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 Secret Life of a Bat Man

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It was a hot humid night in Decatur, Georgia, when Sage Turnbull  bashed his neighbor’s head in with a baseball bat.

The first officer at the scene was stunned to see a seven-year old boy with a bloody baseball bat standing near the prone victim in his bedroom.

His parents were out partying, he told the social services worker who interviewed him. They partied a lot he explained. When Geoffrey, his 34-year old neighbor, opened the front door at midnight he was wide awake and heard someone enter. Not hearing his parents, but someone else moving around in the living room, scared him and he picked up his baseball bat to defend himself.

“Then what happened?” she asked him.

“He opened the door and came in. I was standing on my desk and brought my bat down as hard as I could! I hit him a lot to make sure he wouldn’t get up. Then I called 911 and waited for you.”

“Did you recognize that he was your neighbor?” she asked.

“It was too dark.

What struck the social worker about Sage was his calm demeanor. Most seven-year-old’s would be pretty freaked out by what happened. She looked at his frail frame and the blood spattered all over his pajamas and face. It was unnerving. He asked if he could have a drink of water? As she went with him to the kitchen she wondered what was going through his head. His dark brown eyes were serene and unreadable.

Later, when she talked with Sage’s parents, she shared her concern that he was bottling the incident up and should get some professional help. They agreed and sent him to a child psychiatrist for over a year.

To everyone’s surprise he acted like a normal kid and had a social life at school. His teachers all said he was a good student, but needed to focus on the topic at hand. He was caught day-dreaming numerous times. He participated in sports and student government. He wasn’t the most popular kid in his class, but he wasn’t an outcast either. He did his best to fit in, but not stand out.

What he didn’t tell his counselor, or parents, was he enjoyed beating Geoffrey to death!

It was the most exciting moment of his life. The feeling of power, as he repeatedly hit the dying man, was incredible. It changed his life. He realized that he couldn’t tell anyone about his feelings or they’d think he was sick in the head. He amazed himself with how easily he masked his real feelings. It was gift he decided, by the time he hit his teens.

His favorite sport was – no surprise – baseball. He was considered the slugger on his Little League team, the Dodgers. He was also a fan of comic books, especially DC’s Batman series. Unlike most of the super hero’s fans, Sage was not interested in chasing bad guys and seeing the good guy prevail. He just liked the many gadgets, and vehicles, Batman used. He loved his costume.

The urge to swing a bat and make contact with human flesh, came and went over the next couple of years. He eventually began trolling for victims at night, wearing a crude black mask and black clothes. One night he wandered into a new neighborhood, west of where he lived. He had no idea that it was gang turf.

A group of Mexican homeboys were sitting on a porch in front of one of the houses. Strains of No Me Chingues La Vida by Espinoza Paz, carried clearly in the night air. They were drinking and laughing. He considered turning around and going back up the block when he heard a wild whoop and turned around in time to see two of the gang members coming at him with broken beer bottles!

They must not have seen the black baseball bat he casually held by his side, because they ran right up to him cursing. He brought the bat up in one swift movement and smashed the closest man’s face in! The other drunken assailant barely had time to raise his bottle before Sage’s bat bounced off the top of his head! Two women screamed from the porch as Sage teed-off on the prone gang members. Lights starting coming on in the neighborhood. Shaking off his blood rage, Sage turned and ran into the night.

Rewards for “El Hombre Murcielago” who killed two of their members, were posted all over the barrio. No one knew who the new player was, but everyone in the hood felt it was a stranger. A loco one, at that.

Sage peeled his mask off as he ran home that night. The exhilaration from his encounter had his heart beating so fast he thought it was going to burst out of his chest. The sheer ecstasy he felt from pounding on human flash and bones far exceeded any other thing in his life. He didn’t know if he killed the men or not. It really didn’t matter. He had no moral code that he lived by. Despite loving parents he turned to the dark side a long time ago. Even before he killed Geoffrey.

