Archive for: April, 2013

Van Helsing Escapes by James Lewelling

Apr 28 2013 Published by under The WiFiles

She opened the door. I fled.

I couldn’t take it anymore—her “Harker this” and “Harker that.” I had to get out of that place. I didn’t even wait for her to start into it. As soon as she had stepped into the room, I rushed the door. It took her completely off guard. The last thing I saw was the “O” of her open mouth.

I slammed the door behind me. The corridor was empty. I made for the stairwell. I could hear Lucy banging on the observation window. Her key was no good from the inside. Somehow the other inmates on the ward got wind that something was up. They started throwing their bodies against the doors and rapping their knuckles against the windows. Despite their considerable efforts, it wasn’t loud: a kind of smothered uproar, quiet and yet extremely emphatic. By the time I’d skittered down the first flight of steps I couldn’t hear it anymore.

I stopped on the landing. I needed to think. Where was I going? I had had to get out of the room. That was certain. Going back was unthinkable. But then where was I to go now? I felt strongly that I wouldn’t really be safe until I’d gotten out of the hospital. If anyone found me here, I realized, sadly, glancing down at my (actually Harker’s) dirty white bathrobe and pathetic plastic hospital slippers, they would almost certainly mistake me for a patient and return me to the room. What’s more, here in the hospital, as I was only to painfully aware, any assertions I might make as to my identity or state of mental health were doomed to have an effect exactly opposite to what I intended. As chief officer of admissions, how many lunatics had I myself consigned to permanent custody based on their delusory assertions of their own sanity? In truth, the Hopeless Ward was full of them.

Clearly Harker had played a diabolical trick on me, but there in the hallway I couldn’t say how he had done it, or even exactly what he had done. Much of the recent past remained a blur. I knew I’d been incarcerated, but how long had I been incarcerated? I must have been given powerful sedatives. That much was clear. And Lucy was now locked back in the room? (Hee! hee!) That felt like a good thing, but why? Ought I not go back and release her?

I remembered innumerable meetings with Lucy, not in a discrete sequence but as a part of a hazy and unpleasant habitual past, in which she seemed to go on and on about the man who had been our mutual patient (Harker). But was that correct? (“How is Mr. Harker today?” “Has Mr. Harker slept well?” “Will Mr. Harker take his medicine?”) Was she talking about Harker? Or was she, rather, talking to Harker, or rather to me as Harker?? My god! That was it! Lucy thought I was Harker!

What a nefarious gambit! I thought, resting for a moment, taking it in. This far outstrips even the most outrageous of Harker’s previous hijinx. Harker has put me in his place! But what about him? Had he…?

I should have seen this coming, I thought, becoming agitated once again. In hideous retrospect, all the signs were there. Harker and I looked almost perfectly alike for one thing. (I may not have mentioned this. Can you blame me? Who would advertise such an unflattering coincidence?) His habit of mimicking me during the last several of our one- on-one therapy sessions was another clue (though those had taken place months, if not years, ago), not to mention the reports from the staff that he had begun performing his impression of me for them.

I remember that report had disturbed me briefly. “He’s started saying he’s you and you’re him and that you’ve locked him up under false pretenses,” Leo, an orderly, told me months ago over his morning coffee. “Can you beat that? What a caution! Still it breaks my heart sometimes to hear him banging on the door all night, sobbing, ‘He’s escaped! He’s escaped!’ ‘Can’t you see? Can’t anyone see?’” I must admit I may have chuckled a bit over Leo’s comical imitation of the whiny desperation in Harker’s voice. It didn’t seem so funny now nor the question with which Leo terminated his anecdote: “Do you suppose he really believes it, Doc?” Did he believe it, indeed. The point was no-one else believed it. But now I would have to make them believe….

I had to hand it to Harker, he’d prepared the grounds for this dastardly caper with uncanny thoroughness. But how he had managed the actual switch was still a bit hazy. Evidently a blow to the head—or quite possibly several blows administered, perhaps, at regular intervals—had played some role, I realized, passing my fingers gingerly over several good-sized (and growing?) lumps on my own forehead.

I needed to get out of the hospital; that much was certain. What’s more I needed to get away from the hospital. But how far away would I have to get? That depended, I reasoned, on how far Harker had penetrated in his appropriation of my identity. Had he had time to take possession of my apartment? Had he been passing himself off as me at the neighborhood café? Could he have gone to the extreme length of visiting my home country to find and lay claim to whatever of my credentials might remain there?

And what about Lucy? Could Harker have succeeded in displacing me from my perch in the nest of her affections? Or rather, could he have pre-empted me there as, I confess, despite considerable efforts, I had not yet managed to attain that perch.

That woman was a cipher! First off (of course) there was no accounting for her immoderate interest in Harker; and secondly, given that interest, not to mention her long association with him (How long I couldn’t say. She’d been in his employ when he entered the hospital. That much I knew. But how long had she been attending to him before that?) how was it that she of all people had not noticed the switch? Certainly our striking physical resemblance worked against her. But even given that, you would think, Lucy, who had in all likelihood been attending to Harker since his earliest infancy, would have spotted a counterfeit. Shouldn’t something in my eyes, for example, have given the game away immediately?

Or was it possible, though I shuddered even to consider it, that Lucy had been in on it all along? Could she actually have conspired with Harker? Was she perhaps playing out the absurd charade of continuing to mistake me for Harker only for my own benefit and that of the hospital authorities? Was she not, perhaps, in this way, playing for time, as they say, until Harker, having liquidated all my local assets, would abscond with her back to my home country, there to live comfortably off my paternity while I wasted out the remainder of my days in the ten by ten padded cell that had been allotted to him?

I sat down on the floor for a moment, stunned by the enormity of the crime being perpetrated against me.

They’ll never get away with it, I thought, rising.

At least I had already immobilized one of my adversaries. You could bet there was no noise Lucy could make inside that room that would inspire an investigation on the part of the custodial staff. She ought then to stay put at least until the next morning when an orderly would show up with her (Harker’s (my?)) breakfast. Harker, however, I was sure, would prove far more difficult. He had after all, with extremely limited resources, mastered-minded my present predicament. In light of this—I must admit, stunning—achievement, even his illness was called in to question. Could that too have been entirely a ruse? But to so perfectly mimic the vast array of symptoms he had exhibited would have required an encyclopedic, even professional, knowledge of psychiatry. But in that case, Harker would have had to have been a psychiatrist himself! Could he have been a renegade practitioner who had turned his vast and arduously acquired knowledge of the healing arts to diabolically selfish and destructive ends?! Confronting him was rapidly becoming a significantly daunting prospect. But I had no choice but confront him. My very survival depended upon it. But not here.

