Category Archives: adventure

Holding On

Standard

a night window

HOLDING ON

by Stuart Nager©

 

 

“Wendy. Close the window. It is freezing in here.”

John was flat on his back, under his sheets and quilt. He had his right arm draped over his eyes. Truth be told, it was his nightshirt that did the draping. John’s arm was across his brow. He had to remind himself to relax, for he was leaving an indent in the lower forehead.

Wendy sat on the padded window bench; knees tucked up tight against her chest. Her arms encircled her legs. The window was ajar, allowing the night winds free entry into the bedroom. Wendy searched the clouds, looking. Praying. Hoping.

The wind whipped up, bursting past the lead paned glass. It sends Wendy’s nightshirt fluttering. Her shoulders lifted, her immaculate posture in place. Wendy tilted her head just so. She knew what he liked.

As did she.

“Arrrrrr, matey!” John used his pirate voice, doing his best to make her laugh. Wendy did not laugh nor smile. Jumping out of bed, John had to untangle himself from the bedsheets. All of the bed coverings wound up on the floor.

“Wendy, it is freezing in here. Shut the window, please.” He looked over at Michael, deep in slumber. His consistent snoring was the proof he was asleep. He could never duplicate that sound when he was faking to stay in bed. Mother saw right through him.

Wendy shushed him.

“You know he won’t wake up. He’s dead to the world right now.”

She shushed him again. John grabbed his quilt from the floor, whipping it over his head and onto his shoulders. So encased, John approached his sister. Wendy was still eyeing the night sky.

John plopped down on the other side of the bench, pulling the blanket even tighter around him. Just as his teeth started to chatter, he realized Wendy was only in her night clothing. Reversing the quilt, he laid one end over his sister.

“Thank you, John,” she whispered, far away from the room. John followed where she was looking. She’d change an angle; he would mirror it. “Darling bookends,” Liza would say if the housemaid was in the room. He smiled at that thought. Wendy noticed him as his smile slowly crept back inside him.

“Wendy. He’s not coming back. He isn’t. Shh. Please hear me out. We’ve had this…this…talk far too often. Fourteen months have passed. No pirates. No Indians. No Tink. No Pe…”

Reaching over, Wendy placed the four fingers of her left hand gently over his mouth.

“Enough, John. Please. I know. I still hope. I still have hope. Every blessed night I have hope. It just,” Wendy stopped, turning her head back to gazing the now unclouded sparkling heavens. “It just hurts, John.”

He nodded his head. What was left to say? They had had this conversation far too many times. It always ended in tears. There were many nights where John tried his best to distract her. The successful evenings were spent making up stories of what battle or mischief he would be embroiled in, smack in the center of it all. She’d laugh at many of his tales. The more outlandish he made them, the more Wendy relaxed. And she’d stop looking out the window.

The less beneficial nights would come, ones where John felt powerless. Wendy, questioning, always the same. “Why doesn’t he return?” John knew there were two unspoken words to that query: “For her.”

Wendy did turn her head back to John. “No stories tonight, please. My insides are so knotted, so heavy. Not tonight, dear John. Not tonight.”

He nodded his head, and the two sat quietly by the window. No one spoke. Michael snored. They both yawned, Wendy insisting John started it. John, naturally, accused Wendy.

“We better get to bed. I don’t wish Mother to be cross with us in the morning.” She stood up, patting her nightwear down into a proper shape. John noticed Wendy’s hesitation before she reached over and closed the window. The sound of the latch fitting in place brought a feathery gasp from her lips. Her arms, as always, crossed over her heart.

John returned to bed. He tossed all the linen quilt back on the bed, diving under it all for warmth. John’s face was warm. He felt an unpleasant tightening in his chest. He should have hugged her, said he’ll always be there for her, that she was the best sister anyone ever had. John only said: “Good night, Wendy,” as she closed the door, tiptoeing down the hallway to her room.

As Wendy made it to her bed, her thoughts swallowed her whole. She thought of the unfairness of growing up. How much Wendy wanted to share the same bedroom with her brothers again. How much she wished she had stayed and not returned home. All swept away by the burning question she held tight: “Why hasn’t Peter returned for me?”

It was just over a month that Wendy overheard “The” conversation. Wendy, supposedly in bed, was walking by Mother’s bedroom. The door was partially open. Peeking in, Mother was sitting at her vanity, Liza behind her, counting out the number of times she ran the brush through Mother’s hair.

Wendy was not pleased that Mother was now calling her “a proper young lady.” She had experienced her first flow, a most embarrassing event. Her bones were achy almost all the time. She started maturing. Wendy’s new clothing, the changes in her body, all of it left her feeling embarrassed and humiliated. Wendy’s deep sadness permeated throughout her.

She knew why Peter did not come for her.

Why he would not come for her, ever again.

Wendy wished she had never eavesdropped.

“100,” Lisa stated, putting the hairbrush down on the table. “Miss Wendy is starting to fill out, mum. She’ll be as beautiful as you. Not that she isn’t a pretty young thing now.”

Mother was silent, staring into the mirror. Wendy was sure Mother would not answer Liza. Just as she began to walk away, Wendy heard Mother say, “I know it is the right thing to do, Liza. It is time that Wendy a room to herself. She is blossoming. It is time for her to grow into being a proper young lady. But.” Mother left that word dangling on its own.

“Yes, but,” Liza agreed. “It will be for the best.”

Mother nodded. “I do pray that this will ease the burden she carries. Wendy needs to let this fantastical story of flying, pirates, faeries…” Mother sighed. “She needs to let it go.”

Wendy moved away from the door.

The next day Wendy was given her room. She sulked alone for the next two days, only leaving her confines for meals that she picked at. The third night, though, she had had enough.

Wendy immediately ran to the bedroom she had shared with her brothers. She threw the door wide open. Her feet glided across the nursery floor until she got up on the window. Kneeling, Wendy opened the windows. She crept to the window frame, her eyes fixated on the dark, laden clouds above. No stars were visible.  Rain, though: rain fell ferociously. Wendy became a soaking wet sponge instantly. She kneeled on the pane for a long while.

A noise coming from the doorway startled Wendy out of her fugue. Wendy slightly turned and saw Liza standing in the hallway.

“Wendy Darling,” Liza trumpeted. She stamped her feet as she approached the window seat, not thinking of the boys at all. Upon arrival, Liza shooed Wendy to move away.  “Young lady, what has gotten into you? You were not in your room. I knew you would be here. You, young lady, are heading straight to your room: a hot bath and fresh nightshirt. Go on. I’ll be right behind you.”

Wendy, shivering, glanced at her brothers, warmly tucked in. She smiled although her heart was shattering.

When she heard the latch fall into place, she sat on the floor and cried.

 

 

Nightmare Reflection: 2020 AtoZ Blog Challenge

Standard

Reflection #atozchallenge 2020

 

NIGHTMARE REFLECTIONS

NIGHTMARES FROM AN UNBLEACHED SOUL

The AtoZ Blog Challenge 2020

Writing In Captivity

The AtoZ is a challenge. I take that seriously. Since 2011, my first foray into this, I have changed gears from year to year. I like stretching beyond my comfort zones. Some of it has been well taken in both Stats and comments. Others, like this year, not so much.

I am pleased with what I chose to do:  write 26 Lyrical Poems under the theme title. Write every day in April, except Sundays. I have written poetry before, many well received by the readers. But, I write in that style intermittently.

This was truly a challenging April.

If you’ve followed from April 1st  with Awakenings to Zealous O’er the Seas, you’ve experienced my venting, wistfulness, wishing, observations, and anger through my words. Some I rhymed on purpose, some I just let the words loose.

Every single poem was written with a genre of music or musician’s styling playing in my head. I did not intend to appropriate any specific song; it’s the overall mood they convey and are masters of. I’ve written songs before, but I have no knowledge of musical notation and I don’t play a musical instrument. I hear it inside and then turn to someone to collaborate with. From humming it out, setting the beats (as I see them), hearing it played,  gets me going. Seeing how the meter is off from one (or many) line(s) starts my rewrite of the lyrics if needed. Tweaking the piece, scrapping whole verses, you know: first to finished draft.

The music that drifted around me as I wrote the poem daily (I don’t pre-write) is varied:

  1. Big Band/Crooners; Folk music; Rap (as I understand it); Sea Shanties; Rock; Heavy/Thrash Metal; Alt Rock & Alt-Country; Punk; Romantic-ish; Blues; Singer/Songwriter.
  2. Artists:  Tom Waits; Leonard Cohen; The Kinks; Joni Mitchel; Peter Gabriel; Kate Bush; Sousie and the Banshees; Alestorm; Dean Martin; St. Vincent; later Beatles; Beck; The Clash; The Cure; and others that my mind can’t latch onto right now.

Nightmares from an Unbleached Soul

Why Nightmares from an Unbleached Soul? What does that mean, to you? What do you think it means to me? I asked that question near the end of the month and got one response.

Noor Anand Chawla wrote:

I think your title alludes to the fact that you lay yourself and perhaps your worst fears, bare to your audience, through these 26 pieces. “Nightmares” refer to your worst fears, and “unbleached soul” refers to the absence of restraint and being absolutely honest about your feelings.
Perhaps my explanation is too simplistic? What do you think?

Noor pretty much nailed it. I feel that nightmares go beyond our sleep. They are all around us. It could be people, situations, personal fears, perceived fears, and hurt that you feel has been done to you, or that you have done to yourself.

Noor also got the “Unbleached Soul” part. I would add to that when we follow the crowd, stop thinking on our own (or made to stop), refuse to look at things from another angle = Bleached. Soul or Mind: interchangeable.

