The Aquarium

“What are they?” Tad Chester from JQIK TV,  asked as he looked in to the depths of the biggest private aquarium he’d ever seen.

It was massive, circling the entire 20,000 foot mansion and was a 100-feet deep. Burt, the mansion’s owner watched what the reporter was pointing at with a secret amusement.

“They’re called Oscars,” he replied. ‘They’re very territorial little beasts and have a habit of vigorously defending their space. To keep things interesting there’s also fish-eating Piranha in there. They’re really glutinous little bastards and will attack any living thing that invades their space.”

“I see fresh water fish and ocean-going fish in there. How’s that possible?” the reporter queried.

“It’s possible because of genius engineering. You can’t tell, but there’s a glass barrier between the two types of water separating the species that allows for them to appear to be next to one another.”

“That’s simply amazing Mr. Peters. Thank you for giving me a fascinating tour of your world-class aquarium. I can’t wait to share it with my viewers, he said while giving the cameraman his clue to stop filming.

“You’re welcome. I’ll show you both out now.

Later that night.

Burt moved among the guests chatting and laughing at their lame jokes. As usual he had an eclectic gathering ranging from the super wealthy to starving artists. He loved to show off his aquarium and frequently had his butler, Mr. Keets, arrange affairs like this.

Mr. Keets made sure all the food being served was seafood cooked by gourmet chefs. The dinner settings including ocean-themed silverware, with mermaids on the ends of forks and spoons. The knife handles were adorned with Neptune’s likeness.

The dining room was at the center of the mansion, with hallways that spun off it like spokes on a wheel. Each hallway led to different sections of the building. A blue-lit corridor ran alongside the outer walls next to the aquarium.

Visitors could only see about 40-feet of the aquarium which continued down another 60-feet underground. Burt had cameras covering every square inch of the aquarium, but they weren’t for public viewing. He had a small control room equipped with cameras and computers that controlled the temperatures in the various sections of the giant fish habitat.

The world knew Burt Peters as the man who discovered Atlantis. World fame made him rich enough to invent a past based on fiction, but difficult to verify. And rich enough to spend millions on his one-of-a-kind underwater world and labyrinth.

It was stocked with thousands of types of fish from all over the planet. Everything from tiger sharks to minnows glided by the glass barrier, entertaining and titillating visitors.

After all of the guests were gone Burt took a concealed elevator to the top floor of the mansion. He stepped out into a room that looked down at the top of the aquarium. He could see fish swimming below him through the glass floor. He went to a trap door and lifted it up. Taking off all of his clothes, Burt climbed down a ladder and slid into the warm water.

Aiolos Pileidis, aka Burt, was the last survivor of the Atlantean civilization. His fate was to outlive his peers and culture. Old age didn’t come to Atlanteans, but death could still come by violent means. Over the centuries killer sharks and other lethal sea creatures took their toll.

Aiolos became the ultimate survivor when he decided to live on land. Like his peers he was able to live underwater, and on land. He got lonely after 10-years of no companionship after his friend Niclas fell victim to a school of sharks. He was left with no one but the fish to talk with.

It was time for a change. It took him a year to gather an expedition together. The investors believed he was an expert on Atlantean lore. When the big discovery was made, Aiolos instantly became a worldwide celebrity.

Money poured in. It was still pouring in after the first three years it took to build his gargantuan aquarium. With the help of the greatest engineers on the planet he designed it and oversaw the construction.

The only thing lacking in Aiolos’ life was danger. The creatures of the aquarium feared him, recognizing that he was the ultimate predator. Sharks would swim near him, but guardedly kept their distance when he went for his nightly swim.

Preversly, he missed seeing life and death struggles between his peers and the denizens of the deep. He was pondering possibilities one evening when he saw an intruder outside with his security cameras.

The idea came to him full-blown. 

He needed to capture this would-be home invader. That part was easy. He went to the front door and listened for a moment as the man picked at the lock with something metallic. 

Aiolos whipped the door open and as the man fell forward off-balance, he kicked him in the head. Just one swift kick put his erstwhile visitor to sleep. Aiolos went to a storage unit off one of the corridors and found what he was looking for.

A divers setup. One oxygen tank, a breathing apparatus, and a pair of divers’ goggles. He had to wear the gear or attract attention when he led the dives down to Atlantis’s ruins. He loaded it into the elevator and went back to the man lying unconscious on the marble floor. After he loaded him into the elevator he pushed the button that said “Top.” 

It wasn’t easy fitting the apparatus onto the slumbering man. By the time he had everything in place the man was regaining consciousness. He opened the trap door and let gravity do it’s thing. When he hit the water the man was fully awake. He was treading water when Aiolos called down to him, “Better put the mouth piece in and start looking for a way out. I’ll give you a hint – you’re going to have to dive down to find it!”

Aiolos took the elevator to the first floor, and stepped into the blue-lit corridor next to the aquarium’s glass. He waited patiently, then saw the man go past him as he sought greater depths.

He didn’t feel guilty about telling the man a lie. The guy was a crook. He ended up providing hours of pleasure for Aiolos who watched him trying to avoid the tiger shark and a few other nasty creatures.

It was like throwing out bait, which he found to be highly stimulating and entertaining. Especially when the tiger shark took a bite out of the terrified victim and caused a blood frenzy among the other sharks who came from the dark depths to feast!

His problem was solved. He’d start a very private swim club. The challenge would be finding members. But that was alright. He had all the time in the world.

As It Stands, Atlanteans are often portrayed as enlightened humans, so I thought I’d look at their dark side in this tale.

Meeting challenges

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To my readership;

Thank’s for cruising by to check things out daily, but I’m going to have to slow my story production down for awhile.

I’ll be straight up with you, I have PTSD, and this is a bad time of the year for me. Some psychologists call it an “anniversary date.”

That simply means something terrible happened around this time of year when I was a combat engineer in Cambodia. Also Vietnam.

In a nutshell, I have a lot of trouble focusing in April and May. They’re the worst two months of the year for me. Hence, it’s difficult to write. I’m trying to meet this challenge by not giving up totally.

If your new here, please check out my archives on the right side of this page. I’m sure to have something for you there.

From Science Fiction to Speculative Fiction, I’ve hopped from one genre to another in order to offer the most discerning reader a variety.

I don’t expect to write more than two stories a week right now – if that. But, I’m going to try.

Thanks for your understanding.

The Handyman Cometh

(Listen to Otis Jiry, master storyteller, narrate this story)

Albert was born without the ability to speak. As if to make up for his loss, he was a genius when it came to fixing things from a very early age.

By reverse engineering everything within his reach, by age five, he learned how things worked, and never forgot. He enjoyed building gadgets and testing scientific theories, unlike most of the other 10-year olds on his block in 1977.

He was called a bookworm long before bullies learned to call kids like him a nerd. He was taller than most of his peers, and awkwardly thin. Despite his height advantage (or maybe because of it) he was clumsy, and did horribly at sports like basketball.

As if his intelligence and size didn’t already isolate him in school, being mute was the spark that got him teased since his first day of school. Kids can be cruel when someone isn’t the same as they are.

The one thing kids didn’t call him was dummy. He was too smart for that slam. Most secretly envied his ability to fix things. The boy handyman could fix go-carts, fans, and electric toasters.

When his 10th birthday came along, his mom and dad took him to Sears and said he could pick out any toy he wanted. When Albert saw the Atari VCS with nine-games titles available at launch, he fell in love with it.

His parents, true to their word, bought it for him and his love affair for computers was born. He instinctively knew that the Atari VCS was the tip of the iceberg.

In the following years he kept up with technological advances while going through high school, and eventually to a full ride scholarship at M.I.T.

Upon graduation with honors, Albert was offered a juicy job in the government helping to build a robust, fault-tolerant communication with computer networks. He was instrumental in building a primary precursor network, the ARPANET, which served as a backbone for interconnection of regional academic and military networks in the 1980s.

He was still with the government in the 1990s and made his contributions known again in the development of the World Wide Web, or Internet, as it became commonly called. Throughout his successful career he stayed a loner. He didn’t have any old high school friends.

Just the opposite.

He considered most of the kids in high school his enemies.

Their taunts over the years scarred Albert deeper than anyone, including his parents, suspected. The mild-mannered bookworm morphed into a mild-mannered nerd with a grudge, and became further isolated from his peers and the rest of the world.

He was a computer programmer, software developer, and troubleshooter. His colleagues respected him, but were not comfortable around him. He was the department’s all around handyman. But, to some of the women he seemed creepy, quietly walking around the office and lab staring at people.

Then one day his well-ordered life was shattered! His parents were killed in an auto accident! He was so distraught that he quit his job without notice. He went into a deep depression and left Washington D.C. and moved back into their house in Azusa, California.

As his days wilted into months he slowly began constructing a super computer. One like the world had never seen before. He designed it to surf flawlessly through the internet unobserved.

He discovered the dark web where youthful hackers were comparing techniques to access other people’s computers. He found arsonists, perverts, socialists, neo-Nazis, fascists, religious extremists, conspiracy nuts, and serial killers.

It was the wild, wild, west and Albert felt comfortable viewing what the dregs of humanity had to say to one another. There were a lot of angry people out there…like him.

The denizens of the dark web were anonymous or used fake names to protect themselves. Albert was soon logging in as The Handyman. He asked questions that no sane person would answer. His new found friends weren’t afraid to express their feelings, or to share their dark deeds.

One afternoon he went through his high school year books with revenge on his mind. It was a long time coming, but that was okay. He looked them up on social platforms and hacked their computers.

He started with the six worst offenders from his freshman year to his senior year. Five boys and one girl. He trolled them with death threats for months. He didn’t fear that someone would discover him. He was too good for that.

It amused him that he could toy with them, but he felt like there had to be more. It was ridiculously simple for him to track down where they all lived. It was also easy, and fun, building the bombs he was going to kill them with.

He was a fan of trip wires and set up a trap for each one of them in their homes. When all six bombs went off as planned, he found himself bragging on the dark web. Admirers asked questions like where did he set the traps, and his choice of explosives?

The police quickly realized they had a serial killer on their hands, despite differences in each one of the bombs their forensic team researched.

The sense of power Albert felt was indescribable. “The Handyman cometh...”he boasted on the dark web. Then he went back to the yearbooks and looked for more victims!

As It Stands, beware the loners.

The Dauphin County Horror

Listen to master story-teller Otis Jiry narrate this story here 

You can also find it on Creepypasta

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 1981

People began disappearing in the fall of 1979.  Not long after The Three Mile Island accident happened on March 28th.

The partial meltdown in reactor number 2 of Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI-2) in Dauphin County, caused widespread panic. Locally and nationally. Despite company denials, radioactive gases and radioactive iodine were released into the environment.

Nuclear agency experts assured the public there was no lasting damage done. The radioactive gases that escaped would soon dissipate, they told Dauphin County and Harrisburg residents.

The incident was rated a five on the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale: Accident with wider consequences.

It wasn’t long before residents in Dauphin County reported seeing strange things in the woods in the aftermath of that accident. Strange lights and colors. A local farmer disappeared without a trace, leaving behind a bewildered family.

A year later, a couple of hunters claimed they saw a man-like thing tearing a deer apart – limb by limb – on their way back to their pickup truck. It was dusk.

When asked by friends at the bar afterwards why they didn’t shoot the thing, both men said they didn’t want to take the chance of killing a man. It was hard to make the figure out. He could have been a really big strong man. As far as they could tell, he wasn’t breaking any laws.

That night, on their way home, one of the hunters asked the other, “Why didn’t you say something about that thing eating the deer’s raw flesh? How it tore pierces of meat off the legs with its bare teeth?

“Who would have believed us?

“But, it’s true.”

“Don’t you understand Bob? It sounds like crazy talk and people would be laughing at us. You don’t want people laughing at you. Do you?

Henry dropped Bob off at his trailer. He didn’t want Bob to know how shaken he was. He wasn’t sure what they saw in the woods, but the next day when he backtracked their trail he found freshly broken deer leg bones, half a rib cage, and a skull with the eyes missing.

In the following months people began disappearing. Authorities searched everywhere. Including the woods. People were warned not to go out alone after dark. A dark pall had descended over the county. Fear.

