Category Archives: Taking Risks

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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on-route-66-jean-l-hays

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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fingerprinting

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.

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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

Todd, Summoning

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©ChairandChisel

TODD, SUMMONING

Elwina, blood cousin, thrice removed, of the albino prince of the Dragon Isle, grasped Hellbringer, the Demon Sword, in her ebon armored right hand. The armor gleamed, polished and pristine. Eldritch black sparks cascaded down her left arm, fist raised on high.

High being optimum, standing at just over seven feet. With those heels? Ahem.  I had to stretch my neck back to see if another weapon was being equally grasped. Nope. Just her fist, which was formidable enough as is.

I had done the Sacred Dance of Interpretation, sacrificed the Two Glazed Legs of a Chicken (they were yum), and dropped a drop of Ceremony Wine into the Silver Chalice of The Dead God. Poof! She appeared. Angry, but she was here.

I had summoned here in the dungeon cell of my place of habitat. Twenty foot ceiling, plenty of light pouring through the barred high windows, and wall to wall Enchanted Weeping Stone. The black shag carpet was a nice touch; mother did well in that respect.

Elwina stamped a mighty thump on the carpeting, which wasn’t the effect I think she was going for. It was followed, though, with a booming, echoing voice, amplified by the curly-cue helmet she wore.

“Todd, Master of the Flickering Candle, Supreme Master of the D20, Devourer of Smoked Meats, Keeper of the Chilling Collectables, and Scion of Queen Yen-Tah,” she paused, whether for a breath or effect, then continued, “Why have YOU summoned me hence?”

“Um,” I stalled, bowing as far over as my cinched pants would allow. “Um, my lady, I do not think “hence” means what you think it means.” I unbowed. “You see, hence means…”

Her left sparkly hand was suddenly in front of my face, mere inches from my nose. As the tip of proboscis began to emit the aroma of a summer BBQ, I knew enough at that moment to not let the “Ouch!” leave my lips.

Bits of stone, from the walls, shattered, dropping onto the shag with her next words.

“Am I here to amuse you, Todd? Do you think I am a Jester?” Her already red eyes, glaring at me through her armored head, were ablaze. “Do I make you laugh?”

I felt my mustache and eyebrows singe.

“Chaos forbid, O’  twelfth Princess of The Dreaming City. Farthest thing from my mind. Please forgive my, um, basest of conjectures.” Bowing again, not as deep as before, because I wanted to keep an eye on Hellbringer, I added: “I am but discarded foliage adrift in a hailstorm.”

I waited, hoping I had abased myself just enough.

Elwina lowered her twinkling fist, at the same time slamming her demon sword into its scabbard. Not too gently, she pushed me back enough that I almost lost my footing. A few feet separated us now.

“Well?” The word bounced around the room. Thunder was in her voice. Very, very frightening.

“Methought, m’lady, um, you might behoove a simple, tiny request. A wish.”

She stood stock still and silent. I took that as a good sign. That, and Hellbringer was still sheathed.

“Tonight marks the beginning of the Centennial Celebration of the War That Should Never Have Been. The Dowagers of the WTSNHB have prepared for this eve for the last decade. Everyone who is anyone in Evermore will be there.”

“So?” Her hand went ever so quietly to the hilt of her damned sword.

I mumbled incoherently. My heart was in my throat.

She took off her helmet and through it at me. My shoulder throbbed. Better than it hitting me square in the face.

“My gods, are you a man or a slithy tove? State you wish. Now! What did you summon me here for, Todd?”

I was still rubbing my shoulder.

“Yeah, um, well…It’s a big night. An event. Happens only once a century.” Her eyes narrowed, a deep depression formed between her at the bridge of her nose. She swept a lock of her red hair out of her face, having fallen with the tossing of her helmet.

She stared.

I bowed.

“Um, Lady Elwin, would you do me the honor of accompanying me to this most illustrious ball?”

The silence that followed felt as if another century had passed before she spoke again.

“Are you, Todd, asking me on a date?”

I stood, looked up into her eyes, and nodded.

“About frigging time! Why do you think I spent the time polishing my best armor?”

Once outside, passing by my mother and assuring her I would be back at the appointed time, Elwina drew Hellbringer and commanded it transform itself into a Coach and Four.

We arrived at the ball fashionably late.

I did not make it home until a week later, but that is a tale best told at another time.

