last Americans in North America found refuge in the Rocky Mountains 3,000 mile span, from the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, to central Alabama.

The people who fled there still had a fighting spirit and an abiding thirst for revenge.

The survivors represented a cross-section of races. They shared a common bond; they all loved freedom. Most were still scattered about in small multi-ethnic groups. But one of the groups consisted of forty-eight Sioux men, and women.

There were representatives from all seven Sioux bands. The leader, Cloud Walker, was a descendant of the great chief Touch The Clouds from the Miniconjou band.

Cloud Walker served for 10 years in the U.S. Army. He was a Special Forces Ranger who saw many perilous missions in his highly decorated career. He was also a natural leader who inspired loyalty.

It was he who brought the group together and organized a survival system best suited for their circumstances. They group never stayed in one place for more than two days. They had hunters who went out and killed game the traditional ways.

The only person who carried modern weapons was Cloud Walker. He wore a Glock 48 automatic Lasergun, and carried a molecular destroying rifle on a sling. It was one of the Krillions own weapons that he had taken in an ambush two months ago.

For nearly a year, Cloud Walker taught his group to use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility to fight a larger and less-mobile military.

The aliens used their advanced technology to destroy all of the traditional armies on earth. Major cities were leveled. Millions of people worldwide were incinerated during the initial three-day attack.

The rest tried to hide as best as they could. Some groups still fought for survival in Asia, Europe, and South America. Governments collapsed in panic as the slaughter continued. But Cloud Walker’s group grew in numbers and confidence.

On July 4th, 2378, Cloud Walkers warriors grew to 147, and they were ready for their first big raid against the Killions. The target was Granby, Colorado. It was once a small tourist resort town not far from Denver.

It now served as a command center for the Krillion invaders who continued to hunt for surviving humans. Granby, nestled along the Continental Divide and Rocky Mountain National Park, was a six-hour walk for Cloud Walkers guerrillas.

They’d been studying the security of the compound for days and were surprised to see there was very little. A few guards lingered outside the two giant domes. After capturing one of the guards they studied him for two days.

It was obvious the aliens had to wear a filtration system in earth’s atmosphere. The system was a mask that wrapped around the lower half of their heads. Tiny feeders ran inside their suits exoskeleton into a small tank of Krillion atmosphere located in the back.

The shiny black exoskeleton space suits were bulky and imposing. Inside however, the actual alien was thin, hairless, and it’s skin was various hues of blue. They were nowhere near as strong as a normal human.

The warriors knew what their foes weaknesses were after 48 hours of experimenting on their live hostage. Just before attacking the guards Cloud Walker took the alien’s mask off and they all watched it die quickly.

“We don’t know how many of them are inside those domes. We do not know if they will be fully armed and dressed, or running around like turtles without their shells,” Cloud Walker quipped.

“Our goal is to kill as many as possible before retreating back into the wilderness. This is a hit and run. No more than 10 minutes before getting out of there. Remember to use your speed.”

One of the men spoke up, “Today is a good day to die.”

Another man, a Hunkappa Sioux, said “My ancestor Sitting Bull said that. “

An Oglala Sioux named Two-toes said, “No. It was Crazy Horse, a great war leader, who said that before attacking Custer.”

Cloud Walker looked at his men and smiled. “My brothers, no Native American wants to die in battle. We were never afraid to fight, but it was some white newspaper man who came up with that silly saying.

“Instead, let me say today is not a day to die, but to overcome our enemies, and to live on  to fight another day!”    

A war-whoop went up and the warriors moved in on the alien guards.

As It Stands, I’ve always considered native Americans to be a wise race that fell victim to technology.