Blue Light Special (End of Days Series)

BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL

(End Of Days Series – David Nadas)

“Hello? … Hello?…  F’ing thing! ” Jammie shouted into the car’s navigation screen as if that would speed up the Bluetooth connection from her mobile phone.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Her husband’s worried voice asked through the speakers, catching only her last remarks.

“Yeah… I’m fine…. It just takes so long for the phone to work its way through the screen thingy to the speakers and you have no idea if the other side is hearing you… whatever….yeah… I’m fine… What’s up Grumps?”

“I hate when you call me that… “

“Sorry, Paul, but you sound so seriously grumpy.”

“Jammie, have you checked your phone lately? Every device on the planet with an emergency alert is going off!”

“Yes I heard my phone, but it’s in my purse on the back seat… What am I looking for?  A Kia Soul with tinted windows? A white Camry? A maroon 2017 Honda CRV Touring?  Wait… that’s what I’m driving…. I suppose the amber alert could be about me because I heard a BOOM and I thought a Walmart eighteen wheeler had hit me–– and you know my premonition of being taken out by one of those…. So then I scooted into middle lane to let it go by and some A-hole started honking from behind me, so I moved back into the fast lane and almost clipped some Millennial who was lying so far back in the seat I thought it was one of those self-driving EVs…. where was I?  Oh yeah––”

“Jammie…. Are you through?

“Sure… what do you want me to pick up?”

 “What? Where are you?” 

“I’m on 15 South.”

“Pull over….”

“Paul, I’m on 15 South… I can’t just pull over––”

“Pull off the road, Jammie, NOW!”

“But––”

“Do it!” She heard and the space in the car went silent.

“Paul.. Are you there?”

“Yes.” Paul said calmly this time.  Please pull off the road, Jammie.”

“Ok, I’m taking the Poway Rd Exit–– Good God!  There’s another Walmart truck exiting in back of me.  I feel like I’m being herded to my death….”

“Let me know when you’re on the side of the road”

“Ok, just let me find a safe place to park.  There’s like no shoulder here and the only place that looks decent is occupied by a food truck with yet another Walmart rig next to it!  Where am I, Walmart Truck Hell?  Is this where they all meet up and compare their kills? 

––Hey, I just took out a minivan.

––Yeah, those are great. Love the crunch but not as good as clipping an RV

–– ‘Cuz they’re full of people (chuckle, chuckle, chuckle).  Do Walmart truckers stamp icons of cars indicating the number of kills they have, like the WWII pilots did?“

“Jammie, get serious.  Pull off the road.”

“I’m trying, Paul. Okay, I see a shopping center up ahead.  I’ll pull in.  Oh Christ, Paul, it’s a Walmart Supercenter!”  This must be the mecca of Walmarts, because judging from the size, this one probably gives birth to smaller Walmarts––”

“Jammie!  I’m not joking around.  You need to pull in but do not shut off the car or you’ll cut me off.”

Jammie did as he asked, parking as far away as possible in the lot, looking around at all the haphazardly parked Walmart rigs around her.

“I’m stopped,” she said, unbuckling her seatbelt.  “What is so important that I now have a front row seat at my premonition?”

“The world is coming to an end, Jammie.” Paul said through the connection with Jammie detecting a crack in his voice.

“Tell me about it Paul–You should see this place.  It’s like I crawled into a den of sleeping Walmart Trucks and there is an alarm clock with two giant bells on it next to them about to go off in three seconds and I can’t reach it in time––”

All she could hear was a slight whimper coming through the car speakers.

“Paul?  She said gently.  Paul was not the kind of guy who would tear up like that. Paul?  Is everything okay?” 

“Jammie.  I’m serious.  Look at the alert on your phone.  You heard that boom, didn’t you?”

“Yes, but I thought that was the Walmart truck?”