 

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

 

 

 

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

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!

 

 

 

Xenopus Laevis: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods:  Final Interlude

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

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

AtoZ2019X XENOPUS LAEVIS

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TRANSCRIPTION: OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE

On REDACTED, Bio-genetic Exploratory: Weapon Division Oversight Committee 1 listened to testimony from lead scientist, Doctor REDACTED, of Project: REDACTED.  Administration edited scientific reports; claims of misleading additional reports noted. Determination to follow.

TESTIMONIES

Chairman:           Good afternoon, Doctor. The Oversight Committee has requested your presence today to answer some charges brought up by your superiors. You will answer the questions posed to you succinctly. And deviation from a direct answer, obfuscation, or refusal to answer will not be in your best interests. Do you understand?

Chairman:           For the records, we need a verbal assent. Nodding your head is not acceptable. Again, Doctor, do you understand?

Doctor:                 Yes. I fully understand.

Chairman:           Good. Let us proceed. Can you give the committee, in your own words, a brief, and I mean brief, history of Project: REDACTED?

Doctor:                                 Sir, it is all in the report in front of you.

Chairman:           The gentleman will answer the question. In your own words.

Doctor:                 (sound of clearing throat) Um, In July of 1953, my colleagues and I had published our theories on advanced genetic manipulation, an extension of previous experimentation dating back to 1910. We were soon approached by REDACTED and given funding to make our theories concrete. Um, we set up four labs initially in four equidistant facilities across the country. Variations of climate, geographic settings, and, um, other considerations would give us baselines as we went on.

The first success was in Lab #4 located in Upstate REDACTED. This lab worked initially only on amphibian subjects. Lab numbers 1-3’s subjects were, respectfully, um, Mammal, Avian, and Reptilian. I mention Lab #4 specifically as it was here we had our first breakthrough.

We had limited success with local animals. In February of 1954, um, we acquired a shipment of Xenopus Laevis:  the African Clawed Frog.

Chairman:           What was its significance?

Doctor:                 (sound of clearing throat) We realized these were purer specimens. They had no latent toxicity in their systems. Their environment was nowhere near as chemically polluted as ours. There was little to no resistance to our serums. Um. Reactions were extraordinary.

General:               Such as? In laymen terms.

Doctor:                 Um, General. Uh, well, Subject X-1428 grew, sir. General. Where previous subjects did the same, X-1428 surpassed them. She grew at a controlled rate at first, achieving first the size of an adult German shepherd or Labrador.

General:               (after a few moments of silence) And?

Doctor:                 Um, and in the next three months she tripled in size. Its bone structure was solid; vitals were still in an acceptable range. We then, um, started implementing some work from other labs that we wanted to try out. Zeno was the strongest of our subjects, so…

Chairman:           Zeno?

Doctor:                 Sorry, sir. One of our technicians started calling X-1428 by a shortened version of its genus. It stuck.

Chairman:           Go on, please.

Doctor:                 By this time, there were 18 other labs placed around the country. Various subjects. A wide range of testable theories that complimented our beginning theory and expanding on the discoveries. Lab #21 had success with mental manipulations. Lab #14 succeeded in augmentation. And so on. As Zeno was enhanced, the reports stirred the building of the last three Labs.

Um, uh, Lab #25, when it was operational, requested Zeno for additional testing. That’s where it went wrong.

General:               Explain.

Doctor:                 The sedation used for transportation did not work. The dose was too low, it seemed. What was fine for stationary in-lab work fell far short of the jostling of the transport. From reports, the truck used only got 6.7 miles from our Lab. Zeno woke, broke free of her restraints, and destroyed the vehicle.  REDACTED had been thrown from the cab. He witnessed what happened. Too many bones were shattered; the only thing he could do from the hollow he landed in was watch. Um, and later report.

According to REDACTED’s report, Zeno leaped up and down, capsizing and collapsing the frame of her transport. Her clawed front legs had been augmented, um, if you remember, and she ripped through the rest. Um, uh, then…and, um, well, she ate all on board, except for REDACTED. Afterward, she lapped up all the blood. That is why there weren’t any traces. Of blood. Or bodies.

General:               And the noise he reported?

Doctor:                 Um, this species of frog has no tongue. Hence the claws. They grabbed their prey with extremely strong clawed appendages. No long, curling tongue. Oh. Um, they also don’t croak. No tongue. The noise they make is a very annoying clicking sound. Uh, It was the one thing we didn’t miss when Zeno left.

So, um, she escaped. She made a home at the lake in the woods. When she was hungry or disturbed, she hunted.

Chairman:           This is all very disturbing. Were no controls set in place?

Doctor:                 That was why Lab #25 requested her, sir. They were having success with control and further augmentation models. Their goal was to…

General:               (sound of slamming on committee dais) Fine! Enough. We get it. Tell me, Doctor, why in the hell did all of the labs start using humans as test subjects? That was not in any of your mandates. (Pause for answer). Answer me, dammit!

CIC:                       Enough, General. This was a Need To Know situation. Not in your bailiwick. Understood?

General:              Yes, sir. Loud and clear.

Chairman:           (long pause of silence) Doctor. Please continue your original statement. (pause) Now, Doctor.

End:::::::::

Determination: Doctor REDACTED refused to say anything else on this occasion. He was remanded into custody. Further questioning to resume after Oversight Committee members reconvene.

 

Vanishing Obstacles: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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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.

Twilight Time: #AtoZ Blog Challenge

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A Car In The Woods: Chapter Sixteen

2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge

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

AtoZ2019T TWILIGHT TIME

1964

The search wound down and finally was called off. Snow came in hard, not just blanketing the county but throwing three quilts on top of it. Schatzi had not come back, nor did they find any trace before the storm hit them. Afterward, it seemed fruitless. Patricia was convinced their precious girl must have gone chasing something. Did she just get lost? Was she trying to find her way back, still, through all this snow and ice? She shook her head. The thought of her getting hurt, dying in the far woods alone, was one she never voiced.

During the day, she kept busy with work, the kids, fixing things around the house, cooking and cleaning. The night was the enemy. Doing nothing, the heaviness in her chest grew, her skin feeling pulled and taut. She was awake more than she slept. Eyes open, she’d stare at the ceiling, motionless. She felt the emptiness of the bedroom. Patricia concentrated on sounds. More than anything, she was hoping for the long series of barking from Schatzi returning. Even one bark. One.

Patricia eventually tired. That was when things got worse for her. Her heart became a heavier lead weight, beating against her ribs.  Her thoughts began revolving around and around, which started a headache. Schatzi, gone. The effects of this causing the pain inside Timmy to breach onto those around him. Debra took the opposite reaction. She went silent, monosyllabic when she did say something, hanging her head down as she shuffled around.  She didn’t make a fuss when Patricia called her daughter “Debra.” Everything was off kilter.

Then Eddie. Each night the absence of her husband, her best friend, tore through her, replacing any other thought. All of their life together, patches of the good and the not so good, rushed through. As every night, Patricia let loose a flood of tears. She’d drift away on a damp pillow, an uneasy sleep waiting for her.

This night, almost exactly a full month to the night since Schatzi vanished, something cut through her ragged weeping. Loud, outside her window, she heard this incessant clicking noise. This was exactly what Timmy and Debra told her they heard, amongst the story about the car in the woods. She hadn’t believed them. But now, Patricia froze, the crying stopping as her heart began to race. It ended as fast as it came. She waited for more of the clicking, but none came. Her body began to unclench, mobility returning in dribs and drabs. Patricia worked on sitting up, moved the covers off, and swung her legs over the side of the bed.

Taking the few steps to the window was hard, but she managed. Patricia put her hand on the cold glass to steady herself. She looked around, but the moonlight was playing hide and seek with the night clouds. Nothing. Her head dropped, a perfect imitation of Debra. She was turning to go back to bed when she heard something.

“Patricia. Sweetie.”

She spun back to the window in a forceful, jerky motion. Her foot caught on the nightstand, sending her crashing to the floor. Just before she landed, her head connected with the bed frame. Patricia didn’t move again through the last hours of the night.

In the morning, Debra went looking for her Mother. She was always up before them. Not getting any response from her knocking, Debra opened her parents’ bedroom door.  She saw her stretched out by the bed, dried blood soaked into the throw rug. She raced over and knelt beside her. Debra knew enough to check her pulse. She saw that her mom’s chest was moving. She tried but couldn’t wake her.

“TIM!” she wailed, again and again until he showed up at the bedroom doorway.

~~~~~    ~~~~~    ~~~~~

1968

Tim stared into his father’s eyes. They locked onto each other. Tim really wanted to run into the woods, but his mom just got married. She’d suffered enough. He didn’t want to hurt her. He wasn’t 100% sure it was his dad. But the face: it was the same, no aging. His shoulders were broader than he remembered, and what he could see of his arms were muscular. The bush was just high enough to hide most of his body. Something else moved beside him; an animal of some sort. It wasn’t any normal shape that Tim knew of. But the color of its coat was etched into his memory.

“Schatzi,” he said, a strangled whisper.

Eddie was moving back step by step. He looked at his son, wanting to go to him. Eddie knew things had moved on without him. He’d kept enough tabs on the three of them over the years to feel the pain that pulsated off of his family. Pat had finally moved on, and while Eddie understood he felt like he wanted to cry. He hadn’t cried in a very long time.

Tim started to walk towards his father and what he was sure was his dog. He was preparing to run as he saw them both backing away, making ground as they vanished behind the thick grouping of the trees. He was just passing the last row of chairs when he heard his name called out. Not wanting to stop, it was the second “TIM” that had him halt and turn around.

Debra stood outside the back door. Her arms were crossed, her head was tilted, and her face did the Critical Frown. Tim knew she wouldn’t come to him. He grudgingly went back to the house, facing her.

“What in blue blazes were you doing?”

Tim shrugged, putting his hands in his pants pockets.

“Tim, you know what today means. I know you don’t want Mom to get frazzled. We’ve experienced too much of that over the years. From her and from the two of us. So, spill it.”

He looked over his shoulder, searching, but there wasn’t anyone amidst the trees and green growth.

Debra punched him in the shoulder. “Well?”

Tim took a deep breath in; as he let it out, he said: “I’m pretty sure I just saw Dad. And Schatzi. They were over there,” he nodded to where the duo had been. “Sis, I’m not crazy. Not any crazier, anyways.”

That brought a smile to her lips while her frown lines became crevices.

Debra lowered her voice. “Timmy. They are gone. Gone. I know that. I know you know that. I can’t…I just can’t anymore.”

Tim brought his sister into a hug, which was reciprocated two-fold. With his mouth near her ear, he whispered: “Debs, it was the two of them. I’m pretty damn sure. I’m going to go look for them.”

Debra held him by the shoulders, taking in the set tone of his voice and his body language. She knew he would go.

“Please, just wait. Wait until all the guests have gone, and Mom and Will take off. Please. She deserves this.”

He nodded his head and started toward the house. He’d lost his appetite for the food inside, but he cared deeply for his Mother. His sister, too.

“Tim.” He stopped, hand on the doorknob. “I’ll go with you. Let’s try, even though it will be the last time.”

They both went inside the house. Music was playing on the HiFi, people were loaded down with food and drink, and Patricia and Will were sharing a kiss. Everyone inside applauded.

Outside, there was stone cold silence.

~~~~~    ~~~~~    ~~~~~

1962

Gary/Maynard went ass over teakettle across the room. He landed against the rack of barbells. As he got up, he put both hands around his nose and twisted, setting it straight. Gary wiped the blood that had streamed over the lower part of his face, smearing it into lines across his cheeks. Smiling, he met Eddie as he fully entered the room. Fists met faces; knees attempted to find the squishy dangling parts. They tossed each other around.

Gary got in a powerhouse into Eddie’s gut, sending him flying backward. He landed near the barbell rack. As he got to his feet, Eddie took a 20# barbell and was into his backswing when the Insert went off shorted them both out.

When he woke, he found himself back on the slap, very tightly strapped down. An IV was already in place as one of the Lab goons approached him holding a very large needle syringe. The white-garbed man stopped at the edge of the slab. He had placed the syringe somewhere out of Eddie’s sight.

Leaning over Eddie, eyeball to goggle lens, Eddie barely saw the slap across his face coming. Eddie didn’t  feel it.  He didn’t feel anything in any part of his body. No sensations. He wanted to shout at the man, but his mouth didn’t work.

Eddie saw, once again, the very large needle. It was raised over his face. A bit of liquid squirted out the end, dribbling down onto him.

He couldn’t help but watch as the needle made a beeline to his left eye.

~~~~~    ~~~~~    ~~~~~

Present Day

The black night brings hints of the unknown.

The unknown can be frightening.

What is known can be downright disturbing.

There was a car in the woods.