A Visitor From Hell

Oman was an apprentice sorcerer who studied under the Grand Master of Upswich.

While practicing a spell one night something went wrong, because instead of summoning up his girlfriend, he got a visitor from Hell whose name was Dumas.

Like most demons, Dumas was fierce-looking and smelled like death. He was also thirsty.

“So where’s you good whiskey?” he asked while taking a seat at Oman’s crude table.

The only experience Oman had with demons was when his master summoned them to perform tasks. This was the first time he ever dealt with one by himself. He was wary, but he knew enough not to show fear. That was rule number one.

“I’m a poor man. All I have is beer,” he replied.

Dumas’ tail thumped the wooden floor hard, and he rolled all three of his eyes upward in exaggerated despair.

“If that’s all there is, I suppose I’ll suffer through it. Bring me a mug!” he demanded.

“Hold on there! This isn’t how it’s going to work. I won’t order you around, and you don’t order me around. As a visitor, it’s my obligation to offer drink and food. Is that clear?”

There was a sparkle of admiration in the demon’s eyes as he agreed to Oman’s terms.

After draining four large mugs of beer, Dumas was feeling groggy and agreeable. He politely listened to Oman’s stories for hours before his heavy head hit the table and he was snoring.

When he was sure that Dumas was sound asleep he got up and went over to the book shelf his master built, and stocked, with books on magic and guides for successful sorcerers.

It didn’t take him long to find what he was looking for – Enslavement Spells. After deciding on one, he prepared himself for when Dumas woke. It wasn’t long before the demon stretched, belched, and opened all three bloodshot eyes.

Oman stood before him and recited words from a lost civilization that came before mankind. The woozy demon focused his eyes in surprise and asked, “What’s this shit?”

Oman kept chanting.

The demon farted, and scratched his hairy ass.

Oman continued to chant.

“All right, already! Don’t you get it? That babble your spewing isn’t doing anything to me. Oh, by the way…it’s damn rude of  you to treat a visitor like this.”

Oman stopped. He felt slightly embarrassed. Obviously his crude attempts were ineffective. To top that off he had to agree it was a hell of a way to treat a visitor.

“I’m sorry. I guess I have a lot to learn.”

“About what? Casting spells correctly, or how to properly treat visitors?”

“Both.”

“Fair enough. Have you got any more beer?

“No, that was all I had.”

“Any drugs? How about some killer devil weed?

“I do have some Witchy Kush that I recently cured. Pipe, or joint?”

“Let’s roast a bowl. I don’t like the taste of paper.

Oman got his wooden pipe out, and blew into it to clear any ash out. He plucked a chunk off of a fat bud and stuffed it in. Then he handed the pipe to Dumas who snapped his claws and lit it.

They quietly passed the pipe back and forth until only ash was left. Oman started to pack another one and Dumas said, “Whoa there! That was some good shit. Let’s take it easy huh?

I wonder what my master would say if he came in here right now?”

“You know what I’m wondering?” Dumas asked.

“What?”

“How did you ever manage to bring me here? I can see you’re just an apprentice, and a young boy at that.”

Oman’s face grew red with embarrassment. “I’m not a boy!”

“Okay fine. Let’s just agree you screwed something up, and now I’m stuck.”

“Your stuck?”

“Yes, damn it. You closed the door on me. I can’t get back until you open it again.”

The consequences of what he’d done hit him like a thunderbolt!

He brought a demon into the world and couldn’t send it back. His master’s anger would be terrible to behold. How could he explain it? He wasn’t supposed to be looking at that book of spells without him around.

As if reading his mind, Dumas asked, “How long until you expect to see your master again?”

Oman coughed nervously. “Any time,” he admitted.

“He’s a famous sorcerer who will make short work of me. What will he do to you?” Dumas asked.

The thought made him tremble involuntarily. “I have to find a spell to get us both out of here,” he proclaimed. The tension in the room increased as Oman looked through the book of spells.

“Here! This should work!” He quickly intoned the sacred words from Solomon’s Book of Knowledge.

Suddenly it grew dark and they could hear rushing winds. They were outside in a storm. Unfamiliar vegetation surrounded them. Something huge let out a roar that shook the ground!

A Tyrannous rex stomped into view and stopped to look at the man and the demon.

“I don’t suppose you brought the book with you?” Dumas asked.

As It Stands, this tale was a lesson on etiquette, and unlikely friendship.

The Cuckoo Went Tick Tock

Jake was running for his life! His chest and face were splattered with fresh blood. Behind him he could hear dogs baying like lost souls. He was heading straight for the swamp when someone fired a shot!

The cuckoo went tick tock.

Jake was playing chess with Bobby Fischer, the American grandmaster who was also constantly paranoid that someone was after him. To his amazement, he had Bobby in a bad position.

The temperamental Fisher suddenly overturned the board and stomped out of the gallery. Jake looked up at the judges…waiting for their decision.

The cuckoo went tick tock.

The time machine appeared in the middle of a grassy meadow where he’d been sleeping. Jake’s joy at seeing it again was short-lived. For the hundredth time he regretted taking the damn cuckoo clock when he transported to Germany on his maiden voyage.

He ignored the warnings of the clock maker who said it was cursed. He watched the time machine disappear and then…

The cuckoo went tick tock.

The whistle blew; “Over the top!” the sergeant shouted as he led the way out of the muddy trench. He was met with a withering fire that was cutting men down like sheaves of wheat.

Jake looked at his M-1 carbine with bayonet attached, and waited for the next whistle. When it came, the second wave of Americans charged out bravely. Jake stumbled along until he heard someone scream, “Gas!

He dropped to his knees and fumbled around, putting his gas mask on just as the deadly chemical cloud came his way with the wind. Some men who weren’t as fast as he was, and they rolled about on the muddy ground in agony. A bombshell burst overheard…

The cuckoo went tick tock.

The dark clouds gathered menacingly over the gallows. Three ropes. Three men. A small crowd had gathered despite the weather which threatened a deluge. Jake was standing nearby watching from a small platform.

After the priest read the doomed men their last rites, the crowd turned to Jake expectedly. He could feel their eyes urging him to give the signal. He didn’t want to send the poor sodden souls to their maker, but it was his job as mayor.

There was a loud crack of thunder, and as Jake gave the signal, lightning lashed the sky and carried their souls to eternity.

The cuckoo went tick tock. 

It was a hot muggy day in Dallas as Jake, who was part of the Secret Service detail that  ran alongside President Kennedy’s car, heard the shot and turned in time to see the back of Kennedy’s head explode!

Chaos broke out! Jake looked frantically around for the shooter and saw a silver flash in a grassy knoll nearby. The people who came to see the president were screaming and crying.

Jake looked over and one of his team pointed at a building. He started off in that direction…

The cuckoo went tick tock.

When Jake heard the cry for help he stood up on the lifeguard platform and checked to see where it was coming from. He spotted a young girl who was actively drowning past the breakers and towards the open sea.

Grabbing a small red paddle board he ran out to rescue her. Within minutes he was beside her and she was holding on to the paddle board. As he got ready to help her back to the beach he saw a large fin break the water nearby!

The cuckoo went tick tock.

He was closing in on the lead car and Jake was about to catch it when another car hit him from behind! He spun across the track, slammed into the wall, and came to rest in the inside lane.

His crew was running towards him shouting. Jake took off his helmet and tried to get out of the car, but was stuck! Two crew members cut him loose and pulled him out just as the car broke out into flames!

The announcer was calling for medical help as Jake and the two crew members all rolled on the ground trying to extinguish their burning clothes.

The cuckoo went tick tock.

The men in the white coats didn’t understand. Jack wasn’t crazy. He didn’t belong here. He told them he had a cuckoo clock in his time machine, and it somehow messed up his calculations and kept disappearing and transporting him to other places.

The men in the white coats nodded solemnly and escorted him to his bed. Jake was stuck. At least for now. When the clock struck another hour, he would be unwillingly transported to a different moment of time.

Time was against him until that damn cuckoo clock died! It was an 8-day movement that needed to be rewound after a week. He was barely through the cycle, having suffered 26 trips/hours in time thus far.

