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.

One Last Drink

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Bobby O’Reilly raised his shot glass of fine Irish whiskey and toasted the devil who wearily raised his in recognition, and tossed it down in one gulp. 

Being a clever lad, Bobby knew the devil was coming after him, and had come up with a plan. He may have been somewhat of a rascal, truth be told, but his superhuman ability to consume alcohol made him a legend in the local pub and around the countryside.

Bobby reasoned that the first place the devil would look for him would be the pub where he was known to spend most of his day drinking and gambling. When the devil showed up one muggy afternoon, Bobby waved and invited him to take the empty chair across from him at a table.

“A fine day to you Lucifer,” Bobby began, “I’ve been waiting for your sanguine presence. Bar keep! Send one of your lasses over here with another shot glass will ya?”

“Now, aren’t you a fine piece of work,” the devil chuckled. “Are you really so eager to forfeit your soul this day?”

“Not at all. I’m just a poor man wondering if you have the guts to make a deal with me? I’ll put up my soul. What will you offer, should I win?”

A bar maid set down a shot glass in front of the devil who was considering Bobby’s audacious offer. Bobby picked the bottle of whiskey up and poured the devil a shot. The devil tossed the shot down and then laughed so loudly everyone in the pub looked over at them.

“You know that’s an interesting offer O’Reilly. I enjoy someone who has the gall to try to trick me. But what’s to keep me from ignoring your offer and taking you to straight to hell with me right now?

Bobby poured himself a shot, and refilled the devil’s glass.

“Because I’ll pray to God to take my soul, and will confess and repent for all the evil I’ve ever done the moment you make a move on me.”

“There’s no guarantee it’ll work for you boyo. You’re quit the sinner. That’s why I’m here. But I’ll tell you what. To avoid having to wrestle with God over your miserable soul, I’ll take you up on your offer. If you win, I’ll take you off my list until Judgement Day arrives. At that time we’ll see what God decides to do with your wicked soul.”

“Fair enough,” Bobby agreed.

“What’s the challenge,” the devil asked.

“You have to drink me under the table. The first one to pass out loses.”

The devil raised his glass and casually tossed it down with a twinkle in his eye. They were still drinking after the bartender closed at 2 a.m. He left a light on near the two drinkers and hoped his friend Bobby would be okay as he locked the doors up and left.

To the devil’s surprise Bobby seemed to get stronger as the night wore on. He told bawdy jokes and rattled off limericks gleaned from public loos. When the bartender opened up the next morning there were empty whiskey bottles scattered around the floor and Bobby was opening a new bottle.

The devil was a little pale, but still smiling and listening to Bobby’s blather. The hours flowed by until it was dark again. Bobby was no longer telling bawdy jokes and the devil was starting to look downright haggard.

The devil got to thinking about how many souls he could have captured if he wasn’t locked into this damn drinking duel for the last 48-hours with this crazy Irishman. He decided Bobby wasn’t worth the effort right now. He knew he could outdrink him, but wasn’t sure how many more hours (and lost souls) he wanted to waste.

“That’s it O’Reilly! I’ve better things to do with my time. We’ll meet again somewhere down the road, I assure you. For now, your safe you weasel.”

“Oh, c’mon mate!” he mocked, “One last drink!”

As It Stands, this tale is a testimony for good Irish whiskey; my favorite liquor.

A Family Thing In The Attic

Listen to this story as master story-teller Otis Jury narrates.

Danny was born in the same sturdy brick house his great-great grandfather built. He learned at an early age not to go into the attic.

He was 10 years-old before he got the guts to check the attic out. It was a rare day. Everyone was gone. His mother let him stay home while the family went into town.

He climbed the narrow stairs leading to the attic until they stopped at a doorway. He turned the old brass knob slowly, barely opening it up. Sweat had started to slip down his forehead and he wiped it nervously away. Looking up he saw light pouring in from the skylights overhead.

The attic was huge. He wondered if it went the length of the house? There was old furniture and numerous old trunks lining two of the walls. A group of human like shapes, covered by white sheets, were clustered in one corner of the room.

Danny’s fevered young mind instantly jumped to the conclusion that dead people were under those sheets. He stumbled twice in his panic to get out of the attic! He didn’t attempt to go in again, until he was seventy-four.

His parents died in a tragic automobile accident. His sisters, Doris and Bella, were married and lived with their husbands in Sedona, Arizona. The house was his.

Danny decided he needed a hobby one day. So he got into his family’s genealogy. He was able to do a lot of online research. It was slow going contacting family members who were willing to provide him with information. But he stuck to it for a year.

He found it odd that there was practically no information on his great-great-grandfather, Bradford Niles Stormer, the man purported to have built the large house. He found paperwork in his father’s safe in the library that showed the year his great-great- grandfather paid to have the house built – in cash.

