About Us

We are a group of several aspiring writers, who thought it would be fun to get together and challenge each other on a monthly basis. Judging is done by adding the total number of stars up and dividing by the total number of votes, so having the most stars or most votes doesn't necessarily mean you win, it's the overall average. Whoever wins gets to pick the subject matter for the next session's short stories. Please read each story and vote them all appropriately. The voting boxes are to the left of the page and are marked by story title. If you would like to leave a comment simply click on the story title above each entry, but please keep them constructive. Again, thanks for reading and I hope that everyone can get as much enjoyment out of this as I have.

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Contest Subjects

December's subject was chosen by myself and is... "A large stone was found in the middle of a field in Iowa."

The first subject for January was chosen by Sgt. Hubbard and is... "A locked box is left to you in a will."

The second subject for January was chosen by myself and is... "A person is found in the desert with amnesia."

The first subject for February was chosen by Stan Weiss and is... "The baby sitter is snooping and finds your many passports, each with a different name."

The second subject for February was chosen by T.J. Reed and is... "Rewrite a classic monster, ghost, horror story in a modern way and include the story as the title so we know what you have rewritten."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Darkness

The Darkness

     I didn't know when I started this two years ago that I would fall in love with Sarah. Anyone that would have told me I would have scoffed at. After all I had been through, I never thought falling in love was possible again. But here we lay, in my full size bed at my country home. As we lay here quietly, I told here the only story I knew.

     He'd been walking for days. He'd been walking for months. He felt as though he had been walking ages. Ageless in his own way, he'd lost track of how long he had been walking. His reason for being long since forgotten, he walked anyway. Forgoing hunger and thirst, he never felt them anyway, he kept walking. Keeping himself covered through the hottest part of the day, walking mostly through the night, something pushed him. A goal he knew he had to complete. An idea engrained in his mind like instructions on an ancient Pharaohs Tomb. Knowing not his task, nor his destination, he walked anyway.
     One day he came upon a city, the largest city he had ever seen. He was amazed at it's sheer size. But the townspeople held upon themselves a great tragedy. In the center of the city a darkness had developed. Starting very small, the townspeople regarded it not, but it wasn't long before the darkness began to grow, forcing it's way into the sight-line of the people.
     Still growing, pushing buildings and people out of it's way, the city soon called upon the King to send troops to fight the darkness hoping to eradicate it from their city before it enveloped them all. A small unit was sent, but to no avail. The darkness grew. A larger unit was sent, to no avail. Still, the darkness grew. A request was sent to the King for all available troops. The King's response came quickly, that many of his forces were fighting battles on many different fronts and an edict was already begun to recruit and train all persons in the land to assist with the growing threat. As the days, months, and years past, many troops, new and old, came and went. They trained, they fought. They trained, they fought. Yet still, the darkness grew.
     Finally, many resources spent, the land becoming only a barren, desert wasteland, word was sent for a powerful sorcerer. One with many victories to his credit, as he had been training a great many years to fight the unknown. Alas the time of his arrival was unforeseen.
     As the stranger heard this tale, he felt a great sadness for the people, and for the land. He vowed to help the city, to fight the darkness, and rid the land of it's poisonous attacker. He called for aid from the King, who sent all the troops he could spare, while he, himself, readied for the battle he knew in his heart, was his battle. On the third day the King's knights arrived, reflecting white light for miles off of their shining armor, and the stranger felt he was ready.
     The group of many stormed the city and came face to face with their foe, who had doubled in size since the last time anyone had dared look upon it. Some staggered, some thought to flee, but the stranger walked calmly and fearlessly up to the darkness. Children ran while men and women alike hid their fearful faces. As the stranger stopped short of the darkness, he felt renewed, stronger, even bigger. He shouted to the darkness at the top of his lungs, “I HAVE COME FOR THEE! I SHALL NOT LEAVE WITHOUT THYN HEAD!” In response and defiance, the darkness began to grow, but the stranger raised his hands toward the mass and his forgotten majik shot from his palms, and the White Knights attacked.
     In six days time, much rest was needed. The darkness had withered some, but all were weak, including the stranger. On the seventh day, as the energy of everyone dwindled, they saw the stranger begin to fall. Before anyone could respond, he shot back to his feet, strength and determination anew.
     This happened for two months, with the stranger falling and rising every seventh day, until finally the darkness was gone, and the light once again flourished.  The city became whole again, the people happy, and the land returned to it's previous glory and wonder, and everyone rejoiced.

But that isn't how it really happened.

     The doctors said the tumor was as big as a plum, in the middle of her brain, where they couldn't operate. The only chance was the weekly chemotherapy and increased white blood cell count. In the end, it wasn't enough. My two year old daughter, Sarah, was buried next to her mother. Of course they did everything they could, but we all knew the chances were pretty slim. No one lives forever, and sometimes, even the most powerful sorcerer is no match for the darkness.

