The Survivors

-160 words

In the aftermath of the global nuclear war the earth wept toxic radiation, killing the remaining living things slowly and painfully.

Poisonous gases weakened the planet’s struggling species worldwide. Once lush forests were transformed into wastelands. Skyscrapers that once kissed the heavens now reduced to steel skeletons. Human shadows etched on concrete, gruesome portraits depicting their last moment of life.

The human race had finally fought it’s last world war. Chaos reigned as the last vestiges of civilizations turned to dust. History erased with no trace for space explorers from other worlds to see. No record of humanity.

No. The only survivors will not be able to talk with any celestial visitors. They’ll be flattened under surfaces of all kinds, scurrying around and scavenging in dark places unseen by prying eyes. Just like their ancestors for millenniums past. They were built to last. That’s why cockroaches survived man’s follies. They were the one species mankind could not drive into extinction.

The Ripple Effect

the consequences of our actions cause ripples in a cosmic sea

reverberating further than our eye can see

they echo in the myriad corridors of eternity

and find fertile hunting grounds in diversity

they spawn revolutions and bring prosperity

sometimes they point out things inadvertently

as you watch helplessly

with uncertainty

as the ripples spread out mysteriously

entwined with your fate in history

The Philosopher

It’s time,” his executioner said.

He knew he was paying the price for making prominent Athenian’s look like fools. His supposed crime; not believing in the gods of the state.

His wisdom, once sought after throughout the civilized world, did not save him from his fate.  Justice and the pursuit of goodness led him to this last moment on earth.

He became the purifying remedy for Athens’ misfortunes despite his contributions to the state. The sacrificial goat. But he had the last laugh, eternal fame for his wisdom.  

Drink this,” the executioner offered, handing Socrates the cup of poison hemlock.

The Waiting Room

Somewhere between the unknown and reality there’s a waiting room for souls. Their expressionless faces reflect the rigors of their lives.

The souls have different expectations about their fate. Beliefs of a lifetime wait to be validated. Hopes of being reacquainted with loved ones go unspoken in the silence. 

When the doors of justice open they go inside. A panel of life forms from throughout the solar system waits to judge them according to universal laws. 

Good and evil is balanced upon scales based upon what they did in life. There’s no lawyers to plead their case – just their deeds.

The King’s Search For Meaning in Life

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King Sith lit the funeral pyre and watched the smoke waft heavenward joining the gray sky in a sad goodbye.

Without his wife he had no taste for life. His was devoted to her, and although they never had children, they were happy. Like him, Astoria was a warrior of renown. They ruled the small kingdom of Dashtorium on the coast of the great Sammian Sea. Under their benign rule there was prosperity and no wars. People of all races mingled peacefully in the busy trading port.

But a sudden chill took his darling wife Astoria one day to the kingdom of the dead. The people grieved with their ruler, as she was universally loved. Sith was so distraught that he stepped down from his throne and urged the people to find another ruler. He was committed to wandering all of Tanus in search for a meaning for his now empty life. Taking his staff, sword, and a small bag of supplies he mounted his favorite gray Stallion “Thunder Walker,” and went east into the unexplored world beyond Dashtorium’s boundaries.

With no kingdom to look after his thoughts turned to subjects he seldom spent time on before. He recalled stories of mysteries like the singing trees of Lastoic and enchanted forests where men disappeared, never to be heard from again. Of the endless deserts of Terrost, where strange creatures survived in the blazing temperatures and would eat anything that moved. And the frozen mountains of Airon where giant hairy creatures walked upright and formed communities in the frozen tundra.

He rode until the sun grew weary and started its descent. He stopped just short of a dense forest in a grassy meadow. Dismounting, he saw something slide through the tall grass parting it slightly, as it moved away from him. The mages told him of many fantastic creatures on Tanus that no man had yet encountered. Through their magic they conjured images of them for him. One was massive creature than slithered on its belly and had no legs. It’s diamond-shaped skull was packed with rows of sharp teeth used for tearing apart its victims. Sniviets, as the mages called them, could get up to 20-feet long and their body was thicker than a man’s torso.

Sith watched the blue grass ripple in the opposite direction with relief. He suspected that he almost got to meet a Sniviet. Getting back on his horse he rode around looking for a clearing. Darkness had almost settled on the land when he found what he was looking for. A defensible position with a clear view. There were several large boulders and he made his camp with them to his rear. Nearby there was a small river that flowed south. He led Thunder Walker to it and dismounted. As the horse drank he stood there with his staff of light scanning the banks looking for any movement. After both were refreshed they went back to the camp. Sith slept lightly with his inner senses on alert. He woke up twice during the night after hearing blood-curdling screams come from the direction of the nearby forest.

Sith was awake before the sun rose. By the time he ate some bread and cheese, darkness was in retreat and a glowing red and orange ball was climbing upward into the gray sky of the new day. Thunder Walker was nibbling on a patch of grass when he mounted him and headed for the forest. Once they were under the full canopy of trees he dismounted and walked. The forest floor was uneven with scattered rocks, thick undergrowth, fallen trees, and unexpected depressions disguised by blankets of colorful leaves.

The further they went the darker it got until no sunlight could struggle through the dense canopy overhead. Their only light was his staff that glowed brightly, its aura surrounding them in a protective yellow glow. Thunder Walker snickered nervously as they plunged further into the unknown.  With his staff pointing the way they carefully made their way into the soundless interior. Hours passed before they heard a strange melody above them and a gentle breeze whispered between the trees. Voices sang his name softly…invitingly.

A warning went off in Sith’s warrior brain, and he held his staff over his head and spoke the spell of protection. Just in time. The tree limbs that were wrapping around him and Thunder Walker suddenly uncoiled and retreated back to their source. A screech of anger split the night! They wasted no time and left, eager to get beyond the deadly embrace of the trees of Lostoic. Hours later, Sith saw the light at the end of the forest and his spirits improved. It was past the days zenith, but still light enough to look for a place to camp in the valley before them. Thunder Walker sensed his mood and eagerly picked up his pace.

A riot of color greeted Sith’s eyes as he marveled at the shimmering red, green, blue, and purple plants and ground cover before them as far as the eye could see. Gentle hills covered in orange flora with small caves surrounded the valley. The sky was still a bright blue in spite of the gathering dusk. A sweet scent wafted on a gentle breeze as they ventured forward. With night rapidly descending Sith sought out a campsite and settled on a cave tall enough for them to stand in. Being new to the area he wasn’t going to let Thunder Walker out of his sight. After strapping on his feedbag with a ration of grain in it, Sith dined on a hunk of spicy Curbra jerky. He washed it down with water. By that time Thunder Walker was done and he took the bag off.

“Stay alert tonight, my friend,” Sith warned him while petting him affectionately. “I too, shall sleep with one eye open.” Wrapping his great cloak around him, Sith lay down on the hard ground and quickly fell asleep.

The morning light was accompanied by birds happily singing about the new day. They came out of the cave and into the blue sky blinking at the brilliance of the morning light. As Sith looked around he felt a presence. Then he saw them. They were half his size. Little naked humanoids. Male and female. There were thousands gathered outside the cave. All patiently waiting for Sith and Thunder Walker. One of the little people stood in front of the assembly. This spokesman tried a couple of languages before settling on Sith’s native Orzath. He was slightly taller than the rest and a darker green.

Greetings Lord, we have been expecting you,” he said while bowing before him.

Who are you?” Sith inquired.

“The Amsoest. We are the last of our kind and live peacefully in this valley of our ancestors. We have been waiting for you to deliver us from our enemies mighty lord!”

“What enemies? Of whom do you speak?”

“Everyone who comes into this valley to hunt us for sport. In recent times we’ve suffered terrible casualties as they kill and enslave us for their amusement. Our elders have been predicting a champion for many years. When they sensed your noble and honest aura, they also sensed your sadness.”

“This is so?” Sith wondered.

“It was ordained,” the speaker solemnly said.

Sith looked up in the sky and saw white puffy clouds appear directly overhead. As he watched the clouds formed into a figure he recognized, Astoria! She smiled down at him and her lips parted in greeting. Thunder Walker pawed the ground as Sith smiled back and shouted, “I love you!” 

The people looked on in awe.

When the cloud melted away and the sky was clear again, Sith addressed the people. “You’re right. This is my destiny and I gladly accept it. Henceforth, a long as I live, I will be your protector against those who would do you harm.”

And, so it was.

As It Stands, we all need to have some meaning to our life.

The Awakening

Listen to this story  narrated by Otis Jiry, master storyteller.

