Short Story Sunday: Captain Sandy and the Airship at the End of the World

Captain Sandy and the Airship at the End of the World

(Published as author Marla Todd)

The end of the world had come and gone a long time ago. Of course I wouldn’t dare remind Captain Sandy of that extraordinary fact. He stood in the basket of the airship, hands on the control, the tails of his jacket blowing in the wind.

When the end of the world came the evil and the damned were gathered up and taken down to Hell. The pure and righteous were led up to Heaven in a golden white light.

That left the artists and writers, along with a lot of musicians, wine makers, computer programmers and antiques dealers. Of course there were others, but nobody that lacked a certain amount of creative or innovative spirit. One must have spirit and imagination to survive when the world ends without you.

It worked for me. Well, at least most of the time.

I honestly have to say, the world had become way too serious. I adjusted my goggles and scarf as I looked down on the tire fire that had been burning for the past 100 years. Adjusting the leather hood on my cat, I took him out of his basket to take a look. My five year old son Aaron stood on his toes to get a look as I held tight to the back of his jacket. I must have been a sight, boy in one hand, cat in the other.

Life was an adventure to be savored and enjoyed. It was a destroyed world being built up by those of us with visions of beauty and wonder. Captain Sandy always said this was Heaven. Of course I never told him otherwise. It was Heaven to be in the arms of my husband at night and feel the touch of his skin on mine, that is until I’d run my hand over the deep scars on his back. I called him my fallen angel. He would just laugh and kiss me as only an angel could kiss. Maybe it was Heaven for him since he was now dead, but I will never know unless I die too and find him there.

Once when I was younger my brother and I found some old movies in where everyone at the end of the world were driving big trucks and dune buggies as they shot anyone they came across. There were zombies and crazy fucks of all sorts fighting for the last clean water. It seemed they had unlimited amounts of fuel and bullets. No word of steam, solar and silent airships.

My brother and I laughed at the stupidity of it all. That was not our world. Ours was a world to create without hesitation or critical review. Our poets were considered as important as our politicians. Our sense of style always outweighed our sense of practicality. At least we kept telling ourselves that – all of us did as we banded together trying to give off an air of hope and strength. We created our own world going back to a time that didn’t really exist, where all things were possible and the modern world was still a beautiful dream.

Captain Sandy asked me what I was thinking that could have me looking so serious.

I told him and he just shook his head.

“Life isn’t a theater play like you make it out to be my dear. There are dangerous things out in dark areas of stench and smoke that would enslave us and make us into meals if they could. You’ve been protected in your leather and velvet bustle dresses and fanciful thoughts. It’s a good thing to be ignorant of the world but it is dangerous in ways you can’t imagine.”

“Captain,” I said, “you forget that the shadows took my husband. I take flights of fancy so I won’t fall out of the sky and die of sorrow.”

He turned and gave me a quick smile. Despite the dark pattern of scars on the left side of his face the Captain was still a handsome man with a dazzling smile. All the women were quick to notice him.

“Why are you alone Captain?”

“I’m not.”

“No wife or children?”

“I had a wife. She vanished when the world ended. I never knew if she went up or down or just vanished to dust. Who knows. The bitch could still be around somewhere.”

“So you’re alone,” I said.

“Just free of my wife.” He said nothing else then took off his hat and tied his long prematurely silver hair back with a ribbon he’d pulled from his coat pocket. “So, did you like movies back in the time before?”

I nodded. Of course I liked movies. Most of them were gone now. Rare stashes of films could be found and if we were lucky we’d find something to play them on.

Captain Sandy smiled a rare smile at me. “Sometimes I’m floating along above this all, all of this and I start thinking about Blade Runner and then my mind goes to Casablanca or off to Princess Bride then to In the Heat of the Night. I can run them all in my head, every line, every scene, every music score.”

I told him I did the same. We tend not to talk a lot about the time before the end of the world, but occasionally it comes out. We can’t deny our past. We just can’t help it.

“What did you do before, you know, the end of the world?” I asked the Captain point blank.

“I was a high school physics teacher. Physics and engineering to be exact. What did you do?”

“I produced reality TV shows. The last one was for MTV. Did you ever see Love Bytes?”

He laughed. “That was you? All of my students watched that show. Geeks and romance. A lot of them wanted to be on the show.”

The sky gradually started to turn dark. In the distance we could see lightning strike and the silhouettes of other airships.

I hugged my child and put a blanket around his shoulders. Aaron put his head on my lap and fell asleep. Captain Sandy sang softly a song that we both knew so long ago.

It seemed we’d been here for centuries, only the children aging and growing up.

As a rule we didn’t speak much of what we missed or how much. It was always there in the back of our minds. I missed skinny jeans and sweaters. I missed short tight dresses and yoga at the gym. I missed the music. I missed my friends and family. I missed my job. I even missed the orange trees in my back yard and the sound of the garbage truck at 6:45 am on Thursday mornings. I missed it all.

Captain Sandy turned suddenly and looked at me as if he could read my mind. “Don’t think of how things used to be. Don’t think of why we’re here.”

We both knew why we were here. Nobody wanted us. There was no place for us in Heaven but nobody in Hell wanted us either.

“You’ve got to admit,” the Captain continued, “we’re in a unique position. No matter how bad it looks, this is our world. I spent 18 years teaching kids to understand the building blocks of the universe. I thought I was contributing to the future of our young people so that they would make the world a better place.”

“Now it doesn’t matter,” I said in a rare show of depression over the events that brought us here.

“No. Now it matters more than ever. This is our world. Despite the shadows and ghouls, this is our world now, free and clear. We can still use the building blocks of science and art to make it the place we want it to be. Finally we can do it right.”

“You’re always such an optimist Captain Sandy but do you really believe that?”

“Of course I do. What other choice do I have?”

“You have a point,” I said, noticing the spark in his eyes.

He noticed that I’d noticed. “Look at this as the ultimate reality TV show.”

“If that is the case then who, Captain Sandy, gets the hot girl at the end?”

He smiled. “That depends on you.” Then he turned his face away from me to where I could only see the moon lit reflection of the scars that traced his jawline.

The crew of the airship came up on deck to view the stars and take in the night air. It was good to see them laugh and talk freely of the destination ahead. My son raised his sleepy head and laughed too. Maybe it wasn’t that bad after all. Maybe Captain Sandy would win the game and get the girl. I had a pretty good feeling he would.

~ End

Tangled Tales

This story was featured in the WPaD Anthology: Goin’ Extinct – Tales from the Edge of Oblivion. Available on Amazon B&N and with other fine online book sellers.  

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Available in paperback and electronic ebook versions on Amazon, Good Reads, Barnes and Noble and other fine online booksellers.

WPaD is the acronym for Writers, Poets and Deviants. We are a diverse group of writers who came together on the Internet to support and encourage each other.Our collaborative works are charity fundraisers, with a percentage of royalties being donated to Multiple Sclerosis in support of members of our group who live with MS.

Books by WPaD:

  • Nocturnal Desires: Erotic Tales for the Sensual Soul
  • Creepies: Twisted Tales From Beneath the Bed
  • Passion’s Prisms: Tales of Love and Romance
  • Dragons and Dreams: A Fantasy Anthology
  • Tinsel Tales: A Holiday Treasury
  • Silk She Is: Poetry of Daniel E. Tanzo
  • Goin’ Extinct: Tales From the Edge of Oblivion
  • Creepies 2: Things That Go Bump in the Closet
  • Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe (Science Fiction)
  • WPaD Weird Tales
  • Creepies 3
  • Tinsel Tales 2
  • Goin’ Extinct Too: Apocalypse A Go-Go

WPaD books are available worldwide in paperback and ebook editions.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Juliette’s Book Club: Goin’ Extinct Too – Apocalypse A Go-Go!

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Goin’ Extinct Too – Apocalypse A Go-Go!

How could the world end? The possibilities are endless:
A global pandemic (obviously), aliens, evil politicians, zombies in one form or another, or even … rogue sex robots? (wait-what?) are just a few of the ideas we came up with.
WPaD’s second volume of apocalyptic tales will shock, entertain, and tug at your heart strings. A must-have for any fan of dystopian fiction.

When we began work on our second apocalyptic anthology in early 2019, long before the world had ever heard of COVID-19, we never would have dreamed that toilet paper and hand sanitizer would become symbols of the apocalypse.

The pandemic pushed our release to a later date than anticipated. We assumed readers had more important things on their minds and might not be in the mood for apocalyptic fiction at that time. The lockdown allowed our writers more time to write, resulting in a larger collection of stories than originally anticipated. The backdrop of the pandemic colored the mood of some of the pieces, as you will see. We think of this book as the Extra-Big Bonus Pandemic Edition, written in a reality stranger than fiction.

Stay safe, wash your hands, and may your quarantine dreams be sweet ones.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman, and the Authors of WPaD

Available now in digital format. Paperback version will be available July 2020.

 

 

A THANK YOU in advance for reading my blog and Goin’ Extinct Too. If you enjoyed this book (or even if you didn’t), please take a moment to leave a review on Amazon to let other readers know what you thought of it.