A New Weapon

A New Weapon

Captain Anthony Vanguard sat in his command tent staring at maps of the Iraq/Iran border. He was a part of a long line of men who had fought in this same area. His grandfather had fought in the Gulf War, his father in Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as Enduring Freedom, and now he was fighting the same enemy in Iraqi Freedom II. In March of 2013, Iran had launched a surprise attack on Iraqi Security Forces as well as the small U.S. Force located in the Green Zone with rockets and artillery fire. This of course, brought swift action from the U. S. and their allies, and had locked them in another fight in an Arab land. Capt. Vanguard and his company had been sitting in this God forsaken desert for the past four months fighting the Iranian Army in an attempt to hold what little land they controlled. It was madness. He removed a filtered cigarette from the pack lying on his desk and lit it with a Zippo, took a long drag, and exhaled a plume of smoke into the command tent.
Capt. Vanguard jumped at the sudden sound of the privates’ voice.
“Yes, Private Smith.”
“Sir, 2nd Platoon just came in the wire. They found one of the POW's wandering the streets. They are taking him to medical now.”
Several hours prior, Vanguard had been informed that a few soldiers that had been presumed prisoners of war had been turning up throughout the area. They were found roaming the desert, naked, with their military identification cards sewn to their chests, and no memories of what had happened to them. It was also stated to the Captain that every one of these soldiers seemed to have been operated on; a large square had been cut in their skull and then placed back with large steel staples. Savages.
“How do they know it is one of the POW's?” the Captain asked.
“Sir, they say that the man is naked and has his ID sewn to his chest.”
The Captain stood from his chair and mashed out his cigarette in the ash tray. “Get me to medical Smith.”
Captain Vanguard arrived at the aid station as 2nd Platoons' armored vehicles came pulling into the lot. Many of the soldiers were smiling and laughing, proud that they had found one of their brothers, and that he would make it home to his family. The Captain could not help but feel the same. The soldiers of second platoon carried the man in on a stretcher, giving each other slaps on the back in a gesture of a job well done.
“Son? What is your name?” the Captain asked the soldier.
“I....I don't know. Where am I?” the soldier asked hoarsely.
“You're in good hands bud. We are going to take good care of you.” the medic told the wounded soldier.
Captain Vanguard peered over the medics shoulder and looked at the identification card sewn to the man’s chest. Jagged cuts covered the area around the identification card, which was sewn to the skin with large strands of leather. Pfc. Nathan Pratt. Yes, he was one of the missing soldiers Vanguard remembered from the briefs. This boy was going to have some hard years ahead of him. Who could tell what type of barbaric torture he had endured over the past month? He would most definitely be considered a pariah once he is reintroduced to society. This thought and the sight of the soldier lying on the table angered him. He wanted to hurt the enemy.
The man began to violently shake on the table. The medics tried desperately to hold him down.
“Would someone grab him please? I can't get this IV started!” the medic cried.
Vanguard grasped the soldiers arm trying to keep him from shaking himself off the table. Pfc. Pratt's teeth gnashed and gritted together, his eyes were squeezed shut, as he began to whimper in pain. Vanguard looked down at the man’s stomach and seen what he thought was movement. He raised his head and tried to whisper reassuring words to the soldier. When he looked down at the stomach again, he was positive he seen movement. It looked as if there were little hands pushing up on the skin of the soldier’s abdomen. Vanguard froze in shock at the sight. And that is when the soldier’s stomach exploded. There was no flash; there was no defining explosion; just the sound of tearing flesh and the sound of metal bouncing around the small operating area. Vanguard fell to his knees out of reflex and placed his hands over his head to protect his skull. Slowly he opened his eyes and looked at the small pieces of metal that covered the floor.
Each piece was the size and color of a nickel, rounded, and smooth. Private Smith ran into the medical tent and screamed, “Sir, Battalion says to quarantine this guy! They got bugs in them!”
The nickels sprouted legs right before Captain Vanguard’s eyes. A small red light could be seen at what would be the eyes. The bugs began to fling themselves around the room and started burrowing into the soldiers skin. Blood spewed from open wounds as the soldiers tried desperately to defend themselves from these little metallic demons. The Iranians had a new toy and it looked to be very effective.



As I raised my weary head I heard a noise coming in the distance coming towards me.
Then darkness.
I awoke later connected to some machines and lying on a bed. I appeared to be in some sort of medical facility of some sort. How did I get here? What happened? And most importantly, who am I?
A few minutes later a man walked in and I tried to get up but found I was handcuffed to the bed. “What’s going on here?” I asked the man.
“Well Mr. Elliott, we found you in the desert not far from here unconscious,” the man said.
“Mr. Elliott? Is that my name? How do you know my name?”
“It was how you signed your journal Mr. Elliott. Theodore Elliott, Des Moines, Iowa
“What journal? I don’t remember anything!”
“This journal right here” he said as he handed me a leather-bound book.

It read as follows:

To whom it may concern,
My name is Theodore Elliott from Des Moines, Iowa. I figure this is the best way to tell my story since I am unsure where this will go here in a few minutes. My story begins when my grandmother, Dora, left me this mysterious box and a sealed letter in her will after she passed away three months ago. Strange symbols encircled this box she left me. I think my grandmother knew my curiosity would not let me rest until I opened it to find out what was inside, hopefully deciphering the symbols on the outside. In the sealed letter she left me directions to find the key to open this box. After searching high and low for three months I was able to decipher the codes she left to find this key she had kept in the family crest above the fireplace all these years. In plain sight of all who had ever visited her house this key was but you would never have guessed it. See, the family crest is actually two keys crossed at their center. But evidently one of these keys was detachable in the crest above the fireplace and it opened the box. When I placed the key inside the box it glowed a sort of blue hue and popped open revealing another cryptic item. A map with strange symbols that led to that strange circular stone that was out in her back field. The one with the fence around it that nobody was allowed to go around because there was a supposed sinkhole there. This stone resembled one of the old sundials from ancient times only with the same strange symbols that this box and letter had. Only then, once I saw all three items together, did I begin to notice the pattern. It just flew together before my eyes. I’ve always been one to take chances so I hope if something happens to me you will be able to carry on my search. Here goes nothing.
Sincerely, Theodore S. Elliott, Des Moines, Iowa

As I handed the journal back to the man, he asked me what I remembered after that. “Nothing,” I told him although that was now a lie. The symbols written in the journal by my name had completely restored my memory, although much was still hazy.
After I finished signing the journal, I put the box on the stone and it started glowing again. I touched the symbols on the stone as they lit up on the box. Then a big flash happened. The rest is still foggy but I’m sure it will come back to me.
I knew that I had to get out of this place, wherever it was. If they found out what happened I would be majorly screwed. They would never let me go. I would end up in jail or prison and watching the Home Shopping Network just for contact to the outside world. Then all of a sudden the weirdest thing that has ever happened in my life ( That’s saying a lot if you remember anything that happened in my journal) happened. The handcuffs. Fell. Off. They just fell off. I wasn’t pulling on them or anything, just thinking I needed to get out of them before anything else.
The man’s eyes went wide when he saw what happened. “What the…!” is all he got out before I hit him as hard as I could and jumped off the bed. He ended up out cold and all the way across the room from me. How did I do that?
I ran out the doorway and looked around, trying to get some sort of bearings on where to go next. As I looked I saw a sign that just took my breath away and made my eyes as wide as the guy who I had just knocked out. Then I was knocked out by a bright blue flash.
Area 51 Research Facility?



The sun was beating down on the Arizona sand as we approached the scene of the fire. It was probably a stolen car that had been full of guns or drugs and had been set on fire to hide any evidence or any cargo that couldn't be carried away. This wasn't the first car fire we had come upon and certainly wouldn't be the last. There were three sets of tracks leading into the dessert from the passenger side of the car; the flames were too high to tell if anyone else was still inside.
My partner Steve and I had been working together since I joined the border patrol in 2007 just after getting out of the army. Steve had been working patrol for a couple years and showed me the ropes. I caught on pretty fast, after all border patrol in Afghanistan wasn't that much different than Sector twelve on an average July day. Steve grabbed the fire extinguisher as I took off following the tracks into the dessert.
My mind was on full alert as I scanned the terrain ahead for any sign of movement. Every step off the main trail was potentially my last and when I signed on it was made very clear that my life depended on me being at the top of my game at all times. I had followed illegals into the scrub brush many times and had always came out on top but this could be the day, any day could be my last if one of them decided to shoot instead of run and hide. I took a sip from my camel back and looked all around before proceeding deeper into the ravine where the tracks descended. The air was stale and the sun was baking me to a crisp down in that baron rut that I had so willingly put myself into just thirty minutes earlier.
About an hour into my search I came upon an olive green backpack laying in the middle of the trail ahead of me, it was definitely U.S. military but from a few years back so probably surplus. I hesitated before picking it up, thinking that it may have been booby trapped since they didn't even attempt to hide it. It was heavy and apparently left very recently because it smelled of sweat and the stains were still damp. I pulled my Glock and ducked down as I evaluated my position and looked for signs of an ambush. I knelt there for maybe a minute before opening the bag to find the main compartment stuffed full of what appeared to be cocaine. There were two high capacity magazines loaded with 9mm hollow points in one of the side pockets but it was the pocket on the other side that had me wondering because it had several drivers’ licenses, passports, and several other pieces of ID all with different names. Why would anyone leave that particular bag and its contents lying in the open for just anyone to stumble upon, especially since this was a well used trail from Mexico into the states? I did the best I could to hide the bag behind some weeds and stood up while carefully looking all around and then radioed the location of the back pack and my route to Steve before getting back to the trail and what lay ahead.
I walked about a quarter of a mile farther when I saw a man wearing only what appeared to be a pair of once white underwear and trying to climb the edge of the bank; I approached slowly while giving him orders to stop both in English and in Spanish. He didn't respond at all so I stopped and took another good look around before closing in on him. I was within ten foot of him before I saw the blood in his hair and on his sunburned shoulders and back. He was bleeding pretty bad, It looked like he had been shot in the head but I hadn't heard a shot and he hadn't been bleeding for very long because the blood was still wet and seeping. I did everything but scream to get this guys attention before he finally turned and faced me. His eyes got as big as saucers and he looked more surprised to see me than I was to find him in his bare feet and underwear fifty miles from anywhere. He finally spoke but I couldn't understand him because of his course dry voice. He had been wandering in one hundred and ten degree temperatures for who knows how long without any water so it was a miracle that he could speak at all. I gave him a bottle of water from my pack and he drank it down in one gulp and was motioning for more. I asked him his name but he just stared at me with a puzzled look as if he was trying to figure that one out too. I asked again and his only answer was why are we here. He was not my only concern because there were at least two more men somewhere ahead of me and I didn't know how close they were. This guy didn't even know his name so he couldn't be of any assistance to me. There was nothing I could do at this point because of this guy so I radioed our location to Steve so he could meet us and I could get back to my search. I had a lot of questions that weren't answered yet like how many were out there and was this guy just in their path or was he one of them?
I started back southward toward where Steve would be coming from while dragging Mr. X behind me when I was stopped dead in my tracks at the sound of a gunshot and then another just a few hundred yards behind us. I pushed the man down to the ground and leaving him there I circled around to the left off the trail as far as possible so I wouldn't be walking strait into whatever was happening. I closed in on where the shots had came from pretty quickly and could see two men on the ground, both covered in blood and both motionless. I was searching the thick brush and cactus for the slightest movement or reflection when I sensed someone watching me; I turned and saw movement coming out of a stand of brush. I breathed a little easier when I saw it was Steve stepping out. He was signaling me and pointing just slightly to my right out of my line of vision with one finger raised. My mind was playing out several scenarios all at the same time and I needed to decide which one I was going to respond to before it was too late and one of us was laying in the sand.
My Glock was pointing strait ahead of me as I took a step toward where Steve was pointing and rose up enough to see over a big clump of cactus. At about thirty feet I could see the back of a man in a blue T-shirt going through another backpack. He was throwing everything out on the ground as if he was looking for something in particular and then he slammed the entire bag to the ground while mumbling something in English that I couldn't understand. He stood up and looked back toward the men who were lying on the ground and started screaming at them and while they weren't answering him back they were apparently speaking volumes to him from their silence. He grasped his face in his hands as if he was in severe pain and screamed like a wild animal while tearing at his skin and short black hair. I could see a handgun on the ground where he had been kneeling and there was nothing in his hands so I aimed at his back and yelled at him to turn around and keep his hands on his head. He jumped like he was shot at the sound of my voice and turned toward me but before I could say anything else Steve was on him and they were both on the ground. He was cuffed in a matter of seconds and I was backtracking to find my bleeding victim, suspect, or whoever he was while Steve secured the scene.
It has been two months and we still have no idea who this lost, wandering man is; none of the ID’s belonged to him or the other two who had been shot. Our shooter isn’t talking and the only thing we know for sure about any of them is that they all have the identical tattoo of a coyote on their right upper arm and that there was over a million bucks worth of white reasons to kill in a green backpack lying in the middle of the trail.

Roots of Emotion

Roots of Emotion

            The following events are actual occurrences as described through the eyes of Mrs. Danielle Darcy Peters-Masterson, a former botanist and animal activist, stationed out of Oregon.  Mrs. Masterson was reported deceased on July 15 1987, found by a small town farmer on the outskirts of the Alvord Desert in Harney county.  The farmer says that he almost hit her with his car, as she was wandering out into the highway.  Her speech was incoherent, and she had no clue who she was.  After reading the journal which she held clutched tightly to her chest, many things were brought to light that most are still very skeptical about to this day. 

April 2 1986 – D.D.P.M.
            My research is going swimmingly! Only two years out of college and already I've begun to delve into the deeper recesses of botany.  My specific interest lies in the connection between plants and human emotions.  It has already been proven by many in my field that plants can show such qualities as hunger, pain, and want, but can they also display the more difficult emotions such as anger, sorrow, or even love?  I am on the brink of discovery, I can feel it in my bones.  Just a little while longer.