Coffee shops were crowded with old men trading conspiracy theories like baseball cards. Bob and Henry went hunting again. They were both combat Vietnam veterans and never tired of one another’s company. Or hunting.

Both men lived alone. Bob’s wife had died of breast cancer. Henry was divorced. His wife couldn’t stand living with his PTSD. Both men carried Remington Model 783 Bolt-Action rifles, with 3-9×40 scopes. They were both expert shots and trackers.

For weeks they hunted for deer, and signs of the mysterious man who now haunted their dreams. Was it a man? If not, what? It was obviously powerful. And elusive.

The county sheriff was frantic. People continued disappearing. The word was getting out to the world. Something bad was happening in tiny little Dauphin County. National reporters were seen around town talking with residents. Sniffing around like curious squirrels on the scent of a story.

Henry adjusted his new Pulsar Challenger GS 3.5×50 mm Night Vision scope. He’d made a decision. He was going to “return to the jungle” and hunt the thing out there. He didn’t tell Bob. Both men were in their late 30s, but Bob wasn’t in as good as shape as Henry was. There wasn’t a pound of fat on him, unlike Bob who was losing the battle of the bulge to sweets and pasta.

As Henry prepared for his hunt, donning camos, and filling ammunition clips, he thought back to his days in Vietnam as a tunnel rat.

A flashlight and a .45 caliber pistol were all that stood between him and death when he slithered into the enemy’s tunnels. He was bit once by a venomous snake, but survived thanks to a savvy medic who carried snake anti-venom with him in the bush.

He packed his rucksack with enough supplies to stay out for a week. His web belt had a military K-Bar knife, two 20-round ammo pouches, two 30-round ammo pouches, and two 40-round ammo pouches,  a compass, and a length of rope. He had a custom-made sling for his Heckler & Koch Mp7 automatic pistol.

The Mp7 fired 4.6×30 mm ammunition capable of penetrating soft body armor. Henry liked that it was light – only weighing a couple of pounds but could bring on major heat. He grabbed his bolt-action Remington with the new night scope, and locked the front door. He pinned a note on the front door: “Back in a week. Visiting family.

The first three nights there was no sign of the thing. On the fourth night – on a hunch – Henry was checking out a perimeter fence surrounding the 3-Mile Island Generator Plant when he heard a scream.

Alarms went off and two security guards ran out of a small wooden shack. Henry watched them though his scope. They ran around with automatic weapons, shouting. Two more guards appeared and they were also shouting frantically.

From his position in the tree line, Henry watched the chaos unfold. Then he saw the thing! It had a man’s body tucked under one massive arm, and was loping along seemingly unconcerned with the noise less than 300 yards away.

Suddenly he burst into a run and disappeared further down the tree line. Henry jumped up from his kneeling position and gave chase. The thing was moving amazingly fast. It didn’t make a lot of noise but Henry’s ears were still keen enough to hear it.

After a hard five-minute run, the trees opened up and Henry saw rolling hills. And nothing else! Where did the thing go? He felt exposed out in the open on a full moon that caused shadows to appear everywhere.

Henry went back to the tree line and climbed halfway up a tall spruce. He picked a sturdy branch to sit on and lashed himself to the tree. He slept soundly, dreaming about a large underground complex he discovered in Cambodia in 1970.

The next day Henry walked around the hills looking for tracks and tunnels. It was well into the afternoon when he discovered a well-hidden cave that was big enough to stand upright in. The charnel house smell told him dead things were inside.

He loosened his Mp7 and popped a 40-round loader into the gun. Turning the LED light on his helmet to bright, he cautiously stepped into the dark interior. Minutes ticked by. At one point the cave branched off to the left, before continuing on in a straight line. Henry checked out the new opening and discovered mutilated human bodies inside!

Skulls and rotted flesh in piles. Broken bones. Gnawed on bones. Flies and maggots. Scraps of torn clothing clinging to headless torsos. This is where the missing people were. Butchered and forgotten.

As Henry took in the horror his sense of survival kicked in when he heard a noise from within the cave. Something was grunting and growling. That’s not Charlie out there good buddy, he murmured to no one.

The best defense is a good offense Henry use to tell his friends. No more thinking. Time to act.

Henry stepped out into the main tunnel and fired quick bursts in both directions. The shots thundered through the tunnels. No sign of the thing. Only the scent of gun powder. He popped the loader out and replaced it with another 40-rounder. It was time to get out of the tunnel.

It took him longer than he thought. He wasn’t out of the putrid tunnel until nightfall.

Instinctively getting out of the open, Henry trotted over to the edge of the forest. He re-slung his Mp7, and unhitched the sling holding his Remington Bolt action. He held the rifle up and peered through the night scope, waiting for the thing to appear.

It troubled Henry that he didn’t know what the thing looked like. Or what it was. It was best to know your enemy. He learned to never underestimate the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. To do so could mean your life. The more you knew, the better.

Hours later he spotted movement on a nearby hilltop. He focused the scope and found himself staring at the thing’s face. It might have been a man’s face once, but the grotesque thing he saw in his cross hairs was so misshapen it was unrecognizable as any known animal.

He squeezed the trigger on his Remington. The shot caught the thing near one of it’s uneven eyes. It looked startled at the impact, but didn’t fall down. Instead, it turned in his direction and charged!

He fired the Remington one more time, and dropped it while grabbing the Mp7. In one motion he popped a 30-round clip in it and fired away. The full burst only slowed the thing down. He tried to pop another clip in when the thing slammed into him, sending him violently backwards!

The Mp7 flew out of hands as he fell. Without thinking he drew his K-bar and staggered to his feet. His nose was bleeding profusely as the thing drew itself up. It was an abomination of a man. A hideous reminder of the perils of radiation, and body transformation.

Henry was startled to hear a gun shot. Sounded like a 12-gauge. Part of the thing’s head disappeared, and another shot followed. The thing swayed drunkenly and took a step towards Henry. Two shots this time! Both barrels slamming into the things chest. A pause. Then two more shots, and the thing crumbled to the ground, both legs blown away.

Bob stepped up to the still heaving body and ejected two shells. As he popped two more shells in he asked Henry if he was alright? Then he fired both barrels again into the midsection. They burned the thing afterwards.

As the two old friends walked away from the bonfire, Henry finally asked, “How did you know what I was doing Bob?”

“You haven’t got any family left like the note said. Other than me,” he chuckled. “I figured you wanted to hunt the thing, but didn’t want me to go along in case I’d get hurt. So I just followed you my friend, and covered your back.”

“Are we going to tell people what happened after the murders quit?” Bob wondered.

“Hell no! They’ll just think we’re crazy veterans telling war stories,” Henry assured him.

As It Stands, as the bard said, “all’s well, that ends well.”

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.

I’m back…sort of

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To my followers, past readers, and future readers,

I planned on starting another writing streak this month. The problem is I’ve been on vacation since the 1st of February.

I was charging my batteries in January in preparation for an avalanche of flash fiction in February. Now that I’m back, I’m staring at the keyboard wondering where my muse is?

What happened?

My beady brain is not infused with fresh ideas. I feel like I’m sitting in a desert wondering how I got there, and why I don’t have any supplies.

There’s nothing more daunting than looking at a blank page with a blank mind.

That doesn’t mean I’m giving up this project.

I’m just pushing my own deadline back to take the pressure off while I muddle through this temporary creativity blackout.

If you are a new reader, I hope you take a moment and peek at the archived articles on the right side of this page.

For those of you who are willing to wait until I get my act together, thank you. I’ll try not to disappoint.

As It Stands, may you have a great day!

Breaking For The Holidays

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Dear Readers,

I want to thank you all for visiting my blog since I unveiled it in July.

I especially want to thank those of you who are following me.

I also want to thank those of you who made constructive, and encouraging comments.

I started my daily writing streak in the middle of June. Since then, I’ve written 130 consecutive flash fiction stories.

It’s been fun, and challenging. I plan on starting another streak in January 2018.

If your new to this blog, I invite you to go through the archives on the right side of the page.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas! And, a Happy New Year!

As It Stands, I’ll be recharging my batteries.