Shadow Train: Part 1

shadowtrain

Here’s a cute story I wrote for my nephews. It’s about reoccurring characters in a series of stories I tell them called the “Shadow Train” series.  It’s basically horror for young kids.  The purpose is to be scary, but to also communicate to the kids that the world is ultimately knowable, when utilizing certain tools (reason, logic etc.).  Thanks ~Mark
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It was a beautiful day in the Unknown forest, where Kryllion and Flana, two brothers, live together in a house out in the woods with no road leading up to it, or surrounding houses.
These two brothers found this house, one day, on a hike through the Unknown Forest, so called for being completely unknown. Which is how the unknown forest got its name in the first place. It is quite simple really, it had never been explored, and therefore considered “unknown.” Hence its name.
You get the idea.
This is also the same reason why our two heroes decided one day to hike to, and through the Unknown Forest.

Our two heroes, the brothers Kryllion and Flana had heard about this vast unexplored expanse of earth while at a breakfast restaurant one morning. They were brought there by their mother and father one Sunday morning before church that day. The family sat down in a booth, where from Kryllion could easily do some eavesdropping on two elderly gents sitting in the next booth over. Before that had come to mind however, Kryllion decided to order the waffles, “with extra syrup please” he told the waitress; and Flana also decided to get the waffles “and please add extra syrup, thank you” he too told the waitress.
The waitress then left to tell their and their mother and father’s breakfast orders to the cook. This is when the aforementioned two gents entered the restaurant, and sat down in the booth adjacent to theirs.
Mother and Father were sipping coffee out of mugs, and discussing something they called a “mortgage,” while Flana sucked on a straw in a cup of chocolate milk; while Kryllion also sucked from a straw in cup of chocolate milk.
Then, Kryllion overheard from behind him, where the two gents had taken up seating, one of them say “well? Where is it? Have you brought the map?”
To which the other replied “ahh, let me tell you.”
“I made doubly sure, even TRIPLEY sure to bring it!” The first gent began to say.
“For last night I placed it intentionally on the kitchen table so as not to forget to bring it here to our weakly meeting at Fran O’ Hans Breakfast Nook “best waffles in town,” where we’ve meet every week now going on 8 years now-”
“Sure have. And so?” The other interrupted impatiently.
“Yes, well” he continued, “when I left the house this morning I checked my pocket for the map once outside the door, and did not find it there! So I went back inside and there it was on the table, intentionally placed there so I would see it on my way out the door and therefore remember to have on my person, at the time of, and for the very purposes of this very meeting, here right now.”
“Yes yes I’m listening” the other gent encouraged.
“Yes well, then , while inside, the phone decided to ring. And so I answered it, and Ho should it be? But YOU of course, dear friend, calling to remind me to ‘not forget the map, see you in ten minutes’ to which, I replied ‘ten minutes! Well look at the time,’ and so I hung up the phone and promptly left the house.”
“Yes I remember, that was 13 minutes ago, and the map?.”
“I’m getting to that. So then, I decided to stop but again, in order to check to see whether or not I indeed carried the map, as you had so implored me to do.”
“And?”
“And it wasn’t there! I had forgotten it yet again!”
“You forgot the map!?”
“Let me finish my story!” The kindly gent insisted.
“Alright then,” the other, more impatient gent accepted.
“Well, I then had the thought ‘I had better go back and get the map,’ so I went back inside, and then when I had emerged a third time, I checked my pocket, and: no map.”
“Well what had distracted you this third time from securing the map?”
“Huh? Oh, well, nothing: I just plain forgot.”
“Oh good gracious man! This is getting ridiculous!”
“But not to worry old friend, I went in a fourth time see! With the express purpose to pick up the map! And here it is.”
Kryllion heard a crinkling sound of paper, and imagined a large piece of old paper being unfolded.
At this that moment Kryllion stopped listening to the bickering of the two old gents, and looked over at his brother Flana, who had been blowing bubbles into his chocolate milk with such veracity that it was erupting out of it and getting all over his place mat.
He looked up, caught Kryllion’s eyes and they both had a laugh.
Father told Flana to stop it and wiped most of the spilt milk up with a napkin, before going back to talking with Mother.
This is when Kryllion started to think to himself “I don’t think the waffles are ever coming.”
So Kryllion waits, and starts to listen in on, once again, to the conversation of the two gents at the booth behind him.
“Wowee! This is amazing! This map depicts a wholly unknown forest that is quite large that is entirely unexplored!” The first gent exclaimed. Apparently looking at a map spread out on the table before him.
“Not only that my dear friend,” the second gent begins” but there is also much lore and legend about this forest from the surrounding towns. It’s not for no reason there hasn’t been any manned explorations into this area! I’ve heard tales of monsters, magic, and some mysterious presence in the woods the townsfolk refer to as ‘the shadow train’.”
Just then a plate filled with wwaffles is placed down in front of him smothered in delicious syrup; and for a time all thoughts concerning the two gents and the “unknown forest” is forgotten as he focuses all his attention on the task at hand, which is to devour waffles.
Flana finished his waffles before Kryllion did, and was now sitting back, when it occurred to him that he and his brother hadn’t been on an adventure in a long time.
“Hey Kryllion, I think in order to continue to serious ‘adventurers’ we’ve got to go on an adventure soon.”
“I agree dear brother,” Kryllion said just as he finished his plate and pushed it away “we’ll have to be on
Been on any adventures recently.
“Ya know Kryllion, if we ever hope to be taken seriously as adventurers, we’ll have to go on more adventures. We haven’t been on one for quite some time now.”
“Right you are oh brother mine.”
The waitress came and left, mother and father settled the bill and then it was time to go.
Kryllion glanced over at the neighboring booth where the two gents had previously been. Funny, they must’ve left recently, Kryllion thought, because their table hadn’t been cleared yet. Spying the table as he passed, he noted a rather crinkly folded-up piece of paper with strange markings beside one of the place mats.
“Flana, I think I may have already found an adventure for us.”

To Be Continued…

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DQThurman LARPs in NetherWorld

dqnetherworld

I had been paralyzed, my hands linked tightly in my lap, the coal black rocking chair frozen, cemented to the floor.  A distant gun shot blast lingers, faintly hanging in the air. I mechanically hinge to my feet, my knees creaking like wood. The front door is there in the darkness, in this empty cold room. “How long have I been sitting there..” the question begins to formulate in my mind. Walking past the window: in between the thick black lines of a grid the carnage continues. Slimy red, slithering bodies mingle and over lap, writhe and undulate across the street. Gnawing and gnashing, explosions of black liquid bursting, forming puddles, and this is on display, in the front lawn to the house across the street.. I’m stepping one foot after the next, four times when: the door is knocking. The window in the door is bloted out by shadow.
I reach out and turn the door knob, swing open the door, a long quiveringly suspended in-the-air tentacle holds a revolver to my face, shakes then fires.

I see myself being dragged, the revolver wobbling by a tentacle, others wrapped around my ankles pulling me resolutely through grass. There is black liquid pouring from my forehead filling up the contours of my placid face.
So I look up and look at the stars, I look back down and see the scene smaller, there I go.
Looking up again, at the stars, they become visible, larger- some 5 pointed, others 6, others 8.  I feel a platform under my hand, my body is pressing against it, I look around, and its a wooden circle.  Bolts here and there, I feel my body, the buzzing of the platform, lifting me ever upward, reverberating, mechanically humming; the sound fades in.
I look up, bluish mist, still more distant stars, closer cut-out stars sway next to/around my head, I can see the fishing wire. The platform stops, and jostles slightly like an amusement park ride; many large basketball-sized plumes of cotton lay on either side of a path like bushes, the path itself is matted with layers of glitter. I step out onto a plastic step with factory grooves in it, up 2 more and then arrive on the glitter path.  I hear the fart of cloud machines- PshFfff- and on either side of me jets at first, of grey cloud turn into fluffy atmosphere rising into the air, tiny poison crystals of which land on my tongue.
I walk down this path, when I come to an opening, a large concert hall draped in black curtains, 3 beams of light direct and focus on me. As I walk, I see on either side of the path, now made of wood: small red light bulbs screwed into a line along the path; they light-up row by row as I walk past them to the stage. On the stage a large 5 sided star shaped throne sits, the body of which, from the top prong down to the bottom two form the shape of a rocket ship, while the side two just kind of point out like underdeveloped fins.  Sitting there, on a pillow, in a large oval mouth carved out of the side of the ship, sits God.  As I walk closer, I can see that he is a tall adolescent, with a fake beard, and a robe made of canvas that had apparently been soaked in tea or something to give it a rustic look.  Slowly, deliberately, he looks up and feigns surprise at me standing there, all spotlit.  He rises to his feet and out-stretches his arms, contorting his face not convincingly into a fatherly DeNiro like expression.
He walks towards me mumbling incoherently, then surrounds my mid-section with his arms, like a hug, pressing the side of his head to my chest.  Suddenly,  I’m lifted upward by a belt that has appeared around me, squeezing my guts, burning my skin, tightening, pulling me up! I realize almost immediately that I’m being lifted by some hitherto now hidden crane, maybe having been draped in black curtain.  I look down at a shrinking god who is waving, waving at me from the stage, then turns and walks back to his pillowed star throne.
The crane takes me to a balcony booth, one of many openings in the wall surrounding the auditorium; craning one’s head back,  allowed the view of a huge blown-up and pasted-on photograph of a galaxy spread-out on the surface of the vast dome-shaped ceiling.  As I arrive, I see two robed figures march passed the black draped rows of seats of the booth; four red dots fix on me. Still suspended my shoes feel the lip of the balcony as gravity applies my body to it. I feel around the thick leather belt presently clinging to me, find a square buckle a little to my left side and start to finger it. When I am set on by these figures, snatching at me with two pairs of leathery black grabbing hands.  I’m grappled so fiercely I fall back a little, as their squeezing arms get hold. I struggle violently, then look down into red singeing eyes, inside black cloth masks. Trying to make sense of what they are, I rule out that they are any sort of human.
I realize, suddenly that I’d been freed from the crane’s belt, I fall, wrestling and groping into the two black figures. I elbow and punch them, constantly turning out of their persistent grip. Studying them now, I see that firstly, they’re bodies are short, maybe five feet, hunched, contorted into an almost S shape. Their eyes:  solid black O’s like a bear’s, only, at the center lies a rotating fiery red gear. They snort, and make feral noises. I struggle, they are faster, but weaker than me; are too close to hit me with any force, but can take several blows from me, without any result besides more grunting and snorting.
Then, the back of my head tingles, and my hair stands on end; so I look back over my shoulder, and down to see a glowing blue circle start to form, the light of which glowing increasingly stronger; inside it a white swirling begins. Soon a steady lightning flash, and a bright and shimmering portal bursts into existence halfway between a sea of black draped sheets below and the balcony above. I cling to the edge, resisting being pulled away, deeper into the balcony by the two black robed diminutive minions.
I kick one of the grabbing goons in the face with the heel of my shoe(it felt featureless/no bumps), he howls and falls backwards. The second one grabs me around the neck and pulls forward. I grab his neck and push back.  His eyes inflate, growing into horns, then finely twisting into two red hot pokers the heat of which I could feel on my face.  I get hold of one of his thumbs and twist it viciously the wrong way, it gives and crackles like a stock of corn. He howls.  I leap backward into the air, twist around in time to belly flop right into the middle of the blue dancing lit-up portal.
Blue liquid, swirling…
I wake up in the guts of a small cabin, facing the front door, on a dusty wooden floor.  A coat of dust bunnies and spider webs fall off my back like a blanket as I rise to my feet.  I walk creakily to the still, front porch, where everything hangs in thick shades of darkness. A bright full moon stuck in the sky, and crickets fill the night.
The white face of a face-mask, that of a child peers out of the darkness, white golf balls for eyes.  It glides closer to the edge of the line of moon light, and slithers further.  A smiling young face connected to a body dressed in a tailored tux in one world, and a slithering winged beast made-up of swollen slug-like tentacles in this one, emerges.  Sitting atop this hideous body,  allowing the strange to peer his head into this shadowy world us a bright oval coupling. A personal portal as it were, for the boy. Upon further contemplation of the strange being, smiling, slithering and curiously staring at me with wide-eyes, I conclude any further analysis might in fact drive me insane (or more so).
I lock the door, latch the wooden inside shutters, find the bed in one of two rooms, ratty and filled with dust, the other littered with clumsily stacked furniture draped in ancient sheets.  I close the door to my new bedroom, latch it, beat some gritty clouds out of the blankets, lay down, and quickly fall asleep.

