Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

250 words –

Woz waited by the doorway to the labyrinth for the green light to come on. He was a professional gamer who traveled around the galaxies taking on challenges created by the Game Changer. The challenges always incorporated alternate realities, and reality.

The red light was on a timer. When it changed Woz entered the maze of dimly lit tunnels and followed the directions written in laser lights on the smooth metal walls. This challenge involved finding a crystal key to open the door to eternity.

When Woz encountered a door he went in without hesitation. The inhabitants inside bowed and called him an angel. He ignored them and went back to the endless passages seeking the crystal key.

Eons passed in the lonely search. Worlds were created and destroyed. Civilizations rose and fell into dust. Woz wandered from one dimension to the next, always re-appearing in the luminous tunnels. Never losing sight of his goal to find the crystal key.

During a time of solar systems defying gravity for gamers like Woz, he emerged from the maze to witness the birth of a dwarf planet and discovered a crystal cave. Inside, there hung hundreds of identical crystal keys swaying to gentle hidden melodies. They were bathed in a blue light.

Because the Game Changer doesn’t play by any rules, he had nothing better to do than make fools of gamers like Woz, who saw the challenge for what it was, but still played the game. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Instinct

Sgt. McGruder realized two things; he wasn’t going to get back to the base in time, and he couldn’t keep driving in the near white-out conditions.

He saw a Burger King. Went inside. It was empty except for one nervous counter clerk. He ordered a burger. Out of the corner of his eye he saw shadowy figures outside the glass door.

They came in. Two Hispanic teenage boys with desperate eyes. One reached into his pocket. McGruder’s instincts kicked in.

“Are you hungry?” he asked, watching the teen’s concealed hand.

“Si,” they echoed, as one pulled the stump from his pocket. 

(Author’s note: this is my first attempt at writing flash fiction in 100 words. Quit a challenge. Props go to The Drabble blog site.)

 

The Drunken StormTroopers Punishment

lehmann-joerg-bacchus-roman-god-of-wine-painted-wooden-figure1 Headquarters for the 37th Solar Stormtroopers, Circa 4588, Mercury

“You stand accused of Section 2115 – Drunk on Duty,  Private Bar12 Bacc. What do you have to say for yourself?”

“I hope I have a good lawyer!”

The three judge jury looked down at the squat, ungainly, figure of Private Bar12 Bacc and simultaneously wondered how he ever got into the Solar Stormtroopers. His slovenly appearance was an affront to the fleet.

He was short, even by Mercurian standards. Bar12 wasn’t recruiting poster material in anyone’s army. He enjoyed playing pranks, drinking, telling jokes, and chasing females. His ability to down great quanties of liquor made from Neptunian grapes, was legendary throughout the fleet.

So how did a slob like Bar12 Bacc get into the Imperial Star Fleet? The answer was stunningly unimpressive; his wealthy parents bribed the Supreme Commander to take their wayward son into military service for 20 years.

It was only a year into the arrangement when Bar12 was busted for drinking on duty. He was lectured, fined, and told to never do it again. The said that the second time too. And the third.

Now, as the jury of three looked at him they were faced with a tough decision, the penalty for defying the rules was death. But when the star fleet lawyer told them they couldn’t kill Bar12 because the Supreme Commander said so, they sought a creative way out of the situation.

Bar12 had to be made an example of. Military disipline demanded it. It took the judges three days to come up with a solution. They would exile Bar12 for life to another planet in the solar system.

They picked earth at the time mankind was beginning to emerge from mud huts to building great mounds. The primitive planet would be a safe place to send him. When the verdict was given to Bar12 he blinked stupidly.

He was allowed to bring a small memento with him to his new home. After the spacecraft dropped him off in a country called Italy, he pulled out his momento. A dozen seeds from his favorite Neptunian vineyards.

He quickly planted them in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Alsace. His new earth name was Bacchus, and his vineyards soon become the stuff of legends. So did he. His ability to drink any wine and party hearty was seen as a good thing among his Roman followers.

At some point in time they called him a god.

To underscore the influence of Bar12’s amazing evolutionary leap in wine making, the techniques used to make the earliest Neptunian/Languedoc wine in the first century A.D. did not change until the 1970’s.

