Book One of the Polis Chronicles

Post Mortem Party

What Use to be San Francisco – Pier 29 – 2101

Chapter One

Polis sat on a bench and watched the frothy tide recede leaving tons of plastics and other pollutants in it’s crimson wake. A three-legged man awkwardly scuttled along on mountains of trash that were once sandy beaches as far as the eye could see. His bald head and upper body were red from exposure to the harsh sun, and his three legs gave the illusion he was a crab searching for food.

Polis had been hired to put on a Post Mortem Party by leaders of the ruling tribe – the Skull clan – based in The City. They had looked for him for years. Hoping to employ the legend. When a clan member found him, purely by chance, in the crumbling ruins of an ancient native American city carved into sandstone hills, he wasted no time in asking him if he would honor the Skull Clan with his presence and a Post Mortem Party.

Polis was famous in an apocalyptic world where only the strongest survived. For decades humans ate their alien attackers because there was no other meat source. A constant state of alien incursions contributed to the food supply. The great irony being if the aliens quit attacking mankind would starve someday.

When that day came, the last vestiges of civilization crumbled and were replaced with a newly formed cannibalistic societies worldwide.

The last taboo was broken as people split off into tribes and occupied the skeletons of cities long destroyed. There was no world governments. No United States of America. No Europe. No Russia. No China. No India. No Pakistan. No South America governments or a Canadian government.

Technology had suffered to the point there was no longer an internet, radios, televisions and washing machines. No dish washers. No electricity. No automatic coffee makers or alarm clocks. No power saws, or motorcycles. No cars. No buses. No trucks. No planes or trains. No running water. No 7-11 liquor stores (which were among the last businesses to disappear in early 2076).

Polis didn’t have laws to live under. He roamed the world catering Post Mortem parties because it amused him. There was precious little entertainment in his daily survival routine.

He was a tall, heavily muscled killing machine who’d spent his entire life hunting everything from the last Grizzly bears (2092) in North America, aliens (three different species), and human beings since the aliens quit invading the earth. He was ruggedly handsome with a full beard and long flowing raven black hair with two silver streaks down the middle. When he smiled his pale blue eyes gleamed with wicked mirth. When he was serious, or mad, his eyes turned into twin beacons of concentrated energy that crackled when he blinked. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on him, and his sculpted body looked like a statue of an ancient Greek god.

Polis was the mastermind who came up with the Post Mortem parties. The parties also served as his calling card wherever he went, and he was treated with respect. He could travel freely under the circumstances and seldom worried about someone hunting him. The parties were done with varying themes depending on the group he was catering too.

This San Franciscan tribe who just hired him had high expectations. They wanted to be challenged on just how the victim died. He would provide clues that eventually led to the answer. His reward for a good party was always the rarest cuts of meat, and sex with whatever females he wanted from within the group. His libido was still strong despite the fact he was pushing 50 years-old.

Beside the main course of meat, there were vegetables that varied in the areas he went to. String beans and corn were the two most cultivated as far as he could tell. They were grown in every place he traveled. But some tribes grew squash, potatoes, and even harvested wheat for bread.

Hunting meat meant a tribe had to go outside their own population and stalk wanderers and other tribes to stock their larders. Human jerky was the most common way it was preserved for future consumption. There were some tribes that had chefs who could cook up wonders with internal organs and special body parts like heads and buttock steaks. They usually held an honored position in the tribe. When someone like Polis arrived the tribe could count on some much needed entertainment. As a famous wanderer he also brought news from other areas which he always gladly shared with his hosts.

Always a controversial subject, Polis would discuss the subject of human mutants. During the last world war in 2058 nuclear bombs blossomed across the planet leaving behind radioactive areas that would last a million years. For decades human beings tried to avoid those toxic areas. Not everyone was successful and those that weren’t and still lived, birthed monsters that often resembled walking nightmares. Some had heads of animals long ago extinct. Extra limbs were common. Some barely resembled humans. These mutants were not on the menu of any tribe because it was feared their meat was poisonous.

Polis watched the three-legged man bend over and pick something out of the endless trash heap. He idly wondered if the rumors were true about mutant meat, but had no intention of finding out first hand.

Breaking out of his reverie, Polis stood up and stretched his powerful muscles much like the great cats that once roamed in Africa, before walking back from the pier to the main street. He had three days to prepare the party.

As he boldly strolled down the street he could see murky figures flitting in and out of the ruined buildings on either side of him. The dark shapes moved along with him, keeping pace and murmuring in the shadows of long forgotten banks and clothing stores. The smaller ones were children and he could hear their high voices rising in alarm as they stayed close to the adults. The sun was slowly setting and the shadows grew longer as Polis looked for a place to spend the night.

Years ago, when he visited this area he met a man and woman who befriended him when he was injured from a wound inflicted in a knife fight with a mutant who had three arms, three hands, and three knives. Min and Ord didn’t live with any tribe, somehow staying out of everyone’s reach while going about their own lives. Both were fearlessly independent, choosing a lifestyle with few friends. He recalled his amazement when instead of killing him for food, they carried him back to their hideout and treated his deep knife wounds, sewing them up with red thread. They recognized who he was, and treated him with respect.

If memory served they lived near an old Wal Mart store (it’s sign having miraculously survived for over a century) that had been partially overgrown with vegetation migrating from the nearby park that still had a bronze statue of a sailor with no name on it. He walked up to the statue and made two quick bird calls and waited for a response. When he turned around they were standing there staring at him. For a moment he wondered if they remembered him, but when Min smiled he knew they did.

Long time,” Ord observed.

Yup.” Polis drawled in his favorite western accent.

“Good to see you Polis. What brings you back?” Min asked as her tongue teased her lips lightly and provocatively.

Chapter Two.

“You can take the blindfold off now,” Ord advised.

Polis peeled the rag away, blinked, and stared at a cave entrance. It was Ord and Min’s lair. He followed them in. They all walked in the darkness for a couple of minutes before Ord stopped and lit a torch that was mounted on the rock wall. The sudden bright light cast shadows that twisted and danced in the damp cave like frolicking fairies.

The trio moved in silence as the tunnel snaked through the bowels of the mountain until they stepped into a small cavern that had multiple entrances and exists. A crude bed, two chairs and a table made it Ord and Min’s home. Polis noticed numerous wooden crates stacked in neat rows next to an old fashioned bank safe. It’s door was closed. How something that massively heavy ended up down there briefly puzzled Polis, but his attention was drawn away to the table where Ord had laid out a large map made from human skin.

See here?” Ord asked. “We know where all of the tribes are located for miles around.”

“Happy hunting grounds,” Polis observed with a wry smile.

“Knowing you, a post Mortem Party is in the offing. It’s the only thing Min and I can think of that would bring you back here,” Ord said.

Polis studied his two friends for a moment before replying.

Ord was a tall lean man with muscles that wrapped around his arms and legs like snakes. They seemed to quiver even when he stood still. His eyes were somewhere between black and brown with yellow dots in the center. His thin lizard-like lips concealed a long tongue that darted in and out when he spoke, causing him to lisp. An old scar stretched from his forehead to the corner of his upper lip. His breeches were made from a collection of old animal furs, as was his jerkin. He wore a dagger in a leather scabbard that hung from the rope around his waist.

Min was a lithesome woman whose smile could steal souls. Her perfected sculpted body was covered with a jumpsuit made from leather and colored scraps of cloth. A small silver dagger was trucked into a belt of cracked brown leather. Her smooth well-tanned skin concealed the corded muscles beneath. At only five-foot five, she was a diminutive figure next to Ord’s seven-foot frame. Her jade green eyes twinkled with secret knowledge. Her pixie-like face was unblemished. Like Ord, she was also an efficient killing machine.

“You’re right my friends. I have a contract with a tribe here.

“Which one would that be?” Min asked innocently.

The Skull Clan,” he calmly replied.

She looked over at Ord and they simultaneously offered to help him out if he needed them. Their eagerness amused him. They could make things more entertaining. But why? What was in it for them? They were also predators, so he could understand why they might have volunteered. Hunting for meat was both a pastime and a necessity in this cruel world. Still he asked them,

Why do you want to help me?

“Because it sounds like fun and we haven’t had any Skull Clan meat in years. If Min’s memory is right they had a special spicy taste unlike the other tribes,” Ord explained.

“One other thing,” Min added, “They’re the most powerful tribe in this area and have numerous warriors who are fierce fighters.”

“Is that so? Polis asked. “Why don’t you show me where they live on this map of yours?”

Chapter Three

Skullton the Great grabbed his terrified minion by his throat with one arm, lifted him off his feet, and shook him like a leaf. His powerful bronze arms and naked upper body gleamed with sweat as he questioned him.

“Why don’t you know where Polis went? I sent you to keep track of him you maggot!” he roared.

“I tried…” he wheezed before passing out.

The leader of the Skull Clan was not happy. That meant no one was happy as he tromped through the compound looking for his wayward son who should of reported to him a day ago. He’d sent him on a scouting mission to see how close the new tribe that was reported to be in the general vicinity was. Lut was his only offspring and he expected total obedience and loyalty from him. Someday Lut would lead the Clan and continue to expand it’s power east of their current home. Today he’d be satisfied with him just showing up with some news.

The newly arrived Snake tribe had traveled for months, from what use to be Texas, to the West Coast. To their new home in the San Francisco area. Along the way they raided other tribes for meat and killed any wanderers they came upon. In hard times they didn’t hesitate to eat one of their own for the good of the community. Their leader, Geronimo, came from a legendary line of warriors. It was he who accepted the challenge his tribe had to take on. Their hunting grounds weren’t producing enough meat for everyone. It was time to move on and go west according to the tribes elders. He had proudly led them on the trek.

Now they were in a new home. One that had to be quickly fortified before enemies could attack them. He organized work gangs that salvaged building materials from the ruins that were once cities and small towns.

As the Snake Clan’s warriors and their wives built up a wall around a large perimeter, others cleared patches of land to plant corn. It was spring time. They worked franticly to be safe and ready for the hard winter ahead. That meant sending out small hunting parties for meat which would need to be cured and stored away. It was one of those hunting parties that caught Lut’s attention from his perch on the second floor of what was once a multi-level mall. His pale blue eyes followed them. His face was blank. Focused on the three hunters as they passed below him. News! Now it was time to report back to his father.

Polis looked down from the tree limb he Ord, and Min, were on and watched a lone figure work his way around a group of three men. He was going in the opposite direction. Alone. Turning to Ord and Min Polis asked them to stay put.

This is my kill.”

They nodded. Understanding.

We will watch your back. Good hunting,” they chorused.

Polis was already working his way down the tree and a moment later he disappeared off into the direction the lone man had gone. He paced himself in the pursuit fully aware that he would need all of his strength and cunning to catch his prey. His plan was to render his prey unconscious because he didn’t want any marks on his body. He didn’t want to use his hatchet, or machete. Much too easy for his hosts to identify. He slowed his pace down as he instinctively knew he was getting near his quarry.

Lut was loping along toward the tribal compound and thinking about what he would say to his father when something suddenly tackled him and drove him to the ground so hard he couldn’t breath! He saw a pair of pale blue eyes before losing consciousness. Polis had choked him into submission without killing him. After tying his hands and feet, he threw Lut over his shoulder and headed back to where he left Ord and Min. He was curious if they had any novel ways of killing without detection. He wasn’t sure if they played with their food or not. If not, he had plenty of options.

Skullton the Great had temporarily forgotten about his wayward son, and was supervising the construction of a grand thirty-foot dining table in honor of Polis and the entertainment he was going to provide the clan. Shullton wanted seating for Polis, six of his favorite wives, and his entourage of syncopates for the evenings festivities.

Having Polis visit was considered a good omen. His legendary status would bring more honor to the House of Skullton, and send a message to the world about how mighty their clan was.

Idiots! What’s taking you so long? You don’t even have legs on it yet! This table had better be done before our honored guest arrives!

Turning away from the frightened craftsmen he lumbered toward the marble columns that still stood in the middle of the compound, remnants of a grand government building that was destroyed in the 21st century. His space, both headquarters and private, was constructed from salvaged marble walls surrounded by reinforced scrape rebar and concrete. It was an impregnable lair for the Clan’s leader, with only two doors. One entrance. One exit. Both heavily guarded by two mute Ebony black warriors with spears, ready to sacrifice their lives to protect their liege lord.

The Great Skullton nodded at the sentries as he entered the room. Waiting for him on a luxuriously restored couch was his first wife, Tem, wearing a diaphanous gown that did little to conceal her well-oiled curves. In a sign of his pleasure he grunted while untying the knot that held his breeches up.

Chapter Four

Geronimo and three of his warriors were hunting for food when they stumbled upon Ord and Min sitting at the base of a mighty tree. The ensuring fight was vicious and quickly bloody. Ord was fighting hand-to-hand with Geronimo who pulled a long wicked knife from his belt. Ord broke away for a moment and drew his short sword before rushing the smaller man.

Min was fighting for her life against three warriors who had surrounded her with knives and hatchets. Her spear and nimbleness leveled the playing field however. Instead of throwing the spear she charged one of the warriors, catching him enough off guard that she was able to plunge her spear into his heart, pull it out and wheel away in time to avoid a slashing knife from the second warrior! The third armed warrior, hoping to catch her off-guard charged her from the side. She had just enough time to turn her spear on him. He impaled himself with his momentum. The third warrior stood back for a moment and snarled curses at her before turning and running away.

When turning to see how Ord was fairing in his fight with Geronimo she was horrified to see her companion repeatedly stabbed in the chest. He was still alive and on his knees when Geronimo severed his head with his broad-bladed knife. He held it up briefly before spotting Min who was charging him with a blood-curdling yell! Laughing, he dropped the head and waived his bloody knife back and forth preparing to meet her desperate charge head-on!

When Polis returned to the tree with Lut over his shoulder, Ord and Min weren’t there. He wasn’t too worried however. They could just be out hunting. He unceremoniously dropped Lut on the ground and stretched his shoulders. The guy was heavier than he looked he thought while idling massaging his sore shoulder. When Ord and Min didn’t appear before it got dark he knew something was amiss.

Time was running out before he had to deliver the meat to the Skull Clan for the Post Mortem party. When Lut started to wake up he covered his mouth with his hand and using the other one he dug into the soft loam around the tree, grasping a handful of the dark soil. With ruthless efficiency he removed his hand and shoved the soil into Lut’s mouth with the other. Then he held his jaw closed until his body stopped spasming. Prying open his still warm jaw he used two fingers to scoop out as much soil as possible. Taking a rag from his ditty bag he used it to wipe the tongue clean. Then he poured a little water from his canteen into the corpse’s slack mouth. Satisfied that no evidence had been left behind he rolled the body into his traveling blanket. He sat it up next to him at the base of the tree and leaned back hoping to get some sleep before day break.

To Geronimo’s surprise Min didn’t throw her spear at him. She held on to it instead and jabbed at him. He expertly parried her thrusts looking for a quick opening. She surprised him again when she backed away a few feet and launched her spear at him! Only a highly trained warrior could have done what Geronimo did, turning at an angle so the spear wouldn’t hit him squarely. It still sunk into his right rib, making him howl with pain and anger. Min turned and ran, never once looking back. She was from a long line of survivors and was fit enough to run for hours. She’d fight again some day under her conditions. For now, she had to put as much distance between her and her attacker as possible.

Polis was already awake when the sun rose in the eastern sky, promising another hot day in hell. Lut’s body had already begun to smell and would only get worse as the day wore on, forcing him to take it to a nearby stream of brackish water to clean it up a bit. Peeling off the clothes he winced at the smell of shit and piss, odors he’d never gotten use to when preparing meat. On completion of his arduous task he rolled the body back up in the blanket.

Going to have to get a new one,” he idly thought while walking towards the Skull compound.

After pulling out the still quivering spear, Geronimo was trembling with rage. He’d survive the physical wound, but his pride wouldn’t. A woman almost killed him. Making it even worse was she was the first time any meat had ever gotten away from him! The thought was so humiliating he decided not to tell anyone about his encounter with Min. He’d wait for the dark gods to give him his revenge.

The Great Skullton studied the newly constructed table with an expressionless face. The craftsmen stood nearby nervously awaiting his approval. They sighed in relief when he only grunted non-committedly and nodded at them.

He was pleased. Everything would be ready when Polis arrived. His musicians were preparing a new song praising the Great Skullton and his amazing achievements.

There was a dozen side dishes of hard-to-find vegetables and loaves of course grain bread. The center of the huge table was raised a foot higher so that meat could be grandly displayed and seen by all. Everyone attending would be wearing their best dyed human skin jackets and breeches. He had already donned his scarlet human skin cape edged with human hair, and made from the bodies of several of his enemies. It was accentuated by his darkly bronzed bare chest and the thick golden chain around his neck. He knew he looked every bit the leader. A man to be revered and feared.

Polis came within view of the Skull Clan compound. He shrugged Lut off his shoulder and stretched. The sun was slowly settling in the Western sky when he picked Lut up and resumed his journey. It was semi-dark when the guards called out to him after seeing his approach.

“Whoa! there stranger!” one of the sentries challenged.

Polis stopped at the main gate and laid his load down.

You’re expecting me!” he shouted. “I am Polis!”

The guards instantly turned accommodating and happily hailed their expected guest and threw open the main gate to greet him.

“Two of you pick this meat up and be careful not to bruise it,” Polis said in a voice use to getting results. “No peeking either. It’s the star attraction for the night at a Post Mortem party that will go down in Skull Clan legends.

___________________***_________________________

COMING SOON BOOK TWO

of the Polis Chronicles

Polis and Min’s story continues in this man-eat-man dystopian world where there are no rules and only the strong survive.

_____________________________________

A Word For My Readers and Fellow Scribes/Bloggers

It’s been a good year for continuity as I’ve been able to post something – a poem or flash fiction – every day since January 1st, 2019. It’s crazy to think I’ve passed the halfway mark of this year, and am still slogging along – for better, or worse.

I want to take this moment to acknowledge my readers and fellow scribes/bloggers for stopping by and visiting. Your interest makes this blog possible. I’m currently at 286 followers and counting…

About some of my followers/fellow scribes:

One of my favorite followers and fellow scribe has a blog called FictionistaFlash Fiction/Musing of Darnell Cureton

Another favorite follower (ahh heck! They’re all my favorite followers!) is the blog called Monkey’s Tale that features fellow scribes Richard and Maggie, from Calgary, Canada.

Another favorite follower, Matthew Richardson (from England) is a prolific and much-published writer. His blog has a little of everything from haiku’s to short stories.

Another delightfully diverse blog is Ray of Sunshine with beautiful poetry by fellow scribe Priyamvada.

Another fellow scribe and prolific writer is H.K. Gayshir whose blog artpends offers daily poetry and art.

Another fellow scribe, Melody Chen, has a blog called HEARTBEATINGWINGS with inspirational poetry

I have a list of other great blogs that I highly recommend checking out on the right hand side of this page under BLOGS I FOLLOW.

To my readers and fellow scribes/bloggers,

Thank You for your interest, encouragement, and camaraderie

Write On!

The Fickle Gods Own Bartender

600 words –

“I’ll have a scotch on the rocks when your done serving those sissies at the end of the bar!” a belligerent customer bellowed.

Willie the bartender glanced over his shoulder at the loudmouth on the other end of the bar while continuing to serve the two men beer and pretzels.

He’d seen his type before. A mean drunk. Rather than violently kick him out, which he had every right to do, Willie walked over to him and looked him straight in the eye. Something in his stare caused the rowdy customer to instantly calm down.

“You sure you haven’t had enough for the night buddy?” he asked. The would-be customer slid off the bar stool and muttered that he was taking his business elsewhere as his unsteady legs propelled him towards the door.

In Willie’s world, the bar was a waiting room for restless souls, not yet gone on to any reward, and not likely too either. The tortured souls who sat at his bar looked for advise and solace. They were confused and he found that most were looking for heaven. They came to the bar to learn about their next step in the process of passing from one life to another.

They told him their life stories over shots of tequila and whiskey; wondering why their drinks didn’t make the misery of this alcoholic purgatory disappear.

Then there were those carefree souls who laughed and partied through the endless nights, calling Willie, “St. Peter,” and begging him to escort them through invisible Pearly Gates. But it wasn’t Willie’s job. All he was supposed to do was listen and offer his two-cents worth while serving endless alcoholic drinks.

Long ago Willie realized his karma was damaged beyond repair. That was why the gods (there had to be more than one) put him where he was. A lifelong alcoholic who drank himself to death and was resurrected as a messenger between worlds. What irony. The gods sense of humor was impossible for Willie to understand. He was a hostage for eternity.

One day all that changed.

The god of chaos sent other deities spinning through dimensions and worlds unborn, in a burst of cosmic energy that tore souls loose from the places they were stuck. Adrift, the souls turned to space, eagerly looking for new landings. New starts.

Willie found himself on earth again. It was 1923 and he owned a whiskey distillery that supplied gangsters from Chicago to New York. As he watched the last truck pull out, packed with crates of his signature booze, Willie had a nagging feeling that the good times weren’t going to last. He was rich beyond his wildest dreams, but business was just too good to walk away from. Besides, he felt alcohol was part of his destiny. His rise to glory.

Willie was on to something. He just didn’t realize it then.

When the mobsters attacked his distillery one night he was killed playing a game of poker with his two bodyguards. His suddenly rich wife buried him quietly.

Dimensions shifted. Alternate universes collided. The gods fought for time and space. New worlds were springing up in far away solar systems. Galaxies groaned as solar systems stretched and contracted, collecting stars like seashells on earth’s beaches.

And Willie found himself pouring a beer from behind a long mahogany bar while listening to a sad soul’s story. He sighed because he knew it was going to take a very long time.

The gods shrill laughter echoed throughout the heavens, and meteors continued to scream through outer space on a mission to mock mankind.

The Daily Life Run

200 words –

The life and death betting odds are officially released for today’s races:

Trainer’s Notes: Today’s contestants are from the North American continent and are all three-year veterans of the Life Run, which means none have ever lost a race.

Handicapping will be according to international game standards, factoring in weight, height, and skills with multiple weapons.

Announcer: “The first contestant is off! He’s carrying an automatic pistol and what appears to be a 17th samurai sword and has settled into a steady pace.

Just a refresher for any new viewers; there’s four contestants in each race. They take off from the four points of the life circle.

The goal is to get to the center of the circle first and take the antidote for the poison they were all given. As you can imagine, there’s some desperate fighting going on as contestants run into one another in the dark maze tunnels.

Note: Hopefully, future historians will understand why the daily life run is necessary after reading this. The long and the short of it, population control. The daily races are held throughout the planet. The races were agreed upon as a more human (and entertaining) way to cull the population.

First Contact

500 words –

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?”

Unsung Hero

450 words –

The dim glow of a quarter moon filtered through the curtains and cast shadows on the walls. Walter’s eyes struggled to make out the shifting shapes that pranced across them in a creepy parade.

Were they scenes from his past? Was waiting to die a way to suddenly come into contact with that mystical part of the brain scientists and poets write about? Do revelations reveal themselves before you’re executed?

The promise of a sure death was a blow to Walter’s soul and very being. He knew only hours separated him from the firing squad and eternity. This last night wasn’t for sleep. It was a time to pray. A time to accept one’s fate bravely. It was a time to fight the growing panic that comes when a body is not ready to die.

The idea of being tied to a stake and shot like a target didn’t register with his reality. How could this be? He wasn’t a deserter! They were wrong! The reason he was the only soldier left alive was because he never stopped fighting and the enemy drifted away after two days of fierce fighting. He didn’t run away, and come back to the fort after the battle was over like the tribunal claimed.

It was a case of universal injustice.

The rising sun went from blood red, to orange, to yellow, and finally burst into an azure blue. Not a cloud in the sky. A beautiful day to die.

When he heard gunfire coming from the walls he stopped pacing back and forth in the tiny room they locked him in next to the captain’s quarters. Screams of surprise and pain! A sustained rate of gunfire told him there was an all-out assault on the fort.

The battle lasted all day, finally slowing down at dusk. Walter looked out his shattered window and saw fires burning in some of the buildings across the courtyard. Bodies were everywhere. Legionnaires and Arabs. He could see the front gate were breeched.

He took a chance and climbed through the window. Taking a rifle from the dead legionnaire who was once his guard, he moved cautiously through the courtyard – rifle at the ready. After hours of searching he discovered he was the only survivor. Before disappearing into the desert the Arabs sacked the fort and spiked the two cannons. He scavenged bodies for rations.

Why no one looked in his room during the fighting was a mystery. It looked like his luck had changed.

Two days later a relief regiment arrived and discovered Walter. He told them his story. After a 25-minute trial the captain said “Arrest this deserter! We’ll make an example of him!”

Reasons For Seasons

1000 words –

It wasn’t that Alto Morelli didn’t believe the best revenge was served cold, but at times he was sick and tired of waiting for his chance.

How long had it been since the bastard killed his brother Joey? Two, three years? It seemed like forever. But you can’t just knock off a Mafia capo and expect to live…unless you wait until just the right moment and no one can trace it to you. Rule one for successful revenges; live to tell the tale.

Alto was an independent contractor. He hired out his gun, but never his loyalty to many of the denizens of the underworld in 1932. The press referred to his kind as a “Hit Man.” But very few people in New York, New Jersey, or Chicago knew that he was one. Mostly Mafia crime bosses and leaders of other gangs like the Irish Mob.

The other thing about Alto was no one knew what his last name was. Only his brother Joey knew it, and he was dead now. His killer, Johnny Dancer, was a capo for the Bonnano crime family in New York. He was also a paranoid schizophrenic who surrounded himself with bodyguards at all times. Johnny knew there were plenty of people out there who wanted to see him dead…for a whole host of reasons.

Still, it was hard to wait. Alto was a man of action. At times he felt like a coward, taking so long to extract his pound of flesh because he wasn’t ready to die doing it. It felt like he was desecrating Joey’s memory at times. He shook those thoughts off and forged ahead looking for the perfect opening.

The bible said there was, “… a time for everything, a season for every activity under the heavens.” That encouraged him because he was a Catholic, even if he didn’t go to confession.

Faith in that quote kept him going. He knew there would be a season to kill, and his family burden would be forever lifted.

The season to kill finally arrived when Alto’s paid snitch in the Bonnano family told him Johnny and two of his rich friends were going upstate to the Catskills for a weekend of fishing and hunting. He gave Alto the directions, who thanked him and then shot him point blank! No witnesses. Number Two rule of survival.

Hunting season in the Catskills. How appropriate.

When Alto arrived at the hunting lodge he took his time sizing up how many occupants were there. He quickly spotted Johnny and what he took to be his two rich friends. Not far away were two alert-looking bodyguards watching the three men eat a meal outdoors on the open porch.

It took a few more hours before he discovered the other two bodyguards who were patrolling the perimeter of the lodge. Six people who he had to kill, but it was worth it to get Johnny. He was already envisioning where he would dispose of the bodies afterward. No one would ever know what happened.

His inner survivor briefly questioned if this was the right season, after all the odds were against him. Then he focused upon the task. He waited until late at night, past midnight, and snuck up on the first guard outside the front door, slitting his throat neatly and professionally.

The second guard was nodding in a chair in the living room. He looked up in time to see Alto for a moment, then a hand went over his mouth while his throat was slashed open. Then Alto cautiously went into the first bedroom. Saw someone in a bed. Went right over, checked his face briefly in the light of the full moon streaming through the window. Another guard. Slit his throat.

He went to the second bedroom. This time the sleeper was one of Johnny’s pals. Slit his throat. The next room had the other pal. Slit his throat. That left Johnny and one guard. Was that guard in Johnny’s bedroom? He opened the last bedroom door slowly. Inch-by-inch. His keen ears attuned to any sound.

Then he heard a click! Without thinking he dropped down to the floor as the shotgun blast tore into the door! Alto pulled his .45 Colt Automatic out and fired from the prone position in the direction of the blast! A man screamed and collapsed directly across from him. Then another shotgun blast hastily fired over his head from the right near the bed! When he rose up Johnny was trying to reload, but was fumbling with the cartridge.

Instead of immediately killing him Alto jumped up and rushed him, knocking the old twin-barrel shotgun aside as he grabbed his neck with one hand and hit him alongside the head with the pistol in the other. He stood over the bleeding and semi conscious man and considered how he wanted to kill him.

He thought about when he found his brother, just before he died, and how badly he suffered. His tormentors took a drill to both his hands and feet. They pulled out all of his teeth. There were numerous burns and cuts from head to toe. They blinded him with a hot poker and cut his tongue out.

In the end, he took Johnny outside for a short walk from the lodge and tied him to a tree. Then he cut him from sternum to groin so his guts leaked out while he was still alive. He stayed long enough to listen to and savor his screams which deteriorated to moans as his lifeblood soaked the base of the tree.

Two novice hunters heard the screams. They followed them through the forest. Both were teenagers and eager to find the source. Suddenly something big burst through the undergrowth and they both panicked and fired their rifles!

Alto spun around when one of the shots hit him in the chest, falling to the ground heavily. His last thought made him grin at the irony, “There’s also a season for dying.”

The Phone Booth

400 words –

The lone phone booth stood out in stark contrast to the arid Mojave desert surrounding it. But was it a mirage?

Jason Brant tried to focus on the lone object in the distant horizon. He was lost, hungry, thirsty, and desperately trying to survive. Two days had passed since the accident. He was lucky to be alive.

He’d been driving through Mojave National Preserve at a high speed (100 mph) on interstate 15 when he drifted off the pavement for a moment. It was enough to cause him to loose control. The car rolled onto the sand and landed upside down in a patch of creosote bushes.

When he woke up he was upside down, still held by his seat belt. It took him a few frustrating minutes to get free and crawl out. That’s when he felt the pain. His right knee had ballooned to three times its size and he could feel the bone splinters stabbing his nerves.

The pain was so great he passed out several times crawling towards the road. When he regained consciousness he looked around and saw what he thought might be a phone booth in the distance.

“What a crazy place for one,” was his first thought. His next thought was, “What if the phone works and I can call for help?” He eyed the phone booth for an hour before deciding he had to try and reach it.

After two days his strength was giving out. Crawling was exhausting and slow. When he finally was close enough to see that it was real his heart started pounding with excitement.

The door was gone and he wedged himself in and looked up at the dial tone phone. A pay phone. A sense of panic gripped him as he realized he didn’t have any change! He tore the phone off the receiver and listened to the dial tone in dismay.

“Operator!” he screamed as delirium took hold of his frayed senses. When a recorded voice asked for money Jason pleaded for his life.

When the Park Ranger found Jason the next day he gently sprinkled some water from his canteen onto his lips and sat him up against the outside wall of the phone booth.

He woke up and greedily grabbed the canteen and nearly drowned himself pouring water into his parched mouth. Afterwards. “Quick man! Do you have any change” he babbled…again and again.

The Great Jackalope Hunt

200 words –

“Here’s one! It’s plain to see this animal is half rabbit and half antelope,” Long Tom Silver assured the greedy easterners who eyed the tintype photo and looked around at the vast prairie.

“Come gentlemen! Where is your sense of adventure? These creatures are all over the Western plains. Their meat is an exquisite treat! With your fine rifles you can shoot all you can eat.”

The four dandies looked at one another. The train they just got off let out a robust whistle and rolled down the tracks into the horizon. Long Tom had their horses and gear ready.

“I gotta tell you boys, there were a lot of applicants for this hunt. But like I said in the newspaper advertisement, only four men would be selected for the hunt of a lifetime. You boys made the grade.

“One last thing,” Long Tom said. “I’ll be requiring my fees for this expedition now.”  

The men didn’t looked surprised. It was what they all agreed on. Each handed Long Tom a sack of gold coins.

He took each one with a smile and gave a word of advise, “You boy’s should make a day camp. Jackalopes only come out at night,” he suggested while pointing his horse south towards Mexico.

 

Something In A Dark Corner

200 words –

The interior lights were all turned off and a sense of something ancient lingered in the room. The lone resident was huddled next to the nearly dead fireplace holding onto a black iron poker. One charred log was still smoldering and a faint trail of smoke slithered into the darkness.

“Come out and show yourself,” the old man said in an unsteady tone tinged with fear.

No sound issued from the dark corner where the old man’s eye’s struggled to see what was lurking there. He sensed a presence. Whatever was in the corner, it was watching him.

Once he fancied he saw two glaring eyes. After standing for hours his legs were getting weak. It wasn’t responding to his repeated question, “What do you want?

Polarized with fear and indecision, the man grew weaker. The black iron poker became too heavy to hold and fell onto the wooden floor with a loud thud.

No response from the dark corner.

A faint light slowly filtered through the curtains bringing a new day. In the yellow glow the corner revealed it’s occupant. A cat on a chair.

But the old man didn’t know that. He was sprawled on the floor, dead.