The End

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GOLEM

golem

It’s a clunky ship, but it’s mine.
Drifting noiselessly through space.
Sitting at the nav desk on the bridge I impatiently strum my fingers on the nav board in front of me.
*Click* I press a finger on the intercom button “Steven to bridge,” I demand into it.
Momentarily the automatic door to the bridge puffs open as Steven strides in.  A young man of 19, Steven stands clipboard in hand, jeans and black t-shirt. I say, from the nav com swivel chair “we’re not moving, it’s been 4 hours and I hear no engine hum.”
“Apparently the core needs to be reboote-“
“How many times does it need to be rebooted?”
“Salem said until he finds the disconnection in the circuits, he thinks there’s a bad aethernet wire-“
“Okay, meanwhile we float closer to our new best friend,” I motion my hand toward the bridgeshield, where, seemingly not too far off can be seen a pock-marked, massive grey nugget.

Impossibly, the asteroid is 7 hundred miles away, but already is the size of an island, sashaying in slo-mo toward our very location.  I press a finger down on the steering scale screen, triggering a large exclamation mark, a short burst of a vibration and an alarm sound.  I say “okay,” and steer the chair in its track over using the small ball joy stick in the arm of the chair, over to the actual steering wheel. I take hold of the massive thing, rubbery leather strapped around a thick loop, and with all my might pull it to the left- exerting myself, and straining just to find the thing immovable.
“How many times have you tried that?” Steven asks.
“About 50,” I respond.  I look sidelong at him.
“you want to die on this ship?”

“No sir.”
“Where is Salem now? Do you know?”
Steven pauses, looks down, and off a little.
“Where? Salem?” He looks up, and nervously tells me.
“The kitchen,” I shoot out the automatic sliding door that is instantly sucked into the wall and down a section of about 5 steps, turn down a short hall way and jump 5 more steps, and left through another door.
There, sitting at a table covered in bowls and kitchenware is Salem, hunched, as it were, over a shot glass and a bottle an arm’s length away.
Holding a putrid face, locking eyes with me now he pocks the glass down onto the table as he begins to lift the bottle with his other hand.
I grab a chair and place it next to the table as he pours, not offering.
I sit and cross my arms.
“W’eve been floating idly for about 5 hours – ‘any plans to spare us certain death.”
With a shot glass full, the bottle is placed down once more. He grasps the shot glass looking over onto me, turns again and shoots the glass up, pulling a gulp from it.

Slams it down.

Wiping his mouth with his sleeve he says “I’m getting to it.”
“This clunker of a ship is headed-“
“Straight towards our ‘new best friend,’ I know- I need to – fucking, I need to figure out… I’m still figuring out the problem- I think its rotten circuits-“
“Steven told me.”
“Steven is getting in my way.”
“Steven don’t wanna die, he wants to live to set foot on another planet as doI.”
Salem looks away.
“What about you, you’re pale, you haven’t been bathing- have you lost hope?”

“Its part of my job to lose hope, I keep this place running.”
“You could be more cheery.”
“I couldn’t be, I would be you if I were- if I weren’t me.”
I ponder the esoteric meaning of this, sitting there in the belly of the ship, the “Golem,” a floating vessel I had hopes for to not make into a tomb.
I tell Salem this.
“A tomb is for kings, we’re in a metal coffin.”
“Your negativity- you’re right, ‘may be helpful to entertain some negative aspect of a predicament to find a way around it, but, we need this ship fired up soon, and going, so as to not meet an abrupt and violent end.”
“Save the speech,” Salem slurs at me as he lazily creaks out of his chair. Pushing the chair back rubbing along the floor, and grabbing the bottle, a quarter full now. I look up, imploringly, almost pleadingly, and he interprets this expression rightly, by groaning and turning away.  He slouches away, apparently having sat for so long working a permanent crease in his back, as he shuffles along the wall, down some steps and through an automatic door.
Sitting, pensively for a moment, I too decide to get up, not to go somewhere else to worry however, but to have a contemplative stroll through my only means to get around: my ship.

