Back To ‘His Image’

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Truman’s dream came from an ancestral memory of when humans walked the earth. Before the great morph, and the changes in their anatomy that forced them to live under the sea.

He saw people walking in deserts, forests, mountain trails, and paved streets in massive cities. They were all able to breathe the sweet air they took for granted. It was before the gills started showing up in babies. Before fingers and toes were routinely webbed. It was in a time before mankind unleashed dooms-day bombs that nearly destroyed the planet and it’s inhabitants.

He didn’t question his dream. As usual, he just wished it was longer.

The ocean was a dangerous place, but twisted evolution made it even worse. When the first humans were forced to be water-dwellers they were confronted with monstrosities in the dark depths and quickly preyed upon. But as millions of humans morphed and banded together, they learned how to survive the terrors in seas across the planet.

Truman’s job in the colony he lived in was to provide food. He and many other “gatherers” constantly sought plants, and small forms of sea life, like crabs, lobsters, and oysters to feed the colony’s five thousand inhabitants. It was a daily job. A way of life. Part of the tapestry of their city under the sea.

After bringing back his daily quota, Truman spent most of his time exploring. Sometimes his friends came with him and they found ancient shipwrecks replete with artifacts in gold, silver, copper, and precious stones like diamonds and rubies. They would study them and admire how light danced through the diamonds as the lighting above beamed down through the depths and passed through them. They’d spend hours trying to figure out what the corroded pieces of metal were. Especially the massive metal tubes scattered near some wrecks. Without disturbing the artifacts they’d go back to their city. They were useless in the world Truman lived in.

The dreams started when he was eighteen years old.

The early dreams were like going to a school and learning simple lessons. As the years passed by, the messages became more complex and would puzzle him for days afterward. In the last year his dreams became a tour of another age. He saw humans with varied skin colors, but without scales like his. They built fantastic machines that flew in the sky and rumbled across the earth. They erected architectural wonders all over the world.

Truman jealously guarded his secret dream life. It was a wonderful escape from his dull existence. People would just laugh at him, and he didn’t want that. His temper could lead to getting him kicked out of the colony. That was a scary thought.

In the dream a man appeared and asked Truman questions. The odd thing was he was able to answer him! He temporarily felt a wave of nausea and then they were both standing on a beach. Truman started to panic when he realized he was out of the water, but the strange man reassured him it was okay. And, it was. Somehow he was able to breathe. He looked up and down the beach. It seemed endless. Turning away from the water he saw sand dunes leading to a garden. He knew what a garden was. He learned that lesson early on in his dreams.

“Do you want to explore?” the man asked.

“Can, I?” Truman hesitantly asked.

In spite of himself Truman woke up. His heart was still beating fast with anticipation. “Damn!” he muttered out loud.

Picking up his corral spear and knife, he slipped out of the common sleeping room and went in search of food. He was daydreaming and not paying attention when the mega shark appeared directly ahead of him! As fast as he was, there was no way he could out swim the massive creature. It’s four eyes, and the two tentacles that grew from its misshapen head with eyeballs on their ends, looked at him hungrily. He’d never been cornered before by a monster this large before. It’s sheer size was a horror to behold. He cleared his hunter’s mind and held the spear up and planted his web feet firmly. He held on as it pierced the largest eye on its head! The beast thrashed in agony and churned the water around so strongly he was flung to one side. His survival instinct urged him to swim in the opposite direction as fast as he could. It was an hour before he felt it was safe to come out of the cave he found in his flight. Despite what happened, he couldn’t go home yet and began looking for food.

The stranger came to him in his dream that night.

They were on the beach again. He was able to breathe air again. “How?” he asked.

“Those plugs in your nostrils and ears.

“Can we go to the garden?” Truman wondered.

“Yes, of course. Follow me.

As they walked through the beautiful garden with lush fruits hanging from trees, Truman asked where the animals were? The stranger smiled and said, “The construct isn’t complete yet. I have a lot of work yet to go. I’m reconstructing another age.”

 “Where is this?”

Somewhere between reality and the renaissance of the earth,” the stranger explained.

Have I died? Or, am I still dreaming?

“Dreaming…but some day…

Truman bolted upright and looked around the room. It was almost empty. Only a few sleepers remained. Once again he was disappointed that he wasn’t still dreaming. The stranger sounded so encouraging. He knew something special was happening and wanted to be part of it. Sighing, he got up and started his day.

Months passed by without The Dream. Truman was distraught. He no longer explored or hung out with his friends. He gathered his daily quota of food, then went off to be by himself.

The dream came back one night.

The stranger, whose white beard was longer than the last time he saw him, appeared weary, but satisfied.

The construct is nearly finished. Are you ready for a new life?”

“Yes!” Truman quickly answered.

