The Imposter

London, 1828 –

The Fraternal Brotherhood of Resurrectionists

Vernon Barker sat in the rear of the dark and dank room, listening to the impassioned speaker up front. His mind was wandering however.

He was thinking about when he decided to write a book about grave robbers. The idea seemed exciting. Adventurous. He’d go under cover for a year and write a blockbuster expose on stealing human corpses.

That was two years ago. And now, here he was. Locked up in a lunatic asylum.

Vernon started out as a grave digger. It wasn’t too bad, because all he had to do was dig the body up – fill in the hole – and two other men came and took it from there. The bodies were going to medical schools, he was told.

As time went by he moved up to transporting corpses to the hospitals. He liked talking with the doctors who were always surprised to find out that he could read and write. It was an unusual set of skills for a common grave robber – or “Resurrectionist” as they were otherwise known at the time.

In general, most authorities at the time didn’t worry too much about the practice of stealing bodies. The medical community lent a certain respectability to it. Forwarding medical science, and all that good stuff.

The resurrectionists made sure not to steal anything such as jewelry or fine clothing as this would have caused them to be liable for felony charges.

The resurrectionists were a tight-knit community with many strange beliefs. They also had a rough code of honor not adhered to by all of the other grave robbers in the city. They had a tier system where a man could rise through the ranks, and become privy to the organization’s biggest secrets.

The grand master of the group, Giles de Morta, always appeared wearing a plain black opera mask. His real identity was only known to the inner circle.

Vernon slowly worked his way through the levels, as he carried out his masters commands. He was no longer an apprentice. His diligence and hard work were paying off. He just had one more level to go until he reached the top, and got access to the groups’ greatest secrets.

The greatest risk that he took was keeping notes. He needed to write things down for future reference. His memory wasn’t enough. He was fully aware of the risk he took if it was discovered. He shuddered to think about it, but held to his course.

The group always met in the tunnels and catacombs beneath the city streets. There were miles of these tunnels stretching out and going down deep into the earth’s bowels. It was easy to get lost if you didn’t live there for years with the guidance of the brotherhood.

Authorities seldom ventured into their kingdom.

Quite by chance one day, Vernon stumbled upon something that rocked his entire world!

He was going through a different sector to save time getting back to a meeting when he heard odd guttural sounds. The came from a room to his left. To his utter horror, a small group of five men were standing around a corpse and slicing pieces off it!

“A feast for the gods!” the Grand Master in his black opera mask chanted, after chewing on the hunk of human flesh in his hand.

“For the gods!” the other men chanted several times between loathsome bites.

He backed out of the room almost immediately, praying no one saw him. They were all chanting loudly in a growing frenzy as he fled down the tunnels in mindless terror and got lost.

He wandered for days, fearing for his life. He didn’t know for sure if one of the men – or more like one of the ghouls – saw his shocked face. As he sat down on a sewer curb to rest he suddenly realized his notebook wasn’t inside his jacket pocket!

Sheer panic gripped him for a moment! His breath came in short gasps as he thought about what would happen if one of the brothers found it. All of his careful observations – and worse yet his thoughts and plans – were laid out in that small notebook.

He noticed a ray of light coming from a sewer grate up ahead. He could go topside and figure out where he was when he surfaced. Vernon was tired and hungry as he headed for the light.

Once back on the familiar cobblestones that led to his small flat, he dared to breathe a small sigh of relief. He went straight to a pub and ordered a beer. It landed like lead on his empty stomach and he was forced to go to the back alley and vomit there among the trash.

People came and went in the alley, laughing and talking, not even noticing Vernon bent over and groaning pitifully. When his stomach settled enough to stand, he headed for his flat, buying a loaf of bread along the way.

When he woke up the next morning he was shocked to see his diary on the lone table in his room. There was a piece of crisp white paper with the word “Imposter!” on it, tucked between the pages. He tried to swallow, but his mouth was too dry.

The brotherhood was on to him! So why was he spared when the notebook and note were delivered? He was an easy target sleeping on his mangled mattress. It became apparent to him why he wasn’t dead yet as the days passed by.

They were playing with him. Mocking him. One day when he least expected it, they would kill him. He needed a safe haven. That’s when he decided to go to the police and see if they would protect him after he told them about the brotherhood’s cannibalistic practices.

When Sgt. Patrick Henry O’Shea saw Vernon standing outside his office door in his torn and dirty clothing he felt like just telling him to get out – to leave him alone – but he knew he couldn’t. He was a public servant, and as such he had to listen to everyone’s gripes.

He had to maintain a certain air of fairness, regardless of how he personally felt about bums like this one.

“How can I help you sir?”

“My name is Vernon Barker.”

“How can I help you, Mr. Barker?”

It took twenty minutes for Vernon to tell his story. By the time he was done he was bathed in sweat and Sgt. O’Shea was convinced he was loony bin material.

“The man must be mad! Grave diggers eating corpses! What blarney!” he thought. He called out to the patrolman in the hallway, “O’Toole! Come take this man to the waiting cell.”

Vernon stood up, alarmed. “What are you doing?” he asked, his voice rising a notch.

“It’s quit all right Mr. Barker,” Sgt. O’Shea assured him. “I’m going to put you in a safe place.”

Vernon’s shouts and howls disappeared down the hallway of the police station and into the depths of the old brick buildings holding cell.

The next day.

Hanwell Pauper and Lunatic Asylum

“Hello doctor, how are my wards doing today?” the hospital’s administrator asked a doctor giving a man an injection to calm him down.

“Very well, I’d say sir. Very well indeed. Oh, we do have a new patient. He came in yesterday. Quit upset too, I might add.”

Vernon sat with his back against the cell wall. No one would listen to him. No one believed his story. When his cell door opened a man in a three-piece gray suit entered and introduced himself as the facility’s administrator.

In one last desperate attempt Vernon blurted out his story again. The administrator stood silently across from him, listening with a strange smile on his face. When Vernon ran out of words the administrator pulled out a small black opera mask from his inside jacket pocket and put it on!

Vernon’s screams of horror mingled  with the rest of the lunatics there.

As It Stands, there’s nothing more lonely than not being believed.

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.

A Monster in the Midst

Columbus, Ohio 1849

Conor O’Callaghan, and his family of eight children and a wife, left Ireland in a coffin ship bound for America.

They huddled together in the ship’s filthy hold with the rest of the impoverished Irish immigrants escaping the An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger) in Gaeilge, Ireland.

When God’s wrath struck Ireland’s poor population in 1845, with a potato famine, it was devastating. The people’s only staple food, potatoes, were afflicted with a Blight that turned them black.

Starving peasants tried to eat them, but ended up vomiting.

When the O’Callaghan family arrived in Columbus, Ohio, they found a place to stay in the north side of the city. In the swamp flats where inexpensive land was available. Work was also available with the city.

Two years later, the Irish settlement spread to Franklin, on Naghten Street where the O’Callaghan’s had moved up in the world into a large six-bedroom house. Conor had gotten a job in the police force.

He was also an entrepreneur who sold whiskey, disguised as Dr. Talent’s Medicinal Tonic. He sold it on the sly, and never had trouble finding customers. After working out a deal with a local bootlegger, he produced enough product to ship to other counties as far away as New York.

The moral duality of Conors life never troubled him. He always saw it as survival. He’d do anything for his pack. It was that simple. He’d defied the odds, and provided them with a roof over their head, and food in their bellies.

In his three years of police service he’d seen a fair amount of violence and broke up numerous fights. He built a reputation on toughness and the ability to get things done. He even solved a couple of murders after being promoted from patrolman to lieutenant recently.

Conor’s political and underworld contacts gave him an advantage over his fellow officers. He was both trusted and feared.

Conor and his wife Aingeal, avoided the social life in town, perferring to stay at home with their family. Neither were brought up with any social graces, and they didn’t attempt to assume them as their financial status in society improved.

Because of their desire to stay away from most people, the O’Callaghan clan was looked upon suspiciously by their gregarious countrymen. But Conor had the people’s respect, if not their love.

In one unseasonably warm night, as Conor sat alone on his porch rocking back and forth and puffing on a pipe, he heard the keening wail of a banshee! It pierced his ears and caused him to drop his pipe.

Like most of his peers, Conor was a superstitious man, and believed in banshees, fairies, and leprechauns. He knew that wail meant trouble. Someone was going to die that night. He picked up his pipe and relit it.

He heard about the murder before he even reached his office the next morning. A crowd of people, with patrolman fighting to hold them back, surrounded a body of a man sprawled out in front of the general store.

His neck and face were slashed to meaty ribbons, as was most of the rest of the body. The victim had bled out, and the drying pool of blood was attracting flies.

“Sergeant Whelan! Will you kindly cover up this body, and have it taken to the coroner’s office?”

“Yes sir! What shall I tell that reporter over there? He’s been waiting to talk to someone.”

“Tell him I don’t know a damn thing, and when I do, I’ll let them know,” Conor replied.

He didn’t like the way the day started and it was only going to get worse.

When he got back to his office he sent one of the patrolman out to bring in one of his public contacts – a drunken gadfly who knew everyone in the city. He was easily located in the nearby saloon.

Davin McGrath was an alcoholic who was well known in Columbus for spending most of his waking hours in a saloon. His keen ears picked up on conversations like a well-trained hound dog.

He knew who was mad, at who; and who was screwing someone else’s wife.
He heard many interesting conversations in the saloons confessional, presided over by the bartender, Tommy Shea.

His worth came in the form of collecting those drunken tidbits in order to get a good idea what was happening in the small community of 3,000 immigrants.

When summoned, he passed on this information to lieutenant, Conor ‘O’Callaghan.

“Right to the point today, McGrath. What have you heard about a murder on Naghten Street last night?”

He took a sip from the silver flask in his jacket pocket and regarded Conor, trying to judge his mood.

“Nothing yet, it’s too early,” he gingerly replied.

“Damn! No arguments at the saloon last night? No fights?”

“Aye, there were a few tussles, but nothing to take note of.”

Conor handed him two silver dollars. “Let me know when you do hear something won’t you?”

“Aye governor!” McGrath grinned happily on his way out.

In the following two months, two more bodies were discovered. Both were attacked on full moons. They were as badly mutilated as the first victim.

The pressure from the townspeople to catch the killer was becoming intense. Conor knew they were afraid and they wanted answers.

Worse yet, he knew who the killer was.

McGrath showed up at Conor’s office late one afternoon in a strange state.
It took Conor a moment to realize what it was, the red-eyed old man wasn’t drunk. He was dead sober and looked like hell roasted over. He wouldn’t sit down when offered.

“Gotta leave today lieutenant! I was wondering if you could float me a small stake for old times sake?”

His was trembling nervously, looking over his shoulder and around the room as he waited for a reply.

“Sit down mate. What’s the matter? Why this sudden rush to leave town?” Conor asked.

“I saw something I wish I hadn’t last night in the alley behind the saloon. I just want to move on now, and I desperately need some financial help.”

“Tell me what happen Gavin,” he said, using the other man’s first name to sooth him. Getting up from his chair, Conor came over to him and put an arm around his shoulder.

“You can tell me anything. If you have any knowledge whose committing these terrible murders it’s your civic duty to tell me right now.”

“I’m afraid,” the old man whimpered.

“What did you see last night? I must know!”

“Your son, Aidan,” he said, with cracked lips dry from fear.

“What?” Conor let go of him and took a step back. “Are you sure?”

“I went outside to drain my pecker when I saw your son down on all fours and howling like a wolf! As I watched his body transform into a hairy horror, I must of passed out.

The next thing I remember was he was tearing into that man’s body!”

“You’re were seeing things. The liquor has finally turned your brain into mush.”

“Please lieutenant, I won’t say a word about this to anyone! I’ll disappear.”

Conor studied the old man, watching him tremble uncontrollably, with one hand out pleading. No one would ever believe his crazy story. Their family secret was bound to get out someday. But not today.

He opened a desk drawer and took out a leather wallet. Pulling out some paper money, he gave it to McGrath and wished him luck.

Shortly after the visit, Conor quit his job and moved his family out West to start over.

Aidan’s secret was forever guarded with the family’s new system to lock him up on full moons. They’d gotten careless in Columbus.

For decades the people of Columbus, Ohio talked about the rash of horrific mutilation murders. Rumors had it that the killings mysteriously stopped when the town drunk and a police lieutenant suddenly left town.

As It Stands, Conor was willing to do anything for his pack.

The Monkey Murders

Did you know that you can find a shrine to monkeys, rats, and dogs, in India?

Actually, in the Hindu culture there is a close bond between animals and humans. The culture believes in reincarnation. One never knows if they mistreat an animal if it could end up being one of their own ancestors.

Monkeys are highly thought of in Hinduism. It was a monkey, Lord Hanuman, who saved Lord Rama’s wife Sita from Ravana’s wrath in Indian lore.

You can visit the Galtaji Temple, an enormous shrine to monkeys, today. It’s just a short distance from Jaipur. It’s inhabitants are truly unique. They’re Rhesus Macaques Monkeys which are known as the world’s most adaptable primates.

Visitors and pilgrims have come for hundreds of years to pray or just stare at the ancient ruins overran with the large tribe of monkeys.

When Rory and Mack, two dedicated trophy hunters, read about the Galtaji Temple and it’s monkeys, they got drunk and came up with a plan to bag some for their collection. They read enough to know the monkeys were protected, and considered sacred, but it didn’t change their sodded minds.

They were both wealthy and bored. Hunting injected that spice they needed in life. Killing animals and making their bodies trophies was a pastime they shared for over a decade from their ranches in Montana.

They hunted in India before. Legally, and illegally. It was a place where officials turned their heads quickly if enough money was offered. Guides gathered like flies in the airports looking for would-be hunters for a payday.

The heat and the humidity hit Rory and Mack like a living thing as they walked down the runway and towards the main gate. The two men stood out in the sun watching the workers unload the luggage from the plane onto rolling carts that were attached to mini-trucks.

By the time they got to their room in Jaipur both men were exhausted. After eating a light dinner at an outside café, they returned to their room and went to bed…anticipating the next day.

They chose to walk, carrying a few basic supplies in their back packs. The walk turned out to be much longer than they were led to believe. The road was rough and uneven. Both men were panting from the heat when they arrived at the shrine.

A woman ran up to them and put red dots on their foreheads and demanded money. They didn’t even try to argue with her. The priests and staff were mingling with a small gathering of visitors at the base of the temple. Some people were feeding the monkeys chips and bananas.

The courtyard and temple were filthy with monkey feces and decaying food. The temple itself was in poor condition. Parts of the shrine was crumbling under the weight of vines and heavy vegetation that was slowly engulfing the whole structure.

Rory and Mack’s plan was simple. They would each kill a monkey and put it in the water-proof/smell proof canvas bag they both brought along for that purpose. They planned on checking in the sealed bags with the dead monkeys inside as luggage – souvenirs from their trip. Neither had brought a weapon. Too much hassle for such small prey.

They reasoned that they could kill the fragile primates easily with their hands. Snap the their neck, and that’s all she wrote. The challenge was to kill the monkeys without starting a riot.

They stayed until dusk, waiting for the visitors and pilgrims to leave. The priests disappeared into the shrine’s dark interior as nightfall settled into the valley. There was no lack of monkeys to pick from. They were sleeping all over the ruins.

It wasn’t much of a challenge for the two experienced hunters to sneak up on a sleeping monkey and throttle it before it could squeak in protest. The deed was done and they walked back to their room under the light of a full moon.

Two weeks later back in Montana.

Mack held up his brandy snifter and clinked it against Rory’s. They were sitting in front of a glowing fireplace in Mack’s trophy room. That day they had picked up their catches from the taxidermist and were now admiring the work that made them look alive.

The monkeys stood upright on little rock pedestal, staring into space, as the two happy hunters drank late into the night.

From the local newspaper – The Montana Messenger

Headline: Two Men Found Strangled In Lodge

Police reported that a housekeeper found two men dead on the floor as she was cleaning Monday morning. The owner of the lodge, Rory L. Handers was found with a broken neck, as was his visitor, Mack Kolby Cameron II.

There are no suspects at this time. The two men were well known international hunters who had just recently returned from a vacation in India. Rory’s spouse told deputies that their last trip was a pilgrimage to a shrine in India, Galtaji Temple.

Local residents have been advised to lock up securely at night. A full investigation is underway, according to Sheriff Slim Sanders.”

As it Stands,  Lord Hanuman’s revenge was cosmic justice.

A Timely Revenge

It was Skip Barger’s dream to be a forest ranger.

He had always enjoyed hiking, fishing, and camping. When he finally did became a forest ranger at Glacier National Park in Montana, it was the highlight of his young life.

He loved working alone and not having a regular routine. Most of the time his interactions with the public were positive. He loved the rugged peaks, clear waters, and glacial-carved valleys of the park and felt honored to work there.

He spent his free time reading about the park’s history. There was evidence that human’s lived in the park as far back as 10,000 years. Long before the white man came there several different tribes occupied the area.

It was home to the Blackfeet Indians who controlled the vast prairies east of the mountains. It was also the hunting grounds for the Salish and Kootenai Indians who lived in the western valleys.

Skip loved hiking through the vast park looking for new sights and trails to document. One day he came into an area he wasn’t familiar with. He lost track of time and realized he wasn’t going to get back to his cabin before darkness settled in.

It was late spring and the weather was mild, so sleeping outside without a tent wasn’t a problem. Nevertheless, he looked around for a shelter and discovered what he first thought was a cave. It turned out to be a gold mining operation that he estimated (based upon reading the areas history) was over a 170 years-old.

Curious, Skip stepped inside and inspected the walls laced with gold-bearing crystal quartz. He could see where the workers followed the veins. He took the flashlight off his web belt and pointed it down the tunnel. It seemed to go on for quit a ways.

Back outside he found a long-fallen log and sat on it. Pulling out his notebook he made some observations. Taking his field compass from it’s pouch, he took his bearings and recorded them.

It was nearly dark when he decided to go to sleep on a patch of grass by the fallen log. He didn’t bother with a fire. It was a warm night.

Skip almost immediately fell into a sound sleep. He didn’t usually dream. And if he did, he seldom remembered what it was about.

That night.

“Another white eyes looking for gold.  What should we do?” Askuwheteau (Blackfoot for He Keeps Watch) asked the elder beside him.

The old man looked down at Skip, curled into a fetal position on his side. “His presence here is an affront,” Eluwilussit (Blackfoot for Holy One) said with disgust in his voice.

“No wait! Before you judge me let me explain…” Skip cut into the conversation.

The two old men stared at Skip – who was standing now – with thinly veiled contempt.

“White men have tongues like serpents,” Askuwheteau accused.

Startled, Skip looked down and saw his body below him on the ground, asleep. Trying to concentrate, he told them he wasn’t a miner. He was a park ranger.

The hate in their eyes told him they didn’t believe him. They both moved menacingly towards Skip who staggered backward in terror!

The next morning.

When Skip woke up his heart was beating so fast he felt like he’d ran for miles. It took him a few moments to remember where he was. He shivered in the chill morning air and at the memory of a terrible nightmare. He’d never had one so vivid before.

It haunted him all the way back to his cabin.

By the time he ate, and did all of his chores it was time to conduct a short hiking tour for a group of tourists. He forgot about the nightmare as he talked about the beauty of the area and it’s wildlife inhabitants.

That night he was exhausted, and feel into a deep sleep after eating dinner.

In the dream he was watching a group of white men carrying out bags of jagged native ore laced with gold from the tunnel. Two Indians suddenly appeared and tried to make the group of five miners leave their heavy bags and go. The armed miners pulled their guns out and shot the two Indian men to death.

He watched in horror as the white men scalped them and mutilated their bodies. Afterwards they left their bodies out in the elements, and returned to civilization.

“Let us see for ourselves,” Askuwheteau said, “if this man can resist the yellow rock.”

“Yes. The gods will look into his heart and tell us why he came, Eluwilussit agreed.

The next morning.

Skip woke up with vague memories of a nightmare, but shook them off by the time he finished eating breakfast. He checked his list for the days activities. Good. He was going to be busy with three tourist tours. No time for silly thoughts.

Skip’s biggest weakness in life was his insatiable curiosity.

Two weeks after discovering the crude mine he found himself in the general vicinity. He checked his compass and confidently set out towards the mine. This time he brought some supplies with him in a rucksack.

When he entered the mine he took out his flashlight and a small pick hammer. He carefully watched where he stepped as he went deeper into the mine’s interior. When he came to a dead end he turned around and started walking back when he saw the dull gleam on the wall.

It got brighter as he trained the flashlight on it…an exposed vein of gold! Someone had started to chip around it and stopped for some reason. The raw gold transfixed Skip. He suddenly had a bad case of cotton mouth, and licked his dry lips.

He loved being a park ranger, but if this vein went any distance he could suddenly become wealthy! Then he remembered it was a national park and getting a mining permit would be a problem.

He would have to work it himself and transport the raw gold to a refinery somewhere. With modern equipment, like a jackhammer, he should be able to do the job. He picked at the vein and chipped off a piece of gold encased in crystal quartz. It was beautiful!

A small voice was warning him about something. He ignored it, and chipped off another piece. That’s when he heard the mountain rumble and the tunnel began collapsing! He made it about halfway to the entrance before a boulder pinned him down!

His screams went unnoticed in the wilderness.

As It Stands, gold has always corrupted mankind.

A Family Thing In The Attic

Listen to this story as master story-teller Otis Jury narrates.

Danny was born in the same sturdy brick house his great-great grandfather built. He learned at an early age not to go into the attic.

He was 10 years-old before he got the guts to check the attic out. It was a rare day. Everyone was gone. His mother let him stay home while the family went into town.

He climbed the narrow stairs leading to the attic until they stopped at a doorway. He turned the old brass knob slowly, barely opening it up. Sweat had started to slip down his forehead and he wiped it nervously away. Looking up he saw light pouring in from the skylights overhead.

The attic was huge. He wondered if it went the length of the house? There was old furniture and numerous old trunks lining two of the walls. A group of human like shapes, covered by white sheets, were clustered in one corner of the room.

Danny’s fevered young mind instantly jumped to the conclusion that dead people were under those sheets. He stumbled twice in his panic to get out of the attic! He didn’t attempt to go in again, until he was seventy-four.

His parents died in a tragic automobile accident. His sisters, Doris and Bella, were married and lived with their husbands in Sedona, Arizona. The house was his.

Danny decided he needed a hobby one day. So he got into his family’s genealogy. He was able to do a lot of online research. It was slow going contacting family members who were willing to provide him with information. But he stuck to it for a year.

He found it odd that there was practically no information on his great-great-grandfather, Bradford Niles Stormer, the man purported to have built the large house. He found paperwork in his father’s safe in the library that showed the year his great-great- grandfather paid to have the house built – in cash.

It was one of the first brick houses built-in Portland Maine in 1830. Bradford was a man with money. His family was from England. None of them went with him when he immigrated to America. There were rumors, in letters, that suggested he was the black sheep in the family.

As for Bradford’s time in America, there was hardly a trace of him. Yet, he had a family that started in 1833 – when Portland became incorporated as a city – according to a birth certificate he filed for his first son, Jeremy Kincaid Stormer.

Danny was able to find out a lot of things about his grandfather Jeremy Kincaid. He became a state senator and was a well-respected man in Maine. He had six children. Danny’s father, Percy Irwin Stormer, was the youngest of the group.

While pondering about his great-great grandfather one day and idea came to him. He should go to the attic and see what was up there. He was no boy now. Sheets covering objects didn’t scare him.

As he walked up the stairs they seemed narrower than the last time. He knew it was because he was older and larger, but somehow it made him a little uncomfortable. The door creaked loudly when he opened it.

It was still light outside but shadows were forming in the niches and corners of the attic. Danny went to a row of old steamer chests and opened one. It was full off oddities like shrunken heads and voodoo dolls.

He went to another one. It was harder to open but he finally pried it apart. It was full of books. They all appeared to be in foreign languages like Greek and Arabic. It was obvious they were old. The ornate gold gilded jackets were bound in leather.

Danny stood up and looked around the room and spotted the sheets. He hesitated for a moment and then laughed at himself for doing so. “I’m a big boy now,” he said out loud.

He pulled off the nearest sheet with a dramatic flare and froze! The thing he uncovered was something from H.P. Lovecraft’s nightmares! It’s misshapen body was half man and half monster. The white marble monstrosity gleamed in the fading light from above.

Danny had never seen anything like it. Still stunned, he pulled the sheet off another statue. It was part bull, and part man, carved out of brown granite. As he uncovered the rest of the statues his mind had a hard time accepting what he was seeing.

They were all grotesque and unique. He never saw anything like them in books or movies. When he got to the last sheet he uncovered a large oval mirror set in a mahogany frame. It’s glass was smoky at the edges, but the center was still in good shape.

“Don’t just stand there man! There’s work to be done!” the man in the mirror said.

Danny fell backward and knocked over the marble monstrosity. “What the hell?” he gasped, sprawled out on the floor.

“Oh get up! I need out of here!” the man groused.

Danny stood up, eyes bulging in terror, and stammered…”Who are you?”

The man crossed his arms thoughtfully. “I’m Bradford Niles Stormer. I believe you’re one of my descendents.”

“I believe I’m going crazy,” Danny said, and ran out of the attic, not even bothering to close the door behind him. He was breathless with horror and confusion when he got to his library.

His mind was trying to accept what he saw and heard, but there was a fog around the process. It wasn’t logical. It couldn’t be real. Yet, he saw and heard something. His curiosity about his great ancestor was peaked. He had to find out more about him.

He spent the rest of the day going through the books stacked neatly in the shelves surrounding the room. He was looking for anything to do with his mysterious relative. His search was unsuccessful, as he sat down at the massive cherry wood desk that was as old as the house.

Not willing to give up, he opened the center drawer and went through it carefully. Nothing of interest. He tried the upper right-hand drawer and the lower one. Nothing. The left hand door was locked. Curious now, he examined the keyhole. There must be a key somewhere he thought.

He went back to the center drawer and find a little tin box that he failed to open. A gold key was inside. It fit the drawer perfectly. Sliding it open he saw a small book titled “Diary of Jeremy Kincaid Stormer.” His grandfather.

He realized that he was hungry and hadn’t eaten all day. Taking the diary with him he went to the kitchen and put together a sandwich consisting of peanut butter and peach jam. He sat down at the table and munched on it as he read the diary.

His grandfather’s words chilled him to the bone. Bradford was a warlock. He hid the fact from his son for years. But an incident happened when Jeremy was only eleven years-old, that changed his life forever.

The newly formed township of Portland had a mayor and city council. A concerned citizen appeared before the august leaders one day and claimed Bradford had put a spell on him and his livestock!

The city leaders consisted of Puritans who believed that the devil, warlocks, and witches wandered the land victimizing unwary humans. When one of Bradford’s servants reported that she heard him talking to the devil, the city fathers decided action had to be taken.

So they came and took Bradford. His trial lasted one day (actually less than an hour) and he was declared guilty of conspiring with the devil to do harm to the local townspeople. The days of witch-burning had mostly passed, but there were still cases reported in the New England area.

On a chilly morning the town father’s dragged Bradford out of the jail before most of the town was awake. They bound him tightly with a hemp rope attached to bags of heavy rocks.

Jeremy was in the small group that witnessed his father taken out to the center of the river and tossed overboard without so much as a word. The four men rowed back to shore and left without talking to anyone.

Jeremy, whose mother had died from consumption, a year before, was raised by his Uncle Harold, Bradford’s brother. It turned out that Harold was a warlock too. The night before Bradford was executed Harold visited him in the prison. The two men chanted throughout the night.

When young Jeremy and his uncle Harold returned to the house after Bradford’s death they went up to the attic. Harold explained that the mirror in the center of the room was magical and he must not ever talk about it. It had to be kept secret.

He explained that his father’s soul was in the mirror waiting to be released into another body. He made sure to impress Jeremy with importance of the secret and how it could cost him his life if he did.

Harold assured him that he would find the right spell to release his father. The magic that the two conjured up that last night, was ancient and was a last-ditch attempt to save Bradford. Now it was up to Harold to find the right spell to free him. The rare books in the steamer trunk were collected by Harold in his search to help his brother.

But Harold was in poor health and one day fell of his horse. He was dead before he hit the ground with a heart attack.

Danny put the diary down after finishing it. The last entry was made on the day Harold died, and simply said…”I’m trying brother.

So there it was. His great-great grandfather was more than just a dark sheep in the family. He was a warlock. His son Jeremy didn’t want anything to do with black magic and covered the mirror up, along with the strange statues he collected while traveling abroad.

Danny had trouble going to sleep that night. When he did fall asleep he had terrible nightmares that covered him in sweat. There was a lurking evil in the house. It lived in the attic.

When he woke in the morning he skipped his normal routine of showering and shaving and went right to the attic. As he went up the stairs he could only think about destroying the mirror and the thing inside of it.

Just before he reached the landing a rush of wind came out of the open door and caught him off guard! He lost his balance and tumbled backwards and down the stairs. He suffered massive trauma to his head and bled out on the floor where his crumpled body lay.

His oldest sister Bella found him two days later when she came by to visit. After the funeral Bella and Doris found the diary, but thought nothing of it, putting it in a box containing the rest of the contents of the desk in the library.

They went into the attic and found the mirror and statues still uncovered. As Bella prepared to cover the mirror with a nearby sheet, a voice caught her off guard, “Don’t be alarmed ladies! I just need a little help!”

Their screams echoed through the whole house!

As It Stands, it was a family thing.

Half Way Through A Nightmare

Listen to this story as told by master story teller Otis Jiry.

They were coming. Redd Hart jumped up from the soft desert sand and ran towards a parked truck fifty yards away. He had to get away. To warn the others.

Letting out a sigh of relief when he reached the truck, he turned the key that was still in the ignition to the right. The three-quarter ton Army surplus truck coughed and came to life. Slipping it into gear, he let out the clutch, and the truck lurched forward.

Hart found a paved road and fought to keep the truck on the narrow two-lane highway. The shifting sands sounded sinister as they slashed the truck’s rear canvas top. Strips of canvas flapped and snapped as the truck struggled along in the growing darkness.

Suddenly he was blinded by a bright light that filled the sky!

“Time to get up Mr. Hart. You’ll sleep your day away,” the male nurse said with a cheery smile.

Redd Hart’s mouth was dry. It happened again. He got half way through the nightmare and was woke up by one of the staff. At first, he was relieved when someone woke him up during his nightmare about being stranded in a strange desert.

But as the nights came, so did more chapters for the nightmare. The same nightmare. Alone in a hostile desert with enemies everywhere. He had to keep running. If he didn’t run something bad was going to happen.

He spent his days trying to get as much exercise as possible. He walked around in big circles because they wouldn’t let him run in this place. Once a day, he visited with the doctor.

The doctor meant well. Hart knew this, and took it into account when answering his questions. Lately though, the doctor seemed to be getting a little impatient with his continuous nightmare revelations.

“How did you sleep last night Redd?

“I was running for my life! The truck broke down…”

“Hold on! Take it easy….take a deep breath.” In a soothing voice he said, “So, you were having the same nightmare again. What happened next?”

“Before abandoning the truck, I searched it and found a bolt-action rifle and ammunition. I know all about rifles. Did I tell you that I use to be…?

“Please try to stay focused Redd.”

“Yeah…okay.  I took off running with the rifle. At one point I looked back and saw two men in full space suits pursuing me! I stopped, sighted the rifle in at 300 yards, and fired! One of the space suits fell down. The other stopped and raised a clenched fist…

“That’ll be all for today Redd. See you tomorrow at the same time,” the doctor said.

An hour later at the doctor’s lounge.

“So how was Mr. Hart today Douglas?”

“The same. It’s been two weeks, and he keeps having that same nightmare about being in a desert. He runs, and as of today, he is also a crack shot that shot a guy in a space suit. The nightmare keeps evolving,” Dr. Douglas Harding replied.

“Does Mr. Hart know where he’s at?”

“No. Like the rest of the PTSD patients, he only sees what we want him too. The yard with grass in the back has a 15-foot wall around it like the rest of this compound. None of these men know they’re living in Death Valley, California, in climate controlled rooms.” 

“Time to go Douglas. Keep me appraised on Mr. Hart. His nightmares fascinate me.”

Major Douglas Harding’s Office

“I trust you had a good night’s sleep with that new medication I gave you?” the doctor asked.

“I’ll get right to the point doc…remember the guys in space suits I told you about?”

“Yes, of course,” the doctor replied while sifting through his notes.

“They aren’t humans! They’re aliens! After I shot the second one, I went over and checked them out. When I finally got the helmet off one of them, I was greeted by the ugliest mug I’ve ever seen! It looked like a slug with saucer eyes and a narrow slit for a mouth!”

“Was everything okay after that?” the doctor asked.

“Hell no! I saw a ship land and….someone woke me up.

“You’re going to have to forgive me Redd,” the doctor said when his phone rang.

“I just got an important call. We’ll meet again tomorrow at the same time.”

The doctor closed the door after Hart left.

“Say again, general?”

“This is not a drill! You need to get your staff and patients out of the compound ASAP! Your unit will meet up with the 113th Light Armor at 18:30 hours at the national guard armory in Reno, Nevada”

“Please general! Tell me what’s going on!”

“A space ship has landed northeast of Death Valley! There’s already been skirmishes between state troopers and aliens. It doesn’t look good. There’s reports coming in from all over the world of alien invasions. Now get your ass in gear Major!”

When the entire medical staff and patients were loaded up on old Army surplus trucks, the convoy moved out in the growing darkness towards Reno.

The convoy arrived at dawn. As staff and patients unloaded, Doctor Harding searched around for Redd Hart. He found him rubbing his eyes in the sunlight. In spite of himself, he took Hart to one side and asked, with a touch of tension, “Did your nightmare continue last night?”

Hart looked like a beaten man as he pulled his jacket around himself tighter against the morning chill. “You don’t want to know doc…”

As It Stands, prophets can be found in the most unlikely places.