Fears and Jeers (Part III)…A short story…unedited…

I remove the letter from the door to the storage shed, and unlock said door. The brisk fall air has made the dark shed chilly. I walk in and sit at the pre-fab desk in the far corner. A tall floor lamp stands a lonely vigil over the desk. My job is a lonely one. 

It’s a good thing today is the last day of my life. 

My mind wanders to my gruesome fate as I sit in the dark. I finally click on the lamp and pull out a soft taco. “If I’m gonna die tonight, I’m gonna have a full stomach. There might be a line to get into heaven,” I think to myself. 

After downing a couple of tacos, I walk into the high school and begin to sweep the hallways. At times when I sweep, I remember the feeling of walking through these same halls. The sounds of laughter and chatter between classes cause me to smile. Tonight is no different. 

In the muddle of my mind, I remember the most beautiful girl in my senior class. Her name was Amy Appleton. She was something to behold. Amy had golden locks that hung below her waist, her hairstyle was the big poof that was popular in the 1980s. In typical 80s fashion, she wore leg warmers. Amy knew she was the most beautiful girl in school and she let us all know it.

My smile at the memory of Amy Appleton changes into a grimace. “Yeah, she was beautiful. I somehow thought I was good enough to ask her to prom. That was a tragic mistake.”

I continue to sweep the dirt to the end of the hallway. The joy of reminiscing is gone. “She set the entire tone of my love life. With one condescending look and sarcastic dribble, my entire future was unmade.”

The day I went to ask Amy to the prom, she was sitting at a small table by the large bay window in the library. Per usual, her entourage was sitting at the table with her. “Summon your courage and go ask her to the prom, “ I chide myself. As I walk to where she is sitting, my palms begin to sweat. I wipe them on my Bugle Boy jeans. 

“Hi, Amy.”

Her entourage begins to giggle, and my face goes red. I make eye contact with her. She forces a smile. 

“Hi.” I take a deep breath and go for it. 

“I would like to ask you to prom, Amy. It would be my honor if you would go with me. Heck, I would even learn to dance, so not to embarrass you.”

Her entourage nearly fall out of their seats from laughter. The look on Amy’s face could have been the reason the Roman Empire fell into disarray. 

“If you were the last man on earth, I wouldn’t go with you. On no planet would you be lucky enough to bask in my presence. I will not lower myself into the sewer to be with you. Get out of my sight, peasant.”

From that fateful day to present, I haven’t been able to summon the courage to approach another woman. Every time I try, I see Amy’s face and hear the condescending tone of her words. 

It’s a good thing I have an appointment with the Grim Reaper today.

I finish sweeping the hallways. I pull out a mop bucket and pour cleaner into the bottom of the bucket, and fill it with hot water. I glide the mop from left to right as I walk backwards. I mop back and forth and build up some rhythm. “I didn’t go to prom. Instead, I went to see a military recruiter. My lone desire was to leave this town and never come back. Yet, here I am. In the town that nearly broke me, a few short hours from my last call on this planet.”

I smile and finish the mopping. 

The best part of knowing today is the last day of my life is the knowledge that Amy Appleton and her entourage will not be where I am going. My heart begins to pound at the thought of the unknown. It’s exciting. I work well into the night. I go from classroom to classroom sweeping, mopping and emptying out trash cans. I am a machine. One task pops up, and I knock it down with machine like efficiency.

As daybreak splits the Eastern horizon, I walk into the locker rooms. From the shadowy corner of the male locker room, I hear a squeak.

I flip the light switch on, and the shadows disappear. A fat, gray rat is caught in a rat trap. “Serves you right, idiot.” My dream is nowhere to be found in my foggy mind. I just want to be done so I can go home. I sweep and mop the red tile floor. The buffing is the last part of it, so I plug the buffer in and begin to buff the floor. 

My mind drifts back to Amy and my final days in high school. I had put my name on a contract to serve in the Army. With my ASVAB scores in hand, I chose to serve as a scout in a reconnaissance platoon. I also chose to go to Airborne and Air Assault school, in addition to Ranger school. 

I had few friends at school, but when folks found out I had chosen to go into the military, everyone sought my friendship. Except Amy. Her response to my decision was simply: Peasants die for their lords and ladies.

As I finish buffing the floors, the icy fingers of death grips my heart and squeezes. I fall into the darkness. 

Fears and Jeers (Part II)…A short story…unedited…

There are days when I wonder why don’t I end this life of mine. Before someone decides to intervene and call for assistance, I am fine. Sometimes, if I look close enough, I can see the scars of the past in their most primitive glory. Survival isn’t pretty. 

In the quiet of my mind I can hear the abyss calling out to me. ‘Do it. Simplify your life. End it and be at peace.’ The problem is that I believe in Heaven and Hell. Choices we make determine where we will end up. Eternal torment loses to streets of gold and peace forevermore.

It would be so easy to end it. One press of the trigger, or one plunge of the blade and it’s over. However, the downside is my children, family and friends I’d leave behind.

Besides, today is the last day of my life. There is no need to end it, when the Grim Reaper will harvest my pathetic mortal coil sometime in the next 24 hours. One might tend to think they might spend their last day righting wrongs, or enjoying a day of frivolous living. 

I am sitting at home wondering what I’ve done to see the gruesomeness of my death. My life has been nothing special. My career as a high school janitor hasn’t made me rich or even been remotely fulfilling. It keeps the creditors off my back, but that is about it.

My vehicle isn’t new, my house is in need of repair, and my search for true love has been a certifiable disaster. Still, why do I get to see my death? Is the Grim Reaper giving me an opportunity to avoid it?

From what I saw in my dreams, my end will be as mediocre as my life. I won’t be a hero to some small child. I won’t make a difference in a hostage situation. Instead, I will be buffing the locker room floor and die of a heart attack. No one will find me for days, and the rats will gnaw on my warm body.

Of all the things I dislike, rats and flies are at the top of the list. You can add spiders, snakes, and condescending people to that list as well. It’s a gruesome end. Maybe I shouldn’t go to work today. My house is rat free. I can have a heart attack at home and then avoid the gnawing. Plus, I would not end up with rabies. 

It sounds like a win-win situation to me. Still, I look at my watch. I have time to grab a quick shower and get ready for work. If I leave in the next fifteen minutes, I will have time to stop by Taco Bell and grab a 12-pack of soft tacos for my shift.

Man, I am living it up on my final day of life. 