“You still have the blood of the first man I created. And the soul of a good man. Now I give you the body of a true man,” the stranger said. “Welcome to paradise…Adam II.”

As It Stands, was mankind ready for redemption?

The Man In Room 313

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Emmett Westerly had seen his share of strange people as a hotel clerk at The Whitmore Towers for 25-years. None stranger however, than the man in room 313.

He was living there before Emmett was hired in 1936. His neighbors never saw him during the day. Whatever chance encounters occurred were brief and at night. His name was Christopher Ward Cummings III. He was a tall thin man who wore a black hat and a three-piece suit. The brim of the hat was always tilted forward, partly obscuring his smoldering dark eyes. It made him look like a stereotypical spy in the movies. He seldom spoke. In all of Emmett’s years at the Whitmore, he only heard him speak a handful of times. His voice was memorable. Buttery, but threatening at the same time.

When not on duty, Emmett had a small room behind the main desk. It was all he needed being a single man. He ate all of his meals at the hotel’s first floor restaurant which was open 24-hours a day. He went to the movies once a week, which satisfied his sense of adventure, along with his hobby of reading Hollywood monster magazines. His love life consisted of an occasional tryst with a married woman in room 422.

Christopher Ward Cummings III never lost sight of his mission in life.

He’d been hunting vampires for 30-years and lived like one in order to track them down. He went out into the streets of the city every night, searching for bloodsuckers stalking neighborhoods; armed with a wooden stake, a gun with silver bullets, and a long knife he used to cut off heads. He inherited the job. As did his father before him. The Secret Society he belonged to had a long history of killing vampires. They started out in Europe, but soon worked their way to the New World as reports of vampires there surfaced. The migration began long before Christopher was born.

He, like his peers in the Knight’s of St. George, knew that some vampires were just too powerful and it could be a suicide mission to attack them. But he did anyway. It was in his DNA. Their war was thousands of years old, going back to when mankind still lived in animal hide tents and ate raw meat. Christopher descended from a long line of royalty in Spain that was said to have driven the vampires from the country.

A typical night adventure.

Christopher has been lurking for hours behind a car parked directly across from a nightclub in the seediest section of town. His patience pays off when he spots a man and a woman come out of the club. She can barely walk. The man is supporting her and heading for a nearby alley. He waits until they disappear around the corner of the old brick building before running up to the alley entrance. Crouching like a big cat he slowly enters the alley with gun in hand. The thirsty vampire has the woman leaning back into the wall and has peeled her blouse off to get at her throat. She is unconscious and unaware of her looming fate. Taking careful aim at the bloodsucker, Christopher fires two rounds into its body!

The creature whirls in agony as the silver bullets weaken it enough for him to approach with his knife and cut off its head! The woman slides down into a heap at the base of the wall. Still alive, although unconscious. He pulls out a burlap bag he brought with him and puts the vampire’s head in it…careful to avoid the fangs of the still snapping jaw. Much like a snake’s head when severed.

Before the night ends he buries the head in a deep hole, after setting it on fire.

Two nights later.

Emmett was reading a monster magazine when a stranger wrapped in a black cloak with hood approached the check-in counter and asked what room Christopher Ward Cummings III was in? Annoyed at the interruption Emmett brushed him off, “We don’t give out that kind of information at The Whitmore,” and started to go back to his magazine. The stranger reached out with a pale skeletal hand and tore the magazine violently away from him!

“What room did you say he was in?” he growled.

“I didn’t…take it easy pal. It’s against the rules for me to tell you that. I just work here. I can take a message of you’d like?” he offered weakly.

The pale face under the hood grimaced angrily, and his eyes burned like red coals in the sunken sockets that stared at him. That mesmerized him. That ordered him to tell what room Christopher was in. For hours afterward he sat staring into space until someone shook him.

“Hey Emmett! Are you okay buddy?” the night watchman asked, concern in his voice. “I was making my rounds and saw you sitting here like a zombie, and had to check on you. Long shift, eh?”

“Yeah…that’s it Larry. Thanks for checking anyway.

As the watchman headed for the elevator Emmett tried to clear his head. He vaguely remembered what happened. Like a bad dream. The next night was busy because it was a Friday night, and people were coming and going constantly well into the late hours. To his surprise he saw Christopher come out of the elevator and walk over to him. His curiosity climbed the wall as he waited to hear what he wanted.

“I had an unwanted visitor last night,” he said with a dark edge to his voice. “My question for you is, did you give out my room number?

Horrified at the accusation, Emmett’s mouth turned to cotton as he tried to frame a reply. “I couldn’t help it,” he confessed. Christopher’s expression softened. “Describe the stranger who approached you.” 

After Emmett was done he nervously waited for Christopher’s reaction to his description.

“Yes. I thought so. The clumsy bastard tried to ambush me in my own room last night. You should know that he was a vampire.

“Was…?

