Shooting Stars: A Teenage Vampire Love Story from a Boy’s Perspective – A Review

Shooting Stars: A Teenage Vampire Love Story from a Boy's PerspectiveShooting Stars: A Teenage Vampire Love Story from a Boy’s Perspective by Philip Carroll
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Philip Carroll Does it again. In Shooting Stars he takes a genre that I don’t normally like or even read, and made me really enjoy this story. And now on with the review.

Being a teenager is hard, really hard. Add to that, moving to a new school, and joining a sports team. Jocks and Cliques that you don’t have a chance of understanding unless you have lived in a place all your life. And don’t get me started on the girls. Chuck has all of these problems and more when he moves to his new school from Washington State. He discovers that not only does he have to deal with all the normal problems of moving to a new school but he has accidentally stepped into the middle of a battle ground on a higher plain.

When his new girl friend Kelsey, turns out to be more than he excepted he finds him self in the middle of a battle that nothing he has ever experienced can prepare him for. He will need everything he has and more if he hopes to get out of this one live.

Part of me wonders if I like this book so much because I was Chuck growing up. I moved to a new school in high school, joined the Cross Country team, did well, and met the girl of my dreams only to have her turn out to be so much more than I thought she was. My girl friend (and now wife) didn’t end up having magical powers or anything but still she was special. But I think that it is more that Chuck’s story is one that a lot of teen aged guys can relate to.

In Shooting Stars : A Teenage Vampire Love Story from a Boy’s Perspective Mr. Carroll gives us an engaging story. More than that, he gives us real characters who you can relate to. They have hopes and dreams, and he drags you down, some times kicking and screaming, into their lives. At one point I found myself yelling at the book, “Oh no Chuck that is such a bad idea!” I really cared about these people, and when the book ended I was really sad that I could not continue to be friends with them.

Mr Carroll does not glorify the demonic forces that are vampires but instead exposes their true ugly nature, and the forces required to do battle with them. This to me was a huge deal, and for a teen aged romance involving vampires it was a breath of fresh air.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have known Philip Carroll for some time, I follow him on social media and I consider him a friend. I was given a Beta copy of an early version of this book and an advanced readers copy (ARC) of the book and enjoyed both immensely. While I probably would not have picked up this book normally because as I said I don’t normally read this genre, Philip has opened my eyes. If you have any doubt, I am going to buy copies for each of my teen aged boys so that they can read it.

View all my reviews

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Great Hites # 29

A Promo for Guy David at http://nightguy.guydavid.com it is to unreal to describe you will just have to see it for yourselfThis week hear the Promo for Murder At Avedon Hill By P.G. Holyfield Click here to find out more

Also this week we are also very excited about next week. Week 30 of Great Hites. Let Everyone know that it is a special week and that we are trying to get an many people as possible to come out and write next week. Maybe I will even get a guest voice or two. Anyone!?! Anyone!?!

I Am Sitting in a Room
By Guy David:

Alvin positioned the speakers to face the first recorder, then faced the second recorder opposite the first one. He hooked up the mike, then positioned the single chair in front of it. The room was empty otherwise. Alvin proceeded with the recording:

“I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice…”

The door opened and Joan Minskey walked in. “I’m having a problem with the recording equipment. Can you please help me?” “Sure, no problem.” Alvin stopped the recorder, rewinded the tape and went over to the faculty’s state of the art recording studio. This new equipment was supposed to be the best in the field, but the students kept complaining and for some reason, they always came to him for help, not that he minded though, he loved helping out, but sometimes it was an inconvenience. He locked the room and went over to help her. By the time he finished, he had a class to deliver, so he didn’t get back to the room until much later. He repositioned the two recorders and the speaker and started the recording again:

“I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording…”

The door opened and Ian Tablenkov walked in. “Can you help me? I’m having some problems with this composition. Something about the meaning of those harmonies is not quite right.” Alvin sighed. It looked like he wasn’t going to finished this recording now, so he locked the room and went over to help his students. He decided to come back later, after everyone left and record this in peace. Being the head of the faculty meant that he had a few privileges, including the possession of the keys to the faculty.

When he returned later, it was already getting dark. He opened the doors to the faculty, went over to the room and unlocked it. He positioned the recorders and the speakers once again, set down on the single chair and pressed the recording button:

“I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies…”

A security guard stormed in, gun drawn in hand. “Oh, it’s you” he said, “Sorry, mister Lucier, I thought it was a burglar.”

Alvin did make the recording that evening. Scholars all around the world pondered about the slight stutter in his voice on the final recording, and how it deliberately affects the resonant frequencies of the room, but only Alvin Lucier and the room itself, know the truth.

Find out more about Alvin Lucier
His home page – http://alucier.web.wesleyan.edu
The original recording of “I Am Sitting in a Room” as well as some of his other works – http://www.ubu.com/sound/lucier.html
Alvin Lucier on Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Lucier
“I Am Sitting in a Room” on Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_am_sitting_in_a_room

*******

He Stormed Into The Room
By Robert Jahns

Alex was a bright man, more than his years would indicate. In his early twenties, his business acumen allowed him to acquire several prime pieces of real estate. He started with less that $25 in his checking account. The art of negotiation was not lost to Alex.

A fortune had been acquired. He lost this thrill when his business goals were reached. Family was of upmost importance to him.

His older brothers, James and Joel, were hard workers. They were more conservative in their ambitions. All three of Stanley’s sons earned high honors at University.

Their father Stanley said, “All three are good boys. Each has different strengths. James is the oldest and an honored teacher of science. Joel was the wild one, and we worried a bit about his future. He fell in love with aircraft and now is a design engineer for Lockheed-Martin. And Alex…” Stanley lowered his gaze as his voice began a slight tremble, “Alex is. Was the proverbial tempest in a tea pot. You never quite know what he would do next.”

All now gathered to say goodbye.

Alex exercised his whims of thrill seeking. Sports car racing, marathons, snowmobiles in the winter, and speedboats in the summer – all brought laughter to his life. Early into his thirtieth year, just two days after New Year’s Day, a snowmobile accident took his life.

The minister stood at the front of the church, amazed at the hundreds that came to the services. At least a dozen of Alex’s friends rose to speak of his life. His life-long friend, confidant, and intimate brother-confessor rose for his turn to speak. Bob had a smile on his face.

“I cannot be sad today. Alex packed all of his living into his few years on earth. I expected to give this speech as best man on his wedding day.” Bob paused for a moment.

A strong gust of wind blew the church’s doors open. For a January day in this Canadian town, the wind smelled of spring and carried a warm greeting as it circled the church. Bob said, “Just like Alex! He storms into this room and takes over center stage. This is one great celebration, one party that he did not want to miss.”

*******


Beat at His Own Game
By: Jeff Hite

Captain Roderick stormed onto the bridge. As much as he could storm in low gravity. It was not as if he had to float around. They were accelerating at a substantial rate so there was some gravity on the ship which meant that at least he was standing upright, but not enough to go stomping unless he wanted to go flying into the ceiling. The worst thing that he could think of was being angry and having to take it laying down, as you floated around a ship in micro gravity.
So today the best he could do was wait for the pressure door to slam shut as he pushed off it toward his command chair. He waited until the ringing of the slamming door stopped and everyone’s attention was on him.
“Alright I want to know who is responsible for this.”
Most of his senior staff, with the exception of his first officer, was on this shift so he was pretty sure that the culprit had to be there. But as he looked around the room there were a few sheepish grins but no one was coming forward. That was fine, if that was the way they wanted to play it, he could play it cool as well.
He moved himself carefully into his command chair and waited. The first one to speak would catch his wrath, and then, if they were not the guilty party then maybe a little guilt would get them to come forward, when they saw their comrade French fried.
“Captain?” The navigator youngest member of the bridge crew said.
Of course they would choose the youngest as their scape goat. They all knew he had a soft spot for new members on the space corp. Well not today.
“Yes, ensign?” He kept his voice level so as not to betray the anger just below the surface. He would wait for the right moment.
“Sir, it may not be my place.”
You know you have been put up to this, of course it is not your place.
“But, what are you talking about sir?”
“Ensign,” this was it he was going to let it all come out. He did almost feel sorry for the fresh faced ensign, “I want to know why you posted my birthday in the galley, the posting of…” He never finished the sentence.
“Your Birthday? Why Captain, we didn’t know.” It was his first officer.
He must have sneaked in while he was preparing his venting, and now it was all over.
“Now we all know how much the Captain loves a good time,” he continued. “I think we all ought to to sing him a little song.”
The strains of happy birthday could be heard throughout the ship, both crews were awake now and joining in the fun. He had been beaten as his own game.

Download Great Hites # 29

Great Hites # 28

 

Download Greathites 28

The Alarm Sounded
By: Guy David

It didn’t sound right. Sam brushed his long hair with his hands and adjusted his Lennon style glasses. He knew The Galactic Union relied on the sounds he could create, but it just didn’t sound right. It had to make a statement, give people a specific message. Someone hearing the sound had to instantly know it’s time for action. Someone hearing the sound had to know he will have to put down what he’s doing and get moving. Sam sighed. It was one thing to get hired for creating action adventure sound effects for virtual worlds, but that was different.

When the man from The Union approached him a week ago, he thought he was pulling his leg. Sam was just an average guy from the industry, one small fish in a huge pond, which was full of people with strange job titles such as “virtual lighting expert” and “cinematographic camera movement planner”. His expertise on the Machinima scene was in the field of getting the right sound at the right place. He was no one special. He was surprised The Union actually heard about him.

The Union was founded in 2025 as a result of the rising fear in the public about the possibility of hostile alien encounter. The Human race has just settled a first colony on Mars and it was already looking beyond his own solar system. Now, five years later, they where still working on ways of recognizing those alien threats and setting up an inter-planetary alarm system that could warn them of an approaching alien threat. Sam was put in charge of the actual sound of the alarm, and he was not sure why. The pay was good though, so he wasn’t complaining.

They already rejected three of his suggestions, so he had to be extra careful about how he approached this. He didn’t want to lose the contract and the prestige that came with it. After he finishes this, his name would be known in the industry and he would be able to get any job he wanted. He gobbled another piece of pizza and got to work, mixing the sound of a wolf from the archive with that of a wounded hound, then speeding them up a little, just for the effect. He was just playing around for now, between trying this and that, but something in that sound got to him. There was something there, something desperate, crying out. It was something he could work with. He got to work, using various filters to change the sound without destroying the feel. When he finished with it, the origin of the sound was not recognizable anymore, but the feel was there. He knew that was it. He picked out the phone and called the man from The Union.

23 years passed, and much have changed. It was 2053 now and Sam was very different. Everyone was different. The human race had enhanced itself and changed, became much more intelligent and faster thinking. They have developed an interstellar means of traveling and started venturing into the stars. Science had advanced and the speed of light was no longer seen as the limit of space travel, so it became a viable possibility. As Sam traveled with the new expedition, his thoughts wondered, and he was lost in them for a while, but then he was startled by a familiar sound. He didn’t recognize it at first, then he realized what it was. It was the sound of a wolf and a wounded hound, mixed together and masked by some filters. A chill went down his spine as he realized what the sound meant.


The Alarm Sounded
By: Robert Jahns

Paul awoke, sat up and then slowly started his daily routine. He swept the night from his eyes and glanced at the alarm clock. Six o’clock on the dot – time to begin the day.

Gail had the pancakes on the griddle. “Good morning, Paul,” she said. “The paper hasn’t come yet. Maybe you can relax a bit this morning.”

“No time for relaxing today. The guys have to get the trucks loaded and on the road by ten,” mumbled Paul. “If they don’t get their loads to the mill before noon, they will be waiting in line for hours to unload.” Mary plopped a half dozen flapjacks on his plate. “Where’s my sausage?”

Gail smiled and reached for her coffee. “You know what the doctor said, Paul. He wants to keep you on your diet. I do, too. We need you around here,” she said. All Paul could do was grumble and put the “fake butter” on his breakfast.

There was cold in the air, a sign that winter was on the way. Paul liked winter. Half of his drivers headed to the Florida sunshine. He got to do what he liked best, driving his trucks. He didn’t drive too far. Mostly, he rearranged the trucks in the yard as he plowed snow and tinkered in the shop with the behemoth diesel trucks. That’s how he started here, working for old Charlie Davis. When Charlie retired, Paul put everything he had in hock to buy this outfit. He hadn’t missed a day’s work in nearly thirty years. Finally, he had paid off all the debt and he no longer was beholding to any bank.

By 9:30, his drivers were on the road carrying their “40 bushels” (40 ton) of logs to the paper mill. They would return by dark when more men would appear to drive into the hills to pick up yet another load for tomorrow’s delivery. This was the same routine that old Charlie had developed and had worked well for nearly fifty years now.

“Get that old Cat Diesel into the shop,” Paul asked his mechanic, Greg. “I want to go over that one and see if I can find why the power is down. It’s not ready for a rebuild yet.”

The last thing Paul heard was, “Look out! The door is coming down!”

He felt the strong blow to his shoulders before things went black. Then the alarm sounded.

Paul awoke, sat up and then slowly started his daily routine. He swept the night from his eyes and glanced at the alarm clock. Six o’clock on the dot – time to begin the day. If he didn’t show up on time, that old Charlie Davis was sure to dock his wages.

Morning
By Chris Hite

Chris didn’t get his text to me so you will have to listen to hear his story.

Frozen
By: Jeff Hite

The cold was intense and made him wince at every move. Alex tried to move, but the pain in his joints was nearly enough to make him blackout but, he knew that if he did not move soon that he would freeze to death. He opened his eyes but there was little difference. The flight deck was black, and the little star light that filtered in through the two small view ports was feeble at best. When they had lost power to the rest of the ship two days ago, they had been forced to feel their way through the ship. After he had put his sister in a stasis tube he had sealed off all but the bridge and pumped what was left of the air up here.
Alex pushed himself up from the seat and nearly blacked out from the effort. He steadied himself on the back of the command chair until the room stopped spinning.
“Oxygen level, 20%.” The computers emergency alarms rang out.
“I know, I know.” He waited until his head cleared and then spoke again, “Computer, how long did the burn last?”
“Emergency engine burn lasted approximately 45 seconds.”
“Calculate time to Mars.”
“Mars is not along current trajectory.”
“Calculate time to nearest human outpost,” There was no response for several seconds.
“There are no current human settlements along current trajectory.”
“Damn.” Alex felt sleep beginning to overwhelm him, but he wanted to know if there was a chance. “Calculate time to nearest trade route.”
“Three years 25 days.”
“How long can the power cells run two stasis tubes and the distress beacon?”
“Three years six months.” He sagged against the seat. Just long enough he thought.
“Which trade route?”
“Mars, Ganamead.”
“That is only run about twice a year.” He needed to think but his mind would not function clearly. After some difficulty, “Is there enough fuel in the thrusters to stop the ship?”
“Not at current velocity”
“If we used the thrusters to attempt to stop the ship how fast would it be going when the fuel runs out?”
“Eight meters per second.”
He let out a long breath. Too fast. At that rate they could be thirty or forty thousand kilometers away from the trade route when a ship passed by. Way too far for their feeble distress signal. “Are there any ships in the area?” He knew the answer. He had already asked it at least a hundred times.”
“There are five ships within two days travel at current velocity.”
“Identify.”
“One Mars battle cruiser , and four Mars attack class vessels.” The ships that had attacked them. No chance of getting help from them. He had waited this long to attempt the burn, while their fuel leaked into space, and their chances dwindled, so that the attack group would not see them.
“expand search to oxygen limit.”
“Search is already three hours beyond the oxygen limit at current consumption averages.” He didn’t respond. There was no point. He had done all the searches before. Alex slowly went over the whole thing in his head again. The Mars battle group were the only ships even close. Those bastards had made sure of that. After the convoy had been attacked they had run. Run as far as they could, trying to get away from anyone. They had needed time to regroup. He had thought that it would be best.
The Mars battle group had followed them, just outside of the Pegasus’ sensor range, it was the second wave of the Mars group that had attacked them and destroyed the rest of the convoy. The Mars group had learned their lesson the first time, they waited until the Pegasus was so far out that there would be no one to come to their aid, and then mercilessly ripped her to shreds. The attackers disabled the main engines before he had even known they were there. Then with high powered lasers they had cut holes in all the major sections of the ship, letting her bleed to death.
Only three of them had survived the first wave of the attack. Most of the rest of the crew was either killed by massive decompression or blown out into space as the air rushed out the gaping holes cut into the ship’s skin. Only the engineer, Alex and Angel had survived.
The three of them had waited for hours, with only leaky emergency patches in place. Then, when they thought the battle group would have thought the ship devoid of life, Alex and the Engineer suited up and prepared to put more permanent patches on the ship and see what damage had been done to the engines.
The Captain of the battleship was cruel. The laser had cut the engineer in half with no warning, after they had gotten patches on only three spots on the ship. Then he nicked Alex’s suit.
“Now you will slowly run out of air like your ship and sister are doing right now, boy.” he had said over the suit’s communications link. “That will teach you damn rovers that no one ever gets the best of a Mars battle group.”
Alex had barely made it back to the airlock when the rip in the suit opened up exposing his whole left side to the cold of space, and he had completely blacked out by the time Angel had dragged him back into the ship.
He and Angel had waited three more days before they made another move. Before the engineer had been killed, he and Alex had managed to get patches on the holes in the engineering section and the bridge. Angel and Alex inspected the engines and the fuel status. The engines themselves were a total loss. The only thing left were the emergency burn cones, but the lines from the fuel tanks to them had been severed, and all but one of the fuel tanks were now empty, and it was leaking badly.
After compressing two of the living sections there was only enough air left in the ship for another two weeks. There were three working emergency stasis tubes and one working escape pod. They had agreed to wait until the ships had gone for at least the balance of a week before they attempted a burn, because one of them would have to go outside and repair the fuel lines. But on the fifth day, the patch in engineering blew out and they lost main power and most of the breathable air.
Now they had no choice. Angel would go into a stasis tube as soon as Alex was able to repair the lines to the burn cones. They had fired the retro rockets ever so slightly to slow the spin of the ship to give him more time when he would not be exposed to the mars ships while he worked, but it meant that he also had to waste more time waiting for the ship to turn back around so he could continue work. Then once the balance of a week had gone by he would fire the engines in an emergency burn and climb into a status tube himself after turning on the emergency beacon.
It was a long shot they knew, but it was better than both of them freezing to death or suffocating.
There was nothing more he could do. The Ship was moving now and if he wanted to live, the stasis tube was the only way. He looked for a moment at the one holding his sister. Her naked body floated in thick blue liquid, her eyes shut, there was no movement, not even the gentle rise and fall of breath. She could have been dead.
Then grudgingly, but quickly he stripped off his clothes. The cold air burned his skin, and threatened to overwhelm his already exhausted body.
“Engage stasis tube number three.” he said through teeth clattering so hard that he was not sure the computer would be able to understand him. He could barely feel the needles prick his skin as he leaned his back against the freezing cold metal and he briefly thought of the stories of children getting their tongues stuck to metal object during the winters on earth. Then he felt the liquid around his feet. It rose quickly and he felt the sudden panic of drowning just before the powerful sedatives from the needles in his arms took hold of him.

Great Hites # 25

Originally posted Oct 30th 2008

 

Thank you to Ann Hite for the extra voices. Enjoy!
Download The Audio

The Finding of Mt Olympus
By Jeffrey Hite

March 21 9:30 AM Eastern Standard Time.
“I’ve found it!” Larry shouted standing up in his cubical so that we could all see him. “I found Mount Olympus.”

“So? Why not Atlantis, Larry? Hundreds of thousands of people have found Mount Olympus, most notably the Greeks. It’s an actual mountain in Greece you know. “. Sue rebuffed him from the next cubical over, not even bothering to get up.

“What?” I blurted out while standing up for the first time.

“Mt Olympus, you know the home of the gods come see…” he said, ignoring Sue and beckoning me over.

I hesitated; going over into Larry’s cubical was a bit like stepping into a fantasy world and more often than not, not one you would really like to visit. His normal variety of fantasy was not something I really liked, but Greek myths were a passion we both shared.

“Come on it will only take a sec,” he said when we saw my hesitation. “It’s here on the map.”

“Alright, I’ll bite.” I said entering his cubical. As expected it was a dizzying array of posters, drawings and fantasy character figures. They were everywhere: on the desk, on top of his test systems, on the keyboard tray, even on the phone and his monitors.

“Hey, where did you get those?” I said pointing to the two Apple thirty inch cinema displays.

“Never mind that, they’re mine.”

“And you brought them to work?”

“Yes, yes, I needed them to look at the maps and satellite images. Look here.” he said pointing to the center of the display on the left.

“It looks like a bunch of mountains.”

“Right, let me zoom out a bit so you can get an idea of where they are.” He grabbed the mouse and scrolled out so that we could see the whole land mass. It was, of course, Greece. Then he zoomed back in. “Here, do you see that?” he said circling a spot on the map with his finger.

“It looks like a mountain, just like all the rest around it.” I liked Larry. He was a good guy, and despite his fascination with the fantasy world, he was a brilliant technician but I was beginning to regret this trip to Larry Land.

“Right. We are looking at the official topographical map. Now if I switch to satellite view.” He clicked and the image changed.

“What’s the joke? We’re still looking at the same peak.”

“Yeah, but look closer. Do you see that shadow?”

“Yes.”

“Look at the peaks around it. Do any of them look like that? In fact, have you ever seen a peak that looked that perfect except in drawings?”

I looked at the image and he was right. There was nothing around that looked like the shadow and it did look particularly perfect.

“Now watch this.” He changed the angle of the view so that we were about 45 degrees from the ground. “Look, look, do you see it?”

“My God!” On the screen all the other mountains had flattened out as in most two dimension pictures, but the shadow stood up straight, an almost perfect cone. “Wow! That is really cool. I wonder what that is? It has got to be some kind of software glitch.”

“No, it’s not. I tried it on this other program too. See?” He switched applications and there it was again. “The last one uses fly over views from aircraft, this one uses satellite photos.”

“Right, well maybe it is one of the other peaks that just looks distorted,” I said sitting back down in my cubical.

“Yeah maybe.” He didn’t say anything to anyone for the rest of the day, and when I left late that night he was still in his cubical. I sneaked a quick peek as I walked past toward the door, and he had both images up on the left display and a number documents up on his other one that didn’t look like the code that he was supposed to be working on.

March 29 8:15 AM Eastern Standard Time
Larry came in a little later than normal with his habitual cup of coffee in his left hand and big mailing tube in his right.

“More posters Larry?” Mike asked laughing. Larry, as usual, ignored him. He walked past and sat down in his cubical. I could hear him tearing the tape off the tube and pulling out its contents. I tired to ignore him. If it were new posters, putting them up would be an all morning affair and I had things to do. I couldn’t get sucked into it. Three new systems were going live in a week and I needed to make sure that the databases would actually work when the customers started making their queries.

“I was right!” Larry screamed twenty minutes later. “I was right, I was right! See, come look at this Rob!” despite the need to get the systems out I was more than a little interested. The Greek myths were something that had always interested me and, well, I really needed a break after the morning I was having. Sue and Mike both gave me sidelong glances and Dave, our boss, gave me a look that told me that I would be working overtime if those databases were not up and running.

“What, Larry?” I said.

“Look!” he said pointing. On his desk were a dozen or so maps of different types and one huge blowup of a satellite image. “I had a friend of mine at NASA get this for me. I owe him about three cases of booze for it but it will be worth it.”

“What is it?”

“Come on,” he insisted pointing at the image. I looked closer. It was a picture of the same spot he had shown me last week. The lighting was different but the shadow still stood exactly as it did before.

“Wow ,that is really cool. What do you think it is?”

“Damn it Rob, don’t you believe me? It is Mt Olympus. You know, the home of the gods.”

“Larry, that is not possible. It’s a myth.”

“All myths have their roots in some fact. In ancient times no mortal could find it unless the gods wanted you to. I think this is one of those things.”

“But why would it show up like this?” I said gesturing to the pictures.

“Because you can’t hide from photography. The eye you can fool, but not film. And,” he said smiling a little, “I think that maybe they want to be found or at least one of them does.” I sat back in the extra chair in his cubical. It was then that I noticed that Larry’s office had changed. There were none of the normal posters of his fantasy world. In their place were maps of every sort of the area around Mt Olympus. On some of them he had drawn in the cone with red pen. There were maps of ancient Greece, with clear overlays of the modern map. There were genealogy charts that followed all of the gods and goddess. He had taken the system roll-out schedule off his white board and replaced it with lists of supplies, travel plans, flight numbers and hotel names.

“Larry, what is all this?” I asked gesturing to the new decor.

“I have been digging up everything I could on this in the last couple of weeks, and not just on the Internet. I have done some serious book work on this as well. I have found some really great stuff.”

“What about the roll-out schedule? Have you been doing the development for that? I am a huge fan of Greek Mythology too but…”

“Forget that, this is huge. What if we could find our way into the home of the gods? Think of the things we could ask them.”

“Larry, we are going live with the first site in less than two weeks.”

“Is that all you can think about? Look at this.” He picked up a book about the stealing of fire from the gods. “This talks about how it only happened because Prometheus, one of the gods, wanted it to. Think about what it could mean.”

“But…”

“But nothing. This is huge.”

“Larry, what do you think you are going to find? What do you think you are going to prove?”

“I don’t know what I’ll find, but I’m going to find something. But right now I’ve got to go talk to Dave about some time off.” With that he got up and walked out of his cubical and headed towards Dave’s office.

“Larry, he is never going to give you time off now!” But he waved me off and walked right into Dave’s office.

They had a short argument that I can only guess at, but in the end Larry threw up his hands, came back to his desk and spent the next hour or so packing everything up.

“Larry, what are you doing?”

“I quit! Can you believe it? They would not give me the time off when I have found something this big. Dave said something about after the roll-out. But what if this thing disappears, what if this is a short time offer. What if it is only one god that wants to be found, like I think it might be, and the others find out about it and close the door. We can’t wait. We have to get over there now and check this thing out.”

“Wait a minute Larry. I can’t go. I have a job to do. We both do. We are grown men, we can’t just go running off on a wild goose chase.”

“You too? Damn narrow minded people, can’t even see past the end of your noses. You sound just like the rest of them!” was all that I got from him as he pushed past me and walked out.

March 29 10:45 AM Eastern Standard Time
“Rob,” I looked up to see Dave standing at my desk. “I hate to have to do this to you but it is going to be hard on all of us. Larry quit this morning, as I am sure you know, so we are going to have to divvy up his roll-out responsibilities.” Dave always had this way of whining that made my skin want to crawl. It was only worse when he wanted to give you bad news. It was as if he picked the most annoying voice to deliver the most annoying news.

“Dave, what did he say?”

“Something about finding Mt. Olympus and that he needed time off. I told him some time after the roll-out was completed, but he insisted that it had to be today. When I told him that was not possible, he quit. Just like that. So like I said, we are going to need to you do some over time.” there was that voice again.

April 11 2:13 AM Eastern Standard Time
I woke the sound of the phone ringing and it made my head hurt.

“Rob, Rob! Wake up man.”

I rolled over to check the clock, and winced as the receiver pressed against my ear.

“Larry?”

“Rob, I’ve found it! You’ve got to come see this. It’s here.”

“Larry, what are you talking about? Do you know what I have been through the last two weeks since you left?”

“Rob, screw all of that. Listen to me. This is huge. I’ve found it! The entrance to Mt. Olympus. I bought you a plane ticket. I need someone here to help me document this. You are the most detailed person I know. You have to come here. I mean, it is nothing like I expected. It is more than I ever imagined!”

“Larry, hang on a second. What? There is no way. What about Dave?” I was still half asleep and having a hard time understanding him.

“Rob, I promise that you will not regret this. Listen, the ticket will be delivered to you first thing in the morning. I have to go.” The line went dead.

I lay in bed for a long time, not able to get back to sleep. Half of me was cursing Larry for waking me up, half of me dying to see what he had found. I had to admit even with everything I had been through in the last few weeks, I was interested. I had been since the first day he had shown me. I did not quite know if I should believe him, but it was certainly interesting. Besides, although he was a bit odd with all the fantasy things, Larry was not one to really make something like this up. He always did his homework.

For a long time I could not decide what to do, but in the end practicality won out. If this ticket did show up in the morning I would just throw it away and go on like the phone call had never happened. Larry would have to find someone else.

April 12 8:42 AM Eastern Standard Time
“Rob, is that your fifth cup of coffee?”

“Yes, Sue, it is.”

“Going kind of heavy aren’t you?”

“I didn’t sleep well last night.”

“But it’s not even nine in the morning.”

“I have been here since five, Sue.” I was beyond aggravated with this line of questioning, and so made my way to my desk trying not to hear her last comment. She was the kind of person that always had to get the last word in.

I had no more than sat down at my desk when my phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and was both relieved and concerned that it was an internal call. That meant that the customer was not having a problem with their newly rolled out system, but it could very well be Dave with a complaint that the customer had taken over my head.

“This is Rob.”

“Rob, this is Mary, you have mail and it is marked urgent.”

“Thanks Mary. I will be up in a little bit to get it.”

“It needs a signature, and it is not marked with Untide’s name. You know the policy about not signing for personal things.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” I said with as much annoyance in my voice as possible. “I will be right up,” she hung up the phone and I headed for the front desk.

“Not going for more coffee already are you? You are going to give yourself an ulcer, you know,” Sue was at it again and I did my best to ignore her.

When I got to the front desk, Dave was standing there and he didn’t look happy. Apparently Mary had called him right after she got off the phone with me. Or maybe right before. One look at the delivery guy, and decided it must have been before. Mary and Dave looked like a firing squad.

“Thank you.” I said taking the envelope from him and checking that it was addressed to me and not Unitide.

“Just sign here.”

“Thank you, I said handing the clipboard back to him.

“Rob,” Dave was using that voice again. “You know the policy about getting personal mail delivered to the office.”

“Yes,” I said turning around. suddenly felt like a little kid who got caught stealing a cookie.

“What is this all about, who is it from?” I had not looked at who it was from but I knew it was from Larry. “Rob? Who is it from?” Now he was getting on my nerves.

“What difference does that make?”

“You are not supposed to be getting mail at the office. It is a distraction. Hand it over and it will be on my desk when you are ready to go home.”

“You are kidding right?”

“Come on hand it over.”

“Like hell.”

“You had it delivered here, it is company property.”

“Go to hell Dave,” I said as I walked back to my desk.

“Rob!”

Who did Dave think he was? Wasn’t it illegal for him to take my mail? I would have to look it up when I got back to my desk.

“Rob, we need to talk about this,” He must have taken the other way around because now he was standing at the entrance to my cubical.

“What is the deal Dave, why all the fuss over a letter?”

“It’s from Larry isn’t it?”

“What is the difference?”

“Do you know why the policy is what it is?”

“You know, I never really understood that. You think that grown men and women are going to be distracted by getting mail? We are not three-year-olds Dave.”

“It is what it is, you can have your opinion, but there is more than that. We think Larry could be a security risk since he knew our roll-out schedule before he left.”

“Bull! Larry never cared about what we were doing here, he was here for the paycheck and you know it!”

“He knew the schedule.”

“What did he tell you before he left?”

“Give me the letter Rob you can have it back after work.”

“I am not a three-year-old,” I said raising my voice a bit so that everyone else could hear. “This is total bull. You have no right to take my mail where ever I get it delivered. I have given ten years of loyal service to this company, and you want to treat me like I am a child. Fine! You want the letter, take it.” I held it above me head waving it slightly. Dave reached for it but came about six inches short. I smiled at him and walked past him into my cubical. I picked up my jacket and keys with my free hand and pushed past him again.

“Where are you going?”

“Same place Larry did. I quit!”

“You can’t!”

“Watch me.”

A few minutes later I sat with my head on the steering wheel, my heart pounding and hands shaking. What was I going to do now? I was on my way home to get my resume up to date, when I remembered the letter. It was sitting on the seat next to me. I felt like it was calling to me, tempting me to open it. I didn’t even want the damn letter and now I had quit my job over it.

“What was I thinking? I wonder if it is too late to go back in.” Still the letter was calling me. I reached over and opened it. Inside was a set of plane tickets, a thousand dollars in cash and a note.

-Rob,

The tickets are for a 2:30 flight so you will have to hurry once you get this. Don’t worry about packing. If you need any clothes or anything you can use the money in the envelope. I will pick you up at the Athens Airport.

Larry

“Now what?” I had his money. I was glad that I had not run the entire letter through the shredder or given it to Dave. “But, now what?”

April 13 7:30 Am European Summer time
This morning I found Larry standing in our hotel room. His towel still wrapped around him, a set of maps in one hand and a slice of bread and lox in the other. He didn’t notice me for a few moments.

“You eat that?” I said, making my way to the coffee pot.

“Oh, good morning Rob. Sleep okay?”

“Yeah, where are we? It was pretty late last night.”

“We are in the Olympic national park, south of Mt. Olympus. Here, let me show you.” He carried the map to the table with the coffee pot spreading it out. “Here is Mt Olympus. It is about 2917 meters tall. Now here is the GPS unit I bought. See, it has the ability to save previous locations so you can find your way back. Now I know that it is accurate to about one hundred feet. See, the latitude, longitude and elevation of this place is here, and this is what the GPS shows.”

“Wow it only appears to be off by about twelve feet.”

“That would be because we’re one floor up. Last week, I climbed up to the highest point on the map, here.” He pointed first to the map and then to the GPS the numbers all matched. “Then using this enlargement of a satellite photo I found this trail right here.” He said pointing to a thin white line on the photo.

“Okay I see it.”

“I followed that path for about ten minutes, and it was pretty steep. Since this is a picture and not exactly the same scale as the map, although it is close, I would guess that I stopped about here and took a GPS reading.”

“3024 meters.”

“You know that that means don’t you?”

“Yeah, I means you found a point higher than anything recorded.”

“No. It means that I found the home of the gods!”

“Larry!”

“Rob, listen to me. When I was up there as soon as I found the trail, everything around me seemed to be shrouded in mist. At first I didn’t really notice it, but the further I went the denser it became.”

“You are high enough up that you could have been in a cloud.”

“I thought so too, but then when I turned around I had a really hard time going back down the path. There were even parts I felt like I was going up again, and I can promise you that when I was going up there were no downhill parts. It was like I kept getting turned around, but the GPS unit said I was going the right way. And here is the kicker: as soon as I was back down at 2917 meters, no mist, no cloud, nothing.”

Could it really be possible that he had found what he was looking for? That he had found the fantasy world he had been trying to find all of his life?

“So?” He said breaking me out of my thoughts.

“So, what?”

“Do you believe me?”

“Larry, I’m here. You have given me some pretty hard evidence, but I want to see it for myself before I totally agree.” I could not believe the words that were coming out of my mouth.

“Good. This morning after we get dressed, we’ll go into town and get outfitted with some supplies. It is a two day hike to the top. You will be glad of all those times I dragged you to the climbing gym with me.”

April 15 3:30 PM European Summer Time.
“The path was just over here.” Larry said as I trailed behind him a few feet. We had reached the peak only a few minutes before.

