Monday, July 27, 2015

My Short Story - The Car

The Car
The car was running,  the driver door was open but nobody was nearby.  Mike was walking down the road when he came across the car. Shivers went up his spine when he saw a dark shadow running into the bushes.  Running might be the wrong word,  it was more like a wounded animal limping into the bushes dragging a heavy weight. It was a moonless night and there were no street lights but Mike was still able to see it.  It was large, and seemed to be covered in hair.  It quickly disappeared from sight and Mike was wondering if he had really seen what he thought he saw.
He walked over to the car and looked inside.  The first thing he noticed was the overbearing smell of musk.  It was so powerful,  almost cutting off his wind.  The car was empty,  except for something on the floor.  He bent down and felt something like a bag.  He picked it up but when he got it out of the car,  he immediately dropped it,  turned and promptly lost his supper.  He just realised that what he had picked up was a human arm,  but without the rest of the body.
A short time later,  Mike was sitting in the back of an ambulance,  repeating for what seemed like the tenth time,  the events of the night.  It seemed so incredulous that even he thought it was far fetched and unbelievable .  He could only imagine what the police thought of his account of what had happened.
Sleep did not come easy that night so the next morning,  he called in sick.  Sitting in front of the tv with a large cup of coffee,  he tuned in the local news to see if there was anything about last night.  The local news anchor glanced over the story,  simply stating that there was a missing person and the police were asking the public for their help in locating her.  There was nothing about the arm,  nor about the strange creature,  or whatever it was. He was starting to doubt what he had actually seen,  it was so dark and everything seemed to be a blur. But no,  he was sure of what he saw.
Feeling refreshed after an invigorating shower,  he left his loft apartment and made his way to the municipal library. After finding the newspaper microfilms, he sat in front of the reader and started to look for anything out of the ordinary.  Three hours later,  he found what he was looking for.  Buried in the last page of the newspaper was an article about a sighting of a strange hairy creature. The tone of the article left no doubt that the author didn't put much credence in the sighting. He made note of the author and left the library on his way to the local newspaper.  
The newspaper office was located on Main Street,  The Dover Gazette.  The small town of Dover had a permanent population of 1,500 but during the summer months,  the population nearly doubled because of all the cottagers spending time by the many lakes nearby. The newspaper had a permanent staff of three and a half.  The half was Mrs. Wensel who had probably  been with the newspaper since inception back in the early 30's.  She normally came in midmorning and left just after lunch,  thus the half person.  She was as tiny as can be but  feisty and you didn't want to get on her bad side. She was a fixture at the office and could recall almost all the newsworthy events in the past 50 years.
Mike opened the old wooden weather beaten door. It let out a screech from hinges that probably hadn't seen a drop of oil since before Mrs. Wensel's  time.  Mrs Wensel was at her desk and gave Mike a cursory glance before returning to the task at hand,  the morning crossword puzzle.  Mike stood there for what seemed like an eternity before she looked up and finally acknowledged his presence. All the townsfolk knew better than to disturb Mrs Wensel while she was doing her crossword. Mike inquired if Joe,  the author of the article was in,  to which she replied yes.  Mike stood there for a minute in silence until she added,  "Did you want to talk to him?"  Mike thought it went without saying but didn't dare say anything for fear of incurring her wrath. "Yes please" he responded. A minute later,  Joe emerged from the back and upon seeing Mike,  flashed a big grin.  Joe and Mike were friends since school started and probably even before then,  having grown up on the same street just two houses down.  But then,  everybody knew everybody else in town,  and Mrs Wensel knew everybody's business.
Joe invited Mike into the small coffee room and after pleasantries were exchanged,  Mike came right to the point.  He detailed the events of the previous night and it was obvious that Joe had some misgivings at first.  When Mike mentioned the previous article that he found in the library archives, Joe got quiet for a minute as he thought back all those years,  trying to recall the events of that day.  "For years,  I thought of what happened and tried to make sense of it" he said "but now,  it only gets more confusing."  
An hour later, Mike was on his way out the door to see old Mr. Evans.  Mr Evans was going on 90 now and Mike hoped that he would be able to recall the events of that night so long ago.  A short time later,  Mike was pounding on Mr Evan's door,  since he was hard of hearing and everybody knew that this was the only way he could know that someone was at the door.  After what seemed like an eternity,  a frail old man opened the door and smiled when he saw Mike.  Mike explained what he was doing there and a few minutes later,  they were both sitting in the parlour discussing at length what Mr Evans saw that night.  Although it was quite a long time ago,  it was obvious that his memory hadn't diminished with time and he vividly recalled the events of that night.  When Mike outlined what he saw the previous night,  minus the body parts,  Mr Evans sat up ramrod and stated that it was the creature.  He went on to tell me about the legend of the creature that was said to live in the woods,  a legend that had obviously not been passed down to the more recent generation.  
Two long hours later and Mike was now making his way to the local police office.  First,  he stopped by the diner for a quick snack and tried not to get into any long winded discussions of what had happened the night before.  This was easier said than done but soon he found himself talking to Bill,  the deputy.  After laying out his theory for the better part of an hour,  Bill sat back,  looked him square in the eyes and said, "Are you shitting me Mike?" . Just then,  Martin walked in the door.  Martin was the Chief and had been with the force for almost 40 years now.  Bill quickly retold the story,  which he thought was full of baloney and was expecting Martin to come to the same conclusion but Martin turned to Mike and asked "Are you sure of what you saw?" . Mike shook his head yes and went on to relay what old Mr Evans had told him.  Martin shocked both of them when he said "I'd heard of that old tale but just never put much faith in it,  it was just a tale we heard when we were growing up back then and everyone thought it was made up to scare us young ones."
"Mike", he said,  "let me think on this.  A sighting is one thing but after what happened last night,  this changes everything. When people start getting hurt,  or dying, then we have to act."