I had to get back to my room on the other side of town. That was the key. My clothes were there for one thing (my black ward walking shoes, my lab coats, my respectable trousers and button down shirts, even my socks for God’s sake! (How could I be expected to confront anyone without even a pair of socks?). Those at least would put me on an equal footing with my adversary (the fraud) should I choose to return. But also I had there, in my room, on the other side of town, other resources (assuming, of course, Harker had not already discovered and pillaged them) that might prove instrumental in the coming struggle. And, not least, there was the matter of my other job as Vampire Tracker—rather neglected as of late, I must admit.

I left the ward using the emergency exit at the bottom of the stairwell. The moon was full, the air cool and tangy with salt. It felt good to be outside. It had been quite a while since I had tasted fresh air.

Unfortunately the air did nothing to clear the blur from my memory. A blow—or several—to the head, yes. I could still feel a dull ache from the lumps. Only Lucy…only Lucy… I could only clearly remember those innumerable sessions with Lucy. She was pretending I was Harker. For the authorities. To gain time…But was that really all there was to it? Could it have been their (Harker and Lucy’s) nefarious ambition to expunge my identity completely? Could they not have been attempting, through a regimen of powerful psychoactive drugs and relentless suggestion, to convince even me myself that I was the lunatic Jonathon Harker? My pulse raced at the thought.

I confess that though up until then my nascent plans had so far focused exclusively upon regaining only what was rightfully mine, now my thoughts began to stray toward revenge. I even for a moment considered re-entering the hospital, returning to Harker’s chamber and confronting the incarcerated Lucy with her colossal guilt then and there. And you can bet I would not limit my expressions of outrage to vindictive speeches! But then a sea breeze passed chillingly beneath the skirt of my (actually Harker’s) dirty white bathrobe, bringing me back to the sharp realities of the situation. For the moment, I must abscond.

Still, shivering there in the scrubby, dark cul-de-sac just outside the little used auxiliary exit of the hospital’s most peripheral ward, I vowed, as God was my witness, I would return and when I did, vengeance would be mine!

It was in truth a beautiful night. The moon covered over everything with a milky luminescence such that the expanse of scrub grass through which I ran—dimpled in the night breeze, dark against white dunes cresting high into the air at its furthest edge—took on the characteristics of a stretch of oddly calmed sea, the trough of an immense wave, stretching in wait beneath the gathering whiteness of a breaking surge. My sinews thrilled with freedom. In my exuberance I may even have begun to howl or hoot at the night air. I feared no discovery. The massive face of the Hopeless Ward blank with darkened windows was dead behind me, and with each leap I left it further behind.

~ Excerpt from Harker (novel)

 

BIO: James Lewelling’s first novel, This Guy, was published in 2005 by Spuyten Duyvil, his second, Tortoise, by Calamari Press in 2008. Over the years, his short fiction has appeared in a variety of literary venues ranging from The Cream City Review to The Stranger to The Evergreen Review to Fence. He has been writing fiction since 1988 while at the same time teaching and working abroad in Morocco (as a Peace Corps volunteer), Turkey and for the last ten years in the U.A.E. At present, he is writing fiction and taking care of his family as a stay at home dad in Abu Dhabi.”

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The Exploding Capsule by Lindsey Soltis

Apr 21 2013 Published by under The WiFiles

“Hey, Larkin, look what I found,” I said.

Larkin knelt down beside me. Together we dug up what looked like a large blob of metal, but upon closer examination turned out to be some type of electronic devise, or a couple welded together.

“Just another piece of junk,” Larkin said, but put it in his backpack anyway. We already had a couple similar items. It was fun to dig up buried treasures in the desert. There wasn’t much else to do.
***
In the dead of night the sky lit up; it seemed like a dream. Later I would wish it had been.

“Get up, Emery.”

I groaned sleepily, pushed away the prodding hands.

“Come on, Em. You and I have stuff to do.”

I opened my eyes. My best friend Larkin stared at me with his big green eyes. He was seventeen, three years older than I was. He handed me my clothes, and stared out the dusty window while I dressed.

“I kept thinking about our treasure hunts last night,” I said. “Why did we stop doing them?”

“Because we got too old, Em. Digging up garbage was a childish thing and your pa found out. Now get up I want to show you something.”

“I’ve got school, you know.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Of course Larkin wouldn’t worry about school: He had dropped out last year and now worked at the mines with his father and my father. We slipped outside quietly, but not quietly enough.

We followed a worn path to the train tracks. All around us was the Nevada desert: still and dry, ready to roast in the late spring heat. We headed across the tracks and up a steep hill. Larkin led the way until we reached our old dig site fifteen minutes later. But our dig site was gone, the land dropped off suddenly, the sides sheered cleanly. About fifty feet below was the desert floor, dry and bare as it always had been.

“How’d this happen?” I asked and instinctly grabbed Larkin’s shirt for fear of falling.

“I don’t know yet,” Larkin said. “I just found this a few hours ago.”

“Let’s go back.”

“It’ll be alright, Emery.”

Larkin lay down on his stomach and I reluctantly followed suit. We could see better now without the sun’s glare in our eyes and were able to see the bodies. There were three, directly below us, but so well camouflaged I was amazed we were able to spot them at all.

“Are those humans?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” Larkin said. “Aliens, maybe? You know how many people see UFOs around here. Maybe this time it’s true.”

I nodded. Every week someone in town claimed to have seen aliens or their spacecraft. The newspaper from the city was always filled with similar tales, but never as detailed as the ones from around here.

However, no one had ever actually seen an alien body. I shivered despite the heat. “There’s blood down there,” I whispered.

It was impossible to look away and the more I looked, the more details I was able to make out. Each body only had three fingers on each hand. The eyes were pulled from the heads and dried out in the sun. The bodies were split open spilling guts, blood, internal organs, but there were no animals around scaveging. Larkin and I had seen enough dead animals being picked apart to know that no animals had touched whatever these were.

