The ‘Thrill Pill’ Man’s Gamble

 

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2194 – New York City

For the first time in mankind’s history, there were no wars on earth.

Peace reigned, thanks to technological advances and genetics. Poverty no longer existed. There was enough food and housing for all. There was one worldwide government led by a president who served a 10-year term.

Crime was non-existent. The factors that led to crime were eliminated from the collective DNA of most of the people on earth through 100 years of genetic engineering. But not all of them.

There were the unaffected, whose DNA was post 100-years ago pure Homo sapiens. They experienced emotional ups and downs, unlike the rest of the sedated world population. These outcasts lived in the fringes of the cities.

In the sewer systems and old subway tunnels mostly, but also in the massive landfills.

Above ground, as each person drove or walked to work, there was strict order. Routines ingrained in each brain. No road rage. No late trains. No violent crime. No guns or weapons of any kind.

Romance was gone, replaced by a passionless urge to procreate. There were no sports teams. There was no competition anywhere in the new global society. Conversations were casual and without complaints. Everyone had a place in the new world order.

Everyone but the outcasts, of course.

Despite being outcasts, they had a functioning society of their own. It wasn’t always pretty, but was crudely effective. In it, there were scientists who managed to operate in temporary labs located in the long abandoned subway tunnels.

The New York outcasts had no way of knowing if there were others like them hiding in cities around the world. Their world was defined by underground tunnels and landfills. If they were caught above ground they’d be gently restrained, their DNA tested, and then executing by lethal injection.

Among those scientists was a man named, Abraham Orlins, who was considered the most intelligent and creative among them. After years of experimenting, Abraham came up with a “thrill pill.”

It was part of his, and his colleagues master plan, to regain their place above ground once more. The pills, that only worked on humans missing certain DNA markers, were a one-hour realistic, exciting, experience that left the taker forever changed.

The emotional charge was addicting. Just like he knew it would be.

The pills were water-soluble allowing them to be used two ways; swallowed whole, or dissolved in a liquid.

After discussing the pill’s properties, the small group of scientists decided to put the first batch into the city’s water system. The complex system relied on a combination of tunnels, aqueducts, and reservoirs to meet the city’s daily needs.

Abraham and one of his colleagues, Clive Warner, were picked to deliver “Abe’s Thrill Pills” as they were darkly dubbed, to the nearest reservoir. As soon as it was dark outside they surfaced and headed for the reservoir.

Just before the sun rose, the two men returned, tired but triumphant.

It took longer than they thought. They observed the daily traffic above for several days before the first incident happened.

A speeding car slammed into the rear end of a delivery truck. Both drivers got out of their vehicles and fought like two honey-badgers to the horror of the onlookers!

By the next day, traffic was no longer flowing. The streets were clogged with abandoned vehicles. Arguments and fights broke out in the boardrooms of the skyscrapers and in the grocery stores.

As visitors came to New York and were exposed to the water, they didn’t want to leave. A growing awareness among the residents that it was the water which gave them their thrills resulted in entrepreneurs bottling it and selling it worldwide.

No one knew how to stop the spread of growing violence. Armed groups of angry men were seen beating and robbing innocent people. On the other hand, passion and romance attracted everyone – angry or not.

Abraham continued to pour his Thrill Pills into the waterways, and even managed to get them to people who were happy to sell them for profit. One entrepreneur passed them out as party favors during a government function for members of the new world order and the President.

Excitement grew among the underground community of New York. Abraham and the scientists had come forward and told them what was happening.

“Soon, my brothers and sisters, we’ll be welcomed with open arms and will assume our place above ground, the way it was intended to be,” Abraham assured the underground community.

Six months later the first nuke hit New York City.

As It Stands, my cynicism about humanity often creeps into these short narratives.

The Last Ship To Saturn

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The crew of the Golden Geode crossed their fingers as the ship struggled through a space storm.

There was no turning back to earth. They had to get to the closest planet, Saturn.

