Saturday, 25 September 2010
Sean Webster walked down the long white corridor. He knew where the end of the hallway led to. The execution chamber. It just dawned on him that this would be the last walk that he would ever take. From this point on, the last anything he would ever do. He walked with two guards on either side of him and one behind him. His wrists were shackled in front of him with a long chain that connected to two other shackles around his ankles. Little baby steps were all he could take. Not much movement when everything was chained together.
For eighteen years, Sean sat on death row. He always thought that it was funny how one could commit such a heinous crime, get sentenced to death and wait decades later before the deed was done. Nothing but politics. If the state was going to execute someone, do it and get it over with, he thought.
Sean could remember the exact day, time, and even second that he would commit the crime that would decide his fate. The one wrong move that got him in this very situation. It was his Melissa. His sweet girlfriend – hoping to one day be his wife – Melissa. The perfect woman that he had admired for five years. He had always thought that it was a good relationship and he thought she felt the same, until he found the messages. It was the letters. The text messages. Even emails. This guy named, Randy, that she was seeing. Sean didn't know him. Never heard of the guy. Probably a coworker or someone she met at the coffee shop that she liked going to. Sean decided to question his beloved girlfriend about his findings and she just ended up getting pissed and say, “Why you snooping in my business?”
He was the one asking the questions, not her. He never expected her to be a cheater. He always thought she was better than that. Apparently not.
Sean just often sat and thought about what he did wrong on his part. Nothing. Not a thing. He tried to be the best person he could be for her. For some reason, she wasn't having that anymore. Enough was enough, he thought.
He followed her to this guy's apartment. Knocked on the door and shot them both in cold blood. Yes, blasted them down like they were a couple of rabid animals. No second thought, or holding back at any point. And that was what Sean's biggest mistake was. He wished for almost twenty years now that he could go back in time and stop what he had done. Just should have broken up with her and let the two have each other. But, no, he let his anger get the best of him. Now look where it got him. He was going to die the same way that they did. By a bullet. Four bullets to be exact. He would sit in a death chamber and face a firing squad.
Sean and the three guards came to a large steel door. Sean's heart started to beat faster as he knew what was on the other side. The guard on his left opened the door and the other two with Sean walked in. Standing in the middle of the execution chamber was the warden, Sam Lawson. He stood in his nice navy blue suit and light hair parted to the side with both hands behind his back. Sean looked down when he saw him and then looked to his right against the back wall. It was such a sight. A huge dark wooden chair. Sand bags were stacked about five feet high behind the chair to prevent the bullets from ricocheting around the cinder block room. The death chair, as many had called it. Anyone who sat in it was surely not getting up again.
The three guards walked Sean over to the chair and sat him down. Sean looked over to his right. A long dark green curtain ran along the wall. He knew what was on the other side. The people that were going to watch him be put to death. He could sense them. He could feel their anger and hatred toward him seeping in through the cinder block wall that separated him from the witnesses.
One of the guards squatted down at Sean's feet and secured two leather straps around his ankles. He pulled and checked to make sure they were nice and tight. The other guard secured the wrists in the same fashion. A big long strap came around his upper torso and locked on the right side. As the guards checked and double checked again Sean looked straight ahead at the wall in front of him. There were five small squares cut out of the wall.
Sean knew that was were the five shooters stood waiting to take his life. Four live rounds and one blank would be fired at his heart. The blank was placed in one of the rifles so the shooters wouldn't know if they had fired the deadly round or not.
After the guards were done strapping him to the chair, there was one last order of business. The target that the shooters would be aiming for was pinned over Sean's heart. After that was done, they stepped back and the warden walked over and pulled the curtain to reveal the witnesses. Sean kept his sight set forward towards his executioners that he couldn't even see. Even though he didn't look at the witnesses he could feel their hateful eyes on him. Penetrating deep into his soul. A soul that would rot in Hell for eternity.
“Sean Webster you have been sentenced to death by firing squad,” Warden Lawson said.
As he continued with the rest of the dialogue, Sean's mind was lost within himself. He could hear the warden's words, but wasn't able to listen. His heart pounded so hard in his chest and through his ears, the words just sounded like a garbled mess. Sean finally mustered up the courage to look slightly to the right and through the glass where his audience sat. He recognized most of the people. The family members of the victims sat front row.
Melissa's parents. Her lover's parents, who sat with tears in their eyes. They sat with teary hateful eyes. A pain that even though he would soon die for would never take that pain away from them. He wished he could take it back. Everyday he wished. He also saw his lawyer sitting in the second row and a few other folks that probably worked for the state that had to sit as witnesses.
Sean finally came back to reality as a particular set of words came out of Warden Lawson's mouth caught his attention. These words he could make out crystal clear. A simple question was asked.
“Do you have any last words?” he asked.
Sean took in a deep breath and sighed. “No, I do not,” Sean said.
“Very well,” the warden said.
The warden nodded to the guard standing off to the side of the chair. The guard walked up a placed a black hood over the face. After that, all four men walked out of the chamber as the execution would commence. Five Winchester rifles protruded from the gun ports carved out of the wall. The five shooters would fire simultaneously at the end of the countdown. The room fell silent. Everyone held their breath.
A voice started the countdown. “Five...four...three...two-”
On two, all five shooters squeezed their triggers together. A loud crack sounded throughout the small chamber.
Some of the witnesses flinched at the sight of a small explosion that happened at the target that was pinned over Sean's heart. It happened so fast, most of the witnesses didn't even have time to react to what they saw. Most of the sound of the rifles couldn't even be heard in the witness booth.
As the bullets penetrated, Sean flinched, squeezed his left fist and then released. His head dropped to the right side.
A doctor walked in the chamber over to the chair. He pulled out his stethoscope and put the diaphragm to Sean's chest. The doctor saw a small pool of blood forming around the waist. Nothing to bloody. It wasn't a gory sight like he thought it would be. He checked for a heartbeat. Nothing.
He then proceeded to lift the hood and check the eyes with his pen light. Sean's face was already a pale ashy
color. He shined the light into the pupils of Sean's eyes. He then looked over in the direction of the warden and nodded. The execution of Sean Webster had been a complete success. He had killed by the bullet and now he died by the bullet.
Sean's eyes opened and sucked in a deep breath of air. He flinched in his driver's seat and looked around. He wiped his blurry eyes as he came out of one of the most horrible dreams ever. So realistic. So scary.
“What the hell,” he said to himself. He cocked his neck from side to side. It cracked in several places. Sean looked down at his watch. The time was going on 5:00pm.
“How long have I been asleep,” he said to himself.
Sean looked across the street at Melissa's apartment complex. He had fallen asleep waiting for her and the guy she had been fooling around with, to show up. It would be any minute now.
As he sat, he looked over at the passenger side seat. His 9mm Beretta hand gun sat on the seat waiting to be
used. He picked up the shiny wooden handle. Placed the the black barrel along his cheek and felt the cold steel.
The cold actually felt good to him.
He rewound the dream and played it over again in his head. Sweat and a fast heartbeat started as he replayed the dream in his head. This dream scared him. Is this what really happens when you act before you think, he thought to himself. As he pondered the thought and the dream, Melissa pulled up to her usual parking space in the lot of the complex. She opened the door and got out. To no surprise, the passenger door opened and out walked a young man. The man who was in the process of ruining what Sean thought, the perfect relationship.
Sean turned the key and started the engine of his car. He drove out slowly and made a u-turn in the middle of the road putting himself at the curb of the apartment complex. Melissa and the man walked through the parking lot not seeing Sean coming upon them. Sean stopped at the curb. He gripped the weapon tightly in his hand. He raised the gun and pointed it at the passenger side window at the couple as they were making their way up the stairs toward her apartment.
“This is the last time I will ever see you, Melissa. You two can have each other,” he said to himself.
“No one is worth this.”
He lowered the gun and watched the two walk off not even aware they were about to die. Sean hit the accelerator and drove off. He had better things to do with his life.
Dan Duritsa has written several flash fiction and short stories that have appeared in Flashes in the Dark and Static Movement. He also has work that will be appearing in upcoming anthologies by Static Movement and Pill Hill Press. He live and works in Morgantown, WV.
Bertus Cronjé parked the old Land Rover in its usual place behind the Baobab. The tree’s stout, fleshy trunk and surrounding shrubbery hid the four-wheel-drive well. He killed the engine, opened the Rover’s door, hopped out; shut it behind him with a clunk.
Lifting the straw hat off his brow, he scratched at his nose. He still felt a little green about the gills from the smell of the rotting impala he’d passed by the side of the road on the way down.
There was nothing odd about road-kill in this neck of the woods: the blacktop was a danger the animals had not learnt to avoid. But there was something about the way the antelope’s head had been torn clean off the torso and left to shrivel beside the bloated carcass that bothered him. Poachers would have taken the antlers as a trophy, and if this were the work of scavengers they would have picked the bones clean. Contrary to the laws of the jungle, it was as though the predator that had brought this animal down had decreed its flesh inedible — off limits to all, including the maggots.
No, they would never have let us come back in if that stuff was still out there.
Cronjé didn’t trust politicians. Except for Mandela. Even though Cronjé was white, he could tell Mandela was a good man. He liked Mandela because the old Madiba had gone to jail for something he didn’t do — just like Cronjé. If Mandela had said that the park was safe, Cronje would have believed him. But he hadn’t. It had been the other politicians who’d said it. They were no good. Some of them had been the very persons responsible for sending Mandela to prison.
He pulled the tip of his straw hat down to shield his eyes from the blistering sun and tsetse flies. Even during deepest winter the tropical South African plains managed to produce dry, sweltering days followed by clammy, wind-swept evenings. Cronjé rubbed at his temples. He could feel the seeds of a tension headache germinating behind them.
A low reverberating purr sifted through a partly-open window at the rear of the Rover. Something yellow swished inside. He moved to the back of the vehicle, released the latch and flung open the tailgate. He was greeted by a thin, bearded muzzle sniffing at his pink face.
‘Alright, sweetheart,’ he said, scratching behind the aging leopard’s ears. ‘It’s okay, Gogo. Almost time for the show.’ Gogo — the name of the big cat — was Zulu slang for Grandmother.
A distant army chopper hovered against the late afternoon sun, like a raptor circling for field mice among the Kruger National Park grasslands.
Probably searching for more of those nasty canisters, Cronjé guessed.
A three-day-old copy of the Pretoria Times was wedged under the sweat stain surrounding Cronjé’s armpit. He enjoyed ogling the pictures between performances, especially the snapshots of the page-three pin-up girl.
LEAKED DEFENCE DOCS CONFIRM SARIN BUNGLE: GOVT MAINTAINS DENIAL, the front-page headline read. Cronjé had asked Tony Volker, one of the tour guides, to read the article to him during breakfast back at HQ. Cronjé had been diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of eight and had never learnt to read. By fourteen he had dropped out of high school. At nineteen he had been sentenced to a term of twelve years imprisonment for a murder he hadn’t committed: the driver of an old pick-up truck who had offered Cronjé a ride out of town had shot and killed a highway patrolman after they were directed to pull over. The driver then promptly decamped, and when back-up arrived they found a blubbering Cronjé standing over the patrolman’s body as well as a mountain of elephant tusks in the back of the truck. Not surprisingly, the vehicle had been reported stolen by its owner.
Volker had read the article out loud to Cronjé over a steaming cup of coffee. The story claimed that a Tsonga tribesman had stumbled upon a forgotten stockpile of sarin nerve gas left over from World War II in one of the game reserve’s many unexplored caves. Cronjé remembered seeing long columns of army trucks (carrying men who wore gas masks that made them look like they were half human and half hog) roll into the park a few weeks back.
The Inspector-General denied the discovery of any canisters in front of the probing microphones and glaring camera-lights and reopened the park to the public several days later, citing routine military drills as the reason for the park’s closure; the Tsonga tribesman was arrested on charges of public mischief.
‘The shelf life of sarin is relatively short compared to other biological agents. It’s a very unstable gas,’ a chemical-weapons expert interviewed on SABC assured viewers. ‘Even if the alleged canisters really do exist, I doubt very much they would still present a hazard to human life or native fauna.’
Cronjé snapped a lead onto Gogo’s collar, and with some encouragement the great feline leaped from the back of the Rover, kicking up red dust as she landed. She lifted her noble head, amber eyes staring far into the distance, nostrils flaring, tasting the air.
He didn’t need Gogo to tell him that there were other cats in the area. But wild cats were unpredictable, and often too lethargic to make an appearance; tourists too impatient and unforgiving when it came to the promises made by tour companies in their brochures — especially guarantees of sighting the big five: lions, elephants, buffalos, leopards and rhinos — in return for extortionate sums of money.
Static crackled from the walkie-talkie hanging from his belt. ‘This is Safari One,’ came a deep voice with an Afrikaans accent. ‘Station Three are you in position?’