Overall, I am a non-conformist. I despise the statement “We’ve always done it this way!” For me, there is no box for me to think out of. It’s been imposed on me time and again. Not my thing. I’m creative. I don’t always follow mindless rules, inflexible, with no desire to even listen to a different POV. Sometimes I’ve done that: those are the times I get headaches constantly and down more aspirin than I should.

Try Noor’s blog (link above). I think you’ll enjoy her writing.

Overall 

I love the AtoZ Blog Challenge. I’ve come across some amazing writers, and many have become online friends. Their pieces are varied from all types of fiction to creative non-fiction to reviews and more. That’s a big part of why I come back.

As I mentioned above, I like a challenge when writing. This gives me that opportunity with the potential to reach well beyond the people who follow me. I’m not hawking for new followers. The performer side of me wants people to want more, for the readers to take what they will from the piece that can touch them &/or make them think.

I am disappointed, again already mentioned, with my stats and comments this year. This was the smallest audience of all my years participating. I went out on a limb, poured a lot of what’s inside of me (as Noor mentioned), and while getting some amazing feedback I wonder what didn’t connect with others. Normally, I’ve had serialized stories that are long in length. I get that. Long posts are sometimes passed over, especially when you are blog hopping.

If I join in again next year, I have a lot of contemplation ahead of me.

Big thanks to Arlee Bird and all the other hosts who worked on this year’s Atoz Blog Challenge. It is obvious how much work they have put in. It shows in many ways.

Big thanks 2, to all of my readers, commenters, and supporters. Too many to name, but know your interaction is priceless.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone.

missionaccomplished

Zealous O’er the Seas: Nightmares from an Unbleached Mind, AtoZ Blog Challenge

Standard

Z2020

NIGHTMARES FROM AN UNBLEACHED MIND

ZEALOUS O’ER THE SEAS

There was a ship tore o'er the sea
Zealous she was in name and in deed
We caught with ease all of our prey, 
Nary a one gave us a slip
The bounty was always plenty
Filling out hold to the deck.

Fill up our ale mugs and raise them high 
Give our Captain Bones a cheer
Hey!
Stalwart and brave, a rogue to his core
Captain Billy Jack Bones
HEY!

Billy Jack led the Zealous on many a wild chase
She was a fearsome sight to behold
With raised colors most tried to flee
As we came upon them
All the crews fought valiantly
But for them it came to naught

Fill up our ale mugs and raise them high
Give our Captain a cheer
Hey!
Stalwart and brave, a rogue to his core
Captain Billy Jack Bones
HEY!

Billy Jack entranced the women on each pirate isle
From St. Mary's Island came Jaquotte; Clew Bay gave up Sadie
Tortuga brought his Bonny; Ching Shih was from Port royal
At Barataria Bay he fell for Mary Read
His met his fate on New Providence, Anne Bonny

Fill up our ale mugs and raise them high
Give our Captain a cheer
Hey!
Stalwart and brave, a rogue to his core
Captain Billy Jack Bones
HEY!

The six hellions thought they his only bride
Given the news from the massive Black Ghost Ship 
Sailing out aboard the ship, the six brides did plan
To give Billy his comeuppance for once and evermore

Fill up our ale mugs and raise them high
Give our Captain a cheer
Hey!
Stalwart and brave, a rogue to his core
Captain Billy Jack Bones
HEY!

Captain Bones was surrounded, ale wenches four
All headed to his den, for pleasure and more
A blow to his noggin ended that display
Tethered to a mast he awoke to six deadly glares

Each bride flogged our Billy in turn, unmercifully
Anne Bonny approached him at the last, no whip in sight
Proud was our Captain, he stared into her eyes
Anne Bonny aimed her pistol; Billy Jack Bones was gone

So heed this tale when considering to wed
Be extra cautious with who you take to bed
Marriage vows are sacred; Offer no contempt
Or you'll live in agony beyond what was ever dreamt
Fill up our ale mugs and raise them high
Give our Captain some cheers
Hey! Hey!
Stalwart and brave, a rogue to his core
Was Captain Billy Jack Bones
HEY! HEY!

Captain Billy Jack Bones
HEY!

**************************************************************

**The female pirates, the pirate safe havens, the Zealous, are all part of Pirate history.  The HMS Zealous lived on in three different vessels. I moved the female pirates around for this story-song. The pirate havens were real. Plundering was real. 

Everything else was my creation.  Hey Hey!
1badge

Nightmares from an Unbleached Soul theme is at its end. 26 lyrical poems written daily during the month of April (no Sundays). It began on April 1st and ended Thursday, April 30th. There is still one more piece to this year’s AtoZ Blog Challenge: we are asked to write our Reflections on the process, successes, thoughts, and any changes you might like to make. All the blogs that survived this Apri’s challenge will post their Reflections between May 4th to May 16th.

I will post my Reflections on either May 4th or 5th. I’ll let you know.

I hope you find new blogs that draw you in. If you wish to, go to The Master List.

