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

Captain Sandy and the Airship at the End of the World

(Published as author Marla Todd)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I told him and he just shook his head.

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

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

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

“Why are you alone Captain?”

“I’m not.”

“No wife or children?”

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

“So you’re alone,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ End

Tangled Tales

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

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

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

Books by WPaD:

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

WPaD books are available worldwide in paperback and ebook editions.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Short Story Sunday: Bernie Showers in France

Bernie Showers in France

A short story by Aurora Jean Alexander

Bernie Watson, a self-acclaimed womanizer, always wanted to see Paris. One day he managed to travel to France after tediously scraping up the money he needed for the trip. In his imagination, Bernie saw himself sitting in the first class, sipping champagne and enjoying movies, a beautiful woman next to him. He was dreaming about standing on the balcony of a 5-star hotel with a breathtaking view over the city until he could see the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe from far.

Reality looked a bit different. Bernie found himself in the middle row of economy, helplessly jammed between an angry tourist at the end of his vacation and a permanently eating eighty-year-old on the other side, with an ancient Pekinese on her lap.

When he arrived at the hotel, he found that the two-star hotel he had made reservations, was even older than he had suspected from the pictures. It was located in the most run-down quarter of the city. Bernie now wasn’t the most hygiene-fanatic on Earth, but after a trip of roughly 9 hours in an airplane, he still felt the need to shower. Usually, he would have used baby wipes to clean the worst, but they had removed them at the customs; the heavy accent of the man explaining the reason made it impossible for Bernie to understand, and he didn’t know where to buy them in France.

He undressed and stood in front of the mirror, looking at his body with appreciation. He didn’t see the pale, almost sick-looking skin that hadn’t seen the sun in the past forty-five years, the slightly protruding stomach, the flat ass, and the wobbly arms which all showed that he hadn’t seen a gym from up close for decades. Also, he didn’t see the missing hair on his lower chest that made his torso look like he was regularly wearing a bra…. But he found himself very attractive, and to him, that was enough, after all, only his own opinion was important.

He climbed into the shower cabin and found himself facing an old construction with two faucets, on one it said C, which he immediately concluded was ‘cold,’ while the other one said F, which he figured, must be the opposite… hot, or (f)arm with a typo… he was in France, after all.

Full of energy, he turned the ‘Farm’ and found himself showered with an icy stream of brown lava… as it was normal in an old building in Europe when the water fuses had not been used for a while.

Immediately ‘Louis XIV,’ his Sun King, resentfully withdrew into his hunting lodge… Bernie, of course, caressed his little king, knowing he had to be careful… after all, he was utterly dependent on his Sun King’s moods.

He, therefore, mixed himself a decently comfortable water temperature and continued showering… until someone in another room flushed the toilet…

In these old hotels, this process had an immediate effect on the water temperature by removing the complete cold water from Bernie’s shower within nanoseconds… He found himself in the boiling hot shower cabin. The door which had only jammed from the outside was impossible to open from the inside. Also, he had no idea that the re-fill of an old toilet tank in a two-hundred-year-old hotel room needed about 25 minutes.

Bernie, while having the hot brownish lava pelted onto his head, he realized, he had only one hand to turn off both faucets! With the other hand, he had to protect his Sun King as well as possible! Because in this country, where he was unable to speak the language, he would not be able to talk someone into helping him with his injured, burned sun king…

 

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(This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.)

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Aurora Jean Alexander is the author of Demon Tracker. She also runs the blog Writer’s Treasure Chest – A blog for authors, about authors, written by an author. Check it out for interesting author interviews, books, and more about the art of writing.

Aurora Jean is one of my oldest and dearest blogging friends. I’m happy to share her work today.

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~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Tangled Tales

Short Story Sunday: Desert Sky

Desert Sky

Martha put a lawn chair in front of the motor home and looked into the night sky. Sometimes the desert would get freezing at night, but tonight it was almost warm. A million stars showed in the sky above her. She’d heard stories of alien sightings in the desert. It was always the desert where they were sighted in the sky, or crashed. When they crashed nobody ever saw them again.

She wondered about the odd pale skinned creatures with long fingers, tiny mouths, and huge eyes. Maybe the huge eyes came from living on a dark planet, or living underground for eons.

It was weird how they never wore clothes. It was weird how they were shown as naked when in every science fiction movie and series, from Star Trek, to X-files, to Firefly, to Star Wars, to Gardians of the Galaxy, everyone always wore clothes.

The only time she remembered seeing a naked man in a movie in the desert was in The Hangover. It was in the desert, in Las Vegas. A naked guy jumped out of the trunk of a car. He wasn’t an alien.

Sam and Ian came out of the motor home with chairs and a small cooler. Sam handed Martha a beer. The thanked him, then they all sat and looked at the stars.

“Do you think there is anyone else out there? There has to be. We can’t be here all alone,” said Martha.

“I think we’re alone here. But I don’t think we’re alone in the universe or even this galaxy,” said Sam.

Martha glanced at her companions. Sam was tall, blonde and handsome as a man could be. Sam fit into any group with his tan skin, dark hair, and dazzling smile. Martha was typical of women in her hometown. She was pretty but not too pretty with plain brown hair that hung to her shoulders in a slight flip.

“I’m kind of homesick, but the people around here are nice. I think we should move back to the house in San Francisco in a few days, or maybe by that place we were looking at in Santa Cruze, you know by the beach. I could hang out there for a while.”

“We could start a family,” said Sam. Ian looked at Martha with a hopeful, and sort of sad smile.

“There is an Air Force base near Las Vegas. Maybe we should go over there and just give ourselves up.”

“Or maybe we should move to Santa Cruz,” said Ian.

“We’re never going home,” said Martha wiping a tear from her eyes.

“No love, we’re stuck on this planet. It’s not a bad place. We fit in. Let’s just make the best of it.”

Martha looked into the faces of her companions. I guess with their combined love they could pull through on this strange planet called Earth. She got another beer out of the cooler, popped the top, and too a long drink out of it.

“Sure guys, Santa Cruz sounds great,” she said. The she looked back to the sky and watched for something, anything familiar.

~ end

 

Tangled Tales

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: The Alley

Taking a short cut through a downtown alley wasn’t always like it was in the movies. He’d rarely witnessed crimes, or found dumped bodies among the dumpsters and rats. The smells were close to death but not quite. Urine and sun roasted garbage were the aromas of the night. No night-blooming jasmine for this short cut.

Walking along he wasn’t afraid. There wasn’t anything to fear except maybe stepping on something disgusting he’d have to scrape off of his shoe later. But then he saw her standing at the end of the alley.

Had she been a cat he would have taken her home, or found her a forever home, but she was not.

“Hi Val,” she said in a girlish voice. She sounded like she was maybe twelve instead of twenty eight.

“Nikki. You look good.”

She looked good for Nikki. Val hadn’t seen her this clean, well, maybe ever. She’d been homeless on and off for the four years he’d known her. Tonight was the first time he’d seen her in a dress. Even through the bad teeth, unhealthy chalky skin, and the constant fidgeting he could tell she’d once been pretty.

“My cousin Josh took me shopping. Got me this dress, and the sweater. Do you like it. The sweater is sort of like lace, all light like, for the summer. First new clothes I’ve worn in maybe six years.”

“Are you living somewhere?”

“I have my own room in the back of Josh’s building, out by the alley so I have, like my own private entrance. I have a bathroom too. The toilet is in the shower because it is really small. Sometimes when I take a shower I just pee on the floor over the drain. I always laugh because the toilet is right there.”

“What are you doing out here?” It was 3:00 am. He knew why she was out.

Nikki crossed her arms and leaned from one foot to the other. “Just doing some business, you know.”

“Looking for a fix?”

“Maybe, and a little romance.”

Val knew she traded sex for drugs. She kept talking.

“Um, Josh won’t let me bring guys home. I can’t do drugs, drink, or smoke at my room. Those are his rules. You know, I do stuff for him like clean up in the back, mop up, dishes, take out the garbage, and stuff. Maybe I’ll get to cook or work up front one day. He said if I work hard he’ll pay to get my teeth fixed. Ramon said if I go back to school he’ll help me too.”

Val knew Ramon, the high school kid who was headed off to U.C. Berkeley. Nice kid who wanted to get a degree in mathematics and change the world.

“You should go home Nikki. Forget the fix. You look so pretty tonight. Don’t waste it on some creeper. You don’t need to get high,” said Val.

“Maybe if you’d turn me into a Vampire I wouldn’t need it. If you turned me into a Vampire I’d stop hurting all the time. I’d be pretty again.”

“You’d die Nikki.”

“Better than living my life.”

“Don’t say that Nikki. Never say that.”

She looked down at the ground, then leaned up against a parked car. “Tell me a story Val, about when you were my age.”

He’d been telling her stories to get her mind off of getting high, or having sex with anyone she could in exchange for the next high. If he could keep her up until the sun came up then she’d be safe from the evils of the night.

“In 1886 I was twenty eight, same age as you are. My sister and I were in London. Jack the Ripper was in the news. We were at a party…”

“What was she wearing Val? Tell me what your sister was wearing.”

“A cream colored silk dress adorned with purple roses, millions of ruffles and a huge bustle in back. Her hair was piled high on her head in curls all done up with pearls and ivory combs. She danced for hours with a wealthy handsome son of a Duke.”

“Did she drink his blood?”

“Of course she did.”

“Did she make love to him?”

“In a way he would never forget, or get over. He’d never fall out of love with the mysterious woman he’d danced with all night.”

Nikki hugged herself as Val continued to tell her a half true story, embellishing it with more romance than reality.

He walked her home, and kept her talking until the first light of the morning started to show in the sky. “Be safe Nikki. Listen to Josh and Ramon. They’re looking out for you. They care. I care.”

He kissed her cheek with his cold lips.

“Why don’t you ever drink my blood Val?”

“You know why Nikki,” he said.

“I’d do you good Val. I’d make that cold blooded…” She continued with a crude and explicit, sexual description of what she would do to him if he’d only take her home to his house, or even behind one of the dumpsters in the alley behind her building. He turned and walked away from her feeling sad, and disgusted.

Two days later Nikki was found dead in her little room, wearing one of her new sundresses. She’d had unprotected sex with at least three different men that night. She’d died of an overdose of a cocktail of drugs too lethal for most people to imagine.

Before Josh opened his restaurant for breakfast Val stopped by to give him his condolences. Josh shook his head. He’d done everything he could to help Nikki.

“She was always a lost soul. So much talent. Aw man, she was so beautiful once. She just got in with the wrong guys, one right after another. They took everything from her. But she wouldn’t listen to anyone,” Josh told Val, wiping his eyes.

Ramon stood listening then said, “Nikki could have so much hope. Just yesterday she was telling me she wanted to go back to college. She wanted to live. Then she went on again about her friend who was going to turn her into a Vampire, and she’d be young and pretty again, and live forever. She said she was in love with this guy, this Vampire. It was creepy. She was nuts. Sorry Josh, but…” His voice trailed off as he wiped a tear off of his face.

Val wished them the best. That afternoon he made a large donation to a local women’s shelter. Over the past one hundred and fifty nine years he’d seen many lost souls. One slutty little druggie shouldn’t have bothered him so much. Nikki was nothing to him. Then again, she could have been everything to someone if anyone other than Josh or Ramon had cared.

Had she been a stray cat he would have taken her in. Had she been clean he might have taken her forever.

~ End.

 

Tangled Tales

 

First published here in 2016. 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Radio Waves

Tangled Tales

 

Radio Waves

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

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

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

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

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

“That is what the records say.”

“That can’t be right.”

“Stop questioning everything.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

“Hello?”

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

“What are you doing Nessie?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I already know the story.”

“Not this version.”

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

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

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

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

I continued my story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ll go wherever you go.”

“What?”

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

“You might be exposed to sickness.”

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

“Really?”

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

 

 

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

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

“They’re still alive?”

“Thriving.”

“Is it safe?”

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m tired of not having a home.”

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

“What was it like to be sick?”

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

“You survived.”

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

I had to laugh. I’d miss Mac.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Izzy, my communications lead came running into my office.

“Captain we’ve picked up signals.”

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

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

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

“Look at the pattern.”

“It looks like a child’s puzzle. “

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

“Interesting.”

Then the flood of signals came.

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

It was music.

We’d never heard anything like it.

Beautiful music.

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

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

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

“How old are these signals?”

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

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

Izzy smiled and flipped the switch.

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

“Those are our people,” I said.

“Sort of our people,” said Arie.

 

 

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

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

There was more music. Always more music.

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

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

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

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

“They’re incredibly creative,” said Arie.

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

“What is it?” I asked in wonder.

Izzy smiled. “Buddy Holly.”

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

“Buddy Holly died.”

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

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

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

Some of the most interesting news was about medical advances.

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

“Can’t they control it?” Izzy asked.

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

“They just get pregnant by accident?”

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

“Wow. I can’t even imagine.”

 

 

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

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

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

“Point two zero percent different.”

“This is your dream Nessie.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is this?” I asked Izzy.

Izzy grinned. “Soul Train.”

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

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

 

 

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

“Arie, where is my crew?”

“Watching Golden Girls.”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes. We come in peace,” I said.

“Do you need anything?”

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

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

 

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

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

 

~ end

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

~ Adelia Hoff

 

I mean this:

When you see me again, it will be in the desert through the low-res camera of a errant traveler, hunched over the remains of an unidentifiable piece of roadkill, looking like a ghost. I will be tranquilized by a Park Ranger who mistakes me for a too-brave cougar and when they check my dental records they will find a dead man’s.

 

__

You were like something out of a fever dream-

An angel in sapphire and silver

That night, as you walked towards me, arm outstretched

I remember wanting nothing more

Then to let you utterly consume my immortal soul

 

__

Life-drunk on a siren’s song,

Scrabbling at sun-baked soil

The sky is falling and the numbers, six-seven-eight meters, count up to go down.

Distortion of mirage and heat of sun bring revelation of acceptance, promise of knowledge,

Look around.

What would you save?

What could you save?

 

__

Some nights I cannot sleep.

One time I heard a screaming outside. It could have been a coyote.

Every so often I remember the parable of the scorpion and the frog, and I wonder: am I the scorpion? I am not naturally high strung, but I am self serving and strong willed. Do I hurt people with that I cannot control? Do I really care if I do?

The coyote, if it was that, yelled twice during the night.

There is a gentleness that seizes you at dawn. The uncanny can be a comfort, strange as it may sound. That which has not been explained yet could be anything.

Does the coyote care who it hurts?

Was it ever really a coyote, or just a phantom of the self?

Do I really care?

 

 

__

The elk bellows,

“Oh king, oh captain, oh lover of mine, where are you?”

The forest whispers back,

“They are not here. Search as you will, but only echoes will come to you.”

 

__

The Reflection

 

I found you pale and afraid –

selenic and blind.

Should I have left you there?

I cannot say.

I am a selfish creature.

Then again,

so were you.

 

__

Sometimes it feels like driving for too long and listing to the same song on repeat for hours and when you finally get out you have to remind yourself how to be a human again

And sometimes it feels like getting pulled under by a wave with the immediate reconciliation that if you must go at least your body will be claimed by the ocean and that’s okay because you didn’t really care for the thing anyways

And sometimes it’s on the precipice of desert rain when you smell dust and creosote and the animals are quiet because the water here is no lifegiver

And sometimes it’s mania and the realization that there is no higher power or meaning and that means nothing can stop you from becoming something cosmic and holy and irreverently profane and powerful but you can’t bring yourself to carve away the undue flesh binding you to this condemnation

But most of the time it is simply the knowledge that something isn’t right and no one else can tell but you can and it could and would drive you mad if you payed it any more heed but that’s okay because you’ve gotten used to ignoring things and are pretty good at it at this point

So the numbness continues and the panic continues and you scream let me out let me out please please please I don’t belong here I’m not meant for this I can’t go on like this anymore but you have to keep going because the rest of the world won’t stop just because it’s too much and you can’t handle it

And maybe just maybe it’s not you that’s the problem

Personhood isn’t for everyone

 

__

I do not love you.

Yes, I care-

But love?

 

Never.

 

I adore the kitten, with its triangle tail and toddling steps.

I admire the wind, strong and unyielding.

I devote myself to knowledge, the true currency of power.

 

But I do not love.

 

 

__

This world is cruel

and unforgiving

to all soft things

So is it really so surprising

that being good

and gentle

and kind

Is inevitable replaced with jagged edges

(protect me, the thing inside cries)

(please, please don’t let me get hurt again)

(i might just break this time)

 

__

[you’re floating somewhere below the suface of the ocean. there’s nothing around you in any direction, and you’re not entirely sure how you got here.]

[you’re out camping in the mountains. night is coming. it’s probably the most content you’ve been in a while.]

[there’s a low fog over the city as you look off a tenth story balcony. you can feel a storm brewing in the distance, but for now you can’t tear away from the feeling of being above it all.]

[you’ve been traveling for days now. whose turn was it to drive? haven’t you seen this road before?]

[there’s whispering in your head. rationally, this should be a cause for alarm. you’ve come to the realization that you’d only be alarmed if it stopped.]

 

darkness outside

About the Author:

Adelia Hoff is a student studying the freshly dead. When asked about her personal life her only comment was, “I’m just visiting,” whatever that means.

 

From Juliette:

Thank you so much Adelia for sharing your words. It is an honor. Truly it is. You know I’m going to be asking for more in the future.

xoxo

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman