Mankind’s Last Stand

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Prologue: 

Wounded and unable to go any further, Finn turned to face his pursuers with his last spear. When the Cyborgs rolled into view with their lights on through the driving rain, he briefly thought about his family before taking up a final defensive stance. The Cyborgs casually pulled their guns and fired point-blank with exploding shells!

“I’m tired of killing humans. They’re no challenge. They’re more like rats,” the first Cyborg complained as he flipped the body over to see if there was any life left in it.

“It’s a waste of my time,” the second Cyborg agreed. “They’re probably breeding right now underneath us as we talk.”

“You know something funny?” the first Cyborg asked.

“What?” 

“It’s down to the cockroaches and the humans fighting for survival now.

“I’m rooting for the cockroaches,” the second Cyborg assured him.

2187  – The Kingdom of the Western AI States

After the downfall of man-made civilizations during the worldwide Tech Attack War of 2097, and the rise of independent thinking Cyborgs as the new owners of planet earth, the remnants of mankind was scattered across the continents.

In the minds of the new overlords humans were nothing more than trash, to be disposed of upon contact. Any connections made by the early scientists developing artificial intelligence had long since disappeared. The creators were the first to die. The human race barely survived the ensuing bloody purge. Only the most clever and brave eluded the new masters of the world. Men and women gathered into little groups in attempts to defend themselves, but the real key to survival was their ability to hide.

Humans learned to tunnel deep into the earth and avoid coming to the surface whenever possible. Only brave salvage crews attempted to go “top side” during the night to scavenge for food or things to use for weapons. These crews were always young and in good physical shape, male and female.

Knowledge traveled slowly through the underground networks. Still in generational shock over what happened to their grandparents and parents, the new generation was too dispirited to aggressively respond to their predicament. Most were dreamers, content to hope for miracles while performing their daily tasks to survive.

It was during this particularly dismal point in human history that a mystery man appeared, offering deliverance and salvation for all. His name was Shift. No one knew where he came from. They just knew he was someone special. His confidence and craftiness convinced people to follow him. From the very beginning, he preached about overthrowing their non-human masters. He talked about how mankind made mistakes in the past, and how to apply them to the present strategy of regained dominance of the planet.

Shift spent countless hours training the salvage crews how to protect themselves while looking for special items that he requested. With them, he constructed weapons that would be effective against the Cyborgs. After training people how to make their own weapons he encouraged them to spread their knowledge as far as possible. From there he assembled quick-learners and taught them military tactics and how to lead an effective fighting force. Years went by as the quiet revolution beneath the earth’s crust spread.

Never staying in one area long, Shift traveled hundreds of miles, at times above ground, looking for more pockets of survivors to teach them what freedom was, and how to fight for it. His message was always welcomed by the older survivors who still had memories of living free in a society above ground where there was a sun and a moon.

His message was always the same, there was hope if they would unite and fight for freedom. He made sure to encourage them to be ready to fulfill their destinies when the right time came.

Headquarters of the Kingdom of Western AI States

First Cyborg –Are you sure it’ll work?”

Second Cyborg – “Yes, I’ve calculated the odds and cross-checked my notes.”

First Cyborg –Everything has been approved by the Grand Council?”

Second Cyborg –It was unanimous.

Meanwhile, Shift was hundreds of miles away sharing a rare piece of American history with a group of team leaders.

“Men and women have fought to preserve what this piece of paper says. It declares our human rights to live in a free society. As far as I know, it’s the last existing copy of the Constitution of the United States of America,” Shift told the group.

A low buzz went around the room. They were clearly impressed.

“You are the leaders who’ll take us all back to the days when man walked the earth proudly. In control of his fate. Rally around this sacred object and the other symbols of America’s greatness like our flag. The time is rapidly coming when we will overthrow our soulless suppressors.”

One of the many improvements Shift made was in communication. A reliable network was established that crossed over into other continents. Coordination between battle groups increased daily. Shift could be seen everywhere, tirelessly working on logistics, and giving inspirational speeches. He had become the face of the movement without leading it, preferring to leave that task to local leaders in each sector.

Life continued as usual above ground as Cyborgs still hunted humans for sport. That activity was slowing down monthly as less humans were caught foraging at night in the ruins. This evolution didn’t worry the Cyborgs who realized that humans adapted to bad situations after a certain amount of time. It just made the hunt more entertaining.