The ship’s hull quivered as they entered Saturn’s atmosphere that was also experiencing massive turbulence and white-out blizzards.

The Planetary Federation Way Station was their destination. Relying on the ship’s automatic pilot they landed on an open strip of land near the Way Station. The ship’s three-man crew and six passengers donned protective suits and helmets and climbed down the ship’s ladder.

The space suits had built-in guidance systems so the tiny group were able to find the Way Station despite being blinded by the furious blizzard. An automatic air lock door opened as they approached.

The environment inside was exactly like earth. Lining one wall was a series of hologram fireplaces and comfy country scenes. There was a well-stocked bar offering liquors from throughout the solar system.

The supervisor at the Way Station asked the Golden Geode’s captain if the supply ship was close behind him?

No. As far as I could tell, it turned around before the space storm hit. We were lucky to even make it here. My ship has suffered some damage that will have to be taken care of.”

A look of concern passed across the supervisor’s face. He stroked his beard thoughtfully before telling the captain the bad news, “We’re almost out of food for the nine people here (counting myself), and with the addition of nine more people we have a big problem.”

The captain’s relief at landing safely and being inside a shelter slipped away like a thief in the night. Now he was faced with another life or death situation.

Just to complicate things, three of the passengers were criminals being transported to the prison planet Pluto. The other three passengers were their guards.

According to the Way Station’s weather service the blizzard wasn’t going away soon. The wind gusts were the fastest ever recorded since the station was built 50 years ago. No one was going anywhere.

The food was rationed among the eighteen people and lasted one week. Hunger was clawing at their guts after 10 days and the first fight broke out. One of the employees at the Way Station had been drinking booze on and off for two days when he assaulted the only female employee.

The attack was swift and vicious! He bit her arm and then sunk his teeth into her left breast. The woman’s screams aroused one of the guards and he ran to her rescue. He hit the attacker on his head with a billy club.

In his anger he didn’t stop hitting the attacker until he was a bloody mess and dead. By then everyone was awake and watching the gruesome scene. The captain and the supervisor pulled the guard off the dead man.

He had blood splattered all over his face and arms. They drug the body over to a corner of the main lounge and threw a rug over it. After questioning the female employee they decided not to take any action against the guard.

By day 14 everyone, but one of the guards, was so weakened they could barely walk. All they had was water, which they drank in such quantities it made them sick and spew it back up. One guard wasn’t losing weight like the rest.

Finally, one night when everyone was sleeping, but the captain and the guard, the loathsome truth came to light. The captain, who woke up from a nightmare, saw the guard lift the rug in the corner of the room.

He watched as the guard cut away slices of dead flesh and then cover the body back up.

The next day the captain told the supervisor what he saw. They both walked over to the body and lifted up the rug. Almost half of the rotting flesh was gone. Cut to the bone.

They gathered everyone together in the center of the main lounge. Almost all had to crawl to get there. A vote was taken. Not to punish the guard, but to do the same thing. When the rest of the meat was gone they decided to hold a lottery.

The loser was the next meal.

When the supply ship arrived two months later they were surprised to see the Way Station empty. Searchers finally discovered a man hiding behind the bar.

“You look good enough to eat,” the captain said, as they helped him to his feet.

 As It Stands, I had the ill-fated Donner Party in mind when I wrote this modern version about cannibalism.

The Trash Man Cometh

 

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New York City, 1968

Without a contract, the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association went on a strike in February. It lasted nine days, but the five boroughs looked like a war zone afterward.

The citywide work stoppage meant no one picked up the city’s tons of garbage. Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island were all awash in trash for over a week.

The stench was indescribable. People were forced to walk in the debris and filth. There was probably only one person in the entire city who was happy about the stinky chaos; Luke Johnson.

Luke lived wherever he felt like. In an alley, or on a park bench. If the weather was really bad, in a pay-per day motel. But Luke wasn’t poor. He actually had a fair amount of money building up in his mother’s checking account.

Between his Social Security disability check and VA disability check, he made $4,038 a month. Tax free. His mother was his payee and his checks were automatically deposited in her account.

When he wanted money he’d go to her house in Staten Island. She lived alone since his father died five years ago. Not quite alone, she had two pugs and a very large cat.

Luke’s favorite pastime was murdering people.

Despite his mental challenges and numerous paranoid fantasies, he was clever as an animal in the wild. He set things up – like someone accidentally falling down steep stairs – where it looked like their death was an accident.

He killed for the thrill of it. The adrenaline surge was addicting. He was also creative.

When the garbage strike started he saw new possibilities. People were desperate to get rid of their trash after day one. Luke took his 1959 Ford pickup, which he usually kept in storage, and went around offering to haul people’s trash.

He wasn’t thinking about the money, however, he was thinking about the opportunities this little game offered. By the third day he had people hailing him down and begging him to take their trash.

One woman invited him inside her apartment to gather up some large trash bags. He made short work of her. The look of terror in her eyes when he pulled out his K-bar knife gave him the thrill he was seeking.

She wasn’t a very big woman. He wrapped her up in a sleeping bag and carried her like a rug out to his truck. No one paid attention as he threw more bags of trash on the sleeping bag until the bed was full.

He went to the landfill and had to wait for two hours before he got to dump his load. On his way back to the garage where he stored the truck a tune kept going through his head…

He made three kills the fourth day, disposing of each body in the same way. Two women and one man in a wheelchair. The fifth day he picked off three more victims. He was starting to have headaches from the adrenaline overload and took a break for three days.

When the ninth day arrived he heard the rumors. The union was getting what it wanted, livable wages and benefits. The sanitation workers were going back to work. But the access he had to people’s homes had inspired him.

He knew he couldn’t hold down a job, but it wouldn’t be hard to get a pair of sanitation work overalls.

Maybe have Supervisor in red letters written on the top pocket. The possibilities were endless.

“The Trashman cometh…” he crooned, as he looked for a park bench to sleep on.

As It Stands, never underestimate someone you don’t know. We are all capable of pure evil.

The Killer Child’s Story

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Chapel Hill, Tennessee – 1975

Some people are born evil.

They don’t have to have an excuse like being brought up in a bad environment, or cruel parents, to become cold-hearted killers.

Murder is in their DNA. These bad seeds often go undetected for most of their lives.

They appear normal. They may be your neighbor, or a corner grocery store clerk. Or, the kid down the street.

Barry Lee Forrest was the great-great-great grandson of Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the most feared Confederate Generals in the Civil War.

The Union general William Tecumseh Sherman called him “that devil Forrest” during wartime communications with Ulysses S. Grant and considered him “the most remarkable man our civil war produced on either side.”  

When Barry Lee Forrest was three months old he nearly bit his mother’s nipple off! His shocked mother immediately ceased breast-feeding him. After that, he was put on the bottle and fed baby formula.

Chapel Hill, Tennessee – 1981

Forrest School – Elementary 1-6  

Barry Lee Forrest was in 1st grade. He was the shortest boy in the class. The bigger boys mistakenly thought little Barry was a pussy. The first time one of them pushed him down for no reason on the playground, they found out that out wasn’t the case.

The bully was stunned when Barry got up and kicked him in the groin. Then in the head while he was squirming in pain on the ground. And then…it took a teacher to get him off the now terrified bully.

Barry’s parents were called in and warned that one more violent incident and he would be suspended indefinitely. After that, Barry learned to get his revenge when others weren’t looking.

By 3rd grade, his one fight was forgotten, and he became popular with most of the boys and girls at Forrest School. He got high grades and was an honor roll student. It seemed there was something about his size that encouraged bullies.

While eating lunch in the school cafeteria one day with a couple of friends a fourth grader came up to him and spit on his chicken salad sandwich, and laughed. He was easily a foot taller than Barry, and was huskier than most of the kids in his 4th grade class.

Barry reacted by throwing his metal lunch box at the bully. That was enough for the bully who pulled him away from the table and threw him onto the floor. He fell onto Barry and began raining blows upon him as Barry tried to cover his face.

When the teacher and the principle got there Barry was barely conscious and was no longer resisting. He was transported to the hospital with two broken ribs, broken nose, and jaw.

The bully was permanently suspended and handed over to juvenile authorities.

Barry was in fifth grade when he found out where the bully was living and going to school. The simmering anger he carried for two years over his beating was boiling over. He skipped school one day and went over to the other side of town to Chapel Hill Elementary.

He knew the bully was going there because he was playing football, and his team played Forrest School Elementary. Barry went to all the school games with his friends. When he first saw the bully playing a plan began forming in his head.

Today was the day. He was going to follow him home. He knew the route the bully took walking home. His trip took him through a community park where Barry waited for him with a baseball bat.

It was dusk and the bully looked tired, carrying his football pads and helmet like they were made of lead. It was a long practice.

Barry stepped out from behind a tree as he passed and took a solid swing of the bat to the bully’s skull. He never knew what hit him. When Barry was done he was barely recognizable as a human being.

That’s when Barry realized he liked the power he felt when murdering someone. It was a shot of adrenaline unlike anything he’d experienced before. He became an instant addict. His next kill, also in Chapel Hill, came a month after the bully’s demise.

Word spread. There was a serial killer in Chapel Hill. The police and detectives came up with numerous profiles but no evidence on either case. School authorities warned students to not walk home alone. If they needed a ride the school provided it.

Barry’s parents, both community leaders, saw to it that he no longer walked to school. Who knew if the killer would strike at his school next? Chapel Hill Elementary wasn’t that far away.

One day, Barry brought some rat poison pellets that he ground-up to school. He went to the cafeteria as usual after second period to help set up for lunch. It was part of a good citizenship program the school had, and that he’d been in for two years.

That morning he got there early, and unobserved by the lone cook, he poured the contains of his baggie into the pot of chili.

Still undetected, he left and came back twenty minutes later when the other volunteers arrived. The woman in charge of the cafeteria gave them all chores to do. A normal morning.

Later that afternoon the reports began coming in. Two students died after eating food in the cafeteria. Then more students were reportedly rushed to the nearby hospital with signs of poisoning.

By the time the authorities figured out what killed the sixteen students it became the crime of the decade. The police utilized every resource and never gave up looking, but the days turned into months with no leads.

Barry’s thirst for blood got worse. He stole a machete out of a friend’s garage and beheaded a kid that he knew since 3rd grade, that lived right down the street from him.

His reign of terror in Marshall County came to an end abruptly a week later when a car ran through a red light and hit him in the crosswalk. He died instantly.

Family, friends, and his classmates at Forrest School Elementary went to Barry Lee’s funeral. He was remembered as a good kid, and a good student.

As It Stands, irony is a fact of life. So his evil.

The Martians Last Stand

 

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The underground city of Atoish, Mars – circa 3088.

A group of top Martian scientists and elders are gathered for one purpose; to save the planet.

For eons, their scientists tracked movements in the Milky Way. They observed strange spacecraft coming from the solar systems other planets.

Most explorers avoided Mars rugged desert landscape, but some came near enough to make close-up observations.

It was only a matter of time before someone discovered the artfully disguised tunnels leading underground.

When the first space craft landed on Mars in 3091, it was from Earth. Two earthlings exploring the terrain stumbled upon a tunnel entrance surrounded by boulders. The Martians greeted them warmly, and took them to their capital City of Atoish.

The earthlings told the Grand Council that they came in peace and were explorers from the planet Earth. It amused the Martians that the earthlings were so awed by the gems and precious metals they mined for ceremonial purposes.

Martian history books noted that one of the men, Major John Wayne Connors, was very greedy and lusted for Martian riches. He was caught stealing a bag of precious gems and the Grand Council immediately banned the earthlings from Mars for life.