I’ve asked a few questions along the way: what genre of music you think suits the lyrics best? Who or what style of music was in my head when I wrote these? My last one for the end:

  1. Why Nightmares From An Unbleached Soul?  
  2. I’m curious.: How do you interpret it
    1. for yourself?
    2. why do you think I chose that as my theme title?

     

Comments are always welcome.

HEY! HEY!

KIND NESSIE: Nightmares from an Unbleached Soul, AtoZ Blog Challenge

Standard

K2020

NIGHTMARES FROM AN UNBLEACHED SOUL

KIND NESSIE

Kind Nessie came from the sea
A blooded cutlass in her hand
If she came your way you would flee
A hellion on the main land

Hey Ho Nessie
Raise a glass for she
Hey Ho Nessie
Her strength made her free

Every battle landed gold and more
Success came from her bravery
From the bridge Kind Nessie soared
Captaining her ship Destiny

Hey Ho Nessie
Raise a glass for she
Hey Ho Nessie
Her passion made her free

She took no gruff, not prone to boast
Our trust in Kind Nessie always held 
In foray she was feared the most
Of seafaring folk she was unparalleled.
Hey Ho Nessie
Raise a glass for she
Hey Ho Nessie
Intelligence made her free

All her crew cheered Nessie
They treated her like a queen
Even though her quarters were messy        [Hey!]
They loved that she would never preen

Hey Ho Nessie 
Raise a glass for she
Hey Ho Nessie 
Her passion made her free 
                                            [yawnnnnnn]

Ah,Kind Nessie, 
I think it is time for bed             [not yet!?]
Ah, Kind Nessie,
You've earned this kiss on the head

                                              [Hey Ho Nessie...]
Shhhh
Goodnight
Love you
"click"
 
                                             [hey ho Nessie
                                                raise a 'yawnnn" me
                                                hey ho
                                                hey ho
                                                hey ho
                                                hey....]

My Hot Fling With Ashton Kutcher: Flash Fiction (Prompt)

Standard

ashton

FLASH FICTION PROMPT

MY HOT FLING WITH ASHTON KUTCHER

Top-down on my Shelby Mustang Convertible, white canvas snug against the red cherry finish, Ashton and I cruise along Route 1. Food was the topic of discussion, led by the intermittent growls from our stomachs. There was a stretch of road where they held a deep conversation, with each expressing a point vs. counterpoint on which fast food death-pit we were passing at the moment. Ashton and I laughed after the fifth such conversation, holding out stomachs more to quiet them down than to ease the aches.

The stereo was on 11 since we drove in the open air. Our playlist was Spotify controlled, a created loop aggregated through hours of controlled listening. Ashton skipped a couple of tunes I only heard one or two notes of, settling on Flo Rida and smiling. He had the remote and the wheel. I was fine until a K-Pop pop was “suggested.” Thus began the 1.3 mile Battle of the Remote, which I won by telling a very bad pun. I switched the playlist. Little Willie John, followed by Robert Johnson. The Blues moved us along, cool wind in our hair.

“Turn left at the next light.”

I was The Navigator on this part of our road trip. I took the role seriously, as did Ashton in his role as The Driver. The Navigator calls the shots, is always right and gets the last word in where the traveling winds up.

A gear shift and a sigh came from my left. I looked over: Ashton gave me the side-eye, which made me chuckle. He had a destination he wanted to get to; it was just without any definite time constraint. That wasn’t for the sigh. I had nowhere to be, nowhere to go, and he knew that.

“You could have let me drive, y’know,” I told him.

“Yeah, I should have. But, ” he smiled, “you are a maniac when you are aimless. So…”

“So, yeah.” I let a few blocks whiz by. “There. Turn right.” I pointed in my most Captain Obvious way. Ashton did without braking. “Good boy!”

Signs started popping up for various coastal beaches as we headed along the road. I must have let out a noise of interest because Ashton began to lightly curse under his breath. He’d seen the signs as well. They weren’t ominous signs, just ones we both knew were time killers.

I noticed something up ahead on the right that lit me up. Directing Ashton to pull over and park forestalled any argument that might have been forming. As the engine pinged down, we looked to our right. Frank’s Brick Oven. Just what our growling tummies ordered.

The driver door slammed shut, and Ashton joined me at the curb.

“You knew about this place?” he asked.

“Nope. Kismet. Synchronicity. That Old Pizza Magic. Food. Yes?”

“Yes.”

Ashton had a much longer gait and got to the door first. He stopped mid-step in. I had to squeeze by, a little shove working. I froze, too, as the aroma assailed our nostrils and sent them flaring. Laughter greeted us from a waitress who was standing in front of the counter and from the counter guy behind it. I answered their laughter with a huge smile. Ashton did as well, adding “Two, please.”

Our stomachs agreed as they gurgled in complicit harmony that sent all four of us laughing.

