The Last Ship To Saturn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The loser was the next meal.

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

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

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

The Headhunter’s Story

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1868 – Prescott, Arizona

Ex-Union cavalry officer, Captain Leander Lincoln kicked the saloon doors open and entered with both guns drawn!

“I’m looking for the Stuart boys!” he shouted.

Three men slowly stood up from the card table. The rest of the saloon was silent as the oldest spoke, “You found them. Now what are you going to do?” he asked as his right hand slithered down to hover over his Colt 45.

Lincoln, laughed and said, “I’m going to kill all three of you fools if you all don’t unbuckle your gun belts very carefully and let them drop to the ground.

“Here’s the thing. Your wanted dead, or alive. I’d just as soon shoot your sorry asses so you better make a quick decision!”

Three gun belts fell to the wooden floor.

The US Army drove the Navajo people from their ancestorial lands in Arizona Territory and Western New Mexico, and marched them on the infamous Long Walk to imprisonment in Bosque Redondo when Leander was still in the Army and stationed in Washington DC.

When the treaty of 1868 was signed the Navajo left Bosque Redondo, and were relocated to eastern New Mexico. That was the year Leander mustered out of the Army and went West to see his mother and half brother.

Hundreds of Navajo men, women, and children died on the Long Walk. The survivors were put on a reservation. The horror of the relocation was firmly embedded in their minds.

Some wanted revenge. The rest went on with their hardscrabble lives.

Hashkeh Naabah  greeted Leander warmly.

“What has my white son Ahiga brought me?” he politely asked.

Three more white men who won’t be missed. Your men are taking them off the horses and tying them to stakes as we speak.”

“No one will come and say we killed them then?” Hashkeh inquired.

“No. They are wanted men. They are yours now. I will continue to bring you white men as long as I can. As long as I live.”

“You are a lot like your mother, and my sister, Yanaha. He bravery inspired us all on the Long Walk. We still mourn her death.”  

“As do I, Uncle.”

“Come, let us go watch the squaws torture these white eyes. The big one looks like he may last for a long time.” 

The prisoners screams pierced the night.

Leander’s anger at the US Army, and what they did to his mother, burned his soul and left a charred husk of a human thirsting for revenge. Posing as a bounty hunter was a stroke of genius.

He knew he couldn’t start killing Union soldiers and hope to get away with it. In his mind he ceased being a “white man” and embraced his Navajo heritage. He was Ahiga, son of Yanaha. As such, he had no qualms about killing any white men.

After roaming from town-to-town looking for wanted men throughout the west he acquired a reputation. Folks knew Captain Lincoln never brought anyone back alive. Just their heads.

His hunt lasted two years, before he was shot to death in a saloon by a drunken ex-Confederate soldier who refused to believe the war was over.

The elders at the Navajo Reservation told Ahiga’s story to each new generation. It was a story however, that was never shared with outsiders.

As It Stands, historical fiction is a good way to tell stories that could have been true, but aren’t.

The Little Pawnshop of Horrors

thUDZN1MVJEstuardo Zacapa, late of Guatemala, bought a little pawn shop in Oakland, California, for a price he couldn’t refuse.

His cousin and lawyer said not to talk about what a great deal he got with anyone.

The prior owner was killed by a crackhead who carried a shotgun into the store to sell. When told he wasn’t interested in buying it, the crackhead fired both barrels into the owner’s body!

Estuardo did not know this when he bought the business. Even if he did know it, chances were he would have bought it anyway. It was a chance to come to America. The land of his dreams.

It took him twenty years to save up a nest egg big enough to realize his dream of leaving Guatemala. His cousin, Adolfo Benitez, moved to Oakland fifteen years ago, and had his own little restaurant that brought in enough to support his big family of eight children.

It was he who kept an eye out for business opportunities for Estuardo. It was he that talked Estuardo into learning how to speak English ten years ago. So when he called one day about buying a pawn shop in Oakland, Estuardo eagerly agreed to.

Adolfo set him up with a passport, work visa, and information on how to apply for citizenship.

A week later, Estuardo was living in a small apartment in downtown Oakland. He was alone in the world, and his needs were simple. He put all of his trust in his cousin’s advise and bought the store.

He lived in the apartment for a month as the sale went through escrow. During that time he read everything he could get his hands on about pawn shops. Trade magazines, and books, that gave him the basics he needed. He hoped.

When he finally got the key to the store he moved his meager belongings into the smallest of the two rear rooms. There was a bed frame, but no box springs or mattress in it. A three-legged night table stood next to the maple headboard.

He didn’t hold a grand opening because he couldn’t afford advertising. He needed what he had left to eat, pay his water and electric bills, and a small cushion for emergencies. So he just hung an Open sign on the front display window one day.