He slid the walkie-talkie out of its casing. His headache was getting worse, and so was the nausea. ‘Roger that. ETA?’ He liked radio talk. It made him feel important.
More static, followed by: ‘Sixteen hundred hours. Station Two is having problems with Tsotsi. We’re going to bypass the elephant and come straight to you. We’ll catch the Big Fella on the way back.’
That Tsotsi was playing up came as no surprise to Cronjé. Since the park’s reopening, some of the animals seemed a little skittish. The other day he’d stumbled across a grounded wagtail beneath the baobab. Its tiny orbs were empty red pits. Something had gouged out its eyes. The little bird had fluttered about helplessly, attempting to take wing at the approaching footsteps. In an act of mercy, Cronjé had wrung its neck.
And then of course there was the mystery of the headless impala…
There might be more canisters out there, he worried, hidden in caves, waiting to be discovered by some unsuspecting bush-walker. They could be leaking. That expert fellow on TV did say sarin was unstable. Maybe it was doing something to the animals, making them act all crazy. Maybe it was making him feel sick.
But animals tended to be more sensitive than humans when it came to this kind of stuff. He’d heard stories from an old black miner called Mabuza that in the early days they would carry canaries in birdcages into caves and mines to determine toxicity levels. ‘Yebo, if the bird croaked it, or went befok — big trouble! Good chance you next. Better balega out of there,’ Mabuza had said, his generous lips parting to reveal yellow, uneven teeth.
It can’t be that, he assured himself. The politicians might allow an ex-con like me back in the park; I might be considered — what was that big word they sometimes used in movies? Dispensable! But they’d never allow tourists to enter a contaminated area.
Sure, another voice whispered inside his head, unless…
Slowly, he turned in a circle, taking in the thicket of shrubs and trees that now seemed to encircle him; he was beginning to feel exactly like a canary in one of those cages. A deep feeling of unease was beginning to creep past Cronjé’s tough veneer, but as the saying went, The Show had to go on.
He looked at his watch. Fifteen minutes.
When the time comes, he will release Gogo from her bonds, toss a raw horse shank into the dry grass and hide in the bushes as the zebra-coloured mini-bus squeals to a halt. Chattering sightseers—mostly Japanese—will take as many snapshots of the ferocious predator gorging on its kill as their precious, fee-paying hearts desire.
It was a lousy job paying awful money — not much better than selling snake oil — but an ex-crim couldn’t afford to be too choosey. One day he might go back to school, get a proper education and a proper job like his mother had wanted before she was taken by a stroke. He thought, Wouldn’t that be a laugh? Imagine that: old Cronjé, who can’t even spell his own name, a man of letters!
Something rumbled, and this time the sound did not come from Gogo.
He looked down at his belly and his bowels growled a second time.
Cronjé raised his watch again. It was now ten-to-four.
He looked in the direction of the dirt road. Nothing. He cocked an ear and listened for the distinctive drone of the Safari bus. Still nothing.
Decisively, Cronjé dropped the newspaper — the pin-up girl all but forgotten. He looped Gogo’s lead around the Rover’s tow-bar and ambled toward a nearby bush-willow, farts squeaking from his khaki shorts as he hurried along. He fumbled for his belt, dropped his shorts around his ankles, squatted and allowed his bodily processes to take over.
The stench was intolerable. Cronjé gagged. Surrounding him were soiled, maggot-ridden piles of toilette paper buzzing with large green blow-flies. A cluster of warring dung beetles faught for possession of a dried, black turd. He had used the bush-willow in similar emergencies many times before, had even hung a roll of yellowing toilette paper from an over-hanging branch. There was no better place to take a dump—at least not one where he could wipe his ass while taking in the panorama of the Kruger National Park wilds. Cronjé looked around warily, but mostly savoured the feel of the fresh savannah air on his bare butt.
Then he thought he heard the sound of a vehicle approaching on the dirt road, and he reached for the branch. He had expected his fingertips to snag the roll of paper, but got a fistful of soft fur instead.
With his heart thumping violently against his khaki shirt, Cronjé slowly turned his head, expecting to come face-to-face with the King of the Jungle, or worse still, the Queen protecting her young.
‘Gogo!’ he breathed with relief. ‘What are you doing here, sweetheart? I thought I left you over by the Rover.’
The leopard gazed back at him with old, unhappy eyes. She tilted her head to one side and allowed him to scratch her behind the ear before lunging forward and clamping her powerful maw around his throat. A stifled scream erupted from Cronjé’s crushed larynx in a series of gurgles and squeaks. The great cat thrashed, relaxed, then came in for a second chomp, the whites of her eyes shimmering behind long porcelain incisors. Cronjé’s brain registered two more sounds before losing awareness; both sounds came from the walkie-talkie hanging on his belt: a gravelly scream cut off by Tsotsi the elephant’s fierce trumpeting.
‘There’s one!’ a German tourist in a floral shirt pointed as the safari tour-bus squealed to a stop. A Fuji hung from a strap around his neck. Two teenage boys — apparently he was vacationing with his grandchildren — stood on either side of him, attentively; matching grins lit up their face. ‘I think it’s a tiger,’ one of them said. Instantly a gaggle of Japanese sightseers tilted one end of the lorry, cameras snapping.
Volker got out of his seat and looked over the bus’s rail toward the usual spot. He was not feeling himself today; a tad-bit woozy. ‘It’s not a tiger,’ he corrected with his best tourist-guide smile. ‘It’s a leopard. See the black spots?’
‘They looked bigger in the brochure,’ a burly man with an Australian accent called out from the far end of the bus. He was seated beside a lady who was looking very embarrassed and cradling an infant swaddled in pink. She nudged her husband.
‘What?’ The man complained to his wife. ‘It’s true. We paid good money for this. I want some action. So far we’ve seen a sleeping lion and the ears of a buffalo sticking out between branches. What happened to the “adrenaline rush” they promised us back at the ticket office?’
Volker knew the guy’s type well: wise guy; thinks he knows everything. If it wasn’t for the fact that he needed the money to put food on the table for his three children— one of them a Down-Syndrome Child — Volker would have dealt with this Joker the old fashioned way: by making him walk through 350 kilometres of savage jungle to get back to the hotel. See if he still wanted an adrenaline rush after that.
‘It’s dragging a carcass.’ The German — whom Volker had affectionately nicknamed Hans — seemed enthralled. ‘Looks like some kind of baboon.’
‘Now that’s more like it!’ the Australian shouted, rubbing his hands together as he stood up to rubber-neck. He turned to his wife and laughed. ‘If that’s a monkey, it must’ve had a fetish for straw hats.’ She ignored him and made faces at their baby.
Volker cupped his eyes to shield them from the glare of the westering sun, and caught sight of the leopard just as it disappeared behind a bush-willow with its prize. ‘Straw hat!’ he muttered. He’d have to talk to Cronjé about his practical jokes when they got back to HQ.
High above them, the army chopper circled like an inquisitive celestial eye.
For a fleeting moment, Volker thought he had seen a pair of water-fowl dogfighting across the blood-orange curtain now draped above the dim savannah skyline. They were normally placid birds and not very territorial at all.
Something about this place wasn’t right. Not today, and not since the sarin scare.
He could feel the onset of a migraine. The long hours are starting to get to me, he thought.
To make matters worse, the driver leaned over and whispered in his ear. Apparently the bus’s radio had gone on the blink. With any luck Station 4 would be ready to go. ‘Okay everyone, finish up,’ he called out. ‘We’ve just been informed that some rhinos have been sighted not far from here.’
Volker gave a tired nod to the driver, who crunched the shift into gear; the tour-bus lurched forward into the lengthening shadows.
‘Oh, how wonderful!’ Hans clapped. He lifted the Fuji and gave one of the boys a pat on the head. ‘I promised my grandchildren close-ups.’
Eugene Gramelis is a widely-published, award-winning author of suspense and dark fiction. When not writing, he practises law as a barrister in Sydney, Australia, where he resides with his beautiful wife and three gorgeous children. He invites you to walk with him at http://gramelis.blogspot.com/
Sunday, 19 September 2010
THERE BE MONSTERS
“They didn’t prepare you for this, did they?”
The comment came back to Sarah as she huddled in the supply closet, trembling, breathing in the harsh scent of crushed chalk, dust and musty paper. Could that have been only a few days earlier?
”People want to see their little darlings as innocent,” Jane Pearce had told her. “You want to believe it, too. Wait. The truth comes out after you’ve been with them a while.”
Jane laughed, a harsh little bark. “There be monsters here. That’s what. There’s nothing meaner than a child. Wait. You’ll find out.”
At the time Sarah dismissed the remark as the ranting of a jaded teacher. At the time, Sarah was fresh, new to the classroom, enthusiastic about her position and eager to engage with young minds awaiting her influence.
Now she knew.
There were monsters in the classroom.
And now they were out there, hunting her.
Sarah shifted. Her legs were cramped. The stacked boxes left little room for her to squeeze into the closet. The boy, Tyler, had taken her hand and guided her down the hall as the other children were busy attacking Jane. Sarah had been too shocked to move on her own.
The riot began in the cafeteria. She and Jane were hall monitors. She had no idea what sparked the uproar. Suddenly pupils were throwing plates and cups, splattering the walls with food, shouting and screaming. The principal waded into the melee, trying to restore order. Someone hit him with a chair. He stumbled to his knees and they were on him, kicking and stomping, their voices blending into a horrible roar.
“Run, dammit. Run!” Jane shouted and went forward to try and help the principal.
“Come on,” a voice beside her said as Sarah watched in horror. She looked down and saw Tyler, a little boy, dark hair, dark eyes large in a pale face. “Don’t be afraid,” he told her. “I’m gonna help you.”
It seemed like hours ago the boy had left her crouching in the dark closet. It was quiet now. Too quiet. The screams, the cacophonous roar of many raised voices, the rumble and thud of little feet up and down the hallways outside her sanctum—all had faded away, been replaced now only by the hum of blood in her veins with the beat of her heart.
Was it safe to leave the closet?
Sarah started to reach for the knob, then hesitated. What if they were out there, waiting for her to… What? What would they do to her if they found her? What had they done to Jane and the others? A wave of fear set her to shivering. Sarah clutched her arms round herself, squeezed shut her eyes and took a sibilant breath. It seemed she’d been holding her breath the whole time she was in this closet. Her chest ached with the tension.
Sarah wanted to open the door. She wanted to go out and see it had only been a dream. See her pupils smiling up from their desks, obedient and eager to learn. She wanted to forget what really had happened. Sarah wanted desperately to go home. She wanted to be safe.
She sighed. Fearful they might have heard the sound, Sarah clapped a hand over her mouth. She cocked an ear, listening.
Silence. Nothing but silence.
She shifted her position. Pins and needles in her aching legs. Did she dare open the door? She raised a hand toward the knob, then drew it back. How long would she have to wait? Surely someone would come and rescue her. Wouldn’t they?
Time passed and silence reigned.
When she could stand it no longer, Sarah crept closer to the door and opened it just enough to peer out. Seeing no movement, she opened the door wider and stuck out her head. A shadow moved against the distant wall and Sarah drew back. Her heart thudded like a drum. Her mouth felt dry as sand.
The scrape of a shoe on the oiled floorboards of the hall and Sarah trembled with fear. A tap at the door forced her back as far as she could go in the closet.
“It’s me,” a child’s voice whispered.
He’d come back for her. Was it safe to open the door?
“Tyler?” she asked, her voice squeaking with the tension.
“It’s okay. You can come out now.”
Cautiously, Sarah opened the door. The boy gazed up at her, reached out a hand. She took his hand and stepped out. “You’re sure? It’s safe?”
The boy nodded.
“Miss Pearce—is she…”
“She’s okay. She sent me to get you.”
“But they were hurting her. I saw…”
Surely she could trust this boy. It must not have been as bad as she imagined. Holding Tyler’s hand, Sarah went with him back to the cafeteria.
All was silent along the way. She saw no sign of damage. Everything appeared normal. They came to the double doors leading to the cafeteria. Sarah hesitated. She looked down at Tyler.
The boy smiled.
There was nothing to worry about. They were only children. How could she have let her imagination get the best of her? Sarah put a palm against the door and pushed it open.
They set upon her as soon as she came through the opening. Tiny hands gripping her arms, her legs, her clothing. They pulled her to the floor and began kicking and biting and pummeling her. Sarah screamed, throwing up her hands in front of her face, doubling into a fetal position, trying in vain to avoid the pain.
Tyler watched numbly until Sarah stopped moving and lay still and silent like the other staff. Then he looked over at the older boy who was leader of the pack. “She trusted me,” he whispered.
The other boy stepped closer and laid a hand on Tyler’s shoulder. “You done good. That’s why we sent you. It’s okay. Don’t feel bad. Like I said, it was you or her.”
Influenced early on by Poe, J. R. Lindermuth often allows his imagination to take him strange places. He is the author of eight novels and has published stories in a variety of magazines, both print and on line.
Being Someone Else (July 2010), Whiskey Creek Press
Watch The Hour (April 2009), Whiskey Creek Press
Friday, 17 September 2010
Just in case you've missed them, we had a bit of an influx of submissions over the past week with no less than a dozen new works of crime, horror and thrilling fiction going up on the site, with something for everyone to enjoy. If you missed them, they're well worth a look back through. If you read them, good on yer. If you've any 'nice' feedback for the authors please put it in the comments box. If you've nothing nice to say - then say nothing (whoever the idjit is posting anonymously you've been rumbled and your posts have been/will be deleted).
By the way, did you see the call out for submissions. take a look back under the heading The Darkness Falls for full details.
I'm adding a little bit here(Lee) Those that cause problems under 'anonymous' aren't as 'anonymous' as they'd like to think. I've got the IP addresses and know the Service Provider you use and if there's any more 'postings', well, I think you get the message.
Bring on Halloween!
Ye Olde editor
By the way, did you see the call out for submissions. take a look back under the heading The Darkness Falls for full details.
I'm adding a little bit here(Lee) Those that cause problems under 'anonymous' aren't as 'anonymous' as they'd like to think. I've got the IP addresses and know the Service Provider you use and if there's any more 'postings', well, I think you get the message.
Bring on Halloween!
Ye Olde editor
Thursday, 16 September 2010
She clutched her handbag nervously and sipped her drink. They looked normal, she thought, looking at the other customers. Some of them probably were normal, she realised. Some of them were probably like her.
This thought put her off approaching anyone. She figured they would know she was one of the normals, whereas she couldn’t tell the difference.
“Hi there,” she heard a drawling voice say over the music. She turned to see a handsome man.
“Hi,” she smiled.
“Haven’t seen you here before,” he said.
“First time,” she gulped. “Someone told me it was a good place to meet...” she didn’t dare say the word ‘vampire’, and smiled at him instead of finishing her sentence.
“It’s a great place to meet us,” he said, giving her a smile. His teeth looked normal, she thought. It must be like in the films, the fangs just extend when they’re about to bite. His eyes sure did look sexy, they drew her in. She couldn’t stop staring into them.
“So, you’re a lady with a sense of adventure?” he asked.
She nodded. “I uh...I wanted to try something different,” she said a little nervously.
“We’re different all right,” he said, laying a hand on her leg. She felt a flutter of excitement.
“Why don’t I get you another drink?” he asked.
She nodded. “Gin and tonic,” she told him. He nodded and walked confidently to the bar.
“Gin and tonic,” he said when he returned with a glass, sliding in to the seat beside her and resting his hand on her leg again. As she sipped her drink she could feel butterflies in her stomach. He touched her face and gently brought turned it toward him. The sense that his eyes had seen so much entranced her again.
“Such soft, youthful skin,” he murmured, stroking her cheek. “I’d like to stroke some more of it,” he whispered in her ear.
She stifled a giggle as his breath was ticklish on her earlobe. “I’d like that too,” she whispered back. He stood up and helped her to her feet; the strength in his arms made her feel weightless.
The moon was hidden behind the clouds as they left the bar. He walked behind her, his hands resting on her hips, steering her toward a motorbike in the car park. Sexy, she thought, imagining herself sitting behind him, her arms wrapped around him as her hair flapped in the wind.
When they reached the motorbike she turned to face him. The moon had come out from behind the clouds and his features were fully illuminated. She tried to scream but it caught in her throat.
“We tell everyone it’s a vampire bar,” he snarled. “Everyone wants to be with a vampire. No one would come if we admitted we were werewolves.”
“No,” she gasped. “Don’t bite me! No!”
“You wanted an adventure,” he growled. “You’re going to have the most exciting night of your life.”
Joleen Kuyper likes to write dark tales of all sorts, usually involving nasty things happening to her characters. In real life however, she's actually quite a nice person. Honestly. She can often be found lurking on the internet in places such as her blog, http://joleenkuyper.blogspot.com/
Monday, 13 September 2010
HAPPY AS LARRY By Eugene Gramelis
He knew it was coming long before he heard it. He also knew it wouldn’t pull over. But that didn’t stop Larry “Bang-Bang” Sweeney from sticking his thumb out.
A semi with green-and-yellow Federal Interstate plates rattled past without so much as batting a break-light.
“Screw you, too!” Sweeney yelled, kicking at the red dust.
He tore the last Four-X from the six-pack, tossed the plastic rings onto the shoulder. When he was done he belched loudly and hurled the empty can in the direction of the departed truck.
The sun was sinking quickly now, and to make matters worse lightning danced silently over the tops of dead trees in the far distance.
Then his luck seemed to change. About fifty metres up the road he spotted a car with its bonnet up.
The car was a light-blue Monaro—a '68 HK.
A man’s surprised head popped out from behind the bonnet.
“What a beauty,” Sweeny whistled, sticking his hand out: “Larry Sweeney. But everyone calls me Bang-Bang.”
The man closed the bonnet and came away from the front of the Monaro. He was tall and skinny and sinewy, dressed in a navy-blue suit. Sweeney noticed the lack of grease marks on the man’s hands.
The stranger took Sweeney’s hand and squeezed. It was like shaking hands with a rubber hose. “Lars.”
“Having some car troubles, Lars?”
The man turned and looked at the Monaro.
“I can take a look at it for you.”
Sweeny managed one step before Lars’s long, wiry arm blocked his path: “That won’t be necessary.”
By now the night sky was as dark and starless as an oil spill. And that lightning was virtually on top of them. A low rumble accompanied each flash. Sweeny didn’t relish the thought of being caught in the middle of a downpour.
He said to Lars, “Is that an American accent I detect?”
The man starred at Sweeny like he was looking at some kind of strange
“I met some Yanks in Afghanistan. Worked on their tanks. That’s how I got my nickname. I’m an ex-army mechanic. Get it? Bang! Bang! with a wrench. Nothing to do with guns. Now you look like a man who’s running late for an important meeting somewhere, am I right?”
The stranger’s shoulders drooped a little. “Where are you headed?”
“Up north. I have an Aunt in Darwin. Thought I’d pay her a visit. Spend some time with her. Maybe even find a job.” This was his standard line when drifting between pubs in major cities. “Make a deal with you. I’ll get your car purring again if you agree to take me to Darwin.”
A small lump seemed to form on the stranger’s brow and run down the side of his face like a bug scurrying just beneath the skin. But it was dark, and Sweeney thought it might have been his imagination; or the effect of too much beer.
“And if you can’t?” Lars asked.
“Then I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.” Sweeny laughed.
Lars didn’t. “Well?”
This guy was serious.
“Trust me,” Sweeny said in a bad, put-on American accent. “If I can’t get that monster under the hood roaring again, I’ll be your goddamn slave for a day.”
The Yank definitely had a screw loose. Sweeny had him pegged as a closet queer, too. But Sweeny wasn’t worried. Old Bang-Bang hadn’t come across a machine he couldn’t fix yet. By morning he’d be knocking the head off a schooner of liquid gold at The Blue Heeler. The mere thought of it made him feel... well, happy as Larry!
Sweeny walked to the front of the Monaro, and this time Lars made no attempt to stop him. “Pull on the lever,” he called out to Lars. A second later, the bonnet popped open. “So how does a Yank end up with an Aussie icon for a ride? And don’t tell me the hire company gave it to you at the airport—“
Sweeney was momentarily blinded by pulsing waves of light radiating from the engine bay. When the fuzzy green splotches hovering in front of his eyes faded, what he found under the bonnet resembled nothing he had ever seen before. He looked up at Lars. “Is this some kind of joke?”
The stranger laughed. It was a weak, quivery laugh that reminded Sweeny of the sound roaches made with their wings. Sweeny began to step away from the car. But in a blur Lars clamped a sinewy hand over Sweeney’s wrist. “I know—it can be a real bummer when you lose a bet.”
Something brown with barbs on it burst through Lars’s skin and stung Sweeney on the palm. “That will make the trip a little more comfortable,” Lars informed him.
Already Sweeney was starting to feel woozy; a sensation not unlike euphoria swept over him. Lars led Sweeney to the rear of the Monaro and propped him up in the back seat. A moment later, Lars sat in the front and shut the door. He turned the ignition and the dashboard lit up. Whatever powered this vehicle barely made a sound.
“What do you know?” Lars feigned surprise. “It fixed itself. The new model does that. I did try to warn you, but you primates are too full of ego to listen to reason.”
“Where are you taking me?”
“To your slave quarters, of course.” Suddenly the Monaro lurched forward forcing Sweeney deep into the seat. Lars gave the dashboard a pat. “This thing does a thousand light-years to the gallon.”
“I’d like to see a Ford do that,” Sweeney said in a daze. He looked behind him and saw the Earth shrinking in the rear window. Slave for a day! Then again, at least it was just a day. “You’ll bring me back when I’ve served my time, right?”
“Sure,” Lars said, turning around to face him. “A bet’s a bet.” Lars winked. But not like any creature Sweeney had seen before. A thin, transparent film slid vertically across his eye, like a sliding door. “You might want to send your Aunt a postcard when we get to our destination, though. Let her know that she’ll have to manage without you for a while.”
“But why? I’ll be back by tomorrow.”
“Didn’t I tell you? I can be so forgetful sometimes.” Lars’s voice filled with that raspy roach-wing chortle. ”On my world, one day is the equivalent of three hundred Earth years.”
"Eugene Gramelis is a widely-published, award-winning author of suspense and dark fiction. When not writing, he practises law as a barrister in Sydney, Australia, where he resides with his beautiful wife and three gorgeous children. He invites you to walk with him at http://gramelis.blogspot.com"
Sunday, 12 September 2010
Fast answers to the brave resolution of Wallis K. Nassau sloshed and rolled with the thick morass of quicksand he was neck deep in. Was it preordained he wondered, was he destined for some fateful absolution, a medium of reconciliation with god?
Wallis had intended to throw the garbage bag covered corpse of his wife into the morass. A perfect conclusion to years of miserable garrulous arguing and infidelity upon infidelity. She had turned her back to him as she grabbed for the phone, her accomplice; she was finally asking for a divorce. She had chosen a new lover, a boy in the dawn of maturity, a child barely twenty-one. Looking over her shoulder she had given him a smug sneer of unbridled hate. In that moment the decision was made for Wallis; he grabbed a silver burnished vase embossed with archaic Egyptian legends, it felt good in his hand, heavy and dangerous. As she replaced the receiver he slammed the vase into her head, crushing her skull with a scrunchy crack.
There had been a spellbound moment of fear as he watched the blood pour from her head but it had passed and he had calmly sopped up the blood with a roll of paper towels, then he snuggled her into several garbage bags tying them off with a roll of twine.
Her body had thumped into the trunk of the car with a satisfying thump. He drove the Mercedes near the speed limit as he followed the curvy road to the swamp. Finally he pulled off the concrete two-lane highway onto a dirt two-track. The Mercedes bumped along nearly getting stuck in the muddy ruts. He had stopped the car at a thick knot of tangled vines and briar scrub. Opening the trunk he removed her body spending the next hour dragging her through the Palmetto scrub and pine tree saplings.
He had intended to leave her in the midst of the dense thicket when he saw the reflective surface of the morass.
Dragging her to the edge of the muddy quicksand he hefted her in. Unfortunately the twine around one of the garbage bags had coiled like a snake around his ankle and he stumbled in.
As the swampy grit flowed into his mouth and eyes he realized that the scream of a wild goose was echoing in the forest. It sounded a little bit like laughter, his wife’s laughter.
Live and let live
The shrewd haul, the weatherproof asylum, the carefully exalted argument for universal gold. He saw evergreen nuance in the hundred dollar bill, it was perfection, a generous dollop of amazing art. He had spent a year perfecting the silver plates, a year of diligent dreaming in vagabond tatters. The counterfeit bill was perfect and the paper was in whitewashed unity with the fresh ink. From one dollar to a hundred. He had bleached five hundred one dollar bills and reprinted them with the silver plates.
He felt prosperous as he surveyed the clothesline full of money. “Ahhhhhhhaaaa!!!” the smell of drying ink, he sighed in quiet admiration. He inhaled the scent with profound measures of intoxicating glee. Benny Worthy was his partner in crime; he had supplied the ink and enough inspiration for both of them.
The oaken varnished veneer of the door rattled on its hinges. “Open up, it’s Benny!” he went to the door and unlocked it, cautiously leaving the chained portion secure. Peeking into the hall he saw Benny’s unmistakable figure impatiently shifting from one foot to the other. “Come on, open up!” he groaned. He opened the door to Benny’s betrayal and the end of their relationship. Benny pointed the 38 revolver in his direction. “Here…” he tossed a knapsack to the ink stained floor and said. “…put the plates and the money in the bag, Hank!”
Hank filled the bag with the hundred dollar bills tossing in the silver plates last. “Thanks, Hank…..” he chuckled. “Thanks, Hank……for the memories,” he sang. Benny turned his back to Hank and walked toward the door. Hank had the semi auto 22 rifle in his hands a moment later. He aimed at the center of Benny’s back and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened, the gun had jammed. “Live and let live,” Benny chanted as he left the room. Hank sighed realizing he had no choice.
A single hundred dollar bill lay crumpled, unnoticed against the floorboard. Smiling he realized that would buy him an unsurpassable drunk.
Another Day in Paradise Lost
The shortened, unerring sound of wondering injury was in accord with the pain of a rosebud misery, blooming in waves of agony. The crisis of blood he thought in miserable contemplation. He had confidence in his ability to defy the odds, his mortality, his immortality against the gunshot wound to his stomach. A pain filled adventure and a misadventure in uncalculated distress, he had mistaken the clerk for a snatch and grab mark.
Denver Caymen had pulled the plastic 22 calibre pistol from his waistband and aimed it at the clerk. “It’s the downs and I’m advancing myself a little credit, hand over the cash, Nash!” The clerk had just stood there staring at him with a bulgy eyed fright and a blossoming grimace of anxiety. “You dreamin’ partner,” he quipped, “…get tha money!” Ten seconds passed as they stood face to face without release, a tight bond of expectation between them.
Surprisingly, the clerk pulled a pistol from beneath the counter almost as if in slow motion. He fired and the first shot caught Denver in the gut, the second nicked his ear and a well of blood poured from the gash. Standing over him the clerk pointed the weapon at his head. Denver prayed and closed his eyes.
The police officer opened his car door, sirens blaring. He would later reflect that he thought he saw the silhouette of a man pointing a gun at a dark shape in the floor, the guy in the floor seemed to be praying on bended knees. The loud crack of a pistol echoed in the parking lot as the officer rushed the door. A dark shadow fell across the convenience store and the fates dealt another hand of chance. The day moved on and the sun sank into the twilight horizon as life and death went into the mix, the stuff of existence and the substance of another day in paradise lost.
Ron Koppelberger aspires to become established as a poet and a short story writer. He has written 95 books of poetry over the past several years and 16 novels, publishing 289 poems and 128 short stories in a variety of periodicals. He has been published in The Storyteller, Ceremony, Write On!!! (Poetry Magazette), Freshly Baked Fiction and Necrology Shorts. Also he recently won the People’s Choice Award for poetry In The Storyteller for a poem titled Secret Sash. He loves to write and offer an experience to the reader. Ron is a member of The American Poet’s Society as well as The Isles Poetry Association.
A terrible clanging in the middle of the night roused me from my bed. I put on some clothes and hurried into the street there to mingle with my bleary eyed neighbors. At first we thought it was a fire but there was no smoke or flame to be seen. We stood in the cold and beat our arms, the cold air made ghosts of our breath. The clanging didn’t let up so we traced it to its source. It came from the old tower on the edge of the village. The rough stone structure had stood there for as long as the village itself. Silent, locked and largely forgotten it stood watching over the village like a rotten tooth. Its thick oak door locked tight, the key long ago lost. I suppose a monkey or an agile youth could have climbed it but no one bothered that I ever heard of. Now it had suddenly come to life and was sounding an alarm that no one knew what for.
“There is one who might remember,” said the mayor, “Old Havermeyer, the beggar.” So we hurried over to his hut and shook him from his slumber. Old Havermeyer was so old that he was almost completely blind and deaf. He lived in poverty in a tiny shack on the edge of the village. Subsisting on handouts and the begrudging charity of the village’s wealthy merchants. He hadn’t heard the alarm and didn’t understand what we were so excited about. So we got him dressed and brought him to the tower and placed his hands on the oaken door so he could feel the vibrations. Only then did realization dawn on his wrinkled face.
“Ah,” he said. “the tower. The alarm sounds. The dragon wakes. We must flee.”
This statement caused no end of confusion amongst the good people of the village. Our village was prosperous and peaceful, unused to emergencies of any kind. “What dragon?” many villagers wanted to know. “There are no dragons,” said others. “Superstitious nonsense,” interjected the more educated. The incessant clanging continued shouting out all reason and rational thought, so we hurried away to the school house where we could hear ourselves think. We stamped the snow off our boots and lit the stove and soon we could hear old Havermeyer tell what he remembered of the tower, the alarm and the dragon.
“When I was a boy,” he spoke in a weak quavering voice we had to strain to hear, “my grandfather told me that his grandfather helped build the tower. In those days the dragon would come every few years and lay waste to half the village. It would fly in like a great winged bird spitting fire, trample the crops and eat the peasants. It was a force of nature. Nothing and no one could stop it. The only way they knew to save themselves was to give it gold. All the gold. For if any of us held back, the dragon would know and its vengeance would be swift. Dragon’s love gold more than anything and, when they wake, they are hungry for it.”
“These are only old stories to scare the children,” said the mayor. “It’s been over two hundred years since your grandfather’s time and no one has ever seen or heard of a dragon. It’s all nonsense I tell you.”
“Well those old stories scared me plenty,” said the old man. “I for one have never forgotten them. They say a buried chain connects the tower to the dragon. One end is fastened to the bell and the other to the dragon’s leg. When the dragon stirs, the bell rings. It gives us time to get away or get our gold together whichever way we decide to save ourselves from ruin.”
This was just too much for many villagers to absorb. The whole idea of a fire breathing dragon in this modern age was ridiculous.
“I’m not going to flee my home or lose my fortune because of a bunch of old legends,” was the general consensus. Or on the say so of a senile old man was the unspoken subtext. But the seed of fear and doubt had been planted.
“Do as you see fit,” said the old man. “My time in this world is nearly done. I’m too old to flee and I have no gold. I’ll stay and share your fate. I’m curious to know if the old stories are true.” And on this ominous note old man Havermeyer closed his eyes and said no more. At that moment the incessant clanging from the tower stopped, just as suddenly as it began. The sudden silence struck us all as louder and more worrisome than all the clamor, for it meant that the dragon, or whatever it was, had either gone back to sleep or had broken the chain and was awake.
We were a tired and nervous bunch as we shuffled back to our homes. The sky was already beginning to lighten in the East and we hurriedly agreed to meet again at noon the next day. “Come to the village office,” said the mayor, “after we have had some time to think about what to do.” The mayor was a good man. A widower and my only real friend. He was respected by the villagers but not loved. I don’t know if there village had much love to spare.
The next day dawned bright and clear. What ever sense of gloom and disaster remained from the night before was drowned out by a cloudless blue sky and a bright yellow sun. We joked and laughed at our fear as we went about our morning chores. Someone pointed to the mountain that towered above the village. It was ringed by clouds or was it dragon smoke? The townsfolk eyed their mountain nervously as if at any moment that old familiar friend might visit flaming death upon them.
That morning the children went off to school; the mill wheel turned and the blacksmith’s hammer rang out. It was all so normal, the way it had always been, except there was an undertone of fear and apprehension that infused our every move.
At noon we all gathered at the mayor’s office to discuss further what, if anything, we should do. Suggestions ranged from taking down the tower to digging into the village archives for more information. Some villagers thought the whole thing was a hoax and others thought we ought to gather our gold together just in case.
Finally, the mayor stood up and spoke. “What we have here is a classic puzzle,’ he said to the crowded room. “There’s no denying that the alarm we heard was real. What we don’t know is what it really means.” We all looked at each other and nodded. At last someone was speaking sense. “The oldest man in the village remembers stories about a dragon and the old tower built as an alarm. No one knows if that is true. I propose we send someone into the mountains to seek out this dragon, if indeed there really is one.” This suggestion was met with general agreement.
“Furthermore,” continued the mayor when the hub-bud died down, “I also recommend we gather our gold and jewels together just in case the dragon proves real. That way we can buy him off and save our lives and property. If there is no dragon, we have lost nothing. If there is, we have saved everything.”
The village rose to its feet as one and applauded the mayor’s good sense. The mayor asked for volunteers to go into the mountains and seek out the dragon’s lair. The room grew very quiet and no one stepped forward.
“In that case I nominate Peer Hansel,” exclaimed the mayor. Every eye in the room turned to look at me for Peer Hansel is my name. I blushed scarlet and bowed my head. My nomination was quickly seconded and I was chosen unanimously.
In many ways I was the logical choice for so dangerous a mission. I was unmarried, childless and a relative new comer having lived in the village for only twenty years. Not only that, but I often spent weeks alone in the mountains writing and gathering herbs. I knew the mountains better than most and I was the most expendable. As a bachelor in a village filled with families I was always a bit of a social outcast. The matchmaker had long ago given up trying to match me with any of the village widows and spinsters. So I accepted the mission and told the assembly I would leave immediately. I had never been so popular. My back was slapped and my hand was shaken by neighbors who hadn’t spoken to me in years.
“We will gather our gold and jewels here,” said the mayor. “I, myself, will record your donations. Everything will be returned when the crisis is over. Bring everything you have. Remember what the old man said about hoarding.”
I went home and packed my rucksack and my blanket and headed out for the long march into the hills. It was fine weather and I made good time. As I climbed, the hills grew steep and the trees thinned until I was above them. I could see the great mountain ahead and my tiny village far below. I thought about how I lived there for so long and yet was not accepted as one of them. How willing they were to send me off to find their dragon but not willing to invite me into their homes. They were a small minded, superstitious lot, cruel and stingy they distrusted everyone including each other. I thought about what I was doing. They thought I was brave. Maybe I was. I loved being out in the wilderness and looked forward to spending a couple of peaceful nights under the stars.
After three days, I stumbled into the village a soiled and ragged mess. My clothes charred and my hair smoking. I announced to the council that it was all true. “After a hard march, I stumbled upon the dragon’s lair. I was frightened and when the creature saw me, I was nearly devoured on the spot.” The council gasped and sat in stunned silence as I told my tale. “It was the closest of calls. The dragon is bigger and more fierce than anything I could imagine. It has been sleeping for 200 years and it is hungry. It plans to ravage the village, devour us all and burn our homes to the ground.” The fear in the room was a physical thing.
Only one councilman had the wit to ask, “You spoke with it? It can speak?”
“Oh yes. It speaks all right and it spouts fire with every breath.” Here I rolled up my sleeve and showed them my fire singed arm. They all gasped as one.
“How much time do we have? Did you tell it about the gold? What will become of us?” Now the whole group was speaking at once. they were panicked and afraid as well they should be.
“Order. Order,” cried the mayor and pounded the table. “Let the man speak.”
“I told the beast about the gold and pleaded for our lives. Old man Havermeyer was right— only gold can distract the dragon from its hunger. I told it we would give it all the gold and jewels we had if only it would leave us alone.”
“Yes. Yes,” they cried as one. “Give it the gold and let it leave us alone. Let it sleep for another 200 years.”
“I can take the gold to the dragon as I know the way. How much is there? Can I carry it myself?”
“Just a minute,” said the mayor. “The gold is my responsibility and there is far too much for one man to carry. I shall go with you and make sure everything is as you say.”
“Very well,” I said. There was that old note of distrust I had always felt in this town. The mayor refused to meet my gaze. He divided the gold into two heavy sacks which we placed on a wooden sleigh. We bid the frightened villagers farewell and headed out to bargain for the village’s safety. it was already late in the day. Thankfully there was a full moon to light our way. We didn’t stop to make camp. Our sense of urgency kept us going all night long.
We trudged up into the hills, retracing the way I had been a few days before. We climbed above the tree line and looked back on the sleeping village. Around midnight we changed course and headed toward the pass between the mountains. The snow was deep and the going rough. We had not spoken to each other the entire way. Talking took all our strength to drag the heavy sled through the snow. I was tired and the mayor was nearly exhausted being older and sorely out of shape. We were forced to stop and rest many times. When we reached the pass we continued over it and headed down the other side until we reached a fork in the road. There we stopped to rest.
“Did you remember to pay the boy who rang the bell?” I asked. The Mayor nodded. “How about old Havermeyer? Did you pay him for his story?”
“I did everything you asked my friend,” the mayor said getting to his feet. He slung his heavy sack over his shoulder. “Well Peer,” he said offering me his hand. “We are both rich men now, just as you predicted. The villagers will assume the dragon ate us and took the gold. They will be grateful for the peace it has brought them. Enjoy your wealth and may we meet again someday though I doubt it.”
He went to the left toward Urchin and Samarkand, I went right toward Persia and Damascus. The mayor was right. We would never meet again.
Harris Tobias was raised by robots disguised as New Yorkers. Despite an awkward childhood he learned to read and write. To date Mr. Tobias has published two detective novels, The Greer Agency and A Felony of Birds, to critical acclaim. In addition he has published short stories in Down in the Dirt Magazine, Literal Translations, Electric Flash and Ray Gun Revival. He currently lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia.