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

Captain Sandy and the Airship at the End of the World

(Published as author Marla Todd)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I told him and he just shook his head.

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

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

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

“Why are you alone Captain?”

“I’m not.”

“No wife or children?”

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

“So you’re alone,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ End

Tangled Tales

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

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

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

Books by WPaD:

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

WPaD books are available worldwide in paperback and ebook editions.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

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

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Goin’ Extinct Too – Apocalypse A Go-Go!

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

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

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

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

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman, and the Authors of WPaD

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

 

 

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

WPaD is the acronym for Writers, Poets and Deviants.

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

Other Books by WPaD:

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

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

Meet the Authors

Cover art by Jason Kemp

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. 

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

 

 

 

Full Moon Marathon: Grandpa’s Dog

 In honor of the full moon and Werewolves I’m running a Full Moon Marathon today. Enjoy, ponder, learn, leave comments, stay at home, wash your hands. 

Grandpa’s Dog

A short story from Marla Todd

“I’m taking him to the vet and having him put down.” Jeff said into the phone.

“No you aren’t.” I said, ready to scream.

“It is cruel to make him suffer like this.”

“He isn’t our dog to put down.” I almost growled at my husband.

“I don’t care. Grandpa will understand. He’s always complaining about how he hates Bruce  anyway.”

“The kids will be heartbroken.” I said trying to stall him.

“They’ll understand.”

“What about my mom? She’ll never forgive you.”

“Gretchen, I’m taking Bruce to the vet. I’m sorry.”

“I want to say good-bye.”

“Bruce will understand.” He hung up. Damn him.

Bruce was Grandpa’s dog. He was old. The oldest dog I knew. Jeff thought he was 16. I knew better. Jeff thought Bruce was half wolf and half Alaskan malamute. I knew he was half Irish.  Jeff liked to bake him organic dog treats. I knew Bruce preferred bourbon and prime rib. Jeff thought grandpa was crazy to have such a large dog. I knew Grandpa was half crazy and Jeff was right, it was about the dog, but it didn’t have anything to do with its size.

Once a month I kept the dog for Grandpa, while he “Went to the cabin with his old college buddies.” I hauled the dog to weddings, to funerals, to camping trips and hanging around the house.  He’d been there for my college graduation, my wedding, for my kids. My mom had watched the old dog before me. My grandma before her.

Of course Jeff didn’t believe anything my family said about the damn dog. He’d spent years hearing us tell bad jokes and tall tales. It was how we spoke, in stories. I blame it on my Southern parents. Jeff just thinks I’m funny. He tells me I should have my own show on cable.  HA HA HA.  He thinks my family is quirky and quaint. Right now nothing was funny or quaint.

I raced home from the studio. I’m a photographer, mostly editorial, corporate portraits, product photos.  Good thing I’m the owner of the business, otherwise I’d never deal with my husband, my children and Grandpa’s damn dog. I would have had the dog with me today but he was too stiff to climb into the car by himself and at 125 pounds I didn’t feel like lifting him today.

Jeff was still at home. I parked blocking the driveway. Thank God the kids were still in school. I have never been so angry with anyone in my entire life. I barged through the door yelling at my husband.  “All I asked you to do was check in on him for me at lunch time and you decided to kill him. Well for once in your life listen to me…”

I yelling stopped when I saw Jeff. He had a towel around his hand. He was bleeding.

“The old guy bit me when I was trying to get him out of the house.” he said with a shrug of his shoulder.

I saw Bruce poke his old white muzzle around the corner.

“Why the hell did you have to bite him?”  I yelled at the dog. Bruce tucked his tail and cowered. His ribs stuck out from his sides. He looked ancient and pathetic.

Jeff reached out to scratch the dog behind his ear. “Don’t yell at him. It’s like he sensed what I was going to do. Poor old guy was scared.”

“Don’t touch him.” I yelled. I looked at the wound on Jeff’s hand. It was clean. I went back to the dog. “Damn you, after all I’ve done for you.” Bruce looked at me with glassy brown eyes and shook, tail still between his legs.

Jeff put his arms around me “Gretch, don’t get mad at the dog. “

“You don’t understand,” I gasped.

“He’s old and scared.” Jeff said stroking my hair with his good hand. “You know dear, all that dog hears is “Bruce, blah blah blah. Blah blah blah”. He laughed and gave me a quick hug.

I pulled away. “He’s a werewolf.”

“Oh Honey, don’t call him that. He’s just an old arthritic dog. Poor old guy.” He leaned down to touch noses with the dog. Bruce licked Jeff’s face and thumped his tail on the floor. “You aren’t a werewolf are you old guy? You’re just a prince in disguise. You think she’ll give you a kiss?” Jeff started to make kissy noises.

I thought I was going to throw up.

“There’s a reason why we never see Grandpa and Bruce together.” I growled.  They’re the same animal. Bruce isn’t 16, he’s 85. ”

Jeff took a deep breath. “I’m not going to put him down. We’ll wait till Grandpa gets home and discuss it with him. Werewolves. That’s a good one. So when you work at night does that mean you’re a vampire?” he laughed again.  “You can bite my neck anytime.” He kissed my neck.

I backed away feeling the panic rushing up inside my body. “Jeff, it’s true and now….”

I couldn’t say the words. Now my husband was going to become a werewolf and I’d have one more old dog to take care of.

~ end

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

First published here in 2013

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

summerreading

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

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

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

 

red heart

Captain Sandy and the Airship at the End of the World

(Published as author Marla Todd)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I told him and he just shook his head.

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

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

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

“Why are you alone Captain?”

“I’m not.”

“No wife or children?”

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

“So you’re alone,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tangled Tales

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

Coming Soon...

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

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

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

 

Books by WPaD:

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

WPaD books are available worldwide in paperback and ebook editions.

 

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

WPAD SciFi

Weirder Tales

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

wpad poster

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

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman