Another Day At The Zoo

zoo1959

Like many of the other younger humans in our enclosure, I like to interact with the aliens that pay to come and visit us.

I’m a third generation captive so the novelty of being on display doesn’t affect me in any way. My father, mother, grandmother and grandfather, still have major issues with our way of life. Especially my grandfather, who we call Papa. He gets to talking about when he was a soldier in an army that fought the first wave of aliens when they invaded Earth back in 2068, and it’s hard to stop him. The old boy is still pretty passionate about losing something he calls “his freedom.” I admit that I really don’t understand what he means by that, but I humor him.

We have everything we need here. Food, water, housing, and even entertainment. The neighborhood I live in has immaculate yards and custom homes. No two look alike. My family lives in a two-story house that is said to be a perfect copy of an 1880 Second Empire Victorian home. Right down to the furniture inside.

Forgive my rudeness. My name is Thad. I’m the youngest in our house at 78-years-old. I’m in the best shape of my life and I enjoy running 5 K races. A good game of full court basketball still gets my juices going. My Papa, at 124 years-young, is still a force to contend with on the tennis court. He often talks about living longer than he ever dreamed. He grudgingly admits that something the aliens put in our diet has extended the normal lifetime of humans.

My father, an only child, became immersed in a religious book called the Bible, at an early age. He gathered followers for years sharing his belief about following the Ten Commandments in it. When I was in my 20s, he made me read it, from end-to-end. Once he told me that although it appears we live in the Garden of Eden, we were, in fact, living in hell. That we were nothing more than trained apes content to live meaningless lives. His face always got red whenever he talked about it, and his eyes lit up with a fury that was barely contained. Afterwards I would feel vaguely guilty for reasons I didn’t understand. I never dwelled for long on his passionate diatribes. Life seemed good enough to me.

I never tire of seeing new species from around the solar system stare through the unbreakable glass, full of curiosity. Sometimes I’m able to communicate with universal signing, and learn about life on other planets. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Martian. He was ten-feet tall, thin as a rail and had extraordinarily long arms. We signed back and forth for hours before he took a picture of me and moved on to other exhibits. It was an exhilarating experience learning about life on Mars. When I came home and told my father he got angry and started quoting passages from the Bible. After that, I didn’t talk about what I did during my days.

My favorite visitors were from Venus. Not only were they polite but beautiful to look at. They reminded me of a book Papa showed me once about fairies. They were only a few inches tall, and had wings. They would visit in large groups of a hundred or more, and would spell out simple words in the air, like “Hello, and goodbye.” Because my father taught me to read, I had no trouble picking out the words. It was fun. Sometimes their little bodies would light up in brilliant colors. They could put on quit a show. In turn, they enjoyed having me tell them about my life. They seemed particularly interested in our food distribution system. I explained that the zoo staff flew into the enclosure once a week and dropped off supplies in a central location – the House of Food – where a trained staff of humans distributed the food throughout our community. One of the most popular food items was a ready-made soup that was irresistable to human taste buds. My Papa says it’s that soup that’s extending our lives. Our zoo keepers called the soup Ska.

The only visitors I didn’t like seeing were the Saurins from Jupiter. Not because they of their huge scaly reptilian bodies, but because of their fierce dislike of humans. They let us know that they’d rather eat us, then watch us. Their large baleful eyes hypnotized prey before they struck. I still shudder recalling a time that I was caught up in that deadly stare. If it wasn’t for the glass between us, I would have been his next meal. After that I learned not to look into their eyes.

One evening when I was having a bowl of ska, I discovered an eyeball! I was shocked and wondered how it got in the soup. To my untrained eye, it looked like a human eye. My stomach heaved for a moment at the thought. My brain raced through numerous possibilities – none of them good. Try as I might, I couldn’t see how an eyeball got in there by accident. When my father got home that evening I showed it to him. He was silent at first, as he carefully examined it.

“It’s a human eye!” he suddenly blurted out.

“How do you know?” I asked.

Turning to me with a look of pity he said, “We’re the only animals left on earth son. The rest have been eliminated a long time ago by humans, and finally the aliens.

I was so shaken by this information that I stood there with my mouth agape and couldn’t form any words. I shuddered at what it meant. When Papa came home and confirmed my father’s opinion, I was horrified. It meant that we were eating parts of humans. The mysterious meat base to the soup had to be human flesh. The eyeball was a packing accident. Despite my family telling others about it, there was a lot of skeptism. I stopped eating the soup immeditely, as did other members of my family. But the community at large continued to eat ska.

The effects from not eating the soup became apparent weeks later as my family and I began showing signs of rapid aging. My Papa was right about the soup being responsible for our advanced ages. Somehow, the aliens had developed a way of slowing aging down considerably by using humans and a combination of chemicals.

Papa and Grandma died of old age last night. Their skin was so wrinkled I barely could recognize them. My father and mother are so frail they can no longer walk. Their days are obvisiously numbered. I can’t walk a 100-yards now without being exhausted and out of breath. I haven’t touched a basketball since that dark night of discovery. I pass my days now waiting for aliens to come visit our little community.

When they do, I give the international sign for help. It’s all I can do. Perhaps someday, another race will rescue humanity. I’ll keep trying as long as my body lets me. I’m not afraid of death, but the idea that someone will be eating my body is the hell my father has been preaching that we live in now, for years.

You’ll have to excuse me now. I think I see a group of Venusians coming this way.

As It Stands, sometimes what we take for reality, is merely an illusion.

The Star Child

Jericho was the only person in town who could see a spook, or spirit as Reverend Ledbetter called them.

No one in Titusville, Kentucky, doubted that Jericho had the ability to see, and communicate with the dead. He was always a strange child that defied description.

For starters, no one ever tried to pick on him in school even though he made an easy target. He never bullied anyone. He tended to be a loner, but spoke with other students and teachers when he had to.

There was something powerful that emanated from Jericho. There was a certainty in his eyes that belied his age. He was neither short, nor tall. He wasn’t stupid, nor was he the top of the class.

He was every man by the time he graduated from high school. He could disappear in crowds effortlessly. Nothing in his features made him stand out.

If not for his ability to see and talk with spirits, Jericho would have gone through life unnoticed.

Instead of leaving tiny Titusville like most of the other kids did when they graduated, Jericho was content to stay in town and scratch out a living as a handyman and carpenter.

He lived with his elderly parents in the house he was born in. The house was located near the downtown district in a small residential area.

One afternoon while Jericho was repairing a neighbor’s fence, an alien from a nearby solar system trying to disguise itself as a restless spirit, approached him with a question, “When shall I go to heaven?

Jericho stopped hammering and turned around to fully face the apparition.

“Never!” he harshly replied, “You’re a fraud!

Surprised to be discovered so easily, the alien took on its true form.

“Perhaps the rumors are true,” the alien said. “Maybe you are the star child.”

I don’t know anything about a star child. The dead choose to talk with me. I’m nothing more than a sympathetic soul bent on leading a quiet life.

“Your modesty humbles me…for a moment. But I’m not here to admire your ability to speak with the dead. I’m here to warn you to stop! My master, Lord Lucan of Antares, doesn’t like it. You’ve been stirring up some lost souls that he’s collected around the solar system and they now believe they have hope.”

“Get out of here, whatever you are! Take your warning and shove it up your master’s ass!”

When the alien left, he went back to work on the fence and finished it before the sun went down. That night as he ate dinner with his parents, he sensed an underlying tension. Like they wanted to tell him something.

After dinner, they all went to the living room. Instead of picking up a book, like he usually did after the evening meal, Jericho’s father said he had a story to tell him.

It started with the fact that he was an orphan. They found him near the wreckage of a small metal capsule in the forest. He was only an infant, so they took him home and raised him.

They agreed that some day they would tell him what they knew – little though it was – when they felt he was ready. One thing that amazed them both was how much he came to resemble a little of each of them in his features.

“This is that day,” his mother spoke up.

“Why today?

“Because our time is running out,” his father explained. “Some alien-looking thing came by today and threatened to kill us if you didn’t stopping talking with the dead.”

Jericho bowed his head for a moment and tried to collect himself. “Who was he? The alien thought he might be someone called the star child.”

His parents watched his confusion with sympathy. Their world was turned upside when they first found him. Now it was being turned upside down again because they raised him. Neither, for even a moment, considered asking him not to communicate with restless spirits.

It was an ability they accepted because of their love for him. Both were ready to die for him now.

“Mom and Dad, would you do me a favor?

They both quickly nodded yes.

