Great Hites # 26

Originally Published Nov 6 2008

Great Hites 26
Robert Jahns – Cat People
Jeff Hite – The Werewolf
  
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Cat People
By Robert Jahns

In the 1950’s, canines were as free as sparrows to roam our small town, following only their will and whim. They indeed were living the American dream. Maybe that’s why I could never trust my yellow dog, Queenie. She enjoyed her role as a free spirit, heading hither and yon, with no apparent plan in mind. She became my dog, my responsibility, when my older brothers and sisters lost interest. Oh, I brushed and petted her, even bathed her when she allowed me to catch her. My hugs and pats were sincere, but she only endured the rite, not enjoy it. Food and water were always at the ready. I tossed that gnarled, saliva-drenched stick that she insisted on chasing. Part of her game was to retrieve the stick, and then feign anger with growls and a show of teeth when I reached for it.

The care given did not earn her protection. That old mutt never seemed to be around when I needed her. When that Watson kid started to beat on me, that old dog was always running in the wrong direction. Will I forever hate that Watson kid?

Jeff Thompson was the first to go off to war. Some country in Southeast Asia needed help. Time moves slowly for a boy in a small town. It seemed that Jeff was gone forever. Six years after his departure, Jeff returned home. He immediately went to the local bar and got drunk. No one saw the fight begin between that Watson kid and the returning soldier. Jeff proceeded to knock the snot out of the Watson boy. He never did approve of bullies. I glanced with admiration toward my new hero. Jeff showed the effects of drink. His eyes were a bit glassy, his stance a bit wobbly. He smiled at me with the grin of a Cheshire cat. Was he a cat person?
Probably not. That was my dog, Queenie, that followed Jeff home.

The Werewolf
By Jeffrey Hite

You know the legend of the werewolf. How he hunts at night for his victim, and can turn from man to beast to man again. The stories are true, you know. They are out there, and they hunt by the light of the moon. But there is a creature that is more dangerous that the werewolf, they are the werecats.
These Creatures come, not during the night, but during the full light of day to hunt their prey. The are very cunning, those fully turned take the form of ordinary house cats and take up residence with the cat people.

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Great Hites # 25

Originally posted Oct 30th 2008

 

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


Download Great Hites 25 Audio

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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Download Great Hites # 24 Audio

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.

Great Hites # 23

Originally posted Oct 15 2008

 


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Welcome to Great Hites, With Jeffrey Hite. This is Alex I am sitting in for Jeff this week.

A Note from Jeff:

This has been a very busy week, I am running very late, and I have only my story so I have decided that since I do it for other people I would let Alex read this story.

So on with the story:

This weeks prompt came from Peter S. “The empty shell of a boat house.”

So sit back relax and make sure you know who your friends are.

The Boat house.

