Earth’s Survivors America The Dead: Manhattan Apple Books

EARTH’S SURVIVORS AMERICA THE DEAD: MANHATTAN

Earth’s Survivors America the Dead: Manhattan is copyright © 2016 Dell Sweet. All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.

Cover Art © Copyright 2016 Wendell Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 Wendell Sweet

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons’ places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2016 Wendell Sweet and his assignees. Dell Sweet and Geo Dell are publishing constructs owned by Wendell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.

Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.

NOTICE: This material has not been edited for content


PROLOGUE

New York

12:30 am

Carl Evans watched from the mouth of a dark alley. It was one of the things he loved about this place. You could hang out in an alley, smoke cigarettes all day and night long if you wanted to, and nobody said a word to you. Where else, but New York could that be true, he asked himself.

He leaned back against the wall, one sneakered foot propped on the brick behind him to hold him, the other flat on the cobbled stones of the alley. Another thing about New York, he thought as he inhaled deeply of his cigarette, and then let the smoke roll slowly out of his mouth. Old things everywhere you looked. These cobblestones for instance. He wondered how old they truly were.

“Young man.” The deep voice startled him from his thoughts. He lifted his head to see an old, gray haired gentleman standing at the mouth of the alley a few feet away. His face was creased and seamed. His skin so dark it was nearly blue. A cane in one hand supported his weight.

“What’s up, Pops?” Carl asked politely.

The man placed his second hand on his cane and leaned forward. “That cigarette will kill you.“

“Pops…”

He held up one hand as Carl began to speak. “Just telling you. Don’t need an argument. It will kill you. The big tobaccos, they knew about it back in the day when I was a boy chasing that habit. And they knew about it when it was in commercials in magazines, and T.V. and what not. That cowboy died from it you know, they knew it and they still know it. It will kill you. In case you didn’t know it I wanted you to know it.” He straightened his back, lifted the second hand, nodded once, and moved across the mouth of the alley disappearing as though from some sort of magic.

Carl chuckled, lifted the cigarette to his mouth, took a deep drag and then found himself blowing the smoke out, dropping the cigarette, and crushing it. The old man had ruined it for him. He hadn’t smoked in ten years, but it tasted as good now as it had then. And he had figured with the way things were nobody had much time. Certainly not enough time to die from cancer or some other nasty surprise from cigarettes, but just the same the old man had ruined it for him.

He looked down at the blackened mess he had made as he ground the cigarette into the cobbles. Just as well, he told himself, it was time. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small silver canister. He inhaled a sharp breath involuntarily. He knew what it was. Knew what he was doing, but he still couldn’t believe he was actually going to do it.

He fingered the small red button on the top of the silver canister, hesitated, and then pushed it down. Something inside clicked. There was no other sound in the stillness. He tossed it down the alley, turned, and walked out to the sidewalk.

ONE

Bear

August 4th

We were down along the river checking over some old buildings that are perched on the cliffs there, high above the water. Fall was not far away, and we knew we had to get moving, get out of this dead city. We had half the country to cross and find a place before winter came back around again.

We had struck out looking for food earlier that morning. With the park and its crowds so near to us, the shops and small stores for blocks around us were stripped clean. Another reason to get out of the city. It was time. I remember thinking that as I walked along.

I was thinking back to March as I walked. Not really paying attention to the walk, where I was going… March… Just a few months ago, but the world was still the world then. And for the next little while there, we didn’t even know about the dead. Dead was still dead. When you closed your eyes for the long eternal sleep you didn’t wake up a short minute later as something else. No. We were ignorant up until they decided to come after us. Ignorant. Stupid. Didn’t know a thing. Didn’t have a clue.

I had been in Central Park a few days after the first earthquakes hit. I had left Donita alone and went down on my own to see what the deal was. I found out nothing. No one knew any more than anyone else. There was a lot of speculation, but that was it. There had been earthquakes. It had rained hard for nearly twenty-four hours straight. The really freaky stuff hadn’t happened yet. We were just starting down our new path, but what was clear was that thousands of people had died in the city, maybe more than thousands, maybe a million or more. And certainly millions if the damage here was the same across the country… or worldwide.

And my initial estimate turned out to be a kind. In the city alone: collapsed buildings, fires, exposure to the elements because there was no shelter. There were millions of bodies. It was not so bad in those first few days, but a few days later, when the smell of the dead rotting under the rubble began, it was horrible. The diseases started then too. And the diseases took thousands more, and we thought that was the end of it, but it was not. The dead came next. The same dead, newly risen to some other sort of life. But that day in Central Park I did not know about the dead yet. I had no idea what was ahead; what was before me was bad enough.

At six foot three and nearly two hundred ninety pounds I don’t usually fear much. But that day I did. I realized there are some things you had better fear if you have half a brain in your head. It didn’t matter that I could walk through Central Park unmolested. Something was on the wind, something that didn’t care who it touched, did not respect physical size.

I walked through the park. There were hundreds there already. In the coming days those same people began to make the park home. But that day they wandered aimlessly, in shock. The subway was shut down, the buses. You could not find a cab. The same with the cops. Everything that was the same about the city, the things you could depend on to be the same day after day, were gone. A few short days, and they were gone. No more. And it had a feeling of permanence to it, a feeling of doom.

I sat down on a bench and watched the people shuffle by. No noisy kids. No babies bawling. No Joggers. No dog walkers. Hopeless people shuffling by. The occasional panicked whack job running around crazily. I saw no one shot that day, but in the coming days, they, the hopeless ones, began to shoot the crazies, chase them down and kill them. But that was later. That day I sat on the bench and wondered what had happened, and that was when the planes had overflown.

We all heard them from a long way off, military cargo planes. Slow, sometimes seeming to hang in the sky. That droning sound as they overflew, blocking the sun from the sky. This was no fly over to see how New York was, that much was evident immediately.

I was torn between running and needing to know what this was. Once you start down that path of just reacting to fear, it gets bad fast, so I sat there, as calm as I could be. ‘They will not drop bombs,’ was my thought. I remember it. And they didn’t. What they did was spray the entire city. Trails of blue-tinged vapor drifting down out of the sky. That was the first time.

I finally did give in to the fear and took off through the park, thinking, like nearly everyone else, that it must be some sort of poison. The government’s solution to whatever it was that was going on in the city.

We didn’t know what the blue shit the government planes sprayed us with right after everything went to hell was. And I am still not convinced I know all there is to know, but I suspect things. I have been told things. I met a guy a few weeks back that said he worked at the Army base over in Jersey. He said he knew what it was. He said the planes came from somewhere down south, but stopped there on the way back to re-fuel. What he told me was it was designed to strengthen us, keep us alive a little longer, and make us stronger somehow. Some dip shit scientist’s idea.

I suppose it was meant as a boost for us, a help. The world slowed down, fell apart; everything stopped working. They knew they couldn’t get to us. We would die. So they sprayed the blue shit on us, and I could suppose further that some of us survived the first few months because of it. I can’t prove it, but I suspect it did help us evolve into…

I don’t know. Whatever the hell we are now. I know we’re alive. I know our hearts beat. I still feel human, and I truly think I am still human. If it made changes to the living, they are very small changes… at least so far.

But the dead – oh, the dead. That’s a different story. It did something else to the dead.

I walked along now thinking my thoughts. I was lost in them – I’ll admit it – right back in March for a few seconds. But I came back fast.

We were right in front of a line of cliffs that overhung the river, spread out a little. At least I was. It’s funny how you can forget to be careful so goddamn fast. It was somewhere past midday when they came for us.

“Bear! Bear!”

Cammy from a hundred yards down. The panic and fear in her voice made my heart leap into my throat, and because of her fear, and probably some of my own, I did a really stupid thing right then that cost me time. I was so panicked, that I threw my rifle down and sprinted toward the sound of her voice. I got maybe twenty feet when the realization of what I had done hit me. It would have been comical to see the way I locked my legs up and tried to turn around before I had even come to a stop if it had not been so goddamned serious.

I had the rifle back in my hands, the safety off, just a fraction of a second later when Cammy and Madison opened up on the UN-dead closing in on them from the mouth of the narrow trail that lead up from the river. I added my fire to theirs before I had run another fifty feet, and their leader, a shambling wreck of a corpse, folded up, and then flopped over the side of the trail and down into the river. I continued to run as I fired, and I was shocked to realize that I was screaming at the top of my lungs as I closed in. I am big, but I can move when I have to.

“Goddamn-son-of-a-bitching-goddamn-bastards, dead-fuckers!” All strung together. Fear words. I did not hear them at first so I did not know when they started, and I could not shut them down once I did hear them. The panic and fear were just too hot.

I watched as, unseen by Cammy and Madison, a Zombie crouched on a narrow path above them swiveled his rotting head to me, seemed to take my measure with a wide, yellowed grin, and then dropped from the ledge on to Madison’s back.

“No! Goddamn-son-of-a-bitches-dead-bastards-bastards!” I could not say, ‘Madison Look Out!’ Or speed up my feet or any other damn thing. Time had slowed, become elastic, strange, too clearly seen. The Zombie hit her hard, and she folded like an accordion, driven into the ground, a few hundred pounds of animated corpse riding her down into the dirt, clawed hands clutching, mouth already angling to bite… to taste her.

I was still thirty or more yards away. I could not see how that could even be possible. I should have been closer, but I was not. I saw Cammy turn, panicked, take her eyes off the other UN-dead and start towards Madison. Unchallenged, the other Zombies closed ground far faster than they should have been able to.

I saw the Zombie on Madison take a mouthful of her back, just below the curve of her neck, and rip the flesh away from her spine. Cammy’s rifle came up and barked, and the zombie blew apart, raining down on Madison, a storm of black blood. Somehow, I managed to switch to full auto, get my rifle up, and spray an entire one hundred round clip into the other zombies where they rushed along the path towards Cammy and the fallen Madison.

Madison screamed. Time leapt back into its proper frame, and I found myself five feet away as Madison arched her back, screamed and tried to stand. Blood ran in a perfect river from her gaping wound, across the white of her T-Shirt and down to the waist of her jeans.

“I think… I think…” Madison tried.

“Baby… Baby,” Cammy sobbed. She dropped to her knees and pulled Madison to her. “Oh, Baby… Baby,” Cammy sobbed.

I looked back up at the trail. Empty. At least of moving UN-dead. Three or four, it was hard to tell with the tangle of legs and arms, lay dead on the pathway. Silence descended. I heard a bird in the trees above calling as if nothing was wrong with the world, Cammy sobbing, Madison crying hysterically, the wind moaning through the empty buildings that were set just back from the cliffs and the river on this side of the city.

I was thinking, ‘That wind is colder. Colder even than when we started out this morning. Maybe the weather will turn back to snow and cold. Maybe winter is not done after all… Or coming sooner… It could be. It’s all so screwed up. Maybe, if it does get cold, it will slow those bastards down. Maybe we will be okay… My, God… They bit Madison… They BIT Madison!!!’ I sagged to the ground, my mind full of confusion and numbness.

Cammy was sobbing uncontrollably. Madison had lapsed into shock. I was sitting crossed legged, wondering where in Hell this would all end up, my rifle fallen from my hands and laying on the ground next to me. Time spun out, dragged, seemed elastic once more, sticking in places and jumping ahead from those places to where it should have been had it continued to run properly.

Cammy sobbing, holding Madison up, kissing her forehead, telling her how much she loved her… how she was her world…

Madison, eyes rolled back in her head… face pale… fine beads of sweat standing out on her forehead… her back a bright slick of red running across Cammy’s hands where she held her. Slowing… Slowing… Cammy mouthing words in such slow motion that I could not understand what she said. Madison’s body sagging, eyes rolled up to the whites… bright dots of blood speckled across Cammy’s cheeks. Then time jumped, staggered, came back to normal, and Cammy was screaming and screaming…

“No! … NO! … Not my… My, love, my Madison, my…” Collapsing to the ground with Madison, crying still… softer, but continuous.

“Cammy,” My voice, but I did not know it at first. I actually stopped speaking and looked around, startled, before I realized it was me speaking. I turned my attention back to Cammy. “Cammy… Cammy, it’ll be okay… It’ll be…”

“NO! … NO!” She scrambled backward, pulling Madison’s unconscious body with her. She wiped one hand across her eyes trying to stem the flow of tears… “NO! She’s… She’s okay… Okay… You can’t… You…” She broke down into sobs, pulled Madison to her and began dragging her away from me.

“Cammy… Cammy, it bit her… Bit her… Cammy… Cammy, it’s… It’s just you and me, Cammy… It bit her… It bit her…”

She let go of Madison and lunged for her rifle. I sat, still cross legged, stupidly, as she grabbed it and leveled it at me.

“Get out,” She said very calmly. Much more calmly than I thought she should have been capable of.

“Cammy… What are you doing… Cammy?”

“GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT!” She screamed. I reared back as the rifle barrel came up and then slashed down across my face. I jumped back, but not fast enough. The steel barrel smashed into my lower lip, through it, and then hit my teeth. I immediately tasted blood and machine oil. My tongue ran across my teeth unconsciously. I was sure she had smashed them out, but the barrel edge had come up short, or I had moved back far enough. One of those things.

The pain was delayed, but it came never-the-less. Hard, heavy, fast, down into my lower jaw and then ricocheted back up into the top of my head. I scrambled backwards, tripped over my own rifle, got it into my hands, and then time did that funny slowing, elastic thing again.

The blood dripped from my chin onto the ground. My rifle was pointed squarely at Cammy, safety off and an empty clip, but Cammy didn’t know that. The blood dripped slowly. Cammy’s eyes swam in and out of focus, but remained on me. Her rifle barrel dipped and then rose again, leveled on me once more.

She seemed to take a deep breath that went on forever, and then, once more, time sped up. “I’ll kill you,” Cammy told me. “If you touch her, I’ll kill you… I will,” She started out strong but ended in a doubtful, whining whisper.

I didn’t drop my rifle barrel, but held one hand out in front of me in a placating gesture. “Not touching anyone… Not,” I managed through my busted lip and aching jaw. The pain was a live, throbbing thing.

“You will… But… I know you will… You think… You think…” She seemed all at once to realize that she no longer held Madison in her arms. She took a deep shuddering breath and then dropped her rifle to the ground. She collapsed back down to the ground and crawled to Madison’s body.

I stood shocked, not knowing what to do. Time side-slipped again. The bird went back to calling out, if it had ever stopped. The wind came back, blowing cold against my face, pushing the flush of heat that the situation had brought with it away, cooling the sweat on my brow. The bird called. Another picked it up, and soon all the birds were talking as though nothing at all had happened. It became a perfect storm of noise after the deepness of the silence. Time slipped away again, clouds moving across the cold, blue of the sky.

Cammy sat, Madison pulled up into her lap, a large smear of maroon on her forehead, stroking Madison’s black hair. The birds called. The coldness of the wind seemed to bite at my bones. Nipping. Tasting. An un-dead thing of its own.

I can’t tell you why I did it, but I am glad I did. I pushed the button on the rifle butt, dropped the empty clip in to my waiting palm, and slid another up into the rifle where it socketed itself home with a solid click. I did it perfectly, like I had been doing it all of my life instead of just the last few months since the UN-dead disease, epidemic, disorder, plague, what-ever-the-fuck it is has happened. She never looked up. The birds didn’t stop singing their birdsong. Just in case, I told myself. Just in case.

I stood, my knees screaming, flexed experimentally and then walked a short distance away, leaning up against the cliff face. I reached into my jacket pocket, pulled out my pouch and rolled a cigarette. I felt at my lips, busted up, but it would heal. I had been in fights in my old life where I had been busted up much worse. I lit the cigarette, held it carefully between my lips, smoking as I watched the clouds slip across the sky. Letting the urgency of the situation float away on the wind like the smoke.

Cammy’s voice had fallen to a barely audible whisper as she stroked Madison’s hair and held her. Madison’s lips, blue tinged, moved, too quiet to hear her words. A private conversation. A private conversation in the wide open, which, thanks to the UN-dead, was a very private place. No one at all around, alive anyway, and the dead couldn’t care less about love, secrets, whispered promises, goodbyes. The UN-dead only cared about the hunger that seemed to drive them. Flesh, and more flesh. The time turned elastic once more and spun out of control for some unknown length. I only know that when I came back to myself the sun had moved across the sky. My thoughts were about darkness, Zombies, staying alive.

When I think back on it now, I realize a noise had brought me back. Had to be, otherwise there was no reason for me to come back at all, just stay gone. Let the sun go down and the UN-dead take the night, me, Cammy, Madison and whatever else they wanted. But it didn’t go that way.

A noise, a sliding foot, a pebble falling from above… I really don’t know. I know that this time I reacted fast. My rifle came up; my mind was clear. I focused; two of them dropping from the cliffs above… like cats… like dead, stinking, feral cats… dragging that stink of death with them. The stench of rotted flesh falling from the sky, enveloping me even as I fired into them.

I had a choice. I couldn’t get them both. One falling at me, one falling at Cammy where she sat with Madison cradled in her arms, oblivious to everything around her. My reaction chose for me. The rifle came straight up and spat short, little barks of noise and flame. The Zombie started to come apart before it hit me. A shower of cold, dead blood rained down on me, splattered against my face. The body hit the barrel of the rifle and took me down to the ground, clutching the rifle hard to keep from losing it as the full weight of the Zombie came down on it.

I kept it, but only by sheer determination. The Zombie had impaled herself onto the barrel. Her flesh so rotted that it had simply punched through her breast and out her back. I shoved her off as quickly as I could, one booted foot kicking against her chest, knocking her apart, pulling the barrel back through the soft flesh and hard bone.

I expected to see Cammy done for. I expected to see her dead or dying, but she had somehow ended up about twenty feet from where the Zombie had fallen. She looked herself, as if she had no real idea how that had happened, but when I raised my eyes and they took in the whole scene before them, I saw exactly how it had happened.

Madison must have still been awake. Laying there badly injured but not gone, taking the comfort from Cammy that she offered. When the Zombie fell, she saw it. She saw it and managed to push Cammy away from her and take the attack on herself.

The Zombie was no match for her, wounded though she was. She straddled the Zombie with a rock easily the size of her own head and brought it down hard: Once. Twice, and then I lost count, and the Zombie quit fighting. The undead, dead again. This time for good.

The silence came back hard. Like a curtain on the last act of a play, just when the audience isn’t expecting it. It crashed down.

Time did its elastic trick and then snapped back before I was ready for it. My senses were shot. At first I could not connect the dots of memory that I needed to connect to make sense of what my eyes were seeing.

Cammy rose to shaky legs and started toward Madison, sobbing once more. Madison’s eyes swiveled to me. A sick look in them, and pain riding there too. She slumped forward, one wrist flapping uselessly, and lunged for the rifle that Cammy had trained on me not so long ago. Time stopped its elastic trickery right around that time. I knew exactly what she intended to do before she did it.

Cammy stopped in mid stride and nearly fell backwards at the effort of stopping so quickly. I think she believed for a second that Madison intended to shoot her. I really believe she thought that. But that was not the plan, and I knew that was not the plan. Because the plan that had resurfaced in her mind was the one we had talked about, half seriously, half jokingly, for as long as we had been traveling together. Before she followed through on that plan, I heard her tell it to me in my mind once again, the way she had a week or so before, when she had been unmolested… whole… not about to join the ranks of the UN-dead herself.

“If I ever fuckin’ have to, I won’t hesitate,” Madison had said, “Once I’m dead, I don’t want to come back.” She shuddered and grimaced at the same time.

We had been in an old house over in Harlem. That was before Harlem got crazy too. We’d had gas lanterns for light. The windows were boarded over. The UN-dead scratched and cried and pleaded, but they could not get in. The four of us – John had still been alive then, in fact he had died just two days later. Fell through a rotted section of floor in that same old house. Impaled himself on a pipe in the basement. Madison had shot him in the head nearly as soon as he had stopped his struggles. Cammy had bent double and vomited. I had held it in, but barely – but that night John had been alive, he had still been with us. With us as we listened to the sounds of the UN-dead that were trying to get to us. To kill us. To eat us. To satisfy their ceaseless hunger. In the flickering light from the gas lanterns, she had said it, and he had nodded his head, agreeing immediately with what she had said. And I had not. It had not been a real thing to me, despite what I had already gone through on my own, until two days later when John had died and she had wasted no time. None.

“He would have expected it,” she had said, and nothing more. But that night… that night she had said it straight out, like a mantra, like looking into the future and seeing this day.

“If they come for me, if they get me? I’ll put a bullet in my own head. I will. I swear I will. If I ever fuckin’ have to, I won’t hesitate,” Madison had said, “Once I’m dead, I don’t want to come back.”

And Cammy had begun to cry. “Don’t say it, Maddy. Don’t say it.” And she hadn’t said it again, but it didn’t matter. She had already spoke it into truth. I had heard it. I had heard it, and I knew she meant it.

And now, time stopped its trick. She jammed the rifle under her chin and squeezed the trigger. Her head exploded in a spray of red and gray. I swear I could hear the sounds of small bits of bone and drops of blood pattering down to the ground. And then the silence was roaring again.

I took a breath, another… And then Cammy began to scream once more.


Earth’s Survivors America The Dead: Manhattan. A small group tries to make their way out of New York… https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-america-the-dead-manhattan/id1085902524?mt=11


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America The Dead: Apple Books

EARTH’S SURVIVORS AMERICA THE DEAD

Copyright 2020 Dell Sweet

All Rights Reserved

Additional Copyrights © 2010, 2012, 2015 by Wendell Sweet.

All rights reserved, foreign and domestic

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 2016 Wendell Sweet and his assignees. Dell Sweet and Geo Dell are publishing constructs owned by Wendell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.

Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.

NOTICE: This material has not been edited for content


FOREWORD

Some people think that writers craft stories, write them specifically as told to, or as circumstances dictate them to. And there are writers who do that. I don’t. I write what comes through to me. What stories I see when I sit down and begin to write. It is that simple for me. Most times I am along for the ride. If that makes me a lesser writer, or a pawn, so be it. I have always suspected there is more to writing than we know there is. Maybe we who write are only conduits to some other place.

This group of stories about people surviving a catastrophic world changing event and rebuilding their society has been with me since my early teens when I first wrote about it. Many things have come along in my life, changed me, the circumstances of my life and even the way I live it, but the story has always been there: A constant for me.

Dell Sweet 03-04-16

Glennville One

Prologue

Year Two

January 15th

The Nation

“As long as it never freezes around the wheel it will be fine,” Tim said. “It will still work.”

“If it doesn’t freeze solid?” Tom asked.

“If it doesn’t freeze solid,” Tim agreed. “But it may… We’ll have to see,” Tim added.

“It shouldn’t,” Josh said. “I have never known the rivers and streams to freeze solid in my area, and we’re much farther south here than I was. Plus all the changes that have happened: Two extra hours of sunlight every day would make things warmer, not colder, wouldn’t it?”

“Might do something,” Tom agreed. They were discussing whether the power house could continue to operate through the winter. Whether the stream that fed it would freeze solid and stop the wheel from turning.

“Well, what I’ve done is simple enough,” Tim said. “I’ve just vented the water that keeps the generators cool right back out, just down from the wheel. That’s why no ice is forming anywhere around the wheels. That should keep it from forming, but if the entire stream freezes solid then we’ll have to shut down the plant, no flow, no go,” Tim said.

“We’re going to keep the flour mill open?” Josh asked.

“Keeps the water flowing, keeps the ice from getting a foothold. All we do is take out the drive shaft and the machinery doesn’t move, just the big wheel outside,” Tom said. “Now the sawmill, that’s almost non-stop. I suppose that eventually it will slow down as soon as everyone has built a home, or we finish up projects we want to build, but for now it’s full production every day.”

“I can’t see a day when it wouldn’t be,” Josh added. “People are coming in every week. Slower now, but they’re coming.”

“You should think of something else we can use the flour mill for in the winter, Tim” Ronnie said. “There has to be something.”

“Lots of stuff,” Tim said. “But the smartest would be to generate our heat from there. A small boiler system could heat everything in the valley. Add a laundry center, or hide washing, processing, which could use the steam heat too. Use the water power when we need it to grind flour, which is really only about a month and a half out of the year, use the water after that to drive steam into the valley. The two won’t conflict with each other.”

Tom was nodding. “One thing though. Move the hide processing far away. Down the valley somewhere where it won’t contaminate our ground water: Where the stench won’t be with us all day every day. I’d really move it completely out of the valley if we could.”

Mike added his agreement. “How hard would it be?”

“Not very,” Tim said. “I’d put the steam boiler in another building, close by, just run the pumping system from the mill building. We have tons of pipe we bought back. I’d run that pipe about two feet under the ground and right directly under the path we use in the valley. At two feet we should be insulated from most heat loss, but there will be an accumulative effect that will keep the path free of snow or ice. Sort of like a heated sidewalk. A bonus. We can top the path with gravel, install good drainage too so it doesn’t end up a muddy mess.”

“Then I’d build the wash house, hide houses separate too. It’s just a matter of running pipe to them. We would have our mill; our steam for heating and hot water all from the same building,” Tim said.

“Tim, what did you do in the old world,” Mike asked.

“School… Video games, little innocent hacking,” He answered. He blushed as he spoke.

“And how did you learn all of this?” He let his hands rise to take in the entire settlement.

“Oh… That… I like to read. I have a memory that works kind of funny. It’s like this: I read something and it goes into my head. Maybe I read something else, other ways to do the same thing. That goes into my head too. Then I visualize it, like I’m actually doing it… Maybe a few times, maybe more, but I see how it works. I see the way to do it. I see the mistakes I could have made too. So when I really do it, it’s like I already did it, I already know how,” he said. He looked prepared to be disbelieved.

“Really?” Mike asked.

“Really,” Tim answered.

“I can see that,” Ronnie said. “I’ve done pretty much the same thing in my head when I’m doing construction work. I work it out in my head and I have it. I didn’t trust it at first, but eventually I came to look at the work I was doing in my head as the same as really doing it.”

Tim was nodding in agreement.

“I’ve never tried it,” Mike said, “but I will: Apparently it works.”

“Why don’t we get together tonight, have dinner together and discuss it, vote on it,” Tom suggested.

“Candace will be up there anyway,” Mike said.

“She and Patty are up there helping with the new work on the clinic, germs; concrete sealed floor, plastic walls… They aren’t doing the work all alone, more like directing it. Steve says it will be a big deal… Cut down on infections,” Ronnie said.

Mike nodded. “So, she’ll be there anyway.”

“They’ll come to a meeting?” Tom asked.

“Positive they will. It’s a good idea. We’ll get all of us together and get it approved,” Mike agreed.

They walked out onto the path that lead back up to the cave. A team of horses was passing by, slowly pulling a sledge piled high with logs toward the sawmill that was farther up the valley. Chloe, who was driving the team of oxen that were pulling it smiled and waved as she passed them by.

Lilly waved to Chloe as she passed her a little further down the road, as she waited to cross the slushy path. She was coming from the cave and heading to the school that sat on the other side, the ridge side of the path, nestled up against the steep sides of the valley where it was protected from the winds. The snow next to the path was hard packed. The snow in the field was three feet deep, and there was at least three months of winter left.

A second sledge came following the first, Joe Stevens waved as he approached her where she stood. Tom had hitched a ride from the flour mill, hanging onto the back of the sledge. He peeked around the back of the sledge and smiled. She couldn’t help but return it. He jumped off now as he neared her, and walked across the sloppy path, taking her hand.

“May I,” he asked as he helped her to cross the path. “Going back to the school,” he asked as he walked beside her holding her hand.

She stopped, stretched onto her tip toes and kissed him.

“Yep,” she told him as she began walking once more.

“Is that any kind of English for a teacher to be using,” Tom asked.

“Yep,” Lilly told him and smiled.

“Hey, where’s my kid who’s usually glued to your hip?” Tom asked.

“Annie’s watching him. He fell asleep after he had his lunch,” Lilly told him.

“Nice lunch. Lucky kid,” Tom said with an affected leer.

“Yeah, well, when he’s done with them you’ll get them back,” she said laughing as they walked across the path.

Tom laughed too. “Got a lot to do?”

“Half a day of school. Kids will be back from lunch in just a few minutes. I just stopped off at home to get something to eat myself,” she said.

“Well, I have more to do with Mike and the guys anyway… I just saw you and wanted to see you, you know,” Tom said.

“Yeah? Well, I know what’s on your mind and we’ll see about that later on,” Lilly told him with a smile.

Tom grinned, watched her walk back to the school, and then turned and walked back to the power plant where the others still stood.

When he reached the power plant and jumped up onto the boardwalk all three of the others were looking up toward the main cave. They all looked concerned.

Tom walked closer. “What’s up?” He asked.

“We have a visitor,” Mike said. He jumped down from the board walk and began heading toward the cave with the others.

“Visitor,” Tom asked as he hurried to keep up.

“Rollie,” Ronnie said. “The trader? He’s bringing our new doctor and a whole wagon load of supplies.”

“Debbie Jenkins has post this morning down the valley. She said he passed by her about an hour ago, so he should be popping up over the ridge directly,” Mike said.

“Came through the old state park entrance,” Ronnie told him. “Says the road all the way in is good... Clear.

“Parkland,” Mike said.

“Right,” Ronnie agreed. “I guess I’ll never remember the name if I don’t keep it in my head. Anyway, Parkland called the day before yesterday. Told us he had gotten there and would be leaving in the morning; that would be yesterday morning. Not bad time for horses pulling a wagon.”

“Hell no,” Tom agreed.

“Who’s the new doctor,” Josh asked.

“Emmett Stiles,” Mike said. “Older guy, don’t know much about him. Candace talked to him more than anyone else. Says he’ll fit right in if he’s anything like his radio personality is.”

“Huh,” Tom said.

“Huh exactly,” Josh agreed.

They made it to the top of the pass just in time to watch the sleigh approach the steep grade that would bring it to the top of the pass. An older man sat high on the wagon, driving a team of four oxen. The other man sat across from him. The trader drove the horses easily up the incline and onto the broad terrace that fronted the cave.

The man, somewhere south of sixty, Mike thought, set the brake on the sleigh and then looked down at the five men.

“How do,” The man said.

“All right,” Ronnie said.

The other man smiled and nodded hello.

“I imagine you’d be Rollie,” Mike said as he offered a hand. “And you would be Emmett.” He shook hands with the doctor also, and helped as both men climbed down to the ground.

“Rollie drives a fine wagon, well, sleigh this time of year, but I don’t recommend this kind of travel over long distance. This thing need shocks… Something.” He laughed as he massaged his back with both hands and then stretched and yawned.

“Well, you better hope these folks want you or you might find yourself walking back,” Rollie said and laughed.

They all laughed and Mike introduced the others. “This is Ronnie, best carpenter we have here. This here is Tom, takes care of our farm with Josh, who actually is a farmer and shows us how to do things right. And this is Tim who knows pretty much everything else.” They all shook hands and said their hellos. His eyes were drawn to the huge tarp covered load, the wagon and then the Oxen. “You’ll stay a while?” Mike asked.

The man’s eyes had caught the electric lights spaced along the tunnel that lead into the cave. The tunnel now ran right down the right side of the main cave. It flowed in a curve all the way to the other side of the mountain and the second cave where it emptied out in the main cave area. You could use the doors there and the built up earthen ramp to continue right down into the third valley. He nodded and then shook his head.

“Yeah… Yes, I thought to stay a bit and rest a little. So… You do have electric. Amazing. I know of no other place that does, excepting Alabama Island, and they are barely up and running with it. I was sure you had it, electric I mean, and so I banked on it: Added a few items you might could use… There a place where I can put up the oxen?” He asked.

“Sure,” Tim said. He helped the man disconnect the team and then he and Josh excused themselves as they lead the team down into the valley.

Candace, Patty, Sandy and Susan came from inside the main cave.

“Hello,” Emmett Stiles said As Candace stepped forward. He used a walking stick, but did not seem to need it for anything more than an affection. His black hair was long, twisted into a pony-tail that hung between his shoulder blades. A smile rested on his full mouth, his skin a light brown.

“Candace, Doctor Emmett Stiles,” Mike said. He turned and looked from Candace to Patty. “Doctor, my woman, Candace, you two talked over the radio. And my friend Patty, Ronnie’s woman. Ladies this is our new doctor. Come to us from Johnson Crossing.”

Sandy overheard the introduction from just a few feet away where she had been looking over the wagon and hurried over with Susan.

“This is Sandy… Susan. Sandy is our nurse. She took over the load after Jessie left,” Mike said.

Everyone said their hellos and Emmett turned to Sandy.

“I wanted to meet you, Sandy. I have heard so much about you,” Emmett said.

“It’s nice to meet you, Doctor. Candace told me all about you,” she said.

“Emmett.” he lifted his eyes to include everyone. “Emmett is easier on my ears.”

“Emmett,” Sandy agreed.

“Sandy,” Emmett said. “Maybe you could show me around? … You too Susan, of course.”

“Absolutely,” Sandy said.

Rollie spoke up as they walked away.

“She’s telling a different story… Just so you know,” Rollie said in a low voice.

“Who,” Mike asked.

“Jessie. Radio, incoming on a relay a week or so before I left. Says you ran them out in the middle of the night… Says they were lucky to make it out alive. Not all did, in fact.”

Ronnie shook his head and laughed. “Try to do someone a favor and it bites you in the ass. “We walked them out, allowed them to go when we caught them about to go on their own with nothing. Gave them weapons, food,” He shook his head in disgust.

“You called it though,” Mike said. A sad smile curved the corners of his mouth downward. “You said it would get switched up and it did….” He turned to Rollie. “We’ll talk more later… Maybe others will want to hear what she said.”

“How’s a cup of coffee sound?” Tom asked a few seconds later to break the uncomfortable silence.

“You got coffee?” Rollie asked.

“Well, instant,” Tom admitted. “Coffee is gold here. We hope to grow some next year though.”

“Now see, that’s why you need me. I think we can help each other a great deal,” Rollie said.

The door opened behind them and several people flooded out of the cave and surrounded them. Ronnie made introductions as Mike kissed Candace on one cheek.

“Well,” Mike said as things quieted down. “Come on in and let’s get some coffee in you.”

“All right,” Rollie agreed. He turned to the sleigh and in a second one corner of the tarp was loose and flapping. A second later he had thrown it back over the load. Boxes upon boxes, Mike saw. Rollie reached in the midst and pulled out a large sack and then an old fashioned coffee grinder. The smell of ground coffee hit him on the constant wind that blew over the pass and down into the valley. Rollie turned back with a huge smile on his face.

“Let’s make the coffee real. And let’s call this a good will gift to you folks,” he said, holding out the old fashioned coffee grinder and the sack of beans.

“Okay then,” Mike said and laughed. He took the grinder and Ronnie took the sack of coffee beans. They walked into the cave together, the crowd all talking at once.

Snoqualmie Settlement

Washington State

April 28th

Year Two

The Fold

“Easy, Frank,” Gary warned, “you ain’t got but two inches, and you’ll be over the damn edge of the roof.”

“No sweat, Gar’,” Frank replied. “That about where she needs to be, Joe?”

“Looks sweet to me,” Joe answered smiling.

“Frank! For God’s sake be careful, you’re going to fall, I just know it,” this from Annie on the ground.

No I’m not, not unless Joe pushes me I’m not,” Frank said, and laughed.

“Oh, when you get down from there, Franklin, I’m going to swat that smartness out of you for good,” Annie called up, sounding relieved.

“She will too,” Frank whispered to Gary.

“I heard that,” Annie said from below.

“Shove it up just an inch, Frank,” Joe said.

Frank shoved the solar panel back up, estimating the inch Joe wanted.

“Good, right there, now hold on for just one second…” a heavy thunk sounded as Joe drove a nail into the roof, through one of the panels tabs. “Two more, Frank…”

thunk … thunk.

Gary was holding the side. “’Bout done, Frank. Got ‘er?”

Frank smiled, “Easy as pie…” his foot slipped, and he slid backwards. Gary’s arm shot out quickly, a startled gasp came from Annie below. Frank held onto the panel, instead of holding the panel, and just hoped Joe had enough nails in it. One foot slipped off the edge, the other held however, and the slide stopped.

thunk … thunk.

“Okay, Frank, you can let go,” Joe told him, and looked up. Gary had him by one arm. Joe bent and quickly drove another nail into the roof.

thunk, thunk, thunk,

Frank pulled himself up carefully, with Gary’s help, and then sat down on the rough shingles.

“I didn’t know,” Joe said.

“Neither did I,” Frank told him. He laughed uneasily.

“Honey?” from Annie on the ground.

Frank leaned over the edge of the roof. “I’m fine, Hon. I think I’ll just sit here for a minute though if you don’t mind.”

“Well damn, Frank, lean over the edge and fall off why don’t you!” He drew back.

Joe handed Gary the hammer and the apron full of nails, and began to work on the wiring. He popped the end of the panel open, fished the cable through, stripped it, and began to finish the circuit.

“Uh, uh,” Frank said. He took the hammer and the apron, and began fastening the bottom of the panel. Gary’s arthritis was bad: Bad enough that he shouldn’t even be up here, and he was afraid of heights too.

“Suit yourself, Frank,” Gary said, obviously relieved.

Joe twisted the wire-nut on the last three ground wires, wound a short length of electrical tape around them, and closed the panel front. “That’s it,” he said, as he stood on the sharply pitched roof.

thunk … thunk

“Me too,” Frank said, handing the hammer back to Gary. Gary turned and dropped it over the edge, close to the house, the nail apron went the same way.

Joe grinned. “Let’s go try it,” he said.

Seven months of scrounging solar panels, back-up batteries and wiring, and now the moment of truth. Joe waited anxiously while Gary negotiated the ladder, a slow trip. Gary did fine going up the ladder, it was down that was hard, he knew.

Frank waited nervously beside Dell, Annie, and Peggy on the ground, until Gary finally reached the end of the ladder. Joe fairly flew down behind him, the excitement evident on his face. They all walked inside the cabin.

It was the largest cabin at Snoqualmie settlement, built the first year with some help from Jeremiah and Anson, when they had come up. They needed a large cabin, so that all of them could get together. Snoqualmie had grown a great deal in the last year. Joe and Becky had bought Dell and Peggy when they had come cross country from the east. Six months later Frank had come without Jessie. Shortly after that Annie had come and they had become an item: Jessie had come on her own, but she had not stayed long. Lisa and her man Sam, six other couples had followed. Now there were better than seventy people here in the first encampment, and over three hundred in the small valley by the lake: The numbers kept rising.

In addition to the larger cabin, there were seven others scattered in a semicircle, and more than eighty down closer to the lake. Most had been part of an old summer camp for kids. Joe walked to a large electrical panel, mounted just inside the doorway, and waited for the others to catch up.

The panel held the main breaker. They had wired the eight cabins with florescent lights. No outlets, they didn’t have enough panels for that yet. Six large sodium lights ringed the cabins outside. Joe hesitated, his eyes locked on the overhead light fixture. “Here goes,” he said, and then flicked the main breaker.

For a split second nothing. And then, softly, a low hum, almost insectile, as the fluorescent light stuttered to life.

Gary levered the front door open. The sodium lights had a sensor switch that would automatically turn them on at dusk, but Joe had installed an override switch next to the door. Gary flipped the switch as he stepped out the door, and the sodium arc lights glowed softly. Within five minutes they were at full power, shining brightly in the late afternoon air.

“Think it’ll run anything else?” Dell asked.

“Eventually, if we can hunt up a few more panels,” Joe answered smiling. “We did it, can you believe it?”

“So long as you don’t want to build a nuclear power plant next, Joe,” Gary said and laughed. The others joined in, their laughter rolling across the clearing As they turned to walk back to the cabin they heard the sound of a motor on the quiet mountain air.

“Damn,” Gary said as he dodged inside the cabin and came back with an armload of rifles.

