I nervously eyed the dealer as I settled into my chair. It took all of my will power to resist wiping off the ribbon of sweat that trailed down from my high forehead. I knew Frankie and Sal were watching me closely. Looking for signs of fear. Their boss, Big Boy Roy Zizzi was sitting at a nearby table sipping Bourbon and playing footsies with a red-hot blond who laughed shrilly at everything he said. I waited for someone to explain the rules of the game I was about to play.
Finally Big Boy Roy Zizzi got up and ambled over to me. His girth stretched the dress jacket to the point of tearing as he bent over and said,
“Myron my friend you’re a lucky man. I could have shot you in the back of the head and your body deposited in the desert by Frankie and Sal.But we’ve known each other for years before our little fall out here. You were my number one soldier. But your greed got the better of you. When I found out you were skimming money from two of my casinos.I had to take some swift action.The rules are simple.You get 10 chips. Bet any amount you want. But if you lose those 10 chips you get a free ride to the desert east of here.“
“Wait a moment! How can I win and save my life?“
“You have to double those 10 chips.Your dealer tonight is Belinda who just happens to be the best dealer in both of my casinos.She has a great sense of humor. So, let’s get this party started!”
I looked up and caught Belinda smiling. She seemed to be enjoying herself. I looked at the card shoe next to her hand. It held four decks. It was better than playing against one deck in my experience. Especially if there were other players at the table. But now it was just me and Belinda. I watched her quickly deal the cards. It was like watching water flow in one smooth movement.
My face card was a king. My down card was a four.She had an Ace. Her down card could be anything.Her hand hovered over the shoe as she asked me what I wanted to do?
“Stand,” I replied.
She flipped over her down card. “Eight!” she almost purred. I lost the first hand and found myself staring down at the nine remaining chips with a mounting fear.
For 12 grueling hours I managed to stay afloat but was down to two chips. After a few hours I grew to understand that she could have won every hand but kept giving me last-minute reprieves.Frankie and Sal were slumped down in two chairs by the wall and Big Boy Roy Zizzi – to his credit – was still going strong at the table with his blond bimbo.
I took a chance and bet my last two chips. I was exhausted from the tension.Belinda’s mysterious smile gave me hope. My face card was a 10. My down card was a jack. Her face card was a seven. When she turned over her down card it was a six. She drew another card. It was a queen. She busted!
“Let it ride,” I told her. And I won the next hand. And the next. I was up to 16 chips and flush with excitement when Big Boy Roy Zizzi broke away from his blond bimbo and waddled over to our table. He looked at my 16 coins. Then at Belinda. He nodded. She nodded and smiled at me.I lost.
At first glance the cavernous hall looks empty. But if you keep looking, you’ll see souls emanating from the stone walls, dancing with the sunbeams streaming down from holes in the cathedral-like roof.Ancient ghosts linger in the shadows silently weeping about their cruel deaths.
If you look closely at the rafters, you’ll see sleeping bats storing up their energy to hunt in the night. Their droppings foul the granite floor, creating a stench that wafts through the hall with every breeze that filters through the shattered front door and the gaping holes in the wall.If you have the time and the will, I will tell you a story about this accursed building.
Historians date this ruin back to the 13th century. But the building’s history is still a mystery. You probably noticed that this building is almost entirely overgrown with blackberry vines and dense foliage that disguises its outward profile. Local families have been passing down dark stories about the decrepit ruins for centuries. I’m going to share with you the most enduring tale among them.
DANCING WITH DEMONS
Once upon a time the building was the home of a pagan cult that practiced black magic. The priests, as they styled themselves, lived in the nearby villages and congregated there to perform dark rituals and human sacrifices. I suspect they were Druids, but I have no way to prove that despite the whispers we heard at the Inn.
The priests always gathered on full moons. There were exceptions, but I’ll get back to them later.On those nights people were tortured and killed during a mass celebration that lasted until the early morning hours. Screams of pain and horror mingled with raucous laughter and heathen drums throughout the little valley on those terrible nights.
