Blood Feud

369dcfb476e6cc4cdce440f3af82e7d5

Hunyad Castle, Hunedoara, Romania – 1453

They’re going to let me go today.

After a decade in this dungeon, my captors are granting me a pardon.

Apparently because they think I’m no longer a threat to them. Whatever. I’m watching the sunrise sneak through a small vent in the tower’s ceiling. It’s bathing me in its glow.

I heard one of the guards yesterday say they were letting me go because they thought I was crazy, and would never be able to contest for the crown. My royal blood was the only thing that kept them from murdering me.

This castle tower once held Vlad III of the Wallachian empire, called by some Dracula. He stayed here for seven years. I’ve seen traces of his writings scratched onto the rock walls. His broody presence stills stalks this hell hole.

I’ve held long conversations with Vlad the Impaler during the many nights I slept on the cold stone floor. He comes to me in my dreams and sometimes during the day, whispering strange things into my ear.

Who am I, you may ask? Just a bastard son of the noble Hunyadi family who restored this ancient castle. My mother died giving me life, and my noble father, King Albert of Hungry never officially acknowledged me. My name is John.

I’m a wart in the family line. No one wants to kill me, but I’m treated like a stray dog. And today they’re letting the dog go.

I know what my enemies see when they look at me; a frail old man with a long beard and balding head. They think I have no life left in me, and that I will wander off and die somewhere alone, unknown to future generations.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this, and I know it’s a good thing they underestimated me so much. It led to my freedom. It’s gave me a chance to wage a blood feud against my own family.

Wait! Here they come now!

One day later.

I’m not use to walking so much. My weary body is being forced to move by sheer will power. I know the cave isn’t far from here. Vlad told me where it was in a dream.

The cave was my key to immortality, and revenge.

I was crawling by the time I reached the entrance to the cave. It was partly concealed by bushes. If I would have been stronger, I would have stood up and walked in. Instead, I had to crawl in like a worm into the darkness.

I have no idea how long I crawled. Resting against a wall, I summoned my remaining strength. I listened. I wasn’t afraid. Vlad assured me the final pain would be quick, then I would enter the new royalty of bloodsuckers for eternity.

When I heard the bats, I sat still and waited for them. Vlad was right. The pain of death was sharp. But when I woke I felt like a new man. A strange woman sat next to me, allowing the cut on her arm to drain its crimson content into my open mouth.

Her hot blood surged through my veins, and I felt a power like nothing a human could even imagine. I could see clearly in the darkness. Everything was crystal clear. When I stood up I was dizzy for a moment, but it passed.

It was exhilarating flying through the night. When I reached the castle it was still dark and the inhabitants, including the guards, were sleeping. Now, a thing of the night, I glided through the corridors until I reached my uncle and his wife’s bedroom.

The guard outside their door slept with a sword across his lap. I couldn’t resist starting my feast with him. It was over quickly.  I took his sword, and cut his head off afterwards.

When I went inside I could clearly see their bed. I went up to the side my uncle was on and fed. Not too much blood, however. I wanted him to suffer. It was just the beginning. I had plans for my damned family.

Plans that would carry through future generations, and that would be referred to in the Family Bible as John’s Curse.

As It Stands, family feuds have long been the fodder of fiction writers.

The ‘Thrill Pill’ Man’s Gamble

 

park-avenue-usa-big-apple-new-york-new-york-city.jpg

2194 – New York City

For the first time in mankind’s history, there were no wars on earth.

Peace reigned, thanks to technological advances and genetics. Poverty no longer existed. There was enough food and housing for all. There was one worldwide government led by a president who served a 10-year term.

Crime was non-existent. The factors that led to crime were eliminated from the collective DNA of most of the people on earth through 100 years of genetic engineering. But not all of them.

There were the unaffected, whose DNA was post 100-years ago pure Homo sapiens. They experienced emotional ups and downs, unlike the rest of the sedated world population. These outcasts lived in the fringes of the cities.

In the sewer systems and old subway tunnels mostly, but also in the massive landfills.

Above ground, as each person drove or walked to work, there was strict order. Routines ingrained in each brain. No road rage. No late trains. No violent crime. No guns or weapons of any kind.