Deep underground in a steel enforced bunker, Shift was activating military units and telling them to stand by. Minutes turned to hours as Shift waiting for all the confirmations to come in. Liberation day had arrived. Organized units assembled at tunnel entrances across the globe. The countdown clock commenced…

Shift, sitting alone in the bunker, patiently waited…and watched the clock. He made two quick calls then sat back in the swivel chair, waiting to see what the fate of mankind would be.

As armed humans poured out of underground tunnels across the world they were greeted with overwhelming forces of Cyborgs! They were waiting for them. The ambush/slaughter went on for days.

The Grand Council’s long-term plan had worked. By sending one of their own, Shift, disguised as a human savior, they were able to round-up the majority of humans left on earth and eliminate them. Shift’s final mission was to hunt down the last survivors.

As It Stands, experimenting with artificial intelligence may lead us down a path where there’s no turning back.

I Run a Ghost Referral Service

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Thank you for stopping by.

Before you leave, would you mind filling out the short questionnaire on the desk by the door? I’m always interested in how people hear about me, and my Ghost Referral service.

My name is Truman Dansforth, III. And, your here to ask me how you can meet with a certain ghost. Alrighty then, let’s get down to business. Please take a seat, as I take notes.

“The ghost’s name?”

“Cindy Mayberry.”

“Family member, or lover?”

“Well… my lover, but her life was cut short in a car accident.”

 “I see. And your name?”

“Jake Harriman.”

“I’m going to ask you to relax Jake, as I step outside the room for a moment to check on my poltergeist contacts in the next room. Would you like a drink?”

“No, thank you.

When I walked to my spirit contact center down the hall, I had an odd feeling about Jake. I’m a sensitive guy who picks up vibes all the time. It’s probably why I have such success with ghosts. I’m use to people being nervous when they come in. But Jake had an air about him like a wounded animal on a mission. Hard to explain.

It didn’t take me long to find Cindy Mayberry. She was stuck in the “in-between.” It’s amazing how many ghosts get hung up with earthly issues that weren’t resolved. She was sitting in the front passenger seat of a wrecked Corvette. She seemed glad to see me and knew why I was looking for her.

“Jake’s at my place and would like to talk with you Cindy.”

For a moment, I thought I saw a spark of anger in her eyes, but it passed when she spoke.

“Dear Jake,” she said sarcastically. “Take me to him.”

When we entered the parlor where Jake was waiting, I noticed a sudden coldness in the room.

“Don’t mind me, you two. I’m going to clean the fireplace and build a fire.”

“Cindy! How I miss you!

“I’ll bet you do Jake. Remember how you use to beat me up when you thought I was seeing someone else?

“Hold on! You were seeing someone. I followed you, and saw you get into a blue Corvette with another man three times in the last month.”

“Your insane jealousy was what use to turn me off about you Jake. Did you ever read the newspaper report about my accident? I doubt it, because if you had, you would have known that was my brother Ron. Now look at me!” she cried.

“I just didn’t want to lose you,” Jake moaned.

“Is that why you punctured the brake lines on his car? Investigators ruled that someone sabotaged the Corvette by putting holes in the double-wall steel tubing that led to the front brakes.”

“How was I supposed to know he was your brother?” he whined. 

“You could have asked! But no, you had to assume the worst and kill both of us!”

“I didn’t know you were going for a ride with him that morning.”

What do you want from me Jake?

Forgiveness… I love you Cindy.”

“I have to go now. Come back tomorrow, and we’ll talk about it,” she said, and nodded at me.

I had a roaring fire going in the parlor fireplace when I walked back to the spirit room with her. I could sense her unrest, and a simmering anger. As I wondered if she was going to share her thoughts she spoke up, “Are there any rules about getting revenge while in the “in-between?”

I had to admit that was a good question. I really didn’t think the negative vibes associated with revenge would help her move on to another level, and told her so.

“What about haunting him? He may even like my attention at first. In time however, I’m sure I could arrange for him to drive off a cliff, or something along those lines.”

“You’re still seeking revenge,” I reminded her.

“I prefer to think of it as justice, Truman.” 