What made this cult so special was its initiation ceremoniesfor new converts.The applicant had to dance with demons throughout the night. If they survived, they became members proudly describing the demons as their gods.Most of the time the supplicants didn’t make it through the test with the hell spawn and their bodies were rent into little pieces that the members quickly ate in a gruesome feast before the sun rose.
I hope I wasn’t boring you. You look tired. Was it the walk over here from the Inn? No. You’re sure you’re, okay?Did the well-trod trail here give you pause? I only say this because I see a glimmer of fear in your eyes.You seem uncomfortable.
For good reason.
To resume the story… the cult never died out. I’m brother Judas and it’s my pleasure to invite you to dance with demons this very night. We’ve had a hard time attracting converts in these modern times, so we had to adjust. Now we take whoever visits our valley to dance with the demons (who must be satisfied after all) and if they survive, we increase our ranks. If they don’t our secret lives on. By the way your tiredness isn’t from walking. Remember the beers we had at the Inn? I gave you something to relax. You have a big night ahead.
I watched him walk along the shoreline as luminescent waves rolled under the blue moon. The surf broke the silence of the night as it lazily lapped the gleaming beach. He was moving with the brisk wind towards an unknown horizon and seemed to pay me no heed as his cloak and long hair majestically streamed behind him.
I took a long hit off my pipe packed with a ball of opium. When I finally opened my eyes, he was walking towards me and for a moment I thought he was an ancient god with his flowing beard and long shaggy hair catching the moon beams and glowing eerily. But as I watched in wide eyed wonder he stopped, shook his mighty mane from side-to-side and reversed his course. I felt a sense of remorse. Loss. Did I offend him somehow by not standing up?
I had the feeling that I missed an opportunity. That the Beach Walker was going to befriend me and share answers to mysteries that have long befuddled humanity.
I watched his shadow chase himas he moved like a wraith beneath the moonlight. His hair was flowing and glowing. The waves were receding, and sand dollars and other shells were exposed and gleaming under the strange lights emanating from the sky. A stray clap of thunder growled in the distance. My thoughts turned to the pipe in my hand. I lit it. Inhaled. Waited. Time had no meaning. I sought revelations. Visions.The meaning of life. I was lost.
Pulling out the pistol from my jacket pocket I held it up to my head and held it there for what seemed an eternity. My arm gave out and I dropped the .38 Special onto the shifting sand. I cursed my cowardice. I cursed my demons. As I ranted a fog slowly crept along the shoreline then shifted towards me. From its depth the Beach Walker emerged, his wild long hair hanging in tight curls and straddling his broad shoulders. The cloak was gone and all he wore was a dirty white tunic. Somehow his face glowed under the light of the blue moon, and he was wearing a frown. A look of concern. His dark brown eyes bored into my soul, warning me not to take my own life. A voice inside my head said it’s God’s choice when and how you leave this earthly plane.
Startled I jumped up in my narcotic haze and called out to him, who are you? It was too late, however. It seemed like he was floating as he turned around and disappeared in the thick gray mist that now enveloped the whole beach.
When I saw the headlights, I didn’t move despite the fact that they were pointed right at me. It appeared God chose this moment to take my life and I gladly opened my arms wide prepared to be propelled into eternity. The Land Rover roared right by me, spitting up sand and broken shells as it hurtled into the night on some mad mission. I stood there listening to my heartbeat for minutes. Then I could hear the waves again. I suddenly understood that life was a gift and I’d been granted a reprieve for my past misdeeds.
I watched the sunrise with a sense of awe. Picking up the pistol and the pipe I threw them as far as I could into the turbulent surf. As corny as it sounds, it was a new day full of promise.
When the apocalypse came it looked like the end of humanitybut somehow there were survivors. Tic Tok.
We managed to ride out the end days scenario in underground compounds located around the planet. We were the best and brightest. Doctors. Scientists. Mathematicians. Teachers. Archeologists. Physicists. Writers. Our numbers consisted of survivors ready to live a new life.Tic Tok.