WPaD is the acronym for Writers, Poets and Deviants.

We are a diverse group of writers from around the world who share a love of writing and a taste for the unusual.

Other Books by WPaD:

  • Weirder Tales: An Omnibus of Odd Ditties
  • Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe: WPaD Science Fiction
  • Creepies: Twisted Tales From Beneath the Bed
  • Creepies 2: Things That go Bump in the Closet
  • Creepies 3: Nightmares on Deviant Street
  • Goin’ Extinct: Tales From the Edge of Oblivion
  • Dragons and Dreams: A Fantasy Anthology
  • Passion’s Prisms: Tales of Love and Romance
  • Tinsel Tales 2: Holiday Hootenanny
  • Tinsel Tales: A Holiday Treasury
  • Nocturnal Desires: Erotic Tales for the Sensual Soul

WPaD books are available worldwide in paperback and ebook. For more information, please visit our website: http://wpad.weebly.com/ Find WPaD Publications on Facebook for updates on our upcoming projects Or follow @wpadpublication on Twitter.

Meet the Authors

Cover art by Jason Kemp

Short Story Sunday: Radio Waves

Tangled Tales

 

Radio Waves

“Why did they keep a vault box of old diseases?”

“For research purposes. It was a point of reference.”

“Then why didn’t they just eradicate them again? They had the knowledge. They had the vaccines.”

“No they’d didn’t have the vaccines. The box had been sealed for over a thousand years. They had no need for vaccines.  The contamination and speculation on the outcome was too overwhelming for them. Maybe for them but wewould have survived. We would have beaten it.”

“Wait, Nessie, that can’t be right. You’re saying there were no new germs, bacteria, or virus strains in a thousand years.”

“That is what the records say.”

“That can’t be right.”

“Stop questioning everything.”

“Why? Your ideas are based on something that happened almost 20,000 years ago. We’re here now and we’re happy. We’re safe. You’ve seen what happens to other species when they get sick.”

“Considering suicide is our main cause of death living in the risk of an occasional physical illness doesn’t sound that bad.“

He ran his hand up my thigh and leaned closer. “Suicide isn’t that bad.”

I pushed his hand away. “Bird shit. No other society does that.  No other society spends an eternity fleeing Armageddon because they’re too pretty and too delicate to deal with it.  Screw that. I’m ready to deal with it.  I’m ready to have a real home. I’m ready to fight.”

He rolled his eyes at me. “You’re getting emotional over something that’s never going to happen. Stop acting like a crazy woman.”

I broke up with my green-eyed boyfriend that night and started working on my escape.

 

 

I went home and pulled out the charts and old pictures I’d been collecting since I was a teenager.

There was a man. Damn he was handsome with turquoise eyes, white hair pulled back in a long braid.  There was a female. I guess I could say a woman of her species. Her head reached his shoulder. She was different without what others call magic.

I thought about that again. Other intelligent species around the universe admit we’re the best at almost any technology but we’re also magic. Seriously I feel sorry for them. They can’t read each other’s thoughts on their own. They have to rely on communication devices for any long distance conversations. When I think of all of the time and energy they waste on construction it boggles my mind. We can move things, and when there are a lot of us we can move extremely heavy objects. Nobody can build a city as fast as we can, no matter what building materials we use.  Those are beautiful cities too, not some slapped together ugly abominations.

I looked at the woman with the plain brown eyes, and odd waving brown hair. I couldn’t imagine being so drab, but there she was, radiant despite her coloring. They were all drab, the species we called Talkers. They ranged from the color of a fish belly to solid black with every shade of brown in-between. The hair color was all the color of dirt and rocks; brown, black, gray, yellow, and orange. Some had blue eyes they’d inherited from the Hummers. As far as I know all of the Hummers and Dancers had died off.

 

 

“Hello?”

I was so into my thoughts I didn’t hear my friend Arie come through the door.

“What are you doing Nessie?”

I didn’t hide my materials away like I usually do. “I’m looking into the reason why we left our original planet. I’d discovered some old documents. The story wasn’t as simple as some girl spreading diseases and genetic abnormalities across the land.”

Aries looked at the papers. Damn he was cute with his lavender eyes and dimples. “Tell me what you found out.”

First I poured us some wine, and then I told him the real story.

His skin was golden, his hair white with silver streaks, and his eyes lavender with specks of a darker purple. She was pale like a cloud with a blush of pink, her brown hair fell in ripples down her back, and her eyes were brown. Her kind were the colors of the earth in which they toiled.

Arie smiled in an amused curious way. “Toiled? They had agriculture?”

“Of course they did.  Just listen to the story will you.”

“I already know the story.”

“Not this version.”

“The Talkers were so primitive. Wouldn’t it be like falling in love with an animal?”

“No.  They weren’t animals. We interbred with them all the time. Any children were left with them.”

“That was pretty rare, you know, us doing the deed with them.”

“We did it enough that I’m sure some of our genetic shit is still with them.”

I continued my story.

She kept a wolf as a companion the way we kept birds, as a pet.  The animal was going to give birth soon and she promised him one of the pups.  That sounds like a bad romance but it’s the truth.

“A wolf? Really? She kept a large carnivorous animal as a companion? It would have eaten her.”

“They were friends. The wolf considered the woman part of her pack.”

“Wolves are too smart and too deadly and too organized to ever be domesticated.”

“The wolf doesn’t matter.  Arie let me finish.”

The man’s name was Snow, like my last name. Nobody knew why he wanted to be alone in that research station at first. Snow was popular with everyone. He was never in need of company. He chose to work at a research station outside of the city.  It was because of her. It was because of Eleora.

She was one of the Talkers, the only subspecies of people who survived the cut, along with us.  Sure we could breed with them but we didn’t. Our DNA isn’t the same, obviously.

At first he thought Eleora came around out of curiosity. Snow thought she was pretty. Sure her eyes were small in comparison to his and her color was drab, but she got his attention. Let’s say she was simple but elegant. Actually she was beautiful. Just look at her picture here.

So he dressed her up, then undressed her. He did a lot of that. She became his little sex toy.

One night while he was asleep she became curious about his work. He didn’t think she would understand what he we doing because of his closed mind towards other peoples.

He’d believe all of the bigots and thought she was stupid. There was nothing stupid about her kind. She figured out the code and opened his research vault. Then she found the inner box containing five thousand years of viruses, bacteria, genetic nightmares, and other diseases. So what did she do? She opened it and let everything out.

“She had no idea what was in the box,” said Arie.

“Obviously not. For some dumb ass reason the box was a thing of beauty, covered in images of flowers. She probably thought it was full of seeds or jewelry.”

Snow’s little love puppet poisoned the planet. Thousands of years full of work gone to waste.

Thousands of our people died in the first three weeks. She vanished back into the woods with her wolf. Snow took the easy way out and killed himself.

We had the technology to leave so we did. Our planet was too poisoned to live on. It beyond repair.

Some said to bring a few of the Talkers with us but we left them all behind to deal with their mess. From all accounts they’re extinct and the planet is a place that all intelligent beings avoid.

I poured another glass of wine and topped off Arie’s glass. “We’ve been wandering around the universe for 20,000 years. It is time to stop.”

“I’ll go wherever you go.”

“What?”

“We’ve been friends forever. I share your dream.”

“You might be exposed to sickness.”

“I might stay and kill myself. Think about it.  But seriously I’ve been seriously thinking about the same thing for years. I’m tired of always being the guest. We’ve lived on three different planets since we were kids. I’m done with it. Lets do this. Let’s go home.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really. I’ll take my chances with you.”

 

 

My ship was in a hanger owned by Mac Devine a long tailed blue skinned guy from a planet with a name I couldn’t even pronounce. The day before we left I talked to my Mac who’d taught me everything I knew about flying and the unsafe universe.

“You know you’ll be close when you start getting the radio signals.  Remember, they’ve been isolated. They don’t even know about YOU, much less everyone else out here.  They’d have the technology but they’re too busy having wars, jacking with religion, and fighting off pandemics. I didn’t even mention the natural disasters they deal with on a daily basis.”

“They’re still alive?”

“Thriving.”

“Is it safe?”

“Hell no.  Nobody goes near that poison planet.”

“Then how do you know they’re thriving?”

“We’re keeping tabs on them.  At least we were. Nobody has been in that part of the galaxy for ages. Listen, they get going strong, then something wipes most of them out, and then they just repeat the pattern. They’re not advanced enough to stop it.  Add to that the fact they’re incredibly violent. It’s a lost cause. Totally hopeless.”

“My people came from there too. We’re practically genetic twins with them.”

Honey, it ain’t your planet anymore. The folks who are there aren’t your people.”

“I’m tired of not having a home.”

“Your home is where you find love. Hey, sweetie, you have to prepare yourself for the possibility of some nasty and deadly diseases.  Listen, I was on Torex-87 a few years back and got a cold. “

“What was it like to be sick?”

“It was horrible. I couldn’t’ get off my couch for a week.  I couldn’t breath. I had a headache that wouldn’t stop. My throat felt like I’d swallowed fire. My wife suddenly turned into a monster and told me to stop being such a baby.”

“You survived.”

“Barely. My wife should be feeling sorry for me but she is still pissed off. She said I had something called a man flu.Can you fucking believe it? Man flu.“

I had to laugh. I’d miss Mac.

 

 

I couldn’t’ promise anything because I was going to go. Nothing could stop me.

With my crew of eighty, including fifteen children, we left in secret bound for that blue planet on an outer spiral of the galaxy. It was so isolated but I’d take my chances. The ship was in good working order and ready to go.

Our technology was more advanced than just about any in the entire universe. Yes, we’re that smart. We can jump through space without the usual lifetimes between planets. It is awesome what we can do.

We’d been gone about a week (our time) when the nightmares began.

I had dreams of disease invading my body. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. My toes turned into liquid leaving me with only bones sticking out of my feet. I went blind. Everything in my body hurt. My bowels let loose as I vomited up the entire contents of my stomach for hours on end. My heart started to beat unevenly. Worms crawled into my ears. My lover spread sickness through my body with his touch. Sores covered my body.

I woke up catching my breath and checking my arms for scabs.  Nothing.  I was fine. Arie was sleeping peacefully next to me no doubt dreaming his usual sweet dreams of better things to come.

 

 

We were traveling at a semi leisurely but lightning fast speed for a while, and coming sort of close to our home planet when it happened.

Izzy, my communications lead came running into my office.

“Captain we’ve picked up signals.”

I ran down the hall with him to see and hear the first messages from our home planet.

“Look. 23 73,” said Izzy, hardly able to contain his excitement.

“Blips.” I said. “These aren’t random.”

“Look at the pattern.”

“It looks like a child’s puzzle. “

Izzy squinted. “Some guy named Carl made it.”

“Interesting.”

Then the flood of signals came.

There was sound. Not just blips and pings. It was real sound.

It was music.

We’d never heard anything like it.

Beautiful music.

“But how? How could such beautiful sounds come from such a poisoned planet?” said Arie.

“Magic. I mean, a different kind of magic. They have their own magic,” I said savoring the wonder.  “Izzy does it have a name?”

“I think so,” said Izzy. “I don’t know what it means but I made out Brandenburg Concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach, Number 3, G major.”

“How old are these signals?”

“Maybe a hundred years, but you never know once signals get into space.”

I looked at Izzy and sent him a suggestion. “Turn on the translation. We need to know what they’re saying.”

Izzy smiled and flipped the switch.

We listened to fuzzy sounding music for a few hours then before we knew it clear voices started to come through.

“Those are our people,” I said.

“Sort of our people,” said Arie.

 

 

The music came in all varieties. Some was fast and frantic. Others were slow. Voices sang about love, heartbreak, loss, and addiction.

They spoke of airplanes and breaking flight records. Yes, they could fly. Finally they could fly. How many years did it take them? Over twenty thousand. They’d been slow with technology but all of the sudden they were catching up with the rest of the universe.

There was more music. Always more music.

An air machine called a Zeppelin exploded.  It was called the Hindenburg.  A male voice called out in anguish about the humanity. Humanity. They called themselves humans. Humans.  The Talkers had their own name. Humans or Homo sapiens. The Hummers, now extinct, were known as Neanderthals. The Dancers, also now extinct, were known as Denisovans.

A man’s voice screamed about the motherland. Next reports of a horrible and violent war came through the radio waves. Thousands were dead. Then it was over. The music changed again, but they continued to play music by Bach.

The real game changer was for us when the news of a polio vaccine came out. They had vaccines, apparently for quite a while. Polio was a disease that took away the ability to walk or even breath. News of other vaccines came through the radio waves.

“Honestly I thought they’d all be dead by now,” said Izzy. “They’re thriving.”

“They’re incredibly creative,” said Arie.

“Listen to this,” said Izzy. He turned on a song that made us all want to just leap up and dance.

“What is it?” I asked in wonder.

Izzy smiled. “Buddy Holly.”

A few hours later Izzy wasn’t looking so good. “What happened?” I asked.

“Buddy Holly died.”

We didn’t have much time to mourn the death of Buddy Holly. Pictures started coming in.

We watched silly grotesque puppets called Howdy Doodies. There were news programs where people were told of event from all over the world. The variety was astonishing.

Arie squinted his eyes at the images. “Where is the color?” The color would come soon enough.

Some of the most interesting news was about medical advances.

“They have a pill that prevents pregnancy,” I said in astonishment.

“Can’t they control it?” Izzy asked.

“No, that is one of the differences between us and them. It’s the difference between us and most intelligent life forms.”

“They just get pregnant by accident?”

“Apparently, but now they have pills to control their own fertility.”

“Wow. I can’t even imagine.”

 

 

Over the days we heard more of medical advancements including a heart transplant.

Arie and I were having a glass of wine and looking out a window to the stars. I expressed some apprehension about our visit. “We will be exposed to every disease on that planet. Sure they have vaccines. Even their animals have vaccines.  Will those vaccines work on us?”

“We’re genetically 99.8% the same as them,” Arie said taking my hand.

“Point two zero percent different.”

“This is your dream Nessie.”

“I thought I had it all figured out,” I said.

“What if we expose them to something that we’re carrying?”

“We’re the squeakiest clean beings in the universe.”

“Clean slates ready for every vile thing in the universe to attach to.”

“Now you’re describing my first marriage,” said Arie.

I should have laughed at his joke, even just to be polite.

“Come on love,” I said. “Let’s see what is going on downstairs.”

In the communications room about thirty people were all dancing; even the children were there.

“What is this?” I asked Izzy.

Izzy grinned. “Soul Train.”

About an hour later there were Zeppelins again. This time is wasn’t an explosion. It was Led Zeppelin. That was the name of a group of musicians. The music was called Kashmir. I’d never even in my wildest dreams imagined music could touch me so.

The music continued. Stairway to Heaven. Time Passages. Enter the Sandman. Love Bites. Leaving on a Jet Plane. Fight for Your Right. I Will Survive. Ring of Fire. Beat It. The list of songs went on and on and on. It was insane. It was seriously insane. I had to get some sleep before my head exploded.

 

 

The next day after breakfast I couldn’t find anyone.

“Arie, where is my crew?”

“Watching Golden Girls.”

 

As I watched the images come through, in obviously random order, I wondered at the people called humans we’d left behind.

The images were now color. A woman named Jane spent a lifetime with a primate species called chimpanzees. The chimpanzees were so much like us yet so different. Why didn’t we know about chimpanzees?

The wolves had become dogs. I thought dogs were the most amazing adorable creatures I’d ever seen until I saw the obsession with cats. The humans had domesticated cats. CATS. When we started to get access to what the humans called The Internet fifty percent of it was about cats. Another quarter was pornography. Humans liked sex even more than we did.

One of the most astonishing things was that they knew other intelligent life was out side of their planet even thought they’d never had contact and only gone as far as their own moon. But the most surprising thing is that they remembered us through their myths, legends, and artwork. The girl who opened the vault was known as Pandora. I thought we’d erased all traces of our culture when we left, but there were enough foundations and things we’d helped with that they thought we must have been aliens come from another planet. I have to admit that made Arie and I laugh out loud. Aliens. Our technology was anything but alien. Our power and brainpower was from Earth.

The next message of importance that came through was about a new pandemic called Covid-19. Izzy and I decided to not tell anyone about it until we got closer. We could beat this. We would wash our hands and wear our masks and wait until we got out into the general population.

I thought about it all for a while and continued to steer my ship towards our home planet the humans called Earth.

Finally we saw the beautiful blue ball with the single gray moon. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. None of us could stay away from the windows.

We had our safety gear. We had masks. We had safety suits. We had communication devices.

As I pulled the ship into the Earth’s orbit I tried not to feel overwhelmed with emotion.

 

 

A message came through, as I expected. A voice asked that we identify ourselves.

“This is Captain Nessie Snow of the Starship Endurance. We left Earth, our home planet twenty thousand years ago. We’re coming home. We’re here.”

Suddenly we were flanked by sleek black flying ships. A human man in a helmet looked at me right through the window. I could tell his eyes were blue. He put his thumb up.

I put my thumb up and flashed him a dazzling smile and winked my turquoise eyes at him.

He smiled. “Do you wish to land?” He said that through his radio device.

“Yes. We come in peace,” I said.

“Do you need anything?”

I didn’t expect that. “Sure, dogs, cats, and when the pandemic is over concert tickets to EVERYTHING.”

I heard him laughing and knew it would be all right.

 

We’ve been hanging out at an Air Force Base in a place called California.  The wine is amazing. The people are accepting and interesting. The general public hasn’t been told about us yet.  We have dogs and cats. Best of all none of us have become ill. None of us.

I think it’s going to work out here.  It’s good to be home.

 

~ end

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

 

Remains

Remains

By Soleil Daniel

The world was ending, so I don’t really blame everyone for leaving with the Space Squids when they came to Earth and offered a new planet to live on. They’ll probably just destroy that one too. It’s whatever, people fucking suck anyway. By what I could tell, the Space Squids weren’t so special either with their weird, soft bodies, tentacles, and strange pointy heads.

Yeah, I said tentacles. I don’t call ‘em Space Squids for fun. Besides the fact that they didn’t live in water, that’s pretty much what they were.

They did moisturize . . . a lot. Like all the time. It was kind of obscene, but that’s a story for a different day.

Like I was saying, the Space Squids, yeah, assholes. That’s what they were. Just as bad as all the humans they took. Maybe they ate everyone . . . well, one could only hope, but considering the fact that they left the ‘trash’ humans behind and they wanted to only take productive, non-criminal folks, I assume they weren’t planning to eat them. Unless us ‘trash’ humans taste bad. I’ll just keep thinking they ate everyone and be happy with the fact that they didn’t want my kind to go.

I still don’t see how I fit in with the others they left behind—The Remains the Squiddies called us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they didn’t throw me into the volcanoes like they did the leaders and politicians of the world. Oh, they made sure that shit was broadcasted on live television. You ask me, some of those fuckers got out too easily and quickly for the things they got away with.

What was I saying? Oh, yeah. Those Squiddies left me behind, saying murderers weren’t welcome on their planet. Blah, blah. Yeah, I’ve killed, but I’m no murderer. I deal out justice. I take out the ‘trash’ that they accused me of being. I tried to clean up the world and rid it of the people who were making it a bad place to live. Taking out people who destroyed nature for the hell of it, who killed for the enjoyment of it, who took pleasure from the touch of a child, and those who deemed themselves better than others, making sure the lives of those they found to be lesser than them was full of hardship, grief, and sorrow.

I’m not sure how many I had the pleasure of disposing of, but I know I didn’t stop after everyone left. I didn’t even have to do as much research once they were gone, so really, they did mea favor. They made my job easier.

 

***

 

Thomas looked around at his captors. Their hair in mudded clumps. Their round cherubic faces, holding expressions of anything but innocence. No, all of the children that surrounded him looked upon him like a wolf eyeing a rabbit it wished to have for dinner.

“You tell your lies. You act as if you were doing this world a favor, killing people you decided weren’t good enough to live. Who were you to judge when you killed our parents?” one of the oldest males visible within the group said, surprising Thomas for he’d not expected such feral-looking children to be able to speak so well.

“Well, I . . . uh, shit. I didn’t know there were children still left here. At least none old enough to have been around for the Great Departure. I thought they all went with the Squiddies. Who in their right mind would’ve kept their children here?”

“People who didn’t want to be separated from their families. People who knew that once the majority left, the planet would begin to heal. People who didn’t trust the aliens, and so they didn’t go, even if they were accepted to go to the new world,” said another of the eldest as she stepped forward.

A girl and boy, who looked so similar there was no mistaking that they were brother and sister, came closer to Thomas. They appeared to be about seven, meaning they were born sometime around The Great Departure, Thomas noted.

“We were five when you killed our father,” the little girl said.

“He was all we had. Our mom didn’t make it through having us,” the boy continued where his sister left off.

“We saw you. We watched from the brush. We saw what you did.” The girl grabbed her brother’s hand and squeezed.

“We watched as you broke his legs, making escape impossible. We listened as you listed his supposed crimes. We choked back our sobs, our cries, as you drew your knife across our father’s throat.” The boy straightened his posture, standing as tall as he could.

“Then, you left him there to rot. You walked away from him like he was nothing. What you did was wasteful. You kill but for what reason? There’s no purpose in what you do.” The girl had begun to tremble, but not in fear or grief. The girl’s body shook with rage, if Thomas was correct in his thinking.

“I would’ve never killed him or any of your parents had I known they’d had children that had no one else to care for them. Know this to be the truth. Know this, as I only wish to end the suffering, hate, greed, and filthiness in this world. Know that I only wish to make things better. I never meant to cause harm. I only wished to deal out justice.” Thomas wiggled his arms, struggling against the ropes that bound him.

“Justice! Justice? There’s no need for justice in a lawless land, sir. You have no authority. You are far worse than any criminal you believe you’ve dealt your justiceto. For you think you are better than they were.” A girl, older than the rest, Thomas had not seen until that moment, walked over to him, clutching a knife in her dirt-covered hand.

“Now, just wait a second. What is it you’re planning on doing with that knife? How do you figure killing me makes you any better? It certainly won’t bring your folks back. Not that it appears you need them. The lot of you seemed to be doing just fine without them. Y’all have got to be some of the plumpest people I’ve seen in a while.”

“We do well with the gardens, and we have an excellent group of hunters. You met Ellie and Niro. They’re our absolute best. You’d agree, I’m certain, that they’d need to be top-notch to track and capture you. You who prides yourself on tracking and hunting people down. I assume as you’ve been up to these tricks since before the ‘Great Departure’, as you put it.” The teenage girl tapped him on the tip of his nose with her knife.

“Oh.” Thomas let his gaze focus more on the surrounding area. His eyes took a second to adjust to the darker places where they weren’t completely consumed by the shadows. Mounds of off-white caught his attention, and he stared at them until the bones, skulls, and other human remains became clear. “Oh! You little shits are cannibals!”

“Only when we have to be. We get more meat from a deer than we do most humans. So, unless we absolutely need the meat, we usually leave people alone, but when little Josiah and Penelope here saw you . . . when they recognized you for who you were, well, we couldn’t pass that up.”

Thomas struggled more with his bindings, not even bothering to hide his movements as he’d been doing. He squirmed. His shoulders jerked, and his body bucked, but he couldn’t get free. If anything, the ropes only became tighter on his wrists and around his waist.

“Now, Thomas—it is Thomas, right?” the elder girl with the knife said. When he didn’t answer, she continued, “What you don’t seem to get is, the more you fight your restraints, the more Little William back there will twist. And while we’ve yet to see it happen, you’d have a better chance getting loose after your hands pop off your wrists—well, like I said, we haven’t seen it yet, but I suppose it’s possible. That is, given you don’t pass out from the pressure on your abdomen first. So, by all means, keep trying to free yourself.”

A sinister smile spread across her face as several of the others worked to control fits of laughter.

“Quiet!” a male voice behind Thomas yelled. “Charlotte! Why must you play with your food? It doesn’t need to know why it’s dying. Just kill it and be done with your theatrics. I thought we were good for meat, anyway, so why the need to butcher more?”

“You’re probably right, Jonathan. We shouldn’t play with our food . . . but did you look to see who this is before you spoke?” the knife-wielding girl, Charlotte, said before turning away.

A tall man in his early twenties walked in front of Thomas. “Is this who I think it is?” He bent down, getting face to face with Thomas. “Why, yes. Yes, it is.”

“I assume I killed one of your parents too?” Thomas asked.

“Ah, but you killed both. My father before the aliens took everyone away, and then my mother two years after she’d decided to stay on this planet with the Remains. We were going to go, but when our group was called to board, she changed her mind because she had a bad feeling. I don’t know what happened to those who left, but I know what happened to my mom. And I remember what you told me when you dispatched her,” Jonathan said.

“But dear Thomas here just told us that he never would’ve killed someone had he knew they had kids to take care of. Didn’t you, friend?” Charlotte chortled, but Thomas was unable to see her past Jonathan’s tall frame.

“I wouldn’t have. I certainly wouldn’t have spoken to a child I was leaving an orphan,” he protested, knowing all too well the lies that left his mouth.

He remembered Jonathan. The boy was fifteen, maybe sixteen, when Thomas killed his mother. He’d followed her from a rundown pharmacy, where he’d seen her take dozens of prescription bottles. It was later that he’d found they were only antibiotics.

“Don’t follow in her footsteps, boy, or I’ll come back for you.” Jonathan’s words echoed the ones that ran through Thomas’ mind. The young man’s voice bringing him back to the present. “Yeah, I see it in your face. You remember. What you might not know is, the antibiotics that you killed my mom for taking, they were for my little sister. She was four. She’d gotten a cut on her foot, and it was infected. Without my mom, without those antibiotics . . . well, it got worse. Gangrene set in. By the time I found help, even the amputation of her leg didn’t save her. I had to watch her die, all because you thought my mom was a fucking junkie.”

“I didn’t know.” Thomas tried to look disgusted with himself, but somewhere along the way, he’d lost his morals, his reasoning, and he’d began killing people for the enjoyment of it. The one kid was right about it being a lawless land, and Thomas had taken advantage of that, but he’d felt far from guilty about it. He’d felt powerful . . . well, until a group of filthy, parentless kids captured him and tied him up. He met the eyes of the one named Jonathan and said, “If you feel inclined to kill me for my crimes, might I have a request granted?”

Jonathan smirked. “Well, that would depend on what it is? If it’s a request not to eat you, as much as I’d rather not, we don’t waste what can sustain us. Had we still had pigs, you’d go to them, but the entire drove became diseased a while back and died. So, that request will be denied, but you can ask, and I’ll consider anything else.”

“Jonathan!” Charlotte screeched.

“He shouldn’t be given the dignity of a request,” the young boy sibling said.

“He didn’t give our father or your mother or any of the others’ parents time to speak, let alone a request,” his sister sounded, barely letting her brother’s words end.

A mass of murmurs and angry words flew about the night air. Thomas stopped himself from smiling for the commotion he’d caused. The ropes twisted more, tightening further at his wrists and around his lower chest.

“Silence!” Jonathan bellowed. “I said the man could ask. Now, let’s let him say his, and we will decide if it will be granted. Thomas, what is it you want?”

Thomas cleared his throat, struggling to breathe with the tightened ropes around him. He wondered if Little William was trying to hurry the job along without the others knowing. “Would it be too much to ask for the ropes to be taken off? I know that most, if not all, of you feel I did your folks wrong, but I ask for just that bit of dignity and compassion.”

Jonathan took a second, giving a brief hmm. As he opened his mouth to say his answer, a mass scream sounded, and Thomas was overwhelmed by bodies hitting him from every direction.

“I’d say that’s a no, Thomas,” Jonathan shouted.

Thomas barely made out the words over the cries of the kids and the ripping sounds from his clothing being torn off him. They were scratching and clawing at his flesh, and it only dawned on him when he felt their teeth biting into his flesh and breaking the skin, they’d planned on starting their feast while his heart was still beating.

“Yep! Definitely a no!” Jonathan’s words sounded so far away. A moment later, his face hovered over Thomas’. “Come on guys, at least make sure it’s dead first. We’re not complete animals.”

Thomas got a brief glimpse of the hammer before it smashed into his face, ending the searing pain he felt as his flesh was ripped from his body.

~ end

Tangled Tales

Links & Bio

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/SoleilDanielsAuthor

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Brokenlyfe

Amazon Author Page:  author.to/SoleilDanielsbooks

Blog:  https://soleildaniels.blogspot.com/

Soleil Daniels is an author from the Central Florida area. She tends to write more on the darker side—including, but not limited to, blood, depravity, and gore. You can also find some sweetness and steam within her works, as well. She’s written short stories ranging from sick and twisted to heartfelt and sweet, and has longer works available and in progress, which include vampires, people in lust, a boogeyman, and a rather large extinct cat. Her works have been featured in anthologies from WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants) and OMP (One Million Project). All of Soleil Daniels’ works can be found on Amazon.

SoleiDaniels

Soleil Daniels

 

A note from Juliette:

Occasionally I come across an author and think it can’t get better than this. Yes, that is how I feel about Soleil Daniels. Her works always delight and amaze me. Her use of words… I have no words except to say I love her writing. I love the way she uses words. I love the way she creates stories that keep the reader RIGHT THERE. Thank you Soleil for sharing Remains with vampiremaman.com

Thank you!

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Tangled Tales

Stay safe. Social distance. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Be careful. Contact those who might need extra help or just need to know somebody cares.

Sam Judge

Sam Judge

Part 1: The Apocalypse

My grandparent’s crazy is the new normal.

Normal is still pretty crazy, well, because it isn’t normal. We don’t want it to be normal, but unfortunately that is what normal is to me.

Does any of that make sense?

My grandmother and I talk a lot about that. I’m so glad she’s still around. She’s the one who encouraged me to go into reporting and photojournalism.  She is also the one who encouraged me never to color my hair. But enough about me.

The crazy stuff started to happen when my parents were in college. First were the pandemics in China that spread through most of Asia wiping out millions of people in most of the large urban centers. To this day most people of Chinese descent live outside of China.

After that happened, along with a shit load of political fall out, there was another plague of a sorts. Radioactive and other unidentified debris started falling from the sky. The governments of the world claimed they didn’t know where it came from. From the sky was all they could say. From the fucking sky.

Shortly after the first zombies showed up in Australia. They were already dealing with the aftermath of the third big wave of fires when the population started to die, but not die. Roaming packs of shuffling virus infested humans with rotting flesh attacked the normal living. When bullets ran out flamethrowers were used, and even more fires started. Entire cities burned.

From Australia the zombies moved slowly across all continents gnawing and rotting along the way. In the United States the Midwest and the Chicago area were hit especially hard. It is estimated that almost forty percent of the population between the ages of fifteen and seventy became zombies before the epidemic died down. The zombie attacks were compounded by an never ending Midwestern winter.

Governments continued to crumble. Strange deadly disease continued to pop up, and then vanish after massive causalities.

After the first wave of zombies someone in what was once known as North Korea shot off a nuclear warhead claiming the USA had caused most of their population to die of the Black Crow flu. The bomb landed on Tokyo, Japan. That started yet another war and more tolls on the already weak human populations and wild life.

By the time I was born the Southern Hemisphere was for the most part totally uninhabitable. A few brave souls still lived there but not many outside of the research stations and military posts.

After that all hell broke loose again for a short time, then things got really bazar. Some yahoos from the rogue Canadian Space Front shot the alien research station out of the sky thinking it was a Chinese space station shooting zombie virus bombs down over rural Alberta.

The alien space station landed in the middle of Nevada. Seriously, as if Nevada didn’t already have their share of alien based urban legends and whack jobs crawling all over the desert. Unfortunately all but two of the twenty-four aliens on board were killed. The two who survived managed to say that they’d been watching us for a while and were frankly shocked at what they’d seen. Then they too died. We never did find out where they were from. The funny thing is that they looked like us except their skin was kind of a baby blue, and their eyes were slightly larger like anime characters. When I was a kid I wanted to go visit the site but my parents would never take me.

After the proof of life outside of our planet was proved, religious groups and cults started to pop up preaching the end of days, and other crazy ass biblical prophecies. I remember my mom telling me that she didn’t think things could get any stranger, but she was wrong. Things did get stranger, right in her own home. In her own womb in fact.

Around the time of my birth another new and unique phenomenon began to happen. PAM otherwise known as  Post Apocolypitic Mutations. I know all about that one personally because I’m a PAM baby.

I was born with dark hair, but by the time I was a year old my hair had turned steel gray. By the time I was in college white and silver highlights grew in.  My eyes are the same steel gray color as my hair. My most unique feature, one that I rarely share with others, is the ability to conceal lies from others, including PAM babies who have the ability to catch lies. And if you’re asking, why yes, it does come in handy.

Other PAM cases were more extreme than mine. There were kids with seven fingers, tails, and odd multicolored eyes, but those weren’t the really interesting cases. Some children displayed traits that came right out of the old super hero comics. There were people with extraordinary hearing, or could see miles away. Every kind of physical strength and endurance you could think of was showing up with PAM kids.

One girl known as Emily Seventeen could read minds. Every government and nut job religious organization wanted her. She died of a brain hemorrhage the day she turned twenty-one. Her brain was studied but nobody could ever figure out how it worked.

After much study it was discovered that all of these people with extraordinary strengths had their weakness that would make then “normal.” They all had their proverbial kryptonite. The most famous example of this was my friend Harriet O’Malley who could disjoint her entire body, every single bone, and creep around like a giant ameba, as flat as a pancake. She was tired of the mess, the sloppy re-jointing, and general discomfort of her particular skill set.

After a lot of trial and error Harriet accidentally found a fix to put an end to being ameba girl. When her younger brother died in a car accident Harriet had a large memorial tattoo in his honor put on her upper back and across her shoulders. It was a play on words because when she we feeling depressed he always told her “I have your back Harriet.”  The ink on her back was absolutely beautiful and in full color. When the tattoo was done and completely healed she was asked to go flat. She couldn’t do it. The tattoo held her together. Her brother did indeed have her back. A simple tattoo was her kryptonite. Who would have guessed? Or maybe it was simply giving over to grief and love. It always seemed far-fetched to me, but she was my friend so I believed her.

 

Part 2: The Assignment

So that brings us to now. I’m a science and political reporter for TCN, I might add, the largest and most prestigious news agency around. TCN is unique in that it is not associated with any political party, religion, or even region. It is completely neutral (like Switzerland before the zombies ate everyone there.)

One day I was sitting in my home office in Laguna Beach, drinking coffee, and working on the possibilities of more alien visitations, when I received an assignment to interview Sam Judge. Yes, the over the top ultra famous Sam Judge.

Like me, Sam Judge is also a PAM baby. Unlike me, his unique features were more along the lines of my friend Harriet O’Malley – high on the super hero scale.

I caught a flight out the next morning with Harriet, who by the way is my photographer, and our sound/camera guy Phil Steen. At security our I.D.s were checked showing Harriet and I were PAMs.

The security woman gave me the usual judgmental glare. “Do you have any special powers we should know about?”

“No,” I told her. “Just my funny hair color.” What I didn’t tell her is that I can lie and nobody, not even a PAM with special lie detecting powers, can detect my lies.

Harriet told the security officer that she used to be able to liquefy but wouldn’t do it on the plane. Phil isn’t a PAM so he went right through despite his shaggy un-kept beard, tacky pink and green plaid pants, and orange jacket.

On the flight to Chicago Harriet and Phil talked about taking making some side trips to interview famous zombie hunters old, and slept. I read up on Sam Judge.

At the time Sam Judge was a twenty eight year old PAM. His birthday was three days before mine. That was interesting.

His powers are extraordinary physical strength, and the ability to read lies. He also possesses well-honed leadership skills.

People love Sam Judge. As a war hero he’d single handedly slain entire armies of remaining zombies, unsavory cannibalistic humans, and took on monster mutant lizards, dogs, and elk. Sam Judge never lost a battle. That didn’t mean that he never lost at love.

Same Judge was left at the alter when his bride ran off with his best man. He didn’t take it to well and exacted revenge upon everyone she knew by digging into their rather unsavory business practices. Both of her parents, her brothers, and the ex best friend were now in prison. That was interesting.

He mentioned later that she never told him that she loved him. He would have known it was a lie. Nobody can keep a lie from Sam Judge if he wants to hear it. If Sam Judge doesn’t like what he hears he will be one badass vindictive bastard. I know if he’d known me than I could have told him she was trouble and saved him a lot of grief.

Since then no other woman had captured Sam’s heart. He was not dating anyone seriously. There were no prospects for serious relationships. Handsome Sam Judge does not give his heart away.

Sam was born into what I would consider a cult, called Chosen Followers. They are a hybrid of Catholic and fundamental evangelical beliefs mixed with doomsday prophesy weirdness. Just for kicks and grins add in some crazy stories about visions of the Virgin Mary.

Sam Judge’s mother, Isabelle McCarthy Judge, said that Sam was chosen by God, and that it was God who gave Sam his powers. She refused to call him a PAM or use the termPost Apocalyptic Mutations when describing her son. Mrs. Judge went all the way to the Supreme Court of the Untied States to get the title removed from all of her precious Sam’s paperwork.

Most interesting of all was that with all of the attention on Sam Judge over the past ten years nobody had ever figured out what his kryptonite was. Nobody. Well, nobody so far. I intended to find out exactly what made Sam Judge tick.

 

Part Three: The Interview

As usual Chicago was freezing. I’m surprised the plane was able to land due to the current snowstorm. Current snowstorm is an understatement. They had below zero winters that lasted for nine months out of the year.

I wanted to be professional but in no way frumpy. A black skirt, pared with a bright sapphire blue sweater, black tights and flat black boots. I didn’t put any clips in my chin length gray hair. Because this would be filmed I had on the full face make-up.

Gabrielle dressed similar in a forest green wool wrap dress, tights and flat over the knee boots. Phil showed up in all black save for a purple and yellow tie. He’d shaved off his shaggy beard that night and showed of a handsome face that I’d never seen before. He’d also pulled his shoulder length hair up into a neat man bun. Phil actually looked really good for a change. I had to compliment him on making the effort.

It took us about a year, ok maybe an hour, to go though security at the Judge mansion. Not only were we patted down, and all of our belongings checked, we were also asked detailed questions that we’d already answered in a preliminary email.

A pale young man who introduced himself as Timothy Ryan led us to a large living room filled with artwork, comfortable furniture and flowers. One side of the wall was all windows overlooking the new Chicago skyline. Harriet made a beeline to the huge stone fireplace and thawed out her hands. Timothy showed us where an antique sterling silver coffee, tea and water service had been set up, then left the room.

“Modern Prairie mansion overkill,” said Phil looking around.

“I like it,” I said. “I could live in a place like this, you know, if it was back home. I wonder when Sam is going to show up?”

“Right now,” said a voice, followed by a laugh.

There he was, Sam Judge in all his glory, looking better in person than in any video or photograph. Despite his impressive body builder physique, the first thing I noticed was his eyes. Bright hazel, the color of the winter waves, with genuine happiness showing through. Those eyes were in a gorgeous, handsome, beautiful male face. His famous hair, a glossy caramel color, fell down his back and to his waist.

“Welcome. I’m so glad you made it. I’m Sam Judge.” He approached me and held out his hand.

As I took his right hand he put his left hand over it in almost a protective way. I looked right up into those beautiful hazel eyes. “I’m Lilah Wolfe. Good to meet you Mr. Judge.”

“Call me Sam.”

I introduced Harriet and Phil, and then noticed nobody else had joined us. Usually men like Sam Judge had an entourage or at least a few minions hanging about, but it was just Sam.

“You’re known for your strength and speed. What else do you want people to know about you?” I asked.

Sam gave me the answer I was looking for. “I never enjoyed the things I had to do. Dealing with zombies, violence, mutant insects, isn’t fun for anyone.”

“You dug a classroom of children and their teachers out of the rubble of a building. You got to them faster than any machinery could have.”

“Lilah, I just went on auto pilot. When I found them.” He paused to compose himself. “The children were so small. The only thing I could think of was getting them back to their parents. When I saw the teachers all I could think of was getting them back to their own children.”

We talked a while longer about Sam Judge’s heroic achievements. Then I asked the question that nobody dared ask before.

“Your mother claims you’re not a PAM baby.  She even went so far to have a hint of post apocalyptic mutations removed from all of your medical records. How do you explain your strength and speed? How do you explain the fact that nothing injures you?”

He turned on the charm all the sudden and almost threw me off of my game. “I’m not immune heartbreak.”

“You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t immune to the entanglements of romantic love. You also can detect whether someone is telling a lie or the truth. You’re 100% correct all of the time. Sam, how do you explain that?”

“I can’t. My mother always said my gifts are from God. She had a vision when she was pregnant that said I would be infallible and a seeker of the truth.”

“She was also in Las Vegas at she got pregnant with you, the same weekend the alien research vessel was shot down. She was exposed to cosmic fall out when she was pregnant with you.”

“A lot of women were exposed to fall out from space, and nuclear fall out from wars, and more toxic crap than we can count. Their children all turned out fine. Let me ask you something Lilah. You’re a PAM baby. Where was your mother when she became pregnant with you?”

“San Francisco. Safe in San Francisco. You have a point. So you honestly believe your powers are from God?”

“I don’t even speculate on where my unique abilities come from. I accept who I am and what I can do. I try to make the world a better place with my gifts.”

“What’s your kryptonite?”

Sam smiled another dazzling smile that made my heart skip a beat. This was so unexpected. Was there something he wasn’t telling me?

He laughed and put his hand on mine. “I don’t know. I don’t even know if there is something that will break my spell.”

“A kiss maybe?”

“Is that an offer?”

“No. I was just kidding. So tell me about your work with the arts?”

The interview went on as expected. I asked a lot of questions. Sam was charming and engaging. I knew he’d capture every single heart of every single person who saw the interview. I’d done my job.

 

Part Four: Off the Record

Harriet and Phil went shopping on the Miracle Mile. Sam and I went to lunch at O’Joys, the best deep dish pizza in New Chicago.

Over a bottle of Chianti and pizza we talked off the record.

“I know you’re a PAM baby. Sam you can’t believe that you’re part of a biblical prophecy like your mother tells everyone.”

He smiled and took my hand, “I have to keep her happy. Frankly the belief has become more of a detriment. I’m starting to look like a fool.”

“What about your dad?”

“He goes along with whatever my mother says.”

The proliferation of religious extremists since the big break down of society due to wars, pandemics and the existence of aliens, had always disturbed me. The very idea that the man sitting across from me seemed totally immune to what was going on seemed the height of hypocrisy. Phil had once told me Sam’s kryptonite was probably women. What I saw in Sam was a man who, contrary to his own worldly views and sophistication, was letting himself be used as a symbol of strength by a group that many considered to be a religious cult.

I changed the subject and we talked about other things. After lunch Sam’s driver took us to the Art Institute of Chicago where we wandered the halls getting to know each other better. I couldn’t believe how much Sam Judge and I had in common. We both loved the same art and music. We both loved dogs but neither one of us had time for one right now. We both wanted to have families one day but worried about being PAM kids. We both had our secrets that we never told anyone else. I found myself telling him things that I don’t share with other people. And he shared with me. I promised him I wouldn’t put any of it in the press. He believed me. I didn’t exactly tell the truth. I kept the idea of using some of his secrets in the back of my mind.

From a wonderful lunch, to a somewhat romantic afternoon in the museum, we ended up back at Sam’s house. From there we had dinner in his kitchen. Aside from security on the parameter of the building, no other staff was present. Sam cooked. I drank wine and listened to him tell funny stories about growing up with a mother who thought she was in charge of the strong boy who saw right through her. I told him stories of my work, and my life in California, growing up as a PAM child. Sure we talked about ourselves but we talked about everything else too. We discovered we both liked the same books, the same music, and laughed at the same silly jokes. Our lives were so different but we clicked as if we’d been friends for years.

As we finished cleaning up Sam put his arm around my waist and gently pulled me close.

“Lilah,” he said. Just my name. That was all it took. I kissed Sam Judge before he could kiss me. But oh how he kissed back.

The next morning I woke in Sam’s bed wondering if I’d done the right thing. It felt so right in my heart, and with every cell in my body (OMG did it ever) but logically I knew it was wrong. I’d crossed the professional line.

Sam brought in coffee, but it went cold as we made love again.

As we lay in the afterglow I whispered, “What makes you so strong Sam Judge?”

Sam laughed. “Don’t tell a soul, but my mother always said it was my hair.”

I knew he was telling the truth.

“I can’t imagine anything so crazy,” I said, knowing he wouldn’t catch my lie. I could imagine it was his hair. Damn, it I needed to know, and the story would make me millions. On the other hand, how could I even think of harming this beautiful man who was so sweet and trusting?

 

Chapter 5: The Attack

I had lunch in the famous Olde Pope’s Bar and Grill with Harriet and Phil. We talked over stuffed potatoes and beer. They teased me about spending the night with Sam. I told them that I could easily fall in love with him, them I laughed it off. I didn’t want them to know that I was falling hard for Sam Judge.

“Did you find out what would take his strength away?” Harriet asked.

I should have said anything, but these were my two best friends. “He said his mother told him that it was his hair. That’s why he won’t cut it. I doubt that but you never know.” As soon as the words came out of my mouth I regretted it. Harriet and Phil glanced at each and smiled. That wasn’t a good sign. “Don’t even think about it,” I said, but I knew they already were.

That night the sky had cleared. Sam took me out to his roof to see a sky full of trillions of stars, more than I’d ever seen. While I gaped in wonder, he pointed out constellations and galaxies.

“Sam, where do you think the blue aliens came from?”

“I’ve always thought they were from the heart of the Milky Way,” he said. “I’ve imagined they sent research ships out to the far ends of the spirals of the galaxy to find like minded civilizations. When you think about it, they must have had families and friends they left behind. You have to wonder if they fell in love, or suffered heartbreak.”

“You’re such a romantic.”

“Maybe. To be honest, and don’t tell me I’m crazy, but Lilah I think I’m falling in love with you. This is more than an infatuation. I don’t mean to sound like a cliché but…” He held me close. “Do you believe in love at first sight?”

I rested my head on his chest. “Yes, I do. Sam, I absolutely believe it,” and that was no lie.

Savor those perfect moments in life, because in today’s world they never seem to last, especially in the freezing war torn Midwest.

Later that night, as we finished dinner at one of Sam’s favorite places on the edge of Lake Michigan we held hands and talked. I told Sam that the lake looked like a frozen ocean. The only difference was that I couldn’t smell the salt in the air.

Just as Sam was about to speak, a loud voice shouted “WHORE WHORE. Stay away from him. She’s nothing but a harlot sent here to seduce you and take you from us.”

Obviously they must have seen the interview that had been aired the day before.

“Ladies,” said Sam, as he stood. “Please stop.”

“Whore, whore, whore,” a group of a dozen women yelled as they ran towards us.

Then the unthinkable happened. Hell, it seems like everything is unthinkable these days, but this was personal. One of the women came at me with a knife. Sam stepped in her way and I can still hear myself screaming as she plunged it into his heart.

The poisoned tipped knife that was meant for me went into Sam’s chest. The women continued to scream at me. They pushed me down and started kicking me and clawing at me. Suddenly I was pulled up by Sam’s strong arm. The knife wound barely fazed him. I’d never seen anything like it.

“Leave her alone,” he growled at the women. “Be gone.”

Sam indeed did have super strength. The press showed up and he told them how he’d saved the woman he loved, and gave a stern warning to anyone who would come between us. I was in in a world of hurt, but overwhelmed with emotion when I heard his words. I started to cry, not because of the pain but because my heart was breaking. I didn’t know what to think. I was falling in love but there was no way I could stay in crazy land with Sam Judge.

Medical crews on the scene put a butterfly bandage on a cut on my forehead. Sam’s wound was stitched up. They said the knife had been tipped with Zom-bee poison. It would have killed me, but it didn’t even seem to faze Sam.

The women were arrested. Sure I thought my nightmare was over, but it had just started.

Sam took me back to his house where, after a few strong painkillers, we fell asleep in each other’s arms.

I woke to a sound of something like water sloshing. I looked over to see a glint of metal by Sam’s head. There in her ameba form, slithering up the side of the bed was Harriet with a pair of scissors. Phil was by the door. Before I could say WTF Harriet had cut off Sam’s hair right at the bottom of his neck. I screamed. Phil screamed. Harriet dropped the hair on the floor and took her own shape.

Sam sat up in the bed. “I feel sick. Lilah, I can’t see. I feel so weak.” Then he passed out.

I’ve never been so angry in my life. All I can remember is screaming at Harriet and Phil.

“You told me you couldn’t transformed anymore,” I screamed Harriet.

“I lied, and you didn’t even catch it,” she said to me her eyes smoldering red. “You’re not even a real mutant you gray haired freak.” Then she grabbed up Sam’s hair off the floor, and ran from the room. That was the last time I ever spoke to Harriet.

After the paramedics showed up I kissed Sam and told him that I loved him. He opened his eyes and said, “I love you Lilah. Oh shit, what happened to my hair?”

Like the coward I am, I left Chicago leaving Sam and any romantic thoughts behind. His mother said I took his strength. I was branded as a whore and a horrible person. Screw them. I didn’t care. My only concern was about Sam.

Sam told everyone it wasn’t my fault. But it was. I knew it was all my fault. I should have never been involved with him. I should have never had told his secret to Harriet and Phil.

 

Chapter 6. Revelations

About a month later, as I was sitting on the beach drinking coffee and feeling sorry for myself Phil came up and sat next to me. I hadn’t seen him since that night in Chicago.

“What are you doing here Phil?”

He gave me a weak smile. “I’m sorry. I tried to stop her, Harriet. She just liquefied and I couldn’t stop her. I am so sorry.”

“Screw you Phil,” I knew he was telling me the truth but I was still angry with him. “Harriet sold Sam’s hair on eBay. Can you believe that? I will NEVER forgive her. Never.”

“Listen, Lilah, I have some news about Sam.”

“I know, he is doing better. Sam is better than ever. Blah blah blah. But he’ll never trust me again.”

“You’re wrong. It wasn’t his hair. What took his strength and eyesight was the Zom-bee poison on the knife. With your kiss you gave him the enzymes he needed to survive.”

“But Phil, I’d kissed him before that.”

“Your enzymes your body produced were activated by fear. When you thought Sam was going to die your body chemistry kicked in. There are others like you who also created these healing enzymes. Scientists are calling the enzymes the love bugs.”

I went home and tried to process the information Phil had told me. I didn’t know if I’d ever forgive Harriet. People were still calling me a whore and blaming me for taking away their hero. I didn’t take anything away from anyone. I saved Sam but the truth never mattered. Jeeze, if the truth ever mattered mankind wouldn’t be in such a fucked up mess.

Sam contacted me about once every week or so just to see how I was doing. I was cordial but embarrassed. He was friendly but never romantic. I couldn’t bring myself to even think of going out to see him. I wasn’t part of his weird culture. The thought of seeing his mother terrified me. My heart broke every time I saw one of texts or emails.

Everything seemed to be a mess, but I pulled myself up, ignored the hate mail and moved on. I landed a new job as the Host for the 62ndseason of  The Bachelor.  As far as I was concerned, personally I was done with love, but at least I could help some other poor fool try their hand at it. The good reviews knocked me off my feet. They were THAT GOOD. Fans loved me.

I also redecorated my house and adopted a medium-sized six-legged rescue dog named Muffin. My mom, who’d been my rock through this whole ordeal, told me that happiness would be mine to have. I hoped she was right. Oh, and she took in Muffin’s five legged, three tailed sister Cookie.

On morning, of my 30th birthday I heard that Sam Judge was starting a foundation for the advancement of research on PAM babies. He had also donated millions of dollars to research into combatting harmful and deadly viruses and poisons that proliferated after the last biological warfare cluster right before Sam and I were born.  There was something else I found out. Sam Judge had a PhD in Biochemistry. Who would have known? I sure didn’t and it wasn’t anything he advertised.

Sam Judge was strong without his superpowers. He was strong with his compassion and his mind. And here I was hosting a dating show. Hey, I guess somebody had to do it.

I heard a knock on the door. I almost didn’t get it. Seriously, I never answered my door these days. Half the time it was a bag of dog shit, or something equally nasty. To my surprise Sam stood on my front porch.

His hair had grown out to his shoulders. The addition of glasses made him look even sexier than he already was.

I hardly got the words out, “Sam what are you doing here?”

“I got tired of the cold. Are you going to invite me in?”

It turns out The PAM Center for Biological Research was being built just down the road from me at University of California, Irvine. Sam was also going to be teaching there.

We got married six months later and I’m expecting our baby. Yes, we had all the tests done and the baby has no mutations.

Yesterday as we walked along the beach a giant fireball came from the sky and landed about a quarter mile from us. We ran to see what it was. Another alien spacecraft. Yes, I finally got to see the aliens. I hugged Sam and told him I loved him more than all the stars in the sky. Yes, my grandparent’s crazy was the new normal, but life is good, and I know it will only get better.

 

~ end

Tangled Tales

~ Juliette Kings aka Vampire Maman

2020 © Marla Todd

 

 

 

Juliette’s Book Club: Tales From the Edge of Oblivion

summerreading

While you’re on lock down at home you might just need some fun new reading material. Consider the themed anthologies from WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants.) The books are fun, cover a wide range of genres, and include some of my stories too.