He passed them around as the motor grew louder.

There was one road into the old forest preserve, and none of them had heard the sound of a gas motor in close to a year, the entire settlement used horses. Their outpost was the entrance into the actual settlement a half mile distance deeper into the forest, spread around the lake.

Joe took a rifle from Gary. He ejected and checked the magazine, then slammed it home once more. The rifles were the real deal, full auto at the flip of a switch, taken from some dead soldiers they had come across on one of their excursions for supplies.

Sarah ran Snoqualmie settlement: She had since Jessie Stone had left more than a year before, and had never come back. Snoqualmie had risen from a disorganized settlement of outlaws, desperate men and women, to a respected settlement that was ruled with a somewhat iron hand.

He could clearly hear more than one motor now, maybe three, Joe thought. Frank looked over at him and arched his eyebrows, but the truth was that Joe had no idea who this might be. There were gangs from the larger cities that sometimes raided the smaller encampments, but none had ever come this far out, and Snoqualmie was far from small. Over three hundred people were here. Armed men and women. Gardens were planted. Houses had been built. It was home and they all felt the same about it. No gang would be taking this place from them, stealing their children, raping their women, murdering their men. It was a question that came up often living so close to what was left of Seattle Washington. It was why the rifles had been picked up, cleaned, and put into service. It was why this house was the outpost you had to pass to get down into the actual settlement.

Becky came from the house with her own rifle. She took up a position by a tree on the other side of the main road where it turned in from the old park road and then angled down toward the lake and the settlements. The motors grew louder as the vehicles turned the last corner and rolled out into the clearing that fronted the house. Three sport utilities that had seen better days, Joe saw. Their drivers shut down the motors and silence fell on the day. The tick of cooling motors came to Joe’s ears. The door on the closest sport utility began to open and Beth called out from across the yard.

“I would step out unarmed if I were you,” Becky told them. The others in the yard had raised their own rifles and pointed them at the door and the person who was stepping from the sport utility.

A short woman stepped out, long black hair, black-lensed glasses covered her eyes. Joe began to lower his rifle. She stripped off the heavy leather coat she wore and tossed it back into the truck. She pulled the glasses down her nose and stared over them to where Becky stood, a wide smile on her face.

“Oh god, no way,” Becky said. Her voice caught as she lowered her rifle and moved toward the woman where she stood next to the truck. “Jessie… We thought you were dead, Jessie. We thought you were dead.” she told her when she reached her. Becky wrapped her arms around the smaller woman and hugged her tightly.

“I get that a lot,” Jessie joked. She made room for Joe as he came over and wrapped his arms around the two of them. “I get that a lot,” Jessie repeated.

April 11th 1952

Jeremiah Edison

Jeremiah Edison drove the old tractor carefully down the side of the slippery hill. It had been raining for close to three days, and it didn’t look as though it was going to let up right quick, he thought.

The rain was causing all sorts of problems, and not just for him, he knew, but for the cows as well. The biggest problem was the creek, and the only way the creek wasn’t going to be a problem was to unplug the thing.

He sat on the tractor as it slipped and slid its way down the hill through the gray sheets of rain. Jeremiah let out a sigh of relief once it reached the bottom. For a second there, he had been sure both he and the old tractor would end up in the creek, but God was smiling on him today.

He slipped the worn gearbox into neutral, and sat looking at the rush of muddy-brown water. The creek was a good four feet above the point of flooding, and he wasn’t sure it was a smart move to try to put the tractor in that. The tractor was sure footed, but so was a goat, and he’d seen more than one goat end up on its ass. But there wasn’t anything else for it. If he didn’t move the trees that were clogging the creek, and flooding it out and over the banks, then he might as well just sit back and watch a couple more cows drown.

Jeremiah knew cows, pretty much anyhow, and every one that he and Maggie owned were just as stupid as any other cow he’d ever seen. The cows didn’t understand flooding, they didn’t understand how the water could weaken the banks, and so the big dummies just walked on down to the creek, just like any other day, and got swept away when the bank crumbled under their weight. Three days of rain and four dead cows, and though cows were stupid, they weren’t cheap.

Jeremiah sat in the pouring rain and stared at the creek. Normally, the creek was no more than eighteen inches deep at the most. Course normal wasn’t what it was today, he thought, and wishin’ it was wouldn’t make it so. It was his own damn fault, he reminded himself. Two of the trees that were clogging it had been there last summer, and hadn’t he promised Maggie he’d take ’em out before fall? He had, but he hadn’t, and so here he was in the pouring rain fixin’ to half kill himself to get ’em out.

Looked like the best way, Jeremiah thought, might be to try and snag the biggest one right from the bank. He squinted as he shielded his eyes to peer through the rain. One thing was for sure, sittin’ on the tractor and thinkin’ about it, wasn’t gonna get it. Reluctantly, Jeremiah climbed down off the tractor and edged closer to the bank. The rain was coming down hard, but the section he stood upon seemed solid enough. “Probably what the cows thought,” he muttered as he moved closer.

He walked back to the tractor, unwound a long section of chain from behind the seat, and walked back to the creek. The top of the bigger tree was sticking a good three feet over the bank, and he was glad that it was. He could see that the water was rising faster, and moving along quicker, and he had no wish to get any closer to it than he had to. Quickly, but carefully, he wound the chain around the tree and pegged the links with an old bolt to hold them. Looks good, and solid as well, he thought as he slipped the other end of the chain over the bucket. He genuinely didn’t want to try and turn the tractor around. In fact, he thought, as muddy as the ground was, he’d be damn lucky just to get it back up and away from the creek when he finished.

He gave an experimental tug at the chain, and then climbed back up on the tractor. Carefully, without grinding the gears any more than he surely had to, he shifted into reverse, played the clutch out slowly and brought up the slack in the chain.

“Well God?” He asked, looking skyward, “You keepin’ a watch down here? I could sure use a hand about now, Lord. Amen,” Jeremiah finished.

He let the clutch out a little further, playing the gas pedal as he did, and let the tractor go to work. The over-sized tires spun, caught, and the tractor began to slowly back up the steep bank, pulling the tree out of the muddy water as it did. Jeremiah released the breath he had been holding, and just as he did the chain snapped in two. Jeremiah barely had time to register what had happened when the old tractor flipped, crushing him beneath it.

THE STORY OF THE FOLD

ONE

February 26th

Year One

Jeremiah Edison

Jeremiah Edison stared at the squared board lost in thought. If he moved to the right, he would surely lose two checkers. Maybe, he thought, as many as four. Moving to the left would not help either. There was actually only one semi-safe move to make, and that was straight ahead. But even that move could put a hurtin’ on his few remaining checkers, he thought. Nothing to do for it though, but move it, and see what happened.

He stared into the thoughtful eyes of the older man across the table, trying to read them. No good, he was a master at hiding his thoughts. His face was calm and carefully composed, not so much as a smile played at the corners of his mouth.

Jeremiah gave in and decisively moved one checker forward and then leaned back into his chair, waiting to see what the older man would do.

“Well, I see you have left me little choice, Jeremiah,” the older man said. He picked up one of his own checkers and carefully slid it forward as he finished speaking.

“That was what I was hoping you’d do,” Jeremiah said grinning as he jumped two of the older man’s checkers.

“No doubt about it, Jeremiah, you’re just too good for me,” the older man replied. He smiled widely, and pleasantly, and then changed the subject. “How about we take a short break, Jeremiah, maybe go for a walk. You must get tired of beating me all the time?”

“Well,” Jeremiah replied, “I kind ‘a get the idea you let me beat you sometimes, but sure, I wouldn’t mind a break at all.”

“I would never let you beat me, Jeremiah. It is a good thing we don’t play poker though. I might gamble the entire kingdom away trying to beat you,” the older man replied laughing. “Besides I have my reasons for wanting to take a break right now. I see it like this, if you and I take a break, maybe once we return your concentration will not be so keen, and then maybe I will win one of these games for a change.” He rose from the small table as he finished speaking. “Ready, Jeremiah?”

“Yep.”

Jeremiah closed his eyes. He could have kept them open, and a few times he had, but the trip was unnerving enough without adding the visual aspects to it. Not that there was anything to see except darkness for the split second they would be traveling, he thought. Still…

He opened his eyes. They had actually only been shut for less than a second, but in that space of time they had traveled a considerable distance, or at least seemed to have. The small table that had been before him was gone, replaced by a lush green valley. A calm blue river flowed across the valley floor far below. He followed it with his eyes as it wound away in the distance.

“It’s beautiful,” Jeremiah exclaimed, “but will it still be…?” He let the question trail away.

“Yes it will, as will several others, Jeremiah, but it need not be this place, there are so many to choose from,” the older man informed him. “Come.”

Jeremiah blinked, and when he opened his eyes they were standing in a high mountain meadow. Wild flowers covered the meadow, and a large, summer-fat herd of deer grazed peacefully among them. A large buck raised its heavily antlered head and stared at the two men, but perceiving no threat went back to grazing the field.

“This is also beautiful,” Jeremiah said quietly.

“It only matters where, Jeremiah. There are so many. There were even more, and there will be again.”

“I’ll have to tell Maggie about this place, and the other,” Jeremiah replied, still watching the deer graze.

“You should, Jeremiah. In fact, there will be many things to tell her. Things she will need to know, Jeremiah.”

“Tonight?”

“Yes. The time is short.”

“I was afraid of that,” Jeremiah said slowly.

“There is no reason to be afraid, Jeremiah.”

“I know that. I guess I mean afraid, as in I wish it didn’t have to happen.”

“I knew what you meant, Jeremiah, but it is necessary. As much as I would wish that it was not, it is.”

Jeremiah nodded his head slowly. “I know.”

The two men stood in silence for several minutes, watching the deer in the field. It seemed so peaceful to Jeremiah, a good place to be, a good place to live, and that made it harder to accept that most of it would soon be gone. The older man spoke, breaking the silence that had fallen between them.

“Would you like to look at some others, Jeremiah?”

“I believe I would at that. I think I’d like to look at as much as I kin before it’s gone, I guess. Does that sound wrong?”

“No, Jeremiah, it does not, I too wish to look… Ready?”

Jeremiah nodded, but did not close his eyes. Darkness enveloped him, and a sense of speed. The absence of light was complete; he could only sense the presence of the older man beside him as the traveled through the dark void.

Bluechip

Watertown, New York

Richard Pierce

Far below the small city of Watertown New York, Richard Pierce sat working before an elaborate computer terminal. He had just initiated the program that managed the small nuclear power plant hidden deep below him in the rock. The nuclear power plant fed project Bluechip, and something else that was hidden from him. He wondered about that briefly but shut it out.

The government had designed all of this project precisely that way, to be unconnected. So that any one person or group working on a particular section would not know what any other group or person working on some other section was actually doing. It made things difficult at times, but he supposed it was for the best. When it came to the government and what they did, it was sometimes best not to know.

A small handset beside the computer station chimed, and he picked it up and listened. He did not speak at first, but as he listened a smile spread across his face. “Very good,” he said happily, when the caller was finished, “keep me advised.” He set the small handset back into its cradle and turned his attention back to the screen in front of him. The plant had powered up just as it was supposed to, no problems whatsoever, and that made Richard Pierce extremely happy. Two more days tops, he thought, and then maybe I’ll get out of this dump.

He supposed he should feel honored that he was even here. It was after all one of the biggest projects in the country, albeit top secret, but he could not help the way he felt. He was close to a mile underground, totally cut off from everything and everyone, and he hated it. If he had a choice, which he had not, he would never have come at all, but he had written the software that handled the power plant, as well as several other sections of the military base and that made it his baby. There were a couple of small bugs, mainly due to the fact that no one had been allowed to know what the entire program was supposed to do. The way the rewrites were going however, it looked as though he would not be stuck here anywhere near as long as he had originally thought, and that was something to think about. He had begun to feel that he would never leave this rock bound prison, and wouldn’t that be a real bitch.

Gary Jones

At a large gravel pit on the outskirts of Watertown New York, Gary Jones carefully maneuvered the wide mouth of the loader bucket over the dump box of the truck, and pulled back on the lever closest to him to release the load. Ain’t this something, he thought, as he slowly topped off the dump box, barely 10 AM and we’ve already sent out twenty-seven truckloads of gravel to the base.

Six men out sick, and another forty truckloads to deliver before five tonight. What in hell are they doing with all this gravel? He wondered. It was a question he had asked many times before, and still had not gotten an answer to. Uncle Sam paid well though, and on time to boot, so he guessed he probably shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. He signaled the driver, and he pulled away with a whoosh of air as he released the brakes. Another dump truck lumbered up to take his place, and he pushed the questions out of his mind as he began filling the box.

Seattle Washington

Harvey Pearlson

In Seattle Washington, Harvey Pearlson sat at his wide mahogany desk and talked quietly into the phone.

The extravagantly appointed office was located on the top floor of one of Seattle’s most highly regarded newspapers. Pearlson had worked his way up from the bottom, after starting as a carrier in 1955, sixteen floors below.

“No,” Pearlson said quietly, “I don’t want to know. I just thought that maybe it could be handled in some other way.” He listened for a few minutes nodding his head as he did.

“Yes, yes I see, but?” He rubbed his eyes as he listened. “No, I don’t,” he said emphatically, “I happen to like him a great deal, and if you give me the time…” The voice on the other end of the line cut him off, and he once again listened quietly.

“I see,” he said, once the voice had finished speaking. “No, I do understand. I won’t. Do you think I’m that stupid? Give me a little credit here, will you. You wouldn’t even be aware of it if I hadn’t called you in the first place, for Christ’s sake.” He listened for a few seconds longer, then hung up the phone.

There was no reasoning with Weston, he told himself, he was going to do what he was going to do. For Frank’s sake, he wished he had never called him at all. Too late now though, he told himself, far too late. After all, he had done his best to swing Frank away from the story, but Frank Morgan was not a man who could be easily swayed, and, he told himself, unless he wanted to find himself in the same circumstances, he had better just shut up and let it go. He reached over and thumbed the intercom button.

“Cindy?”

“Yes Sir?”

“I’m going to be out the rest of the day, Cindy, and if Frank Morgan calls looking for me, you don’t know where I am, correct?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Anything important comes up you can reach me on my mobile, Cindy.”

“Yes Sir, Mister Pearlson.”

Harvey Pearlson picked up his briefcase and left the office. Whatever Weston had in mind, he wanted nothing to do with it, and he didn’t want to be available for any sort of questions that might arise either. It was unfortunate enough that he had started the whole ball rolling; he had no intention of sticking around to see where it ended up stopping. No, he told himself, the lake was the best place to be. The only place to be, and he intended to stay there until the whole thing blew over just as he had been told to.

He took his private elevator down to the garage area, walked across to his Lincoln, and drove out of the parking garage, turning right on Longwood. He passed a hooker standing at the corner of the building, and thought just how bad Longwood Avenue had gotten as of late. He would have to speak to the security people when he got back from the lake. Putting up with the hookers that had taken over the avenue at night was one thing, but broad daylight? Standing right in front of the frigging building? No, something would have to be done, and if the security people couldn’t take care of it, maybe he’d speak to Weston. After all, he owed him one now, didn’t he? He pushed the thought away, signaled, and pulled out onto the loop. In an hour he’d be at the lake, and then he could forget about the whole mess, for today at least. He eased the car up to sixty, and leaned back into the leather upholstery to enjoy the drive.

Arlene Best

Arlene watched the Lincoln drive away. It was cold, far too cold to deal with anything that wasted time. The avenue may still be a respectable area during the daylight, but at night it was a completely different place. It had been in decline for a few decades. Most of the older nearby buildings had been turned into low income housing ten years back. The junkies, prostitutes and runaways had come on the heels of that, and they had never left.

Arlene had been hanging around the garage entrance hoping to catch Frank Morgan. He worked as a reporter for the paper, and more than once when she needed some help with the runaways, he had helped. Today he was nowhere to be found, and if she stayed around the front of the building much longer hoping to catch him she would probably find herself in jail for the night. She pulled her collar a little closer, turned her face into the stiff wind that had sprung up and headed back to her apartment just down the avenue.

Jessie Stone

Fort Drum, New York

Doctor Jessie Stone moved through the clinic quickly, her eyes falling on the many faces: Mothers, children, all waiting. She passed the desk, nodded at Vera who held her eyes for a moment.

“Give me five minutes, Vera, then start sending them…” She caught the concern in Vera’s eyes. “One in particular?” She asked.

“Little girl… Infection, maybe pneumonia,” she shrugged. “Sounded bad to me.”

Jessie nodded. “Then send her in first, Vera.” She pushed her way through the doors that lead to the back area and shrugged into a gown before grabbing the first chart off the board and beginning to read.

Los Angeles

Willie Lefray

The wind kicked up along Beechwood Avenue in L.A.’s red light district. A paper bag went rolling along the cracked sidewalk: Skipping over Willie Lefray’s feet where he stood watching the traffic… thinking. One trick… The right trick… Somebody with money and he could call the night good. Just enough to get a good high… Or enough to get enough shit to get a good high tonight and maybe a good high tomorrow when it all wore off and the jingle jangles set in? … Maybe, he decided. Maybe. Willie stood watching the cars as the paper bag bounded over his feet and tumbled along the avenue.

Watertown, New York

Frank Morgan

Frank Morgan flipped the map back onto the passenger seat of the small red Toyota Prius and glanced at his watch.

He had figured the trip from Syracuse to Fort Drum would take about an hour and a quarter. He hadn’t, however, counted on the traffic. The whole day can’t be great, he thought. The trip into Syracuse International had gone well. One short connection in route and other than that the whole trip had been uneventful. But now he had to deal with this. Something up ahead was slowing the traffic down, and he was pretty sure he knew what the problem was. Still, if he lost much more time, it would probably be close to dark when he arrived in Fort Drum, and the possibility of arriving after dark, and trying to find the house didn’t appeal to him.

Frank eased the Prius out into the passing lane, and slowly coaxed the car up to speed again. He had been right; the problem was the same as it had been coming off the thruway from the airport to get on route 81. Army convoys, and if you didn’t get around them quickly, you could spend forever in the left hand lane. He had learned that lesson the hard way coming off the thruway. Not only couldn’t he get around them, at first, but when he did eventually get around them he hadn’t been able to get back in for the exit to Route 81 north. He had ended up heading south instead, and had wasted twenty minutes getting turned around and back to the northern exit.

What the hell kind of military base needs that many trucks, he had wondered. It was a question that actually didn’t need to be answered, but he answered it anyway. The base doesn’t, the caves do. They may unload at the base, but I bet they just drop the load and ship it into the city at night, he told himself.

He stared out the window of the car, and looked over the traffic as he passed it. Jeeps, dump trucks, and tractor-trailer combos carrying who knew what. All of them heading to northern New York, he knew. He also knew that the airfield, at the base outside of Watertown, had been quite busy as well, the convoys of trucks weren’t their only supply source.

Frank reached towards the dashboard and fished a cigarette out of the pack that rested there, lighting it just as he passed the last olive-green truck on his right. He tossed the lighter into the plastic console, and it landed with a hollow plastic bong. At the same time, he pulled back into the right hand lane, and leaned back into the seat as he took a long pull on the cigarette.

From what he had been able to determine from the map, and what he already knew from his investigation, the military base was about twenty miles north from Fort Drum. Jimmy, his reporter friend, was right, it didn’t seem as though any of the trucks would be passing through Fort Drum on their way to the base. Watertown was only about nine miles away from the base though, and that was where the loads would end up. Not in the city actually, he reminded himself, but under the city, and he hadn’t found that little piece of information on the map. The map said exactly nothing about the caves.

When he had first started to seriously investigate the base, he had gotten the first hint of the caves from one of his informers. The informer was an ex-private turned junky, who had been stationed at the base when the project had started. The rest he had gotten from the articles he carefully culled from the Watertown Daily Press, and Jimmy, an old friend who worked at a Syracuse paper. Some things could be hidden, but there was always a clue if you knew where to look.