By: Jeffrey Hite

The boat house stood silently on the edge of the lake. It was a very simple structure, with nothing inside. It’s only reason for being was to shelter the fisherman’s boat, who had died long before Jonathan had risen to the throne of the kingdom.
This much he had learned from the men he had sent here last night to check it out. They had reported that there was no place to hide, no place to conceal a weapon, just an open room, with a small dock around the inner rim. His watchers had been there since before sun up and had seen no one leave or enter, and they had cleared the surroundings.
And Yet he was afraid. He could admit that, and he had good reason to be. Marcus the captain of his royal guard, and been taken hostage by these monsters. A man who was many times more capable of defending himself than he was. Even though they had grown up together, and Marcus had trained him. It had been his job to run the country, and he had fallen out of practice of defending himself. Something he was not proud of, but it was the facts of life. It was one fact that right now he wished could be altered.
Two nights before, he had received the letter. Come to the boat house alone, or you will not see Marcus again. Even through his elation that Marcus was alive, he had been afraid. Though at that point it was more of a nagging at the back of his mind afraid, now it was a full bodied terror that gripped him. It had been almost a year since Marcus had been captured and they had given up all hope that he was still alive. Especially since the killers had taken to not only murdering the victims but leaving little more than a bloody mess behind.
It was time now, he knew that he would have to go forward, that he would have to enter the boat house. Three of his men were to be on the roof of the boat house in case something happened. He could not see them from where he was standing but that might have been because of the slope of the roof, or the fading light. But they were among his best men, all trained by Marcus himself so he knew that he had little to worry about.
With tentative steps he walked to the door at the rear of the building and pushed it open. At first the room inside the boat house was too dark to see much, but he could tell that he was not alone.
“Come in your Highness. I have been expecting you.”
“Where are you?”
“You have nothing to fear from me. As I said in my note, I only wish to talk with you.”
“Who are you?”
“Oh come now, you would not want to spoil the surprise, like our friends here did.” As he said this three bodies dropped into the water. The king hurried to the edge to look in and saw the nearly unrecognizable forms of his guards who had been stationed on the roof. Had it not been for their uniforms he would not have known for sure.
“Why?”
“I told you to come alone!” The voice was angry now. “You had people prowling around here all day, you are lucky that it was only these three that paid the price for your arrogance, but I am sure you feel it was a worthy cause for them to die. You value the lives of your servants so.”
“What do you mean. I.”
“Oh come now you called off the search for your friend long ago. There was no body, there was nothing, and yet you called off the search, and he was your the man you called best friend. What can these men have meant to you.”
‘I care for all of my people.”
“Ahh I am sure you do. But maybe you can tell me how you do it.”
“What are you talking about.” For the first time the man speaking came out of the shadows, the light was to his back so Jonathan could not see his face.
“How you can be that insensitive. How you can feel nothing. Because, as my hero,” his tone was mocking now, “I figure you might have some advice to give.” He walked full into view now and Jonathan saw the wreck of a man that his friend had become.

Great Hites # 21

Originally Posted Oct 8 2008


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This weeks prompt came from Mur Laferty’s news From Poughkeepsie. Learn more at Murverse.com

Time Traveler
By Christopher Hite

Date: Tuesday March 19th 1945
Time 2:30 Pm
Place London, England

So many times he had walked this road and so many times he had come upon, battle tanks, damaged planes and dead bodies of men who had fought for freedom from the Nazis. But the war was over, and there was nothing or anyone to worry about. Nothing but the black smog of the burnt gun powder, that came of the guns.
It was as if he James Henry Jr. was the last person thing alive. james walked the road for many miles until he stumbled on a device that looked oddly like a rock, but he could not be sure. he pushed a button and ZAP!

Date: Tuesday March 19th 2010
Time 2:40 PM
Place London, England

James found himself in the same place that he started from, only it looked newer. There were skyscrapers as tall a hundred suburban houses put together. Oh well it must me my imagination. He moved on. The place that he called home was up ahead. It was a really a building that had been destroyed by bombs during the war. He soon came to a building that looked like his, but it was some how different, in a way that he could not put his finger on. It had been repaired of course and painted white, had doors of glass, but there was more to it than that. He looked down at his shoes. His clothes were different.
A man rushed out of the building, and said quickly, “The meeting was suposed to be started already. But because you were late, we were late to start.”
“But, but,” James said.
“No buts,” said the man who had come out of the building. “Lets go,” he said pulling his arm.
“Ouch!” James said. “My name is James Henry.”
“No matter,” said the man.
“let go,” said James “I came from the year 1945. What year is this?”
“This is 2010,” said the man urgently pulling on his arm. “I come from the year 1920, but still they don’t believe me.”
“But I…” he was hauled on to an elevator. he thought, I wonder if I will ever get home.
They entered the meeting room, and greeting them was a jumble of noise. “Welcome to the meeting,” the man at the head of the table said. “My name is Phil Smith. Sit down and enjoy one of our doughnuts, and some coffee.”
James found a seat and happily enjoyed a Boston cream, one of his favorites, it hit the spot because he was starving. When the meeting ended he left the building and he immediately found the time remote, and pushed the button on it. ZAP!

