Category Archives: horror

Black Kedo (A Nagasaki Memory)…

Black Kedo – A Nagasaki Memory

When the black rain hit us, we thought we would die.

But we were wrong.

My wife looked up at me as we struggled to breathe.

“Where is Kedo?” she said.

I shrugged, not feeling myself at all.

After the brightness, all the air was sucked out of us.

A piece of cedar from the doorframe was sticking out of my wife’s neck.

I tugged at it, absentmindedly, but she slapped my hand away.

Kedo.

We looked all around the house but couldn’t find our daughter.

Then, finally, we noticed it: a perfect charcoal outline on the south wall of her room.

A shadow burnt into the wood.

We called her Black Kedo.

That was many years ago.

She would be fifty-seven today.

With bent back, I shuffle to the south wall and light some incense.

Happy Birthday, Black Kedo.

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Image by kedoink kedondeng


I Am No One…

I Am No One

Your employee identification number is on the back of your badge in the lower left hand corner. Right here, see?

Some new hires get confused and use the number on the front right corner. That would be your badge number. Now, don’t ever confuse your badge number and your employee ID number; you don’t even want to see how ugly that can get.

Me? I’ve been here…oh, let’s see, coming up on my seventeenth anniversary. Has it been that long?

Lots of changes since I came on. Look here: employee number two forty three.

OK – just a couple of things to get you oriented.

As you’ve probably seen, office attire is business casual. No one really knows where the line is between ‘business casual’ and ‘too casual’. If you have any doubts, ask your line manager. It’s easy to just look around and see what your coworkers are wearing and, well, fit in.

If you don’t stand out, no one can ever criticize you, right?

Now, get all your training out of the way as quickly as possible. I know it can seem overwhelming that you have three hundred and thirty seven Standard Operating Procedures to read and acknowledge in the next week, but just do the best you can. The SOPs are there to ensure we all do things the same way. Otherwise, there’d be chaos, right? Am I right? Sure I am.

Here’s your Intercorporate Behavioral Standards and Guidelines Manual. This is a living document. We’ve added to it continually over the years to account for nearly every conceivable interpersonal interaction and we’ve leveraged what we feel have been the most effective interventions and approaches.

For instance, need help giving feedback to a peer? It’s in here, Section 4.2.1.3a.

Think your kid’s drug problem is affecting your productivity? Just have a look at Chapter 12.

Want to know how to blow off steam at the afternoon spin session in the company gym instead of bringing a high-powered rifle to the office? You got it: it’s in there.

No matter what type of problem you might be facing, if it affects Corporate Productivity – and in the end, don’t they all? – The Manual will provide you with a step-by-step procedure to get back to peak production levels.

I remember when my wife and I were having some issues. See? I’m a manager who takes the training to heart: I can share some of my personal travails with you to show you that I’m as human as you are. It builds rapport and that sort of thing.

Well, as I was saying, a few years back, well, I guess it’s been about eight years now, my wife felt I was spending way too much time here at work. She never really took to the culture, you know? Pity.

It made it hard for me, because I had divided loyalties. I mean – it sounds awful to say this, I know – but I felt more at home here. I’d grown to love the predictability of the culture, the comfort of knowing any confusion could be dispelled by reviewing the relevant SOP. Home was just…uncontrollable.

Well, the folks at the Employee Assistance Program were great. They emphasized the fact that this type of thing was common and blah, blah, blah. Then, the counselor said something that completely illuminated my way forward. She said, “Success is nothing more than a matter of making the right quality choices despite adverse precipitating circumstances.”

I mean, I’d never had someone speak to me in such a straightforward manner before.

Long story short, my wife and kids left, and I’m still here. Obviously.

OK – enough about me.

Let me show you to your workstation. I prefer that term to ‘cubicle’, which has drawn considerable negative connotations in popular culture in recent years.

I know your first few days can be a little overwhelming. I suggest just keeping your eyes open. See what others do and try to blend in.

You want to find that sweet spot between being seen as a slacker and being seen as a show-off. That’s the ticket. Don’t give anyone cause to single you out.

Then, you’ll gradually move up the ladder mostly through attrition. Just hang in there, year after year.

Remember, I’m living proof that borderline operational competence can be successfully counterbalanced by a strict adherence to corporate policy and procedure.

Anyway, welcome aboard.

If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to drop by my workstation. Over there.

The name is Noone.

Spelled just the way it sounds.

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Image by Derrick Tyson


Comfort Me with Apples…

Comfort Me with Apples

Tonight, she was sure of it: she’d been entered.

The stillborns and miscarriages of her recent past mocked her.

In the still of each evening, she heard them cackling and cooing as they romped through the deserted and darkened nursery. Vases occasionally tumbled and shattered.

She saw darting movements out of the corner of her eyes. Sometimes an entire child-image. Other times, just the quick shadow of a tiny foot as it whisked around a corner.

Of  course, he didn’t believe her. Not that he was cold or indifferent. Another man might have deserted her by now, leaving her yoked to barren solitude.

But he tried to make her laugh. To forget.

But they would never let her forget.

Each night in her dreams, she was assailed by tiny, blue faces. Shriveled. Accusing. Milky eyes staring up at her. Small monkey hands that reached up out of her bloodied bedclothes until she sat up screaming and he would comfort her, easing her back down until her bird’s heart returned to normal.

Tonight, another being had warmed itself beside her. Waiting to be invited in.

She put down the potato she was peeling and inhaled deeply. A sweet aroma of ripening apples entered her and she had wept. Another had chosen her.

In the hallway, she heard a picture frame slide down the wall and smash on the hardwood floor.

When he returned from work, she’d told him what had happened and what she wanted to do. He’d listened and agreed, as she knew he would.

She entered his study. He was sitting at his blood red writing table, staring out the window as the sun descended behind the Parliament building.

“Are you ready?” she asked him.

He turned to her and held out a red rose and a tightly wound bundle of sage. “Yes.”

They went to the fireplace and she thrust the sage bundle into the glowing embers. Its musty scent immediately filled the apartment.

“Come,” she said.

They unlocked the nursery door and entered, the smoking sage held out before her in a shaking hand. The end of the sage bundle glowed an unearthly orange in the semi-darkness. The smoke scent mingled with another, more ancient stench of corruption.

She grabbed his hand and strode to the very center of the room, sage held high, and screamed. She ran to each corner and thrust the smoking bundle upward. She demanded to be left alone, to be free of unnamed children.

The walls shook, the floor buckled. And outside, an unnatural orange glow filled the sky.

The woman and the man held each other tightly until the room stopped convulsing.

They walked back to the blood red writing desk in his study.

She draped herself onto his lap and lay back.

She took his hand and pulled it to her waist.

“Here,” she said. “Put your hand here. I smelled apples and then he was living right here.”

The man cradled her stomach and kissed her.

A delicious silence settled on the house as the orange glow faded to purple in the west.

She looked up at him with shining, wet eyes.

“Just like apples,” she said.

________________________________________________________

Today I was at the home of a close friend. We were discussing books and life etc.  Conversation turned to whether or not there were such ‘things’ as individual human souls. I was of the opinion that the notion of  eternal souls is a delusion (not that I am in any way qualified to make such a statement.) My friend told me of her experiences with failed and successful pregnancies and I was fascinated. Moved, I wrote this story.

Image of incredible Chagall painting by Shawn Rossi


Summer of Love…

Summer of Love

When I got your letter about the divorce, I’d already lost my legs.

Now, sitting on this hill looking down at The Cliff House, I’m wondering if coming here to see you is a good idea.

I see you stand up tall, out of your station wagon.

The kids scatter all around your legs and you point at the big rocks completely covered in birdshit.