The first article he had read had seemed harmless enough, but coupled with the information he’d already had, it had been intriguing. The United States Army had purchased some abandoned property from the city to use as a storage depot. The story had gone on to say that the land was close to the old train depot, and the base would benefit from the purchase as they would no longer need to truck shipments from the base to the depot every time they used the rail yards. The ex-private had tipped him off about the caves, which also happened to be located on the same piece of property.

Even then, it still hadn’t made a lot of sense to Frank. What would they save? They would still have to ship whatever came in there, to the base. Wouldn’t they?

In other articles, most of which had been written years before in the Watertown paper, he had learned what the property actually consisted of, and at first it had seemed like an unlikely purchase. It hadn’t been all that hard to dig up the old articles, especially with the help of his friend in Syracuse. Although Watertown had its own local paper, the Times Reporter in Syracuse, which was only seventy miles away, often reported on the events that took place there.

It had been an easy matter of looking through the archived data files, pulling the stories that pertained, and with the help of an internet connection, the reporter friend sent the stories to Frank in Washington via e-mail. He had learned most of what he knew about the actual property from those stories, some of which dated from the early thirties.

The property was located on the river bank in the heart of the down-town section of Watertown. It consisted of a stretch of road that began in the center of the city, and then extended out of the city along an old set of rail road tracks. An old defunct coal company and some run down out-buildings were also included. Perhaps the most important of all, an abandoned series of caves that ran under the city. The city had bricked up the caves decades before in response to the community.

In June of 1935, a large group of school children, along with two adults who supposedly were well acquainted with the caves and their various twists and turns, had set out on a field trip to explore them. They had never returned. A subsequent search had turned up no trace of them at all. Three weeks later the city had sent a Public Works crew to brick up the entrance, and it had been closed since.

When the Army had bought the property it was considered unsafe, and had pretty much been allowed to go to seed. The road leading out of it had likewise been closed off some years before, and the area had become a hangout for young kids and vagrants. On any given night the police ended up being called to the area several times, and the city had debated for years about what they should do with the property.

When the Army had offered to purchase the property, the City Council had considered it a Godsend, and had been more than happy to sign over the deed and accept the check they offered. It had seemed to be the end of it. Frank had read later articles, however, that seemed to indirectly touch on the property. There was an increase in traffic after the sale, and an unusual amount of security that surrounded the site.

The local paper had down-played it to normal, or as close to normal as they could. Watertown had always been a military town, and so most of the complaints of increased traffic, were actually seen in a good light. Increased activity at the property might eventually mean more jobs, and in a depressed economy, which depended heavily on the nearby base, anything the Army did was always reported in a positive light. As far as the local paper was concerned, there was nothing negative to report.

So the real clues had come from the Syracuse paper. Franks’ friend, Jimmy Patrick, kept in touch, and had contacted Frank whenever he came across anything that was related to the smaller northern city. Syracuse itself had had tremendous problems, initially, with the traffic.

When Frank had called Jimmy, he had only wanted to know what he knew about the place. But after Jimmy had told him about the traffic problem, he had asked him to keep in touch, and he had. He had also filled him in on everything else he knew about Watertown. As he drove along, Frank mentally ticked off what he knew about the northern New York City.

The Black River split the city in two, and there were four bridges that spanned it. Three of the four also spanned the property that the military had purchased, and those three bridges were new. When they had been replaced, the road that ran to the old abandoned coal mine had been blocked off and abandoned. Ironically, or maybe not, Frank thought, the Army Corps of Engineers had done all the work.

The result was a small discarded piece of property, with its own road leading in and out, in the heart of the city. It was bound on the south side by the Black River and the north by a sixty foot rock ledge that rose just behind the old historic downtown district. That was, besides the caves, what Frank knew about the city itself. Jimmy had seemed to have caught Frank’s enthusiasm for the mystery, and had also sent him other articles he found as well.

Some of them, although at first glance seemingly innocent, were quite revealing about what was actually going on in Watertown.

The first one Jimmy had dug up and sent him, was from the Public Notices section of the Syracuse paper.

“I thought it was kind of strange,” Jimmy had said, “that they didn’t print the notice in the Watertown paper.”

Frank had read the long notice carefully. It boiled down to a statement of facts concerning the property in Watertown, and the Governments intended use of it.

The whole notice hadn’t made a lot of sense. It seemed to be saying that they intended to invoke the privilege to the mineral rights that had been deeded to them along with the property. It also stated that the Army Corps of Engineers had decided that the closed caves would need to be reopened for a feasibility study, to determine whether they could be used as a storage facility. It had been the first direct mention of the caves at all.

The notice went on to say that since this would involve transportation of, as well as disposition of, excess material from within the caves, the Corps had asked for, and via the printing of the notice, been given permission to begin the process without the necessary permits. They were also granted permission to transport radioactive materials to and from the site, the notice stated, and had like-wise been granted a waiver of the Clean Water Discharge Act, to allow undisclosed drainage into the Black River.

Subsequent notices and articles had detailed contract awards for “unspecified” electrical and plumbing work, along with contracts for per-piece orders of drywall and lumber. Another notice Frank had read, contained contract awards for concrete and asphalt to a Texas corporation. The amounts were unspecified, and were listed as needed for road repair, and sub-wall replacement. Jimmy had thought some of it was unusual, and probably even illegal, and although Frank had agreed, there was not much that either of them could do without further proof.

Jimmy had also told Frank that the Army had been building up the area for some time and that from what he’d been able to determine, they had begun work on the caves even before they had completed the purchase of the land.

They both suspected that the notices were only a cover for some larger project the Army was carrying out, and the radioactive permits bothered him a great deal. Jimmy had promised to stay in touch, and he had, up until last week.

Last week he had sent Frank two stories that had made no sense to Frank then, and still didn’t.

The first had been a story clipped from Military Times concerning a Major Richard Weston. Major Weston had been appointed special liaison to Fort Drum three years before: Since then he had dropped off the radar. No mention of him in any further announcements until last week when he had been named director of Special Projects and some obscure military think tank: Project SS.

Jimmy had been unable to dig up anything at all on Project SS. What it was: Where it resided; who belonged to it or even what they were discussing. He had dug up a few more articles on Richard Weston. One named him as Director of Special Projects in the Airborne Germ Warfare Division of the Army’s special services wing. That was a little known outfit that seemed to have its roots somewhere back in the Vietnam era… Cambodia. Some airborne chemicals that were sprayed on U.S. Troops who were in a country they were not supposed to be in in the first place: Sprayed from cargo planes that may have been Chinese, or may have been American. Hushed up. Nothing but rumors, but Weston had been appointed to a committee to look into it. A committee that, as far as Jimmy had been able to find, had never issued a single ruling or finding of any kind at all.

The second article Jimmy had sent seemed to have no correlation at all. It was a translated article from Ecuador. The gist of which were numerous incidents of villagers near the small town of Esmeraldas, seeming to come back to life and then becoming violent: Also hushed up after just a few mentions in local and international papers. Nothing more. No explanation, something that Frank knew Jimmy hated.

Frank had tried to contact him at work several times, but to no avail, and the messages he left were not returned. He had tried calling Jimmy at home and his cell as well, and had only been rewarded with his voice-mail. That had seemed strange to Frank as well. Jimmy was a damn good reporter who knew the value of answering his phone whenever it rang. At work, at home, in the middle of the night, it made no difference. Jimmy always answered the phone. Jimmy wasn’t answering and now instead of four rings before voice-mail, the phone was directing to voice-mail after the first ring.

He had even tried contacting Jimmy’s editor, but he had refused to talk to him. He hadn’t given up though, and had tried to call just this morning before he had flown out of Washington. His call was put through, but all he had gotten was a steady busy signal at his home, and when he had called his work number, a business like secretary at the paper informed Frank, in a matter-of-fact tone of voice, that Jimmy had left just the day before on an assignment. When he had asked her where he had gone to, her voice had gone even more business-like, and she had told him the paper did not give out that sort of information. Just when Frank had been about to try a different, more tactful approach to find out what was going on, she had hung up on him. The whole thing weighed heavily upon him. He had vacation time coming so he had taken it. He had three weeks to figure out what had happened to Jimmy and what was going on that was so secretive that everyone had decided to keep their mouths shut.

Frank inhaled deeply from the cigarette, and then tossed it out the open window.

That was why he was here. None of it figured. The base itself had thousands of acres of land, so why did they need more? Why the caves? And what the hell had happened to Jimmy? After nearly a week of hearing nothing from Jimmy at all, he had called in the middle of the night. Awakened Frank from a sound sleep: That had turned out to be the last time Frank had heard from him, and that last conversation with Jimmy had been a hurried one, late night, cryptic, Jimmy had sounded worried.

He had located an employee from the new base that had given him some information he wasn’t sure he should believe. The new base, according to this source, was a top secret virus facility. They were working on a virus that could build a better soldier and they had made a huge breakthrough a few months before. Finding a compound that could help the average soldier survive much longer without food and water in combat conditions. He had kept the kid talking most of the night, doing nothing more than buying the beer at a busy downtown bar that was geared toward the nearby base as most of them were.

Most of what Jimmy was told sounded unbelievable to him, but he had passed it on to Frank anyway. The kid had even come up with a code number for the Virus, SS-V2765. Frank had jotted it down on a pad, the rest of the conversation he had filed away in his head.

The Watertown paper had come out, just last week, with a long article that had been picked up by the wire service. Frank had read it, and wondered why they were suddenly going public about the caves. The Army was now saying they intended to convert the old caves into a large underground storage area. Frank already knew that from the Syracuse paper though, and he didn’t believe it was that simple. The rest of the story was bullshit, as far as Frank was concerned, and actually didn’t say a much of anything. Certainly nothing he hadn’t already known or suspected. The article actually seemed to serve only one purpose, and that was to mention that they were doing something with the caves.

Why would they feel the need to do that? Frank wondered. Had the Army found out that he and Jimmy had been digging into the base? Is that why Jimmy was nowhere to be found? Had they scared him off somehow?

Frank didn’t believe it was possible to scare Jimmy off of anything he was determined to find out about, so if they hadn’t scared him off, what the hell had happened? It all raised a lot more questions than it answered, and once he had lost track of Jimmy it had made it personal to him. He needed to know what had happened to him, so here he was cruising down the interstate, twenty-eight hundred miles from home, to find out. And even that had not been an easy thing to accomplish.

The airlines were running without reliable satellite communications. Apparently most of the world was, and it touched on every aspect of his life. How fast he could get information: Where he could get it from. How, or even whether he could book a flight, and when he might expect to get one back.

Frank supposed it had everything to do with DX2379R, an errant meteorite that was supposed to come very close to earth later tonight or early tomorrow. All the best minds said it would pass so far away that it would be nothing but a tiny blip in the history books, and he had too much on his mind to be concerned with that too. After all, if it were going to pass too close or hit and cause damage, they would know it. It was yet another case of overreaction. The cable news channels had so much competition that they tended to blow all the news out of proportion. So much so that the real things going on in the world were often overlooked entirely.

That was how they had nearly ended up with a joke for president a few years back. Inattention to the real things. The countries Entertain Me attitude. The other side effect was what he was witnessing right now. Everything slowed to a crawl. The internet superhighway went down, or clogged. Satellites became unreliable, or switched offline when they overloaded. Like cars passing a bad accident on the highway: Everyone had to slow down to get a look.

His hand reached automatically for the cigarette pack on the dash and just as abruptly stopped. I’ve got to cut back, he thought, that’s the second pack today. He wrestled with the urge for a full thirty seconds and then gave in. To hell with it, he told himself, I’ll have plenty of time to quit once I get settled in at Fort Drum. In fact, I’ll probably be so busy that I won’t have time to smoke at all, he lied to himself. Once again the lighter hit the tray, and Frank settled back into the seat, mentally ticking over what he knew, or suspected, about the caves.

As Frank neared the exit for Fort Drum, he mulled the possibilities over in his clouded mind. He had just flipped the turn signal on to exit the interstate, when he felt a shimmy begin at the rear of the car. It quickly turned to a deep pounding vibration as he slowed the small car and pulled to the side of the road.

Frank climbed out of the small cramped car, and, walking to the rear, stared down at the flat tire that he knew was there. Muttering under his breath, “Damn rental car,” he returned to the front; retrieved the keys, and unlocked the trunk to search for the spare he hoped was there. It wasn’t.

Frank locked the small car, and taking his laptop bag with him, set off in the direction of the exit to find a service station.

Joe Miller

Two miles away, Joe Miller tossed a steel clipboard onto the passenger seat of his Camaro as he pulled into the long driveway at 6620 Main Street, in Fort Drum.

Joe hadn’t seen the old brick house since three weeks before, when he had been sent out as part of the clean-up crew from Bud Farling’s real estate agency. The house had looked horrible then. The windows and doors had been boarded up, and the now graceful grounds had been choked with weeds.

The old house looks damn good, he thought. He hadn’t been there himself for most of the work as Bud had kept him busy with his other properties. Joe tended to get most of Bud’s work, probably due to the fact that he was dependable, and showed up every day ready to work. To Bud, Joe knew, that meant a great deal. A low whistle escaped his lips as he stared at the imposing estate, which had always seemed so forbidding before.

The van that he usually drove was in the shop for the third time in as many weeks, so he had come in his own car. This time it was the transmission, and Bud had been downright pissed about it. Not pissed at Joe though, the van was old, and, Bud had told him, he supposed he’d have to buy a new one soon.

When Bud had asked if Joe minded driving his own car out to the house to put in the locks, Joe had told him he didn’t mind at all, and that considering the way the van was constantly breaking down lately, he felt better taking his own car. At least that way he wouldn’t end up walking like he had last week when the van had broken down in the middle of nowhere.

Joe Miller actually had a large amount of expertise in home repair, and it had always seemed to him that all the different aspects of it had been easy to learn. He had made Bud a lot of money, and he worked as a sub-contractor so Bud could work him as many hours as he wanted without having to pay overtime.

The arrangement worked out well for both of them. It meant Bud could count on Joe, and because of that he paid him well.

Joe had no family, so even if Bud called in the middle of the night with some emergency at one of his properties, it wasn’t a big deal for Joe to get dressed and take care of it.

Joe retrieved the new locks from the seat and headed towards the front door. The keys had already been mailed to the man who was renting the property, Bud had explained.

“Just remove our master locks, and swap ’em out for these,” Bud had said, “And oh, don’t forget to bring the keys and the master locks back with you tomorrow.”

Joe had lost a set of the master locks a year ago, and Bud had never let him forget it.

Whenever Bud had a crew working on a property, the master locks were used. That allowed everyone to come and go whenever they needed to, and all the tradesmen that worked for Bud had a master key. It had come in handy on several occasions.

The keys fit all the rental properties Bud owned, or managed, as well, and Joe couldn’t count the times that had come in handy to him. Half the time when there was a problem with an apartment, it was usually reported by one of the other tenants, and nine times out of ten, the tenant who lived in the apartment wasn’t home. The master locks solved that problem nicely.

Joe reached the door; slipped the master key into the lock, and entered the house. He squinted in the gloom, peering cautiously inside at the shadowy hallway.

The old house had long had a reputation of being haunted. Joe didn’t necessarily believe it, but he had always found the old house to be unnerving.

It still seems spooky in here, Joe thought as he stepped into the entrance way. Stupid though letting this old house get to me. He couldn’t explain why he suddenly felt nervous about entering the house, and he glanced nervously back out the doorway at the driveway, where the Camaro sat gleaming brightly in the late afternoon sun.

The light stupid, he reminded himself, turn on the fracking lights.

He turned his attention back to the hall, and let his searching fingers locate the switch, and with a small push of the old button-style switch the lights came on.

Soft shards of light flickered across the walls of the entrance way, from the large chandelier, suspended from the old tin ceiling in the middle of the entrance way. Joe carefully edged the door shut with the heel of one scuffed work boot, and stared child-like around the room as the splashing patterns of light danced on the dark mahogany of the walls.

The wood panels reached more than twelve feet to the old tin ceilings, and intricate flowing lines covered the tin panels in an ornate flower design.

The dark walls were divided with carefully scrolled moldings, which broke the walls into squared sections, and a matching mahogany stairway curved away from the dark gray marble flooring, towards the upper reaches of the house.

He could make out the darkened upper floor where the staircase ended, and a small balcony that looked down over the entrance way.

To the left of the staircase, at the end of the long entrance way, massive double doors were set into the wall. A smaller single door led off to the right, directly across from those doors, which was the kitchen area, he knew.

To his immediate right, was another set of double doors, and directly across from that a graceful arch led into the living area. He knew that the doors set into the wall at the end of the hall led into a formal dining area, which also had a small door that opened into the kitchen area. The doors to his right opened into a large den, with book shelves from floor to ceiling, and a massive stone fireplace.

Joe had seen it before, when it had been stuffed full of the dusty old furniture that had been left in the house when the owner had died. The house had been tied up in probate court for years, Bud had explained, and so everything had been left pretty much untouched.

He hadn’t been here when the final cleaning had been done however; he hadn’t seen just how imposing, and elegant, the house actually was, without the dust and dirt that had covered it, and to him the transformation was astounding.

Joe carefully set the cardboard box containing the new locks on the floor by the front door. He decided that he wanted to take one more look at the house before he put in the locks. He walked down to the far end of the dimly lit entrance way, pushed open the double doors at the end of the hall that led into the dining area, and sent his left hand skittering across the wall for the switch. Sparse light from the hallway fell through the doorway and beyond.

Suddenly, a silver flash swept from the darkness towards him. His hand was still looking for the light switch, and his mind did not immediately register what it was.

WHAT? His mind cried out in alarm as his eyes watched the shining flat arc sweep towards him.

A knife? …At me? …Why?

“Not real,” he muttered aloud backing away, but his hands came away from his chest with bloody drops clinging to them. His eyes watched as a disembodied hand plunged the knife deeply into his chest again.

Hand, he thought… Is that my Blood?

The hand with the knife flickered quickly out of sight into the darkness, only to reappear a split second later and plunge deeply into his chest once more.

KNIFE …KNIFE …KNIFE! His mind screamed.

Two men stepped from the shadows. The larger one still held the knife threateningly in his hand as Joe slumped to the floor.

NO… He tried to say, but found he could not.

Strong hands closed around his wrists and were joined by others as his bleeding body was lifted from the floor. He tried to scream, but he found he could make no sounds. His chest felt as though a large boulder rested on it.

It doesn’t actually hurt, he thought, but they could have killed me, and I can’t breathe well, and, WHY?

His chest hitched once and stopped.

Can’t breathe, he thought, and next… The bastards did kill me! They did! They did…

He seemed to be falling into a dark void, and he could not see, but he could hear, he realized.

They’re scared, he thought, they’re, Scared. Oh, isn’t that funny. They killed me, and they’re scared.

He could hear them talking in hushed tones.

“Do you think he’s dead?” One asked.

“Maybe,” the other replied.

I’m not! Joe tried to scream.

“Well he sure as shit ain’t breathing…”

“That don’t make him dead, you idiot,” the other one, with the deeper voice replied, “I read where it takes four minutes for the brain to die, he could start breathing again or somthin’.”

“Well…” The one with the whiny voice began.

“Shut the hell up and let’s get going,” the one with the deeper voice said, cutting him off.

Who said that, Joe wondered as if it made a difference? Are they picking me up? Why? He couldn’t tell if they were picking him up or not. In fact, he couldn’t feel anything, he realized, and it was beginning not to matter to him. Is this what it feels like to be dead? He wondered.

“Are you sure he’s dead?”

“I told you I don’t know.”

“Well the bastard’s looking right at me is all, and it bugs me,” the smaller man whined.

Joe knew that they had to be lying, because he couldn’t see them. I can’t be dead ’cause I can hear, and I can’t be staring at them, ’cause I can’t see anything, Joe thought as he tried to open his eyes.

“He ain’t fuckin’ dead! He ain’t! He ain’t…”

The panicked scream was brought about by the flicker of his eyelids as Joe had tried to open his already open eyes, and was cut short by a sharp slap delivered across the face of the terrified smaller man, that Joe heard perfectly well.

“Shut the fuck up Eddie, just shut up ya fuckin’ baby.”

Eddie shut up.

“I stabbed him nine fuckin’ times,” Bobby Lawton, the bigger man insisted, “he’s dead already… Okay?”

Nine Fuckin’ Times? Nine fuckin’ Times, you’re dead already, Joe’s mind informed him.

Joe felt nothing during the trip through the kitchen to the car, which was parked at the rear of the house.

“Open the damn trunk,” Bobby said.

They had carried the body out the back door, to where they had parked the Cadillac earlier.

“Open the damn thing…It’s not locked, just lift up the lid,” the voice continued as Joe listened.

I gotta tell them, Joe thought. I ain’t dead, and they can’t put me in the friggin’ trunk.

HEY! Joe tried to scream, I ain’t dead, and you can’t put me in the trunk!…I’m claustrophobic, I can’t stand tight places!

But his lips would not move, and his throat would make no sound. His lungs could pull no air into his body to make his throat work, he realized.

I’ve got to replace the locks, he reasoned, please… Please? He pleaded as the trunk lid slammed home.

Fuck you, he thought, just fuck you, I ain’t dead! He was tired though. Very tired it seemed.

Joe Miller did not feel the bumpy ride to the old Jefferey’s farm, and he did not feel the dirt and stone striking his face as he lay at the bottom of the shallow grave. Joe was dead. Oh yes, he was truly dead indeed.

Eddie pushed dirt quickly into the grave they had hastily dug, when they had reached the farm. Back at the house, after they had put the body in the trunk, Bobby had gone back inside to clean up the mess while Eddie had gone out front to bring the light green Camaro the guy had been driving, out back. The guy had looked awful young to Eddie. He hadn’t looked old enough to be a reporter. Either way he was going into a hole. The second one in as many weeks, but Tetto, Alice as Bobby liked to call her behind her back, paid cash. She gave them the details both times. If her facts were wrong that was her problem. This one was going right into the ground next to the other reporter from last week. And now here he was filling the hole. They had a regular little cemetery going on up here in Jefferey’s back forty.

Probably went to college, his mind told him, college kids get all them easy jobs anyhow. Probably how he got the job.

It had never occurred to either of them to check Joe’s pockets. After all, it was the right house, and there sure as shit hadn’t been anyone else there, Eddie had reasoned.

They had ditched the car off one of the dirt roads, which honeycombed the woods that surrounded Fort Drum. It would take some time for someone to find it, and that would give them some time to dispose of the body, and for things to settle down a bit.

Eddie bent harder into the shovel, spraying dirt down into the hole. Whoever said it was easy to kill someone with a knife, was sure wrong, Eddie thought, the guy’s eyes were still open when we opened the trunk!

Bobbie’s voice broke into his thoughts.

“Hey Ed, I’m gonna go call Alice,” he said, “let her know, you know, so we can pick up the money later on… Finish that and hang tight. I’ll be back.”

“Yeah?” Eddie asked. “Why don’cha call her Alice when you talk to her,” Eddie laughed.

“Ha, ha, funny man,” Bobby said.

“Rip your balls off and feed them to you if you did,” Eddie muttered as he launched another shovel full of dirt down into the hole.

“Maybe I’ll tell her, I dunno, you know,” Eddie was saying, ‘Hey, you know I’d like to bang that Alice Tetto. I really would.’… Maybe I’ll tell her that, smart-ass.” Bobby didn’t wait for a response simply got in the car, slammed the door and drove away.

Eddie watched Bobby back the big car down the narrow dirt road, and out towards the main highway. After a few minutes, he bent back to the task of filling in the grave, wishing he had never said a word about Alice Tetto.

When he was done he spread a couple of handfuls of leaves over the ground; sat down nearby, and smoked while he waited for Bobby to come back.

Frank Morgan

Frank Morgan had found a run-down-looking gas station at the end of the exit, just two miles outside of Fort Drum. An old rusty Chevy truck, with a newer-looking Holmes 220 wrecking unit mated to the back, was pulled part way into one of the bays with its hood sticking up into the air.

Not good, his mind told him, not too good at all.

It turned out to not be bad at all though, at least not with the wrecker.

“Just lookin’ her over, friend,” the old gray-haired attendant, and as it turned out, owner, said.

“‘Placed the plugs, is all. Just checkin’ the timing to boot.”

The old man had disconnected the timing light and slammed the hood back down with a rusty protest.

“Yuh, she’s jess fine,” he said, “What can I do ya for?”

He had taken Frank back to the car, hooked it from the rear; turned it around, and towed it back to the station. His young son had watched the station while they were gone.

Getting the car back had been no problem. Getting the tire replaced had been. He’d had to send the kid into the city to pick up a replacement, and the kid had seemed to take forever. 

Frank supposed he was lucky though as the old man had just gotten the tire place on the phone before they closed, and had persuaded them to stay open until the kid could get there. The old man had said he could call a cab if Frank wanted him to, but Frank decided to wait for the car. After all, he thought, I probably won’t get there any quicker.

It was full dark by the time the kid got back with the new tire, and after 11:00 pm. before the car was off the lift and ready to go.

The old man gave him directions to the house after Frank had paid the $250.99 bill. No wonder the tire place stayed open late, Frank thought.

He pulled the small car out on the road, and two blocks down, made a left on Main, and began looking for the house. When he reached 6620, he pulled the small car into the driveway and parked it in the rear, in the old garage. He once again picked up the laptop case, along with one battered suitcase he had brought with him, and headed for the rear door.

The key would not fit in the lock.

Frank tried the knob, and breathed a sigh of relief when the door swung open into the shadowy kitchen area. He set down the suitcase, and felt along the wall with his hand until he located the old-style push button, and thumbed the switch on.

The kitchen floor was wet, he noticed, and a sharp pine odor lingered in the house, mingled with something else he couldn’t quite place. Must have just finished cleaning, he thought, maybe they didn’t have time to change the locks yet.

He picked up the suitcase once again, and nudged the door shut with the toe of one shoe as he walked off into the house.

Much nicer than I thought it would be, he marveled as he entered the front hallway from the kitchen area. He climbed the staircase to the second floor and tried the first door he came to.

It opened on a large bathroom, and an old claw foot tub stood gleaming in one corner of the room. The room was finished in an off-white color. The narrow wooden slats that comprised the lower wall, were broken about four feet from the floor with a decorative molding, and then finished to the tin ceiling above him with contrasting flowered wallpaper. Frank closed the door and moved further down the hallway.

The next door opened on a huge bedroom, decorated in the same style as the bathroom had been. A large four poster bed dominated the room, flanked on either side with dark oak dressers, which matched the bed. The linen, as promised, looked fresh.

Frank set the suitcase down and placed the briefcase on one of the dressers. He stripped off his jacket and hung it on one of the corner posts. Pulling his cellphone out of his pocket he muttered as he noticed that he had no service. “Figures” he muttered, and then headed down the stairs to see if the phone was working.

He wanted to call Maggie and talk to the kid’s tomorrow. He had called that morning before he had left, and Tim had extracted a promise that he would call as soon as he could. They’re in bed by now, he realized, looking at his watch.

He wasn’t sure if there were two, or three, hours difference, but he knew it was earlier there than here. Either way it didn’t make much difference, he decided, they would probably either be in, or getting ready for, bed, so there wouldn’t be any sense in calling tonight. The phone call could wait until tomorrow morning, he was beat. His body felt it as well, he realized as he reached the bottom of the stairs.

When he had come through the front entrance-way, on his way upstairs, he had turned on the lights as he went, and he could see another set of switches by the front door. Must be a three way switch, he thought.

Over the years, he had replaced a lot of things in the house back in Richmond Beach, and light switches had been among them. You can’t own a house and not learn about maintenance, he thought. After Janey had died he had kept up the house himself, rather than call a repair man every time something wore out, or became broken. His eyes slipped down from the switch-plate, and he noticed a small cardboard box sitting on the floor by the front door, and walked over to investigate.

The box contained a screwdriver, and two new-looking lock-sets. He picked up the screw driver.

Nice multi-bit job, he thought, bet whoever left it is wondering what the hell they did with it.

Frank tried the keys he had been given to the house, and they fit in the new locks that were in the box.

He sighed, “Whoever they sent to clean up and put the locks in, forgot the locks,” he said aloud.

To hell with it, he decided, I’ll swap the locks out myself if I can.

At first he was a little pissed off that they had forgotten the locks. They did do a good job on the cleaning though, he thought, and I would probably only get the guy in trouble if I called Bud and complained.

Frank used the screw driver to remove the old locks, and after examining them, switched the cylinders and replaced them. The holes were new, and the dead bolts were the same brand, so it was an easy job to accomplish.

He put the screwdriver back in the box, along with the old locks and pushed it back into the corner where it had been below the light switch.

Whoever left that screwdriver will probably come back. At least for that, Frank thought. Maybe I’ll give Bud a call tomorrow, I don’t have to mention the locks, I’ll just tell him whoever he sent left some of their tools here.

The thought reminded Frank that he had come down to check the phone. He walked into the living room and picked up the old rotary dial phone to check for a dial tone. A familiar hum told him that it did indeed work. He replaced the receiver on the hook, and, turning the lights out as he went, climbed the stairway to the bedroom. He was beat, and sleep came quickly, even in the unfamiliar surroundings.

He met old man Peters, who lived across the road, the next morning.

Willie Lefray

Los Angeles

Twenty feet away from Junior’s Palace on Beechwood Avenue, the prostitutes were just beginning to show up in force, waiting for the early morning traffic. Willie Lefray sat with his back against the wall of an alley: A needle ready, and a speed-ball cooking over a tin of shoe polish. There was a bum sleeping a little further down the alley. Willie ignored him, watching the mixture in the blackened spoon begin to bubble, melting together.

Two days before he had been sitting in a diner off Fourth avenue south waiting for his world to end. He had paid for the bottomless cup of coffee the place advertised, but ten cups had done nothing to improve his situation. He was still sick. He was still broke, and he needed something to take the edge off the real world, which had been sucking pretty hard at that time. A trucker had come in and ate his dinner just two stools away from Willie, but every time he had worked up the courage to ask him for a couple of bucks the guy had stared him down so hard that he had changed his mind.

He had just made up his mind to leave: Even the waitress was staring hard every time he asked for more coffee, the cops couldn’t be far away, when the trucker had reached back for his wallet, pulled it free and took a ten from inside and dropped it on the counter top.

Willie watched. It was involuntary. One of those things you did when your head was full of sickness and static. Just a place for your ever moving eyes to fall. The wallet was one of those types he had seen bikers and truckers use. A long chain connecting it to the wide leather belt he wore. Hard to steal. Hard to even get a chance at. The man stuffed the wallet back into his pocket. Sloppy, Willie saw, probably because he knew the chain was there and so if it did fall out he would know it. He turned and put his ass nearly in Willie’s face as he got up from the stool. The wallet was right there. Two inches from his nose, bulging from the pocket. The leather where the steel eye slipped through to hold the chain frayed, ripped, barely connected. The man straightened and the wallet slipped free. The chain caught on the pocket, slipped down inside, and the wallet came free, the leather holding the steel eye parted like butter, and the wallet fell into Willie’s lap. He nearly called out to the man before he could shut his mouth. His hand closed over the wallet and slipped it under his tattered windbreaker. The waitress spoke in his ear a second later.

“Listen… Buy something else of get the fuck out. You hear me? Otherwise, my boss,” she turned and waved one fat hand at the serve through window, “Says to call the cops.”

Willie stared at her in disbelief. He was sure that everyone in the diner had seen the wallet fall into his lap. He swallowed. “Yeah… Okay… I’m leaving,” he said with his croaky voice. Sometimes, getting high, he didn’t speak for weeks. It just wasn’t necessary. When he did he would find his voice rusty, his throat croaking out words like a frog. Sometimes he was right on the edge of not even being able to understand the words. Like they had suddenly become some foreign language. He cleared his throat, picked up the cup of cold coffee and drained it. “Going,” he said.

He got up from the stool, kept one hand in his pocket holding the wallet under the windbreaker and walked out the front door.

Robert Peters

“Christ, don’t say nothin’ bad about ’em while they’re around,” Robert Peters said.

“Why’s that?” Frank asked as he chuckled.

Frank was sitting on Peters’ front porch which overlooked the large house he had rented across the road; leaned back in a cane backed chair with a cold bottle of beer in his hand at 9:15 in the morning.

Frank had met Peters that morning as he had exited the house. The old man had been peering through the dirty windows of the garage at the small red car inside. He’d seemed pretty embarrassed at getting caught, and had told Frank that he was just, “Checkin’ on the house,” as he usually did.

“Didn’t ‘spect to see no one ’round here! I wasn’t told that the old place had been sold.”

The old man was of course fishing, and Frank knew it. Frank figured that the old guy probably saw himself as the unofficial caretaker of the place, and he had seemed to be harmless, so Frank had told him he was only renting the place for a couple of weeks.

“S’spected somethin’ was up,” Peters said, “There’s been one hell of a lot going on over here the last couple of weeks. I been sort’a watching the place for the last couple years, you know, so the kids don’t break into it and ruin it… …When’d ya get in?”

“Yesterday… Well, last night, I guess,” Frank replied, “drove down from the airport in Syracuse.”

Peters nodded. “Yep, thought I saw some lights on over here last night. Thought maybe it was the same crowd twas here just after dark…Raised a hell of a ruckus, and nearly scared the bejesus out’a me. Thought somebody was gittin’ killed or something.”

Frank had eyed the old man.

“Well I think I can set your mind to ease on that. When I got in last night I noticed that somebody from the agency had been here, cleaning the place up. In fact, the kitchen floor was still wet,” he said.

“Yep.” Peters said, “you got that right, seen him my-own-self. Joe, I think his name is. Young kid with blonde hair. But, I ain’t talking ’bout him. There was a couple other guys’ here too. They were here before he was. The kid left with ’em too. Sounded like they had themselves a little fight first though. Say, it’s damn hot already, what’s say we go kick back on my porch a bit? I got some cold ones in the General?”

The old man had caught the suspicious reporter in him, so here he sat at 9:15 AM with a cold beer in his hand, wondering what the old guy had actually seen.

The beer wasn’t bad, despite the early hour. He’d expected some off brand or something, the Coors was a nice surprise. Social Security, which was what the old man said he lived on, must pay a lot better than it used to, Frank thought.

“Really,” Peters was saying, with a big grin on his face, “they’ll get ya fer it. They really will.”

He continued. “I ‘member this one time when I said something to Old Jay.” Old Jay was Peter’s mangy looking orange and white cat. “He’s an uppity old cuss, thinks his shit don’t stink, ya know?”

Frank couldn’t help but laugh.

“No shit,” Peters bellowed over the top of the laughter.

“Son-of-a-whore shit in my shoe.”

That was it for Frank, and he let the laughter roll out of his belly unchecked.

“Well fuck you,” Peters said, a stern look on his face. “I’m just trying to tell ya, that animals’ kin understand, when ya say somethin’ bad about ’em. That bastard shit right in my shoe. If I’d a caught him, he’d a been a sorry little bastard too.”

Frank just laughed and shook his head. What could you say to a man who thinks his cat can understand him?

Peters chuckled a little, right along with him.

“Course…There was this dawg, I once owned. I swear to God that dawg not only knew what I was saying, but worse than that, the little son-of-a-whore knew what I was thinking too. Not always, but most the time mind ya.”

Peters raved about the dog for a few more minutes, as Frank got the laughter under control, and did his best to look serious.

He felt Peters was probably a pretty good guy after all, and was still waiting for the old man to get around to the subject that had begun across the road. Whatever the old man had witnessed was probably worth hearing, Frank thought.

Peters got to it eventually, but you wouldn’t have known that anything had clicked in Franks mind by the look on his face. Frank had been a reporter for too long to let his face betray what his mind suspected.

The old man had been sitting out on his front porch with a can of Old Milwaukee last evening, when the incident across the street had occurred.

Frank was on his second beer, and the Coors had been replaced with Old Milwaukee. Turns out the Coors had been brought over by the kid Peters called Joe, the previous week, when the work on the old house had been going on.

Peters had liked the kid, so he said, and the kid had taken to dropping by every night and sitting on the wide front porch with the old man.

They, “Watched traffic mostly,” Peters said, “that kid didn’t have no family, and he wasn’t raised up here, so I guess he didn’t have many friends to hang around with. Told me he come up from Florida lookin’ for work and lucked out. Guess he decided to stay. That’s why it struck me kind ‘a funny that he didn’t drop over last night. Course it was full dark when him and the others left, and I didn’t have the porch light on, so maybe he figured I twasn’t to home.”

“Ain’t a whole hell-of-a-lot to look at here ya know,” Peters continued. He seemed to feel the need to defend himself for watching the old house across the street, and Frank nodded his head in agreement as if to say, “Yes indeed, it looks as though it could be pretty boring, and no, I wouldn’t consider that being nosy.” The nod seemed to put the old man at ease, and he continued his narrative.

“Well anyhow, I was just kicking back with a beer, when I saw Joe’s car come down the street an pull in the driveway over there,” he flapped his hand towards the large brick house across the street. “Figured that somethin’ must a happened to that old piece a shit van he usually drives. He didn’t wave, so I just figured he probably didn’t see me sittin’ over here. Never saw the other car till later, but it must have already been there, parked around back, kind ‘a sneaky like, ya know?” 

Frank nodded his head as if he did. 

“Well anyway, he gits the door open, and just sort’a stood there lookin’ in as if he ‘spected somethin’ to jump out and bite ‘im. Looked fer a second as though he might just jump back in that car of his, and hit the road instead a doing whatever it was he needed to do there. But he didn’t, he went on in, but I didn’t see him come back out. I went in the house a few minutes later to git me a fresh one, and feed Old Jay, and I know his car was a sittin’ there when I looked out about an hour later, but after I got up from my nap about of an hour after that, it was gone. I figured he was gone, so I just sat down on the porch and watched the cars go by fer awhile. Just when I got my old ass back inside to get me another beer, is when the hollering started.” Peters took a long sip from his beer, before he continued.

“I figured that someone else had showed up over there. Maybe that cheap prick Joe works for, but when I got my beer and went back out, twasn’t nobody there. I sat there for another ten minutes or so, when all of a sudden Joe’s car come flying out the driveway, along with a big car of some kind. That was strange too, as I ain’t never saw Joe drive that car that-a-way. He liked it too much, and it wasn’t set up the way some of these kids set their cars up, it was just sort’a regular, ya know?” he eyed Frank speculatively, and Frank nodded for him to go on. 

“Anyway, that’s it. They went a tearin’ off up the road, and then about a half hour later you showed up and pulled around the back. I was thinking ’bout headin’ over there, but I ain’t one to stick my nose in too far, ya know? I did call up Alan, down the town hall though. Course, that fat piece a shit never did come by. Told me to stop being so damn nosy, and he’d call Bud up the city tomorrow to see what was going on.”

“So, I just said to hell with it. That’s when I come back out and saw you pull in. Besides,” Peters continued, “that fat bastard ain’t worth the time a day. I asked Old Jay and he feels the same as I do about it.” Peters grinned.

The whole tale didn’t sit well with Frank, and it jogged his memory about his arrival the night before. He had been tired and the other smell he had detected along with the pine odor had slipped by his tired mind. He had been unable to place it and so had ignored it. Peter’s story though had served to place it for him.

He’d had a friend, back in college, that had worked at his father’s meat packing plant on Houston’s west side, and Frank had taken the friend up on the offer of part-time work at the plant one summer. He had never been able to stand the smell in the plant though. Strong pine disinfectant, and an under-smell of coppery-blood. That was what the other smell in the house had reminded him of last night, he realized, a slaughter house.

When he’d awoke this morning the smell had been gone, but he was certain it had been there last night.

Frank resolved to check out the house closely later on.

“…doin’?” he heard peters say.

“Huh?” Frank asked.

“I said, how’s that beer doin’?” Peters asked again, “I’m fixin’ to get myself another. Ya want one?”

