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.

Stolen Souls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Great Whodini Aka Malgog

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Roaring 20s – America

It was a Golden Age for magic in America, thanks to escape artist and magician Harry Houdini, and his contemporaries.

The competition among magic acts was fierce with performers like George The Supreme Master of Magic, Chang and Fak-Hong, Thurston The World Famous Magician, Alexander, The Man Who Knows, and the Black Houdini.

Some may argue that it was a time of naivety and gullibility. One thing was for sure, people were always looking for the next great trick, or escape. This story is about one of those magicians.

Pima, Arizona – The Valley of the Gila River

It was just breaking light when the Martian space ship crashed into a copse of trees near the Gila River. Two, of the crew of three, were killed on impact. The survivor was still inside an escape pod that was never launched.

When Malgog woke up hours later, he felt like every bone in his body was broken. His head ached and his vision was blurred. Somehow he got out of the pod that was partially pinned down by a massive bank of computers that shifted on impact.

Instinct told him to get clear of the crippled craft. Once outside he looked around at his surroundings. No cities. No people. That was a good. He crawled back inside of the ship and gathered some supplies.

While inside, he activated two plasma bombs. He was almost a mile away when they went off, disintegrating the ship. The glow competed with the rising sun.

Malgog was stranded. Marooned on Earth. He knew full well he’d never see the underground oceans of Mars again. If nothing else, Malgog was logical. He was also thankful that he could live in Earth’s environment.

The tunnels and caverns of Mars provided an atmosphere much like Earth’s.

As he walked through the rough countryside, he began mentally preparing himself for contact with earthlings. He had a language app on his wristband that sent translations directly into the receiver implanted in the back of his skull.

He reviewed what he learned in the Galaxy Guide To The Planets. There was a summary of mankind’s evolution and history that left off somewhere after the Civil War in America.

Malgog had two very positive things going for him; like all Martians he could read minds, and his strength was that of five men.

When he reached the little town of Pima, founded by the Mormons in 1879, he walked down the wooden sidewalk peering inside of windows. He passed the bat doors of the town saloon, and approached a man sitting on a wooden chair precariously balanced on two legs.

He had a bottle of whiskey in one hand and was mumbling to himself when Malgog said “Hello.”

It startled him enough to bring his chair down on all fours as the man looked up at the speaker. He was a tall man with a good tan and a bald head. He was also wearing an outfit like the drunk had never seen before.

It was a black one-piece affair that fit like a second skin. He wore a belt with metal pouches. The drunk, whose name was Arron, looked at the wall near where Malgog was standing and the poster on it.

The poster featured a colorfully clad magician waving a wand and wearing a cape.

“Hello, right back at you,” he replied. “Who are you? A magician? The next Whodini?” he laughed heartedly at his own joke.

An inspiration came to Malgog, and he said “Yes. I’m the Great Malgog!”

That seemed to sober Arron up a bit and he took a long look at him.

“Where’s you cape?” he demanded.

“Lost. I could use your help. I’m stranded here without any means due to unfortunate circumstances.”

“I like the name Whodini better,” he mused. “All right then friend, follow me. You can sleep on the floor in my rented room. I might even have an extra blanket. Been getting cold at night. It’s almost winter.”

Two Year’s Later.

Arron still couldn’t believe his luck. Malgog turned out to be an instant hit on the magic circuit, and he was his manager. No more Podunk towns like Pima. They had a grand house in Boulder, Colorado. Servants and all.

Malgog was so popular in the Midwest that he and Arron only picked the best venues. Their partnership was solid, and served them both well. In the main room of their elegant house there were photographs of him lifting impossibly heavy objects.

Theatre posters with examples of The Great Malgog’s magic tricks also adorned the lavishly decorated room.

His success did not rob him of his logic. He purposely stayed away from the West and East coast magic circuits. The one thing he didn’t want to do was to become so famous that people demanded to know about his background.

He could invent one, but it could eventually be debunked. Instead he preferred to be a man of mystery in real life. He never granted interviews with the press and always left by back exits after his performances.

Arron was his connection to the world. After six years Malgog retired, and they bought a ranch near Billings, Montana. Before Malgog died 15 years later of natural causes, he confessed his true identity to Arron…his one friend on Earth. He creamated the stranded Martian and threw his personal things into a lake.

But, Arron couldn’t just let Malgog’s story go untold. When he went to the press he was greeted with skepticism and laughter. Finally, his brother appeared and put the now frail old man in a home.

So, now you know the story of the greatest magician there ever was – and it wasn’t Harry Houdini.

As It Stands, this tale of a marooned Martian was a fun way to revive the Golden Age of magic.

A Tale Of Forgotten Heroes

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404 BC. Greece

I’ve seen my death, and it’s coming soon.

So, I need to tell you a story, not just about me, but also about my brave comrades who gave their lives fighting the monster Chaos.

If I don’t share what happened, the world will never hear of the epic fight waged between the cruel beast Chaos, and the Spartan heroes who defied him. There were no witnesses to our great deed.

Only me. It wasn’t supposed to be so. A city that promised immortality lied to us.

I’d try to write my story down if I could, but as you can see, I’m missing an arm and the other is dangling uselessly beside me. So please, kind sir, listen closely and share our tale with the world.

My name is Ajax. No, not the famous Ajax from the from the Trojan War. Just a common Spartan raised from birth to fight the state’s enemies. My eleven comrades and I were returning from the Decelean War when we camped outside a city one night.

It was dark when we arrived and none of us wanted to be mistaken for an enemy by a jittery night guard at the city’s main gate. We could see bonfires inside the fortified compound as we settled in for the night.

My eleven comrades names were; Aegues, Alecto, Caedmon, Darragh, Fausto, Isai, Maarku, Ondrej, Rehor, Ujarak, and Vadik. We were all from the same city, Lacedaemon. We were all on our way home after years of fighting.

We planned to buy more food for our journey in the morning. Because we were military men we always posted a revolving guard around our perimeter.

In the early dawn hours, when most people slept, there came screams of terror within the fort. They got louder and soon everyone in our camp was standing, armed and ready for whatever may happen.

As we watched we could see bodies flying off the ramparts near the main gate. Horrified screams tore the night apart as some terrible thing attacked the people inside. Suddenly the main gate shook and came crashing down!

The thing that came out was from a nightmare. It was nearly twice as tall as me, and I’m the tallest in our little band. It’s massive arms and chest bulged with corded muscle. It’s long legs were equally muscled.

It was carrying a huge axe and wore a belt of human heads around its massive girth. The creatures long blond hair was soaked in human blood that dripped onto its face and dyed its beard red.

In the light of the full moon we watched it lumber off in an easterly direction. We were all thankful it didn’t see us. We watched the pandemonium – people with torches at the main gate – from the top of a gentle slope near our camp.

We got up early the next morning and walked down to the fort’s entrance. Men were already working on repairing the heavy metal door and putting it back into position as we rode up to a guard.

A row of bodies with shrouds over them lined the street.

He was a talkative fellow and filled us in on what happened. Apparently the monster, he said his name was Chaos, had been extracting a horrible tribute from this city and another east of it for two years.

No one had been able to stand up against Chaos. The city first fought back against Chaos’s demands of human sacrifice every full moon, but when the beast killed fifty of it’s best warriors in a single battle, they knew they were defeated.

The reason Chaos attacked them was because there were no sacrifices waiting for slaughter. Instead they dared to try to ambush him, and paid the price.

The guard led us to the city father’s who were gathered around a bonfire and arguing among themselves. They grew silent as our little company approached. They quickly shared their story when we asked.

In the end, we agreed to kill the monster Chaos in exchange for each man’s weight in gold and statues of us all in the main square. What can I say? We were virile warriors who feared nothing, having defied death daily for most of our lives.

A guide was assigned to us, a freed slave I believe. His name was Xander. He led us to Chaos’s lair in the nearby mountains. We only knew one way to fight…and that was head on! We called out to the vile creature and mocked him as a coward.

When he came out of the cave he was rubbing his eyes in the bright sunlight. In that moment we surrounded him and attacked! It’s strength was unbelievable as it tore off arms and heads with gruesome ease.

Everyone of us wounded Chaos, but he was impervious from pain despite the deep slashes our swords were making.

Finally, it was just brave Aegues and I fighting. Chaos tore my arm off, and I fell. But even as I fell, Aegues did what no other man could…he pierced the creature’s black heart and killed it!

Before it died however, it tore his head off! As I lay wounded, Xander appeared and treated my wounds. My right arm was gone, and the left broken in two places. He took me to an old woman who lived alone in the mountains and was thought to be a witch.

She treated me as best as she could. I’m broken up inside as well as out, and there’s not much to do about it. As I rested at her hut word came of a celebration in the two cities freed from Chaos’s reign of terror.

There was no talk of my comrades and I saving them all. No talk of statues to be built-in our honor. We were forgotten, like we never existed.

I talked the old lady into hiring you Zack, to take me home in your cart. You see, my legs are useless too. The old lady said it was because of my broken back.

But, I fear I’m not going to see the green fields surrounding my childhood home. So, I humbly ask you to tell our story to everyone you meet.

“Of course,” Zack said.

Two days later, Ajax quietly died in his sleep. Zack buried him in a nearby field with no marker.

On his way home Zack tried to remember everything Ajax told him. Unfortunately, Zack was a simple man with a poor memory and by the time he returned home he’d forgotten the whole story.

