The Fisherman

The Fisherman

A story from Adelia Hoff

There once was a fisherman who lived alone by the sea. One night he came across a beautiful woman dancing naked in the moonlight. When he called out, asking if she was alright as it was a very cold night, she swam away into the ocean. The fisherman saw her again and again after that, and every time he called out, asking if she was alright. It was only on the fifth time that he noticed the seal skin draped across a rock, and saw her run to it before swimming away.

There once was a fisherman who lived alone by the sea. One night, the beautiful woman’s skin was nowhere to be found, for she had danced too far down the beach from it. The fisherman saw this, and thought that the ocean would be very cold without it, so he carefully folded it in his arms and brought it to her. When she approached him to take it back, he asked if she was alright.

There once was a fisherman who lived with his family by the sea. Every day he and his wife would take their children out fishing, him in his boat and her in the waters below. When they would get back home, he would hang up his coat and she and the children would hang up their skins, and they would eat their dinner. They all loved each other very much, and when the moon was bright in the sky, they would all go dance together- clothed, of course. It was cold.

 

~ end

402591_2779165357425_1325273608_n

This is where I’d rather be RIGHT NOW.

For more stories from Adelia Hoff click on the links below.

Charade by Adelia Hoff

The Lives I Never Lived (aka Ophelia, Drowned aka A Preoccupation With Tragedy) by Adelia Hoff  

 

Short Story Sunday: Fairies

Fairies

“Why do they call them fairy tales? I don’t see any romance around here. What a dead zone,” said the green winged fairy Daisy. “Fairy guys are clueless. Totally clueless.”

“All they want is sex, and then they fly off to who knows where,” said the yellow winged fairy Iris.

Andy listened as the group of angry female fairies, nodding his head to show his empathy for their situation.

“It is all the fault of that Berrie fool,” said the pink winged fairy Belinda.

“Berry? Like the fruit?” asked Andrew.

“NOOOOOO,” screeched Belinda. “That fucking idiot who wrote about that fucking idiot Peter Pan.”

“Fucking idiots,” yelled all of the fairies.

“Ladies, ladies, watch your language,” said Andy.

“Since then all of the fairy guys think they’re fucking Peter Pan,” said Daisy.

“Fucking Peter Pan,” yelled all of the fairies.

“And we don’t want to be stinking Wendys or stinking Tinker Bells,” yelled Belinda.

“Stinking Wendy and Tinker Bell,” yelled all of the fairies.

“Ladies,” said Andy. “The fairy men can’t ALL be like that.”

The fairies, all ten of them, scowled and crossed their little arms.

“Love and romance isn’t always so easy,” said Andy.

“Of course it is,” said a tiny white winged fairy. “You’re a Vampire. That is synonymous with sexy male romance.”

“You’ve been reading too many books and seeing too many weird movies. Do you see any women here? I haven’t been in love since… not for a long time.”

“Shawna,” the fairies all said in a hushed whisper.

“Yes, not since Shawna.”

“Tell us how you met again. Tell us again,” cried the fairies.

“We met on a beach in Patagonia. She was on an archeological dig. I was trying traveling and trying to find myself. We danced on the beach, under the moonlight. We fell in love. She was fifty two. I was a hundred and sixty two but I didn’t think the age difference would matter.”

“You look like you’re thirty,” said Daisy.

“I know. That can be a problem. I thought it was true love. Then she hesitated. Eventually she left me for a guy she could grow old with. She didn’t want to grow old with me because I don’t grow old. I loved her then, and I will love her always. You can’t imagine how much I miss her.”

“Awwwwww poor Andy,” said all of the fairies in a hushed tone, as they wiped their tiny tears from their tiny eyes.

“Since then I have had lovers, and friends, and stalkers, but nobody has touched my heart like Shawna.”

“You need to call her. Send her a message,” said Belinda.

“Text her. Tell her you love her,” said Daisy.

“Tell her you still love her,” said all of the fairies at once.

Andy gave them a sad smile, sat down at his piano and sang sad love songs. After My Funny Valentine, a group of male fairies came into the room and sat next to the female fairies. The snuggled and listened to Andy’s beautiful voice. They saw a cold tear run down his face, but none of them said a thing.

He played for two hours, until the clock struck midnight, and he heard a voice.

“Andy, you didn’t answer. The door was unlocked so I came in.”

He turned. “Shawna.”

“Andy,” she said.

“What are you doing here?”

“You texted me.”

Andy glanced up at the fairies. Belinda winked at him. She was holding his phone.

“Shawna, how did you get here so fast?”

“I live in Berkeley. I moved up from Los Angeles when… it didn’t work out and I was offered a teaching position at Cal. He left me for another woman. She was younger and… it doesn’t matter. My son is up here and so it made sense. It was a great opportunity. You know, one last big thing before I retire.”

Then her eyes moved to the top of the bookshelf. “Are those fairies?”

“Yes,” said Andy, “and it is time for them to leave.”

And with that the fairies flew out the window and closed it behind them.

He turned up the heat and offered her a glass of wine.

“We need to talk,” said Shawna.

“No, not right now. Not right now. Tonight we need to love,” Andy said, as he put his arms around her. Then he kissed her, just as he kissed her that first time under the light of the Patagonian moon.

And the fairies danced about the garden, thinking up what fun and games they’d have on this summer.

~ End

 

Tangled Tales

 

For more about how Andy met Shawna click here.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Hollow Heads

Hollow Heads

A Science Fiction Story by Marla Todd

Sure we all volunteered with a capitol V but we didn’t know we’d be stuck a billion miles from home with a bunch of assholes.

Our plan was to stop at Planet 2387 before we made communication with our target planet. 2387 is an uninhabited wasteland. There might have been the rudiments of life there at one time but that ship had come and gone.

So we land at what was left of the Emile Hanson Memorial Outpost, otherwise known as Hanson’s Hole. I looked up Hanson’s name before we left home. He’d been the captain of the third Mars mission. You know, the one whose head exploded when he ran into a couple of guys from Europa, but that was a long time ago. That was almost three hundred years ago, long before I was born.

On the wall of the main building of Hanson’s Hole the words, “Welcome to Hell” were scrawled in what looked like blood.

Junior Potemkin, the communications officer, if you could call him that, started to hyperventilate. I slapped him in the back and told him to stop it. Captain John Finch our leader, rolled his eyes, and told us start testing for signs of life. I called my lead science officer and went exploring.

We’d only heard of this place. Nobody was sure even who’d been here in the past, or exactly what their mission was. We were looking at a ghost. And while the rest of the crew stood shaking in their gravity boots I started to explore. I didn’t travel twenty light years away from home to pee my pants over some extraterrestrial graffiti.

I’ll tell you, when I signed up for this gig, last minute of course, I found myself with the lamest group of space travelers ever assembled. Sure they were all smart and looked good on paper. Everyone had advanced degrees and shit loads of experience. But the experience was in the lab and on paper. Nobody had field experience or people experience aside from the Captain or me.

Potemkin was an expert in written communications but couldn’t carry on a conversation if his life depended on it. Our lead engineer Thomas K. Morgan was one of those insidious geeks who corrected everyone on every single word they said. Morgan’s favorite line in any conversation was, “actually” fill in the blank with his expert opinion, which was usually bullshit or worthless trivia. After we were out of the solar system Captain Finch told Morgan that he’d throw him out into space without a suit if he didn’t cut it out.

The rest of the group included a guy called Boof who thought he was channeling Flash Gordon, an antisocial hermit of a physicist who asked to be called X, and a pair of identical twins I called Satan’s Daughters. The twins, Vera and Meera, were sneaky little shits who talked at the same time and were never seen away from each other. They were brought on as some sort of geology experts, you know, dirt and rocks as they liked to remind everyone as they cackled like witches as if that was funny. They were dirt and rocks as far as I was concerned. The rest of the crew was bland, mean spirited, and aside from the Captain had no imagination what so ever.

So I’m looking at the writing on the wall and wondering what in the world, and who in the world had written it. I felt someone rub my shoulder and looked over to see Boof standing there expecting me to be Dale Arden to his Flash Gordon. Give me a break. He looks good but no. Absolutely no.

“Boof,” I said looking up at the leafy blue green canopy of plants (I assume they were maybe once plants) around the building. “Let’s take a look inside.”

He gave me a great big blinding white smile and knocked the door open with his foot. Boof wasn’t carrying a ray gun, but it wasn’t because we’re a couple of scientists with seven degrees between the two of us. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t like scientists or people with degrees can’t be badass. We just didn’t have any weapons with us.

The interior was dark. Not like no lights, because there was a skylight, but because obviously the interior decorator of this forgotten outpost either had a stack of 1980’s Architectural Digest Magazines handy for inspiration, or he was into all things Gothic.

“Looks like vampires live here,” said Boof.

I gave an uncomfortable laugh and tried to be serious, that is until the music started to play. I couldn’t figure out where the music was coming from. The sound was sort of like it was coming out of a metal tunnel. A man was singing in sort of a strange high voice, but it sounded kind of nice.

You’re just a little bit of sunshine when it’s raining,

You’re just a little bit of gladness when I’m blue,

You’re just a little bit of love light that keeps shining,

And when it’s cloudy, you’re a silver lining.

“Radio Franks.You’re Just A Little Bit of Everything I Love,” said Boof.

I looked straight ahead at a slowly moving shadow. “How do you know that Boof?”

“I like early 20thCentury music,” he answered, his eyes also on the shadow.

“Sing me something from the late 21stCentury. You know the one, about the alien romance, ruby skin.”

Boof started to sing quietly in a surprisingly beautiful tenor.

Your DNA plays around,

Like a silken ghost,

Worlds apart are we.

Flying higher

Flying higher

Flying higher

Reach the stars

Ruby skin, emerald eyes,

Heaven between

Hot alien thighs.

Flying higher

Flying higher

Flying higher

Reach the stars

“I hate that song,” I said taking a slow step forward. “You changed the lyrics.”

“Yes, I did change the lyrics, and yes I hate it too. Do you sing?”

“Only in the shower.”

“Can I join you?”

“Only in your dreams.”

“Let’s sleep then, shall we,” Boof said in almost a whisper as we slowly walked towards the shadow.

The shadow moved, in what looked like the shape of a human hand, then stupidity happened. A tremendous scraping sound, sent us turning backwards to see Garland Holbright, one the Earth’s most famous journalists, come along to document our journey for the ages. Every living Earthling knew who the man was, and Garland never let us forget.

Garland had opened the door in the wrong direction, throwing it off of it’s tracks.

“Find anything yet?” Garland called out loudly as he propped the door up against a wall.

The shadow vanished.

“God Damn you Holbright. You’re such an asshole,” said Boof, as I grabbed him by his jacket and held him back.

Garland Holbright was what we (not me, everyone else) called a Frank, short for Frankenstein. He was one of those kids who’s parents had custom ordered him from a cocktail of perfect DNA so he’d be brilliant and exceptionally good looking. Sure his IQ was off the charts and he was good at taking tests. Sure on a scale of one to ten in looks Garland was a seventeen, but where he excelled in trivia and Prince Charming handsomeness he lacked in creativity and personality. The guy was an insufferable bore with an ego the size of Jupiter.

Sure we’d all had genetic modifications for long term space travel. Our respiratory systems, muscular growth, and bone density had all been tweaked. A few of us, including me, had a few personal tweaks as well. My eyes are now a little brighter shade of hazel, and my hair is finally grows model perfect. That said, I’d like to think that you always get better babies with natural random DNA selection.

Boof and Garland had gotten into it the night before. Garland had convinced a friend to hack into the personnel logs and found out that Boof was created by a couple of teenagers one hot summer night in the back seat of a self driving solar convertible.

“Silence,” I said in one of those loud mom-like whispers. “Both of you. Garland, we are not alone.”

Garland formed an O with his mouth in surprise. I knew the guy was deathly afraid of aliens. Go figure. He goes on a space mission but he is afraid of anything that isn’t human, or maybe a dog.

While I was getting ready to rip Garland a new one Boof grabbed my arm.

“Timothy Leary is not dead,” he said right in my ear, so close I could feel his hot breath. I shook my head to get him away from me.

I wondered why Boof was making a reference to the 20thCentury Philosopher. Thank goodness he didn’t start singing that song. What was that group? Moody Crew? No, I think it was Moody Blues. I’d been spending way too much time with Boof. I swore between Boof and Garland I felt like my head was going to explode.

Then I turned around and there before us stood Pilot Tim Leary from the Space Explorer 23 Dog Star Mission. According to records, and Wikipedia, he’d died years ago, before I was even born. When I was a kid he was one of my idols.

Leary held out his arms in a welcoming gesture and with a wide grin said, “Welcome to Hanson’s Hole!”

“Captain Leary?” I asked, stepping forward to introduce my team and myself. “Chief Officer Gwendolyn Ward of the Research Ship the DeGrasse Tyson. These gentlemen are Science Specialist First Class Boof Errikson, and Garland Holbright, a journalist for International Geographic.

“An award winning journalist,” said Garland holding out his hand to Leary.

I kicked Boof in the ankle to prevent him from doing anything stupid. I let Garland have his bit of ego masturbation before I found out what was going on with Leary.

Leary took me by the arm as he walked and talked me into a much larger room that resembled an intergalactic art museum with comfortable seating. “I see your ship was named after the 48thPresident of the United States. A good omen there. My ship was called “The Dog Star.” I like dogs and all, I have a couple around here somewhere, but, I’ll tell you, it was a dog of a ship. Holy space shit, that thing was as bad as 2213 GM Sasquatch. Remember those? Do you like to be called Gwendolyn or Gwen?”

“Gwendolyn please. You’re alive.”

“Yes, very much so,” he said with a dashing smile as he patted my arm.

“But your body was found. DNA matched yours. There was no mistake. There is a huge memorial in Washington D.C.”

“And I’m honored at the thought, but obviously I’m still alive. I am indeed Commander Timothy Leary of the Dog Star.”

“But…” I started

“Do you know much about clones Gwen, Gentlemen?”

“Holbrook is a clone,” said Boof.

“I am not a clone,” said Garland.

“Gentlemen…” I hissed at them.

“You’re a freak Holbrook,” said Boof.

Garland threw his shoulders back. “You’re nothing but degenerate pod shelter trash.”

I’d had enough. “Boof, Garland, NOW.” I turned back to our host, “Captain Leary, the time line wouldn’t make sense. All of your bodies were found and brought back to earth. How do you explain that?”

Leary smiled again. “None of us wanted to go back so we cloned ourselves.”

“If you cloned yourselves, wait, your bodies were found a month after you landed here. It would have taken at least twelve years to have a fully grown human body.”

Leary motioned to the plush red chairs in the room. “Sit and make yourselves comfortable. I’ll tell you all about it.” We sat, and Leary told us an extraordinary story. “Once we had the Time Machine it seemed like we could steal anything we needed. Where do you think all of this art came from? Anyway, we stole an advanced cloning lab from the Dingus V Planet Chain. Nobody there has had fertile sex in centuries. They can’t, so they clone. Sad story, but shit happens.

Listen, none of us wanted to go back to our mission or Earth. We also didn’t want anyone looking for us. With the technology from Dingus V we were able to clone fully formed human bodies in thirty-six Earth hours. Thirty-six fucking hours. Unheard of. We programmed our clones to be without working brains. We called them the hollow heads. Once our clones were grown we smashed their empty heads in and called it a day. No brains, no souls, just lab grown flesh.”

“Wait,” said Garland. “You had a time machine?”

Leary smiled and shook his head in a definite yes. “I knew you’d ask. It is an amazing machine that jumps both time and space.”

“Space portal travel I can believe, but Time Travel is illegal universally, said Garland.

“That doesn’t mean it I can’t do it. I went forward because I don’t like the people I was with. I’m only here at Hanson’s Hole because I needed an additional respite from, well, everything. What are you doing here? Space Jumping I assume, but what is your mission. Nobody stops at Hanson’s Hole.”

I explained our mission as Leary listened intently.

Holbrook held up a finger and gave an artificially inquisitive look. “Why does it say Welcome to Hell in blood on the door of the compound?”

Leary shrugged. “I have no idea. It was there when I got here a few weeks ago. I just haven’t had the time or the paint to fix it.”

After more discussions about Leary’s adventures we returned to our own ship. I knew exactly what Leary was talking about when he said he was tired of annoying people.

Vera and Meera, the evil twins, came giggling and snorting into my office.

I motioned for them to sit. They both sat down and crossed their bony legs in unison. “Do you have the updated geology reports?”

Vera was the first to respond. “The soil acidity has doubled from the last time measurements were taken fifty years ago.”

“Fifty years ago,” said Meera.

Vera continued. “We also detected new volcanic activity. Are you having sex with Boof?”

Meera then spoke again, right on the tail of her sister. “Are you having sex with Boof? Was it good? Positively volcanic?”

“Volcanic. We know you are,” said Vera.

Meera started to laugh, a high pitched crow like cackle, then she started to snort. Then Vera joined in.

“Insubordination is not to be tolerated on this ship. If you ladies continue your immature behavior I will make sure you’re dropped off at the next supply station. You will receive no letters of recommendation, and I guarantee you will have to find your own way home, at your own expense. Capiche?”

“Yes, of course,” they said in unison. It almost sounded like they had an echo to their words.

“Thank you for the report. I’ll review it thoroughly.” I said motioning with my hand for them to leave.

After they’d Holbrook put his head in the door. “Do you want to have dinner later? This isn’t romantic, of course…”

I cut him off. “No.”

“Is there something going on between you and Boof?”

“No. Jesus, Garland, I’m having dinner with Caption Finch. A working dinner.”

As soon as he left a message came on the screen from Boof.

Hey Baby, do you want to see stars tonight?

I deleted the message.

The entire trip had been like the set-up from a bad bodice ripper romance, but without any sex or bodice ripping. You know the story. The heroine is caught between two potential lovers. One is dark haired, gorgeous, with impeccable breeding, and insanely rich. The other is blond, gorgeous, insanely smart, and grew up more or less a street urchin in a block of government run shelter pods. Who should our heroine choose? One will eventually betray her as the other one rescues her, but she won’t know until it happens. Screw that. I didn’t have time for it.

I took the clip out of my hair and shook out letting it fall to my shoulders. Thank goodness for planets with normal gravity. I remember reading about the days when the idea of women being in space seemed ridiculous. The excuse was always something about hair, periods, sex, temptations, strength and peeing. Seriously, one does not need a penis, or a hairy chest to travel in space. Thank goodness for Nichelle Nichols. I was so glad to see her on the one-dollar coin last year. I remember reading the emails of my great-great-grandmother telling my father about when she met Sally Ride. I can’t even imagine.

Over the next few days Captain Finch and I tasked our crew with collecting data, and ship maintenance. Our engineer Morgan questioned everything we asked him to do. He claimed inspections were not necessary. He went on about how his qualifications were better than anyone on the ship, and bragged about his superior intelligence whenever I requested a progress report.

Our physics team, headed up by a guy named Dex Harland, who insisted on being called just “X” decided that we were all going to be eaten by mutant aliens and refused to leave the ship. They spread the word through the crew that Timothy Leary was going to drug them and feed them to giant spiders or some sort of shit along those lines. It was as if the entire crew had gone insane.

I asked one of our two our medical officers about it and he told me that he was writing a screenplay about a murder on a space barge couldn’t give a rat’s ass about our mission. His name was Dr. Charles Young. He only took the job to get out of paying child support for four different women and six kids on three planets. Our sane medical crew member, Dr. Sashie Vern, took my arm and asked if I wanted to get coffee. In the empty crew lounge she begged me to keep Dr. Jay away from her due to his incompetence and creepiness.

On our last supply stop, Hawk Donaldson, a popular member of our Engineering group had a one night stand with a Trasidain female. Trasidian’s are beautiful human like creatures with iridescent pink skin, and several more pleasure seeking orifices than Earthlings. Unfortunately Trasidains also have horrible parasites, which there is no cure for except the death of the host.

Hawk contracted a large number of the parasites and was in excruciating pain as the bugs ate him from the inside out. On his request Dr. Sashie put him into a medically induced coma until his death thirty four hours later. His body, along with the bugs, was cremated and blasted into space.

After Hawk’s death Dr. Sashie wondered why most of the crew members refused to see her for regular check ups or even acknowledge her existence. I should have guessed what Dr. Sashie told me. Dr. Jay had told everyone that Dr. Sashie was incompetent and had caused Hawk’s death.

I went back to confront Dr. Jay and he just smirked.

“I’m entitled to my opinion,” he said with a shit eating grin. I wrote him up for spreading false information and confined him to his room when he was not on duty. The following day rumors spread that I was sleeping with Captain Finch, which was odd considering Finch is gay. I knew it was Dr. Jay.

As I made my rounds that day I realized that our crew, due to the nasty mix of passive aggressive cockroaches and over inflated egos was completely shutting down as a functional team.

The Engineering Group all shaved their heads and wore goggles because they decided that they did not want Garland Holbrook writing about them. Their reasoning was that if they all looked alike then Holbrook would get confused and leave them alone.

Poor Junior Potemkin, our painfully shy communications officer was being bullied by a Data Wrangler named Bambi Von Grob. She would sit next to Potemkin and make snorting noises, suck up snot in her nose, cough, loudly chew crunchy food hours on end, pound on her work station. In retaliation to his complaints she innocently told everyone on board that she was a victim of Junior Potemkin’s bullying.

I could go on for hours about the adolescent behavior of the crew. It seemed that most of my day was spent listening to complaints, breaking up fights, and telling crew members to act like adults.

With six months into our mission, and five years to go, I didn’t know how Captain Finch and I were going to handle this. I loved my job. I loved exploration. I loved the science, but I hated almost everyone on board of our ship.

Boof and I continued to visit Tim Leary. He told us a lot of tall tales but was stingy with any technical information. He said he’d always been more of a manager rather than a scientist. He’d joke that he should have been a stand-up-comic, even thought he didn’t really say anything funny.

One night at dinner, with a nice view of the three aligned moons of the planet, the Captain vented for about an hour about the crew. Boof, Garland, and Dr. Sashie Vern had joined us as the highest ranking crewmembers.

Captain Finch had an announcement for us. “I’ve done some research and come to a realization that we were given a crew of rejects of the highest order.”

“You think?” Boof said with a disgusted look.

“Our mission is longer than usual with extensive isolated periods and difficult Space Jumps. I asked for an experienced crew of individuals with solid science experience, and technical expertise. What I ended up with was a crew of people that nobody else wanted,” said Finch.

I added to his thoughts, “I asked around and was given memos stating that the reason was have the crew we have is because somebody wanted to get rid of them. We asked for the best of the best, and in turn, present company aside, we got the worst of the worst.”

“Exactly,” said Finch.

“Now what? Behavior modification or bull shit team building at the next supply spot isn’t going to fix anything,” said Sashie.

Garland Holbrook poured another glass of wine and smiled. “Clone the crew and leave them there. Then we can have a perfect crew. They have the facilities right here for high speed clone creation.”

“How would that work?” Asked Dr. Sashie.

“Leary and his crew stole the technology from the Glanidians who use semi-brainless clones for off planet mining and prostitution. It’s cheaper than robots, and biological clones are more reliable,” said Garland.

“But you have to feed them,” said Boof. “How can that be more reliable?”

Garland smiled. “No, they eat themselves. They don’t even know it. You know, Clone Nuggets.”

“That is horrible,” said Sashie.

“Yes it is but it isn’t what Leary and his crew did,” said Garland.

“Eventually we’d have to land somewhere and we’d be found out,” said Captain Finch.

“You don’t get it. We will clone the crew, but tweak the genetic codes so that they’ll have more pleasant personalities. We’ll make them brilliant but downright sweet, and completely bland. I know Gwendolyn and Boof could do it,” said Garland. “You both have studied genetics and personality modifications for violent and anti social prisoners on off planet penal colonies.”

I had to speak up. “It will take an extra week depending on how many clones we’re going to make. I spoke with the Evil Twins today and they estimated a major volcanic explosion within the next month. If it blows it will take out all life within five hundred miles of Leary’s clubhouse.”

Then we all sat, nobody asking the questions we all wanted the answer for.

There was a knock on the door. Tim Leary stood there in a black tuxedo, holding three bottles of wine in his arms.  “Your mission reminds me of a story my Great Great Grammy used to tell me. A long time ago when she was a little girl there used to be a huge store called Ickyah. People would flock to it to be unassembled furniture because it felt good if you built stuff yourself. The buyer would get home with instructions that said it would take two hours to build your bed frame and nightstand. Fifty hours later maybe the bed would be done and the nightstand drawer assembled. Another twenty hours everything would be complete with the help of additional duck tape and a lot of swearing.”

“Leary,” I said. “What does that have to do with your mission?”

“That’s what it is like living here. Everything was supposed to be easy. Self contained they said.  But it wasn’t. Fortunately I have a lot of duck tape. I still have that fast acting cloning machine. I’ll let you use it.”

“That is out of the question. We all took ethics oaths to protect our crew,” said Captain Finch.

“I didn’t,” said Holbrook.

We spend the rest of the night bitching about the rest of the crew. After everyone realized that we had more shit-for-brains stories than we could tell in one night. My brain was so agitated that there was no way I could get any sleep so I took a stroll under the three moons of Planet 2387.

“You need a real name,” I said aloud as I scanned the horizon.

“It has a name. Atropos.” I turned to see Garland Holbrook standing next to me. I didn’t even hear him coming. “She was one of the three Fates. Atropos was the one who would decide how long one’s life line was. She’d also choose how one died,”

“Why’d you come on this mission? You could have any job you wanted,” I said.

“Captain Finch is the best. None of us could have predicted the bait and switch with the crew. Think about it. If we had the original crew this would be a perfect science mission.”

This was new to me. “Original crew? Garland, what are you talking about?”

“You don’t know do you? They were finishing up in Florida on their last mission. You and Boof were later additions.”

I was almost in shock. My entire body went numb. Over a thousand souls were lost in a terrorist attack at the National Space Science Research compound. Religious fundamentalists fire bombed the place. No wonder Captain Finch took what crew was assigned him. The man must have been in deep mourning. Why didn’t anyone tell me? Why didn’t I figure it out?”

“Garland, could we get Tim Leary to go back in time and…”

“You know it doesn’t work that way. When you go back in time you can change whatever you want but it won’t change the future. Your changes spin off into an alternate thread of time that eventually fades away.”

“Sure, I forgot. I knew some of the people who died. I had no idea they were signed up with Finch’s next mission. No idea.”

I turned and headed off towards the Welcome to Hell door. I wanted to talk to Leary.

As I took my first step Garland grabbed my hand, twirled me around and kissed me. If I thought my head was spinning before, it was spinning even more now.

“I know you’re attracted to me. I know you’re attracted to Boof. May the best man win, and you know I’m the best man,” said Garland as he kissed me again.

“Let’s go talk to Leary,” I said as I tried to catch my breath.

Three weeks later we left Planet 2387. Leary took off in his time machine a week before we blasted off. From our ship we watched (at a great distance) the massive volcano blow up a good portion of the planet’s crust.

Junior Potemkin came into my office and thanked me for helping him out. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about.

“Everyone is so nice now,” he said slowly choosing the words. “It is as if they were all replaced with clones, or something.” Then he laughed uncomfortably. “That would have been weird.”

I smiled and told him that I was glad he was happy now. I truly was.

~ End

Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe – WPAD Science Fiction.

This story is featured in Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe, W.P.A.D. Science Fiction Anthology. Available with most fine online book dealers (including Amazon and B&N) in electronic and paperback versions. Part of proceeds from all WPaD books go to support or fellow authors who have MS. 

Last Call by R James Turley

Today I’m honored to share a story from my friend, and one of my favorite WordPress bloggers R James Turley.

 

Last Call

by R James Turley 

 

When Suzy Night was introduced on stage, Ron’s mouth dropped open.  She had a walk made for a run-way, and a body that just wouldn’t quit.  Ron knew Kathy was going to hire a new singer, but didn’t know who.  He did now.  Those legs, that long dark hair stretched down her back.  Ron stared at her, wondering what it’d be like to kiss those lushes lips.

“What do you think of our new singer?”  Kathy sat down beside him at the table, two rows from the stage.

“She’s gorgeous,” he poured wine in both of their glasses.  “Where did you find her?”

“She came in on open MIC night, and just started singing,” Kathy lifted her glass toward the stage.

Why couldn’t Ron be here that night?  Then he would’ve met her.  Maybe it’s a good thing he wasn’t.  He might have just made a fool out of himself trying to impress her.

Suzy’s voice was as stunning as she was; soft and smoky.  It carried throughout the room in perfect pitch.  Ron just had to get to know her.  He almost couldn’t stand not being able to touch her now.

He poured another glass of wine for Kathy, “Is she from around here?  How old is she?  Does she have a boyfriend?”

“Easy there, lover boy.  I got the impression she’s seeing somebody,” Kathy sipped her wine.  “Besides, she’s half your age.”

Ron didn’t care at the moment.  He was enjoying fantasizing about him and Suzy.  He wished he could rise up out of that wheelchair, and go on stage to sing with her.  What he wouldn’t give for that.

“You are going to introduce me, aren’t you?”  Ron looked at Kathy with a cryptic smile.

“After she’s done, but get rid of your google eyes.”

“Yes mother,” he laughed.

“Funny,” she said, shaking her head and rolling her eyes.  “You should write comedy.”

In a lot of ways, Ron did think of her as a mother figure.  Kathy was always there for him when he needed her.  She’d helped his mother take care of him when Ron’s father was out of town on business.  And, she helped him get through that rough time when Ron’s parents died three months apart.  Kathy meant a lot to Ron, and he didn’t know what he would do without her.

The scattered Sunday night crowed stood up and applauded after Suzy finished her two songs.  Ron leaned over to tell Kathy something, but she was already headed toward the backstage door.

“She’ll be out in a minute,” Kathy said, sitting back down at the table.  “You want some scotch”

“Please,” Ron nodded.  “Neat.”

“Ah, what is it with you and no ice?”  Kathy waved over the waitress.

“I don’t know,” Ron shrugged his shoulders.  “Never that fond of ice, I guess, plus it waters it down.”

“Hi Kath, how you doing?”  The chipper waitress asked.

“Irene, did you meet Ron?”  She cocked her head toward him.

“Not yet,” she stuck her hand out to shake.  “How you doin?

Taking her hand, “Nice to meet you.”

“Can I have some Ice-water, and Ron would like some Scotch without ice.”

“Scotch neat,” Irene said.  “That’s the way my pappy used to drink it.”

Ron noticed the backstage door open.  Suzy was walking toward the table.  She was wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt, with her hair pulled up in two pig tails. If Ron was standing, he would have fallen over her beauty.  She stopped at the table next to his, and hugged the guy sitting there.  Ron felt a spark of jealousy,  then he felt guilty for it.  Why should he be jealous?  He didn’t even know her.

Suzy walked over to the table, with her friend right behind her.  “Hi miss Oden,” she kissed Kathy on the cheek.  “How’d I do?”

“I told you Suzy, call me Kathy,” she got up and hugged Suzy.  “You were fabulous.  Suzy, this is Ron, he’s my business partner.”

“Hi,” she smiled at Ron.  “This is…”

“Danny Alm,” Ron said in amazement.  “You were rookie of the year with Portland.”

“I guess you do know who he is,” Suzy giggled.

Ron shook Danny’s hand, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“You a basketball fan?”  Danny asked, looking at the wheelchair.

“A huge one.”  Ron tapped his hand on the arm of his wheelchair, “Play too.”

“Sit down,” Kathy said, pulling out a chair.

As the crowd got smaller, and it got closer to closing time, the four of them just sat and talked, and got more acquainted with one another.  Ron was even more impressed with Suzy, how intelligent and well-spoken she was.

At three-AM Suzy finally said, “We have to go.  I have to take Danny to the airport.”

“You’re flying now?”  Kathy asked, in a voice two octaves higher than she normally sounds.

“I’ve got to be back in Portland tomorrow night.  We had today off, so I just came in to see Suzy,” Danny said, getting out of the chair.  “It was nice meeting you guys,” he through a twenty-dollar bill on the table.

“I’ll see you on TV,” Ron said with a chuckle.

Ron waited for Kathy while she helped Irene clean up, and then walked her to her car. He watched her drive off, wheeled around the corner to his two-story apartment building where he lived on the first floor.

Ron didn’t do much of anything, and tried to conserve his energy, on game days. Even though he was reduced to playing about twelve minutes a game, he wanted to be able to leave it all on the court when called on.  The players respected, and looked up to Ron for what he has done for wheelchair basketball. Both on the court and off, Ron has been an ambassador for the game.  He traveled across the country with the U.S.A. Paralympic team showing off his skills, and talking about the game.

Normally Ron’s focus would be totally on the up-coming game, but he couldn’t keep Suzy from his thoughts.  He turned on the news channel to get his mind off Suzy.

A gentle knock at the door caught his attention.  He wheeled over and looked out the peep hole.  He had to look a second time to make sure he wasn’t seeing things. He opened the door to see Suzy, and all her loveliness, standing there.

“I hope you don’t mind.  Kathy told me where you lived.”

“Not at all,” he said in delight, trying to control his emotions.  “Come on in,” inside, Ron was jumping for joy.  “Would you like something to drink?”

“Soda, if you have it,” she smiled.

Ron nodded, offered Suzy a seat and wheeled into the kitchen.  When he came back Suzy was in the recliner that was facing the TV in the living room, her tote bag on the floor beside her.  Ron couldn’t believe Suzy Night was in his apartment. He felt like a school kid.

Suzy watched him wheel toward her with a can of Coke and a glass in his lap, and a bottle of fruit juice nestled between his leg and the side of the chair.  He opened the can, and poured it in the glass for her.

“Thank you,” she said, accepting the glass.  She took a sip and said, “I have something for you.”

“You do,” his voice rose with surprise and excitement.  He opened the bottle of fruit juice, hoping he wasn’t blushing.

She pulled out a manila envelope from her bag, “Danny wanted you to have this.”

“He did?”  He opened the envelope, “Wow!” pulling out an autograph picture of Danny dunking a basketball.  “This is great.  Tell him thank you.”

“He was impressed when you said you played,” she poured the rest of the soda into the glass.  “How long have you played?”

“Since I was a kid, my mom got me into it.  I guess she wanted me to have something to do,” he chuckled and took a drink of juice. He realized that the anniversary of her death is quickly approaching.  Could it be sixteen years?  “I also got a chance to play with the US Paralympic team.”

“Really!” her eyes grew bigger as she gazed into his.  “You played in other countries?”

“A few,” he tossed his empty bottle into the recycle bin.

“How often do you play now?”

“A couple times a week.  I have a game tonight, actually,” he pointed to his game jersey hanging on the bedroom door knob.

Finishing her drink, “I’d like to come and watch sometime.”

He was glad to hear that.  “Come with Kathy sometime, she comes to a lot.”

Looking at her watch, “Thanks for the Coke,” she stood up, “but I got to go.  I have some running around to do before I meet my mother for her birthday.”

“Okay, let me get the door.”  Wheeling over and opening the door, “Thanks for the picture.  Hope you have fun with your mother.”

“Thanks, I will.”  She gave him a friendly hug.  “Good luck tonight.”

He looked into her brown eyes, “I’ll see you at the club,” and watched her walk away.

The team bus came to pick Ron up at five for their game in Tampa at eight.  Ron was one of the last ones to be picked up. His teammates were lost in thought or listening to music.  After Ron got his chair locked in, the coach looked back at him to tell Ron that he was starting tonight.

Ron hasn’t started a game since the last game of last season, and hadn’t been a full time starter for three years.  He had to fight to make the team this year.  He played the game smart, and the coach liked that.  Something must be wrong with Tim, the starting Point Guard.

Kathy and Suzy were in the stands when the team came out of the locker room.  Now Ron was nervous.  He didn’t expect to see Suzy at a game so soon.  Ron missed most of the practice shots he took before the game. He had to calm himself.

He drank some water, and took a deep breath before taking the court for the start of the game.  The tip-off came straight to him, and all his nervousness vanished.  He ran the first play flawlessly, and played like he had been starting all season.  It was Ron’s best game in almost four years with seven points, and twelve assists, in their nineteenth win of the season.

Ron took his gym bag to his room, switched chairs, and wheeled over to Last Call.  Kathy and Suzy were at the bar sharing a bottle of wine at the end of the bar when he came in.  He wheeled up to where the bar was low enough for his wheelchair.  Irene poured a scotch and set it in front of him.

“I heard about tonight, congratulations!”  She bumped her fist against his.  “You want something to eat?

“Just a salad, please,” he said, after sipping his drink.

Kathy picked up the bottle, and her and Suzy walked to the beat of the music toward Ron.  Kathy kissed him on the cheek, and Suzy, from behind him, put her arms around his shoulders. They sat down on either side of him. Ron didn’t know what he was more excited about, the game, or the fact the Suzy saw it.

“Great game Ron,” Kathy said, empting the wine bottle into her glass.  “Where’d that come from?”

Ron shrugged his shoulders, “Don’t know, must’ve been bottled up.”

Ron caught Suzy watching him eat.  He wanted to ask her out, but not in front of Kathy.  He didn’t want to hear her say that it was a bad idea.  Besides, it’s none of her business who he asked out.  She went to the office to check on the beer orders for tomorrow.  Now was his chance.

“Suzy,” he nervously said.  “Would you like to have dinner sometime?”  He took the last bite of his salad.

She grinned ear to ear, nodding her head, and said, “I’d love to.”

“I’m free tomorrow,” she said, looking into his eyes.

“Great! How about around seven?  I’ll cook,” he said, before finishing his drink.

“I’ll be there.”

Ron yelled into the office saying goodbye to Kathy, gave Suzy a hug and wheeled off. Excited about his date tomorrow, he couldn’t sleep.  He wondered what to serve.  Damn, I should’ve asked her.  He finally decided on Chicken Parmesan.   With that settled, he slowly drifted off to sleep.

Suzy arrived a little before seven dressed to kill.  Wearing a short royal blue cocktail dress hugging her body with spaghetti straps on the shoulder, and her hair was pulled up in the back with a white bow.  Ron’s jaw dropped open when he saw her.

“Come on in,” he said, waving her in.  “Make yourself at home.  You want some wine?”

“Yes,” she nodded, and smiled at him.  “Let me help you.”

He wasn’t going to say no, he followed her into the kitchen, enjoying the view.  She got the glasses from the cupboard while he opened the fridge.

“Is white alright?  That’s all I have.”

“Yes. Dinner smells good”

“Thanks. I hope you like chicken parmesan.”

“Yum, I love it,” she said, rubbing her belly.

The dinner started with a fresh garden salad, which Ron ate at least three times a week.  He might not be as fit as he once was, but he was in the habit of eating healthy.

After dinner, they shifted to the couch where the conversation was very nice. Ron talked mostly about his basketball career, and shared some pictures with Suzy.  They talked until almost midnight, and then Suzy got ready to leave.

“I had a nice time,” she said, staring into his eyes.  “I’m glad you asked me.”

Ron was happy to hear that.  “I had fun too,” he gazed back at her.

“Are you coming to the bar tomorrow night,” she opened the door.

“I’ll be over after my game.  We play at home tomorrow so it won’t be that late.”

She kissed him on his cheek, hugged him tightly, and walked out the door.  Ron watched her until she disappeared into to lobby of the building.  He was scolding himself for not taking a chance to kiss her the way he dreamed of doing since the first time he saw her.  It will happen in time, he thought.  I don’t want to push her away.

Ron got to Last Call in time to hear Suzy sing.  He had another good game after his second straight start.  Ron was starting to feel that Suzy was his good luck charm, and he was feeling like he used to on the basketball court.

Looking around the room that was half full, he noticed Kathy sitting with Danny Alm. Danny must have flown in to see Suzy. Ron wheeled over to the table.

“Hey Ron. How was the game?”  Kathy moved a chair out of the way.

“We won,” Ron said, proudly.  “I started again.”

“How’d you do?”  Kathy asked while waving over Irene.

“I had a few points, a couple assists.  I’m getting my game back,” Ron said, locking his chair into place.  He looked at Danny, “Thanks for the picture, I love it!  You fly in for the night?”

“Hi Ron,” Irene said.  “Some scotch?”

“Please,” he smiled at her.

“Coming right up,” Irene turned and headed toward the bar

“We play in Orlando tomorrow so I figured I’d drive down for a few hours,” Danny said, looking at Ron.

Ron saw Suzy come out the back stage door.  Right away he noticed something different, in her face, from last night. Danny stood up from the table, took Suzy in his arms, and kissed her passionately.  Ron felt sick, like someone punched him in the stomach.  He looked at Kathy, told her he’d be back, and wheeled toward the men’s room.

After he splashed some water on his face, he headed back toward the table.  Kathy was waiting for him at the bar.

“Are you alright?”  She handed his drink to him.  “I didn’t know you two had dinner last night.”

“Yes. We had a nice time.  I thought it could lead somewhere.”  Ron took a big gulp of his drink.  “What happened?”

“Danny happened.  They decided to be a couple again, I’m sorry.”

Kathy put her arms around his shoulders, kissed his forehead, and hugged him tightly. Ron asked Kathy to make up an excuse and he left, feeling rejected.  A jubilant night turned into a nightmare.

The next afternoon, still feeling depressed, Ron waited for Kathy to bring him lunch.  He was going to try to eat even though his appetite wasn’t there.  Kathy always knew what to say to make Ron feel better.  But there wasn’t a way to take the pain of a lonely heart away.

A knock at the door interrupted the constant image of Danny kissing Suzy.  He wheeled over and opened the door, not bothering to look through the peep hole.

“Can I come in?”  Suzy stood there with tears in her eyes.

“Sure,” he said, backing up to let her pass.

Even with bloodshot eyes and makeup trickling down her cheeks, she was the most beautiful woman Ron had ever seen.  He hated to see any woman cry, but he’d do anything to make Suzy stop. But, he also wanted answers.

“Why you here, Suzy?”  He mustered up the courage to ask.

“I had to,” she sobbed.

“Had to what?” rubbing his forehead.

“Say yes,” she took a deep breath, and held her left hand out.

Ron opened his eyes wide, “You’re getting married?”

She looked him in the eye, tears watering her cheeks, nose running, and nodded her head. “No one else knows,” she put her head down, staring at the floor, as if she were shameful.

“Suzy,” he said, coming from the kitchen with a can of Coke and a box of tissues. “Explain this to me.”

She blew her nose and took a sip of soda, “My mother said I had to or she would disown me,” Suzy whispered.

“I don’t get it Suz. Why would your mother say that?”

“I don’t know, but she always makes good on her threats.”  She looked at her watch, stood up, and said, “I have to go. We’re going to see Danny play tonight.”

He watched her walk out the door, and maybe, out of his life.  Over before it started.  Was she telling me everything?  He had a sneaky suspicion she wasn’t, but why?

A knock on the door startled him.  “It’s me,” Kathy said, letting herself in.  “I brought hoagies.”

“Set them on the table,” Ron said, sounding serious.

“What’s wrong?”  She looked at Ron with her eyes as big as saucers.

He couldn’t hide anything from her.  “Suzy was just here.”

“Why?”

“I’m not sure I got the whole story, but she told me her and Danny are getting married.”

Kathy looked up from the table with a shocked look on her face, “When did this happen?”

“I guess yesterday before she went to the bar,” he said, wheeling over to the table. “She said nobody knew, and that she had too.”

“Had too? Why?”

“Or her mother would disown her.  I don’t know?”  Ron cut his sandwich in half, “She didn’t seem real happy about it, crying the whole time she was here.”

Kathy swallowed the piece of hoagie, “Now that you mention it, Suzy did seem a little distracted last night.  And she kept rambling on about how happy she was.”

“Maybe she was trying to convince herself,” Ron wheeled into the kitchen for two bottled waters.  Coming out of the kitchen he added, “She went over to Orlando tonight to see Danny play.”

“I know,” Kathy took the water from his hand.  “Her and her mother are staying over, they’ll be back tomorrow afternoon.”

Ron didn’t feel like going to the bar that night, and stayed home, no matter how much Kathy tried to talk him into going.  Every time he would’ve looked on stage he’d be reminded that Suzy was in Orlando watching her future husband play basketball.  He couldn’t take the pain.  He spent the night reading a spy novel.  His new found hobby, temporary as it might be.

The next afternoon Ron got a phone call from Kathy asking him to come over to the bar to talk.  He figured it was going to be a business conversation.  Irene was already there setting up for that evening.  Kathy came out from the office and they sat at a table next to the bar.  Irene joined them.

“I think we may know why Suzy agreed to marry Danny,” Kathy said, looking at Ron. She looked at Irene and said, “Tell him what you told me.”

Irene stared into Ron’s eyes, “I heard them arguing a couple of days ago when he was here. They were outside the ladies room. It wasn’t busy yet, and I guess they thought no one would hear.  But I heard him say if she didn’t marry him, that he was going to hurt her mother.”

Ron felt a twinge of rage build up inside of him that if he stood up, he could walk. He looked at Kathy, “We have to talk to her mother.  See if she knows why they got engaged.”

Kathy’s gaze shifted between Ron and Irene.  “I think she’s coming to hear Suzy sing tonight.  I’ll make up an excuse to take to her in the office, see what I can find out.”

Ron went back to Last Call before it opened for the evening.  He wanted to be there when Kathy talked to Suzy’s mother, Grace.  He was at the bar talking with Irene when Suzy and Grace walked in.  Kathy quickly came out of the office to great them. Suzy went backstage right away, she was the first act that night.  Grace followed Kathy into the office.  Kathy put her hands in front of her so Ron could see them as to say stay there.

Ron made his way to an empty table closer to the stage.  Not close enough to where Suzy would be able to see him from the stage. Kathy and Grace joined him after about half-hour.

“This is my business partner, Ron,” Kathy said, as her and Grace sat down.

“So you’re Ron,” Grace shook his hand.  “Suzy went on and on about you the other day.”

Ron smiled at her, “It’s very nice to meet you.  Did you enjoy your birthday?”

“Thank you, yes.  We had a lovely lunch,” she gazed into his eyes.  “I hear you play basketball, and done some traveling.”

“He’s played all over Europe,” Kathy said, raising her eyebrows toward Ron.

“That’s wonderful,” Grace put her hand on top of his resting on the table.

“Did you have a good time at the game last night?”  He took a sip of Scotch.

She sat back in her chair, “I went more for Suzy.”  She folded her arms and added, “I don’t really care for that Danny. He may seem all nice and sweet, but he thinks he’s God’s gift to the world.”

Kathy sat up in her seat, “Why do you say that?”

“He thinks he’s entitled to everything.  He’s so sure he’s going to marry Suzy,” she leaned forward.  “She has told him they’re only friends so many times I lost count,” she waved her hand toward the floor and stood up. “Excuse me, where’s the ladies room?”

“Around the bar,” Kathy pointed towards the restrooms.  “You want a drink?”

“Screwdriver, please,” she said, before turning toward the restrooms.

Ron raised his eyebrows, “She doesn’t know.  What did you talk about in the office?”

“Nothing, just small talk,” she said, motioning at Irene to come over.  “Talked mostly about how Suzy always loved to sing.”

“If she doesn’t know then why the hell would Suzy say her mother would disown her?”  Ron angrily said, and gulped the rest of his Scotch.  “Should we tell her?”

“No,” Kathy shook her head.  “Let me talk to Suzy.  Find out what’s going on.”

Suzy came out of the back stage door and sat with Ron after the show.  She wasn’t her usual bubbly self after a performance. Ron had more drinks than he normally had, but was still in control.  Grace had been gone for over an hour, and Kathy was in the office doing paper work. Ron had enough Scotch in him to ask Suzy about her engagement.  He figured he better put some alcohol into her if he wanted some answers.

“Ron,” she said, on her third screwdriver loaded heavily with Vodka.  “Even though I haven’t know you long, I wish Danny was more like you.”

“How do you mean?”  He asked, resting his chin on his fist.

“Well,” she set her empty glass on the table.  “You’re so sweet, and don’t seem demanding like Danny is sometimes.”

“Demanding how?”  He set back and folded his arms.

“He just is.  He didn’t really ask me.  He just said let’s get married,” she took a deep breath.

Ron put his hand on top of hers and wrapped his fingers around hers.  “Why’d you agree?”

“Because,” she swallowed. “I didn’t want him to get my mother in trouble,” she said as clearly as she could.  “She has a little bit of a gambling problem.”

Ron noticed Kathy walking toward the table, “How’d Danny find out?”

Shrugging her shoulders, “I don’t know,” Suzy slurred.

“You don’t look like you can drive home,” Kathy rubbed Suzy’s back.  “Come on, I have an extra bed.”

“Okay,” Suzy nodded.  “I have to pee first.”

Kathy watched her walk out of sight, turned toward Ron, “What did you do?”

Ron put his arms out to the side, “What?  I got her to talk.”

“What’d she say?”

“That Danny threatened her mother,” he saw Suzy come around the corner and nodded toward her.  “I’ll fill you in later if she doesn’t.”

Lying in bed, that night, Ron got madder the more he thought about what Danny was doing. He was also relieved Suzy didn’t really want to marry him.  He needed to find out how Danny found out about Grace.  If possible, without Danny knowing.

The phone woke Ron just after noon.  He didn’t fall asleep until around six in the morning.  Thinking about how he could help Suzy wouldn’t let him sleep.  He opened his unfocused eyes and searched with his hand until he found the phone.

He hung up the receiver.  He almost forgot about the game tonight.  His coach called to tell him that Tim would be out the rest of the season, and Ron would be starting the rest of the year.  He was wavering all year about retiring from basketball after the season. Now he was having second thoughts, especially after the last two games.

After a quick shower and something to eat, he called Kathy to remind her about his game. He also wanted to find out if Suzy said anything more to her.

She had taken Suzy home and was at the club, and asked Ron to come over.

“What’s up?” he said, wheeling into Kathy’s office.

She looked up from reading the newspaper, “I know someone up in Holiday, his name is Bill, who owns a strip club.  He also runs a gambling ring.  How big, I don’t know.  I’ve got a message for him to call me back”

“A lot of sleazy clubs up there, I’m sure some have gambling ties.”

“I know,” she said, as she came around the desk.  “But you never know, he could be the one, or someone he knows.  You want some coffee?”

“Always can use coffee,” he flashed silly grin.

She chuckled as she walked out of the office.  “Where you play tonight?” she said walking back in.

“St Pete,” taking a mug from her.  “I’m starting the rest of the year.”

She looked at him like a proud mother would and clinked her mug against his, “That must feel good?”

He bashfully smiled, “Yeah.”

Ron got to the club a little before twelve, not long after Kathy.  Right before he was to be picked up she called to say she was going to the game.  Their third win in a row, and forth in the last five games.  Ron couldn’t remember the last time he felt so comfortable on the court.

“You looked good out there,” Kathy said, as Ron wheeled in.

He rolled up to the bar.  Irene poured him a Scotch and got him a salad.  Kathy walked up beside him, and he asked, “Did your friend call you back?”

She took a drink of her bottled water and said, “He did, and he doesn’t know her. But something interesting; he knows Tony, the guy who runs a strip joint called The Play Pen.  He handles bets for one Danny Alm.”

“That’s probably how he knows about Grace to,” he said, as he stabbed the last cucumber with his fork.  He bit it off his fork and added, “I’m betting Suzy doesn’t know about him.”

“That would be my guess,” she picked up a bite size pretzel out of the bowl on the bar, and popped it in her mouth.

Ron did some research, the next day, on Danny’s back ground.  He was reprimanded at Florida State for betting on college and NFL football games, but not to the point of being suspended.  Ron wondered if he also bet on basketball and it got covered up.

He started to dial Kathy’s number when he heard a knock and Kathy’s voice, “Ron, you there?”

“Yeah Kath, come on in.”

She walked in the door, gave him a peck on the lips, and said, “I think I found out that Danny bets on basketball.”

“How’d you do that?”

She sat at the table after getting a soda from the fridge, and said, “I went to see Bill to bet on Portland to win their game tonight.  Wouldn’t you know it, Tony was there.  I guess Tony took a shine to me, cause he tried to warn me how they were going lose to the Brooklynn.  Saying he’s got a source from the team saying they’re too tired.  I figured that source has to be Danny.”

Ron looked at her with a boyish grin, raised his eyebrows, “He also bet on football when he was in school.  Ask Suzy when he’s coming into town again.  I’ll confront him about it.”

“I don’t think that’s a real good idea, Ron,” she sat up and put her hands on her hips.”

“Why not?” he mocked her movement.

Resisting a smile, she said, “Cause you don’t know the kind of people he might know. It could be dangerous.”

“Yeah, I know. He put is arms on the table, “But we have to do something.”

“I know,” she got up and put her arms around him.  “I have to go.  I’ll think of something.  You coming later?  Suzy’s singing.”

“I’ll be there,” he held the door open watching her leave.

Ron waited about a half hour, and called Suzy.  Twenty minutes later she was knocking on his door.  He opened the door and his heart skipped a beat.

“Come in,” he said.  She bent down and hugged him.  It was only a day, but it seemed like years since he saw her.  Ron didn’t want to let go of the embrace.

“How you doing?” she said, smoothing his hair.

“I’m good. Come in, sit down,” he motioned toward the couch.  “You want something to drink?”

She shook her head, “I’m good,” and smiled at him.

“I have something to tell you.”  He swallowed hard, “I know how Danny knows about your mother’s problem.”

A confused look came over her face, “How?”

“Because your mom and Danny have the same bookie.  Kathy met him this morning,” he leaned forward in his chair.  “I don’t think he actually threated Grace.  Did you know that Danny Gambled?”

She shook her head, “I had no idea.  Do you know how long?”

“I was checking that earlier and found out he bet on football in college.  It didn’t say if he bet on basketball, but I wonder.”

“If he did, wouldn’t that be, like, cheating?”

“Yes.  We suspect he might be betting on basketball, or cheating now,” he said in a low whisper.

Suzy stood up, let out a deep breath, and walked to the bathroom.  She emerged five minutes later, her eyes glassy.  It was obvious she was crying.  He wanted so much to hold her, but wasn’t sure if he should. He was surprised when she hugged him tightly.

“Thank you for telling me,” she said, gazing into his eyes.  “Are you coming tonight?”

“Honey, wild horses couldn’t keep me away,” he smiled at her.  “What are you going to do?”

“When he calls later I’ll tell him we’re not getting married,” she playfully yanked on his hair.  “If he asks why, I’ll say I found someone else,” she slipped the ring off of her finger. “And if that doesn’t work, I’ll say I know about the gambling.”  She leaned in and gave him a soft kiss on the lips.

Ron got to Last Call before that evenings show.  He wanted a chance to talk to Suzy before it began.  He stopped at the bar to say hi to Kathy and Irene before he continued to a table.  He saw Suzy peek out of the back stage door, and smiled at her.

“Hi,” she motioned with her mouth, walking to the table.

Ron was awe struck.  She was wearing a purple evening gown with just the right amount of glitter to make it shine, and wavy curls in her hair.  “Hi,” he said, studying her up and down.  “You look fantastic.”

She sat down, leaned over and kissed him, “Thank you.  You look wonderful too,” she whispered in his ear as she was hugging him.

“Did you talk to Danny?”

“Yes. We came to an understanding.”

“Which is?”

“He going to leave me alone, and I’m going to keep his little secret,” she smiled, and kissed him hard.

“What the hell did I miss?” Kathy said, standing over them.

“When did you show up,” Ron shockingly said.

“Just in time to see the kiss.”  Kathy put her hands on her hips, and tried to hide a smile, “What is going on?”

“She’s with me, I’m with her,” Ron pointed between him and Suzy, and cackling like a teenager.

Ron made a decision that night.  He was going to play his last five game of the year, and hang up his jersey, no matter how well he was playing, and was going to take more of an interest in Last Call.

~ end

 

Tangled Tales

 

R James Turley started writing poetry in his thirties. Soon after he wrote short stories with a head full of characters. His work has been published by Yahoo! Voices, and the WPaD anthology’s, Creepies 2: Thing that go Bump in the Closet, Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe, Escape from the Planet of the Deviants, Weirder Tales and Creepies 3.

R James writes from Florida where the sun sets into the Gulf of Mexico.

Bjturley.com

Facebook.com/r.turley.7

https://www.facebook.com/R-James-Turley-339204606093122/?eid=ARADDD3lek3bk_p_8yl0rxzF2sRhQE2uKZbZnEc5JKs1dd4Wq5zbyvfc2_B-pXxkjErwmdEobNRPP1pt

@bt1express

wpad poster

Come back for more great fiction from other guest writers. I’ll be featuring a variety of short stories from many genres. Seriously folks, these are some of the best fiction writers currently producing work. 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Bed Bug, Bedbug, Freeze Out, Hardscrabble (Parenting, Teens and a Little Romance)

Bed Bug, Bedbug, Freeze Out, Hardscrabble (Parenting, Teens and a Little Romance)

This post was first published 02/2013. The sixteen year old boy in this post just turned twenty four, but this still applies for all parents, teens, and true romantics.

 

vladlove

 

Bed Bug, Bedbug, Freeze Out, Hardscrabble,

Nereid

Sea Maiden

Poseidon’s loyal helper

Sailor’s guardian angel

Violet beauty

I looked at the note on yellow lined paper written in black Sharpie that I found in the dryer. Fragments of the musings of a 16-year-old boy.

The first line is names of a town not far from where we live, founded during the California gold rush. The rest of it is taken from Greek Mythology. I knew what it was.

It is Ione. His long time friend Ione. Once a funny little fair haired girl, now a leggy and shapely blonde of 16. She is also, like my son, a Vampire.

I unfolded the note more, crisp from the dryer and still warm.

I have known you forever

Since our time began

As babies

Then children of the night

As teens

Now growing into adulthood

Our hearts

Our minds

Our future

Am I to be with you?

My mythical love

My desire

My chance

A kiss from you

And I would be

Happy forever

Ione.

So far, aside from the occasional glances at Vampire girls and life long friendships, he has never set his heart on one, especially not one in his tight-knit social circle of “The Vs” as they call themselves.

Ione is quiet and funny and smart. But don’t piss her off because she isn’t one to forgive or forget anything. She also sees herself in some mythical role as avenging angel, taking on the cause of the bullied, down trodden and anyone in her opinion who has been treated unjustly.

Most people see her sort of an exceptionally smart, brilliant dumb-blonde. Smart and goofy. Sort of like my son’s best friend Randy.

I was ready to pocket the note when Garrett came into the laundry room and said “Give me that.”

“I didn’t know you liked her that way,” I said.

“It isn’t what you think.”

“Did you write it for Randy?”

“No. Don’t’ say anything Mom. It isn’t anything.”

“OK.” I smiled.

And then he smiled the shy way 16-year-old boys do.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Ione

Ione

 

And yes, Ione is the name of a real California town that used to be called by some interesting names back in the day.

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