Category Archives: Blog Challenge

Diggin’ in the Dirt

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SpookyForest

Diggin’ In The Dirt

“Bosworth, pass the pickax, s’il vous plait?”

“Oui-oui, mon sewer,” Bosworth sniggered. He wiped a grime encrusted hand across his brow, flicking droplets of dirty sweat across Mrs. Katherine Thiswhistle’s less than pristine tombstone. The moon’s refracted light was in full display, the threatening clouds still a way off. Bosworth could make out the old lady’s name as well as the inscription that hadn’t eroded: “Just put your lips together and blow.”

He had no idea what that meant.

“Here, Alf. I hope we’re done soon. This god-awful heat and humidity are wiping me out. Can’t afford that, y’know. Daphne is waiting for me, y’know.”

Alfie accepted the pickax, taking it with a jerk out of Bosworth’s outstretched hands. He kept his tongue in check, letting his instincts to berate the youth pass. “Not worth a hell of a mountain of beans,” he muttered under his breath. In the long run, Bosworth wouldn’t have heard him: when Alfie brought the pickax swinging down a large clang rang out, filling the three-foot depth they had already made.

Pain shot through Alfie’s fingers up to his shoulders. A hard swing and a hard hit. His hands were ablaze. Alfie leaned the tool against the moist earthen wall and shook his hands out, flexing his fingers. He let out a short string of curse words; Bosworth heard them and began laughing.

He peeked over the edge of the broken ground. “What’d ya hit, Alf? Sounded a lot harder than wood on its way to rot.

“Well, get your ass down here and help me find out!”

Alfie’s filth covered face accentuated the blazing whites of his eyes as he stared up at Bosworth. He heard the gulp, as he expected, and knew a point had been understood. Finally. He reached up, grabbed a double handful of pants leg fabric, and pulled.

Bosworth’s “HEY!” ended as he landed onto the grave dirt, just missing the hard object.

“Quiet, you. We need to go quieter now. The last thing we need is Old Gal Dink to wake from her Scotch dreams. Then she’d be…”

“I know. I know. ‘… She’d be screaming her blamed head off that the Ghoulies was eating her babies.” Bosworth got off the ground, wiping his hands on his pant legs, wincing a bit when he touched where Alf had grabbed him.

“Need your arms and back, not your mouth, boy. Not your mouth. Let’s see what we have here.”

Bosworth started to say something, but he realized it would be pointless. Alfie ignored him, probing the disturbed ground with the tip of the pickax. He made a display of running the tip in a circular outline, a perfect “O,” or so he told Bosworth. He instructed the boy to take up the shovel that he had abandoned earlier. “Let’s find the depth of this thing. Gently, s’il vous plait.”

Bosworth sighed, sick of the faux French, but did as he was told. The dirt moved under their probing, filling in as soon as one or the other moved it around. The bottom edge wasn’t too deep, about two manhole covers thick; Bosworth took Alf’s word for that. He was tired, pissed, and wanted to be gone.

The light was dim, or disappearing completely, with the speed of the clouds now passing overhead. Trial and error ensued, but as they used their separate tools edges their purchase points discovered. Alf grunted approval; Bosworth smiled, hoping this would bring this night’s work to an end.

“On three?” he asked.

A cloud scooted by, enough for Bosworth to see Alf nod.

“OK,” Bosworth began, “one, two…”

And he almost fell, again, as Alfie jumped the count. Alf’s side jutted up, knocking into the spade which went into his right leg. The whole thing sent him off kilter.

“What the hell, Alf. We said three. What happened to three?”

To get the shovel off of his leg, instinctively Bosworth dug down. He pushed, levered up, and evened out.

“Lift it, B. Lift it. Now!”

Taking the order, Bosworth’s teeth clenched, sharing the weight running through his arms, shoulders, and back. As they lifted, the dirt sloughed off, leaving an opaque circle etched and ridged. It became clearer as the clouds moved off, leaving the reflective rays from the moon shine at their fullest.

Bosworth’s attention was riveted on the disc in his hands, so much so that he hadn’t realized that he was now carrying the majority of the bulk. Alfie did have hold of it, but he pushed at an angle, the face of the disc towards Bosworth.

The circle became radiant. It soaked up the diffused light, going bright and ultra-violet. Bosworth’s eyes erased in an instant. He did not see that the etches and ridges shone as distinct runic figures and symbols. He did not feel the heat sear into his blistering skin. The sting of a million light particles meant nothing to him; he did not feel the bones in his fingers crack and shatter, nor his humerus, radius, ulna, and on and on. They broke. He was gone.