“Can you take me back to that place in the forest where you found me?”

There was a slight hesitation before his father said, “I’ll do my best son, but my legs are old and weak. Along with my memory.”

They drove to the edge of the forest. His mother stayed with the pickup truck while his dad picked out a trail and followed it. After an hour they came upon the partly buried capsule. Vegetation had nearly engulfed it.

“Thanks dad. Now you head back before it gets dark.

“Good luck son…if I never see you again.”

When night fell Jericho attempted to do something he’d never done before; summon up a spirit – and not just one – but hundreds! Soon he was surrounded by spirits. He discovered they all weren’t just earthly spirits, but spirits from other races in other planets too!

He looked through the canopy of trees and saw stars twinkling brightly in the heavens. It was like they all were waiting for him to speak. With the support of other alien spirits, Jericho put together a team to stop Lord Lucan’s evil reign.

When it was done he felt pain in his earthly body. It only lasted for a moment before he died and his free spirit was able to assume his destiny as the star child.

As It Stands, this tale was a twist on the superman story.

Blink If You Can Hear Me!

The huge cargo ship, Alushion, lumbered on in space, dwarfing some stars as it hurtled towards its destination.

The crew didn’t know what they were carrying, nor did most care. The majority of the 32 man-crew were old-timers who had been with the ship for years. There was one new crew member however.

His name was Gorm, and he was assigned all the shit duties aboard the ship. He was pretty sure that it would take years before he moved up enough to where he wasn’t cleaning bathrooms and grease pits.

But he didn’t plan on being a crew member forever. He was a former reporter for The World News in Gallax’s biggest city Aahorn. He quit his job because his editor wouldn’t let him write stories about state corruption and slavery.

What made him make the big move was a tip from a trusted informant. Gallax’s biggest cargo ship was carrying more than minerals and Gallaxian steel. It was also covertly carrying slaves!

Gorm was sure his editor wouldn’t let him go undercover and investigate it. So he quit and applied for a menial job as a crew member aboard the Alushion. He was in luck. One of the regulars was in an accident and they needed a replacement.

The adventure of it all appealed to Gorm’s endless imagination.

He would write a tell-all book about slavery that would catapult him to fame and wealth. Civilized Gallaxians abhorred slavery, but there was a criminal element that specialized in it.

Every city on Gallax had a problem with residents disappearing. No bodies ever showed up. The authorities seemed unable to do anything about it. There were hints of what was going on, like when one man escaped.

He was blinded and never knew that he was hidden in a building near the International Space Station. But he did hear broken conversations and shared those with authorities.

The slavers were well-organized. How they got their captives off world was a mystery. There were so many possibilities the authorities were stumped. Private ships, military ships, commercial travel ships, cargo ships, and on, and on.

There were literally thousands of possibilities to hide slaves.

The slavers would wait until they had at least 200 captives before transporting them. The captain of the Alushion was a corrupt scoundrel with high government connections. His arrangement with the slavers paid him three times his captain’s salary.

The whole scheme was the brainchild of Lancor Mey, the leader of the biggest underworld gang on Gallax. He partnered up with the ship’s captain, Kanor Olk, and for the past ten years they transported thousands of Gallaxians off world and to other planets that provided eager buyers.

The ship actually had two crews; the one that authorities saw consisting of 32 employees, and the one they didn’t see that consisted of three employees whose only job was to take care of the captives.

This was made possible by having a false hull that was converted into an area where the helpless captives were put in plastic pods that sporadically emitted sleeping gases. They were hooked up to feeder tubes which the small crew was supposed to monitor.

Gorm was so busy for the first three days that he didn’t have time to explore anything. No menial task was below him. On the fourth day he found himself with some free time. He was such a hard worker that some of the crew members were already letting up on him.

He learned that there were three decks and a hold of Galaxian steel and tons of minerals in it. He knew where the captain’s quarters was, the ship’s kitchen, the navigation deck, the crew’s quarters, and where the various supply rooms were.

A week later, Gorm was becoming discouraged. He still hadn’t seen anything suspicious, or heard any juicy conversations that might provide leads to where the slaves were being held.

He was starting to think he was a fool for listening to the tipster. He was stuck on a cargo ship that wouldn’t return to Gallax for three more weeks.

Then a break came.

He got to know all the crew members during his short time aboard, and when he saw a stranger slip out of the kitchen and scurry to a door that led below decks, he followed. He could hear the stranger’s footsteps as he disappeared down into the engine room.

Gorm looked at the small nuclear reactor that was the ship’s source of power. All eight feet of it was sheathed in steel plates with Gallaxian script engraved into them. Gorm was so close to the stranger that he had to duck behind the reactor when he stopped, and started to turn around checking to see if he was being followed.

Then the stranger put his hand on the wall and a hidden door slid open! Gorm cautiously watched where he put his hand. He had no doubt what he’d find if he went into that secret room.

He knew for sure there was one slaver, and more than likely others inside. He had no way of knowing how many of them. Nothing about the situation was good. What should he do?

He couldn’t stay here much longer before someone missed him. He considered telling the captain, but as he walked back to his quarters a growing sense of alarm told him not to. He really couldn’t trust anyone aboard.

After the encounter with the stranger he made a habit of going back to where the secret door was several times a day. His persistence paid off days before they were scheduled to land on Anterrean, Gallax’s main trading partner.

He was hiding behind the reactor which was directly across from the secret door when one of the slavers emerged. He hurried out. Gorm went to the spot and put his hand there.

At first he couldn’t see anything. The room was bathed in a soft blue light that didn’t throw shadows. Gorm saw another slaver slouched over a keyboard in front of a monitor. He was asleep.

As he felt his way around the room he saw another stranger stretched out on a bunk asleep. His luck was holding up. Then he came to a row of pods that held the captives. As he continued to search he found more rows. He stopped in front of one when he noticed a movement.

The captive in one pod opened his eyes and moved his head slightly.

“Blink if you can hear me,” Gorm said.

The Gallaxian blinked twice. The horror of the situation made Gorm’s blood run cold. “I’m going to try to help you,” he said.

The Gallaxian blinked again. Then his eyes grew wider!

Gorm didn’t hear anything until too late. A slaver slipped up behind him and put him in a chokehold. Darkness.

When he woke up he was in a room full of captives from planets throughout the solar system. He guessed he was on Anterrean. He felt like a damn fool! What made him think he would get away with going into that room?

He always wanted to experience adventures and to be a writer. Now he was a slave!

A slaver came into the room and roughly grabbed him by his arm, and led him outside to a platform before a group of prospective buyers.

“This pathetic creature,” the auctioneer droned, “...says he’s a writer. Who needs a writer? he asked the group. A couple of low bids were thrown out and the auctioneer acted disgusted, “I might as well slaughter him and sell his meat to the Zarks,” he grouched.

Finally a wealthy female Gallaxian made a bid that was acceptable. The auctioneer gave her the mobile control device that activated the shock collar on Gorm’s neck. It was standard slave issue.

Gorm followed her obediently down a series of well-maintained streets until they came to a big compound. His new master’s name was Illse, and she was the mistress of the large house.

“You’re job here is to tell stories to my children every night. If they like them, I’ll set you free after you tell a hundred consecutive tales.”

“Well… I don’t know…

“Writers are storytellers, are they not?”

“Yes…yes, you could call them that.”

“Good. Then we have an agreement?”

“Sure. By the way, what happens if I run out of stories or your kids don’t like them?”

“You become Zark meat,” she said conversationally.

Gorm gave a sick grin, and said, “When do we start?”

As It Stands, life is about adapting to situations.

A Journey To An Alternate Universe

Hector Perez was a cop in Cleveland, Ohio for twelve years, before he unwittingly stepped into an alternate universe.

One moment he was chasing a burglary suspect in the city’s eastern warehouse district, and the next moment he was standing alone in a deserted warehouse wearing some odd clothing! Beside a giddy feeling, he felt like he got off a merry-go-round, he felt fine.

Hector was a straight-forward kinda guy who didn’t believe in other dimensions, black holes, and alternate universes. His idea of a good time was drinking beer with his buddies and watching football games.

The sense of displacement made it hard for him to focus his thoughts. What should he do? Where was he? How did he get here? Was this a nightmare? Questions marched through his head like toy soldiers on parade.

He finally summoned up the energy, and courage, to explore his surroundings. The warehouse was huge, but empty. There were only two overhead lights, one on each end of the warehouse. Neither were on. But the sun shone through a skylight in the middle of the warehouse, illuminating a large area.