Debbie was our waitress, shiny and new out of High School, waiting for Freshman Year at Quinnipiac College to begin. If I said that she was smitten with Ashton, I’d hold the world’s record for understatements. She did get our orders; well, Ashton helped a bit, thereby pointing out I was sitting opposite of him. Once she unglued her eyes from him, the table for two was firmly acknowledged by Debbie. I still took that as a victory.

We placed our orders: a Keto Kale Kumbaya veggie mess for Ashton while I asked for a spicy Italian meat monster. Water was fine for both of us, but Ashton asked for slices of cucumber in his, hold the ice. Debbie sighed as she took the menus from us, more so when she took Ashton’s. “Of course, Mr. Ashton” giggles got only gigglier when he told her to just call him Ashton.

I might as well have been invisible.

Both of the pizzas sent our senses into overdrive, the smell first as Debbie approached with them and then the taste with our first bites. I got another side-eye from Ashton when my pie was put down. I had already looked askance at his. We had a few rules, and this was one of them: at the meal table, our “No Proselytizing” sign went into effect. It made our respective digestions easier and let us remain friends.

We ate. We talked. We commiserated and joked. Debbie and the counter guy, Sal, got their autographs and selfies (I even got into one, a little off to the side). As Debbie was clearing the table, I ordered two large cheese, cut into 16 slices. To go. That got me my third side-eye, although this one was straight on. It’s not an easy thing to do, but Ashton nailed it. My hands did the talking, patting the air down, as I tried to settle my face into neutral. I shrugged my shoulders. Ashton let it be.

We paid, left a generous tip, and took the steaming pies to the car. I handed them to Ashton and raced to the driver’s door. As he was getting in, he was going to put the pies behind him in what Ford laughingly called a “back seat.”

“Hey!” I blanched. “Not on the leather!”

Ashton nodded, placing the very hot pies on his legs, balanced so between hands and knees for the lesser of potential pain. He understood what the Mustang meant.

Pulling away from Frank’s wasn’t easy, but carrying the goodies we had helped. I drove down the road a few miles until I saw the next beach sign. I glanced over at Ashton: he was staring off to the right. You could just see the glint of the Sound in between the flashes of the houses and trees. He didn’t even try to be The Navigator. He knew.

We found a parking spot two and a half blocks from the beach. I took one of the pizza’s from Ashton as we made our way. As we got to the entrance path eyes started turning our way. I nodded to Ashton our destination: a rocky outlook with a slight crest that led right to the roiling waves. He was looking around, making eye contact and returning “Hi’s” and “Hello’s,” but he acknowledged where we were going.

Along the way, I opened up my pizza box, offering a slice to anyone who passed by or approached. Ashton followed suit. Once emptied, a couple of kids took the boxes off our hands. We could hear them arguing over who was going to keep Ashton’s box, even though I told them he had handled both in the car.

We sat on the rocks for a long time. Ashton finally remembered he had a destination in mind, and that I had not.

The sun was setting behind us as we got in the Mustang, turned the engine on, and let the Blues wash over us.

***********************************************************

Author’s Note: THIS WAS A PROMPT. Repeat: THIS WAS A PROMPT.

I have never met Mr. Kutcher, know very little about him beyond what the tabloid press and Twitter say about him, and this piece, hopefully, keeps in the spirit of what he is about. At no point was this meant to demean, start a rumor, or any of the other silly nonsense that the internet is kinda-sorta known for. Now, if it had been his wife Mila Kunis instead, I probably would have chosen that, but…ahem…well, it wouldn’t be here on Tale Spinning.

People: chill.

At one of the two (three?) writing groups I attend, we were asked to write up to FIVE story titles with the caveat being that NONE OF THE STORIES ARE TRUE. We each shared two or three of our titles and then got to choose from any (or none) of those offered.

I took “My Hot Fling With Ashton Kutcher” simply because it would have been the LAST thing ever in the whole wide world I would ever write on my own. Nothing against Mr. Kutcher: he seems like a nice guy, and I honestly respect that he went before Congress and spoke against Human Trafficking and some other humanistic ideals he espouses.

When we read our pieces to each other, the response to this was very gratifying. I’m doing much more off-line writing at the moment AND trying to organize the 20th Anniversary of Don’t Hate Us Because We’re Funny: Benefit Against Violence and Hate Crimes (more on that soon: almost done with the website, but click on the link above to go to our Facebook page).

Hope you enjoyed this. Something different from me. Comments are always welcome.

KingCon: Haverstraw Library’s annual comic convention! Saturday, August 3

Standard

546856858456

I have been honored to be a panelist at a

Modern Speculative Writing Program!!!

Speculative Fiction is a genre of fiction that encompasses works in which the setting is other than the real world, involving supernatural, futuristic, or other imagined elements. It includes Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Magic Realism, and so much more. Speculative fiction writing takes the imagination as far as it can go, and then some.

Located in beautiful Rockland County (less than an hour northwest of NYC), the Haverstraw King’s Daughter’s Public Library is holding their annual comic convention, KingCon. Yes, the pun fits.

Taylor Voght, author and MFA at Manhattanville College, will be our moderator as we delve into what makes Speculative Writing so attractive, contemplate the nature of sequential narration, and share what inspires us to write as we do.  Sitting beside me will be noted authors and editors Michelle Levy and Gerrit Overeem.

This is Haverstraw’s SDCC and NYCC, just without the mile-long lines!!

I hope you can make it. If so, stop by after the panel and say ‘Hi!’

SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 2019: KingCon!!

Haverstraw King’s Daughters Public Library
10 W. Ramapo Road
Garnerville, NY 10923

Modern Speculative Writing

1 pm – 1:30 pm, Community Room
For all ages. Speculative fiction requires using your imagination to create entirely new worlds, and it has never been more popular! In this panel, learn from science fiction and fantasy authors Taylor Vogt, Stuart Nager, Michelle Levy, and Gerrit Overeem on how to write your own speculative fiction novel. All attendees will leave with the tools to write their own story!

KingCon2019EventsFlyer

Reflections In A Car Mirror: #AtoZ Blog Challenge 2019

Standard

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary Reflections badge

26 Posts

A total of 36,061 Words

A Car In The Woods

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:

Arlee Bird (founder) @ Tossing it Out
J Lenni Dorner (captain) @ Blog of Author J Lenni Dorner
Zalka Csenge Virág @ The Multicolored Diary

John Holton @ The Sound of One Hand Typing

Jayden R Vincente @ J R Vincente Erotica Writer

Jeremy Hawkins (graphics) @ Hollywood Nuts

Final Words:

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.

Link To AtoZ Reflections Sheet

And to finish this out, the following are 10 Reasons Why I Hate You

10 Questions To Answer:

  1. What did you love about the challenge this year?
    1. As always, getting my creative juices flowing & finding new blogs to read/follow
  2. What would you change about it?
    1. Group the Master List by categories, as we’re asked to choose where our blog fits in.
  3. What was the best moment for you during this year’s challenge?
    1. The comments of those who really followed my complicated story line.
  4. What is the best comment your blog got during the challenge, and who left the comment?
        1. First Post: “Excellent start, Stu. Almost David Baldacci meets Stephen King. Expertly narrated.” by Varad
        2. Last Post: “Fantastic story. Had me riveted to my seat on every entry. Well done.” by Harvey

       

  5. Will you do the challenge again?
    1. Most likely. Depends where my head is at next April
  6. Was it well organized and were the hosts helpful? (Did you fill out the after survey?)
    1. Survey Says: It’s done. This year, the main AtoZ page was a little hard to navigate. Took too many tries to find things. i.e. Master List
  7. How did you and your blog grow, change, or improve as a result of this challenge? Did you find new blogs out there to enjoy?
    1. The more I write, the better I feel my storytelling gets. Each year has its fans, but I really pushed myself this year, and I think it shows.
  8. Were you on the Master List? (If you did the challenge last year, was it better this time without the daily lists?)
    1. Yep I was. I do with we saw the deletions as previous years. Winnows down searches.
  9. Any suggestions for our future?
    1. Throw us a curve-ball: Start the month with Z, work out way to A. Something.
  10. Any notes to the co-host team? A word of thanks to Jeremy for all his hard work on the graphics?
    1. As always, thank you. The graphics were excellent. Thanks.

 

 

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!”?

Enjoy

Zeitgeist Auch Weiterhin:#AtoZ Blog Challenge

Standard

A Car In The Woods: Chapter Twenty-One and an Epilogue

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods

AtoZ2019Z  ZEITGEIST AUCH WEITERHIN

1970

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?

Debs

Epilogue

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.

Present Day

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.

We hunt.

There are still cars in the woods.

 

The End

 

Yesterday, Tomorrow: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

Standard

A Car In The Woods: Chapter Twenty

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods

AtoZ2019Y YESTERDAY, TOMORROW

1968

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…”

~~~~~

Present Day

 

 

 

********************************************************************

Author’s Notes:

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!

 

 

 

Wild In The Woods: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

Standard

A Car In The Woods: Chapter Nineteen

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods

AtoZ2019W WILD IN THE WOODS

1963

Eddie was too far away, arriving at the tail end of the incident when there was nothing he could do. Concealing himself behind a thick trunk, he saw Schatzi in TB, her head nodding off. TB activated the knockout gas, having automatically switched off the pheromones. The wind storm created to obscure the descent of the Thunderbird blew out of the bottom of the car as the platform smoothly lowered its cargo. The top plate closed immediately once the clearance was reached. Schatzi was gone. Eddie could only hang his head.

Looking over at the kids, he found Debra consoling Timmy, even though he was mad as spit and crying. He lashed out at her for holding him back. Eddie was amazed: Debra held back. She took it. He had been waiting for his daughter to fight back, bicker with him as they did, and end it with a punch in the arm. Nothing. She did nothing.

Timmy finally wound down. Cried out, he walked around and around, looking for anything that would give him a clue where his dog went. He’d find nothing. Eddie knew that. He felt proud that Timmy wouldn’t just give up without a real try. Deb walked with him, keeping an eye on the position of the sun. She elbowed Timmy and got him to look. A small argument followed. Debra won.

Eddie heard it all. Her points were on target. It was already cold, and the temperature would keep on dropping. The only place she knew out of the wind with some protection was their car. He was reluctant, dragging his feet, looking back as they walked away. He yelled out one last “Schatzi!” before they blended into the woods.

Eddie raced ahead of them. On the way, he looked for and found wood dry enough to light for a fire. Once he got to the ravine, Eddie made a bed of slightly damp wood and then placed the makeshift dry cord near enough to the car, sure one of them would find it.

Going through all the nooks and crannies of the station wagon, Eddie found and strategically placed items the kids would need: three of Schatzi’s thick blankets were shoved behind some of the junk the kids left lying in the back. The biggest one he placed by the back of the rear seats, an easy find. The second one he put under the front seat, with enough sticking out from the back. There was no water in the car. He left his canteen under the second blanket, filling it with the cleanest snow he could find. It wasn’t much, but a full container of water would be needed until help arrived.

In the junk pile, he found some candy bars, bags of nuts, dog treats. Eddie smiled. They knew they weren’t supposed to be eating this in the wagon, but he and Pat were aware that they snuck it aboard when they could. In this case, it was a good thing: it would help them now. Eddie added two food bars he took from the lab before his mission. They never offered anything. It was up to the Taken to get what they thought they needed.

The last thing he left was a small box of long matches. A plain, ordinary box held the matches, nothing to note from where it came from, or when. The glove compartment was crammed full of maps, sunglasses, and other cast-off items. He put the matchbox in there; a few maps placed so it wasn’t easily seen.

Eddie did what he could. He left the ravine, taking the third blanket with him. Scaling a tree near enough to keep an eye, Eddie watched Timmy and Debra come back. They did exactly what he had drilled into their heads: secure the area, search the area, take full stock of things they would need, and improvise the rest. They found the food, the blankets, and the matches. That led to the hunt for wood. Debra found it quickly, and the two of them got a good fire going, using the maps as tinder. They argued a bit. They cried quietly over the loss of Schatzi. Night fell hard with the winds picking up. They both climbed in the back of the station wagon, wrapped themselves in the blankets, and fell asleep with Deb holding Tim, sharing their body heat.

Like him, Debra also generated a lot of body heat. Patricia called her the mini boiler along with her daddy being The Furnace. He smiled at the memory.

During the night, Eddie would creep over. He had stashed more dry wood and added that to keep the fire going. Towards dawn, he came back with green wood and adding a healthy pile on top. The smoke rose high. It was as good an SOS flag he could make.

Leaving the kids, feeling they’d be fine if they were found soon enough, Eddie made his way back to the clearing. The noise filtering through the woods corresponded with his hope: the town was out in full force looking for Timmy and Deb. Climbing up for a better view, he saw a Deputy he didn’t know in the general area. He just wasn’t looking in the right direction.

Duck walking over the thick branch Eddie waited for the Deputy to come within range. As he did, Eddie stood and shook the branch above him, the snow falling in large clumps. The Deputy swung his head around as more snow fell, one large pile hitting him squarely. Eddie wanted to laugh, but he needed the guy to look in the right direction.

He did. Seeing the smoke rising he took out a walkie-talkie and called in what he saw while he ran in the right direction. Eddie stayed long enough to see that the kids were found, and for Patricia run to them and hug them near to death.

It was time to head back into the lab. Hurrying, Eddie hoped he would be in time to put a roadblock in the lab drones doing anything to Schatzi.

He arrived too late.

~~~~~    ~~~~~    ~~~~~

1967

Eddie had left the carnage behind him. He had long ago found a way to control the platform lift without the help of the deceased lab bastard. Waiting for the control system to acknowledge them, Eddie turned to give Girl a scratch on her head. She filled the back seat of TB best with the convertible’s top down. He was revved up, TB purred as she idled, and Girl was jumpy. Eddie had let her smell the old uniform before they got in the car. It was enough to start her off.

Once moving, Eddie began to look forward to the encounter above. Doris needed to be terminated. She was a big part of helping to overthrow their fearless “leaders.” He killed who he had to for survival. Some of the Taken were too far gone, their drug testing and operations going into overdrive: too aggressive; too uncontrollable. The operation for freedom released all the taken.

That’s when things went sideways. Everyone was set free. Everyone. Whoever let the Aggressives out most likely didn’t get very far. The slaughter began with the lab minions. It then moved onto anyone who got in their way. Taken taking out their own.  Doris was part of that group. While the others went about with stone faces, Doris laughed through it all. They ripped through doors, stormed hallways and locked rooms, and a number of them made it to the outside. Including Doris. They scattered, taking up different places in the woods. The controls were still working in many regards. There was just no one left to work the controls.

They had a fifty-mile radius they could roam. One compliance that they did not beat, or maybe even knew, was the limitation on how far they could move about. Lab 4 was the center. A dead center that still held subconscious sway.

That made it easy in some ways to find them and terminate. Too many deaths hit the fifty-mile radius; Eddie felt he was just as guilty at setting them free as the one who did it.

It was his plan to break free of the control. It just got out of hand too fast.

Doris was the last of the Aggressors. Her mind was always slippery. She was a bad choice from day one. The lab wanted more women subjects. They got her. They paid for getting her. Once she was on the outside, she became difficult to find. Eddie almost had her twice, but others got hurt in her wake. She’d escape and hide deeper, in plain sight.

In whatever state she was in at present, Doris acted like Lab 4 was running, and she was still part of it. She transmitted that she had a new one. Female. Smart. Her tone made it clear that she hated that woman. There were no more Taken left down in the Lab except for Eddie and Girl. It was his chance to take her out. She came to him.

It took a little bit of scrounging, but Eddie found the old uniform in the back quarters. Her name and number were all the way under the large pile in the room. Bringing it to Girl, and the growling that followed, sealed the deal.

As they got closer to top, Eddie went into the camera network to see what was there to greet him. He saw the VW Microbus. In front of it, Doris slapped the bound woman, hard. There was no sound in the car system, but Eddie already had enough. They were very close to the ground cover. It started making a slight noise a year ago, and he couldn’t fix it. He was hoping for a total surprise.

Plans change.

Eddie gave Girl the uniform. She was chomping and tearing at it as they got within feet. Girl had always had a hate on for Doris. Something happened between them on one mission. When they came back, Doris found ways to avoid Girl.

As the wind machine clicked on and the rooftop slid away, Eddie leaped out of the Thunderbird. The whirlwind threw up enough to hide him. He raced to the tree line and disappeared, cutting through quickly to come close to the van.

Doris was walking towards the opening at the platform sealed, and the windstorm died down. She had let the woman fall, seemingly forgotten. While Doris approached and called to Girl, Eddie drew out his knife and made his way to the van. Going to knee, he cut the binding on her feet. She had trouble moving them at first but got them kicking for circulation. By the time he cut through the ties around her wrists and was lifting her help, the ruckus behind him grew.

He knew what was going on. Doris came looking for them. He saw the assault rifle she pulled out of the van at the last moment, hiding it behind the woman’s back. It was all a ruse. She hoped to take him by surprise. Having Girl with him changed all that.

A soft voice spoke into the woman’s ear: “Shhh, sweetie. Relax, relax. You’ll be safe now.” She was crying; Eddie rubbed her hands and forearms, helping the circulation move along. Over the growing screaming and fierce barking, Eddie said: “Sweetie, listen. The keys to the VW are on the driver’s seat. Give yourself a few minutes. Your feet and hands will thank you. Leave here. Don’t look back.”

She nodded, and not saying a word she tottered around the van, got in, and drove off.

By this point, Girl was howling, and Doris was a bloody mess by the front of TB. The car’s engine revved a few times and settled down to a chorus of barks and honking.

Eddie walked over and crouched over her body.

“Hi, Doris.”

“You…you…damn, I ought…” she began, then coughed, an expulsion of blood following.

“You aren’t going to be doing much of anything in a moment or so. Yeah, if looks could kill. I get it. I do have one question. Hope you’re up for one.”

She tried to spit at him. She only got dribble.

“What did you do that got Girl hating you so much? Hmm?”

Doris couldn’t lift her arm. She just had enough to give him the bird. Eddie noticed and chuckled. By the time he stood up, she was gone.

Girl was rubbing her face in the grass next to the body, trying to get rid of any blood stains.

TB raced her engine, nice and loud.

“C’mon, Girl. Hop in. We have to go. C’mon. Zeon will be here any second.”

The platform began to lower as the deep clicking sound came from the woods. As the top closed over them, Eddie heard the heavy thump land, clicking away like a bell tower.

~~~~~    ~~~~~    ~~~~~

1968

Eddie followed Gary’s trail. He had to save his son. His left hand was a mess. It was taking its time in healing. Time he did not have.

Debra explained everything she could to her mom and Will. She was still trying to process everything that went down.

Will had brought his gun and a shotgun from the car.

Patricia scouted in front, looking for any trail marks. She found blood droplets that led them on. She was terrified for Timmy, but the anger towards his kidnapper outshone almost anything else.

She’d deal with the idea of Eddie and Schatzi when the time came.

Debra came behind Will, who had been very quiet. She hadn’t told either of them that she had Tim’s gun.

They sped on.

Present Day

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

 

There was a car in the woods.