He had 186 more hours to go!

The cuckoo went tick tock.

As It Stands, we all have a limited amount of time in this world.

Time out of Time

Something went terribly wrong with Dr. Vincent Van Buren’s time machine.

The first time he used it, in 2018, everything went well. He took a quick visit to North Kingstown, Rhode Island in 1950, the year he was born, and returned in the allotted ten minutes to San Diego, California.

There wasn’t much room in the time machine. It was basically a round ball with a seat inside and three collapsible legs to stand on outside.

Van Buren was a genius. All the technology he used was far in advance of anyone else in 2018.

World scientists were aware of some of his work, but the majority thought he was a well-educated eccentric with delusions. His papers on time travel were jeered by his colleagues.

He never let the naysayers get him down. He prepared all of his life for this moment…when he would become a time traveler. That time was now as he readied himself for his next visit to the past.

He wore a black jumpsuit that had pockets in front, down the sides, and in back. In them he carried things like a compass, a pocket knife, length of rope, dried meals, nutrition bars, first aid supplies, a magnifying glass, and an extra battery for the taser gun he wore on a utility belt.

When he sat down inside he had just enough room to put two canteens of water between his feet. All the controls were within his reach. There was a small monitor that was hooked up to a camera on top of the time machine, providing a panoramic look outside.

This time he set the controls for ancient Egypt’s Old Kingdom period (2686-2181 BC). He chose the Great Sphinx of Giza for his destination point.

Then he was there.

The time machine was just a few feet away from the enormous Sphinx as he looked at the monitor. It was night, but a full moon lit the desert landscape as Van Buren pushed a button and the hatch door opened.

The interior lights profiled him as he stepped out in time for two Egyptian traders to see him. He could hear shrieks of terror as they urged their camels on to greater speeds!

“They either think I was a god, or someone really evil,” he thought while walking over to the base of the Sphinx. His studies told him that it was located on the west bank of the Nile, near Cairo, and that the sphinx was believed to be the pharaoh Khafra.

Van Buren marveled at the traditional blue and gold horizontal bands on the nemes headdress. The body was red. The face was yellow, a traditional color for men in ancient Egypt.

The Sphinx’s black beard was striking. In Van Buren’s time archeologists had just recently discovered the broken-off beard buried in the sand.

He lost track of time while walking around the Sphinx, but his wristwatch beeped, reminding him that it was time to get back. A few minutes later he settled in and waited for the auto pilot to take over.

He was still waiting an hour later!

Something was horribly wrong!

He tried not to panic. It wouldn’t help anything. He pulled out an emergency tool kit and started to dismantle the main panel when there was a bright flash and he was thrown back in his seat!

The sphinx was gone. He could see a primordial jungle outside. Then he saw a sight that made his blood run cold! A Tyrannosaurus rex was chasing a smaller dinosaur and they were coming his way!

In his moment of terror, a part of Van Buren’s brain recalled that it must be the Late Cretaceous period in what was in his time, North America. One of the dinosaurs slammed into the time machine and sent it spinning down a slope!

The Tyrannosaurus rex let out a roar of victory when it caught the smaller animal. For the first time in his life, Van Buren thought about death. He suspected he was close to it right now. He watched through the monitor – the camera was still miraculously working – and saw the bipedal carnivore rip his meal apart.

The stabilizers were still working or he would be in an even more awkward position. Suddenly the curious carnivore saw the time machine. It started moving in his direction when…there was a flash, and he was somewhere else!

It was raining outside and he couldn’t make anything out. His heart was still beating fast and he felt faint. He reached into one of his pockets and pulled out a nutrition bar. As he chewed on it he tried to organize his thoughts.

He was afraid of stepping outside in case the time machine decided to move on. Why it was happening mystified him. Then it happened again.

This time he saw sunshine.

He was in the middle of a field of wheat. He looked at the monitor and idly wondered where he was now. He was as startled as the man who stepped into view swinging a sickle!

He stopped and warily moved towards the time machine. He was divided between curiosity and fear while looking at the camera. Van Buren guessed he was a European peasant from his clothing, pock marks on his face, and blackened teeth. The antique sickle fit with his guess.

“Sacrebleu!” the man cried out in surprise.

Then, in a flash, he was gone!

When Van Buren was able to focus his eyes again on the monitor all he could see was snow. The time machine was sitting in an arctic tundra with no civilization in sight. He was glad that the climate control inside was still working.

Hours passed this time. He quit looking at the monitor. There was nothing to see but whiteness. He wondered if this was finally it? He couldn’t get the controls to work properly, and he was at the machine’s mercy.

Exhausted, he nodded off. 

When he woke up he was in his laboratory! He immediately pushed the button to open the hatch and crawled out. His legs were numb from sitting. His elation at this turn of events was short-lived however, as the time machine disappeared again!

All of his work was gone! Who would believe him now? A sense of despair gripped him and he slunk into a depression. Family and friends couldn’t get him to leave his lab for anything.

After a while they all gave up. The courts said he wasn’t crazy and he could do what he wanted. All Van Buren wanted, was for his time machine to return again someday! He’d be there waiting.

As It Stands, time travel can be a tricky thing.

The Time Assassin

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2037 – A secret location in Mandan, North Dakota

He opened his eyes and the bright lights made him blink.

A white room. He was lying on a bed in the center of the room. White sheets and covers. He was dressed in white pants and a white shirt. His feet were bare. His head was bald. His face was smooth and hairless.

He felt stiff like he’d been laying down for a long time. He wasn’t sure where he was at.

“Good morning Josh…” a mellow feminine voice greeted him from hidden speakers.

It’s time for today’s mission.”

He sat up, stretched, and watched a hidden door slide open. He felt slightly dizzy when he stood up, but it went away immediately after he took a step. Down a long corridor with overhead lighting.

He stopped when the corridor abruptly ended. A sliding door opened and he entered.

The room was full of computers and technical hardware not found anywhere else on earth. Three male technicians with long white coats were taking turns viewing a small monitor.

One of them became aware of Josh who was standing there and waiting for instructions.

“Josh! There you are! Come over here and take a seat,” he said, gesturing towards an adjustable reclining chair with wires and cables attached to it.

He obediently sat down.

The technician, Eric, pulled an electronic headpiece down from above Josh’s head and secured it with a strap under his chin. Lou, the second technician punched a code into a computer and a thick glass shell lowered down over Josh.

Perry, the third technician finished instructing his computer and a thick titanium shell lowered down over the glass one. Eric spoke into a speaker, “How are you doing Josh? Are you ready?”

The monitor he was watching went blank. “Yes,” he replied.

Lou punched in the time machine’s coordinates:

November 22, 1963 at 12:30 p.m. Dallas, Texas, Dealey Plaza.

Josh stepped into a grassy area and pulled out a Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5-millimeter model 91/38 Italian rifle from beneath his trench coat. No one paid attention to him when he took aim and fired the fatal shot that killed President John F. Kennedy.

He quickly covered the rifle back up and headed for the Texas School Depository. People were running around in a panic. No one noticed him enter the building or plant the rifle on the second floor.

Back in 2037

The three technicians watched the titanium shell’s glow fade away. Perry and Lou sat down and began typing at their computers. The titanium shell rose and disappeared into the ceiling. The glass shell followed.

Josh was still in the chair. Unconscious.

While they waited for him to wake up they ran the video of the assassination again, making sure there were no slip-ups. They had a duty to country. Failure was not an option.

Josh was a one-in-a-million freak. He was the only one who had ever survived their time machine. They couldn’t explain it. They just knew he was special. They were able to control his memories with drugs so that he never recalled any of his missions.

When he wasn’t on a mission, he ate and slept for his country. That’s what they told him. For his country. He was a patriot. A 21st century Captain America. When the Commander-In-Chief called he must always be ready.

As It Stands, imagine how our government would misuse time technology!

The Time Traveler and the Devil

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Salem, Massachusetts, 1691

“C’mon children, I don’t have much time,” the old man said.

As each child arrived they brought an armful of firewood and stacked it near the old man’s stool.

All of the children from the village gathered around the bonfire and waited for him to tell his story.

