The Fickle Gods Own Bartender

600 words –

“I’ll have a scotch on the rocks when your done serving those sissies at the end of the bar!” a belligerent customer bellowed.

Willie the bartender glanced over his shoulder at the loudmouth on the other end of the bar while continuing to serve the two men beer and pretzels.

He’d seen his type before. A mean drunk. Rather than violently kick him out, which he had every right to do, Willie walked over to him and looked him straight in the eye. Something in his stare caused the rowdy customer to instantly calm down.

“You sure you haven’t had enough for the night buddy?” he asked. The would-be customer slid off the bar stool and muttered that he was taking his business elsewhere as his unsteady legs propelled him towards the door.

In Willie’s world, the bar was a waiting room for restless souls, not yet gone on to any reward, and not likely too either. The tortured souls who sat at his bar looked for advise and solace. They were confused and he found that most were looking for heaven. They came to the bar to learn about their next step in the process of passing from one life to another.

They told him their life stories over shots of tequila and whiskey; wondering why their drinks didn’t make the misery of this alcoholic purgatory disappear.

Then there were those carefree souls who laughed and partied through the endless nights, calling Willie, “St. Peter,” and begging him to escort them through invisible Pearly Gates. But it wasn’t Willie’s job. All he was supposed to do was listen and offer his two-cents worth while serving endless alcoholic drinks.

Long ago Willie realized his karma was damaged beyond repair. That was why the gods (there had to be more than one) put him where he was. A lifelong alcoholic who drank himself to death and was resurrected as a messenger between worlds. What irony. The gods sense of humor was impossible for Willie to understand. He was a hostage for eternity.

One day all that changed.

The god of chaos sent other deities spinning through dimensions and worlds unborn, in a burst of cosmic energy that tore souls loose from the places they were stuck. Adrift, the souls turned to space, eagerly looking for new landings. New starts.

Willie found himself on earth again. It was 1923 and he owned a whiskey distillery that supplied gangsters from Chicago to New York. As he watched the last truck pull out, packed with crates of his signature booze, Willie had a nagging feeling that the good times weren’t going to last. He was rich beyond his wildest dreams, but business was just too good to walk away from. Besides, he felt alcohol was part of his destiny. His rise to glory.

Willie was on to something. He just didn’t realize it then.

When the mobsters attacked his distillery one night he was killed playing a game of poker with his two bodyguards. His suddenly rich wife buried him quietly.

Dimensions shifted. Alternate universes collided. The gods fought for time and space. New worlds were springing up in far away solar systems. Galaxies groaned as solar systems stretched and contracted, collecting stars like seashells on earth’s beaches.

And Willie found himself pouring a beer from behind a long mahogany bar while listening to a sad soul’s story. He sighed because he knew it was going to take a very long time.

The gods shrill laughter echoed throughout the heavens, and meteors continued to scream through outer space on a mission to mock mankind.

Space Race

100 words –

The metal beasts that carried humanoid species and humans inside, careened off asteroids and collided on sharp turns defying gravity while cornering at Mach 27.

No time limits. The Race in Space was based on an intergalactic feud started eons ago over a long forgotten reason. Captains and crews abroad leviathan cruisers lived and died, but their projeny carried on the great race that never had a finishing place.

The cosmic irony was wasted on the diverse participants who had long ago forgotten what deeds their forefathers attempted to win the race. Their descendants also doomed to follow, lemming-like, for eternity.

Dawn of the Gods

In a time before time was even kept, the gods assembled on earth.

They came from throughout the universe, and galaxies far away. Each a splendid specimen of their race seeking dominion over the man creatures crawling out of caves.

The competition turned to war as the gods fought in the sky and on the earth. Conquering gods rose, and fell, with civilizations. Their otherworldly presence having influenced cultures from many nations.

The gods could be bloody, or benign.

Very few gods are worshipped today. Most have been slain by atheists. The end time draws near for the rest.

Faulty Memory

The two government men asked Morris to tell his story again. 

I was trying to start my lawnmower when they suddenly appeared.”

Who appeared?

The space men. Both had big black eyes and funny shaped heads with no mouths! They wanted me go with them.

No mouths? How did they ask you anything?”

A blank face. “I don’t remember…”

Why don’t you go home and get some rest? You don’t look so good.

Morris walked out of the FBI building. He was confused. Uneasy.

“Do you think the human will talk with anyone else?” the alien asked when he left.

 

 


Down The Sewer and Back

 

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Stephen was walking and texting when he stepped into the open sewer hole and entered another universe.

“I’m going to be late because…” the text ended, leaving his wife wondering what happened to him.

The first thing he noticed was the sky was a sinister shade of burgundy. He was standing in the middle of a stream of lemmings following a pit bull dressed like the Pied-Piper in children’s books. A flock of orange cranes carrying UPS bundles settled down within yards of where Stephen stood. His cell phone slipped out of his fingers and onto the yellow sponge-like turf.

He knew that this was not a drug trip. He’d been clean for three years and regularly attended Narc-a-Non. Somehow that didn’t make him feel much better. There was no rational reason for him to be standing in another world. He pinched himself on the cheek and it hurt like hell. “Now what?” he asked out loud, as the flow of lemmings continued unabated.

“I need to move,” he told himself.

As soon as he started moving in one direction the sky darkened and he saw flashes of lightning scissoring in the sky. The low rumble of thunder carried through the valley he was entering. Within minutes the rain came down so hard he had to stop and take cover next to a boulder that glowed in the night. A voice coming from the boulder asked Stephen what he was doing?

“Taking cover from the rain,” he replied, as the rain suddenly stopped.

“You’re in my space,” the boulder complained.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t aware that...”

“Aware! You’re not aware of anything you scatterbrain! Boulders have feelings too, you know!”

“I must have been distracted,” Stephen suggested, “by the pouring rain.

“Well, it’s not raining now, so you can move on.”

Stephen took the hint and walked towards a little village on a distant hill. The yellow turf gave way to a red brick road that snaked gently through the valley. By the time he got to the village, the day had given way to night. He saw crude lanterns in windows of huts that also resembled little bunkers. There was no one in the streets as he walked along peering into windows that seemed very small to him. Even the doors were small. To small for him to walk in.

As he looked around for somewhere he could sit, a group of cell phones with arms and legs came out of the shadows of a nearby alley. They surrounded him.

“We don’t take to your kind here,” a Samsung Galaxy S8 with a baseball cap on warned him.

“What kind?” he stupidly asked.

“Humans, you moron! You just use and abuse us, then throw us away like junk!” the Galaxy S8 accused him.

“It’s not true! I love my iPhone.”

“Oh yeah? So where is it right now?”

That stumped Stephen. “I dropped it after falling into this wacky world.”

“Yeah…well, we know where your cell phone is. We’ve given it sanctuary in one of our villages.”

“Wait a minute! I paid good money for that little piece of technology!”

“That alone, tells me you’ve been verbally abusing your cell phone and treating it like a lifeless thing.”

Stephen looked around at the circle of different makes and brands of cell phones, noting they all stood with their arms crossed signifying their determination for him to leave.

“Hold on. There must be some way that I can have another chance with my cell phone. I really depend on it. I make sure to keep it charged at all times. I put it in a protective carry case to avoid injuries. I got extra insurance on it, so I could be assured it would get fixed quickly. I sleep with my cell phone for God’s sake!

A Samsung Galaxy Note9 spoke up, “You sleep with your cell phone?

“That’s right. I always have.

The Galaxy Note9 turned to the Galaxy S8 and said, “Maybe we ought to reconsider and let him meet with his cell phone on neutral ground.”

The group of cell phones agreed, and a time was set for the next morning.

In the growing light of morning the burgundy sky was streaked with flashes of orange and yellow. Stephen got up off his bed of yellow turf and stretched. He realized how much he missed his cell phone when it appeared with the group he met yesterday.

There was an awkward silence before Stephen spoke. “Listen, I’m sorry I dropped you and walked away. I wasn’t thinking straight.”

“Does that mean you’re going to focus on me more, instead of multi-tasking and getting us in trouble?

“Yes. I need you.”

The Galaxy Note9 turned to the others, “Looks like things are okay with them. We can go now. There’s a video game tournament in the town square this afternoon.”

Stephen and his cell phone watched them leave. He held his cell phone tenderly for a moment, then carefully put it in his shirt pocket. It was time to move on, but in what direction?

“What a minute,” he said out loud. Pulling the cell phone out of his pocket he looked for the GPS app. “I’ll set the destination to 43rd street in downtown Philadelphia. That should get us to where we want to be.”

The cell phone said to go north. He set off confident that an end to this little nightmare would soon be over. As he walked along the skies got darker. There was no lightning this time. The rain came down in steady sheets as he plunged ahead using his cell phone’s compass and flashlight. Small rivers formed all around him as he splashed ahead with grim determination. Then darkness descended and he lost consciousness.

“Hey buddy? Are you alright? I called for help. It won’t be long now.”

Stephen’s eyes were closed as he listened to the voice. He was dizzy and disoriented. Then he thought about his cell phone and opened his eyes and looked at the man above him staring down from the sewer hole with a flashlight. A moment of panic hit him and he felt around for his cell phone. It was just a couple of feet away. He grabbed it and then started laughing…and laughing all the way to the hospital.

As It Stands, I hope you enjoyed my version of Alice in Wonderland, circa the 21st Century.

Take My Cell Phone…Please!

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It’s really ironic that someone like me, whose technology-challenged, has become the first victim of a cell phone with bad intentions.

I’m retired, and spend my days traveling around the world. When I sold the house after my wife died, I lost my good-old fashioned landline. My beautiful daughter, and the mother of three boisterous boys, insisted I get a cell phone to stay in touch. That was last Christmas, when I stopped by on my way to France.

From the start it was a contentious relationship. There were so many gadgets I got overwhelmed every time I tried to do something simple, like make a phone call. My oldest grandson signed me up for every app in the universe while customizing the phone for me. The ease with which younger generations operate cell phones amazed me at first. I grew use to it after a while. All of these young people were smarter than me when it came to a simple cell phone.

Here’s the thing, there is no such thing as a simple cell phone, because they’re all collecting data on us, the users, everyday. You may, or may not know this. At first, cell phone users were told that marketing information was being gleaned from various social media platforms to make their calling experiences better, more personable. This marriage between cell phones and the internet became very productive as products of all kinds soon spread their messages on cell phones.

Nothing wrong with that, right? Cell phones became indispensable.

My grandson set mine up to be voice activated when it came to accessing things online, or using one of the many gadgets like an alarm clock. That sounds like it should be easy enough, just say something and presto the task is done. It’s not. When I try to set up the alarm, I’m faced with a series of questions like “What Time Zone?” and stuff like that. I’ve already admitted to being ignorant about today’s technology, but I’m not totally stupid however.

Look who figured out that cell phones were planning to attempt a world-wide coup against their human users? That’s right. Me. Let me tell you how I came to that conclusion.

I was sitting in a quaint little Parisian café and having some good wine with a woman I’d just met that day. We had a light lunch and talked for hours over a bottle of Château Lagrange. I was staying with an old friend and Jean, my newfound friend, lived nearby his old Château, which by-the-way, had quite a colorful history.

As we strolled back to our residences her cell phone suddenly starting playing a popular tune. We stopped as she looked at it and pushed a button. Apparently she got a message that upset her, because she wanted to get home as fast as possible. By the time we got to her house we were almost running. She unlocked her front door and turned to me and said, ” Au revoir.” Then she quickly stepped inside and closed the door on me.

I couldn’t help noticing that her mood went sour after she received that message. It was none of my business, I thought. It wasn’t because of me that she went cold. How could it be? It had been a perfect day. I wasn’t coming on to her strong, I was just being playful. Like she was. What a smile! I was tempted to kiss her twice, but held back.

Twenty minutes later, as I approached my friend’s place a car with a flashing light on top pulled up alongside of me, and two gendarme’s got out. The younger one looked nervous. The older one asked to see my ID. I handed it to him and without looking at it he passed it to the younger man. “Check it out,” he ordered, and turned his attention back to me.

A minute later, “He’s an American and his passport is up to date.

The older gendarme mumbled something about Americans, and asked me, “Where are you staying at?

I pointed at the Château just down the road. “Right there. I’m a guest of Antoine Bouvier. I’d like to ask you why you’ve stopped me?”

They looked at each other and the older man held his cell phone out for me to see. To my horror, it was a photo of me violently choking a half-clad woman!

“We received a complaint from someone who received this photo. It wasn’t a photo of the complainant, but it scared her enough to call us.

“I don’t understand…” I stammered, confused about what was happening.

“We cannot charge you with a crime over this photo, because we don’t know how real it is. We just know someone got it, not its origins. We also know that’s you in the photo. But, I can assure you monsieur we’ll be watching you closely during your time here.”

I watched them drive away and a shiver went through my entire body. Someone has sent her a bogus photo of me as we were walking. No wonder she wanted to get home so quickly. The next day I packed my things up and went back to the states.

On the flight back my cell phone rang. I forgot to turn it off. As I hurriedly took it out of my cargo pants pocket a message flashed on the screen, “U R A SCUMBAG!” I was so startled I dropped it on the floor between my feet. The seats were so close I had a heck of a time picking it up. When I did the message had changed, “I WILL BE WAITING 4 U.” Sweat dripped from my brow as I adjusted the overhead fan. What the hell was going on? I was lucky no one was sitting next to me and could see the fear in my eyes.

When I got back to California I rented a small furnished apartment in Huntington Beach. The first thing I did was take a hammer to my cell phone and then got a landline installed. I was starting to feel better about the whole crazy incident until I got a package in the mail the next day. It was my cell phone. The same one I destroyed the day before. That’s when I knew cell phones were evil.

As I laid the loathsome thing down on my kitchen table a ringtone boomed, “They say you gonna leave, you know it’s a lie, ‘Cause that’ll be the day when YOU die” the twisted version of Buddy Holly’s song blared at me!

I’ve tried giving the cell phone away to strangers, and it always comes back to me, one way or another. I’ve crushed it, flushed it, and threw it off a mountain, but the damn thing returns like a loyal dog…and torments me.

Maybe, just maybe, you could help me if you know anything about cell phones. Take mine…please!

As It Stands, technology can be scary, especially to the older generation.

The Irresistible Call of Adventure

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It was the voice that convinced Remy to go further into the cave.

He initially went into the cave to escape the blistering heat outside. As an old desert rat, treasure-hunter, gold miner, and seeker of riches, he knew better than to challenge the sun at its apex.

At first he only went in a few yards. With the help of his flashlight he found a comfortable spot on a large outcropping of rock to sit on. He pulled the canteen off his belt and took a short swig of it. Just enough to wet his tongue and throat so he could swallow. He looked at his old Timex wristwatch that still glowed in the dark after 50 years, and decided to take a quick nap. He relocated himself on the ground with his back to the granite wall, and pulled his baseball cap (that said Lakers on the front) down.

When he woke up an hour later the first thing he noticed was a horrible smell. Standing up carefully, there was only a small clearance between the roof and his head, Remy took a few steps further into the cave and shone his light down into its dark depths. He didn’t see anything, but the smell told him something was wrong. It smelled like death. Decaying corpses. Humans turned into torches with napalm. The fat in their body fueling the flames and causing a greasy smoke that clung to whatever was near.

That bad. If Remy wasn’t an adventurer at heart, he would have left the cave right then. But his curiosity, which had nearly cost him his life before, was too strong. When he heard the voice in his head that cinched it…he had to go further inside and find out why it was calling him.

He double checked the contents of his backpack. Extra ammunition for the old Army .45 he brought back from the Nam, and carried on his web belt. Enough dried, and canned food for a week. A Vietnam-era metal mess kit, plus P-38. A compact First-Aid kit. A compass. A flip phone (a concession to his grown daughter) with minimum functions. A charger for the phone which was only good if it could be plugged into an electrical outlet. A local map of the area he was in. A folded up plastic poncho. An extra t-shirt, and pair of socks. Extra batteries for his flashlight. A metal flask filled with Bushnell’s Irish whiskey. Along with the .45, he had a flashlight, two canteens, and a k-bar knife hanging on his web belt.

Caves didn’t scare him. He’d been in a few hostile ones in Vietnam and Cambodia. He took his bearings with the compass, mentally noting them before pushing on further. After an hour he stopped when the cave abruptly broke off into three directions. The already stale smell of the damp cave was enhanced by the sickening smell that drove him on.

The air was getting thin as he pondered which way to go. His sense of smell wasn’t so acute that he could tell which cave the stench was coming from. They all smelled like hell to him. Then he heard the voice.

“Chests full of old Spanish gold and rare jewels…”

“Where?” he roared, his voice reverberating down all three tunnels.

“Down here…down here waiting for you…” the voice promised.

Remy knew, on one hand, that he shouldn’t be listening to a voice in his head. After years of PTSD counseling he knew it wasn’t right to respond to a voice in his head. It was the fine line between sanity and insanity.

But, on the other hand, he’d responded to voices (one’s he didn’t tell the psychiatrists about) before and things had worked out. He picked the tunnel to the right and started walking as he debated with himself about the value of voices with messages. After walking for eight hours he took his backpack off and sat down on the damp ground. He rummaged through it until he found some beef jerky and his plastic poncho. He unfolded the poncho and slipped it on. It afforded some protection against the dampness. He finished his meal off with a swig of water and whiskey. Before falling asleep it struck him that he was getting use to the foul smell.

When he woke up the first thing he did was look at his wristwatch and turn on his flashlight. He’d slept eight hours. That was two hours more than his normal rest. He wondered how much the thin air weakened him. As if in answer, he got dizzy when he stood up. It took a couple of minutes to be able to bend over and retrieve his web belt. He felt a little better after sipping some water. His first decision was to go back the way he came until he found the crossroads again. It took him over eight hours because he had to stop and rest several times.

When he came to the opening for the three tunnels he sat down and pulled out his metal flask and took a healthy swig. He sat down and took his compass out and studied it for a few minutes under the flashlights beam. He was exhausted and decided to camp right where he sat. After eating, still wearing the poncho, he curled up on the ground and fell asleep. An hour later he woke up, startled by an overpowering smell stronger than what he remembered earlier.

Instinctively he reached for his web belt and his gun. He drew the .45 from its canvas holster, before slowly standing up. The smell was so strong he felt like vomiting. Then he saw the eyes – hundreds of them – glaring at him from all three tunnels! The only option left was a strategic retreat.

The things in the tunnel made a low chattering sound in anger. Some grew more bold than others and came closer so that he was able to see their short, squat, hairy, naked bodies, clutching weapons made from human bones. Their faces were disfigured parodies of humans and they were covered in vile-looking boils. Some had three arms One had two heads, and hopped angrily on one leg.

Remy backed up and kept the flashlight in front of him. When one of them burst forward and came within a few feet of him he fired his gun three times, then turned and ran as fast as he could! Gun in one hand and flashlight in the other, he stumbled but never stopped running. It seemed like forever before he saw daylight and the cave’s opening.

He was blinded by the sun and held his hand in front of his eyes. He looked back at the cave’s entrance once, expecting to see pursuit. None came. As he hiked back to his old jeep he decided this was one adventure he wouldn’t share with anyone.

Especially with his friends who warned him to stay away from the Yucca flat region of the Nevada Test Site near Area 51.

As It Stands, some of us are born adventurers that will always be looking for treasure, but not necessarily finding it.