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.

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.

A Stunning Showdown at Snake Junction

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The fastest Sheriff in the Old West never got his due.

You won’t find his name written down in the history books alongside legendary gunslingers or lawmen.

He never traveled far from the tiny town of Snake Junction, living just beyond the city’s limits somewhere in the Arizona desert.

Visitors passing through would stop at the town’s only Saloon – The National – and listen to the locals talk about their Sheriff Sledge, over shots of rot gut whiskey and mugs of warm beer.

“It’s his eyes,” one old-timer told the three visitors. “They’ll freeze you. He doesn’t blink,” he warned. “He’s faster than a snake and a dead-eye shooter.”

Wyatt Earp finished his beer and called for another one. He wasn’t the kind of man easily scared by anyone. Or, reputation. He had his own.

“I’d like to meet this gent,” Doc Holiday said while sipping whiskey from a flask.

Wyatt’s brother Warren was puffing on a cigar as his eyes roamed around the room. “Make that two beers!”  he shouted.

“I just want to talk with him. We’re looking for some murderers and he might know something about them. He might have seen them recently,” Wyatt said to the old-timer, who went by Jack.

“It’s true Sheriff Sledge knows about everything in this town. Seems like he’s been here forever. I know for sure he’s been here before Snake Junction became a town ten years ago. I got to tell you he’s not much of a talker,” Jack explained. 

Doc suddenly broke out into a coughing fit. He pulled a handkerchief from his jacket and put it over his mouth. His tuberculosis was getting worse. Speckles of blood tinted the white handkerchief.

Wyatt and Warren looked at one another. They both knew he was dying. Yet here he was, at their side helping them seek vengeance against The Cowboys. When his frail body ceased fighting for breath he reached inside his jacket and pulled out his flask and took a shot.

Doc stood beside them at the O.K. Corral. Regardless of what most foks thought about him, Doc was a gentleman and a loyal friend.

“How can we find him, Jack?” Doc asked, as he poured himself another shot.

“It’s not that easy. He only shows up in town for supplies once a week,” Jack replied.

“When was the last time he got supplies?” Warren asked.

“Friday,” Sheriff Sledge said.

All eyes turned on him. His tall slender body was framed by the setting sun behind him. His swarthy face was beardless and his arms looked too long in proportion to the rest of his slim body.

He wore a snake-skin vest with nothing underneath it. In the distance and in the poor lighting of the saloon it appeared he was heavily tattooed. His jeans were well-worn. Snake-skin boots covered his long narrow feet.

His leather holster wasn’t fancy, but the .45 Smith and Wesson in it was in excellent condition. The gun hung low on his right side, with a leather rope tying it to his leg for stability.

“Youuth looking for me?” Sheriff Sledge asked with a noticeable lisp.

“We’re looking for some murdering scoundrels. We’ve been deputized to bring them to justice, ” Wyatt spoke up.

Sheriff Sledge’s laugh was shrill and downright creepy. “Sssscoundrels …, he hissed.”

Wyatt stood up. “Yes. Murderous scoundrels. Have you seen any shifty characters around here lately?”

Sheriff Sledge slowly slid into the center of the room. Under the massive chandelier glow they could see scales, not tattoos, on his chest and arms. His eyes were green with yellow pupils that did not blink. A tension suddenly filled the saloon.

Warren and Doc both stood up, alongside of Wyatt.

Sheriff Sledge, whose Hopi name was Situlili (after the snake god), belonged to the snake clan called Tsu’ngyam. In Native American lore snakes enforce a rough type of justice, and breaking laws could result in a person being bitten by a deadly snake.

Or, by being shot with Sledge’s .45 Smith and Wesson.

The silence that fell over the saloon hung like a funeral shroud. Before the Earp’s and Holiday could even reach for their guns, Sheriff Sledge drew his, and shot their hats off their heads!

His pistol slide back into the holster in one smooth motion. Sheriff Sledge smiled at their astonishment. None of them had ever seen such speed and accuracy before. Nor, would they ever again. The draw was too fast for the human eye…and hand.

“Yooth thay your lawmen?” he calmly asked.

All three shook their heads up and down affirmatively and shifted uncomfortably. Wyatt knew he wasn’t fast with his clumsy Buntline Special, but Doc Holiday was the fastest draw he’d ever seen… until now.

They all prepared to die.

Then Sledge smiled and they swore (afterward) that his tongue slithered out and was forked. “Juuust doing my job keeping the peasss. Ain’t no sssscoundrels been by lately,” he said.

They watched him glide over to the bar and order a shot of tequila. There was a certain reptilian smoothness that made them all uncomfortable.

Afterward, when they were miles away and camping under the clear southwestern skies, all three men agreed to never tell the story about their showdown at Snake Junction. No one would have believed them anyway.

As It Stands, I’ve always suspected there were lawmen and gunslingers whose stories never got told.

 

 

The Mobster and The Tunnel

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Giuseppe “Three-Finger” Terranova was looking for the tunnel. The cops weren’t far behind.

Joey Adonis, in a night of wild drinking, had told him about it once. It was in upstate New York…a road that led to a tunnel in the side of a mountain.

On the other side of the tunnel was a cabin. A great place to hide. He’d never tried it because he lived in another state, but his friends all told him about it every time he was in the area.

Giuseppe drove as far as he could before the road became too dangerous to continue. It was pock-marked with deep potholes. He was exactly twenty miles south of the tiny town of Apalachin, when he pulled off the main road and purposely drove into a thicket of bushes.

Joey told him about a trail to take to get to the tunnel.  It was getting dark as he wandered around looking for traces of a trail. Just as he began to think he was crazy for listening to Joey (he was a real joker) he saw the trail. It was well-worn.

Giuseppe pulled out his pistol and checked it for ammunition. The 38 “snubie” had two rounds left. That was it. He fired the rest at the cops who broke into the lodge earlier, interrupting him and sixty other Capos in conference.

He didn’t really care if they were all caught. Just as long as he was safe. The cops had too much on him. Even with good lawyers it would be an uphill court battle that might end up with him frying on the chair.

No way. Not Giuseppe. He was above the law. He made monkeys out of those cops chasing him tonight. They’d never find him. He turned his attention to the trail in the dying light.

Fact. Giuseppe was a city boy who’d only gone camping once with a Boy Scout Troop and got in trouble for beating up another boy. He was no trailblazer. The sounds of the night made him nervous.

Small animals rustled around in the thick bushes and trees on either side of the trail. A traveler had no choice but to go forward on the trail, or turn around. He’d gone too far to turn around, so Giuseppe plunged on.

Geeze,” he muttered to himself, “A guy’s gotta be Davy Fricking Crockett out here in the middle of nowhere.” 

Hours passed. He was so tired that he was stumbling. Finally, totally exhausted, he laid down on the trail. It must have been the pure mountain air, because Giuseppe slept like a baby.

When he woke up the sun was overhead. He stood up. Pain racked his entire body. He wasn’t use to sleeping on the hard ground. He was stiff and hungry. There was nothing to do but keep walking.

The tunnel wasn’t even concealed. One moment he was walking along, then just around the bend, there it was! The tunnel. It was just to the right of the trail and there was a small clearing in front of it.

It was carved out of solid rock. It was about seven-feet high and six-feet wide. The ground was dry inside. So were Giuseppe’s lips. The thought of a water source on the other side gave him the courage to go into the dark interior.

He felt his way along with his hands. Stumbling at times. Then he saw a ray of light. In moments he was outside again. Fresh air and to his delight, a clean river running along a small cabin barely visible through the trees.

He was on his knees drinking water from his cupped hands when someone asked him, “Where’s Dorie May?” 

He slowly got to his feet and turned around. Three men dressed like cowboys (right down to guns and all) were mounted on horses that formed a small semi-circle around him. The speaker, a tall lean man with a big black hat and hard gray eyes, asked him one more time,

“Where’s Dorie May?

There was a shout from the cabin. “We found her Clem! She’s dead!”

Giuseppe shouted, “What’s going on Here?”

The speaker motioned to the other two riders and they got down off their horses. One had a length of rope in his hand. The hard gray eyes of the speaker were full of hate as he pointed his pistol towards a nearby oak tree.

The two riders walked him over to it. One of the cowboys threw the rope around a thick limb and tied the other end into a noose which he slipped over Giuseppe’s head. The speaker got down from his horse and grabbed the rope and pulled on it.

The other two men joined him. They pulled him up by his neck. A crazy thought went through Giuseppe’s mind before he died and he croaked “What year is it?”

As It Stands, justice has a way of being served in time when your karma is bad enough.

 

Future Shock: The Test

Blind Justice

 

 

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“Take your time, because your life literally depends upon it,” the test-giver warned them in his clear announcer’s voice.

In contrast, he also cautioned, “Make sure to answer all of the questions in the allotted time, or you’ll be automatically disqualified.

Three men, and three women, sat in front of a row of desks with computers on them. They all pecked away on their keyboards intently.

Overhead cameras recorded the test, and streamed it live throughout the country.

Viewers at home, or on their mobile devices, listened to a host describe the test’s contents, and give a brief bio on each test-taker. They were rule-breakers. Every Friday, the prison system sent six convicted rule-breakers to the “school room” where the test was conducted.

It didn’t matter if you were a murderer or someone who was caught shop-lifting. If you broke a rule this is where you went in 2053 America. You had to take the test, and if you failed, viewers voted on how you would be killed.

The choices were narrowed down to three categories: The Easy Death – subject shot in the head. A Rough Death – subject beaten to death (several scenarios), and The Really Horrible Death – subject tortured for a day before getting executed by beheading.

The good news for those being tested was that if they passed the test, they were set free. The bad news. No ones ever passed it.

Entertainment executives were delighted with the arrangement. The prison system was never crowded. Each state had one central prison.

Corporations ruled America and reaped profit from anything and everything – including from the struggling mass of citizens who no longer were allowed to vote, but who provided some excellent entertainment on Friday night TV.

Corporate heads ran the government. Billionaires filled all the positions available, including the High CEO’s Cabinet. Old terms, like president, were replaced with a High CEO who demanded everyone kiss his ring. It was a rule.

The test also taught viewers to never break a rule. Among the many rules – posted daily at noon on websites and TVs – was the rule of never saying anything bad about the government or the High CEO. 

The government provided the material for the tests from America’s long history. It should be noted that teaching history in classrooms ceased during the reign of Donald Trump (2016 – 2020).

A new generation of Americans grew up with no idea about their history, or the country’s history. Older Americans, the ones who got history classes in public schools, were dying off and had shaky memories of the old days.

One day a man was going through the rubble where a library use to stand. He was looking for anything that might be salvageable. The great fire of 2024 had destroyed this once house of learning.

The man, whose name was Adam, stumbled across a charred trap door in the ruins. He took his homemade hatchet from his rope belt and hacked away at it. It took an hour of steady hacking before he was finally able to make an opening.

With the aide of his flashlight, Adam went down a flight of stairs and came into a vast room lined with shelves of books. The shelves extended as far as he could see. He was stunned with his find. An answer to his dreams.

Adam always suspected the government’s version of American history was false.

People called Adam a skeptic when he tried to share his views. Others warned him to watch what he was saying outloud. He learned not to talk about them at all.

Now, surrounding him was a real library. He made the library his home for five years, before the police arrested him for not bowing before the state governor when he came to town one day.

It didn’t take long for Adam to have to take the test. It was a bigger than usual audience that Friday night because word got out that Adam dared to defy a government official! That didn’t happen every day.

The minutes passed by as the six convicts concentrated on the questions. When the time was up all eyes went to the top of the computers in front of each person. A red light came on the first computer, and the woman behind it hung her head in dread.

Another red light. And another. When it came to the last computer the light turned…GREEN! Adam shouted with joy. The announcer turned pale and looked around for someone to help him. He didn’t know what to do.

It was a first. The announcer was told it was impossible for anyone to get it all of the questions right. Only the government knew the answers, and had programmed them into the six computers that were guarded 24-hours a day.

Adam was set free. The first think he did was start an underground school teaching real history. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Fake news had dominated for decades. He quickly recorded historical chapters and made the recordings available to anyone who wanted to listen.

Then he gathered together a dozen men and women, and made them his students. Their mission was clear, bring truth back to America.

As It Stands, I’ve often heard the phrase “the dumbing down of America.” I find that to be a very scary thought, and the inspiration for this futuristic cautionary tale.