It was one of the first brick houses built-in Portland Maine in 1830. Bradford was a man with money. His family was from England. None of them went with him when he immigrated to America. There were rumors, in letters, that suggested he was the black sheep in the family.

As for Bradford’s time in America, there was hardly a trace of him. Yet, he had a family that started in 1833 – when Portland became incorporated as a city – according to a birth certificate he filed for his first son, Jeremy Kincaid Stormer.

Danny was able to find out a lot of things about his grandfather Jeremy Kincaid. He became a state senator and was a well-respected man in Maine. He had six children. Danny’s father, Percy Irwin Stormer, was the youngest of the group.

While pondering about his great-great grandfather one day and idea came to him. He should go to the attic and see what was up there. He was no boy now. Sheets covering objects didn’t scare him.

As he walked up the stairs they seemed narrower than the last time. He knew it was because he was older and larger, but somehow it made him a little uncomfortable. The door creaked loudly when he opened it.

It was still light outside but shadows were forming in the niches and corners of the attic. Danny went to a row of old steamer chests and opened one. It was full off oddities like shrunken heads and voodoo dolls.

He went to another one. It was harder to open but he finally pried it apart. It was full of books. They all appeared to be in foreign languages like Greek and Arabic. It was obvious they were old. The ornate gold gilded jackets were bound in leather.

Danny stood up and looked around the room and spotted the sheets. He hesitated for a moment and then laughed at himself for doing so. “I’m a big boy now,” he said out loud.

He pulled off the nearest sheet with a dramatic flare and froze! The thing he uncovered was something from H.P. Lovecraft’s nightmares! It’s misshapen body was half man and half monster. The white marble monstrosity gleamed in the fading light from above.

Danny had never seen anything like it. Still stunned, he pulled the sheet off another statue. It was part bull, and part man, carved out of brown granite. As he uncovered the rest of the statues his mind had a hard time accepting what he was seeing.

They were all grotesque and unique. He never saw anything like them in books or movies. When he got to the last sheet he uncovered a large oval mirror set in a mahogany frame. It’s glass was smoky at the edges, but the center was still in good shape.

“Don’t just stand there man! There’s work to be done!” the man in the mirror said.

Danny fell backward and knocked over the marble monstrosity. “What the hell?” he gasped, sprawled out on the floor.

“Oh get up! I need out of here!” the man groused.

Danny stood up, eyes bulging in terror, and stammered…”Who are you?”

The man crossed his arms thoughtfully. “I’m Bradford Niles Stormer. I believe you’re one of my descendents.”

“I believe I’m going crazy,” Danny said, and ran out of the attic, not even bothering to close the door behind him. He was breathless with horror and confusion when he got to his library.

His mind was trying to accept what he saw and heard, but there was a fog around the process. It wasn’t logical. It couldn’t be real. Yet, he saw and heard something. His curiosity about his great ancestor was peaked. He had to find out more about him.

He spent the rest of the day going through the books stacked neatly in the shelves surrounding the room. He was looking for anything to do with his mysterious relative. His search was unsuccessful, as he sat down at the massive cherry wood desk that was as old as the house.

Not willing to give up, he opened the center drawer and went through it carefully. Nothing of interest. He tried the upper right-hand drawer and the lower one. Nothing. The left hand door was locked. Curious now, he examined the keyhole. There must be a key somewhere he thought.

He went back to the center drawer and find a little tin box that he failed to open. A gold key was inside. It fit the drawer perfectly. Sliding it open he saw a small book titled “Diary of Jeremy Kincaid Stormer.” His grandfather.

He realized that he was hungry and hadn’t eaten all day. Taking the diary with him he went to the kitchen and put together a sandwich consisting of peanut butter and peach jam. He sat down at the table and munched on it as he read the diary.

His grandfather’s words chilled him to the bone. Bradford was a warlock. He hid the fact from his son for years. But an incident happened when Jeremy was only eleven years-old, that changed his life forever.

The newly formed township of Portland had a mayor and city council. A concerned citizen appeared before the august leaders one day and claimed Bradford had put a spell on him and his livestock!

The city leaders consisted of Puritans who believed that the devil, warlocks, and witches wandered the land victimizing unwary humans. When one of Bradford’s servants reported that she heard him talking to the devil, the city fathers decided action had to be taken.

So they came and took Bradford. His trial lasted one day (actually less than an hour) and he was declared guilty of conspiring with the devil to do harm to the local townspeople. The days of witch-burning had mostly passed, but there were still cases reported in the New England area.

On a chilly morning the town father’s dragged Bradford out of the jail before most of the town was awake. They bound him tightly with a hemp rope attached to bags of heavy rocks.

Jeremy was in the small group that witnessed his father taken out to the center of the river and tossed overboard without so much as a word. The four men rowed back to shore and left without talking to anyone.

Jeremy, whose mother had died from consumption, a year before, was raised by his Uncle Harold, Bradford’s brother. It turned out that Harold was a warlock too. The night before Bradford was executed Harold visited him in the prison. The two men chanted throughout the night.

When young Jeremy and his uncle Harold returned to the house after Bradford’s death they went up to the attic. Harold explained that the mirror in the center of the room was magical and he must not ever talk about it. It had to be kept secret.

He explained that his father’s soul was in the mirror waiting to be released into another body. He made sure to impress Jeremy with importance of the secret and how it could cost him his life if he did.

Harold assured him that he would find the right spell to release his father. The magic that the two conjured up that last night, was ancient and was a last-ditch attempt to save Bradford. Now it was up to Harold to find the right spell to free him. The rare books in the steamer trunk were collected by Harold in his search to help his brother.

But Harold was in poor health and one day fell of his horse. He was dead before he hit the ground with a heart attack.

Danny put the diary down after finishing it. The last entry was made on the day Harold died, and simply said…”I’m trying brother.

So there it was. His great-great grandfather was more than just a dark sheep in the family. He was a warlock. His son Jeremy didn’t want anything to do with black magic and covered the mirror up, along with the strange statues he collected while traveling abroad.

Danny had trouble going to sleep that night. When he did fall asleep he had terrible nightmares that covered him in sweat. There was a lurking evil in the house. It lived in the attic.

When he woke in the morning he skipped his normal routine of showering and shaving and went right to the attic. As he went up the stairs he could only think about destroying the mirror and the thing inside of it.

Just before he reached the landing a rush of wind came out of the open door and caught him off guard! He lost his balance and tumbled backwards and down the stairs. He suffered massive trauma to his head and bled out on the floor where his crumpled body lay.

His oldest sister Bella found him two days later when she came by to visit. After the funeral Bella and Doris found the diary, but thought nothing of it, putting it in a box containing the rest of the contents of the desk in the library.

They went into the attic and found the mirror and statues still uncovered. As Bella prepared to cover the mirror with a nearby sheet, a voice caught her off guard, “Don’t be alarmed ladies! I just need a little help!”

Their screams echoed through the whole house!

As It Stands, it was a family thing.

Hot Tubs In Hell and Other Guilty Pleasures

“Those boobs up top sure got things wrong preaching about how bad hell would be,” Anton said between sips of Bushnell’s Irish whiskey.

“Goes to show you the power of propaganda,” Damon added.

The two lost souls, as they laughingly called themselves, got up from their table and left the waiter a big tip. As they strolled down the well-paved main street they decided it was time to take a hot tub and to smoke some killer Purple Kush.

Hot tubs in hell are huge. The two joined a group of ten people passing LSD tabs around and singing songs of freedom. The multi-colored lights in the hot tub danced off the faces of the happy revelers.

Anton passed a blunt to Damon, who took a big hit, and passed it on. Jim Morrison was singing the long version of The End while making suggestive sexual moves with his microphone.

Janis Joplin was explaining why hell always got such a bad rap to a group of eager-eyed rock and roll fans. In a nearby wading/walking-pool the size of New Jersey, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler kept looking over their shoulders in fear while paddling around the perimeter.

“I’m not sure I should be in the same room with those two murderous dictators,” Anton ventured. “I was no angel, but…”

“I get your point,” Damon replied. “We need to find someone who can explain this oddity. Neither of us are mass killers. A drunk, and a politician, but not killers.

An hour later, Anton and Damon entered through the bat-wing doors of the most popular bar around – The Hot Spot. Both bellied up to the bar and called for Scotch.

Billie Holiday, with Jelly Roll Morton on the piano, were performing Lady Sings The Blues on a small stage in the rear of the bar. The dance floor was expansive, providing room for fifty gyrating couples.

Damon noticed Friedrich Nietzsche sitting at the end of the bar and nudged Anton, “There’s the guy that might have the answer to our question,” he said. They got up and approached Nietzsche cautiously.

“Excuse us sir, but we could not help noticing you. We are both big fans of your work and have a question for you.” Nietzsche narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Yes…”

“How is it great thinkers like yourself, or just common guys like us, are in the same place as mass murders like Hitler and Mussolini?”

Nietzsche did something he seldom did up above, he smiled.

“It’s my pleasure to tell you,” he said, and stood up facing them.

“First I must tell you there are many theories why everyone ended up in the same place. Mine, a well-thought out one, centers on the fact that I was right about there being no God, or Devil. 

“Second, there is no heaven (with harp-playing angels and golden gates), but there sure the heck is a hell. That’s why we’re down here together – regardless of what we did above. But there’s no devil directing activities. Just a lot of people who never learned to get along together when they were alive.”

“Finally, and this is the one that’ll rock your world, you fools were in heaven! That’s right. That time you had alive…that was it, my inquiring friends. You were in Heaven.”

As It Stands, just adding to the many ongoing conversations about what’ll happen when we die.

Global Warming Affects Hell

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The devil was furious! Hell was frozen over!

Tortured souls were no longer being burned in hellfires because they were snuffed out by freezing temperatures.

The volcanos stop spewing lava, and became encrusted in ice.

Lost souls were having a good time skating on the ice that formed over the rivers of fire throughout hell.

What made it especially galling for the devil was that it was all his own doing that caused the situation!

For decades, he worked with his minions on earth to infiltrate governments and to cause as much havoc as possible. One of the devil’s pet projects was convincing gullible humans that they weren’t polluting the planet, and that climate change was fake news.

He hand-picked, pliable, politicians told people global warming was just an excuse to hold back progress.

All the politicians had to do was deny facts, sell their souls, and make sure fossil fuels continued to spew into the atmosphere unabated.

For eons, the devil’s tactics bore fruit and the planet became so polluted people could no longer eat fish from the ocean or rivers. Gray blankets of smoke smothered cities from New Delhi, India to Los Angeles, California.

The smog became so thick people could taste it. Those who could afford it wore stylish gas masks, while the poor had none.

The oceans rose eight-feet in some parts of the world, leaving places like Florida little more than half the land size it had two decades ago. The east and west coasts of the United States were completely reconfigured by the rising waters.

Massive rogue electrical storms in the sky and stratosphere made plane travel treacherous. Intense heat spurred fires across the globe. Water tables dried up in heavily populated desert areas like Palm Springs, California.

But in hell, the changes were welcomed by the suffering souls. The parts of hell that didn’t freeze over were warm with tropical climates, lush fruit trees, and plants.

The devil had outsmarted himself.

As It Stands, I always thought the devil and global warming might have a connection.

The Time Traveler and the Devil

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Salem, Massachusetts, 1691

“C’mon children, I don’t have much time,” the old man said.

As each child arrived they brought an armful of firewood and stacked it near the old man’s stool.

All of the children from the village gathered around the bonfire and waited for him to tell his story.

“There was this Time Traveler…”

“What was his name?” a five year-old girl interrupted.

Her 10-year old brother scolded her, and apologized.

“There was this Time Traveler who set out trying to undo the works of the devil. He came from a future that was fighting extinction. Between global pollution and wars, there were also fantastic inventions being created.

One was by a man who chose not to share his discovery of time travel with the other wise men of the day. He didn’t trust them. The devil had done his job well and his servants were legion.

Inspired by a desire to save humanity, the man used his invention to go back into history and intercede in events that led to the sorry conditions of his day. But no good act, or thought, escapes the devil for long and he became aware of this Time Traveler’s mission.

Listen closely now my children, because I have a warning for you. The devil has plans for your town. Innocent people will be killed by hysteria caused by the dark angel. Your parents wouldn’t listen to me today at the town hall meeting.

Now it’s up to you to stop the devil’s work. That’s why I asked you to come here tonight.”

After the old man, aka the Time Traveler, left Salem he went back to the future (2018) to see what the results of his intervention was. Nothing changed. The history books still told of Salem’s witch trials and the murder of innocent women.

It became clear that history could not be changed. The wrong-doings undone. His hopes of deliverance were dashed upon the rocks of his aspirations. The ability to travel back in time didn’t solve the planets problems.

Then he thought about the future. What did it have to offer that might defeat the devil?

It was a close call. The Time Traveler discovered chaos. He stayed inside his pod and ran tests to determine if life still existed. It didn’t. The atmosphere was full of deadly gases. Volcanos were constantly erupting, spewing ash across the planet.

A thought entered his head. What if he could get the devil to travel with him to this man-made hell? If he did, what would happen if he set a bomb to go off inside the pod? He knew the bomb wouldn’t kill the devil, but it would destroy the time machine. Perhaps the devil could be trapped in the future.

It was worth a try. There were no other options.

Back to 2018

The Time Traveler succeeded by taunting the devil. He accused the dark lord of being afraid of the future. He called him the biggest coward in heaven and hell. Finally, the devil accepted his challenge to travel to the future with him.

It turned out to be the one domain the devil had no power in. When the pod blew up he was left alone on a sinking island. An outcast once again. Without his presence among mankind, history reflected a totally different story.

As It Stands, fighting the devil is a theme I’ll never get tired of.