Date: Tuesday March 19th. 1945
Time 2:50 PM
Place London, England

He returned to the destroyed building, knowing that one day it would be inhabited by people again.


NOTHING IS NEW AGAIN
Robert Jahns

The Beamer office building rose majestically over San Francisco’s skyline. The owners insisted that recycled steel beams be used in construction. Bright steel and blackened glass captured the bright September day’s light. It was 9:00 a.m. A thousand workers were there this Tuesday.

FLOOR 74. Hal sat at his desk, searching for a clue to solve that elusive program problem. His mind drifted toward his stray thoughts. His eyes slowly, quietly closed.

FLOOR 35. Alice was a good manager, perhaps with too much dedication to her people. Promoted to the job she always wanted, her task was now to cut the staff by ten per cent. Tears fell as she reviewed the hefty list before her. She lowered her head to the desk, cried,then dozed off.

LOBBY LEVEL. Sammy O’Neal was not an educated man. He knew how to work hard and his bosses were pleased. After an hour’s fight with an ancient floor buffer, Sammy stopped for a short rest. He sat heavily into a wooden chair, slowly pouring his coffee. He slept peacefully.

First was heard a low and constant rumble.

Was this an earthquake? Was the city falling into the ocean?

No one knew for sure until the planes hit the tower.

Then, they too slept.

Mine!
By Jeffrey Hite

“Geeez Susan, I’m sorry I was late,” Neil said walking to her office. She signaled for him to close the door. “The directions that they gave out on Friday were horrible and I got lost. But I was only fifteen minutes late, I didn’t think that warranted a closed door meeting.”
“Come on Neil, you know that is not what this is about. I wanted to show off my new office.” She stood and spread her arms “Look I can’t touch both walls at the same time.”
“It is pretty big.”
“And look at this view,” She said turning around to face the window. “How is your office?”
“Not as nice as this one, but much better than that rat hole they had me in in our old place.” They watched the ducks in the pond out the windows for a few minutes.
“Neil, since you have a guilty conscience I do have a problem for you to work on.”
“Susan, you know my work load.”
“It is not a big deal, just something I want you to look into when you have a few spare moments.”
“Alright, so what is this little project you want me to do?”
“Simple, my desk lamp is missing.”
“Oh come on Susan…”
“Now wait a minute,” She interrupted his protest. “It is not the only thing. The C.E.O’s favorite coffee cup, and a few other people have reported things missing.”
“You know those things could have just been lost in the move.”
“Well that is where this starts to get weird, they were all here yesterday when the management team and I moved in. I talked to the Custodian this morning, and he said that the things might be in the mine. I don’t have the slightest clue what he is talking about, and well, I know you are into the weird stuff.”
“You know just because I have a suit of armor and go to the renaissance festivals, does not really make me into the weird stuff, but fine. What is it you want me to do?”
“Simple, talk to the custodian, find out what he is talking about and get our stuff back.”
“Fine. Sounds like fun.” The phone rang and he showed himself out of the office.
He made his way back to his office mumbling the whole way. “How do I get myself into these things. I don’t even know how the heck to find the custodian.” But he knew that if he didn’t do what Susan had asked there would be hell to pay. He turned his computer on and watched the emails spawn in his inbox.
Hours later as he made his way out of the building he remembered Susan’s tasking. He spun around and tried the door, but it had already locked.
“You forget your key?” The muffled voice of the older man in coveralls came to him from behind the glass doors.
He had forgotten about the passkey to get into the door. So he nodded. The old man opened the door and let him in.
“Are you the building custodian by chance?”
“That would be me, name’s Bob,” he said holding out his hand. Neil took it. It was rough and showed the signs of a life of manual labor.
“Neil.”
“What can I do you for Neil?”
“My boss, Susan said that some things were missing from our new office, I think she talked to you this morning about it.”
“Ah yes, that is one pretty lady,” the older man said wistfully.
“Well she wanted me to get the things that were missing back from you.”
“Oh, I ain’t got them. They’re down in the mine.”
“Well, can you take me down there so that I can get them?”
“I tried to explain to your boss this morning, that ain’t gonna work. You can take them back, but once the are down in the mine they will stay there.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It happens some times with these new buildings especially when they get to be a couple of years old. See, they are like little kids. They take things that catch thier attention.”
“A building can’t do anything like that. A building is made of steel and concrete. It can’t take things.”
“Suit yourself. You believe what you want to believe. What do I know, I am just the custodian,’ he said mumbling and shaking his head.
“Look, just take me to this mine and let me get our stuff back.”
“It won’t do you no good.”
“It’s our stuff.”
“Fine. Follow me.” He lead the way down several sets of stairs to the sub basement.
Finally they stood, in a dark corner of. Before them was a small collection of things, arranged neatly on the floor. Above the items was the word ‘mine’ scrawled on the wall.
“There, that is my boss’s lamp and the C.E.O.’s coffee cup.”
“Look, I’m telling you that is a bad idea. You can take those thing, but she might get upset. It would be better to just go get yourself a couple of replacements. I ain’t never seen one that was this possessive. She’s got herself a temper.”
Neil ignored him and walked back up to their offices. He put the desk lamp on Susan’s desk and the coffee cup in the kitchen, it looked like it needed to be washed any way.