Leaders, scientists and citizens alike turned out on the spacious grounds of the capital of Luna Astra, to see the awakening.

Ever since the earth ship was discovered cruising aimlessly near the moons of Janus, the scientists of Alta Juret, had been studying its sleeping occupants. They ascertained they were from another solar system, and a planet called Earth.

They were scheduled to be awakened today.

The ship’s navigation system were crude compared to their technology, but they found a weapon system that was unknown to them. A series of laser cannons that far exceeded the impact and distance of their own weapon systems.

The discovery caused great debate among the scientists and the leaders of Alta Juret. To some, the weapon system signaled a warlike race that was more interested in conquering than visiting.

Others suggested that there might be even more things they could learn from the sleeping occupants in the clear pods, filled with fluids that kept the bodies inside alive. After studying the life support system that kept the 25 crew members incubated in a suspended state, the scientists won out, and it was decided to let the ship’s inhabitants live.

They also decided to let the ship’s internal alarm system wake the occupants up, rather than interrupting their slumber, and possibly causing a problem.

A team of scholars were assigned to the ship (Columbus) – which was docked at the Alta Juret International Landing Station in Luna Astra – to study the computers which held copious amounts of information about mankind.

Throughout history, mankind lashed out like an angry and spoiled infant; making war, and living in luxury among defeated foes. Building great monuments to civilizations that disappeared in the chaos that swirled around the entire world’s history.

There were times of peace when great inventors and geniuses flourished.

Earthlings were builders and destroyers. The ate other species on their planet, but also kept some for pets. Humans were a paradox that puzzled the scholars as they pored over the many writings, ranging from fiction to non-fiction.

Today was the day.

The ship’s system slipped into a new mode earlier in the morning when the scholars saw the liquid being drained from the pods. Scientists quickly came aboard, and documented the process.

The pale naked bodies looked vulnerable under the blue lights that made them look even whiter. There were males and females. As the scientists and scholars watched, gases poured into the pods, obscuring the view of the inhabitants inside.

In minutes, the gases were gone. Slowly, one-by-one, the humans woke up. They were all groggy and slow to focus their eyes and senses. The scientists and scholars watched them closely.

One of the scholars, who had taught himself to speak earth languages, said “Greetings” to the crew in 12 different languages. The pods opened and the humans emerged – now wide-eyed – at the sight of the Alta Juret scientists and scholars.

One of the human males said, “We come in peace” in English.

The newly bilingual scholar, Ves, answered in kind, “Welcome!

As the earthlings dressed in blue uniforms, Ves called the waiting Security Council outside, and informed them they were all getting ready to leave the ship. A ripple went through the crowd as word got out.

When the stairs extended from the earth ship, the crowd pressed forward to get a better look. Ves came out first. Then gasps escaped the crowd as they watched the humans file down, with only two-legs, and two-arms each!

What a novel sight. The earthlings didn’t look complete, unlike the inhabitants of Alta Juret, who had four-legs, and four-arms each. Children laughed at the sight and the adults smiled. These earthlings didn’t look so terrible at all.

As a matter of fact – maybe because they were half the size of the Alta Jurtetians – the earthlings looked like frail children. There was nothing threatening about them at all. The crowd exhaled and broke up after watching two hours of ceremonies involving the leaders of Alta Juret, and the crew of the Columbus.

Day Two – Aboard the Columbus

The crew was gathered around Captain Marty Delwar, who had a map laid out in front of him. He pointed to sections of the map with a silver telescoping pointer, emphasizing a spot with a couple of taps.

“Sergeant, I need you and six others to cover the main building while we make our assault on the nearby transmission towers.

“The object is to take out their communications – at least the ones we know of – before they have time to organize a resistance,” Captain Delwar explained.

The crew of the Columbus armed themselves with laser guns. The crew were all special forces members from four countries on Earth. Highly skilled, and very professional. They represented Earth’s last chance at colonization.

There were no more ships to send out. The Columbus was a collaboration of many nations, utilizing the last of their technologies in hopes of escaping a dying planet.

Outside the ship.

Ves was sitting in a room in front of a row of monitors, along with the head of the Security Council, watching the earthlings via the hidden spyware they planted.

They listened to the captain speak. Ves sighed. He argued more than anyone that there might be hope for mankind. It looked like he was wrong.