I’m met with a hushed cacophonious laughter drifting down the hall, intermingling with the humming of life support still being pumped in through vents and the electromagnetic charge around the hull.  Steven is watching a comedy show, he would be on social media had we been in range of any sort of life that didn’t take 3 weeks to communicate a signal.
I walk down to the cargo area, its dark here, large crates take up the main of the space.  I can easily imagine demons lurking around, leering at me, grimacing there in the darkness; waiting to shred my skin and devour my glands and organs.  I imagine the gore spread along the floor.
I see Salem’s face then, sweating, arranging some wires, or fastening a bolt.
He has the hardest job among us.  This is a clunker of a ship, for sure, but its our ship. ‘All we’ve got to get anywhere.
And where we are right now is a pickle.
Of course, I think as I step a bit forward, through some red glaring lights past an air lock port, we’re always in a pickle.
We’re no more a crew than we are brothers, of which we are not- we are simply here- our story is unremarkable.
Space drifters.
I walk down to the engine room. Centered around a large blue glowing column, a force of mysterious power. Partly the job of the core is to mimic the circadian rhythms of mother Earth, so as to keep our mitochondria from breaking. Nothing I loathe more than a malfunctioning mitochondria.

I grab the railing surrounding it.

I speak the word “Golem,” the ship.  A ship for a ghoul like me.

Instead of standing around being gloomy, I walk toward my bedroom, where my dog sleeps, and farts.
The door opens and there with a bark and an ecstatic tale is pokey, I say “c’mon” and waive my hand.

We both make our winding way to the bridge. Where Steven has turned off his sketch comedy shows and is now staring out the window.  Where a large grey mass approaches. Pokey sniffs his pants cuffs, stirring him out of his daze. I take a seat once more, where I was, and where I will remain until either the end or the beginning.
The overhead lights flicker, once, a couple more times and then a loud high-pitched moan reverberates through the whole beast. Dials unfade to on, red-lit, and a scree beep shrieks to life the dials and buttons. The familiar humming and vibrations of life ignite our massive tin can. I look at Steven, and Steven with this unrestrained optimistic joy and bright broad smile, dancing eyes and we cheer, hug and plop into place.  Pokey runs a circle around our area, barking at our enthusiasm.  *crack* the intercom crackles and a Salem mumble emits from wall mounted speakers*uncrack*.  I press the intercom button “Good looks Salem.”  I tap the steering app on the screen in front of me as it fills full view. I drag the bar along the scale to the left and burners fire right on que.
Golem is seen turning, and accelerating in a particular direction, away from the asteroid.

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Trevor Mallard vs. Metropolis City

metropoliscity
I step off the curb into the street that resembles any street here in the vast wasteland dystopia of metropolis city. Unless you want infection, disease or certain biological failure due to toxicity, when doing this, you’d be doing well by yourself to step over the gutter.
The gutter, where accumulated grit and filth coalesce in a stream of liquid shit and piss flowing downstream into the eventual drain, passing through the bars into below the street, if not clogging it ; in which case a flooding of the street occurs, a frequent occurrence at that.
But then again you’d be doing yourself a favor by avoiding the biohazard zone that is metropolis city all together. Everywhere within its boarders is public space including your own living room, if you’re lucky enough to have one. The place is lousy with degeneracy, the public offices held by professionally self-interested curroptioneers. Empty rhetoric vomit out their pudgy, pock-marked demonic faces displayed on massive vid screens plaguing every street corner on every black red-light lit sky scraper in the city.

My name is Trevor Mallard, and I carry a blaster. I mention this due to the importance of self-defense in this postmodernmodern future where savagery is the default unspoken code of the land. Not to mention the “illegality” of owning such an object. Illegality I place in “scare quotes” here because of the fluidity of the law proper, and its subjective not only interpretation but jurisdiction. The law’s enforcers too are dubious as to their allegiance, and to who it applies, to be redundant, is up to debate. Suffice it to say, the oligarchical law makers are legal positivists, who honor only their self-anointed devine right to lord over the loathsome plebs.
I step one step further after my gutter hop, and keep on moving. The barricades of built up and abandoned vehicles surrounding this block prevent traffic. A withered hand pops out of a cardboard tent in the middle of the avenue, holding out an icredit device and mumbling in a weak incantation “alms.” This I ignore. I do not give credits, I only trade credits for equal value. Since I harbor no empathy for the old voters of the current establishment charity is far from my mind. Allocated funds are to flow into my current interests, which for at the moment involve a paying gig. A big project. For which I have financial backing not only, but a personal interest.
The larger than life neon sign for the casino looms overhead as I weave in and out of little encampments here and there, iCredit devices will be held out for a gracious transfer and will be ignored, the intimidation of wild eyed thugs will be ignored- only the advance of my destination is at hand. I see now the tuxedoed brute, negroed doorman, named Tget.
“You back now?”
“Back, Mr. Seprume is waiting-you already now.”
A pause as Tget’s eyes glaze off into no particular direction as he receives instructions from his employer through the auditory implant in the right side of his brain close to his ear. I now felt his eyes on me. Receiving instructions no doubt, considering the vid implant in Tget’s optical nerve, giving a direct feed to Seprume’s office vid screen. I feel the gaze once again when Tget turns back to me, to say.
“Mr. Seprume says proceed.” Tget holds out his icredit to collect his toll, I take my own out of my inside breast pocket; tap out 50 and flick a scanning inferred laser onto his open screen displaying his Personal Pairing Code.
It beeps ready, he looks down at it to make sure, then turns his one green prosthetic eye toward the door which instantly opens out. The garish doors, ornate in a classically Greece kind of way with long ornate, useless handles running up and sown the length of them birth entrance to me.
Wordlessly I pass by the gatekeeper into the belly off the south town beast.

CASINO

End of Part 1

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The Cat’s Of Brushems Cove

CatsofBrushemsCove

A man sits in his lonesome house with the shades drawn. His name is Hephner Finderbind, and he is a recluse-for good reason. His circumstances dictate this to be so. For, if the townspeople ever found out (those milling around just beyond the hedges of his house-getting on with their lives),  his dark secret would be exposed; and he’d be ruined forever more.

This dark secret isn’t locked in the basement, or hidden behind a secret door, or underneath the floorboards, but rather, slithers in-between his heart, brain and bowls. Moving up and down his nervous system.  If this monster is found out, and brought out to the exposure of the light of day, for all to see; no doubt, the accusations would start forthright. And it would end good ol’ Hephner.

Hephner sits plaintively, playing the scene in his head.

A lassoed rope would be thrown about the neck of the beast, then dragged from the cave of his dwelling. Children would gasp in astonishment at the hideous tendrils, the slimy sides of flesh and popping veins of gore that make up its body ; the single eye protruding to look back at them, in a way  unfathomable and hideous to their innocent minds. The grown members of society would stand in between, maintaining the safe distance away from IT and the women and children. As the more brave members of the community approach the monster, ropes in hand, ready to all at once attempt to throw a harness onto the monster.

By then, having exploded with gore, to show my true appearance, my slimy form would be held fast, secured on all sides by ropes, tethered to the other men.
“What is it!?” a voice would cry.
“Kill it!” would demand another.

—-

*Knock *KNOCK* a sound disrupts this thought, and the tentacles recede back into my chest – I quickly button my shirt as another knock rings out.
“Just a minute,” I say, loud enough, as I pull myself from my chair, walking the expanse of the room, to the door. One latch shifted aside, another, and then the last, then the knob itself, and the door is swung open.

Standing there is Hank Effermill, my neighbor and local social activist. He will frequently petition the neighborhood for this cause, or that, always the most talked-about and fashionable amongst the folk at that given time.

This time however, he stand s on the stoop with a broad smile and wide probing eyes, a faccade of friendliness greets me.

“Hey Hephy,” he calls me—a nickname I have never condoned, or approved of; or liked for that matter, but, nevertheless…
“Hey there Hanks,” I issue back– I will either use ‘Hanks’ or just ‘Hank-y’ him right back at ‘im—these games irk me, yet, they come to me—and I see no way to avoid them.
“Hephy, how ya doing?” he extends a hand, I take it, and he continues, “Hey Bud, listen, I’v been talking to everyone in our little commune here to address a concern We all seem to have.”

A bead of sweat forms on my forehead, I can feel it – the late afternoon sun shines from over Hank’s right shoulder into my face “Oh?” I say, “and what’s that?”

“Haven’t  you noticed all the cats?” he asks, already mocking outrage.
“I’m sorry?” I reply.

“The CATS!” he repeats, urgently, probingly at me.

“I’m sorry Hank, I’m afraid I don’t  follow, what about the cats?”

Hank pauses a few seconds, staring wide-eyed at me, mouth open as if about to let out a gasp.
“Hephy, are you telling me, you haven’t noticed the dead cats? They’ve been strewn all over the side walk and street for the past week.”
Concerned, furrowed brows—I look over the left shoulder of the accuser to see no such image in the streets.

No dead cats.

“I don’t see any dead cats.”

“HA!” Hanks erupts, and starts shaking his head as if at a moron “Bud, me and your other neighbors have cleaned them up—we’ve already taken care of it—I don’t know what you’ve been up to this whole time.” Hank gives a long concerned glance around the frame of my shoulders into the open house behind me. A bead of sweat slides down my temple as more begin to form. The sun now is unbearable, and my patience has been exhausted with Hank-y/bud.

“listen Hank-“ I begin, sternly.

“Why are you sitting in the dark?” Hank begins.

“What?” I ask, discontinuing my train of thought.

“Uh, there’s no light on in your house…what are you doing, sitting in the dark?”
I look behind me, thinking of a plausible explanation, but then abandon this course, and start wondering rid of Hank, and get this door closed.
“Listen Hank, I’m right in the middle of some-“

“What? What are you doing?”

“I don’t, …none of your business.”
Hank, not offended, not concerned, but, suspicious, is projecting guilt,– I can I feel it– he moves closer to the door frame, and continues in a more intimate manner.

“Listen, Hephy, you okay bud?” Hank says, as if concerned.

He places his right arm on my left shoulder paternally, and I feel my blood temperature rise.

I don’t like Hank, I never have ever since moving into this house. I haven’t been able to interpret his manner, and therefore haven’t developed strategies to neutralize interactions with him.  It seems he’s always looking for my buttons, so as to press them. I don’t know what his agenda is, —but then I remember.

A Flash of light bursts in my brain, and a vision occurs to me:

Late at night, I crawl out my window, though I have no legs, just a slithering mess for replacements; I slide over the sill and lower the rest down to the grass below.

Lurking in the shadows, in the space between my house and Hank’s, just out of view of these two sweethearts, local teenagers I see standing underneath a street lamp. The girl is giggling, as the male puts his arm around her waist, then puts his face to hers for a kiss.

Suddenly, a hollow dry gurgle erupts from the center of my body—I look down to see a bumpy cavity laced with ropes of drooping slime.

I look back-up, the couple now are looking in my direction, where I hide in the shadows of a tree, two houses and behind a shrub.

“What was that?” the girl asks.

“I don’t know,” the male responds.

“Let’s get out of here,” she says.

“Good idea.” And so,  from underneath the street lamp, they quickly step away.

Moments later, a tabby cat jumps into view not five feet from myself.  The cat stops, sits and starts licking a lifted leg. Suddenly, before I realize it fully, I see two tentacles jut out on either side of my vision; startled, but before it can react, the tabby is ensnared, and dragged toward  gaping hole in my midsection.

Suddenly, I am ripped out of this trance, and my consciousness returns to the present,  just as Hank removes his hand from my shoulder.
I spurt “Jesus, why are you touching me!? I don’t want anything to do with you, now please:  leave me alone!”
I step back from the wide-eyed Hank, and slam the door.

In a cold sweat, and  panic I secure the door with all three latches, plus the lock in the door knob.

I back step back into the darkness, shift over to the window, and peel back a corner of the shade. I watch Hank back-out from my front walk way, then turning his head toward the bottom corner and finding me with his eyes.
I flick the cloth back in place, already cursing myself for reacting so flinchingly.

‘Hank has no power over me!’ I think to myself.

I wait a few seconds, deciding that, if Hank is still standing there I’ll rip open the window shades and stare right back, hands crossed and even more accusatory and condescendingly than even ol’ Hank-boy can achieve. But he’s not, I can see, instead, he’s off a few yards down the street, talking with two more figures.

I then recognize who they are.

The couple, the teenage couple from the other night.
More panic enters my blood stream, as I watch the three of them talk, the male points a finger toward the alley between my house and Hank’s, saying something.

They all three look, and Hank gives a concerned glance toward my own house again—and I, once again, close the flap.

Once again cursing myself for being so obvious.

It is then I resign to clear my mind of these paranoid thoughts.  There is nothing to be concerned about, I’ve done nothing wrong, I’m no monster. Besides, how can they prove anything?

They’ve got no evidence, and can’t pin a damn thing on me.

I sink back into chair, and try to relax.  I hum a few bars of an impromptu classical-sounding song.

Silence.

I hear cars pass outside.

“Yes, of course,” I consider, “I will argue that the speed limit on this road is too high, people don’t slow down, and it being a curved road- it is obviously a dangerous spot for cats to be allowed to freely roam.  Besides, there were far too many cats in this neighborhood anyway—at night, sometimes, I will lay awake and hear them hissing and fighting outside—“ —  suddenly a pain.

In my abdomen a punching, form inside, outward. So violent, my abdomen protrudes suddenly, a button from my shirt zips across the room. Then another punch, and another button. I look down to see the mound pushing outward, from above my belly.

Another cold sweat, and another flash in my mind.

———————-

Presently, it is night time, and I sit watching a group of cats, maybe three or four, fight over some scraps behind the local deli, just down the street from my house. I loom closer, not so close however to give myself away and startle the critters. Silently, I slither closer—and then—

——————

My eyes burst open! I am cold, numb, and naked on the floor of my living room. A cold wind rushes in through opening where windows should be, jagged shattered shards still in the frame. I lay in sweat and the rest of the broken window on a cold hard wood floor.

“Oh no!” I think, “not again!”

I’m not only sweaty, but covered in a dried film of slime, the tentacles, like writhing worms still hold out like a claw inches from my abdomen.

Then I hear a loud booming voice from outside, on the sidewalk, in the front of my home.

I reach the edge of the window sill and peer over to spy a group of townsfolk, having gathered in front of my house. The cloudless night sky gives stark outlines of this group, all whom I recognize as neighbors. All now stand stern, of about ten of them, with hard, determined expressions on their faces.

At the helm, I see the back of who must be Hank, arms raised, as if to silence the crowd. And then to issue a speech.

“On the count of ten, myself, and Rich, will enter the house and cajole the monster out, we’ll try to lasso him and drag him to the front lawn here, where Marty, you Pank and Fillmore will throw your lassos around him.  Peggy, you and Matilda will then shoot your tranquilizers.  If we can’t get him out right away, we’ll have fire on him, but we’ll try not to kill him—we want ‘im alive! But if it comes down to it, and he proves too much for us, we will have no choice but to kill him as a last resort! Okay!?  let’s do it!– 1!”
Hank turns around to face my house, I drop to my ass to the hardwood floor with my back braced against the wall.

I hear him continue his counting.

From outside the house, looking on, the group of townsfolk stand tense, listening to Hank’s count to 10. When Hank reaches 8, however, a large mass of inexplicable gore and guts shoot from the opening in the house as if like an explosion from a cannon,  and this grabbing, mass of tenticles springs out, grabbing at the gathered crowd.  Shots ring out throughout the night air of the small community of Brushems Cove.

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Cliff Wretched’s Escape : Part 1

CLIFFWESCAPE

Dark inky swirls, cold dense water innumerable fathoms deep. I am submerged, faintly light from the surface penetrates down to me as i am pulled almost by some thing, a living rope, a thinking and probing tentacle. Down further, further down until the last blip of air is crushed out from my lungs. My ankle is wrapped at first, a pulling, then swiftly a wrapping around my stomach, waist and thighs. My neck is the next to be hooked and then all at once jerked down.
Open my eyes for just a sec to see a flash and bolt of lighting now shattering and spreading out into a complicated network of electrified veins.

Before my escape into the ocean, however, i was held captive with the rest of them. The life drained, no souled wretched walled-in aboard the floating city. The floating city, is made almost entirely of thick rough metal bolted together in long large sheets and beams, how it even floats is beyond my comprehension. How big it really is I do not know I’ve tried to walk its total expanse but as far as i had ever got was the citadel, and that was starting at wake time till curfew; when i was found out and placed in holding for two weeks. Neither do I know how many wretcheds in number there is inhabiting this place, and that’s not counting the enforcers or the so called “advocates.” I do know however the general layout of the entire enormous structure. The top view design being that of a dart board, concentric circles with the smallest in the middle being the citadel. A city within a city, the citadel is where The Ones live, our, basically, owners, but who would like us to refer to as our “benefactors.” Those who reap the benefits of our labor and lifetime confinement to the processing plant of their holding. We are nothing more than batteries to their machine. Test animals. Robots. Owned junk people. And so on. They leave the city as well, are able to fly away on their flying boats to the real dirt island we wretcheds are not supposed to know about.
I found out about it one day while a companion I had been scheduled with, for a job, told me of his discovery.

It was last week, day B.

We both hold the elderly woman down to either side of the bed in order to trigger the clasp sensors. I made sure to hold the hand i had over the red dot just as I had been trained. The clasp contracted snug around her wrist and she moaned distantly in a suppressed pain. She had a heavy dose of tranquilizer in her i had injected into her when Hans, my companion for this job, had visited here cube earlier in the day. We invited ourselves in and found her placidly sitting blankly in front of the vid screen, a woman of about 60, thin in her grey jumpsuit. She must’ve finished being briefed just as we rounded the corner to her vid room. We wear orange jumpsuits for these jobs, and be sure she knew what was coming next from years of experience she tilted her head and brushed her aside in order to expose her neck.
I pushed the tranqgun firmly to her and pressed the release. As expected the shink sound of the retracting pressurized needle punctured her and injected the special tranq formula. It caused her body to immediately go limp as we both sprang to catch and guide her to a resting position on the couch. I made especially sure to wipe the nozzle of the gun with a cloth i then threw away in the vacuum receptacle all cubes have, as the solution is very strong and can be absorbed though the skin effecting the nervous system. The way it works is to paralyze her body, but numb her senses, or effect her mind in any way, so she remains fully cognizant.
I snap the tranqgun into the utility belt around my waist and rejoin my weekly companion with the day’s subject.
“How about you get the legs and I’ll get the arms,” he says.
“Sounds fine,” I reply as I maneuver into place.
“And lift,” he says as it is clear we both have a firm grasp, and we lift.
Trotting the body through the cube, through the kitchen over its linoleum floor, the automatic door sucks up into the ceiling and out it we go. Down to the curb where our carrier vehicle awaits, the back door already opened. The vehicle looks like a lower-to-the-ground version of what would be called a “street cleaner” in the old world, what you would read under “history of the world: before the beaconing” section on the vid screen’s info network.
We harness this woman, subject 405B-8, onto the bed in back. Next the door os shut, triggering the kaleidoscope light show that is projected onto the ceiling for the subject, in order to condition the mind.
We slip into the front, he will dive.
“So Biff,” he begins, turning the key switch on the dash, which kicks alive the diesel engine.
“Uh, it’s Cliff, actually.” I reply, as we pull out- the vehicle, it has one swivel wheel in the front, two in back.
“Oh right, ‘Biff’ was my companion last week.”
“And you’re Hans if I’m not mistaken.”
“Yessir.”
“Last week I was with Franz.”
“Funny how they split us up by name that way, always coupling us with the same group of rhyming names.”
“Yeah, personality types all categorized by similar names– ‘still haven’t figured out how they test our personalities and decide which other group is most conducive to our own.”
Hans drives down residential corridor 408 en route to the processing plant in the next circle, beyond the dividing wall.
We talk about personality type groups ending in ‘iffs and ‘ans and how its odd that we’re never permitted to meet members or own group, or know that we have. Its a conversation we’ve both had countless times before.
As we descend into a transitional tunnel into the next circle we begin conversing about the sports ball game that was on the night before. As is expected he rooted for team X as all personality types ending in ‘ans do, just as my group roots for team Y. The highlight, of course, was when an automaton from the X team had been sacked by a Y team automaton, who stole away the ball and started for the goal. That is, when, just as he started away, the fallen X member hatched a rotary saw out of an aperture in its right palm an cut he Y members foot of at the ankle; thereby recovering the ball. We both howled with laughter as we rolled into the plants under parking garage.
A booth jockey, no doubt a ‘att personality type checked our forearm chips by scanning them with a wand before waiving us ahead. Parking the carrier- already a lift was waiting, with a gurney.
The light show flickered rapidly as the back door lifted. There was fog in the air as well the lasers and lights projected onto for a desired disorienting affect for the subject.
We are not to talk to her, as per our training, and are to halt all conversation around her as well.
Rumor of a companion team talking about sports ball around one male subject reportedly took the bloke out of his trans before processing, and thus the probe couldn’t probe that deep, recovering little.
The handling process is to be done with care, prepping for processing to ensure best results. Full recovery of the planted experiences the Programmers went to such great lengths to implant. One day I too will become a subject, as will all Wretcheds.
Secured to the gurney, we wheel her onto the lift and Hans punches the only button on a panel to the right of the door. The door is sucked down and slowly at first, and then exponentially the entire lift is carried up rapidly. I feel only a slight pressure weighing down my entire frame until a its a whirring, winding down sound followed by a ding, and the door is sucked back up.
Off down the hall, Hans pushing the gurney behind me as i take out the chip. A recording device affixed to the collar of my jumpsuit, combined with a ceiling camera in the back of the carrier records the whole trip. Starting with my and my companions meeting, on through the pick up, drive to the plant and finally onto the processing gate; the subject’s final destination. The gate is where we are now, as i dig the small chip that has downloaded the entire journey into one vid chunk from the infra info network.
Wheeled down the hallway past rooms along the way, until we get to 4B.  I press the open button and the doors swing inward as Hans pushes the gurney into the room.
Inside there is a bed in the center, surrounded by all manner of gadgetry, including the probing machine mounted to the ceiling above.  The telescopic probing node at the end of a the long device is a shiny orb.
Our instructions are explicit, and we execute them deftly, as we have many times before.
The body is placed on the bed, the back rest of the bed is to be raised upward on a 33 degree angle. She is strapped down, not intending to restrain her incase she attempt to flight, but incase there are vibrations within the buildings structure that vibrates her body to the edge and possible spill.

Then the routine process of data entry and initiating the Process begins.  We both enter equal halves to the entire amount of information about the subject we had been given during our short briefing. All we enter is already known, it is a mere formality at this point, and to give more busy work to us processors.
At this point the machines whirr, jostle and elaborately yet delicately glide into action. Taking vitals of the subject, blood pressure, stress levels, pulse etc.
Then it begins, a fog machine spirts out smoke into the room, and lasers flicker on to shine their straight green, red and blue lines onto the fog.  The probing machine extends *SHUNK* and then again another length *SHUNK* again, and again, until the probing orb is pressed to the processes forehead.
And then, at this point, Hans and I are out the side door.
Walk down the deserted cement service hall a way, then to a side door, onto a fire escape.
Hans removes a pack of smokes from his inside breast pocket and offers me one.
I take one.
I squint into the sun, now lower than earlier, blaring directly into my eyes- my forehead is heated to perspiration.
“Catch the pron last night?”  Hans asks. This is the part in the day when myself and my companion, a ‘ans asks about the pron from the night before. There is scheduled pron, or, more accurately: pornography, for us in our cubes we play on our vid screens.  To make it feel illicit, and to arise a feeling of forbiddance to the whole experience, its considered illegal to view.   Even before the vids begin we are treated to static on the screen as if it were coming in through antennae via radio signal.  However, it’s a prerecorded special effect, as it is the same one every time, and then doesn’t happen again for the duration of the vid.
We all know its condoned, and even encouraged to view the pron, and we all do.  Sex on Rust City, as one finds out soon when arriving here, is not allowed. There are women in the City, but, are kept separate from the men, unless we are talking about the elderly- who cohabitate in the same blocks.  Of course, this is because by this old age the sex act not only is no longer desirable (a certainty reassured through drug conditioning) but pregnancy is less possible.  Unscheduled pregnancy, by the managers never ever happens. This does not erase, however, ones’ biological drive to copulate with the fairer sex. And, any man knows, after so long without a female touch ones’ taste seek ever increasingly visual stimulation to curb the cravings.
The programmers for the pron are sophisticated psychologists who are aware of this. And so the Pron is always novel, and goes farther, harder, and more extreme than even most of the Wretched men can imagine.
There are certain personality subsets who tend toward their own sex group, and, this is allowed—such is the same with women on the other side of the City. In fact, I hear that most of the females go for each other, but, again, this might be a sex-starved over-worked imagination at work.

“Sure did catch the pron last night, I didn’t know they manufactured furniture like that.”
Hans, paused, and looked around, beads of sweat sitting on his brow.  This isn’t usual, I thought for a second, and realized he was nervous.  He was looking for something, inspecting the fire escape stairs, and the metal building-which was flat pressed with only bolts showing here and there.
Straight down to the street was 80 feet of sheer drop, and only the zig zag of the stairs leading down.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.  Han’s looks at me.
“I don’t want to be recorded saying this, you know how they randomly place mics—“
“Yeah, we’re supposed to just ignore them.” My pulse quickens.

“I want to tell you something.”
“What?” I implore.
“Last week, I was scheduled with an ‘iff down in the sewage ducts, to sand build-up off the older parts of the shit system.”
“Yeah,” I said.  This sort of scheduled work is pretty normal, not pleasant, and occurs regularly maybe three times a month.
“Yeah, well. There was an emergency area I heard about, and it was close by to the section where I was.  72XR, the section was 73XR, so while my ‘iff companion was sanding away; I decide to go take a piss in this area.  I found a hole.”
“A what?”
“A hole, a breech in the hull of the city’s shit system.”
“Oh, huh.  Interesting. What did you see outside? An expanse of never-ending ocean? Ha!”

Han’s looked earnestly at me, glowering under a glistening brow. His arm wresting on his bent knew, his hand holding a cigarette mostly dangling ash at this point.
“What did you see?”
“We’re about a mile away from an island.”
I look, straight at a large omnipresent wall, towering over us, as if I didn’t expect it to be there. The sun now, shows only half, peaking up over the side of it.
“A mile away?”
“A mile away.”

He drops his cigarette to the floor- I look at mine, it has burned completely through as well. I drop mine as well, flickers off of a mesh floor, and then down down down.
“I can swim a mile,” I let mindlessly drop out of my mouth.
“We should get back, the processing is probably just about done,” Hans grabs railing on either side and pulls himself up.

End of Part 1

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