*****

“Neil I need you to come into my office.” Susan’s voice came from his phone, but instead of her normal calm, it had a definite edge to it.
“Be right there.”
“Come quick!” He set the phone down and walked over to her office in time to hear Susan’s scream.
The scene in the office was utter chaos. Paper and furniture were everywhere. The cord of the desk lamp was tangled around Susan’s neck and her face was beginning to turn red.
“Help me!’ she choked.
“Mine.”
“What?”
“Help me! Help me get this thing off me.” She scratched at the cord.
“Mine!”
“Who said that?” He looked around for who or what was pulling on the other end of the lamp and strangling his boss.
“Mine! Mine!” He managed the get his pocket knife out and cut the cord.
“What the heck is going on here?”
“The lamp, it started to fall off my desk,” she said through shallow gasps. “I tried to grab it, but then the cord got wrapped around my neck.”
“Did you hear that?”
“What?”
“The voice, it kept saying, mine.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Never mind I better go check on Bill.” He rushed out of her office and down the hall to the executive suite.
Bill’s receptions smiled a greeting until he rushed past her.
“Wait you can’t go in…” That was all she got out before he opened the door.
Bill was laying face up on the floor with a mark the shape of a coffee cup on his forehead. The cup lay broken on the floor next to him.
“Mine,” the voice sobbed. “Mine, mine, mine.”

*****
Neil walked out next to the stretcher with Susan on it. As the walked across the lobby, Bob came up to them.
“I told you to leave it alone. She has got one heck of a temper. And being two she thinks everything belongs to her.”
“Mine,” Neil whispered.

Great Hites # 20

Originally Posted Sept 29, 2008

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And hear the promo for Chasing the Bard.

The Earth Stood Still on the Day We Wed
By:Robert Jahns

A cold breeze caressed your china white face. Your mother was
beaming, your father held a secret tear. The old preacher droned on in
a monotone voice, reciting the Bible’s ceremony. He had no emotions
left in him, just a job too simple for his high self-esteem.
The ancient church pews threw out groans from the maple seats. Sounds
of children’s giggles made you smile. Uncle Al’s hearing aid squealed
incessantly, yet he could not hear the painful electronic screams.
All fell silent. The clouds froze in the sky.
Uncle Al stood and shouted, “I was wrong. It’s global freezing!”


THE EARTH STOOD STILL
by: Anima Zabaleta

Find more from Anima at
zabbadabba

The earth stood still the day we were wed:
I remember the laughter we shared, the tears that we shed.
The house we built together, of fieldstone and log,
The birth of our daughter, the adoption of Scruffydog;
And the day we found out the cancer had spread.

