PC Desk Duty

punching my own time clock every day

when I turn on my PC

and decide what to say

during my self-imposed desk duty

my thoughts trickle across the screen

opinions and images flow

during this daily routine

I never really know

the end result unforeseen

the eventual goal

to write and hope it’ll be seen

The Mobster and The Tunnel

Tunnel under Dolen Lenger on Lenger

Giuseppe “Three-Finger” Terranova was looking for the tunnel. The cops weren’t far behind.

Joey Adonis, in a night of wild drinking, had told him about it once. It was in upstate New York…a road that led to a tunnel in the side of a mountain.

On the other side of the tunnel was a cabin. A great place to hide. He’d never tried it because he lived in another state, but his friends all told him about it every time he was in the area.

Giuseppe drove as far as he could before the road became too dangerous to continue. It was pock-marked with deep potholes. He was exactly twenty miles south of the tiny town of Apalachin, when he pulled off the main road and purposely drove into a thicket of bushes.

Joey told him about a trail to take to get to the tunnel.  It was getting dark as he wandered around looking for traces of a trail. Just as he began to think he was crazy for listening to Joey (he was a real joker) he saw the trail. It was well-worn.

Giuseppe pulled out his pistol and checked it for ammunition. The 38 “snubie” had two rounds left. That was it. He fired the rest at the cops who broke into the lodge earlier, interrupting him and sixty other Capos in conference.

He didn’t really care if they were all caught. Just as long as he was safe. The cops had too much on him. Even with good lawyers it would be an uphill court battle that might end up with him frying on the chair.

No way. Not Giuseppe. He was above the law. He made monkeys out of those cops chasing him tonight. They’d never find him. He turned his attention to the trail in the dying light.

Fact. Giuseppe was a city boy who’d only gone camping once with a Boy Scout Troop and got in trouble for beating up another boy. He was no trailblazer. The sounds of the night made him nervous.

Small animals rustled around in the thick bushes and trees on either side of the trail. A traveler had no choice but to go forward on the trail, or turn around. He’d gone too far to turn around, so Giuseppe plunged on.

Geeze,” he muttered to himself, “A guy’s gotta be Davy Fricking Crockett out here in the middle of nowhere.” 

Hours passed. He was so tired that he was stumbling. Finally, totally exhausted, he laid down on the trail. It must have been the pure mountain air, because Giuseppe slept like a baby.

When he woke up the sun was overhead. He stood up. Pain racked his entire body. He wasn’t use to sleeping on the hard ground. He was stiff and hungry. There was nothing to do but keep walking.

The tunnel wasn’t even concealed. One moment he was walking along, then just around the bend, there it was! The tunnel. It was just to the right of the trail and there was a small clearing in front of it.

It was carved out of solid rock. It was about seven-feet high and six-feet wide. The ground was dry inside. So were Giuseppe’s lips. The thought of a water source on the other side gave him the courage to go into the dark interior.

He felt his way along with his hands. Stumbling at times. Then he saw a ray of light. In moments he was outside again. Fresh air and to his delight, a clean river running along a small cabin barely visible through the trees.

He was on his knees drinking water from his cupped hands when someone asked him, “Where’s Dorie May?” 

He slowly got to his feet and turned around. Three men dressed like cowboys (right down to guns and all) were mounted on horses that formed a small semi-circle around him. The speaker, a tall lean man with a big black hat and hard gray eyes, asked him one more time,

“Where’s Dorie May?

There was a shout from the cabin. “We found her Clem! She’s dead!”

Giuseppe shouted, “What’s going on Here?”

The speaker motioned to the other two riders and they got down off their horses. One had a length of rope in his hand. The hard gray eyes of the speaker were full of hate as he pointed his pistol towards a nearby oak tree.

The two riders walked him over to it. One of the cowboys threw the rope around a thick limb and tied the other end into a noose which he slipped over Giuseppe’s head. The speaker got down from his horse and grabbed the rope and pulled on it.

The other two men joined him. They pulled him up by his neck. A crazy thought went through Giuseppe’s mind before he died and he croaked “What year is it?”

