Book Three: The Polis Chronicles – Requiem

Chapter One

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 it as 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!

Chapter Two

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 signs or 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.

Polis.”

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 that Polis 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.

Chapter Three

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 until they 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.

The end.

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.

The Survivors

-160 words

In the aftermath of the global nuclear war the earth wept toxic radiation, killing the remaining living things slowly and painfully.

Poisonous gases weakened the planet’s struggling species worldwide. Once lush forests were transformed into wastelands. Skyscrapers that once kissed the heavens now reduced to steel skeletons. Human shadows etched on concrete, gruesome portraits depicting their last moment of life.

The human race had finally fought it’s last world war. Chaos reigned as the last vestiges of civilizations turned to dust. History erased with no trace for space explorers from other worlds to see. No record of humanity.

No. The only survivors will not be able to talk with any celestial visitors. They’ll be flattened under surfaces of all kinds, scurrying around and scavenging in dark places unseen by prying eyes. Just like their ancestors for millenniums past. They were built to last. That’s why cockroaches survived man’s follies. They were the one species mankind could not drive into extinction.

The Blood Plains of Nusa

500 words –

Stit stood still when he saw the rippling movement beneath the ground. His well-trained hunter eyes stared at it, determining the length and approximate width.

A big one.

Hunting the deadly Stuners for their hides was a desperate way to make a living, but Stit had no choice. It was all he knew. One bite would stun it’s victim, regardless of it’s size. Then it swallowed it’s prey whole. The underground terrors topped out at 60-feet long with six-foot wide bodies that glistened like diamonds when exposed to the suns of Nusa, a dying desert planet.

Stit’s home.

He was among the last of the bipeds on Nusa. The rest of the survivors walked on four, or more, legs. His species was once dominate before the nuclear wars and the resulting mutations that led to fierce predators like the Stuners.

Because of climate change over the centuries, the Blood Plains red sands crawled across the planet like an infection. It was there brave hunters sought the Stuners for their valuable hides. Their meat was vile and poisonous.

For a hunter to be successful he had to pierce the beasts’s eye to strike the tiny brain behind it that kept it alive. Any other wounds were useless. It didn’t feel pain. It was the ultimate killing machine on Nusa.

Feeling confident that he knew where the head was, Stit held his 10-foot long steel spear at the ready as he approached. Suddenly the head thrust through the ground’s cover and burst out into the glaring suns, it’s majestic and deadly worm-like head raised to strike at him. At that moment, Stit threw his spear at the monster’s right eye!

Skinning a Stuner is almost as hard as killing the creature because of it’s enormous size. Stit spent two nervous cycles stripping the shimmering scales and praying to the dark gods that another one wouldn’t show up before he finished. They ate their own kind.

It took all of his strength to load the skin onto the sleigh he brought with him. He slipped into the harness and began his trek to get off the Blood Plains before his blood mingled with the burning sands. After two more grueling cycles he finally saw the caves. Home. With each tired, but victorious, step he could hear his heart beating. His prize would keep him fed and entertained for 100 cycles before having to return to the Red Plains. The hide glowed brightly in the dark tunnels. Not that he needed it to see. His eyes, like the others were adapted to the dark tunnels.

By the time Stit got to the great community hall he was exhausted, but elated. As he watched the officials unravel the hide to measure it, his stomach growled. He was hungry. His rations were used up a cycle ago.

Watching the judges smile he sighed in relief. Good times were ahead. The hell with the Red Sands!

He tried not to think about returning to the Red Plains.

There’s a Time and Place For Everything

apocalypse

Time, and time again, the man failed to force the door open as the beast closed in on him. He looked over his shoulder in time to see the monster open its shark-like mouth, with rows of razor-sharp teeth, closing them on his arm!

His screams echoed through the ruins of the city long ago destroyed by nuclear war. His cries for help went unanswered. Those that heard his tortured cries stayed hidden, hoping the monstrosity wouldn’t find them.

Huddled in a row of nearby buildings, Leo stayed calm, and listened. His younger brother Joe sat next to him, patiently waiting for the sign that it was safe to move. Like most of the survivors in what was once, Los Angeles, California, the men used sign language to communicate. Talking was too risky. The monster that preyed upon them had extremely good hearing, and a bloodhound’s sense of smell. Minutes crawled by, turning into hours before Leo felt it was gone, and gave Joe the safe sign. They crawled out of their hiding place and stretched their cramped limbs while keeping alert eyes peeled for the nameless beast that stalked them.

The only reason the men went into the ruins, and didn’t stay in their forest stronghold, was they had to forage for food. Canned food. Dried food. Sealed food that wasn’t contaminated. It was too risky eating the remaining wildlife because of radioactive contamination to their systems. It was generational, causing hideous deformities. Food was finite. Someday there wouldn’t be any to scavenge.