We saved the history of mankind on digital devices. Our files included historical photosand a complete History of Art dating back to ancient times. The massive database of knowledge we accumulated was shared in all of the compounds – establishing a common ground that kept us in touch.Tik. Tok.
We kept busy while waiting for the day when we could reemerge onto the earth’s surface safely.We shared stories of ourpersonal lives and how we came into the world.How the world once looked. How we quietly built the compounds and stocked them with necessities. Tik. Toc.
I’m not sure when the trouble started but our population has been decreasing every year for years. Lately it’s every month. We’ve been unable to add to our numbers which is a red flag.It appears despite our wealth of knowledge we didn’t account for a situation like we’re in now.Tik. Tok.
We didn’t think to manufacture spare parts. Our circuit boards, wires, video screens, and functionality programs were deteriorating with time. Now I’m the last of the robots in this compound. Tik Tok. Tik Tok.
Somewhere between heaven and hell, demons live among us. You can’t tell they’re demons. They don’t wear signs proclaiming “I’m a demon,” or have horns on their heads for all to see.
You could be sitting next to one right now. In a theatre. On the subway. On a plane. You’d never guess by their appearance. You might even have a friend whose a demon. They play their cards close to the chest and do their best not to stand out in any setting. They may be in positions of power. Or Hollywood celebrities. They can be found in gangs, and in prisons.
Teddy Stackhouse Jr. was only 24-years old when he went to prison. He ran over a mother and daughter in a crosswalk while going 100 mph in a street race. It wasn’t his first speeding ticket. He had been driving on a suspended license when he snuffed out the lives of Lily and Julie Satarson. He also had numerous run-ins with the law (dating back to when he was 13 years-old), but always got bailed out by his wealthy parents. But the two deaths finally became the straw that broke the camel’s back. He was sentenced to 30 years in a state prison.
I think Teddy’s parents knew he was a demon. I also think they were relieved when he was sent to prison. When I came by to interview them for the local newspaper they both seemed unperturbed by the fact their only child was going to spend most of his adult life behind bars. They almost seemed jovial as they answered my questions. Before I left they gave me a recent photo of Teddy to add to the article. It was all a bit odd and my instincts told me there was a lot more to the story than a spoiled rich kid who really screwed up so badly even his permissive parents couldn’t save him. As I got into my car I wondered why Teddy’s story was clinging to my brain. I studied his photo. He was a handsome guy. Dark curly hair and big blue doe-like eyes with thick lashes that must have driven more than one female to lust for him. He had an aristocratic nose that narrowed into tiny nostrils. He was tall and slender with the hands of a pianist. No doubt about it. He was a handsome devil I conceded, and was probably going to end up a plaything among the brutes he was going to live with for the next 30 years.
Candace Willis sat in the rear of the courtroom. She had come to see Teddy Stackhouse Jr. after seeing his photo in the newspaper. She fell instantly in love with his eyes and hair. She watched his every move and when she didn’t think anyone was looking at her, she took photos with her cell phone. After the hearing was over she went to the park across the street from the courthouse and sat down on a bench. Soon she was posting Teddy on her TikTok account, her Twitter account, and her Facebook page. She had to share how handsome he was and made comments like, “He’s just too cute to lock up, and “They should give him another chance.” It didn’t take long until all three of her social media platforms were buzzing about Teddy. The buzz went on all day. And the next. It never stopped. Candance was amazed as she gained millions of new followers as the days turned to weeks. The fascination over Teddy’s good looks and story seemed endless.
It wasn’t long before hashtags like #FreeTeddy sprung up in the Twitterverse. People even starting fundraising so that Teddy could get another trial. Right-wing podcasters and cable stations called for Teddy to be set free. That he’d been unfairly treated by libtards in the court system.