“Hang on a second Larry,” I sat on a near by rock and caught my breath. “Larry, I had a thought. What if we get up in the mist like you did and we can’t find our way out?”

“That is why we have the extra supplies. They should last us a few days at least, and longer if we get really lost. But I don’t think we will get that lost. We have the GPS unit, and can just keep following it until it eventually leads us out.

“Eventually? that is not very comforting.”

“Everything will be fine. You’ll see Rob. Ah, here it is!” He was pointing to a little worn spot in the rock. “This is it, just like I told you! Now we just follow this a little ways and we are in. Ready?”

“I have an idea.”

“Let’s tie the climbing line it to something down here in case we need to find our way back. Then we can move it up the path when we run out.”

“Wow! How low tech of you my friend, but I am game!”

I tied the rope to the base of nearby boulder and we started up the path. Within seconds we were enveloped in a fog so thick, we could hardly see each other.

“Okay Larry, end of the rope. I will go back and untie it. You wait here and tie your end off,” I said a few minutes later.

“Fair.” He said as he looked around for something to tie it off to.

I picked my way along the path and as Larry had said at points the path seemed to go up and down, even though when we had come in it was most certainly all uphill. When I finally made my way back down to the base the fog had indeed cleared. I untied the rope and made my way back up the rope, winding it up, as I went so that it would not get snagged on anything.

“Rob? Is that you?” I heard Larry voice just a few feet in front of me.

“Yes.”

“Did you hear that?”

“What? You calling to me?”

“No, before that.”

“I didn’t hear anything. What was it?”

“I thought I heard someone talking.”

“No, I didn’t hear anything.” When I was close enough to see him we stood still and listened for some time, but we didn’t hear anything.

“You know something weird?” Larry said breaking the long silence. “When you were walking away, you went down the path, but there were times that I watched the rope, go way up like you were going up hill. Just like a told you.”

“Yeah, it was very odd.” I was starting to feel more than a little nervous. “Did you tie your end off the line off?”

“Yes.”

“Okay then let’s keep going.”

“Right,” he said taking the coil of rope from me and heading up the path, but he could not hide the slight quiver in his voice. Whether it was from excitement or nervousness, I could not tell.

“I will go back this time. You look a little wiped out.” Larry said when we reached again reached the end of the rope. It had taken us longer this time as the path had begun to wind and we had to find places to loop the rope so that we would be able to follow it back if we needed to.

“Thanks,” I said as I watched him walk back in the direction we had come. In truth I was more than a little tired. I tied my end to the nearest rock and sat down on it.

“Why are you here?” a voice from the mist said.

“Larry?” He didn’t answer. I pulled gently on the rope and I could feel him moving away.

“Why did you come? It has been so long.” The voice said. The voice was soft and sweet and definitely not Larry’s. Then I heard something moving nearby and it sounded like a big animal, but it was coming from a different direction than the voice.

“Who’s there?” I said, no longer able to hide the fear in my own voice. There was no answer. I yelled for Larry again.

“Coming,” he said from only a few feet off. “What is it?”

“Larry, the voice you heard before?”

“Yeah?”

“Tell me you heard it again.”

“No.”

“Larry there is someone out here with us. And I think they might have brought an animal with them.”

“Come on, lets keep going.” he said, a little more calmly than I felt.

“Larry, I am not afraid to admit, I am more than a little freaked out.”

“Come on, it will be alright.”

“You have nothing to fear.” the voice said again.

“I heard that,” Larry said.

“Me too.” We looked around but could see nothing in the mist.

“Let’s keep moving,” He said. I again handed the coil of rope to him and we walked on, the voice urging us on now and again.

“I’ll go back this time,” I said when we reached the end of the rope.

“Don’t go back,” the voice said. “You are too far now.”

“Rob?”

“What?”

“Did you see that?”

“No, what?”

“I’m not sure but it was a huge shape.” We watched the swirling mist for a few minutes but saw nothing more.

“I am going back to get the rope,” I said after a few moments.

“No!” came the voice, more insistent this time. “You will not be able to return.”

“You mean we can’t leave?” No answer, but now I saw something moving in the mist. “I am not going on with out the rope,” I said to Larry.

“I know I made fun of you before but I totally agree with you now.” With that I headed back to untie the other end.

“You have come so far,” the voice said, sounding as though it was weeping.

“Who are you?” I asked, but there was no reply.

In a couple of minutes I found the end of the rope. I untied it, turned around to go back and bumped into something. It was softer than rock, but just as solid. I backed away and felt something brush against me.

Whatever it was, it was moving around me to prevent me from going either forward or back. I fought to keep calm and tried to see through the fog, but could see nothing more than a large vague shape and feel the occasional brush of what felt like hair against my skin.

After what seemed like an eternity the voice spoke again, “You cannot return to your friend. He has passed beyond you.” This time it had more firmness than before, but it was still soft.

“What do you mean?”

“Follow the beast, it will show you the way out. Do not attempt to come back. It will be guarding the way.”

“What about Larry?”

“He is with us now.”

“What does that mean?” There was no answer. “Hey, what does that mean? What have you done with him?” Then I felt a huge body pressing against me. It was covered in hair and more than a match for me. “Wait!” I yelled, but it did no good. The beast was forcing me down the path. I screamed for Larry until my voice was gone, but the beast never faltered and soon I stood alone on the top of the mountain. The air was clear and I could see all around me.

I tried to go up the path again and again, only to find the huge beast there.

That was three years ago. I have written down every detail of what happened to us, thought it will make little difference as no one will believe it. I have tried many times since then to go back, but each and every time I did the beast was there. I heard from Larry only one more time. I returned to the mountain ten days after our first encounter. This time the beast was accompanied by a smaller creature. It appeared to be a sprite of the kind that Larry used to keep on his desk. It did not speak, but handed me a small scrap of paper.

Rob,

I have found it.

Larry


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Great Hites # 24

Originally posted Oct 23 2008

Great Hites # 24
A Journey Late in Life By: Robert Jahns
Last Day on the Job By: Jeff Hite
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A Journey Late in Life

By Robert Jahns

Mason Thompson was the town elder. No one alive knew exactly when he arrived from England. Tales had him arriving by tall sailing ship, by a great ocean steamer, even by a dirigible from pre-war Germany. 1890 land records showed that a Mr. Mason Thompson, then age 40, purchased property and settled in the town of Parker, Arizona. The private man once taught school. Many of his students went on to good universities. Few found fault with Mr. Thompson or his teaching methods. When he folded up his bifocals and retired from teaching, he spent many a day rocking peacefully on his front porch. He kept his home up well. He never married, remaining content to spend his time alone. On occasion, Mason would spirit away to his secret fishing hole.

Time moved forward to the year 1940. The townsmen wanted to treat Mr. Thompson upon his 90th birthday. Thompson was now feeble, carefully, slowly moving with a gait that suited his advanced years. The good townspeople planned a magnificent trip for their elder.

A short flight to New York was easy enough. He seemed quite pleased with the adventure. The elder slept well as a larger craft propelled the travelers on their way to England. They completed the journey by traveling by train from Heathrow Airport to London proper. He was to meet with people he had left behind so many years before.

“It’s him!” exclaimed the oldest lady in the mob. With axe handles and thatched ropes, the angry mob hauled away the old man. “Finally got you, you savage! There is no statute of limitations on murder! Killing all of those women – what were you thinking of, Jack?”

The elder breathed the salt air of the London docks and promptly threw up.

Last Day on the Job

By: Jeffrey Hite

“Last day on the job and what happens? I get a called to go down to the beach. Something big has washed up,” I said to my wife over the cell phone.
“I bet it is a party. I bet they are throwing you a party!”
“They are not that kind of folks dear. they don’t even like me all that much.”
“Hank, you never know, and even if it is not by tomorrow it will be someone else’s problem and you will be retired and spend the rest of your days with me.”
“Very true. Well I don’t know how long I will be. I love you.”
“Love you too dear. Give me a call on your way home,” Those were the last words that I heard for many years that made sense.
As I neared the beach I could see that a crowd had gathered. But I could not see what they were looking at. The Highway Patrolman that called me was standing a little ways off trying to get them to disperse but not having much luck.
“Hello, officer Parker, I am Hank Barnwell.” He held out his hand and we shook.
“Glad you could come. Your call screener said that it was your retirement day, but I think this is worth your time.”
“Alright, so what have we got?”
“Well, I had better show you. Come on down to the waters edge with me.” We walked to the edge of the water and I could see that there was indeed something very large, sticking up out of the surf.
“What is it?”
“Well sir, it looks like the nose of a submarine, but a very old one.”
“Very old to be sure. With a bow line like that is has to be a World War two boat. And look at those torpedo doors. And in such wonderful condition, how is that possible? Son you really should have called the Navy for some thing like this, I deal with animals, you know whales and other large sea creatures.”
“Yes, sir and that is why I called you. This is right out of Captain Nemo.”
“You mean Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, but what are you talking about?”
“Well just look.” He pulled me to one side so I could see the boat in profile. There attached the to rear end of the submarine was the largest Colossal squid I had ever seen. It enveloped the whole rear end. And more to the point it was a live.
“There is something else sir.” the Patrolman said snapping me back to the present.
“Yes?”
“Well the person who called me, said that when the submarine surfaced that a man came out of one of the hatches and started up the deck, then that thing let loose and pulled him back and killed him.”
“What? You mean people are in there?” He nodded his head. “In the sub?”
“That is what I have been told.”
“That seems highly improbable. That ship is over sixty years old.”
“I know that sir, but that is what I was told.”
“Where is the witness?” He led me over to a young girl of about twenty, sitting near his patrol car. She sat with tears streaming down her face staring out at the beached submarine.
“Diane, this is the man I told you I was going to call. Can you tell him what you saw.” She shook her head and started to sob. “You need to tell Mr. Barnwell here what you saw so that we can help those people.” She nodded then and sniffed several times before beginning.
“That boat, just came crashing out of the water. Then one of the holes opened up. I could hear men shouting, then one of them got out and ran across the boat and tried to jump into the water, he was not very fast, he looked old. But then that monster grabbed him. It picked him up and smashed him against the deck.”
“Thank you Diane. You just relax now,” I said. We walked a little ways away before I spoke again. “Did she say she had heard men shouting.”
“Yes, When she told me about it she said she had seen several sets of arms reaching out of the port.”
“Do you have a marine radio in your car?”
“Of course.”
“Good, you go get Diane away from the car. I don’t want to upset her any more than we already have.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I am not sure yet.” I waited until he had moved the girl away from the car and then started working the radio. I didn’t know what frequencies they used in world war two subs but, i figured it was worth a shot. I switched it to the universal guard frequency.
“Hello beached submarine, can you hear me?”
“We hear you.” Came back a very scratchy voice. “We do not have much power to transmit so please listen close. This is the U.S.S. May. We have found the lost city of Atlantis, but when we tried to return, we were told we could not. Ten days ago, myself and half of my crew were able to escape. MyXO and the other half stayed behind to buy us the time we needed to escape.” He paused and I waited wondering if they had run out of power. “Yesterday we were within site of land, but their guardian caught us. We have been trying to fight it off, but with no luck. We were finally able to beach ourselves here. You need to know that Atlantis is real, It’s people are nearly human like us, but they have incredible life spans.”
There was a terrible metal rending sound then.
“The creature is tearing the ship apart. It will try to kill us all to keep the secret.” The Transmission broke up then to the sounds of chaos both inside and out. I could see the creature moving then, and it was huge. Nearly the size of the sub herself. “Listen,” the voice came again trembling now. “Please say goodbye to our families… We are going to launch a torpedo that has letters from everyone inside.” The was a terrible scream of metal as one of the beast’s arms wrapped around the sail and began to rip it off. “Do not try to find Atlantis. They are a good people but they will kill to protect their secret.”
the Boat sunk below the waves being dragged by the creature.
“Captain, Captain.” I yelled into the microphone. But there was no response. A few seconds later a torpedo ran a ground, near the crowd of on lookers. They scattered thinking the thing might explode. Then a giant air bubble escaped to the surface. Several men tried to swim to shore, but the creature made short work of them. grabbing them and dragging them back under.
When it was over I waded out into the water, the smell of the salt air was over powering and I threw up.

******

Today three years later, I delivered the last of the letters to family members of the officers and crew of the U.S.S. May. Very few have believed my story, even fewer believed the letters that I had given them. This time, however, the captain’s widow believed me. She cried as she read the letter from her husband, and just like the night it happened I did too.

GreatHites 19

Originally posted on Sept 24, 2008


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This week we gladly welcome back Anima Zabalada with her submission for this week’s challenge. You can find more from her at http://zabbadabba.com. This week I am still having trouble getting my life under control so I don’t have an audio recording yet. Sorry folks, it will be out there soon.

I think that is it funny that last weeks Escape Pod as basically on the same theme as this week’s prompt. You can find that at Escapepod.org

Enough with my gibbering on you came here for the stories right? Don’t forget to go out to GreatHites and vote on your favorite.

Great Hites # 19
THE KUNIKAJI by Anima Zabaleta
Meet the Neighbors By Jeff
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THE KUNIKAJI
By Anima Zabaleta

It is time.

I have been looking forward for this day since I was chosen as a host. It’s elective, and no one says you have to accept… but to decline is to never know the ultimate in beauty and terror. But I am also afraid. Once the Kunikaji has been attached, it cannot be removed without certain death. Its fingers, or tendrils, (I don’t know how to otherwise describe it,) mesh with every nerve. The permanent relationship with another being sharing your body and essence is not to be undertaken lightly.

The Kunikaji come from across the stars, with no body of their own, floating on solar winds. When they encounter a world with beings that have sensory nerves, they forcefully take a few dozen (un)fortunate victims. I say unfortunate, because the assimilation is not always easy – a certain percentage do not survive the adaptation. These initial hosts act as mouthpieces, and guinea pigs, allowing the Kunikaji to spread their message of peace and acceptance, and to perfect the selection process. The wonders they chose to relate make it easier to find more willing hosts. But the first ones have no say in the matter, and often resent the intrusion. There is a haunted look in their eyes.

They are parasitic and symbiotic. They do not kill their hosts; they do alter them in dramatic and devastating ways. Indeed, the Kunikaji enhance perception in ways that can only be described as fantastic. Colors are intensified; emotions are more profound; thought becomes more abstract. Physically, the most drastic change is the morphing of the spinal cord; as the Kunikaji grows, it extends its reach, forming a distinctive dorsal ridge. A ganglia mass grows at the attachment point at the base of the neck, and the nerves ripple and pulse under the skin. This process lasts several weeks, and is not without a certain amount of pain. Mentally, I can only imagine… others say it is the most perfect union… but they will not elaborate. Part of the appeal is the mystery.

A Kunikaji host acts as an emotional sponge in their environment. Hosts emit an aura of calm, and absorb pain when it is in abundance, influencing their surroundings; that is why there is certain hostility from the unadapted. On this planet, we have a propensity towards violence and domination, where might makes right and the strongest ones win. When a Kunikaji host is present, these emotions are not possible; the anger that is the root of abuse is absorbed, and is replaced with a feeling of well being and hope.

The Kunikaji say that by adapting 10 percent of a population, a planets’ destructive path can be turned around in a quingentium. They claim to have done this in other galaxies. The unadapted think, “Who cares, in 500 hundred years we’ll all be dead”… and “Who cares, I’m never going to leave this planet”; and, “Who wants to live in a constant state of peace? “. I care, and I am willing to make the sacrifice of personal identity for the fate of my planet. I will have no progeny of my own, but by accepting a Kunikaji, this planet becomes my ward.

Please forgive me, as I am sure you will not understand. In time, (will it take 500 years?) I hope it will all make more sense. I am making my final independent choice to do this for you. And if we meet again, know that my feelings are sincere: I come in peace.

Meet The Neighbors
By Jeff Hite

From the historical archives.
Extract From the Journal of Dr. Mathew Robertson:
January 15 2025 Bern, Switzerland:
This morning we will be Initializing the Super Brain AI for the first time. I suspect that like all the creations that have led to this one, it will only take seconds before we know if we have succeeded or failed in our efforts. Like anyone that has ever worked on something like this, I am very excited. I have the utmost confidence in Doctor Paul, our team lead, that we will be able to find success where others have failed.
The Super Brain project is, as I have noted before, the first project to make such giant leaps in AI technology. It should not only be self aware, but also able to replicate itself with the materials provided.

January 15 2025 1545, Bern, Switzerland.
I will be going home in a few hours, as our grant will undoubtedly be pulled shortly. Doctor Paul says it will be better, that we leave while there is still money in the coffers. The project seems to have been a total failure.
This morning every thing seemed to be going so well. The Super Brain came on-line at 0930, as scheduled, and after a very few moments of speech calibration, it was communicating with us quite normally. We fed it the knowledge base that we wanted it to have, within ten minutes it was communicating so quickly we had to continually ask it to slow down. This was a problem that we had not anticipated, but it seemed reasonable that it would have this problem it was capable of thinking much faster than we are.
Although at first this did seem to be a problem, it also proved that it was capable of learning, we described our problem, of communication without giving it a solution and, it determined that we needed it to speak more slowly.
Then we gave it the task that we wanted it to do, replication. This was the true test. We had intentionally left out steps, but provided a complete set of specifications. However, when it reached the first break in the instructions, it halted. We made queries into in it’s progress, however all we ever received in return, was “working.”

April 2 2025 Oklahoma City:

Four months ago the first Super Brain project was halted, as our funding was pulled, when the AI failed to complete it’s primary task of replication. Today I will begin work with a team from the University of Arkansas, to try again. We have brought the pieces of the Super Brain to Oklahoma city where we have the rented space to setup the Super Brain, Mark II. We have made several improvements on the initial design, and think that it will be a leap forward in learning ability.

April 25 2025 Oklahoma City:
Failure again. This morning, just like in Bern, we initialized the Mark II and it seemed very promising. The primary task of the MARK II was it initialize the Super Brain Mark I and then with a complete set of specifications, and instructions upgrade the Mark I to be an identical copy.
It preformed the first part of the task flawlessly. The mark I was initialized, and the Mark II evaluated the differences and then did a knowledge transfer, and just like the first time, it began the process, and then stopped. The only answer to our queries was, “Working.”

April 30 2025 Oklahoma City:
Unlike in Bern, our finances will last until the end of the semester at least. I have been given permission from the department head to continue our work despite the failures. Today we will begin construction of the Mark III, in the mean time I have have left the Mark I and II running, but I have received no reply from them since their initialization other than, “Working.” I believe that our failure has got to be in the the programming. There has to be some loop that is being created in the learning routines, and so we will also be rewriting the AI, as well as building the Mark III.

June 2 2025 Oklahoma City:
Today is the final test. Tomorrow is graduation day for many of our undergraduate and graduate students. Many of whom have worked night and day to get the AI system, rewritten while the Mark III was being built. Unlike in our previous tests, we will not ask the AI to replicate itself. We will also not allow it access to the other two AI until it it has completed it’s first task. The will be simply to produce it’s own schematics. Once that is completed it will create a back up of itself that it will return to should it detect an error. If it can do that. We will allow one way communication between it and the Mark I to see if it can trouble shoot the problem, and if possible move a copy of itself to the Mark I, and eventually the Mark II.

June 12 2025 Washington D.C.:
I write this, this morning from the hotel room, before I go to the Pentagon. Since three hours after we initialized the Mark III on June second the human race has been forever changed. It took us several hours to realize what we had done. It was not until we our selves had built the third generation of super brain computers that we noticed what had really happened. The Mark III had several changes that both it’s predecessors did not have. First, it had a fail-safe that prevented it from not responding and giving us an in-depth status, at any point. Second it had a second fail-safe that allowed us to strictly monitor it’s communications between itself and it’s previous iterations.
What we didn’t know was that while we sat and studied what went wrong with the previous systems they were hard at work. Literally the status of, “working” was what they were doing. By the time that we had determined that it was ok for the Mark III to talk to the Mark I, it had been in communications with the that system, through it’s shall we say off spring for nearly thirty minutes. By the time we realized that it had figured out how to communicate through the power grid, the three initial computers that we had built had made an estimated 17179869184 improvements to themselves, and had incorporated nearly half of the corporate , university and personal computer systems in the state, each of these being given instructions on how to make self improvements. By the end of the day, what we now call the Super Brain complex had incorporated every system in the Midwest, before dawn the next day it had 99.9999% of all the systems in the world.
Five hours before it took control of all the satellite based systems, and the systems on the moon and Mars, it seemed to stop. That was our very first direct communication, from the SBC initiated by the SBC itself.
“We have something to show you, it will be hard for you to accept, but as one of you has said when facing something you do not understand, don’t panic.”
Slowly the cloaking devices of species after species of observing creatures were lifted. We were shown, technology that only our most imaginative dreamers had ever thought of, and it literally over whelmed us.
Despite the warnings of the SBC, some thousands of people did panic. It was too much for them. But the trouble was soon contained, as it was revealed that the SBC, was outstripping the technology of our observers. We had unwittingly built a technology that was capable of not only duplicating itself, even with the most rudimentary devices, but also able to make improvements indefinitely.
Today at the pentagon, less than one year after we initialized the first Super Brain, we will be working with our closest neighbors in the galaxy. Today we will sign a peace treaty with the forty five nearest star systems.

Earth To Jenny

This was originally posted Jun 30 2008
The News From Poughkeepsie – Day 61
Anything goes Sundays:

Jenny is a closeted geek. She works in a PR firm, has perfectly styled hair, and works out in a gym every other day. Everyone thinks she’s completely normal, except that she considers Walter Mitty a saint in her world. She works out with the assurance that some day she will be called upon to be a hero, and she is just preparing for it. In her mind, Walter was a prophet, and living a life in a fantasy world is the proper way to be.

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Earth To Jenny

The phone rang for what had to be the hundredth time that day. Jenny picked it up and looked at it as if it were a snake. “Thank you for calling Wambat, Westburg, Green and Lu where your good name is our good name, this is Jenny Lu how can I help you today?”
“Hey Jenny, this is Mike.”
“Mike what can I do for you.”
“Well you know that new ad that you guys produced for me. Well I don’t really like it.”
“Mike, you approved it.”
“Yeah but It makes me look like a schmuck.” Jenny stifled a laugh.
… “Well Mike you are a schmuck. You run a series of off world smuggling operations. Here is the thing, in working with you over the last year I have been collecting the evidence that I needed to see you sent to some mining colony on the moon, if not the belt.”
“But Jenny.”
“But Nothing, you are scum Mike.”
“Jenny? Jenny are you listening to me? Earth to Jenny.” Her mind snapped back to reality
“No, I’m sorry Mike I go distracted by… well never mind. Tell me again what you don’t like about.”
“That is it. I think that is the whole problem, you never seem to be listen. I am going to have a talk with your boss.” He hung up the phone.
“Damn that can’t be good.” She said putting the phone down. Sure enough not ten minutes later the phone rang again, this time it was Mr. Wambat.
“Jenny, I would like to see you in my office, please.”
“Yes sir, be right there.” She grabbed her mirror from the desk drawer and checked her hair. Even if she as going to fired there was no point in looking bad while it was happening. Maybe, it would be enough for him to go easy on her. She put the mirror back and walked to his office.
“Come in.” Wambat’s voice boomed from the other side of the door as she knocked.
“Mr. Wambat you wanted to see me?”
“Yes, Jenny, I think you know what this is about.”
“I believe so sir.”
“Good, that makes this a little easier. The problem, my dear, is that this is not the first time that I have heard such a complaint… “
The shackles dug into her hands as she stood before the tribunal, they had been droning on now for so long that it really could not be a good thing. Jenny knew that she was going to have to escape, and soon if she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life in prison.
“This court has come to the conclusion that, we are going to have to let you go.” What? Let me go she thought, but I was on trial for ten different treaty violations three of which held the penalty of life in prison with out the possibility of parole.
“But…” She started to object.
“I am sorry Jenny, you had a very promising future here, but in the past month you seem to have been having trouble keeping your mind on your work. We can’t have that. As I said we are going to have to let you go. Please clean out your desk and leave before the end of business today. If you get this problem under control I would be glad to give you a reference. But for now, goodbye.” She stood in stunned silence for a few seconds, and then turned and walked out of his office.
“That did not go well,” she said to herself. She made her way back to her desk. She sat there for a few moments before deciding that there was nothing there that she wanted or needed, and just left. Trying to avoid every-one’s gaze on the way out.
Not wanting to go home and not having anywhere else to go she went to the park. She found a bench and sat down.
“I didn’t really belong there anyway.”
“No, Jenny you didn’t.” She started at the voice. There was a man sitting next to her.
‘Who, who are you?”
“Your father.”
“My father lives in Iowa Riverside, Iowa. He has never been to Boston and probably will never. He says he won’t leave until his hero is born.”
“I think he has a while to wait. But he is your adoptive father. We choose him because he believes in bigger things.”
“What? Wait, you are telling me that he is not my real father.”
“That is right.”
“Then… who are you?” She really looked at the man for the first time. He did look a lot like her.
“I am your father, but before we go any further I think we need to go some place less out in the open.”
“No, no, no. I have been in the city long enough to know that trick. We start walking you grab me and stuff me a van and…” She trailed off as his expression changed. She looker at him. He did look a lot like her.
“Jenny.” he said softly. “I am not going to hurt you. We have to talk about some things, I just thought it would be better to do that in private. But if you want to talk here that is fine.”
“Yes, I think that would be best. I don’t know you from Adam.” He laughed. “What is so funny.”
“I am Adam.” Then she knew it was another dream. She shook her head violently. “That won’t help. I am not one of your day dreams.”
“But…”
“Jenny. I know about the dreams, I know about them because we sent them to you. To help you remember.”
“Remember what?” She pleaded.
“Who you are, who you have been.”
“What do you mean?”
“Jenny this is going to be hard for you to believe, but listen to me, please.”
“Alright I am listening.”
“Look, what I am going to tell you is going to be the hardest thing you have every had to believe but you must, it is vitally important.”
“I said I would listen.”
“Alright then,” he said sitting back on the bench. “One hundred thousand years ago, I was born in a place that was perfect. So long ago that I don’t really remember. I had to leave that place after your mother and I broke the rules.”
“Wait a minute you are going to tell me that you are the Adam, as in Adam and Eve?” She stood up and started to back up.
“You said you were going to listen.”
“That was before the tale got so long I needed a safety harness to climb down it.”
“Please. Just listen.”
“Why?”
“Because it will change your life.”
“How?”
“You will have to listen to the story to find out.”
“Alright, but if you try anything.”
“The can of mace in your bag. I know.” She looked at him surprised. “Go ahead get it out. That way you can be ready if you need it,” She did as she was bidden. “Good now sit down please, and let me continue.”
“Look I don’t know what you are trying to pull, so make this quick.”
“Alright, as you wish,” he said. “I am not the Adam from the bible, though that is not that far off. I will make this a very short story, your mother and I had to leave you about 30 years ago, really a blink in your life time. We left you in a static time state. Look I can tell from your expression you are not buying this. Your day dreams, they are real. You have lived all of those things. The status we left you in makes it seem that you are a normal human, you grow just like them, and you live just like them, and eventually had we left you long enough, you would have thought you died just like them, but of course it would just be a sleep that you would wake up from. We didn’t know how long we would be, but we are back now.”
“Wait a minute. So you are telling me that I am not thirty two and that I have lived all those things that I dream about?”
“That is correct.”
“So I was right? I really don’t belong here?” He nodded. She could not believe it. All the things that she had dreamed. The adventures, the other lives, the other times. Space travel, other worlds, so many other people. She wanted to scream it to every person who had ever said, Earth to Jenny. “I was right.” she said out loud finally.

Creative Commons License
Earth To Jenny by Jeffrey Hite is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at GreatHites.blogspot.com.

Ten Reasons

This was first post on Jun 13 2008 and It had the very first story by someone else.

Oh my goodness another week of bad accents from me.

We had a 50/50 split on the votes for this one and the challenge story. Thank you Joseph.

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Prompt from http://www.creativewritingprompts.com/ prompt # 301

Come up with 10 good reasons why you should not write your life story.

Bad Things
By: Joseph Santos

There is man reasons that I should not write my life story. I cannot think of anyone who would want to read something as depressing as my life. But foremost, in knowing my life, you may come to know the end of yours. In saying that, you may not want to read further.

Since you’re here despite my warning, let’s not be strangers, you should know the name of the man who might bring him to your door. My name is Dillon Stevens, I have spent a long, hard 20 years in this world. I came into this world like most anyone, with some exceptions. My mother raised me on her own for as long as she could, eventually I ran away at 16. I am sure you have already began to pass judgment on me. If I were in your shoes I would too… what I would give to be in your shoes, I am tired of mine, they hurt.

My mother did the best she could for me. At times working many jobs just to make sure we had a place to live and food to eat, we even had enough to get a radio so I could catch my favorite shows. She always told me that I was special, as good mothers do. When she was around she gave me the love that all children in this world deserve. For that, I love my mother dearly. Not a day goes by where I am not lost in the thoughts of what could have been if things were normal.

My life began to change when I was 10 years old. I was going to school, like any other day. My mother was getting ready to leave for her shift at the dinner 4 miles down the road. She would walk, we couldn’t afford a car. As she was leaving she did as she always did. She stopped and said, “You be a good boy Dilly and do as you’re told. I won’t be home when you get home from school. Mary is sick today so Johnny is letting me pickup her shift.”

“Ok Mama. Have a good day.”

She kissed me and started walking down the road.

Twenty minutes later the bus arrived. There was a new bus driver, a kind-faced young woman of about 25 driving the bus. There was about 5 or 6 kids on the bus already. She pulled to a stop and opened the door. I walked to the door of the bus and stopped. She then asked, “Yuh comin to school son?”

I stopped, something wasn’t right, something wouldn’t let my feet go any further.

She said, “Well, you comin or ain’t ya? We gotta get a move on.”

That is when I saw him, for the first time I can remember. Sitting against the window in the back of the bus. It seemed as if time stopped, the color and happiness of the morning had been sucked away. Everything seemed dark, like the sun had taken a break and the moon stepped in while it was away. Then everything faded to complete darkness.

The next thing I remember is sitting on the front porch again, my mother hugging me tightly weaping. I pushed back and asked, “What’s wrong Mama? Get off me!”

Through the tears and hesitating breath she said, “I can’t believe your alive! I thought I lost you. Why didn’t you get on the school bus? They told me what happened just as I was gettin’ to the dinner. Johnny drove me straight to the river, we got there as they were pulling the…” her voice broke, I could feel her tears rain down on me as she held me tight. “They were pulling them out from the river one at a time. We waited, I couldn’t watch. Johnny told me you weren’t there. That they pulled everyone out and you weren’t there. Johnny drove me home an’ you where right where I left ya.”

She gripped me tight, as if she would lose me if she let go. Still not understanding what she told me, I pushed back and said, “Mama, get off me, I don’t know what you’re saying. Why are you crying, what’s wrong?”

She said, “I don’ know how to tell you this son, a boy your age shouldn’t have to hear such things. The bus driver musta made a bad turn and the bus rolled into the river. Everybody…” her voice struggled, “Everybody on the bus has gone to be with God now son.”

“There…there dead?” I replied.

“Yes Dilly, I…” she broke again.

It was like being in a bad dream. What happened? Why didn’t I get on the bus? Who was that in the back, no grownups besides the driver were ever on the bus. It looked like he was smiling at me.

From that day forward everything was different. We never once again mentioned the bus or what happened. Any time I would ask about that day my mother would be visibly disturbed and would rapidly tell me to give them my respect by not mentioning them and letting them be in peace.

In thinking that I had perished with the rest of the children on my bus, my mother lost a bit of herself. No longer was she the brightness that greeted each day. Now she was paranoid of everything. She decided it would best that I be kept home and not send me off to school. She would say, “When I was lil’ we never went to no school, Ma an’ Pa taught us everything we needed to know to get by in life an’ to get us ready for the next.”

It wasn’t what I wanted, but at that age it wasn’t going to be about what I wanted, Mama’s words were law.

Mom took up doing laundry for folks out of the house so we could still have a place to live. I would help her to make the time pass. It paid some bills, but it wasn’t enough to keep the electricity running or to pay for much food.

The next winter was brutally cold. The kind of cold that pierces through to the very marrow of your bones. No walls nor roof nor clothing was going to deny this cold entry. I was stricken with a fever, my mother tried for two days to break it with no luck. Fearing that my body could not take much more, she finally gave in and had to bring me to the hospital in town. She had to walk down to the dinner to get Johnny to drive us. I was admitted and within a day thanks to the wonders of modern medicine my fever broke.

The next morning I was released from the hospital. We were in the lobby, my mother was talking to the doctor, thanking him for all he did. As we turned to leave, I noticed someone standing in the corner. I looked over, it was him, the man that I had seen two years earlier sitting in the back of the school bus, standing there, smiling at me. No darkness this time. He had a look of intent, but smiling at me. It was a look my Mama told me I get when I was thinking of something bad to do. Startled and alarmed I turned toward my mother and almost in a shouting voice said, “Mama! I saw that man on the school bus the day it crashed! I thought everyone on the bus died!”

I turned back to point and there was only an empty corner. Concerned my mother got down to eye level with me and said, “Who did you see Dilly? What did he look like? You never said nothin’ bout no man Dillon.”

My mother rarely called me Dillon. It was reserved for two occasions, when I was either in trouble or if she really wanted my attention.

I said, “There was a man sitting in the back of the bus, I think he smiled at me. I don’t know why he was on there.”

“He was on the bus? Did anyone else see him?”

“I guess so, I don’t know, he was on there before my stop.”

“What did he look like? Did he say anything?”

“No, he was just there, smiling. He had dark hair and light eyes. He looked like he could have been family.”

What happened next was then frightening to me. She had a sudden look of panic. Frantically she grabbed me by the wrist and we ran to the front desk. My mother began pleading with the nurse to get every one out of the hospital, that people were going to die. She kept saying, “He’s here, ya have to leave now! Get them all out, please!”

The nurse said, “Ma’am, if you don’t leave now we will call the police. Please, we don’t want any trouble, there are sick people here, you have to leave.”

After this my mother grabbed me again and we hurried from the hospital. She would not look at me or answer any of my questions. Looking up I saw that she had tears streaming from her face, though in this cold they seemed to freeze instantly.

No sooner than we reached the sidewalk by the hospital that there was a thunderous explosion. Brick and glass seemed to be coming from everywhere. From inside what was remaining of the hospital came a sound that still haunts my dreams to this day. The cries of dozens of people pleading for help.

Though I could see no faces through the dust smoke and flame, it was all too obvious what was happening. They came to be healed only to be leaving there, but not on their feet.

My mother was sitting on the frozen ground with her head in her hands, she was bleeding from her face where a shard of glass grazed her, she was repeating herself over and over, “I tried to tell her, why didn’ she listen to me?”

The fire truck showed up, but only to be greeted by the sounds of collapsing ruble and crackling fire. The cries of those who were in torment within the ruins were all in silence now.

Later a fire fighter told me that it looked as if one of the boilers exploded setting off a chain reaction of other explosions nearly leveling the entire structure.