I scooted away from the edge, stood up. “We should tell someone.”

“We don’t have too, Emery,” Larkin replied. “We can go down there ourselves, have a closer look. We could take pictures, send ’em to the city newspapers. We could be famous!”

I chewed my lip in thought. Larkin was always more impulsive than I was. I had to be the one to think things out. “Men might come up here soon. If my pa finds out we’ve been keeping this a secret, and hanging around up here, he will kill me. He doesn’t want me wandering around in the desert.”

“Don’t worry about your pa. He’ll never find out. Come on, Emery, we could make good money off this. We could get out of this dump.”

I liked the idea of leaving this forsaken mining town. But . . .

“No, Lark. I’m going to tell my pa. Those things could have parasites or something. Do you want to die from an unknown disease?”

Larkin shrugged. “Better than dying from boredom. Just think about it. Just this morning you said you were thinking about our digging adventures. It was fun to have that secret, wasn’t it? This could be our new secret.”

“I don’t know.”

I knew Larkin wanted out of this town; he hated this place. His mom had died here and left him with his heavy drinking, chain smoking father. Larkin had to take care of himself. But he was still a boy. I tried to keep him in line even though I was younger. But I was bad at keeping secrets. I was the reason my pa found out about our treasure hunts. Yet, having a secret again would be fun. “I’ll think about it.”

Larkin grinned.

“Where have you boys been?” my pa demanded. Something about the heat and constant sun, I guessed, gave everyone a short fuse.

“Just for a walk,” I mumbled.

“You better be telling the truth.”

“I am, sir.”

“Get ready for school then. You better not be late getting home today.”

Once at school I allowed myself to dwell on what caused the land to drop away. Was it just a natural sink hole? An explosion of sorts? A meteor? Were those bodies just unlucky people in the path of nature’s destruction? Or was this something much deeper, more beyond us humans? Would we be safe?

“Emery, quit daydreaming.”

I jumped in my seat. All the children in the one room school giggled.

“Sorry,” I mumbled to the teacher and sank down in my chair. Larkin used to sit beside me, but now I sat alone.

I slipped away at recess and found Larkin at one of the lesser used mines.

“You should be in school,” he said.

“So should you.”

“You know I had enough.”

“I miss having someone to sit next to.”

“Don’t rub it in that we were in the same grade.”

“I’m not,” I said. “What are you doing?”

“Thinking. I’m going to go back to the drop. I want to figure out what happened.”

“I still feel wrong about keeping this a secret.”

“Do this for me, Emery. Please?”

I sighed. “Okay. I’ll try at least.”

After school I headed home long enough to have a snack and let my mother see me so she could tell Pa I hadn’t been late. I made my way to the exploded land as soon as I could. Larkin was already there, squatting on the dry ground and hooking bits of metal together.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Making a grappling hook to bring up the bodies.”

I wanted to groan, but managed to keep it in. “I really don’t think that is a good idea. Like I said before, they could be diseased.”

Larkin paused in his work. “This scares you, doesn’t it?”

I nodded. “We don’t know what happened here. There could be radiation or poisonous gases. We need to tell someone, or at least stay away.”

Larkin rubbed the dry skin on his arms. “Alright, we’ll leave the bodies be, but lets look around a bit. Maybe we’ll find some kind of clue to what is going on. And if weird things start happening we will tell your pa.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Larkin left his half finished grappling hook in the dirt, stood up, and brushed dust off his pants. We could have been brothers we looked so similar. But that wasn’t saying much as everyone in our town looked fairly alike. The drying heat tended to turn everyone the same.

We searched all around. Checked beneath scraggly desert plants and in them. We dug our heels into the hard ground, dug a bit with our hands, but found nothing. Sweat ran off our faces and grit from the blowing wind stuck to it.

“Might as well go back home,” Larkin said. “The wind is picking up. Might be a storm coming in.”

I nodded, wiped the sweat off my forehead with my sleeve.

As we walked back the wind picked up even more. Sand stung our eyes and made them water. It burned our throats and stung our skin. We could barely see within minutes. Larkin grabbed my wrist. “I don’t remember where the drop is,” he shouted. “I’m afraid we’ll fall in without seeing it.”

“What are we supposed to do then?” Sand flew in my mouth as I spoke making me choke.

“Stay where we are, I guess.”

And that was what we did. It was too dangerous to continue walking since we no longer knew what direction we were going in. And with the drop nearby a step in the wrong direction could be our last. We sat on the ground, bent over with the wind to our backs. I was scared. I had never been caught in a dust storm before. Now I knew why my pa didn’t want me playing out in the desert. “Don’t cry,” I heard Larkin whisper. But I did anyway. He forced my head against his chest. I sobbed wetly against him wondering if we were going to die. With my head against Larkin I didn’t see the creature approach, but Larkin did, even through the blowing grit.

I felt him stiffen and begin to stand. I stood too keeping my face against him, safe from the blowing sand.

“What are you?” Larkin asked.

I glanced behind me and tried not to scream. What I saw had huge eyes, no ears, and one long arm and one short arm. Larkin forced my head back against him. The creature made a few squeaky sounds that hurt our ears, but—if possible—sounded friendly, peaceful.

We followed the creature to a small cave. Inside all was quiet and free of blowing sand. The creature looked at us, we looked at him or her. It was an alien, I was sure of it.

“What do you want?” I asked. Larkin and my fear’s had switched. He was scared, I was curious.

The alien made squeaky sounds again. I forced myself not to cover my ears. Without the wind the noise was even worse. It handed me a piece of paper that it disgustingly took from a slit in it’s side. Some kind of pocket, I guessed, sick nonetheless, but I took the paper anyway. It had a waxy feel to it and slimy from being inside the alien. On it was a drawing. I showed it to Larkin, we both knew what it was: the electronic devises we had dug up years ago. The aliens were looking for their supplies. Had they blown the hole in the ground to try and find it? Did they know we stole their things? I had a feeling they knew we did.

My curosity was gone. I was terrified.

Larkin handed the drawing back to the creature with a shake of his head. He grabbed my hand and we ran. Outside the wind had stopped and we were able to find our way home.

“Doesn’t running away make us seem more guilty?” I asked as we ran.

“I don’t care,” Larkin said. “All I want is as much distance as possible between us and that monster.”

