The Town That Learned Not To Discriminate

(Author’s Note: I’m bringing this story back by popular demand. A lot of people have been telling me it’s a good story for the times we’re in. I wrote it about a year ago under the title: FEAR.)

Cafe on Centre Street (the Main Street) in downtown Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida, USA

They met during the night like thieves panning a robbery.

But they weren’t thieves. They were some of the most prominent people in Elsdale’s population of 1,623. Community leaders led by the small town’s mayor, Jasper Corning, a corpulent man who found walking difficult.

Ever since the family of strangers moved in, people talked about how different they were. Of particular concern, they were Muslims. The two women wore hijabs that covered their head, hair, and necks.

The three men wore traditional Taqiyahs (round caps) and had long dark beards. To the white majority of Elsdale it was like being invaded by a foreign country. They spoke another language and lived by Sharia Law, which the townspeople feared would somehow take over the American system of justice someday.

The two women, Manahil and Eshal, went to the general store, and the post office, once a week. Every purchase they made at the store was scrutinized by the owners who shared their observations at the VFW bar every evening.

The postmaster worried every time a package came for the Muslims that it might have bomb-making materials inside. They got lots of letters in their post office box. It was always packed tight by the time the women came by for their weekly visit.

The Muslims lived in an old two-story house just outside the city limits. When they purchased the house – with cash – word quickly got around town. Very few people had actually talked with the Muslims. Mostly Manahil and Eshal when they were on their weekly errands.

Hector St. George, the towns only banker, talked with the three brothers, Aaban, Rayyan, and Zayan Azimi, while handling the transaction. The bank had repossessed the house years ago, and no one seemed interested in buying it.

Until then the Azima brothers appeared with lot’s of money. They even opened a bank account, which secretly thrilled St. George (he didn’t want the others thinking he was getting chummy with them) who worshipped money more than any god.

The towns sheriff, Roscoe Winters, a Vietnam veteran with undiagnosed PTSD, spends most of his time on a computer reading about conspiracies in America, and drinking too much at the VFW bar.

As the weeks turned to months, the rumors surrounding the Muslims grew like a malignant cancer. They held orgies; the men were secret ISIS members; there was a stockpile of weapons in the old house, and on it went.

Fear replaced curiosity in the little community after six months. When the women came to town they could feel the tension, as accusing eyes followed their every move. As the stares seemed to grow more malignant they told the men what was going on.
The three brothers were dismayed, but not surprised. They seen this kind of thing before when they bought their first house in upstate New York after immigrating to America five years ago.

When their parents were murdered by extremists in Iraq they took the family fortune and fled. Two of the brothers, Zayan and Aaban, were married to Manahil and Eshal. The eldest brother Rayyan never got married, because his childhood sweetheart was viciously murdered by thugs before they could.
Fear finally materialized into action.

That’s why the community leaders were gathered at night in the mayor’s house. The rumors had some of them fearing for their lives. The sense that one day they would attack the town with automatic weapons shouting “Allah Akbar!” swirled among the group, sending shivers down some spines.

“Okay boys…settle down. What are we here for?”

“Because you asked us too Jasper,” Larry Henderson, the general store owner, replied.

“Thanks Larry. Now that that’s established, what are we going to do about the Muslims?
“I think we ought to search their house and see what they’re up to,” John Baker, the postmaster said.

“There’s one problem with that Johnny, it’s called a search warrant. I don’t have one,” Sheriff Winter said, after downing a shot of 20 year-old Scotch.

The group broke out into a babble of suggestions that were going nowhere when the mayor shouted, “Enough! We ain’t getting a damn thing done here crowing like a bunch of roosters with no hen in sight!”

The room settled down to inaudible grumbles.

“Here’s what we can do. Larry, you can say you overheard the two women talking about making bombs. The sheriff can go to the county judge tomorrow and get a warrant to search their house. How’s that sound?” Murmurs of agreement echoed around the room.

“I’ll leave before noon tomorrow to go see Henry (the county judge) and get that warrant. Right now I’m going to have a few beers. Anyone with me?”

Everyone in the room, except the mayor who was sitting in his favorite office swivel chair, followed the sheriff out the door and into the night.

The next day.

Sally Yates, a waitress at the only restaurant in town, “Chuck’s,” was the first to hear the roar of motorcycles. The noon crowd had thinned down to two old customers who were known to spend most of the day there drinking coffee and talking.
The loud intrusive roar made her look out the window. Her pulse quickened in fear as the riders of six motorcycles dismounted from their Harley’s. They were all members of the Mongols, one of the most feared motorcycle groups in America!
Sheriff Winters had a shot of bourbon with Judge Henry Goodnight in the judge’s library. The judge had signed the warrant without question.

Back in town.

The bikers took over the restaurant and chased the two old men away. They were having fun baiting Sally who gamely tried to pretend everything was all right while taking their orders. The fun and games finally stopped, and their leader assaulted Sally!
Later the bikers roamed around town looking for more trouble. They went into the general store, and when Larry tried to stop them from helping themselves to whatever they fancied, they beat him and left him for dead!

Then they helped themselves to the hand guns behind the counter in locked cabinets. They broke the lock off with ease, and the leader passed them out to the others. He located the ammunition and gave each a box. Armed, they went back out and headed for the VFW Hall. By now, people had seen them and were running for cover. The main street was deserted by the time they reached the VFW Hall.

The patrons inside didn’t have a chance. They were caught unawares and herded over into a corner of the room, while other gang members looted the bar. The group settled in for some serious drinking.

Unfortunately, Sheriff Winters didn’t even notice the main street was deserted. It was getting near dark and his first thought was to go to the VFW Hall for a quick drink, or two.

The room went silent when the sheriff walked in. Someone dropped a bottle on the floor and the shooting began! Rosco was hit immediately in the left arm, but he manged to draw his service revolver and return fire!

One of the biker’s spun around and fell to the floor, bleeding from a chest wound. Bullets sprayed the room like angry bees as everyone tied to get out of the line of fire. Rosco was hit again in the right side of his chest but kept moving and somehow got out the door and into the street.

A lone biker followed him and popped off two misses. Rosco turned and calmly fired back at him. One of the bullets found its mark and the biker staggered back inside the VFW Hall, leaving a trail of blood behind him.

Rosco summoned up the last of his strength and headed towards the nearby general store. Larry lay near the doorway, battered beyond recognition and barely alive. Rosco went to him and looked for a pulse. He was alive. Rosco’s wounds weakened him so much that he passed out.

Manahil and Eshal felt more uneasy than usual when they got to town. The streets were deserted. They went inside the general store and found Larry and Rosco passed out on the floor. Larry’s wounds soaked his shirt with blood.
The women quickly checked them out and found gauze, band aids, and tape, and treated them both right there. Eshal was looking at Larry’s wounds and easily recognized them as bullet holes. She had seen her share in war-torn Iraq.
Manahil went to the phone on the counter but only got a buzzing. Someone had cut the phone lines. Making a bold decision she told Eshal that she was going for the men. She knew Rayyan would know what to do.

He had fought in the Iraqi armed forces until Saddam Hussein took over, and he had to run from the purge that followed. He was a captain in the special forces. The other two brothers had no military experience, but grew up in hard times when they had to use weapons to survive the government’s attacks.

Rayyan listened calmly as Eshal told him what she found. Nodding he turned to his brothers and said, “We cannot let these people be slaughtered by those men. Allah would never forgive us.”

The brothers both nodded, and the three of them headed for town.
When they got to the general store they found Manahil listening to the sheriff’s heart. She looked at Rayyan and said, “He’s barely alive. We must get a doctor.”
Meanwhile Zayan and Aaban were behind the counter picking a lock on a chain that covered a row of rifles. There were repeating Winchesters, hunting rifles, and two AR 15’s. They took the two AR 15’s and asked Rayyan what he wanted.
“The Winchester is fine,” he said as they rummaged for ammunition.

As the three men set out to find the bikers Rosco woke briefly, “The VFW building,” he croaked and passed back out again.

The biker’s Harley’s were still parked in front of the restaurant. Rayyan started one up and gunned the engine! He drove it down the street and sat outside the VFW Hall. Zayan and Aaban both pulled up next to him, and they all three revved their engines.
Inside, the sound immediately caught the biker’s attention. One of them was dead, and another was badly wounded. Three innocent hostages were killed by errant bullets. The remaining four Mongols roared in anger and charged out the front door…into a hail of gunfire!

The next day.

Sheriff Winter’s got help in time by the town doctor, who was able to stabilize him and have him transported to the country hospital in nearby Turnsville. County police and the FBI were all over the town talking to witnesses and processing the crime scenes.
Mayor Corning was visiting Rosco when he handed him a piece of paper. It was the warrant.

“What about this,” he asked.

Rosco took it, and tore it in half.

“It’s about time we quit letting fear rule our lives,” he said.

As It Stands, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

The Lone Wolf and the Space Cruiser

renderfin_by_adamkop-d9c9jw1The first company to offer public Space Cruises was Skyliner Corporation, in 2103.

The privately owned company was known for its innovations in space travel as a contractor for the U.S. military since 2078.

Space travel was becoming routine when the company’s first public space cruiser took its maiden flight in 2099. The 230 passengers consisted of family members of the entire team that built the giant luxury cruiser, and celebrities who paid top dollar to be on the historic flight into outer space.

The Captain, Joseph Van deMare, was a veteran space traveler who set numerous flight records during his career with the military. Skyliner’s CEO, Todd Knight, lured him out of retirement with the offer to make history, and a lot of money.

The two passenger levels offered a 360-degree view of the wonders of space. Every modern convenience was available to make passengers comfortable. The food, offered up by a 5-star chef was, as the company literature boasted, out of this world!

After the three-day cruise was over, passengers raved about their experiences. They made appearances on popular TV shows and shared their stories of awe and wonder. Some even claimed it was like a religious experience.

Afterwards, the designers and engineers went over the giant ship to see how it held up. One of the many computer techs found something in the software that troubled him. He went to his boss and explained his concern.

There were a couple of minor failures in the re-entry system software, and if not for the fail-safe system backup there could have been a disaster. All those happy passengers could have been roasted like chestnuts in a fire.

The board of directors agreed more work needed to be done before the next public flight. They also made sure no word got out about how close they’d come to a catastrophic event.

A year later the designers, the engineers, and the computer techs, patched the problems and added another back-up, to the first back-up system. Throughout this time controversy sprang up on social media platforms, and television, about man’s need to leave the planet.

Most agreed it was a good thing. Space travel for the masses might someday save mankind. Others thought it was blasphemy that people would want to leave the planet God made for them. Even for a short time.

Captain Van deMare stood on a platform next to the Space Cruiser, christened The Arc by the press, and the Milky Way Express by the owners, and patiently answered questions.

“Is it true there’s going to six weddings during this cruise?” a reporter from CNN asked.

“Yes. And I’ll be marrying them.”

“Any safety concerns?” another reporter from a local news station asked.

“If there were, I wouldn’t be going. This big bird (he slapped the side of the space cruiser’s hull) is indestructible,” he assured the reporter.

Watch it!” another reporter joked, “Isn’t that what the owners said about The Titanic?” 

“Well, that’s about all. I have to get ready now, we’re leaving in six hours. Thank you all for coming. I’ll see you again when we get back,” Captain Van deMare said.

DAY ONE

All of the passengers are having the time of their lives with the exception of one man, Abraham Klein. He’s sitting quietly at a table for two. Before him, an Autumn Vegetable Salad with Beetroot Dressing has hardly been touched.

He waits for God to speak to him. He’s ready.

DAY TWO

Alone in his room, Abraham pulls out the leather pouch from beneath his shirt. He carefully pulls the leather string and peeks inside – the miniature bomb’s shiny surface picks up the overhead light and he sees his face.

But no word from God.

DAY THREE

Abraham continues avoiding conversations with people. It’s lonely being God’s servant. He has a moment of guilt when he sees a new bride kiss her husband on the big screen. Their joy almost seems heavenly he thought, then caught himself.

No. He was the heavenly one. Soon to be one of God’s angels.

DAY FOUR

When the captain offered a tour of the massive space cruiser, Abraham joined in with the other passengers. His heart sped up. Was this going to be his opportunity?

Two levels below the second passenger level, there were three fusion reactors that powered the behemoth. As the curious passengers stepped out of the elevators, Abraham felt his chest, and the leather bag underneath his shirt burned.

Then God spoke.

Back on Earth

Press from around the world surrounded Skyliner Corporations headquarters.

The Milky Way Express had gone dark two days ago. Phone calls to, and from, the space cruiser suddenly stopped. Military space ships searched the route the space cruiser took, but found nothing.

As It Stands, this is my nod to the terrorists we face today. Especially to “Lone Wolfs.” 

 

The Voice of God

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“God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning – the second day” Genesis 1:8

You’re going to have to speak up Art, “ Flo advised him.

Captain Art Davis stood up, took a deep breath, and bellowed “I am God!”

“That’s better. I have it recorded now. Let me add it to your wrist speaker vocabulary. Where’s your robe?”

“Do I really have to wear that damn thing?” Art complained. “I can see the fake beard, but from what we’ve seen, these Neptunians run around naked. Maybe I should too.”

“You’re missing the whole point Art…we want to impress these aliens.”

“What do you mean by that?

“Listen Art, this is just Day Two. We’ve got a lot more to do.”

The Neptunians were huddled around a fire. Their leader, a short stocky biped with thick arms and a bald head, lit a pipe with a burning twig and took a long hit before passing it on.

His name was Alca, and unlike most Neptunians he was ambitious and sought power. The small band that he had gathered, and ruled, weren’t strong enough to take on the other tribes of Neptune.

Alca was a quick thinker. So, when he saw the two aliens (who looked remarkably familiar) get of their spacecraft one day, he didn’t run like the rest of his band. Instead he went to his knees, an uncomfortable positions for this thick legs, and bowed his head.

The two earthlings approached him. Flo nudged Art and he took his helmet off. “Good to know we can breathe in this atmosphere,” he said conversationally while walking over to kneeling Alca, who was trembling in fear and excitement.

“My name is Captain Art Davis, and this is Second Lieutenant Flo…”

Hold on Art! The recording remember?”

“I wish you’d address me with the proper military courtesy in front of others Lieutenant…”

Really Art? We’ve been sleeping together for two years and haven’t seen a human being since we went on this mission. Kinda late to stand on ceremony isn’t it?”

“Fine.”

Alca looked up at the two strange beings that appeared to be wearing some kind of shell and wondered if they came in peace?

Art pushed a button on his wristwatch and pointed at his chest, “I am God!” he bellowed mightily. The loud roar made Alca shake even more.

He sat up gingerly, and tapped his chest like a good Neptunian hound and said, “Alca.”

It took weeks of working with Alca, and his small band, but Flo managed to establish a crude system of signs and words. She impressed upon them that Art was the God of everyone in their world.

His voice was louder than any mere Neptunian’s. The very sound made them tremble in religious ecstasy.  They were taught that he had all of the answers to their problems. That his word was law. That his justice was supreme.

This went on for 12 cycles (7 earth years) as monuments were made by the Neptunians to honor their new God. All the while, Alca plotted how he could use God to further his aims. He started a cult that claimed to be God’s only true believers.

Finally, Art and Flo completed their mission and left Neptune to go on to their next assignment…Mercury.

As It Stands, earthlings as gods. Now there’s a funny thought!