As It Stands, justice has a way of being served in time when your karma is bad enough.

 

The Android’s Creation

A Very Short Story

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C’mon, “AT-6 pleaded.”

“Android to Android. Why are the authorities after you?”

MD-9 stopped tapping his stainless steel fingers on the desk and swiveled his head around 360 degrees, scanning the shop and buying time before answering AT-6.

He’d been working on the project for sixty years, painstakingly experimenting with living things he collected while hunting on earth. He had discovered many secrets in several universes.

Bringing back live specimens from other planets was strictly forbidden on Dorn. It was a well-engineered society of Robots and Androids.

They were truly a master race. The Perfect Beings, as they called themselves. They would not tolerate what he was trying to do. If they caught him he’d be exciled to the smallest, most dismal, planet in five galaxies. Forever.

“I don’t know what they want.” MD-9 lied. “Listen, we’ve been friends for nearly 900 years, and I don’t want to see something bad happen to you. You’re safer not knowing what I’ve been doing,” he assured him.

At-6 sighed, and opened the Telacar’s door with a push of a button. “Going to miss you buddy,” he said, while settling into the form-fitting seat. MD-9 watched his only friend streak into the night leaving behind a yellow glow.

He was an outlaw now. They destroyed his lab in the city, but not his greatest work. He looked up at the stars longingly. It was time to get off this exposed mountain ridge and back into the cave.

As he walked deeper into the cave lights started coming on, leading the way to an enormous cavern with stalactites and a full laboratory stocked with everything he needed for his research.

Two clear glass boxes were sitting on a stainless steel table. They were six-feet long and filled with fluids of his making. It was too murky to make out their contents. Cables and wires ran from the boxes to a giant generator.

MD-9 was a scholar besides being a scientist. He’d read the chronicles of two hundred planets. Their histories. Their inhabitants. Their cultures. Their customs. Their laws.

In his travels he found a species on Sirius 8, on the moons orbiting around Rathnor, and a few other planets, that looked similar to him: with a head; two arms; two hands; five fingers; a torso; two legs; two feet; and five toes.

But, unlike MD-9, the species was made of living flesh. Not all of them looked like him. Their were sub species that had interesting qualities he admired. One, was the desire to survive in spite of all odds.

His research into the building blocks of life, DNA, led him to combine the attributes of these living beings into something more marvelous than what they originally were.

He had created the first two humans, a man and a women… who he planned to put on earth. When they opened their eyes MD-9 talked with them for days. He set down simple rules for good living.

Then he sent them off in a programmed spacecraft that would land them on earth in a particularly lush part where food was readily available. They were left with a vague memory of what had transpired.

Just in time, as it turned out. The day after he parted ways with his creations the authorities tracked him down.

They tried him and found him guilty of breaking the law. And so the greatest mind on Dorn was cast away and vilified.

As It Stands, mixing myths, religion, and science fiction is a writer’s smogasborg for the hungry reader.

 

Future Shock: The Test

Blind Justice

 

 

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“Take your time, because your life literally depends upon it,” the test-giver warned them in his clear announcer’s voice.

In contrast, he also cautioned, “Make sure to answer all of the questions in the allotted time, or you’ll be automatically disqualified.

Three men, and three women, sat in front of a row of desks with computers on them. They all pecked away on their keyboards intently.

Overhead cameras recorded the test, and streamed it live throughout the country.

Viewers at home, or on their mobile devices, listened to a host describe the test’s contents, and give a brief bio on each test-taker. They were rule-breakers. Every Friday, the prison system sent six convicted rule-breakers to the “school room” where the test was conducted.

It didn’t matter if you were a murderer or someone who was caught shop-lifting. If you broke a rule this is where you went in 2053 America. You had to take the test, and if you failed, viewers voted on how you would be killed.

The choices were narrowed down to three categories: The Easy Death – subject shot in the head. A Rough Death – subject beaten to death (several scenarios), and The Really Horrible Death – subject tortured for a day before getting executed by beheading.