Part of me wants to go to work to see if I die. “I might as well die at work. I’ve always been the dependable one. I go to work regardless of illness or health. I wonder how long I will be gone before they replace me,” I think aloud. A mediocre life and ending, who could ask for more?

All these years at work and I have nothing to show for it. I haven’t made a single ripple in the ocean of life. My biggest regret is that when I had the opportunity to take a risk, I always made the choice to play it safe. With my impending appointment with the Grim Reaper looming on the horizon, I pause. 

I should have taken a chance on life and love. There, I said it. However, in my genetic makeup, I am not a risk taker. No wonder my life is a waste. Anything worth having has never been worth the additional work. These thoughts roll over in my head as I drive to Taco Bell in my nondescript vehicle. My clothes are not name brand, my shoes are second hand. 

Jeez man, I am the walking embodiment of Joe Average. I’m going to die alone and be rat food. 

The school parking lot is empty on this brisk Saturday morning. I get out of my vehicle and climb into my coveralls. I grab my keys and 12-pack of soft tacos and head to the storage shed. 

A note hangs from the door, held on by a bright yellow tack. It’s message is in black ink and reads: Dear valuable team members, please do not forget to wax and buff the locker room floors this evening. Your contribution to our success is vital. Thanks for all you do!”

Some high school prankster has written ‘you suck’ in the corner of the note in purple crayon. A cold shiver eases down my spine, as if Death has put his hand upon my shoulder.

I should have taken more chances in life, and I really should have taken a sick day today.

Fears and Jeers…the beginning of a new short story….unedited…

Tonight, I went with friends to a restaurant. It was nice. I ate a 12 oz ribeye and a potato. On the way home, I had a conversation with a friend. We spent time speaking about fears we had concerning life. Come to find out, I have a fear of being alone. This phobia comes on strong at night. During daylight hours I am fine. 

Herein lies the truth who I am at the core. Part of me likes being alone. I enjoy solitude, but another part of me misses having someone to come home to. I miss companionship. There is nothing more enjoyable than having a person to share your life with. Another part of me fears misreading the signs and diving into a futile relationship. I have fought to rebuild my life, I don’t want to burn it down on a dud. Still, another part of me doesn’t think I have what it takes to make a relationship work, but then again, I am confident that I can make it work.

I’m going to die alone and that sucks.

I went to a lady last week and made an attempt to date her. It went horribly. This is why part of me doesn’t think I will ever find true love. There is no pain like the pain brought on by people who love you. Or those who profess to care. I’m no Hollywood stud, nor am I rich. There is no rich uncle who will change my fortune, but I am a good guy. 

After a decade of living alone, part of me screams out that I don’t want to die alone. ‘Find someone,’ my soul cries out. I want to pummel my soul with innumerable blows. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find someone who is real? In a world where most people spend their time maintaining their mask, how do you know that you have ‘found the one?’

The chaos of life wreaks havoc on a social life. I’m not social to begin with. Sure, I went tonight and had a few laughs. I went because my friend sent a text asking me to ride with him to the dinner. He was nice enough to make a gesture, I was nice enough to accept. 

Hindsight reveals I am of two minds when it comes to taking a chance in love. Sure, I like the feeling of being close to someone, but then again, I really enjoy the peace of being alone. Choosing a life partner feels like you’re going all in at the card table in Vegas. Who goes all in on the first hand?

I’ve done it before. Somehow, I am still of the opinion that I got the recent choice right. Still, my heart dreads the pain I foresee coming down the pipe. I wish with all my being that I could be with someone forever. It would be enjoyable to build with someone, but it’s as I said earlier. 

I am going to die alone and that sucks.

Somehow, the premonition of my impending death doesn’t bring me closure. My red recliner reminds me of blood, the red blanket that covers my legs reminds of body bags. 

I awaken with a start and look at my watch. It’s midnight, welcome to the witching hour. Who dreams of their impending death? I am not a psychic, a tarot card reader or best friends with the Grim Reaper. However, I can’t shake the feeling that today is the last day of my life. 

And that I am going to die alone. Crap.

A small portion of A Walk in Darkness, the rewrite…

Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.” Hours turn into days, days into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. The only change in my conditioning is that it has become worse. Over time, the call to end the pain via suicide causes my head to pound. My relationship with Angie lies in ruins. We only go through the motions of being together. She sleeps in the master bedroom with my children, I sleep on the floor of the guest bedroom. Signs hang from the doors informing me what I can eat, what not to touch, and to not disturb them on the weekends. 

“I fight all day at work only to come home and fight here at home. If all I am doing is fighting, I never should have come home. The war must end sometime,” I think to myself.

While driving to work after a horrendous weekend at home, I see the child from my time at war. I’m speeding, and I stare at the boy as I pass. He stands on the side of the road, his brains in hand. My mouth drops open and tears fill my eyes. A horn breaks me out of my trance. “Oh crap! I’m on the wrong side of the road!” I snatch the wheel to the right. I barely avoid causing a collision on I-25. After correcting my vehicle’s course, I pull off to the side of the road. I look for the boy, but he is only a figment of my imagination. 

In my mind, I hear the hyena laugh of madness. 

I sit on the side of road, as my body shakes from the fear I feel. My heart feels as if it is going to burst from my chest. Slowly, I pull myself together. I am always early to work, punctuality is my strong suit. My career is all I have left, I refuse to endanger it. 

Under what appears to be a harvest moon, I finish my drive to work. There is no sudden appearance of the apparition. The company is still dark when I arrive. In the cold, winter Colorado air, I think of what I had seen. 

“I can’t escape what I’ve done. My marriage is a burning pile of refuse that I can’t save. I am slipping lower and lower into the pit of despair.”

In the dark, I pray for a way out. The words of my former pastor cuts through the cry of madness.“God hears every prayer. Don’t let the devil convince you otherwise. Call upon the Lord and He will save you.”

As low as I am, I hold on to this nugget of truth. I open my truck’s console and pull out my anxiety pills, and wash them down with two swigs of Jameson. 

It’s time to go to work.

Chains…A short story…

I am in the dark. Alone.
In the pitch black, I struggle to listen for any sign of life. I tilt my head to listen, but there are no sounds of life. Chains keep me secure to a metal chair. In the dark. “What in the world is going on here?”
The metal handcuffs rip into my flesh when I struggle against them. Some type of hood blocks my vision. My struggle is in vain. I’m going nowhere fast. The air is damp, and the room smells earthy.
“Am I underground?” I place my hands flat on the metal chair, it’s cool to the touch. The silence echoes soft footfalls, which draw closer and closer. A hand touches my face, and then removes my hood. I blink against the intrusion of light. At my feet, a gas lamp illuminates what appears to be a small cavern .
Water streams down the walls. Cracks and crevices the rocky face of the cavern. In the corner, two men, one Hispanic and the other black, watches me. A tall, fair-skinned, brunette watches me with smoldering emerald eyes.
“You’re the troublemaker, eh?” Her full lips pucker up in a kiss-me come on. She walks over to me and kisses me on the cheek. “I need to know what you know,” she whispers. Her throaty voice sends chills down my spine. She licks my face and purrs, “why don’t you be a good boy and give me what I want?”
I chuckle and lock eyes with her. “If only I could, but I don’t know anything. It’s possible you’ve got the wrong man- as bad as I hate to say it.” She smiles. Her full lips pull back into a devilish grin.
“I am Maria Casanova. Those were my plans you and your friend stole. I want them back.” She crosses the room and sits on my lap. She wraps her arms around my neck. “I don’t have to hurt you, troublemaker. You can be my pet for a few weeks. You and I could have some fun together, no?”
“Well Maria, may I call you Maria?” She nods yes, and I proceed. “I am sure we could have fun together, but I don’t know anything. For the first time in my life I wish I did, but I don’t.”
She smoothes down her black leather skirt and walks into another room. When she comes out, her sensible shoes were gone, now she wears thigh high stiletto boots. I groaned. “Jeez, she had to put on my favorite shoes for a woman.”
“Nice boots, Maria…” Without a word, she kicks me in the crotch with the toe of a boot. Air rushes out of my lungs, and my head aches with pain. She pulls on leather gloves and proceeds to punch me with a left to the body, and follows up with a right to my throat.
I lean forward, and the handcuffs bite into my flesh deep enough to draw blood. Maria kneels in front of me and kisses me on my lips. “I’m sorry but I don’t like liars. Tell me, what is you’re name troublemaker?” I gasp for air and look at her.
“I am Michael Winter, you crazy broad…” A leather glove punches me in the face busting my lips. “Tsk, tsk, tsk, no name calling, Michael. What do you do for a living?” The blood from my lips seep onto my shirt. I lick at my lips and look at the floor.
“I am a fishing and hunting guide. My area of expertise is the woods of Mississippi.” Maria smiles.
“You’re a government agent?”
“No, I am a guide. I take people fishing and hunting. I go with them to make their time productive.” She tugs at her gloves, ensuring they are tight on her hands. “Would you take me hunting, Michael?” I nod. “Sure, but it isn’t hunting season yet. We have to wai-”
Her right hand slams into the side of my head, banging it off the wall. Her followup was a left to the ribs. I heard a crack, it sounds like a gunshot in the small cavern.
“Ouch.”
She giggles. “Where are my plans, Michael?”
I look her in the eyes and whisper, “What plans? I don’t know what you’re talking about!” She smiles and sat across from me.
“Okay. Since you don’t know where my plans are; I don’t need to torment you anymore. I don’t need you either.” She stands to her feet, her all black outfit seems like an eternal abyss. I felt I was drowning in it, and she pulls a stag horn knife from her garter belt.
“Wait, wait, wait a minute. Fine, I know something about your missing plans.” She chuckles, and puts one hand upon her hip. With her free hand she gestures for me to speak.
“Well, what do you know?” Pain racks my body from the blows. My lips are bloody, but they pull back into a fierce grin. “I know you’re missing those plans!”
Her emerald eyes and full lips show mirth. With one violent motion, she slams the blade into my leg. I bite down hard to keep my cry from escaping my bloody lips. Too late. My scream echoes throughout the cavern.
“Take him and place him with the other prisoners.” The two men walk over and grab me under the arms. They drag me to a small metal cell and toss me into the center. I can feel hungry eyes upon my back.
“Great, now what is going to happen?” The wrought iron door slams shut, and I stand to my feet. The inky blackness of the cavern walls cast deep shadows in the prison. Out of the darkness a voice speaks to me.
“Welcome to hell, brother.” The voice leans out from the shadows, his grayish beard flows below his waist. His eyes are a mixture of blue, sprinkled with gray, and a dash of sorrow. His nose has a crook in it, and is a testimony of many beatings at the hands of our tormentors.
“Who are you?” The voice stands to his feet. His height was no more than 3’8. He extends a massive paw toward me. I grip his hand. “Name is Josie. Yeah, I’m short.” I grunt, my hand feels as if it is in a vise. He squeezes. “I’m Michael.” Josie releases my hand and slaps me on the back. “Nice to meet you, welcome to the suck. I am sure you’ve got questions.”
“Yeah,” I grunt, while I rub my hand.
“How long have you been here, Josie?” He turns his head, his beard drags the floor when he sits down. “Why? You writing a book?” I shake my head, my eyes cast downward. “No. I am looking for hope. We could escape from this place.”
A chuckle escapes from his throat, his voice raspy in the dark. “Escape? Are you daft? Do you think no one has ever made plans to escape? Or made plans to murder Maria? Those thoughts will kill you. Best you put them out of your mind now.”
“What? Are we cast into this prison to only appease their cravings for bloodlust,” I ask. Frustration creeps into my voice. “Do we give Maria and her cohorts a sense of purpose, a husk to enact their rage upon?”
Josie chuckles, “we are alive because we’ve provide Maria entertainment.” He gestures to his right. “Lemme introduce you to those who were poor entertainers.” Skeletons cover the corner of the cell. The bones are bleach white. I notice breaks and compound fractures in the femur bones. The dwarf waddles close and after a time speaks again. “The one on the bottom was Timothy. The other corpse belongs to Michelle. Both of them didn’t entertain Maria. There’s a message hidden in these broken corpses.”