You were a saint, who could fish and could cook;
Sang songs in your sleep, looked good with a book,
Planted a garden in spring, canned the results in the fall,
Painted stunning watercolors, split wood with a maul;
And made me shiver, with that one special look.

Here we stand now, in the lee of this hill,
Wondering at your bravery , when you were so ill.
You shared all you had your last final days,
I cried inside and out, trapped in your gaze.
Why does the earth revolve? I want it to be still.

Last Man Standing.
By Jeffrey Hite

“Look, there will be plenty of time to toss your life away, human, today may not be the best day.”
“And when would you suggest that I do it Crag?” Brent stared into the face of the alien, who had now become one of his only friends.
“I am sorry for your loss Brent, but it will do your kind no good for you to die uselessly,” He said compassionately. He was right of course, even if Brent hated to admit it. It would be beyond useless for him to add his life to the billions that had already been lost.
“You are right of course.” Crag removed his hand from the air lock controls and took a step back. “I want to see it!”
“That is not wise.”
“I don’t care. I have to see it. You brought me all the way back here I want to see it.”
“As you wish, but you will have to stay in the twilight area. The extremes of either the day light or the dark side will be too much for your environment suit.”
“Very well. when?”
“We will be in orbit in a three standard hours,” even though he had been with them for over a year of his own time, he still had to think about how long that would be. After a few moments of thought he decided that he would have time to cleaned up and get something to eat before he would need to start getting ready.

*****

Five standard hours and a very bumpy shuttle ride later, they stood on Liberty Island, and looked over the remains of New York harbor. Three miles to the east, seas were frozen, and to the west the lands were scorched.
“Who is this statue of?” Crag asked breaking the silence that had lasted since they had landed.
“I don’t know who it was modeled after, but it was a gift from France a country to the east of here, to the land to the west of us. It was a universal symbol of freedom and democracy.”
“Not so universal, I would guess, I didn’t know what it meant.”
“Yeah.” Brent said with a snort. There was a long silence after that until he finally ask the question he had wanted to ask for over a year. “Why did they do it Crag?”
“Brent as I have said before I do not pretend to know the reasons for many of the things the galactic government does.”
“But they had come to us. They wanted to know more about us, then, then this.” He swept his arms wide in either direction to show the utter destruction.
“I don’t know my friend, but I am glad that I was able to rescue you. I just wish I could have helped more of your people.”
“It was my wedding day, and they stopped the earths rotation, they killed my wife.” He said barely controlling the sobs that were trying to break through.
“They killed many millions more and would have killed you too had I not been here.”
“I know.”
“We must leave soon, that suit was not designed for you, and it is beginning to show signs of malfunctioning.”
Brent looked for the last time at the planet of his birth, and wondered if there would ever be a time when he would feel at home again, and doubted it.

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.

The Measure of a Man

Originally posted on Sept 15, 2008
Download GreatHites 18 Audio
JERRY
By Anima Zabaleta
Find more from her at zabbadabba.com

Jerry knew what was what in the world. Needing employment after high school, he started working construction sites. First as a laborer, then as a concrete form builder, and finally as a carpenter. Jerry had wanted to go college, but when Mary got pregnant, that dream folded, and a 6 day work week became the norm. One day, while cleaning up the job site, he came across a neon green tape measure. He placed it in the roll-around toolbox, thinking that the guy who lost it would have a better chance of finding it there. And there the tape sat for months. January rolled around, and the studs needed to be laid out on the fourth floor. At least it was inside work, and Jerry wasn’t having to run the dry wall crew. Good thing too, because he was on a regular diet of Ibuprofen and cigarettes. Much more heavy lifting and he’d be done for.
Reaching down for his tape, Jer accidentally flipped it off his tool belt, and it plummeted through an unfinished HVAC penetration to the floor below. He sent his apprentice after it, but the hard impact had damaged the spring, and now it would not recoil.
“Dammit, not what I need today; the sparkys will be here to run the electrical tomorrow, and we got to get these walls done. Is that goofy green tape still in the job box? Go get it, and while you’re there, grab me a few Tums.” Jerry and his apprentice started to lay out the new walls, and everything was normal ’til just before break. The apprentice pulled the tape, walking to the projected corner. Jerry watched the numbers, then called out –”Ho…” Double checking the tape, though, he didn’t see numbers, but rather a message: Your girls will marry well. “What the… ”
Jerry blinked, refocusing his eyes; he wouldn’t let his apprentice see the confusion in his face. That’s what he thought –
“Yea, mark it 16’4”. There was minor twinge in his left arm, but he ignored it.
“Come on, let’s eat.” he said, mostly to cover for the strange feeling he was starting to have. He hadn’t really seen that, had he?
“You alright Jer? You don’t look so good…”
“I’ll be ok after break” 30 minutes raced by. Jerry still felt odd, but the walls weren’t going to build themselves, He sent his apprentice out again. And again there was a note: Mary will be ok. Every dimension, there was another reassuring fragment. The house is paid for. The girls will go to college. Your investments are sound. But his anxiety continued to mount, and he was starting to sweat. One last wall and they’d be done. Jerry dreaded looking down. You did a good job. You measured up. Jerry jerked the taped as he collapsed. Now the green tape too, was broken, and wouldn’t recoil.

****** The Measure of a man.
By Jeffrey Hite

“When I joined the priesthood this is not something that I expected to be doing.” Father George Mathews told the interviewer. “I mean there are not many Priests in space, Really there is not much call for them, but I guess I fit the bill.”
“Yes, I thought it was rather odd myself when I got the request to interview you. I didn’t realize it was going to be a very long distance conversation. But there are many people here on earth that know about you and want to know more about what you do. So can you tell us more that about?”
“Most people that work in space are not much on religion. There is a large gap that normally exists, it is almost like you can believe in the science that powers your ship or you can believe in God. I see no reason why there is not room for both. God created the universe and everything in it, even the science that powers your space ship. This is the first half of my message. The second half of my message is helping those who feel called to the faith, but feel that they don’t measure up. Out here with the great vastness of the universe it is very easy to feel very insignificant in the grand scheme of things. There is more to it than that, but those are the two basic concepts.” He paused the recording then thought about his answer. It was going to take more than two hours for him to get the next question, so he tried to anticipate the questions that might be asked in response to his answers.
“There are other things that I do of course. My normal job is to travel along the trade routes, from the inner solar system to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and the stations in the middle. As I near a ship or station or base, I hail them, let them know who I am and ask to come aboard. As part of that, I try to say Mass and hear the confessions of any one who is interested. Some times I am welcomed and some times I am not. In those places I try not to over stay my welcome, but normally when they hear that I am a priest I am at least granted access to board, and offered a meal.”
He thought back to to the last few times he had boarded ships where there was little or no call for him. The last time had been aboard a lunar freighter, There were twenty three passengers, and none of them really wanted to see him, but he could tell that he was needed there.
“Father, welcome to the Waverly. I don’t see why you want to board our ship, we have no need for a priest here, but I will offer you the use of our dining facility, as I am sure your little ship has little in the way of accommodations.”
“Thank you Captain you are kind. My ship suits me fine, but I appreciate your hospitality. You have no one on board that would like to talk to a priest?”
“No Father,” He said with an edge in his voice that made it clear he was uncomfortable with the subject.
“Very well. Will you join me for a meal?”
“Fine but, keep your religion to yourself, or you will be taking your food in a to go bag. Are we clear?” This was a pretty typical response for a nonreligious.
“That is fine with me. I just don’t get to talk to all that many people and it would be unfortunate to be this close to humans and not get a chance to talk to one or two.”
“Well…I can understand that. Our engineer says that you have only the most rudimentary communications” He said leading the way to the galley. “They suit my needs. I have found that it is not what you have, but what you possess inside that counts.”
“Now father I told you about that religion stuff.”
“No offence meant my son, I meant in the mind.” He said tapping his temple with his index finger.
“Oh I see, well yeah I can see that, but it does help to have things around you that make the trip easier to deal with. I mean, when we want to talk to, earth or any of the other space ports we have video and holographic capabilities, and then there is the whole video library that we can view, everything that comes out, in any of the major media outlets we have in a few hours. We all have the latest in sound quality in our cabins. I even found a sound dampening method that prevents the other crew members from having to hear each other, even when they are in adjoining cabins.”
“Very Interesting. How do you socialize, if you can’t hear each other?”
“Oh they have com units if they want to talk to each other, but most of the time, they are either on duty or in their own cabins enjoying the modern amenities. Those can take the place of just about anything.” The rest of the meal was spent on small talk, and news from the inner system. The captain had shown him all of the fancy gadgets that made life better for him, and how they had revolutionize the lives of the space traveler. I had been a dizzying experience. For a long time after that meeting he had thought about the possibilities of the upgrades he could make to his ship. He certainly had the money. His monthly stipend from the Vatican had sat mostly untouched since he left earth ten years before. He had no need for the money here. Maybe it was time to update a little bit. But the he remembered something. When he had been a child on earth, the parish priest, had given a homily one Sunday that, had led him into the religious life in the first place. It had been about another priest that had missed the point. He had collected names and titles and many many objects that meant a great deal to him, but none of them, not a one, brought him closer to God. He started the recording again,
“My primary job here in space is to help others remember that, just because we have the heavens laid out before us, that does not put us on equal footing with God. And no matter what miracles of science, titles or great ships or even fleets we collect, none of of that can bring us any closer. All we need in this life, is inside ourselves. I try to help people understand that, try to get them to use that as their yard stick, when they prepare to measure the value of their lives.” He transmitted the message then. That should answer just about all of their questions he thought.

Creative Commons License The Measure of a Man by Jeffrey Hite is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at greathite.blogspot.com.

The Stars are Bashful

From the beginning of time man has looked to the stars.

Originally Posted Sept 8 2008

Download The Stars are Bashful Audio

“You have got to believe me, you have got to, you don’t understand what is at stake here.”
“Yes, tell me again” the Sgt. said with a smug look on his face. “What is at stake?”
“All of us. They said we would all be a risk if we didn’t stop.”
“If we don’t stop what?” he said the edge returning to his voice.
“Come on we have been through this all ready.”
“All we have been through is this wild story you have told us. You have not told us why you were trying to break into the space center or what you were going to do there.” The Major leaned in closely and spoke in a quiet voice.
“Son, why don’t you start from the beginning again.”
“Look I told you. I was out in the desert about a week ago. At least I think it was a week ago. What year did you say it was?”
“Not now, just keep going.”
“Alright so, I was out there and the next thing I knew the stars kind of winked out. Not one at a time or anything, but all at once. At first I thought I was dreaming but then I heard them talking to me.”
“What are you doing?”
“It was a soft voice very peaceful feeling nothing threatening. So I told it I was out here to look at the stars.”
“Why do you do that?”
“Because they are beautiful, and because we have been trying to reach them since the beginning of time.”
“That is not wise. You are not ready.”
“Me, no, you are right, I have not had any training to go into space, but man I would love to some day.”
“Not just you, your whole race is not ready.”
“The voice changed them some how it became, well, different. So I looked and the face that was looking back at me was not at all human. I can’t really describe it other than to say that it was not human.”
“Your species is not ready to reach for the stars. We have come to warn you.”
“We? Who are you?”
“You do not need to worry, we mean you no harm. But we must warn you. There are things outside the safety of your planet that you are not ready for.”
“What do you mean?”
“You must tell them to stop exploring outer space. We will return when you are ready. We would have come sooner when you first launched yourselves into space, but we did not think you would try so soon and it is a very long journey from our home.”
“We can’t go into space any more?”
“No! Not yet. You are not ready.”
“But we have worked so hard.”
“You are not ready. We will return when you are and help you.”
“Then they were gone.”
“So it was a warning?” The major asked leaning back in his chair.
“Yes.”
“And they did not tell you why, just that we are not ready.”
“That is right.”
“Nothing else.”
“Nope.”
“Ok boys just another nut job who saw a UFO. Take him to the tank for the night and we will figure out what to do with him in the morning.”
“They said ask Glenn what he saw if you want proof.” I screamed as they grabbed my arms. “They said he would have been the first one high enough to see it.”
“What he saw were ice crystals.”
“They said there would be danger with every further launch.”
“Take him away boys.”
*****
“Ten Days later when the shuttle didn’t return, and the sky was suddenly filled with radio static, and no stars could be seen they let me go. From the beginning of time we have looked to the stars, who would have thought they didn’t want us to.”

