Archive for: November, 2012

MAD By Keith G. Laufenberg

Nov 25 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

 

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THE FOOTBALL

 

 

If I had known that the Germans would not succeed in constructing the atom bomb, I would never have lifted a finger. —Albert Einstein, 1947

General Daniel ‘Ironballs’ Kromleski, USMC, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, turned to the Secretary of Defense—Robert Wizelkowski—and shook his head, inhaling an enormous amount of smoke from an equally enormous cigar; normally it was off limits to smokers—in this section of the Pentagon—but these were anything but normal times. The year was 2045 and the world was on the brink of nuclear disaster, a war from which no one was very likely to survive, and yet those in the know were scrambling to do just that—to survive. The president and most of his cabinet were intending to take up residence in a nuclear submarine the likes of which had never been seen before. Recently completed, it had been on only one maiden voyage but that single voyage had exceeded even the builder’s expectations, along with the scientists and engineers who had designed and developed it. It was—without a doubt—the only chance for survival in the war that was to come. A monstrosity—the size of three football fields—it was aptly named the U.S.S. Survivors and was said to be able to stay on the deepest ocean bottom for twelve months, with no threat to its inhabitants which—due to oxygen and supply levels—had been limited to a strict number of 505 plus the crew of 50 and their families upping that number to 650. The submarine was armed with enough ballistic missiles to blow the entire land mass known as China off the map, which it intended to do, as soon as President Ronald Raygun gave the order, which everyone—in the know—now knew he intended to do. Kromleski opened the door to the Command Center and nodded at several generals and politicians, whom he well-knew were all jockeying for position to ensure themselves a seat on the coming U.S.S. Survivors maiden voyage. Kromleski elbowed the Secretary of Defense, who he had established had had his own seats reserved long in advance—in the ribs—and motioned towards an isolated office in the rear of the room, even as Lt. General Mark Walpin smiled at Bill Mills, the Secretary of State, and nodded towards the two men, then leaned towards Mills and lowered his voice. “Heh, two polocks in a room together, wonder what kinna ideas’ll come outta there, huh Bill?”
Mills chuckled but quickly straightened up—as did the rest of the room—as the president walked in, followed by Colonel Sam Mace, who carried a small black bag about the size of a football, a nickname bestowed upon it a century in the past. The president walked to a podium at the front of the room and raised his hand in the air—motioning for silence.
“Ladies and gentlemen can I have your attention please? Colonel, the football please,” he barked at Mace.

“Yessir, Mr. President, “Mace replied and handed him the bag.

“I have already been in contact with Raven Rock and the nuclear control orders have been sent out to all silos. Ladies and gentlemen we are in a state of war and it is of proportions that I’m sure you are all aware of and we have launched our smart rocks but I must tell you that the majority of the missiles headed our way are already past their mid-course phase. I must leave now—as we are on a very tight schedule—and please, everyone with clearance to Camp David or Raven Rock, please head there immediately.”

President Raygun was just stepping off the podium when a senior white house undersecretary grabbed his arm. “Please Mister President I must get my family aboard the U.S.S. Survivors?”

“C’mon Adam don’t you and your family have access to Raven Rock?”

“Sir, Raven Rock’s history and you know it—those warheads have over a mil-yun megatons.”

The president glanced at his watch and frowned. There wasn’t much time left and he didn’t know how many of those in the room had seats on the U.S.S. Survivors and he didn’t want to start a panic. He glanced at Colonel Sam Mace and barked out an order, “See what you can do Sam.”

“Yes sir,” Mace replied, even as others in the room began mumbling about their respective war lodging’s and how much safer it would be on the U.S.S. Survivors.

As the president exited the room and Mace huddled with the undersecretary and several other pols, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Daniel ‘Ironballs’ Kromleski shook his head and smiled—he had just been awarded three seats on the U.S.S. Survivors, by none other than the Secretary of Defense, Robert Wizelkowski. “You know Bob I was doing a bit of reading the other day.”

“Really, trying something new Ironballs?”

Kromleski smiled—they had been friends for almost a decade—both men were staunch conservatives who knew how to get votes when they were needed. “Well I was going over some policy going back nearly a century, the sixties.”

“Nineteen-Sixty’s—whew—long time ago, huh?”

“Yeah—know what I found? They had figured out a way to deter nuclear war.”

“Oh? A deterrent to nuclear war, are you kidding?”

“No and it worked, come to think of it. Till now, that is. Yeah, they called it Mad, hah!”

“Mad?”

“Yup, M period, A period, D period,” the general rasped.

“Yeah, what’d it stand for Dan?”

“Mutual assured destruction,” Kromleski said, shaking his head.

“It sounds like they were way ahead of their time to me Ironballs.”

“Yeah, way ahead,” Ironballs replied, mad now himself

 

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THE END

 

Some day the earth will weep, she will beg for her life, she will cry with tears of blood. You will make a choice, if you will help her or let her die and when she dies you too will die. —John Hollow Horn, Oglala Lakota, 1932.

“ … Someday, science may have the existence of mankind in its power and the human race will commit suicide by blowing up the world.” —Henry Adams, 1862.

The party continued unabated and everyone seemed outwardly happy. The U.S.S. Survivors was in the deepest of what had—at one time, many centuries ago—been the deep blue sea, and it was heading deeper; no one—not even the captain or anyone in the crew— knew exactly where they were, it was all done by computers, but they did know one thing, they were—ultimately—headed for the deepest part of the ocean known to mankind, where they would sink to the bottom and take up refuge for a period of approximately twelve months.

The U.S.S. Survivors was filled to capacity, and then some—700 human bodies—fifty over the capacity the scientists and engineers had figured to be the absolute maximum if there were to be enough oxygen and supplies to survive for the twelve months that they had deemed long enough before even considering an attempt at resurfacing, but then many of those same engineers and scientists, knowing full-well the outcome of the nuclear war underway, had demanded entry to the U.S.S. Survivors and it had been touch and go for a few harrowing hours, as several of them had forced their way aboard, armed with nuclear weapons themselves. But, the president—a former five star general in the Army—had eventually prevailed, disarming the men but ultimately allowing them a place aboard the submarine.

 

EPILOGUE

 

“ … the survivors would envy the dead. —Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Soviet Union, 1962.

 

General Daniel ‘Ironballs’ Kromleski sat in a corner and stared at his hands. He was no longer happy that he had gotten he and his wife and daughter aboard the U.S.S. Survivors, for he was well aware that the end was near and took little solace that it would indeed be the end for everyone else in the submarine, as well as the entire human race and the planet formerly known as the earth. Kromleski glanced at Colonel Sam Mace and scowled—he never should have passed the football to the president—and the president never should have delivered the gold codes to the nuclear command posts around the world—and the commanders at the regional commands never should have carried those nuclear control orders out. But, then—what had he done—what had he done? He felt like standing up and screaming it out, what had they all done? Insanity, that’s what it was—absolute insanity—and here he sat, as all around him members of what had once been known as the human race celebrated. Celebrated what? Were they actually celebrating suicide?