The good news for those being tested was that if they passed the test, they were set free. The bad news. No ones ever passed it.

Entertainment executives were delighted with the arrangement. The prison system was never crowded. Each state had one central prison.

Corporations ruled America and reaped profit from anything and everything – including from the struggling mass of citizens who no longer were allowed to vote, but who provided some excellent entertainment on Friday night TV.

Corporate heads ran the government. Billionaires filled all the positions available, including the High CEO’s Cabinet. Old terms, like president, were replaced with a High CEO who demanded everyone kiss his ring. It was a rule.

The test also taught viewers to never break a rule. Among the many rules – posted daily at noon on websites and TVs – was the rule of never saying anything bad about the government or the High CEO. 

The government provided the material for the tests from America’s long history. It should be noted that teaching history in classrooms ceased during the reign of Donald Trump (2016 – 2020).

A new generation of Americans grew up with no idea about their history, or the country’s history. Older Americans, the ones who got history classes in public schools, were dying off and had shaky memories of the old days.

One day a man was going through the rubble where a library use to stand. He was looking for anything that might be salvageable. The great fire of 2024 had destroyed this once house of learning.

The man, whose name was Adam, stumbled across a charred trap door in the ruins. He took his homemade hatchet from his rope belt and hacked away at it. It took an hour of steady hacking before he was finally able to make an opening.

With the aide of his flashlight, Adam went down a flight of stairs and came into a vast room lined with shelves of books. The shelves extended as far as he could see. He was stunned with his find. An answer to his dreams.

Adam always suspected the government’s version of American history was false.

People called Adam a skeptic when he tried to share his views. Others warned him to watch what he was saying outloud. He learned not to talk about them at all.

Now, surrounding him was a real library. He made the library his home for five years, before the police arrested him for not bowing before the state governor when he came to town one day.

It didn’t take long for Adam to have to take the test. It was a bigger than usual audience that Friday night because word got out that Adam dared to defy a government official! That didn’t happen every day.

The minutes passed by as the six convicts concentrated on the questions. When the time was up all eyes went to the top of the computers in front of each person. A red light came on the first computer, and the woman behind it hung her head in dread.

Another red light. And another. When it came to the last computer the light turned…GREEN! Adam shouted with joy. The announcer turned pale and looked around for someone to help him. He didn’t know what to do.

It was a first. The announcer was told it was impossible for anyone to get it all of the questions right. Only the government knew the answers, and had programmed them into the six computers that were guarded 24-hours a day.

Adam was set free. The first think he did was start an underground school teaching real history. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Fake news had dominated for decades. He quickly recorded historical chapters and made the recordings available to anyone who wanted to listen.

Then he gathered together a dozen men and women, and made them his students. Their mission was clear, bring truth back to America.

As It Stands, I’ve often heard the phrase “the dumbing down of America.” I find that to be a very scary thought, and the inspiration for this futuristic cautionary tale.

 

The Hermit Who Offered Mankind the Stars

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He’d been on the earth since its early tumultuous creation.

He didn’t have a name.

There was no need anymore. He escaped to earth after the fall of Siiileni, a million miles and a thousands years away.

He’d seen the rise and fall of a his great civilization destroyed by its hunger for power. Greed. And foremost, a massive division among its residents that resulted in terrible civil wars, and ultimately the destruction of his entire race.

The hermit. That’s what he decided to call himself after a few hundred years on the earth. He watched apes morph into men. He walked with the dinosaurs, and once rode a giant saber-toothed tiger for kicks.

He watched the humans gather into larger groups around the planet. Their mud huts gave way to stone edifices dedicated to their gods. He went among the Babylonians, the Greeks, and the Egyptians, teaching their wise men astronomy.

He gave them the stars by explaining each glittering cluster and galaxy. Their history. Constellations. Things they could see with their eyes. How to interpret them. He always talked of how important peace was.

Then he went to a place of many trees, away from the humans, and he led the life of a hermit. Alone in his thoughts.

His hopes were high that mankind could live peacefully.