“If you really think about it, that creature was kind of cute.”

Larkin stopped running to stare at me. He rolled his eyes and tugged me ear. “You are so weird.”

I was grateful to see my house. I didn’t care that I would get a beating for being gone so long and out in bad weather. Larkin followed me inside. Sand fell out of our clothes in piles. Ma grabbed me in a hug of relief. Pa patted my shoulder. He didn’t scold, just asked what happened. I lied, told him we were chasing jack rabbits. It wasn’t a bad lie, Larkin and I did it all the time.

Pa sent me outside to clean off and told Larkin to go home.

“I’ll be back tonight,” Larkin whispered to me.
***
Larkin tapped on my window. Quickly I unlatched it and let him in. A rickety ladder leaned against the house. It was pitch black outside. No stars, no moon. We were far enough from the city to not see the constant light pollution.

“You weren’t asleep yet, were you?” Larkin shrugged off his backpack. Glass bottles clicked together inside.

“Almost,” I said as I Larkin closely. It had been a long time since he’d snuck over. He handed me one of the bottles. I had been twelve when Larkin gave me my first beer.

“So?” Larkin said.

“So, what?”

“What are we to do about this creature.”

“Oh.”

Larkin snatched the beer out of my hand. I sighed loudly. “Alright. I think we should keep him as a pet.”

Larkin groaned. “Be serious, Emery.”

“I am.”

“If you want to then, be my guest. Though I’m not sure how well that go over with your ma. But, seriously, Em, we have a problem. That thing knows its crap is missing and has a pretty good idea that we took it.”

“I don’t think running away helped at all. We should of talked to it more.”

“That thing didn’t speak a human language. How were we supposed to talk to it?”

“We could of figured something out.”

“Are you drunk already?”

“I’m just saying there might have been a way.”

We stayed up most of the night, both of us tipsy and hyper. I was amazed we managed to keep quiet. Around three I fell asleep, and an hour later my alarm went off: Larkin’s warning to go home before his pa got up.
***
Reddish light filled my attic bedroom. I squinted sleepily. Was it morning already? I stumbled to the window. Everything was bathed in crimson light. Suddenly, a horrible screeching filled the air. I plugged my ears, but it did no good. Luckily the noise faded away within a minute. Something had flown over town. I could just see it in the sky—a capsule shaped object—then it hit the ground and exploded. I ran outside just as Larkin reached my house.

“It hit near the drop!” I shouted.

Larkin grabbed my wrist and we ran to the explosion sight. There was no smoke, no fire, no burn marks. Only a colossal hole in the ground to the west of the first one making it closer to town.

I shivered as I peered over the edge. Everything was still, dead like. There was no breeze. The rising sun seemed to have come to a stop.

“What happened?” I asked Larkin. I was startled to see him grinning.

“They don’t know it was us,” he said. “The aliens are still looking for their things. Were safe, Emery, were safe.”

I grinned too, but only for a second. “Other people are going to know about the explosion now. What if that makes the aliens mad? What if they try to destroy our town?”

“We’ll just have to wait and see.”

I looked over the edge. The alien bodies were gone, but what looked like a human body lay in their place. I pointed that out to Larkin.

He knelt down and leaned over. A funny expression came over his face. I got down and looked too. Details were hard to make out, but I could see red hair, the same color as Larkin’s.

It was his father.

Larkin shrugged his shoulders a few times, his way of trying to let things slide away. He wiped his nose on his sleeve and stood up. “Let’s go.”

We had barely turned around when an alien appeared before us. It held a glob of welded metal out to Larkin. “You have one like this,” it said in an ear piercing, but understandable, voice. “Give me the box and your father comes back, but he must be replaced. Keep the box and we search it out by any means possible.”

“Give it up,” I told Larkin.

Larkin nodded. “It’s at home,” he told the creature. “I’ll bring it to you.” To me he said. “Go on home. I’ll meet up with you later.”

I went home, but stayed outside. After fifteen minutes or so I saw Larkin heading behind his house a box in one hand and a shovel in the other. I called his name. He looked up and took off running.

“I’m not giving it up!” Larkin shouted over his shoulder.

“Why not?” I shouted back, trying to keep up. “You can save your father. If you hide it you will kill us all!”

Larkin continued to run, but I couldn’t keep up and stopped. Anger began to boil up inside me. How dare that he do this! How dare he decide to murder this whole town. I would give the devise personally to the aliens and let them sacrifice Larkin instead of his pa.

I went home, got in my pa’s truck and drove after him. Larkin was going in a fairly straight line and it didn’t take me long to find him. He stood out in the empty desert trying to dig a hole in the rocky earth.

I blared the horn and accelerated. Larkin jumped out of the way and smashed his shovel against the windshield. The glass shattered. I ducked as shards flew at me cutting my cheeks.

I was out of the truck in a flash holding a pick ax that was in the back seat.

“Get away!” I commanded. “Give me the device.”

“No! It is mine, I was the one who found it. You have no right to take it.”

“Your going to kill us all!”

“I don’t care!”

Larkin knocked the pick ax out of my hand with his shovel. I rammed against him hard enough to push him over. I snatched the box and jumped in the truck, wincing as I sat on pieces of glass.

I was horrible at making turns, the result being a wide half circle at a slow enough pace for Larkin to slash one of the tires with the ax. He dragged me out and tried to pry the wooden box from my hands. I smashed it against his head. He crumpled to the ground and I gasped as I saw blood.

I was terrified. What if I had killed him? He had a pulse, but he wasn’t moving and didn’t appear to be conscious. He was too heavy to carry, and even if the truck’s tire wasn’t slashed I wouldn’t have been able to get him inside. I was going to have to leave him there and give the metal blob to the aliens myself. Like I had wanted to do.

But it didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore.

Leaving Larkin on the hot desert ground I plodded to the drop. Two aliens were waiting.

“Who are you going to kill?” I asked.

“Your friend knows,” one of them said.

“Only he can tell you,” the other said.

I nodded and set the box down to open it and noticed it was padlocked. To say the aliens were angry would have been a lie. They became more disfigured then beforel; they were beyond human emotion.