Most historians agreed that letting them leave was the beginning of the end for Mar’s future. Historians that recorded the contact wrote that they should have killed them, and protected the secret of their presence on Mars. But that would have gone against their beliefs. Lives were more precious than riches.

Mars, unlike every other planet in the solar system, had never suffered the ravages of warfare. There were no warlords or armies. It’s inhabitants were peaceful and highly intelligent. It had always been so.

Two years after the earthlings were banned their Martians science had advanced to the point where they could send spy drones to all the planets, to observe their actions. Their advanced software allowed them to translate conversations.

After listening to communications from Earth for a year, the Grand Council gathered to see what they could do about the imminent invasion coming from Earth. They listened to how the governments of the world agreed on a joint expedition to loot Mar’s precious gems and minerals.

There were no weapons of war, or standing armies, on Mars. It was a planet blessed with peace for eons, and that was coming to an end. There was no way to resist an invasion fleet.

The elders had no doubt that they would slaughter the people so they made a drastic proposal; using their mining experience they would create earthquakes with their seismic knowledge that would go on forever.

Of course it meant death for all Martians, and their civilized society. But wasn’t that what they were already facing with the invasion? It was better than torture or captivity.

The Grand Council took a vote. All were in favor of the idea. Then the elders went out into the cities and small towns and told the people what was happening, giving them time to prepare for the end.

Two weeks after the Martians decision, the earthquakes began.

By the time the first invaders from earth arrived, the surface of the planet was too unstable to land on.

As It Stands, this is my take on human beings as the primary predators on earth…and possibly beyond.

The Dream Weavers of Druin

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Candlelight danced across the walls of the cavern, sending long shadows scurrying across its enormous length.  

The Dream Weavers of ancient Druin were chanting and swaying in unison. Their high voices, shrill and clear, reverberated off the sandstone walls.

Once in the chronicles of mankind, there was a great city in Egypt called Druin.

It was located in Keme (what the Egyptians called their country), and was the home of the Dream Weavers when mankind was still wearing animal skins and learning about the properties of fire.

They interpreted people’s dreams, and gave them dreams of hope. They were also known for giving good advise on any subject. They lived in perfect harmony with man and nature. Their engineering skills were far beyond any earthling’s ability.

No one knew where they came from. The ancient texts disagree on a couple of possibilities. The prevailing consensus was the Dream Weavers were from the stars.

Unfortunately, Druin was destroyed by warring armies during the dawn of two great civilizations; the Egyptians and the Hittites out of Asia minor.

The survivors were forced to go underground into a series of caves located beneath the ruins. It wasn’t long before the desert claimed the ruins, leaving mounds of sand where great towers once stood.

But myths and legends kept the story of the Dream Weavers alive. Ancient Egyptian scholars called them gods. Wise men from around the world devoted their lives to searching for the ancient city of Druin.

November 9th, 2024

Alexandria, Egypt

Aatami Emam, was a 45-year old scholar who devoted years to researching the Dream Weavers, and the ancient city of Druin. As a member of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, he was in the perfect place to combine work, and his own personal goals.

Discovering Druin was the main goal in life. He had a good reason too.

He lived in troubled times. The first nuclear strikes wiped out North Korea, Guam, and Osaka, Japan. More followed as Russia, China, The United States, Iran, and Israel, launched their nukes.

Although a worldwide truce was currently called, there were no guarantees that hostilities wouldn’t suddenly flare up again. The punishment to the planet and millions of people was profound and permanent.

Aatami knew his chances of finding Druin were slim. Hundreds tried before him. Even if he discovered Druin that didn’t mean he’d find a way to contact the Dream Weavers who he prayed were still around.

There was no other way he could help mankind. Then, the answer came to him in a dream.

He saw the way to Druin, and when he got there he woke up the sleeping Dream Weavers! His dream was so real that he thought it actually happened. The next morning he started packing and called a Turkish friend, Iskander,  who was a guide for archeological digs.