WPaD is the acronym for Writers, Poets and Deviants. We are a diverse group of writers who came together on the Internet to support and encourage each other.Our collaborative works are charity fundraisers, with a percentage of royalties being donated to Multiple Sclerosis in support of members of our group who live with MS.

Below is one of the stories from Goin Extinct: Tales from the Edge of Oblivion. At the end of the story is more information about WPaD and all of our books.

 

red heart

Captain Sandy and the Airship at the End of the World

(Published as author Marla Todd)

The end of the world had come and gone a long time ago. Of course I wouldn’t dare remind Captain Sandy of that extraordinary fact. He stood in the basket of the airship, hands on the control, the tails of his jacket blowing in the wind.

When the end of the world came the evil and the damned were gathered up and taken down to Hell. The pure and righteous were led up to Heaven in a golden white light.

That left the artists and writers, along with a lot of musicians, wine makers, computer programmers and antiques dealers. Of course there were others, but nobody that lacked a certain amount of creative or innovative spirit. One must have spirit and imagination to survive when the world ends without you.

It worked for me. Well, at least most of the time.

I honestly have to say, the world had become way too serious. I adjusted my goggles and scarf as I looked down on the tire fire that had been burning for the past 100 years. Adjusting the leather hood on my cat, I took him out of his basket to take a look. My five year old son Aaron stood on his toes to get a look as I held tight to the back of his jacket. I must have been a sight, boy in one hand, cat in the other.

Life was an adventure to be savored and enjoyed. It was a destroyed world being built up by those of us with visions of beauty and wonder. Captain Sandy always said this was Heaven. Of course I never told him otherwise. It was Heaven to be in the arms of my husband at night and feel the touch of his skin on mine, that is until I’d run my hand over the deep scars on his back. I called him my fallen angel. He would just laugh and kiss me as only an angel could kiss. Maybe it was Heaven for him since he was now dead, but I will never know unless I die too and find him there.

Once when I was younger my brother and I found some old movies in where everyone at the end of the world were driving big trucks and dune buggies as they shot anyone they came across. There were zombies and crazy fucks of all sorts fighting for the last clean water. It seemed they had unlimited amounts of fuel and bullets. No word of steam, solar and silent airships.

My brother and I laughed at the stupidity of it all. That was not our world. Ours was a world to create without hesitation or critical review. Our poets were considered as important as our politicians. Our sense of style always outweighed our sense of practicality. At least we kept telling ourselves that – all of us did as we banded together trying to give off an air of hope and strength. We created our own world going back to a time that didn’t really exist, where all things were possible and the modern world was still a beautiful dream.

Captain Sandy asked me what I was thinking that could have me looking so serious.

I told him and he just shook his head.

“Life isn’t a theater play like you make it out to be my dear. There are dangerous things out in dark areas of stench and smoke that would enslave us and make us into meals if they could. You’ve been protected in your leather and velvet bustle dresses and fanciful thoughts. It’s a good thing to be ignorant of the world but it is dangerous in ways you can’t imagine.”

“Captain,” I said, “you forget that the shadows took my husband. I take flights of fancy so I won’t fall out of the sky and die of sorrow.”

He turned and gave me a quick smile. Despite the dark pattern of scars on the left side of his face the Captain was still a handsome man with a dazzling smile. All the women were quick to notice him.

“Why are you alone Captain?”

“I’m not.”

“No wife or children?”

“I had a wife. She vanished when the world ended. I never knew if she went up or down or just vanished to dust. Who knows. The bitch could still be around somewhere.”

“So you’re alone,” I said.

“Just free of my wife.” He said nothing else then took off his hat and tied his long prematurely silver hair back with a ribbon he’d pulled from his coat pocket. “So, did you like movies back in the time before?”

I nodded. Of course I liked movies. Most of them were gone now. Rare stashes of films could be found and if we were lucky we’d find something to play them on.

Captain Sandy smiled a rare smile at me. “Sometimes I’m floating along above this all, all of this and I start thinking about Blade Runner and then my mind goes to Casablanca or off to Princess Bride then to In the Heat of the Night. I can run them all in my head, every line, every scene, every music score.”

I told him I did the same. We tend not to talk a lot about the time before the end of the world, but occasionally it comes out. We can’t deny our past. We just can’t help it.

“What did you do before, you know, the end of the world?” I asked the Captain point blank.

“I was a high school physics teacher. Physics and engineering to be exact. What did you do?”

“I produced reality TV shows. The last one was for MTV. Did you ever see Love Bytes?”

He laughed. “That was you? All of my students watched that show. Geeks and romance. A lot of them wanted to be on the show.”

The sky gradually started to turn dark. In the distance we could see lightning strike and the silhouettes of other airships.

I hugged my child and put a blanket around his shoulders. Aaron put his head on my lap and fell asleep. Captain Sandy sang softly a song that we both knew so long ago.

It seemed we’d been here for centuries, only the children aging and growing up.

As a rule we didn’t speak much of what we missed or how much. It was always there in the back of our minds. I missed skinny jeans and sweaters. I missed short tight dresses and yoga at the gym. I missed the music. I missed my friends and family. I missed my job. I even missed the orange trees in my back yard and the sound of the garbage truck at 6:45 am on Thursday mornings. I missed it all.

Captain Sandy turned suddenly and looked at me as if he could read my mind. “Don’t think of how things used to be. Don’t think of why we’re here.”

We both knew why we were here. Nobody wanted us. There was no place for us in Heaven but nobody in Hell wanted us either.

“You’ve got to admit,” the Captain continued, “we’re in a unique position. No matter how bad it looks, this is our world. I spent 18 years teaching kids to understand the building blocks of the universe. I thought I was contributing to the future of our young people so that they would make the world a better place.”

“Now it doesn’t matter,” I said in a rare show of depression over the events that brought us here.

“No. Now it matters more than ever. This is our world. Despite the shadows and ghouls, this is our world now, free and clear. We can still use the building blocks of science and art to make it the place we want it to be. Finally we can do it right.”

“You’re always such an optimist Captain Sandy but do you really believe that?”

“Of course I do. What other choice do I have?”

“You have a point,” I said, noticing the spark in his eyes.

He noticed that I’d noticed. “Look at this as the ultimate reality TV show.”

“If that is the case then who, Captain Sandy, gets the hot girl at the end?”

He smiled. “That depends on you.” Then he turned his face away from me to where I could only see the moon lit reflection of the scars that traced his jawline.

The crew of the airship came up on deck to view the stars and take in the night air. It was good to see them laugh and talk freely of the destination ahead. My son raised his sleepy head and laughed too. Maybe it wasn’t that bad after all. Maybe Captain Sandy would win the game and get the girl. I had a pretty good feeling he would.

Tangled Tales

This story was featured in the WPaD Anthology: Goin’ Extinct – Tales from the Edge of Oblivion. Available on Amazon B&N and with other fine online book sellers. Proceeds of all WPaD go to MS Research.

Coming Soon...

Who can come up with a dozen different ways to end the world? We can!
This apocalyptic collection of short stories explores numerous ways in which life as we know it could end. From the traditional nuclear apocalypse to cosmic events, zombies, mysterious alien substances, evil corporations and even… coffee. These stories will shock, entertain and tug at your heart strings. For your post-apocalyptic reading list, ‘Goin’ Extinct’ is a must-have.

Including stories and poetry from: Mandy White (Author), David W. Stone (Author), Diana Garcia (Author), Marla Todd (Author), Nathan Tackett (Author), J. Harrison Kemp (Author), David Hunter (Author), Michael Haberfelner (Author), Jade M. Phillips (Author), Gina McKnight (Author), Mike Cooley (Author), , Chris Da Cruz (Author), S.E. Springle (Author)

WPaD is the acronym for Writers, Poets and Deviants. We are a diverse group of writers who came together on the Internet to support and encourage each other.Our collaborative works are charity fundraisers, with a percentage of royalties being donated to Multiple Sclerosis in support of members of our group who live with MS.

 

Books by WPaD:

  • Nocturnal Desires: Erotic Tales for the Sensual Soul
  • Creepies: Twisted Tales From Beneath the Bed
  • Passion’s Prisms: Tales of Love and Romance
  • Dragons and Dreams: A Fantasy Anthology
  • Tinsel Tales: A Holiday Treasury
  • Silk She Is: Poetry of Daniel E. Tanzo
  • Goin’ Extinct: Tales From the Edge of Oblivion
  •  Creepies 2: Things That Go Bump in the Closet
  • Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe (Science Fiction)
  • WPaD Weird Tales,
  • Creepies 3
  • Tinsel Tales 2 – Holiday Hootinanny

WPaD books are available worldwide in paperback and ebook editions.

 

Add Goin’ Extinct to your summer reading list today. You’ll thank me for it later. Also check out the other books from the WPaD group.

WPAD SciFi

Weirder Tales

Weirder Tales – Now Available on Amazon and other fine online bookstores. Proceeds to to MS Research.

wpad poster

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LT240EA/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_t2_LfZjybD530NJK

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman