The Toddler and the Conqueror

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At eighty years-old, Nulf was considered a toddler on Venus. The average age among Venusians was 1,000 years-old.

He was an energetic kid who loved to collect things like artifacts from other planets, and other life forms. He was especially fond of finding a new species to put on display in his room.

Each specimen was displayed in the exact environment they came from. Servants came by Nulf’s room once a day to feed his collection, and to clean out the cubes waste.

Artoin Nes was excited. His spacecraft was entering a new solar system to conquer! After relaying his discovery to his commander in Utunal, he instructed the navigator bot to chart a course to the nearest planet.

Plan in hand, Artoin Nes ordered his fleet to battle stations. The flotilla of space-fighters were locked-and-loaded well before they attacked Mercury. It took the Utunalians two days to overwhelm the crude technology that the Mercurians tried to defend themselves with.

As in the other conquered planets, the inhabitants were forced to pay a ransom; whatever natural resources the Utunalians deemed useful. The inhabitants had to meet a yearly quota. If it wasn’t met, savage destruction would follow.

The invading Utunalians were met with much stiffer resistance when they attacked Mars. Not only were the Martians fierce fighters, but their technology rivaled the attackers.

Nulf knew something was wrong when a servant came to his room and summoned him to his parents quarters. For the first time in his life, Nulf’s parents didn’t have calm faces.

Nulf’s father came right to the point,”Our allies on Mars are being attacked by unknown enemies. We must honor our pact with the Martians and attack their foe.”

“You know what that means Nulf,” his mother said. “There will have to be a mind meld.”

Nulf couldn’t help but be excited. He’d never seen one before. Only in times of dire emergency did the 17 Great Lords gather in the great hall.

Despite the Martians bravery and technology, the Utunalians massive fleet was causing considerable damage to the planetary shield wall. Commander Artoin Nes directed the bombardment.

It was interesting when planets fought back. Artoin Nes saw himself as an omnipotent conqueror and each planet his private playtoy. The victory was always sweeter if the victim struggled.

One of his Ranger squads finally broke through a section of the shield and instantly honed in on the Golden City of Tandia. Deadly laser beams set the great city on fire. It’s inhabitants panicked. They’d never been exposed to violence of this magnitude.

Nulf’s father, Din-al III, was sitting at an alabaster round table with the other 16 Lords of Venus. They were chanting. One-by-one their eyes rolled back in their head. The incense burning in the room made Nulf dizzy, as he watched from nearby.

Utunalian’s throughout the fleet were holding their heads and crying out in agony! The fighters started spiraling out of control. Ships slammed into each other and exploded. The mother ship with Artoin Nes hurtled down into the Martian landscape, crashing in the Red Desert of Xoon.

The Martian militia took the survivors from the crash and locked them up in electrified glass cages.

A week later, to celebrate Nulf’s 81st birthday, his parents took him to the auction house to get a new specimen for his collection. One – who was screaming and pounding on his cage caught Nulf’s eye.

He looked like a lively source of amusement for years to come.  The auctioneer gave a brief bio on him, and said his name was Artoin Nes.

As It Stands, irony is one of my favorite themes.

 

Go Ahead! Call In The Clowns!

evil-clownAt first, the clowns started showing up at street corners advertising a circus that was coming to town.

After two days, and no circus, people began to wonder what was going on?

On the third day, the clowns were gone from the street corners, but began showing up in alleys and people’s driveways. They never said anything. They just stood there with their exaggerated evil clown smiles.

The town’s mayor and city council held meetings trying to determine how to deal with the silent clowns that were scaring their children. No apparent laws were being broken. They always left at curfew.

How could the townspeople in Knotty Grove, New Hampshire, know that it was the annual Gathering of Crazy Clowns? They came from nearby states. All with criminal records. All with garishly painted clown faces. All, a little crazy.

The tradition began years ago when John Wayne Gacy, serial killer and rapist, invited a few criminal clowns he knew to hunt for victims as a group in a small town in Maine. It didn’t end with his death.

There were ten crazy clowns this year. They advertised on the Dark Web, inviting like-minded murderers to join them every September 15th at a different location. This year it was Knotty Grove’s turn.

The fact that it was such a small, isolated little town without its own police force, made it an ideal target.

Ho! Ho! The Clown, was this year’s host. He picked the hunting grounds with care. It was an honor to select victims. The sense of approval from his fellow serial killers made him feel justified in his bloody dealings.

Just before they broke up and went in search of victims, the Evil Santa Clown said what they were all thinking. “I can’t wait to see the surprise on their faces.”

The mayor, a computer geek, discovered what the clowns were up to and called for a townhall meeting.

“Well, there you have it,” the mayor said, while pointing at the clowns on his computer monitor.

“These clowns are serial killers that like to stalk in groups. They especially like finding small communities like ours.”  

“I don’t think they’re going to like what they find in Knotty Grove,” chuckled the town’s only gas station owner.

Here’s the thing. These clowns won’t be missed by anyone,” the mayor said.

The gathering broke out into cheers, showing their fangs in glee when he gave them the green light to go hunting.

As It Stands, the hunter and the prey story has many variations. This one is mine.

 

A Case of Karma: Vernon ‘Comes Home’

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The massive artillery bombardment was constant.

The Marine garrison in Khe Sanh was bombed daily – 67 days and counting. It was February, 1968, and the People’s Army of North Vietnam (PAVN) were intent on destroying the garrison.

Vernon Baxter and his Marine comrades turned back wave after wave of determined Viet Cong and PAVN soldiers. It was Vernon’s birthday – February 12th . He was twenty years-old and was having strong doubts he was going to make it to twenty-one.

He never imagined the savagery of hand-to-hand combat where every move could be your last. He wasn’t sure how many men he’d killed. All the days were morphing into one endless nightmare with no end in sight.

He heard Sgt. Borgalack’s voice and sighed with relief. He was a great squad leader, even if he was an alcoholic. He was going from bunker, to bunker, checking up on his men. He suddenly slipped into his sand-bagged firing position.

Vernon and Adam Butiskowski both looked at him, hoping to hear a word of good news.

“How’s your ammo holding up?” he casually asked, while pulling out a pack of Kools and offering them it to them. Both automatically accepted. There was a loll in the bombing – fifteen minutes now – and the remaining Marines were sneaking snacks and lighting up their cigarettes.

The 6,000 weary marines were facing two infantry divisions, two artillery regiments and an armored regiment. Counting support troops, the North Vietnamese had 25,000 men.

It’d be dark soon and the bombardment would resume. Marine casualties were piling up. At 0330 hours, soldiers of the NVA 6th Battalion, 2nd Regiment, 325C Division, attacked the Marines on Hill 861.

Adam was killed almost instantly – bullets peppering his body like angry blood bees as a NVA soldier burst over the barrier with fixed bayonet. In a mystic moment they both ran out of ammo.

Vernon barely had time to draw his K-Bar from its sheath when the bayonet plunged into his right shoulder! The pure pain gave him the strength to stab his enemy in the chest.

The NVA soldier, Nyung Van Tron, let go of his AK-47 and rolled to the other side of the firing line away from Vernon. Pulling out the bayonet almost made Vernon faint. He was so weak and exhausted he could barely move.

Nyung was holding his hand over the wound trying to stop the massive bleeding. Flares were going off all around the perimeter and the two men could see each other by the reddish light.

The two enemies stared at each other. Both waiting for the other to make a move. When Nyung starting coughing up blood he knew a lung was punctured. He also knew he was going to die.

Vernon saw a funny look in the other man’s eye and watched him pull a grenade off his belt. Then a surprising thing happened. Nyung reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a 3×5 notebook.

His photo was inside. It was just two wrinkled pages crudely stapled together. The second page had a photo of a woman holding a baby. Both had writing in them. With a great effort he tossed the notebook towards Vernon.

Then he pointed over the sandbags, urging him to leave. Vernon instantly realized he was being granted his life. Summoning up all of his waning strength he picked it up, put it in his front pocket, and crawled to the exit.

Just before going over the top he looked back once and saw tears in the young man’s eyes. The explosion rained sand and blood on him.

The siege ended after 76 days with a reported casualty count of 205 American KIA (this turned out to be a false count – there were more like a 1,000 American casualties), and 10-15,000 dead NVA. It turned out to be the bloodiest battle in the entire war.

September 10, 2017.

Vernon is married with two children; a boy, and a girl. They are grown-up now and they each have a child. Grandpa Vernon and his wife of 45-years, Susie, are retired and living in a small town in Idaho.

In the last few years Vernon and his wife have spent countless hours on the internet researching the 3×5 notebook that Nyung had given him. Then one day Vernon got a break.

He read an article in National Geographic about a small Vietnamese village that was struggling in Ta Con, which use to be the Khe Sanh airfield, and featured a man named Hieu Nyung.

In the 3X5 notebook the photo of the woman and the baby was captioned, Hoa and Hieu Nyung. Vernon knew what he had to do next. A week later Vernon and Susie went to Vietnam.

They found Hieu, but his mother Hoa was dead. When they gave him the notebook he broke down and cried. He was desperate and his extended family were starving. Local officials had imposed harsh new taxes.

It took a week before Vernon was able to relocate them to another province. Then he set Hieu up with a bank account of $20,000 to build a business that could support his family.

It was a big chunk of their savings, but Susie never questioned it because Vernon was finally able to “come home.”

As It Stands, as a Vietnam veteran (1970), I longed to see more compassion among my comrades, who were scared and angry young men like me. Now, over a half century later, I’m finding Vietnam veterans who learned compassion in their old age.

 

The ‘Beast’ In The Bayou

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Circa 1950. Port Barre, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana.

Pierre Part dit LaForest was never so afraid in his life.

He looked behind him at the murky waters of the Bayou Teche expecting to see the creature running along the banks. He tried to concentrate while paddling his pirogue in the light of the full moon.

He shouldn’t have been caught out this late in the marshes. That nap set him back a bit. When he woke to the howl of a loup garou (Cajun for werewolf) he scrambled to the pirogue, leaving his gear behind.

Children at Port Barre are warned that loups garous can read souls, and that they only hunt and kill evil men and women and misbehaved horses. Pierre wasn’t sure he qualified as evil. Yeah, he may have done a bad thing or two, but was that all it took?

The beast’s howling stopped after a few minutes. He saw lights ahead and sighed with relief. Ft. Barre’s history stretched back to 1760 when it was an Indian trading post at the place where Bayou Courtableau flows into Bayou Teche.

Nowadays there were less than 2,000 inhabitants. Over half of the town’s income derived from speeding tickets. Everyone knew everyone. It was a tight Cajun community that was proud of its history, culture, religion (Roman Catholic), and entertainment.

Myths and legends were taken seriously. Most had been to a Shaman one time or another seeking help for something.

As Pierre downed his second bottle of beer his best friend Yves Dussault looked worried. He asked, “Are you sure it was a loups garou?”

Never heard that kind of howl before in my life. You ain’t either,” he assured him. “It made my blood run cold.”

Despite his scare Pierre was back fishing three days later.

Deep into the bayou there was a crude hut made from sticks and two old green Army blankets. It was Pedro Gonzalez’s home. He was originally from Mexico, but fled after the cartels captured his family and put them on display in a private zoo.

The Gonzalez’s all suffered from a rare genetic condition called hypertrichosis. Pedro had four inches of thick fur on his face, and his eyes were the only part of his head that was exposed.

This “curse of the hair” is caused by a primeval gene stemming from man’s animal ancestors. Some cases are more extreme than others. All the Gonzalez family had hair all over their bodies.

When Pedro escaped he made his way across the border and into Louisiana he had a plan. He read that it was almost impossible to find someone hiding in the state’s bayous. It was to become his new home.

For a year he avoided any human contact, but spied on people fishing,  listening to their conversations about loups garous. To ensure privacy, Pedro decided to become one. He certainly looked the part.

Living alone was no problem for Pedro. He hated to be stared at like a freak. After three years though, he was starting to miss conversations, and news about what was going on in the world.

