A constant loop of interruption
It’s the heartbeat
It’s the hoarsness
It’s the gasps
The styles not interlocked
The throbbing kicking game
A constant loop of interruption
It’s the heartbeat
It’s the hoarsness
It’s the gasps
The styles not interlocked
The throbbing kicking game
Prompting Shakespeare #2
“Now is the Winter of our discontent,” Gloucester began but was interrupted in the harshest of ways.
As he cleaned the soggy tomato remains off of his face, he heard from the side of the groundling’s pit where the fetid fruit was tossed from, these chilling words: “It ain’t Winter, you daft foot-licker. We are in Spring, ain’t we?”
From the other side, another tomato was flung, but it missed its mark by a toadstool. Mumbles of agreement, noddings of heads, and a robust “Here! Here!” egged the tosser’s taunting on.
“We had our Winter. Not too harsh, no, not like the good old days.” More mumbled agreements met that statement. “Used to be piles and piles of the shite, big enough to toss a body under and scurry away. Bodies popping up all over the place come Spring. Not, um, like I would know anything about that.”
Another groundling piped up: “When we used to have us a real Spring, not this sodden mess we ‘ave been soaked with. The muck we trudge through on a normal day is bad enough without all this rain!”
A chorus of agreement sounded out. At the tail end of rabble’s babble, a lone voice could be heard from the back of the pit, close to the stalls. “Verily! Verily!” He was beaten to unconsciousness with a flurry of sausages on sticks.
Gloucester, aghast, was being nudged to go, make a good show of it.
He cleared his voice loud enough to draw attention back to the stage. The jumping up and down helped. The audience guffawed loudly, except for the few who were enjoying the sausage whipping they maintained on the “Verily” clotpole.
Taking his royal stance, https://www.shakespeareswords.com/Public/About.aspx once again tried to get his soliloquies started. He got as far as “Now is the…” before a shower of rotten tomatoes spread around, and on, him.
Breaking character, he stomped to the near edge of the raised platform. Tossing his arms up, he yelled: “Now, wait, you bloody wankers!”
Near quiet settled over the crowd. Before Gloucester continued, he eyed one snaggled-toothed crone by the stage. She was brandishing a reasonably large summer squash. Glaring at her, the squash slowly sank out of site.
“Cease and desist this vexing behavior. This is a play. We are merely the vehicles to voice the words of a true master of playwrights. The history we represent is our shared histories. This…”
“Is boring, is what it is,” yelled the first tomato flinger. A cheer went up from the crowds, both groundlings and those in the stalls. A tawdry red-haired wench was now at his side, snuggling up close, drawn by the attention this one was receiving from the crowd.
“Enough! Enough! If you lot would stop with the insults. And the rotten fruit hurling,” Gloucester noticed that the summer squash had reappeared. “And other propulsive objects, then the entire point of our play would show itself. We don’t always need sword fights and constant mayhem.”
The second pipper-upper bellowed out: “But we like them. Why we come. A little blood action on stage boils me own blood!”
Cheers rang out even more raucously around the domeless arena. The PU wound up with a devastating kiss, delivered by the pre-mentioned red-headed wench, who had wound her way towards him upon hearing “boiling blood.” They left in an abrupt hurry.
As they made their way, those left in the pit began a growing war chant: “Fight! Fight! Fight!” It grew in intensity. All the actors knew the stage was lost. Gloucester was last, dragging his feet. He picked up his pace as the summer squash rolled by.
Turning once more in the desperate hope of changing their minds, Gloucester could only fixate on the malicious grin from the hag in the front. He bolted offstage. A hideous cackle followed him.
The stage manager looked at him askance, then hurried off. It was a lonely walk back to the dressing closet. Gloucester didn’t notice, nor care, that the bear and its baiter passed him by. The boisterous cheers let him know; the battle was lost. The stage was theirs.
Shedding the bits and pieces of his costume, and character, sighing heavily with the removal of each piece, William was falling into a dark place. The remaining looked at each other, finally pushing Young Tim on.
“Master Shakespeare, they were just a bunch of ruffians. Huge uneducated ones at that, not hearing the poetry of your words before them.”
“But, the histories…”
Old Tim sauntered over.
“Willie,” he said, slapping his leader on the back. “This is good for the Royals. This bunch? They want fun and depravity. Come, let’s get out of here and put some beer into you.”
Half-heartedly, the company of players left to get malt-wormed.
Another prompt from a different writers group was the word “Unseasoned.” Make of it what you will and write. So, ten of us went to task. The above was my take. Stumped, the line from Richard III flitted through my noggin, and here we are.
For those who don’t know, Shakespeare did more than write his plays. He hit the stage with his troupes, as well as taking on several other roles. From what I’ve read, his level of performance was rated from “better stick to writing” to “he gave a good showing.” Make of that what you will for Will.
Click on the link for more facts on The Globe Theater, the groundlings, the stalls, and more.
A site I just found, and now love, is SHAKESPEARE’S WORDS, created in 2018 by David and Ben Crystal. If you are not familiar with some of the words in my tale, this site is an excellent place to find their meanings and much more.
One last thing: Shakespeare’s plays are BEST when you see a heartfelt performance. Reading them, as well, is vital for scholarly pursuits, other educational sharing, and all involved in putting on a production.
Remember: the play’s the thing.
Prompting Shakespere #1
The wall, the big, honking wall, blocked their way. This troupe of merry wanderers, The Misfit Players, Inc., was mightily perplexed. Their GPS systems failed them, one and all, as they came to a stop, looking agape at the deterrent before them.
“Odds Bodkins,” Nick Bottom, vexed, said as he removed himself from the VW Microbus that he shared with Peter Quince and Robin Starveling. Quince had to remind Bottom to turn the engine off and headlights. With a low whistle and a moan, Peter left the van. Robin followed on his heels. Reaching Bottom, all three stared at the wall in front of them.
“Tom Snout! Get your earth-vexing, fool-born, rank tush over here.” Bottom looked back, grimacing as he noticed the three still sitting in that gleeking, weather-beaten Caravan that only gets 19 MPG. “Now, Tom!”
Tom turned to look at Snug, who sat beside him and then at Francis Flute in the back. Huffing a jarring huff, Tom nodded to them as he creaked the door open and stepped out. The others left the vehicle, careful not to slam any of the doors. Flute and Snug fell in behind Tom.
“Uh, look, um, Bottom. This maggot-pie of a wall was not here the last time we, um, passed this way.”
Nick Bottom glared icy death at him. Tom could only shrug his shoulders, the second time higher and fell with dead weight precision, drawing out a sigh that came from his toes. He scratched his head and chin, looking beyond Bottom and Quince and up at the wall.
The other Misfits followed his gaze up, then swiveling their noggins in all directions. None saw an end to this ungainly wall; the height of it was bewildering. Most felt their reasoning mind begin to fritz out. Diverting their eyes to anywhere else but the wall was in order.
They were all dumb-founded and verklempt. This once merry band of performers, one and all, turned their attention to Peter Quince.
His face was redder than any one of them had ever seen before; or when they were honest with themselves, since their last performance of “Thisbe loves Pyramis.” And, truth be told, the one before that. And, so on.
As Quince’s gaze fell upon Tom, he felt it was a good idea to retreat as best he could. He took two steps back. “No yelling. Good,” he thought and resumed his retreat. With a snap of his fingers and a motion to the other, Robin and Snug, who were behind him, halted his running away progress. The three others came closer, creating a circle around Tom. He gulped three times three as his body went cold and sticky.
Muttering, but loud enough for his fellow misfits to hear, spoke: “Something wicked this way comes.” Hands shaking, Tom needed a way to hide the motions. His left hand went into his tunic’s pocket, but his right hand…o, his right…raised itself to Tom’s mouth. Without realizing, Tom Snout bit his thumb at the same time he locked eyes with red-faced Quince.
“You dare bite your thumb at me, Tom Snout?”
“No, um, no, no, Peter. Uh, it is not you I bite my thumb, at or for.”
Snug growled. “Then who do you bite that thumb at?”
Francis complimented Snug on a most fierce growl, and added: “Or for, Tom?”
“Look, brave and stalwart friends, um, I just booked the gig, got the info…”
“And forgot to get the deposit for said gig!” Quince growled even more fiercely.
Robin whispered to Francis: “If anyone in our audience heard a growl of that magnitude, they would grow afeared and most likely faint.”
Francis just nodded,
“Yeah, uh, sorry about that, Peter Quince. Um, well, we were rehearsing most diligently. Then Nick started going on and on as usual…” Tom was interrupted by the sound of Bottom’s fist hitting his other unclenched hand. The withering glare did not, for once, deter him from finishing: “Um, as usual, braying like an ass.”
Tom broke the eye contact and turned to Quince.
“And you, Petey, were nowhere to be found.” Tom Snout stopped biting his thumb, lowering his arm from his face only to cross it across his chest, joined by his other arm. “And I did haggle us a handsome fee for this appointment.”
“An outstanding and just fee, Peter Quince,” added Francis Flute. The daggers that flew out of Quince’s eyes sent Flute to take refuge behind Snug, a sharp squeak sounding out.
Before any other word, growl, or threatening look was tossed out, this ruffled merry band of gentlemen was startled by what fell before them. A growing luminescence broke through a chink in the wall that none had noticed before.
“What light through yonder chink breaks?” Bottom pondered obtusely. The sniggering behind him stopped as he twirled to face them.
Peter patted Bottom on his shoulder.
“Nick, I say this for truth, as we all know we are facing East.”
Robing Starveling chimed in., “And the man in the moon is fading away, away towards the West.”
Snug cried out. “Look!”
The opulence of the growing light spread before them. The moods that had fallen on them all we lightened as if a veil of cobwebs were lifted and dispersed to the cloudless sky. No one heard the muffled guffaws from the copse of trees off to their side.
Tom threw his arms out wide and grinned, turning to his fellow thespians.
“See? We can still make the performance with time to spare if we hasten.” Turning to look back at the pathway that was now evident thanks to the morning sun. “This night’s troubles have been much to do about nothing.”
Everyone cheered — even Bottom.
“To your vehicles, my stout and sturdy fellows. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; before this lane close to the wall is strewn with rush hour traffic.”
Tom Snout took the driver’s seat of his Caravan, Snug taking the passenger seat, Flute resting across the back in comfort.
As Tom started the engine and began following the VW, Francis began to sing. Snug and Tom joined in wholeheartedly in this roundel of a Fairy song.
If you are even a passing fan of Shakespearean fare, the above is a mashup, of sorts. I “stole,” and played with, the following plays:
If you click on the links, they will take you to the full script. The Complete Works of William Shakesapeare is a wonderful source to find all of his plays. Free of charge. If you want just the cliff notes, every play has a Wiki page.
The above characters are from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They are the comic relief, the “mechanicals,” who perform the play-within-the-play of Pyramus and Thisbe. These men are laborers (tinker, weaver, carpenter, etc.) who are looking for their big break: to perform at the Royal Wedding and receive money and a name for themselves.
Most of The Fault of Underlings is grounded in AMND. Some dialogue I tweaked from the plays listed above. As to some of the words used, you can thank Master William himself. If you’re not familiar with them you can use Google. It’s good to learn something new every day.
The Big Honking Wall has NOTHING to do with Game of Thrones. In AMND, Tom Snout plays the Wall with a Crannied Hole or Chink in it so Thisbe and Pyramus can speak to each other, and maybe steal a kiss. This all happens in Act 5 during the play within the play. The following are Tom’s lines as the wall:
Snout. In this same interlude it doth befall
That I, one Snout by name, present a wall;
And such a wall, as I would have you think,
That had in it a crannied hole or chink,
Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby,
Did whisper often very secretly.
This loam, this rough-cast and this stone doth show
That I am that same wall; the truth is so:
And this the cranny is, right and sinister,
Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper.
