The Sage of 4th Street’s Deadly Game

 

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Psychopaths come in a variety of packages.

Some just kill their victims straight out with whatever’s handy.

Some like to play with their victims. “Cat and mouse” is a favorite game. It rings a bell among the unbalanced set.

Then there’s the more refined psychos who like to stage elaborate games with their prey.

That would be “The Juicer.” He’d forgotten his birth name years ago. One of the many street denizens in Los Angeles called him The Juicer once. He liked it, and kept the nickname.

The Juicer lived to play the Deadly Game. He invented it years ago and was still refining the rules and the roles of the participants. It took three people to play, not counting himself.

The best part of the game was that players came to him. The Juicer, also known by his business and stage name, The Sage of 4th Street, had a fortune-telling business. It was located in a nondescript neighborhood that only had a few old storefronts.

“Fortunes Told Anytime,” the sign outside The Juicer’s business read.

He looked for people who were gullible in their grief, easily hypnotized, and single. It wasn’t easy, and he often waited months before getting enough good candidates to play.

When the big day arrived and he had all three qualified gamers, the fun started. Each person was locked in a wooden box that was only three-feet high by seven-feet long. with air holes on the top.

A small speaker was inside each box. The boxes were the only thing in the tiny room with the concrete floor. One bright LED bulb dangled from the ceiling. The three unwilling gamers would still be sleeping off the effect of the drug he gave them.

The Juicer unlocked the end of each of the boxes. When they woke, they’d be able to crawl out. Then he went back up the stairs, shut the trapdoor, and went to his parlor. He could see the boxes and the room clearly, with the cameras he’d installed.

He sat down and poured himself a cup of tea from a fine China teapot one of his past victims gave him in appreciation when he contacted her dead husband the first time. He put one lump of sugar in his cup and glanced at the monitor. The room was also audio monitored and he could hear every noise.

Box number one contained, Dan Wrightwood, a thirty-three year-old vegan nature boy. In box number two, he had Linda Lunquist, a single 22-year old woman. Box number three contained, Elton Eisenberg, a 20-year old college freshman at UCLA.

He listened as they woke up, one by one, and realized they were in a box. The screams always provided a great prelude to what would soon come. He finally spoke to them, “There’s a little ring just behind your head. Pull it and you can get out.”  

The three wood boxes shook and all three of them slithered out on their backs at about the same time. Dan was the first to stand up and inspect the room. Linda and Elton slowly got to their feet by supporting one another.

They’d all been unconscious for over 24 hours and were thirsty and hungry. The Juicer savored their confusion for a few minutes before he announced, “I’m going to give you an apple. Enjoy!”

The basement door opened and he tossed the apple in. The three looked down at the bruised apple. Elton bent down and picked it up. “We can each take a bite” he suggested.

That was Day One, and The Juicer smiled in anticipation. Seven days later he announced that he was going to give them an apple again, “Enjoy,” he called out as he lobbed it down.

Now was time to make his bet. Who would be the last person standing? He figured Dan, being the biggest and strongest, would be the sure bet. But after watching them on the monitor another week, he wasn’t so sure.

Week three was a bloodbath as they clawed, bit, and hit each other until passing out. The combination of Elton and Linda versus Dan kept the game interesting. When he tossed the last apple down on week four, Linda was the only one alive. She died the next day.

The Juicer cleaned up all the evidence, until not even Sherlock Holmes could find a clue.

As It Stands, I’ve always been uneasy with fortune teller types.

How a Bounty Hunter Saved America

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Prologue – 2022 in Earth’s Timeline.

An Inter-Galactic Wanted Poster was displayed in two Solar Systems:

Rogue Scientist, Dr. Ki, wanted for stealing secret technology from two planets. Shoot upon contact! Proof of kill needed for reward.

2099 – Earth.

“There is no beginning and there is no end. Just the here and now.”

“How’s that sound X-249? Can you help me out with this new app message? the Director asked, already knowing the answer.

X-249, his personal robot, sat down behind a computer and went to work right away. From a distance, and if you had some sight problems, X-249 looked like a human. A silver human.

“It shouldn’t take me too long to build the construct you request Director.”

The new app was an immediate hit. They always were. It worked seamlessly with people’s personal mobile communication device implants. The Director and his political staff made sure everyone had one, and that they regularly downloaded the Director’s messages.

If they didn’t, they’d be subject to a government fine resulting in five years in solitary, on the third of the sixty-two moons of Saturn.

Americans needed to be programed once a week. The Director’s apps provided them with inspirational messages while they awaited his commands. It was just one in a variety of ways he used to control the country.

There wasn’t any need for brute force since the last rebellion in 2093. That’s when the Director employed killer Cyborgs that butchered the rebel forces. Resistance faded away. The dream of justice and freedom was turned into a nightmare again.

Despite that, every decade or two, men and women gathered secretly to oppose the draconian laws imposed by the Director. The constitution was a sacred book that gave them hope. They kept their history alive by orally sharing it with each generation.

People no longer spoke aloud. Instead they used sign language to communicate. Americans had lost their voices. Talking meant they could be recorded and subjected to some obscure law resulting in punishment.

For generations baby’s were shushed and taught basic sign language. It was the one thing about the people the Director didn’t know about. He thought they were born mute, for whatever obscure reason.

A simple blinking-eye Morris Code was also taught at an early age. The fires of resistance were hardwired into their collective DNA. Everyone looked forward to the day when they would be free.

When it happened, it was anti-climatic. No one got a message from the Director one day. Then the next. A week went by and no messages, or demands! It took a month for someone to finally find the Director’s body, sans head, in his secret headquarters.

Directly above the headless Director was a shiny photo showing a gray alien holding the Director’s head in one hand, an exotic sword in the other, and a wanted poster in his third hand.

As It Stands, a bounty-hunter saving America is the kind of irony that tickles my muse.

 

Special Holiday Price: Intergalactic Space Tour

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Prologue:

Every planet in Earth’s solar system fought the scourge of space pirates for hundreds of years before the Treaty of 2137 ended the hostilities.

Earth – Intergalactic Space Port 2237

Special Holiday Tour: 

Last call for Andromeda – Departing at 16:00

Regularly Scheduled Tours:

Black Eye Galaxy – Departing 17:00

Cartwheel Galaxy – Departing 19:30

Cigar Galaxy – Departing at 20:25

On Board the Atlas 4000 Space Cruiser To Andromeda:

“I hope you’re enjoying the trip Ladies and Gentlemen. Fun fact; Andromeda is the closest big galaxy to the Milky Way! How about that?” the ship’s captain asked via intercom.

Two-hundred passengers made an affirmative buzz.

“Not so fun fact: Andromeda is expected to collide with the Milky Way about four billion years from now. They’ll merge into a single new galaxy we’re calling Milkomeda. Enjoy your trip, and thanks for flying with American Intergalactic Connections!”

1st Passenger – “This new Atlas 4000 model is a real improvement over those MF-900 Cruisers which have been the backbone of the fleet for 20 years.”

2nd Passenger – “This is my first time in space. I’m a little nervous.”

1st Passenger – “Not to worry. I’m an ex-space pilot, and I can assure you space travel is safer than driving the freeways in California.”

2nd Passenger – “I’m glad to hear that. I wonder if the stories I’ve heard about space pirates are true? Could we be attacked?” 

1st Passenger – “Again, not to worry. There hasn’t been any space pirates in over 100 years since the Treaty of 2137.”

2nd Passenger – “Funny, I never heard of that treaty. Then there were space pirates? I couldn’t find a thing about them in the World Main Frame. If it wasn’t for my best friend’s father,  I would have never heard of them. He was a pilot too.” 

1st Passenger – “Well, it’s just not the kind of information the company wants to share with potential customers. Why bring up the distant past? You’re in a state-of-the-art cruiser with every convenience, and you’re going to see things you never dreamed of.”

2nd Passenger – “You’re right. Can I order a drink for you?”

1st Passenger – In a low voice, “Thanks, but I can’t. I’m on duty. I’m a security guard for American Intergalactic Connections.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. We’re going to make a temporary stop at Alphas Tendir to switch our new warp drives over in the dock. For safety reasons we’re asking you to de-board once we land, and to wait in the lounge area provided for you. It won’t take long.”

2nd Passenger – “Hey, what’s going on? There’s no scheduled layovers on the trip ticket?”

1st Passenger – “Sorry about that. You’re a nice guy. The least I can do is explain everything after we get off the ship.”

When the 200 puzzled passengers were being led to the lounge area the 1st Passenger stopped, and pulled the 2nd Passenger out of the line.

“It’s like this. We lost the war against the space pirates. That’s why every year we have to pay a tribute of 200 inhabitants from each planet as slaves. Whatever you do, don’t look them in the eyes. It really pisses them off!” 

