He landed lightly on the mountain top
and looked down into the valley below
bathed in the sunset’s pink glow
with people retiring for the night
he had a job to do in the moonlight
a soul to escort away
by the end of the day
He landed lightly on the mountain top
and looked down into the valley below
bathed in the sunset’s pink glow
with people retiring for the night
he had a job to do in the moonlight
a soul to escort away
by the end of the day
Once the center of a thriving Roman empire
Palatine Hill still stands silently
a former home of emperors
of the known world
chipped alabaster idols whisper
about ancient days
amid marble columns leaning sidewise
the Circus Maximus gazes
at the palatial structures
with their underground mazes
the birthplace of Romulus
Rome’s legendary founder
the Triclinium Domus Flavia’s marble floors
remnants of glory gone in long ago wars
The hunt was on. Like a moon circling a planet, Djara kept a safe distance from the beast while patiently stalking and observing it’s every move for days.
In the course of her young life Djara had become a renown hunter. She was a superstar in the Milky Way Galaxy where hunters from different world’s gathered to share stories and techniques. Her reputation for bagging exotic game was well-earned. She had yet to find a quarry that eluded her and didn’t end up in her vast collection.
It was a harsh planet filled with strange creatures and endless jagged mountains surrounded by forests so thick sunlight couldn’t penetrate their canopies. Unbothered by the rugged land Djara made her way through the dense forest using her night vision glasses. All the stories she ever heard were true. The beast was eight-feet tall and had four powerful arms that sprouted from a massive hairy torso.
Hunters seldom returned after stalking the creature. There were some hunters who saw it firsthand and ran for their lives, only to be broken with fear and unable to ever hunt again when they returned. And there were those who died gruesome deaths for their efforts.
Flen’s grizzled features tried to crack a smile, but the effect looked more like a grinning death’s head than an attempt to be jovial. He was in a good mood. Someone was hunting him and they didn’t know that he knew. It was always like this. A game of life and death. Flen was exiled to the nameless planet eons ago for crimes long forgotten. Back in his world, before he ran afoul of the law, he was a bounty hunter. Some said he was the best one on the planet Druin.
Killing was a hobby for Djara. The only one she had. Because she was raised and spoiled by wealthy parents, she always got what she wanted. The best weapons instructors, and the latest high tech weapons were hers from an early age. She was sixteen when she went out on her first big game hunt. Since then she had become a skilled tracker and a crack shot.
The day finally came when she saw her chance. It was a clear shot. The beast was standing on a ridge line totally exposed 200 yards away. An easy shot. Instead of going for center mass she decided on a quick kill head shot. The laser rifle’s blue beam streamed in the same second as the quarry suddenly dropped out of sight! She wasn’t sure if it was a hit, or not. A cold feeling came over her and she involuntarily shuddered. This had never happened before.
She climbed up to the ridge line where the beast was a moment ago and looked down the other side hoping to see a body. Nothing. It dawned on her that she was in trouble. This quarry was turning the tables on her.
She would have been amazed to see how fast he moved when he plunged all the way down and into the forest below minutes before. He was already flanking her as she weighed her options.
By the time she decided to go down into the forest the sun was sitting and Flen was following her like a big cat closing in on its prey. Like a great cat, he played with his prey. He sensed she was better than most and decided not to underestimate her. It was this kind of caution that assured Flen of success since he stalked the first hunter who came seeking him for their trophy collection. He had no illusions. The hunters would keep coming until one day he died of old age, or carelessness. He was a universal target for so many years he lost track of time.
It was Djara’s hunter’s sixth sense that alerted her that she was in danger. She stopped walking and held her ray rifle closely. The beast was near. She saw a fleeting movement. The narrow space between each tree barely afforded a brief glance. But she knew the moment of truth was near.
Flen had no weapons. He always got by with his sheer brute strength and size. His speed is what made him the most dangerous. His ability to be on his prey in a blink of an eye was terrifying to his victims.
A dreadful recognition slowly dawned on Djara. The “beast” was a hunter just like her. She wasn’t facing a dumb creature who had been lucky thus far. It was a skilled hunter operating in his own terrain.
Her fate was sealed. Holding the ray rifle with one hand, she unclipped her last resort weapon – a grenade – and pulled the pin out just as Flen’s four arms wrapped around her!
Seals can be trained to clap for treats
humans can be brainwashed to clap
for political candidates
Seals dive into the sea for sustenance
humans swim in the chaos
they call civilization
while seals search for their next fish
humans thrash about like bait
caught in some stupid political debate
victims of their own hate
I’m looking to stimulate my imagination
by bringing along flying turtles
to give me inspiration
my muse riding in a row boat
a fantasy innovation
coming to me with
with childish fascination!
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!
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.
“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.
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.“
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.
statues silently standing on hallowed ground
telling their stories day and night
granite and marble guardians without sight
A garden full of ghosts standing vigil
alongside testaments of their lives
invisible keepers of their own archives
There’s nothing living in this garden
no souls lingering nearby
just grave stones under the sky
The gathering around the campfire was diverse and grotesque. They were mutants whose parents survived the nuclear war of 2057. Their grotesque bodies had extra limbs. Some with no limbs that looked more like worms than humans. Their tortured flesh were portraits of nightmares yet undreamed. Some with heads of animals long extinct. Blank faces with only mouths. Some exceptionally tall, and others stunted dwarfs a mere three-feet in height. Some of the odd company had horns, and or, tails.
One of them was speaking. Telling stories and tales of mankind’s travails in the last century. He was tall, slim, and had a long gray beard. His face was scaly like a snake’s with three bulging eyes that always seemed surprised because they were so large and never blinked. He was Ludi, keeper of stories and legends. An honored member among the loose coalition of mutants that lived in what use to be southern California, and northern California.
Long before Ludi was born, there was a division between normal humans, and their mutant offspring. Families raised their mutated offspring separately, in little communities run by volunteers who raised them until they were adults when they were forced to go out on their own and survive. The main thing that saved them from extermination in a man-eat-man world was the fear their flesh was poisonous. The other thing that worked in their favor was they were not meat-eaters. They survived on almost anything that could be grown. It was another reason to let them live; they didn’t compete for meat. In this new primordial pecking order mutants co-existed at the bottom of the food chain. Another factor was they did have powerful warriors who were often the match of normal human warriors.
In essence, mutants seldom clashed with human clans, and sometimes even allied themselves with individuals or clans for mutual benefit. Their tenacious ties involved a mutual history, going back before mankind went mad and unleashed holocausts across the planet.
Ludi was telling the small gathering a story about Polis. A legend in his own time, and said to be still roaming the north American continent. Polis’s Post Mortem parties were the stuff of rich tales full of adventure and action.
“So Polis uncovered the body for the Skull clan to examine and try to guess how he was killed. There were 60 people sitting on a great table that the head of the clan, the Great Skullton, had made for the special event. Then there was a communal gasp as everyone recognized the centerpiece of the night’s party.
“Unknown to Polis, the body on display was Lut, the son of the Great Skullton!”
“What did the Great Skullton do when he saw his son lying there dead?” one of the eager listeners asked.
Ludi paused and looked up into the clear night sky. A meteor flashed across the stars and he shivered against the cold, moving closer to the fire before resuming his story.
“The Great Skullton’s horror quickly turned to rage! His hopes for a dynasty were as dead as his son whose body was becoming putrid under the merciless sun.
Polis quickly understood the situation he was in. There was no way he could fight his way out past that many warriors. Legend or no legend. The Great Skullton was standing and screaming terrible curses at him when Polis jumped up onto the table, and launched himself into Skullton’s massive chest with such force he drove him backwards and to the ground. Before anyone could stop him he drove his knife into the clan leader’s bare throat! Turning to the clan members, Polis claimed his victor’s right to free passage. There was a sense of relief as the warriors stepped aside and let him leave unharmed. He was not a beloved leader and wouldn’t be missed.”
A female voice broke the silence, “What happen to Min? Did Polis ever meet up with her again?“
Ludi sighed and replied, “Yes, they did get together and had many exciting adventures that are already considered legendary. They even became lovers. But that’s a story for another day. Meanwhile, we’re going to need more wood, it promises to be a frigid night.”
Polis grew up in a loosely knit community on what use to be the east coast of the United States. His people were nomadic hunters who avoided organized tribes but were sometimes forced into contact which resulted in blood-letting, producing meat for both sides.
He was exceptionally tall, even as a child. While he was fully capable of bullying his peers he seldom chose to. He was a loner whose wanderlust was finally realized after an attack on the hunting camp where he and his parents lived.
They were slain in the early moments of the massacre. He was 14-years-old when his outnumbered tribe was slaughtered. Taking a sword from a dead attacker, Polis tried to defend his mother but she was struck down by a knife from behind by a howling warrior! He slew her killer with a mighty swing that nearly decapitated him. Looking around frantically for his father he spotted him but it was too late. He was surrounded and had suffered grievous wounds. When a spear pierced his chest and came out of his back, Polis turned and ran.
A trio of warriors pursued him but were unable to keep up with his blistering pace and gave up after an hour. When he saw they had given up the chase he stopped and raised his sword over his head then pointed it at them with a theatrical gesture as the sun set behind him.
Min was glad to be alive. Her opponents had wounded her in numerous places and she had fought Geronimo the head of the Snake Clan who nearly killed her, but chose to humiliate her instead.
Days before, after slaying three snake warriors Min had turned on Geronimo who had just beheaded her longtime lover and friend Ord. She charged him recklessly in a rage and he used her momentum to send her flying off balance and onto the forest floor where her head made an audible thud on the ground!
Geronimo bent over her and grabbed her long hair, pulling her head painfully upright. He looked into her blurred eyes and saw she still had fight left despite being stunned. In spite of himself, he was impressed by her fiery attitude and courage.
“I’m not going to kill you,” he said standing up. “I’ll leave that to someone else, but you must pay a price to remember me by,” he said while unlacing his breeches.
She barely remembered the violation of her body as she sank in and out of consciousness. Before Geronimo left he pulled out his knife and drew a small line on her right cheek in blood. She didn’t even whimper.
Min touched the now healed cut and wondered what she would do next. It finally came to her that she needed to return to Ord and hers lair. There were supplies there. She needed time to think about her next move and to recuperate. Thankful that she still remembered her way around the land after her concussion she set off in a steady mile-eating pace.
Polis’s pale blue eyes stared from the concealment of a tree, intently focusing on two travelers that passed blissfully unaware of his presence below. He didn’t recognize what tribe they belonged to and it troubled him. He’d traveled thousands of miles in his lifetime from one ocean to another, and thought he knew all the tribes. It humbled him for a moment and made him realize there were still places he hadn’t explored. Ruins yet undiscovered with mysterious machines and technology long forgotten.
It made him smile. Then he decided to follow the two men.
Geronimo had returned from the ill-fated hunting party in a dark mood over the loss of his three warriors. He ordered six warriors to accompany him in reclaiming the bodies for proper burial. The remains were respectively burned into ashes and placed in pottery jars of clay for each family. Geronimo mourned them, but found his mind wandering to Min and asking himself if he should have let her live? Would his spur of the moment urge be his demise? He shrugged his fate off to the fickle gods of chaos and consoled the families of the deceased.
When Polis saw the two men were nearing an enclosure that was swarming with men and women working on the walls of a tribal compound in the hot sun he held back in the shade of the forest line.
There were so many they looked like ants crawling over the ruins of once mighty buildings covered in vegetation. They were using man-powered wooden carts to carry chunks of marble and granite. The carts with their wooden wheels caught Polis’s eye and he stared for nearly an hour in wonder as the construction continued until the burning sun went down and the laborers disappeared inside the growing compound walls. There was one main gate guarded by two burly warriors armed with swords and battle-axes. Polis calculated he was at least a foot taller than both of them.
His curiosity demanded he investigate. It was time to introduce himself and see if they had ever heard of him. He walked boldly towards the main gate under the bright full moon. The guards saw him and snapped into defensive positions, challenging him.
“Who are you?” one demanded unceremoniously while the other unsheathed his sword.
“A traveler. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? My name is Polis.”
“I doubt it,” his inquisitor grumbled, but turned to the other guard with his sword out and told him to get Geronimo.
“You wait here, but don’t get too comfortable because your meat would be welcomed right now if our leader isn’t impressed by your swagger.”
An hour passed before Geronimo arrived at the gate and walked right up to Polis. He calmly looked up at the taller man with interest and no fear.
“I may have heard stories about you. You say you are the Polis who puts on Post Mortem parties for entertainment?“
“Good! Come to my campfire and we shall talk about meat and other juicy things!”
The guards closed the gate as the two men entered. One turned to the other and grumbled, “So, what’s the big deal?“
Back in her lair, Min took her time healing and planning revenge against Geronimo. Several of the cuts she suffered required stitches. Afterward she smeared an herbal ointment on the wounds to aide recovery. She was no stranger to physical wounds having suffered many in her thirty-eight years of life. None more damaging however than the mental wound of being raped and cast aside like trash.
Vengeance can be a terrible thing. Sometimes one has to pay a terrible price for getting satisfaction. She was ready to sacrifice her life if it meant killing the warrior who defiled her. Without Ord, who was both her lover and best friend, she felt adrift for the first time in years. Grief settled over her like a mantle as she slept fitfully in the solitude of the cavern.
In Min’s dreams she saw herself as a toddler.
An old woman had found her wandering in the deep forest naked and afraid. She took her back to a wooden shack that was covered with prickly vines and deadly fruits. The first thing she taught Min was not to eat the fruits and how to avoid the vines sharp thorns when entering the humble abode.
She was an orphan with no story. The old woman took care of her for ten years before dying from a mysterious illness. It was at that time she met Ord as a young teenager with no knowledge of the deadly world around her. He stumbled upon her picking corn from a little plot of land that also had yams and potatoes. His height frightened her and she turned to run.
“No! Don’t go! I won’t hurt you. I’m wounded and starving,” he cried out.
She stopped and turned around to look at the intruder. It was the tone of his voice. Lost and afraid like she once was that convinced her he was safe and not a threat.
“What is your name?” she asked while walking up to him.
“Ord. They call me Ord,” he replied in obvious pain.
When she saw the blood dripping down his right shoulder and bicep she closed the gap between them and gently took his good arm and led him through the vines and into the shack’s dim interior. He had to get down on his knees to crawl through the front door because he was so tall. Inside, Min moved some wooden slates aside and opened the window for lighting. Ord leaned back against the wall and passed out before he could thank her. It made things easier. He’d feel no pain as she sewed up the deep gash and put ointment on it.
Thus they became lovers and best friends. For twenty years they traveled together. Ord taught her how to fight using everything from a spear to a knife. He trained her for a decade before declaring she was the best all-around warrior. He was a humble man who did anything she asked of him. He introduced meat into her diet. She only had a faint memory of eating meat when extremely young. Far from from repulsing her, she discovered she liked the addition of red meat. The fact that it was human meat didn’t trouble her, she was a product of the times. Survival meant eating well.
One of the things Min loved about Ord was his knowledge. He claimed he could read books. When he explained what they were and how they had knowledge of many things she was fascinated. He told her about animals long gone that were once sources of meat. He described how aliens from other worlds came and fought with mankind for decades and how they became a source of meat when there were no more animals to consume.
He told her of mighty cities and buildings bigger than anything she could imagine that lay in ruins across the entire world. She got dizzy with delight when he told her stories about cars, planes, and trains. Sometimes she thought he made stories up at times just to shock and surprise her. It was okay. She enjoyed every day with him.
Now Ord was dead. His body no doubt meat for the warrior’s clan. A tear slipped down one eye surprising her. It never happened before. Before she knew it she was crying her heart out and howling with grief!
Polis raised his rough clay mug of potato alcohol to Geronimo and toasted him,
“May you live forever and have many fine sons!” he bellowed good-naturedly and drank the contents in one gulp and jumped up and pulled his sword.
Geronimo and his favorite warriors were sitting in a circle around the campfire in the center of the compound watching Polis wield his sword like a living thing in a dance of death fueled by the fiery alcohol. They were mesmerized at his slick swordsmanship, unlike anything they had ever seen before. His dark muscles shimmered with sweat and his long black hair flew in all directions as he twisted and turned so fast the naked eye could barely follow his moves. Drums were beating in the background seemingly in synch with his mad gyrations. Geronimo watched him with slit eyes fighting to stay awake. He had drunk vast quantities of the liquor, but didn’t dare get up and go to his bed now. He had to wait until the madman and legend was done with his dance.
The next morning around the now dead campfire.
“Would you honor us with a Post Mortem party?” Geronimo asked as the sun rose over the nearby mountains.
Polis stood up and stretched his thickly corded arms and replied, “The last time I threw a Post Mortem party things didn’t go so well,” he admitted.
“Oh! What happened?” Geronimo pressed.
“Let’s just say there was a big misunderstanding. I take it you haven’t heard the story?
“We are new to this area and just becoming aware of other tribes,” Geronimo explained.
“I see. When would you like to hold the party? A special occasion perhaps?”
Geronimo who didn’t want to admit that he had a pounding headache said he would consult the tribe’s elders and get back to him soon.
“That’s fine,” Polis said. “I have some unfinished business and will come back in a few days. You can tell me then when you want to hold the Post Mortem party.”
“Good. Now I must go and supervise the building of the walls,” Geronimo concluded the conversation.
As Polis picked his way through jungles that were once parks and neighborhoods, he wondered what happened to Ord and Min? The last time he saw them they were waiting for him at the base of a tree.
When he finally located the statue of the unknown sailor he knew he was getting close. They had blindfolded him when he was first brought to their lair, but he felt his tracking abilities as a hunter would guide him there anyway. He studied the landscape and then set out looking for signs of trails.
Min had just fetched a bucket of water from the nearby stream and was boiling it just outside the cave entrance when she heard something. Grabbing her spear and long knife she set out to find what alerted her. She moved slowly but surely through dense bushes and trees listening. She saw Polis before he saw her!
Overcome with relief she broke her cover and called out to him,
“Polis! It’s me! Min!“
He stopped and looked in her direction. A big smile lit his face as he recognized her. Mission accomplished. She surprised him by giving him a big hug. Something she’d never done before. He held her and felt her heart hammering away.
“I have much to tell you Polis,” she said.
“And I have a story for you Min.” he acknowledged, still hugging her.
The Chronicles of Polis – Book Three: Requiem
Post Mortem Party
What Use to be San Francisco – Pier 29 – 2101
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.
Northern lights and purple nights
aurora borealis colors in the night sky
a palette for the gods to paint
forests and plains forever green
the most beautiful day ever seen
flowing fields of verdant grass
grassy knolls en masse
under the sun’s brilliant sheen
lies a blanket of emerald green
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