Kromleski glanced across the room at Thomas Connelly—an engineer and scientist who he respected as few others—and when Connelly caught his eye he knew Connelly knew the truth also. He had first met Connelly in Georgia, where Connelly had been an aerospace engineer at Lockheed Martin—in Marietta—and Kromleski had been the second in command at a large base there. They had resumed their friendship several years later when Connelly headed up a large nuclear project at Lockheed’s headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland and Kromleski had been reassigned to the Pentagon. Kromleski knew Connelly to be a sensible man who well-knew that the earth as they had known it would never again be a reality; it would be thousands of years before the radiation would allow anything to survive, much less the earth itself. He stood up and walked past a politico’s wife, who was so drunk she apparently didn’t realize she had taken her clothes off, or perhaps she did, Kromleski surmised, as he watched her leading another general into a back-room. He nodded at Connelly and Connelly returned his look of disgust. They stood together watching what was fast becoming an orgiastic circus, and Connelly swallowed a mouthful of whiskey and groaned. “You know we’re dead, don’t you Ironballs?”

Kromleski rubbed his eyes and spied the Secretary of Defense, his long-time friend Robert Wizelkowski, and remembered a discussion they had once had, seeming to have been long ago in the past now but in reality the same day the football had been passed. “Did you know Tom that way back in the Nineteen-Sixties they had a name for what we’ve done? They called it Mad, Tom. M period, A period, D period.”

“Really, what’d it stand for Dan?”

Kromleski grinned harshly at the truth of what he was about to say. “Mutual assured destruction,” he growled.

Connelly grinned despite himself but his soul felt totally dead, drained and devoid any longer of even the slightest of human emotions. “Sounds like they were ahead of their time Ironballs,” Connelly croaked, hollowly.

“Yeah—way ahead,” Ironballs replied, beyond mad now, as his very soul cried out for a word—any word—that could describe what he felt—but there was no reply—for his soul was dead and so his husk of a body, which now reacted as it had unwittingly and unknowingly been programmed to, settled for being mad, just as it had settled for—and taken its part in—the destruction of Mother Earth, which Kromleski now realized the earth had truly been, having heard the term many times at environmental protests, usually by the few Native Americans still among the living, but discounting it, as he had discounted all sanity over his long military career, the only way he could justify all the orders he had given, orders that he now knew had meant—and would now mean—the death of literally billions of human beings—not to mention the animals and every other form of life known on earth. And so, he now accepted being only mad and, as he gazed at Connelly, both men wondered how long it would be—before the end—the absolute end of the world—came?

Connelly—whose minor in college had been religious philanthropy, inhaled deeply—feeling—sensing that the end of the world was near, as his hands began shaking and his entire body began trembling, he stammered: “God Ironballs, this is the Armageddon,” causing Kromleski to sneer at his friend.

“Yeah—right—it’s the Armageddon alright. So, if it’s the Armageddon—like you say—where’s the good?”

“The good?” Connelly replied.

“Yeah, where’s the good—where’s God—the Savior—where’s the good in this Armageddon, c’mon Tom, this is man-made and you—of all people—should know that?”

Connelly scowled and his shaking continued. “No, the Lord Gee-zuz is coming back now Dan—I know it—I just know that—now.”

Daniel “Ironballs” Kromleski, shook his head but said nothing. He was out of words, he was a soldier first and last and he had been ever and always faithful to that as his Marine Corps motto had demanded of him. He was a success in life he knew he was, as he silently—mentally—went over his past life. He would die just as he had lived, he silently decided: ‘”with no fear and no expectations of any “promised land” or anything else”‘—even as Tom Connelly shook and trembled, as he awaited his Lord and Savior.

 

Keith G. Laufenberg has been writing for over 30 years and has had over a hundred poems and short stories published. His work has appeared in such magazines and journals as: AIM Magazine; Amaterasu; aaduna; The Maryland Review; Spoiled Ink; Down in the Dirt;  Pleaides; The Oracular Tree; Prole Magazine, Pulp Empire; NuVein;The Pink Chameleon; Mobius Magazine; The Washington Pastime; Rymfire Books;  One Million Stories; Euonia Review; Short Story.Me; The Spillway ReviewAuthor Trek;  Struggle Magazine; NeonbeamMagazine; The Write Room; The Corner Club Press; Pot Luck Magazine; OMG Magazine; An Electric Tragedy; Write from Wrong Magazine; The Fine Line; Danse Macabre Magazine; The Whortleberry Press; The Ultimate Writer; Fringe Magazine; Northern Stars Magazine;The Writing Disorder; d.ustb.in; The Phoenix Magazine; The Legions of Light Magazine; KZine Magazine; The Earth Comes First; et al, and he has also had 2 novels published: “Miami Rock” and “Semper-Fi-Do-or-Die”, both in 2007 and he now has three other novels and five books of short stories on Amazon Kindle which can be assessed at his website: www.kglaufenberg.com

 

 

 

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Weaver’s Needle By Nancy Cole Silverman

Nov 18 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

It happened more than forty years ago, but there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it.  Sometimes the memory’s prompted by some TV news story, ‘bout someone who has gotten themselves lost in the Superstition Mountains outside Phoenix. Story never ends well.  Bodies are seldom found and if the news day is slow, some TV newscaster ‘ill drive out to Apache Junction, use the rugged mountain terrain in the middle of the Sonoran Desert as a backdrop – like they did the time I got lost out there – and stand there between the giant saguaros and Ponderosa Pine, and broadcast their sad story.  Sometimes they’ll make mention of the number of missing who’ve ventured out looking for gold, ignoring the mountain’s legendary curse.  Some say it’s haunted, others believe it’s an ancient Indian burial ground, and some of the tourist traps out that way even sell maps, claiming to know the whereabouts of the Lost Dutchmen’s Mine, the Jesuit Treasure, their bars of gold and religious relics hidden in the caves, or the sight of Perlta massacre. Truth is, The Superstition Mountains are richer with stories than gold and have killed more men than made them rich.  It’s not gold I’m searching for when I drive up Interstate 60 and pass that foreboding mountain range, but a time-portal. Just south of Weaver’s Needle, is an entrance to an infinite number of different dimensions where life goes on just like it did years ago, or years from now, and my friends, Steve, Karen and Amy, are still out there, I know it.

***

It was October 1968.  I was attending college at Arizona State, just south of The Superstitions, and my buddy Steve and I were short of cash and decided to take our girlfriends out to the desert for a bonfire and a little beer, somewhere where a couple of underage freshmen could drink without getting carded and still show our girls a good time.  I snuck a case of beer from my dad, hid it in the trunk of my old Camaro, and we packed ourselves into the car. I tuned up the 8-track. I remember we had Light My Fire blaring from the speakers as we blasted up Route 60, little more than two lanes of black top, surrounded by the dry desert sands, ready to party beneath the stars.

I knew the area. My dad and I had been hiking there and camping in the shadows of Weaver’s Needle since I was a kid.  Could find it in the pitch of black, so it wasn’t a problem that we arrived with the last thin strands of desert light sinking beneath the horizon.  As I pulled off the road, I could hear the familiar sound of gravel popping from beneath my tires and we drove for about thirty minutes before I parked the car at the base of the mountain.

“Everybody grab somethin’,” I said, as I pointed in the direction of the familiar campsite. “That’s where we’re headed, due south of Weaver’s Needle, to the base of that  big monolithic spire you see ‘bout half a mile ahead, and the only way we get there’s on foot, so grab what ya need, now.”

I opened the trunk of my car and grabbed the ice chest.  My girlfriend, Amy, and Steve’s girl, Karen, each grabbed one of the serape blankets while Steve pulled his guitar from the trunk. We headed up the mountain, single file, picking our way through the jumping cactus and snake holes that in the low light threatened to trip us.  I figured we had less than an hour before it was dark, but I wasn’t worried. I knew I could find the campsite, but just the same, I wanted to set the campfire before the sun set.

We got to the familiar campsite, the fire pit still blackened with ash from our previous visits, just as the first faint twinkling of the stars appeared in the skies overhead. I set about to build the fire quickly as possible. Amy and Karen volunteered to search for kindling, I remember warning them to be on the lookout for cactus and critters hunting in the night, but they ignored me and I could hear them giggling in the dark as Steve hung up the serape blankets on the branches of a Ponderosa Pine.  Then suddenly, I heard Amy calling to me.
“Scott! Come quick! Look, look what I found.” I came running, uncertain what I might find, and there they were, Amy and Karen, probably no more than a hundred yards from the campfire, staring at something in Amy’s hand.  “Look at this,” she said, holding her hand out to me.  There in the center of her small hand was this arrowhead, damn near perfect, ‘bout two inches long, probably a couple hundred years old, the edges still rough, like it had never been used, and waitin’ all this time just to be found. I looked closely at it, at least as best I could under the starlight, then pressed it back into Amy’s hand and folding her fingers over it, looked into her eyes and told it was good luck.

“Keep it close,” I said, “never know when you’re gonna need it.”  Then I put my arm around her and started walking back to the campfire.  I was beginning to think this was the perfect night.  I had met Amy at freshmen orientation, just six weeks earlier. She was a knockout, couple inches taller than me and probably a whole lot smarter, a math major on scholarship, and I had been lookin’ for ways to ask her out her ever since.  Moon-hikes through the desert, particularly the Superstitions turned out to be just the thing.

“Did you see that!” She looked up, her finger following a shooting star, with a tail so long and bright it lit up the sky like a neon light flying over our heads.  “Can you believe that?” She looked at me, then suddenly another, and another, like a flash of giant, florescent fireflies, madly chasing one another, speeding across the sky. “This thing is lucky!” she said, holding the arrowhead between her hands, then looking at me, leaned closer and kissed me.  And right then I knew it!  Knew it from the way she kissed me that I’d lost her. But I took her hand anyway and we walked back to campfire.

“Look,” she said, pointing up to the sky, “you really see it all out here, the Big Dipper, Orion’s Belt…you can even make out Cassiopeia … it’s like the stars are so close you could just reach out and touch ‘em.”

As we approached the campfire she grabbed a rotted saguaro cactus rib and started tracing the position of the stars in the sand.  Steve and Karen leaned over and watched as she connected the dots and outlined the star’s images so we could make out the formations in the sky as she talked.  “You know one day people will actually travel  across space.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

That’s when Steve picked up his guitar and began to play, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” code between Steve and me that Amy just wasn’t that into me.

I rolled my eyes. “So who’s got the church key?” I asked. Karen smiled and nodded to the ice chest. I reached over and popped open a cold beer for myself, and offered one to Amy while Steve began another song, this time with Karen singing, ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane.’

“Very funny,” I said, hoping that Amy wasn’t picking up on Steve’s tease, but then Amy started in with, “House of the Rising Sun,’ and before long we were all humming along. I was poking the fire with the saguaro rib and had with one arm around Amy, when I heard this sound, the crunching of gravel, somebody was coming up the canyon.

“Shh!”  I put a finger to my lips, and Steve put his guitar down.  We looked back and forth between each other, eyes wide, listening, waiting. Then we heard it again, kind of an uneven shuffling sound, along with heavy breathin’. Then through the smoke of the fire we see this shadow. At first all I could make out was a dark form; I wasn’t sure what it was. Bear maybe, but not likely in these parts.  Then, whatever it was it moved closer, and I saw it was a man.   He was wearin’ a hat, and he’s just standing there, leaning on a walkin’ stick, actually he was kinda listin’ to one side onna count of the fact his left leg was all twisted.  He was tall and slim, older guy, but old in the way people used to get old, with leathery skin and a few missing teeth, and he was wearing dark, dusty clothes, not jeans like we all were, but a heavier cloth fabric, and really worn-lookin’ boots, like he’d walked forever in ‘em.  I could feel a chill run down Amy’s back and she leaned into me.  My buddy, Steve, gave me a look that told me he wondered if this guy might be trouble, some midnight murderer or something. We had all heard tales, but I shook my head, and patted my side, a subtle reminder to my friends I’d brought along my six-shooter.  Don’t go anywhere in the desert without one. Never know when a rattlesnake or some wild javelina might cross your path. Growing up in the desert in the 60’s, my dad always told me, “Scott, ain’t nothing in the desert that doesn’t bite, hiss, sting or stick ya.” So I’s glad I had it with me.

“Mind if I have a sip of what you’re drinkin’?” The Stranger asked, sitting himself down slowly, his hands on his thighs, as he lowered his unsteady body onto the log across from us. I glanced at Steve, the two of us could easily take him, then reached over to the ice chest, popped open a beer with the church key, and offered it to him.

“Like it cold, do ya?” he said, smiling as he took a sip.  “Don’t get much of that.”

“You from around here?” I ran my hand up and down Army’s back then giving her a little squeeze, I whispered, “Don’t worry, he’s just some ol’ geezer, share a few stories with us, and he’ll be off.”

“Might say that,” he said, glancing back over his shoulder and up at Weaver’s Needle.  “Flash flood just opened an area back up in them hills. Water come rushing down Goldfield Wash ov’r that way and I’m looking to do a bit a mining.”

I remembered hearing about Goldfield Wash and the Mammoth Mine. My father had told me it produced more than three million dollars worth of gold bullion in its day, gave a real boom to the area.  In fact, a town named Goldfield grew up round it – nothing but a dusty old ghost town now.  When I was a kid, my dad had showed me pictures, said the town grew up nearly over night, had the first church, a school, livery and of course of a saloon, but the main thing in town was the mill.  Mill must of been goin’, as they say today, twenty-four seven, crushing ore and sending enough gold-filled dust up in the sky that it would have been visible for miles.  But that was back in 1893, and the town only lasted maybe four or five years ‘fore it went bust, certainly he didn’t mean now.

The four of us glanced back and forth, watching the old man gulp the beer down, his adam’s apple pulsating beneath his scraggly beard with each swallow.  When he finished, The Stranger stood up, belched, and looking pleased with himself, tossed the beer bottle into the fire pit.

“Well, that shore was ‘freshen,” he said, leanin’ on his walkin stick.  “Yeah, some say it’s that Needle out there that causes this. Say it snags the energy fields above the mountain here and opens up a whole slew of time portals…” With his free hand, he made small circles above his head, shaking, and pointing in the direction of Weaver’s Needle.

I whispered to Amy, “This guy’s been out in the Arizona sun too long,” and was about to dismiss his idle ramblings as that of a homeless cowboy, when…

Whoosh!

I ducked. A pair of horse’s hooves barely cleared my head, it’s under belly just inches above me. Amy screamed and pulled me nearly on top of her.  I steadied myself and, sitting up, saw a group of renegade Indians, their faces painted, their chests bare, feathers in their hair and in their horses’ mane, circling our campfire.

I looked at Steve. He was holding Karen; she was leaning on him, her face ashen, her eyes wide as she looked down at her stomach. Shock registered on all our faces. An arrow was lodged in her diaphragm, her hands clinging to it.  A red bloodstain was beginning to form on her white shirt.

What the????

The Indians circled their painted ponies around us, and the horses whinnied as they trotted through our camp, some with bows and arrows and others with long guns trampled through our camp.  Then a couple with long guns pointed at the serape blankets hung on the branches of the Ponderosa Pine, and lifting them in the air, dropped them in the fire, smothering the flames as they whooped and hollered, laughing at us as we stared in disbelief.

I started to reach for my gun and was about to point it at one the bare-chested Indians when The Stranger stood up, and grabbed it from my hand.

“Git-down!” he yelled at me.  I was amazed at his strength.

Then taking the gun from my hand, The Stranger limped into the center of the fire pit and pointed it in the air, shooting it off as he hollered, “I’m mining here!  This here’s my claim!  Get the hell out!  Now scat!”

Like frightened animals the Indians left, their horses kicking up dust and cactus as The Stranger chased them off into the night.  Then shaking his head, The Stranger, turned and looked back at Karen, walked over to her and without a word yanked the arrow from her stomach.  The look on her face, total surprise as the arrow painlessly emerged, and the bloodstain disappeared, like some type of reverse osmosis.

“Now don’t that just beat the hell out of ya!” he said, taking the arrow and breaking it across his knee.

Beat the hell out of ya?  The four us exchange looks.

“Who is this guy?” whispered Steve. “And what was that?”

I shrugged and looked at Amy.  I didn’t have a clue.

“Well, I suppose we ought to get a move-on, ‘fore any other prospectors come ‘long and try stake a claim with ya.  Looks to be a busy night,” The Stranger said. Then he reached in the front pocket of his dusty blazer, squinted at a yellowed piece of paper, looked up at the four of us and shook his head.  “Now that is a problem,” he said as neatly folded the paper, and placed it back in his pocket.  “So, which one you’s Scott?” He asked, glancing between Steve and me. “Cuz Scott’s stayin’ and the rest of ya ‘er comin’ with me.”

“What?” I asked, looking at my three friends, each of us exchanging a confused look.

“Yeah, I’m taking you, two of ya anyway with me back to Goldfield, and one of ya, you, I believe, Miss,” he said, pointing to Amy, “to the space dockin’ station up yonder.  Least that’s what my orders say.”

“Wait a minute,” I said, stepping between The Stranger and Amy.

“I ‘spose you must be Scott.” He said.

“That’s right,” I said, “And, this must be some kind of joke?”

“Naw. Ain’t no joke.” He said, scratching his beard as though he were considering what more he might say.

“Well, we’re not going anywhere with you and there ain’t no space station or place called Goldfield round here anymore.”

“Shore is,” he said.  “Goldfield’s a right nice place.  You’re friends here ‘ill like it. Got a church, school, stable, mercantile, damn near everything a person could use, not to mention a good saloon, and we need a couple song-folk like your friends here.  I suppose it ‘twas yer music that attracted me.  Yes, sir, Goldfield got near everything ‘cept maybe this chilled stuff I’m drinking, but ya get used to it.”

“Used to it?” I asked. I could feel Amy, the weight of body that had been leaning against me was now lighter, she was looking at The Stranger, studying him.  I reached over for her, trying to move her slightly behind me, but she stood rigid, refusing to move.

“Clean slate, that’s how I to like look at it.  Once you’re there, you don’t remember a thing about here, or before here for that matter, or any of the other time places you ever lived.”

“Ask him about the docking station,” she whispered. “Ask him.”

I looked at her.  “I’m not asking about the some docking station, I…”

“Tell me,” she said, moving out from behind me, and looking at The Stranger.  I could tell there was something about him Amy was responding to, and it worried me.  I tried to push her back behind me again. “Don’t!” she said.

“I don’ know a lot, only that those shootin’ stars you see in the sky tonight are riding gun-shot for the big ship. Happens every time just like that.  The shootin’ stars  come, then the big ship arrives.  Should be dockin’ up yonder pretty soon now.  We gotta get going. ‘ticulaly you, Miss.”

I took a step forward and tried to reach for Amy’s hand but she pulled it away.  “Amy!” I said, then looking back at The Stranger I added, “Look, I don’t know what your game is, or what you’re up to, but my friends and I aren’t leaving.  Are we?”

I looked over at Steve and Karen, expecting support, but found none. Steve was standing with his arms around Karen, holding her tight. They were looking into each other eyes, and I knew from the look on their faces they had made a decision. Wherever they were goin’ they were going together.

“Steve!” I yelled, but already they had backed away from the fire pit and were headed up the mountain.  “Karen!” Where are you going?”

The Stranger turned to me and smiled, his head oddly cocked to one side, like he was considering my plight, then said, “They can’t hear you, son.  Now say goodbye to your girlfriend here, I need to get her on to the docking station and you need to get yourself on down the mountain.  It’s time we got going.”

I reached for Amy.  I wanted to grab her hand and run, but she put a hand on my chest and then took the small arrowhead from inside her jacket pocket and handed to me.   “Keep this.  It’s lucky,” she said. Then slowly she lifted her hand off my chest, backed away, and reached for The Stranger’s hand. I watched as they walked away from me.

“No!” I yelled, “Don’t go!”  But I was helpless. All I could do was watch them through the smoke of the fading fire as they vanished into the hills.  I ran after them, but they were gone.  They were all gone; my best friends, Steve, Karen and Amy.  I stumbled down the canyon, the echo of my voice chasing me.  No! No! No! Until finally I fell, and lost all sense of consciousness.

It must have been days before I woke, or so it seemed to me, my body sore and baked into the desert sands beneath the cactus and Palo Verde.  My first thought was that this had all been some terrible dream.  I squinted into the sun, my eyes dry, my vision blurry, but there it was, Weaver’s Needle, standing straight up above me, mocking me, this one thousand foot monolith, sitting atop this island mountain, surrounded by desert.  I felt like I was seeing it for the first time. I struggled to get up, falling several times, my legs so weak they shook as I stood. I swore I heard The Stranger’s voice telling me, “The Needle snags the energy fields out there above the mountain and opens up a whole slew of time portals.” I reached into my pocket. My mouth was dry and chapped and I wanted something, but instead of a chap stick, I found the arrowhead.  No, this hadn’t been a dream. Here was proof, the arrowhead Amy had given me.  Somewhere out there, that Needle had snagged a hole in some time portal in the far past and in the distant future, and it had my friends.  But there wasn’t anything I could do about it.  I turned my back on the Needle and headed down the mountain.  Ahead of me, I saw a mirage, blue, glistening waters in the sun and I stumbled in its direction.  A news team had set up next to my car and I stopped long enough to determine they were real and not part of the mirage, then ran toward them.

“It’s a portal!” I screamed. “Weaver’s Needle!  It’s a time portal!” My voice was hoarse and I frantically pointed back in the direction of the Needle as I ran, stumbling, waving my hands.

A young female reporter, who was about to begin her report, suddenly stopped and looked in my direction.  “Scott?” The look on her face was if she had just seen a ghost.

“There’s another dimension out there! Lots of them! And their mining for us!” I must have sounded like a crazy man as I nearly stumbled into her. One of the camera crew raced forward and grabbed me, before I knocked her over.  “There’s Indians!  And miners! And a space docking station, right there.” I pointed to the Needle, “and they’re mining for us! Us!” I tried to reach for her mic. I wanted to tell the world, but they pulled it way and I continued to scream. “They’re out there! You’ve got to help. They shot Karen with an arrow, but she’s okay and then she and Steve went off with The Stranger, and Karen, went with him to space station. We gotta get to Goldfield! And the space station.  They’re out there.”

Of course, they didn’t believe me. They don’t believe anybody who comes out of the mountain alive. They all think we’re dehydrated and deranged; suffering from delusions, the type of thing spending the night in the desert alone and loosing one’s friends can do to a man.

But it’s not a delusion. I keep the arrowhead in my pocket to remind me.  And every time I drive this way, sometimes I even think I see The Stranger.  I’ll catch a glimpse of him walking with that odd limp of his, and I think about what it was he said, that he was mining.  Only he wasn’t mining gold, but us!  Human beings for a time portal leading to parallel universes as real as that we know and live in every day. Near as I can tell, there are lots of parallel universes out there – and we’ve been rubbing up against them ever since time began. I think it’s like band width, when things get too dense here, a few of us are selected. It’s kind of a random thing.  I don’t know how to explain it, ‘cept maybe that accounts for prodigies that come along every so often, or people with unusual talents and geniuses who change art and science as we know it.  Maybe it even explains those with past life experiences, or people who seem like lost souls.  Or maybe it’s kind of a do-over, a chance to live again in another time and who knows, maybe even learn something that will help us all down the road a bit.  All I know is that the degree of separation between the past and present is little more than a smoke screen and it exists right out there, ‘neath Weaver’s Needle.

#

Bio: I am a published author with a novel, The Centaur’s Promise, and several short stories to my credit. I am currently working on a second novel and enrolled in UCLA’s Writers’ Program in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

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Time Machine by Karla Evans

Nov 11 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

I was walking back up the hill to my dorm, passing the Ronald McDonald house, thinking about lunch, when BAM—shot by a sorostitute in a convertible.  The white-dressed passenger waved her water gun and giggled as the driver hit the gas.  As soon as I got to the dorm, I hopped into my time machine and went back to Walgreens.  There I picked up a bottle of grape juice and an army knife along with my meds and cut the top off the juice bottle.  This time when the girl shot me, instead of jumping and grimacing, I threw the purple juice all over the leather seats and party clothes.  The slags screamed and cried, and this time when I returned to the dorm I picked up my phone to call Jenny.  Then I realized how insignificant my experience had been and put the phone down.

An hour later, I was curled up on the couch next to the time machine, two pages into Psychology when Keela came in with her friend, Tonya.

“Hey Sandy, how’s it going?”  Keela and Tonya were just like the girls in the convertible and most of the other girls at UT.    After football games, they walked around campus picking up beer bottles and condoms, then came back to the dorm to slather their hands with Purell before going to pizza parties provided by Student Government.  They went to all the dances and fundraisers. Jenny and I used to do things like that, in high school, before the world changed.

“Do you want to help us make handprint turkeys to raise awareness of child abuse in Knox County?”  asked Keela.  I glowered at them, remembering the turkeys Jenny and I had decorated with free-range quail feathers for the winter dance our senior year back in Vermont.  Keela and Tonya shrugged and set up shop on the table.

The next day, I was walking back from class when I saw a good-looking guy sitting on the porch of a former mansion turned apartment complex.  He was sweaty, with curly brown hair and reddish brows.  We nodded as I walked by.  When I got back to my room, I changed into a silk halter dress, got into my time machine and walked by his house again.  The unusually warm fall sun made my skin glow and the dress cling to my curves.  This time, I walked up the steps, straight to the guy and said, “Let’s fuck.”

His face burst into a happiness he quickly twisted into a smirk as he led me up the stairway to his apartment.  Once we were inside, we rushed to his room, took off our clothes and jumped on his pillow-topped bed.  We fucked all afternoon, climaxing frequently and in sync.  Our bodies were magnets, finding the right spots at just the right times.  After exhausting every position, we lay panting under a ceiling fan.  I got dressed.  Duke, that was his name, begged me to stay.  I laughed and handed him my lace panties as he asked my phone number.  He wanted me to be his girlfriend and I kissed him on the forehead and said I’d be around.  It was my first collegiate sexual experience.

“Made it to the hothouse,” I said as I walked out into the sunset.  That’s what Jenny and I would say to each other after one of us had had sex with a new guy in high school.  We would call each other and make orchid and butterfly double entendres.  I walked past my phone and into the shower.

