Category Archives: Events

They Ran

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Photograph by Shari Marshall ©

THEY RAN

Propped up by the blasted wall, seven faced their executioners.

Each of the seven different from the other, facing seven of one kind, their weapons raised.

“This is war,” echoed in seven languages, “and you ran. No excuses. No pleas. No last words, signs, or prayers. Nothing. You ran. Others of your kind died. It would have been the same if you aimed at them yourselves and fired.”

A nod. Of the runners: three fell; one cut in half; one shattered; another fused into the wall; one vaporized.

Seven colored fluids pooled; the only mix allowed beyond the Rim worlds.

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Author’s Note: The picture above, by Shari Marshall, was a prompt posted on her page, Writing is Communication. The prompt was to use her photo, created your tale on your own blog, then post a link to your story in her comments section.  We each see what we see in the photo. This was my take.

I also did this as a Drabble (100 words exact). Beyond posting a link, and using the photo prompt, you can go anywhere with the photo.

Give it a shot.

Pun intended.

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

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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.

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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.

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.”

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

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?

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.

 

Unseasonable Conditions: Prompting Shakespeare

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Unseasonable Conditions

Prompting Shakespeare #2

“Now is the Winter of our discontent,” Gloucester began but was interrupted in the harshest of ways.

As he cleaned the soggy tomato remains off of his face, he heard from the side of the groundling’s pit where the fetid fruit was tossed from, these chilling words: “It ain’t Winter, you daft foot-licker. We’re in Spring, ain’t we?”

From the other side, another tomato was flung, but it missed its mark by a toadstool. Mumbles of agreement, noddings of heads, and a robust “Here! Here!” egged the tosser’s taunting on.

“We had our Winter. Not too harsh, no, not like the good old days.” More mumbled agreements met that statement. “Used to be piles and piles of the shite, big enough to toss a body under and scurry away. Bodies popping up all over the place come Spring. Not, um, like I would know anything about that.”

Another groundling piped up: “When we used to have us a real Spring, not this sodden mess we ‘ave been soaked with. The muck we trudge through on a normal day is bad enough without all this rain!”

A chorus of agreement sounded out. At the tail end of rabble’s babble, a lone voice could be heard from the back of the pit, close to the stalls. “Verily! Verily!” He was beaten to unconsciousness with a flurry of sausages on sticks.

Gloucester, aghast, was being nudged to go on, make a good show of it.

He cleared his voice loud enough to draw attention back to the stage. The jumping up and down helped. The audience guffawed loudly, except for the few who were enjoying the sausage whipping they maintained on the “Verily” clotpole.

Taking his royal stance, Gloucester once again tried to get his soliloquy started. He got as far as “Now is the…” before a shower of rotten tomatoes spread around, and on, him.

Breaking character, he stomped to the near edge of the raised platform. Tossing his arms up, he yelled: “Now, wait, you bloody wankers!”

Near quiet settled over the crowd. Before Gloucester continued, he eyed a snaggled-toothed crone by the stage. She was brandishing a reasonably large summer squash. Glaring at her, the squash slowly sank out of sight.

“Cease and desist this vexing behavior. This is a play. We are merely the vehicles to voice the words of a true master of playwrights. The history we represent is our shared histories. This…”

“Is boring, is what it is,” yelled the first tomato flinger. A cheer went up from the crowds, both groundlings and those in the stalls. A tawdry red-haired wench was now at his side, snuggling up close, drawn by the attention this one was receiving from the crowd.

“Enough! Enough! If you lot would stop with the insults. And the rotten fruit hurling,” Gloucester noticed that the summer squash had reappeared. “And other propulsive objects, then the entire point of our play would show itself. We don’t always need sword fights and constant mayhem.”

The second pipper-upper bellowed out: “But we like them. Why we come. A little blood action on stage boils me own blood!”

Cheers rang out even more raucously around the domeless arena. The PU wound up with a devastating kiss, delivered by the pre-mentioned red-headed wench, who had wound her way towards him upon hearing “boiling blood.” They left in an abrupt hurry.

As they made their way, those left in the pit began a growing war chant: “Fight! Fight! Fight!” It grew in intensity. All the actors knew the stage was lost. They hastened to exit, stage left. Gloucester was last, dragging his feet. He picked up his pace as the summer squash rolled by.

Turning once more in the desperate hope of changing their minds, Gloucester could only fixate on the malicious grin from the hag in the front. He bolted offstage. A hideous cackle followed him.

The stage manager looked at him askance, then hurried away. It was a lonely walk back to the dressing closet. Gloucester didn’t notice, nor care, that the bear and its baiter passed him by. The boisterous cheers let him know; the battle was lost. The stage was theirs.

Shedding the bits and pieces of his costume, and character, sighing heavily with the removal of each piece, William was falling into a dark place. The remaining actors looked at each other, finally pushing Young Tim on.

“Master Shakespeare, they were just a bunch of ruffians. Huge uneducated ones at that, not hearing the poetry of your words before them.”

“But, the histories…”

Old Tim sauntered over.

“Willie,” he said, slapping his leader on the back. “This is good for the Royals. This bunch? They want fun and depravity. Come, let’s get out of here and put some beer into you.”

Half-heartedly, the company of players left to get malt-wormed.

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Author’s Note:

Another prompt from a different writers group was the word “Unseasoned.” Make of it what you will and write. So, ten of us went to task. The above was my take. Stumped, the line from Richard III flitted through my noggin, and here we are.

For those who don’t know, Shakespeare did more than write his plays. He hit the stage with his troupes, as well as taking on several other roles. From what I’ve read, his level of performance was rated from “better stick to writing” to “he gave a good showing.” Make of that what you will for Will.

Click on the link for more facts on The Globe Theater, the groundlings, the stalls, and more.

A site I just found, and now love, is SHAKESPEARE’S WORDS, created in 2018 by David and Ben Crystal. If you are not familiar with some of the words in my tale, this site is an excellent place to find their meanings and much more.

One last thing: Shakespeare’s plays are BEST when you see a heartfelt performance. Reading them, as well, is vital for scholarly pursuits, other educational sharing, and all involved in putting on a production.

Remember: the play’s the thing.

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

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

 

 

 

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

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!

 

 

 

Vanishing Obstacles: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

Standard

 

A Car In The Woods: Chapter Eighteen

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

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

 

AtoZ2019V VANISHING OBSTRUCTIONS

1963

Eddie found Pat ahead and off to the side. He lay prone on the freezing ground, keeping him out of her sight-lines. She slipped, slid, and fell more than she made any real progress. Pat would get up, shake herself, check her bearings, and continue moving.

“Good,” he thought.

After he came back from Nam, Eddie started a personal training regimen. He was “too antsy to sit still for any length of time” was what he’d say out loud, but inside was a different matter. How could he tell anyone how much he missed his training, staying fit, the focus it all gave him? Nam? Pat knew he had had a rough time there. He couldn’t talk about it. She held back from probing too hard. He appreciated that.

When he started, she watched from the kitchen window. Timmy joined him immediately. Debra always looked like she was going to jump in, but she kept backing off. The two of them sat together on the back porch. She saw Debra’s teenage indecision. One day she just began working out with them, Timmy daring Debra and egging her on. Debra finally joined in. Eddie had his whole family working their asses off. He felt nothing was better than this.

It was obvious to him that she kept the training going. Another chip knocked away in his conditioning. He felt something change. He rose and stealthily followed.

Getting within close distance to the main road, Pat fell again, sliding along the ice and into some of the prickly foliage. Eddie froze. Part of him was pushing to go help her; that part caused him to stand, wanting to rush to her side. The compulsion to stay out of sight and seize the target fought against that.

She disentangled herself in a flurry of curses and “Ow”s. If she turned around, she’d see him. He didn’t want to be seen. He wanted to be seen. Something in his mind shifted. Her back was still towards him. The strain was splitting him apart. Something gave.

“Pat,” came hoarsely to his lips, the name drifting towards her on the icy wind.

He saw her start, stop, throw her arms around herself and picked her way forward. Eddie moved as well, the need to conceal himself howling against the need for her. The force of the two opposing actions locked him up, unable to move in any way. Yet, one path was open.

“Patricia. Sweetie.”

She screamed, then glanced back. Eddie the anguish and fear that radiated off of her just before she took off and ran. He heard her scream “Stop,” saw her glancing behind her as she hurtled through the brush and straight into a tree. Patricia fell to the ground. Eddie waited for her to rise.

The last obstruction in his psyche shattered.

Step by step he approached her position. Crouching down, he checked her pulse, staunched the bleeding across her forehead by using the scarf she had been wearing, and tried to wake her. Eddie realized she needed more immediate help. He would have called for a Medic, if.

Picking her up, they trudged towards the Overlook pass. Eddie held her close to shield her the best he could from the wintery wind. She used to call him The Furnace, emitting so much body heat at night as they lay together in bed. He used that to keep her warm, the best he could while waiting to hear for a car heading in their direction.

Finally, the revving sound of a powerful engine came, getting louder as it got closer. It was still out of sight when Eddie carried Patricia over to a tree by the road and propped her against the trunk. He picked up a rock half the size of his hand, aimed, and threw it at the back paneling of the Sheriff’s Ford Fairlane. It hit.

Eddie faded away, erasing all traces of his being there while he found a spot to conceal himself. He heard the Sheriff get out and slam the car door. Next, some choice words as he walked to the rear of the car, stopping and cursing at the new dent marring his vehicle. The Sheriff called out he was going to get whoever threw that damn rock, turning around with continuing threats.

Until he saw Patricia slumped upright against a tree. Until he noticed a growing spread across her forehead. Reaching her, all of his caterwaulings stopped. Gingerly, Sheriff John got her into the back seat of his Ford. Closing the back door and opening the front, he revved the engine, put the car in Drive, and while he sped down the road he called into the town clinic to be ready.

Eddie waited until they were out of sight.

He needed to find his kids and make sure they were safe.

~~~~~    ~~~~~    ~~~~~

1968

Debra was not used to walking through the woods anymore. When she moved out west hiking was the last thing she wanted to do. She liked cities. Dangers lurked there as well, but the woods brought back too many horrid memories. She just loved her brother enough to fight her fear. Letting him go off on this wild goose chase alone was out of the question.

Tim took the lead, looking for any traces that would show him someone went this way recently. He’d point out a couple of broken branches, later what could have been part of a shoe print, and these would hurry him on. Debra just shook her head but stayed with him as best she could, sometimes having to call him to wait for her.

Tim’s yelp and leaping back to her scared her. He had the biggest smile which was matched by the glint in his eyes.

“There. HA! I told you!”

“What? Hey. Stop you’re hurting me. Let go.”

Tim dropped the arm he had been pulling and pointed just ahead of them. Deb walked around Tim and saw what he was pointing at. She gawked while he preened.

“It’s huge. The animal print is huge.”

“Look, Sis, look. The pads laid out, the shape of the outline. All bigger, yeah, but we know that paw print.”

“Schatzi?”

“Yup! Told you!” Grinning, he punched her in the arm.

The nervous tension laugh they shared helped smooth out their jumbled feelings. Debra was working hard to hold back from crying. When she looked into Tim’s eyes and saw they were filling with moisture, she smiled as they matched tear for tear.

An extremely large series of barks vibrated through them.

“That way,” she yelled. “C’mon, Tim,” she coaxed as she flew past him. Time caught up only seconds later.

Sounds came from straight ahead, some barking, something else mixing in. It would stop, then continue in another direction. Two more times this happened.

Then they heard an animal squeal, followed by a raging “YOU…” Whatever words followed were drowned out by a series of gunfire.

They both yelled “DAD!” at the same time. They had no time to process some of the difference in his voice. They knew it was his, instant acceptance. Instant fear for what they would find.

Neither rushed blindly into the clearing. They had learned well, training with their father, then their mom after he went missing. Splitting apart, remaining in eye contact, they looked around.

Deb saw it first. She got Tim’s attention through hand signals, telling him to stay but to keep watching. He acknowledged, fist moving up and down: yes. Crawling, Debra inched out of her cover and went to the mass before her.

Looking around, seeing that it was an animal of some kind but nothing else, she beckoned Tim over. Still wary, they began to stand. The beast on the ground began to growl and turned its head towards them.

The growling stopped the second Tim, then Debra came into view. The deep thumping of the tail went wild. With a whimper, it got off the ground and went for them.

Tim and Deb wrapped their arms around her as they were slobbered on by Schatzi kisses.

Tim buried his face into the scruff of Schatzi’s neck. Debra only broke away to take a look. She knew their dog, and the whimper meant only one thing: Schatzi was hurt.

While she searched, Debra took in the misshapen mess before her. She had trouble wrapping her head around the fact that this was their beloved shepherd.  Schatzi was bigger in her legs, wider in the shoulders, but there were hard lumps in various parts of her hide. The left side of her head was really out of whack, along her snout and up past her eye. Taking it all in broke her heart a bit; but…Schatzi. They had found Schatzi.

“Hey, Sis. Check her right rear flank. I think that’s blood. Schatz’ isn’t putting much weight on it. She’s leaning to the other side a bit.”

Tim was right. She found a bullet hole midway up Schatzi’s thigh. Tim removed his coat, took off his tee, and flung it to her. Deb grabbed it, called out “Thanks,” and pressed the wadded shirt onto the open wound.

They began to squabble a bit over what to do next, but two bodies crashing through the trees and bramble startled them quiet.

The two men were in constant motion. Punches flew rapidly. Choke holds were broken, one then the other were tossed around, rolling on the ground, all in a blur of violence.

“DAD!” Again, in synchronicity; this time Schatzi’s angry bark mixed in with their yell.

Tim went for the gun in his jacket pocket. Debra dug the flashlight out of hers: any object could be a weapon if used properly. “Lesson learned,” she thought. Schatzi limped-turned, her barks and growls escalating, matching the ferocity of the fighting before them.

Eddie jumped backward, his opponent’s speedy left jab missing his head.

“Kids. Get out of here. Schatzi…” was too much: he let his attention move from his foe. Debra and Tim winced as Eddie was tackled and went down. They saw that both of them were bleeding all over, the blood mixing so much neither was sure who was wounded, nor where it came from.

It was too sudden: the man drove his knees into Eddie’s chest. He leaned down, got a rock, and brought it down on Eddie’s left hand. He stopped at the fourth crushing blow. Reaching down, he brought up an item that was smeared in blood.

David’s combat knife was in Gary’s hands once again. He laughed in a gloating, hysterical way. Gary took it in both hands, raising it above Eddie’s chest.

“You’ve been crusin’ for a bruisin’, Eddie-boy, for way too long.”

Tim brought up the gun, put his finger on the trigger, and took a two-handed grip as he aimed it.

“Get off of my dad. NOW!”

Gary snickered and gave Tim the side-eye.

“Shut up, ankle-biter. You and sister will be next if you don’t back off.” Schatzi growled even more menacingly. “And your little dog, too. Down, Girl. Down.”

Schatzi began to react to the command. Debra was gearing up to rush the man.

Tim fired true.

The knife was knocked out of Gary’s hand. The bullet passed through both palms, luckily missing the knife handle and the possibility of ricocheting. Eddie threw a right-handed punch at Gary’s throat, sending him tumbling off, choking. Eddie got to feet, wobbling a bit, and placed his left hand under the crook of his right arm.

Debra reached her father first. Tim was right behind her. The tight, tight hug he gave them would have lasted forever if it had occurred at another time and place.

Tim was yanked up and backward.  The gun flew out of his hand, landing somewhere behind Debra. Gary had regained the knife when their attention had wavered. He was still choking, and his left eye was swollen shut from a series of punches from earlier in their tussle.

“Call her off,” Gary motioned over to Schatzi. Now, Eddie-boy. That one-two,” he snarled, seeing that Debra tightly held the flashlight. “Time to regroup for another day, Daddy-o. Follow me, and we’ll see how sharp this blade still is.”

Eddie dead-eyed Gary.

Gary held the blade against Tim as he backed them away.

“Yeah, time to regroup. But there ain’t no group anymore. Right? RIGHT? Tell the classy chassis next to you how you slaughtered all of your brothers and sisters.”

Debra stiffened up. She whispered “Dad?”

Under his breath, Eddie answered: “Not now. Understood.”

She nodded affirmatively.

Tim tried to struggle against the knife pressure but was rewarded with the feel of the blade letting some blood flow.

“Easy, brat. Easy. Hey, Eddie, he’s a fighter. Just like you. You want him? Come find me.”

They were gone from sight before Gary’s taunt was half over.

Eddie turned to go after them. Debra didn’t try to stop him. She walked over and gave him the flashlight.

“Get Tim, Dad. Get Tim.”

Eddie nodded. He leaned over and kissed her on her forehead. He was gone in a hobbling flash.

Debra walked over to Schatzi. “You too, Girl. Can you get Time? Can you follow?” Deb asked as she stroked her dog’s face. Schatzi’s tongue, always protruding, licked up over Debra’s face.

“Yuck, you silly dog. Go. Please go find them.”

Hobbling as well, Schatzi took off after them.

She followed across the open clearing, watching the direction Schatzi went. Once out of sight, she remembered something important: Tim’s gun.

Just as she found it and was checking how many bullets were in it, Debra heard her name coming from the other direction.

“Mom! Will! This way. Follow my voice. Hurray. C’mon. Mom!”

Patricia and Will ran into the clearing and right up to Debra, another earth-shattering hug.

“Tim’s been taken, mom. We have to go. Now.”

Patricia knew her daughter. Shaken up or not, she knew there was more. She gave Deb the look.

Debra deflated a bit. She looked at her mom; then her eyes lingered on Will when she said: “Dad’s alive.”

~~~~~    ~~~~~     ~~~~~

Present Day

The taunting hit them all.

Later.

Poor Schatzi.

There was a car in the woods.

Stay Alive: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

Standard

 

A Car In The Woods: Chapter Fifteen

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

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

 

AtoZ2019S STAY ALIVE

1963

Eddie held the combat knife clutched to his chest. The thick trunk hid him well. Plenty of low hung branches.  He was surrounded by enough bottomland trees, the upturned roots plentiful. Tripping was a minor problem. Stepping on dry leaves or breaking a twig underfoot would give away his position.

He wasn’t going to give away his position.

Slowing his breathing and heart rate was primary out here. He’d been working on it in the lab’s workout room. They had finally lessened the drugs, which gave him time to come back to himself and think. He needed a way to beat the clicking noises. They came from his chest, and it drove him over the top on too many occasions. He knew what they told him: it was a way for the group to keep tabs on each other while on an Op. No talking. No bird calls or any other type of signal. The clicking drove their targets to lose focus.

Eddie also found out it did more. The Insert monitored his heart rate; if he couldn’t control himself the clicking became unbearable. He knew they had a way to track him and the others: had to be the Insert. It was also able to bring them all to their knees if anyone got out of line. Or tried to make a break. The jolt blacked him out instantly. It was up that was far worse. It felt like chest  had been torn open and everything inside had been used as a punching bag. Every Taken had it happen enough times to buckle down to the orders given.

It was a classic mind fuck, but with new toys.

~~~~~

1961-1962

The stab to his leg, the blow to his head, and Eddie faded out. Before he went unconscious, the last thing he thought of was Pat. Patricia. He was out too fast to think of the kids, but when he woke strapped to the table in the lab, he thought of all of them while he tried to free himself from the bonds. He couldn’t raise any part of himself except his chest as he breathed in and out. Even that was tight, causing pain if he breathed out too forcefully.

Time meant nothing. No windows. No clocks. None of the lab workers would talk to him. What he could see were the white jackets that were buttoned up to their necks, large white face masks, and white head caps covering the rest. Over that they wore thick goggles, the glass more yellow than clear. When they worked on him, which felt nonstop, Eddie was usually on his back, the overhead lights boring into his eyes. There was always a point where a needle took him out. He’d wake up lying on a thin mattress on the floor in another room. His cell.

They took blood often. In between, they injected different colored liquids into his arms. Sometimes his legs. Sometimes his stomach. One time into his heart. Most of them delivered a deep burning feeling throughout his body; some sent him into screaming jags that only quit when his vocal cords gave out. A few shots sent him elsewhere. Every time they injected this type of drug, Eddie’s mind shattered into tiny particles and then took him on a bizarre journey.  Nothing seemed real. Everything seemed real. When he came back to himself, there was always sweat pooling under him.

The worst were the operations. These came after the first barrage of drugs they pumped through him. They were studying him, making furious notes while he tried to not scream. Eddie didn’t always succeed. The Insert was one of the first operations. That was a screamer. Other times he passed out, no matter how much they tried to keep him aware and awake. Too much was too much.

Back in the cell was always discovery time. Stitches ran up his right leg. Another time he woke up to find a duplicate row of stitches on the other leg. Then came the arms. He fought through the pain each time with the best he could. Eddie wasn’t always at his best.

The last major operation had him waking up to an A-Bomb of a headache. Eddie thought his skull would explode. He reached up and put pressure on either side of his head. The pain stayed. The pain grew. The pain was all. However long it took, the throbbing finally eased off.  Still holding his head, Eddie realized that he was now bald. Reluctantly, he ran  hands around his head, finding a full circle of stitches.

He jumped to his feet, which sent him leaping across the room and into the wall.  He screamed and beat at the cell barrier.  His face flamed, his arms and legs grew tense and tight, and his fingers clamped white-knuckled.  This continued for a very long time. If his captors heard, or saw, any of this, it didn’t matter to Eddie. He was beyond caring. He saw red, and it was full and consuming.

More operations. More needles.

And then it all stopped. Eddie was placed into a barracks. The others were all there, watching. He looked around, taking in the pecking order of their stances and positions in their clumps of groupings.

One leaned against a wall, arms folded, one leg bent and foot planted on that wall. Glaring. Eddie found the Alpha.

“Maynard,” Eddie said. He had to stop his lips curling in disgust. His eyes said all he needed to say.

~~~~~

1963

Eddie heard clicking from his left. Not too close, but judging by the “shit” that followed, not too far away. Root by root, he eased away from the tree as other clicks sounded out, then silence. It was Putdown Mode. Eddie knew it too well. He stopped against another tree, crouching on a thick root. A sound came from above. Eddie ducked and rolled. The huge rock sailed past his head and hit the tree he had just been in front of. It set up enough racket that the others came running.

Picking up the rock in his knife free hand, Eddie saw two figures racing towards him. They probably expected him to retreat, but Eddie knew that there were more behind him. He ran, but forward, turning as he did so counterclockwise. The two were too close: Eddie flung the rock, hitting the one on the right across his scalp. The rock spun off and hit the other in his face. Both were down. Eight more to go.

Present Day

The years fall upon each other.

Time was a lie; man-made and changeable.

What was done to Eddie?

Changes.

There was a car in the woods.

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Author’s Note: Apologies to one and all. Monday got away from me. I know I’m posting the S post on the T day. I will have T up later, midday on Tuesday.

O, Woeful Lament: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Chapter Twelve

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

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

AtoZ2019O O, WOEFUL LAMENT

1962

 

“Weeks. Just three weeks,” murmured Sheriff John Miner into his lunch, a greasy Bacon Cheeseburger with mustard, mayo, and ketchup. Just what he wanted. Just what the doctor told him, repeatedly, to stay away from. He lied to himself that not ordering fries evened things out.

“What’s that, John?” Patricia was behind the counter, back turned to him, preparing to make a fresh pot of coffee.

“Nothing, Pat. Nothing at all.” He bit into the burger, the juice dribbling across the long hairs of his mustache and into his need-to-be trimmed beard. He chewed twice and swallowed, watching Pat bending over to get a clean pot from underneath. “I might be old, but I have eyes,” he’d say every time one of his deputies, or his drinking cronies, caught him eyeing someone other than Mrs. John Miner.

When Eddie disappeared, he made an effort not to leer. It was only respectful, seeing how he did like Eddie, for the most part. He gave himself permission to enjoy himself again after about four months. Just happened that was about the same time that Pat came back to the luncheonette, picking up her shifts again.

Munching away, in between slurps of his cup of Joe, which Pat filled every time the cup was at the halfway point, he thought about his retirement. As far as he was concerned, it couldn’t come soon enough. Full pension, money saved up; he was leaving this godforsaken place and heading south to warmer climates. He was counting the days.

He grunted, the coffee burning his tongue on contact. “Yeah, outta here. Snow, ice, and all these damn eerie disappearances.” Sheriff John never really sussed out if he was more bothered by the missing or the fact it was putting a dent on his record. Not being very self-aware kept things, like a clean conscious, at bay.

Finished, he tried to pay, but Sam, the cook/owner, waved him away. As usual. They went through this every day. Patricia wanted to refuse the tip, but she needed the money. Sheriff John knew it and always left her a dollar anyways. Putting on his hat as he got outside, he huffed as he saw his deputy, Will Kane, outside waiting for him.

“Sheriff,” Will touching the brim of his hat.

“Will, what now?”

He knew what it was. The Sheriff was trying to push it away, but it kept coming up. He was afraid this would bite him in the ass at least one more time before he was done. He looked Will in the eye, once again assessing the deputy. Did he make the right choice in grooming the kid to take over? It wasn’t the first time he thought that. Each time he did, the Sheriff calculated how much longer he had, and each time he had the same answer: it wouldn’t be his problem once he was gone.

“Complaints about the sounds from the woods, same as the last two weeks. We had to split up today because of the different areas reporting in.”

“Same sound?”

Will nodded. He didn’t want to add that he thought he had heard that disturbing clicking sound as well, just the other day. He drew his gun from his nightstand, threw on a coat, and checked the area. Nothing. Will didn’t know what to think anymore. The reports coming in were getting under his skin.

Plus, the fact, that over the last year there were five more “incidents.” It unnerved the whole area. Already some families had left. More might follow.

“OK, Will. You know the drill. Lord knows at this point how many times we’ve done this search-and-discover Jack, but we have to. Since last night was that bad, I’ll pull in some favors with the State boys. If I can.”

“Seven,” Will thought, slightly gritting his teeth. Seven half-assed attempts. He knew the Sheriff was both biding his time and putting on a show to appease. Less than a month, and he was already planning to run things differently.

Will had no way of knowing that Sheriff John had the exact same thoughts about his predecessor just before the old man retired.

Both men got into their respective Ford Fairlane cruisers and headed back to the Sheriff’s office to plan the night’s forays.

~~~~~    ~~~~~    ~~~~~

Three nights later, and they had nothing. The State Troopers gave up on the second night, returning to their speed traps and truck stops. The Sheriff had bolstered his staff with deputized volunteers who he insisted must travel with one of the normal deputies only as a backup. They petered out until the only two volunteers left were the idiots who discovered the Thunderbird in the first place: Todd and Barry.

Todd rode with the Sheriff on the first night out; Barry on the second. The third night, he rode alone. The two talked, and talked, and talked throughout their rides. It was all one piece of BS after another, the stories no longer even coming close to their statements from ’59. He wound up dropping them both off on their respective ride-along at any tavern on their route. The buzzing in his head stayed with him well after he returned home and opened up his Scotch.

The Sheriff and Will went out separately on the fourth night. The calls had died down to next to nothing by then. Will thought one more night might catch the noisemakers or shake them enough to move on out of the area. Sheriff John didn’t care anymore. The days were counting down, and cruising in his car at night, alone, sounded just fine with him.

By 2:30 a.m., Will was calling it a night. The Sheriff agreed. His body sagged into the seat. Tilting his head back onto the headrest, he rolled down the window a touch, the cold air hitting his face. He began humming to himself, which morphed easily into singing “Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit” and then laughing. He loved that cartoon.

He was about to go into another piece he heard through Loony Tunes. Headlights approaching, coming up fast. He moved his cruiser to the right, skirting the ridge of the side rut. The car blew past him, honking once when they were level.

Swearing, Sheriff John hit the Cherries and Berries, U Turned, and sped after the car, sirens blaring. “Damit,” he yelled. “That damned Thunderbird. I’ve had enough,” reverberated through the cabin. The T Bird increased speed. The Fairlane did as well. The turns were sharp, the road dark, but Sheriff John white-knuckled it and floored the gas pedal. It wasn’t until the T Bird’s brake lights lit before it went off-road that the Sheriff took his right hand off the wheel, picked up the two-way and called in for backup.

He knew exactly where he was being led. He cursed at the car and whoever was inside it non-stop. Until the Fairlane stopped, right passenger tire going flat after hitting something sticking out of the dirt road.

Sheriff John left the headlights on, put the car in park, and got out. His right hand went to his sidearm, drawing it out slowly, clicking off the safety. Staying behind the open door, his gaze traveled along the empty grassy field in front of him. It took a second for that eyeballed information to reach his thinking process.

Empty. Tallgrass, dark outlines of trees off in the near distance, but nothing else. He started to call out but didn’t; movie logic never made much sense to him. If the headlights were throwing their vision off, why give them a voice to focus on? He waited. The lack of bird or animal noise caused his forehead to perspire. It wasn’t natural.

The Sheriff made his decision: he needed to find that damned car and whoever drove it. He reached in and turned off the engine, leaving the headlights on Brights. Forgetting his hat on the passenger side was unlike him, but he had closed his door already and didn’t want any more large movements that might take him down.

Three steps away from his Ford and the clicking sound started. This one loud and deep, not at all like the majority of the callers described it. This was thunderous. Four more steps away and the ground buckled under him sending him sprawling. His gun spiraled out of his control. Rolling over, he looked back at his Fairlane. Something huge was on top of the car, its right arm smashing through the front window while the left was digging deeply into the driver’s door.

The thing jumped up, landing on top and crushed the roof. The rest of the window glass shattered. The other tires burst as the car was jumped on again and again. The Sheriff began to inch away, a reverse crawling motion that was jerky at best.

His escape was inconvenienced by two factors: while he was looking at the shape destroy his car, a less volatile clicking nose what now behind him; and his head was stopped by a foot being placed on his head, pushing it into the cold soil.

Sheriff John peed himself while his arms and legs were similarly restrained. He started to address them, question them, abase himself, but the backhanded slap cracked his head around so he was eating grass. The foot holding his head down had been removed before the slap. It found its way back.

A figure crouched down, facing him. The Sheriff could taste the blood running out of his face; he tried to spit it in the other’s face, but it barely cleared his lips. A hand came around his cheeks and squeezed, the pressure strong. The two made eye contact, and the Sheriff could only let out a gasp.

“Hey, Sheriff John. Long time, eh?” The voice was grave. It had a vibration to it, changing the pitch and tone as he spoke. He, because the Sheriff knew who this was. Quick glances around and he caught some familiar faces. It wasn’t much of a leap of intelligence, even for the Sheriff, to realize he was being held down by some of the missing.

“Hey, hey. Look at me. Yeah, it’s me. Gary. Remember me? Remember all the hassles we received from you? HEY!” He slapped the Sheriff again; the clicking sounds made its rounds, only stopping when he focused on the young man.

He started choking on the blood that was pooling and spit that onto the ground. It hurt to talk, but he had to make sense of what was happening.

“Maynard?”

Gary growled. “Man, you too. Any idea how much I hated being called that? This much,” as a hard object hit the Sheriff between the eyes. When he was finally able to open his eyes, he saw that the little bastard was brandishing a pretty large knife in his hands, flipping it back and forth.

Gary stood as the others picked the Sheriff up and held him, their claws digging into his extremities.

“There are other things I hate, Sheriff. A lot of that hate is directed your way. Yeah, yeah, you were doing your job, we were delinquents and all of that. But, it all added up. It was other things. We thought we knew you, knew to stay out of your way. But, I got to watch you on some of your night excursions. Things. You know? Things.” He swept his arms around. “Not to all of us.”

One of the others hauled back and punched the Sheriff in the stomach. He noticed it was a woman once he could straighten up. A damn strong woman.

“One of your unasked questions I’ll give you a freebie to: me and the others were taken, but it was as recruits. Recruits. Tested. Poked. Punctured. Changed.

But not you. We were. Not you. Definitely not you.”

Gary gestured, and they all manhandled the Sheriff back towards his car. Well, what was left of it. The hulking mass was on top of the pile of pieces. Its head picked up, and the huge clicking noise it made was followed by the stench of its breath.

Before the Sheriff could say anything, beg, curse, or even draw in another breath, Gary thrust the heavy duty combat knife into the Sheriff’s back. He gave it a twist as he pulled it out. The woman who punched the Sheriff in the gut kicked and sent Sheriff John flying towards the car.

There were no screams as they faded back into the woods. Clicking sounds filled up the void.

 

Present Day

Some had slight regrets for that evening’s outcome.

Mainly that Sheriff John Miner was already dead by the time Zeno got its meal.

The thrashing seemed to mellow Zeno’s clicking.

Not that night.

There was a car in the woods.