The Lighter Side of History

when technology found a way to start a flame with a flick of the finger

the lighter emerged like a metal Prometheus sharing the secret of fire

with designs that reflected the times, lighters lit the way for cigarette and cigar smokers to conveniently fire up wherever they were

the styles evolved over the years reflecting society’s luxuries and utilities

from the start, lighters have told a story about their owners history

carrying their burdens for the world to see

lighters have more purposes now than ever before

they’re cheap, flashy, and in every store

lighters can be works of fine art

or cartoonish art

there’s so many designs to see

that reflect our history

I leave you with the following three…

Robots Day is Here

todays robots are made for walking

and that’s just what they’ll do

watch out, or they’ll walk all over you

to the tune of

These Boots are Made for Walking

by old blue eye’s daughter

Nancy Sinatra’s one big hit

about a woman in a snit

meanwhile

the day of the robots is here

they’re going to take your job

and they’re going to guzzle your beer

I’m really sorry to say

The Robots Day is here to stay

Tongue in Cheek Chic

the internet is on fire

with satire

websites create memes

with satirical themes

trolls stalk the web

like an invisible celeb

mocking everything said

tongue-in-cheek instead

being the chic way

for netizens to say

their piece every day

Bright City Lights

city lights shinning so bright they light up the night, exposing activities you see in all cities. The harsh glow illuminates endless alleys and trash cans waiting for the morning light when they’ll be emptied of their rotten secrets and given new life.

skyscrapers stretch into the night sky like beacons burning brightly from a thousand rooms. Lights glowing like luminous ribbons on countless streets seeking to chase away stubborn shadows that escape the view of endless car’s headlights.

days turns into neon nights that defy the dark skies. People walking under an artificial glow in disguise. Petty thieves and gangsters clinging to the shadows like wraiths, waiting to catch unwary souls who venture beyond the incandescent safety of the radiant light.

tourists walking by glaring marquees that tease numerous delights in the always busy nights. So many things to see in the lucent city.

Stuck Between Science and Magic

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“Help! A static-riddled voice pleaded in the darkness of the laboratory.

“This is Professor Dean Tucker. Can you…” the words dissolved in a steady stream of static coming from a speaker in a cubicle in the center of the room. Everyone was gone for the day and the night janitor was slowly making her rounds when she thought she heard a voice.

“Is anyone there?” she meekly inquired. “Hay alguien alla?” she repeated in Spanish.

She heard a crackling sound and walked over to the cubicle in the center of the lab. She stood there for a moment listening, then heard, “I’m stuck! Help me…” The suddenness of the unexpected voice made her jump in fright. When she couldn’t see anyone she decided it was time to get out of the room. It was obviously haunted. Like a good Catholic, she crossed herself and hurried out.

Dean watched her leave – as dimensions opened and closed – and his heart sunk. He did this to himself. He should have waited until the next day when his fellow researcher and he could have tested the Dimension Splitter together. He would have had a backup. Someone who would have been there to help him in the case of an emergency. Like this one.

But no.

There was no time to dwell on that. Dean started walking and there was a flash as his surroundings disappeared and he reappeared in a primeval jungle. As he looked around a Brontosaurus came into view. The gigantic quadruped sauropod didn’t even seem to notice him although he was less than a hundred yards away. He ducked behind a tree and felt dizzy. Thunder and lightning. Day and night. Dinosaurs. He felt like he was drifting and woke up in the middle of a battlefield. Corpses lay putrefying in the unrelenting sun. Miles of trenches packed with bodies. Some alive. Most dead. Dean stumbled through the thick muck and mud before climbing out of the trench on a blood-soaked rope ladder.

He thought about the laboratory. Then he was there again. Sitting on the chair inside the cubicle. He glanced over at the wall clock across the room. It was 2 a.m. He started to rise from the chair and…

The world exploded! He was floating in some kind of clear bubble and could see scenes of mass destruction below him. Wildfires raged across mountains and coastal shore lines disappeared beneath the wild waters of the ocean. Buildings were crumbling under seismic shocks. Volcanos erupted. And people all over the earth were trying to survive the cataclysmic events he was witnessing.

The whole terrifying panorama turned black and he looked up and saw stars and planets overhead. He was sitting beside an ancient oak tree located near a simple cottage. He got up and walked over to it and noticed a well just a few yards from the cottage. His mouth felt like cotton and an urge to get a drink of water overtook him. As he lowered the wooden bucket down the well, someone stepped out of the cottage. The glow from a lantern inside the cottage framed the old woman as she hobbled over to him.

“What are you doing here human?” she abruptly asked.

“I don’t know where here is. I’m lost.”

“Another one,” she sighed. “When are you foolish mortals going to quit poking your noses where they don’t belong?

“I don’t know what…”

“Oh, forget it. You’re here now. Have a drink. You weren’t just messing with science my boy, you were messing with magic too.”

“What can I do?” he pleaded.

“I’ll tell you what I told the rest. You’re going to have to go on a quest.

“A quest?”

“Yes. You know what that is, don’t you? Of course, you do. You’re an educated man. You’re going to have to find your way back to the real world. You’ll need a special key to do that. Hence, your quest.”

“Where should I look?”

The old woman and the cottage were gone. He found himself standing on an old cobblestone road that could have been built by the Romans during the height of their power. He chose a direction and started walking. Soon he came upon a man sitting on a large rock. Something about him looked familiar.

“Hello” Dean called out as he approached.

The old man looked up from his book and nodded.

“I’m looking for something. Perhaps you can help me?

“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think,” the man cryptically replied.

“Do you know where I might find a special key?

“One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing,” the white-haired oldtimer claimed.

“Wait a minute! I know who you are! You’re Socrates!

“Now it is time that we are going, I to die and you to live; but which of us has the happier prospect is unknown to anyone but God,” he said.

As Dean watched in awe, a cloud enveloped them and he thought he heard music. The cloud soon grew so dense he slowed down and put his hands out in front of him. It was moist and smelled like the ocean. A seagull cried out as it spotted food on the tiny stretch of beach that opened up before him. Sand crabs scuttled out of his way as he walked over the white sand and up to the breakers and looked out at the vast sea. It was calm and undisturbed by ships. A few seagulls glided lazily in the mild wind currents searching for food in the crystal clear waters below.

Without questioning why, Dean had the urge to swim out past the waves and slip into the deeper waters. Rays of sunlight sent slivers of luminescence into the depths as he reached a bed of coral. He felt like he could hold his breath forever, but something inside him reminded him that he couldn’t. He was a human. Not a fish. After a short search he found a small metal box. A sense of sheer joy made him smile as he grabbed it and started for the surface. Once he was back up on the beach he eagerly opened the metal box.

It took Dean a few minutes to adjust. He was sitting in the cubicle again. It was still dark in the laboratory. Gingerly, he stood up, expecting something to suddenly change. He walked over to the control panel and stared at it as the first rays of sunlight snuck through the shades in the laboratory. He was back. And, he learned a lesson. Without hesitation he picked up a metal stool and brought it down hard on the control panel! He didn’t stop until he was out of breath.

As It Stands, who knows where the line is between magic and science?

The Gate Keeper

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Torug tore off the Bazalite’s limbs, one by one, in a show of power that terrified his comrades who turned and ran for their lives. Before the Bazalite died, he cut his head off and threw it in the direction of his retreating comrades. Then he let out a roar that echoed throughout the valley.

No one would ever get by Torug.

Created by the gods of Azorth, Torug was the gate-keeper to their world, where the gods from three solar systems lived in harmony. It was a beautiful lush world of grassy savannas, majestic mountains, mighty rivers, and valleys covered in trees as far as the eye could see. It was Torug’s job to see that the portal to Azorth was protected at all times. To this end, his creators made him a fearsome creature. He stood seven-feet-tall and was massively muscled. His blue skin was covered in golden armor. His golden helmet covered his entire face. There were two small openings for his brilliant orange eyes that glared in the dark. He stood night and day in the vast desert. Never complaining. Always ready.

The planet, Tenith was a barren wasteland, ruined by generations of polluters and wars. It’s inhabitants, the Bazalites were dying off as resources shriveled up and food became more scarce. A once proud civilization, the Bazalites had reached the height of civilization generations ago. Their decline was a steady series of wars.

Once upon a time in Tenith, the portal/gate that Turug now guarded was open and the Bazelites mingled with the gods of Azorth. But that was thousands of years ago before the wars began.

Now the Bazelites faced extinction. They lived in small war bands that continued to fight for survival in the unforgiving heat. Every Bazelite knew about the portal to Azorth. And, its fierce gatekeeper. In desperation they attacked Turug day and night, only to be savagely turned back.

It was during these desperate times that a young female Bazelite, Adio, came up with a plan to open up the portal without attacking Torug. Her family wished her well as she set out across the vast Nigaran desert one night. Not only was Adio brave, but she had the best imagination of anyone in the little group she was brought up with. She was always telling stories, weaved from her fertile dreams and thoughts. It was this ability, to tell fascinating stories, that she counted on.

It took two days to cross the Nigaran desert. Adio was scanning ahead during the second day when she saw a glint of light. The closer she came it glittered until she made out Turag. He was standing with his arms crossed staring straight ahead at her. The sun danced over his golden armor, and Turug looked like a terrible angel to her. But, she didn’t panic and kept walking towards him. Not sensing any aggression, Turug was mildly amused at her courage. She was unarmed yet she still approached him. It was a novel moment. Something new after years of silently standing guard and listening to the wind.

“My name is Adio. I tell stories,” she simply stated.

Behind the golden helmet, Turug’s face contorted in surprise. What was this? No one ever talked with him before. She wanted to tell stories. He was confused and unsure of what to do. She didn’t appear to be a threat.

“Why do you think I want to hear your stories?” he asked in a gravelly voice that was not used to speaking.

“Because your alone, and you don’t have any friends. It must be boring,” she replied.

“Alone. Boring. What are these things that you speak of?

“It doesn’t seem fair that you stand guard all alone with no one to talk with and pass the time. That seems sad.. boring,” she explained.

Turug’s interest was piqued. He took his helmet off, exposing an ogre-like face and bald head. She watched him carefully, trying to read any expression on his grotesque face. His strange orange eyes seemed to twinkle in amusement, so she went on, “Let me tell you a story of long ago, when the Bazelite’s and the gods of Azorth mingled in harmony.”

“It was so, once?” he asked in surprise.

“Yes. Many lifetimes ago, before the god of war turned our people into what we are today.”

“Speak. I would hear this story.

“In the days when the gods and the people of Bazelite were close, they sometimes intermingled, and had children. Rarely. But it did happen. One day the god of love mated with a Bazelite and they had a child. It was against the rules, but like I said, it happened. When the other gods held court to talk about the violation, the god of love defended what he’d done. The court was in chaos for days as the gods argued back and forth.

“Finally, they decided to see how the child turned out, and didn’t censor the god of love for breaking the rule. The child’s name was Bal. As he grew up he wrestled with his dual nature and developed a bad temper. By the time he reached his majority he was fighting with others over stupid things and had earned a reputation for being foul-tempered. It got to the point where he recruited several Bazelites and gods and they went about sowing discord. He was upsetting the harmony of Azorth and the day came when he had to be dealt with. Because he was half god they did not kill him. Instead, he was banished and named the “God of War.

“The banishment included all of the Bazelites who were living in Azorth. From that day forward the god of war ravaged the planet. We have been expelled from paradise ever since.”

“This is true?”

“Yes. A mistake was made and a civilization has paid for it,” she softly replied, as hope began to build inside her that she’d reached his heart.

“It’s a sad story,” Turug allowed, and crushed her skull with his massive fist!

As It Stands, the gods were not to meant to mingle. They were meant to rule.

There’s a Time and Place For Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Leo.”

“Joe.”

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

They both nodded, and said, “Yes.”

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

“Wildcats and big rats,” Leo said.

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

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

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

They both nodded affirmatively. Eagerly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is a time machine?” Leo asked.

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

“How is that possible?” Joe asked.

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

The brothers exchanged looks.

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

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

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

“Why?” the brothers both demanded.

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

“Rules?” I don’t understand Leo said.

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

“So why are you here?” Joe wondered.

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

“A book on us?” Leo asked.

“Yes, you and the world you live in.”

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

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

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

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

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

“You get to tenderize the meat.

As It Stands, time travel presents many dangers.