He went over to a row of frosted windows and tried to peer through them. Then he noticed his clothes again. He wasn’t wearing a uniform with his service revolver. Instead, he was wearing a dirty white t-shirt underneath a red and black checkered long sleeve wool shirt. He had faded Levi’s on and cowboy boots. His leather belt had a sheath for the hunting knife in it.

Looking for an opening, he found a large sliding door big enough to drive a truck through. It took all of his strength to slide it open on the rusted track. He managed to move it far enough to go through it.

Outside there were a row of small mom and pop stores, a gas station, and a car lot. He could see a large water tower at the outskirts of the small town. It said, “The Devil’s Half Acre,” in faded blue paint.

Hector was a man with little imagination. His world was cut and dried. He prided himself on his logic. He was a good cop, a great dad, and husband. Nothing in his life prepared him for this abrupt change to his world.

He walked over to the row of stores. The shoe store had a few customers inside. As he walked to the next business, a clothing store, a man outside said, “What the hell you doing here Billy Joe? You know the law is after you!

Hector stopped and stared at him. “What? Are you talking to me?”

“You know I am, Billy Joe. Cut the shit, Mom said you better get out-of-town fast!

“What? My name is Hector. Hector Perez. I’m a cop!”

“Wuuuweeee! Billy Joe! It’s me, your brother Lester! Save that talk for a loony doc if they catch you brother.”

“No! You don’t understand! I really…”

Look out brother! That’s Sheriff Tidwell’s Jeep! Run!”

Lester grabbed his hand and pulled him. “Hurry! C’mon! I don’t think he sees us.

Hector gave up and followed him. It felt weird running from the law. Especially when he didn’t even know what he did! Lester led him into a shabby neighborhood a couple of blocks away.

They jumped fences and ran across yards until Lester stopped at what looked like a deserted house. It turned out to be his home, along with his mother and sister. Lester slammed the front door behind them.

“Didn’t you listen to your brother Billy Joe? You need to leave this town pronto!” mom greeted him.

“There’s something wrong with his head Ma. He says he’s a “beaner” named Hector Perez.”

Mom moved closer to Hector and studied him for a moment. “You okay, Billy Joe?” she asked.

Hector shook his head in frustration. “No. I’m not okay, and I’m not Billy Joe. I don’t even know where I’m at!”

Mom looked over at Lester and his sister, Marley, to gage their reactions. The worry in their eyes told her they were thinking the same thing she was…Billy Joe lost his mind. It must have happened when he killed the Sheriff’s brother in the brawl at The Alibi nightclub last night.

The word was all over town; Billy Joe Baxter killed Blaine, Sheriff Tidwell’s baby brother. The little town was fairly abuzz with the news. It was their first killing in over 60 years. The weekly newspaper put out a special edition tracing the town’s history of murders/killings going back 130 years.

Hector realized these people could get into trouble if they were caught hiding him.

“Have the police come here yet?” he asked.

Surprised at his rational question, mom said, “They came by early this morning. The sheriff, and his three deputies searched the house.”

“You’re right. I need to leave. I don’t want to endanger you guys.”

Lester looked him in the eye and asked, “Are you all right brother?” 

Hector hesitated, then said, “Yeah…I’m fine. Gotta go!

Mom came over and kissed him. Ten-year-old Marylou gave him a hug. Lester gave him a knuckle bump as he went out the door.

Hector was trying to figure out how he could logically handle his situation while he cautiously walked towards a wooded area not far from town. He took off his checkered shirt and wrapped it around his waist as he walked along in the hot sun.

When he got to the woods he saw right away it was being actively logged. A swath was cut right through the center of the forest. He veered to the left of the operations and looked for a place where he could sit down and try to plot out his next move.

He found a shady spot and sat down with his back against a tall pine tree. The sun was on it’s way down when he decided he needed to go back to the warehouse. By the time he got back into town it was dark. He didn’t have any trouble locating the massive building.

The door was still partly opened as he left it. His cop radar sensed a threat and he hesitated before entering. The sheriff stepped out from the shadows with his gun pointed at Hector.

“Had a feeling I might catch you coming here tonight. Leaving the door opened helped. Are you ready to meet your maker Billy Joe?” Sheriff Tidwell asked.

“Aren’t you going to arrest me?” Hector asked.