As It Stands, throughout recorded history conquerors have demanded slaves for tribute.

Dinner At The Frankenstein’s Castle

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Daaaaling…must you wear that same drab black cape again?”

Count Dracula ignored his wife’s chatter. She was such a social butterfly that he marveled that he was still with her after all these years.

It’s going to be the first big social event for the Fall Horror season. Everyone is going to be there,” she gushed happily.

How did the Frankenstein’s manage to pull this off,” the Count asked.

“Connections deary….connections.” 

There was the usual chaos in the Zombie household as they prepared for dinner that night at the Frankenstein’s Castle.

“Doris! Tell those kids to stop biting each other!” 

You tell the little monsters! I’m preparing a gift for our hosts!”

“Darrell! Frankie! Susie! That’s enough! Go put your worst clothes on because we’re getting ready to leave.”

“Are you ready, John?” Doris asked.

“I’m always ready,” he replied with a wink from his one good eye.

Meanwhile at the Frankenstein’s Castle…

You have nothing to worry about woman. Your new hairstyle will set a trend,” Frankenstein reassured his bride.

“Boris!”

“Yes, master,” the Hunchback of Norte Dame, and the majordomo for the night, asked.

Did you order extra raw meat for the Werewolf Family? I heard their bringing some cousins.”

“Yes, master.”

Wine for the Phantom of the Opera?”

Taken care of master.”

“How about the sacred incense for the Mummy clan table?

“As you instructed, master.”

“Did you set up the separate table for the Mad Scientists? They can be such a bore at the main table.”

“Done master.”

“Did you finish that display of torture devices for the main hall?”

“I did, master.”

“How about the entertainment?”

“I was able to get Jack the Ripper to juggle knives.” 

Was that all?”

“It’s the best I could do. It’s hard finding a good act these days,” Boris apologized.

Still, Frankenstein reasoned, the guests themselves often provided the best entertainment.

As It Stands, monsters can provide the perfect forum for humor.

 

Bowling For Souls

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Boyd had a major heart attack while bowling and died. At the funeral, his family all said that at least he died doing what he loved.

The next thing Boyd saw after he dropped his bowling ball and died, was a giant bowling alley, and he realized he was standing in an empty parking lot. It was pitch black outside. The interior of the bowling alley was lit up like a lighthouse in a sea of souls.

He knew he was dead, but somehow it didn’t bother him. He’d devoted his whole life to bowling. He even won a state championship once. He didn’t have friends, and what family he did have, didn’t like him.

No wonder. He was a small selfish little man who had no empathy for others. Now, this bowling alley looked like heaven to him.

He walked up to the front doors and peered inside. The place was packed with people bowling. This was too good to be true, he idly thought. Then he was inside. The cacophony of bowling balls slamming into pins sounded like celestial music to him.

He wandered around for a while looking for a place to sign up and play. Then someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and saw a middle-aged man wearing glasses too big for his face.

“You’ll be playing on Lane 13, against Stanley Benning in ten minutes,” the man told him and then blended back into the crowd. Turning back to the lanes, Boyd saw a projection above each one with different messages.

“You lose. Report below.”

Congratulations, you won this round.

“Good job. You’re one step closer to salvation.”

Boyd’s stomach started churning. Alarms were going off in his head. This wasn’t heaven. Was it hell? 

He zombie-walked over to Lane 13. A thin man with bright red hair was sitting at the scoring table. He was holding an animated conversation with himself.

“Why am I here?

Because you were a shit! 

Boyd waited until he stopped, then introduced himself.

Yeah right. I was expecting you,” the thin man with bright red hair, and whose name was Stanley Benning, replied.

“Is this hell?” Boyd asked.

“No, that’s the next stop from here, if you don’t win and make it to heaven,” Stanley said.

“Is God keeping score?”

“I have no idea. All I know, is that you have to win five games in a row against five different opponents to cash your ticket to heaven.”

“Do you mean,” asked Boyd, “that the good and bad souls all go here first?”

“Oh heck no! The good souls go directly to heaven. We’re somewhere between heaven and hell.”

Frame-after-frame they stay tied, until the ninth when Stanley left an open frame. Both of them bowled the game of their lives. Boyd was better that day, and won. Stanley simply disappeared.

Not sure what to do next, Boyd sat down at the scorer’s table. He watched the end of the lane intently waiting for a message. One down, four to go. He just might be able to pull this off he thought.

Then the projection on the wall read, Next Opponent…Earl Anthony!

Even though Boyd knew it meant he was going to hell, he couldn’t help but feel honored to get to play with one of the greatest PBA legends of all time.

As It Stands, I get a kick out of envisioning the hereafter!

Why The Music Must Never Stop

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The teacher told this story to his students one rainy day:

“You couldn’t call it Rock and Roll Heaven.

There were too many other types of music represented there.

It, where everyone was gathered, was somewhere between limbo and another life on a runaway asteroid.

A collection of souls that couldn’t separate themselves from their music.

From guitar devotees to tambourine fans, they followed their muse blindly. Pianos, drums, trumpets, French horns, tubas, guitars, harmonicas, accordions, violins, banjos, and harps all combined in a cacophony of sound that serenaded the stars every night.

The universal language of music attracted other life forms from solar systems across the galaxies. Celestial beings from Nimius, to the ethereal inhabitants of Anor Minor, listened to the music coming from the rogue asteroid.

The common theme among those musical souls – some referred to them as angels – was a message of peace and love.

Not far behind from where the angels dwelled, there was another asteroid. It was called hell.

It’s inhabitants were tortured souls, stuck in an eternal cycle of hate, greed, lust and vengeance. A collection of demons from every planet in three universes. Their cries haunted the cold cosmos.

Hell grew with hate, sucking it out of every living species and soul. Devouring hope and destroying planets with terrible technologies of the inhabitants own making. It was a powerful negative force that fed on fear.

Sometime in infinity hell crashed into the planet earth. Not long after that the angels appeared. Mankind, in it’s infancy, worshipped the angels and the demons. What became known as good and evil evolved among the human race.

The angels brought with them music in all its forms. The human race adopted the endless varieties of music to protect themselves from evil. As long as music was being played somewhere on the planet there was always hope.”

The teacher paused and looked at his eager young students, before saying, “That’s why the sages tell us that the music must never stop.”

As It Stands, I’ve always considered music a mystical thing with powers beyond our understanding.

The Hippie and the Hell Hound

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Listen up. I’m only going to tell this story once.

I’m a 72 year-old Hippie with pancreatic cancer, and I don’t give a damn if you believe it or not.

It was the Summer of 1967. Folks were calling it the Summer of Love afterwards.

All I know was there were 100,000 hippies, and wannabes, and a lot of crazy shit going down in the Height-Ashbury district.

The drugs flowed and everyone was talking about peace and love. Flower children were tripping on LSD, marijuana, reds, whites, shrooms, cocaine, smack, and opium.

What I’m about to tell you is true, even if you never read about it. There were a lot of deaths, hell I don’t remember the exact amount, that were written off as overdoses during that time. But the authorities knew better.

The victims were torn to shreds by some wild animal and partly eaten. The mayor made sure that fact never got out. Reports were coming in of a large dog that was attacking people.

I never saw the dog, but I know a lot of people who did. What kind of dog would hunt, kill, and eat people you’re probably thinking?

A Hell-Hound.

That’s right. You’ve heard of Werewolves right? Well, there are Hell-Hounds – a cross between a man and a Great Dane. Save your smile. You shouldn’t mock an old man you know.

I was hoping that I could tell you my full story, but I’m starting to think that might not be a good idea. Try to keep an open mind, and I’ll forgive your rudeness. How old did you say you were?

Okay. I got out of the City when that shit kept happening every night. I was truly blown away and never expected to experience something like that again.

Not too long after, I was at the Monterey Pop Festival. Wow. Still blows my mind. Can you imagine seeing Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Hugh Masekela, Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar, the Mamas & the Papas, the Who and the Jimi Hendrix Experience?

Jimi set his guitar on fire, broke it on the stage, then threw the neck of his guitar in the crowd. I was standing next to the guy that got it in the face by it!

The first night I was there a cute little Flower Child was murdered, and mutilated. I kept my ear to the ground and listened for the rumors. It only took another 24-hours before there was talk about a big dog attacking people. I wasn’t going to stay there knowing that a Hell-Hound was around.

Now I’m going to reveal my secret…

Wait a minute! That stupid grin again? I can see you aren’t going to be my biographer, the old hippie, and Hell-Hound barked before jumping!

As It Stands, wolves, hounds, why not Honey Badgers from hell too?