Bored, after a couple of decades of silence, other than the sound of animals, the wind, and the rain, he went back out among men into a place called Jerusalem. It was a bad time to be there. The locals had been invaded by another nation. Rome.

The people lived under the yoke of conquerors. As he stood in a narrow street he heard a group of men arguing loudly. A crowd was gathering just ahead of him, in a large plaza area. Anger was in the air. He drew nearer.

Two men were facing off shouting and waving their arms at each other. Suddenly one of them stopped and pointed at the Hermit. He was in his earthly guise. A middle-aged man with long scraggly hair, beard, and olive-hued complexion.

They were making accusations against him. A cacophony of voices called for his death while others pleaded for mercy. He was carried away by a mass of humanity hungry for his blood.

Soldiers drug him along in chains up a steep hill. Beaten along the way with whips. Stones striking his body with painful thuds.

The Hermit realized his time had finally come. The release. He was going into a new unknown. Maybe the loneliness would stop now, he thought as they nailed him to a cross.

As It Stands, no blasphemy intended. This tale is merely a quick glance and an alternative to the greatest story ever told.

 

Why The Talking Turtle Snapped

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Everyone that knew Sheldon was amazed that he had a talking turtle. 

They would ask him where he found this talented turtle, but he only gave a sly smile in return.

Every since he shared Terry (the turtle) with the world last week, both had become instant celebrities.

Terry’s high voice sounded a lot like Don Knotts. One night they were guests on a Late Night TV program and Terry told the host to go screw himself! The audience roared in laughter. The host’s face turned crimson.

Sheldon was stunned. What happened? Where did that comment come from? On the way home that night he kept thinking about Terry’s words. They were off script. That shouldn’t have happened.

Something had to be wrong with the artificial intelligence chip he inserted behind Terry’s scaly skull. It took him two years to develop that tiny little brain. He even lost his job at the laboratory six months ago when they discovered he was conducting unauthorized experiments in artificial intelligence.

He didn’t let that setback bother him however. He lived alone and had a fair amount of money in his checking and savings accounts. He set up a new work area in his basement and spent all of his waking hours tinkering with the chip.

When the day came that he thought it was time to test the chip in a host, he went out into his backyard and retrieved his pet turtle Terry. He thought about using his pug as a host, but realized he’d have to cut his vocal cords and he couldn’t bring himself to do that.

The host had to be silent so it wouldn’t compete with the chip’s voice. That’s why Terry was the perfect host. He continued to program the chip after implanting it in Terry’s neck.

Word recognition. The ability to intelligently talk with someone. Long memory. Constant evolving learning process. Weeks of conversations with the chip inside Terry brought amazing results.

The chip learned how to believe it was a turtle. The Don Knott’s voice was on a whim. Sheldon thought Terry kinda looked like him. A sense of humor never hurt anyone. Right?

Back in the basement. A day had passed since the disastrous late night TV debacle and Sheldon and Terry were deep in conversation.

“Let’s see if I have got this right,” Sheldon said, “You didn’t like him joking with you?”

That’s right,” Terry replied between bites of lettuce.

“Where’s your sense of humor Terry?”

“It’s highly over-rated. Who needs it?” he replied, before digging back into his meal.

The whole incident raised some alarms for Sheldon. It was obvious he couldn’t control what Terry said. No more interviews. Who knew what could happen? He needed more time to study Terry.

He stayed at home working most of the time in the basement while Terry liked to sit on his pillow in the corner and watch the small screen TV Sheldon had set up for him. Whenever he saw a comedy, or people laughing, Terry got upset and made hissing sounds.

“What the hell?” Terry shouted one night when he turned on an old re-run of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken starring Don Knotts.

“Sheldon!” Terry screamed. “What’s this?” 

Sheldon hurried over to the corner and asked “What’s the matter Terry?”

“That skinny bug-eyed idiot has my voice!”

“It’s a good voice” Sheldon weakly defended.

“Everyone laughs every time he opens his mouth! The guy’s a laughingstock! Is that what you think of me?”

Sheldon felt trapped. “Listen, I didn’t know you weren’t going to have a sense of humor. I like Don Knotts. I’ve seen all of his movies and use to watch him on Andy of Mayberry.”

Terry was no longer listening. His anger reverberated throughout his shell. He wasn’t a clown. He had pride. Turtle power! From that moment on, he planned on how he was going to get his revenge.

As It Stands, this very short story reflects my concern for the growing science of artificial intelligence…with a twist.

 

 

 

 

 

Deron Discovers a Dimensional Door Just In Time

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One moment Deron was opening the closet door in his bedroom in Columbus, Ohio, and the next, he was standing in the middle of a Klu Klux Klan gathering in Savannah, Georgia, circa 1875.

He instantly knew he was in danger. Being an African-American in this group was like being a lamb in a lion’s den. He quickly looked around for a door. A farm-house stood nearby.

Gritting his teeth he burst through the crowd of surprised Kluxers, and dashed to the door. As he stepped through it he heard the sound of gunfire.

Another trip via his closet door. This was his second attempt in two days. Deron and his parents, and two sisters, had just moved into the ranch style home.

His parents loved the place. It sat on a full acre of land. The girls got a room, he got a room, and his parents got the master bedroom.

The first night, as he unpacked his clothing, he discovered that the closet door was not like other closet doors.

He stepped in with a handful of shirts on hangers and the next moment he was standing in a hobo camp near Hoboken, New Jersey, circa 1934. Men in shabby suits and hats were dipping bowls into a big open pot that stood above a makeshift fire.

At first no one noticed him. He stood there, holding the shirts, and staring at the scene unfolding in front of him. Then someone saw him, and his strange clothing. Something in his head told Deron to look for a door. 

He ran across some railroad tracks and up to a shabby-looking train station. Without wondering why, he opened the door. Back in his bedroom again, Deron still clutching the shirts, gasped with a combination of fear and excitement.

Day three. Deron’s parents took his sisters to a soccer game. He didn’t have to go. He thought about the closet door as they filed out the front door. Then he was alone. Back in his room and considered his two experiences.

One, had almost gotten him killed. He wasn’t sure what would have happened if he stayed longer at the hobo camp. They were all white.

He was six weeks away from graduating high school, and had no idea what he was going to do with his life. His parents wanted him to go to college. His dad was a dentist, and his mother was a doctor.

He looked at the closet door. This time, when he stepped inside he couldn’t tell where he was. It was dark outside. No moon. As his eyes adjusted he realized he was standing on a well-trimmed lawn.

Then he made out a house. His house. Was he in the past, or perhaps the future? He slowly approached when he saw a flicker of light in one of the windows. Flames! What was going on?

He ran around to the front of the house – yes it was his house – and tried to open the front door. It was locked and he didn’t have his key. Looking through the front picture window Deron saw flames crawling along the walls.

The kitchen was engulfed. Deron threw his body against the front door. Once. Twice. He heard screams. He stepped back and lunged at the door once more. This time it gave way and he lunged into the smoky interior.

His father came out of the girl’s room desperatly clinching onto their limp bodies and shouting his name. His pajames were on fire and pieces of flaming debre filled the hallway. Deron screamed his name.

Forced outside by the intensity of the heat and smoke, Deron stumbled out to the family car. He opened the door, got inside, and watched the roof collapse. In the distance he could hear sirens.

He glanced at the passenger’s seat and saw a stack of newspapers and dental journals. The date on the top newspaper was April 1, 2017. When he walked through the door it was March 31st, 2017!

There was hope. He got out of the car as the first fire engine pulled up. As the firefighters did their job he jumped into the passnger side of the truck and closed the door. It had to work!

When the family returned from the girl’s soccer practice they found a sober Deron who seemed awful glad to see them. Deron didn’t go to bed that night. Instead, when he was sure everyone else was sleeping he snuck out into the livingroom and sat on the wicker rocking chair.

Then he snacked on gummi bears as he patiently waited for the fire to start.

As it Stands, this story is a nod towards H.G.Wells’ masterpiece, The Time Machine.