Terence adjusted the dial and listened breathlessly…
As the leader of the NASA team that designed the special instruments that could record electromagnetic vibrations in Space, he was given the honor of being the first person to activate the scanner. The team then transferred the vibrations into sounds their ears could hear.
There was no doubt it was a major scientific breakthrough and the highlight of Terence’s career. It took his knowledge and skill to take the recorded sounds, a complex interaction of charged electromagnetic particles from the Solar Wind, ionosphere, and planetary magnetosphere, and make sense of them.
He listening long into the night and went home dreaming about making contact with an alien civilization. The team all took turns monitoring the devices in 24-hour shifts which meant he didn’t get to go back for four more days.
When Terrence’s turn came up again he eagerly relieved his fellow team member who was noticeably yawning. “Maybe tonight,” he thought while putting the headphones on and pushing a row of blinking buttons on the display dashboard
As he waited to hear strange repetitive sounds he was stunned to hear a high-pitched voice speaking English!
“Surrender and we will spare you…surrender and we will…”
Terence’s mouth hung open in shock. What the hell was going on?
“…we will spare you…surrender and…”
There it went again! It wasn’t his imagination taking a sanity pause. The message was a dire warning coming from deep within space!
His first thought was, “Who’ll believe me when I relay this message?“
After a couple of hours the message went silent. Terence was afraid if he told one of his colleagues they think he was nuts. Then he calmed down and realized the whole thing was recorded He felt sheepish and vindicated. It only took minutes before he rewound the machine and played it back.
He listened. And listened…and there was no message. He played it back and began panicking. No! He knew what he heard. There must be a malfunction with the recording devices he told himself as his sanity slowly slipped into a dark place.
When his relief, Dr. Olsen, arrived the next day he found Terence huddled up in a corner of the lab speaking gibberish. “Their coming! The aliens are coming!” he babbled.
“They want us to surrender…” he went on.
Dr. Olsen went to the display panel before even trying to talk with Terence. He activated the program from the last 24-hours, turning the speakers up to loud, and then went over to Terence.
The project team covered up Terence’s insanity. No one heard threatening messages from space and concluded he just cracked up.
Somewhere in space: “I want to know who the idiot was that ran that surrender message before we were ready to invade?”
“Don’t be startled. I know it’s not everyday that a voice comes from a wooden box. I get that. Just think what a novelty this fine piece of craftsmanship will be at your parties. Especially if people hear my voice.
“The auctioneer has no idea that I talk. I didn’t like him from the moment my last master decided to sell me. He thinks I’m just an heirloom from the 17th century. The fool has no idea what he’s missing out on. You, on the other hand, appear to be an intelligent person open to the mysteries in life. The fact that you’re still standing here looking at me suggests an active interest. Well, my friend this is your lucky day. Successfully bid on me and I’ll share arcane knowledge that will give you mastery over men and beasts. Good luck.“
Bernard Crackerton II looked around the lobby to see if anyone else heard the voice. The small group of people seemed more interested in the paintings and sculptures on the other side of the room. They talked in hushed tones, pointing at the artwork and bantering about prices. None of them noticed Bernard. He looked around self-consciously. A talking wooden box wasn’t normal. The last thing he wanted to do was draw attention to himself so he went to the main room and got his auction paddle with a number on it. Finding a seat in the rear of the rows of chairs, he sat down and opened the auction guide booklet. On the last page he found the wooden box. It was listed as a 17th century German Fugured Walnut Marquetry Document box…$4,300.00. There wasn’t any additional information on it. The price didn’t concern him. He was a successful day trader with a net worth of 14 million dollars. Going to auctions and searching for rare and interesting objects was his one big passion. At 31-years old, he was considered a real catch in Boston society. He dutifully attended events where he rubbed shoulders with the wealthy and powerful, always searching for information that would help him make money on the stock market.
He realized he was day-dreaming about the talking box when he was startled by a sudden applause after the sale of a Warhol print. The auction was winding down as he patiently waited for the box to be brought up for sale.