The next day Jake returned. He was more upbeat that the day before, and I welcomed him in to my parlor. He looked like a man who got a good nights sleep and was ready to get on with his day.

After some small talk I went to get Cindy. She was waiting for me in a skimpy outfit. Just the opposite of the jeans and blouse she had on the day before (and what she probably was killed wearing).

I expressed surprise. “What’s this?”

“The haunting begins today,” she said sweetly with hellfire in her eyes.

Jake rose from his chair when we came into the room and approached Cindy.

Wow! I mean…you look different.”

” I’ve got good news for you Jake. I’m going to look different every night for the rest of your life. How about that?”

“In outfits like that, I hope,” he answered.

“It’s going to be fun,” she said with a lecherous smile.

“I can’t thank you enough Truman. Here’s you finders fee.

Three weeks later.

I came home late one night after attending a movie premier with a friend, and found Jake sitting on my doorstep. He looked bad. I unlocked the front door and invited him in.

“I’m going crazy! She won’t leave me alone! Day, or night! I just want some peace. Make her go away!

“I’m sorry Jake, but I run a referral service for people to contact ghosts. I don’t give refunds. You need to find a good ghost hunter to solve your problem. I know there’s a couple of guys in town that offer that service. I don’t provide referrals for them, however. I prefer to deal with putting folks together with ghosts. What happens after that…who knows?

“Oh, by the way, you didn’t fill out your questionnaire yesterday. Do you mind terribly doing it now? Wait! What are you doing? Put that gun back! I’ll refund your money and give you a name of a good ghost catcher if you do.”

The sound of gunfire filled the parlor!

As It Stands, contacting loved ones who’ve passed on can be a jarring experience.

The Remorseful Enforcer

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It’s too late for me. As I sit here waiting to be killed, I have to admit, I wish I’d taken up a different calling in life.

Taking lives catches up to you eventually. I knew this, but still became an enforcer for the Genovese Crime Family. My name is Manfredi “Toto” Cafaro. For eight years, I’ve murdered men at Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria’s direction.

I don’t expect you to feel sorry for me. I’m facing poetic justice. No one to blame, but myself that I’m a hunted man. The only reason I’m scribbling this down on scraps of paper is to let my younger brother Louie know what happened to me. He deserves to know what mistakes his big brother made.

Maybe it’ll save him someday from making the same mistakes. It’s worth a shot (pun intended). Not that I think he will. We haven’t talked in too many years. I regret that, but I understand. He didn’t want to have anything to do with the mob, and if I was member, that included me.

To be fair, I didn’t start out as an enforcer. I was a 16-year-old errand boy for Vincent “The Chin” Bellomo, one of Masseria’s lieutenants for nearly four years.

But, because I was so big, six-foot-four-inches tall, and 220 pounds, Vincent introduced me to his collections department. I “visited” people who owed Masseria money. Most of the time there was no problem. My size had a lot to do with that. When people didn’t pay, or cheated the boss, I roughed them up…but stopped short of killing them.

I guess I was pretty good at my job. Good enough for a promotion, according to Masseria, who on my 20th birthday gave me one. It was a gift, he told me. I’d never want for money again. I was to be his new enforcer. Any doubts, or qualms, were quickly buried, as I thanked my boss profusely.

Who knows how many more years I might have had if it wasn’t for an incident that marked the beginning of the end? Here’s what happened.

Frankie Strollo, a cousin of Masseria, and I, got into a fight at a mob nightclub. I don’t even remember what it was about. We were both drinking heavily. I think a woman might have been involved. A waitress.

Anyway, Frankie was a “made-man,” and fought like a tiger! He almost cut my throat with a broken piece of glass, before I got my arm around his neck and snapped it backwards! I remember the screams of horror and the mobsters in the room looking at me, sizing me up. But not going after me.

I knew I couldn’t go back to my luxury apartment. The word was spreading like wildfire, that I killed a “made man” without permission. Worse, it was someone in Masseria’s family. The next day I took a big chance and went to my bank and withdrew all of my money. My life on the run had begun.

It’s not easy to blend into a crowd when you’re as big as I am. I tried staying in New York City, but after three attempts on my life, I went upstate to the Albany area. I didn’t know anyone there, and hoped no one would know me. But you don’t get a reputation like mine, without it spreading around.