You’ll notice there is a discrepency with Thisby’s name. In searching, it’s Thisbe. In the above monologue, it’s Thisby. I just went the former route.
This came about from a prompt at a weekly writer’s group I attend. Our mission was to use secondary characters as the leads, going wherever our writer’s minds would take us. We share what we wrote with the others in the group.
They laughed. I hope you do as well.
Quote from Host Bev Sykes of sundaystealing.blogspot.com and the blog “Funny the World”.
Welcome to Sunday Stealing.
This feature originated and published on WTIT: The Blog. Here we will steal all types of questions from every corner of the blogosphere. Our promise to you is that we will work hard to find the most interesting and intelligent questions. (Past hosts include: Our first – Judd Corizan, Mr. L, Kwizgiver and Bud) Cheers to all of us thieves!
This week’s questions were originally from: Thought Provoking Questions
1. Do you own your things or do your things own you?
I’d have to say both. There are a lot that’s “When in doubt, throw it out!” and (too many) that are “Mine! Mine! Mine!”
2. Would you rather lose all of your old memories or never be able to make new ones?
Hard one. I live too much in the past, and the negatives surface way too often. New ones: that’s a fear, already, as I get older.
3. How do you deal with someone in a position of power who wants you to fail?
Happened to me way too often; it’s why I prefer working for myself, but I can be a real PITA to myself as well. In the past, keep going on until I can find a way out (job; etc)
4. What do you have that you cannot live without?
Friends and family.
5. When you close your eyes what do you see?
Whatever is running through my mind at the time. Vivid thinker.
6. What sustains you on a daily basis?
Hope. Wavers way too often.
7. What are your top five personal values?
8. Why must you love someone enough to let them go?
It’s a hard thing for me: see above-living in the past. If they really need to leave, I hope it’s to their betterment, in whatever way they wanted.
9. Do you ever celebrate the green lights?
Big time. Biggest thrill is hitting a long patch of green lights while driving. Try 2nd Ave (Manhattan) in the middle of the night. I’ve made it from 91st street down to 12th without a red light.
10. What personal prisons have you built out of fears?
Having to push myself to leave the house.
11. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do?
Get my work published.
12. Why are you, you?
Heart and mind. I do not think linearly, mainly non-conformist, question authority, am a bit rebellious, and I embrace my inner child and my inner darkness. Pretty sure it all comes from seeing others and going “that’s not how I want to live.”
13. If you haven’t achieved it yet what do you have to lose?
I assume this goes with #11. Procrastination gets in the way; fear of never achieving it. I see the problem there.
14. What three words would you use to describe the last three months of your life?
Hectic. Painful. Lonely.
15. Is it ever right to do the wrong thing? Is it ever wrong to do the right thing?
Both depend on who/what sets the judgment of “wrong thing/right thing.” One example: people were fined (arrested?) for cleaning national parks during the “shut down.” I think that’s a no brainer: clean up the garbage.
16. How would you describe ‘freedom’ in your own words?
Nothing left to lose. Yeah, I know.
17. What is the most important thing you could do right now in your personal life?
A mutual love, caring, sharing, enjoyable, and respectful (of each other) relationship. Oh, wrong answer. Right now, stop procrastinating.
18. If you could ask one person, alive or dead, only one question, who would you ask and what would you ask?
My dad. “What drove you to survive through the things you experienced?”
19. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
The process of sharing fun learning experiences without needing an end product.
the way i hear it the dam coming apart was what took out most people around drowned or washed away but travelers passing by or those we questioned before shooting them said it was the earth quaking and moving that did the dirty leaving me confused what to believe any more water swamping the outlier citys huricanes killer tornadoes plagues of insects rodents and more running for their lives while snatching away our lives when they had the chance it makes me sicker then I already am i have the wall behind me and a roof over my head amen
Author’s Note: Howdy. Been a month plus. I was involved with the AtoZ Blogging Challenge which took up all of my time. 36,061 words written between 26 posts, every day of April except Sundays. Phew. If you want to check it out, it is a serialized story called A Car In The Woods.
Start from the beginning, otherwise it won’t make much sense after the fourth post. Reflection post follows.
It’s #Friday Fictioneers prompt time, as always created and hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields on her blog, Addicted To Purple.
The rules are simple if you’d like to join in:
Victoria cut the power to the chemical bath. She switched off anything that had to do with the process but did not continue helping the product. The ones that did were all state of the art medical machinery. Body temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and breathing rate were holding strong and steady. Electroencephalography readouts were good, better than what she had expected. She’d already had her “It’s Alive! It’s Alive!” moment.
It just wasn’t an it, though. If anyone had been able to listen into Vic’s below ground lab, they would have heard “She’s Alive! She’s Alive!” instead, most likely not really understanding the true significance of those words. “Oh, a baby has been born,” would most likely have passed through most minds. They’d be partially right, but nowhere near the exact truth.
Zora had fallen back asleep after a very brief awakening. Her vocal cords weren’t ready for any major usage yet. Once her eyes, one blue, one brown, focused on Victoria, a strangled “Hi!” came out. She tried to smile. Instead her eyes closed and she purr snored almost immediately.
If Zora had stayed awake, she would have seen tears come to Vic’s eyes, felt the back of her love’s hand softly stroke across her stitched cheek, and heard “I’ve missed you,” repeated over and over.
Victoria spent the next four hours rechecking all the vitals, monitoring for any abnormalities, changing out IV drip bags when depleted. Her back and feet ached, and the tension pressure between her eyes and above her temples made her want whiskey in the worst way. She couldn’t, and she wouldn’t. Vic had promised.
The day the bandages came off, Zora’s heart rate was elevated; Victoria’s stomach was twisted in a knot. Zora, once unraveled, stared at her new body in the mirrored wall that Vic had put up just for her. The stitching was everywhere. They ran from top to bottom at the seams of the body. In a few places, the processed collagen had already dissolved, leaving a whisper of scarring. Some of the more invasive sections would take longer, having needed synthetic materials woven into the collagen.
A wig would cover Zora’s scalp sutures, giving it time to heal and for natural hair to grow. Her wrists would be bangled, neck scarved, with socks, long skirts, and loose blouses taking care of the rest. Victoria handed over Zora’s favorite sunglasses, from before. She put them on, still naked before her reflection, her lips forming a closed, thin line. Zora took them off and handed them back.
“My breasts hurt,” murmured to her reflection.
Victoria pressed herself lightly into Zora’s back, wrapping her arms around her waist, planting a soft kiss on her neck.
“It’ll take a little time, love. Time you now have.”
Zora’s arms crossed over Vic’s, her new fingers interlacing awkwardly. Victoria shifted hers for comfort, closing her eyes as she took in the new smell and feeling of the new body she was holding.
She missed seeing Zora’s frown, the scrunching that reached from the shudder in her lips to her puckered brow.
“I didn’t feel her kiss. I don’t feel her hands,” tumbled through her old mind, new head.
Zora’s new heart seized for a moment.
It passed when she remembered to breathe.
The prompt & “rules”:
Imagine one morning you woke up and your fingerprints weren’t your own anymore. Why not? What happens next?
Post your story on your site and link to it on Fiction Can Be Fun in the comments , or drop us a line via the contact us page and we’ll post it for you.
Word count: no more than 1,000 words
Deadline is 2pm GMT, on 10th May 2019
Anyone can join in. Give it a go.
Six years of participation. Six years surviving. Six years.
This year kicked my ass.
I’m not someone who outlines these things. Titles, maybe (i.e. the Road Signs year). I get the basic idea, like it enough, think I’ll get some mileage out of it, and go with it, peddle to the metal.
I originally planned to just do individual stories. The only through line connector would be the Narrator (the Present Day voice). My take on The Twilight Zone.But then…
Commenters got invested in the mystery. The clicking sounds. Then the Thunderbird. Finally, Patricia, Debra, and Tim. What started out as a Horror/Mystery series of lightly connecting pieces began to form a larger story. So, commenters, you may take credit for leading me in this direction.
I also began to care and think about the family.
Zeno the mutated frog was planned before I started. This is a real African frog known as the Clawed Foot. It does not have a tongue and makes a clicking sound instead of croaking. It can’t make the usual frog noise. AND: it was (is being?) used in many Biochemical labs as a test subject for a variety of reasons. I had my X post planned out, and the Z post.
Which changed drastically by the time I reached Z.
The Narrator was originally going to remain a mysterious “voice” in the woods, with Z being a more philosophical/paranormal pondering. Once I introduced Eddie, it felt right for him to take on that role. By the very end, and the reason why Monday the 29th’s post was delayed, I was having an intense inner struggle: let Eddie live to fulfill the role I was planning, or let him die and have someone else become the narrator.
Tim was a bit fragile, with all the trauma he went through. Patricia needed, I felt, a happier life. That left Debra, the smart mouthed, arm punching, take no shit Sister.
Eddie vs. Debra. A full day was spent with inner debates, and then a well thought out feedback email came along. Thanks, Melanie. If you are not familiar with Atherton’s Magic Vapour, you really should check it out.
I didn’t want to be predictable, but in the end I guess I was, based on the few comments I had at the end.
The posts were much longer than I should have written. The story took me where the story took me. Blog hoppers don’t always want to invest in long posts. Pop in. Hit the like button. Leave a comment here and there. Not this puppy. The lowest word count of the main story was 887 words (I on April 10th). The longest was the Y post, with 2,936 words. In case you’re wondering, I wrote the Z post’s 1,491 words the same day I wrote Y.
4,427 words. One day. I think I used up all the words in my head. The night was for vegging out.
The Saturday posts were hint drops for things as yet unexplained. Some were straight forward, most needed your thinking cap on to make the connections. I felt I didn’t have to hit the readers on the head with explaining every last detail. Sometimes solving things, or allowing your own mind to wonder, can be a great experience.
As for TB, there are clues scattered here and there about the T-bird. Red Thunderbird-4 was described by one reader as just gobbledygook. It’s the least straight forward of the Saturday posts, but read between the lines and look at the graphic inserts. Add that to the last week of stories and TB’s role.
I want to thank every single person who read, liked, and commented on the day-to-day posts. This is what stirred me on, made me think, and really boosted a confidence that needed a lot of boosting. Congrats to everyone who completed, or attempted, this years Blog Challenge.
Big thanks to all the hosts of 2019’s AtoZ Blog Challenge:
Is this story done? Are there questions you still have, threads you feel I didn’t tie together? Why did I choose the titles for each piece? Thoughts, comments, Agents who you think should read this? I’d love to hear from you.
There’s a car in the woods.
And to finish this out, the following are
10 Reasons Why I Hate You
10 Questions To Answer:
That’s All Folks. Comments are always appreciated. Did you like my April output? Are there things I left open that still leave you puzzled? Who wrote the book of love? Just want to say “Hi Stu!”?
Elwina, blood cousin, thrice removed, of the albino prince of the Dragon Isle, grasped Hellbringer, the Demon Sword, in her ebon armored right hand. The armor gleamed, polished and pristine. Eldritch black sparks cascaded down her left arm, fist raised on high.
High being optimum, standing at just over seven feet. With those heels? Ahem. I had to stretch my neck back to see if another weapon was being equally grasped. Nope. Just her fist, which was formidable enough as is.
I had done the Sacred Dance of Interpretation, sacrificed the Two Glazed Legs of a Chicken (they were yum), and dropped a drop of Ceremony Wine into the Silver Chalice of The Dead God. Poof! She appeared. Angry, but she was here.
I had summoned here in the dungeon cell of my place of habitat. Twenty foot ceiling, plenty of light pouring through the barred high windows, and wall to wall Enchanted Weeping Stone. The black shag carpet was a nice touch; mother did well in that respect.
Elwina stamped a mighty thump on the carpeting, which wasn’t the effect I think she was going for. It was followed, though, with a booming, echoing voice, amplified by the curly-cue helmet she wore.
“Todd, Master of the Flickering Candle, Supreme Master of the D20, Devourer of Smoked Meats, Keeper of the Chilling Collectables, and Scion of Queen Yen-Tah,” she paused, whether for a breath or effect, then continued, “Why have YOU summoned me hence?”
“Um,” I stalled, bowing as far over as my cinched pants would allow. “Um, my lady, I do not think “hence” means what you think it means.” I unbowed. “You see, hence means…”
Her left sparkly hand was suddenly in front of my face, mere inches from my nose. As the tip of proboscis began to emit the aroma of a summer BBQ, I knew enough at that moment to not let the “Ouch!” leave my lips.
Bits of stone, from the walls, shattered, dropping onto the shag with her next words.
“Am I here to amuse you, Todd? Do you think I am a Jester?” Her already red eyes, glaring at me through her armored head, were ablaze. “Do I make you laugh?”
I felt my mustache and eyebrows singe.
“Chaos forbid, O’ twelfth Princess of The Dreaming City. Farthest thing from my mind. Please forgive my, um, basest of conjectures.” Bowing again, not as deep as before, because I wanted to keep an eye on Hellbringer, I added: “I am but discarded foliage adrift in a hailstorm.”
I waited, hoping I had abased myself just enough.
Elwina lowered her twinkling fist, at the same time slamming her demon sword into its scabbard. Not too gently, she pushed me back enough that I almost lost my footing. A few feet separated us now.
“Well?” The word bounced around the room. Thunder was in her voice. Very, very frightening.
“Methought, m’lady, um, you might behoove a simple, tiny request. A wish.”
She stood stock still and silent. I took that as a good sign. That, and Hellbringer was still sheathed.
“Tonight marks the beginning of the Centennial Celebration of the War That Should Never Have Been. The Dowagers of the WTSNHB have prepared for this eve for the last decade. Everyone who is anyone in Evermore will be there.”
“So?” Her hand went ever so quietly to the hilt of her damned sword.
I mumbled incoherently. My heart was in my throat.
She took off her helmet and through it at me. My shoulder throbbed. Better than it hitting me square in the face.
“My gods, are you a man or a slithy tove? State you wish. Now! What did you summon me here for, Todd?”
I was still rubbing my shoulder.
“Yeah, um, well…It’s a big night. An event. Happens only once a century.” Her eyes narrowed, a deep depression formed between her at the bridge of her nose. She swept a lock of her red hair out of her face, having fallen with the tossing of her helmet.
“Um, Lady Elwin, would you do me the honor of accompanying me to this most illustrious ball?”
The silence that followed felt as if another century had passed before she spoke again.
“Are you, Todd, asking me on a date?”
I stood, looked up into her eyes, and nodded.
“About frigging time! Why do you think I spent the time polishing my best armor?”
Once outside, passing by my mother and assuring her I would be back at the appointed time, Elwina drew Hellbringer and commanded it transform itself into a Coach and Four.
We arrived at the ball fashionably late.
I did not make it home until a week later, but that is a tale best told at another time.
A Car In The Woods: Chapter Twenty-One and an Epilogue
New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods
TB raced down the corridor when we hit bottom. She raced to what I called the Star Trek Med Bay. Just no Bones there to help. Dad directed us to medical beds, which buttons to press, he clicked a few different patterns, and we stood back and watched as the Med Bay took over. Dad made sure Tim’s “pod” was secure before he let his own close and do its own mojo. I still call it Med Bay.
Schatzi had her own chamber. We stopped there before moving on. Dad clicked whatever command he had to give. Schatzi came over for hugs and scratches, and when the door swooshed behind her-Star Trek, again-TB continued.
Just before he went under, Dad told me to look for his journal, giving me explicit directions and making me repeat them back to him and the secondary code I’d need. I don’t click, so that code was important for me. Plan ahead. Another training lesson he drilled into us.
Mom and Will were comforting each other until got the wanderlust. Mom gave him a kiss and asked him just to check back every half hour or so, in case either of them came out of their shiny chrysalis crypts. I called them that before I left to find Dad’s journal. She gave me The Look. I was out of the room pronto.
It was exactly where he told me it would be, and the code worked. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy. I laughed at this Britism that I picked up the previous summer I spent in London. I brought the Journal and all the loose papers it sat on back to Med Bay. Mom was crying, and after a big hug I let her be and sat down on the floor just beside the swoosh door.
I read. I double checked what I had read. The papers were a mish-mosh of memos, letters, orders, and notes all with REDACTED stamps over names, dates, and exact locations. Very frustrating, but I got the picture. Took a bit, but I got it.
Wish I had never read the damn thing.
All the horrible things that were done to their “specimens.” They were looking for that next best weapon, animals first, then dolphins and other sea life, then birds and reptiles. That’s where Zeno emerged from. Damn nuisance is still out there. All the 25 labs worked with different creatures, testing different drugs on them.
But control was an issue. That’s when they went electronic, morphing the surviving into monsters. Schatzi…
Then humans. Super Soldiers. Dad wrote that some of the lab workers called him and the others their Captain America project, but never in hearing distance of their superiors. No sense of humor, he said.
Drugs came first, and relentless. Next body modifications, all starting with what he called The Insert. It got implanted in their chests, a bypass channeled to an arterial vein, and perpetually run by the heart. The clicking sound originally was a sick joke by one of the techs who knew the noise from Zeno bugged the shit out of most of the heads of the lab. That it worked on other levels for the Taken was an added bonus for the BGE-WD. They insisted that all Inserts would be modified to include the feature.
A number of those who already had the implant didn’t make it. Dad never found conclusive numbers.
The revolt that was begun by the Aggressors and finished by Dad and other Taken survivors was brutal. No prisoners. Dad and another Taken tapped into communications with the other labs. Specific clicks were sent out, coded in a way that only other augmented could process them. BGE never had a full translation vocabulary. They thought they did and they died being wrong about that. About a lot of things.
Each Lab’s Taken first took down the lab rats, the scientists, and any military personnel they found. The next mission was to eliminate the Aggressor units. They were a danger to the people above and had been boasting, in each and every lab, what fun they would have topside.
Lab #4 ended up as a bloody mortuary. Both sides died trying to eliminate the other. Four of that labs’ Aggressor’s survived and made it out. TBG-that bastard Gary-thought he had killed my dad, but he didn’t do the job thoroughly. They all had a healing factor, but they could die. One of Dad’s paper packs talked about Nanoscience. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. Star Trek thingy again.
When he could, he made it to Medical, hoisted himself in, and, according to the machine’s records, five weeks later he was released. He rummaged all sections of the lab, finding files and more in different places. A lot was missing. He found a shit load of shredded paper in a room full of computers. Most of them were broken during the revolt. The few that worked didn’t offer enough information, and no two of them shared the same data.
Dad went on the hunt for the Aggressors. According to one of Dad’s journal entries, they were compelled to stay within a certain distance from the lab. They did. He got two of them early on, bringing their bodies back to the lab with the help of TB and Schatzi. Doris, the only surviving female Aggressor, took much longer to find. Schatzi took care of her.
TBG came looking for Dad. His mistake. End of his story.
Dad lasted another year. Tim and I got in all the time we could with him, taking turns for our alone time with him. His injuries were too many and too severe. He needed more help than the Med Beds could supply. Mom had visited with him throughout the year, but she always left crying on the lift with TB. TB recorded it, as she recorded everything she was involved in. I found them stored in a side room with thousands of tapes and cassettes. Dad told me where to look.
When he finally passed.
When he finally passed, we buried him in the middle of the lift tunnel. TB had her own codes we knew nothing about. The lift stopped, a couple of clicks, and a side in the wall opened: just the right amount of room for a body. It was coated in some sort of metal, and there was an airflow that Tim found. We all agreed this was best. No random finding. We’d know. That was enough.
I stayed home, almost finishing my degree at a state university. Tim comes down and plays with Schatzi and goes running around with her. They both chase Zeno. Schatzi almost caught that frog a couple of times. Tim swears it looked like they were just playing a game with each other.
He started seeing someone. He won’t tell me or Mom who, yet. We’ll get it out of him, the brat.
Mom and Will are happy together, which is important. She started a training program with Will. He loves it. I join in as much as possible.
At this point, I really don’t know why I’m in school. No subject is catching me. I’m not seeing anyone. I have a few of the old friends who stuck around, but…eh. I’ve reread Dad’s journal so many times I have most of it memorized. Tim and I found some more loose papers around the lab as we explored while Dad slept. I added them to the pile.
I don’t even know why I’m writing all this down in Dad’s journal. He wrote a lot, but it’s a big journal. I knew he wouldn’t mind my scribbling thoughts.
Future me, if you’re reading this someday, maybe you can find a way to let me know something.
What the hell am I supposed to do?
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Hadn’t read the journal in years. Didn’t think I needed to.
Guess I did.
Old me, things were only going to get worse. Still are doing that.
The other Taken? They got their Aggressors one and all.
I know. I checked.
This land is not anywhere near where we were in 1970.
Many of the Taken got angry. Angrier.
Some were caught and made “wards” of the military states.
Others still roam free. Lots of death and destruction.
Around the world.
Tim’s married with kids. Mom and Will are retired. All happy as can be today.
I hunt the Taken. I’ve killed a lot of them.
More need to go.
Almost all of them offered useful intel.
That’s what the hell you were meant to do, past me.
Me behind the wheel of TB, Schatzi hogging the back seat.
There are still cars in the woods.
A Car In The Woods: Chapter Twenty
New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods
Sitting atop the elevated platform, TB idled low. The Thunderbird was playing with its buttons, power seats up, down, same with the rag roof of the convertible. When she grew tired of that, she played a pattern game with the locks, seats, windows, and the roof. The radio turned on and found the country station she still liked. She wanted Eddie behind the wheel and Girl curled up in the back. The road beckoned, but her conditioning did not allow her to drive herself anymore. Outrunning the State Troopers was the last solo fun TB had had.
So, she waited and grew bored with herself. All the power items clicked back to their upright, locked positions. The twangy sounds coming out of the car speaker drifted through the cabin as she powered herself down.
Gary wanted to gut the kid, but he still needed him. He kept the knife at the kid’s back, herding him further into the woods. Tim struggled, but was brought low time and again. This last defiance was met with a cold-cock to his head. Tim was down and out. Gary began dragging Tim by his ankles as he made his way to his stash and surprises. He was ready for Eddie, and Girl.
He really, really wanted to do some damage.
The rage grew hotter as he trudged on. He hated Eddie, the kid’s dad, even more than he had hated old Sheriff John. The lab rats wanted Eddie after they scoped him out with his buddy. Just before they went, Gary heard one of the techs yakking about this “guy up there” as being a perfect specimen.
That started it, right then and there. Bile forced its way up to his throat. He was prime Taken. No one else came close to the savage glee he took with acquiring “volunteers.” Gary barely remembered himself as the candyass the guys used to call him; he didn’t know the techs saw the wimp in him oozing out his pores. The most potent drugs went into his system from day one. China White tuned him up. China Blue honed him. Alpha-AG ramped him even higher. Gary was the first of the Aggressors.
Eddie humiliated him time and again. Gary laid his transfer to Lab-25 square at Eddie’s feet. Two months saw him back at Lab-4, more monster than before.
Monsters can bide their time.
Debra went scout, adrenaline pumping her along. She spotted a thin tree to her right that was half down, broken branches still in a slow death arc. She thought it had to be Schatzi. She knew her father was too careful, hurt or not. Her mom and Will both had missed it. Debra took the lead.
While she and Tim were cleaning up after the wedding, Tim kept pushing her to go follow what she thought, then, was a wild goose chase. Their dad. He said he saw their dad; maybe also their long gone German shepherd. Prodding him to jobs outside of the kitchen, Debra got on the phone and called the inn her mom and Will were heading to. It was too soon; they were at least an hour away from their destination. She had to leave a message. “Tim is sliding” would be enough to send her mom rushing back.
Tim bugged her again, and she got him on garbage duty. This time she put a call through to the State Police. They knew and liked Will. Some had even been at the wedding only hours ago. The desk Sargent told her he’d radio the men out on north patrol.
She’d run out of excuses to put Tim off. Which led to their finding their father and dog in a fight for their lives. Tim got snatched, and her injured dad and dog went after their attacker.
Tim hadn’t seen Debra lay chalk markings on the trees they passed. His focus was forward. She knew her mom would see them and follow. Deb’s patience was nearing its end when she heard her mother’s voice. “Good,” she had thought, “now it’ll be six against one.”
They pressed on.
Schatzi caught up to Eddie deep in the woods. He knew where Gary was going. He had a one-way zipper mind. It was a setup. Eddie knew it. He just had to think beyond Gary. It was a matter of life or death for his son. Eddie could not screw this up.
They came to the grove of trees. Beyond the thick barrier, TB waited. Gary wouldn’t pass up the opportunity. He motioned Schatzi closer, gave her a command, and the dog went, panting lightly, the only sound she made.
There were five natural ways to cross through the trees, a few of them gaping wide enough for two to squeeze through. Eddie was pretty sure all five were booby-trapped. He’d bet on it. Over the years he created a new series of paths, all of them a short climb up to some perfectly spaced stepping ledges that led from tree to tree.
He took a look at his left hand. The swelling was down, and the cuts were healing. Flexing it, Eddie still didn’t have full mobility, but he had no choice but to use it. Up he went, checked his position, and began to work his way to the center.
Tim woke up to find himself sitting on the ground, his arms stretched out and his hands tightly tied against something by the wrists. It wasn’t pitch black, but damn close. Just about everything appeared in shades of dark. There was a light coming behind him to his left, crackling pops announced fire. He strained to see, but he was pinned against something metallic and cold. It was only then that it registered to Tim that he was bare-chested.
“Hey,” he yelled, “Hey. I want my coat. Hey. It’s cold.”
“Tough noogies, kid. I like it. Nice and toasty.”
Gary walked into Tim’s eyesight, wearing the coat. He got too close; Tim almost tripped him.
A power slap sent Tim’s head back and to the side, the left side of his face mashed against the frigid metal. He didn’t cry out; turning his head, spitting a glob of bloody saliva at his tormentor.
It missed, but it sent Gary back a step. It put Gary more into the light given off by the flickering flames. Tim noticed they guy had the knife still in hand. The blade lit up when it was turned towards the fire. Tim’s heart raced a little faster: he couldn’t see the hole he put in Gary’s hand.
Tim tried to find it, but Gary was moving around, muttering, cursing, slashing the air as his arms fluttered around him. Before Gary walked out of site, Tim got a good look. Gary was still, his eyes roving, then his head, looking for something. He stopped, closed his eyes, and Tim knew he was putting all his focus into listening. Tim turned his own focus on Gary’s hands. He shook a bit when he realized: no holes. Tim had shot Gary in the hands, but there was no hole to be found.
Abruptly, Gary was moving. His whole body turned, back now towards Tim. He heard a low chuckle in front of him. Gary turned, crouched, and got in Tim’s face.
“Hey, buddy-o. Time is now. Why don’t you scream for your Daddy?”
The knife drove through Tim’s leg. When no scream came, Gary stabbed the other leg. Tim couldn’t hold anything back.
“Good. Good. Nice and loud.” Gary stood and began turning a 360. “Yo, Eddie. Buddy boy here needs his Daddy.”
Gary moved out of Tim’s strained eyesight. He stopped screaming but the pain radiated throughout his entire being. He started to pass out, but the sound of an engine starting and the revving vibrations at his back brought him back.
Then the headlights burst on.
Eddie had been inching closer, coming from behind TB, but too far away to stop Gary from hurting Tim. He watched as Gary got into the Thunderbird, start her up, shimmied over the seat, and went out the passenger door. Eddie had a decent view: the campfire was low, just enough for some warmth. Gary bent over and reached into a kit bag that was off to the side.
Gary had dropped the knife on the ground, close to the fire. Eddie got a good look at the weapon that was now in his hand, a weapon he knew very well. A Colt M1911A1. He cursed himself that he left his down below in the lab. He was going to a wedding. The knife was enough, he thought.
He hated to do it, but he had to move now and fast. Eddie partially rose from behind the last bramble before available to duck behind. He sent out a series pattern of clicks from the Insert in his chest. Gary spun around at the sound of the clicks and began to raise the Colt Government.
Schatzi broke through the clump of trees she had been waiting behind. The click commands were clear to her: come, jump, attack. She leaped high and landed a short distance from the tree line, automatically running towards the Thunderbird. A kick from her hind legs sent a large clump of earth and rocks flying back.
It was heavy enough to set off the first round of explosives Gary had laid.
Shrapnel hit Schatzi in her hind quarter, causing more damage, but she had been trained to weave. Her natural instinct was to go straight and true. She had been zig-zagging when the blast went off, so the worst of the shrapnel missed her. Schatzi’s growl was more powerful than any sound of pain she could make.
Eddie was making his way to the car when a series of explosions went around the clearing, all by the tree line. One after another deafened the night, sending shards of natural and man-made items flying. Nothing reached the area where Gary and the TBird were. He had planned it almost perfectly: each blast caused by the debris dropping from the last explosion. It was fireworks on the ground and Gary reveled in it.
Running as fast as he could, he reached the trunk of TB as the last of the explosions wound their way to the first one. Eddie’s hearing was deadened by this point but he couldn’t let that stop him from getting to Tim. Gary was his objective. He needed to be put down.
He had to find something other than the flashlight he held in his hand.
The first series of explosions rocked the ground Deb was coasting over. She fell and rolled back to a standing position. Her mom and Will were right behind her. They huddled, hoping each blast was the last one. It wasn’t. Their ears rang as the bangs came close to them and then loped off, continuing until there wasn’t “one more.”
They had to use hand signals, their hearing impaired. Will hadn’t been part of the training she shared with her mother, but he seemed to grasp the info. When everything settled they immediately saw that the explosions took out a lot of the trees and just about all of the bramble. They had a clear view of the now larger clearing.
“Tim!” Patricia was barely heard when she pointed straight ahead. They could barely make him out; the headlights of a car that Pat and Will never believed in were obscuring any fine details. Pat knew her son. Debra and Will saw him as well.
Deb still had the binoculars that Tim forced upon her at the beginning of this hellish trek. She focused them on the front of the car and cursed. Tim’s head drooped to the side. Her heart clenched. He was either knocked out or…Or. She gave them to Will who looked and scanned the area, then he handed them to Patricia.
There was movement around the trunk area. A man was walking towards the back of the car. She knew it had to be the bastard that took her son. A burst of light hit his face and he went down.
She knew it had to be Eddie. Pat gave the binoculars back to her daughter. All three checked their weapons, making sure they were loaded. Will noticed Deb had a pistol in her hand. Deb saw the look. She shrugged. He nodded.
The three made their way towards Tim.
A shot rang out.
Eddie watched under the low-slung chassis of the ’58 Ford as Gary edged around TB. He waited as Gary moved closer. Eddie went to a squat, and as soon as Gary’s leg breached the edge of the car he sprang. He turned the flashlight full into Gary’s face. Natural reaction for one’s hands to go to protect the eyes, and Gary followed suit. The gun went off just as Eddie swung the flashlight, hitting the gun hand and sending the gun flying. Eddie went for the throat as they both went down.
Their augmented strength was fueled by the fury both men felt for the other. Eddie was bigger but Gary could match him punch for punch. The two pummeled each other as they rolled over the ground and into TB. Eddie hit hard, breaking some of Gary’s ribs. He got as he gave. One revolution later Eddie got his left forearm over Gary’s throat as his right hand grasped his opponent’s left hand. He squeezed, feeling the bones in Gary’s hand break. He smiled. Gary grimaced.
Eddie groaned as Gary kneed him, breaking the grips on his throat and hand. Gary drew in both legs and kicked Eddie off of him. He landed by the campfire, hitting the back of his head on one of the burning logs.
The fire tried to claim Eddie, feeding down from his hair to the back of his ragged shirt. He moved away and rolled his back over the grass and dirt surface, snuffing out the flames. He was hurting as he got up.
He wanted to make Gary hurt a lot more.
A bullet tore through his upper left arm, sending a cascade of blood down. The shot nicked the brachial artery and sent pain coursing down the arm to Eddie’s almost healed hand. Another shot, this time in the leg, sent Eddie down to his knees.
Gary moved closer, getting just behind Eddie and placed his retrieved Colt against Eddie’s head. He had noticed where it fell during their tussle. While Eddie was fighting the flames, Gary got the gun.
“Just so you know,” Eddie said, “Your boy’s next.”
Eddie was just reaching Gary’s thigh, wanting to throw him off balance, when five shots went off. The first two that hit Gary in the head went off near simultaneously, a double shotgun’s blast blowing Gary’s head off right behind them. The fifth was the Colt as Gary’s body started its collapse. He was already pulling the trigger. That bullet hit Eddie in the side and out his back.
Both men lay bleeding on the ground. One was definitely dead.
While the fight was going on, Barbara and Pat raced over to Tim while Will followed, protecting their rear. Between the time they started and the time they arrived at the front of the car, a large oddly shaped animal was by Timmy’s side. Both Pat and Will raised their weapons but Debra raced in front of them and signaled for them to stop, then friend. They walked up together.
“Schatzi?” Patricia teared up. She walked side by side up to their dog, who greeted them by licking both of them across their faces. Will was untying Tim from the front grille of the car and Patricia joined him. Debra hugged her puppy-he would always be her puppy-and watched.
The shot from the other side of the TBird grabbed their attention. The second one brought them to their feet, weapons cocked and ready. When Gary gave them a clear shot, they took it. Pat’s hit home first, then Debra’s. Will finished it all. The last bullet firing brought both women to where Eddie lay. Will had Tim in both arms. Schatzi brought up the rear.
“He’s alive,” he told the two as they hovered over the prone body. “Tim’s alive, but just barely. His legs are both bloody. He needs help.”
Patricia tried to let go of Eddie’s good hand. He held onto her as he opened one eye.
“Hey, Pat. Deb.” Eddie coughed. Some blood leaked out.
A different set of clicking came from his chest. Commands for both Schatzi and TB. The engine turned on, the top went down, and all four doors unlocked and opened.
Schatzi got up on the hood and curled herself as tight as she could, settling her head on her oversized paws. TB honked. Schatzi growled.
“Not a lot of time, I think.” Eddie tried to laugh. He gurgled instead. “Everybody. In the Thunderbird. Now. Please.”
His family complied immediately. Eddie stood with the help of both Debra and Patricia and got him in the car. Will, still with Tim in his arms, hesitated. A look from Patricia was all he needed.
Once all were in, the doors closed and locked. The engine revved, a soft grating noise came from below them, and the radio turned on.
Leo Dorsey sang out as TB and her occupants were lowered to the lab below. “Workin’ in the coal mine, Goin’ down, down, down…”
I really swore to myself, after V’s debacle, that I’d be on time for the last posts.
Couldn’t have been more wrong. There were a LOT of loose ends that I deliberately left floating around, connections that had to be made to see the whole picture, and…
As always, there will be a Reflection Post on Monday, May 6th. I will reveal as most of ALL as I can.
Please forgive the lateness, and PLEASE forget the lengths of these chapters. I know it hasn’t been blog hopping friendly, but from the feedback I have gotten, it’s been worth it.
Now to Z and fini!