I picked up Teddy’s story again about a year after he was sent up to the big house. My cousin Dennis was a guard at the prison where he lived. The first thing he told me was a shock. None of the prisoners messed with Teddy. I was sure he’d be fresh meat for the animals that awaited him. Not so. Even Dennis couldn’t explain why. Even more odd, the other prisoners feared him. The guards were stunned by all the letters Teddy got every day. All from women. From California to Florida. The stacks built up in his cell until there was no longer room for them and they were transferred to a secure locker in the complex.
Dennis arranged the interview. I was, after all, the hometown reporter who wrote about Teddy’s capture and court hearing. It didn’t take long. I only had three days to study my notes before we’d meet. In my research I came across Candace Willis’s Twitter account purely by accident. At least I thought that at the time. Discovering Teddy Stackhouse Jr. was a social media star was a revelation – a window – into the mysterious power he wielded over women. Looks are one thing, but after reading what women posted on Teddy’s accounts (to no one’s surprise his parents had arranged for him to use a computer one hour a day under the watchful eye of a guard) it was obvious he’d become a cult leader.
Women worshiped him. Pledged their lives to him. Yearned for his guidance. Offered their bodies if he should ever be set free. He was an online celebrity when I interviewed him.
We sat on plastic benches separated by a clear plastic table. He wasn’t handcuffed and looked relaxed. It was a tiny room surrounded by windows.
“I looked forward to hearing from you Jake the moment Dennis brought it up,” Teddy told me with a broad smile.
It slightly unnerved me the way his pale blue eyes studied me like a specimen to be dissected. I tried not to let it show.
“I’m doing a one-year follow up story on your case and was hoping you’d share how your life’s been and if you still have no regrets about killing Lily and Julie Satarson with your reckless driving.“
It was a leading question designed to throw him off balance with rudeness instead of fawning respect. I saw a brief twinkle in his eyes (Amusement? Anger?) as he yawned loudly, exaggerating the sound.
“Listen to me Jake. Why would I have any regrets killing them? They were my awakening. To be clear, the clown who use to live inside this body was cast out when I took over the car that night. You can call me a demon if you must. My name is Xerse and I came straight from hell to land this gig. I haven’t had this much fun in 2,000 years. There’s nothing quite like messing with human’s minds and their bodies.”
His response momentarily left me speechless with a sliver of drool on one side of my mouth. The guy was crazy. Why wasn’t he in a mental institution for the criminally insane? My brain was spinning as I sought a reply to his claim.
“Don’t get too excited Jake boy. You’ll burst an artery and havea brain bleed. The answer to you question is there’s been no reason to put me away in a nut house. I haven’t caused a stir here. As a matter of fact things have been pretty peaceful. And yes, I can read your mind.”
So, if you’re a demon why stay in prison?” I blurted out
“It’s all part of the masterplan. Don’t worry your bald little head about it. Today is your lucky day Jake. I think you have a sense of adventure that may be useful to me. My prison time is ending in six months after all my followers successfully sue to free me. Take my word. It’s a given. Are you okay? Your drooling from both sides of your mouth.“
I managed an idiotic smile and nodded that I was just fine.
“You, Jake my friend, are going to be my road manager. We’re going to tour the country together. Lot’s of curses and spells. Wild men and women. And lots of souls to harvest.”
Stuart stumbled along in a nameless alley somewhere in America’s hinterlands while humming Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin.
As usual, he was as drunk as an English Lord. His dirty white t-shirt was partly covered by an unzippered green hoodie he found in a Salvation Army donor bin. An invisible cloud of cheap whiskey and beer clung to him as he staggered along on the uneven cobblestones.They were still slick from the rain that afternoon, and it took all of Stuart’s weakened will power to keep from repeatedly falling.
The thing about Stuart was he was a broken man. Once he had a family. But his wife and daughter died in a tragic carjacking one day. He went crazy from grief and lost his job, SUV, and house. All he wanted to do was drink alcohol and stay in a perpetual state of stupidity. He dropped out of life. He became such a pathetic figure other homeless people in the neighborhood avoided him. Social workers would give him food and try to get him help, but he refused to go into any programs, or commit to shelter rules.His tall lanky figure was a fixture in the city’s alleys and byways. An old injury to his left foot gave him an odd gait, making him recognizable from afar and in the dusk.
Stuart’s thoughts went no further than begging for money, or stealing from supermarkets and liquor stores.He’d been arrested for countless petty crimes, did county jail time and community service, and was always released to resume his miserable existence. Every day was Blursday for him.
All that changed one Afternoon.
It was two o’clock and the town hall bell chimed precisely on time. Stuart stopped and slowly opened his first bottle of Jim Beam for the day when he saw something that froze him, causing him to drop the precious bottle as he watched something very bad happening.
A man with a gun had stopped a car in the middle of the street and was violently pulling the woman driver out! A little girl screamed “Mommie!“Something snapped in Stuart’s head and he ran as fast as his bad foot allowed, slamming into the carjacker with all of his force. The gun fell in the ensuing struggle and the woman broke free. The enraged car jacker pulled a knife and stabbed Stuart in the chest! Adrenaline running high, Stuart pulled it out and got the switchblade off his attacker and slashed him across the face with it. Suddenly police appeared and separated them. The car jacker was handcuffed and taken away. The last thing Stuart remembered was trying to staunch the blood flow and passing out.
The next day Stuart had two visitors at the hospital. When he opened his eyes the woman he saved was standing at the side of his bed with her young daughter. He could see the relief in their eyes as they could see he’d be all right.
“My name is Beth and this is my daughter Trina. We’d like to be your friends if that’s okay?“
A tear trickled down one of Stewart’s eyes and he was so choked up it took a minute to reply, “Yeah! That would be more than okay.”
Ludi’s three eyes watered under the bright sun. His tall slim body was protected from the brutal rays under a cloak with a hood. He was getting old. Mutants seldom lived more than 30 years – he was going on 60.
Ludi looked out at the assembled crowd before him. They were twisted versions of human beings. Children whose parents were exposed to the radioactive fallout from the nuclear war of 2057. Hundreds were sitting and standing around him in a semi-circle in what was once an outdoor stadium. Most of the concrete seats were covered in heavy vegetation. Their voices were humming in the scorching heat when he raised his long arms up and called for their attention.
“Brothers and sisters, heed my stories of the mighty Polis, for my time in telling them comes near. His adventures have become legend, and in retelling them you and yours will learn lessons in life.
“When last I talked of Polis he had just reunited with Min.She was recuperating from fighting and killing three warriors before being overwhelmed by the leader of the Snake Tribe, Geronimo. He let her live, but violated her body as a sign of contempt.
Polis had searched for her, eventually finding the area near her and Ord’s lair. She discovered him while patrolling outside the cave entrance. It was a touching moment for both, Ludi went on.
Min shared some of her jerky with Polis as they sat next to the campfire she built in the middle of the cavern, deep below a mighty mountain.
She was feeling oddly embarrassed after her show of tears. He was trying to process what they meant and the funny feeling she gave him when he looked at her lithe body. Polis lived by his own rules – some of which would surprise people – and one of them was not to intrude into a relationship…especially if they were friends. With Ord’s death things changed. He was in his prime and a viral male. She was a beautiful woman in her prime. They became lovers that day.
The next morning she told him what the snake warrior had done to her and how Ord died fighting him. Polis was enraged. He was going to put a Post Mortem party on for the Snake clan’s leader, but now he was plotting his death. Polis knew it was he after she described her attacker. They spent days discussing ways to get revenge.
Geronimo tossed the corn cob aside and reached for another one as his warriors watched and waited for him to give them orders. They sat in a semi circle on the ground facing their leader. The sun slowly rose behind him burning away the night’s chill. The silence was broken by children laughing somewhere nearby. Their mothers had been up before the day’s break cooking for everyone in the compound. The smell of roasted human flesh carried on the gentle wind.
“What do you think Sarp?” Geronimo asked one of his oldest and most trusted warriors.