I slump to the ground. Josie dumps his square body to the ground next to me. I look at him. “Oh yeah, Josie? What message is there in those broken bodies?”
He smiles dangerously and tugs at his beard. “Don’t be one of those who fail to entertain.”
“I’d rather we kill Maria and escape. Do you think we can do it?”
A grin passes between us. I lean back against the wet wall and smile a small smile. “Yeah,” Josie says. “It’s time we blew this Popsicle stand. Our escape plan must be legit. We can’t haphazardly string it along, it must include the minute details.”
We conspire well into the night. Lanterns keep the darkness at bay while we work out the details. I go over the plans until I understand every detail. I doze off into a light slumber.
My sleep seems to last seconds. Rough hands snatch me from the floor and toss me into a corner room. The black man from earlier enters the cell. Josie calls him Atlas. He grabs me by the throat and slams me into the wall with enough force to expell the air from my lungs in a loud gush.
“I notice you’re getting chummy with the local,” he snarls. He balls up a fist and drives it into my midsection. I place my hands up to ward off further blows. “If you promise to quit pounding on my body, I’ll tell you what I spoke to him about.” Atlas chuckles, his white teeth seems out of place in the dark cavern.
“Fine, sheep. Talk.” I place my hands by my side and take several deep breaths. “We talk about how we are going to get out of this dump. Right after we kill all you of course. My first visit is going to be your mom. She seems like a nice lad-”
Atlas’s mountainous right hand crashes into my skull and renders me unconscious for the rest of the day. Good times.  
I wake to a pounding head and aching body. Josie grins at me. “Atlas beat on you, eh?” I nod and chuckle. “Yeah, all I remember was the hammer of the gods punching me in the head. Then he put broke my ribs into splinters.”
Josie laughs and covers his ribs. “Aye, I got a visit from the other goon, Juno. He didn’t hold nothing back. Did you answer his question?”
“Yeah, I told him after we kill everyone, we were going to visit his mother.” Josie doubles over, his laughter fills the cavern. “That’s great. No wonder he beat on you something fierce.”
We both laugh, our injuries force us to stop and breathe. After a while, I look at Josie. He leans back against the damp wall, his eyes shut. “What did you tell Juno, Josie?” Without cracking an eyelid he retorts, “ I told him he was fifty percent dwarf. He needs to check his history. I’m his daddy!” Both of us break into gales of laughter.
“Good God, we both deserve our beatings!” Josie nods. “Night, Michael. Tomorrow we get beat down again.”
Sure enough, at daybreak Josie and I got drug out of the cell and thrown a vicious beating. We both crack up with laughter as Atlas and Juno attempt to break our spirits.
Our captors tire from beating us. They drag us back to our cells. Josie and I have grown close throughout the various assaults. As evening approaches, the sound of high heel boots draw near our cell. Maria, is wearing all black, steps into the sliver of illumination and smiles.
“Hello, boys.” Maria’s appearance and mannerism is professional, unlike her cohorts. Her black hair lies to the side and her makeup is flawless. “I came by to let you both know, tomorrow one of you will no longer be on Planet Earth. I’ll make my choice in the morning. Sweet dreams.” With a flourish, she steps into the darkness and vanishes into the long shadows.
“Well crap, Mike. I thought this would come to a head. Who do you think she favors for the ole chopping block, eh?” I lean back and sigh. “I am going to die in this dump, she seems to enjoy beating me.
Josie smiles. “I agree. You’ve never ask why the skeletons litter the cell with us.”
“I haven’t given it any thought, and I don’t want to. Tomorrow, our fates await discovery.” Josie sits down, his small legs stretch out before him. He clasps his beard with both hands and runs his fingers through it.
“Aye, tomorrow our fates unfold. Are you bursting with excitement?” I close my eyes and consider the beginning of the movie Gladiator. “I won’t be walking through a field of wheat, that’s for sure. God only knows what I’ll face tomorrow.” All night, water drips to the floor and keeps me awake. At daybreak, Maria enters the room. Her emerald eyes shine with excitement. “Good morning! We are going to do something different today. Instead of me choosing who lives and who dies, you guys will choose.” Maria steps close and whispers to me, “who do you choose, Michael?” I stand to my feet and crack my neck. “I choose me, Maria. Put me out of my misery already.” She grins and winks at me. “Who do you choose, Josie? Do you choose yourself, as well?”
Josie walks over to me and places his arm on my shoulder. “Nay. I choose Mike as the next victim. He hasn’t found a home here, but he will make a great addition to the skeleton crew.”
Maria smiles. She feigns impatience and pushes her arms overhead. “Thank you gentlemen for making this impossible to decide. I choose Josie.” With a snap of her fingers, Atlas and Juno drag Josie from the cell. His screams echo from the torture chamber. “I gave you Timothy and Michelle; I even gave you Michael. Why do you turn your back on me?” I listen to his screams for hours. Silence finally fills the cavern. The metallic smell of blood gathers in my nostrils. I puke.
As I toss up my lunch, Maria comes into the cell and sits in front of me. “I want to let you know how happy I am to have you here. Otherwise, I never would’ve got rid of Josie.”
“You’re a sick woman, Maria.” She laughs, it reminds me of a donkey braying. Her huge white teeth flashs in the cavern. “Oh Michael, I may fall head over heels in love with you.” I walk to the shadows and sit down. I pull my knees up to my chest, and I watch her. She’d be beautiful if she weren’t a psychopath. She watches me back. Time passes by and she finally leaves.
I walk over to the pile of skeletons in the cell. “The nice thing about skeletons is they’re quiet.” In the darkness I find a loose bone. “The scapula would make a great weapon if I can find some way to sharpen it.” As I walk to the corner of my cell, I sit down and lean against the wall. A sliver of light shone into the cell. Something pokes me mid-spinal erector. I turn and run my palm down the wall, searching for the sharp object. “A rock. I have a way to sharpen my weapon.” The night crawls by, as I sharpen the edge on my new toy. While I whittle, I make my plan. “You’ve got only one chance at escape. Once you’ve start the attack-finish it, one way or the other.”