You have on your big Sharon Tate sunglasses that I love so much. Your yellow sundress billows in that the San Francisco breeze.

You look happy, really happy, with your new family.

It’s so ironic that you’ve come all this way, all the way to California, to get away from me. And I was just up the street at the VA Hospital on Clement Street, not five minutes from where you stand right now.

He puts his arm around your waist. You settle against him. It’s like I’m seeing all this from another dimension – somewhere far away.

I’ve actually been to The Cliff House a couple of times. They wheel us down there from the VA and carry us in. You know, just to get away for a few hours.

We get a few stares. Some of the guys just look down, or over at the birdshit rocks. Me, I just stare right back at them. Until they look away. Boo-fucking-rah.

I see you look around, almost as if you can sense me up here, but of course, that’s impossible. Even in this wheel chair, I can still make myself invisible to a target.

The counselor at the VA thinks I’m dinky dau, but she don’t know shit about shit.

It was really no problem to locate you. Why did you run away? I wouldn’t have hurt you or the kids. You have to know that.

If you don’t want me any more, that’s ok. I’m not going to make a Mongolian clusterfuck out of the situation.

But I have to draw the line at another man taking you on. Not to mention the kids.

It was obvious to me during my last R and R that you’d already checked out and poisoned the kids against me.

But to file papers while they were hacking my legs off in a hot LZ in the Central Highlands? That’s just cold, baby.

This midday heat has me sweating. Snakes of sweat crawl down my stomach and wrap around my scrotum.

You said it would be forever.

It seems, wherever I turn now, there’s no fidelity to promise.

With Nixon and Kissinger, it’s all about peace with honor, and fuck winning the war.

With you, it’s all about understanding how we’ve grown apart. What the fuck does that mean?

The hippies at Golden Gate Park spit on me. I can’t chase ‘em ‘cause I got no legs.

But I do have this sweet little .222 with a scope.

I won’t hurt you or the kids.

Just that guy you seem so hot on.

From up here on the hill, it’s an easy kill.

Once he stands up from behind the station wagon, I should have a wide-open head shot.

C’mon, man.  Binky’s back in the world and ready to play.

Just a little higher and I’ll have you.

C’mon, let me light your fire, man.

I can’t walk or fuck. But this? This is second nature.

Just a little higher.

Right there.

That is just….

Perfect.

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Image by Ed Bierman


The Natural Selection of Gordon Dunlop…

The Natural Selection of Gordon Dunlop

Gordon Dunlop put on his gray jumpsuit, grabbed his push broom, and went out onto the zoo grounds to start his day.

As he passed the administrative offices, he heard the corporate liaison, Larry Hawkins, on the phone discussing the zoo’s finances with somebody.

Gordon took great pains to escape the management’s notice. He hurried past Hawkins’ open door with his head down.

Gordon was changing the bag in the trashcans outside the monkey house when he looked up and saw the new baboon, Aja, staring at him.

He pushed the fallen leaves in front of the monkey house into a pile. He looked up and was shocked to see the baboon mimicking his movements.

Huh. Look at that.

The baboon scratched its ass and continued looking out at Gordon. Unblinking.

Now intrigued, Gordon bent down as if to pick something up off the ground. Aja did the same.

Gordon looked around to see if anyone was watching them. No one he could see.

“Hello there, monkey. What do you think you’re doing?”

Aja stared back.

“I’ll teach you some tricks. Just to pass the time.”

So each morning, Gordon showed up a little earlier and went to the monkey house to work with Aja. He showed the baboon how to unfurl and open the large plastic bags for the trashcans. Aja could perfectly spray window cleaner and wipe it up with a paper towel. The baboon was a fantastic student.
Gordon felt there was nothing Aja couldn’t do.

One day, Larry Hawkins called him into his office.

“Gordon, I wanted to speak with you about the baboon.”

Gordon was sweating although it was a cool morning. “Sir?”

“We’ve noticed your- how shall I put it? – interspecies interaction.”
“Oh dear. Have I done anything wrong?”

Hawkins thrust himself forward and said, “Not at all, Gordon. Corporate actually wants you to step up your activities with the baboon. We feel there’s a chance here to reinvigorate the zoo’s commercial viability.”

Corporate, thought Gordon. Now you’ve done it.

But, for the next few months Gordon taught more and more of his job to the baboon, Aja: the monkey emptied trashcans; he swept the parking lot; he even started punching a time clock, just like Gordon.

The accolades this activity brought to the janitor were frightening at first. But as time went on, he became not only comfortable; he positively reveled in his new found status.

Pictures of Aja and Gordon holding their brooms started showing up on the bulletin board in the employee break room. The local newspaper ran a story on the duo, and thousands came to watch Gordon and his baboon go through their daily motions.

And Gordon was getting raises. Big ones.

One afternoon, Larry Hawkins again called Gordon to his office.

When Gordon entered, Hawkins rose, his hand extended. “Thanks for coming.”

As he approached, Gordon noticed Aja was sitting in the other chair in front of the desk.

Hawkins said, “Gordon, upper management has been ecstatic with the recent income expansion, as you know. You and Aja are a certifiable hit.”

Gordon noticed Aja would not meet his eyes.

“But,” Hawkins continued, “the number-trending indicates this attraction may have maxed out its profit potential. It needs to be re-engineered, so we can leverage what’s working, while re-imagining the matrix and underlying principles.”

“Wha-?”

Aja was fidgeting in his chair.

“What we’re proposing, on just a trial basis, mind you, is that you and Aja…well, switch roles for a week. Think of it as cross training for maximum intercorporate synergy.”

“You want me to sit in a cage like a monkey?”

“Now, Gordon, don’t react emotionally. I need you to be data-driven here. We just want you to let Aja be the lead on the team, if you will.”

Gordon took a moment to try and fully understand what was being asked of him. “I’ll need to sleep on it.”

“Of course. Aja will bring you to the monkey house.”

Gordon’s eyes widened. “Mr. Hawkins, you’re not suggesting I stay there. Sleep there. With the other baboons.”
“Of course! What better way for you to fully understand the role of your coworkers than to walk a mile in their shoes?”

“He’s a monkey! I do all the training. I’m the one who speaks in the interviews. He just copies what I do. I’m the one who can think things through and get the job done. It’s me who’s had this job for the last sixteen years!”

“Now, Gordon_”

“No! I know: let’s have a competition. A sweep-off! I know how to make the decisions as to what needs doing. He can’t do that. You’ll see. Tomorrow. If I clean up better than the baboon, then you forget all about changing roles. We go back to the regular way.”

Hawkins sat back, rubbing his chin. “Could work. It would be an incredible media event. I need to get on the horn to the local papers now. Thanks, Gordon. You’re on.”

Gordon said, “Yes. Tomorrow we’ll see who’s who.” And shot an icy glare at Aja, who returned the look.

That night, Gordon stood in front of his mirror in his dimly lit apartment.

He flexed. He made angry, determined faces.

“Get set, baboon,” he said between clenched teeth. “That corporation ain’t gonna make me sit in the monkey house. Do you hear me?”

He grabbed a broom from a closet and started swinging it wildly about the room.

He thought to himself: I’m a man, godammit.

I’ll beat that stupid ape.

I am John Fucking Henry.

He smashed the mirror with the broom handle.

And for a long time, he stared at his fractured image.

______________________________________________________

I started this post on May 1st, inspired by International Worker’s Day. Ironically, I was starting a new day job and had to fly off to orientation and training and couldn’t finish this until today. But this story is really about the great lesson I learn from writing fiction: Every person who has ever lived, and every character in a piece of fiction, is the central character in their own story, regardless of who I think is the main character. I find it useful to remind myself of this in my everyday life, as well as in my stories.