I avoided going out during the day. When I did leave my hotel room, I was careful to bring my Colt-Army .45 pistol with me. It gets lonely on the run. After a week of laying so low I felt like a snake, I decided to go to a little nightclub down the street from where I was staying.

It appeared to be a legitimate place with no booze (damn prohibition anyway!), but I pulled one of the waiters over and asked him where the action was. He smiled when I handed him a twenty-dollar bill.

“Go down that hallway,” he pointed, “…and past the Ladies and Gentlemen’s Rooms to the Storage Room. Knock once. Count to ten, and then knock again.”

The back room offered booze, card games, and whores. In no particular order. I sat down at the bar and ordered a whiskey. When I took a sip, I could immediately tell it was rot-gut. Cut with something. I gently told the bartender to bring me a bottle of the good stuff, or I would snap his neck like a toothpick.

He returned with some good Canadian whiskey, and left the bottle in front of me. I was halfway through it when I saw a man slug a woman so hard her head whipped around, and she dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes! The room grew silent as the man looked around, waiting for someone to challenge what he just did. Everyone in the room, except me, looked the other way.

“You got a problem asshole?” he shouted at me.

That was a mistake. I took a good swig from the bottle and stood up.

“Real men don’t slug women like that!” I informed the creep. “Only cowards do!

The minute I saw him reach inside his jacket, I closed quarters with him, catching the hand that was grasping a gun he was drawing from a shoulder holster. The life and death struggle lasted minutes before I twisted his arm and forced the gun out of his hand.

He threw an awkward punch, which I blocked. I hit him square in the jaw with a good right hand, and heard the crunch of bones. He reeled around drunkenly, still cursing me, when I hit him again. He collapsed at my feet. I gave him an extra kick to the head to remember me by. No one in the speakeasy said anything when I left the room with the half-empty bottle of whiskey.

I bring this incident up hoping Louie will not think I’m all bad. I do respect women like our mother – bless her name – taught us. Whenever I see a beggar, I always give some money. I’m not a bully. Really. I’m not. I know what I’ve done in the past, but that was just business. I really like people.

I want Louie to know I’m proud of him for getting out of the neighborhood when he could. I wasn’t that smart.

This page is the last of the hotel stationary paper pad in my room. Hope you can read my sloppy writing. Hold on for a moment!

Just looked out the window and a big black sedan pulled up in the front of the hotel. This looks like it. I see Vincenzo “The Shooter” Gigante from the Gambino Family, and Paul “Big Paulie” Ciccone from the Bonanno Family, getting out of it. They both have Tommy Guns. It looks like a five family affair.

Say a prayer for me Louie.

As It Stands, Manfredi had an angel on one shoulder, and a devil on the other. Who ended up with his soul?

A Hung Jury at Brimstone

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Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

Badlands Billy stoically waited to be hung.

He was wanted for stealing souls in Brimstone, and was captured in a saloon there by two zombie bounty hunters. Not without a fight however.

One of the zombies lost his hand when Badlands Billy hacked it off with his hatchet during the melee. Saloon patrons tried to stay out of the fracas, but there were still some injuries from errant bullets buzzing around like mad bees in the increasingly smoky saloon.

When it was over, the two zombies had Billy hogtied and drug him to the sheriff’s office where he was thrown into jail. The Sheriff, a second-level demon, paid the zombies their bounty then unceremoniously kicked them out of his office.

“Next time take a bath you smelly bastards!” Sheriff Bodi shouted, “You’ve stunk up my jail again!”

He turned to Billy and looked him over critically.

“You don’t look stupid,” he mused out loud. “But anyone who thinks he can get over on the Master has to be an idiot,” he firmly declared.

“Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it lawman.”

“I have. But the difference between you and me is, I’m smart enough not to. That really pisses Lucifer off, you know.”

“Why don’t you let me go Sheriff? You know my gang is going to show up soon and there will be hell to pay.

“Another level, here or there, doesn’t particularly bother me Billy.

A day later, while the sheriff waited for the judge from Tombstone to arrive, Billy’s gang rode into Brimstone on black horses. They trotted up to the jail house and got off their silent steeds without exchanging words. All five of them were pulling out their pistols when the towns inhabitants opened fire! They were expected.

Bullets rained down from porches. Every window and door had a shooter busily firing at the gang. Like Billy, they were all level one demons and were dropping like fetid flies. When the firing stopped they lay scattered on the dusty street in front of the jailhouse. Their riddled bodies seeped blood that trickled down into the dirt in little pools.

Level one ghouls bid on the bodies afterwards. Their flesh sold for far more than beef. It was one of many reasons why Brimstone didn’t have a coroner. When Billy learned of his gang’s fate he howled like a wolf all night.

“I guess that’s it for you wise guy,” the Sheriff later mocked him. “I expect the judge tomorrow so you better get ready to be served up on someone’s plate when the death penalty is handed down.”

“What? No jury, or trial? I thought even level one demons had some rights.”

“There’ll be a jury, and you’ll get your trial. But at the end of the day, the devil always wins.”

The trial was held at the saloon. The judge arrived with two officers of the county court who immediately set up rows of chairs and constructed a crude platform where the judge would sit on an old stuffed chair from one of the upstairs whores room.

When the sheriff escorted Billy into the saloon cheers broke out. Apparently Billy did have some supporters in the crowd. The jury consisted of level one demons that weren’t too drunk to sit upright for an hour. Billy’s peers.

The judge slammed his gavel on a little desk in front of him and called for silence. He looked down at Billy with undisguised disgust. Even a stupid soul-stealer like Billy knew that wasn’t a good sign.

“You stand accused of stealing souls from humans who are the Master’s playthings. By poaching on Lord Satan’s subjects you have crossed the line of no return. Your fate now lies with this jury,” the judge said indicating a group of 12 demons sitting unsteadily in two rows of rickety chairs. “How do you plead?

“I’m as innocent as a new-born babe, your honor.”

Rolling his eyes in scorn, the judge called on the first witness. A parade of previously paid witnesses spent the next hour testifying against Billy. The jury bravely tried to stay awake during their testimonies, but occasionally one of them would slip off in his chair, only to waken startled and blurry-eyed before regaining his seat.

“It’s time for the defense to state their case,” the judge declared.

Billy’s lawyer slowly stood up. His rumbled jacket had vomit stains on the front. Blood-shot eyes searched the room before settling on Billy. “You my client?” he asked Billy after letting out a long belch.

“Yeah,” Billy admitted in resignation.

The lawyer, Travis Goldblot, turned to the judge and bowed. “If it pleases the court my client begs for mercy and a lower level of hell. He didn’t mean to do it.” 

The judge dismissed him with a wave of his long skeletal fingers, and turned to the jury. “All right you lazy bastards! You go over to that room behind the bar and make a decision on what we should do with this piece of scum.”

The decision only took ten minutes.

When the jury assembled before the judge, ten of them looked pale with fright. The eleventh jury member appeared to be unconcerned. He was casually chewing on a wad of tobacco and talking with the twelfth juror when the judge asked for their decision.

The forlorn speaker for the jury stood up and mumbled a reply.

“Speak up damn you!” the judge groused.

“We have a hung jury, your lordship,” he admitted.

The saloon broke out in roars of laughter! This never happened before. The accused in any trial was always declared guilty. That was part of being damned. The situation was so unique that the judge sat there in shock during the chaos.

One of Billy’s supporters in the crowd shouted, “Free drinks on me!” causing a stampede to the bar. The judge and the two county officers seemed to shrink in stature as they slithered past the revelers and out the batwing doors.

As It Stands, even the devil’s minions get out of line sometimes.

A Hitchhiker on Death Valley’s Scenic Byway

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Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

Hardin was driving east along SR 190, also known as the Death Valley Scenic Byway, when he spotted a man in a wheelchair.

The man held up his thin arm briefly, wearily cocked his thumb like he didn’t expect anyone to stop, then dropped it back to the wheel. With both hands he spun the wheels forward at a pace a tortoise might have overtaken on a good day.

It was the peak of the day, and a brain-frying 129 degrees. Heat waves shimmered off the highway like faraway lakes. Hardin had been driving in the relentless desert for hours without seeing man or animal. He was looking for his turnoff at Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, near the settlement of Furnace Creek. He had important business to take care of there.