Three days later when Mike was making his way to the office after a particularly heavy lunch at the diner, a convoy of four State Trooper cars were seen slowly driving toward the police office.  Mike stood there for a minute watching the eight State Troopers disappear into the office before heading to work. Mike was sure this had something to do with the creature he saw.  It wasn't long before the phone started ringing and Lacy,  his secretary, was busy gleaning all the gossip she could about what four State Trooper cars would be doing in their small town.  Rumors were running rampant, even UFOs were thrown in for good measure.
The following morning,  Martin was up before sunrise and was having a breakfast of coffee,  orange juice  and muffins.  Although the morning paper was lying on the table beside him,   his mind was elsewhere,  planning the day's activities.  He made his way to the office earlier than normal, the eastern sky just beginning to lighten. Traffic was non-existant at this time of the day, most people still in their beds. There was no hubbub or rush like the big city here, things moved at a much slower pace and that's the way most people who lived here liked it.
Martin opened the door to the office and proceeded to fill the coffee pot. He had just barely turned it on when he heard the front door open. The eight troopers had arrived. Martin showed them to the small coffee room, which doubled as a conference room, interrogation room and any other function that was needed. Once the coffee was poured, Martin sat down and started to layout the day's plan. The plan was to systematically search the wooded area to the north of the city where the car was found. It was a rugged and hilly area but Martin had a good idea of where to search. During the gold rush boom, many tunnels were dug into the hills in the quest for gold. The gold was eventually exhausted and the miners departed, leaving the neighbouring hills pockmarked with many dangerous pits and mines. All the local folk knew about this and had warned their children never to wander into the woods. Also added to this was the tale of the strange creature that would eat you up if ever you wandered into the woods at night.
An hour later, Martin and the possee were making their way along the trail into the woods. Although parents warned their children never to go into the woods, there was still a well worn trail winding its way deep into the forest with plenty of broken beer bottles, cans and empty snack packages. Martin was surprised that there weren't more missing bodies in the woods.
The trail led deep into the forest and then started winding it's way uphill into the foothills. It was still easy going. Martin recognized this part of the trail. He had been up here before, a long time ago when the hills were still safe. He also knew what was waiting for him further up. Martin hadn't said anything about the creature earlier because he was afraid that they would catch him and put him in some sort of freak show. Martin hadn't seen his brother for over 30 years now and he dreaded what he would find in the cave, the cave where he and his brother would play and start little campfires when they were both a lot younger and before the accident that claimed his little brother's sanity.
Martin's mind went back over 50 years to a simpler time,  a time when kids still played outside and weren't engrossed in their XBox or video games.  It was another lazy summer day and it was hot and humid.  Their father gathered up the two boys along with their mother and made their way to the small cabin on the lake. It was their favorite little getaway and every weekend,  they were on the lake either playing a game of badminton,  fishing or just dipping their feet in the cool water.  Martin's little brother,  Sam had just turned 7 and Martin was charged with keeping an eye on him.  Sam was curious,  as any 7 year old would be and always seemed to get into some sort of mischief.  It was all Martin could do to keep his little brother out of trouble.  However,  this day would be different,  this day would remain etched in his mind forever.
It all happened so fast,  Martin turned for what seemed like a second and when he turned back,  his little brother was gone.  It was like he had vanished into thin air.  A feeling of dread hit him like a rock and he started calling for Sam.  Soon he was yelling at the top of his lungs.  His father came running out of the cabin and instinctively ran to the water's edge.  There was little Sam,  lying face down in the water.  There was no movement.  Martin's father jumped in and quickly grabbed little Sam.  A few minutes later,  they were on their way to the local clinic.  Doc Swanson did all he could but when he came out of the back room,  his face told all,  little Sam had gone too long without air and there was some brain damage.  It was still too early to tell how bad it was and only time would reveal the true nature of the brain injury.  
Back home,  little Sam's demeanor changed drastically.  Where once a smart and curious boy had been,  now Sam was slow to catch on and seemed destructive. He regularly went on little rampages thru the house and broke anything he could lay his hands on,  for no other reason than he could. No amount of sweet talk,  discipline or anything else would stop his erratic behavior.  As time went on,  his actions started to become more violent.  This was evident when he hung the cat outside on the clothes line,  he had tortured the poor thing and had cut off its legs.  When Sam turned 17, he left the house one day and was never seen again.  Martin had a good idea where Sam had disappeared to but could never bring himself to tell his parents.  He blamed himself for what had happened.
Martin could tell he was close now,  there were tell tale signs along the trail, garbage strewn haphazardly everywhere and the smell of death.  Just ahead was a small cave opening.  Martin made a sign to the other troopers that what they were after was in that cave.  It was the same cave where Martin would come with his little brother to escape the heat of the long summer.  Martin was surprised that Sam would remember where the cave was.  It had taken them the better part of two hours to reach the cave.  Martin stopped just short of the cave entrance.  He called out to Sam,  hoping for an easy resolution but that wasn't to be the case.  Martin heard feral growls coming from inside the cave and feared the worst,  that his little brother no longer knew him.
Martin suddenly had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach, somehow he knew what the outcome of this day would reveal.  Eight troopers with guns drawn along with Martin heading the pack went into the cave.  What they found turned their stomachs and was too much for two of them as they lost their meager breakfast.  There in the back of the cave was what appeared to be an old man,  almost naked hunched over what appeared to be the remains of a woman.  Martin called Sam but there was no recognition to that name.  Rather,  the creature growled like a wild animal,  lept up in a flash and was almost upon the nearest trooper when a shot rang out. Sam dropped to the ground,  lifeless.  Martin's service revolver was still smoking when he put it back in it's holster. Martin looked down on the lifeless body but there was no recognition of what he saw.
The next day,  Martin was sitting on the deck of the cabin,  a refreshing beer in his hand.  He had been sitting there for over an hour and had yet to take a sip of his beer. His mind was still reflecting over the events of that day,  blaming himself for his little brother's accident so many years before.  There wasn't a night that didn't go by where little Sam would drop into his mind,  a curious and energetic little boy.

The end.

Mikumi National Park - Tanzania

Went for a drive thru the park and had some nice sightings of animals.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

My Short Story - The Attic

The attic was dirty, dusty and it looked like nobody had been there for decades. Mary was about to leave when something caught her eye. She glanced to the right and spotted movement behind the boxes.  When she went to investigate,  she noticed that it was only a mirror and then she felt foolish. Not only did she feel foolish, she also felt guilty, guilty that she was going thru her late father's personal possessions.  She knew it had to be done,  she only wished that she wasn't the one doing it.
Her father, Jim, had recently passed away  and Mary was the eldest child of three. Either way, this task was left to her as both of her sisters lived too far away and still had young children. Mary lived close by, was unmarried and had beeen a regular fixture at the house, looking in on him at least two or three times a week.
Jim was an eccentric little man. He was well travelled and had probably seen every country there was to see, and those few countries that nobody wanted to see as well. It wasn't uncommon for Jim to be followed by a shipment. Now that Mary thought about it, her father had always been secretive when unpacking his crate. The top part of the crate invariably contained trinkets for the girls. They were always at the top of his list. However, oncd the trinkets were unpacked, and handed out, the crate was closed up again and up into the attic it went.
Mary looked around the attic but didn't notice the mysterious crates that her father brought back. That was strange she thought, she remembered the crates coming up but had never seen them come back down. She was sure that there must have been at least 30 crates or more.
Her gaze was once again drawn to the mirror. It was well hidden behind some old cardboard boxes and only the corner was showing. The frame looked gilded in gold but was covered in a thick layer of dust. Mary moved the boxes and pulled it out. It was larger than she had originally thought, maybe three feet by 5 feet long. It was partially covered with a bedsheet.Mary removed the sheet and uncovered what she thought was the most beautul mirror she had ever seen. Where the sheet had covered the frame , there was little or no dust. The frame almost seemed to glow. However, that isn't what caught her eye. It was the mirror. It seemed to shimmer, like it was alive. Mary was about to touch it when she could hear her phone ringing downstairs. She cursed herself for not bringing it up with her. Her job as a realtor meant that that she was on call 24/7 so she ran downstairs to pick it up before it went to voice mail. She just made it and spent the next 20 minutes talking to a prospective buyer.The call was very productive and she quickly forgot the task at hand and returned to her house just down the block and went to work. Scotty, her Maine Coone took up his place in her lap, purring contentedly.
She was totally engrossed in work and just barely heard knocking at the front door. She was just making her way to the door when she heard it open. Only her best friend Harry knocked and then came in uninvited. But then, Harry was more than a friend and had spent many a cold night warming Mary up. She heard his voice calling her name. Harry had a standing invite to come in anytime he wanted. Harry gave her a quick peck on the lips and mentioned that he had been by earlier in the day but that she wasn't around. He knew how demanding her job was and didn't want to disturb her if she was at work, but preferred to take his chances and just drop in. This brought Mary's mind back to the unpleasant task at hand and went on to detail what she had found in the attic. She also mentioned that she found it strange that she didn't see any of the crates there. Harry volunteered to help her the next time she went over to the house, as he knew how painful the memories of her father's passing were. He had wasted away from some unknown disease, and his sickness had been very painful, both for her father and for Mary to watch. Although Jim had been small in stature, he was always in good health with a good physique. Harry knew the emotional toll this had taken on Mary and had tried to support her in every way imaginable. Mary still had some work to do so Harry took his leave and they made a date for the following morning to attack the attic.
The next morning dawned bright with not a cloud in the sky. It looked like summer had finally arrived in upper New England.   Mary made her way to the house and saw Harry sitting on the step, looking pensive. "Good Morning sweetheart" he chirped. She hated the way he called her sweetheart, but overlooked that as his other qualities overshadowed this minor nuisance.  Mary greeted him in her all too familiar "hello jerk". He seemed to love that and smiled. They entered the house together and made their way up to the attic. The house seemed oppressive, empty and lonely.  Since the passing of her mother, the family dinners stopped and with only her father, the house seemed dark and forbidding.
Mary snapped on the light and dust could be seen floating through the air. They set to work moving all the boxes downstairs into the living room which had recently been cleared during the estate sale. Mary had made it clear that everything in the house with the exception of the attic would be sold at the estate sale. The household furnishing held no sentimental value and what did, had already been divided amongst the three girls. However, the attic was a different story. Mary hadn't had the time to go through the attic until now and she knew that many of the more sentimental items would be stored there. She remembered a certain carving of an elephant in an ivory tusk that was prominently displayed on the mantle for many years until the passing of her mother. After her mother passed, Jim had made a clean sweep of the house and everything that reminded him of his wife was quietly stored upstairs.
They made slow progress, Jim supplying the bulk of the manual labour to bring all the boxes, furniture and whatever else there downstairs. It wasn't long before the living room was full and overflowed into the dining room. The dining room was large and there was no fear that everything wouldn't fit.
One of the last items to leave the attic was surprisingly the large mirror that had first caught Mary's eye. When Jim saw it, he too had commented on the beauty of the frame. Jim made his way downstairs with the mirror and Mary went to work hunting out all the small items in the far corners of the atttic. It was over 20 minutes before Jim returned. Mary was so busy that she hadn't realized the amount of time but when she saw him again, she said "What took you so long?". Jim had a puzzled look on his face, "What do you mean?" he said, adding "I just brought the mirror downstairs and came back right away". Mary didn't think more of it and together, they finished removing everything from the attic.
"That's strange", said Mary, "Dad had brought back lots of crates from the far countries that he had visited and yet, I can't seem to find them". Jim looked around and replied "Well sweetheart, there's nothing left up here but cobwebs and God only knows what other little creatures."
They made their way downstairs, closing up the attic behind them. Mary followed Jim into the living room, which was heaped to the ceiling with boxes and odds and ends. Mary looked depressed, she was trying to think how she would clear all of this out within the next two weeks when the house was going up for sale. Jim said, "wait for it, you haven't seen the dining room yet!". When Mary saw all the boxes in the dining room, she had an oppressive feeling of doom.  How was she going to clear all this out she thought within the next two weeks. Mary went on the say to Jim, "but I don't understand, I'm sure dad had crates upstairs. I remember him bringing them up there, and never saw them coming down. Maybe he did it after mom passed". Jim looked at the mounds of boxes and thought that there couldn't possibly be anything else up there. Just then, he looked at the far wall and he suddenly had a strange feeling. "Mary", he said, "the far wall of the dining room seems much further away than what I remember up in the attic". Mary looked up from the boxes and seemed to have suddenly come to the same conclusion, once she was aware of it. "Lets go back up to the attic" she said and together they made their way up.
They stood in the attic near the stairs looking at the far wall.  "It certainly looks closer than in the dining room" Mary said.  Harry went over to the far wall and started exploring.  "It's took dark here to see anything.  The light doesn't seem to reach here" he said.  Mary ran off mumbling something about a flashlight and returned a few moments later with a portable spotlight. "Woah" exclaimed Harry when he turned it on,  "that's some serious candle power! ". Harry went to work examining the wall up close.  After about 15 minutes,  he sat down.  "Sorry sweetheart,  I can't see anything here.  We must have been mistaken ". Once again Mary left muttering something intelligible only to return a few minutes later with a small sledge hammer and a large crowbar. &That wall is definitely not the end of the house& she exclaimed.
Harry took the sledge hammer and crowbar and started tapping on the wall to find the weakest point.  There was no use over exerting yourself he thought to himself. He brought the sledge hammer to bear on what he thought was a weak spot.  The hammer sailed thru the wall to the other side with ease.  Harry looked in and said to Mary &there is a small room behind this wall but everything seems to be covered up under sheets,  I can't see what is there".  He spent the next 15 minutes opening up the wall so they could pass thru easily.
The moment had arrived,  Harry passed her the light and said "after you my dear". Mary entered the small room.  Immediately,  she was overcome by the heavy dust and overpowering smell.  She noticed a light in the middle of the small room with a pull string. Turning on the light,  she was amazed by all the crates,  neatly stacked against the back wall.  They were stacked 5 high to the ceiling and she counted 10 wide,  making for at least 50 crates. Her first thought was despair,  thinking of all the work she now had to do to go thru all of the crates before selling the house.  She had no time for this she thought to herself.  Then curiosity quickly erased that feeling of despair,  wondering what could possibly be in the crates.
The next week was devoted to selling everything in the living room and dining room or dividing the more sentimental items between the three girls order to make room for the crates.  Everything was sold,  except for the mirror.  Both agreed that they would keep the mirror, for now.  Time seemed to escape them and before they knew it,  day's end had arrived.  The crates were brought down and the final count was almost 60 crates.  They were of all sizes,  some small as a bread box and others larger.  Harry didn't mind the small ones and was certainly glad he was in shape for the larger ones,  estimating them weighing almost a hundred pounds.  He wondered how Mary's father had managed to get them up into the attic.  More importantly,  why would he go thru all the trouble of building a false wall to hide them, and why did he keep this a secret from his family.   This was the topic of many a discussion between them after making their discovery. They had decided that Saturday would be crate opening day as they could both devote the entire day to this task.
Saturday dawned bright and by 7, they were at the house. The first crate they opened was one of the smaller ones.  Harry went to use the crowbar but the crates were so well built that there wasn't even a crack to wedge the crowbar in.  After a few minutes,  he noticed screws that seemed to blend in with the wood.  He set to removing the screws,  then cracked the seal on the lid.  &I will let you do the honors on this first one& he said to Mary.  She grabbed the lid and although it resisted a bit,  she lifted it gingerly,  as if she was afraid of what she would find inside.  Whatever it was,  it was well packed in straw.  The straw smelled musty.  She removed some straw and saw a figurine inside,  all black and quite heavy.  The figurine was of some deity, with 6 arms and two heads sitting on some sort of animal that was unrecognizable.  Why would dad go thru all the trouble to hide such a normal little figurine,  which in her mind was quite ugly.
It took the better part of the weekend to finally go thru all the crates. After the fourth crate,  Mary started despairing, more of the same little figurines,  different deities it seemed.  They were all about 10 inches high,  all black and probably made of iron  based on how heavy they seemed, about ten pounds each. Harry looked around the living room,  it seemed as if a bomb had went off, there was straw scattered everywhere, empty crates stacked to the ceiling and then the figurines,  neatly placed against the wall in the dining room.  Mary counted almost 400 figurines,  then a wave of despair washed over her. These figurines must have meant something to her father but what it was escaped her.  She had no emotional attachment to them and the only thing she thought of was how to get rid of them.  It just didn't seem right to throw them out and she knew that no sane individual would buy one at an estate sale,  let alone a garage sale.  They did look old and weathered and wondered if there was some value there.  She decided that she would sleep on it,  deciding what to do with them later.  Harry just said to throw them away but something in the back of her head said otherwise,  and she had learned many years ago to trust her intuition.
Just as she was about to leave the house,  her attention was drawn to the mirror.  Harry was in the other room, cleaning up a few things. She walked up to it and it seemed that her reflection shimmered.  She couldn't explain it but it appeared as if it wasn't her looking at the mirror so much as her reflection looking at her.  She reached out and touched the mirror,  she felt a slight tingle in her finger,  then her arm.  It wasn't an unpleasant sensation,  but somehow she couldn't describe it. She felt compelled to touch it,  as if it was calling to her.  This is crazy she thought and drew her finger back.  She immediately felt something was wrong,  the house was bright with sunlight streaming in and her stomach told her she had passed her normal mealtime.  She glanced at her watch,  but somehow the time didn't register.  No,  that couldn't be,  she looked again,  it said 2 o'clock.  She got up and looked outside,  it was bright daylight.  How could that be,  just a minute ago,  it was dark,  10 at night and they were just about to pack up for the night.
Mary called out for Harry but got no answer.  She reached for her phone and pressed redial.  Harry answered just after the phone rang,  "where were you?" he said with desperation in his voice.  "You just left last night without saying a word and you haven't been answering your phone!  Even the office called me asking about you".  Mary tried to explain that she never left the living room but it seemed to fall on deaf ears,  "I looked all over the house half a dozen times,  you weren't there,  I thought you took it in your mind to go for a walk without telling me.  I waited until sun up and you never came back. Where did you go?"  he asked heatedly. Mary was on the verge of tears,  she was a strong woman but somehow this was almost too much for her.  "I need to talk to you in person" she said,  "meet me at the house after work".
It was 6 o'clock when Mary arrived at the house.  Harry was sitting on the doorstep waiting. She could tell he wasn't in a good mood. Mary tried to explain that she too couldn't explain her absence,  that the next thing she knew,  it was daylight.  When she mentioned the mirror,  Harry stopped her . "That's funny" he said, "I too had a strange feeling when I touched the mirror", "and you were gone for 20 minutes" she added excitedly. "Where is it" he asked and Mary showed him.  
The mirror looked anything but unassuming, it seemed to shimmer.  Mary felt compelled to reach out and touch it,  her fingers just inches from it.  She could feel it pulling her in,  feeling it's energy in her finger tips.  Suddenly,  a heavy weight slammed her hand down and away from the mirror.  She could hear Harry calling her name.  When she looked up,  Harry had a worried look on his face.  "Are you alright?" he asked.  "I called you at least a half-dozen times but it was as if you were on another planet". "Harry, that thing is evil,  get rid of it now" she screamed, "and whatever you do,  don't look at it or touch it!"  Harry turned the mirror so it was facing away from him and as he was walking away,  Mary could have sworn her reflection looked somehow different,  almost like it was another person. A minute later,  she heard a shrill scream followed immediately by the sound of broken glass,  then silence.  Harry came in looking ashen,  " reflection" he said, "just as I was throwing the rock,  my reflection put up its arms, as if to shield itself from the rock". "What was that thing?". "I don't know" Mary answered,  "&but I'm glad it's gone".
That night,  Mary refused to sleep alone and held onto poor Harry  all night.  Neither slept,  the ramifications of what that mirror was weighing heavily on their minds.  Mary tried to remember what trip her father returned from with that mirror but her father was always so secretive with his crates. With the exception of their gifts,  nobody knew what he returned with.
The next day,  Mary called in the office to say she was taking a few days off. She was determined to clear the rest of the house,  especially all those figurines.  After the affair with the mirror,  she was almost afraid of touching the figurines.  She called Harry to grab two of them and putting them in a box in the trunk of the car,  they made their way to an antique dealer in town. They had just stopped at an intersection when they heard a loud bang coming from the back.  As they were both on edge,  Mary screamed and Harry jumped.  Just then,  they saw two kids running after their soccer ball yelling sorry as they ran by.  They both collectively breathed a sigh of relief.
An hour later,  they were in the store, explaining to the owner that they wanted to sell them.  The owner carefully examined the figurine,  turning it over to look for any identifying marks but there were none.  Finally,  he said that for him,  it was probably modern with no intrinsic value.  He was about to hand it back but suddenly stopped.  "Wait one minute" he said.  Mary could see that his demeanor suddenly changed,  he seemed excited.  There was someting he wasn't telling them, she could feel it.  He disappeared into the back and came out no more than a few seconds with a metal file. "Do you mind" he asked,  "this is worthless as art but I think you may have something valuable here". "Not at all" she replied.  The shop keeper took the file and ran it across the bottom back corner.  She could see the change in his expression.  He slowly turned the figurine toward them to reveal a gold color where the file had bit into the soft metal and thru the paint.  "Unless I'm mistaken,  which I seldom am" he said,  "this figurine is gold! It weighs about 10 pounds so on today's market,  it would be worth about $200,000." Mary looked at him in disbelief,  more like dumbfounded.  "Are you sure" she asked, her mouth suddenly dry.  He replied "pretty sure but I'll double check".  He disappeared into the back and returned a minute later, "I just tested it,  this is pure 24k gold.  Did you say you had more of these?". Mary looked at Harry, then started to laugh almost uncontrollably,  "oh yes," she replied,  "about 400 more!". I don't know where they came from but I know what I'm doing with them thought Mary to herself.

The End.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Short Story - The Stranger

When Rick got home, there was a woman he had never seen before sunbathing in his back yard. She was sitting in the lawn chair with her back to Rick so she did not know he was there.  Rick was a bit perplexed to say the least, not to say that he minded.  He had always fantazied that something like this would happen and here it was,  true.  She had long brown hair and was wearing a very respectable  two piece bathing suit. Rick didn't know how to approach this situation so he did the only thing that came to mind,  he cleared his throat.  
Rick was about to turn forty with a slight paunch and greying hair.  He knew what the ravages of time would do to his body so he tried to keep in shape as much as possible,  jogging a couple of miles every morning followed by an intense workout in the basement on the universal weight machine.  Rick had a decent job,  making decent money with lots of friends but the right girl just hadn't come along yet. Sure,  he had lots of dates and lots of lady friends but none that he really wanted to settle down with.  To be honest he thought,  he enjoyed his bachelor life just fine.
Rick's mind was going a hundred miles an hour,  trying to figure out who this woman was but for the life of him,  he just couldn't figure it out.  When she jumped up out of the chair and came running toward him,  he still drew a blank.  Suddenly,  she runs up to him,  puts her arms around him and says, "uncle Ricky, how are you? ". It suddenly came to him and he drew her in with a big hug and a kiss and replied,  "Jessica,  it's been so long,  i didn't recognize you ". Jessica was his neice from his older sister and he hadn't seen her since she was 3 years old as they lived in Australia.
"Jessica ", Rick said,  "it is so nice to see you,  what are you doing here?  Where is your mother?"."Didn't you get my letter? " she asked.  Obviously Rick hadn't else he would have been a bit more prepared for this.  "No" he replied slightly confused now.  Jessica went on about how she had received a job offer here in Seattle and knowing her Uncle Ricky lived there thought that she could camp out in his house until she got settled in.  
After a long conversation catching up on family,  Rick excused himself and went in to change into something more casual and returned with a couple of cold beers.  Jessica had returned to the chair and was sunning herself again when Rick returned.  He pulled up a chair beside her and handed her the beer which she took with delight.  "I've been thirsty ever since i got off the plane " she said and then took a long swig.  Rick let her enjoy her first swig before saying "I'm so happy to see you again Jessica, you are most welcome to stay here as long as you want. Let me show you to the spare room and I'll put a few steaks on the barbie, as you call it". Rick loved to hear Jessica talk,  her accent was so pronounced.  
Jessica was 23 years old and had just finished Unie as she called it,  with a degree in Commerce.  She had landed a job with the local investment firm and insisted that she would only stay as long as it took to find an apartment in town.  Rick replied that she was more than welcome to stay as long as she wanted as the house was big and lonely.
The next morning,  Rick awoke to the smell of bacon.  After performing his morning routine,  he dressed and made his way down the narrow steps of the century house and found Jessica at the table with a cup of coffee and the morning paper.  "Morning uncle Ricky", she said,  "I hope you don't mind but i made breakfast. " Of course he didn't mind only wishing that she wasn't his niece.  After a very satisfying breakfast and leaving the spare key with Jessica,  Rick hopped on his Budnitz FTB29 and made his way to the office.  Rick was not one to overindulge but his bicycle was his baby. Weighing in at just 4.4 pounds with a bullet proof internal transmission and massive 29 inch tires,  people stopped and took notice when he drove by.  For the life of him,  he couldn't understand the need for a bulletproof transmission but it certainly was a conversation piece. Coming in at just over $8,000, he has justified the purchase as saving on gas,  parking and a host of other expenses.  However,  he never let the bike unattended for fear it would take legs and walk.  At the office,  the bike enjoyed special status on the far wall.
It was a short ride downtown to the bank where he was the manager.  His mind returned to Jessica,  hoping that she would find whatever she needed in the house.  Mind you,  she had started out well,  making a superb breakfast that Rick still savored over.  She said that she had a couple of weeks before she needed to start work and would take the time to settle in,  find a place and do what was needed. At lunch,  Rick called the house but there was no answer.  He wondered where she could be but quickly dismissed the thought as he knew she had a lot of things to do,  especially coming from Australia.
Jessica settled in nicely and Rick enjoyed having company in the house,  it made for a less lonely existence,  having company to share his meals with.  Rick should have clued in that there still wasn't a letter to announce Jessica's arrival and his calls to his sister in Adelaide went unanswered.  Even messages he left on the machine weren't returned,  but he quickly dismissed these and figured his sister was out traveling as she often did.  
Two weeks passed and still no letter or word back from his sister.  However,  Jessica was the quintessential house guest who was absolutely no trouble at all and most times,  he didn't even know she was there.  
It was a Thursday when Rick returned from work a bit earlier than usual.  It was such a nice day that he had decided to quit early, change into his riding clothes and head off into the foothills for a bit of off-road biking. The weather was clear and warm with no chance of showers today.  Rick immediately sensed something was different when he stepped foot in the house. He stood there for a minute but couldn't quite put his foot on in,  something was off but what was it?  He wondered if Jessica was home, called her but received no response.  No, it was all in his overactive mind he surmised.  He quickly ran upstairs to change but stopped at the top of the stairs when he caught sight of something out of the corner of his eyes.  He turned but before he could react,  the lights went out.  He could almost hear his skull crack from the blow to the side of the head.
When Rick came to,  he had a pounding headache and couldn't comprehend what had happened. He tried to sit up but then came to the awful realization that his hands and feet were bound to something. It was pitch black with not the slightest hint of light so he didn't know where he was.  A feeling of dread immediately filled his stomach, what is happening he asked himself. Different scenarios went thru his mind.  Was this related to his job at the bank he wondered?  Were they after the safe combination!  It didn't matter because the safe required two people with different combinations to open it,  and neither knew both.  No,  the bank was safe he thought,  but then he added,  he wasn't! Then his thoughts went out to Jessica,  worried that she might be in danger when she returned home.  Where is she?.. he thought to himself.  He went to cry out but thought better of it,  thinking that whoever did this to him might still be in the house,  if that's where he still was.  It was so dark he thought,  his head ached and his mouth was parched.  How long had he been here he asked himself and then thought that it couldn't have been too long as he wasn't hungry. His mind kicked into survival mode,  testing his binds,  feeling around as much as he could to figure out where he was.  
His hands were tied together on the other side of a smooth metal pole,  "I'm in the basement" he thought to himself.  It must be night out,  but it was too dark to tell.  Whoever did this to him must have covered up the small windows.  He just lay there for what seemed like an eternity,  trying to come up with a plausible explanation for what was happening. There was nothing,  then he drifted off to sleep.
Jessica finally made her way back to the house late that day.  She had been out getting a car.  It was a small van with no windows in the back,  the type that delivery drivers used.  It was a nondescript van,  brown with a few dings here and there, the type of vehicle that didn't stand out in a crowd.  The sun was just setting when she finally walked up the steps to the house.  Rick's bike was leaning up against the house,  Jessica thought to herself that anyone could have stolen the bike so she brought it in the house. She would have to have words about this.
The house was dim and quiet when she entered and made her way to the kitchen,  opening the fridge for a cool beer.  She had just sat down when she glimpsed movement in the living room.  She got up and walked into the room when suddenly she was grabbed from behind,  quite roughly she thought.  She tried to turn but was prevented from doing so and then she felt his lips on her neck.  Revulsion was the first thing that came to mind, "Oh Billy, stop" she whispered .  Billy let go of her and she turned to face a young pimple faced young man. "How many times do I have to tell you not to do that,  it creeps me out" she added in a soft voice.  "Where is he?" She added.  Billy pointed down the stairs,  "I hit him with the baseball bat" he chuckled,  "went out like a light". "Did you get the van?"  he asked.  Jessica looked at him with disdain and nodded yes,  while giving him the finger as well.  "I hope you didn't hurt him Billy McAlister or I'll clock you one. You know the rules,  we're not supposed to hurt him".  Billy wasn't her most favorite person and she hated being near him. She had known Billy since grade school and he had red flaming hair,  a pierced nose and sported several tattoos,  just the type of person that would stick out in someone's mind.  
Rick awoke hungry and thirsty,  thinking it was either late at night or early morning.  He tested his bonds again and they were still  there he thought to himself.  He felt them with his mouth and tongue, they weren't rope he thought but zip ties. He wondered if he could somehow chew through them and free himself.  Then what?.. he  thought to himself,  the only way out was through the kitchen.  He had heard the floor squeek several times and knew someone was up there,  how many he could not tell. Well,  he had to try he said to himself.  
After several attempts,  he managed to stand,  holding onto the pole for balance.  He was still light headed from that wack on the head and took a few deep breaths to ward off the nausea. This is the pole that supports the main floor he thought to himself.  During the house renovations, he had noticed excessive settlement and had placed this jack here,  among others to support the main floor. A thought came to him just then and he felt up the pole.  There it was,  right where he had left it.  It was the lever used for turning the screw on the jack.  Rick tested it but it held firm.  Rick remembered when he put the jack in place, the force needed to lift the floor back up. There was no way he would be able to loosen it given that his hands were tied and he couldn't get the much-needed leverage. He sat back down,  dizzy from the slight exertion,  he needed to think. After a short rest,  Rick got up again.  He braced himself the best he could,  grabbed the lever and put everything he had into it.  It moved slightly,  or had it?  Was it just his imagination he thought.  Once again,  tired from the exertion,  he sat down to rest.  Ten minutes later,  he got up again,  braced himself the best he could, grabbed the lever and put everything he had into it.  It moved,  this time he was sure,  he managed to turn it a quarter turn.  Suddenly reinvigorated,  he moved his hands and started turning the lever. Escape he thought.  How to get out and call the police was going through his mind. The lever turned a whole turn and he could feel it getting progressively easier. Freedom was just a minute away he thought.  He knew exactly where the tool bench was and was going over in his mind his to cut his binds.  Just then,  he froze.  The door to the basement opened and a dim light tried it's best to light up the large basement area.  Rick dropped to the floor and  tried to assume the same position when he awoke.
It was 2 o'clock in the morning when Jessica asked Billy if it was time to go.  Billy looked at his watch,  shrugged his shoulders and said "well,  it's as good a time as ever,  let's get this show on the road".  Billy went into the kitchen and retrieved his backpack.  From it,  he took out a black balaclava and put it on.  Then he took out a pair of handcuffs and started for the basement.  He turned the light on but only one very dim bulb lit up in the far corner of the basement,  just the way he wanted it.  He wasn't taking any chances that some recognizable feature of him might stand out.  He made his way to the pole where Rick was tied up, it was difficult to see anything in the dim light. When he saw the light come on,  Rick slumped to the floor,  feigning sleep. He would use everything in his power to gain the advantage,  somehow he thought.
Billy descended the stairs slowly and carefully.  That one light bulb wasn't doing much to illuminate the basement but then,  that's the way Billy had arranged it.  He made his way slowly to where Rick was lying on the floor,  kicking him when he arrived.  That'll wake him up he thought. Rick felt like his rib cage cracked.  He yelled in pain. "Good, you're up" Billy said in as coarse a voice that he could muster.  Billy helped him up and in a very methodical manner,  put the handcuffs on Rick all the while cutting the zip ties without giving Rick any chance of retaliation. He then cut the foot ties and guided Rick up the stairs. "What do you want with me?"  Rick asked.  Any,  and all questions he asked were met with a mute silence.
When they reached the top of the stairs, Billy stopped him and slid a hood over his head.  Rick's heart dropped,  fearing the worst and not knowing why this was happening.
Rick was guided outside and he heard the van doors opening.  He was led inside and seated facing the back.  Billy closed the doors and got in the side door,  sitting directly behind him.  He whispered not to move or try anything funny,  otherwise he would get another wack on the head.  Then he whispered something in Rick's ear that gave him shivers up his spine.  "Don't worry" he said,  "it's going to be over sooner than you think and you won't feel a thing". He heard the van start and back out of the driveway.  At this time of night,  everyone was asleep and nobody would see the van leaving.  He was doomed he thought. It seemed like forever that they were driving around,  Rick had lost all sense of which direction they were going.  Facing backward with a hood over your head didn't help matters either.
The van stopped,  and Rick had a sudden feeling of dread.  Billy got out and a minute later,  the rear doors opened.  He felt a soft hand on his arm,  unsure of who it was or where he was being led. "Where are you taking me? What do you want?"  he asked but was met with silence. On they walked for what seemed like an hour but was probably only a few minutes.  He heard a door open and was led inside,  told to sit down and be quiet.  Then he heard whispers from the other side of the room but couldn't make out what was being said.  He sat there quietly for at least 10 minutes,  according to his internal clock, wondering what kind of torture they were planning.  Everything imaginable was going thru his mind, it was racing at 100 miles per hour.  

Suddenly he felt a presence near him.  Was he imagining it?  He felt hands on his shoulder,  then a whisper in his ear,  "don't move,  don't say a word,  I'm going to take the handcuffs  off now". The voice was a woman's voice but he didn't recognize it.  The handcuffs were unlocked and removed.  Then she put both of her hands on his shoulders and said "don't move,  this isn't going to hurt a bit". Was that chuckling he heard?  The hood was removed quickly and bright light flooded into his eyes,  causing him to squint. Then he heard a loud chorus of voices sing out "happy birthday Rick! ". For a minute,  Rick couldn't comprehend what was going on until his eyes adjusted to the light and he saw the big banner "Happy Birthday Rick" with a logo underneath. The room was full of his nearest and dearest friends and front and center was Jessica and his sister whom he hadn't seen for the longest time.  She came up to him and gave him a big kiss and hug and whispered in his ear,  "I hope you enjoyed your gift from Extreme Kidnapping".

Sunday, July 19, 2015

My short story - The Road

The Road The road ahead was straight as far as the eye could see and deserted. Tauni has just changed the tape in the 8-track when the engine light came on. In the darkness, it glowed bright and red. "Damn" said Tauni out loud as she pulled over to the side of the road. Silence engulfed her when she turned the car off, silence except for a hissing sound and then the smell of steam. She knew what that meant, a burst radiator hose which meant she wasn't going anywhere fast anytime soon. She stepped outside in the crisp cool air and popped the hood. She could tell right away it was bad, water was gushing onto the engine block and steaming. ☺

 Tauni looked around. It was well past midnight with a full moon. It was dead calm, and silent. She had never encountered such silence outdoors before. The stars shone brightly, she might have appreciated the beauty of the Sonora Desert under different circumstances. Tauni tried to remember the last time she had seen another car but couldn't remember. She looked around but there was nothing to see but dry scrub brush. She kept looking up the road but to her dismay, there weren't any lights coming her way. Suddenly, Tauni had a feeling of dread, she remembered that fork in the road a couple of hours ago and veered left, and then she thought what if she had taken the wrong road? ☺

 Well, it was no use thinking of the worse, she knew that someone would eventually come by, after all, this looked like a relatively well maintained road. She got back inside her car, put her four ways on, reclined the seat as far as it would go and settled in for the night. The air was cool so she draped her jacket over her and 5 minutes later, the only sound in the night was Tauni snoring.☺

 Treforma Enterprises was a world renowned company specializing in development of new biomedical implants and were on the cutting edge of robotics, paralysis nerve regeneration and replacement limbs. Their research promised new hope for amputees, state of the art limbs that looked almost indistinguishable from the real limb, and fluid movement. What they were less known for was the other research that was carried on. For this reason, they had chosen a location out in the desert far from prying eyes and completely isolated. Only one road came in and after construction was completed, fell into disuse as all supplies now came in by cargo flight on their private runway. ☺

 Jinn Sooling walked into the control room housing all the feeds from the various security cameras placed around the perimeter. The cameras were also strategically placed along the main road in fake cactii, bushes and rocks. The alarm had sounded when the motion detectors had sensed Tauni's car. Jinn had a fair view of the car sitting on the side of the road, it's four way blinkers flashing away at regular intervals. He noted the hood was raised but the car was too far away to see how many people were in the car. The last car that had accidentally come this far had been a retired couple on their way back from Las Vegas and had taken a wrong turn. That was 3 months ago, and they were never heard from again. Local news had maintained a vigil looking for the elderly couple. Jinn wasn't going to take any chances, eventually someone would come looking for the car or the driver would find a way to repair it. Jinn returned to his office, giving the guards instructions to keep a close watch on the car. ☺

 Morning dawned bright, it was going to be a scorcher thought Tauni. She took stock of her supplies, meagre as they were, a half bottle of mineral water and a bag of pretzels. Not much she thought, but then she was confident that someone would drive by eventually, after all the road seemed well used so it was only a matter of time before somebody drove by. By noon, Tauni was getting worried, she hadn't seen anyone, or anything. She had gone thru her water and all that was left of the pretzels were crumbs. The sun was beating down on car and she was sure it was over 100 in the shade. ☺ 

The sun was close to setting and she could feel the air getting cooler. For a moment she thought of walking out but in her high heels, and knowing it was almost 2 hours of driving to the fork in the road, she knew she would never make it. Surely, someone would drive by she hoped as she drifted off, lips parched and her stomach mumbling loud groans of hunger. ☺

 By the third day, Tauni had all but given hope of anyone driving by. At this point, she had gone almost three days without food and water. Her lips were cracked and bleeding, her stomach was past rebelling and there was only a sharp pain everytime she moved. She kept drifting in and out of consciousness, thinking that she would surely die out here. The car battery had long since died and with it went the four way flashers. When she was conscious, which wasn't for long, she could feel her eyes rolling into the back of her head. She thought she saw a shadow across her face and for a minute became lucid again. Then she realized it was a vulture that had perched on her open door. She used the last of her energy to shoo it away, then fell back into the dark void, knowing that the end was near. Jinn Sooling looked pensively at the monitor, the car covered in a layer of dust. The guard had said there had not been any movement of the occupant for over 24 hours now. Jinn thought nobody could survive that long in the desert heat. He picked up the phone, dialed a number and spoke into the mouthpiece. Minutes later, a black Chevy Suburban with heavily tinted windows was seen on the monitors leaving the compound driving down the road. It would take another two hours to reach the broken down car. ☺

 Tauni was drifting in and out of consciousness, she was dreaming that she was being lifted and placed in an air conditioned vehicle. That was the last thing she remembered. ☺

 Tauni opened her eyes, her thoat dry, her lips cracked and bleeding, blisters on the parts of her body that had been exposed to the relentless desert sun. Everything was fuzzy and out of focus but it looked like she was in a room, white, sterile. There was an IV drip in her right arm, the clock on the wall read 9:15, morning or evening she couldn't tell as the room had no windows. She noted the surveillance camera in the corner and tried to raise her arm but she was still too weak. She drifted back to sleep. ☺

 Jinn Sooling looked at the surveillance camera where Tauni's car had been. Now, there was nothing but road. Her car had been removed and brought back to the facility, as Jinn called it. He also made sure to tell his men to thoroughly clean any, and all debris left behind. They had been meticulous, even washing the pavement where the radiator coolant had leaked, leaving nothing behind. All trace of Tauni's existence on the road had now been erased. Tauni awoke again, feeling groggy. She could barely retain consciousness, her arms and legs feeling like dead weight. She tried to raise her head but didn't have the strength to do so. Before losing consciousness again, she noted the walls around her were green and not the sterile white she had seen before. ☺

 Treforma Enterprise's facility sat in the middle of the vast Sonora desert in Western New Mexico. Only one road led in and signs were strategically placed at the entrance warning visitors away. The signs worked for the most part but occasionally, stray cars would come ambling up the road, their drivers oblivious to their surroundings. For the most part, they would turn around after an hour or so of not seeing anything but on occasion, one or two would continue onward. They were seldom seen again. Treforma was very secretive in the location of the facility and there were no signs advertising their location. Even the shareholders were not aware of it, apart from one line expertly camouflaged in the annual fiscal report for contributions. Jinn ran a tight ship, employees were sworn to secrecy and anyone divulging company operations were dealt with harshly. The last person trying to contact the media now became a permanent part of a new bridge footing, forever encased in concrete. Jinn made sure that rumour of their fellow employee's treachery made it back to his workers. ☺

 Tauni came out of consciousness, more alert than she had been in a long time. She noted a man sitting in a chair beside her bed. He was Asian, good looking she thought, and looked about 50 or so. "Where am I?" she whispered. Jinn explained in a soft, soothing voice that they had found her near dead in her car out in the desert. He continued that this was aresearch facility, dedicated to finding different uses for traditional herbs and plants. He told her that she needed her rest and that she was in capable hands. Just then, a nurse entered, asking her how she felt. Tauni had almost finished when the nurse went to her drip, inserted a needle into it and then she could feel herself drifting off again. ☺

 The next time she awoke, she saw that the room was different again. Jinn was sitting beside her again. She felt something was wrong but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. She wiggled her fingers and toes and sensed movement, or did she? Something was wrong, she tried to lift her head but was still unable to. Jinn told her that her recovery was coming along good, that she would be up soon. Tauni started to get worried, she felt strange, her limbs heavy, she tried to move them but it seemed like they were dead weight. "In due time" said Jinn. He could see Jinn pat her arm but she didn't feel it. Terror ran thru her. She tried to move but her body seemed to be rebelling, refusing to move. Once again, she saw the nurse come in and administer something in her IV. She tried to ask her not to but before the words came out, she was out again. ☺

 Once again, Tauni came to but this time was different. She was sitting upright, supported in what seemed to be a custom wheelchair that supported her head. Her legs were bandaged mid thigh and both of her arms were also bandaged just below the elbow. It wasn't the bandages that worried her but the fact that when she looked at her hands, they weren't hers. She was also not alone in the room, there were about a dozen or so or people as well. What immediately caught her attention was the large scars just below the elbows and mid-thigh, like her. They also had alook of despair in their eyes. The eldest made his way over to her and introduced himself, James, he called himself. What he said next would curdle her blood, "welcome to guinea pig hell" he said. "I've been here for three years and there is no going home". Tauni saw him reach over and touch her arm but she didn't feel anything.