Pierre decided he’d collected enough crawfish and catfish. The “Cracklin Festival” kickoff was today and he wanted to get home and change his clothes. He looked forward to dancing all night.

The sun was slowly setting amid a pink and orange skyline when the huge Alligator smashed into his little pirogue. Pierre was unceremonially dumped into the murky waters.

Watching from the marsh grass, Pedro saw that he was in big trouble. Going against every natural instinct, Pedro jumped into the dark water and swam toward Pierre who was screaming in agony!

The Alligator had his leg and was trying to pull him underneath the water. Pedro pulled the only weapon he had, a kitchen butcher knife, and slashed the Alligator across its eyes, puncturing one in the process.

The enraged Alligator let go of Pierre and turned on Pedro. But Pedro was ready. He’d killed a lot of Alligators (and smaller game) to survive. Nimbly avoiding the snapping jaws he plunged the knife in the base of its neck repeatedly.

After cutting its throat he drug the monster onto the bank. Then he remembered Pierre who was hanging onto the remnants of his boat. He swam back to him and held him in a lifeguards hold until they were on the muddy bank.

Pierre had passed out from loss of blood. Pedro tore a sleeve from Pierre’s shirt and wrapped up the gaping wound to staunch the blood flow. It was obvious he’d die without medical attention.

Despite his own misgivings, Pedro picked him up and started walking toward town. The night was aglow with lanterns and dancers were gaily spinning around on the massive wooden platform built for that purpose.

As Pedro stood in the shadows Pierre woke up. He looked up at Pedro and his eyes opened wide in fear. “No. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m leaving you here so you can get help.”

Pedro propped Pierre up against a large bald cypress tree on its knobby roots. Then he let out a series of howls. Looking back one last time at Pedro, he took off for the interior.

When the townspeople found Pierre they thought he was hallucinating and didn’t take much notice of his claims that a loups garou had saved his life. It seemed much more likely that the beast (the loups garou) attacked him and he was in shock.

From that day forward, Pierre added a new wrinkle into the lore of the loups garou.

As It Stands, I’ve often wondered if someone with hypertrichosis was ever mistaken for a werewolf.

 

 

How ‘The Human Beings’ Became Pets On Neptune

Paradise Found?

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Prologue:

In the era following the great nuclear wars there were small groups of mutated humans and animals scattered around the planet.

Climate change caused hundreds of islands to sink into the sea. Once lush landscapes were turned to deserts. Civilization, as man knew it in the 21st century, was reduced to ancestral memories…

The Kank’s long hops were rapidly closing the distance between it, and it’s prey. The prey however, had a plan. Stopping suddenly, Orun Tallman, turned around and raised his spear, a thousand year-old weapon made by the ancients.

The Kank took one last leap, eagerly anticipating a man-meal. Instead, it went crashing down into a pit lined with sharpened sticks with toad poison on their tips. The impaled Kang screamed several times, and finally went limp.

Orun waived to his clanmen. They cautiously came out from behind the nearby rows of green corn. They all wore dark green cloaks held on with a golden clasp. Each had a spear and a sword, or long knife. All ancient relics

If it wasn’t for the fact that they all had light blue skin, were hairless, and had six-fingered webbed hands, they looked just like the people in the sacred history books.

The small clan of 80 people were ruled by a circle of six judges. Three males, and three females. They called themselves “The Human Beings,” and lived by a few basic rules. Equality, and freedom, were cornerstones of their beliefs.

The most unique thing about The Human Beings was their lack of religion. They prayed to no gods. Instead, they lived their lives a day at a time. In the present. When they looked up at the night sky they saw stars, not gods.

There were no regular seasons to grow crops. The fruit and vegetables that managed to survive had morphed into different shapes and tastes. With the Kanks, and the Roons, roaming the land it was impossible to farm.

The Human Beings were forced to lead a nomadic lifestyle in order to survive. Hunting and foraging took up most of their day.

Orun was the clan’s best forager, and hunter. It was he who discovered the museum that yielded the weapons they now carried. What they weren’t able to take with them was buried in another secret location.

The Kanks and the Roons both had smaller brains than The Human Beings. Their crude weapons were no match for The Human Beings, but they made up for it in their body structures.

The Kanks legs were heavily muscled, supporting a powerful chest and short thick arms. It’s reptilian head looked too small for it’s body. They prayed to a panel of gods, each with a different power. Their were almost 200 Kanks.

The Roons were powerful, short, and squat. They looked like a blend of man and wildcat. Their multi-colored coats could change colors like a chameleon, allowing them to attack unwary prey. Combined with their speed, the Roons were formidable enemies.

They prayed to a single God called “He.” There was less than a hundred of their kind.

The Roons and the Kanks had one thing in common; they loved eating The Human Beings.

Orun had a vision for his clan. It involved finding a safe place to live where there were no Kanks, Roons, or any other clans that wanted to kill them.

Was it destiny? A matter of luck? Or, if you will, a miracle?

When the first Neptunian Cruiser came to earth on an extended space tour, it got close enough to earth to make out it’s inhabitants. The gigantic passengers (averaging twenty-five feet-tall) were delighted to be able to see new life forms.

Earth was added to the Neptunian travel packages after that, and soon became the place to visit in the solar system. It wasn’t long before sanctioned hunter ships began appearing and bagging “game.”

A live alien from earth soon became a precious thing on Neptune. There just weren’t that many of them. Most were too savage to be kept as pets. They killed each other off in no time. The lone exception was a small clan recently discovered called, The Human Beings.

Because The Human Beings couldn’t breath in Neptune’s atmosphere, they built clear walled enclosures that allowed visitors and inhabitants to see each other. The enclosure was a replica of where they lived on earth, right down to the soil, fruits and vegetables.

Orun Tallman, already highly thought of,  became a revered member after he made the pact with the Neptunians. The Neptunians were so pleased with their new zoo that they started searching for other civilizations that needed “rescued.”

As It Stands, I wondered how to do a zoo story with a twist, and suddenly Oren Tallman appeared!

The Legend of the Last Tiger

He was a Shaman once…

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Harry and Greda were lost in the vast woods of Wildermare and their oxygen tanks were getting dangerously low.

They’d been on Hunter’s World for over 23 hours, and only had enough air left for less than an hour.

The Hermit who lived in the Wildermare woods, their intended prey, was once a respected shaman in Atland. His species were wiped out by Lord Awraths legions of lions. But they never could catch him.

Now, he was a target for every pair of human hunters who could afford Lord Awrath’s game fees. They all hoped to kill the last of his race.

Thus far, he fended off every attempt. Years ago, it use to be just one hunter stalking him. Now they were coming in pairs, since last season’s record high of 14 hunters killed.

The Hermit’s biggest advantage was this was his world, and it’s atmosphere was deadly to humans. It became a game of cat and mouse, as the hunters turned back towards the ship’s safety.

Greda saw the Hermit first. He burst out of the thick underbrush and landed on all four paws in front of Harry. Unlike the Hermits cousins, tigers on the planet earth, he could talk and reason as well as any intelligent species in the solar system.

“You lose!” he roared, and with one swipe of his huge paw shredded Harry into bloody ribbons. Gerda fired her Super Laser 3000 and missed. Her oxygen was depleted when she was sent to the same hell as Harry.

The Hermit didn’t know how long he would be able to elude his hunters. He suspected they’d come in threes after today. But it didn’t matter.

He had a reason to live. Life wasn’t boring, and he did enjoy chasing those clumsy human hunters. He had to be careful of their weapons, but they were slow.

The Hermit became a legend, his story told throughout the solar system, and in distant galaxies. It inspired many species to make brave last stands.

As It Stands, this is my twist on hunting, a so-called manly sport.

 

The Trench Stalkers and Private Billy

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All was not quiet on the Western front in September of 1918. Cannons thundered and shook the night.

Flares darting into the sky making it daylight for a moment. Men shouting. Machine guns chattering like evil sewing machines.

Another deadly assault on a well-entrenched enemy.

The Germans and the Americans both had elaborate trench and dugout systems protected from assault by barbed wire, mines, and other obstacles.

As the months turned to years, the once small improvised trenches grew deeper and more complex, gradually becoming vast areas of interlocking defensive works that went on for untold miles. They resisted both artillery bombardment and mass infantry assault.

Yet here they were, preparing to give it another try.

The American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) had joined up with the French at the Aisne Offensive (at Château-Thierry and Belleau Wood) in June 1918. The repeated frontal attacks against the well-entrenched German machine gun crews took a deadly toll every time, with little or nothing to show for it.

William “Billy” Stewart was a private in the AEF and managed to stay alive the past three months by sheer luck and determination. He kept a daily diary to pass the long hours of waiting for something bad to happen.

Attack. Or, repel an attack. Today it was attack at 0500. Over the top. Charging through barbed wire and craters from bombs and mortars. Decaying bodies. The wounded screaming for help and their mothers.

The deadly chatter of the machine guns never stopped.

Then the whistle blew three times, and it was time to retreat back over the horrific landscape of death to return to the trenches. Thunder overhead. Cannons. And then the gray skies opened and the rain came down like bullets.

That’s when Billy saw him. He was bent over a body and was eating the exposed soft organs. He was wrapped in a thick black trench coat, and was so busy eating he didn’t see Billy.

The horror of what he saw eclipsed everything in the past three months. He was so stunned he didn’t know what to do. A minute passed, and the thing in the trench coat looked up and saw him.

Instinctively, Billy raised his M-1 Garand and pointed it in the ghouls direction. It let out a high hissing sound and spun around, disappearing into the maze of tunnels. When Billy told his best friend Alan he laughed at him.

“Oh c’mon country boy, you were seeing things,” Alan said.

That night, in his candlelit muddy hovel under the ground, Billy made an entry in his Diary.

“Saw something horrific today. I almost wonder if I was hallucinating as Alan suggested. Some “thing” was eating corpses in the trench lines! It ran when it saw me. Before it disappeared, I got a good look at the pasty white face and bloody lips.

It resembled a man, and was wearing a dark trench coat. I hope it was my imagination. You can’t imagine the horror of that thing making loud chewing noises while consuming a string of intestines. Time to sign off.”

Two nights later, still troubled by what he saw, Billy was on guard duty. His unit fought off a particulary powerful assault that day. The Germans biggest thus far.

This time he saw two of the ghoulish figures dragging a body down into one of the many tunnel openings. Despite his shock he went after them. The first 50 yards were lite up by gaslights in little shelves on the wall. Then darkness descended.

Billy pulled out his flashlight and pointed it straight ahead. He soon got lost in the twisting maze of tunnels that seem to spider out forever. The air was dank and the smell of wet earth assailed his nostrils.

Unit designation signs were posted on some tunnel entrances. He noticed that they were all French regular Army units. He came to a dead-end. Go right, or left? Or, turn around and try to find his way back?

As he puzzled over what to do, he heard faint noises coming from the tunnel on the right. He fixed his bayonet onto his rifle, took a deep breath, and slowly followed the source of the noise.

He came to an opening with a sign above it – “9e Régiment d’Infanterie de Marine.”

Inside he heard animal-like grunts and growls and the unmistakable sound of feasting. He pulled out his MK2 Pineapple Fragmentation grenade. Rifle in his left hand, and the grenade in the right, Billy stepped into the room.

It was worse than he could have imagined! Nine pale skeletal things dressed in regular French Army clothes that were rotting off their bodies. One was wearing a filthy officers hat, and appeared to be the leader.

“Oh look!” the thing hissed, “We are saved by our American friend. What took you so long?” the thing asked Billy, who was looking at the body it was carving up. He could still recognize the face. Alan!

The gernade’s concussion knocked Billy down as he was backing up.

When Billy was able to return to his diary two days later, he made a short entry;  “I wrote a letter to Alans parents and told them he died, fighting bravely to the end.”  

As It Stands, years of trench warfare drove a lot of people crazy on both sides of WW I. No one knows about all the bad things that happened in those miles of terrible trenches.