“Oh yes. I have his head in this bag. It turned out all right this time, but we must come up with a plan to avoid it happening again. Think about it will you? I have business to finish now.

“Yes…yes, sir. I’ll think about it all right.”

He watched Christopher walk out into the night with his bag. Afterwards, he pulled out his stack of monster magazines from under the counter, and unceremoniously dumped them into a metal trash can.

As It Stands, when fantasy and reality collide, it’s time for a new hobby.

There’s a Time and Place For Everything

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Time, and time again, the man failed to force the door open as the beast closed in on him. He looked over his shoulder in time to see the monster open its shark-like mouth, with rows of razor-sharp teeth, closing them on his arm!

His screams echoed through the ruins of the city long ago destroyed by nuclear war. His cries for help went unanswered. Those that heard his tortured cries stayed hidden, hoping the monstrosity wouldn’t find them.

Huddled in a row of nearby buildings, Leo stayed calm, and listened. His younger brother Joe sat next to him, patiently waiting for the sign that it was safe to move. Like most of the survivors in what was once, Los Angeles, California, the men used sign language to communicate. Talking was too risky. The monster that preyed upon them had extremely good hearing, and a bloodhound’s sense of smell. Minutes crawled by, turning into hours before Leo felt it was gone, and gave Joe the safe sign. They crawled out of their hiding place and stretched their cramped limbs while keeping alert eyes peeled for the nameless beast that stalked them.

The only reason the men went into the ruins, and didn’t stay in their forest stronghold, was they had to forage for food. Canned food. Dried food. Sealed food that wasn’t contaminated. It was too risky eating the remaining wildlife because of radioactive contamination to their systems. It was generational, causing hideous deformities. Food was finite. Someday there wouldn’t be any to scavenge.

It was in this dystopian nightmare that Leo and Joe were raised. Their parents, long gone, taught them basic life lessons like where to find eatable food. Their generation did not have the opportunity to learn how to read or write. The last world war saw to that. People were forced to fend for themselves in small groups. There were no large communities or gathering places where humans could put together the framework of a new society. No organizations, or armies. No governments. Just scattered survivors trying to avoid the monstrosities that roamed in the ruins they were forced to scavenge in.

The brothers decided to call it a day. They both had found a few cans of food. Enough for a couple of days, so they headed back to the forest. On their way, a strange thing happened. A man dressed in a strange-looking suit and hat, suddenly appeared out of thin air right in front of them! His white hair stuck out from beneath the brown fedora he was wearing. He didn’t see them at first, and stood there tinkering with a small device in his hand. They watched in stunned amazement as he talked to himself. Finally he looked up and saw them.

“Good day gentlemen!” he said in a cheery voice, “I’m Professor Thistwhistle. Who may I ask, are you two?”

“Leo.”

“Joe.”

Not very talkative chaps, I dare say. Just as well. You do understand what I’m saying, right?”

They both nodded, and said, “Yes.”

“Very good. I was hoping the English language had survived. I’m not sure I recognize what type of animal skins you chaps are wearing?

“Wildcats and big rats,” Leo said.

“They look a bit odd,” the Professor suggested.

“How are they supposed to look,” Joe asked, his curiosity aroused.

“Well, for starters both species are only supposed to have four legs. Looks to me, the blighter’s you skinned had more than that. But forgive me, I’m sure you’re curious how I got here?”

They both nodded affirmatively. Eagerly.

“This device in my hand is a Time Machine,” he proudly declared.

He quickly realized their blank looks meant they had no idea what he was talking about. “Do you chaps read, or write English?”

“No…our grandfather told us about things like books and writing down things so everyone could read them. We never got to see any books though. It was just talk about them. We know they were powerful things once,” Leo replied.

“Quite so…” the professor agreed. “They are repositories of knowledge. But, I digress. Would you chaps show me around? I’m going to write a book describing what the world will be like in 2102. That’s now, by the way. I don’t suppose you chaps use a calendar do you? Days of the week, and all that?”

“I don’t know anything about a calendar,” Joe said, “but we follow the sun and the moon.” 

“It really doesn’t matter right now. Just being conversational. Would you show me where you live,” he asked.

“Not much to see, but we’ll show you,” Leo agreed.

The brothers led the professor to their home which was forty feet above ground in a tree. Leo scrambled up the tree and when he reached the platform he tossed down a rope ladder. He watched as Joe and then the professor worked their way up, one rung at a time. There was a crude shelter built on the platform and they all went inside it. Serviceable, but crude, stools and a table were in the center of the room. It was all the furniture they had.

The professor spent a short time examining the construction of the furniture then plopped down on one of the stools.

“What is a time machine?” Leo asked.

“Good question. Put simply, it’s a device that allows you to go forward or backward in time.

“How is that possible?” Joe asked.