“Last, but not least, we have this beautiful 17th century German Fugured Walnut Marquetry Document box. Here we go… $4,300 dollars! Do I hear $4,300 dollars?
Bernard looked around the room. People were leaving and no one made a bid. He stood up and called out “$4,300!” while holding up his paddle.
“Sold! To the gentleman in the rear…number 181.”
After paying for his prize Bernard took it home to his penthouse on downtown Boston. He was pouring himself a 1988 Chateau LaFite Rothschild when the voice said, “Thank you.“
He was startled at first then looked at the wooden box and said, “Oh, it’s you.”
Holding up his glass he said “Cheers!” After taking a sip he set the glass down and opened the box. Lifting the lid back, he exposed the simple interior. He examined it closely, running his fingers around it, looking for some hidden clue to the voice. Nothing. He reluctantly closed it. He couldn’t find a hidden drawer.
“I hope you’re not disappointed that there’s nothing inside,” the Box said.
“It does poise a mystery. I expected to find a hidden trinket that would lead me to the source of your voice.“
“You don’t seem to think that a voice coming from a wooden box is odd.”
“Of course, I do. That’s why I bought you. I’m open to the mysteries that surround us all every day. One of the many reasons I go to auctions is I’m seeking rare and unusual items. One never knows what they’ll find. You’re a perfect example.”
“I have a confession to make. I don’t have arcane knowledge to pass on to you. I just wanted out of the storeroom where they kept me. It was really boring. I was getting desperate when you came along. It was really my lucky day.”
“How nice…for you. I don’t mind as long as you talk with my guests when I ask you too.“
“No can do.”
“What! Why not?”
“Because, I’m inside your head.“
“That’s not possible! I’m not crazy. I heard you clearly the first time, and I hear you right now,” Bernard lashed out defensively.
“Why do you think no one else heard me in that room when you were looking me over?
“Damn you! Stop messing with my head!”
He stumbled across his display room holding his hands over his ears. In an attempt to get away from the voice he picked up one of his treasures and held it up in his hand. A 1941 Vacheron Constantin 18k Gold Tear Drop watch. A masterpiece of engineering.
Then it said, “You’re going to have to get use to it Bernard!“
“No!” he screamed and threw the watch down so hard it shattered the glass over the numbers.
Shaken to the core he reached out for a Byzantine Silver Oil Lamp with a Lion handle. For seconds he held it…waiting for the voice to return. When the Lamp suddenly roared, he dropped it in terror and backed up into a display case.
A pair of Victorian Brass Gothic Revival Altar Candlesticks began to laugh at him! His prized 1863 Burmese Repoussee Silver Bowl joined in on the laughter. When the Thai Sandstone Buddha head began to talk he screamed again!
He kept screaming until his throat was swollen and raw, and the night turned to day. He was crawling around like a frightened animal as rays of sunlight streamed through the open shutters. He looked fearfully at his “treasures” and whimpered, “I’m not crazy...it’s my active imagination.”
Getting up his courage, he stood and took a few hesitant steps towards the hallway.
“Where are you going Bernard?” his trophies called out.
“That’s enough!” he shouted. He ran over to a row of shelves and grabbed an ancient Roman Green Stone knife and waved it around wildly.
“It all started with you,” he accused the silent wooden box.
“I’ll show you whose crazy!” he screamed, while slicing his own throat.
As It Stands, we never know when (or even if) we could go crazy.
Some people are born killers. It’s true. I’ve known a few.
The man I’m going to introduce you to, is one. His name is Troy. Just Troy, like in destroy. All I can tell you about his personal history was he was an orphan, and went into the US Army while living in New Jersey, at 18-years-old.
Troy was assigned to the 173rd Rangers, in an elite unit of assassins. Not snipers, although he was an expert shot. It was a special ops unit funded by Pentagon dark money. They called themselves The Wolf Pack, and were only called on in special operations like killing foreign heads of state. The unit’s leader was an ex-CIA spy, Derrick Nunes. They were always on notice; 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. Troy became the star student and was soon teaching his own classes. He was a natural killer.
Troy was the alpha male of The Wolf Pack and was always on the edge of sanity and humanity. He followed orders…up to a point for five years when his superiors began to worry that he was becoming a liability. Being anti social was one thing, but scaring the men he worked with was another. He seldom spoke. When he did, his voice was gravelly and harsh without emotion.
His sheer size was intimidating. At six-feet, nine inches, he weighed 275 pounds. It was all muscle. They saw his strength when he crushed skulls with his bare hands! He snapped men’s bones like an ogre out of The Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales. His feats of strength in the weight room were unequaled. Couple that power with a quick and crafty brain and you had the most dangerous man in America’s military.
As Troy became increasingly unpredictable his superiors went over their options and decided it was best to kill him. His disappearance would go unnoticed. He’d long ago severed his ties with family and friends when he joined the program. They were still working on the details when Troy disappeared on his own. It happened twice before, but he eventually showed up and reported for duty. In both cases, within a week. He’d been gone twice that time in this last disappearance. They finally issued an alert to all of their operatives. Troy had gone rogue. Exterminate with extreme prejudice.
The reason why Troy was gone so long was he was kidnapped by aliens from the planet Orth in the fourth Solar System from Earth, in the Gelean Galaxy.
It was done efficiently and without harming him. A super stun-gun and drugs, took care of the giant human they were bringing back with them. The tallest citizen on Orth was three-feet tall. Most were about two-and-half feet tall. Troy’s captors mission was to bring him back to their scientists, and military leaders, so they could study him and look for human vulnerabilities. The eventual goal was to invade earth. After hundreds of years of monitoring Earth from afar, they wanted to see an actual human. As fate would have it, they found Troy alone on a beach and assumed he was representative of the species. The main reason Orthians selected Earth to conquer was that it’s environment was nearly identical to theirs.
When they returned home the giant’s body was transported by solar-driven moving platforms to a massive military complex where it was deposited on table that had built-in restrains made from the strongest metal on Orth. He was hooked up to numerous monitors, and an IV regulating the amount of drugs that kept him unconscious, but alive.
Not everyone in Orth wanted to invade Earth. As a matter of fact, most were against the idea. But the dictator they lived under was too powerful to overthrow. Loth’s well-equipped army smashed every attempt at overthrowing his mad regime. There was a thriving underground resistance that kept track of what Loth and his minions were doing.
Saen, the son of Kalt, who was once the King before Loth, was one of many trained spies that infiltered the military complex and kept an eye on their activities. He was there the day they brought the giant human in to the medical research building. All programs within were suspended in order to concentrate all their resources on the human. As the days went by Saen became aware no one knew just how strong the human was. It was one of the reasons they hadn’t allowed him to regain consciousness. With his cover as a scientist, Saen was able to go into the guarded room where they kept Troy to make observations for the data base that was being compiled daily.
One fateful day, the ranking members of the resistance called an emergency meeting. It was apparent Loft’s fleet was getting ready to invade Earth. One of the spies reported the giant was going to be dissected and disposed of that night. Saen was tasked with freeing him in the hope he’d cause enough chaos to stop an immediate invasion. It was the best idea they could come up with. Right after the meeting Sean headed to the Research Building. After showing his pass to the guards he went into the room where Troy slept under a blue light. Without hesitating, he switched the IV container that contained sleeping drugs to another one nearby that was used to wake patients up. He watched the blue liquid run through the clear feeder to make sure it was working. An eye suddenly opened! Then the other. As he watched with fascination an angry frown stretched across the unshaven face and he grunted. His bare chest heaved mightily and the corded muscles in his arms bulged as he strained against the toughest metal on Orth. It was time to go! The restraints were giving and he didn’t want to be there when they gave way. The guards couldn’t help notice Saen looked nervous when he came out. One stood up and opened the door just as Troy freed himself. Before he could draw his stun gun Troy was on him! He picked up the little alien and snapped him in half with his bare hands! The other guard had time to scream before Troy picked him up with one hand and threw him against the wall, smashing him like a bug.
The Troy that woke up on the planet Orth was a different man than the one on Earth. He was completely crazy. There was no humanity left in him. He was just a killing machine in search of victims. Within a week Loth, and his minions, were no longer a cohesive force and were scattered around the mountains surrounding the military complex. As for Troy, he roamed the planet like an angry god for decades searching for victims.
As It Stands, the universal gods of war laughed, and the carnage continued.
It was a hot humid night in Decatur, Georgia, when Sage Turnbull bashed his neighbor’s head in with a baseball bat.
The first officer at the scene was stunned to see a seven-year old boy with a bloody baseball bat standing near the prone victim in his bedroom.
His parents were out partying, he told the social services worker who interviewed him. They partied a lot he explained. When Geoffrey, his 34-year old neighbor, opened the front door at midnight he was wide awake and heard someone enter. Not hearing his parents, but someone else moving around in the living room, scared him and he picked up his baseball bat to defend himself.
“Then what happened?” she asked him.
“He opened the door and came in. I was standing on my desk and brought my bat down as hard as I could! I hit him a lot to make sure he wouldn’t get up. Then I called 911 and waited for you.”
“Did you recognize that he was your neighbor?” she asked.
“It was too dark.”
What struck the social worker about Sage was his calm demeanor. Most seven-year-old’s would be pretty freaked out by what happened. She looked at his frail frame and the blood spattered all over his pajamas and face. It was unnerving. He asked if he could have a drink of water? As she went with him to the kitchen she wondered what was going through his head. His dark brown eyes were serene and unreadable.
Later, when she talked with Sage’s parents, she shared her concern that he was bottling the incident up and should get some professional help. They agreed and sent him to a child psychiatrist for over a year.
To everyone’s surprise he acted like a normal kid and had a social life at school. His teachers all said he was a good student, but needed to focus on the topic at hand. He was caught day-dreaming numerous times. He participated in sports and student government. He wasn’t the most popular kid in his class, but he wasn’t an outcast either. He did his best to fit in, but not stand out.
What he didn’t tell his counselor, or parents, was he enjoyed beating Geoffrey to death!
It was the most exciting moment of his life. The feeling of power, as he repeatedly hit the dying man, was incredible. It changed his life. He realized that he couldn’t tell anyone about his feelings or they’d think he was sick in the head. He amazed himself with how easily he masked his real feelings. It was gift he decided, by the time he hit his teens.
His favorite sport was – no surprise – baseball. He was considered the slugger on his Little League team, the Dodgers. He was also a fan of comic books, especially DC’s Batman series. Unlike most of the super hero’s fans, Sage was not interested in chasing bad guys and seeing the good guy prevail. He just liked the many gadgets, and vehicles, Batman used. He loved his costume.
The urge to swing a bat and make contact with human flesh, came and went over the next couple of years. He eventually began trolling for victims at night, wearing a crude black mask and black clothes. One night he wandered into a new neighborhood, west of where he lived. He had no idea that it was gang turf.
A group of Mexican homeboys were sitting on a porch in front of one of the houses. Strains of No Me Chingues La Vida by Espinoza Paz, carried clearly in the night air. They were drinking and laughing. He considered turning around and going back up the block when he heard a wild whoop and turned around in time to see two of the gang members coming at him with broken beer bottles!
They must not have seen the black baseball bat he casually held by his side, because they ran right up to him cursing. He brought the bat up in one swift movement and smashed the closest man’s face in! The other drunken assailant barely had time to raise his bottle before Sage’s bat bounced off the top of his head! Two women screamed from the porch as Sage teed-off on the prone gang members. Lights starting coming on in the neighborhood. Shaking off his blood rage, Sage turned and ran into the night.
Rewards for “El Hombre Murcielago” who killed two of their members, were posted all over the barrio. No one knew who the new player was, but everyone in the hood felt it was a stranger. A loco one, at that.
