Fears and Jeers (part V)…a short story…

Later in the day, Doctor Amy comes back into my room and sits beside my bed. She looks at me with those cold eyes, but time has been good to her. Amy looks the same as she did in high school. Her hair is still golden. Laugh lines are minimal on her perfect face. She touches my hand and for once, gives me a sincere smile. 

“It’s good to see you. How did the military treat you?” I wince. “The military broke me,” I think bitterly. 

“It was a good experience, Amy. I met great people and got to do some traveling. All in all, I would say it was an eye opener.” She nods her head, and her golden locks bounce with the movement. 

“What’s wrong with me, Amy? You’ve never been this open with me before. I’m just a lowly peasant after all.”

“You have a blockage in an artery. You won’t be leaving in the morning. We will have to do an angioplasty. We will do the angioplasty with a laser. It will be on the catheter and will open the artery. I need you to sign a few forms to give us permission to operate on you.”

“Sure,” I chuckle. “It sounds like something from a science fiction novel or movie.” She laughs, the sound of her laughter is beautiful. I laugh too. 

“Okay. I’ll send the nurse in to bring the forms and they will begin to prep you for surgery in about an hour.”

“Okay.”

I watch Amy walk out of the room. At the door she turns and looks over her shoulder and stares at me. “If something should go wrong, I want you to know that I regret not going to prom with you. You’re my favorite peasant.” 

Her confession leaves me speechless, and she turns and walks away. At that moment I feel like King of the Mountain. I want to jump on the bed and roar. Or beat on my chest and roar. Roaring is somewhere in the mix. I’d better sit down and take it easy on my heart.

The nurse comes in and I sign the forms giving the hospital permission to take care of me. I also sign the one releasing them from being libel in case I die while on the surgical table.

Then they dose me, and I sink into the darkness. 

After several minutes, hours or days, I come out of the surgery, and I feel as if I have been run over with a truck. A tray of food sits next to my bed and I reach for what appears to be cold soup. Suddenly, my heart begins to pound, sweat pours from my body. “Oh my Lord, my chest.” I crash back against the bed, the machine monitoring my vitals is screeching out an alarm. “He’s back….Death is here for me…” The head nurse rushes into my room, Amy comes charging in. Her perfect face leans close to me. “Stay with me….look at me,” she yells. I watch as Amy screams out that my artery is collapsing. I feel a small smile cross my face, and her perfect face is the last thing I see. 

Death takes me by the hand and leads me to a better place. It’s not a bad death-for a peasant.

Fears and Jeers (Part IV)….a short story…

I crash to the floor, the cold hand of Death upon my chest. The pressure builds in my chest cavity. My breaths come in small gasps as I struggle against the pull of the Grim Reaper. “No! I don’t want to go with you! I want to live!”

Death doesn’t care what I want, he is here to do his job. 

I push with my feet and lean against the wall. “Of all the ways to die this has got to be one of the most horrible endings in the history of ever,” I gasp. “It’s a good thing Amy isn’t here to see me squirm. I’m sure she would say something about peasants deserving a peasant death.”

The pressure eases off my chest, and I clutch to the hope that maybe I will survive this ordeal. I pull out my flip phone and dial 911. Briskly, I explain where I am, and what is happening. In minutes, I am taken to the hospital. As the paramedics wheel me in, a doctor meets us in the hallway.

It’s Amy Appleton. The freaking doctor who may save my life is going to be the woman who broke my love life. Crap.

“Wheel him into room #3,” she shouts. The nurses rush me into the ICU. They prep me for whatever is going to happen next. One of them injects something into my IV, and I drift off into a medicinal slumber.

It has been my experience that my dreams and medicine do not mix well. This time is no different from the million other times I’ve had dreams. I dream of peasants, guillotines, and a cruel ruler whose name is Queen Amy. 

I drift in and out of consciousness. Finally, I crash into peaceful slumber, I am okay with whatever comes next. 

Bright sunlight causes me to rub my eyes. I crack an eye open and look around for the streets of gold or at least my mansion that’s made just for me. Or a line that stretches from one quadrant of eternity to the other end of said eternity. Instead, I am in a hospital bed, a pretty nurse is standing beside my bed taking the readings from a machine.

“Morning.”

She stares at me. Her eyes are the size of half dollars, panic registers in her voice as she presses a button and pages a doctor to my room. A pitcher of water is next to my bed. I pick up a Styrofoam cup and pour some water in it. Doctor Amy Appleton walks in my room. She looms larger than life like the nightmare version of Queen Amy. 

 “Well, look who is back in the land of the living…” I smile weakly. “Yeah,” I mutter. She slithers close, like a rattlesnake preparing to strike. Her eyes look at the machine and then she sits by my bed. 

“Who knew cleaning up after other people would be so stressful on your little ticker? How are you feeling this morning?”

“I’m okay. When can I go home?”

“When I release you from the hospital. If there are no lingering symptoms you can go home in the morning.”

She watches me with those cold, cold eyes. I squirm under her intense gaze. “It’s my senior year all over again. I should have went into the light,” I think to myself.

Yesterday was meant to be my last day on Earth, but I made it to another day. Now, I’m worse off for it.

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.

An untitled work…A short story…

Another storm lies in the Gulf churning, building strength to wreak havoc upon the Gulf Coast. It’s the same ole song and dance every year. Rain brings humidity and humidity brings misery. September in Mississippi is an additional summer month. “Fall? Never heard of her” is the popular sayin’ around here.

I live in the northern part of the state. The mosquitos isn’t as bad as they are down in the southern portion of Mississippi. I’ve heard tell of mosquitos big enough to carry children off in the dead of night. That’s a big mosquito. Y’all ever read that article that says everything in Australia is trying to kill you? Well, pretty much everything here is trying to bite you, infect you, or take your EBT card. Sometimes, they do all three.

Well, it seems I done gone down a rabbit trail here. Speakin’ of which, y’all ever had rabbit and gravy before? No? Man, y’all missing out. I suppose I should finish this report. We had a killin’ down here. Some lowdown nobody done got wound up and took a shotgun to a trailer. Everybody inside is dead. For the life of me, I can’t figure why they had a problem with the trailer. Maybe it wasn’t sitting level. There was enough meth inside to keep ‘em buzzing for a good six months, and more money than I could shake a stick at. I thought about trying to change my financial situation. I didn’t, but man I thought something hard. Ah well…

Hmmm? I ain’t told y’all who I am?

Oh. I’m Sheriff Derrick Slick. Sorry, I got to conversatin’, and I forgot to do the introductions. Nice to meet y’all. Anyway, I gotta finish this report. It ain’t gonna write itself. I tell you though, that trailer was a grisly scene. One ole gal got shot in the tummy. Man, it tore her giblets out all over the couch. An ole boy lay on the floor, his body was in pieces. He was shot so many times, we lost count. Another gal was in the kitchen. Sweet tea was on her torso, but half her head was in the hallway. Then it got bad. This riled up heathen took a machete to somebody. There was blood and brain matter everywhere. There was no trace of the killer’s DNA, just a ring and a note in crayon. The message was spooky, it just said:

 “I told you…”

Kinda makes you wonder what kind of heathen takes a machete to a human being. The recipient of said rage lost her hands, feet and eyeballs. Her ears were left intact.

“Hey, Sheriff! We got another one!” I put my pencil down and stare out my door. A deputy bursts into my office, red-faced, eyes bulging out. He bends over at the waist and takes several deep breaths.

“Whatcha mean we got another one?” The deputy waves his hand around like voodoo witch doctor. “Down the road, Sheriff. From where the last bodies were found, they found another crime scene. It’s nasty.”

“Gimme the address.” He writes it down and hands it to me. “Here. What do you want me to do now, Sheriff?” I pat him on the back and walk out to the lobby. He trails behind me like a lost puppy. “Stay here,” I said. “Rest. I’ll yell if I need you.” He pulls out a chair next to the receptionist and strikes up a conversation with, Peggy. I put on my Stetson and walk out into the sunshine. “Looks like things are falling apart. Guess it all makes some kinda sense. Lord help us.”

The drive to the new crime scene is slow. The vibrant green of the leaves, mixed with the saffron color that is a sign fall is upon us, makes for a pretty view. I take it all in. My window is down, the crisp air smells wonderful. I pull up next to an abandoned house. Flashing lights and yellow tape let me know I am in the right location.

“Howdy, Sheriff.” Richter Williams, my longest serving deputy, gives me a wave. I walk over to him and extend my hand. “Howdy, Ric. What do we have here?” Ric is pushing fifty, his skin is always yellowish. Some people say it’s a permanent case of jaundice. His eyes are huge. We often joke he is part gaspago.

“You ain’t eat lunch yet, have you?” I put my hand on my hat and shake my head no. “That bad, huh?” Ric nods. “Yep, it’s bad. Come on.”

A Sick Twist of Fate…A short story…

Tim Williams looked out his library window and stared at his vehicle under the open carport. His mind is aflutter with unfinished thoughts. Facing east, he waits for the sun to rise. “It’s Saturday. I may get my allotted two hours with her today.”  Starry Wilkinson, a woman of exquisite strength and beauty, is the woman referenced by his thought. Her grayish mane, bluish-grey eyes, and natural beauty are second place to her wit, intelligence, and kindness. To boot, Starry is a journalist who worked as an anchor at the local television station. She spent her weekends volunteering at the hospital in the children’s wing. Tim is madly in love with Starry. “Can you believe it’s been eight years since I began pursuing this woman? That must be some kind of record!” As with all things, the beginning started off hot and heavy. It took Tim two weeks to pop the question. Yes, Tim is slow. Still, after one failed relationship after another, Tim knew he had met the woman of his dreams. His eagerness coupled with her suspicious nature had led to a more restrained approach to their friendship. “Days have turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years and I am still holding on. Hope springs eternal. Is this friendship/relationship going to be as futile as the war I fought in? Will there be a payout at the end?” Tim mentally shrugs his shoulders and waters his cactus on the windowsill. “I guess we will find out.”

A shadow crossed the window, and Tim looked up. A red hawk, perched precariously upon his carport roof, gazed into the window. Tim watched the hawk. Annoyed by his appearance in the window or Tim’s sudden movement, the hawk flew off. “I don’t blame him. What I see in the mirror frightens me too.” Tim’s free hand wiped at his bald head and he looked at his watch. “Crap. I need to get started cleaning. I want Starry to enjoy her visit with me tonight. She will like what I’ve done with the library.”

Tim began in the kitchen. He tossed empty Gatorade containers into the 42-gallon trash bag. “It has taken me time to make peace with whom I was during war, but Starry never doubted me. She is a godsend. Still, after eight years and minimum change in my status, I am growing tired.” Frustration settled into Tim’s mind. “What am I doing? Am I wasting my time? What if there is no future where we end up together?”

Time has passed with the quickness of molasses dripped from an overturned quart jar. Instead of drawing closer, Starry and Tim saw less of each other. The void in Tim’s heart grew with each day without her. Starry became a social butterfly. Blessed to live in a small town, she became the director for every social event within the city limits. Slowly, the chasm between the two seemed insurmountable to Tim. “From sunup to sundown, Starry is busy. I would call, but I’m sure she is working, and I don’t want to be a bother.” Instead, Tim tried to find other things to do to occupy his time. Finally, he hit upon an idea while he stacked lumber in his shop. “We could do a day trip today. I could make a picnic basket, we could ride to the lake and watch the waves come in. It’s not expensive and a bit redneck-ish but it’d be fun.” Tim walked back into the house and packed a basket. Spiral ham, tomatoes, a loaf of homemade bread, mayo, mustard and a few other ingredients filled the basket. When he completed the preparations for lunch, he took the basket and a clean blanket out to his truck. He picked up his phone and punched in Starry’s number.

“Hello?”

“Hey,” Tim said. A goofy grin crossed his face. “What are you doing?”

“Sleeping. Do you need something?”

“No, I stacked lumber in my shop and thought I’d see if you felt up to a day trip to Lake Homer. I made a basket and packed everything in my truck. All that’s missing is you.”

“We can,” Starry answered grumpily. The grin faded from his face.

“No, it’s okay. Get some rest.”

“Tim, wait. I don’t want you to be mad. We can go, I worked late last night and have to go back tonight. Let me get dressed.”

“Starry, it’s okay. I knew you had to work. It’s no big thing, okay? Get some rest. We can do it some other time.”

“Are you sure? Please don’t be mad at me.”

“I’m not. Sweet dreams.” He quietly punched the red button and tossed the phone on his workbench. “I guess I will unload the truck.” Tim took the basket in hand and walked into his cabin. He placed the food into the fridge and walked back to the truck.

Tim took out the revolver in the center console and checked to make sure he had loaded it. He closed the door and leaned against the porch. “This loneliness is too much. War took so much from me. Some of my friends never returned home, the ones who returned came back with serious issues. I am alone. It’s just me and the darkness. He flipped the gun around and stared into the barrel. The black frame reminded him of the loneliness in his heart and a tear rolled down his cheek. “There is nothing left for me here. I don’t want to be alone anymore.” 

The revolver is cold against his temple. He thinks of his friends lost in combat action, of the innocents who died because of the war. He closed his eyes. Tim’s loneliness dissipated in the hammer’s sound hitting the firing pin and the smell of burned gunpowder.

A few thoughts…

It’s been an interesting evening and morning so far. Yesterday, I worked in my library. New shelves were placed into the room, books were moved from the outgoing shelf to their new homes. In the midst of my work, I was struck by a pang of ‘not belonging.’

I was struck by the notion out of the blue. Belonging has never been an objective of mine. My motto has always been, ‘I’m me. If others like it fine, if they don’t…fine.’ Why I felt like a fish out of water puzzled me.

Maybe it’s old age.

The dying light of day brought my work to an end, but the emotions never faded. Late into evening, I began a short story titled “A Sick Twist of Fate.” Emotions of past events spilled upon the page. The word count ticked higher and higher. I’m still not done.

Inspiration isn’t always pretty. Morning came and the emotion hasn’t subsided. Sometimes, I am amazed I still stand. The reckoning of my past at times is brutal. Choices I’ve made haunt me. Here’s the problem with choices: You’re free to make them, but you’re not free of the consequences.

Either way, a new day has dawned. This room, and story, isn’t going to finish itself. May your day be blessed with good fortune.

Freeman