“I’m not sure. Polis has always been a mysterious figure and the stuff of legends. He may have just changed his mind about putting on a Post Mortem party and got involved in something else.”
“If that’s the case then I would take itas an insult,” an angry Geronimo growled.
“There’s always a chance that something happened to him. Perhaps he was ambushed by someone seeking fame for themselves?” Sarp suggested.
Geronimo grunted in irritation that Polis had not returned in three days like he said he would. He sunk his teeth into a piece of meat and savaged it.
A week later one of Geronimo’s scouts reported that a woman had killed two of his comrades and only allowed him to live so that he could carry a message back.
“What is the message?” he demanded.
The warrior shook, clearly afraid to relay her words.
“She said that she dares you to meet her in single combat.”
“Is that all?”
The warrior visible shrunk as he went on, “No…she says she’s going to enjoy cutting your balls off and roasting them over a fire.”
Geronimo jumped to his feet and grabbed the warrior with both hands and threw him like a rag doll at the compound wall. His head split like a melon and his body collapsed in a heap.
“Call his family and tell them to burn his body before I decide to eat him!” he shouted at the small group of warriors. It was a hallow threat however, because it was taboo to eat someone in the clan. No matter what they did.
He couldn’t ignore the challenge. Slinging his sheathed sword across his back he thought of the last time they had met. He grinned at the thought of her humiliation. Tucking a war ax and knife into his broad human leather belt Geronimo set off to find her and repeat their first encounter.
When he discovered her hours later, she was standing in a clearing surrounded by rocks and trees, waiting for him. She had a slim sword and knife, and held a spear. He couldn’t help admire her wild beauty and courage. In his savage world courage did earn respect. But she couldn’t be allowed to kill his warriors or to taunt him. With a sigh he drew his curved sword and slowly advanced on her. His dark eyes glittered with murderous intent.
As he closed the distance between them she calmly leveled her spear and threw it at him with such force he barely had time to evade it! Instead of panicking at the miss she smiled and drew her slim sword.
“I have a treat for you!” she shouted.
He stopped for a moment and sensed another danger near by. His instincts were razor sharp as he turned to meet Polis who had stepped out from his concealment behind a tree. He called out to Geronimo,
“You almost killed and violated my woman!” he roared.
Geronimo looked hard at his opponent. Part of him didn’t want to face Polis in a fight to the death. The other part, the savage warrior who knew no fear, took control and parried Polis’s slashing sword. Geronimo wasn’t as tall as Polis, but he was powerful and had never been beaten in battle. Sparks stung the air as their blades collided and recoiled like living things. Soon both had gashes that bled but neither seemed to notice their wounds. They kept coming after each other in relentless rage. Twice they grappled and broke away. When their swords shattered from the brute force of the blows, they both pulled their knives and moved in a circle looking for an opening. Fast as a snake Geronimo struck first and buried his blade in Polis’s right rib! At the same time Polis plunged his knife into Geronimo’s guts. The two warriors tried to break apart while clutching the other’s knife inside of their bodies. Geronimo finally backed away and pulled the knife from his stomach before staggering a few feet and collapsing to his knees. Polis pulled the knife from out of his rib and doubled over, coughing up blood.
When he looked back up Min was standing next to Geronimo with a knife in her hand. A look of horror came over Geronimo’s grizzled face as she roughly pushed him onto his back and opened his breeches. His screams echoed throughout the forest!
Ludi was finished with his mid day meal and ready to resume telling stories to his eager audience that swelled over the days. He pulled his hood on and slowly walked back to his stage of polished granite.
“Polis is a legend for many reasons my friends,“Ludi explained.
“Many of you would not be here if it wasn’t for Polis. He’s been a champion for us, as well as others in this cruel world.