“Shit no! You killed my baby brother you murdering bastard! I ain’t going to let some judge save your sorry ass with a life sentence. Turn around!”

Hector complied.

The sheriff slipped his handcuffs on him and gave him a shove.

“Inside. Start walking. I’ll tell you where to go,” the Sheriff assured him.

“Time’s up Billy Joe!” He shouted, while leveling his gun at him.

Hector broke out into a desperate run across the room expecting to hear the shot any moment. Then he heard it!

He was back in Cleveland chasing a burglar who just took a shot at him from a warehouse door! He pulled his service revolver and returned fire!

As It Stands, have you ever wondered if there is an alternate universe?

The Dark Mass and the Coming of Styrian

The Chronicles of Styrian – Book One

No one on Venus felt safe since the dark mass was discovered.

The warrior wizards who ruled the planet didn’t know how to stop the dark mass that was heading for their world. They watched it eat planets in another solar system and shuddered.

No amount of arcane knowledge was going to stop that hurdling mass – estimated to be traveling at 667,0000 miles per minute – from hitting Venus. It was the Venusians misfortune to be in the path of such a destructive elemental force.

Venus did have a chance to survive, albeit a thin one.

Living high in the Shoonic mountains that crisscrossed Venus’s north pole, was a hermit who had a son. His name was Styrian. The boy was touched by the gods and processed skills unknown to Venusians.

He was raised from infancy by the hermit Malgorn, who found him in the middle of a forest by a stream. Apparently abandoned. He took the babe to his home in the mountains and raised him like his own.

Malgorn was a book hoarder and his entire wooden cabin was cluttered with them. Every wall had multiple shelves of books. They were stacked up in the corners of the two- room house that Malgorn built when he was a young man.

Styrian listened to Malgorn read until he was old enough to read himself. Among the many useful things he learned was to recognize eatable tubers, a mainstay of their diet. The two forged a bond from the start.

Watching Styrian read a book one day, Malgorn wondered for the thousandth time where he came from? It sure wasn’t Venus. He was twice the size of the tallest Venusian. His heavily muscled pale white skin contrasted sharply with the dark green scales of Venusians.

Yet Styrian thought nothing of their physical differences because he was raised by Malgorn, who he considered his father. Even after he was told about his vague origin, Styrian claimed him as his father.

Malgorn always believed Styrian had a major purpose in his life. That he was meant for great things. That he could even be a god.

So when a message came from Malgorn’s brother, who lived in a major Venusian city, he felt it was destiny calling. He sent the messenger back with a message; “Take heart, salvation may come soon.” 

Malgorn went to Styrian and told him about the malicious dark mass that ate planets, and how it was coming their way.

Styrian was an adult now, and looked more like a god than ever before. His long blond hair fell down over his brawny shoulders like a cascade of gold. His pale green eyes blazed with hidden knowledge and strength.

“Then it is my time, father,” he said, after hearing about the threat.

“Will I ever see you again?” the aging Malgorn asked, with a slight tremble to his voice.

“You’ll always see me among the stars,” Styrian promised, and disappeared.

As Venusian wizards and scientists watched, the dark mass slowed down and turned away from Venus, speeding off in the opposite direction! They witnessed great solar storms and raw displays of energy crackling a million miles away.

Then it was over.

Malgorn looked to the heavens every night after the dark mass was gone. One night he noticed some stars were brighter than the rest. As he focused his old eyes on them they formed into an outline of Styrian holding a planet in his right hand!

In another universe and galaxy, Styrian found himself missing Malgorn. He stopped the dark mass, but destiny kept calling. His fate was to be a legend roving solar systems and other dimensions in search of adventure.

As It Stands, Book Two of the Chronicles of Styrian takes the reader to a world of ghosts and magic spells that seduce him into madness.

The Messenger

Listen to this story as narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

Urtan never asked for the mission.

The enormity of it made his guts rumble in protest.

But the Supreme Council of Creations wanted him to go. He heard of their plans just hours before appearing before the august group, from a friend. They were waiting for him in the throne room right now.

He paused outside the great doors and sighed. He had no choice.

It was his duty. The Elders of Eras Minor had made him a Lord because they trusted him, and believed he could handle any task. Straightening his stance, he stepped forward as the huge doors opened.

“We have a mission for you Lord Urtan …” one of the four elderly men said from atop a high four-way throne of alabaster.

“Mankind is destroying their own planet. We’ve watched for eons as they developed more terrible weapons and polluted the skies, the sea, and even the air. Our scientists say that if we eliminate all life on earth there’s still a good chance we could restore the planet’s environment.”

“What then,” Elder Ohji?” Urtan meekly asked.

The last speaker quickly replied, “We colonize. We know how to treat a planet. Look at all of the planets that belong in our confederation.”

“My mission?”

“You are going to judge if mankind is worth saving. When you report back in seven days we’ll consider what you found before deciding humanities fate, ” Elder Ohji explained.

Urtan bowed and walked out as the lights dimmed behind him.

Earth.

No amount of preparation and study could have prepared Urtan for the experience of living among people who seemed in a constant state of chaos.

Because the Elders had been monitoring earth for eons they knew what Urtan had to have to blend in with the humans. Fortunately, the people of Eras Minor looked a lot like humans.

He was provided with money and earth clothing; a pair of blue jeans and a plain blue t-shirt with a pocket. The sandals on his feet felt awkward, but he liked the feeling of the air tickling his toes. No hat. They also added a mustache that caused him to sneeze at odd times.

Sitting in a small diner in Boise, Idaho, one morning, Urtan witnessed his first fight among humans. Two heavily tattooed bikers got into an argument with two men wearing all black with red armbands sporting swastikas.

Customers panicked and ran out the door as the brawl intensified. Knives were drawn and used with deadly effect. One of the bikers was bleeding badly from a deep gash to his belly, and one of the black-clothed men lay on the floor bleeding out from a dozen wounds that would shortly take his life.

Urtan never left his table. When the police came he told them what he saw. Afterwards he thought about the senseless violence and what had spurred it. He came to the conclusion that cultural differences could cause violence.

After reading newspapers that reporting on world events, it was apparent that not only could individuals be reduced to combatants over trivial matters, but countries could, which often led to all-out warfare.

He found that humans were quick to hate and slow to forgive. Urtan went to airports, concerts, horse races, and colleges. He watched TV news every night at 5:00 o’clock. He mingled with people in community parks, and went to a National League football game where opposing fans broke out in drunken melee.

He talked with homeless people from Idaho to California. He made a point of taking public transportation everywhere he went. He listened to and observed people closely. His disguise allowed him to blend in with the erratic humans wherever he went.

By day four, Urtan was beginning to think there was no hope for the human race. Hate and fear was a toxic mix, and most humans seemed to have plenty of both. He witnessed violence, in one form or another, every day.

There was one interesting thing about the humans that gave Urtan pause.

They often adopted other lesser species, like dogs, cats, and horses. Where Urtan was from it was just the opposite; lesser species were treated harshly, and were never kept as pets.

It fascinated him how some lesser species were considered food, while others were literally adopted into earth families who loved them. It made Urtan wonder if there was flicker of hope for mankind.

Could he justify saving the world because humans had pets they pampered? He thought about what the Elders would say. It was unlikely they would see that as a reason not to wipe out all the living inhabitants of earth.

With one day left before he had to return to his planet, Urtan went for a walk in a small town in the California High Sierras. Snow had fallen the night before and blanketed the little main street with a coat of white.

He noticed that there was a man lying on a bench in front of a gift shop. He had pieces of cardboard on him for a blanket and was shivering. A tiny dog peeked out from his place next to the man’s face.

As he watched two young boys came by. They stopped and looked at the man and dog, then left. But an hour later they returned with blankets and some supplies. The elderly man wept as he gave his dog some of the food they brought.

The boys stayed with the man for an hour. Talking with him and encouraging him. When they left the old man wrapped his blankets around himself and his dog and curled back up on the bench.

Urtan was impressed. Could it be that when the humans are young they did have good hearts? That would make a good argument for their survival. The chance that a new generation could bring positive change to the world was there.

Eras Minor 

The Elders listened attentively to Urtan’s report.

When he finished they conferred among themselves briefly and the eldest one said, “It sound’s like you think there’s hope for humanity. Frankly, we’re skeptical of your optimism, but intrigued by the story of the two young earthlings who showed so much compassion.

“So here’s our decision; we will give the earthlings another 100 years to prove themselves worthy of living in the universe. Then we will send another messenger to make that determination.”

Urtan bowed. He was at loss for words he was so happy. He wasn’t going to be the messenger of death after all.

As he walked down the marble corridors that led to his room in the palace, he wondered, once more, if there was really hope for the human race.

As It Stands, man is his own worst enemy.

The Doorman’s Story

I open doors for a living.

Before you get on your high horse, and call my line of work demeaning, you need to understand that I love my work and it’s very rewarding.

My name is Jerod. I’ve been employed by the baron for forty years. The people, and things, that have come through this front door would blow your mind. Hopefully, I’ll still be doing this work for another 20 years. But one never knows.

Today, I’m going to share a story with you.

You say that you’re a writer and are interested in unusual true stories. That would neatly describe the offering I’m about to lay out for you. Make sure you’re recording this, because I’m only telling this story once.

People have always accused the baron of being eccentric. Even a little crazy. I say he is a man with a vast imagination with the wealth to pursue any pastime that strikes his fancy.

The baron likes to throw parties. He calls them gatherings. Even conventions. All I know is they involve liquor, drugs, and loud music. Chanting isn’t unusual. The main room is always bathed in colored lights. Sometimes blue. Sometimes red. There were colored lights at the last gathering.

As for the attendees. They often appear to be creatures of the night with pale faces and ruby-red lips. Upon closer examination you can see they’re young people into the Goth culture. Or punks.

Some nights the attendees are older. Much older. They come in wearing elaborate clothing; the women in fancy ball gowns, and the men in tuxedos. They come in pairs and always politely bow to the baron…unlike the young people.

I open the door for them all. Smiling and professional. I pretend to not notice if the women are half-naked, and the men don’t have shirts on. It doesn’t matter. The baron loves diversity.

But I digress.

One night when no event was scheduled, there came a knocking at the front door. When I opened it I was surprised to see a tall pale thin man with no white in his eyes. They were black saucers that absorbed the light from the entryway.

When he asked for the baron, I stopped staring and invited him inside. He was wearing a tight gold jumpsuit and a black cape that he pulled around himself as he stepped inside. His pale head was elongated and seemed too big for the frail neck supporting it.

“The baron is expecting me,” he said in a high shrill voice.

“Who shall I say is calling?” I asked.

“Mr. Smith,” he replied.

When I returned, Mr. Smith was sitting on a chair and paging through a Field and Stream magazine from the stack on the coffee table.

I told him the baron was ready to see him. He closed the magazine, smiled, and stood up awkwardly. After getting his balance, he silently followed me to the baron’s private office.

It was after this visit that things changed. The parties, aka conventions, ceased. Visitors came in small groups, toting personal bags and suitcases. Even odder…they never left. I’d let them in the house and then…nothing.

Mr. Smith showed up often. I no longer had to point the way to the baron’s office.

You ask if I was curious about all of the changes and the mysterious Mr. Smith. Yes, of course I was. I kept my eyes and ears open.

After being dismissed early one day, I was driving home and my car broke down. I’d only gone a couple of miles and decided to walk back to the baron’s mansion. There was no cities in any direction for 30 miles. I knew it would take time for the road service assistance I called to get there, and gave the baron’s address.

It was dark after walking for five minutes. When I got to the baron’s house I was shocked to see a flying saucer sitting in his front yard! The thing was bigger than a jumbo jet and was whirling around on a stationary axis.

A large ramp led up to an opening in the ship. People were slowly walking up the ramp. I was transfixed, watching the silent parade disappear inside the ship’s bowels. Two figures appeared at the front door (where I would normally be).

It was the baron and Mr. Smith. The two talked for a few minutes after the last person went inside the open hatch door. Mr. Smith, whose awkward gait reminded me of an Emperor penguin, finally went up the ramp, and the door closed.

In a blinding flash the ship was gone!

I waited for 20 minutes before approaching the front door. The baron was surprised to see me and quickly let me in. I told him what happened to my car. He wished me well and said he was retiring early and to remember to lock up.

“I wouldn’t want strangers to get in” he said, while slowly walking up the stairway to his bedroom.

So, there you have it!

How’s that for a true and unusual story? What? You don’t believe me? That’s too bad. It’s your loss, my friend. On your way out you may want to take a look at that big circle of burnt grass on the front yard.

As It Stands, life is full of unusual stories.