After his success pounding two men with his bat he knew he’d have to go out again. Just in another neighborhood. The voice in his head, the one he shared secrets with, encouraged him to be careful while cheering him on. He had to be careful who he picked for a victim. So he decided that he would prey on gang members and other street thugs though out the city. Their deaths attracted a lot less attention than picking perfectly innocent victims. They were societies throw cast-offs. Just like him, but no one knew it.

He loved the irony of being compared to the Batman in the comics. El Hombre Murcielago who was no better than those he hunted, unlike the justice-seeking superhero. Irony was his spice in life. No one would ever think to go after a mild-mannered cub reporter thinking he was the notorious Bat Man of the barrios.

As It Stands, there is no right or wrong, only primeval feelings when we get right down to it.

A Voice In The Dark

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The voice only comes in the night.

I’m not sure why that is. You’ll notice I said “voice,” as in singular, not plural. It’s a woman’s voice. I don’t know if she’s a demon or a guardian angel. Just so we’re clear here; I’m not some wacko hearing voices. Okay?

I started hearing the voice a year ago after my wife died. Don’t jump the gun and assume I murdered her, and it’s her voice that I hear. It’s not. I have nothing to feel guilty about. She died from natural causes. Okay?

Sometimes the voice sounds like famous women actors. I was almost convinced that it was Lucile Ball that I chatted with last night. But after hearing Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Goldie Hawn, and Oprah Winfrey in the same week you get jaded. Most of the time it’s just a female voice that I can’t attach a face too. Okay?

The voice has given me good…and bad advise. It’s about 50-50, I’d say. I have to admit it makes for some interesting scenarios. Seeing as you’re here right now I suppose I could share a couple of examples with you. Okay?

Look, I’m no ladies man. It’s hard for me to talk with strange women, or men to be fair. But the voice told me that I was going to score big time the next night if I went out to some gentlemen’s clubs. So, I went to a strip joint, doing research on the naked female body don’t you know, when one of the dancers finished her number and came over to my table. We talked and went to her place. Okay?

After a wild time, we both fell asleep on her waterbed. I woke up at one point, it was still dark, and the voice insisted I kill her. I’ll tell you flat out. That voice sure can be convincing. I went into her kitchen, found a plastic trash bag, and used it to smother her to death. No big deal. The voice gets a little crazy at times, but there were reasons. Okay?

I get lonely sometimes and miss the touch of a woman. Since my wife died, I’ve dated six women who all ended up like the stripper. It’s kinda discouraging not having a real relationship, but as the voice has pointed out so often…it’s no big deal. Okay?

So there’s your 50-50 example. I’m not a complex guy. You should know that. I accept the good with the bad. Usually, the voice just likes to talk about interesting things. I don’t have to say anything. The voice knows I can hear it. It’s good enough for a relationship based upon mutual boredom and something else I can’t quite put my finger on. Okay?

Lately, the voice has been on a violent streak. It’s hard to say why. There’s a lot of frustrations in this old world. I can relate to the pent-up fury that sometimes needs an outlet. It just makes sense to scratch that itch when it bothers you. It’s understandable. Okay?

During the day I find my own voice and try to engage with people as much as possible. I have the most encounters in coffee shops and waiting in lines. I enjoy talking with strangers. As a mailman, I have a set route every morning greeting the regulars who come out to get their mail. I lead a quiet life. Okay?

I like seeing the regulars at the coffee shop. It’s a little mom and pop café. Not one of those big impersonal chains like Starbucks. People of all ages gather there before getting on with their busy day. I know a couple by name. They call me Jack. Not by my real name. Going by Jack is more comfortable for a few reasons. Okay?

I really never know what to expect from the voice. You might say that’s fine, but sometimes we argue. I’m not saying it happens regularly. Slow down. I’m not some loon ready to go off the deep end here. Every now and then, the voice and I disagree. Haven’t you ever disagreed with someone? Get off of your high horse! Okay?

I’m not sure why I’m writing all of this down. The motivation came out of nowhere. I haven’t sat down and wrote anything since I filled out my job application for the Post Office ten years ago. This sudden desire to write is just a little bit odd. Okay?