Romance was gone, replaced by a passionless urge to procreate. There were no sports teams. There was no competition anywhere in the new global society. Conversations were casual and without complaints. Everyone had a place in the new world order.

Everyone but the outcasts, of course.

Despite being outcasts, they had a functioning society of their own. It wasn’t always pretty, but was crudely effective. In it, there were scientists who managed to operate in temporary labs located in the long abandoned subway tunnels.

The New York outcasts had no way of knowing if there were others like them hiding in cities around the world. Their world was defined by underground tunnels and landfills. If they were caught above ground they’d be gently restrained, their DNA tested, and then executing by lethal injection.

Among those scientists was a man named, Abraham Orlins, who was considered the most intelligent and creative among them. After years of experimenting, Abraham came up with a “thrill pill.”

It was part of his, and his colleagues master plan, to regain their place above ground once more. The pills, that only worked on humans missing certain DNA markers, were a one-hour realistic, exciting, experience that left the taker forever changed.

The emotional charge was addicting. Just like he knew it would be.

The pills were water-soluble allowing them to be used two ways; swallowed whole, or dissolved in a liquid.

After discussing the pill’s properties, the small group of scientists decided to put the first batch into the city’s water system. The complex system relied on a combination of tunnels, aqueducts, and reservoirs to meet the city’s daily needs.

Abraham and one of his colleagues, Clive Warner, were picked to deliver “Abe’s Thrill Pills” as they were darkly dubbed, to the nearest reservoir. As soon as it was dark outside they surfaced and headed for the reservoir.

Just before the sun rose, the two men returned, tired but triumphant.

It took longer than they thought. They observed the daily traffic above for several days before the first incident happened.

A speeding car slammed into the rear end of a delivery truck. Both drivers got out of their vehicles and fought like two honey-badgers to the horror of the onlookers!

By the next day, traffic was no longer flowing. The streets were clogged with abandoned vehicles. Arguments and fights broke out in the boardrooms of the skyscrapers and in the grocery stores.

As visitors came to New York and were exposed to the water, they didn’t want to leave. A growing awareness among the residents that it was the water which gave them their thrills resulted in entrepreneurs bottling it and selling it worldwide.

No one knew how to stop the spread of growing violence. Armed groups of angry men were seen beating and robbing innocent people. On the other hand, passion and romance attracted everyone – angry or not.

Abraham continued to pour his Thrill Pills into the waterways, and even managed to get them to people who were happy to sell them for profit. One entrepreneur passed them out as party favors during a government function for members of the new world order and the President.

Excitement grew among the underground community of New York. Abraham and the scientists had come forward and told them what was happening.

“Soon, my brothers and sisters, we’ll be welcomed with open arms and will assume our place above ground, the way it was intended to be,” Abraham assured the underground community.

Six months later the first nuke hit New York City.

As It Stands, my cynicism about humanity often creeps into these short narratives.

The Headhunter’s Story

b577e554d5342f534c4273b6ace4c329

1868 – Prescott, Arizona

Ex-Union cavalry officer, Captain Leander Lincoln kicked the saloon doors open and entered with both guns drawn!

“I’m looking for the Stuart boys!” he shouted.

Three men slowly stood up from the card table. The rest of the saloon was silent as the oldest spoke, “You found them. Now what are you going to do?” he asked as his right hand slithered down to hover over his Colt 45.

Lincoln, laughed and said, “I’m going to kill all three of you fools if you all don’t unbuckle your gun belts very carefully and let them drop to the ground.

“Here’s the thing. Your wanted dead, or alive. I’d just as soon shoot your sorry asses so you better make a quick decision!”

Three gun belts fell to the wooden floor.

The US Army drove the Navajo people from their ancestorial lands in Arizona Territory and Western New Mexico, and marched them on the infamous Long Walk to imprisonment in Bosque Redondo when Leander was still in the Army and stationed in Washington DC.

When the treaty of 1868 was signed the Navajo left Bosque Redondo, and were relocated to eastern New Mexico. That was the year Leander mustered out of the Army and went West to see his mother and half brother.

Hundreds of Navajo men, women, and children died on the Long Walk. The survivors were put on a reservation. The horror of the relocation was firmly embedded in their minds.

Some wanted revenge. The rest went on with their hardscrabble lives.

Hashkeh Naabah  greeted Leander warmly.

“What has my white son Ahiga brought me?” he politely asked.

Three more white men who won’t be missed. Your men are taking them off the horses and tying them to stakes as we speak.”

“No one will come and say we killed them then?” Hashkeh inquired.

“No. They are wanted men. They are yours now. I will continue to bring you white men as long as I can. As long as I live.”

“You are a lot like your mother, and my sister, Yanaha. He bravery inspired us all on the Long Walk. We still mourn her death.”  

“As do I, Uncle.”

“Come, let us go watch the squaws torture these white eyes. The big one looks like he may last for a long time.” 

The prisoners screams pierced the night.

Leander’s anger at the US Army, and what they did to his mother, burned his soul and left a charred husk of a human thirsting for revenge. Posing as a bounty hunter was a stroke of genius.

He knew he couldn’t start killing Union soldiers and hope to get away with it. In his mind he ceased being a “white man” and embraced his Navajo heritage. He was Ahiga, son of Yanaha. As such, he had no qualms about killing any white men.

After roaming from town-to-town looking for wanted men throughout the west he acquired a reputation. Folks knew Captain Lincoln never brought anyone back alive. Just their heads.

His hunt lasted two years, before he was shot to death in a saloon by a drunken ex-Confederate soldier who refused to believe the war was over.

The elders at the Navajo Reservation told Ahiga’s story to each new generation. It was a story however, that was never shared with outsiders.

As It Stands, historical fiction is a good way to tell stories that could have been true, but aren’t.

The Trash Man Cometh

 

getty-strike-garbage-1968

New York City, 1968

Without a contract, the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association went on a strike in February. It lasted nine days, but the five boroughs looked like a war zone afterward.

The citywide work stoppage meant no one picked up the city’s tons of garbage. Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island were all awash in trash for over a week.

The stench was indescribable. People were forced to walk in the debris and filth. There was probably only one person in the entire city who was happy about the stinky chaos; Luke Johnson.

Luke lived wherever he felt like. In an alley, or on a park bench. If the weather was really bad, in a pay-per day motel. But Luke wasn’t poor. He actually had a fair amount of money building up in his mother’s checking account.

Between his Social Security disability check and VA disability check, he made $4,038 a month. Tax free. His mother was his payee and his checks were automatically deposited in her account.

When he wanted money he’d go to her house in Staten Island. She lived alone since his father died five years ago. Not quite alone, she had two pugs and a very large cat.

Luke’s favorite pastime was murdering people.

Despite his mental challenges and numerous paranoid fantasies, he was clever as an animal in the wild. He set things up – like someone accidentally falling down steep stairs – where it looked like their death was an accident.

He killed for the thrill of it. The adrenaline surge was addicting. He was also creative.

When the garbage strike started he saw new possibilities. People were desperate to get rid of their trash after day one. Luke took his 1959 Ford pickup, which he usually kept in storage, and went around offering to haul people’s trash.

He wasn’t thinking about the money, however, he was thinking about the opportunities this little game offered. By the third day he had people hailing him down and begging him to take their trash.

One woman invited him inside her apartment to gather up some large trash bags. He made short work of her. The look of terror in her eyes when he pulled out his K-bar knife gave him the thrill he was seeking.

She wasn’t a very big woman. He wrapped her up in a sleeping bag and carried her like a rug out to his truck. No one paid attention as he threw more bags of trash on the sleeping bag until the bed was full.

He went to the landfill and had to wait for two hours before he got to dump his load. On his way back to the garage where he stored the truck a tune kept going through his head…

He made three kills the fourth day, disposing of each body in the same way. Two women and one man in a wheelchair. The fifth day he picked off three more victims. He was starting to have headaches from the adrenaline overload and took a break for three days.

When the ninth day arrived he heard the rumors. The union was getting what it wanted, livable wages and benefits. The sanitation workers were going back to work. But the access he had to people’s homes had inspired him.

He knew he couldn’t hold down a job, but it wouldn’t be hard to get a pair of sanitation work overalls.

Maybe have Supervisor in red letters written on the top pocket. The possibilities were endless.

“The Trashman cometh…” he crooned, as he looked for a park bench to sleep on.