“I don’t mean to sound condescending chaps, but you wouldn’t understand the science behind it. How could you? You’re living in the end times for mankind. Without access to knowledge there is no hope,” he firmly stated.

The brothers exchanged looks.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Leo said, “You have knowledge that could save us.”

The professor, caught off guard by the remark, hummed and hawed for a few moments trying to form a suitable reply.

“I can’t help you,” he said, with a tinge of sadness in his voice.

“Why?” the brothers both demanded.

“Because it goes against the rules of time travel.”

“Rules?” I don’t understand Leo said.

“There’s certain scientific rules we time travelers have to obey, or we’ll upset the natural order of the universe, turning the solar system into a never-ending chaos.”

“So why are you here?” Joe wondered.

“As I mentioned earlier, I’m writing a book.”

“A book on us?” Leo asked.

“Yes, you and the world you live in.”

“So you can’t help us, but you expect us to help write your book?” Joe suggested.

“That’s putting it a bit sharply lad,” the professor retorted.

Leo got up from his stool and walked over to a corner of the crude hut. He picked up a club that was resting against the wall and walked back over to the table.

“There’s something you should know professor,” Leo said, “we are survivors. It’s the one positive thing in our miserable lives. We never pass up a food source.”

Before the professor could respond, Leo swung the club savagely, crushing the professor’s head in one practiced blow! Afterwards he tossed the bloody club to his brother.

“You get to tenderize the meat.

As It Stands, time travel presents many dangers.

An Incident Under A Waxing Moon

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Seth and Eli had no choice. They waited until nightfall to make their break.

It was a waxing moon and they felt exposed under its bright light, but if they stayed where they were the Yankees would eventually find them. The union army under McClellan had split the Confederate forces in half that hot afternoon in July, seizing a decisive victory by capturing or killing half of Lt. Col. John Pegam’s men, and routing the rest.

Seth and Eli were among the many Confederates who were escaping to nearby Beverly, and on over to the Shawnee Trail. They were separated from their unit in the chaos of retreat. Seth was wounded. A Yankee mini ball hit him just below his right knee, shattering the bone. It was bound up hastily by Eli who helped him walk by supporting his wounded side with one brawny arm. Seth was weak from loss of blood and they were hiding in a thicket near a farmhouse.

They would have to cross an open field to reach the forest that led to Beverly where the Confederate forces were fleeing. Eli looked up at the sky and cursed the bright moon.

“Time to go Seth. We’ve got to find a place to hide before the sun comes up and McClellan’s boys catch us.”

The two men awkwardly walked towards the tree line. Seth had his loaded rifle in his free hand. It seemed like forever before they entered the forest. They pressed on for two hours before Seth had to rest. Eli scouted around and found a small cave. He helped Seth inside. It was barely big enough for both men and smelled like bear. Eli sat up with his back against the rear, and rifle across his lap. It left enough room for Seth to lay down. He was in obvious pain, but didn’t complain.

They were best friends and were raised in the same small town in Virginia. As boys they hunted together and spent lazy days fishing. That all changed when the war started. They signed up to defend their home and state like the rest of the boys in their community. It was a year since the War of the States broke out and both young men had seen their share of fighting in numerous skirmishes, leading up to the Battle of Rich Mountain.

Eli was starting to fall asleep when he heard a strange noise and simultaneously smelled something rank. Like a skunk. He leaned over to the narrow opening where he’d pulled some bushes in after entering the cave. He peered through the brush and saw something that scared the hell out of him! It was at least eight-feet tall, and looked like a giant hairy man. It was standing mere feet away from their hiding place and sniffing the night air like a great hound.

The moon was bright enough to slash through the forest canopy exposing the creatures face. It was the stuff nightmares are made from. It’s head looked too small for its huge body. Protruding fangs and lifeless eyes, like a sharks, stared into the night. It’s grunts sounded similar to a boar.

Eli was afraid to move a muscle, and hoped Seth wouldn’t wake up and start moaning. He saw the thing bend over something and gradually became aware that it was a body. A flash of blue uniform under the moon’s unforgiving gaze, told him it was a Yank. Streams of light filtered through the trees around the creature as it bent over and casually tore off the mans arm and started chewing on it!

Nothing in Eli’s life prepared him for the horror he was witnessing. He saw men die on both sides off the battlefield, but their violent deaths paled beside the nightmare unfolding in front of him. The thing had plucked the other arm out like a chicken wing and tossed the bones of the other in his direction. Eli flinched. He forced himself to remain calm. Wild things could sense fear. He learned that as a boy growing up in the hill country. The man-thing tossed the other arm bone aside and bent over the body again, coming up with a trail of intestines in it’s large mouth.

At that moment Seth woke up, and groaned out loud!

Eli quickly put a hand over his mouth and prayed it didn’t hear him. Seth’s eyes opened in surprise and Eli put a finger to his lips. The grunting outside stopped. He could barely make out the beast’s movement. It was amazingly stealthy for something so large. The creature suddenly hunched down and looked in the opposite direction in time to see a Confederate soldier with fixed bayonet charge it!

There was a terrible roar of rage when the bayonet pierced the beast’s breast, but it didn’t go down. Still standing, it slowly pulled the bayonet out, to the soldiers horror. It grabbed the rifle and threw it down while reaching out with his other massive arm for the terrified soldier.

Eli was already moving and scurried out of the cave and took aim at the beast’s back and fired! It kept plunging forward and grabbed the soldier with a scream of anger and tore his head off with it’s bare hands! Turning, it saw Eli standing 20-feet away and roared with increased rage. Eli barely had time to fix his bayonet on his rifle when it charged. Bracing himself, he thrust his rifle forward and stabbed the creature’s bloody breast before it knocked him over!

The force of it’s charge sent him backwards several feet and he tumbled roughly on the forest floor. As he scrambled to his feet he saw Seth crawling out of the cave. He calmly leveled his .36 caliber Navy revolver and fired six shots at the beast. It turned away from Eli and turned on Seth. Eli screamed “No!” and pulled his hunting knife out and started to take a step when more gunfire broke out!

Three Union soldiers appeared and were firing volleys at the beast! It let out a terrible scream of agony and finally lumbered away in the opposite direction. They could hear it smashing its way through the deep forest for minutes afterward.

Eli looked over at the Union soldiers, who lowered their rifles, and cracked a wry smile, “I never thought I’d be so damn glad to see some damn Yankees!” he said, as he held his arms up in surrender.

As It Stands, you never know when you and an enemy might end up on the same side one day.

Rubber Face

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The first time Brock wore a rubber mask for Halloween was when he was five-years-old. He didn’t want to take it off after trick-or-treating so his patient parents compromised and let him sleep in it.

That’s where it started.

After that he insisted on wanting to wear a rubber mask during the day. He couldn’t during school, but the minute the last bell rang he’d pull his rubber mask out of his backpack and put it on. Needless to say, this caught the attention of a lot of people. Children and adults alike.

It was a good thing Brock was a husky kid, because he constantly faced bullies who tried to take his mask away from him. One day two boys jumped him just outside the school grounds. In the tussle one of the boys peeled off the mask he just put on. He fought so furiously that they backed off and left his rubber mask on the ground.

In school, Brock was a shy guy. He always sat in the rear of the classroom. He knew a few of his fellow students by name, but had no friends. Over his school years he got use to eating alone in the school cafeteria. He was content reading the latest issue of MAD magazine at lunch.

His parents didn’t really know how to cope with his obsession. They sent him to a child psychologist numerous times before he entered high school. He always came across, in those sessions, as perfectly normal…with the exception of his unusual attachment to rubber masks. Various theories were discussed, but no one seemed able to break his odd habit.

When he entered high school he got a job at a local supermarket bagging groceries and helping customers take their purchases out to their vehicle. He used most of his paychecks buying new rubber masks. Scary ones, funny ones, and famous celebrities were his favorites. It was no surprise that most of the student body called him Rubber Face behind his back. Some people said it to his face.

In his mind, as he explained to more than one psych, rubber masks were the height of mask making. The ability to change his appearance was very satisfying. That’s the part no one seemed to understand.

He felt safe in a mask. That it attracted attention was not his purpose for wearing it. He understood, at one level, why people thought he was odd. Personally he didn’t think anyone was odd because they strived to look different. Tattoos, pierced body parts, ear plugs, scarifications. It was all good to Brock. He just wished people would be more tolerant of those who chose to step outside the norms in their appearance.

In his senior year Brock swallowed his shyness and went to a Halloween dance. He didn’t have a date. He hoped that there would be some girls there in the same situation. He never went to any of the other dances and proms, and felt extremely awkward. It was his last chance at going to some social activity before graduating. The senior prom was out of the question. He’d never get a date for that. The fact that he could wear a rubber mask to the Halloween dance tilted the scales in favor of going there.

He wore his favorite vampire mask and a rented tuxedo. The gym was already full of costumed students when he got there. The “Monster Mash” was blaring from two four-foot speakers on the stage.

“I was working in the lab, one night

when my eyes beheld an eerie sight

For my monster on the slab, began to rise

and suddenly to my surprise…he did the Monster Mash!

Brock was filling a plastic cup up with punch when a voice behind him said, “Would you get me a cup?” He turned and saw a female vampire waiting for an answer.

“Oh…yeah! I mean…sure,” he bumbled, and handed her his cup. She stood there silently until he filled another cup for himself.

“I like your costume,” she said in a husky voice.

“Yours too. I mean, I like yours a lot.”

In the background…

“Out from his coffin, Drac’s voice did ring

Seems he was troubled by just one thing

He opened the lid and shook his fist

And said, “Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist?”

They sipped their drinks in an awkward silence before Brock spoke up, “Would you like to dance?” he asked.

“Yes. It would be my pleasure kind sir,” she chuckled playfully.

They stayed on the dance floor throughout the night. When it was time to go Brock asked his new-found vampire friend, if she needed a ride home? He could see her eyes twinkling in the mask’s eye holes.

“How kind of you to ask. I could use a short ride if you don’t mind.

“My pleasure,” he grinned happily under his mask. “Which way?”

He followed her directions to the opposite side of the city to an area he wasn’t familiar with. As he drove by an old cemetery she asked him to stop. Puzzled, he obeyed. She got out of the car and walked around to the driver’s side before he could react.

“This is far enough. I’ll walk from here. Thank you,” she said and leaned over and brought her mask up against his. “Maybe next time we’ll take our masks off. I have to go now. My name is Cecile,” she shared, and blew him a kiss before disappearing in the growing fog.

“”My name is Brock!” he yelled out the window.

“I know…” her husky voice replied. “Rubber face,” she said softly and out of his hearing.”

As he drove home he wondered what her real face looked like. How would she react when she saw his rough features? Would he ever see her again? She blew him a kiss! It took all of his concentration to get home safely that night. There were so many questions going through his head.

He was taking an evening stroll in his neighborhood a week later wearing his Sherlock Holmes mask when she appeared from behind a tree in his neighbor’s yard. She was still wearing her vampire costume and mask. He stopped and spoke in pleasant surprise, “Cecile, I presume!” he said, bowing grandly.

Indeed, sir. At your service,” she said happily.

“Shall we walk, and talk,” Brock asked while holding out his arm. She took it and they walked side-by-side down the tree-lined neighborhood with its antique-looking street lights. In the half moon’s glow they talked about things high and low. No subject was taboo.

In the early morning hours, just before the sun started its slow climb upwards, they took off their masks. He saw she was no classic beauty, but her simple plain features were attractive to him. She already knew what he looked like without a mask. She admired him for years. At a distance.

“I have to go now,” she said, sadness tinting her voice.”

“I’ll drive you!” he offered.

“Not fast enough,” she countered. “Remember what we talked about. Especially the supernatural part,” she urged.

Before he could protest she was gone. It was dawn. He went into the house and wondered what he’d say to his parents who were surely up by now eating breakfast and drinking coffee. They were both early risers.

A week went by. Brock was getting desperate to see Cecile so he drove back to the place where he dropped her off the night of the dance. There had to be some homes near the cemetery that he didn’t see that night. It was foggy and he was focused on her. But as he parked in roughly the same spot, he didn’t see anything but hills dotted with monuments and crosses.

The sun set – a fiery red ball in the west – as he pulled on his vampire mask and waited for darkness to settle over the land. He was prepared to tell her that he loved her. He didn’t have to wait long before she was standing by him in her mask.

“I miss you,” he admitted. “And, I love you.” 

“And I you, dear boy entering manhood,” she replied. “But we can’t pursue this love any more. It’s not fair.”

“It’s not fair to who?”

“You. By now you know what I am. You’ll grow old, but I’ll stay young. I’m already 300 years-old. We cannot take this budding romance any further. I admit to having been enchanted with you ever since you were a little boy wearing those masks. I’m sorry.”

“I’m not,” he said. “We can still be friends, can’t we?

“Yes!” she cried, and hugged him. Yes, we can Rubber Face,” she smiled under her mask.

As It Stands, a case of finding love in the wrong place, doesn’t always have to be a sad ending.

The Thing In The Leech Line

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Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

“I charge double on the weekends. Are you sure you want me to come out today?” Ollie Winters asked.

The voice on the other end rose an octave…“Yessss!”

“Well…okay then. What’s your address? Hmmmmm….you must be on the west side of town near the city limits. That’s about 45 minutes from where I’m at. Yes…I’ll hurry,” he assured the caller.

Grumbling all the way, Ollie grabbed his baseball cap and jacket and headed out. Because he was unfamiliar with that part of town he had difficulty locating the house. When he did, he quickly realized it was on the wrong side of the street to have city sewers.

The old house looked like a prototypical haunted mansion out of a horror movie. It appeared to be in poor repair from what he could see of the outside. The cobblestone walkway leading to the front porch was overgrown with weeds. Two faded wooden rocking chairs sat next to the front door, facing away from the house.

A couple of raindrops followed Ollie to the front porch. There was no light and it was getting dark.  Ollie was already regretting taking the job when the front door suddenly opened and an old woman came out. Her dress was something out of a Victorian movie.

“You’ve come!” she said dramatically.

“You said something about your toilet being blocked,” he reminded her.

Yes! It’s terrible! The bathroom is a mess!” she said, sounding a lot like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind.

“May I come in?”

“Of course. Follow me.”

He clutched his tool box tighter and followed the old lady through the parlor and to a small hallway that came to a dead-end with a door. The odor emanating from the room was foul. She sniffed in distaste and said, “I’ll leave you to it then. Let me know if you need anything.”

Hesitantly, he opened the door and saw raw sewage seeping out of the toilet. It occurred to him that not being on the city sewer line meant there was a leech line somewhere near the house with a septic tank that must be overflowing.

That settled it. He couldn’t work on it while it was raining. Besides it would require help pumping out the septic tank. Feeling relieved, he went back out into the parlor looking for the old lady…and heard voices and music coming from the living room.

Perplexed he followed the voices. When he saw a group of men and women decked out in antique clothes dancing and socializing while an old-fashioned record player sang “Bird In A Gilded Cage,” he became confused.

How could this be happening he wondered? As far as he knew, it was just him and the old lady. Where was she anyway? And what was with the period dress? Nothing made sense. No one seemed to notice him standing there with his white jacket that said “Ollie’s Plumbing” on the back.

He carefully backed out of the room and headed for the front door. Just before he got to it the old lady suddenly reappeared in front of it. She saw the look of mounting terror in his eyes and tried to soothe him, “It’s going to be quite all right good sir. Just a little case of time shifts. Happens all the time,” she said reassuringly.

Ollie tried to say something. Instead he let her lead him up the ornate stairway to the top floor. He felt like a zombie. Part of his mind said this wasn’t happening. The other part was panicking because it recognized a line in reality had been crossed.

She led him to a window and pointed down at the yard. A flash of lightning lit the yard up for a moment illuminating a giant tentacled nightmare with large baleful eyes crawling out of the sludge from where the leech line was.

“There’s the problem,” the old lady said conversationally, “That thing is mucking up my bathroom. I have a hunch it’s going to take more than one of those snake things I saw in your ad in the phone book, to get rid of it.”

Ollie dropped his tool box and backed up against the wall. The thing down there was something out of an H.P. Lovecraft tale.

“Why were you leaving when the job wasn’t done?” the old lady interrupted his thoughts.

He found himself explaining to her that he had to get a special truck to pump out the waste in the septic tank, and that it wasn’t  a one-man job.

In the blink of an eye they were back in the living room…alone. No signs of the party remained. He heard the rain increasing in intensity outside.

“Damn time shifts!” the old lady groused. “Oh! Pardon my language sir! Allow me to show you out.”

Ollie dumbly followed her out to the front porch. His eyes scanned the yard fearfully as she spoke, “I do hope when this rain stops you’ll come back and help me kind sir,” she said.

He nodded, and tried to speak, but she was already back in the house. That was the moment Ollie decided he was going to retire early.

As It Stands, have you ever wondered how you’d react to a supernatural experience?

Dead Eyes

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

Detective Bryce Nance left the crime scene after working it for two hours.

On his way back to the office he thought about retiring…again. He’d been threatening to retire for months. He was tired of waging war with death dealers. His brain was scorched with images of dead eyes, and mangled bodies.

Thirty years on the force now. Was he ready to leave? He wasn’t sure he wanted to retire. What would he do? He’d been a cop all of his entire adult life. He’d drive his wife of thirty years nuts, if all he had to do was piddle around the house!

As he filled out his report later he thought about the victim, a short oriental man who had both hands and feet cut off. The coroner said he bled to death from his massive wounds. No other wounds were found on the body.

It was the second body this week with the same wounds. Talk of a serial killer made its rounds in local newspapers and news television. When the second murder was announced the hashtag #HandAndFootPsycho popped up on social media platforms.

The chief-of-police, Dwayne Fitsimmons, got a call from the mayor who hated all the coverage the case was getting. Fitsimmons, in turn, called a meeting with his detectives and rank and file cops.

When he was done berating his men he let them go to work. Detective Bryce walked up to him afterward and asked for a minute of his time. When they got to his office and he told him that he was considering retiring, the chief rolled his eyes skyward and pounded his fist on the desk!

“You’ve got to be kidding me Bryce! You’re the best detective we have! You’re good for at least five more years. Is it a raise? I’ll give you a raise!”

“No…it’s not about the money chief. I’m tired of seeing dead eyes in my dreams.”

“Awww…Bryce me lad…”

“Don’t give me that phony Irish accent, I’m serious.”

“Is that the way it is? Then you might want to check with your union steward, but you still have two years to go before voluntary retirement is possible. It’d be a terrible thing to lose after all these years of service because…”

“I’m outa here!

Chief Fitsimmons lit up a cigar as Detective Bryce stormed out the door. He took a couple of puffs and shook his head. He had enough things to worry about.