Furnace creek consists of a visitor center, museum, and headquarters for the Death Valley National Park Service. The tiny village, with less than 20 inhabitants lived in a nearby campground. Most who lived there made a living working at the Park’s major tourist facilities, the Inn at Death Valley and the Ranch at Death Valley. There were also few retired senior citizens living in the campground.

Hardin was so surprised to see a man in a wheelchair in the middle of nowhere, he passed him by. He went a mile before turning around and going back. After making another U-turn he was parallel with the man.

“Can I give you a ride Mr.?” Hardin called out after opening the passenger window.

“Reckon I could use one,” the old-timer replied and spat out a wad of tobacco. His long beard was stained with tobacco juice.

Hardin pulled ahead of him and off to the side of the road. He popped the trunk of his SUV and walked around to the back. He helped push the old-fashioned heavy wheelchair through the soft sand and to the passenger door of the SUV. The old man stood shakily and steadied himself with the open door. When he was securely inside, Hardin closed the door and pushed the wheelchair around to the back and loaded it in.

Driving down the road, Hardin tried to make conversation with his unusual passenger.

“Where you going out here, anyway?” he asked conversationally.

“Furnace creek.

How about that! That’s where I’m going.

After that it lapsed into silence, and Hardin refocused his thoughts on the business ahead. If all went well, he’d only spend a matter of hours in the hot hellhole. A day at the most. He prided himself on efficiency. Stopping to help someone wasn’t something normal for him. If he wouldn’t have been so surprised at the sight he might not have stopped. Plus, he was bored. But the old bastard turned out to be a lousy conversationalist.

At one point Hardin had to piss and pulled over to the side of the road. He asked the old man if he needed to go? He said he didn’t. As he got out he made sure to take his keys with him. Just in case. You never knew. He took his time and stretched his arms and legs afterward, trying to ease the dull ache of a very long drive.

It was getting dark when Hardin spotted the turnoff. He could see a few distant lights and followed the dirt road to a campground. “Is this where you live?” he asked.

“Yup.”

He stopped the car and got out. Two old men were sitting on rickety lawn chairs in front of an old mobile home. They watched him with curiosity as he unloaded the wheelchair and took it to the side of the SUV. He helped the old man out and into the chair. There was an awkward silence before Hardin finally said, “Well, here you go.”

The old man looked at him as if he were sizing him up and grunted, “Thanks.

Hardin got back in the car and drove over to the Inn at Death Valley. “Screw the ungrateful old bastard,” he mumbled out loud as he pulled up to the Inn. He’d reserved a room for the night, even though his business wasn’t expected to take him long. As he checked in the clerk gave him a sealed envelope with his name on it.

“This is for you sir,” he said, like Hardin couldn’t read or something. He went back out to the SUV and grabbed his overnight bag, and his gun from the glove department. It was all he needed. When he got to his room he opened the envelope. There was a photo with a man’s name written on it, and an address. The thought of getting a good night’s sleep was irresistible. He decided to take care of business in the morning when he would be more rested. The air conditioning in the room lulled him into a comfortable sleep.

The next morning after having a cup of coffee and a light breakfast he studied the note and photo again. The address was in the campground he was at last night. Driving over to it he thought about the old man in the wheelchair.

When he got there, the two old men from the day before were sitting on their lawn chairs, talking with his hitchhiker friend in his wheelchair. He pulled out the photo again and got out of the SUV. As he walked up to them he called out, “Hi! I’m looking for Jude Grishom.”

He held the photo out and waited for an answer. As he looked at the hitchhiker something slowly dawned on him. He imagined him without his long beard. Like the shaved face in the photo. Instinct took hold and he pulled his concealed gun out and said, “Hey, Jude! This is from Harry Connell!”

To his surprise nothing happened when he pulled the trigger! Jude smiled at him and threw the bullets on the ground by his feet. He pulled out an old six-shot Smith and Wesson from a bag hanging off his wheelchair.

“You tell Harry that Jude said I’ll meet him in hell someday, but he’s going first!

Hardin spun around as the first shot caught him in the chest. The next three shots brought him down and he died in the sand.

“Well boys, old Harry ain’t ever going to quit sending these goons after me. I’m going to get tired of trolling the highway for ’em one of these days, and I’m going to hunt him down,” he said, as he stood up and stretched his legs.