“Tell you what,” Frank replied, “I’ll take a rain check for later on, if you don’t mind. I’ve got to make a couple of phone calls, and I also have a couple of errands to run. It should be my turn to buy anyway, isn’t it?”

Peters grinned. “Far be it from me to turn down an offer like that’un, and it maybe just might be. I’ll be kickin’ around later on. Com’on over when ya git back, and I’ll help ya drink a couple fer sure.”

Frank said he would and headed back across the road towards the imposing old house.

Once he had reached the door; unlocked it, and stepped inside; he let the breath he hadn’t known he was holding escape in a low groan.

The old man’s story, along with his memory of the odor he had smelled the previous evening, had shaken him. He knew it was possible to stick your nose too deeply into a story. He had seen several young, eager kids lose their jobs over stepping on the wrong toes. He had also known a couple of older reporters who had as well, and it also wasn’t unheard of for a reporter on the tail of a possibly damaging story to just disappear. Maybe it was unlikely, but not unheard of.

Like Jimmy maybe? His mind asked.

He pushed the thought quickly away, and shifted his attention back to the house, and the odor he had detected last night.

Had something happened here last night? He wondered. Had someone grown concerned over what they suspected Frank might know, and wanted him removed? Was it strictly something to do with the kid, or did the kid just happen to be there at the wrong time?

Frank suddenly realized that if the tire hadn’t blown on the rental car that he would have been here. He would have been here for sure, he told himself, and probably a lot earlier than the kid had been. Had someone, or a couple of someone’s, been waiting for him? The uncertainties bothered him a great deal. He walked back into the kitchen area where he had entered the house the evening before.

The kitchen still smelled faintly of pine-cleaner, but this time the under odor of blood was not present. He scanned the kitchen area with his eyes, until they fell upon a small white object by the door that led back into the front entrance way.

Frank walked over and bent down next to the small, white square of cloth that lay in the corner by the doorway, and picked it up. His eyes were drawn to a tiny rust colored stain on the cloth.

Blood! His mind told him.

The cloth appeared to have been torn from a shirt, and one small edge of a broken button was still sewn to the tiny scrap of cloth. He made a mental note to ask Peters what the kid had been wearing the night before when he had saw him, but he knew it probably belonged to the kid’s shirt. Frank walked back into the entrance way, to retrieve the screwdriver he had replaced in the cardboard box. Looks like no one will be coming back for this after all, he thought, as he carried it back with him to the kitchen.

Using the screwdriver as a crude pry bar, Frank removed the molding that finished the kitchen wall to the floor. The usual dust and plaster that he had expected to see, was congealed with the dark red blood, which he had also expected to see. Frank replaced the strip of wood using the handle of the screwdriver as a hammer.

It was as he thought. Peters had been more correct than he knew, when he had said it had sounded as though someone was being killed. What did it mean, he wondered, and why hadn’t the sheriff of the local community come down when Peters had called him? Did he think Peters was just an old crack pot? Or was it something else?

Frank tossed the screwdriver back in the box as he passed it on the way to the living area. He decided to call the sheriff himself and find out. Obviously someone had been at least seriously injured… killed, Franks mind whispered, and someone should be looking into it.

Frank picked up the phone to call information, but set it back down after only a few seconds. It would be of no use to him, it was dead.

He walked back through the kitchen, left the house; locked the door behind him; and opening the garage door, he climbed into the small red car and keyed the ignition… Nothing happened.

Frank, who was starting to feel a little nervous, went around to the front of the car, lifted the hood, and peered down into the engine compartment.

The battery cables were both cut and it looked like whoever had done the job had thought a little overkill was in order, as they had also removed all the wires running into the small greasy distributor cap. Frank looked around the small garage, but the wires were nowhere in sight.

“Fuck me,” he muttered, as he removed the prop rod and let the hood fall back down with a loud clang. He kicked the front tire of the small car viciously as he walked past it on his way towards the house.

“Bastards,” he said aloud.

Frank was sure now, that he had gotten himself into something deep this time. He could no longer pretend about that at all. His mind continued to run through the growing list of suspicions he had, as he walked around the side of the house searching for the phone line.

As it turned out the phone line came in through the back of the house. It was cut, and as with the car, whoever had done it had thought maybe a little more overkill was in order. They had cut an additional ten feet or so of it, and had apparently taken it with them when they had left.

The remainder terminated about three inches above Frank’s head. Angry, but also a little shaken, Frank turned to start across the road to see if Peters had a phone. He had just begun to turn, when a horn blared on the highway.

Frank turned just in time to see the old man leave the mouth of his dirt driveway, and wave as his old Plymouth farted blue smoke and drove away.

Peters waving hand had followed the honk, and Frank, not really thinking all that clearly, had raised his own hand and waved good-by as the car disappeared down the road.

Frank mentally kicked himself, as he gazed down the now empty stretch of highway.

“Shit!” he muttered. “Guess I’m going to do a little walking.”

Frank closed up the garage and headed down the road. Two miles down he turned right, and headed towards the service station he had stopped at the previous night. When he arrived hopefully he would be able to get the old guy to come back and fix the car.

If he’s there, he thought. The way things are going today he probably won’t be.

When Frank arrived at the gas station, the old man walked out to greet him.

“Howdy,” Bill Freeman queried, “blow out another tire?”

“No… Looks as though some kids might have had themselves some fun with my car though,” he lied, “they ripped out the distributor wiring and cut the battery cables on me.”

“That so?” Bill questioned, “Seems as though them city kids is always up to something, and it ain’t the first time it’s happened.”

Frank, who knew it hadn’t been any City kids, nodded his head in agreement. He climbed into the wrecker beside Bill, and rode along as bill retrieved the red Toyota and towed it back to the garage for the second time in as many days.

It only took an hour for Bill to replace the wiring and cables, and after Frank paid him, he had stopped at a small store he had passed on the way to pick up something to eat, and a case of beer he hoped would pry a little more out of Peters.

While he had been standing in the garage waiting on Freeman to fix the car, he had begun to wonder if he were overreacting. He had come close more than once to asking Freeman if he could use his phone to call the Sheriff. In the end he decided against it. Best to wait. Talk to Peters again and see what he could get out of him. If it turned out someone really had been injured or even died in the house the night before, he could call the Sheriff then.

When Frank got back to the old house he pulled the car back into the garage, and this time he locked it before he went back into the house.

He popped the top on a fresh brew, and drank it as he built two monstrous sandwiches; grabbed another cold beer, and walked into the living area to sit down.

The dining area had a long oak table, he had noticed, but Frank had always taken his meals into the living room at home, or out on the rear deck, and old habits were hard to break.

He had started this particular habit after Janey had died. The kids were usually in bed or at Maggie’s for the night, by the time he ate, and the television took the edge off the loneliness he had felt trying to eat in the kitchen.

When he finished he headed back towards the kitchen to get another beer. He had just entered the hallway when his eyes told him that something was wrong. It took a few seconds of looking around the empty hallway, before he realized what it was. The box that he had put the old locks back into was gone.

He remembered tossing the screwdriver back into it earlier, and it had been right by the front door. He had replaced it there himself last night, after he had installed the locks, and it had still been there just a short while ago when he had retrieved the screwdriver to pry the molding loose in the kitchen.

Frank walked warily to the front door and opened it. It was not locked, and he was sure he had locked it.

Someone, he realized, had been in the house while he was gone.

Might still be, his mind told him.

Frank closed the door and re-locked it. He quietly set the empty beer can down on the floor by the door, and began searching the house.

When he had searched all the rooms, except the bedroom he was now entering, he had begun to wonder if his imagination was working overtime. The house seemed empty. Frank looked around the room silently and cautiously, noticing that the laptop bag that he had placed on the dresser was still there.

He looked under the bed.

Nothing, he saw, and getting up returned to the dresser. He was mentally chiding himself as he opened the laptop bag, but stopped as the bag popped open, to reveal only an empty satin lining.

“Shit,” he muttered, “all the damn notes are gone along with the laptop.”

The realization frightened him, as the missing notes confirmed all the suspicions he had. No one would want them, unless they were specifically connected to the investigation he was conducting. He knew now that the killer, or killers, had been after him all along.

Frank let the case fall shut, not bothering to fully close or lock it, and went back down to the kitchen with the suitcase he had picked up in the bedroom.

He now knew that he was in real danger. If the killer had tried once, it wasn’t unreasonable to assume that he or they would know by now they had gotten the wrong person. When they did figure it out they would be back, he knew, and Frank had no intention of being there when they did. He also had no intention of letting them get away if they did come back, and he could catch them.

I wonder if old man Peters really is as salty as he seems to be? Frank thought. His place would be a good place to sit and wait for them to come back, and on the heels of that thought came another. I wonder if he has a gun, or an old deer rifle? Probably, Frank thought. Hadn’t he said earlier that he used to do some hunting when he was younger?

Frank was pretty sure he had mentioned hunting when he had been rambling on about the old dog he had once owned.

Either way it would be a lot safer there than here, he told himself.

With his mind made up, Frank stuffed the beer and the groceries back into the bag and walked out the back door. He decided to leave the small car in the locked garage, to make it appear as though he was still in the house.

Frank walked behind the house, peered around cautiously, and entered the woods behind it, walking a long curving route around the old place until he found the highway once again.

As he crossed the road and entered the woods on the other side to cover himself as he moved towards old man Peters’ house, he realized how stupid he would look to someone if they had seen him walking through the woods with a grocery bag. He remembered then that he had left the suitcase sitting on the kitchen floor.

I guess it’ll be staying there for a while, he thought, as he tramped deeper into the woods.

He came out in back of Peters’ house, and quickly walked the ten yards from the tree line to the house. The car was still gone, he saw, as he entered the unlocked rear door. After putting the sack in the refrigerator, he moved to the living room.

He sat in the old man’s recliner, drinking a beer as he stared out the window at the house across the road and opened a fresh pack of cigarettes. He smoked, as he waited for Peters to return.

Jeremiah Edison

The two men faced each other across the playing board. The younger man thought for a second, and then moved a nearby red checker towards the other side of the board in a series of jumps; set it down, and said, “King me.”

The older man obliged, and then with his chin in his hand sat studying the board.

He had only two black checkers left, neither of which were crowned. He smiled and moved one forward a space. The young man reciprocated by jumping both of the remaining pieces, and removing them from the board.

“Ain’t often I kin say I beat the Lord,” he said, and smiled at the older man.

The older man smiled back at him. “Guess you’re just too good for me”, he said. ”Jeremiah…I was wondering if you would like to take a little walk with me. I have a couple of things on my mind I wanted to talk to you about, do you mind?”

“Mind? Heck no I don’t. I was gittin’ a bit itchy about thing’s myself,” Jeremiah replied.

They had both been talking during the checkers game, and Jeremiah had been waiting for an opportunity to ask about how things were going. But how did you ask God what he’s been up to? He wondered.

“You just ask,” the kindly older man said.

Jeremiah was sure that he hadn’t spoken the question out loud, but it wasn’t the first time the man had seemed to read his thoughts, and he had actually become accustomed to it.

Jeremiah blinked his eyes, and when he opened them, he found himself standing in a small stand of woods with a stiff, though cool, wind blowing long dead leaves across his shoes.

He did not feel inclined to question it. It had happened before. One minute they would be in one place discussing something, and the next instant they would be somewhere else. He was used to it.

The older man stood beside him staring at a freshly turned rectangular patch of ground before him, which had been swept clean by the wind.

“His blood cries out to me,” he said.

Jeremiah could somehow see through the dirt, and down into the earth where a young man lay encased in the soil.

“One of many,” the older man said, “Look,” his finger pointed at the ground.

They were in a small alleyway in what looked to Jeremiah to be a very bad section of a large city.

A young girl struggled desperately, as two men ripped at her clothes.

Tears leaked from the older man’s eyes, and Jeremiah could feel his own tears falling onto his cheeks. He tried to move but couldn’t.

“Don’t,” the older man cautioned. “Look!”

Jeremiah was standing at the base of an old wooden cross, looking up into the eyes of the man who hung there.

“It has never changed, Jeremiah,” the man on the cross said, “It will never change until I force it to change.”

The man on the cross was crying as well, Jeremiah saw.

“I love them so much, but it has never changed.”

Jeremiah’s eyes were suddenly assaulted with images that seemed to go on forever. Horrible human atrocities of every imaginable kind, and the older man held him as he sobbed.

“Do I have to see so much? Do I have to see it?” Jeremiah asked.

As quickly as the images had come, they disappeared, and they were back at the table, with the checker board spread out before them. The older man held Jeremiah’s hand in his own.

“I felt the question in your heart,” the older man said. “I did not want to hurt you, but I want you to know that I have no choice.”

Jeremiah nodded his head. He knew that he never would have been able to look at some of the things the man had shown him.

“When?” Jeremiah asked.

“Tomorrow,” the older man answered. “Will you be able?”

Jeremiah thought for a second. Not about the answer, but the things he had seen.

“Yes, Lord,” he answered, “I’ll be as ready as I kin be anyway.”

“I knew you would,” the older man said, “and I truly wish it could be different.” He seemed to think for a second, and then changed the subject.

“Have you picked a place to settle?” he asked.

“I saw a right nice place just today,” Jeremiah replied, “when we was looking over Oklahoma.”

The older man smiled. “I had hoped so, Jeremiah, I think Maggie will like it just fine too. I cannot wait to meet her in person.”

“I ‘spect she will,” Jeremiah answered, “and I know she’s lookin’ forward to it. We talked about it the other night.”

“So you did, so you did,” the older man agreed. “Hey?” he questioned, and waited for Jeremiah’s eyes to turn to him. “How about another game? And try to go a little easier on me this time, Okay?”

Jeremiah grinned as he began to set up the checkers. “Best three out’a five?” he asked.

The older man nodded his head. “Wouldn’t have it any other way,” he agreed, as he began to set up his side of the board.


America The Dead: #iTunes #horror #dead Dell Sweet books… https://books.apple.com/us/author/dell-sweet/id722382569


Randomness

Posted by Ami

These are random thoughts I wrote out and then left: As a writer there are somewhere around three million thoughts streaming into your brain at the speed of light all the time unless you are sleeping…

Lasting Legacy:

What if you knew that the last image of you in death, like Elvis sitting on the toilet seat, would be seen by everyone? Would it make you live your life differently if you knew at the very last breath that everyone would know who you are, what you were in life, see a clear picture, see a picture of you, dead, reduced to an inanimate corpse. No magic. You can’t fly. You didn’t miss the bullet. You are no longer a star, bigger than life, you died, just like everyone else. And all the things you covered up during that lifetime, all the times when you could have bent, changed, helped, are gone. And everybody knows what you did and didn’t do. Would it change you? Would it mean anything to you to know that, or would you continue to be the person you are right now? (I went searching for a picture of Elvis. I found a picture of Elvis dead, sitting on the toilet. I was sort of shocked. I felt as though it made who he was kind of small. In the end there he was, dead, sitting on his toilet.)…

Coffee:

Did you know there are places in this world where people start their day without coffee? Like a refugee. A refugee doesn’t get the chance to have coffee in the morning. If I was a refugee I’d be like, “Hold your ass! I’m having my coffee here! You rebels are starting to piss me off!” (One of those mornings, any morning really, when I have to do things before I have had my coffee.)…

The Litter box zone:

If you have a cat you have a litter box, unless you’re one of those aliens that teach their cats to use the toilet (They’re probably alien cats. I tried to teach mine and it nearly drowned… Twice). We scoop cat crap, get embarrassed when our friends come over and the cat suddenly decides that fancy fish dinner has settled enough and blows up the house, but if your friend Bob came over, walked into the corner of one of your rooms and took a crap, and then threw some sand over it, would that be okay?

“Whew,” says Bob as you are trying to decide what in hell just happened. “That fancy fish dinner had to go.”

Of course it wouldn’t be okay, so why do we allow cats to do the very same thing and then calmly take a scoop and cover it or remove it? And what about litter that absorbs odor? Doesn’t work. You could blindfold me, walk me around my house and I guarantee I could tell you when I hit the liter box zone. “Yep… Right here. Smells like wet sand/clay and cat sh*t,” I would say. (Do you have a cat? Enough said then.)…

Bad ideas:

Cat Trials: To determine whether cats truly do have nine lives.

Closed after one test… No, Cats do not have nine lives.

Excuses for why the cat is gone.

It was past it’s expiration date so I had to chuck it.

There was a terrible showdown between the cat and three mice. I think the mice were carrying knives. It was bad. Yes, they may have been blind mice, but they were friggin’ mean blind mice.

I traded that cat for a Volkswagen

What cat? We had a cat?

Other Cat Stuff…

Used cats: You never see ads for used cats, you know, “Gently used cat. Very low miles. Will trade for good dog, beaver or camping tent.”

One of the things I have against cats: They have fur all over them, and since I am in denial about having evolved from some sort of monkey or other animal, it bothers me to know they may rise and take over the world some day. Funny? I’ll bet that’s what the other monkeys thought about 25,000 years ago when Bob the different monkey shocked them all by fixing a hamburger and fries for dinner instead of insects and grass.

Whistling: If you whistle to a dog they’re coming. He or she will be right there. Whistle to a cat and they may flip you off, but they’re not coming.

Things you never hear… “Brother, can you spare a cat?”

Famous Quotes:

“Give a man a potato he can eat for a day. Teach a man how to grow a potato and a cat will probably come along, dig up his garden and crap in it.”

Things I have not seen:

Three legged cats. Cats with their suitcases packed (Do they have suitcases?). Cats with a drivers license. Talking cats. Unpretentious cats.

From a real Social Website Commentary

The following conversation contains bad remarks about cats and cat like creatures. If bad remarks about cats or cat like creatures offend you, you should not read this. Also, no cats were harmed in the making of this commentary, nor do any of the participants wish any cats to be harmed for any reason… Except the ones trying to take over the world…

(The conversation started in response to an Article about Cat Allergies)…

Geo Dell: I am not going to read it. I don’t want to learn how to get along with cats… Here’s my theory of how cat allergies happen. I think the ACD Gene detects their presence and alerts you. Of course we should pay attention, but we don’t. I also have another theory. There is a pheromone cats send out. This enters the brain through our olfactory organs and then is, unfortunately, absorbed into the blood stream. Suddenly, usually within hours, you find yourself liking cats. WHAT? you think, How in heck did that happen? Easy, that pheromone carried a destructive gene sequence that attacked and overcame the ACD gene. After that contaminated people are screwed. Those people will continue to like cats, and, unfortunately again, the cats will take over the world and make us their enslaved race of human pets… Or… When the ‘Fridge is empty… Pet Food…

(Name Changed for protection): I had a dream like that once where cats had taken over the world and people had to worship them or be killed. lol

Geo Dell: True, sad, but true. It will happen. It’s inevitable…

Geo Dell: Oh… ACD = A**hole Cat Detector

Geo Dell: Reasons to not like cats… They used to be ten feet tall at the shoulder… They used to catch us and take us back for the kits to chase around and learn to hunt… They are only tolerant of us… THEY WANT TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD!

Geo Dell: Every year thousands of people die in their homes and are eaten by cats. You never hear of cats dying in their homes and being eaten by us, do you?

(Name Changed for protection): lol

Geo Dell: Old people are forced to eat dog food. Well, cats are cheaper.

(Name Changed for protection): Hey, I think people forget they are living with animals. if you die, they will eat you. You’re meat at that point

Geo Dell: Yes, but I believe cats have secretly learned how to use the phone and call their friends over. Sort of like a… Fancy Feast

(Name Changed for protection): “Hey Oscar, this is Simon, my food supply died. you wanna come over and help me eat him? Tell whiskers and the crew that dinner’s on me this weekend.”

Geo Dell: Exactly. Now you are thinking. Rise up! Rise up, I say. And… Uh, well, I really don’t have a plan, but I would say start installing video cameras, keep track of these cats, especially the radical Pink Panther cats. And then, well, we’ll do something. Start a revolution or something. Sit around smoke pot, drink and say really deep things that nobody remembers the next day. At least that’s the way it was in the Seventies when we used to talk about revolution…

(Name Changed for protection): lol…

Okay, enough foolishness…

On other fronts….

I don’t know why I should be surprised when Monday shows up and I am no further ahead to catching up on things than I was the week before. Yet every Monday here I am, surprised again. And that would be funny except it’s true, which sort of makes it even funnier.

There was progress last week of course, just not as much as I would like to see. I always want mega progress, the whole board wiped clean, and of course that is not going to happen because as the board empties on one end it fills on the other. That is life for most of us I would bet.

The fifth Earth’s Survivors book Plague, the last book for the series until next year (maybe).

Free Preview and links: https://books.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-plague/id1015630497

This blog is where you will find information from me every Monday. Dell will do informational blogs as well, usually on Fridays or the weekend. Ami will do blogs throughout the week and load blogs for others.

That’s it for this Monday. I hope your week was a good one, I’ll be back next week, Geo Dell

Dreamer preview from Ami Adams

Dreamer’s Preview

Book Previews Posted by Ami Adams

This is an excerpt from the Dreamer’s book. The first book is available…

In The Sunlight:

The Book Of Memories;

Laura

I started from the first page of the book of memories. It was not a long book. Not a new book. The leather covers were old, mellow, but it had been taken care of. The pages were yellowed, slightly stiff, but they were not falling apart. A slim book, but I felt that what words it did contain most likely more than made up for the size. I began to read from the first page…

… In the beginning there was only the Creator. There was no Earth Mother. No Grandfather Sun to shine. No Grandmother Moon to light our way in the night. No Animals. No Thunders. No Directions. No legends to tell, because there were no peoples.

The Creator lived with the Star People in the heavens. But The Star People were not talkers, and so the Creator became lonely and wished for someone he could talk with.

One day as he walked among the Star People, he decided that he would create a world where he could go and talk to his creations.

Now all the things that ever were, or ever could be, lived within the Creators words. Within himself. So even though he had never walked on a world of the kind that he had in mind, he knew exactly what he wanted and what it should look like.

As he walked among the Star People thinking it out, he realized he did not want just another world full of rocks and trees, mountains and plains. The stars were full of worlds just like that. Those were worlds that were alive, but they were not the kind of life that the Creator was. What the Creator wanted was companionship. Someone he could visit with. Talk with. Someone like himself.

Now a tree or a rock could be visited, talked to, but what he had in mind was something that would answer back. At that time trees and rocks were not much on talking. There came a time within the legends when the trees and the rocks, when many things we do not think of as talkers, did talk. But that was not at this time.

Many cycles passed by as the Creator decided on what he wanted to do and how he should do it. What it would look like: Where it would live. And what the Creator would talk about with this new creation.

Finally, the day came when the Creator decided to create. He chose the earth as the place to create. At that time the Earth was a small, dead world with no Sun. No Moon.

He formed the Sun from the Star People around him and he set it into the void. He formed Grandmother Moon from a small part of the Earth and set her on her path. They had no life of their own at that time though, they simply reflected the life of the Creator.

The Creator then began to speak the words of life as he stepped from the stars onto the Earth, coming to stand in a summer tall field of wheat.

Next he made the directions and named them. The winds; and he gave individual names to each wind. But there was nothing yet to move the winds. No reason yet to the directions. No purpose yet to the greenery, for the wheat, for the rocks. For the Creator had not yet made purpose.

The Creator then bent and placed his hands upon the Earth and spoke her into life, calling her Mother. The Mother of all that could be.

As he stood from the ground he began to create purpose and assign it to his creations: The winds to move the air. Mother Earth’s breaths to move the winds. The directions so that the winds could find their way over the Earth Mother as they moved.

Mother Earth took her first breath and the tops of the Wheat began to sway as the winds picked up her life giving breath and began to carry it to all the corners of the Earth.

The Creator and Mother Earth spent the next several cycles talking. The Creator was pleased with his creation.

Now the Creator enjoyed Mother Earth’s company, but he also had many friends and favorite places among the Star People. Sometimes he would go for long walks among the Star People. Every time he left Mother Earth would become lonely and long for his companionship.

One day when the Creator returned from a walk among the Star People, Mother Earth spoke about her loneliness. The Creator understood her loneliness. It was the same loneliness that the creator himself had suffered through. So The Creator reached deep inside of himself. Taking a part of himself, the Creator mixed this with the words that lived within him, the words of Power and Life. He sowed this seed into the soil that covers Mother Earth.

“These seeds are the words of life become whole. They are of me,” the Creator told her. “Part of your Creator. They will speak themselves into being in the fullness of time and you will never be lonely again.”

The Creator lifted his hands and spoke Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon into life, causing the Creators own breath to fall upon them; and so they began to move on their own paths of purpose. “They will be for Times and for Seasons,” he said.

Now several cycles passed and the seed that the Creator had planted within the Earth Mother began to grow. The day came when Grandmother moon came down to hold Mother Earth’s hand and comfort her during her birthing of life.

Grandfather Sun spilled his light upon them and spoke quietly with the creator as the Earth Mother cried out in her birthing pains.

The peoples came first. Red, Yellow, Black, White, the Brown man, and all the shades in between. The birth waters gushed forth from her as Mother Earth’s womb opened and all the peoples were born.

The birth waters became oceans, lakes, rivers and streams.

The Clan Totems and Animal Totems came next. Their place was not on the Earth. Their place was among the Star People where they would live with the Creator. But they bought the Earth animals before them and instructed them on what they were to be for, before they themselves ascended into the Heavens.

Mother Earth’s sacred birth waters bought life to all that they touched. The fish swam in them. Brother Eagle came from the waters and ascended to the sky. Brother Wolf walked from the birth waters and made his home in the forests and the mountains with brother black Bear. Each animal found its place and knew its purpose.

Now the people had no spirits living among the stars. They had no ancestors to guide them. They did not come to fully know the Creator or the Mother Earth. They had no leaders. Knew nothing of totems. Spirits. Brotherhood. And they did not seek to learn because there was no one they would listen to that would tell them.

Now after a time the people began to divide themselves according to their colors. Leaders arose, but leaders who ignored the purpose within their souls, so they began to provoke wars among each other. With the other peoples. This was their nature.

Mother Earth became sadder and sadder as the peoples continued to war and fight. Many died, sending more and more of our kind into the spirit worlds, but they were proud. They didn’t understand life or purpose and they would not lift their arms or their voices to the Creator or the Earth Mother to ask for help. In fact as time passed they did not speak to Mother Earth or the Creator at all. They withdrew and became laws and Gods unto themselves.

One day a little boy was born to a great war chief. The chief held him in his arms at the naming and called him ‘He who speaks with those unseen.’ He did this because even with his first words he began to speak to the ancestors and those who had passed into the spirit worlds and now lived among the Star Peoples.

As the boy grew he spoke of the things that the ancestors told him with his people: He told them everything that the ancestors talked to him about.

He warned them about war. Spoke to them about peace and how all people, every one, were made for a purpose, to live a purpose. How part of that purpose was to live together. Even so the way of death and war continued.

But his own peoples believed and they began to worship the Creator. Speak to the Earth Mother. Sending praises up to the Creator and asking Mother Earth for guidance. In return The Creator and Mother Earth taught them about purpose, life, and to respect all living things on the Earth.

As the creator listened to his peoples, he realized that many of them wished to live in peace, even though some of them desired to make war and follow the way of death. With Mother Earth’s help he made places for all of them to have their own territories; and he separated them with oceans and deep lakes to keep them apart.

“We will have to hope that they have learned to live in peace by the time they learn to cross the great waters,” the Creator told the Earth Mother.

Time moved on. ‘He who speaks with those unseen’ grew up to become the leader of his people. They prayed to the Creator and kept his ways. They held Mother Earth in great regard, respected her ways, and the people grew and prospered. There were no wars, no famines, no sickness in his people.

‘He who speaks with those unseen’, finished his time and went to be with the spirit people among the stars. As the generations passed, however, the peoples again forgot the ways of the Mother Earth and the Creator. They learned to cross the great waters. They learned to hate again: To make war again. And Mother Earth called to the Creator to separate them once more, but he refused to do it.

“They will only come to kill each other once again. To Enslave. To make war. They must learn to make their own peace. Learn their lessons as a law. Come back to us as they should: As they once were. They will have to learn what peace means. Respect, until then we can do nothing with them.”

Mother Earth knew that the Creator was right. Even so with his words she wept. Her tears became the rain that we know. Lifted into the air and carried by the cloud people, to bring her gift of life from the heavens to all peoples through her tears.

It is said that they will continue to come as Mother Earth weeps for all the peoples. And they will be a sign for all peoples to remember that war and killing is not the way.

They will be a sign to us that Mother Earth will continue to bring life from death, the peoples cause. Sending her tears to us in hopes that they may heal us. And to show us that her love will always be with us.

I held the place in the book as I closed my eyes and sent a small prayer to the Creator for allowing me to read those words.

Across from me Bear slept. His paws twitching. The fire crackled companionably. I opened the book and began to read once more…


Enjoy your weekend! Check out Dreamers at the link below, or if you need a free book to read check out Earth’s Survivors: Apocalypse below, Ami…

DREAMERS


B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dreamers-dell-sweet/1123470056?ean=2940152874358

Free eBook


I-Tunes
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-apocalypse/id963866999?mt=11

Do our cats eat better than we do?

Have you ever been on your way to the kitchen to make a peanut butter sandwich, with jelly of course, at 1:30 A.M. and of course you just get the bread out and the noise of the plastic wrapper alerts the cats, and they are on you like… Well, cats on people with food.

So, you managed to get the bread out of the bag, whole wheat, if you are going to eat P&J at 1:30 A.M. you need to be health conscious: So, you leave the bread on a napkin on the counter, if you have ever been married you know this is not like the bad old days, the single days, you can’t leave crumbs on the counter and hope the dog gets up there and cleans them up before breakfast; because if the wife sees them you are in for it. She buys napkins for a reason, after all. Ask her, she’ll tell you. Screw up and leave crumbs she’ll also tell you.

So, bread on the napkin and off to take care of the cats, because cats are not like dogs. Dogs wait to be fed, cats demand to be fed at any time they choose. If a dog wants breakfast they will wait patiently until you get up and then accept the breakfast, and maybe a few bites of whatever you are eating, that they knew would be coming. A cat, on the other hand will jump up onto your face at 2:00 A.M. and smack the crap out of you until you get up and feed them.

So, bread on the napkin and off to the cat food bag, a handful on each plate because cats cannot stand to eat together, they must have their own plates so that they can then shove the nearest cat out of the way, eat all their food, and then go back to their own plate. Then you have to get the wet food, because a cat will surely kill you dead if you think they are going to simply eat dry food. With a dog you can run a little warm water over the dry food and tell them it is gravy. Don’t try that with a cat.

So, wet food interspersed with the dry food, set down both plates and then go back to the sink to wash the cat food smell off your hands, and on the way you notice that the cat food doesn’t smell as bad as it usually smells. Not fishy, more… Well, tasty smelling. Like it could be something gourmet, like that coffee Jules’s friend Mister Tarantino serves in Pulp Fiction. So, because you are a man you stop and sniff your hands. No, women don’t do this, just men, it is a cave man thing, evolutionary in origin, probably came about because some cave wife yelled at her cave husband for having stinky hands. Most cave men probably did. After all, there was no antibacterial soap back then, in fact Dial had not even been invented, so your hands were going to smell bad on occasion: It only makes sense that a cave wife wouldn’t stand for that too long.

So, you sniff your hand, and Whoa!!! It is some gourmet stuff! It smells really good, like it might make a much better sandwich than that P&J you were about to build; way better. It smells as good as that sandwich you got out a vending machine that time you were drunk and hungry and happened to be at the hospital. That good; of course you can’t really remember how good it was exactly because you were drunk and in the hospital after all, and really the whole night was a blur, but the sandwich, the sandwich stood out, and you’re pretty sure it had nothing to do with your vomiting later on, that was just too much drink, that’s all.

You look from your hands to the bread, then you think… There are a few more cans left… Maybe… But, you are civilized and so you continue on to the sink and wash your hands, even though you don’t even have a wife anymore, and so if you wanted to have stinky hands you could, but no, civilized, and so you wash your hands, make that P&J and spend the next few minutes eating it and hating the cat for having better food that you do…

Has that ever happened to you? … Me either… AA

Happy Sunday to you…

A wolf track through my backyard last winter

Posted by Ami

Happy May, almost June. It still feels like March here, but I am always hopeful summer will finally move in. The fifth Earth’s Survivors book is now available to download from Amazon, Nook, I-Tunes and Smashwords. Thanks to all who pre-registered for the book.

iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-plague/id1015630497?mt=11

B&N:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/earths-survivors-dell-sweet/1122252296?ean=2940152010350

Amazon U.K.:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Earths-Survivors-Plague-Geo-Dell-ebook/dp/B0137DRAUY

Amazon U.S.:
http://www.amazon.com/Earths-Survivors-Plague-Geo-Dell-ebook/dp/B0137DRAUY

Smashwords Publishing:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/555784

It has been a crazy week. The next Outrunners book is still with the editor, but may arrive tomorrow (Yes we work weekends too) or early next week. It is a long book. Bigger takes longer. It’s worth waiting for though, I think.

I did a small amount of work on Hurricane this past week. I also UN-published all the short stories and I will compile them into longer works over this winter. A few places will not let digital publishers give away books, so I have to charge the minimum of 0.99 cents per short story. To me it makes more sense to compile all the short stories into a few books and publish them that way. Which would be cheaper overall for you the reader. I also like the idea that if I want to treat you to a short story here in my Blog it isn’t a problem with one of the vendors. It would not be a problem with independAntwriters, but other places have rules against offering up anything for free if they are selling it. Sort of makes sense, except sometimes I want to do it, and I own the work, so…?

I also worked on the house this week. Man, what a deal that has turned into. Let me explain a little so you will understand what I am dealing with.

This whole area is right next to the largest U.S. Army Base for Winter Training in the world. It has always been a big base back to the early part of the century.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s the people that lived around the base were mostly poor people who managed to afford the couple of bucks for an acre of land, but had no money left to take to the lumber mill for the lumber to build a house.

The base used to sell scrap lumber on the weekends. Ammunition boxes, leftover wood from barrack building or tear downs. The base also displaced an entire town so there were (Still are in places) houses standing empty. The base would sell truckloads of lumber for a dollar or two. As a result, many of the houses that were built in this area were built that way.

I knew that coming in to this work. I looked over the house and had a pretty good idea that it was that sort of build back when it was built in the 1950’s. But the price was great, I couldn’t resist it. Resist, should be spelled Idiot!

I stripped out the living room ceiling first. It was a dropped ceiling, I assumed there would be a sagging old plaster type ceiling up underneath it and there was. I pulled that down along with a couple of young guys I hired for the week. Let me say this about that. Hire a young guy to do those hard jobs. They will work like crazy for you.

So down came the ceiling, but underneath the ceiling was a surprise. The entire ceiling was made of two by four lumber pieced together. And going further, the rafters and cross pieces for the roof itself were also made of two by four pieces of lumber. I actually stopped and wondered why in hell the guy did that. Then I remembered this was back in the fifties, there were no building inspectors, codes, etc.

I decided to go ahead and strip out the walls. They appeared weak, flimsy, they were. Turns out, behind the wallboard someone had added in later years, were walls made of cardboard from a refrigerator box with a label from 1954. The cardboard had been nailed to the studs, taped just like wallboard would have been, and then wallpapered. It looked like finished wallboard/Sheetrock to me.

So that was where I was a few weeks back when I started this: Since then I have strung all new rafters, crosspieces and built a vaulted ceiling; while I was there I had the wiring replaced too. I mean, why not, the walls were open.

It has been interesting. I had intended it to be a project that lasted a few weeks tops, and I am far past that. But all the serious stuff is done now. A few more weeks, maybe the end of September and I should be done with all the major stuff. In the mean time, it is fun to once again work with my hands, and once it’s done I probably won’t be doing that again so I am enjoying it.

The week has been crazy hot, and then dipped back into the thirties. Crazeeeee. I will be glad when things level off. This week I will give you the Great Go-Cart Race. No, it is not a horror story. There are no Zombies in it. I wrote this story back in the early 1980’s. I only recently got it back.

It is a story of childhood that is a thinly disguised story about myself and my friends. I think it’s a good story. The children in this story are the main characters in the forth coming Fig Street. I hope you like it. Have a great week and I’ll be back next week…

The Great Go-Cart Race

© Wendell Sweet, all rights reserved. Published by: independAntwriters Publishing

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please point them to this Blog Entry. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

The Great Go-Cart Race by Wendell Sweet

This short story is Copyright © 1982 – 2015 Wendell Sweet No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission. Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print

The Great Go-Cart Race

~1~

The summer of 1969 in Glennville New York had settled in full tilt. The July morning was cool and peaceful, but the afternoon promised nothing but sticky heat. Bobby Weston and Moon Calloway worked furiously on the go-cart they had been planning to race down Sinton Park hill, in the old garage behind Bobby’s house. Both boys had grown up in Glennville. Bobby on upper Fig, Moon on lower Fig. And even though they had gone to the same schools and grown up just a block apart, they had only recently become friends. The Go-cart was a project they had devoted the last two weeks to, and it looked as though today would finally see it finished.

By eleven thirty that morning they had the wheels on the go cart, and had dragged it up Sinton Park hill. An old piece of clothesline tied to each side of the two by four the wheels were nailed to served as the steering. One nail pounded through the center board and into the two by four allowed it to turn. It was the best go cart either of them had ever built, and it rolled just fine. The plan was for bobby to give Moon a ten minute head start down the hill. That way he should be at the intersection by the time Bobby got there, they figured, and able to make sure that Bobby got through it in one piece. Just exactly what Moon was supposed to do to stop a car, or Bobby-the go cart had no brakes, except Bobby’s Keds-he didn’t know. They hadn’t figured that part of it out.

“So, how am I supposed to stop a car?” Moon asked. He didn’t want to sound stupid. Most probably Bobby had it all figured out, but Moon couldn’t see it.

“Easy,” Bobby told him, “you don’t. You’d get freakin’ killed.”

“Well, I knew that,” Moon lied.

“See, you’ll be on your bike. You’ll be sittin’ up higher. You’ll see if there’s a car coming, I won’t, on account of how low to the ground I’ll be.”

“I knew that too.” Well, and then what? Moon asked himself.

“So easy. You just yell to me before I get to the intersection, and I cut off to the left and go into the sledding hill instead. You see that way I’ll be going up, instead of down, see?”

“Oh yeah!” Moon said, as it dawned on him. The sledding hill was there. Of course it wasn’t a sledding hill in the summer, but it was a hill, and he could see exactly how it would work. “I knew that too. I just wasn’t sure if that was what you were goin’ to do, or not,” Moon finished.

“Of course you did,” Bobby agreed.

Moon was just getting ready to bike back down to the bottom of the hill, when John Belcher showed up. John Belcher lived on West avenue, and his dad raced stock car out in Lafargville.

As a consequence, John Belcher had the coolest go-cart around. His dad had helped build it. Real tires-they even had air in them-with a real metal axle running from side to side to hold them. That was the best way to do it, Moon had said, when he’d first seen John’s go-cart. That way you didn’t have to worry about the tires falling off when the spikes pulled out, and the spikes always pulled out. It also had a real steering wheel, a real one. Moon had exclaimed over that. His dad, John had told him, had gotten it out of an old boat out at the junk yard.

“Hey,” John said, as he walked up, dragging his go-cart behind him. “Goin’ down?”

“Bobby is,” Moon said respectfully. You had to show a lot of respect to someone who owned a go-cart that cool. “I’m watchin’… At the bottom. So he don’t get killed, or nothin’,” Moon finished.

“Watch for me too?” John asked.

“Sure, man, a course I will. Bobby don’t care, do ya?”

“Uh uh,” Bobby said. “You gonna try for the whole thing?”

“Why, are you?”