“There was this Time Traveler…”

“What was his name?” a five year-old girl interrupted.

Her 10-year old brother scolded her, and apologized.

“There was this Time Traveler who set out trying to undo the works of the devil. He came from a future that was fighting extinction. Between global pollution and wars, there were also fantastic inventions being created.

One was by a man who chose not to share his discovery of time travel with the other wise men of the day. He didn’t trust them. The devil had done his job well and his servants were legion.

Inspired by a desire to save humanity, the man used his invention to go back into history and intercede in events that led to the sorry conditions of his day. But no good act, or thought, escapes the devil for long and he became aware of this Time Traveler’s mission.

Listen closely now my children, because I have a warning for you. The devil has plans for your town. Innocent people will be killed by hysteria caused by the dark angel. Your parents wouldn’t listen to me today at the town hall meeting.

Now it’s up to you to stop the devil’s work. That’s why I asked you to come here tonight.”

After the old man, aka the Time Traveler, left Salem he went back to the future (2018) to see what the results of his intervention was. Nothing changed. The history books still told of Salem’s witch trials and the murder of innocent women.

It became clear that history could not be changed. The wrong-doings undone. His hopes of deliverance were dashed upon the rocks of his aspirations. The ability to travel back in time didn’t solve the planets problems.

Then he thought about the future. What did it have to offer that might defeat the devil?

It was a close call. The Time Traveler discovered chaos. He stayed inside his pod and ran tests to determine if life still existed. It didn’t. The atmosphere was full of deadly gases. Volcanos were constantly erupting, spewing ash across the planet.

A thought entered his head. What if he could get the devil to travel with him to this man-made hell? If he did, what would happen if he set a bomb to go off inside the pod? He knew the bomb wouldn’t kill the devil, but it would destroy the time machine. Perhaps the devil could be trapped in the future.

It was worth a try. There were no other options.

Back to 2018

The Time Traveler succeeded by taunting the devil. He accused the dark lord of being afraid of the future. He called him the biggest coward in heaven and hell. Finally, the devil accepted his challenge to travel to the future with him.

It turned out to be the one domain the devil had no power in. When the pod blew up he was left alone on a sinking island. An outcast once again. Without his presence among mankind, history reflected a totally different story.

As It Stands, fighting the devil is a theme I’ll never get tired of.

All Aboard the Soul Train!

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A dimly lit train station surrounded by darkness.

Flickering souls, like giant fireflies, waiting impatiently. They hover around the loading platform. A train’s whistle breaks the silence…

“Step right up folks! Have your holo-tickets ready. No shoving or cutting into line now,” an old man with a conductor’s hat on, called out.

The train took off into the vast darkness, its steel wheels humming like celestial music. Inside, two souls were deep in conversation:

“That sure was close,” the first soul, whose name was Rosco, said with a sigh of relief. “If it wasn’t for those extra points I earned giving up my life for those kids, I think I would have gotten a one-way trip to hell.”

“Don’t be too confident now. We still face challenges before making it to Heaven,” the second soul, whose name was Harry, pointed out.

“You’re right, of course. We still have three trials to face before getting our wings,” Roscoe agreed.

“My first ticket is to a place called Agincourt, on October 25th, 1415, during the Hundred Years War,” Harry said.

“What’s your new name?” Roscoe politely asked.

“Peter Archer, I’m a long bowman for King Henry V.”

“My new name is Albert McColloch, and I’m a bystander at the OK Corral shootout in Tombstone, Arizona, on October 26, 1881,” Roscoe said, after closely scanning his holo-ticket stub.

“Looks like you’ll be getting off this train after me if the stops are chronological,” Harry observed.

“I hate to admit it,” Roscoe said, “but I was a politician in my old life.”

“That explains your close call for getting the tickets.”

“I know,” Roscoe confessed. “I’m sure grateful that I qualified for the Karma program and got these opportunities to show why I’ll make a good angel.”

“Next stop coming up!” the conductor’s voice suddenly rang out.

Harry stood up and stretched.

“Agincourt!” the conductor announced.