As It Stands, this is my myth about the creation of Bacchus, the God Of Wine.

The Secret Life of Preston Smith

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“But I lived in a world where you could never want what you wanted out in the open.” –Tayari Jones

At a very early age, Preston Smith (an only child), learned not to tell his parents the truth about everything.

It was pointedly apparent that he not talk about the animals he killed, and how much fun he had when doing it.

When he did, he got into lots of trouble.

That set the stage for the other Preston who was allowed to think or do whatever he wanted – no rules – no lectures. Total freedom. The older he got, the other Preston demanded more time.

Preston was always a good student and got great grades. College came easy for him. He lived on campus, but had no interest in fraternities. Not that he wasn’t social. He had a girlfriend.

She, Laura Lee, even fell in love with him. The other Preston didn’t like her however.

Still, they dated until he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. To celebrate this accomplishment, the other Preston took over and viciously murdered her a week after graduation.

It took Preston two years before he had his own successful practice. His reputation for helping people grew every year. Former patient referrals and word-of-mouth kept him very busy.

At first, both Prestons settled into a comfortable routine working like a well-oiled machine. They delved into patients inner fears like miners in search of gold. It was refreshing to Preston to know he had an excellent reputation.

No one ever linked the bad things that happened to some of the patients to Preston. Why should anyone have reason to be suspicious if one of the nuts killed themselves? If, on a rare occasion police did come by seeking information on a deceased client, Preston always cooperated.

One thing troubled Preston; the other Preston had established complete control when nightfall fell four years into the practice. During the day it was still a joint arrangement. This slow dawning of facts (unequal hours) told him the other Preston was making a move for complete control 24-hours a day.

He knew he was going to die soon.

His father and mother always wanted him to tell the truth. He reflected on his 34-years and what goals he accomplished. Preston wanted to be like normal people, even after he slaughtered his parents, two aunts, and a friend in a night of horror.

It was about freedom. Wasn’t it?

As It Stands, I was shocked at the carnage that one man, Stephen Paddock, created in Las Vegas recently. It made me wonder how many other people are leading “secret lives.”

Bowling For Souls

bowlingpinsandball

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.

Go Ahead! Call In The Clowns!

evil-clownAt first, the clowns started showing up at street corners advertising a circus that was coming to town.

After two days, and no circus, people began to wonder what was going on?

On the third day, the clowns were gone from the street corners, but began showing up in alleys and people’s driveways. They never said anything. They just stood there with their exaggerated evil clown smiles.

The town’s mayor and city council held meetings trying to determine how to deal with the silent clowns that were scaring their children. No apparent laws were being broken. They always left at curfew.

How could the townspeople in Knotty Grove, New Hampshire, know that it was the annual Gathering of Crazy Clowns? They came from nearby states. All with criminal records. All with garishly painted clown faces. All, a little crazy.

The tradition began years ago when John Wayne Gacy, serial killer and rapist, invited a few criminal clowns he knew to hunt for victims as a group in a small town in Maine. It didn’t end with his death.

There were ten crazy clowns this year. They advertised on the Dark Web, inviting like-minded murderers to join them every September 15th at a different location. This year it was Knotty Grove’s turn.

The fact that it was such a small, isolated little town without its own police force, made it an ideal target.

Ho! Ho! The Clown, was this year’s host. He picked the hunting grounds with care. It was an honor to select victims. The sense of approval from his fellow serial killers made him feel justified in his bloody dealings.

Just before they broke up and went in search of victims, the Evil Santa Clown said what they were all thinking. “I can’t wait to see the surprise on their faces.”

The mayor, a computer geek, discovered what the clowns were up to and called for a townhall meeting.

“Well, there you have it,” the mayor said, while pointing at the clowns on his computer monitor.

“These clowns are serial killers that like to stalk in groups. They especially like finding small communities like ours.”  

“I don’t think they’re going to like what they find in Knotty Grove,” chuckled the town’s only gas station owner.

Here’s the thing. These clowns won’t be missed by anyone,” the mayor said.

The gathering broke out into cheers, showing their fangs in glee when he gave them the green light to go hunting.

As It Stands, the hunter and the prey story has many variations. This one is mine.