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.”

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rush the Stage – Short Poem

Rush the stage
And fight your way
Through tempest of the sea

This ocean
Raging, churning
Oh, how it beckons thee!

Rush the stage
In foaming waves
Look straight up to see

Close enough to touch him
You could almost wash his feet!

And every night he battles
And everyone he slays
Establishing his kingdom
All that he surveys

Til fateful day
When vice he takes
It takes him instead

Behold the king has fallen
The mighty king is dead!

Then darkness falls upon the land
As Fate reveals again

Despite their righteous powers
Rock gods are mortal men

Another Man’s Treasure – Short Story

The sun reflected hot off grimy windshields and dented chrome bumpers, its glare causing him to avert his gaze to the ground as he walked. Already, his boots were soaked with dew and the back of his shirt clung heavy with sweat. The sky was cloudless and windless and, although it was still early morning, the air was thick with humidity; today was going to be a scorcher.

Gary didn’t mind the beating sun. Without breeze, sunlight was the only thing that kept the mosquitoes at bay. Had it been overcast, the bloodsuckers would be everywhere and they were hellacious this year.

He crunched his way through gravel and broken glass and long, wet weeds past row after row of broken down cars and crumpled trucks. He sauntered with the relaxed, easy gait of a man who knew exactly where he was and what he was looking for. He had been around junkyards for most of his 58 years and he felt more comfortable in places like these than anywhere else on Earth.

In his hand was a dirty backpack of tools and, when he reached the vehicle he wanted, he rummaged through the bag for a wrench and a can of penetrating oil.

Tentatively, he pried the car’s hood open. Wasps liked to build nests in old cars and he wasn’t interested in being swarmed if he could help it. But the wasps must have chosen another car to call home so he propped the hood and set his sites on the car’s alternator. The bolts that held it were rusty and old and set in their ways but his hands were strong and he was patient. He wrenched and sprayed and wrenched some more and, after fifteen minutes or so, he held the part in his hand.

He removed his baseball cap, wiped a slick, dirty arm across his forehead, and looked around. The place hadn’t changed a bit since he’d been here last and this realization brought him some comfort. Gary had seen enough change lately to last him a while.

Beyond the sea of shimmering hoods near the yard’s entrance stood the old familiar white trailer with the word OFFICE spray painted sloppily across the front of it. To its left was a once-proud Peterbilt semi that had been rusting away since the 70’s. A huge oak towered over the eastern fenceline of the lot, a section of the chain link swallowed up where the tree had grown around it.

He placed the alternator, its bolts, and his tools into the backpack and lit a cigarette. Smoke was also helpful for keeping mosquitoes away and he had been bitten a few times now.

It was time to go.

As he walked his mind inevitably turned to Kathy.

Gary had realized she was mean-spirited the first day he met her; she had laughed in his face. But he was a small man and poor and he knew he wasn’t much to look at. On those occasions when a woman took notice of him, he was eager to please. Negative attention, he had decided long ago, was better than no attention at all.

Now, he thought back to that night. It was less than a year ago but it felt like five. He had been drinking  beer in a small, rural bar not far from where he stood now. He had a decent buzz going but he had a high tolerance and a person wouldn’t know he’d been drinking by talking with him.

Kathy, on the other hand, was demolished. She sat bellowing and cackling at a table with two of her girlfriends from work. She was loud and stupid and raunchy and the fat that hung from her arms and neck jiggled as she laughed, her pig eyes bright with liquor and animosity.

Even from where he stood at the bar on the other side of the room, he could hear her louder than anyone else even though the place was packed. The bartender gave him an eye-roll but he was busy mixing drinks and pouring taps and not about to contend with some obnoxious cow, especially one who was shelling out the money she was on vodka sours.

Kathy’s friends made feeble attempts to laugh along with her for a while though it was clear they were embarrassed. As the night went on, she got louder and meaner and they gave up trying, escaping into their phones. Sometimes, they looked up from their screens to exchange uncomfortable glances while Kathy raged on obliviously.

Gary wasn’t the first victim to walk by her table on his way to the bathroom. She had honed her harassment skills on other unfortunates all night. By the time it was his turn, she felt herself a master of the craft.

“Who the hell are you supposed to be?” she demanded, “a gold miner?” She laughed forced and loud but her eyes didn’t smile and he knew he wasn’t being laughed with.

He stopped and smiled nervously. “No…I’m…just a mechanic.”

“A mechanic?” she sneered. “Well, I guess that explains those clothes!” Then, she laughed heartily while her friends typed manically into their phones. “What’s this all about?” she asked gesturing at her face. “You never heard of a razor?”

“I…uh…I guess I forgot to shave today,” he said.

He left her there roaring and escaped into the bathroom where he looked himself over in the mirror. It was the first time he had really looked at his reflection in days. Weeks, maybe. His beard was gray and full; it nearly reached his belt. He’d been growing it for years and was quite proud of it though he’d deny that if anyone asked. She was right about his clothes. He wore a greasy flannel and filthy jeans. An oil-stained Schlitz baseball cap sat atop his head and he looked like a man who didn’t have a home.

He sighed and left the bathroom. Kathy’s friends were now standing and saying their goodbyes. Kathy was talking fast and begging them to stay but it was clear they wanted out and, within seconds, they had made their getaway.

Suddenly friendless, she turned to him.

“Don’t just stand there, Prospector, have a seat,” she commanded and Gary did was he was told. “Those bitches couldn’t make it ’til eleven o’clock,” she spat. “Are you a lightweight too?”

“I can hold my own,” he said softly.

She sat back and appraised him coolly. “Go get us some drinks and let’s find out.”

He spent that night in her bed and, in the morning, he patted her forehead with a damp cloth while she heaved violently into a trash can. Throughout the day he made her food and brought her Diet Cokes and doted over her until she was through the worst of it. Then they started drinking again in her living room.

He stayed another night.

There was never a conversation about him moving in, it just happened that way. Kathy was the assistant manager at a convenience store down the block from their apartment and, in time, she decided that being a grease monkey was filthy work for filthy people. She had him start working for her at the gas station instead.

She cheated on him every chance she got until she finally told him that she wanted him out. She had charmed someone new who would be moving in and taking his place. Gary didn’t put up a fight. He didn’t know if he was supposed to feel devastated or relieved. Truth be told, he didn’t feel much about it at all.

He ascended the metal steps into the office trailer and laid his backpack on the desk. Then, he flipped the “Closed” sign in the window to “Open”.

It was good to be home.