May 7 1986 – D.D.P.M.
            A breakthrough!  Just this morning I attempted the less scientific method of polygraphing a plant and was able to read slight movements in the needle, based on various acts on my part.  Although the readouts were less than concrete, I truly believe that my actions were met by lesser or equal reactions on the part of the plant tested.  This morning's subject was a personal favorite of mine, the Dionaea Muscipula more commonly known as the Venus Fly Trap.  The specific strain used was an “Akai Ryu” or Japanese Red Dragon, named as such for it's crimson color.  I hope that it's more predatory nature will allow me to derive more accurate conclusions.

July 12 1986 – D.D.P.M.
            Hope has appeared on the horizon in the form of another breakthrough!  I decided that perhaps since a plant's time line varies greatly from our own, I could observe it better by putting myself in it's shoes.  I set up a video recorder in the room with “Ryu,” as we've come to call it, and left it alone for a week.  Also within the room, I activated our projection machine, and set the botanical slides on a loop so that they would show continuously over the week without interruption. 
            I came in today and the most amazing thing had happened.  The video recording revealed, as I had hoped, that Ryu had indeed  produced emotions.  I had to view the tape in fast forward so that my naked eye could comprehend, but steadily the plant swayed back and forth, moving in an exact elliptical pattern.  The odd and amazing thing is that it's pattern was in perfect sync with the loop of slides.  I surmised at this point that Ryu was reacting to the images of other plants, seeking their companionship.  This may qualify as the evidence I've been looking for, or at least lead to more.

October 21 1986 – D.D.P.M.
            Despair and tragedy have befallen me!  Oh what a miserable time I've had over the past few weeks.  Ryu has taken a turn for the worst.  I realize that the specimen is plausibly replaceable, but on my own emotional level, our attachment is strong.  I do professionally however, fear that by changing to a different plant, my readings may not be as accurate, nor will they be taken as seriously.

February 29 1987 – D.D.P.M.
            All is lost!  Not only have I had to bury my most prized specimen and start all over with a new and less than worthy one, but my results have been deemed inconclusive by the board of botanists here in Harney County.  They are threatening to shut us down completely.  I fear that if I cannot come up with some absolute evidence soon, I'll be back to studying soil and sand at the local university.
            ...That's it!  Soil and sand!  Why haven't I thought of it before?  I've got to study the effects of my plants in their natural environments, not in some dusty old laboratory.  Starting tomorrow, I'll be taking my instruments and papers out into the field!

March 1 1987 – D.D.P.M.
            I've set up camp in the middle of the Alvord Desert.  Much to my liking, the new readouts have been quite conclusive.  I find myself growing close to my new specimen, a Nepenthes Mirabilis, commonly known as the “pitcher plant,” whom I've affectionately named “Neep.”  Hopefully this new specimen will be the difference between success and failure.

April 5 1987 – D.D.P.M.
            It has been a whole year now since I began this official research and I find myself only minutely closer to my goal.  The funding has run out and the board has no intention of renewing the contract.  All that I own, instrumentally, is in my backpack.  It's just me and Neep now.  No research assistants, no laboratory, no money. 
            However, my resolve has not been diminished.  In fact, all the more so have I determined to get to the bottom of my research and to the top of my field!  I shall neither eat nor sleep until my colleagues are all begging to be me!

July 14 1987 – D.D.P.M.
            Although I did not intend to literally starve myself in the pursuit of my studies, it seems I am loosing weight rather steadily.  Perhaps I should head into town and take a break.  You know, get back to society and rub elbows with humanity.  On second thought, yes, that's exactly what I need.  I can replenish my supplies and maybe come right back out here. 
            I am a little blurry on the exact direction of town, now that I think about it.  Perhaps I'll just head north.  Yes north.  I do vaguely remember heading southward to get to the tent.

July 14 1987, 1:30pm – D.D.P.M.
            I've been wandering for a while now and still cannot seem to see any resemblance of civilization.  It's almost midday and I'm beginning to feel like a chicken turning on a pit.  The sun's blasting down on me and if I don't see something soon, this may be my last entry.

July 14 1987, 05:05pm – D.D.P.M.
            The sun has headed down but at this rate it's not going to be fast enough.  I don't know if it's just my imagination or the heat playing tricks with my mind, but I do believe something amazing has happened.  Neep has spoken to me.  Well, not with audible speech exactly, but the  rhythmic movements coming from the “lid” on it's pitcher section, very closely resemble many words in the English language. 
            I have deciphered such words as north, safety, and oasis.  And so, without a better game plan so to speak, I head in the direction of this hoped for oasis. 

July 14 1987, 07:21pm – D.D.P.M.
            Betrayal, malice, deception; traits and emotions that I never thought a plant could have, but am now most assured of.  Whatever excitement that I may have had at first for this discovery, is now replaced by fear and horror.  Upon first viewing the oasis, my heart jumped, and I ran speedily toward my new found haven.  But no sooner had I leaped upon the grass, than the whole spot of land shook in upheaval. 
            The patch of lush greenery was in fact the inner workings of one huge, hinged mouth.  In an instant, much too fast for me to react, the massive trap had closed shut.  I can see small rays of sunlight peeking in through the ceiling, and this at first offered me a sliver of hope.  It was enough for me at least to finish this journal entry.  But I'm afraid that it won't last, in fact as I write this, I am beginning to feel the effects of what I assume are a defensive salivation meant to paralyze and confuse.  If you are reading this, please assure that my research gets to light.
                                                            Final Entry - Danielle Darcy Peters-Masterson

            When Robert Masterson arrived at the coroner’s office to identify his wife's body, he was given very little explanation about her mysterious death.  The existence of the journal and her mental state were kept from him.  His only consolation was in the form of a brightly arranged bouquet of red roses with a single black rose in the center, from the local florist.  Mr. Masterson would later state that he could swear he saw the flowers weeping.

The Herald

The Herald

They put me in jail.
I don't think I really blame them and, in a way, it was kind of a relief.
At least I was out of the hot sun and got something to drink. It felt kind of funny, though. I can't ever recall being happy about being thrown in jail.
But when it comes right down to it, I can't recall anything at all. Nothing. Not a name, not a place, not parents or siblings or friends or even a childhood. My mind is still sharp and functioning, but my memory is a complete and utterly desolate wasteland of nothingness.
What little I do remember only goes back a couple of hours. I opened my eyes and found myself sitting on the ground in bright daylight. Dirt. Rocks. Some scrubby looking trees and sagebrush.
Sagebrush. I was in the desert.
How very strange. How did I know that? How did I know it was sagebrush? Where am I other than in a desert?
Brushing the dirt from my hands I rose carefully to my feet, checking for any obvious damage to my body along the way. No aches and pains. No obvious blood on my clothes anywhere. Gingerly, I reached up and checked my head. No soreness. No lumps or bruises. That was okay, then.
So where was I? And of course right on the heels of that thought was Who am I?
I racked my brains for the answer and came up empty handed. That really bothered me. I knew (somehow) that I should know who I was and where I was and how I got here. But there was nothing.
Glancing down, I observed the soft imprints my hands had made in the loose soil on either side of the larger imprint of my butt. Footprints! Maybe I left footprints! At least if I didn't know where I was, I could tell where I'd been.
But there was nothing. I scanned the soil as far around my position as I could see. Nothing. If there had been a wind blowing, I would have understood it. They would have blown away. But there wasn't even a hint of a breeze. The air was still and sullen and expectant, almost as if the world was waiting, holding it's breath to see what I would do.
Either I was capable of leaping impressive distances or falling from the sky uninjured or I had been just created from the dust like I heard happened once or twice before, ages ago. Don't remember (of course) who told me that story or if I believed it then, either.
That was no help at all.
Unable to remember what I had been doing or what I was supposed to have been doing, I decided to walk. I figured either I would pick the wrong direction and die out here somewhere or I'd get lucky and find some water and a place in the shade eventually. One direction seemed to be a little more downhill that the other way so I faced downhill and started walking.
While I walked I rummaged around in my mind to see what I could come up with. I opened my mouth and said “I can't remember my name.” out loud. Okay, I spoke English. Or it sounded like English to me, anyway. I was wearing fairly cheap generic tennis shoes and.... let me check.... yup, socks. Loose fitting blue jeans. I patted the pockets. It felt like there were a few small things in the front pockets. One back pocket held a folded blue handkerchief. The other was empty. No wallet.
That would have been too easy, I guess.
About the time I was going to get around to investigating the contents of my front pockets I saw a swirl of dust a ways off that seemed to be coming slightly my direction. As it got closer I could see it was a vehicle and as it got even closer still I recognized it as a Land Rover.
I started running and waving my arms, yelling “Hey! Help! I'm over here!!!”
It turned out that I was actually on reservation land. And the Constable who found me decided to turn me over to the county sheriff because I was a white man. I looked down at the tanned reddish skin on my arms and shrugged. I didn't think I looked white. I thought I was more pink at that point, but who was I to argue? Besides, he was polite and gave me water to drink and listened to my story.
But I could tell he didn't believe a word I said.
And when he brought me to the sheriffs department in town and I told my story again, I could tell they didn't believe me either. The sheriff said “Son, we're going to hold you until we can get this straightened out.”
I knew he meant they were throwing me in jail. I didn't mind. It was inside and they had air conditioning. I could sit down and cool off and relax for awhile.
The young deputy and I inventoried the contents of my pockets before he put me in the cell. I had one Canadian quarter and twelve cents in American change.

“Maybe I'm a Canadian?” I said. The deputy shook his head.
“You don't have an accent. You don't sound Canadian.”
“What do they sound like?”
“Not like you, mister. You got no accent at all.” He slid my change into an envelope.
I also had a Zippo lighter, a small pocket knife, some Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum, half a pencil and a folded up piece of paper. The deputy unfolded it. The paper was mostly blank but at the top it read:


The deputy read it and looked up at me. “Is this you?” he said.
I shrugged. “Do I look like a Dash Winkleman to you?”
He stared at me thoughtfully for another moment then said “Naw. I guess not.” and tossed the paper in the envelope along with everything else.
The deputy searched me thoroughly and took pictures and fingerprints. Right before they put me in the cell the sheriff patted me on the shoulder and said “We'll find out who you are pretty quick now, son. Don't you worry about that!” And he laughed in a way that made me a little uncomfortable. Like finding my identity was something I didn't want, but he was going to do it anyway.
They gave me a brown paper bag with two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, some cookies and a box of imitation fruit juice and locked me in the cell.
I didn't mind. It was cool and calm in there. A man could get some serious resting done in a place like that. As soon as I ate and drank my little juice box I laid back on the bunk and closed my eyes, a calm peaceful smile on my face.
Still didn't have a clue who I was or what I was supposed to be doing, but I was comfy and cool and my belly was full.
A few moments later I felt a stinging pain in the end of one finger. As I rolled over and held it up to the light I saw a drop of something dark fall from the tip of my finger to the floor.
Am I bleeding? Another drop falls. I look closer.
There's an opening, in the tip of my finger. Almost like a little mouth. And every couple of seconds it spits out a drop of something dark. Even in the light it looks black like oil instead of red like you'd expect.
I watched in awed fascination as drop after drop fell to the floor. That little opening in my finger opening and closing regularly.
I thought about calling the deputy. He should probably see this.
Then my eyes went to the floor.
Where there should have been a puddle right below my hand was something.... else. A line.
All of those little drops of fluid, once they hit the floor, began moving across the concrete like tiny black slugs. One right after another, heading across the floor and under the cell door and out into the world.
As even more drops fell and began their journey I knew that the first ones would be looking for the sheriff and his deputy. The rest had other destinations.
Suddenly it was like someone had thrown a light switch on in my head.
I remembered now. I was a messenger!
The message?

Desert Interlude

Desert Interlude

She left Las Vegas an hour before dawn.  The neon lights glared down as the night crawlers, the pimps, hookers and drug dealers oozed around the mouths of alleys, hunters of the plump corn-fed thrill seekers slowed by a night of frenetic excess.  Las Vegas had been both more and less than she had expected.  More frantic, desperate, and loud and a heck of a lot less fun. Anticipated and fantasized for two thousand miles of interstate it had become no more than a one night stop-over at an over-priced budget motel.
She was unprepared for the volume of traffic that crowded Interstate 15 southbound on a Monday morning.  She wedged the grey Toyota between two semi’s and held the wheel in a death grip as more of the behemoths roared past in the left lane.  Truckers, bleary eyed from a night of pumping cash into the cities economy, broke from the snarl of commuters  like thoroughbreds from the gate as they tried to make up for lost time. California here we come.  She was glad the kids were asleep in the back seat. That was a distraction she did not need.
Less than thirty minutes later she was exhausted.  The interstate was a free-for-all, every man for himself, a video game with dire consequences for the uninitiated.  She took the exit ramp for the town of Jean and pulled off the asphalt onto the shoulder just before the cattle guard at the end of the ramp.  A quick glance showed that the babies were still asleep.  Pressing the right buttons on the GPS navigation system showed a scenic loop north and west through Good Springs and Sandy Valley, Nevada.  After crossing into California she could choose between returning south to the interstate or loop further north toward Death Valley. She had the time.
With the radio tuned to NPR’s Morning Edition they headed north.  Cool desert air drifted in from the partially open passenger window.  As the sun began its inevitable ascent she listened to a news report of a meth head mother leaving her baby asleep in his car seat while she partied away the August afternoon in a crack house in Atlanta.  The baby survived, barely.  She shivered, then closed the window and glanced back, assuring herself that the kids were safe.
After passing through the tiny hamlet of Good Springs the road turned west to Sandy Valley. It barely qualified as a town.  They began to climb toward the barren summit which separated Nevada and California.  Shadows raced down from the ragged peaks like puppies, bounding from boulder to boulder.  It was unlike anything she knew from back home in Pennsylvania.  It saddened her that she had no one to share it with. The babies wouldn’t remember.
Just beyond the crest stood a single sign, “Welcome to California”, decorated with bullet holes.  Of course a photo was required.  This was a new world, a new life, one she could share with the kids as they grew older. She would show them the photos of their journey and say “These are the pictures Mommy took when we came here to start over”.
With the car parked on the shoulder beneath the sign she checked that her babies were still asleep.  She pulled the digital camera from her bag and stood outside the car. The desert air was heating quickly but it felt good on her skin.  The breeze rising from the valley floor to the west brought snatches of traffic noise.  Curious, she moved away from the car and rounded the next curve of the road.  The ground dropped away to her right in an almost vertical fall as a panoramic view opened before her.  Far in the distance she could see the interstate with its flowing river of machines. She stood on the shoulder and brought the camera up, trying to capture the grandeur, the barren beauty of nature.  A half step to the right brought her Croc Wedge onto a rock no larger than a child’s fist.  It was big enough. Her ankle twisted beneath her.  She pitched over the edge in a shower of gravel.  It was a short fall but her body rolled and slid. Unforgiving rocks bruised and cut her tender flesh. She lay like a discarded doll.  
            Jack was on his cell phone trying to placate an angry customer when the zombie stepped from the desert scrub and caused him to jerk the wheel of the Peterbilt.  He was screaming as the truck lurched into the side of the motor home which had camped beside him for the last 10 miles or so.  Metal screeched against metal as he yanked the wheel back to the right in a convulsive effort to regain control.  The motor home shot across the hardscrabble median like a pinball.  It struck a northbound Freightliner loaded with hay. Metal, plastic and human flesh exploded.  The Peterbilt dropped onto the right shoulder and Jack brought it back to the asphalt, but the stainless steel tanker attached to the fifth wheel overbalanced and rolled, taking the cab with it.  The combination slid crossways down both southbound lanes as the wanna-be NASCAR driver who had been drafting tore through it like a Joey Chitwood stunt driver.  Fountains of scarlet cranberry juice and blood smeared the asphalt.  The zombie stood on the shoulder of the road, it’s bloody and bruised appearance no longer shocking or even mentionable among the carnage.  A grey Toyota oven looked down from the mountain.
NPR’s Morning Edition led with the story of the massive pile-up on California’s Interstate 15.  A preliminary count indicated 21 vehicles were involved covering both south and northbound lanes. Confirmed fatalities were 7.  An undetermined number of survivors had been transported to local area hospitals.  The tiny hospital in Baker had been overwhelmed.  Many of the victims had been sent further south to Barstow but even that larger facility had been inadequate so some had been sent across the state line to Las Vegas. The investigation was ongoing.  Names would be released following notification of families.
“Look, Doc, we have accounted for everyone but her,” Captain Jacobs was slumped against the wall in a hallway in the tiny hospital in Baker.  He was exhausted and looked it.  He hadn’t slept in 3 days, but then, neither had the doctor.
“She remembers nothing, Captain, not even her name”, said Dr. Andrews, “She has suffered head trauma, probably from an impact with a windshield, but we just don’t know.”  He sighed.  “Maybe in a few days it will come back to her.  Right now all we can do is treat the physical injuries.  Hell, Jake, she is still dehydrated.”
“Wait, did you say dehydrated?”  Jake asked.  “Why would she be dehydrated, she was one of the first brought in, wasn’t she?”
“Yes, she was one of the first.  Her injuries appeared to be minor, cuts and bruises and the lump on her head, but, I don’t know, it could have been blood loss, or it could have been a weekend of partying in ‘Vegas. I don’t have the answers for you, Jake”.
            Dr. Andrews was sleeping on his feet in the doorway to her room just after midnight when she bolted upright in the bed and began to shriek.  She was frantically tearing at the IV’s as he lurched to her side and tried to hold her down.  With the help of other staff he finally got her sedated.  It was only after the fact that he realized what she was screaming.
“Jake, she remembers” he sobbed into the phone, “Oh God, she remembers. She woke up screaming about her babies.  Calling their names, Molly and Wally, they’re in her car, Jake. Four days, they’ve been in her car.  She was trying to take pictures at the state line on Nevada 161 and fell down the mountain.  Jake, they’re babies.  Oh God.”   Dr. Andrews dropped the phone, unable to talk.
Captain Jacobs knew that he could have sent someone else, but this was a job he could not ask one of his officers to do.  No one should have to do this, ever.  Four days locked in a car in the desert sun meant that there could only be one outcome.  He approached the grey Toyota on legs that threatened to quit.  His stomach churned and bile rose to the back of his throat.  He fought the urge to vomit as he looked through the window. The bodies had swollen and burst in the heat. He gagged, unable to control the reflex.  His knees gave out as he began to puke in the dirt beside the car.  He puked until he couldn’t puke anymore.  As the other officers began to move toward him he held out his hand in a gesture to stop.  They held their positions as he levered himself back to his feet, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
He turned to the men and grinned, a grotesque rictus.
“They’re cats”.



He awoke wet and shivering. It took a few seconds to realize he was lying in water. It was only a few inches deep but it was ice water and it only added to his shivering. He tried to stand but suddenly felt dizzy and light headed. He stumbled but caught himself right before eating a face full of sand. He tried to remember where he was but couldn’t. Confusion really took hold of him. He couldn’t remember where he was or even who he was. How did he get here? Wherever here was? He wanted to just sit here and think for a minute but he was so cold and besides he just couldn’t concentrate right now.
A noise jolted him to attention. He listened more closely, it sounded like a growl coming from just over that hill. He now quickly looked around at his surroundings. It was night time but the moon light was shinning very brightly. He could see a shallow pool of water with some small shrubs and trees around it. The rest was just soft rolling sand dunes. Hmm. He thought a desert it is then. But which one, where in the world was he. He wondered if he had a job that would bring him to a place like this, but he couldn’t remember what his job was. Besides he couldn’t really name a desert off the top of his head so he doubted it was his job that brought him here. More snarling sounds snapped him back to the moment. He could hear what sounded like multiple dogs growling, barking and now fighting. He creped up the hill and peeked over the top. He saw a pack of dogs, wolves, or maybe even coyotes fighting and eating what appeared to be the remains of two camels. Then something caught his eye. One of the dog’s appeared to be gnawing on the remnants of a person. He wanted to retch but held it in afraid he might be next on the menu. He took off running in the other direction past the oasis and over the dunes.
It seemed like he ran for hours but by the wheezing he was doing he figured maybe only 10 minutes or so. He could run for several miles because he ran everyday, but not at a full on run over this rough terrain.. Hey he thought I remember running, he then wondered if he was an athlete. Suddenly he realized he could name every baseball stadium in the majors. He also knew he had been in every one of them. So either he was a baseball player, coach, manager or maybe even a super fan. He tried to think of his age but it too evaded him. He tried to concrete but he was so dagum cold. So he thought best to keep moving so he could stay warm and put some distance between himself and those hounds or whatever they were. He was making good time he knew but without knowing where he was going what did it matter? He just decided to be sure he was moving in one direction. It would get warmer he thought when the sun came up. He was looking forward to that. His clothes sure didn’t seem to be drying.
He stopped for a minute to enjoy the surreal beauty of the sun rising over the dunes. It rose so fast without nothing to block it.  He smiled for the first time, the sun did bring warmth but not as much as he hoped. His smile instantly vanished as he heard the howl’s of the ravaging beasts in the near distance and getting closer with every howl.  He so didn’t want to get eaten so he pushed himself like never before foot over foot over foot. Run fast run hard became his motto and he just kept muttering it over and over. As he topped one hill he dared himself to look back and there he saw the pack pursing him. Holy crap he thought, he wasn’t sure what those hellish hounds were but they were definitely not dogs. They were really big, about the size of a grizzly bear he figured. Plus there fur was thick black with a line of silver running down the back like that of a silver back gorilla. There teeth were not teeth at all but more fangs you might find on a saber tooth tiger. He began to wonder if perhaps he had died and found his way to hell. His heart was pounding in his chest like a jack hammer, his breath was rapid and jagged like that of a dying man taking one last gasp. He wasn’t overly religious he knew that but he began praying for mercy and begging to be spared this barren wasteland of death and despair. The beasts were closing in on him and he tried to push faster and harder but he knew time and energy was quickly waning to a cease. He cried to the heavens for resolution of his soul. He had a crazy thought about this giving new meaning to the term nipping at your heels. 
He felt the burning in his legs and something cold hitting his face. He was sweating now but somehow still felt chilled. His vision was spotted with dots of black filling it, his head pounded like thunder but he tried to focus on where the hounds were. He couldn’t see or hear them, so he slowed down his wobbly legs and came to a slow walk. It was then he realized it was snowing and he was looking out at a barren artic wasteland. He turned to his back and saw the rolling desert behind him. “What the hell he yelled?” This is like no place on earth. He then heard the disappointing howls of the beasts as they seemed reluctant to come out into the snow. Then out from the frosty snow land he heard a mocking yelp inviting him to test his merit against some unknown creature. He looked up at the sky as if to ask what have I done to deserve this? Just then the sky shook with thunder and a blinding light burned into his eyes. A loud voice said “they say the mind is like a desert, a very lonely prison with only your thoughts, accept me and live on, reject me and die”. He stood there wondering if he really heard a voice in the sky or if he was just going mad. He simply mumbled “I accept”. Then he blacked out.
He awoke to hear a sucking noise like water being drained and filtered in a pool. He was lying on his back and could hear the muttering of several voices but couldn’t exactly make them out. His eye was thrust open forcefully and light seared his vision. He tried to blink but couldn’t. He heard someone shout “brain activity returning to normal parameters.” A very gruff and deep voice resonated throughout his body “congratulations 725 you are the first ever to emerge from the comatose state of cryogenic realignment, The State of Obama now decrees you fit to return to society.” He tried to speak but his mouth was so dry and strained. At last he found his words “what is my name and what crime did I commit?”  The gruff voice answered “don’t worry 725 a new name will be awarded to you and your crime has been forgiven and eradicated.” 725 wanted to ask a lot more but his throat hurt too much to talk. He didn’t remember anything about a crime, trial or even what the State of Obama was.
Two weeks had past since 725 had woken up in the penitentiary and he still had more questions than he had answers. They had put him through every test known to mankind and he had become quite the celebrity. Apparently he was the only person ever to return from his sentence. Today was the day he was to receive his new name. He knelt before the assembled mass and a man everyone seemed to worship stood to his front. As the mass bowed before them the man stepped forward and touched his forehead with a metal rod and he felt the sting of  an injection. Tears welled up in his eyes and the man stated boldly “arise Maluku Luminosity Anew and welcome to One World Order. As Maluku stood he saw the ever so slightest grin on the man and somehow he felt like he was lost forever.