Sage peeled his mask off as he ran home that night. The exhilaration from his encounter had his heart beating so fast he thought it was going to burst out of his chest. The sheer ecstasy he felt from pounding on human flash and bones far exceeded any other thing in his life. He didn’t know if he killed the men or not. It really didn’t matter. He had no moral code that he lived by. Despite loving parents he turned to the dark side a long time ago. Even before he killed Geoffrey.
After his success pounding two men with his bat he knew he’d have to go out again. Just in another neighborhood. The voice in his head, the one he shared secrets with, encouraged him to be careful while cheering him on. He had to be careful who he picked for a victim. So he decided that he would prey on gang members and other street thugs though out the city. Their deaths attracted a lot less attention than picking perfectly innocent victims. They were societies throw cast-offs. Just like him, but no one knew it.
He loved the irony of being compared to the Batman in the comics. El Hombre Murcielago who was no better than those he hunted, unlike the justice-seeking superhero. Irony was his spice in life. No one would ever think to go after a mild-mannered cub reporter thinking he was the notorious Bat Man of the barrios.
As It Stands, there is no right or wrong, only primeval feelings when we get right down to it.
I’m not sure why that is. You’ll notice I said “voice,” as in singular, not plural. It’s a woman’s voice. I don’t know if she’s a demon or a guardian angel. Just so we’re clear here; I’m not some wacko hearing voices. Okay?
I started hearing the voice a year ago after my wife died. Don’t jump the gun and assume I murdered her, and it’s her voice that I hear. It’s not. I have nothing to feel guilty about. She died from natural causes. Okay?
Sometimes the voice sounds like famous women actors. I was almost convinced that it was Lucile Ball that I chatted with last night. But after hearing Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Goldie Hawn, and Oprah Winfrey in the same week you get jaded. Most of the time it’s just a female voice that I can’t attach a face too. Okay?
The voice has given me good…and bad advise. It’s about 50-50, I’d say. I have to admit it makes for some interesting scenarios. Seeing as you’re here right now I suppose I could share a couple of examples with you. Okay?
Look, I’m no ladies man. It’s hard for me to talk with strange women, or men to be fair. But the voice told me that I was going to score big time the next night if I went out to some gentlemen’s clubs. So, I went to a strip joint, doing research on the naked female body don’t you know, when one of the dancers finished her number and came over to my table. We talked and went to her place. Okay?
After a wild time, we both fell asleep on her waterbed. I woke up at one point, it was still dark, and the voice insisted I kill her. I’ll tell you flat out. That voice sure can be convincing. I went into her kitchen, found a plastic trash bag, and used it to smother her to death. No big deal. The voice gets a little crazy at times, but there were reasons. Okay?
I get lonely sometimes and miss the touch of a woman. Since my wife died, I’ve dated six women who all ended up like the stripper. It’s kinda discouraging not having a real relationship, but as the voice has pointed out so often…it’s no big deal. Okay?
So there’s your 50-50 example. I’m not a complex guy. You should know that. I accept the good with the bad. Usually, the voice just likes to talk about interesting things. I don’t have to say anything. The voice knows I can hear it. It’s good enough for a relationship based upon mutual boredom and something else I can’t quite put my finger on. Okay?
Lately, the voice has been on a violent streak. It’s hard to say why. There’s a lot of frustrations in this old world. I can relate to the pent-up fury that sometimes needs an outlet. It just makes sense to scratch that itch when it bothers you. It’s understandable. Okay?
During the day I find my own voice and try to engage with people as much as possible. I have the most encounters in coffee shops and waiting in lines. I enjoy talking with strangers. As a mailman, I have a set route every morning greeting the regulars who come out to get their mail. I lead a quiet life. Okay?
I like seeing the regulars at the coffee shop. It’s a little mom and pop café. Not one of those big impersonal chains like Starbucks. People of all ages gather there before getting on with their busy day. I know a couple by name. They call me Jack. Not by my real name. Going by Jack is more comfortable for a few reasons. Okay?
I really never know what to expect from the voice. You might say that’s fine, but sometimes we argue. I’m not saying it happens regularly. Slow down. I’m not some loon ready to go off the deep end here. Every now and then, the voice and I disagree. Haven’t you ever disagreed with someone? Get off of your high horse! Okay?
I’m not sure why I’m writing all of this down. The motivation came out of nowhere. I haven’t sat down and wrote anything since I filled out my job application for the Post Office ten years ago. This sudden desire to write is just a little bit odd. Okay?
I think I know what’s going on now.
Last night the voice came up with a whopper. It told me to get my AR-15 and go to my favorite coffee shop today and slaughter everyone there. So I did. The authorities quickly traced me back to my house and now it looks like an army outside. When that black armored truck that said S.W.A.T., pulled up on my front lawn I knew my time on earth was coming to an end. Okay?
I have nothing to apologize for. That’s why I wrote this. It’s crystal clear now. I won’t be hearing the voice any longer. That’s about it. It’s time to go outside and try to take as many of those cops down with me as possible! Okay?
Construction workers were excavating a huge clearing next to a new neighborhood when they found a body. The badly decomposed corpse had its hands and feet bound with fragments of rope.
One of the workers called the supervisor over and asked him what to do. They both studied the corpse that was curled into a fetal position for a couple of minutes. The supervisor set up a perimeter with warning signs and secured the area before contacting his superiors.
Drake County, Ohio – 1854
The final touches were done and the Drake County Poor House was ready for occupancy. The insane asylum, completed a month ago, was located 300 years away, but in sight of the Poor House.
Local residents were pleased with both facilities, which they felt were needed for years. Officials were appointed, and staff members were recruited from the community. The mayor of Hicksville (the closest city) gave a speech to a crowd of two hundred people who picnicked afterwards on the Poor House grounds.
A year later, both facilities were at maximum capacity. When inmates of either facility died they were buried in unmarked graves, unless they had relatives willing to bury them properly at the county cemetery.
Three years passed before there was trouble at the insane asylum. A culture of cruelty had grown among the staff who took every opportunity to make the inmates lives miserable. There were never visitors. Family, or government.
The inmates very lives depended on cooperating and not causing trouble. The craziest were actually protected by the others. John Steele, who always seemed to have one foot in an alternate universe, was protected by other inmates.
The fact of the matter was, there were sane people locked up by their own relatives and corrupt courts.
One day Steele, who the guards called Daffy, got ahold of the cell keys from a dozing guard during lunch, and released the other inmates who attacked the rest of the staff!
The county marshal, with a posse, stormed the insane asylum and restored order by nightfall. After investigating what happened, the marshal had John bound hand-and- foot, and put in solitary confinement with no food or water.
Because his cell was in the same corridor as the community cells, everyone could hear his pitiful cries of hunger alternating with screams of rage!
Four days later, the guards opened his cell. Without water for the entire time, he died that morning. They carried his body out on a dirty sheet to the exercise yard. A guard was waiting with a shovel in his hand. They planted John, and promptly forgot about him.
Drake County, Ohio – 2012
Two county commissioners and their assistants were going through a pile of old maps laid out on a conference table. One of the assistants proudly held up a map and an old newspaper article.
The group converged on the map, and compared it to the present one.
“This isn’t good,” one of the commissioners opined.
“Building over grave sites is always a problem, but we’re committed to this project. The voters decided we needed a new elementary school. This is the ideal location,” the second commissioner said.
“You know we’re going to have to keep this quiet, don’t you?”
“Yes. I’ll meet with the construction supervisor and his superiors, to come up with a plan if any more bodies are discovered.”
“What about the one we already found?”
“What body?” the second commissioner slyly asked.
It was left up to the construction foreman to quietly dispose of the skeletal remains as he saw fit. The foreman, Larry Freeman, wasn’t thrilled with the task. He knew it was probably illegal, but he needed the work.
It took years to finalize the project, but the finished result was what the community asked for. The first classes – K-6th Grade – opened up on September 2nd, 2014.
During recess for the 1st graders, one little girl ran up to the teacher just before the bell rang and handed her a green marble.
“What’s this Debby?” the teacher asked?
“Daffy gave it to me!” she squealed with delight.
As It Stands, Bad karma has a way of coming around.