“Good luck to you Roscoe. I hope to see you in heaven some day,” Harry said before hurrying down the narrow aisle to the open door.

Roscoe watched him leave and the conductor close the door. He looked out into the darkness and prayed that he wouldn’t run for mayor of Tombstone.

As It Stands, souls, and what happens to them, are one of my favorite themes.

The Mobster and The Tunnel

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Giuseppe “Three-Finger” Terranova was looking for the tunnel. The cops weren’t far behind.

Joey Adonis, in a night of wild drinking, had told him about it once. It was in upstate New York…a road that led to a tunnel in the side of a mountain.

On the other side of the tunnel was a cabin. A great place to hide. He’d never tried it because he lived in another state, but his friends all told him about it every time he was in the area.

Giuseppe drove as far as he could before the road became too dangerous to continue. It was pock-marked with deep potholes. He was exactly twenty miles south of the tiny town of Apalachin, when he pulled off the main road and purposely drove into a thicket of bushes.

Joey told him about a trail to take to get to the tunnel.  It was getting dark as he wandered around looking for traces of a trail. Just as he began to think he was crazy for listening to Joey (he was a real joker) he saw the trail. It was well-worn.

Giuseppe pulled out his pistol and checked it for ammunition. The 38 “snubie” had two rounds left. That was it. He fired the rest at the cops who broke into the lodge earlier, interrupting him and sixty other Capos in conference.

He didn’t really care if they were all caught. Just as long as he was safe. The cops had too much on him. Even with good lawyers it would be an uphill court battle that might end up with him frying on the chair.

No way. Not Giuseppe. He was above the law. He made monkeys out of those cops chasing him tonight. They’d never find him. He turned his attention to the trail in the dying light.

Fact. Giuseppe was a city boy who’d only gone camping once with a Boy Scout Troop and got in trouble for beating up another boy. He was no trailblazer. The sounds of the night made him nervous.

Small animals rustled around in the thick bushes and trees on either side of the trail. A traveler had no choice but to go forward on the trail, or turn around. He’d gone too far to turn around, so Giuseppe plunged on.

Geeze,” he muttered to himself, “A guy’s gotta be Davy Fricking Crockett out here in the middle of nowhere.” 

Hours passed. He was so tired that he was stumbling. Finally, totally exhausted, he laid down on the trail. It must have been the pure mountain air, because Giuseppe slept like a baby.

When he woke up the sun was overhead. He stood up. Pain racked his entire body. He wasn’t use to sleeping on the hard ground. He was stiff and hungry. There was nothing to do but keep walking.

The tunnel wasn’t even concealed. One moment he was walking along, then just around the bend, there it was! The tunnel. It was just to the right of the trail and there was a small clearing in front of it.

It was carved out of solid rock. It was about seven-feet high and six-feet wide. The ground was dry inside. So were Giuseppe’s lips. The thought of a water source on the other side gave him the courage to go into the dark interior.

He felt his way along with his hands. Stumbling at times. Then he saw a ray of light. In moments he was outside again. Fresh air and to his delight, a clean river running along a small cabin barely visible through the trees.

He was on his knees drinking water from his cupped hands when someone asked him, “Where’s Dorie May?” 

He slowly got to his feet and turned around. Three men dressed like cowboys (right down to guns and all) were mounted on horses that formed a small semi-circle around him. The speaker, a tall lean man with a big black hat and hard gray eyes, asked him one more time,

“Where’s Dorie May?

There was a shout from the cabin. “We found her Clem! She’s dead!”

Giuseppe shouted, “What’s going on Here?”

The speaker motioned to the other two riders and they got down off their horses. One had a length of rope in his hand. The hard gray eyes of the speaker were full of hate as he pointed his pistol towards a nearby oak tree.

The two riders walked him over to it. One of the cowboys threw the rope around a thick limb and tied the other end into a noose which he slipped over Giuseppe’s head. The speaker got down from his horse and grabbed the rope and pulled on it.

The other two men joined him. They pulled him up by his neck. A crazy thought went through Giuseppe’s mind before he died and he croaked “What year is it?”

As It Stands, justice has a way of being served in time when your karma is bad enough.