Witch Hunt

Originally posted on Sept. 1 2008

This weeks prompt comes from: Mode Room Press, at
www.moderoom.com

Describe a witch hunt in a Scottish Village.
with a case of hand grenades.
Such misery is the result of too much sleep!
Two Policeman enter.
While a man in the shadows loads a rifle.


Witch Hunt Audio

Witch Hunt

“You know, there aren’t really any witches in Scotland any more,” I said.
“What are you talking about? Of course there are. What do you think that we have been doing for the last five years?” Matt looked at me with a look of pity.
“For one thing we have been getting wet every Saturday night instead of hanging out in the pub with the guys. And what have we got to show for it?”
“Well there are no witches in this village, that is what we have to show for it. And what do you mean by there are no witches in Scotland? You saw the same report I did just last week.”
We stopped under an eve and waited while two police officers walked by. We weren’t doing anything illegal, but the case of hand grenades that Matt insisted on keeping in the back seat of the car, just in case, was a sure bet to get us in more trouble then we were looking for.
“I saw the report just like you Matt,” I said after they had moved out of ear shot. “But what I didn’t see in there was what those people were doing that was wrong.”
“Sammy, their witches. They are going to be hexing our children and get them to come eat the gingerbread off their houses and then what? Then what will you do?”
“Matt,” I said grabbing his arm as he tried to step out from under the eve. “What are you talking about? That is a fairy tale. Did you read the report? Those people are Wiccan, technically that makes them witches but they don’t cast spells and they don’t have gingerbread houses and they said they just wanted to be left alone. I don’t agree with what they believe in, but they are not hurting anyone.”
“Sammy, they’re witches!” He said rounding on me. “Nothing good can come from them being here!”
“But that does not give us the right to do… to do what? What would we do if we found one? Blow him or her up with one of your grenades? What if they have children?”
“So you admit that there are witches and they have our children!”
“Your not listening to me Matty. I meant their own children. They are humans after all.”
“How can a witch have a child? What do they do, ‘magic’ them out of the fire? Then it would be more of a demon then a child, and we have to rid the world of them too!”
“You didn’t read any of that report at all, nothing after the title.” I sighed deeply. “This brand of witches are men and women, and they don’t do magic, they believe in trees and grass, and they have children of their own just like you and me.”
“Oh Yeah! Well what about that dream? What about the one where they told me to rid the country side of witches?”
“Matt, you had been sick and sleeping for three days. You had a nightmare, that is the only thing that can explain it. It is the only thing that could cause this much Misery.”
“Sam, if you don’t believe me fine, but I am doing to do what I have to do to keep all of us safe. You will thank me when your kids are grown and they have not been roasted and put on the diner table of some witch family.” He stopped then and took something out of his back pack. It was a rectangular box. As he opened it up I knew what it was going to be. He had bought a rifle, the kind you could take apart and put back together.
“Matt, what is that? You have gone off the deep end. You are going to hurt someone with that thing.” He turned to me, his eyes were red with anger.
“Go then!” he said waiving the unassembled barrel at me.
I ran back up the street the way we had come. Within a few moment I bumped into the two police officers, and I made a choice.
“Officers,” I said breathing deeply. “My friend, I think he is in trouble.” I wavered just a moment and then lied. “He must be drunk or something, but he has a gun. You have got to stop him!”