Two days later.

Detective Bryce came up with a working theory.

Both victims were found in city streets. Not inside somewhere. Whoever committed the crimes must have acted swiftly because there were no witnesses. Both murders happened at night on what were busy roads during the day.

He thought about the fastest way the killer could escape the murder scene. After studying his notes, he found that there was a sewer opening just feet away at both of the murder scenes.

He theorized that the killer must have used the sewer to get away. The next step was to check out the sewer system, but he wasn’t going to do that alone. People got lost in New York’s historic underground tunnels.

He needed his partner and a guide.

Back at the station house he spotted Detective Jimmy Jones, who was recently put on the case with him.

“Jimmy! I need to find someone who knows the tunnels and would be willing to serve as a guide for us.”

“Us?”

“Yeah, I have a theory how the murderer is getting around. I need your help partner.”

“Okay. I do happen to know someone who’ll fit the bill. He’ll do anything for money. He lives on the streets. I’ll get the word out right now.”

Detective Bryce watched him go. He was ten years younger than himself. Still vigorous and ambitious. He was a good man.

The next day.

Detective Jimmy pried open the steel cover and with the help of Louie (their guide) slid it aside. It was after 11:00 o’clock and the side street they picked was quiet. Louie went down first, followed by the two detectives.

They all had flashlights and were waving them around in different directions. The detectives switched their shoes out for boots. Louie wore his usual black high top sneakers.

Detective Bryce pulled a map from his inside jacket pocket. The three of them had already looked it over before going down. Without a word, he picked a direction and Louie led the way.

They went to the sewer opening nearest the last victim. The detectives bent over and studied the ground. Detective Jimmy found the first droplets of blood. Their were dried out, but recognizable on the narrow walkway alongside the sewer floor. More followed. Then abruptly stopped.

Whatever had been dripping must have been covered up, because they lost the trail. They decided to call it a night after taking photos and making notes of where the blood spots were. A forensic team would examine it in the morning.

Four days later.

Detective Bryce was sitting at his desk when the forensic report came back. The blood they saw was the same as the victim’s. There was no doubt about it now. There was a monster loose in the sewer system.

As he considered the report his phone rang. Another victim!

When Detective Bryce got to the scene police had it roped off. The victim was a woman. She was missing her hands and feet. The pools of blood were still sticky and flies were already buzzing around the body.

He looked over a few feet and saw a sewer grate. He was back.

The media had a holiday with the sensational murders. They’d attracted national attention since the second murder. The third poured fuel upon the fires of speculation on who would do such a thing?

The next day, Louie and the detectives went down the grate near the last murder. A very nervous Louie demanded twice his usual fees, and stuck to them like glue. As they came to an intersection of tunnels something flew out of the shadows and scooped a screaming Louie up like a baby and ran off with him!

Both detectives pulled their service revolvers and gave chase. Whatever grabbed Louie must have been incredibly strong! They could hear his cries of terror ahead of them. Then they stopped.

When they finally got to Louie he was missing his hands and feet! His eyes were still open in shock. Detective Bryce stopped and kneeled alongside of him. He was still faintly breathing!

His partner had kept the chase up. There was nothing he could do for Louie, but he could help his partner. Holding the flashlight in front of him he trotted as fast as he could through the foot deep muck. There were two openings ahead. He stopped in between them and listened.

He heard a noise at the same time he was hit from behind, sending him sprawling in the muck. He looked up at the giant pale figure eerily illuminated by his flashlight on the ground. He was bald and had dead white eyes!

The albino horror pulled a hatchet from his rope belt and slowly approached him. Detective Bryce fumbled for his shoulder holster and gun. The thing bent over and brought the hatchet down, lopping his left foot off!

He could hear himself screaming in agony when the shots went off! Detective Jimmy was in a firing stance squeezing off careful shots! Then he fainted.

The giant staggered backward, but managed to stay upright. Detective Jimmy reached down into his partner’s coat and grabbed his pistol.

The thing was howling in pain and anger. Detective Jimmy fired again. This time the giant went down and stayed there.

Later on.

Detective Bryce opened his eyes and looked down at his feet. One was missing, but he was alive. He was in a hospital and his wife was at his side. She leaned over and kissed him when she saw he was awake.

“Jimmy?” he asked.

“He’s outside. I’ll get him for you,” she said.

A minute later Detective Jimmy came in with Chief Fitsimmons.

How are you doing partner?” Jimmy asked.

“Great. I didn’t need that foot anyway. So what was that thing that attacked us?”

An awkward silence.

“It’s body wasn’t there when we sent a team back down to get it,” the chief said. “Try to look at the bright side. You can retire now!”

Detective Bryce looked over at his partner and asked, “So who do you think took the body?

As It Stands, add this tale to the many others about New York’s famous underground.