When I came out of the bathroom, the time machine was gone.

“Hey, I had something here,” I said.

Keela was stenciling letters on a poster, above a picture of a big-eyed child.

“That empty box?” Keela said, starting an “E” with a flourish.  “I didn’t know it was important.”

I moaned.

“Sandy, I’m so sorry.  Do you need it for class?”  I buried my head in my palms and started to cry.

“Do you want me to get you a new box?  I could go to Krogers or the Longbranch.”

I nodded, even though I didn’t want a new box, I wanted my time machine.  But mostly I wanted Keela to go away.  I was afraid if she didn’t, I would start screaming, maybe even hit her.  Instead she continued working on the poster.  Panic rose in my chest, so strong I was afraid it would lift me off my feet.  I wanted to call Jenny but Margo, her sister, had died last month and any problem I brought her would be trivial.  I sat down across from Keela and watched her color the letters orange.  I couldn’t tell Jenny my successes either, not without feeling guilty.  She didn’t even know about the time machine.

Keela sighed, got up and said, “Fine.  I’ll go get you a box.”

I went into her room, leaving the door open so I could hear when she came back.  I looked in her closet, too tidy to hide anything the size of the time machine, nothing but shoes under the bed.  I had gone back to the closet to look for trap doors when I felt a tap on my shoulder.  Keela stood behind me, fists clinched at her side, my time machine next to her foot.

“You need to stay out of my room and stop acting so weird.  The box was still on top of the dumpster.”

I took the time machine into my room and sat in it a long time.  First, I went back to the beginning of the semester to register for Music Appreciation instead of Intro to Theatre.  Music App only requires you to listen in your seat, not embarrass yourself in front of people who don’t care about you.  I went back to the first pre-calc test and read problems four through eight carefully and back to biology where I listened in lecture and didn’t snub the awkward boy who turned out to be funny and in the best band on the strip.

This was a better present, but it wasn’t enough.  I went back further, to high school, where I improved my grades and went to Dartmouth with Jenny, just over the river from home.  Me and Jenny got together every day to do Ivy League homework and pick up Margo after school.  That’s how I spent September third.  That’s how I kept Margo out of the doomed Cabrio.

September fourth was spent shopping for homecoming dresses.  After that, things got fuzzy and I had to keep going back and doing it over to make it stick.  Once I didn’t go to Dartmouth and didn’t save Margo, but when my mom called with the news, I packed all my stuff and went home to Vermont for good, sleeping in my own bed, holding Jenny’s hand.  No crying jags on the quad, no counselors.

“Sandy?”

I hadn’t heard Keela and Tonia come in, but there they were, bending down, tilting their heads.

“We’re going to a party and we think you should come with us,” Keela said.  Tonia rarely speaks, just looks back and forth between Keela and whoever Keela is talking to. She was my friend first, before, when I was a rusher.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because,” Keela’s voice was deliberately slow, like she was counting to ten as she spoke.  “You’ve been sitting in that box for three days.  You need to get out.  We’re worried about you.

“Remember when we drove to Asheville for my birthday and you hired that banjo player to follow us around?” she asked.  “You used to be fun.  Now you act like I’m your enemy and you haven’t showered or gone to class since I gave you back that box.”

“You don’t know that,” I said, “Unless you’ve been spying on me.”  Keela looked at Tonia and Tonia stepped forward, tag-team style.

“If you don’t go, we’ll call QPR.”  QPR; Question Persuade Refer is a bunch of busybodies from the counseling center who try to make students feel guilty if they have problem roommates.  If your buddy is sad, she will probably kill herself and it will be your fault, according to the program.

Once QPR was mentioned, the fight was lost.  I could argue I had the right to spend my free time and even my class time sitting in a box.  But I knew how it would seem to QPR volunteers; someone who sits in a weird box might go on a shooting rampage, another fear the counseling center puts into freshmen hearts at orientation.

“Is it a sorostitute party or will normal people be there?”  Keela and Tonia both rolled their eyes.

“You know I’m not in a sorority,” Keela said.  “I would live in Laurel, if I were.”

I looked at Tonia, who did live in Laurel.

“It’s my boyfriend’s neighbors, nothing Greek.”

While I was in the shower, Tonia violated my privacy by going through my closet and picking out skinny jeans and a shirt with a Cubist face for me to wear.  The shirt was from a store, Revolution, in White River Junction that sold clothes from Vermont designers.  I had planned to wear it with a black micro-mini, black fedora and brown boots to see the Decemberists with Keela but had ended up going to Margo’s funeral instead.

“You have lots of cute clothes,” Keela said.  “You should wear them.”  After Margo’s funeral, I had come back to Knoxville and everything was the same, no one in my classes even noticed I had been gone for a week.  I had wanted to do something to reflect the missing milestone.  The Intro to Theatre girls gravitated towards black and velvet, so typical mourning clothes were out.  I bought sweatpants and scrubs, thinking that wearing them without make-up would let everyone know the girl I was had been replaced by a blank slate.  The Intro girls noticed and asked if I wanted an order of ashes to go with my sackcloth before bursting into laughter. I stopped going to Theatre after that.

The party was in the Fort, in an old house converted long ago into apartments and then recently converted into smaller apartments.  The people seemed alright, standing around in groups, looking at the art work and knick-knacks that covered the walls and shelves.  I knew the hostess, Mary, from French class.  We said “Hi” and she offered to catch me up on the homework I’d missed.

Keela and Tonia wandered off but kept reappearing whenever I sat down alone.  They’d drag me off and introduce me to someone, there’d be small talk, then Keela and Tonia would leave me and the new person to look at each other.  One of us, usually me, would say we saw someone we knew and get out of sight.  When Jenny and I used to go to parties we would take turns setting each other up for smart exchanges.  We were each other’s comedy spotter and everyone marveled at how funny we were together.

I found myself back in Mary’s orbit.  She was talking to a familiar-looking girl wearing the same shirt as me.  Mary introduced me to the girl, Vonda, then got a phone call and walked outside.

“You shot me,” I said, recognizing Vonda from the convertible.

“With the water gun?” she laughed.  “Please don’t have me arrested.”  She raised her arms in a half-assed surrender.  I started to walk away, to leave the party and go back to the time machine.  This time I’d buy battery acid.

“Hey wait,” Vonda called out.  “I didn’t mean to offend you.  We didn’t hurt anyone.”  I stopped and listened with my arms crossed.  The girl looked around then moved in closer.

“Tonia’s the only person here I know.  But you came in with her so you’re cool, right?”  She ran out of words and just looked at me, trying to find something in my face that would tell her what she should say next.  I wanted to say something mean and witty, but couldn’t think of anything without Jenny.  I looked at our shirt, feeling like Vonda had gone to my hometown and pissed on everything special.  The sparse, straight lines of the silk-screened image juxtaposed against my round features and curly hair in what I used to think had been an interesting way. Now the face on the shirt looked like an homage to Vonda’s angular cheekbones and nose.  I turned and walked away.

Around midnight, Duke came in.  He spoke to a couple of guys by the door then stood alone, looking around.  I waited for his eyes to rest on me.  When they didn’t, I walked up to him, smiling.

“Duke!  How are you?” I said, a little drunk.

“What, I’m Jeremy.  Hi.”  His face was flushed in the warm room, eyes bleary as he looked me over.

“Sandy,” I said, shaking his hand.

Duke and I sat and talked for a bit.  He was an economics major from Kentucky; I’m a library science major from Vermont.  Apart from our crazy good sexual encounter, all we had in common was the street we lived on so we talked about the homeless man who went around with a mangy seeing-eye dog, saying he would accept nothing less than ten dollars.  Duke started glancing behind me.

“I have a time machine,” I said.

“What?”

“A time machine,” I laughed and stared at my drink.  “I drew an oryx on a box and said this magic spell I learned in a dream and now when I sit in the box,” I looked in Duke’s eyes, “I go back in time.”  I felt my face growing red but couldn’t stop talking.  “An oryx is an African antelope the Egyptians used to worship.  They’re real, not made up or extinct.  You don’t have to worship unicorns to go back in time.”  It was like running down a hill, once you start, nothing, not even the site of an oncoming car can stop you.

“I don’t usually go way back, not more than a few minutes.  That way I can walk home afterwards.  It’s in my bedroom.”

Duke smiled, “Well now, maybe I should check it out.”

On the way back to my dorm, Duke was talking about physics or something; I was too cold and unsettled to listen.  I wanted to run ahead and jump in the time machine then go back to the party and talk about something else.  Maybe read a newspaper or watch TV for ideas.  Maybe go back to the first of the semester for just a minute and try out for Vagina Monologues or go way back in time and learn to snowboard or get arrested, something conversation worthy.

“Ta daa,” I said, waving my arm into the bedroom, hoping he would look at it then go away.  Duke laughed in a low way and pushed me onto the bed.  He kissed my neck and pushed off  his shoes.  I exhaled, glad that we were back where we’d left off.  Duke ran his hands down my back and squeezed my butt.

I leaned into him, expecting to become the confident sex goddess I had been our first time but my limbs seemed to be made of wood.  Our kisses were trial runs to figure out where our noses should go.  I felt like a shower singer freezing on stage.

“What’s the matter,” Duke asked as I pulled back.  I glanced at the box but couldn’t bring myself to jump in.

“I changed my mind.  I’m sorry,” I said.

“Why don’t you just lie back,” Duke said.  “Try to relax.”

“I’d rather you just leave,” I said, tired of this guy, Jeremy, and his lackluster sex appeal.

“It’s two o’clock.  Where the fuck am I supposed to go?”

“Home?  Back to the party?  I don’t care.”

“I only came back with you because it was late and I didn’t feel like working a better hook-up,” Jeremy said.  I yawned.  Jeremy stood up and stomped on the time machine.  “This is stupid,” he said then left.  I picked up the box and tried to care about its destruction.

Keela walked in.

“Oh no, your box,” she said.

I tried to laugh, but choked instead.  I was in a new world, one that was always spinning forward and never pausing, even for a second.

“Jeremy’s an asshole,” Keela said.  She picked up a brush from my dresser and started brushing my hair.  I could feel the earth moving away from Margo and the me that had existed with her.

“Is it too late to call Jenny?” I asked.

“Way too late,” Keela said.  “But I’ll stay up with you.”

 

 

Bio: I am an English undergraduate at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga whose work has won UTC’s Ken Smith award as well as an Author’s and Artist’s scholarship. I have also been published in UTC’s literary magazine, The Sequoyah Review.

 

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My Trip Home by Adam Sprague

Nov 04 2012 Published by under The WiFiles

I

 

Over the last year, my wife, Tara, was doing her best to patch the hole left by my absence.  I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been doing the same.  It had been nine months since I had last been home.  Actually, twelve if you don’t count the short, five-hour visit I had with her when my platoon had arrived back on Earth for a short restock of supplies.  I missed her smile, the way she’d laugh at my jokes when no one else did, and the way she snuck her hand into mine when we walked down the street.  It was far too long to be away from her, but at least I had the distraction of work.  The image of Tara sitting and waiting for me day in and day out never left me, and most days it made me regret accepting the job.  Each morning I woke up reaching for the warmth of her body, only to find she wasn’t there.

None of our families, or the crew for that matter, expected us to be gone that long.  Nobody expected Jupiter’s resources to be so plentiful.  Well, maybe we expected the resources to be there, but not even the board of directors of Jupiter Mining Unlimited expected our technology, or our machinery to work so flawlessly the very first time out.  It had been one year straight of mining for us front-liners, and we were damn tired.  Damn tired, and damn well ready for our three week vacation.

It was summer back on Earth, so we made excellent time traveling back.  During the summer months, people actually wanted to stay on Earth, sit on the beach, and have a drink or two.  It was during the winter months that the tourist ships really picked up and made traffic slow.  But it was summer then, and not a single time were we warned about vacation cruisers entering our ship-space on our journey home.  Nothing pissed off a group of tired, underpaid, horny miners more than slowing down so a tourist ship full of overpaid, elderly snobs could float on by and snap a few pictures of Mars.

As we all began to catch a glimpse of Earth from our bunk windows, I hopped down from my sleeping compartment, walked over to the computer, and turned on the local San Diego news stream.  It was the only thing I could think of to get my brain ready for returning to the Earth way of life after being gone for so long.

“And this afternoon will be the Harvest Bean Festival,” the woman on the radio began.  “Today will be the twenty-third annual festival, and it will begin after the ceremonial bean-shaped ribbon is cut by Mayor Arnold Jankowski.  It all begins at noon!  And while you are out and about today, San Diegoians, don’t forget that today’s terror level is orange.  So be safe and have fun.  Now back to the music!”

Jax, my roommate, had been shooting a glare at me from across the room.  Without a word, he stormed across the steel-colored floor, his boots clanking with each step, and turned the stream off.

“How can you stand to listen to that bullshit, man?” he asked, as his jaw muscles tensed.  “Orange, yellow, blue, or pink it doesn’t matter what the damn terror level is.  When an alien cluster drops in on our asses and decides to blow us up cuz’ we’re mining what they think is theirs, it just doesn’t matter.”

I couldn’t think of much to say in defense of how Earth was handling the threat.  There had already been six alien attacks before we left, all in and around the San Diego area.  “Warning attacks” was what most people were calling them – warning us to stay away from Jupiter’s resources.  After all, the aliens were here first; nobody doubted that.  The resources were rightfully theirs if you asked me, but nobody asks miners what they think.