He was surprised when a dozen customers showed up. Seven of them pawned items for money. The other three bought items he had for sale. One of the sales was a wizen monkey head that looked alarmingly like a human shrunken head.

It came with a piece of paper certifying that it wasn’t a human head, and was harvested 100 years ago when there were no restrictions against such souvenirs. The other two sales were a watch, and a faux gold necklace with colored stones.

Some of the items pawned were a Japanese Katana sword, a high-end coffee machine, a nearly new set of socket wrenches, a 1975 String Ray bicycle, a set of naked manikins, and a Black and Decker skill saw still in the box.

When Estuardo decided to renovate the two back rooms he tore the carpeting out and the old dry wall. During that process he discovered two badly decomposed bodies standing up behind his bedroom wall.

They were so old they looked like mummies. He called the police and they came and recovered the bodies and left. It shook him up, but he managed to finish the room makeovers a week later.

He never heard back from the police and didn’t particulary want to walk into the police station and ask about the two dead people that were in his room. His curiousity was aroused and he went to the public library.

He went through reams of past issues of the daily newspaper the East Bay Express, all the way back to it’s inception in 1978. The Express, known for investigative news and feature stories would have what he was looking for according to the libarian; any information about his pawn store.

It did. The pawn store building dated back to 1911. It started out as a general store but transformed over the generations into a pawn store around 1931. The building was the site of countless murders over the decades.

The more he read he got a feeling of dread. Since the first murder happened in 1914, not a year passed where a murder wasn’t committed! Some years there were as many as six murders!

It wasn’t always an owner who was murdered every year. Some owners ran the business for ten years and more before being killed themselves. But, in the end they all died violently. By the time Estuardo was done reading about the building’s history he knew he had to do something.

The building, the store, demanded a human sacrifice every year. It became apparent to paranoid Estuardo that as long as he owned the building someone had to die. He thought about the dark Mayan gods of his heritage and their demand for blood.

He decided he’d rather be the priest than a victim and fed the building a month later by shooting a customer in the head while he was bent over a glass case looking at a Katana. Afterward, he told the police that he was attacked.

As It Stands, I know there must be a cursed old store building genre out there in the hinterlands that I’ve tapped into.

Sacrifice Day For Venus

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Venus, 2208 

A hundred years had passed since Venus lost the war against Mars.

Once a year, during the Harvest season, a Martian enforcer squad comes to The Great Hall of Aphrodite to collect the Sacrifice.   

The Sacrifice, was 70 young Venusian females; one from every nation on Venus. They were wrapped in golden cloaks worth a tidy sum in Martian markets. It was a day of mourning for all Venusians; especially for the parents of the women taken.

As always, the leaders of the nations met after the Sacrifice, hoping to come up with a way to stop losing women every year. The leaders, men and women, always gathered at the Temple of Venus to talk.

The floor and walls were milky white marble from earth. Their tall slender Venusian reflections danced across the floor, chased by shadows cast from the setting sun. They glided gracefully across the marble like dancers, as the Venusians moved around the room in clusters of conversations.

Finally, when the moons came out, they adjourned the meeting with no solutions.

That night, a young woman asked her father, who was one of the leaders, how far would they go to stop the Martians from annually plundering their planet? The father, puzzled by the question, asked her what she meant?

“If we must send sacrifices, why not tainted ones that could destroy all life on Mars?”

The father, who’d been sitting, stood up and approached his daughter. “I’m not sure I understand.”

Martians have no resistance against our diseases. No more than we have of theirs.”

The import of what his daughter was saying made him sad, but hopeful too. “Do you purpose to ask for volunteers for this deadly mission?”

No. We’ll use the regular lottery system to decide the 70 who will be infected,” she said.

After a special meeting two days later the die was cast.

The scientists decided which virus to use. They also agreed not to give it to the women until the night before the Sacrifice. It would only take 24-hours before becoming deadly to the host, and whoever was near them.

There was no cure.

Meanwhile, the 70 women selected were treated like the heroines they were. Every door to every convenience on Venus was open to them. Strangers asked for their autographs.

There was no worry that the Martians would get wind of their plans because they had become lax during the last couple of decades. They didn’t even have representatives or spies to monitor the Venusians anymore.

Venus was considered the arm-pit of the solar system to Martians who hated having to spend any time there.

When time for the next Sacrifice came the Venusians were ready. The Martians who escorted the women to the space cruiser idly noticed that there were no cries of mercy from the women or the crowd that had gathered.

Their contempt for the peaceful Venusians pushed away any warning signs from their minds.

As It Stands, this my warped version of a space David and Goliath story.