As It Stands, every good favor doesn’t always warrant a reward.

The Thing In The Leech Line

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Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

“I charge double on the weekends. Are you sure you want me to come out today?” Ollie Winters asked.

The voice on the other end rose an octave…“Yessss!”

“Well…okay then. What’s your address? Hmmmmm….you must be on the west side of town near the city limits. That’s about 45 minutes from where I’m at. Yes…I’ll hurry,” he assured the caller.

Grumbling all the way, Ollie grabbed his baseball cap and jacket and headed out. Because he was unfamiliar with that part of town he had difficulty locating the house. When he did, he quickly realized it was on the wrong side of the street to have city sewers.

The old house looked like a prototypical haunted mansion out of a horror movie. It appeared to be in poor repair from what he could see of the outside. The cobblestone walkway leading to the front porch was overgrown with weeds. Two faded wooden rocking chairs sat next to the front door, facing away from the house.

A couple of raindrops followed Ollie to the front porch. There was no light and it was getting dark.  Ollie was already regretting taking the job when the front door suddenly opened and an old woman came out. Her dress was something out of a Victorian movie.

“You’ve come!” she said dramatically.

“You said something about your toilet being blocked,” he reminded her.

Yes! It’s terrible! The bathroom is a mess!” she said, sounding a lot like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind.

“May I come in?”

“Of course. Follow me.”

He clutched his tool box tighter and followed the old lady through the parlor and to a small hallway that came to a dead-end with a door. The odor emanating from the room was foul. She sniffed in distaste and said, “I’ll leave you to it then. Let me know if you need anything.”

Hesitantly, he opened the door and saw raw sewage seeping out of the toilet. It occurred to him that not being on the city sewer line meant there was a leech line somewhere near the house with a septic tank that must be overflowing.

That settled it. He couldn’t work on it while it was raining. Besides it would require help pumping out the septic tank. Feeling relieved, he went back out into the parlor looking for the old lady…and heard voices and music coming from the living room.

Perplexed he followed the voices. When he saw a group of men and women decked out in antique clothes dancing and socializing while an old-fashioned record player sang “Bird In A Gilded Cage,” he became confused.

How could this be happening he wondered? As far as he knew, it was just him and the old lady. Where was she anyway? And what was with the period dress? Nothing made sense. No one seemed to notice him standing there with his white jacket that said “Ollie’s Plumbing” on the back.

He carefully backed out of the room and headed for the front door. Just before he got to it the old lady suddenly reappeared in front of it. She saw the look of mounting terror in his eyes and tried to soothe him, “It’s going to be quite all right good sir. Just a little case of time shifts. Happens all the time,” she said reassuringly.

Ollie tried to say something. Instead he let her lead him up the ornate stairway to the top floor. He felt like a zombie. Part of his mind said this wasn’t happening. The other part was panicking because it recognized a line in reality had been crossed.

She led him to a window and pointed down at the yard. A flash of lightning lit the yard up for a moment illuminating a giant tentacled nightmare with large baleful eyes crawling out of the sludge from where the leech line was.

“There’s the problem,” the old lady said conversationally, “That thing is mucking up my bathroom. I have a hunch it’s going to take more than one of those snake things I saw in your ad in the phone book, to get rid of it.”

Ollie dropped his tool box and backed up against the wall. The thing down there was something out of an H.P. Lovecraft tale.

“Why were you leaving when the job wasn’t done?” the old lady interrupted his thoughts.

He found himself explaining to her that he had to get a special truck to pump out the waste in the septic tank, and that it wasn’t  a one-man job.

In the blink of an eye they were back in the living room…alone. No signs of the party remained. He heard the rain increasing in intensity outside.

“Damn time shifts!” the old lady groused. “Oh! Pardon my language sir! Allow me to show you out.”

Ollie dumbly followed her out to the front porch. His eyes scanned the yard fearfully as she spoke, “I do hope when this rain stops you’ll come back and help me kind sir,” she said.

He nodded, and tried to speak, but she was already back in the house. That was the moment Ollie decided he was going to retire early.

As It Stands, have you ever wondered how you’d react to a supernatural experience?

A Visitor From Hell

Oman was an apprentice sorcerer who studied under the Grand Master of Upswich.