I think I know what’s going on now.

Last night the voice came up with a whopper. It told me to get my AR-15 and go to my favorite coffee shop today and slaughter everyone there. So I did. The authorities quickly traced me back to my house and now it looks like an army outside. When that black armored truck that said S.W.A.T., pulled up on my front lawn I knew my time on earth was coming to an end. Okay?

I have nothing to apologize for. That’s why I wrote this. It’s crystal clear now. I won’t be hearing the voice any longer. That’s about it. It’s time to go outside and try to take as many of those cops down with me as possible! Okay?

As It Stands, insanity is invisible.

The Inmate’s Revenge

Drake County, Ohio – 2012

Construction workers were excavating a huge clearing next to a new neighborhood when they found a body. The badly decomposed corpse had its hands and feet bound with fragments of rope.

One of the workers called the supervisor over and asked him what to do. They both studied the corpse that was curled into a fetal position for a couple of minutes. The supervisor set up a perimeter with warning signs and secured the area before contacting his superiors.

Drake County, Ohio – 1854

The final touches were done and the Drake County Poor House was ready for occupancy. The insane asylum, completed a month ago, was located 300 years away, but in sight of the Poor House.

Local residents were pleased with both facilities, which they felt were needed for years. Officials were appointed, and staff members were recruited from the community. The mayor of Hicksville (the closest city) gave a speech to a crowd of two hundred people who picnicked afterwards on the Poor House grounds.

A year later, both facilities were at maximum capacity. When inmates of either facility died they were buried in unmarked graves, unless they had relatives willing to bury them properly at the county cemetery.

Three years passed before there was trouble at the insane asylum. A culture of cruelty had grown among the staff who took every opportunity to make the inmates lives miserable. There were never visitors. Family, or government.

The inmates very lives depended on cooperating and not causing trouble. The craziest were actually protected by the others. John Steele, who always seemed to have one foot in an alternate universe, was protected by other inmates.

The fact of the matter was, there were sane people locked up by their own relatives and corrupt courts.

One day Steele, who the guards called Daffy, got ahold of the cell keys from a dozing guard during lunch, and released the other inmates who attacked the rest of the staff!

The county marshal, with a posse, stormed the insane asylum and restored order by nightfall. After investigating what happened, the marshal had John bound hand-and- foot, and put in solitary confinement with no food or water.

Because his cell was in the same corridor as the community cells, everyone could hear his pitiful cries of hunger alternating with screams of rage!

Four days later, the guards opened his cell. Without water for the entire time, he died that morning. They carried his body out on a dirty sheet to the exercise yard. A guard was waiting with a shovel in his hand. They planted John, and promptly forgot about him.

Drake County, Ohio – 2012

Two county commissioners and their assistants were going through a pile of old maps laid out on a conference table. One of the assistants proudly held up a map and an old newspaper article.

The group converged on the map, and compared it to the present one.

“This isn’t good,” one of the commissioners opined.

“Building over grave sites is always a problem, but we’re committed to this project. The voters decided we needed a new elementary school. This is the ideal location,” the second commissioner said.

“You know we’re going to have to keep this quiet, don’t you?” 

“Yes. I’ll meet with the construction supervisor and his superiors, to come up with a plan if any more bodies are discovered.”

“What about the one we already found?”

“What body?” the second commissioner slyly asked.

It was left up to the construction foreman to quietly dispose of the skeletal remains as he saw fit. The foreman, Larry Freeman, wasn’t thrilled with the task. He knew it was probably illegal, but he needed the work.

It took years to finalize the project, but the finished result was what the community asked for. The first classes – K-6th Grade – opened up on September 2nd, 2014.

During recess for the 1st graders, one little girl ran up to the teacher just before the bell rang and handed her a green marble.

“What’s this Debby?” the teacher asked?

“Daffy gave it to me!” she squealed with delight.

As It Stands, Bad karma has a way of coming around.

The Handyman Cometh

(Listen to Otis Jiry, master storyteller, narrate this story)

Albert was born without the ability to speak. As if to make up for his loss, he was a genius when it came to fixing things from a very early age.

By reverse engineering everything within his reach, by age five, he learned how things worked, and never forgot. He enjoyed building gadgets and testing scientific theories, unlike most of the other 10-year olds on his block in 1977.

He was called a bookworm long before bullies learned to call kids like him a nerd. He was taller than most of his peers, and awkwardly thin. Despite his height advantage (or maybe because of it) he was clumsy, and did horribly at sports like basketball.

As if his intelligence and size didn’t already isolate him in school, being mute was the spark that got him teased since his first day of school. Kids can be cruel when someone isn’t the same as they are.

The one thing kids didn’t call him was dummy. He was too smart for that slam. Most secretly envied his ability to fix things. The boy handyman could fix go-carts, fans, and electric toasters.

When his 10th birthday came along, his mom and dad took him to Sears and said he could pick out any toy he wanted. When Albert saw the Atari VCS with nine-games titles available at launch, he fell in love with it.

His parents, true to their word, bought it for him and his love affair for computers was born. He instinctively knew that the Atari VCS was the tip of the iceberg.

In the following years he kept up with technological advances while going through high school, and eventually to a full ride scholarship at M.I.T.

Upon graduation with honors, Albert was offered a juicy job in the government helping to build a robust, fault-tolerant communication with computer networks. He was instrumental in building a primary precursor network, the ARPANET, which served as a backbone for interconnection of regional academic and military networks in the 1980s.

He was still with the government in the 1990s and made his contributions known again in the development of the World Wide Web, or Internet, as it became commonly called. Throughout his successful career he stayed a loner. He didn’t have any old high school friends.

Just the opposite.

He considered most of the kids in high school his enemies.

Their taunts over the years scarred Albert deeper than anyone, including his parents, suspected. The mild-mannered bookworm morphed into a mild-mannered nerd with a grudge, and became further isolated from his peers and the rest of the world.

He was a computer programmer, software developer, and troubleshooter. His colleagues respected him, but were not comfortable around him. He was the department’s all around handyman. But, to some of the women he seemed creepy, quietly walking around the office and lab staring at people.

Then one day his well-ordered life was shattered! His parents were killed in an auto accident! He was so distraught that he quit his job without notice. He went into a deep depression and left Washington D.C. and moved back into their house in Azusa, California.

As his days wilted into months he slowly began constructing a super computer. One like the world had never seen before. He designed it to surf flawlessly through the internet unobserved.

He discovered the dark web where youthful hackers were comparing techniques to access other people’s computers. He found arsonists, perverts, socialists, neo-Nazis, fascists, religious extremists, conspiracy nuts, and serial killers.

It was the wild, wild, west and Albert felt comfortable viewing what the dregs of humanity had to say to one another. There were a lot of angry people out there…like him.

The denizens of the dark web were anonymous or used fake names to protect themselves. Albert was soon logging in as The Handyman. He asked questions that no sane person would answer. His new found friends weren’t afraid to express their feelings, or to share their dark deeds.

One afternoon he went through his high school year books with revenge on his mind. It was a long time coming, but that was okay. He looked them up on social platforms and hacked their computers.

He started with the six worst offenders from his freshman year to his senior year. Five boys and one girl. He trolled them with death threats for months. He didn’t fear that someone would discover him. He was too good for that.

It amused him that he could toy with them, but he felt like there had to be more. It was ridiculously simple for him to track down where they all lived. It was also easy, and fun, building the bombs he was going to kill them with.

He was a fan of trip wires and set up a trap for each one of them in their homes. When all six bombs went off as planned, he found himself bragging on the dark web. Admirers asked questions like where did he set the traps, and his choice of explosives?

The police quickly realized they had a serial killer on their hands, despite differences in each one of the bombs their forensic team researched.

The sense of power Albert felt was indescribable. “The Handyman cometh...”he boasted on the dark web. Then he went back to the yearbooks and looked for more victims!

As It Stands, beware the loners.

Destroy The Mirror

I’ll cut right to the heart of this warning. Time is precious.

Destroy the mirror.

The damn thing is sitting upright next to this letter, like a demon perched on the table. Don’t let that elaborate golden frame and stand dazzle you. The thing is cursed. It drove me to madness. Yes, I admit it. I’m crazy, but that’s just because of what I’ve seen in the mirror.

You would be too if you saw the horrible things that I did.

Time is of the essence. Still, I want someone to know my story. I’ve been unable to destroy this damn mirror, so all I can do is give fair warning while telling my tale. If you can, destroy the cursed thing!

My name is Dominic. I’m the only child of Caesar and Antoinette Debardi. I grew up in the family castle, DeBardi Hall, in the Lombardy (Lombardia) region of Italy. We had many servants, and I seldom got to see my parents who traveled a lot.

When I was seventeen, a small flat wooden box (15″ x 18″) and a letter arrived addressed to my parents. They were still traveling on the continent at the time so I signed for them. It was made of cherry wood and was quite handsome. The letter had the family crest imprinted on it.

I waited for my parents to come home. A year went by with no word. I sent out inquiries to all of their friends and business associates. I ran newspaper ads. I finally hired a detective, after the courts allowed me access to the family fortune.

Two years went by with no word. One day I noticed the cherry wood box, still sealed, laying on the bookshelf in the library. It was dusty. Half-hidden by a Jade Buda my mother brought back from Tibet.

I pulled it out. Moving a stack of papers on my desk to one side, I made room for the box. Sitting down, I examined it for a few moments, trying to see if there was a clever way of opening it. Like the trick beech wood boxes my father use to bring home from India.

As far as I could tell, it was sealed tightly with no way to open it. I was young and very inquisitive. In that way, a normal seventeen year-old. I tried breaking the seal with my pocketknife, but ended up breaking my knife instead.

Challenged now, I took it down to the basement where there was a workshop. It was filled with tools and workbenches cluttered with isometric drawings of cabinets, and draftsmen supplies like compasses, rulers, drafting squares, and pencils.

I put the box in a vice. Grabbing a hammer and a chisel that were hanging from a rack on the wall, I proceeded to whack away! I ended up splitting the wood to get at the contents.

Miraculously, it was a mirror, and had somehow survived my crude assault. A very expensive-looking mirror. I took it upstairs to the parlor, marveling at it’s weight. It was a solid gold frame and stand.

The mirror itself was cloudy-looking. Like it was very old. Created in the days before they made perfect mirrors. Upon closer examination I made out fantastic-looking creatures intertwined around the stand and base.

They appeared to be demons from an ancient culture. Greek? Roman? I wasn’t educated enough to know the answer of where it came from. When I stepped away from my examination I was surprised to see the clock strike midnight.

I’d been in the library for hours. Shaking my head tiredly, I went upstairs to my room and instantly fell asleep. When I woke up the next morning the first thing I saw was the mirror sitting on my chest of drawers!

My heart stopped. I’d given all of the servants the weekend off. I was alone. So how did the mirror appear in my bedroom? I threw the covers aside and scrambled into my clothes. It was still there.

There was no rational explanation. The damn thing should have stayed in the parlor. I briefly wondered if someone was playing a prank on me. Searching everywhere, I couldn’t turn up a jokester.

I carried the mirror back downstairs. It actually felt heavier than the first time I picked it up. That’s the first time I heard it call my name. In the following days the mirror stalked me! I would find myself staring into it and seeing terrible visions for hours.

I gave all the servants a month paid vacation, and sent them away.

One day, during a lucid moment away from the mirror, I remembered the letter that came with the box. I went into the library and searched throw my desk drawers. It was there, along with other letters I’d saved over the years. Unopened.

I’m not sure why I didn’t open the letter sooner. If I had, I could have saved myself a lot of suffering. The letter was from my father. He told me not to open the box. No matter what. He explained that the mirror inside had my mother’s soul trapped inside!

He was writing the letter with the last of his strength. With the help of a Turkish holy man his father had sealed the mirror in a box using ancient spells. He sent the box back for safekeeping while he sought a way to free her.

But his brief exposure to the demons inside wore down his frail body. He was dying and wanted me to find a way to free her. The mirror inside was from Crete, and was stolen from an ancient king’s grave. He admitted that they bought it on the black market. It was all he knew.

He ended with a final goodbye and wished me the best. You know the rest. I screwed up when I smashed the box open. The demons have been after me ever since. Wait a moment! I think I hear them in the hallway…

As It Stands, this is my warped take on Pandora’s Box.

Nightmares

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He woke up screaming!

Ever since Jake Jones returned from combat duty in Afghanistan he was plagued by nightmares.

They were so real that he woke screaming every morning, bathed in sweat, with bruises and even scratches on his body.

The Army psychiatrists said he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and put him in counseling, and fed him pills that were supposed to help.

While he was patient at the White City VA, in White City Oregon, the doctors observed his bruises, cuts and scratches on him every morning. The consensus was they were self-inflicted, despite Jake’s denials.

He refused to speak during group counseling so they had to resort to one-on-one counseling. His doctor experimented with every anti-psychotic medication available but none of them helped.

All the doctor knew about Jake was that he was wounded twice in 2009. He was among 3000 U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division that moved into the provinces of Logar and Wardak to push out the Taliban.

A group of Afghan Federal Guards fought alongside the Americans. They were the first wave of an expected surge of reinforcements originally ordered by President Bush and increased by President Obama.

One day Jake and his squad were exploring caves looking for enemy insurgents. They came upon a group of old men and some young Taliban fighters and a deadly firestorm erupted.

When it was over half of Jake’s squad was dead or wounded. Jake suffered a bullet wound through his left shoulder. All of their enemies lay dead except one old man. He had been hit several times and was sitting with his back to the wall.

When Jake approached him blood was running out of the corner of his mouth and he was muttering something. Scott, the team translator came over and listened to the old man’s fading words. When they stopped, Scott turned to Jake and said “This guy has cursed us 1000 times over. Too bad that I don’t believe in that crap.”

Jake was medevaced to safety and returned to combat duty three months later. All of his remaining team members were gone, dead, or returned to the United States.

Three days after returning to his new unit his platoon was ambushed. Jake was the only one wounded. This time in the chest, just missing his heart. That’s when the really bad nightmares began.

While recuperating in the hospital the first one happened. One moment he was sipping water through a straw and sitting up in a hospital bed, and the next he was in an unfamiliar place that looked a lot like the province of Wardak.

Three old men approached him with long canes. He stood there, powerless to move while they beat him and chanted ancient curses. He could feel every blow. When he couldn’t stand the pain anymore, he screamed…and woke up with a nosebleed.

A nurse ran into the room and comforted him as she washed the blood off his face and beard. In her report she noted that the patient had somehow inflicted injury upon himself while sleeping.

The same thing happened for three nights in a row before he was transformed to a mental ward and strapped onto a bed for his own safety. When the nurse checked on him the next morning he had a black eye and more bruises on his chest.

The stunned staff immediately launched an investigation to see who had attacked him. The night nurse said no one had entered the ward, and the security guards verified her story.

The nightmares continued, but the beatings stopped. He was released back into the general population and assigned a new doctor two weeks later. Jake was a pale shadow of himself having lost fifty pounds since his second wound.

The nightmares morphed from beatings to ghosts of dead Afghani children, women, and old men surrounding him with sad eyes. They were the same old men in the cave that he helped kill.

He continued to wake up screaming until one day he decided that he’d had enough. He tied his sheets together, firmly securing one end to the ceiling fan and wrapping the other around his neck. Then he kicked the chair away from beneath his feet.

As It Stands, this tale was an exercise in mixing a real mental problem with the supernatural.