“Do what you have too,” Ves said with a touch of sadness.

As It Stands, mankind is doomed, until the urge to kill and conquer goes away.

The Monkey Murders

Did you know that you can find a shrine to monkeys, rats, and dogs, in India?

Actually, in the Hindu culture there is a close bond between animals and humans. The culture believes in reincarnation. One never knows if they mistreat an animal if it could end up being one of their own ancestors.

Monkeys are highly thought of in Hinduism. It was a monkey, Lord Hanuman, who saved Lord Rama’s wife Sita from Ravana’s wrath in Indian lore.

You can visit the Galtaji Temple, an enormous shrine to monkeys, today. It’s just a short distance from Jaipur. It’s inhabitants are truly unique. They’re Rhesus Macaques Monkeys which are known as the world’s most adaptable primates.

Visitors and pilgrims have come for hundreds of years to pray or just stare at the ancient ruins overran with the large tribe of monkeys.

When Rory and Mack, two dedicated trophy hunters, read about the Galtaji Temple and it’s monkeys, they got drunk and came up with a plan to bag some for their collection. They read enough to know the monkeys were protected, and considered sacred, but it didn’t change their sodded minds.

They were both wealthy and bored. Hunting injected that spice they needed in life. Killing animals and making their bodies trophies was a pastime they shared for over a decade from their ranches in Montana.

They hunted in India before. Legally, and illegally. It was a place where officials turned their heads quickly if enough money was offered. Guides gathered like flies in the airports looking for would-be hunters for a payday.

The heat and the humidity hit Rory and Mack like a living thing as they walked down the runway and towards the main gate. The two men stood out in the sun watching the workers unload the luggage from the plane onto rolling carts that were attached to mini-trucks.

By the time they got to their room in Jaipur both men were exhausted. After eating a light dinner at an outside café, they returned to their room and went to bed…anticipating the next day.

They chose to walk, carrying a few basic supplies in their back packs. The walk turned out to be much longer than they were led to believe. The road was rough and uneven. Both men were panting from the heat when they arrived at the shrine.

A woman ran up to them and put red dots on their foreheads and demanded money. They didn’t even try to argue with her. The priests and staff were mingling with a small gathering of visitors at the base of the temple. Some people were feeding the monkeys chips and bananas.

The courtyard and temple were filthy with monkey feces and decaying food. The temple itself was in poor condition. Parts of the shrine was crumbling under the weight of vines and heavy vegetation that was slowly engulfing the whole structure.

Rory and Mack’s plan was simple. They would each kill a monkey and put it in the water-proof/smell proof canvas bag they both brought along for that purpose. They planned on checking in the sealed bags with the dead monkeys inside as luggage – souvenirs from their trip. Neither had brought a weapon. Too much hassle for such small prey.

They reasoned that they could kill the fragile primates easily with their hands. Snap the their neck, and that’s all she wrote. The challenge was to kill the monkeys without starting a riot.

They stayed until dusk, waiting for the visitors and pilgrims to leave. The priests disappeared into the shrine’s dark interior as nightfall settled into the valley. There was no lack of monkeys to pick from. They were sleeping all over the ruins.

It wasn’t much of a challenge for the two experienced hunters to sneak up on a sleeping monkey and throttle it before it could squeak in protest. The deed was done and they walked back to their room under the light of a full moon.

Two weeks later back in Montana.

Mack held up his brandy snifter and clinked it against Rory’s. They were sitting in front of a glowing fireplace in Mack’s trophy room. That day they had picked up their catches from the taxidermist and were now admiring the work that made them look alive.

The monkeys stood upright on little rock pedestal, staring into space, as the two happy hunters drank late into the night.

From the local newspaper – The Montana Messenger

Headline: Two Men Found Strangled In Lodge

Police reported that a housekeeper found two men dead on the floor as she was cleaning Monday morning. The owner of the lodge, Rory L. Handers was found with a broken neck, as was his visitor, Mack Kolby Cameron II.

There are no suspects at this time. The two men were well known international hunters who had just recently returned from a vacation in India. Rory’s spouse told deputies that their last trip was a pilgrimage to a shrine in India, Galtaji Temple.

Local residents have been advised to lock up securely at night. A full investigation is underway, according to Sheriff Slim Sanders.”

As it Stands,  Lord Hanuman’s revenge was cosmic justice.