“I can break it,” I said frantically while using the box as a shield just in case. I worked steadily to break the lock using whatever I could find: rocks, branches, a plastic dinosaur I had in my pocket. I was getting desperate, the aliens were becoming forceful, prodding and kicking me in the back. I wanted to run, but when I happened to look up I saw Larkin. He was coming slowly across the desert, his clothes soaked with blood. I picked the box up and met him halfway.

“Do you have the key?” I asked.

Larkin took the key out of his pocket. His hands were red with dried blood. “I wasn’t going to give this to you before,” he said. “But now, after what you did, I don’t care if you die.”

Larkin slapped the key into my hand.

“I’m the exchange?”

“Of course. Go on, you wanted to give them the devise, now give it to them.”

I looked at Larkin with tears bluring my vision. He had tried to save me, let his father die so I could live. And I had bloodied him up.

But he had no right, I tried to tell myself. To save one life was not the way to go. He should have saved the town.

I was going to die! My legs began to shake and the tears fell free. I could see Larkin’s resolve began to break. However he turned away and began walking toward town.

I continued to cry as I unlocked the box and took out the metal blob. I handed it to the aliens. One of them beckoned me to follow and stand at the edge of the drop.

I closed my eyes. Why had we dug up stuff in the desert? Why had we fought—when we rarely ever did—at this crucial time?

I could feel a huge shadow move over me, intense heat, and strong pressure. I didn’t want to look, but I had to know what was going on.

A capsule was overhead, slowly making it’s way over the town. I saw the aliens nod to each other and then I was falling.

Something wasn’t right, I wasn’t falling anymore, yet I hadn’t hit the ground. Unless I was already dead. I opened my eyes and I saw that my overalls had become attached to a piece of metal sticking out the side of the drop’s wall. It was Larkin’s grappling hook! Somehow it had become embedded in the wall.

I could see nothing but dry desert sand below me and the capsule slowly moving above me. I couldn’t climb up and I couldn’t drop down. Aliens were gathering beneath me.

“I’ll have you up in a minute, Emery.” Larkin lay on the ground above me. His dry, tanned face had never been so appealing before.

A minute later a rope hit the top of my head. I grasped it and Larkin pulled. But I was stuck good. I yelled at him to wait a second and began unbuckling the straps of my overalls.

We didn’t have much time. The aliens were throwing wicked looking weapons at me attempting to rip my flesh open and sacrifice me on the wall.

Larkin began pulling me up again when one of the alien’s weapons sliced my leg. I screamed in pain and nearly let go. Larkin pulled me up as fast as he could.

I felt Larkin’s arms around me, his warmth doing nothing to my cooling body. Everything was turning black.
***
Emery didn’t die, but his fate was worse than that. He was like stone, he could feel nothing. I don’t know if he could hear me or see me. But I still would not leave his side.

The cut on his leg had healed long ago, but the weapon had been tipped with something that flooded his veins and destroyed all that was human in him. He could sleep and eat and I knew he could tell that time was passing, but he couldn’t talk and all his memories seemed to be gone; he was an empty shell.

“You saved the town,” I told him, as I did nearly everyday. “You were so brave. You were so unselfish. I shouldn’t have let them hurt the person closest to me.”

Emery stretched out his hand. I grasped it and held it to my lips. He wanted to remember, I knew he did, but there was nothing left in him.

He slipped his hand away. His lips parted as if he was going to speak, but no sound came out. Yet I understood. Everything was alright. He was okay that this had happened to him because he had saved the one person closest to him.
________________________________________________________________________

I am an aspiring writer from Montana who enjoys working with animals. I am an advocate for animal shelters and it gives me great joy to work with those animals.

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Fragile by Andrew N. Becerra

Apr 14 2013 Published by under The WiFiles

“I am part of the Great Ape Family!” Her attorney’s words came out as a snarl. Several thousand pounds of gorilla moved its face inches from hers as he slammed his fists into the reflective table.

“Did you say, ‘The Grape Ape Family?” She said. “Because in that tacky purple suit, I’d believe it.” What was left of the prison’s interrogation table crumbled as the attorney’s tantrum flew into full swing.

From the other side of the one-way glass two, very human, detectives watched, as Marla Anderson, handcuffed to her chair, taunted her own counsel.

“So what do you make of her Murphy?” Johannson asked. “Just another attempt at an insanity plea? Or do you think there’s something to that story of hers?”

Murphy chewed the stump of his cigar as he stared at the two of them. “I don’t know, but I don’t like it.”

Marla, looked through the one-way glass and said, “Look, I’ll tell ya’ll what I remember, one last time. Hit the record button on your wet-ware if you have to, because after this, I want my damn phone call.”

“The first thing I remember that makes any sense at all is waking in that field…”

****

“What the heck hit me?” My eyes burned as the sun gouged them open. I felt dirt and crabgrass beneath my fingertips as I pulled myself up off my back. Now this ain’t right. Looking down as I stretched myself awake, I was greeted by a number of absurdities; not the least of which was my own very plump breasts. Where did these come from?

Blinking myself out of any chicanery, I took a deep breath and looked at my surroundings. Yep, I’ve lost it. What else could someone possibly think when they are greeted by a gloved hand, extended from a man wearing blue and white spandex?

“Where the heck am I?”I asked. “Is there some kinda convention nearby?”

“Erde. We summoned you here.” His voice, so commanding and authoritative, not only inspired confidence, but made his costume no longer feel so out of place. “You’re The Invincible Girl.” He said, as if I should know that name.

But I’m not…am I?

“The who?” I said, but just as the words were chucked from my lips, my perspective widened, and I took in much more than a single man sporting his underwear on the outside of his clothes. I saw the impossible.

Across the field in which I lay, dozens of tanks barreled toward us, and there in the skies above, a murder of airships darkened the sky. My stomach lurched from my skin as I saw the approaching army, but what stole my breath away was when I noticed, tattooed upon the war machines, was the black swastika of Nazism.

“Ma’am, are you ready?” He asked.

“For what? What am I doing here? And who the heck are you?”

“For war. We called you here. And I am Major Virtue.” Again his voice tore away all doubt from my mind, leaving only this fervor to join him. He extended his arm, and in taking it, I was instantly transported with him, into the fray.

Within the lifespan of an unborn star he’d set upon the invading army, but he was not alone. All around me men and women of potence unleashed a fury unlike anything I’d ever seen.

I watched as a man to my left cleft chunks of metal from a tank with his bare hands. A woman close by him howled as she lifted a tank over her head and flung it into the sky to tackle one of the birds of prey above us. All around me death hailed, from what looked to me like ordinary people. There were even others with more amazing abilities, I could have sworn a man standing akimbo crushed the tank in front of him by giving it a stern glance, and a man with an oversized top hat, pulled a rocket launcher from nowhere to fire upon a stray airship.

From among the tanks, like a blanket of death, wolves descended upon us. Teufel Hunden in earnest breached the lines of the ubermensch and dashed beyond us. For the first time, I looked back, and fear truly struck me as the hounds sought the blood of the innocent. What these Supermen were protecting was a city of glass, and the ill-advised citizens had so much faith in their protectors, they’d come to look upon the 3rd Reich’s destruction.

Several citizens ran as wolves the size of sedans bounded toward them, those few that did not, soon left this world in a river of blood. But I couldn’t stand idly by as so many lives were taken. I’m here for a reason. They called me here. He called me The Invincible Girl…

My strides were swift, and I was able to single out a small family, immovable as stone, and I stood before them. I locked eyes with the Alpha as the pack surrounded us. Without looking, I stole from the father’s hand, his Newspaper.

Alpha stepped forward, baring bloody teeth as he channeled a growl that emanated from Tartarus itself. It’s just a dog. They called you here. There had to be a reason they called you here. This will work…

I stared into his feral eyes, and he into mine, and all the while the pack grew ever closer.

His muscles tensed. He’d found me unworthy—

~WHACK~

Shock spread over Alpha’s…face. His muzzle contorted and his eyes became less poignant. The pack froze. Some sat down and scratched, others stood still unsure. But Alpha felt his loss of control, and that was enough for the hairs on his back to stand on end. The growl deepened as his fur rose, and his pack again became the reapers they were bred to be.

~WHACK~

Snot began to dribble from his nose at the second strike. I stood confident and proud; I was Alpha for a spit second then–

~SCHLAK~

I watched the bottom two thirds of my body devoured as I listened to my ward’s last utterances. Tears and blood flowed freely down what was left of my identity, as I tumbled through the air. I’d been torn apart by a quick swipe from the true Alpha.

The last thing I remember before losing consciousness was a young man with greasy black hair, pocket protector proudly displayed, picking me up and saying “Everything will be okay…I think I can fix this…”

****

                Geraldo, The Invincible Girl’s attorney, looked deep into her eyes and said, “Is there nothing else? You have no memory of what you’ve been doing these past few days? I mean, we all saw the news coverage of you attempting to save that family, but that was over a month ago, and over the past few days the police have camera footage, fingerprints, and eye witnesses who watched you…Is there nothing else Marla?”

“I am sorry Geraldo.” Marla said. “The next thing I remember is waking up in police custody, chained to this chair. The detectives on the other side of the mirror were watching some of the footage in there. I watched it from here—“

“That’s impossible, this is one-way glass.” Murphy said. “The freak—“

“The Freak, can hear you! And your damn one-way mirror doesn’t work. I can see right through it.” Marla looked into her counsel’s huge brown eyes. “That girl couldn’t have been me. They shot her… then she just turned and ran away…Like some kind of robot.”

“Marla…give me your hand.” Geraldo said. She reached across the table to touch him.

~TINK~

Marla’s handcuffs broke and fell to the floor.

“I don’t know what’s happened to me.” She said, as dark oily tears scared her face.

“I believe you Marla. I believe you…”

Bio: I am an Iraq war veteran and former Marine. I broke my back in 2005 and after found a passion for writing. I have always been an avid reader of fiction and after several college courses I am finding that it is time to start finding out if I can one day make a career out of this, or if it is only a dream.

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THE PAINTER’S DREAM By Christos Callow Jr.

Apr 07 2013 Published by under The WiFiles

What’s most worthless about dreams
is that everybody has them.
Fernando Pessoa, 1888-1935

1
He was a painter who didn’t use colours.

In fact, he had never painted anything. Other people didn’t consider him a painter. Those who knew him personally even had the impression he hated painting and they were right.

To him, the process itself, or the result, meant nothing. He saw no difference between an idea being born and that idea being formed. He cared only for the idea itself and all his life he had such an idea, a concept of a painting which, would he one day be able to conceive, his work as a painter would be over.

Sitting in a chair in the middle of an empty room, in perfect solitude, he felt it was finally time. He realized he had been postponing this moment for his whole life, as he was always too busy “living” and had no time for such metaphysical activities as truth-seeking and Zen painting. That’s what he called it, Zen painting, because, frankly, it didn’t involve painting. Everything was meant to happen inside the head and that was supposed to be enough.

He was old and lonely and had forgotten most of the things he had lived and the rest didn’t matter. He used to have a pretty ordinary job, one that didn’t require imagination and thus was unimportant. He had often tried to erase his unpleasant and unnecessary memories and he had often been successful.

He could remember planning his magnum opus, the work of his life, the painting of no colours, ever since he was a child. What had happened between then and now? Not much and nothing inside him had changed.

The passing of time was supposed to bring him closer to his goal. It didn’t. Life itself was expected to contribute. It didn’t. The experiences of a lifetime, the hundreds and thousands of books that filled his personal library and his head, the things he had heard, seen and felt – and even those he had imagined – nothing helped, none of these got him anywhere nearer the achievement of his life.

He had fallen in love many times, he had fallen in hatred even more, and every time he had travelled around the world, he had always found himself back to where he had started, his mind almost suffocated with the overfilled Thought-Albums of the images he had witnessed which turned out to be a burden rather than a pleasure-storage, as they were originally thought to be.

How could he ever see the One Picture, if between him and the empty painting, the armies of past experiences and blurred memories were marching triumphantly in the name of King Headache the Eternal? And how could he ever even conceive the Thoughtless Thought he was after, if the gardens of his mind were occupied by such parasites as the Fear of death and the Remorse for having lived?

He had to empty his mind. He had to gather his memories and hopes in one large pile of garbage and set them all on fire and watch the smoke vanish. Then he would be free. Then he would be ready.

Like a madman, the madman he was, he started dancing around the big white room, his hands the moving fires of deathless death, fighting against the life-consuming life, and all the illusions it brings to the eye, to the ear, to the flesh. For too long had his heart been treated as a slave, obeying such masters as temptations and habits and addictions of the senses, and for too long had she been used as a mule, carrying on her back the burden of contradictory feelings, and suffering underneath.

She was a woman made of fire, his heart, and she was tired and weakened and on her way to faint. And yet she was a loyal heart and had refused to stop beating before her beloved’s dream would be fulfilled. She patiently waited for the moment when her beloved would finish his work and be finally ready to die, so that she could also rest in peace. And she was prepared to wait forever.

2
There was almost nothing there. All there was, was a big white wall in a big white room, opposite him. Himself, in the centre of the room, the room which was a box in a box called a building. Yet he had to think outside the box, see the big picture.

Though a painter, he had no obligation to paint what he would see, or in any other way to expose it to an audience, by expressing it or describing it. Express or describe what? He had no right to paint, write down or talk about, a picture he had never seen in his head, a thought he hadn’t been able to conceive, a dream he hadn’t dreamt, a truth he hadn’t known.

He had a name for his painting-to-be. Utopia. Having a word for something he couldn’t think of, was allowed. He wouldn’t go any further than naming the thing though. Had he allowed his mind to build a personal utopia in his imagination, his vision would have been blocked by the garbage of personal ambition and prejudice, and the fight would be lost.

In his quest to imagine the Image, he saw there was the way of dreaming and the way of meditating, but he wasn’t yet certain which was preferable in order to communicate with the inner mind.

He attempted the later at first, and in a simple meditating stance, without still leaving the comfort of his chair, he closed his eyes in front of the empty painting on the empty wall, and let the silence guide him to a desirable higher consciousness.

It didn’t work. The old man fell asleep instead, and his mind was now active in the Dreamworld where a room, much similar to the one his body was in, was awaiting for him and a new painting was exposed, naked of colours, on the wall in front of him.

His obsession was once again haunting him in his dreams as it used to in the old days. He felt he wasn’t alone in the room and the presence of Another, an unknown and indefinable Other, was making him increasingly nervous as he hadn’t yet realized he was in a dream, and was slowly walking towards the picture-less frame, which seemed wider and wider, expanding as if to include the whole cosmos.

Instead of the blank paper, he found a void, much like a gate that led to another world. The presence of the Other was by then too powerful to ignore and, though he couldn’t turn his head to look, he felt the need to enter the gate to the other world and escape.

To escape, through the gate of the dream, through the painting… He never got there. The feeling that whatever was behind him, was after him, was the last he recalled when he woke up.

The gate. Utopia was a gate. That was the impression he got from the dream.

3
He was not alone.

In his head, he had two contradictory desires, as if the dreamer and the painter were two separate people occupying the same body – the dreamer was A, the original, whose wish was to know the truth, to enter the gate. B, the other, he merely wanted to paint the truth and was determined to complete the painting with an image his limited imagination would produce, regardless of whether the conceivable utopia would be a true or a false one.

He had to immediately disconnect himself from that part, letting it live separately since he could not kill it. A new chair was brought for B, who sat right between A and the painting.

That was rude, thought A. He tried not to be distracted at first, but was soon annoyed by B who was already planning what colours to use for the painting he had in mind, definitely a bad one.

“You cannot just start painting!” shouted A. “You don’t even know what you’re going to paint!”

“I have an idea of how Utopia would be like” said B.

“Your personal interpretation prevents you from seeing the actual thing. Even worse, your delusion becomes a distraction for the rest of us!”

B had turned, and the two of them were now standing face-to-face, each the enemy of the other, their faces almost identical, their eyes completely different.

“I am allowed to dream of a better world, you know” said B. “You can’t take that away from me!”

“It’s impossible. Even if your dream feels good at first, you’ll soon find it full of contradictions – it could even be a nightmare for other people. The question is – can you imagine a world that is perfect for everyone?”

“I don’t think I can. My imagination is limited, as is my reason.”

“Then shut up your reason…” said A “…your dreaming too. Until you have crossed the gate, how dare you talk of what lies beyond? Has either of us been there?”

“No.”

“Then we are not in the position to know.”

B stood up. He moved his chair to A’s right and sat by him. They both looked at the empty painting from a similar distance. They continued their conversation, trying to reach an agreement, seriously considering the possibility of a future collaboration. They gave up the thought. It’d never work.

C arrived the moment the new debate began. He was in fact born from the debate. As soon as he entered the room, he stood with his back to the painting, refusing to even think about it, let alone doing something. He believed that the truth was inconceivable not only in our present state of consciousness, but in all states. He was a pessimist and a loser and his sole philosophy could be summed up thus: “If I cannot conceive of perfection, then no-one can. There’s no utopia, because if there was such a thing, I would have known already.”

The rest of them – their numbers growing fast as more and more utopian painters arrived – almost ignored C’s existence, as he had no communication with them and refused to join in their activities.

D was C’s alter ego, the positive pessimist, who shared exactly the same mind as C’s, and had exactly the same opinions – the difference was, he thought they led to happiness. Of the two, he was the sociable one. He would write and publish the one manifesto after the other, an active dystopian thinker who preached that the man who sees the emptiness of life is a happy man, and that the future of humanity is the monkey, and the ape, and the dog. The law of the jungle was the only law he respected and as for the painting, he thought he was the only one in the room suitable for the job.

“I am the most enlightened of you all!” he shouted. “I shall be the one to paint Utopia!”

The others seemed sceptical about this statement.

“You remind me” said B. “…of the monkey-thinkers who claim they can explain Buddha and Jesus and Life. Who talk of such thing as the road to happiness and the other monkeys listen!”

D didn’t like that comment. B continued.

“The problem when you explain wisdom is that you have to be wise yourself otherwise with what authority do you claim to understand, let alone explain? Writing on Buddha is claiming you’re a Buddha yourself, which is arrogance, unless of course you have denounced the world, like a Buddha! Have you?”

“That is the problem” said E, who was strangely taller than the rest. A started to get worried. They were now different in size as well, he observed. He worried that if too many interfered, he would never finish his quest. E continued.

“I think the real question is who the Utopianist is. What makes a person able to conceive Utopia? Unless already achieved, Utopia is a work-in-process, a plan, but whose plan is more credible?”

“Are you examining the idea or the person behind it?” asked F. F was new.

“I’m not sure. But doesn’t the dream come from the dreamer?”

That was debatable. The metaphysicians would probably claim the opposite, that the dream happens to the dreamer, yet the more reasonable ones were certain that the dream is connected to the dreamer’s personality and that it’s born out of his own unconscious.

E’s argument made sense. The new law was instantly accepted by the majority: “Thou shall judge a Utopia by the Utopian who thought of it!” Even the metaphysicians had to agree that the tree was responsible for the fruit, and not the other way round.

The symposium went on and the room was now growing wider, eager to welcome new arrivals. A was not sure anymore if he was awake or in a dream, alive or dead, or perhaps was there another state of “being” he ignored? Ah, too many distractions, he thought, and tried to clear his mind.

Alas, Silence was in itself a Utopia!

4
D hadn’t spoken for a while. He was writing something, maybe making notes of the things he had heard or maybe drawing early drafts of what would be tomorrow’s masterpiece.

Of all the painters in the room – and they were by now quite a few, all of them similar in face and different in thought – not one had touched the painting yet, or even went anywhere near the frame.

A had been trying to meditate yet it was impossible. The noise was unbearable and there was little to do but wait, inactive, as he was all his life, growing older and weaker every second, unable to do anything but wait and wait and wait. He had no idea how many separate discussions were taking place in the room now, and if any of them was truly useful or if there were all noise and nothing but.

He turned his head once, out of curiosity, only to see C, the passive pessimist, holding his face with his hands, crying, probably thinking how the news of a future suicide would affect his relatives and friends. A’s attention was again distracted as he heard D, who had abandoned his drafts and was now standing on a chair, preaching the super-Man to a group of newcomers, quoting directly from popular thinkers.

As some observer rightly pointed out, their Utopian dreams were all problematic because they were based on the society they themselves would like to inhabit and not on the society they ought to. But they just liked and disliked what was, at their time, popular to like and approvable to dislike and even though they all had a different menu of opinions, these opinions were all picked from a greater Opinion-Menu which was terribly limited to include only those opinions currently acceptable by the modern up-to-date version of the Middle-Ages.

Even the most controversial thoughts they’d be encouraged to think, were suspiciously promoted by an important part of society, and there was little value in re-producing and presenting them as if they had any originality. Very few people, however, could see this.

D, who had gathered a group of teenage versions of A, was teaching them the godlessness of the universe, the random meaningless universe in which, he taught, they would only be happy if they saw its randomness and its meaninglessness.

He recited Nietzsche to support his argument: “If there were gods, how could I tolerate not to be a god! Therefore, there are no gods.”

“Do you believe this?” said F. “So is this how we really choose our beliefs?”

“If I can’t dream, there are no dreams!” shouted C who had been listening to D’s speech, forcing a war cry that had the sense of triumph.

That was helpful, thought A. He stood up and everybody stopped talking and looked at him. The oldest man in the room, the most mature of the Thoughts, though not necessarily the truest, he was the first and the last, and the source of them all.

“That’s how it is, then” he said and coughed, as if he was sick. He was. The old man was but a step away from his death, and this made his time more precious than theirs. “We don’t choose our beliefs based on what makes sense to us. Instead, we choose what makes sense to us based on what we want to believe!”

That made sense, thought everyone.

“People dream of a society that’s good for them, or the group of people in which they belong. Thus, we have scientific utopias, religious utopias, feminist utopias, hippie utopias, etcetera! No-one ever attempts to consider that the True Utopia may not be the fulfilment of their personal ambitions and unsatisfied needs, but that it may not even include them! You know the problem with the pseudo-utopians, whose dreaming is like thought-masturbation? That though they want a new world, they want to keep the old self. But how can you see Utopia, unless you become a Utopia yourself?”

After the pause that followed, and after having confirmed that A had made his point, people resumed their earlier conversations, adding new, more or less, commonplace concepts, such as “the painter must become the painting”, art for art, utopianism for utopianism, and so on.

In a new despair, A collapsed under the recurring noise, and put his hands on his chest, as if trying to hold his breath from running away or, worse, from running amok in there.

He shouted “Silence!” but there was none. He shouted a second time and a third and then he closed his eyes, and wished it was a dream, and opened them again, and looked around, and saw that either it wasn’t, or if it was, it wouldn’t go away.

5
Eventually, it got late and more and more of his fellow Zen painters gave up all hope and left. Luckily, there was some silence again during which an exotic beauty, a woman in red bearing a face of her own and not a version of his face, entered the room.

“Hello, my heart” said everyone.

His Heart sat on A’s lap and kissed him on his cheek and his cheek turned red. She then got up and walked slowly to the big white wall. He realized she was crippling. A broken heart, he thought. Not too broken, but still…

She threw herself on the wall and her body melted on the picture. The wall was now colour red as the woman disappeared inside it. Was Utopia red? That was also debateable.

Some understood that a Red Utopia meant a bloody one, one that required bloodshed to be created or to be maintained, others that it meant a Communist Utopia, a society founded under the sun of equality, and others that the colour red was the colour of love, and that all Utopia needed was love.

But all these were debatable, some of the plans too simplistic to be taken seriously, others too complicated to be used for anything other than academic self-satisfaction and thought-recycling.

The last thing the painter could remember from the dream was a picture being formed all by itself on the wall. The Great Ego Utopia, which was a third-dimensional asshole emerging from the frame, and this was the gate to the selfish utopia, where common desires and pop culture ruled.

He refused to enter the gate to the modern Dark Age which promoted itself as the fulfilment of mankind’s future, but was nothing but mankind’s Primitive Past made digital reality.

He woke up in the big white room of eternal silence, where his thoughts were loud enough to take their own formation and come to life. But he had succeeded in his dreams and meditations to silence them all and was now literary on his own, in front of the finished painting which he named “Utopia Zen.”

It was his magnum opus, a painting of no colours, a big blank paper, on an empty wall, in an empty room. It was his dream come true and the gate of his dreams was now wide open in the wall, and he would enter and depart.

The time came when people worried and started looking for him. They found his clothes in the white room. His body was not found.
The End

Biography
Christos Callow Jr. has a BA in Acting, an MA in Playwriting and is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln, for which he is researching Utopian/Dystopian fiction and is writing a collection of short stories, exploring utopias of perception such as the Buddhist Nirvana, the “Kingdom Within” and the Lovecraftian Dreamlands.

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