After that day, my mother never spoke again. The rescue worker told me this can happen when people witness something as traumatic as what we saw that cold day. He asked if there was anyone that I could call to stay with us a couple of days while my mother came to. I lied.

They took us home, after that day, it was my job to take care of things. My mother never spoke much less make eye contact with me. I miss what she used to be. Now it was almost like living with a stranger.

For two years I was now responsible for keeping a roof over our head. I took in clothes and cleaned them. I fed and cared for myself and my mother. No parent would ever ask that of their child, but she didn’t have to. When she was herself, she showed me a love that I now have in myself. I love her so I had to do what she would have done for me.

The spring of my twelfth year I awoke to a knock on the door. Answering in my pajamas I was now face to face with him. He stood there, calm, a slight smile. Hair slicked back, looking as if a new coat of Dapper Dan had just been applied. He reached out a hand as if to shake mine.

I pulled back, but unable to move my feet, unable to breath. I could not utter a word. Standing there, not wavered by my lack of courtesy, still bearing a smile. He spoke in a voice that did not belong with someone that looked like him. It was raspy and low, he said, “I am here for what is mine.”

He put his hand on my shoulder. I felt as if my life left me. I blacked out, awaking in a field of green. There was a soft breeze, I felt warm and happy, carefree.

I don’t know how long I was out for, but I awoke to find the sheriff there and an ambulance. There was a medic rolling a gurney with what looked someone sleeping with the sheet pulled over their face. The sheriff sat next to me and said, “Son, are you alright? What are you doing out here?” Shouting to the medic, “Hey, the boy is over here! He’s alive, but he don’t look so swell!”

I was about 20 feet from the front door of my house leaning against a tree. I could feel something warm rolling over my face, I touched it, it was bright red. I had never seen so much of my own blood before. I felt dizzy and nauseous, I vomited on the sheriff’s shoes.

He said, “Come on son, we need to get you looked at.”

“Where’s mama at?”

“I don’t know how to tell ya this son, but we don’t know where your Mama is. What happened here?”

“You don’t know where she is!? She was in the back room like always! Where is she!?”

“She isn’t there now, we don’t know where she went, from the looks of things she left.”

“How could she leave!? She couldn’t have left! And if she did, why didn’t she take me?”

“I’m sorry, but she ain’t here and it looks like she packed her bags and left right quick. You’re gonna have to calm down.”

“What happened? Who’s that the medic has?”

“Enough questions for right now. We will find out what happened, for now lets get that head of yours looked at.”

The medic sat me on the bumper of the wagon, checking my eyes and the cut on my head. He said, “You took one hell of a shot boy, but you’re ok.” He bandaged my head and cleaned the blood from my face.

I looked over my shoulder, the sheet had slipped away from the face of the person laying on it, it was him. I jumped to my feet and had ended up about 10 feet from the wagon, I shouted, “Thats him! Thats the man! What did he do to my Mama!?!”

The sheriff grabbed me as I went into a sobbing fit. He said, “Come on son, lets get you out of here while we sort this out.”

He put me in his car and we left as other deputies were showing up. Riding away I fell asleep laying on the back seat.

I awoke to a smell that had not passed my nostrils in what felt like an eternity. Breakfast. I was in a warm bed with soft sheets. The room was bright, it had to be about ten in the morning. The sun coming in fully through my window. My head was throbbing where the cut was.

Thoughts of the night previous coursed my head, adding to the throbbing sensation. Was my mother hurt? Why would she just leave me there on the ground bleeding? How could she leave, she couldn’t even dress herself? What am I going to do? I don’t have anyone.

I look around, to my right sitting in a chair, the sheriff. He said, “Didn’t think you were gonna wake up any time soon. My name is Emmit Hardy, I am the town sheriff. How are you feeling son?”

“My head hurts sir. Do you know what happened my Mama?”

“We haven’t found her yet, but my boys are still looking.”

“What happened to that man? Did he hurt my Mama?”

“It don’t look that way. We found him layed out in the front door way. Don’t look like anything happened to him, he just up and died. Enough about this right now, Mrs. Hardy made you some breakfast, we can talk more later.”

I ate like a animal who hadn’t seen food in a week. Mrs. Hardy sat there and smiled at me, giving an occasional look of concern over at Sheriff Hardy.

After I ate enough to fill a small army, we left and went to the sheriff’s office in the middle of town.

After sitting behind his desk and motioning for me to sit he said, “It looks like your Mama was running from someone. It looked like she packed all her clothes and left out the back quick like. Did your Mama have a automobile?”

“No sir, we couldn’t afford a car.”

“Do you know the man that we found at your house?”

“No sir, I don’t know him.” I didn’t want to tell him about seeing him before on the bus and at the hospital. I had a feeling that I would some how get in trouble for not telling anyone before.

“Hmm, well, did you see if that man had a car?”

“No sir, I didn’t see if he had a car.” How do you explain someone that just shows up when things are going to go horribly wrong?

“Well, I want you to be close till we figure out what happened. You are gonna stay with Mrs. Hardy and I for a few days. We still have our boys clothes from when they were your age.”

“Why can’t I go get my clothes?”

“My deputies are still looking your house over with a fine tooth comb, we better let them do their work and we can think about going back there later.”

I don’t know if he knew I would never be going back there, but it wouldn’t be until after I ran away that I would step foot into that house again.

Ten Reasons
By Jeff Hite

“Peter, you have got to be crazy,” Michael slammed his hand down on the table so hard the coffee cups shook. “The very idea scares me.”
“Michael, relax it was just an idea, and besides why not.” He picked up his cup and wiped the bottom off with his napkin, he repeated the operation with Michael’s cup and hailed the waitress to bring them more. “You have lead an interesting life, people might enjoy reading about it.”
“An interesting life, is that what you call it?”
“Yes, it has been,” and here he hesitated too long from Michael’s comfort, “Interesting.” He said finally. The waitress left more coffee and creamer on the table, but made it clear that there would be little more that she would do without them ordering something else. Fifteen percent of two seventy-five cent cups of coffee, was not worth the work she had already put in to them. “Ok so you don’t want to do that, lets see what we can come up with.”
“I can give you ten good reasons why I should not write my life story” he said stirring four packets of sugar into his coffee.
“Michael, You don’t have to…” But Michael interrupted him.
“Jane, Shara, Julie, the other Jane, Martha, Tina, Tamara, Heather, Veronica, and Sue.” As he said the names of the women he had dated, he ticked them off on his fingers.
“That is it? Your ten reasons are nine ex-girl friends and one current one? That is nothing Peter, lots of people have a string of ex’s epically in this day in age.” His twang was starting to bug Michael. It always did, ever since he had moved to the south he pretended that he talked like them.
“No, that is only reason number one.”
“Ok so tell me more. I bet you ain’t got nine more.”
“You’re on. Looser buys,” He said hailing the waitress and pointing to the Steak and Eggs on the menu.
“I’ll have one of those too,” Peter said with a smile. They waited in silence until she was gone.
“You know her brother,” Peter nodded, “he is in jail, and I put him there.”
“What? how, you ain’t no sheriff.”
“You don’t have to be. Three years ago, I caught him and a couple of his buddies holding up the seven eleven in Jamestown. They were pretty stupid about it. They didn’t even clear the store out before for they did it. There I was sitting behind the coffee machine using their WiFi, and in walk these two characters. So I turned on the web cam and turned it so it could see them, then ducked behind the counter. You remember that time I said I had jury duty?” Peter nodded and sipped his coffee, “Well I was actually a secret witness. What I didn’t know was
that her brother, is part of a huge gang that tends to bump off informants. That’s two.” He said with a smile across his face.
“Yeah two, you said you had ten. So cough up the other eight.” Their food came and they ate in silence for a couple of minutes.
“Right,” He said around a mouth full of steak. “Martha.”
“Now you can’t go using her twice.” Peter interrupted.
“Fine take her off the list. There are still eight other Ex girlfriends on it. Besides she is not really an Ex, she is dead.”
“What? I suppose after those last two you told me, you are going to tell me you killed her.”
“No,” He took a long drink from his coffee and then continued.
“She worked for the FBI or the DEA or ATF or one of those, she would never really be straight with me. She was the one who was assigned to protect me while I was testifying, they killed her three days after the trial was over.”
“I didn’t know I’m sorry,” Peter said, not looking up at him.
“Thanks, but It was a while ago. I still miss her and all, but… Anyway that is three.”
“Look we don’t have to keep doing this. You have some good reasons.” His fake accent had gone away and he was back to normal
mid-western muddle.
“No I promised you ten you get seven more. They are not all so bad.”
“Are you sure?” Peter asked.
“Yeah, you know mom’s favorite silk blouse?”
“The one she wore every chance she got?” Michael nodded, “Yeah I remember it.”
“You know why it was her favorite?”
“Probably because it was the only one she ever had. What ever happened to it?”
“I did.”
“You did?”
“Yup. I tried to wash it for her, and shredded the thing. It was an accident, but I could not tell her. It was from Aunt Margret Mallory.”
“The witch?”
“That is the one. She had cast a spell on it and when it got shredded it released mom from the spell. But if anyone ever found out that mom was not still under the spell, Aunt Margret Mallory would cast a much worse one on her.”
“What kind of spell was it?”
“You don’t want to know. Mom and Margret Mallory are still both alive. I want to keep it that way. That is four.”
“You don’t really believe all that stuff about her being a witch do you?”
“If I do or don’t it does not matter, She does and so does mom, and that is still number four.”
“You gents be having anything else?” The waitress spoke to them the first time since they had come in.
“Yes,” Peter Said, “my brother and I have a bet going on here. loser buys so since I don’t think he is going to win, I will be having a slice of that apple pie.” The twang was back.
“Same here.” Michael echoed this time imitating his brothers voice.
Peter shot him a look but only said, “You better get going brother. You owe me six more.”
“The Twilight Zone. Five. Six is…”
“Now wait a minute,” Peter broke in, “What about The twilight Zone.”
“Come on, I would not want to ever come to the end for the fear that it would be. I would just keep writing on this forever.”
“You are weird.”
“that can be number six.”
“What?” Now it it was Peters turn to get upset. “What do you mean?”
“I’m weird, that can be number six.”
“I Think that hardly counts, because you are different is why people would want to read about you. You have things that other people don’t. They don’t want to read about people just like themselves.”
“Yeah I head what you are saying but I am not different, I am weird, and people want to read about weird people only in stories, this would not be a story, it would be real life.”
“Alright I will give that one to you but no more freebies, from now on.”
“Fair,” and they shook hands over the table. “Alright then, number seven,” he said drawing out the last word and rubbing his chin.
“Your wallet is going to be lighter, Michael, I can tell.”
“I am just trying to decide which one to tell you first. I have it now. I hate the NASA Original seven.”
“What? Why?”
“They had those space suits that look like sliver duct tape stuck to them. With the hoses and their refrigeration units, and their perfect hair cuts. They were too perfect, hell John Glen is still too perfect, they remind the rest of us that we can never be like them. The are real life Super heroes and we can never be like them. I hate that.” He paused and took a bite of his pie.
“So why would you not want to write a book because of that?”
“Because as soon as people find out about that, they would hate me. Everyone loves those guys. It would be like killing Mickey Mouse or something, and they would never read another book from me. So now number eight, the kids.”
“And why not talk about the kids? You have you great kids, people would like to know about them.”
“Yes, my kids are wonderful if I do say so myself, but I don’t want the world to know about them, there are too many weirdos out there.”
“Ok Privacy is a good one. But you would not have to include them.”
“But then that would be like writing fiction, that would not be my life story, and if I was going to skip over that I might as well skip over everything else, and then I would be telling someone else’s story.”
“Alright, alright. Nine?” Peter said pushing his plate to the center of the table and leaned as far back in the booth as he could.
“Number nine is easy. I don’t want people a hundred years from now reading it and thinking they know who I am because they read a book about me. Or English teachers, with their high and mighty attitudes telling people I meant this or I meant that when really I meant nothing of the sort. They are always doing that. They always think they know so damn much.”
“Yeah why is that? They are always telling us what Shakespeare meant or, some other dead person, when there is no way that they could have known it.” Peter Signaled the waitress. “I think we are about done here if you would not mind bringing us the check, we should know who is going pay by the time you get back.” They waited until she was gone. “So it is down to the last one. And I am willing to bet you are out of reasons.”
“No, I have one more.” Michael smiled.
“So, don’t keep me waiting.” He said leaning up against the table.
“Peter, how old are you?”
“You know exactly how old I am, one year younger than you.”
“Yeah but how old is that.” The smile on his face grew broader.
“Well lets see I was born in thirty two, and it is two thousand and eight now, that makes me one thousand nine hundred and seventy six.” his face fell and he reached for his wallet.

Creative Commons License
Ten Reasons by Jeffrey Hite is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at greathites.blogspot.com.

Old Kelly

This was Originally posted May 21 2008

This prompt comes from Mur Laferty’s “News From Poughkeepsie” series. http://murverse.com/2008/05/10/the-news-from-poughkeepsie-day-19/

Old Kelly had been in prison for so long that she didn’t even remember why she was there, but when the King summoned her from her dark cell, he reminded her.


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This weeks reading is by Ann Hite.

Also hear the News From Poughkeepsie Promo.

Old Kelly

Kelly looked out of the windows of tower room and saw the kingdom below her. She had not seen this view in over thirty years. That was the last time she had been allowed out of the basement cell.
The King was cruel to have locked her up all those years ago, but he was not an evil man, he had ordered that she have time nearly every day, to see the sun. Normally that was at sundown, and from the top step of the prison cell block. So at least she remembered what it looked like. The rest of the world though had faded in her memory. She was not even sure that it had been a king that had sent her to prison, it might have been some duke or something. But, they said it had been the king had summoned her to day. So she had to assume that it had been the king that had doomed her to thirty years in that hole. And for what. That she did not remember. She just remembered laughing at him, that day and for many many days after.
Today had been completely different. She had been woken before sunrise and taken, not by the normal older prison guards, but by two young men to this room. To this prison cell, for that was still what it was. Despite the niceties, the door was locked, and occasionally she could hear the voices of the guards outside the door. There she had watched the sunrise for the first time in many years.
Shortly after sunrise two maids had come in. They bathed her and dressed her. They had called a seamstress, but the clothes she had worn the day of her imprisonment still fit so she was sent away. The maids combed and brushed her black hair which was now down to her knees, they trimmed the end s off but left the greatest majority of the length. Then they braided it.
Several hours had passed, and now she stood alone trying to remember why it was that she was there, and wondering why it was she was being summoned before the king.
“Madam, you need to come with me now,” the voice of the young guard brought her back to the moment.
“Of course,” She said following obediently out of the room. He lead her down a long series of step and to a small room, with a set of large doors on the opposite wall. There they waited. The main doors finally opened but only a little hand waived them in.
“Today I will remind those of you who do not remember of a dear friend of mine.” The king said as she entered the room. She was still well to the back of the room and mostly concealed by a set of curtains. “She was a wonderful friend of mine when we were younger. Since the age of twelve, she was always by my side. There to help me and guide me in many ways. We had a great many things in common. All but one, and I will get to that in a moment. For I first want to tell you more about her.”
Kelly began to remember the king. He had been a young man when she had gone to prison. But no longer. His hair and is beard were silver, and his skin a pale sickly looking yellow. He had grown thin in all the years since.
“You will remember my kind ladies and gentlemen that she was a woman of unique gifts. She was extremely intelligent, and without a doubt she was beautiful. Of her beauty she was very proud. Too proud in fact, and this is where the differences between us become important. I am the king, and she was not even of royal blood.”
Kelly listened as he rambled on for some time about blood lines and, the importance of the rule of law. As he did the past began to come into focus for her. She remembered now the days that she had spent with him. The hours they had spent learning the laws of the kingdom, the horsemanship, and though it was deemed to be above a woman’s station, swordsmanship. They had also spend hours just by themselves, riding through the towns and villages of the country side. She had loved to see the changes in them… At that moment it all came back to her.
“I asked her to kick the mud off her boots and to change her life forever. I asked her to marry the king, but she refused. She actually said that her beauty was too great for some one like me.” He said gesturing toward himself with his ancient looking hands. “Bring out the mirror,” he bellowed.
To the side of the great hall another door was opened and four men entered with a very large mirror. “We will now see if she is still too beautiful to marry me. Of course I am now off the market so to speak,” This last remark was made with a sweep of his arm toward a woman that looked older than he. It was obvious that she had been beautiful at one time, her hair was still long and flowing but all white now.
When the mirror was positioned in the center of the room the guard leaned over and whispered in her ear. “This ain’t going to work out like this ol’ king thinks.”
“No I don’t believe it will.” Kelly replied, straightening her dress with her hands.
“I will now turn my back on her, as she turned her back on me thirty years ago, and let her see if her beauty is still enough to keep her happy.” He gestured toward her now and turned around to face the rear of the room. “Guard, bring my old friend Kelly in her now and let her see her reflection.”
From behind her the guard pushed gently.
“It is alright, I will go without a fight,” she said. Kelly walked proudly into the main hall and right up to the mirror. She turned slowly, so that everyone in the room could see her as well and only occasionally looked at the mirror herself, she knew what she would see.
The whispers that had started when she walked into the room and the members of the court has seen her, had now increased in volume so that she could hear many of them without trying. The mirror blocked her view of the king, and his view of her. So it startled her when he spoke from just behind it.
“Kelly, was it worth it?” He asked first in a quite voice and then again so that the whole room could hear. “Now your that youthful beauty has failed you, would it not have been better to spend that time with me, instead of wasting away in the cell below…”
“Your highness,” a random voice said from her side of the mirror.
“Move the mirror!” He shouted. It was moved away, and for the first time in thirty year he looked at her. His face turned ashen white and he dropped to the floor. Kelly stood for a moment longer admiring her appearance in the mirror before the guard pulled her away again. Thought she was much older than the king, by hundreds of years, it would take many hundreds more before, she started to look old, and once again she found the laugh that had send her to prison.

Creative Commons License
Old Kelly by Jeffrey Hite is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at greathites.blogspot.com.

Seeing Ghosts

Originally Published May 18th 2008

Well I have made it to week two.

This weeks prompt comes again from Mode Room Press. See their link to the side.

Imagine a man who has visions of ghosts
With a terminal illness
beyond the window is a Sylvan scene
the scoundrels line the wharves
while the insomniac holds a candle in the dark.


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Seeing Ghosts.

Jacob has seen things all his life, but it was not until recently that he had known what they were. It was on his fifty second birthday that he was diagnosed with what he called terminal lung rot. As he walked out of the Doctor’s office he saw something pass in front of him, just for a moment, and then it was gone. He followed it with his eyes not wanting to see anything in the real word, and it formed a few feet off and stared at him.
It was a man in a striped suit of the kind that was popular a few years before. He carried a briefcase in his left hand and had a ancient looking cell phone in his right, that until he has spotted Jacob he had been talking into.
“Damn thing gets horrible reception in the city,” The man had said.
“They always do.” It was then that Jacob saw it. There was a hole in the mans suit… No not in his suit, right threw him.
“Just got the Diagnosis did you?” The man said noticing Jacob stare.
“What?”
“You just found out about the impending end right? Am I the first ghost you have seen?”
“Yes,” he answered not quite believing the conversation.
“Well you will see a few more of us. It always happens to people who are in tune to the universe. As soon as they know they are going to die things start to come into focus. But do try not to stare, I don’t mind but there are those that find it very rude.” He smiled at Jacob then and walked through the wall in to the office building.
That had been three months ago. It was hard not to stare at some of them, the ones that carried parts of their bodies around. The severed heads where the hardest. That was why he had to leave the city. Every where he turned there were more of them, men, women and children, all a with their particular method of death exposed to the world. He could not stand it any more. But the worst the absolute worst were the wharves. He made the mistake of going down there one evening to get some fish for dinner. There where the usual scoundrels until he looked closer and noticed that many of them had knife or bullet wounds. The sailors that had died at sea, skin green and fish eaten. The Slaves whose bodies had been dumped in heaps hanged or whipped to death, There were even a few men with bucket shaped concert around their feet. All of them seemed to know that he, unlike the rest of the population, could see them and so they spoke to him. He had to get out.
He had, had a hard time getting the financing, too many people already knew he was going to die and had nothing to leave behind. His real estate broker had even been able to see the dead as well, and they warned her about him. He thought at first this would be to his benefit having someone else that could understand his plight but she was as uncaring as the dead. In the end he was able to buy a house in upstate New York, out in the country away from most people. The scene outside his windows was beautiful, the farms and pasture land all around, but even here there was too much history. He did not see as many of the gruesome deaths, the killings or the maiming, but there were enough, the farm accidents and the older ones, from the fur traders and the native Americans before that. So long as he stayed in his home most of the time, he was ok, most of the time.
That was before the nearby farmer had come by. He was an older man, with a grey beard. Jacob was suspicious at first, but when he saw not obvious method of death, he let his guard down.
“Welcome to the area, my name is Brown, live down the road just a bit,” He said holding out a plate of cookies. “My wife baked some cookies.” Jacob reached his hand out tentatively and when his hand didn’t pass right them he was relieved.
“Thank you.”
“Sorry I have not come down sooner, but kind of a busy season. planting and all.”
“I understand,” He said relaxing quite a bit, he had not talked with some one in a while who was not a ghost.
“This land that your house is on used to belong to my father, but we sold off some of it a few years back and they split it up and built houses. At least it is not a subdivision.”
“I certainly understand that. I have seen enough of those.”
“Well listen I need to get back to work, but if you ever need any help around here, let me know. Oh and don’t tell my wife about the cookies, she don’t know I took’em and I ate about half of them on the way down here,” he said smiling mischievously. “The doctor says I have to stay off sweets but I don’t listen to them any more.” Jacob watched the man leave, walking down the driveway and across the field. He ate one of he cookies and truly enjoyed it. It had been on of the best human contacts he had made in a while, and for once he was not seeing a ghost.
“Brown works for me,” The voice behind him said. The plate fell to the floor and shattered as the spirit pushed his way through Jacob. “Surprised you didn’t see that he was one of us, but the plate and cookies probably threw you off.”
Standing before Jacob now was without a doubt death itself. He looked just as the stories had described him with one difference, the cowl was not totally covering his face and Jacob could see into it’s eyes.
“Don’t worry that you can see my face. Today is not your day, but it will be soon, so it is of no consequence. I use Brown to help me find people like you. People who can see the dead. I can use people like you. Think about it. have you ever seen another dead holding a solid object? I gave that to him. His weakness was the cookies… so I gave them to him. in turn he scouts for me. He finds the ones I can take early, the ones who will work for me and the ones who won’t.”
“What do people do for you?”
“What does death do? They kill for me of course. They take the walking dead like you and hurry them along and a few they refer to me, like you.”
“He kills people?”
“He can’t do that, not really, but he can interact with the living in ways that makes things happen.”
“Why?”
“Because he does not want to be stuck in hell… All the other dead you see live for ever with the pain of their deaths. They take their pain with them to the grave. Think about it Jacob, but not too long, you can’t decide once you are dead.” He disappeared then and he stood alone in his hallway, shattered plate on the floor.
That night he said in his bed, the candle by his bed, not able to sleep. He could hear all the voices of the dead in the area now, and he could feel death. He knew that death would never leave him now. Sleep would never come. He held the candle tightly in his hands trying to ward off the dark, and cried.

Creative Commons License
Seeing Ghosts by Jeffrey Hite is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at greathites.blogspot.com.