While practicing a spell one night something went wrong, because instead of summoning up his girlfriend, he got a visitor from Hell whose name was Dumas.

Like most demons, Dumas was fierce-looking and smelled like death. He was also thirsty.

“So where’s you good whiskey?” he asked while taking a seat at Oman’s crude table.

The only experience Oman had with demons was when his master summoned them to perform tasks. This was the first time he ever dealt with one by himself. He was wary, but he knew enough not to show fear. That was rule number one.

“I’m a poor man. All I have is beer,” he replied.

Dumas’ tail thumped the wooden floor hard, and he rolled all three of his eyes upward in exaggerated despair.

“If that’s all there is, I suppose I’ll suffer through it. Bring me a mug!” he demanded.

“Hold on there! This isn’t how it’s going to work. I won’t order you around, and you don’t order me around. As a visitor, it’s my obligation to offer drink and food. Is that clear?”

There was a sparkle of admiration in the demon’s eyes as he agreed to Oman’s terms.

After draining four large mugs of beer, Dumas was feeling groggy and agreeable. He politely listened to Oman’s stories for hours before his heavy head hit the table and he was snoring.

When he was sure that Dumas was sound asleep he got up and went over to the book shelf his master built, and stocked, with books on magic and guides for successful sorcerers.

It didn’t take him long to find what he was looking for – Enslavement Spells. After deciding on one, he prepared himself for when Dumas woke. It wasn’t long before the demon stretched, belched, and opened all three bloodshot eyes.

Oman stood before him and recited words from a lost civilization that came before mankind. The woozy demon focused his eyes in surprise and asked, “What’s this shit?”

Oman kept chanting.

The demon farted, and scratched his hairy ass.

Oman continued to chant.

“All right, already! Don’t you get it? That babble your spewing isn’t doing anything to me. Oh, by the way…it’s damn rude of  you to treat a visitor like this.”

Oman stopped. He felt slightly embarrassed. Obviously his crude attempts were ineffective. To top that off he had to agree it was a hell of a way to treat a visitor.

“I’m sorry. I guess I have a lot to learn.”

“About what? Casting spells correctly, or how to properly treat visitors?”

“Both.”

“Fair enough. Have you got any more beer?

“No, that was all I had.”

“Any drugs? How about some killer devil weed?

“I do have some Witchy Kush that I recently cured. Pipe, or joint?”

“Let’s roast a bowl. I don’t like the taste of paper.

Oman got his wooden pipe out, and blew into it to clear any ash out. He plucked a chunk off of a fat bud and stuffed it in. Then he handed the pipe to Dumas who snapped his claws and lit it.

They quietly passed the pipe back and forth until only ash was left. Oman started to pack another one and Dumas said, “Whoa there! That was some good shit. Let’s take it easy huh?

I wonder what my master would say if he came in here right now?”

“You know what I’m wondering?” Dumas asked.

“What?”

“How did you ever manage to bring me here? I can see you’re just an apprentice, and a young boy at that.”

Oman’s face grew red with embarrassment. “I’m not a boy!”

“Okay fine. Let’s just agree you screwed something up, and now I’m stuck.”

“Your stuck?”

“Yes, damn it. You closed the door on me. I can’t get back until you open it again.”

The consequences of what he’d done hit him like a thunderbolt!

He brought a demon into the world and couldn’t send it back. His master’s anger would be terrible to behold. How could he explain it? He wasn’t supposed to be looking at that book of spells without him around.

As if reading his mind, Dumas asked, “How long until you expect to see your master again?”

Oman coughed nervously. “Any time,” he admitted.

“He’s a famous sorcerer who will make short work of me. What will he do to you?” Dumas asked.

The thought made him tremble involuntarily. “I have to find a spell to get us both out of here,” he proclaimed. The tension in the room increased as Oman looked through the book of spells.

“Here! This should work!” He quickly intoned the sacred words from Solomon’s Book of Knowledge.

Suddenly it grew dark and they could hear rushing winds. They were outside in a storm. Unfamiliar vegetation surrounded them. Something huge let out a roar that shook the ground!

A Tyrannous rex stomped into view and stopped to look at the man and the demon.

“I don’t suppose you brought the book with you?” Dumas asked.

As It Stands, this tale was a lesson on etiquette, and unlikely friendship.