Book One of the Polis Chronicles

Post Mortem Party

What Use to be San Francisco – Pier 29 – 2101

Chapter One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long time,” Ord observed.

Yup.” Polis drawled in his favorite western accent.

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

Chapter Two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polis studied his two friends for a moment before replying.

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

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

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

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

The Skull Clan,” he calmly replied.

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

Why do you want to help me?

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

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

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

Chapter Three

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

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

“I tried…” he wheezed before passing out.

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

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

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

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

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

This is my kill.”

They nodded. Understanding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Four

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________________***_________________________

COMING SOON BOOK TWO

of the Polis Chronicles

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

_____________________________________

The Champion

The Roman arena on display with the blood of humans and animals on a scorching August day…

we see a massive iron gate rise and out strides two gladiators in armor with killer eyes, ready to find out which one dies…

the blistering heat from the sandy arena floor shimmers on their swords as they walk through the gore and stand before the emperor, listening to the crowd’s roar…

“We who are about to die…” is drowned out by the crowd’s excited cries from spectators with blood in the eyes…

the emperor gives a slight nod and sat down, and the combatants turned around until they faced each other in the open ground, weapons held high, both hoping the other would die…

metal rang against metal in the raging heat, as each athlete refused to retreat so that blood covered each from head to feet while spectators passed out in the terrible heat…

finally one of the men clove open the other’s head, striking him instantly dead, leaving the victor the champion for the day, a title he’d be forced to defend again and again until his last day

****

The Returning Knight’s Story

(Editor’s note: I’m experimenting with a hybrid writing genre combining Flash Fiction/Poetry – let me know what you think. Does it work? Input appreciated – 326 words)

after years he returned from his duty as a crusader in a foreign land, riding a weary war horse in battered and bloody armor, the knight struggled not to think about the terrible things he saw in the Holy Land, where massacres of innocents were common and his soul shriveled watching and participating in…

the sun bore down mercilessly on his and his horse’s rusting armor, and his tortured brain, as he stared from behind unblinking eyes down the long dusty lane, where clusters of cobblestones laid by Roman engineers still existed after hundreds of years, reminded him of the rubble he left behind…

lurking behind his empty eyes was a shadow of recognition that he was once a husband and a father living peacefully in a green valley, where he and his bride were born so long ago, before the Catholic church came by and said he had to go, and defend Christianity for the sake of humanity, or be excommunicated by the church…

that man was just a memory as the knight rode down the road and considered what lay ahead with no emotion like he was dead, but instead he plowed ahead with no plan in mind, no speech to give about his harsh life when he thought about his young wife…

finally the day arrived and the familiar landscape of home rose like a blessing in green rows of trees surrounded by grassy knolls and a farm house at the bottom of the hill ahead, as the knight’s powerful horse picked up it’s gait unconsciously for his master to see his wife standing by a tree…

no Muslim warrior ever wounded the knight so badly

than after talking with her by the tree, when she said she thought he was dead and married again and was happy, with a tear in her eye that he could see, she turned and went back to her new family …

the knight got back on his horse, and rode into history.

***

The Awakening

after a century the first thing I could see

was a replica of me staring with curiosity

we looked at one another

trying to discover

the mystery

it didn’t take long

to understand what was wrong

when I blinked an eye

so did the other guy

and it became clear

I was looking up into a mirror

and there was no reason for fear

but when I stood up

I heard a hidden gear

instead of my heart

there was a moving part

instead of skin

I had something akin

that gleamed in the light

and gave me a fright

until I realized I was still alive

even if my body didn’t survive

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.

My Bangkok Tour Guide

Essay – 246 words

While walking down a street in the Kingdom of Thailand where ex-pats from around the world land, blending seamlessly into the local 1970 economy, I met a young boy with a man’s eyes.

He was probably ten – going onto forty – with worldly knowledge far beyond his tender years. Anuia was a frail street waif with the wisdom of the local marketplace for sale. He promised the best place to stay, my drug of choice, and prostitutes with breathless beauty, if I hired him throughout my stay.

We toured a banana plantation, and a red light district called
Pattaya, with outrageous sex acts they were not even considered risqué in the day. Creedance Clearwater Revival rocked the bars with “Looking Out My Backdoor.” I smoked some of the best weed in my life, comparing it to the Vietnamese strain that made you forget your name.

We watched kick fighter’s knock each other out, only to get up afterwards and respectfully bow to one another. Anuia shared his best curse words to get quick results, and bargained over every transaction like it might be his last. He was shrewd and a survivor, with no parents or family.

The thing that impressed me the most was he was always smiling – except when he negotiated a deal. His smile seemed to defy the life he led. When my time was up, and I had to go, he shook my hand, then turned to greet another group of visitors deplaning nearby.

The Daily Life Run

200 words –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unsung Hero

450 words –

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

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

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

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

It was a case of universal injustice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Phone Booth

400 words –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 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.