Departure – Short Story

Deep in the heart of the Amazon Basin the jungle is so dense, the canopy so thick, that a person could walk ten feet from a blaze orange battleship and never see it.

It was here that Sheldon Dayleon found himself perilously lost. His native guide had wandered off and misjudged the treacherous terrain. He was swallowed by quicksand with Sheldon clueless as to his whereabouts. For hours, Sheldon had called to no reply and eventually reached the grim conclusion that he had been deliberately abandoned.

Sheldon was no adventurer and it was to his credit he had survived this long, living off questionable-looking berries and insects and the flesh of snakes he was able to catch unawares and bludgeon with a stone.

His compass had disappeared when he tried to cross the river. Frantically scrambling for air, he was tossed about mercilessly by the current which was far more rapid than it had appeared from shore. It carried him a mile downstream before he was able to free himself from its clutches clawing his way to the opposite bank exhausted and relieved.

That was two days ago.

Still, Sheldon remained the blissful optimist hacking his way through the jungle with reckless abandon and whistling to keep his spirits up. After his unfortunate encounter with the river, he retained his machete, his canteen, and one waterproof canister of wooden matches. For the matches he was particularly grateful, fire kept night creatures at bay. Still, even sunny Sheldon had to admit, it was troubling that only five remained.

Unbeknownst to him, he was traveling in a loose, meandering oval. He tried to use the sun and stars to guide him but the earth spins and the sky changes and he had no idea how to adjust his path accordingly. Overhead, the vegetation was so lush that he often couldn’t see the sky at all. All the same, he crashed on telling himself that things would work out as they always do and willing away fearful voices when they whispered in his head.

But by Day 6 of his adventure he was ragged and stumbling and no longer able to whistle. It was impossible to sleep in the rain forest. Not daring to let his fire smolder out, he awoke frequently throughout the night. Each morning he was jolted to life by the loud chattering calls of unfamiliar birds and every day he walked and hacked and walked some more which he was physically ill-prepared for.  He was also eating very little which took its toll as his days in the jungle accumulated.

Sheldon’s tank was running dry.

Leaning against a tree, he found himself sweating and exhausted in the afternoon heat but unwilling to sit. If he left his feet, standing again would be difficult.

An object in motion.

Aimlessly, he lashed out with his machete but the blade struck something solid and ricocheted with such force that it flew end-over-end from his hand. He experienced a moment of panic but fortunately saw where it had flipped into the foliage and was able to retrieve it without much difficulty.

He fanned open the greenery and discovered behind it an insurmountable wall of gray stone. It climbed to the heavens, at least 150 feet, maybe higher. Stunned, he staggered backwards and stared, his mouth agape.

What on Earth?

He followed the wall slowly with his hands until it ended at a corner. Carefully, he rounded the bend feeling his away along the cool, flat surface until suddenly the foliage broke before him giving way to a clearing of perhaps fifty yards square. He wandered into the opening and beheld a massive structure that appeared very much like the Mayan ruins he had seen in Cancun.

Reeling, he stumbled several steps back almost as awed by the massive clearing as he was by the building itself. It had been almost a week since he had seen this much daylight.

At the center of the temple, steep steps laid before him leading to the top of the structure. Under normal circumstances, he would have ascended but he had used the last of his energy fighting his way through the brush to where he now stood and he sank to his knees and then to his side. Within seconds he was sleeping.

He awoke hours later judging by the receding daylight to find himself hungry and dumbfounded all over again by the massive structure that stood before him. As he sat there, legs stretched out before him, a male voice boomed from atop the temple startling him badly.

“SHANTALA QUI CETE OLAGO!”

Sheldon scrambled to his feet eyes darting about trying to locate the speaker. He had learned a few key words when he was in Mexico but was hardly fluent and he had no idea what the voice was saying or if this tongue was even Spanish. It was the first voice he’d heard other than his own in days.

“Uh…no habla,” he croaked. “Me…American,” he said jabbing his thumb into his chest. “Sorry, I don’t know what you’re saying.”

“This is holy ground!” the voice replied in English without a trace of accent. “You are standing on holy ground!”

“I’m sorry, Sir,” Sheldon said backing away, “I’m lost. I…don’t know where I am.”

For long moments there was no response. Then a figure materialized at the top of the steps. It stood, bright and lithe, looking down at him and then descended as though it were floating, not taking the steps at all. Sheldon gawked.

When it reached the ground, Sheldon could see this was an ancient man who looked like a shaman or some sort of witch doctor. He was shirtless and wore a sort of loin cloth. He was draped with necklaces of beads and bones and feathers, his hair jet black and his face crisscrossed with so many wrinkles he may have been 100 years old. Still, he moved with the grace of an athlete and his eyes were bright and alert. He was standing before him in seconds.

“Sir, I’m sorry,” stammered Sheldon, “I didn’t know-”

The shaman cut him off with a wave of his hand and stood staring at him. Sheldon fidgeted uncomfortably.

“You are the one of whom the prophecies foretold,” the old man said finally. “You will come with us.”

“I think maybe you’ve got the wrong guy,” said Sheldon. “I’m an American…a tourist.”

The old man reached out and, obediently, Sheldon took his hand. Together, they floated back to the temple and up the stone stairs. When they reached the top, Sheldon saw a vertical circle of bright light hovering on the roof of the pyramid. The old man gestured towards it and Sheldon stepped in.

He vanished and the old man followed.

The light shimmered and disappeared.

 

 

 

 

 

The Hit – Short Story

Vince clenched my shirt collar and pulled me close. “This is not complicated,” he said, slipping the vial into my shirt pocket and giving it a friendly pat. “You dump this into his drink then get the hell out of there.”

His face was up in mine but my heart was pumping hard and his voice sounded far away.

“You calmly serve the drinks,” he growled low. “Tell them you’ll be back with their food, walk slowly through the kitchen, down the hall, and out the back door. You’ll find me right here with the engine running and we’ll be drinking on a beach in Mexico before anyone knows what happened.”

“And you’re sure it will kill him? There’s no way it could just make him sick?”

“He’ll be stone dead,” he assured me. “There’s enough in that vial to kill everybody in the building.”

A sudden wave of anxiety threatened to overwhelm me.”Why can’t you do it?”

But we’d been over this many times. Fitzgerald and his cronies knew Vince. None of them had seen me before.

“How do you know he won’t drop dead on the spot? Shit Vince, there are guns around Fitzgerald all the time. What if he…you know…what if he…faceplants when I’m still standing there?”

“It’s a slow moving poison,” he said. “It takes at least ten minutes to kick in but when it does…”

He let the sentence hang, we both knew the ending.

*************************************

It was busy that night and the kitchen was an asylum. In the dining room, customers were celebratory and ordering weird menu items many of us had never seen ordered before. Ingredients were running low, tempers were running high, and I was oblivious, consumed by the morbid task at hand.

My shift had begun at 6:00 but it wasn’t until much later that Fitzgerald and his pack of goons finally strolled into the restaurant. I was taking orders from a family of four when the gangsters filed by me reeking of cigars and expensive cologne. My knee bumped the table and a glass of water almost tumbled off the edge. Apologizing over my shoulder, I fled through the kitchen doors.

Rodney was standing in front of me looking concerned. “You feeling all right?” he asked me. “You look strung out, Man.”

“Why? What makes you say that?”

“Cause Man, you look like shit! You’re all pasty and sweaty looking. You look wasted or hungover or something. You’re not supposed to start partying until after work.”

My heart was thumping so hard it was making me nauseous.

“That reminds me, you still owe me for Saturday,” he said. “Fifty bucks.”

“Ok. Ok, yeah,” I said ducking into the bathroom. In the mirror, it was clear that Rodney wasn’t lying. My shirt looked like it had come out of the washer and never been dried. It had to go.

There were extras hanging from a hook in the hallway behind the kitchen. They were for emergencies in case someone spilled wine or spaghetti down the front of themselves. I put one on and hustled back towards the dining room.

“Margaret’s swiping your table, bro,” Rodney said casually as he brushed by me, heading outside for a smoke.

My table!

Spinning through the cacophony of the kitchen dodging waitresses and busboys and bursting into the dining room, I spotted Margaret, her dazzling smile in overdrive as she wrote down food orders from Fitzgerald and his men.

They already had their drinks.

Margaret laughed at one of their suggestive comments then headed for the kitchen where she was promptly intercepted by me.

“That’s my section!” I said. “You stole my table!”

Margaret blinked and her thousand watt smile dimmed. She considered feigning ignorance but playing dumb wasn’t going to fly and she knew it. It was a bad habit she had, taking other servers’ wealthy looking customers, and a big table like this had proven too much for her to resist.

She nodded meekly and shuffled into the kitchen to place their orders before relinquishing the table to me. The spring in her step was gone.

“I’ll split it with you,” I told her as the kitchen doors swung shut behind her and she smiled weakly at me through the window.

Just hang here until Fitzgerald needs a refill.

I waited with my arms crossed by the kitchen door ignoring my other tables while servers and bus boys sailed back and forth from the kitchen. My best opportunity had slipped by and I wasn’t going to miss another one. Already, my back was slick. This shirt would soon be unwearable too.

After five minutes or so, the time had come.

“Another drink, gentlemen?”

They barked orders while I scribbled. Fitzgerald wanted brandy.

The bar was a madman so I helped Stan with the drinks. My hands trembled as I reached for the vial.

It was gone.

It must have fallen out of my pocket when I was changing-

My shirt.

Frantically, I wove through the crowded dining room and into the battlefield kitchen spinning, avoiding bodies, and willing my way through the chaos. When I reached the hallway, I sprinted.

The hook was empty.

But it had been hanging right there. Right there! That was right where I had left it.

Mesmerized, I didn’t see the back door open.

“I don’t know how you got so wrecked off that shit,”Rodney said tossing me the vial and rubbing his nose. “That coke is trash.”

***************************************

 

This story is a response to the  one-word prompt Complicated.

 

Now try this: The Installer – Short Story

 

 

 

 

Goodnight, Ugbert – Really Short Story

Mama noticed I was crying when she came to tuck me in.

“Papa said I was unusual,” I told her.

She sat on the side of the bed and caressed my face, drying my tears. “That wasn’t a very nice thing for Papa to say, was it?”

I shook my head. She sighed and looked at me for long minutes ruffling my hair and petting my face.

“Just remember this when you have children,” she said. “Remember that words can hurt too.”

I nodded and she sang me a lullaby. Then she smiled and said, “You know, Papa wasn’t wrong. You really are a weird little bastard.”

I drifted off to sleep. Mama always knew just what to say.

Peyote Justice – Short story

The second we hit the field, the heads started bouncing around in the trunk like shoes in a dryer. After 10 or 20 yards, it really wore my balls thin. I said, “Keep it down back there! Are you insane?”

The heads were the heads of the heads of a dangerous drug cartel. Except for one of the heads which came from a guy who may or may not have been an innocent bystander. It’s hard to say for sure when flamethrowers are involved. Things move fast in a drive-by.

Jackie said she clearly saw at least thirty-five automatic weapons trained on us when the SHTF but I think she might have miscounted. I only saw none. But you don’t take chances with serious drug lords. I torched and decapitated them, it was the only way to be certain.

Julio disposed of the charcoaled bodies for us but he couldn’t handle the heads, something about dental records. I wound up grabbing them by the hairdos and tossing them into the LeSabre. I figured they would keep while I decided where to stash them but they were so damn noisy.

I needed to get rid of them.

When the LeSabre’s transmission fell out on the Gonzales’ back 40, I knew I had to act fast.  I drop-kicked the first head as far as I could which, I was surprised to find, wasn’t very far. I heard that old familiar sound, the one you hear when you break those tiny bones in the tops of your feet and decided to throw the rest by hand.

I made it my goal to get the heads to the palm tree line since I didn’t want them found. I tossed them like a world-class discus thrower, spinning and spinning and letting them fly. One of the head’s ears came off in my hand and it didn’t fly as far as the others but I played it cool, folding the ear into my back pocket like a fifty dollar bill.

Jackie sprawled out on the hood watching clouds drift by the full moon. She tore the filter off a Virginia Slim and fired it with a wooden match.
“Should we go to Reno?” she asked lustfully.

I matched her smoldering desirability with some forbidden seduction of my own. “I hear it’s nice in Tijiuana,” I growled.

Passionately, she exhaled a bunch of sexy smoke. “The one gentleman didn’t do anything,” she said.  “He was an innocent bystander.”

“It’s too bad,” I said. “Did you see where he landed?”

“He sailed over to the left,” she said waving a casual finger in a general direction.

“I’ll find him. He can come with us,” I told her.

And I set out for the trees.

 

 

 

 

 

The Installer – Short Story

Clint had been driving for at least an hour when he finally reached his destination: Fire Number 7835, County Rd I. He stopped at the red sign at the end of a long, gravel driveway and compared the address with his paperwork. Satisfied he had found the right place, he turned in and accelerated up a rutted, gravel incline bouncing along  with his tool boxes as the van made the ascent.

The narrow path snaked its way through a dense woods and more than once he had to crank the steering wheel to avoid a particularly large rock or a wicked pothole, the van clattering and jostling him about in protest. When he finally crested the summit, the woods gave way to an open field and, in its midst, stood a run-down trailer house and a rusting pole barn.

What’s he got to protect? He wondered. Chickens?

He put the van in park and killed the engine. His clipboard was upside-down on the floor. It read: Ten Cameras – Ten Motion Sensors – Ten Floodlights – Two Control Pads

They should have sent two of us, this is a huge job.

He piled out of the vehicle and stretched. Then he put on his cap and pulled open the van’s  sliding door. As he leaned in to grab a tub of equipment, he heard a man’s voice behind him low and clear.

“I need you to put your hands on your head and take two steps backwards for me,” it said.

Clint froze. He slowly turned and looked over his shoulder. Standing maybe ten feet away was a wild-eyed old man holding a twin barreled shotgun.

He did as he was told.

“That’s good,” said the old man. “Now, I want you to drop to your knees. Very, very slowly.”

Clint sunk slowly to his knees facing the van, his heart beating fast.

“Here from the security company, are you?” asked the old man.

“Yes sir,” Clint said. His mouth was dry. “Pine County Security Systems.”

The old man paused and said, “I can read the van, son. How do I know you’re who you say you are?”

Clint said nothing.

“Don’t think I know what you folks are up to?” spat the old man. “You don’t think I notice all the helicopters and them bright lights in the sky day and night?”

“Sir, I just-”

“I see vans just like this one every single day! Every day! Some say plumbers on ’em, some say electrical, some say satellite TV. They got agents everywhere. YOU are everywhere!”

Clint could hear the man pacing behind him in a loose semicircle. He thought it best to stay quiet and let him calm down. Nothing good could come from riling him up further. From the trailer, came the distant chatter of a police scanner.

“I got cameras all over this place,” the old man said. “Everywhere. You look over there in them trees and I got ’em all around us. I see you guys sneaking around in my woods at night. I see you trying to get to my well and I got bugs too. Listenin’ devices so I can hear you talking. I know what frequencies you use and I listen. I’m on to you people.”

“Sir, you called us. I’m just here to-”

“Martial law is what they’re after, do you know that? Do you even know who you work for, son? They’ll herd you up too. We’ll all be living in the rail cars and you won’t be any safer than the rest of us. They’re weakenin’ our minds with fluoride in the water but they can’t get to mine, I got a well!”

The old man was pacing faster now.

“They poison us with chemtrails. They’ll come for the guns next and, when they get ’em, martial law! That’s what FEMA is for. Do you even know who you’re working for?”

“Sir, I’m just here to install your security system. You called us.” The old man didn’t answer so Clint continued. “Sir, I can show you. I can show you the gear…the security equipment…or…or you can call the office. I can give you the number. It’s on the the van.”

The old man stopped pacing. He stood and did nothing for at least a minute and Clint began to wonder if he was going to kill him right there.

“Do you have photo ID?” the old man said finally, calmer now.

Clint exhaled slowly. “I do. I have a photo ID. It has my picture and my name and the company and I can give you a number to call. You can call the office and they can clear this all up, Sir. They can verify it’s me, that I’m who I say I am.” He waited a few seconds and added carefully, “We can’t stay here all day, Sir.”

The old man thought about this for a while and reluctantly said, “All right. You get your ID but I want you to go SLOW when you do it. Do you understand me? Where is it?”

“Yes Sir, I do,” Clint said. “I understand completely. It’s in my right pants pocket. I’ll get it and I’ll lay it on the ground and put my hands right back on my head.”

“You should only need one hand to fetch it.”

“Hand,” Clint said, correcting himself. “I’ll put my hand right back on my head.”

“See to it that you do,” said the old man.

Clint took a deep breath then rolled to his right with deceptive speed pulling a handgun from his waistband as he did so. The old man squeezed the trigger but the shotgun missed wide left and, with surgical precision, Clint fired three bullets into his chest. He was blown backwards and hit the ground like a sack of fertilizer.

Clint climbed to his feet and brushed himself off. Casually, he unloaded another round into the old man’s forehead.

He laid the smoking gun on the hood of the van and unclipped a walkie-talkie from the sun visor.

“Homeschool, he said. “This is Installer Six. Target has been neutralized.”

************************

Now try this: Of Blue Blood and Enchantment – Short Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Red Pyramid – Friday Fictioneers

Just a bit further now but the humans were close behind. He pushed himself, limping clumsily across the wooden bridge. He was faster in water than on land and, if he could just reach the lake, he would lose them.

He watched in horror as the roof of the red pyramid in the distance began to unfold.

“Wait!” he cried. “No, wait!”

His legs burned as he tried to run faster but it was too late.

The ship hovered momentarily over the pyramid then whooshed away.

Just like that, it was gone.

And he was abandoned on this planet alone.

******************************

Now try this: Agnes and the Dealer – Short Story

 

 

 

Of Blue Blood and Enchantment – Short Story

Bradley Carlisle was a bully but it wasn’t emotional or physical abuse that had made him this way. To the contrary, he’d been pampered and idolized all his life.

After all, he was a Carlisle.

It was said that his ancestors were among the elites of the elite who sailed over on the Mayflower from the old country. Whether this was true, Bradley cared not one whit. He didn’t depend on ancient history to grasp his social value. His chiseled features, wavy blonde hair, and already muscular build were evidence of his superior genetics and, as the only Carlisle offspring, the substantial family fortune would one day belong to him. Amongst his peers, his alpha status had never once been challenged.

Shannon Cook was a witch. She knew it in her heart and, though she’d never cast a spell that worked, she felt the magic within. She had discovered the Craft in a library book back in her hometown. Spells, Enchantments, and High Incantations the tome was called and she read it cover to cover, memorizing as she went.

Gangly and flat-chested, Shannon wore thick, heavy glasses that were in continual need of adjustment as they slid down her nose. She had thin, stringy hair that hung limply to the sides of her face in long, brown ponytails held by pink rubber bands.

Her intelligence, she had come to discover, was a blessing and a curse. It afforded her the chance to skip a grade and landed her in this highly touted prep school but, in doing so, it also put her in league with children who were older, savvier, and more physically developed than she.

The students at this new school wore uniforms and for that she was grateful because it spared her the effort of trying to conjure up some sort of style. Still, she spoke with the distinct non-accent of the upper Midwest and it was quickly apparent to anyone who conversed with her that she was nothing more than a scrub from flyover country.

It was the first hour of the first day of eighth grade and, as fate would have it, she found herself sitting directly in front of Bradley Carlisle. He marked her as a target instantly and since they were both there a full ten minutes before the bell, he was free to begin his inquisition. Students began filing in, in chattering groups of twos and threes. Often, they would stop mid-sentence to eyeball her as they made their way to their seats.

“Are you new?” he demanded.

She turned around and was momentarily speechless, he was a beautiful boy.

“I…uh…yes. We…just moved here…in the summer. I’m Shannon,” she said. “Shannon Cook.”

He sat back and didn’t bother replying. After a few seconds, he deliberately ogled her chest until she turned away, flushed and humiliated. A couple rows back, a girl tittered.

When the bell rang after class, he breezed by her joining the crush of kids pouring from the classroom into the hall. All eyes fixated on him but he seemed to ignore everyone. She found herself gawking along with the others until he vanished from sight. He was so beautiful even if he was mean.

That was the last time he spoke to her for months. As the school year went on she almost hoped he’d torment her again but she may as well have been a houseplant for all the attention he paid her.

Then, late one Friday afternoon as she was rearranging her locker, she saw someone approach peripherally. When she turned to see who it was, there he stood right beside her. Bradley Carlisle was standing at her locker!

Her heart raced.

“Hey Shannon,” he said warmly and immediately her eyes darted about to see who was watching. This had to be some sort of set up. But there was no one around, just the two of them. Everyone else,  it seemed, was gone for the weekend.

“Uh….hi,” she said nervously. What do you want?

“So…a few of us are going to the beach Saturday and I thought maybe you’d like to come?” he said.

She shut her locker but didn’t turn to face him focusing her gaze on her closed locker door instead. “I don’t really like the beach…thanks though,” she replied softly.

She began to turn away from him but he caught her arm and said, “well, maybe we could go downtown or to a…museum or…the library or something.” He was trying to think. “What do you like to do?”

Now, she knew it was a trap but like every other kid in school, she lacked the courage to challenge him.

“I like all of those things. I…I just don’t really like the beach.”

He seemed to mull that over and she hazarded a glance at him.

He could be a model.

“Well…” he said, “maybe I could call you or text you or something and we can figure something out. Do you think I could get your number?”

Here it was. His goal was to get her number.

But why?

She briefly considered giving him a fake but decided against it and he punched her number into his phone as she recited the digits.

“Thanks!” he said, “We’ll see you this weekend.”

With that, he walked away and she was left standing at her locker suspicious and confused and giddy in spite of herself.

That night her phone rang and her heart leapt in her chest.

Unknown Caller

She waited and answered on the third ring. “Hello?” she said.

“Yeah…is this Shannon?” asked a male voice. “Shannon Cook?”

“Yes,” she said.

There was a pause and then, “I’d like The Special.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “The what?”

“The Special. Can I get The Special?” asked the voice.
“The…Special?” Shannon asked.

“Yeah, you know…The Special,” the voice said. He emphasized the word.

“I…think you must have the wrong number,” Shannon told him.

“But,” said the voice, “this is Shannon Cook, right?”

“Yes…”

“You don’t know what The Special is?” he asked.

“No…”
There was a pause and the line went dead.

She sat staring at the phone in her hand for a few seconds when it rang again.

Unknown Caller

“Hello?”

“Yeah, hey…” a different man’s voice this time, “is this Shannon Cook…?”

“Yes.”

“I’d like to order The Special,” he said.

By the third call, she had disabled her ringer and, when she checked on Sunday night, she had received 37 voice messages and twice as many texts. All of them referenced The Special but one. In the midst of the texts was a message that simply read: CLICK ME in blue font.

Under normal circumstances, she’d never click a link to anything from a random text but these were decidedly not normal circumstances and she thought she had a pretty good idea whose phone it had come from.

The site was repulsive. A dark internet page for sickos who were into kiddie porn. The pictures were so graphic and awful it took a second to process what she was seeing.

As she was about to close the page in disgust she saw her name. It was next to a photo of a young girl who was clearly not her performing an act she had never even heard of before. Under the photo were the words: “Ask for The Special” and beneath that, was her phone number.

***************************

Bradley Carlisle was bored in his room when his phone vibrated.

Shannon Cook

He answered eagerly.

“Hey, Shannon!” he said happily, “How’s it going?”

“Magick powers, I summon thee!” she exclaimed. “Dark sorceries beyond…!”

He listened confused as she yammered on nonsensically. He couldn’t understand the words and, by the time the phone went dead, he had forgotten all about it.

And all about Shannon.

In fact, the only thing on his mind as he hopped across the bedroom floor was finding some nice, tasty mosquitoes for supper.

**********************************

Now try this: The Red Pyramid – Friday Fictioneers