Photo by Tai Strietman


Night Swim…

Night Swim

Out on the road, somewhere west of Tucumcari, New Mexico my dead son starts speaking to me through the CB.

I’m two days out of Salinas with a trailer full of avocados and Cole says, “Papa, get off  next exit.” Like he’s here in the cab with me. Clear as a fucking bell.

I look at the CB as if I’d never seen one before.

“Papa.”

I reach down and click it off.

“Papa,  next exit.”

My whole body is going cold. My hands are shaking so badly, I’ll be lucky not to jack knife the rig right across Interstate 40.

The therapist AA set me up with said it wasn’t unusual for someone in my situation to have delusions, even hallucinations. Because of withdrawal, you see.

Or it might be that when you kill your kid, he comes back to haunt you.

“Papa turn here.”

Now I’m crying in terror and shame. “Cole? But how? Can you hear me? Cole, I’m so sorry I wasn’t there. I’m -”

“Now Papa!”

I turn off where he says.

I know what lies down this road.

Cole traveled with me a few times.  Janice and I let him take a couple days off from school to head out with the old man and see the world. Just regional hops. But it was a grand adventure to those seven year old eyes.

I remember how he’d just goggle at everything. Took him to the Canyon once. We hiked up over a rise and there it was, all spread out before us. Cole stopped. Didn’t say a word, but just reached out and took my hand. We stood there in the breeze, looking at those vultures riding the isotherms, and taking in all that color and majesty.

And each day I try to find my way back to that time. Because, I know what comes next and I want to make it not come. To do it over.

“Papa, the motel. Go.”

My skin is all gooseflesh. What’s going on? I start seeing Cole’s pale corpse on the seat beside me, out of the corner of my eye.

I won’t look over. I looked at that corpse a year ago, when I awoke after a boozy night to find the EMTs pulling Cole’s limp body out of the swimming pool at the Arrowhead Motel. Now the smell of chlorine makes me wretch.

I haven’t had a drink since that day.

My sobriety wasn’t enough for Janice, though. Can’t blame her, really.

I pull into Ray’s Long Haul. My hands shaking so badly I can hardly steer. I fumble with the door handle and try to push down the thought of a cold, wet hand clutching me before I can get out.

In the bathroom, I splash water on my face and look at myself. Without the booze, I look healthier. But there’s no life in those eyes.

Over the intercom comes Cole’s voice again. “Time to go, Papa. Just a few more miles.”

Can’t anyone else hear this?

I’m losing it. Toys in the attic. That’s all there is to it. I should just go check myself in somewhere until this passes.

Or better yet, I could drive the rig out into the mesa lands and ditch it. Just walk out into the desert and shoot myself under that blaze of stars.

That’s how I’d like to end it: under those stars.

What do you want, Cole? A life for a life? Or would a long life of abject misery do it? Misery for the long haul, unchanged through all the years of my life.

I hide in a stall and sit down, head in my hands. When I look up, the graffiti on the door says it all: PAPA, THE ARROWHEAD.

All right then, Cole. I’m coming. I guess I owe you that much.

When I pull into the Arrowhead, it’s already midnight. A few cars parked in the lot.

I check in and I’m not surprised at all to be in the same room as that night a year ago. I guess Cole has this all figured.

I’m coming son. You can do with me what you will.

I walk past the swimming pool. No one in it. Just checking.

I throw myself into the huge depression in the center of the bed.

Jesus Christ, I wish I had a drink.

I must’ve dropped off, because the next thing I’m aware of is the door to my room clicking shut.

No, it can’t be.

Cole?

My back to the door, I can’t bring myself to turn around. I fix my gaze on the glowing numbers of the alarm clock. 2:45 a.m…

Something climbs into the bed behind me.

Now comes the stench of chlorine.

A thin, white arm drapes across my shoulder.

I reach out and caress the hand.

I realize I am crying now.

“I’m sorry, Cole. I am so sorry!”