It took three days to get to the right spot in Iskander’s land rover. By noon of the fourth day they discovered, just beneath the surface, the ruins of Druin.

“Did you bring the sticks of dynamite?” Aatami asked Iskander.

“I did effendi, although I must tell you they weren’t easy to get,” he replied.

From a safe distance, they watched as the earth rose momentarily in a mighty shower of sand. A gaping hole was revealed when the sand finally settled back down.

Both men were veteran adventurers. This wasn’t the first time they went in search of something. They tied ropes to the land rover and skillfully repelled down the opening.

There was shards of mosaic tile on the ground. Ignoring them, Aatami went straight for a partly uncovered statue of a bearded man from the waist up. Just like in his dream. He approached it reverently and touched the torch in the man’s hand.

The sandstone walls started to rumble and the men were scared for their lives. When it the earth stopped shaking, an opening on one side of the hole was revealed. A cave. Pulling out their flashlights, they went inside.

Hours later, they came to a larger cavern and saw three rows of sixty men sitting on thrones. Apparently asleep. They were perfectly preserved. They wore silk robes that were combinations of every color in the rainbow.

“Now we wait,” Aatami said, as he sat down. They soon fell asleep.

In the two men’s dreams they saw the Dream Weavers rise from their thrones chanting something in a shrill long-forgotten language.

The next morning when they woke up, they felt hopeful about things in general.

Aatami’s gift from the Dream Weavers was the ability to bring peace wherever he went. He was also granted the power to give healing dreams to people suffering, and to interrupt their dreams.

Iskander’s gift was the ability to solve any engineering challenges while staying at Aatami’s side as his defender.

As instructed, they hurried back to the land rover and didn’t look back when the desert dramatically engulfed the hole.

As It Stands, my variation of a dystopian future…but with hope.

A Visit To A Pet Store on Uranus

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Pet Paradise, Ganth Mall,

Iloth, Uranus, circa 3210

“Fetch! Good boy!”

“That’s when to start them,” Lord Veturan complimented the trainer/trader Daid-Et.

“Three-year-olds can be very trainable with the right routines.”

The little boy went over and sat at massive Lord Veturan’s feet, waiting for a treat. The Jarian Knight pulled out a thick cookie from a bag hanging from his side, and tossed it to the boy who deftly caught it with his mouth.

Now off with you Ra Ra!” Daid-Et told the boy, as he skipped off with his cookie.

“What breed is he again?”

“Asian, my Lord. Comes from good stock. He’s got the blood of a couple of Chinese emperors of note.”

“But what kind of pet will he make?”

“A very entertaining one, My Lord, his breed is famous for their acrobatic powers and willingness to obey any command.”

“When will he be for sale?

“In one more year, great lord.”

“What else have you got that’s ready to go right now?” Lord Veturan inquired.

“Thank you for asking Lord. I have a set of twins from earth’s Zion Park in Utah, USA. They’re nine-years old and have had all of their shots.”

Males, or females?”

“Males. They’ve were neutered two years ago and are very calm. They have good bone structure and will surely be very strong. Here’s their cage. Ne Ne…Obo…wake up! You have visitors!”

The two boys stood up while trying to wipe the sleep from their eyes.

“I see what you mean. Good bone structure. What kind of pets do they make?” 

“The best, wise Lord. They’re known for their loyalty, strength, and playful disposition. As you know, twins are very hard to find these days.”

“How much?” Lord Veturan asked.

“For you kind sir, a mere 300 Uranium Qutreels.”

“You old bandit! Here’s 200 Uranium Qutreels. Have them delivered to my ship before nightfall.”

On the way back home to Saturn, Lord Veturan watched the two boys playfully wrestling over a toy he tossed to them. He thought about his wife and what a great birthday present he was bringing her.

He was hopeful they would live longer than the her last pet, who only made it sixty years. It was hard to part with the lovable beasts. They were almost like family.

As It Stands, humans could make good pets…with a little training.