“Yeah… Right through the intersection, and if I can all the way downtown. Probly won’t roll enough on the flat part to do that though, but at least through the intersection and as far past it as I can get.”

Sinton Park Hill began at the extreme western end of Glennville, and continued-though somewhat reduced-as State Street Hill all the way to the Public Square three miles from its start.

“Cool!” John said. Now it was his turn to sound respectful. “I dunno, man. If I do it and my dad finds out, he’ll kill me.”

“Well, who’s gonna tell him?” Moon asked. “I won’t, and neither will Bobby.”

“Yeah, but if someone see’s me…”

“Yeah… I’m gonna though,” Bobby said. He could see John was aching to do it.

“Okay… I’m gonna,” John said decidedly.

“Cool!” Moon exclaimed. “Really frickin’ cool!”

John grinned, as did Bobby. “Well,” Bobby said, “guess you better head down, Moony. Moon didn’t need to be told twice. He stood on the pedals, and fairly flew down the hill.

~2~

“Think he’s down the bottom yet?” Bobby asked John quietly. They were both sitting at the side of Sinton Park hill. Their sneakers wedged firmly against the black top to hold them. John had allowed ten minutes to tick off, keeping faithful track of the time with his Timex.

“Oughta be,” John said in a whisper, licking his lips.

“Scared?”

“Uh uh… Well, a little.”

“Me too… Ready?”

“For real?”

“For real,” Bobby said solemnly.

John didn’t answer, he simply pulled his feet from the pavement, turned and grinned at Bobby, and began to roll away. Bobby followed, both of them hugging the side of the road, as close to the curbing as possible.

It was a slow build up for the first few hundred feet. Sinton park hill didn’t begin to get really steep until you were better than half way down, it was gradual up until that point. Even so, within that first few hundred feet, Bobby realized that everything had changed. John was already a good fifty feet ahead of him, and pulling away fast enough that it was noticeable. They were not going to hit the bottom of the hill at even close to the same time. Moon would have to watch for both of them separately.

John made a sharp curve up ahead, and disappeared from view. Everything, Bobby knew, was sharp curves from here on out, and that would not change until they were well past the halfway point. And, this was much faster than he had thought it would be. Much faster.

He fought with the rope through the curve, but he could no longer keep to the side. He was going to need the entire road.

And if a car came? he asked himself.

He had thought of that, but he had thought he would be able to stay to the side. No time to think. Another curve just ahead, and he had only barely glimpsed John as he had flown around the curve. Just the back tires really. He probably wouldn’t see any more of him at all until they were down at the bottom.

The second curve was not as bad as the first had been. He didn’t try to fight this time, he simply let the go-cart drift as far as it wanted too. He came off the curve and dropped both sneakers to the pavement. Instant heat, and the left one flipped backwards nearly under the two by four that held the rear tires, before he was able to drag it back in.

“Jesus,” he moaned. It was lost in the fast rush of wind that surrounded him. Torn from his throat and flung backwards. He hadn’t even heard it. Another curve, and the Indian trail flashed by on his right.

The Indian trail was just that. An old Indian trail that cut down through the thick trees that surrounded Sinton park. He and Moon had carefully negotiated it several times. The Indian trail was just before the halfway point, he knew. There was a really sharp curve coming up, just before Lookout Point. You could see nearly all of Glennville from there.

He fought the curve. Harder this time. It felt as if he were going at least a million miles an hour. Two million maybe, he corrected himself. And the go-cart was beginning to do a lot more than drift. It was beginning to shake. And, his mind told him, you ain’t even at the fast part yet! Lookout Point flashed by, and he fought his way around the sharp curve, going nearly completely to the other side in order to do it…. Yes I am, he told himself.

The road opened up. A full quarter mile of steep hill lay before him, before the next curve. It would be a sharp one too, but not as bad as the one he’d just come around. John was nowhere to be seen ahead of him. Presumably at and around the next curve already. No cars yet, and hopefully there wouldn’t be any at all. It was Monday, Sinton Park saw most of its business on the weekends, if they’d tried this then…

The quarter mile was gone that quick. This curve, and one more, and the rest was all straight-away. He gritted his teeth, and flashed into the curve.

Halfway through, nearly at the extreme edge of the opposite side of the road, the first raindrop hit him. A small splat, or it would have been. The speed with which he was moving had made it sting. Splat, splat. The tires were nearly rubbing the curbing when he finally came out the other side of the curve and hit a small straight-away. And now fat drops were hitting the pavement.

He sped into the last curve, and this time the wheels didn’t skim the curbing, they seemed glued to it. Screaming in protest as he tore through the wide curve and made the other side. The rain came in a rush. Turning the hot pavement glossy black as it pelted down. He used the rope carefully to guide himself back towards the side of the road. Slipping as he went, but making it. His hands were clinched tightly, absolutely white from the force with which he held the rope.

Straight-away, slightly less than a mile, and far ahead, where the stone pillars marked the entrance to Sinton Park, he watched John fly through the intersection. Nothing… No car. Nothing. He made it. He could make out Moon sitting on his bike at the side of the road. Leaned up against one of the pillars. Moon turned towards him, and then quickly looked away. The hill was flashing by fast. Too fast. He’d never be able to cut into the sledding hill. Not in a million years, and especially not with the road wet like it was.

Halfway. Moon was turning back, waving his arms frantically. Bobby slammed his Keds into the slick surface of the road. Useless, and he dragged them back inside after only a split second. Nothing for it, nothing at all. The intersection was still empty, however, so maybe…

Moon scrambled away from his bike letting it fall, and sprinted for the middle of the road, but he was far too late. And even if he hadn’t been, Bobby told himself as he flashed by him, the go-cart probably would’ve run him over.

“Truck!” Moon screamed as Bobby flew past him. He stumbled, fell, picked himself up, and ran back towards the stone entrance post, watching the intersection as he went.

The truck, one of the lumber trucks from Jackson’s Lumber on Fig street, made the intersection in a gear grinding, agonizingly, slow shuffle, before Bobby did. Bobby laid flat, and skimmed under the front tires.

Moon stopped dead, the handlebars in one rain slicked hand, and his mouth flew open as he watched. The undercarriage was just above his head, and if he hadn’t laid down…

Moon watched, frozen, as Bobby shot out the other side as neatly as if he had planned it, the back tires missing him by mere inches, and suddenly Bobby was well on his way towards State street hill, and…

Moon grabbed the handle bars tighter, flipped the bike sideways and around, and pedaled off after him as fast as he could.

Bobby raised his head quickly. He had truly believed it was over. He’d been praying, in fact. He hadn’t expected to make it all. He fought his way to the side of the road, and watched as far ahead, John slipped over the top of State Street Hill, and headed towards Public Square.

There were cars here, and more than a few blew their horns as he slipped slowly by on the side of them. He dragged his feet. Pushing as hard as he could, but managing to slow down very little. The top of the hill came and went, and reluctantly he pulled his feet back once more, and hugged the curbing. The only problem would be from cars cutting off the side streets.

The rain began to slack off, as he started down the hill-a brief summer down pour, they had them all the time, but the road was still wet-at least he could see better. The rear of the go-cart suddenly began to shimmy. He risked a quick backwards glance. Very quick, but it was enough to show him that the rubber was shredding from the tire on the outside, and it was also beginning to wobble. The spikes were coming out, and if that happened…

He pushed it away, and began to concentrate on the side streets that seemed to be flashing by every couple of seconds. Oak, Elm, Sutter, Hamilton. Nothing and nothing, and thank God. The rubber went a few seconds later. He could hear the metal rim ringing as it bit the wet pavement. The hill began to flatten. State Street Hill was nowhere near as long as Sinton Park Hill, and thank God for that too. Finally, he slipped past Mechanic street, and the hill flattened out. He could see John ahead, coasting slowly to a stop nearly in front of the First Baptist Church that held a commanding presence of the Public Square. He watched as John finally stopped, got out, and looked back. Moon whizzed past, standing on the pedals, screaming as he went.

“We did it! We freakin’ did it!”

Bobby smiled, a small smile, but it spread to a wide grin. So wide that it felt as though his whole lower jaw was going to fall off. His stuck out his much abused Keds for the last time, and coasted to a stop behind John’s go-cart.

“Man, did’ya see it? When ya went under th’ truck, Holy cow, for real, did ya see it? I thought you were, like, dead, man, for real!” Moon said as he ran up, John along with him.

John looked pale, really pale, Bobby saw. He supposed he looked the same.

“Under a truck?” John asked. “A freaking truck? A real one?”

“For real. Scout’s honor,” Moon told him. “It almost ripped his head off. I saw it! For real! Next time I do it,” Moon declared as he finished.

“Next time?” John asked. He looked at Bobby.

“Uh uh,” Bobby said. “There ain’t ever gonna be a next time, Moony, right, John?”

“For real. Uh uh. No way. Not ever.”

Moon smiled. “Well, too bad, cause I woulda… For real.”

Bobby looked at John. “Did you know it would go so fast? How fast were we going, Moony?”

“No way,” John said softly.

“Probly… Forty, at least forty.” Moon said confidently.

“You think so?”

“Could be,” John agreed, “cause like the speed limit is thirty five, and we were passing cars, and that was on State Street Hill, not Sinton,” he opened his eyes wide as he finished.

“Hey, maybe fifty,” Moon assured them.

“Did it look scary to you?” Bobby asked.

“Scary? Uh… Yeah, it did. I thought you guys were dead, for real. I was pedalin’ as fast as I could, but it took a long time to catch you. Was it?”

Bobby looked at John. “Yeah,” they said, nearly at the same time.

“Really scary,” John added.

They all fell silent. John, Bobby noticed, seemed to be getting some color back in his face.

“Wanna go buy some Cokes?” Moon asked at last.

“Can’t,” John said, “no money.

“We’ll buy,” Moon said, smiling once more. He helped drag both go-carts up over the curbing, and turn them around. Moon rode his bike, as Bobby and John pulled the go-carts behind them.

They rehashed the entire ride as they walked towards Jacob’s Superette. Laughing, the terror already behind them.

Later that day when Bobby and Moon finally made it back to Fig street. They stuck the go-cart in the old garage behind Bobby’s house. They talked about it from time to time, even went in the garage and looked at it occasionally, but they never rode down Sinton Park Hill, or any other hill, with it again. It sat there until the fall of 1982 when Bobby himself dragged it out to the curb and left it with the weekly garbage.


Free Book for the Weekend:

Earth’s Survivors: Apocalypse.

Earth’s Survivors Apocalypse follows survivors of a worldwide catastrophe. A meteorite that was supposed to miss the earth completely, hits and becomes the cap to a series of events that destroy the world as we know it. Hopes, dreams, tomorrows: All buried in a desperate struggle to survive. Small groups band together for safety, leaving the ravaged cities behind in search of a new future…

U.K. Link: Kindle, Amazon Digital


U.S. Link: Kindle, Amazon Digital

I hope you enjoyed the story. Have a great Labor day and I’ll look forward to your company next week, Dell Sweet.

SE books from the Earth’s Survivors collections and a short brain fart concerning Microwave ovens…

Classic Posts: Dell Sweet. Posted by Ami Adams

NEWS

This week: It seems like last to this, the week flew by and I had so much to do that I really couldn’t stop to think about it.

Microwave ovens and presets on microwave ovens:

I like microwave ovens. They have made our lives better, I truly believe that. How else can you get a hot cup of coffee from yesterdays leftover coffee in just about 120 seconds? Not that I do that. I mean drink yesterdays left over coffee… Okay… I do.

Here’s the thing though, it’s coffee! That’s my only argument. It should be enough though. I mean it’s like sacred, isn’t it? If I were living in a cave and discovered the coffee bean and bought it to my fellow cave dwellers they would probably build a shrine for me and worship me… Paint pictures of Coffee beans on the cave walls instead of hands, horses and signs for water. History would have been changed! Well, would have been changed had that happened.

So, no. I won’t throw out coffee. I guess that is a shocking admission but it’s true.

Once, I can’t remember the movie, some western, the character threw the dregs of then coffee in his cup on the fire. The other guys around the fire looked at him like he was crazy… Crazy! And, he must have been. I was just a kid at the time and I thought he was crazy! After that the other cowboys ostracized him. And he wasn’t asked along for the next roundup. That’s how serious a thing coffee was for cowboys back in the day. So, I don’t throw away coffee. Which brings me back to microwaves: Don’t you wish your mind worked the way mine does? See how I came right back to where I wanted to be? Okay. I don’t even know how my mind works, I just thank God that it does. So, Microwaves…

I like the idea of a Microwave, but I do have some issues with them. First, you can not make popcorn consistently. In fact, I went to make popcorn the other day and the bag said “Do not use the Popcorn Setting on your Microwave.” Huh. Then why have the setting there? Isn’t that the whole idea? Ease of use? Push one button? Well, we’ll get to that in a minute. The bag went on to give precise microwave instructions: If you have this many “Watts” use this amount of time. This many, that amount of time. I had a headache when I finished reading it. Finally, I put the popcorn back into the cupboard and got some chips instead, and sank into a deep depression over the whole technology thing. How can you eat microwavable popcorn if the button settings are wrong and you have to spend three hours figuring out wattage? You can’t just get out a pan and some butter, tear open the bag and do it that way, can you?

Well, as I sat eating my chips that I didn’t want I thought about that. There are a lot of buttons on a microwave. For instance, there is a beverage button on mine. It doesn’t work for beverages though. It leaves them too cold or too hot. But, what if you accidentally pushed the popcorn button? And, you then found out the popcorn button worked for beverages? Wouldn’t that be great? Well, it does. I tried. But the beverage button will not work for Popcorn. What a mess that was. But, in the end, I did go back out there, rip a popcorn bag open, and put it in a pan with some butter. Guess what? That did work.

As for the coffee on the popcorn setting it did come out pretty good, but I have an aversion to using a button marked Popcorn for Coffee. But, I wonder. If the popcorn companies don’t want you to use it, why do the microwave companies still make a popcorn button? Hmm. And if the beverage button doesn’t work for beverages, what the hell good is it anyway? And, if coffee is the most nuked beverage, why not a Coffee button? And, stay with me here, if the Popcorn button isn’t used anyway, why not re-label it Coffee? Then I wouldn’t have to feel so bad about using the popcorn button for my coffee. Hey, I’m going to get one of those little label makers and make a coffee sticker and put it right over the Popcorn label. That will solve my problems for now. Feel free to just copy the picture above, print it out, and paste it on your own Microwave! No need to say thanks.

That only leaves the power button on mine. But, that is kind of cool. You can press it, set the time amount, and watch the little turntable go around and around….

Have a good week…

Check out The Earth’s Survivors Newest: SE collection books:

By Geo Dell The SE books are two book collections from the Earth’s Survivors series. The Earth’s Survivors books follow survivors of a worldwide catastrophe. A meteorite that was supposed to miss the earth completely, hits and becomes the cap to a series of events that destroy the world as we know it. Police, fire, politicians, military, governments: All gone. Hopes, dreams, tomorrows: All buried in desperate struggle to survive. From L.A. To Manhattan the cities, governments have toppled and lawlessness is the rule. Los Angeles: Billy and Beth start out with a small group and wind up on their own as they make their way across America trying to find others and safety. Manhattan: Adam leaves the safety of his apartment to find his way out the dying Manhattan, gathering others as he makes his way. Old Towne New York: Conner is alone for the first few weeks, but then he finds Katie and a reason to live again. They set out to survive and find much more than survival. Watertown New York: Mike Collins goes to sleep thinking about his first vacation in many years that he will start in the morning. He awakens to destruction.

Earth’s Survivors Collected Books

Earth’s Survivors SE 1 by Geo Dell Series: Earth’s Survivors Collected Books. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 202,170. Language: English. Published: July 5, 2015 by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias Earth’s Survivors SE 1 contains the complete text from the first two Earth’s Survivors books, Apocalypse and Rising From The Ashes. It includes a character bibliography. It follows survivors of a worldwide catastrophe. A meteorite hits and sets off a series of events that destroy the world as we know it. From L.A. To Manhattan the cities, governments have toppled and lawlessness is the rule.

Earth’s Survivors SE 2 by Geo Dell Series: Earth’s Survivors Collected Books. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 219,100. Language: English. Published: July 5, 2015 by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias Earth’s Survivors SE 2 contains the complete text from the Earth’s Survivors books three and four, The Nation and Home in the Valley. It includes a character bibliography. It follows survivors of a worldwide catastrophe. A meteorite hits and sets off a series of events that destroy the world as we know it. From L.A. To Manhattan the cities, governments have toppled and lawlessness is the rule.

Earth’s Survivors SE 3. The Outrunner Books by Geo Dell Series: Earth’s Survivors Collected Books. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 205,340. Language: English. Published: January 31, 2016 by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Apocalyptic, Fiction » Horror » Undead Earth’s Survivors SE 3, The Outrunner Books is all the collected OutRunner books in one place. There were three books written that were then discarded and the storylines were written into the Earth’s Survivors books instead. This Collection follows the OutRunners as they assemble from L.A and N.Y. The only book that tells the full tale of the outrunners…

Earth’s Survivors Se 4: The Story of Candace and Mike by Geo Dell Series: Earth’s Survivors Collected Books. Price: $4.49 USD. Words: 192,410. Language: English. Published: April 3, 2017 by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Undead, Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias The Earth’s Survivors SE series follows follow Mike, Candace and a few other survivors as they struggle to stay alive in a vastly changed world. In the early morning hours of March 1st great change came upon the entire planet, touching the small northern New York town where Mike and Candace lived. Earth’s Survivors SE four is the only story that completes the original story of Candace and Mike…

Earth’s Survivors SE 5 by Geo Dell Series: Earth’s Survivors Collected Books. Price: $4.49 USD. Words: 284,070. Language: English. Published: May 1, 2017 by independAntwriters Publishing. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Undead, Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias Earth’s Survivors SE 5 brings together book Six and book seven from the earth’s Survivors series in one volume. From the theft of the virus from a top secret facility to the births of The Nation’s first babies, to the formation of The Fold and how it came to be founded. Watertown begins the tale and World Order ends it after picking up at the end of Watertown. A hard, fast read start to finish…


I hope you enjoyed the preview. You can get a longer preview at any of the links, or buy the books.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend and I’ll be back in a few days,Ami.


America the Dead Podcast on YouTube Episode 17

War

The cave was up early the next morning. It seemed as though everybody had some task to complete, some job to fill the day.

The open space of the large limestone cave accommodated all the people and all the supplies and possessions they had accumulated over the short period they had been together. Now it also held the first truck that Bob and Tom were going to convert. Everybody found a reason to stop and look at what they were doing as they went about their chores.

Bob and Tom would be left behind for the next several days as the others continued to search out items on Jan’s lists as well as a few parts Bob and Tom had been unable to find.

Mike was working on getting some coffee into him when Tim and Annie came back into the cave in a hurry, looking around. When Tim’s eyes fell on Mike he headed straight for him. Mike glanced from Tim and Annie to the covered entrance way but no one else came through it. “Ronnie wants you,” Was all Tim said. His frightened eyes said more than his words. Everyone had seen Tim and Annie rush into the cave and they looked at Mike now, wondering what had caused them to hurry in. Mike shrugged his shoulders and headed for the entrance way, Candace and Patty behind him. Everyone else paused in what they were doing; waiting to learn what was going on.

Mike stepped outside into the early morning quiet. Ronnie,

Nell and Sandy were staring down the river road toward the old restaurant that graced the end of the street. Mike walked up, but before he reached them, a volley of gunshots reached his ears. It sounded to him as though they had come from lower State Street, just off the square, very close by.

The sound of a revving engine reached his ears at nearly the same time, and a speeding truck raced by the end of the road about a quarter mile away. The shots came heavy and hard. It sounded like a war zone.

“How long’s this been going on?”

“About fifteen minutes or so. That’s the third truck that’s gone by the end of the street,” Nell said.

The gunfire sounded even louder if that were possible. Squealing tires on pavement, straining engines. … …

As of this coming Monday, there will be 17 FREE episodes you can watch/listen to on YouTube, Dell…