Looking for a David

“Looking for a David”
It had been a long time. A real long time she thought. She could not even remember the last time she saw him. What she did remember is why she didn’t want to see him now. They met in the library at St, Louis University. She was trying to reach a book on a shelf when He came in behind her and helped her out. They started talking and found they had a lot in common. He was a third year med student and she was just a first year.  She was afraid that she had made the wrong decision. She was smart but she was not focused enough to be a doctor. “Hi” he said, “I’m Dent”, he stretched his hand towards her, as they shook, “I’m Sarah.” At first she just stood there, not real sure what to say to this 6 foot, dark hair, an dark green eye man in front of her. The smell of his cologne made her forget what she was doing.
Finally when she found herself,  “Dent.  That is different”, she said. “ Yea” he said “My real name is Brent, but my sister could not sound out the B, and when she said it, it came out as Dent”. As he was explaining she could see the sorrow in his eyes. She wanted to ask, but was afraid. “She died, when she was 3”, he told her. “I am sorry”, she said “What happen?” She could tell it hurt him to talk about it.  “When she was 2,” He said, “She had fallen off a chair and broke her arm.  When the doctor was setting it they found she had a tumor in her lungs.” She could see the pain that he was going thru. Just as thou it happened yesterday, she thought to herself. “They set the arm, and started treatment on the tumor. The Chemo made her sick. She got to where she was just too tired to even say a word. The arm never healed right. They said it was because of the chemo she was taking to fight the cancer in her body. It was fighting against each other.” As he was talking, he could see her running in the yard, Yelling “Dent, Dent. Look what I found!, She was always bringing him something she had found in the yard. One day it was a rock that had a fossil on it. “What is it” She said, so excited, “It’s a fossil”, He said. “A fossil”, she repeated, “Yea” he said grinning. He knew she was trying to say it but it just didn’t work out. “Anyway” he said, remembering where he was, “she was never the same bright, energetic child she once was. She died on her 3rd Birthday.” Sarah, could see the pain on his face. She knew it had to hard to think about that. “She is the reason I decided to be a doctor”, he said. “ I want to help find a cure.” As he stood there, he looked at her. He noticed how her hair played on her shoulders. He noticed how her brown eye’s were the brightest he has ever seen. ”What about you”, He said, Why do you want to be a doctor”? He asked. “ I want to make a difference”, she said. “She felt a little funny saying it like that, but that is what she meant. She didn’t know how else to say it.” When I was in High School”, She said,” We had a motivation speaker that came in and talked to the Junior Class.  He told us about a man named Doug. Doug was 30 years old. He was an Invasive, Non-Interventional Cardiologists. He had a very good practice in Los Angles. He drove the best cars. Went on the best vacations and owned 3 houses. One of the houses was in Los Angles. I had 10 bedrooms, 10 baths, a tennis court, inside and outside swimming pools.  He had a yacht, where he would host amazing parties. He had a smaller house in the Hamptons, that had only 8 bedrooms, 6 bath’s, He didn’t get to be there as much as he liked, and he often thought about selling it. His last house with only 9 bedrooms with 6 bathrooms was in Dallas. It was more of a ranch style house and it was his favorite. He raised and breaded horses.  He had all kinds. Most of them was either for show, or racing but he had some that was for rehabilitation for special need kids.. The first time he was approached about using his horses for special needs, he wasn’t too thrilled about it. He just didn’t think that it would work, and he was certain that someone would get hurt. A couple of years ago, he has a patience names David. David was 20 years old but had a bad disability.  He had been in a car accident that left him unable to walk or talk clearly. David had developed some heart issues and had seen several other doctors, but none of them was willing to work with him. He was referred to Doug by mutual friend. Doug agreed to look at all the medical records that were sent over from his last doctor. The day of David’s first consultation was a busy day at the office.  Doug was running behind because he had an emergency surgery on a patient. David was sitting in the waiting room with his mother and looking at some of the horse magazines that he had in the office. His mother noticed that ever time David turned the page to a different horse, he would work harder to talk. When David and his mother finally got called to be seen, he took the horse magazine with him. While his mother gave information to the nurse about David’s condition, David poured over the horses. Each time, his speech got a little bit better. When Doug got to the room and was watching David, he also noticed what he’s mother had noticed.  Doug asked David if he had been horse bake riding. David looked at Doug and as clear as a bell said the word. “NO, But I want to”. His mother dropped her jaw.  She told Doug that he had never spoke the clear since before his accident. Doug told David that he had a ranch in Dallas with a lot of horses on it. He could see David’s eye’s light up.  Doug decided right then to try the rehabilitation on David. They had planned on meeting at Doug’s ranch in 2 weeks. When they left the office, David was talking so much that his mother almost told him to be quiet, but she decided not to, he had not showed this much joy in so long, she knew he deserved it.
When the day arrived, they meet at the ranch and Doug introduced David to Miss Emma. Miss Emma was a 10 year old Quarter horse that was very gentle. It did not take long for David and Miss Emma to become best friends. When Miss Emma looked at David it was if she knew what she needed to do. Because the first visit went so well, David and his mother made arrangement’s to stay at the ranch for 2 week’s to see how things progressed. From the moment David would wake up, till his mother almost had to drag him in, they spent every minute together. At lunch time, David would sit on a little stool in her stall and he would talk to her. She would shake her head as if she knew what he was saying. Not long after that Doug decided to open his stables to those who needed it. He turned his house into a retreat house. He had worked out the billing with insurance companies so that no family had to ever have to pay for theses services. David became a very good hand at the ranch. Doug hired his mom to run the house and he had “David help with all the horses. He would help feed them, and would introduce them to a new “friend”. He didn’t like calling the patience “ patience.”  He said it felt too much like hospital. So the new ones that came to the ranch was known and  “new friends”. Doug decided to move his practice to Dallas where he could become more involved with the” New Friends Ranch” practice.  A local television channel wanted to do a story of “New Friends Ranch” with Doug and David. He had told the reporter the history with the ranch. The reporter asked Doug, “What made you change your mind about the ranch. Why did you decide to open? Doug thought for a moment and then said” I had the perfect life, in Los Angles. I thought I had it all. But the day I met David I realized I didn’t have anything. I felt like a man wondering in the desert with Amnesia. I didn’t really know who I was, or where I was going.”. “ I needed to make a change in my life. I needed something to make me feel that I mattered. I know I had a good thing going in LA”, he said “But I felt I needed something more”. And when I met David I found what I was missing.

When Sarah was finished telling Dent the story, he stood there looking at this beautiful person. Dent knew he wanted to be with someone like her. He knew he wanted his life to matter to someone to. Dent knew that he needed a “David” to help him.  And he thought maybe Sarah could be that person.