As It Stands, never underestimate someone you don’t know. We are all capable of pure evil.

The Killer Child’s Story

child-halloween-killer-overalls-2

 

Chapel Hill, Tennessee – 1975

Some people are born evil.

They don’t have to have an excuse like being brought up in a bad environment, or cruel parents, to become cold-hearted killers.

Murder is in their DNA. These bad seeds often go undetected for most of their lives.

They appear normal. They may be your neighbor, or a corner grocery store clerk. Or, the kid down the street.

Barry Lee Forrest was the great-great-great grandson of Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the most feared Confederate Generals in the Civil War.

The Union general William Tecumseh Sherman called him “that devil Forrest” during wartime communications with Ulysses S. Grant and considered him “the most remarkable man our civil war produced on either side.”  

When Barry Lee Forrest was three months old he nearly bit his mother’s nipple off! His shocked mother immediately ceased breast-feeding him. After that, he was put on the bottle and fed baby formula.

Chapel Hill, Tennessee – 1981

Forrest School – Elementary 1-6  

Barry Lee Forrest was in 1st grade. He was the shortest boy in the class. The bigger boys mistakenly thought little Barry was a pussy. The first time one of them pushed him down for no reason on the playground, they found out that out wasn’t the case.

The bully was stunned when Barry got up and kicked him in the groin. Then in the head while he was squirming in pain on the ground. And then…it took a teacher to get him off the now terrified bully.

Barry’s parents were called in and warned that one more violent incident and he would be suspended indefinitely. After that, Barry learned to get his revenge when others weren’t looking.

By 3rd grade, his one fight was forgotten, and he became popular with most of the boys and girls at Forrest School. He got high grades and was an honor roll student. It seemed there was something about his size that encouraged bullies.

While eating lunch in the school cafeteria one day with a couple of friends a fourth grader came up to him and spit on his chicken salad sandwich, and laughed. He was easily a foot taller than Barry, and was huskier than most of the kids in his 4th grade class.

Barry reacted by throwing his metal lunch box at the bully. That was enough for the bully who pulled him away from the table and threw him onto the floor. He fell onto Barry and began raining blows upon him as Barry tried to cover his face.

When the teacher and the principle got there Barry was barely conscious and was no longer resisting. He was transported to the hospital with two broken ribs, broken nose, and jaw.

The bully was permanently suspended and handed over to juvenile authorities.

Barry was in fifth grade when he found out where the bully was living and going to school. The simmering anger he carried for two years over his beating was boiling over. He skipped school one day and went over to the other side of town to Chapel Hill Elementary.

He knew the bully was going there because he was playing football, and his team played Forrest School Elementary. Barry went to all the school games with his friends. When he first saw the bully playing a plan began forming in his head.

Today was the day. He was going to follow him home. He knew the route the bully took walking home. His trip took him through a community park where Barry waited for him with a baseball bat.

It was dusk and the bully looked tired, carrying his football pads and helmet like they were made of lead. It was a long practice.

Barry stepped out from behind a tree as he passed and took a solid swing of the bat to the bully’s skull. He never knew what hit him. When Barry was done he was barely recognizable as a human being.

That’s when Barry realized he liked the power he felt when murdering someone. It was a shot of adrenaline unlike anything he’d experienced before. He became an instant addict. His next kill, also in Chapel Hill, came a month after the bully’s demise.

Word spread. There was a serial killer in Chapel Hill. The police and detectives came up with numerous profiles but no evidence on either case. School authorities warned students to not walk home alone. If they needed a ride the school provided it.

Barry’s parents, both community leaders, saw to it that he no longer walked to school. Who knew if the killer would strike at his school next? Chapel Hill Elementary wasn’t that far away.

One day, Barry brought some rat poison pellets that he ground-up to school. He went to the cafeteria as usual after second period to help set up for lunch. It was part of a good citizenship program the school had, and that he’d been in for two years.

That morning he got there early, and unobserved by the lone cook, he poured the contains of his baggie into the pot of chili.

Still undetected, he left and came back twenty minutes later when the other volunteers arrived. The woman in charge of the cafeteria gave them all chores to do. A normal morning.

Later that afternoon the reports began coming in. Two students died after eating food in the cafeteria. Then more students were reportedly rushed to the nearby hospital with signs of poisoning.