There was a time back when some of you were mewling babes on your mothers teat that mutants were hunted for sport.There are survivors of those dark times among you who were older and remember the one-man war Polis waged against your attackers.You could testify to the many lives he saved and how he never mistreated mutants. Today, I will testify for you by telling how he stopped a whole tribe from hunting us.“
Polis watched the two warriors walk across the ruined road and around the rusty remnants of what was once a car, coming toward him. They were in no hurry. When they got close enough the taller one called out to him,
“Ho there! I am Zeb, and this is King Han. We are of the Bear Clan. This is our territory your on. Explain yourself stranger,” he challenged.
Neither exhibited any emotion while waiting for his reply. The tall one was broad shouldered and heavily muscled with a sculpted torso worthy of an ancient Roman god. His ebony skin was well oiled and he only wore a loin cloth. His companion in contrast was short and frail looking. He was bald and heavily wrinkled from years of hard living. Perched on his head was a highly polished wooden crown. It had two red stones embedded into the front. His tunic was made from scrapes of cloth and fur from a bear who was long extinct. It was ratty with age and made him look more like a beggar than a leader. His narrow face and delicate jaw resembled another long extinct mammal; a rat.
“Forgive me! I saw no signsor markers,” he politely replied.
“Everyone knows this is our tribes land,” Zeb said in a deadpan voice.
Suddenly Polis saw warriors stepping out from behind buildings on all sides of him. They silently took up their positions, encircling him and waiting for a signal.
“What is your name stranger?” the King asked in a shrill voice that carried well in the silence.
“Your name means nothing to me. Why should I let you live?” the King’s squeaky voice demanded.
“Because I’m the mightiest warrior in the land” he boasted, “…and a good person to have as a friend.”
King Han liked his answer and squealed with delight, “We must test you right away! Show our mightiest warrior Zeb how skilled and powerful you are braggart!” he taunted Polis.
Polis tossed his sword and knife aside in order to meet his opponent on equal terms. Zeb was on him in a flash! He gripped Polis in a stranglehold for several seconds before Polis wedged his leg into Zeb’s and threw his weight to one side, throwing him to the ground. He didn’t wait for Zeb to recover and kicked him in the head as he tried to stand. Blood was pouring from Zeb’s broken nose as Polis bent over and throttled him to death with his bare hands. It was over so quickly everyone was stunned. Zeb never lost. But there he lay at a stranger’s feet like a broken doll. King Han blinked in surprise but recovered quickly,
“So it seems you are right. There is no one mightier than you. Come. I’ll lead you to our village and we’ll have a feast tonight.You must tell me more about yourself. Come, join us.”
Polis picked up his weapons and followed. He wasn’t surprised at all that he was tested. It was the way of the world. Man eat man. He knew he’d be having Zeb steaks tonight. The others couldn’t because it was taboo to eat one of their own. They already had caught their dinner earlier in the day after killing a couple of wanderers that had strayed into their hunting grounds.
The sun was retreating into the horizon as Ludi continued his story. His audience increased since he resumed speaking in the afternoon.
“And so it came to pass thatPolis stayed with the Bear Clan for a week until an incident came up that changed their relationship. Three warriors approached Polis one day and asked if he’d like to join them for some sport?
“He agreed to join them for a chance at some excitement. It took several hours of going through a dense forest before the group came upon two mutants – a father and his son.Before Polis could do anything his three companions fell upon the terrified duo and slaughtered them! It was a senseless act that didn’t result in getting meat for the clan, because no one ate mutants for fear of being poisoned. It was murder.
“Sickened by what he saw, he pulled his sword and slew all three warriors in a blind rage.He suffered numerous gashes and was weak from loss of blood when a mutant came upon him as he sat with his back to a tree trying to stay conscious.A gut wound from his last battle was just healing but now was seeping blood onto his lap.
“The mutant look around at the carnage. One warrior had killed the other three for some reason. Then she found two members of her family hacked to pieces nearby.She knelt down by the wounded warrior and asked him what happened? He had passed out from loss of blood. Later, after she treated his wounds he told her.
“Thus Polis became the bane of the Bear clan and lived among the mutants for a year. He ambushed hunting parties that came looking for mutants so many times that the clan finally decided they had enough, and agreed not to harm the mutants anymore if he’d stop stalking and killing them.
“This is just one of the many adventures that have led to Polis’s fame. Come back again tomorrow, and I’ll tell you another,” Ludi told his rapt audience as the cool night settled in.
Polis and Min sheltered from the merciless sun beneath an evergreen tamarisk tree. It was too hot to travel during the day.
The white dunes around them seemed to go on forever. A few hearty plants like succulents, cactus, and mesquite sporadically dotted the bleak landscape. They were lost. Hopelessly lost.
Polis stared out across the smooth undulating dunes, straining his eyes to search for any movement. They had run out of human jerky days ago and were surviving off the land. The only types of cactus that offered water they could safely digest were the prickly pear and one species of the barrel cactus – the fishhook barrel.
If not for a traveler they met before setting out across the great desert, they wouldn’t have known which cactus was safe to eat and get moisture from. He was a good story teller and minutely described the two types of cactus they could depend on if necessary.
It was Polis who wanted to see what lay beyond Death Valley, as the locals called it. He’d heard rumors of strange new people who were so far advanced that they created marvels and lived in paradise. It would be an adventure worthy of his fame. That he had a woman with him made it even better. He enjoyed companionship in this stage of his life. He’d been a loner for a long time. He wasn’t even sure how old he was, but guessed he was in his fifties based upon his fragmented memories. Min was a talker and he enjoyed listening to her.
Neither felt much like talking as they sat in the shade of the tree. They were conserving their energy so they could travel at night beneath the moon’s light.
Ludi tried to stand up, but couldn’t. His frail body was giving in to age and a hard life. His vision was blurry but he could still see the mutants who surrounded him and felt a measure of satisfaction. He had passed on all of his wisdom and kept Polis’s legend alive. The one thing he never told his audience was that he was the father of the man who was ruthlessly murdered with his son by the Bear clan.
“And so it was a time of great peril for Polis and Min as they struggled to get out of the valley of death. After losing count of how many days they traveled Min saw a mountain range and they realized the landscape was changing. It was getting a little cooler. They spotted a strand of trees and green grass at the same time. It meant there was water ahead. The moisture from the cactus gave them both problems with their guts, but it at least kept them alive. The chance people might be around was good considering how lush the country appeared to be. Neither had any meat since they ran out of their jerky weeks ago. Weak from hunger and relief they walked through the night untilthey reached the edge of the forest.“
Ludi closed his eyes for the last time. His grieving followers gathered closer to bid him farewell. The sun set slowly in the west with his now free soul.
Min and Polis had no way to boil the water from the stream but they didn’t care, and kneeled down on the bank drinking the cool water from their cupped hands. After quenching their thirst they stripped down and went into the shallow stream, soaking their tired bodies for an hour before getting out. They were exhausted and found a tree to climb up and sleep in. Both fell asleep dreaming about food.
When they woke they saw a fantastic sight in the horizon. It looked like a thriving city with humans riding in cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Polis had once seen these wonders in a book when he was young, but still stared in awe. Min’s jaw dropped at the sight of wonders she never dreamt of.
Before Polis could tell her what little he knew about the wonders a loud voice boomed below them.
“You there! Come on down! What are you doing in our forest?” a strangely dressed man demanded. He was surrounded by other men and they were all pointing strange weapons at them.
“We come in peace,” Polis reassured them as he shimmed down the tree trunk. Min joined him and the two held hands facing their interrogator.
“Welcome to New Atlantis,” their interrogator said. “I’ll need those weapons first, before we take you to our king.“
Author’s note: I’m considering another trilogy featuring Polis, Min, and a new cast of characters in a world that is the exact opposite of what they lived in.
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.
“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?”
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.
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.
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 calledFictionista – Flash Fiction/Musing of Darnell Cureton
Another favorite follower (ahh heck! They’re all my favorite followers!) is the blog called Monkey’s Talethat 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 artpendsoffers 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
“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.