“It’s alright,” he says. “Come swim with me, Papa.”

I have to look at him. My son.

I turn, expecting only a dead-fish grayness. Instead, a radiant Cole blinds me.

He leads me down to the pool.

The Arrowhead sign is off for the night. A few crickets. So peaceful.

We slip into the water.

He swims up to me and opens his arms wide. We hold each other tightly as we submerge.

At first I struggle. Only natural, I suppose.

Then, Cole releases me and I sink to the bottom.

I look up at those magnificent New Mexico stars. They send silver shafts dancing into the water all around me.

Peace.

Atonement.

I inhale.

___________________________________________________

Image by Paul Downey


A Little Birthday Horror…

A Little Birthday Horror

The sunlight spilling in through the large bay windows of the Gould’s living room is comforting. Despite my physician’s warnings, I feel I was right to keep working after all that’s happened.

Poor Olivia. They say she’s stable now, but what do they know? They didn’t see what I saw, nor did they hear what I heard that night.

But I need to focus on today’s performance.

I couldn’t leave a traumatized fourteen year-old home alone, so I’ve brought Devin with me. I parked her wheelchair over in the corner, away from all these screaming kids. She remains largely catatonic since the incident, but I can tell when she gets anxious.

The doctors say the trauma of seeing her mother in that hysterical state caused Devin’s mind to go into a sort of hibernation. Of course, they refused to render an opinion on what I told them about Olivia’s, well, growling.

Olivia was irresponsible to pull Devin into her experiments with conjuring. Hindsight, I know.

The birthday girl’s baby sister is Bailey – a one year old. She pulls herself to a standing position by grabbing the spokes of Devin’s wheelchair. She babbles something. My daughter just looks off into space. And drools.

Devin and her wheelchair drew occasional stares at the start of the party, but Mrs. Gould redirected the kids to the magic show. Now all eyes are on me as I move into the meat of my performance.

I ask for a volunteer and, as expected, hands shoot up, vying for my attention. I choose a boy with loose fitting pants. I give him a black marble and ask him to put it into his pocket. I spin the boy around three times, mumbling a phony incantation, and finish with a series of dramatic hand motions. I’ve picked his pocket during the turns and now ask him to produce the marble, and of course, he cannot. The boy looks at the crowd with wide-eyed bewilderment, his arms extended, palms upraised, his shoulders hunched to his ears. I produce the marble from behind his left ear to much applause and an ensuing announcement from Mrs. Gould that they will sing “Happy Birthday” and have cake and ice cream in the adjoining parlor. The children run out, squealing with delight.

I need a cigarette. I go over to Devin, stroke her black hair, and tell her I’ll be back in a moment. Nothing. Mute, vacant. Little Bailey crawls by again, cooing.

Ten minutes later when I reenter the room, it’s obvious someone has vomited. The stench is overpowering. Soldiering on, I ask that the curtains be drawn and candles lit for the finale, in which the birthday girl, Brittany, will produce a rabbit out of a hat. I have the hat set up on a small table with a hole over a box containing the rabbit. Children always love this one, and the candlelit semi-darkness just adds to the drama.

Brittany’s arm descends into the yawning mouth of the top hat. “And now Brittany will amaze you with her new powers!” I announce, looking about the room. There’s a small bustle within the audience, kids looking down smiling, pointing. Bailey crawling through to see her sister’s trick.

“It feels yucky.” Brittany says, rummaging around in the box under the hat. “Oh gross, it’s wet, too.” she says, grimacing.

“Has anyone seen Bailey?” It’s Mrs. Gould.

“And sticky.” Brittany says.

Mrs. Gould is throwing off my timing. I look over at Devin, who is now staring right at me with a demonic grin on her face. Her eyes, like her mother’s that night. And what in God’s name has happened to her teeth?

Where’s the baby!” yells Mrs. Gould, more insistently now.

The smell of the puke and the jumping shadows on the walls are making me sick.