As It Stands, this tale is for all forgotten hereos.

The Time Assassin

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2037 – A secret location in Mandan, North Dakota

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

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

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

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

It’s time for today’s mission.”

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

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

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

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

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

He obediently sat down.

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

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

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

Lou punched in the time machine’s coordinates:

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

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

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

Back in 2037

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

Josh was still in the chair. Unconscious.

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

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

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

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

The ‘Sleepers’ Mission For Humanity

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She lied.

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

Revenge of The Kentucky ‘Coon’ Boy

cute-raccoon-taylor-momsen-zoo-Favim.com-114927Brownsville, Kentucky, 1869

Elijah Watson petted the big raccoon snuggled up against him on the porch.

He liked to sit out there most of the day while his big sister cleaned and cooked inside.

When someone went by, on horse, or just walking, he always waved and smiled at them. Most folks in Brownsville ignored his odd behavior. There were some however, who went out of their way to be kind to him.

Mr. Buell at the General Store always had a piece of hard candy for Elijah. It was common knowledge he wasn’t right in the head, but he was considered harmless by the townspeople.

According to the town elders, Elijah was six years-old when he saw his parents murdered by two Confederate soldiers who thought they were hiding a slave. They didn’t even notice the frail little boy huddled in the corner as they light the furniture on fire.

A neighbor who saw the smoke quickly gathered up the townspeople and organized a bucket brigade to keep the fire from spreading. It was Elijah’s sister Sarah who raced into the home and rescued him.

That was the last time he spoke. Months after the horrific event Elijah wandered away from their temporary tent home one night. He went into the forest and roamed around unafraid of animals.

At one point he discovered a raccoon caught in a trap. The cruel steel teeth were sunk into the raccoon’s rear leg. It was lying there exhausted from struggling. Without hesitation, Elijah summoned up all of his strength and pulled the trap open.

The startled raccoon managed to hobble away, but not before it sat there and looked Elijah in the eyes. A silent communication passed between them.

When Sarah found him the next day he was still wandering around aimlessly in the forest. After that Sarah kept a closer eye on him. One day she came out to the porch of their recently rebuilt home, and found him sitting next to a huge raccoon.

Her first instinct was that it may be rabid, out in the day like this, but the longer she looked it became apparent it was enjoying being petted by Elijah. She watched the unusual scene with interest for over an hour before it left.

When she questioned Elijah about his new friend he smiled. She hadn’t seen him smile since their parent’s violent deaths. She smiled back at him.

Since that day, the raccoon would come by at different times and snuggle up next to Elijah for a few hours on the porch. Folks got use to the odd sight after a while. One evening when Elijah went outside to get some firewood his raccoon friend showed up with six other raccoons.

On closer inspection Elijah could tell five of them were smaller and younger, and the other was nearly his friend’s size. It was his family. A delighted Elijah sat down on a log and took turns petting them as each one approached him.

After petting each of them they hurried off into the darkness. The biggest one, his friend, sat and looked at him for a while. He came up and brushed against Elijah like a big cat. Then he scampered away.

Meanwhile, Sarah was wondering what happened to him, and stepped out onto the porch calling his name. He appeared with some split wood a moment later, and grinned at her in that loopy way of his.

As fate would have it, the two men who killed Elijah and Sarah’s parents came though town one day. They tied up their horses and went into the saloon. Hours later the two men came out of the saloon staggering and drunk as lords.

They managed to make it to the boarding house across from where Elijah was sitting and petting the raccoon. One of them spotted him and started laughing. That brought the other back out and they stumbled across the dirt road to where he sat.

“Oh Lordy! Look at the Coon Boy!” one of them laughed.

They saw a frail young man and easy prey. Inside the house, Sarah heard the commotion on the porch and grabbed her rifle and ran out the front door. The startled men backed up as she leveled the shotgun’s twin barrels at them.

She didn’t recognize who they were because she wasn’t in the house when her parents were murdered, but a grim glimmer in Elijah’s eyes told a different story. He knew who they were.

Threatening all kinds of retribution, the two drunks made their way back to the boarding house and to their bedrooms.

Despite Sarah’s pleading, Elijah wanted to stay outside longer. She finally gave up and went inside. He waited patiently. When the raccoon showed up he petted it, and asked, “Will you kill them for me?”

The next day the boarding house maid found the two bloody bodies in their beds. They were torn to pieces by wild animals the Sheriff said, after examining the corpses.

“Gotta tell you boys, I ain’t never seen these kinds of wounds. Looks like a bunch of varmits ganged up on ’em.” 

Sarah couldn’t believe her ears when Elijah asked for more milk that morning at breakfast. The rest of her life she made sure to tell everyone about the miracle.

As It Stands, one persons revenge can be another’s miracle.