Sleep closes my eyes, and I dream of my escape. In my dream, as I draw near the exit, Maria slams a railroad spike into my chest. “It’s fear. The butterflies.” I shove the bone into my back pocket and wait for one of the Wonder Twins to ruin my morning. Nothing happens. The day passes and no one visits my cell. “They’ll show up tonight.” Still, nothing happens. The days pass, and no one visits. Fear pulses through my veins as I face my fate. At the end of the day, Atlas strides through the door. He walks into my cell and punches me in the teeth. “My mom says hello.” Without another look, Atlas turns and walks out. The door lays open. Freedom lies scant feet away, but I can’t make myself take advantage of the opportunity.

Little things…

As I tear down my sofa, I get lost recounting today’s experiences. On Sunday’s I go to church. Due to recent vehicle issues, my visits to the House of God has been at a stop. Today, I was able to go. My wrench slips on the bolt holding the center console in place, and my knuckles crash into the metal framework. I grimace and continue.

“Church was good. Pastor did an outstanding job delivering the message.” After a few more twists the bolt releases it’s grip and the console crashes to the floor. “Still, after all this time, I notice the little things. It’s the little foxes that spoil the vines.”

I move on to the next set of bolts and begin to unscrew a seat from the frame. My head begins to ache, but I ignore it and keep working. “A former church did a number on me. I always think there is something or someone who doesn’t think I belong there. Or it’s a look. Something always comes up.” The seat falls to the floor with a loud bang. I look at the seat. I always dislike getting looks from people. It makes me uncomfortable. Unlike text messages or emails, a look isn’t difficult to decipher. It’s meaning is written in plain sight. The narrow eyes, the firmness of the mouth, it all speaks volumes. 

Of course, one can never be sure if ‘the look’ is for them. Perhaps the individual is having a bad day, or got bad news. Maybe, they’re married. Or has an upset stomach.

Or maybe it’s just me thinking too much.

Church shouldn’t be about what people think about me, but still, I have a hangup when it comes to what others think of me. The only person that counts is the Lord. As long as He likes me, and understands, then the opinions of others are weightless. 

Still…

No matter the road, no one walks it alone. The Lord walks it with us, and on occasion, others join our party. Take it from me, don’t let the little things hinder you. Find your peace and enjoy the walk. 

Hello…

Morning. I apologize for my absence. NANOWRIMO is upcoming, and I came to the conclusion I should take a break before the contest. I hope this finds you all doing well. Be safe out there.

Michael Finny and the world of tomorrow…A short story…

Heavy snow lazily drifts from the gray sky. I huddle close to the small fire I began under the heavy foliage surrounding the Aspen trees. My coffee pot percolates, while I peel of the wet clothing clinging to my body. It’s below freezing, I draw closer to the fire.

“It wasn’t always this way…” In the distance, I hear heavy machinery climbing toward my position. “Jesus, these guys are relentless…” I douse my fire, put on fresh clothes and listen to the darkness. Over the rumble of the diesel engines, I hear the clink of tank tracks. Without another thought, I grab my pack and slip back into the cold night.

Once upon a time, life was much different here in America. I was a successful soldier, until my career was shut down by an illness. Still, I was able to retire and then went to work as a teacher in a low income community. It was satisfying. Teaching history was rewarding. Ever so often, I would take my students to a museum or to a war monument and we would discuss the history behind the monument or some part of the museum.

“Those who forget history are bound to repeat it,” I would tell them. “Don’t forget where we’ve come from, or the mistakes we’ve made in the past. It doesn’t have to define us, but we must always look back to ensure we stay on the right track.”

“A lot of freaking good that did,” I thought bitterly. Climbing at night, with no lamp, is treacherous. I keep a low silhouette, as I head east toward a series of caverns. “Given my luck, they are waiting for me there.” Still, I push onward.

The wind howls and the snow blows into my face, slowing my progress. I stop and listen, all I hear is the roar of the wind. Ahead, I see the silhouette of aspen, and I make my way toward it. “We knew things were bad, but we never thought our government would turn on us. It was upon us before we ever knew what to expect.”

I went to work that fateful day, the same as any other day. When I got to work, troops were standing in my classroom. 

“Are you Michael Finny,” the Lieutenant asked. I nod and step back. “Yeah, what do you need?” He smiles, and his smile reminds me of a shark that smells blood in the water.

“You need to come with us. We have some questions that require answers.” I smile at my students. “It’s okay. Everything is going to be fine.” Their eyes are the size of half dollars, sweat dots their brows. They nod and sit down in their seats. Lt. Salazar takes me by the elbow. 

“We are meeting with the teachers in the gymnasium,” he said. I am led to the gymnasium, my fellow teachers are in a line, on their knees. 

The PE teacher, Mr. Smith looks at me, his eyes flashing with inner fury. He is bleeding from his mouth. Sergeant Wilhelm stands behind him grinning.

“Hey Lieutenant, guess who got hit in the gums,” he chuckles sadistically. Salazar grins back. 

“Get on your knees.” I smile and politely refuse. 

“Thanks, but I don’t get on my knees for anyone,” I said. Salazar walks in front of me and points his sidearm at me. “I said to get on your knees,” he said calmly.

Again, I smile. “I don’t think so, Lieutenant. Do what you-”

The 9mm slams into my jaw, two of my teeth fall to the floor. The metallic taste of blood fills my mouth. Salazar motions to Sergeant Wilhelm. 

“Come here, Wilhelm. Help this history teacher to his knees.” Both soldiers are staring at me. I watch as Wilhelm walks toward me, his hand reaching for the blade attached to his side plate. 

As Wilhelm approaches, Mr. Smith attacks. Smith grapples with Wilhelm, and Salazar turns toward the ruckus. I grip my KA-Bar folder knife and thrust it under Salazar’s arm, piercing his heart. 

Wilhelm shakes off Mr. Smith and fires a three round burst into his chest. Screams fill the gymnasium. Wilhelm turns to me, as I push the blade into his jugular. I twist the blade and extend the cut along his throat. 

He slaps a hand over the wound to contain the blood flow, and I stab him twice in the heart. Both Salazar and Wilhelm collapse to the floor dead. The teachers have run for the door, and in the distance, I hear the sound of gunfire. I strip the bodies of Salazar and Wilhelm, and check both the M4 and sidearms. I load both. Then I head back to the classroom. Upon entering, I sweep the room looking for targets. My students huddle in the far corner. Their cheeks are wet with tears. 

“Okay, guys. We’ve got to get out of here. You have a choice to make, you either go with me, or stay here. What’s it going to be?”

I watch as their bodies shake with fear, the thought of moving throughout the chaos roots them to the corner. They look at me in shock. Tim Bowers seems to be the leader of the students, so I take him by the elbow and walk him to the door. 

“Tim, look at me.” He looks me in the eyes, his eyes dart frantically from me to the door. 

“Yes sir.”

“You lock this door and keep everyone quiet. Stay away from the windows. If you guys decide to leave; you leave as a group. Do you understand me?”

“Yes sir.” I pat him on the back and whisper, “good luck to you guys.”

I make my way out of the school, avoiding the patrols and sentries set about the building. I stay low in the ditches until I come upon the last bastion of civilization, a small Shell station on the outskirts of town. The sun has gone down, and night is fast approaching. I peek over the ditch, no vehicle or patrols are in sight. The M4 is my primary weapon, I pull it into my shoulder and slip through the early dusk. A television is playing inside. Old Man Williamson always keeps the TV on. He claims it makes criminals think people are inside the store. An anchor, widely known for her opinions, is going over the day’s events. 

“Well, Jerry. The Blankenship/Worker campaign has said from the beginning, if they were given the opportunity to lead, they would make swift changes. This is just the beginning of the purge to clean up America.”

“Yes, but do you think targeting those who oppose you at the voting booth is a good idea? I mean, these people are our fellow citizens for God’s sake.”

I can’t believe what I am hearing. “We’re being run to ground because of our voting habits? Seriously?”

Why not, Jerry. These people cause serious harm to our country by proving to be unwilling to change. Their inflexibility at the voting booth is proof of a greater issue.”

“So, you think it’s okay to murder our fellow citizens because they think different from us?”

“Oh, get off it Jerry. No one is dying. They’re being taken to a re-indoctrination center. No one is being hurt. Joe Blankenship said today, they’re only there until they’re ready to think like the rest of us.”

“What about the reports from the high school earlier-”

“If you can’t handle the slug, don’t be a thug, Jerry.”

I stand in the darkness, and fury builds in my heart. The white-hot rage fills my senses. Behind me, I hear the shuffle of tired feet. I whip around bringing the M4 to bear. Ole Man Williamson stands behind me, his hand covering a nasty wound in his chest. 

I take him by the arm and lead him to his chair. He grunts with pain. 

“Do you have something I can clean this wound with, sir.” He nods and motions to a pack in the corner. “Yeah, youngun. There in that pack.” I pull the pack to me, and shift through the ammo and oil until I find rubbing alcohol and bandages. 

I pull his hand away from the wound, so I can see what I am working with. It’s a puncture wound. “Tell me what went down here, sir.” He nods, and scratches at his face.

“Three of them fellows caught me unaware in the back room. I got two of them, but the other caught me with a bayonet. I think he might have shut the door on my hurt locker. There’s no need to clean it, son. I’m not gonna make it.”

Tires crunch on the fresh snow outside of the Shell station. We listen intently as footsteps land in the snow. Loud voices crack the night air. Mr. Williamson touches my shoulder. “Go out the back, I’ll take care of these clowns. Take the pack with you, son. God knows you’ll need it before sanity returns to our country. You be safe out there.” I shake his hand and depart. The black backpack rides on my back, as I slip once more into the night. Out front, Mr. Williamson shuffles out into the snow. “Y’all done come back for more, eh?” The shock troops look at him in awe, as he throws dynamite at the gas pumps. The explosion knocks me off my feet and down into a ditch. My eardrums scream with pain, while the debris lands all around me.

I check myself for wounds as I lie in the snow. “Jesus, what a way to go out,” I mutter to myself. I look around me, and make sure I’m alone. No one is visible. The orange background from where the station once stood is the only change to the night. 

Once more on the move, I head toward the tallest mountain in our region. “There are plenty of places to hide there. I just have to make it there.” In the background I hear the sound of dogs chasing my trail. “Jesus, I can’t catch a break. They must have found the bodies at the school. I hope my kids are okay.” I race to the river and leap in. My breath spews out, as the cold seeps into my bones. I swim down the river and after a few moments, I crawl out on the other side and head toward the mountains.

We have come full circle, you guys are now caught up. 

The mountains loom larger, as I draw closer. Daybreak is minutes away according to the black, G-Shock watch on my left wrist. I stop short of the caverns and pull out a pair of Vortex binoculars. There is no movement around the entrance of the caves. “It doesn’t mean there aren’t people inside the caverns. Time to put on my war face.” In the cold dawn air, I silently approach what I hope is safety. I climb up to the cave opening and slip inside.

The interior of the caverns consist of crags and narrow passage ways. My pathway is dimly lit, water flows down the path making it imperative I place each foot solidly before I walk further on. Crags are cut into the rock face, I continue downward. Each step leads me further into the open maw of the cavern. The walls are mostly ice, my footing and grip is slippery at best. 

I hear voices singing in the distance. It sounds like they are singing ‘Amazing Grace.’ In the darkness, I perch ready to pounce should a solider materialize below me. Light illuminates the bottom of the cave. I can see people sitting in a circle. One woman stands in the center and leads the group in singing. I watch. 

“What are Christians doing in the cave,” I wonder. An elderly man steps next to the woman and it gets quiet. He begins speaking in a raspy voice, I lean back against the wall and listen.

“Things are tough right now. As we speak, our fellow citizens are being round up and shot for ‘crimes’ against the United States. Let us take a moment to pray for our Nation, and these families which are suffering at the hands of wicked doers.”

In the dark, I mumble a prayer. I notice all these folks look tired, and the realization that I’ve not eaten or drank anything today causes my stomach to rumble. “Quiet idiot.” My eyes grow heavy, and I drift off into peaceful slumber.

I dream of Tiffany, my one true love, and in my dream I wonder if she made it out of the school. I dream she was a prisoner, and after the soldiers had their fun with her, they shot her and toss her into a ditch with the rest of the bodies.

From a dead sleep, I leap to my feet and bang my head on the low ceiling of the cave. The circle of people watch in silence. I stare at them, trying to decide if I should prepare for battle or if making a dash for it would be a better choice. They don’t move, and I stay still. An old man approaches me, I recognize him from the makeshift service last night. 

“Son, it’s okay. You’re among friends.” His stance is wobbly on the cavern floor, his bald head has a few sprigs of hair that are solid white. He holds his hands up to calm me. 

“I am Elder Bishop. I was the pastor for HillTop Tabernacle. Who are you?” I stare at him, breathing the stagnant air deep into my lungs. Elder Bishop sticks his hand out in greeting, I stare at it.

“Where are my weapons?” He nods his head, his grey eyes shimmering in the dim cave. “Look in that pile there, son. Did you run into the soldiers also?”

I rub my hands, and look toward the fire. “Yes sir. They shot my friends at the high school.” The old man nods. “I’m sorry, son. We are from all different congregations, spread throughout the mountain region. We don’t know who made it to safety and who didn’t. You’re welcome to stay for as long as you want.”

I nod and sit next to a dirty, blonde boy by the fire. He carries an old Springfield rifle. After warming myself by the fire, I search for my missing gear. Sure enough, in the pile lay my M4 and two sidearms. I take the rifle and set the three point sling to fit snugly around my torso. Then I took the sidearms and break them down to clean them. The dirty boy from the fire came and sat next to me. 

“Are you a hunter, sir?” I stare at this unwelcome intrusion. His face was earnest, and he spoke in a low whisper. “I haven’t been one for a long time. Why?” He thought about it for a minute and looks up at me. “Because, you seem to know your way around the woods. If the preacher ain’t sent no one out looking for trouble, we’d never seen you.” I scoff and continue cleaning. 

“You don’t like Christian folk do you?” I stare at him, and he stares back. I shake my head and check the barrel of the 9mm.

“Where did you come up with that crap,” I asked. It was his turn to scoff. He spit on the floor and wipes at his nose. “Just the way you got up. We thought you was going to kill all of us. It’s a good thing you didn’t know where your weapons were.”

“First off, whatever your name is, I have severe PTSD. I always wake up like that. Second off, I happen to be a Christian, and most importantly, if I have an issue, I won’t hold it in. Clear?” He nods. “I just thought…”

“Yeah, you told me what you thought. Try being less judgmental.” The boy looks at the floor. After a moment of awkward silence, he looks at the wall. “My daddy was a soldier. He didn’t come home from Iraq.” His voice trails off, and I notice a lone tear trickle down his dirty cheeks. I sit beside him.

“Iraq was a tough place to be. Where was he at over there,” I asked. “I was in Baghdad, Basra, and a few other places.” He beams a smile in my direction, and puts a dirty hand on my shoulder. “I knew you were a soldier. My daddy was in the Green Zone. You ever been to the Green Zone?” I nod. “I’ve been through there,” I said. He stares at me in admiration, and I begin to feel uncomfortable. 

A sentry comes by, and I ask when chow will be ready. After a short conversation, I walk over to the boy and tell him to go get in line for chow.

“I’m Johnny,” he said. I grip his dirty hand and force a smile. “Call me Finny.” With a smile on his face, Johnny walks down the tunnel to the chow line. “What am I doing? This is no time to become friends with total strangers.” 

I sit on a rock, and lean back against the wall. All I love and care about is gone. America has fallen to it’s knees. There is nothing more to be proud of. Even as I sit on this rock, murder, mayhem and chaos roam the streets like some wild animal. The savages have taken over.

“Are you going to eat,” a small voice calls from the dimness of the cavern. A young woman, the same from last night, stands at the bottom of the pathway. She motions for me to come toward her. I wave her off.

“Thank you, but no. I have to be on the move. I wouldn’t want to lead them here to you.” She smiles and steps toward me. 

“You’re Michael Finny aren’t you?” I nod. “Yes, I am. Who are you?” She stops a couple of steps from me. “I am Tim Bowers older sister, Beth. Tim has always held you in high regard.” I blush at the compliment given to me. “Tim is a great student and athlete.” She blushes too. “Yes, he is. Did you know that be was planning to be a soldier like you? He found inspiration in your example. I thought you should know that you made a difference in his life.”

I am at a loss of words. She touches my arm and smiles. “You were his hero.” I shake my head no. “Ma’am, I’m no hero. I’ve gone to war with some, but I don’t fit that description. I’m a monster. Please tell everyone they have nothing to fear from me ,and thank them for their hospitality, please.”

Beth smiles and nods. “I will tell them, they will hate that you left. I think you make them feel safe.” I cinch up my pack and slip out into the night. Under the moonlight, I make good time to the base of the mountain ridge. Behind me, I hear the clink of tanks and heavy trucks. I turn and look down toward the entrance of the caverns. A platoon size element dismounts and head toward the entrance. “God, please protect those folks.” I drop to my belly and pull out my binoculars. One by one, the Christians are brought out in single file. Then they are shot. The next group is brought out, and I see Beth and Johnny. Beth stands and crosses her hands. Johnny struggles with his captors. A Lieutenant pulls his sidearm and empties a magazine into Johnny’s face. Beth takes a punch to her face and is taken to a truck and thrown in like a bag of rice. Elder Bishop lifts his hands and worships the Lord for His goodness. I watch as a knife is driven into his heart. He collapses to his knees, a smile on his face, as he draws his last breath.

Tears run down my face as I watch those who took me in, bear the brunt of the violence of this new Administration. I put the binoculars back in their case, and turn and run to the hills.

“God help us. Where have we gone wrong? I can’t run forever. Where will I go, what will I do? At some point, I will have to either fight or flee…” There is no comfort in these thoughts. I am a lone person, who was in fighting shape years ago. These days, I am a middle-age softy, who is on the run for his life. My thoughts turn to Beth. Her kindness at the cave was overwhelming. “You’re a hero.” I scoff. “Heroes are from fairy tales, this is a freaking nightmare given human personification. Besides, all the heroes I know are dead.” As fear propels me further up the mountain, I realize I am only delaying the inevitable. 

I have no food and my water is sparse. The only ammo I have is what I got back at the high school and a few magazines from Old Man Williamson. Gunfire will bring helicopters, drones, and soldiers. I am going to have to make a stand, or find others to join. The higher I go up the mountain, the more I exert. Thus, I am burning more calories and dehydrating quicker.

A small group of Aspen trees are ahead of me, and I wander toward them. The snow has let up, but my face is bitter cold, my lips are cracking open, and I need warmth something bad. I’ve been running for two days, and exhaustion is closing in on me quickly. I nestle between the trees and lean against a trunk. Sleep pulls the shades down over my eyes and I drift off to rest. 

Hours or minutes later, I hear footsteps crunching through the snow. I crack an eyelid open and look around fearfully. 

“Shh son, you’ve got to be quiet if we’re going to find dinner. Pick up your feet!” I watch as a dad and son stalk a ram below me. They’re using compound bows to hunt something to eat. A ram walks out in front of the son and he notches an arrow. After what seems like eternity, he let’s the arrow loose. It thuds home in the heart of the ram. His dad excitedly slaps him on the back. “Good job son, wait until we get back to camp and tell them what a great hunter you are.” They tie a rope around the hooves of the ram, and begin to pull it through the snow. I stand to my feet and watch the direction they head. Under a full moon, I follow them.

They cross over the ridge around daybreak, and I lose their trail . As I walk down the ridge, father and son step out of the sparse woods. 

“Can I help you, mister,” the father asks. The son has an arrow aimed center mass of my chest. I nod. “I hope. My name is Michael Finny. I was a teacher in town, soldiers..” The father looks at me and nods his head. “You’ve got a weapon, and you’ve made it this far. I’m going to ask you to turn around and find somewhere else to call your own.” Exhaustion causes me to sit down in the snow. “Yes sir, I’m sorry to bother you. I just saw the people who were kind to me get blown away. I don’t want the same thing to happen to y’all.” Both gasp at my words. The father draws near to me. “Who were these people and where were they?” I point back toward the caverns and a lone tear trickles down my face. “The caverns west of here, at the base of the mountain. Elder Bishop, Beth and Johnny were kind to me.” The father puts his hand on my shoulder to keep me steady. “Is Beth, okay? She is my fiancee, did she survive the attack?” I try to stand and look the man in the eye. I nod. “Yeah, she made it through the attack. I don’t think her making it was a good thing though. These thugs have been unmerciful.” The son let’s the arrow dip from my chest, and the dad takes me under the arm. “Come with us. You need to tell the others this news.” We walk together until we come to hidden camp under a crumbling bridge not far from a public walking trail. 

Once again, in a dark cavern, I make my way down a narrow shaft. The icy floor and walls make it impossible to move very quickly. We come to the bottom of the shaft and it spreads out into a wide room and multiple tunnels. I follow the father, whose name is Terry and his son, William into another open room. In a circle sits a group of people who are whispering back and forth. Terry motions to the group watching us approach. “This is the council. They brought us here when the government came after us. I guess we all chose the wrong candidate to vote for, eh?”

“I guess.” It is so far from being funny, but we break out into a small laugh. The council seems to not share our sense of humor. A graying woman motions at us. I stand and approach her. 

“Who are you stranger? Why do you come to our camp without an invitation?”

“Um, Terry brought me here. I was with another group of people, west of here and the military found the camp. With the exception of Beth, everyone else died there.”

“Beth is my daughter, stranger. Choose your next words carefully. Why didn’t you intervene in this massacre?” I look at the council, my eyes wide at the accusation. Exhaustion causes my temper to rise, and I step close. “You believe I should have fought against overwhelming odds to try to save them? Where were you? Who are you to judge me?”

Silence fills the cavern, and I don’t stop. I point at the council members and my strength wanes, but I fight on. “You sit here in your cave and accuse me of treachery. When no one was there to help me. I saw Johnny have a magazine shot into his face; I was there when Elder Bishop had a knife driven in his heart. I died there, and God help me, I want revenge; but I can’t do it on my own.”

A young man motions for Terry to escort me out. Terry leads me down another hallway and shows me to an empty bed. 

“Get some rest, Finny. The council will think on what you’ve said here today. Didn’t I mention to take it easy?” I chuckle, my lips crack open and begin to bleed. “Yeah, you made mention of it.” He nods. “Good night.” I’m asleep before my head ever touches the bed.

In the morning, I wake to a warm room. I look around, people are in the other bunks, my stomach rumbles from hunger. My lips are chap, so I get out of bed and wander down the hall looking for a bathroom. Instead of a bathroom, I find the councilwoman. She looks up at me as I enter the room. 

“Can I help you stranger,” she asks. Her voice is a quiet thunderstorm. Her eyes are like a cloudy day, a storm brews behind her grey eyes. I shake my head. “I’m looking for a latrine or a cat hole.” She stands to her full height, maybe five feet in all. Using one finger, she beckons for me to follow her. Together, we walk down the hall. 

“How was Beth, when you saw her at the camp?” Her voice quietly carries in the narrow tunnel. I turn and look at her. “Beth was very kind to me. She told me, Tim Bowers was her brother.” The councilwoman nods. “Yes, both of my children are out there somewhere. I don’t blame you for not fighting, but I can’t forgive you for not trying.” She gestures to a room off the main pathway. “Here is where you dispose of your waste. I am Michelle Bowers. When you’ve eaten, there is a meeting in the room where we met you last night. I ask that you join us.”

“Yes ma’am.”

When I finish my business and wash my hands, a young man waits for me in the hall. He escorts me to a small dining room, where I eat two bowls of Corn Flakes. My milk is the milk substitute given by the WIC program. I choke it down and the young man leads me to the meeting. In the room are every fit person who appears to be able to fight. In the center of the throng stands a man wearing fatigues, and doing his best John Wayne impression. “We’re going to take the fight to them! We may die, but at least we will go out fighting!”

“Yeah,” shouts the throng. I watch from the back. Michelle and Terry watch me. Michelle whistles loudly and the room quietens. 

“Besides bum rushing a main camp, what is our plan for rescuing our people?” The fatigue wearing man, Josiah is his name, comes forward and points at a poster board. “We are going to use a method Mohammad Ali made famous, the rope-a-dope. The main force will draw their attention into a near ambush. While their attention is on them, the secondary group will rescue our people.”

Michelle looks at Josiah and nods her head. “Okay, but what is the plan to get our people out of there? What happens if the main force is broken? Who is going to lead the main force?”

“Michael Finny will lead the diversion. I will lead the rescue party.” Josiah smirks as the throng shouts its approval. I lift my hand. Michelle turns to me and beckons for me to speak.

“Um, Michael Finny is unaware of this plan to lead a diversion. Especially, one against a massive force with modern technology.” Josiah sneers at me. “Are you a coward, Michael Finny?” I step into the center of the throng with Josiah, he backs up and assumes a defensive stance. 

“No, I’m not a coward. I’m also not stupid. Going up against a main force, in broad daylight, when they see you coming is suicide. You won’t get in with a rescue party because we will all be dead.”

“What do you suggest then,” Michelle asked. “Do you have an alternative?” I nod and look at Josiah. “At some point, they will move the prisoners to a labor camp or some other type of setting. We gather intelligence and set off an ambush at a choke point. We disable the vehicle, rescue the prisoners and scrounge their equipment. Long term, we can’t hold out without reinforcements, but we will be able to hinder them from moving around easily.” Murmurs escape from the crowd, and I put up my hand. “Plus, our dead won’t be as astronomical, as it would be if we attack a main camp in daylight. We can use hit-and-run raids to keep us fed and stock up on goods.” Michelle motions for the council to gather. 

“We will consider both proposals. We will meet here this evening to discuss our decision.” The throng disperses and I wander the halls until I find the bunk I slept in last night. I crawl inside and fall sound asleep. 

I grow tired…

I grow tired of the madness,

Aspiration, devotion to country,

Former traits to be emulated,

Now discarded by a generation,

Who possess no understanding,

Of the time-honored values and attributes,

That made this country great.

I grow tired of the madness.