It was in this dystopian nightmare that Leo and Joe were raised. Their parents, long gone, taught them basic life lessons like where to find eatable food. Their generation did not have the opportunity to learn how to read or write. The last world war saw to that. People were forced to fend for themselves in small groups. There were no large communities or gathering places where humans could put together the framework of a new society. No organizations, or armies. No governments. Just scattered survivors trying to avoid the monstrosities that roamed in the ruins they were forced to scavenge in.

The brothers decided to call it a day. They both had found a few cans of food. Enough for a couple of days, so they headed back to the forest. On their way, a strange thing happened. A man dressed in a strange-looking suit and hat, suddenly appeared out of thin air right in front of them! His white hair stuck out from beneath the brown fedora he was wearing. He didn’t see them at first, and stood there tinkering with a small device in his hand. They watched in stunned amazement as he talked to himself. Finally he looked up and saw them.

“Good day gentlemen!” he said in a cheery voice, “I’m Professor Thistwhistle. Who may I ask, are you two?”

“Leo.”

“Joe.”

Not very talkative chaps, I dare say. Just as well. You do understand what I’m saying, right?”

They both nodded, and said, “Yes.”

“Very good. I was hoping the English language had survived. I’m not sure I recognize what type of animal skins you chaps are wearing?

“Wildcats and big rats,” Leo said.

“They look a bit odd,” the Professor suggested.

“How are they supposed to look,” Joe asked, his curiosity aroused.

“Well, for starters both species are only supposed to have four legs. Looks to me, the blighter’s you skinned had more than that. But forgive me, I’m sure you’re curious how I got here?”

They both nodded affirmatively. Eagerly.

“This device in my hand is a Time Machine,” he proudly declared.

He quickly realized their blank looks meant they had no idea what he was talking about. “Do you chaps read, or write English?”

“No…our grandfather told us about things like books and writing down things so everyone could read them. We never got to see any books though. It was just talk about them. We know they were powerful things once,” Leo replied.

“Quite so…” the professor agreed. “They are repositories of knowledge. But, I digress. Would you chaps show me around? I’m going to write a book describing what the world will be like in 2102. That’s now, by the way. I don’t suppose you chaps use a calendar do you? Days of the week, and all that?”

“I don’t know anything about a calendar,” Joe said, “but we follow the sun and the moon.” 

“It really doesn’t matter right now. Just being conversational. Would you show me where you live,” he asked.

“Not much to see, but we’ll show you,” Leo agreed.

The brothers led the professor to their home which was forty feet above ground in a tree. Leo scrambled up the tree and when he reached the platform he tossed down a rope ladder. He watched as Joe and then the professor worked their way up, one rung at a time. There was a crude shelter built on the platform and they all went inside it. Serviceable, but crude, stools and a table were in the center of the room. It was all the furniture they had.

The professor spent a short time examining the construction of the furniture then plopped down on one of the stools.

“What is a time machine?” Leo asked.

“Good question. Put simply, it’s a device that allows you to go forward or backward in time.

“How is that possible?” Joe asked.

“I don’t mean to sound condescending chaps, but you wouldn’t understand the science behind it. How could you? You’re living in the end times for mankind. Without access to knowledge there is no hope,” he firmly stated.

The brothers exchanged looks.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Leo said, “You have knowledge that could save us.”

The professor, caught off guard by the remark, hummed and hawed for a few moments trying to form a suitable reply.

“I can’t help you,” he said, with a tinge of sadness in his voice.

“Why?” the brothers both demanded.

“Because it goes against the rules of time travel.”

“Rules?” I don’t understand Leo said.

“There’s certain scientific rules we time travelers have to obey, or we’ll upset the natural order of the universe, turning the solar system into a never-ending chaos.”

“So why are you here?” Joe wondered.

“As I mentioned earlier, I’m writing a book.”

“A book on us?” Leo asked.

“Yes, you and the world you live in.”

“So you can’t help us, but you expect us to help write your book?” Joe suggested.

“That’s putting it a bit sharply lad,” the professor retorted.

Leo got up from his stool and walked over to a corner of the crude hut. He picked up a club that was resting against the wall and walked back over to the table.

“There’s something you should know professor,” Leo said, “we are survivors. It’s the one positive thing in our miserable lives. We never pass up a food source.”

Before the professor could respond, Leo swung the club savagely, crushing the professor’s head in one practiced blow! Afterwards he tossed the bloody club to his brother.

“You get to tenderize the meat.

As It Stands, time travel presents many dangers.

The Irresistible Call of Adventure

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It was the voice that convinced Remy to go further into the cave.

He initially went into the cave to escape the blistering heat outside. As an old desert rat, treasure-hunter, gold miner, and seeker of riches, he knew better than to challenge the sun at its apex.

At first he only went in a few yards. With the help of his flashlight he found a comfortable spot on a large outcropping of rock to sit on. He pulled the canteen off his belt and took a short swig of it. Just enough to wet his tongue and throat so he could swallow. He looked at his old Timex wristwatch that still glowed in the dark after 50 years, and decided to take a quick nap. He relocated himself on the ground with his back to the granite wall, and pulled his baseball cap (that said Lakers on the front) down.

When he woke up an hour later the first thing he noticed was a horrible smell. Standing up carefully, there was only a small clearance between the roof and his head, Remy took a few steps further into the cave and shone his light down into its dark depths. He didn’t see anything, but the smell told him something was wrong. It smelled like death. Decaying corpses. Humans turned into torches with napalm. The fat in their body fueling the flames and causing a greasy smoke that clung to whatever was near.

That bad. If Remy wasn’t an adventurer at heart, he would have left the cave right then. But his curiosity, which had nearly cost him his life before, was too strong. When he heard the voice in his head that cinched it…he had to go further inside and find out why it was calling him.

He double checked the contents of his backpack. Extra ammunition for the old Army .45 he brought back from the Nam, and carried on his web belt. Enough dried, and canned food for a week. A Vietnam-era metal mess kit, plus P-38. A compact First-Aid kit. A compass. A flip phone (a concession to his grown daughter) with minimum functions. A charger for the phone which was only good if it could be plugged into an electrical outlet. A local map of the area he was in. A folded up plastic poncho. An extra t-shirt, and pair of socks. Extra batteries for his flashlight. A metal flask filled with Bushnell’s Irish whiskey. Along with the .45, he had a flashlight, two canteens, and a k-bar knife hanging on his web belt.

Caves didn’t scare him. He’d been in a few hostile ones in Vietnam and Cambodia. He took his bearings with the compass, mentally noting them before pushing on further. After an hour he stopped when the cave abruptly broke off into three directions. The already stale smell of the damp cave was enhanced by the sickening smell that drove him on.

The air was getting thin as he pondered which way to go. His sense of smell wasn’t so acute that he could tell which cave the stench was coming from. They all smelled like hell to him. Then he heard the voice.

“Chests full of old Spanish gold and rare jewels…”

“Where?” he roared, his voice reverberating down all three tunnels.

“Down here…down here waiting for you…” the voice promised.

Remy knew, on one hand, that he shouldn’t be listening to a voice in his head. After years of PTSD counseling he knew it wasn’t right to respond to a voice in his head. It was the fine line between sanity and insanity.

But, on the other hand, he’d responded to voices (one’s he didn’t tell the psychiatrists about) before and things had worked out. He picked the tunnel to the right and started walking as he debated with himself about the value of voices with messages. After walking for eight hours he took his backpack off and sat down on the damp ground. He rummaged through it until he found some beef jerky and his plastic poncho. He unfolded the poncho and slipped it on. It afforded some protection against the dampness. He finished his meal off with a swig of water and whiskey. Before falling asleep it struck him that he was getting use to the foul smell.

When he woke up the first thing he did was look at his wristwatch and turn on his flashlight. He’d slept eight hours. That was two hours more than his normal rest. He wondered how much the thin air weakened him. As if in answer, he got dizzy when he stood up. It took a couple of minutes to be able to bend over and retrieve his web belt. He felt a little better after sipping some water. His first decision was to go back the way he came until he found the crossroads again. It took him over eight hours because he had to stop and rest several times.

When he came to the opening for the three tunnels he sat down and pulled out his metal flask and took a healthy swig. He sat down and took his compass out and studied it for a few minutes under the flashlights beam. He was exhausted and decided to camp right where he sat. After eating, still wearing the poncho, he curled up on the ground and fell asleep. An hour later he woke up, startled by an overpowering smell stronger than what he remembered earlier.

Instinctively he reached for his web belt and his gun. He drew the .45 from its canvas holster, before slowly standing up. The smell was so strong he felt like vomiting. Then he saw the eyes – hundreds of them – glaring at him from all three tunnels! The only option left was a strategic retreat.

The things in the tunnel made a low chattering sound in anger. Some grew more bold than others and came closer so that he was able to see their short, squat, hairy, naked bodies, clutching weapons made from human bones. Their faces were disfigured parodies of humans and they were covered in vile-looking boils. Some had three arms One had two heads, and hopped angrily on one leg.

Remy backed up and kept the flashlight in front of him. When one of them burst forward and came within a few feet of him he fired his gun three times, then turned and ran as fast as he could! Gun in one hand and flashlight in the other, he stumbled but never stopped running. It seemed like forever before he saw daylight and the cave’s opening.

He was blinded by the sun and held his hand in front of his eyes. He looked back at the cave’s entrance once, expecting to see pursuit. None came. As he hiked back to his old jeep he decided this was one adventure he wouldn’t share with anyone.

Especially with his friends who warned him to stay away from the Yucca flat region of the Nevada Test Site near Area 51.

As It Stands, some of us are born adventurers that will always be looking for treasure, but not necessarily finding it.