The kids in front jostle as they open up to finally let Bailey through.

But it’s not Bailey.

It’s the white rabbit.

With a small grunt, Brittany finally pulls her prize out of the hat. There’s a beat of silence, and then Mrs. Gould screams as she sees what Brittany is holding.

A candle’s been knocked over and the drapes are burning, sending shadows that look like dancing demons onto the walls.

And now Devin rises slowly from her wheelchair, turns her lizard’s eyes onto the scattering children.

And then she is upon them.

________________________________________

Image by Gabriel S. Delgado


The Couple in the Basement…

The Couple in the Basement   (A love story in three sentences)

The ancient house – dormant, decaying, silent – lies deep in a forest of black trees, undisturbed for a thousand generations, but for skunks and rats that die bloody and wriggling in the jaws of the long-forgotten couple in the basement.

The sudden distant squeals of children invite their attention upward out of the radium gloom and a ball bounces over the stone precipice and pop, pop, pop, lands in his lap.

From deep inside them comes the shadow of an echo of a distant memory displacing endless flesh-hunger with a delicious, warm anticipation of a child’s radiant smile.

_______________________________________________________________

Awesome freaking image by Casey Muir-Taylor

This is one of those images that contains, to me anyway, an endless number of stories.


The Ice Hive…

The Ice Hive

The wind roared outside the tent as Dr. Terry Silva pulled on her boots.

She ran outside to the waiting jeep.

“It’s like a freezer out here,” she said, climbing into the passenger seat. “Is it true what they said about finding the queen?”

Peter Matthews, her graduate assistant, smiled and said, “It’s all true, doc. She’s big, she’s frozen, she’s dormant. Oh, and she’s got about a million workers frozen in there with her.”

“Dormant? Have they verified that? She’s revivable?” If what Peter said was true, she would be completely vindicated. And Russell would have to grovel at her feet.

Peter pulled up in front of a large ice cave. The wind continued to howl and blow snow horizontally. Terry’s eyes were stung with ice crystals. She got out of the jeep and ran into the darkness of the cave.

When her eyes adjusted, she could see people running around in obvious panic.

“What is it?” she asked as a man with a headlamp and wild eyes tried to shove past her.

“She’s thawed! They’re all thawed!” he pushed Terry out of the way and stumbled out of the cave.

Terry felt a panic rising in her gut. If the bees were no longer dormant, they’d be looking for immediate food. There was no telling how long they’d been dormant in the Arctic ice. The scent of human flesh would send them into a feeding frenzy. But who would have thawed them?

Russell.

She staggered further down into the hole. Why had she let him come? Did she want to ensure he would be there in her moment of triumph? To see the look on his face when it was finally her, and not him, bathing in the adulation of the crew?

Terry could now hear the awful buzzing of the giant bees echoing up from deeper in the cave.

She could feel them coming. The air vibrated with the beating of their leathery wings.

From behind her came a small rumble. The ice shelf was unstable. Shifting.

Terry turned to flee the cave but was stopped by the blinding light of someone’s head lamp.

“Leaving so soon, Terry?”

She recognized the voice. “Let me by, Russell.”

“Oh, but I thought you wanted to go down and feed your big, frozen bees.”

“Turn off your head lamp, Russell, so I can see you.”

“Not a chance. I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate all your hard work and research on the possible genesis of the colony. Quite fascinating, really.”

“Russell, everyone knows this is my project. Peter will – “

“Oh, Peter. Yes, well, he had a small accident. National Geo here I come…”

The ice shelf quaked and rumbled. From below them in the cave, Terry could hear the approaching swarm.

“I’ve got the fail safe detonator with me, Russell.”

Russell switched off his head lamp. “My dear, I don’t believe you’d bury us both in this ice just so I could be stopped from stealing your big find.”

Inside the pocket of her parka, Terry pushed the button on the detonator.