By the time the authorities figured out what killed the sixteen students it became the crime of the decade. The police utilized every resource and never gave up looking, but the days turned into months with no leads.

Barry’s thirst for blood got worse. He stole a machete out of a friend’s garage and beheaded a kid that he knew since 3rd grade, that lived right down the street from him.

His reign of terror in Marshall County came to an end abruptly a week later when a car ran through a red light and hit him in the crosswalk. He died instantly.

Family, friends, and his classmates at Forrest School Elementary went to Barry Lee’s funeral. He was remembered as a good kid, and a good student.

As It Stands, irony is a fact of life. So his evil.

The Dream Weavers of Druin

arvos_jadestone___dwarf_shaman_by_nightblue_art-d3hvz3v

Candlelight danced across the walls of the cavern, sending long shadows scurrying across its enormous length.  

The Dream Weavers of ancient Druin were chanting and swaying in unison. Their high voices, shrill and clear, reverberated off the sandstone walls.

Once in the chronicles of mankind, there was a great city in Egypt called Druin.

It was located in Keme (what the Egyptians called their country), and was the home of the Dream Weavers when mankind was still wearing animal skins and learning about the properties of fire.

They interpreted people’s dreams, and gave them dreams of hope. They were also known for giving good advise on any subject. They lived in perfect harmony with man and nature. Their engineering skills were far beyond any earthling’s ability.

No one knew where they came from. The ancient texts disagree on a couple of possibilities. The prevailing consensus was the Dream Weavers were from the stars.

Unfortunately, Druin was destroyed by warring armies during the dawn of two great civilizations; the Egyptians and the Hittites out of Asia minor.

The survivors were forced to go underground into a series of caves located beneath the ruins. It wasn’t long before the desert claimed the ruins, leaving mounds of sand where great towers once stood.

But myths and legends kept the story of the Dream Weavers alive. Ancient Egyptian scholars called them gods. Wise men from around the world devoted their lives to searching for the ancient city of Druin.

November 9th, 2024

Alexandria, Egypt

Aatami Emam, was a 45-year old scholar who devoted years to researching the Dream Weavers, and the ancient city of Druin. As a member of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, he was in the perfect place to combine work, and his own personal goals.

Discovering Druin was the main goal in life. He had a good reason too.

He lived in troubled times. The first nuclear strikes wiped out North Korea, Guam, and Osaka, Japan. More followed as Russia, China, The United States, Iran, and Israel, launched their nukes.

Although a worldwide truce was currently called, there were no guarantees that hostilities wouldn’t suddenly flare up again. The punishment to the planet and millions of people was profound and permanent.

Aatami knew his chances of finding Druin were slim. Hundreds tried before him. Even if he discovered Druin that didn’t mean he’d find a way to contact the Dream Weavers who he prayed were still around.

There was no other way he could help mankind. Then, the answer came to him in a dream.

He saw the way to Druin, and when he got there he woke up the sleeping Dream Weavers! His dream was so real that he thought it actually happened. The next morning he started packing and called a Turkish friend, Iskander,  who was a guide for archeological digs.

It took three days to get to the right spot in Iskander’s land rover. By noon of the fourth day they discovered, just beneath the surface, the ruins of Druin.

“Did you bring the sticks of dynamite?” Aatami asked Iskander.

“I did effendi, although I must tell you they weren’t easy to get,” he replied.

From a safe distance, they watched as the earth rose momentarily in a mighty shower of sand. A gaping hole was revealed when the sand finally settled back down.

Both men were veteran adventurers. This wasn’t the first time they went in search of something. They tied ropes to the land rover and skillfully repelled down the opening.

There was shards of mosaic tile on the ground. Ignoring them, Aatami went straight for a partly uncovered statue of a bearded man from the waist up. Just like in his dream. He approached it reverently and touched the torch in the man’s hand.

The sandstone walls started to rumble and the men were scared for their lives. When it the earth stopped shaking, an opening on one side of the hole was revealed. A cave. Pulling out their flashlights, they went inside.

Hours later, they came to a larger cavern and saw three rows of sixty men sitting on thrones. Apparently asleep. They were perfectly preserved. They wore silk robes that were combinations of every color in the rainbow.

“Now we wait,” Aatami said, as he sat down. They soon fell asleep.

In the two men’s dreams they saw the Dream Weavers rise from their thrones chanting something in a shrill long-forgotten language.

The next morning when they woke up, they felt hopeful about things in general.

Aatami’s gift from the Dream Weavers was the ability to bring peace wherever he went. He was also granted the power to give healing dreams to people suffering, and to interrupt their dreams.

Iskander’s gift was the ability to solve any engineering challenges while staying at Aatami’s side as his defender.

As instructed, they hurried back to the land rover and didn’t look back when the desert dramatically engulfed the hole.

As It Stands, my variation of a dystopian future…but with hope.

The Golem of Bar Nune Wyoming

mainpromo_2_14

Prologue:

1593, Prague

After the famous rabbi, Judah Loew ben Bezalel, created a Golem out of clay from the banks of the Vltava River to protect the Prague ghetto from anti-Semitic attacks and programs, he eventually immobilized the creature when the job was done.

The Golem’s name was Josef and his body was stored in the attic Genizah of the Old New Synagogue, where it stayed until needed again. Centuries passed…

2017, Prague

Rabbi Leopold ben Bezalel finished reading a book – The Golem: Legends of the Ghetto of Prague (English edition 1925) by Chayim Bloch’s (1881–1973) – and sat it down on the end table.

He was frustrated, but not about to give up on his search for his ancestor’s Golem. He discovered that the attic where the Golem was put had been renovated in 1883, and there was no evidence of the Golem there at that time.

Not even a pile of sand on the floor. For whatever reason the Golem must have been moved by someone Leopold concluded, after reading about a Nazi agent who went up in the synagogue attic during World War II and tried to stab the Golem but he died instead.

To Leopold, that suggested that the Golem was still in the attic regardless of the 1883 renovation where searchers couldn’t find the body.

Getting into that attic was a problem. It was closed up again after WW II and no visitors were allowed. It was still closed.

He looked out the window and watched the snow steadily fall on the towns main street. Bar Nune, population 3,209, in Natrona County, Wyoming had become a bad place for Jews to live. His congregation was constantly being harassed by neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.

The authorities turned their backs on what was happening. They were part of the problem. They weren’t interested in protecting Jews anymore than the neo-Nazis. Their hatred seemed to increase in the last year and their attacks against the Jewish population increased.

Leopold saw what was happening and was determined to do something about it.

It took every last bit of his savings, but Leopold came up with the money to fly to the Czech Republic. Once he arrived at Prague he went right to the Jewish Corner, which was once a ghetto, and looked up an old friend.

Rabbi Franz Philippson’s friendship with Leopold began two decades ago when he was a studying in a New York synagogue. For the observant Jew like Leopold, the study of sacred texts is a life-long task. The New York synagogue was famous for its well-stocked library of sacred Jewish texts.

The two old friends greeted warmly and Rabbi Philippson invited Leopold to stay with him. The house was within walking distance of the Old New Synagogue. The two men talked throughout most of the night.

The next morning after prayer services the two friends strolled around the small courtyard outside of the Old New Synagogue.

“So you see my dear Leopold, Josef was never in the attic. That story was created by historians who didn’t have their facts right. If you need Josef I’ll help you in the rituals that it takes to summon him,” said Rabbi Philippson.

“Thank you! What do we do first?”

“We go down to the banks of the Vltava river for clay. That is where Josef has been all along. Let’s go to my house and get the book of Hebrew incantations in my library.”

Hours later the two men were standing on the river bank and Leopold was gathering a lump of clay. When the Golem appeared he addressed it – calling it Josef – and hung a necklace with a plaque on it with the name of Shem.

“Remember my friend,” Rabbi Philippson cautioned, “On Friday evenings you must remove his necklace before Sabbath begins and let him rest.” 

Bar Nune, Wyoming 

Rabbi Leopold ben Bezalel walked out of the synagogue’s candle lit interior with a light heart. It was nearly a year since any of his congregation had been harassed with anti-Semitic remarks.

The population did shrink by about four hundred residents, but no one seemed worried about it.

As It Stands, on the fringes of legends and myths there are certain cryptic truths.