The Awakening

after a century the first thing I could see

was a replica of me staring with curiosity

we looked at one another

trying to discover

the mystery

it didn’t take long

to understand what was wrong

when I blinked an eye

so did the other guy

and it became clear

I was looking up into a mirror

and there was no reason for fear

but when I stood up

I heard a hidden gear

instead of my heart

there was a moving part

instead of skin

I had something akin

that gleamed in the light

and gave me a fright

until I realized I was still alive

even if my body didn’t survive

The Survivors

-160 words

In the aftermath of the global nuclear war the earth wept toxic radiation, killing the remaining living things slowly and painfully.

Poisonous gases weakened the planet’s struggling species worldwide. Once lush forests were transformed into wastelands. Skyscrapers that once kissed the heavens now reduced to steel skeletons. Human shadows etched on concrete, gruesome portraits depicting their last moment of life.

The human race had finally fought it’s last world war. Chaos reigned as the last vestiges of civilizations turned to dust. History erased with no trace for space explorers from other worlds to see. No record of humanity.

No. The only survivors will not be able to talk with any celestial visitors. They’ll be flattened under surfaces of all kinds, scurrying around and scavenging in dark places unseen by prying eyes. Just like their ancestors for millenniums past. They were built to last. That’s why cockroaches survived man’s follies. They were the one species mankind could not drive into extinction.

My Bangkok Tour Guide

Essay – 246 words

While walking down a street in the Kingdom of Thailand where ex-pats from around the world land, blending seamlessly into the local 1970 economy, I met a young boy with a man’s eyes.

He was probably ten – going onto forty – with worldly knowledge far beyond his tender years. Anuia was a frail street waif with the wisdom of the local marketplace for sale. He promised the best place to stay, my drug of choice, and prostitutes with breathless beauty, if I hired him throughout my stay.

We toured a banana plantation, and a red light district called
Pattaya, with outrageous sex acts they were not even considered risqué in the day. Creedance Clearwater Revival rocked the bars with “Looking Out My Backdoor.” I smoked some of the best weed in my life, comparing it to the Vietnamese strain that made you forget your name.

We watched kick fighter’s knock each other out, only to get up afterwards and respectfully bow to one another. Anuia shared his best curse words to get quick results, and bargained over every transaction like it might be his last. He was shrewd and a survivor, with no parents or family.

The thing that impressed me the most was he was always smiling – except when he negotiated a deal. His smile seemed to defy the life he led. When my time was up, and I had to go, he shook my hand, then turned to greet another group of visitors deplaning nearby.

The Daily Life Run

200 words –

The life and death betting odds are officially released for today’s races:

Trainer’s Notes: Today’s contestants are from the North American continent and are all three-year veterans of the Life Run, which means none have ever lost a race.

Handicapping will be according to international game standards, factoring in weight, height, and skills with multiple weapons.

Announcer: “The first contestant is off! He’s carrying an automatic pistol and what appears to be a 17th samurai sword and has settled into a steady pace.

Just a refresher for any new viewers; there’s four contestants in each race. They take off from the four points of the life circle.

The goal is to get to the center of the circle first and take the antidote for the poison they were all given. As you can imagine, there’s some desperate fighting going on as contestants run into one another in the dark maze tunnels.

Note: Hopefully, future historians will understand why the daily life run is necessary after reading this. The long and the short of it, population control. The daily races are held throughout the planet. The races were agreed upon as a more human (and entertaining) way to cull the population.

Unsung Hero

450 words –

The dim glow of a quarter moon filtered through the curtains and cast shadows on the walls. Walter’s eyes struggled to make out the shifting shapes that pranced across them in a creepy parade.

Were they scenes from his past? Was waiting to die a way to suddenly come into contact with that mystical part of the brain scientists and poets write about? Do revelations reveal themselves before you’re executed?

The promise of a sure death was a blow to Walter’s soul and very being. He knew only hours separated him from the firing squad and eternity. This last night wasn’t for sleep. It was a time to pray. A time to accept one’s fate bravely. It was a time to fight the growing panic that comes when a body is not ready to die.

The idea of being tied to a stake and shot like a target didn’t register with his reality. How could this be? He wasn’t a deserter! They were wrong! The reason he was the only soldier left alive was because he never stopped fighting and the enemy drifted away after two days of fierce fighting. He didn’t run away, and come back to the fort after the battle was over like the tribunal claimed.

It was a case of universal injustice.

The rising sun went from blood red, to orange, to yellow, and finally burst into an azure blue. Not a cloud in the sky. A beautiful day to die.

When he heard gunfire coming from the walls he stopped pacing back and forth in the tiny room they locked him in next to the captain’s quarters. Screams of surprise and pain! A sustained rate of gunfire told him there was an all-out assault on the fort.

The battle lasted all day, finally slowing down at dusk. Walter looked out his shattered window and saw fires burning in some of the buildings across the courtyard. Bodies were everywhere. Legionnaires and Arabs. He could see the front gate were breeched.

He took a chance and climbed through the window. Taking a rifle from the dead legionnaire who was once his guard, he moved cautiously through the courtyard – rifle at the ready. After hours of searching he discovered he was the only survivor. Before disappearing into the desert the Arabs sacked the fort and spiked the two cannons. He scavenged bodies for rations.

Why no one looked in his room during the fighting was a mystery. It looked like his luck had changed.

Two days later a relief regiment arrived and discovered Walter. He told them his story. After a 25-minute trial the captain said “Arrest this deserter! We’ll make an example of him!”

The Phone Booth

400 words –

The lone phone booth stood out in stark contrast to the arid Mojave desert surrounding it. But was it a mirage?

Jason Brant tried to focus on the lone object in the distant horizon. He was lost, hungry, thirsty, and desperately trying to survive. Two days had passed since the accident. He was lucky to be alive.

He’d been driving through Mojave National Preserve at a high speed (100 mph) on interstate 15 when he drifted off the pavement for a moment. It was enough to cause him to loose control. The car rolled onto the sand and landed upside down in a patch of creosote bushes.

When he woke up he was upside down, still held by his seat belt. It took him a few frustrating minutes to get free and crawl out. That’s when he felt the pain. His right knee had ballooned to three times its size and he could feel the bone splinters stabbing his nerves.

The pain was so great he passed out several times crawling towards the road. When he regained consciousness he looked around and saw what he thought might be a phone booth in the distance.

“What a crazy place for one,” was his first thought. His next thought was, “What if the phone works and I can call for help?” He eyed the phone booth for an hour before deciding he had to try and reach it.

After two days his strength was giving out. Crawling was exhausting and slow. When he finally was close enough to see that it was real his heart started pounding with excitement.

The door was gone and he wedged himself in and looked up at the dial tone phone. A pay phone. A sense of panic gripped him as he realized he didn’t have any change! He tore the phone off the receiver and listened to the dial tone in dismay.

“Operator!” he screamed as delirium took hold of his frayed senses. When a recorded voice asked for money Jason pleaded for his life.

When the Park Ranger found Jason the next day he gently sprinkled some water from his canteen onto his lips and sat him up against the outside wall of the phone booth.

He woke up and greedily grabbed the canteen and nearly drowned himself pouring water into his parched mouth. Afterwards. “Quick man! Do you have any change” he babbled…again and again.

The Blood Plains of Nusa

500 words –

Stit stood still when he saw the rippling movement beneath the ground. His well-trained hunter eyes stared at it, determining the length and approximate width.

A big one.

Hunting the deadly Stuners for their hides was a desperate way to make a living, but Stit had no choice. It was all he knew. One bite would stun it’s victim, regardless of it’s size. Then it swallowed it’s prey whole. The underground terrors topped out at 60-feet long with six-foot wide bodies that glistened like diamonds when exposed to the suns of Nusa, a dying desert planet.

Stit’s home.

He was among the last of the bipeds on Nusa. The rest of the survivors walked on four, or more, legs. His species was once dominate before the nuclear wars and the resulting mutations that led to fierce predators like the Stuners.

Because of climate change over the centuries, the Blood Plains red sands crawled across the planet like an infection. It was there brave hunters sought the Stuners for their valuable hides. Their meat was vile and poisonous.

For a hunter to be successful he had to pierce the beasts’s eye to strike the tiny brain behind it that kept it alive. Any other wounds were useless. It didn’t feel pain. It was the ultimate killing machine on Nusa.

Feeling confident that he knew where the head was, Stit held his 10-foot long steel spear at the ready as he approached. Suddenly the head thrust through the ground’s cover and burst out into the glaring suns, it’s majestic and deadly worm-like head raised to strike at him. At that moment, Stit threw his spear at the monster’s right eye!

Skinning a Stuner is almost as hard as killing the creature because of it’s enormous size. Stit spent two nervous cycles stripping the shimmering scales and praying to the dark gods that another one wouldn’t show up before he finished. They ate their own kind.

It took all of his strength to load the skin onto the sleigh he brought with him. He slipped into the harness and began his trek to get off the Blood Plains before his blood mingled with the burning sands. After two more grueling cycles he finally saw the caves. Home. With each tired, but victorious, step he could hear his heart beating. His prize would keep him fed and entertained for 100 cycles before having to return to the Red Plains. The hide glowed brightly in the dark tunnels. Not that he needed it to see. His eyes, like the others were adapted to the dark tunnels.

By the time Stit got to the great community hall he was exhausted, but elated. As he watched the officials unravel the hide to measure it, his stomach growled. He was hungry. His rations were used up a cycle ago.

Watching the judges smile he sighed in relief. Good times were ahead. The hell with the Red Sands!

He tried not to think about returning to the Red Plains.