Alfie had already jumped back, his eyes tightly shut, face pressed into the damp earth wall. He felt the painful sensations as they ran across his back, but he still smiled even as he howled. The disc made a distinctive thump as it hit the dirt, taking the light with it.

Alfie did a backwards duck walk to free himself. He was digging the dirt out of his nose and ears while he spat out the bits that wormed their way into his mouth. Once clear, he called out for Bosworth, but knew he’d get no answer. He stood, leaned both hands on the top of the grave, and said a quick prayer.

He was unsteady for a few moments: same as it ever was. Alfie cleared any remaining muck from around his eyes and opened them.

Alfie looked down, waited, and then sighed deeply. Nothing moved except for his antsy feet.

“Well, Katherine, summer help, eh? Next time. I’ll choose better next time.”

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Three Ships, Aye

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THREE SHIPS, AYE

“Again!”

“Oh, Scotty. Really?”

“Please, Grandpa?”

Sighing, Grandpa begins…

The night brought a storm, unlike any other. The sailors of the three ships, every one of them, prayed to whatever they prayed to as they were tossed back and forth. Too many were tossed overboard by the heaving waves, men and women becoming one with the sea waters. The three captains could not spare the time to worry about any one person: they had hundreds to try to save, but it was the three ships that were their lives and it was the ships they cared for most of all.

They knew it was their fault, for setting onto the unsettled waters that night. Warned, the three ignored the then possible danger for the chances presented to them. A win is what they needed, badly, and so caution was forgotten for what could be. They paid for their single-mindedness, more than any of them thought was due.

“Grandpa?”

“Yes, Scotty?”

“Why?”

“You ask that question every single time, and the answer is always the same, kiddo. Greed, and ego, make people do some very stupid things.”

“My teacher says ‘stupid’ isn’t a good word to say.”

“That, in itself, is… sigh… never mind. People do stupid things. Ok?”

“Yup.”

“Now, the ships…”

The waves rocked up and dove down, pockets of watery walls that closed in on the three ships. Two were hit head-on, while the other crushed inwards. The screech of the metals mixed with the roar of the storm, drowning out the wails of the sailors. That it didn’t go under, then, was a miracle that no one noticed. The other ships were being battered senseless at the same time. The ocean rose and took control.

When dawn came, it was hidden by the still raging storm. There was no breaking in the skies, but only upon the roiling waters. Any left alive noticed nothing more than the buffeting, the pain, the need for it all to be over. One captain was already gone, not surviving the crushing, and one other had lost any cognizant capability. Others tied that captain to a chair on the bridge and left. That captain’s eyes glazed with dark waters.

“The third captain, Grandpa!”

“Why don’t YOU tell me? You know the story.”

“…”

“Scotty?”

“I. I like the way you tell it.”

…..

“Grandpa?”

“I love you, Scotty.”

“I love you, too.”

The third captain pushed on. There was no other way except to give up and accept what the sea and the storm demanded. This captain was seen in every part of the ship, urging, threatening, working alongside the crew. They threw themselves into a new fervor of working to save themselves and the captains’ ship. There was nothing to be done beyond their drenched space to keep going.

Finally, nature settled. From pure rage to utter stillness, the three ships were still afloat. Weak shouts went up across the bows. The sea moved the ships together, grouped in a battered trio of wounds. The sun blazed down, no clouds obscuring the burning heat.

From still day to night, the seas propelled the ships. Most on board were unable to process what was happening: none of the equipment worked, most of the crew injured, in one way or another. During the night, more died.

Come the morning, those left found themselves beached. The waters had receded, the sea water unseen, leaving all three ships sunk in sodden sand. The survivors went ship to ship, rescuing those they could, leaving those that were beyond help.

The lone captain stood, ankle deep in the wet shore, with the remaining sailors spread out. They looked at the tilted ships, renewed their prayers, and left. The captain was the last to look away but joined the others from behind as they made their ways to a life different than what they had hoped for.

“The end.”

“Grandpa…”

“Yeah, Scotty?”

“So?”

“You know, kiddo. You know. I’m getting tired. You should be, too. Time to turn off the light and get to sleep.”

“Grandpa. Please.”

——

“Please.”

“Fine.”

They followed without a thought. They went without care. Their goal was senseless, and their deaths even more so. The destruction they found were caused by being heedless of the signs, of ignoring anything but their wants. Not needs, their wants. And if they learned anything from any of this hubris-and I’ve already explained hubris to you, twice, tonight, so forget it-it did not show in any of their actions.

So, they were doomed. Doomed to do what they did, to do it again. Maybe in a different way, but still, in the end, they did it again. And again.

“Stupid.”

“Yes, stupid. Get some sleep, Scotty. Love you.”

“Love you too, Grandpa.

Grandpa?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t do anything stupid. Ok?”

“I’ll try not to.”

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Author’s Note:

The above comes from a photo prompt posted on Fiction Can Be Fun.

I have mentioned my association with Debs and David (who co-write their blog) before, having met them during the 2018 AtoZ Blog Challenge. You’d do yourself a big favor if you followed them and have the pleasure of enjoying their writing. Their WIP is going through its final stages and I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on it.

If you want to join in on the writing prompt (and I strongly encourage it), here are the “rules”:

Any style, any genre, just nothing NSFW – otherwise the world is your oyster.
Tell us your tale …

Word count: 500 – 1,000 words
Deadline: 2pm GMT on Friday 12th July 2019

Post your story on your site and link to it here in the comments below, or drop us a line via the contact us page and we’ll post it for you.

So, join in. Write. You’ll be glad you did.

PS: if anyone cares, I wrote this while listening to The Essential Leonard Cohen. Who do you listen to while you write?

She Saw Angel Wings

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She Saw Angel Wings

Rebecca asked for realism, but got magic instead.

The sharp, stinging burn faded with the constant vibrations. Her eyes closed as the artist’s tool slid the needle in and out at a rapid-fire pace. She wanted to count in the beginning as a means of focus, but that Rebecca got to two and no further. It was her first tattoo; she had put it off long enough, way after everyone she knew were walking canvases. Nothing spoke to Rebecca, nothing said “Yes, this!”, until her soul touched her arm.

Rebecca came across the hibernating Polygona while exploring the abandoned Willes house that previous winter. She and Dale had been traveling, searching through dilapidated, seemingly forgotten structures that were left standing, or, in the case of the Willes’ house, partially leaning. They were trespassing and had enough run-ins with various law agencies to know it, but the thrill of their journey blew those concerns away. They were accruing dying testimonies of what was before the rate of erosion took it all away.

That, or the many developers who only saw money in the land.

Dale had remained below on the first floor, busy taking photos with her new Nikon Z6. Rebecca was glad she had splurged on this for Dale’s 25th. The light inside that she had fallen in love with had begun to dim over the last year, that one infidelity one too many; but this object, this thing, seemed to bring it back, sharper, keener, and much more focused.

“Becki, be careful,” lay behind her as she stalked up the slanted stairway to the second floor. Rebecca clutched her sketch pad in her left hand as she white-knuckled the stair railing with her right. Safe on the landing, she released a “yeah, yeah,” white puffs in the chill air as she walked down the hallway, three doors partly ajar, beckoning.

The ceiling molding in the second bedroom was intricate. Rebecca sat in front of the smeared window, having rubbed away enough grime to allow more sunlight into the room. She got lost duplicating the patterns, time passing as the sun moved along its path, erasing when the moving shadows changed her perspective.

Part of the ceiling had caved in, revealing part of the structure between this room and the attic. Something was there that was not wood, wallpaper, or flaking glue. Rebecca pushed her glasses up her nose with her forefinger, a smile etched on her face from Dale’s teasing of the same constant gesture. She stood and reached out with her Palomino Blackwing, reversed so the point would not break. The light wasn’t really with her.

Rebecca took out her cell and activated the flashlight. She hadn’t realized that she had made a noise until Dale came rushing into the room asking what the matter was, she had heard her gasp from below.

“Look, Dale. Angelwings!”

“What? Oh, yeah, your dad.”

“He loved butterflies.”

“Is it dead?,” she asked.

“Hibernating. They hibernate, rare in a house, but… well, there! Hold this, please.”

Rebecca gave her cell, flashlight still lit, to Dale, repositioning her arm every time she put her pencil to paper, seeing the butterfly in a new angle. A few sighs and disgruntled “Becki, C’mon” comments didn’t halt the five pages of full and partial sketches that followed.

The last exasperated puff of air over her shoulder brought Rebecca back. The pencils went back into their case and into her backpack, the sketchbook following. She took the phone from Dale, leaving the flashlight on as she realized they were now in a very dark room. Dale leaned in for a kiss and got a perfunctory one in return: movement from slightly above had recaptured Rebecca’s attention.

Wings fluttered, a slow heartbeat of one, then another. She was transfixed, staring, knowing she did not touch it, knowing it shouldn’t be awake, but Rebecca held her breath as the Angelwing took wobblily flight. It was coming towards the light in her hand, attracted like a moth, but gliding through the dust mote air.

The butterfly landed on her left arm. Rebecca couldn’t move; the butterfly didn’t. The wings were translucent, and even though she knew the coloring was wrong, this one was summer greens on her arm. Dale took a few steps back and snapped a series of shots from any angle possible as Rebecca, and her Anglewing tagged each other into statues.

A beep from the cell, battery dying, and the mood broke. Rebecca’s startled movement sent the Angelwing flying. She watched as it flew up to the crevice between the floors and disappeared. They left the house soon after: there was no safe way to get to the attic. Dale had to take Rebecca’s hand and lead her out.

They drifted apart as well, months later, spring just knocking away the frigid weather that followed. Rebecca looked for butterflies everywhere, in reality, and through her imagination. Sheer fabric became wings; cotton balls became cocoons. Clouds, mist, steam out of the kettle. All this took Dale away and into the arms of another; Rebecca saw it happen and did nothing to prevent it.

Rebecca’s obsession with butterflies overtook her. She researched mythologies, folktales, symbolism. She drew and painted and sculpted butterflies. It wasn’t enough. She reconnected with her father. He went with her on her search the following winter for the Willes house, but it had fallen sometime during that year, a mass of timber and broken glass left behind, a sign in front that stated the property was sold for development. No butterfly. No Angelwings. Not in that spot. Not in that new winter.

The following summer found Rebecca hosting a booth of her art at the state Renaissance Faire. Business was good, and she had many offers of commissions, for her art as well as her time. She was gracious with both, but her eyes searched along the fields that weren’t trampled upon for something else. They were there, flying around, hiding, resting, being chased by children, barked at by dogs, hunted by the birds.

Two booths away were the beginning of Tattoo Alley. Rebecca had been admiring the art that went on there in most of the tents, not all. One, in particular, caught her eye every time she would take her break and walk the grounds. This artist specialized in things in flight, realistic depictions as well as abstract. The presentation of a summer-long project on one of the Faire’s workers back-an angel in flight-drew massive applause from all and the full attention of Rebecca.

Bringing her sketchbooks over while there was that end of the summer lull, Rebecca and Cynthia poured over the images and discussed what could, and should (in Cynthia’s critical eye) be done: a full sleeve, left arm, from wrist to shoulder. A weaving of butterflies in flight and at rest, with the centerpiece being the Polygona, in shades of green.

It took the next month of scheduling, sketches, arguing, fussing, and agreements before Rebecca took the chair and Cynthia began her art. The sleeve was complete by the first frosts of Autumn; Rebecca made sleeveless tops her main go to, only covering up her arms when frostbite threatened (or so related Cynthia to their friends).

“They are hibernating,” she would tell others when she was covered up, keeping her arm as still as can be.  As soon as the temperature inside, or the weather outdoors, allowed, they were set free. Rebecca felt free, even when Cynthia held her.

She had asked for realism, but found magic instead.

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Author’s Note:

This was inspired by the photo at the head of this piece. I met this young woman at a dance performance and was taken by the artistry of the tattoo. The photo does not do it justice.

Before anyone gets on my case: I politely asked if I may take a photo of her arm, told her why I was doing so, and what I intended to do with it. She gave me her permission. I also showed her the photo so she could be assured that it centered on the art and nothing salicious. While we exchanged names, the names in this story are not hers, nor anything else beyond the tat.

The germ of a very different idea hit me when I viewed it. Where the story went, well, this is where it took me.

I’m glad I went this way. I hope, if she views this (gave her my card), she’s happy with it as well.

Withering Heights

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WITHERING HEIGHTS

The dawn broke in a ribbon of grays and burnt reds as Cathy stood upon the cliff, her gaze fixed on the distance, obscured by the haze of the morning refractive light. She pulled her off-white shawl tight over her shoulders, then cinched her leather tooled belt to the gasping point in an attempt to ward off the chill of the lingering night air. A shiver ran through her chest, startling her eyes to a downward glance, her teeth ground tight to prevent their chattering. A sob tried to escape, but, firmly lodged, it choked her to silence.

“It’s me. Cathy,” she whispered, near inaudible.

Far below, the sea foamed, crashing up and against the abstract of rocks jutting out of the waters. Cathy found herself taking a step back, then another. Wind whipped up with force, hitting her so that her hair became unbound, freed as if from a practiced hand. Her auburn strands danced out, up, and around, swaddling her freckled face, her eyesight obscured.

Wind and hair subsided as fast as it had thrashed up. She let her tresses lay where they fell, clenching her shawl even tighter in her too white fingers. Cathy allowed free passage of the wetness flowing down, past her nose, cheeks, and chin. Her right hand wanted to wipe them away, but it remained where it was in the folds of the once warm fabric.  She knew she was not now alone on the crags.

He was behind her. She felt he always was.

“Cathy.”

Her name drifted over the mist that surrounded her, syllables riding between the dew drops in the moving air.

“Cathy.”

Her fleshed crawled with hundreds of raised bumps, ones never derived from any goose that shat upon God’s green pastures.

“Cathy,” and her heart skipped a beat, and then another. Her eyes closed against her will, lips parting, a web of saliva breaking as the distance grew. “Cathy,” and the voice implored her, begged, rose to a controlling pitch.

“Cathy. Call me. Say my name.”

She mouthed his name without a sound.

“Please,” seeped at her back, closer than it had ever been before. “Call my name.”

Cathy tried, but, in shaking, breathless, she did as he asked.

“Cthulhu.”

“Again,” he cajoled.

“Cthulhu!”; wrung out with tears.

“Now, Cathy, Now!”

Her voice cracked, merged with the violence of the waves from below and the returned force of the winds:

“Cthulhu!

Cthulhu!

Cthulhu!”;

And she fell onto the damp moss that had lied about her feet. It cradled her body, her clothing absorbing the moisture, her shawl laden with a mixture of this water from the morn and her streaming teary emissions.

Cathy locked her arms around herself, deep within the folds of her wear. Her knees drew themselves inwards, her chin burrowed into her chest, and the reddish hue of her hair hid her face, creating a darknet around her white, white skin.

A tentacled appendage glided gently under her still form, followed by another as the first gained a secure hold. Then another, and still another, until Cthulhu’s embrace cocooned Cathy. Lifting her into the air, Cthulhu’s face burrowed into her hair. He drew his arms around her, then.

Cathy smelled the salty brine of him. Licking her lips, her tongue swirled the sea waters from below that mixed with the tang of other dimensions, repellant and inviting.
She drew them in, letting this fill her throat in a trickle of infusion.

“It is time, Cathy,” Cthulhu purred. It was what she had come here, on this cliff, on this jagged height, to hear. She gave herself over, open to the void Cthulhu offered, his expanse, his otherness.

“Come,” he said.

“Yes,” she answered. “Yes.”

The waves crashed against, and consumed, the empty precipice.
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Author’s Note:

A prompt was given at one of the writing groups I attend. In the space of 45 minutes:

“Write a story where you place a fictional character in the WRONG story.”

So, Withering Heights. Who is in the wrong story, or, is this the right story for the wrong reasons?

Obviously, well, to me, anyway, I drew on several literary reference points, as well as one literary musical place, for inspiration.  Care to break them down in the comments section?

Hope you enjoyed. BTW: this is my very first attempt at Gothic Romance/Horror. Yes? No? Maybe so? Let me know.

 

Ponderings: Sunday Stealing Questions

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PONDERINGS

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?

  1. Living with a positive moral value system
  2. Empathy
  3. Openness in communication, thoughts, experiences
  4. Humor
  5. Being creative

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.

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the writing on the wall: #FridayFictioneers

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PHOTO PROMPT © Jean L. Hays

the writing on the wall

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

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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:

    1. Use the photo on Addicted to Purple as your prompt (goes up on Wednesday).
    2. Write a 100 word story, complete with beginning, middle, and end.
    3. Make every word count.
    4. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor of the photo credit.
  1. Add the InLinkz button (below) so your readers can find the dozens of other bloggers who have taken up this challenge.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Head, Fingers, Knees, And…/#Flashfiction

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Image courtesy of joshsdh on Flickr

HEAD, FINGERS, KNEES, AND…

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 above story came from a prompt on Fiction Can Be Fun. Fiction Can Be Fun is a writing project run by David @breakerofthings and Debs @debsdespatches.

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.

Reflections In A Car Mirror: #AtoZ Blog Challenge 2019

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#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

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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

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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

 

 

 

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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!