There was a bright flash as the magnesium of the thermite charge ignited. Russell was blown forward into Terry and knocked her back toward the darkened hole.

They both turned their head lamps on.

“Light won’t last long,” Russell said.

“Neither will we, you asshole.”

Below them in the darkness, the bees sped upward.

To feed.

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Well, this is one that didn’t quite  work out.  In keeping with the spirit of the blog, I make every effort to get a story out each day. Sometime, life gets in the way of that happening.  The story of the frozen bees will make another appearance in another story. I’m going to keep after it.
Photo by Patrick Wallace


Zombie Wranglers…

Zombie Wranglers

Derek sped after the strays, driving hard around a cactus, down into an arroyo, and finally emerging onto a flat plain. Out here in the open, the strays were no match for the speed of Derek’s horse. But they split up. So Derek chose the one that looked easier to catch: a fat rancher, once.

He threw his lasso and caught the zombie around the neck. Derek knew not to pull too tightly. Out in this heat, the bogeys didn’t stay together too well. And Derek had already been docked two days’ pay for damaging stock. Boss said the venture capitalists only paid for intact zombies. Why? Derek didn’t care.

The zombie struggled fiercely at the end of the static pole Derek had attached to it’s neck. The rope was fine for catching bogeys, but only a static pole or a head shot would keep them off you at this distance.

Riding back into camp, Derek called out, “We’ll need to ride the south fence later on to catch that other stray ‘fore it gets dark.”

“What difference does it make if we lose one?” Roy asked. Being the new guy, Roy had much to learn, in Derek’s opinion. A city boy who’d chosen to come out West for the job opportunities that zombie wrangling represented. Derek had been a wrangler long before the apocalypse. Back when the herds were horses.

“Well Roy,” Derek said, “for one thing, if we lose one it’s gonna come out of our paychecks. For another thing, when we can’t account for all the bogeys in the herd, that means there is a good chance that you might one day be over behind a cactus taking a shit or playing with yourself, and that missing boy’ll come up behind you and take a nice bite out of your ass.”

“Whatever,” Roy mumbled, and walked off toward the mess wagon.

“You think he’ll ever get it?” Manny asked.  Manny was one of the best wranglers Derek had ever worked with.

“He better. Or one day he’ll get one of us killed, sure as your shit stinks.”

Derek grabbed the static pole and pushed the captive zombie into the holding pen then went to the mess wagon for a cup of coffee. He sat down next to Roy on a tan, dusty rock.

“Boy,” Derek said, “I been out in this country my whole life. You don’t even know what you don’t know yet. This country don’t give you no second chances. Them damn zombies are just one more way to die out here. You understand what I’m saying to you?”

Roy looked down at his dusty boots. “You know what I was before I came out here? An accountant. Everything nice and tidy in a spreadsheet. I liked that. Then I watched  my wife and daughter get eaten. I wished I had a gun, been prepared. I might have saved them.  After that, well, there was no reason to stay in Philly. I always wanted to be a cowboy. Get to shoot things.”

They heard Manny scream from the direction of the holding pen. “Shit! I been bit!”

Roy’s face drained white. “Bit?”

But Derek was already up and running. “Manny! That damn thing circle back here already?”

Derek saw Manny’s boots sticking out from behind a rock. He sprinted over, breathless.

Manny’s eyes were wide. He was covered in sweat.

Derek saw no sign of the zombie.

“We gotta get you out of here,” Derek said, staying alert for any movement.

“Snake,” Manny panted. “It was a rattlesnake.”

“OK. Got it.” Derek slashed the wound and started sucking the venom out.

Roy came around the corner, wild-eyed.  He saw Derek sucking on Manny’s arm and said, “Derek, what the fuck are you doing?”

Derek turned to Roy, his mouth bloody, and said, “Now, hold on son -”

Roy put a bullet in Derek’s head and another in Manny’s.

He looked down at them.

There was a shuffling noise behind him.

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Photo by Ashley Campbell


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