If it wasn’t me and Jax and the rest of our crew, it would have been a different group of meatheads blasting off into space towards the big red dot, so we went up anyhow and our families hated us for it.  Too much money was in it for the big shots at JMU not to mine Jupiter when the only risk for them was losing a bunch of frontliners like me and Jax.  Hell, our life insurance policies combined couldn’t pay for one of the board member’s collections of pin-striped suits.  In other words, we all needed the money.

Eventually, I responded with a shrug in Jax’s direction, climbed back up to my sleeping compartment, and waited for our ship to land.

 

II

There were scattered patches of smoke that still hung, looming over our home in the still of the evening air as I approached on foot.  Alarms of varying sources echoed and bounced off the walls of the buildings, or the parts of them that still remained.  A slow breath of wind rustled the leaves of the surrounding trees and moved the smoke from my view, revealing to me the jagged cutout remains of our home, some of which were still burning.  The very same place I had hoisted my wife across the threshold just two years prior now stood in ruins in front of me.  All those months of waiting for us to be close once again, just to have it all taken away.

Jax had said to me on the day we deployed, “It’s only a matter of time until those alien sons-of-bitches stop dropping bombs on our military bases and start going after our wives and kids.”  Nobody listened.  Sure, we all could have quit and found other jobs.  But no military leader would ever order such a violent attack on innocents, or so we all had thought.  It would be inhumane, right?  But we had all seemingly forgotten that these particular military leaders were not human at all.

As I walked up to the entrance of our home, I pushed opened the creaky remains of the door.  It slipped off the hinges and crashed to the ground, breaking into tiny, smoldering fragments at my feet.

As I took my first step inside, I saw Tara’s body lying on the ground, her wedding ring flickering in the light from the burning remains of our home that surrounded her.  It felt as though my heart was about to explode.  The smell of her perfume danced into my nose, the feeling of her touch tingled up my arms, both just a fleeting memory of the past.  My breathing intensified as I slowly began to realize my world as I had known it was over.

I fainted.  My brain did all it could to shield me from the ache of seeing her sprawled out on the floor.  I was immobilized by a prison of pain at her feet.  Tears pooled on the charred carpet underneath me as I began to sob uncontrollably.  I wanted vengeance.   I wanted to hop back in my ship, find where its family lived, and murder them all one by one for taking away the only thing that made my life worthwhile.  It was then that I felt it.

I peered to the right, where our bedroom once stood, and saw one of them crouched near the still burning headboard of our bed.  As I pushed myself up on my knees, dizziness overcame me once more and I reached out to brace myself upon the coffee table next to me. As I gripped it, it crumbled away from the fire damage sending me face-first into the ground once more.  I looked up from my fallen position and stared at the creature across the room.

He, or it, or whatever it was, gleamed in the fire’s illumination.  It expelled air with alarming force from somewhere on its body, as it had no conventional nose on its face.  It looked as though it was winter itself.  All white, with long dreadlock-like blue hair that hung down to the small of its back.  It stood, as I would, on two legs, and rocked back and forth as if it was readying itself to pounce.  Rising from the ground, I braced myself in anticipation of the alien’s attack.  My fight-or-flight response spiked as I stared into the eyes of my soul mate’s killer.   There was no iris to speak of at all; they were as dark as night itself.  I stood there, mute, but I swore I could feel its thoughts somehow.  It wasn’t hate, or anger that I felt, but sadness from the being.  Oddly, my hatred momentarily subsided, and when it looked into my eyes all I could feel was the thing’s utter remorse.

From somewhere, an icy wind cut through the heat of the flames around me, and in a glacier-white blur the creature disappeared.  It took me a moment, but soon I realized that my wife’s body was also nowhere to be found.  I collapsed once more to the ground in disbelief.  The bastard had left me with nothing; it torched my home, stole my love, and left me in a pool of my own tears.  I was too numb to think.  There was a hole in my heart that I knew nothing could ever fill.

 

III

Days later, I met up with Jax and the rest of the squad downtown.  The faces of the men that I had spent the past year with were nothing like I had ever seen before.  There was an aura of grey that hung like a storm cloud around us.  It was a mist that wouldn’t rise; it followed each of us wherever we went.  Hell, I knew I looked like death itself, but I didn’t care.  In fact, I wished for it – I longed for it.  I wished for anything that would take me to Tara.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that the same thing had happened at each one of our homes, and nowhere else.  The message was clear enough, and not a week later, JMU pulled the plug on its mining operations, sending us all into unemployment and JMU into a major public relations fiasco.  We were all broke and alone, or so we thought.

It was the morning after JMU’s announcement that I awoke in the middle of the night to find myself shivering in discomfort.  At first, I was surprised I had even slept, but was then more surprised by what stood before me.  A cool breeze passed over my face as I looked once more into the darkness of the thing’s eyes.  I glowered in its direction, ready to tear the thing limb from limb for murdering my wife and stealing her corpse.   Its blue hair danced in the wind as the alien stood motionless, mild, and almost dream-like in front of the window of my new apartment.  However, as I readied my body to lunge out of bed, I felt its emotions once more.  Only this time I didn’t feel remorse coming from it, but rather happiness instead.

Suddenly, I felt a stirring to my side, and as I looked to my right I saw my wife lying in bed, her stomach rising and falling with each of her breaths.  I instantly began to weep with joy.  Just as quickly as it had taken her away, it had given her back to me.  My wife’s face was as radiant as ever, her pale skin shined beautifully in the moonlight.  I felt as though the tight knot in my stomach had been cut loose, and a wave of bliss flowed through me.  As quickly as I could, I turned to face the being once more, but it had vanished as quickly as it appeared.  There I sat, slack-jawed and confused.

As my heart rate slowed, I turned and placed my hand on my wife’s stomach.  Her flesh was real.  Her eyes opened and she spoke in a sleepy slur and said, “I love you, sweetie.”  I wept joyously once more; tears fell from my face and landed on hers.  To hear the words of my soul mate, after I had thought she was dead, was beyond belief.  However, as ecstatic as I was, my mind still could not fully understand what had happened.  Had the aliens staged the whole attack?  Was I crazy?  Was the creature toying with my emotions?  Was I dead myself?

It was only as the days progressed, and one by one, members of our crew called to tell me that their loved ones had also returned, that I realized we were just pawns in a political maneuver that the media would never believe.  My wife, remarkably without a single scratch on her body, and unable to recollect anything about the abduction, could only speak of a bright white light and a room filled with beings with fair-colored bodies and long blue hair.  And I, overjoyed over the return of my love, could only speak of the aliens’ intellect and their fondness of life.

 

BIO:

Adam Sprague’s work has been featured in 365 Tomorrows magazine, among others.  He currently teaches English at Washington State University.

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