“It wasn’t.  Apparently there was and undetected intergalactic rock the size of Manhattan that came out of nowhere and just skimmed Earth, passing close enough that it tore a trench in the upper atmosphere on the other side of the planet and that was the boom we all heard––” 

“But it didn’t hit us… that‘s good, right?”

“Maybe, maybe not.  At least if it had hit us we would have never known it, but it took out most of the satellites communications and seriously screwed with Earth’s electromagnetic field, so much so that scientists speculate a reversal of the poles and we will lose all our protection from radiation until the fields realign.  It’s not good, Jammie.”

“So.. like how long does that take?  Can’t we just stay inside for a bit?”

“No one really knows.  There’s evidence in Earth’s past that the poles have switched many times before, but no one knows if it’s an overnight thing or several thousand years.”

“So like how much radiation are we talking about?”  Like we all have to wear 500-block lotion just to take out the recycle?

Paul started to laugh.  This is what he loved most about Jammie; she could get him to laugh in the most dire of situations, turning the corners of his mouth upward as much as he tried not to smile.  

“Like it is going to kill most of the vegetation and the downstream effect will be pretty devastating for terrestrial life not to mention we are losing a boatload of atmosphere.  And it gets worse; they think it will slingshot around the sun and head right back at us. 

“Oh… that’s not so bad, it will give me time to put on some makeup.”

Paul burst out laughing on the other end of the phone. And then there was silence and a crumble of soft sobs. 

“Paul––”

There was another Earth shattering boom and her car seemed to bounce in place, with the rear hatch window shattering into micro tiles as the car settled ninety degrees from its original position.   She had instinctively ducked into the passenger seat, looping her forearm under it to hold herself tight against the cushion; a scenario she had practiced in her mind dozens of times thinking she would one day see a Walmart truck jackknifing towards her and slicing the roof off like a mandolin does to an onion.

When she got up to look, she was facing the Supercenter, watching a wave of tarmac make its way across the lot, flipping standing groups of people, cars and trucks like toys before slamming into the front where every window seemed to implode simultaneously.  She expected to see chaos, and hear rivers of alarms, sirens going off, but it was dead silent.

“Paul? Paul did you hear that? My God Paul, what was that?” she asked into the air, trying to roll down the driver window to see up into the sky as if whatever did this was still up there, but the button was not working.

“Paul?  Are you there?” she asked looking directly at the navigation screen that was now dark, and noticed the car engine was off. She pressed her foot on the brake and pushed the start button, but nothing happened.  She opened the door and stepped out.  It was pin drop silent.  People were starting to get up as if someone had pulled the Earth carpet from beneath them.  As people started running toward the building that was billowing a grey white dust out of every orifice, Jammie realized the entire roof must have collapsed within.  She turned in a circle and could see the same thing being played out in every direction. Every tree, signpost, anything that had been vertical was not lying on the ground.  There was destruction everywhere and that destruction had taken out everything that was capable of making a sound.

Fishing out her mobile phone, that was lodged behind the gas pedal, and pressing every button was as effective as trying to give life to a brick.  She tossed it into the seat and stood up, resting her arms on the roof watching as people were dusting themselves off and scratching their heads, discovering the same about their own mobile phones.  She watched as everyone tied to start their cars then open the front hoods to more head scratching.

She looked up but there was nothing but blue sky.  The sounds of humanity started to flood back and there were fires evident in the building, smoke everywhere, but no sirens, alarms to be heard.  Whatever happened took out anything and everything that was electronic. 

People began to realize the situation, organizing and trying to assess the damage done, wondering if they could save anyone inside.  The only sounds were sounds of material things breaking or crumbling, stitched together with cries of fear.

Jammie started to walk toward the group, when a vintage jungle truck rolled up beside her, still running.  

“Get in!” the guy said.

Jammie was fluxed, looking around and then back at him.

“If you’d rather walk to where you need to go, that’s fine with me,” and he ground his shift into gear.

“Wait!” Jammie called out. “Ok, but how do I know you’re not going to take me down some dirt road and … well do things to me before you choke me to death and the last thing I see is your twisted smile?”

“I’m afraid I can’t offer that kind of excitement. I’m just a normal guy,” he said, reaching over and opening the passenger side door, shoving it a couple of times as it protested against the rusted hinges.  “But you better make up your mind, and quickly,” he said nodding his head to the crowd of people behind her that saw an operating vehicle and started running towards them.

Jammie didn’t hesitate and jumped in, closing the door as the truck lurched forward and the driver, not bothering to follow parking lot rules, rode up and over the curb and through a row of planting on the straightest path to the exit.

Jammie was pressed against the seat, gripping the roof handle and console, managing to only shriek a few times as the planting were uprooted and thrown upwards over the brush guards, bouncing off the roof and up over the rear.  When they exited the Walmart Supercenter, the driver stopped in the middle of the road and pulled up on the emergency brake.

“Are you okay?” he asked, sucking in the on side of his mouth as if something were stuck in his teeth.

“I think I would have been better off down the dirt road with your hands on my throat––Do you always drive like this? I mean there are distinct entrance and exit arrows, streets and things clearly marked for cars,” she said, straightening out her blouse that had hiked up during the ride.

“Sorry,” he said, sincerely. “But the faces on those people running towards us looked like a scene from the Walking Dead.  I don’t think they were about to kindly ask us for a lift.

She looked back through the rear window to make sure the walking dead were still not running towards them.

“Yeah,” she agreed and faced him.  “Hey, why exactly is this thing running when every other vehicle isn’t?”  She asked, now curious, looking around at the sterile metal compartment with not a hint of softness to it.  Just beige on beige on beige chipped paint over grey metal.

“Well, this is a 1968 Defender,” he said tapping the dashboard as if this was his pride and Joy.  “There are zero electronic parts in here.  This is completely mechanical, including the manual crank starter in the grill.  Nothing is going to keep this baby in the corner.”

He could see she was looking him up and down from his blond spiked cropped hair, neatly ironed flannel button-down to the patina of jeans that looked from the same year as the truck.  She guessed he was in his early fifties, like herself.  His rolled up sleeves revealing tight arms and a ropy physique––someone not afraid of manual labor and a clean living. He was contrary to the compartment they were in––impeccable.  Not unlike herself.

“My name is Darrel.  Darrel Glick,” he said stretching out his hand.

“Jammie,” she said, remaining on a first and only first name basis, still not entirely trusting him to give her last name as she reached over and shook his calloused hand.

“Where to, Jammie?” He asked, placing one hand on the steering wheel while the other rattled the shift into a spot that popped them forward.

“And don’t worry,” he added, seeing the distrust of lines stacked along her forehead.  “All the dirt roads I know of are in back of us,” he said, with a wink before turning his attention ahead, turning from time to time to see how she was coping.

She had always possessed a good instinct in people, albeit sometimes bluntly telling a person what she thought with no filters.  Settling back into her seat, the lines on her forehead began to melt.

He followed her directions back to route 15 and continued south, weaving between stopped cars with their passengers either still inside or looking under the hood or walking down the highway, never bothering to help anyone and going off-road now and then to avoid gatherings which might pose a problem for them.  The people he passed seemed star struck, not knowing what to make of the little tan truck bouncing by, out of place to the Tesla, Audis and modern versions of itself–– the spit polished Land Rovers with their custom leather interiors now worthless heaps of junk, some trying to pursue them on foot but falling far short when their Louboutins, Manolo Blahniks or Balenciagas refused to touch dirt.

“So what’s your story, Darrel?” Jammie asked.

“I had a good gig going until COVID came along, then got permanently laid off from my tech job, but with everyone still clicking away on-line, the trucking industry held up so I thought, ‘What better way to social distance and earn a living at the same time?’”  And you?” He asked.

“Well––”

“Wait, let me guess,” he interrupted. “You are a stay-at-home-mom, have a husband who retired early so he could perfect his golf game, have grown kids with families, own a dog, and live in nice house with an ocean view,” he said giving her a once over look and nodding in confidence of his guess”

His assessment spooked her and she leaned forward to stare at him as he kept his gaze out the window.

“Wait a minute… Do I know you from somewhere?” She asked.  “Have we met before?”

“No.  I would have remembered you,” he said, causing her to blush.

“Then how would you know all that about me?”

“I was in Big Data,” he said as if those two words needed no other explanation.

“What does that mean?” she asked.  “Like you sat in a windowless room, dressed in a faded black T-shirt with skulls and lightning bolts on it, drinking red Bull and eating day old cold pizza in front of a billboard of flat screens, spying on people surfing the internet?”

“The T-shirt was red,” he said, matter of fact. “And my drink of choice was Mr. Pips.”

This brought a chuckle to Jammie who faced forward and leaned back in her seat, crossing her arms in front of her chest, momentarily, before leaning forward again to see his face as he drove.

“Seriously? Do people like that really exist?”

“Yes,” he said.  

“So why are you driving this clunker?”

“She didn’t mean that,” he said tapping the dashboard.  “Yes, at the time, I could have afforded any car but this is what I wanted.”

“Oh, turn here!” she shouted, almost missing her entrance, a nondescript packed crush-stoned driveway that skirted through a grove of brush, winding its way along a canyon ridge.

Darrel dropped the defender into a lower gear and headed up the drive until they rounded a bend and through the trees he could make out a sleek and modern structure almost indistinguishable from the landscape around it, beyond, unobstructed views to the coast miles away.

“Ahhh…” he said.  “I’ve hit the mother load,” he said, bringing a huff to Jammie.

“Don’t even think of looting anything or holding us hostage.  My Dog is trained to attack at the sight of flannel.”

As they pulled into the driveway, Paul was already standing outside with their Papillion resting at his feet.

“Is it safe to get out?” Darrel asked, nodding toward the small dog.

“Don’t be fooled,” Jammie said confidently.  “One wrong move and the last thing you see after being taken down to the ground will be the eyes of my Millie.”

They opened the doors to the sound of popping metal and stepped out, brushing the dust that had swirled through the open windows of the truck on their way up the drive.

Paul immediately rushed over and held Jammie in her arms, kissing her hair and cupping his hands along her face,

“I thought I would never see you again,” he said with tears in his eyes.

“Me too she said and kissed him lightly upon his lips.  You can thank Darrel for that, “She said, turning to introduce him.

Paul stepped over, shaking Darrel’s hand.  “I can’t thank you enough.” Paul said looking deeply into his hazel eyes, not knowing what else to say. 

“Nothing to it.  I’m here for the Silver,” he said, getting a laugh from Jammie.

Paul shot a confused look between them.

“Never mind, Paul, I’ll clue you in after we get a drink,” she said, locking her arms into each of theirs and leading them into the house.

On the back terrace, Darrel and Paul were seated in cane chairs, staring out over the stone sitting wall, a glass of 25 year old Michter’s Whiskey in hand, looking at the sun about to set over the Pacific, a light breeze coming from the west carrying a marine freshness with it.

“Nice view,” Darrel remarked.

Paul was silent, taking in what Darrel said, knowing this view would be gone not long from now. “Cheers,” he said, raising his glass.

“I’m more of a craft beer guy, but this is damn good,” Darrell commented, lifting his glass where the sunset refracted through the amber color of the whisky.

“I was saving this bottle for a special occasion,” Paul said.

“It doesn’t get more special than this,” Darrel replied.

“So how does this end?” Jammie asked, walking up behind them, and taking a seat.

“Hard to say,” Paul said.  “That asteroid ripped a nice hole in the atmosphere, sort of like a slow leak in a balloon.  At the same time, the magnetic disturbance was enough to begin the reversal of the poles.  I don’t know much more than that because everything is down.”

“When do you think the Internet will be back up?” Jammie asked.

“I doubt it’s coming back.  Every satellite now has it’s GPS screwed up or was fried.” 

As the sun set over the Pacific, a darkness had swept over them, and where the starburst of lighting from homes, buildings, shopping centers and street lights once filled the landscape below, rendering the sky a sheet of grey, their eyesight had adjusted to the darkness, and painted from horizon to horizon was the plate edge of the Milky way with it’s full spectrum of stars and dust clouds like a river of light.

“Wow that is gorgeous, “Jammie said. “You’re telling me that was always there but we could never see it?”

“Sadly true,” Darrell said. “This is what Native Americans saw every night before the neighborhood went to shit.”   

They were leaning back with their feet resting on the warm stones of the fire pit Paul had started from scavenged wood along the slope of their property, something he had not done for years due to the wildfires and stigma that an open fire brought about by the increasing pressure of California culture.

“I’m afraid Paul,” Jammie said.

“Me too,”

Darrell pulled his feet from the warm stones, brushing off his pants as he stood. 

“Well, thanks for the hospitality and view,” he said.  “And I honored to have met you both, but I better be on my way.”

“Wait!  Where will you go?” Jammie said getting to her feet.

“Seeing the two of you, together, well, there’s someone I ought to go see.”

Jammie could tell from the sadness that veiled his face that he was talking about an apology, the kind of apology for walking out on someone he still loved.

“Let me see you out,” she said.

Paul stood and the two men shook hands with no words passing between them, the interrupted awkwardness welcomed by Jammie looping her arm into Darrell’s as she led him through the open slider into the great room and towards the front door.  As he was about to step out, she stopped him with a gentle pull on his sleeve.

“She’ll appreciate it,” Jammie said with encouragement.  “And if that doesn’t work out, there’s always the dirt road thing you got going,” which brought a genuine friendship to his smile before he turned and left, his silhouette against the cascade of blue starlight, reminding everyone just how small they are in the universe and what truly matters.

 

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

For those who have been following this series, or for that matter, for those who are reading this for the first time, the series started as a casual conversation with a friend, who when asked: “If this was your last day on Earth, what would that be like? Would you have any regrets? Would it be anything unusual? Her reply surprised me, and that lead me to ask other friends the same questions.

Of the stories written so far, writing Blue Light Special was one of my favorites. My friend is convinced she will be taken out by a Walmart Truck…

 

On a side note, I am working with a friend and author, Richard Murray, in putting together an anthology of Sci-Fi shorts of which a section will be titled, End Of Days.

 

Cassiopeia

 

This short story is an entry in one of Wattpad’s plethora of writing contests (Comet’s Tale) in collaboration with Children’s Fiction on Wattpad.

This is a story about Isomerism. In chemistry it represents a chemical structure with the same number and types of atoms as another chemical structure but with different properties due to a slight difference in the arrangement of atoms. Isomerization can arise spontaneously depending on whether the energy of the configurations i. I love to use this concept in my writing of Sci-Fi–when something appears identical, but is not–like one’s reflection in the mirror

The chemical structure of Cyclohexane has always remained one of my favorite structures of Organic Chem, this structure often referred to as, ‘the Woman in the Chair,’ named after the star constellation, Cassiopeia.


“Mom… Is there anyone out there just like me?” asked Phia.  “Someone who has the same name, someone who has the same blue and green eyes like I do?”

 “Yes,” her mother answered as they sat on the edge of the bed, looking up through the dome and into the stars beyond.

 “Exactly like me?”  

“Well… yes,” Her mother hesitated. “Your left eye is blue, but the other Phia’s left eye is green.”

“What about the freckles on my shoulder?” Phia asked.  “The ones in the pattern of the constellation, Cassiopeia, does the other Phia have that?”

“Yes. But for you, those freckles are on your right shoulder and hers are on the left.”

“So she is not exactly like me,” Phia said scrunching her brows.

“But indeed she is,” her mother insisted.  “If the other Phia were standing in front of you, no one could tell the two of you apart.”

“But everything seems different, I don’t understand?”

“Let me show you,” her mother said and commanded the home’s A.I. to bring up the portal of planet Isomer on the other side of the galaxy.  The two watched as the air began to ripple, then swirl until it thickened into a circular gateway.

Phia leaned into her mother, perplexed by what appeared in the room.

”There is nothing to fear,” her mother giggled.  “Now stand up,” she said nudging her daughter forward. “Go meet the other Phia.”

Phia slipped off the edge of the bed and faced the portal, stepping closer until she was staring back at who she believed was herself.

“But that’s me!” she said turning back to face her mother.

“No.  That’s the other Phia.  Now raise your left hand,” she encouraged her daughter.

Phia once again faced the portal and raised her left hand.

“Do you see now who I am talking about?” Her mother asked.

“No.  I see me,” Phia said still holding up her left arm and wiggling her fingers in the air as the Phia in the portal matched every move.

“Look more closely,” her mother instructed.  “Which arm is the Phia before you holding up?”

Her daughter studied the girl before her, then realized the other Phia was holding up her right arm. She stepped closer until their noses were almost touching, looking directly into each other’s eyes that were reversed in color.  Phia pulled her tee shirt off her shoulder to reveal the freckles as the Phia in the portal matched her every opposite move.

“Now do you see?” her Mother said from behind.  

Her daughter nodded and placed the palm of her hand upon the surface of the portal until she could feel the other Phia pressing back with equal force.

Her mother looked on at the two of them, not concerned about her daughter slipping through to the other side, because no matter how hard she tried, she could never find her way around the Phia in the portal, who matched her every move.

“I can feel her!” Phia said to her mother as she watched and listened to the Phia before her say exactly the same thing.

“Now say good night to her— it’s time for both of you to go to bed.”

The girls waved to each other, opposite but the same.  “I’ll see you tomorrow,” they each said and turned away, but quickly, each turning quickly to see if the other did the same, smiling when they did.

 

Nothing more feared than the US Mail

As the heavy door slid shut and the echo of steel on steel reverberated in the small concrete space, the new inmate did not make eye contact with his cellmate, instead, he walked quietly to his cot and sat down, his folded blanket and pillow in his lap.

 

“Whadaya in for?” the cellmate asked after the guard left.

“You don’t want to know.” he said quietly into his pillow.

“You a wise guy or something?  the cellmate asked, the threat in his voice was unmistakable.  “How ’bout you answer my question or I get up and come over there.”

The new inmate did not flinch or say anything.  He just sat there on his cot, his hands and stare focused on his pillow.

The cellmate started to get up–

“Possession of a US mail bin…..”

The guy sat down hard, as if the wind had been knocked out of him.

The new inmate turned slowly, catching a glance from his cellmate who quickly turned away and was breathing rapidly while nervously smoothing the non-existent wrinkles from his pant leg.  He tried to form words but nothing came out of his mouth.

“I was carrying Costco items in it…” the new inmate continued, each word spoken slowly and deliberately.

The cellmate nervously stood then walked in clipped steps to the front of the cell, placing his large hands around the rungs, squeezing them until his knuckles were white.  He took a few deep breaths and closed his eyes before screaming out—

“Guards! Guards!” he shouted while looking back over his shoulder; the new inmate lowered his head without breaking eye contact..

“It was pretty heavy….” the new inmate added, and could see the dark stain of urine spreading out along the seat of his cellmate’s pants.

“Guards! Guards!… guar–” the cellmate shouted, his voice choked back by a sobbing cry.  “Help me… please God help me he said, his head hung low beneath the sliding grip of the bars as he sank to the floor, his forehead resting against the cold steel.

“That’s when my mail carrier, Angie, spotted me…. I had almost made it to the garage…” the new inmate said getting up to approach his cellmate before lowering himself then his voice to a whisper, the last of his words pounding in his cellmate’s ear like nails in a coffin as his hands came up and clasped on the pate of his bald head, feeling inches away from his extinguishing life.

“What’s going on here?” the guard asked unconcerned, his arm crossing casually over his belt to rest both hands on the baton at his side.

“Nothing,” the new inmate said… “Just getting to know each other,” he added with a smile then patting his cellmate on the shoulder as he stood and walked back to his cot.

“Well… get up and clean yourself off.  You better figure out how to get along, because the new guy’s in for another three years.”

********

During our recent trip out west and then continuing with a NE loop, we had our mail held.  When I got back, they handed me this US mail bin, which has made for some uneasy night’s sleeping until I know it has been returned.  I was more concerned with this than I was with Dorian. 

 

neuroSTAT

There’s one thing about a cat 5 sitting off the coast as you wait for the power to drop…. you are left with only your own imagination.  

 

 

SYNOPSIS FOR S SCI-FI: In a future society where people’s emotions are held in check by software implants (neuroSTAT),  a digital drug (landScape) begins to make its way through the floating commune of Peck Lake in South Florida where its effects reach beyond the limits of the inhabitants emotional governors.

                             ***

During a king tide with a cat 5 off the coast, the sea level along the Intracoastal stays high all day, as if the moon has stopped in its tracks demanding more attention than the storm. On days like this it makes it difficult for me to pick up supplies along the mangroves, so I sit in the sling of my floater, facing the water, away from the mune,  skimming through my pane, listening to casts from the button times. Casts about clunkers having drivers in them— yeah… it’s true. They moved hangers of product from point A to B… slippers, watches, sexBots and shit like that. The demand at the onset of the button clicking generation had pushed pilots of the clunkers beyond their enhancers where they frequently drifted off and were awakened only when they crushed a centipede of  people pods. So the convention stepped in, mandating every clunker have a neuroSTAT installed to keep them afloat. I’m beginning to think that’s where it all started. Lately, after a dissolve, I can feel the edge of my own neuroSTSAT and I’m beginning to feel shit… shit like happy stuff… but mostly sad shit– things I’m not used to. My meuf’s been feeling the same shit so I know I’m not going crazy. It seems to be spreading along our mune for those of us uploading the most recent dissolve –some shit called landScape– but no one knows what bench they got it from.

 

More at some point in time after the power drops and I still have a charge on my iPad……

 

If you like this idea, let me know….

Isn’t The View Delicious

End Of Days Series

“Can we see the basement now?” Frank asked their realtor.

“No, Frank,” Julie replied rather curtly.  “Let’s move on.”

“Why not?”

“Because that… is where people… get murdered.” She answered.

“Are you serious?” He said laughing, the corners of his mouth turning up as if her next line was to say she was only kidding.

“I’m dead serious, Frank. Every movie you have ever seen where people wander into the basement— those people get murdered. Let’s move onto the bedrooms upstairs,” and she turned to walk away from him.

“Julie, wait.” He couldn’t believe she was carrying on like this.  “If we’re going to be buying this house— and quite a handsome commission to you may I say— then we’re going to want to see everything, and that includes the basement.”

“I’m not going to show you the basement, Frank.” Julie said stopping to address him.  “That’s it! No argument.”

Confused, Frank looked to his wife for support.  “Gina… I’ll be right back. Go with Julie, please.”  He realized he was dealing with an idiot and started off.

“Frank! Stop right there!” Julie said halting him.

Regretfully, he stopped, tilted his head back in annoyance and turned to see she never missed an opportunity for a pose with her tone arms crossed, her perfectly manicured nails strumming lightly along her forearm to the clank of expensive bangles and bracelets on her wrist, her balletic legs one in front of the other to reveal the tautness of her Peloton shaped calves.

“Julie… I’m a big boy,” he said drawing a muffled laugh from his wife.”  He stood at 6’3” and was imposing with his barrel chest and stock build. “I can handle this.”

“There’s nothing to see down there, Frank… Nothing! It’s a basement. It’s empty…. The solar inverters, Tesla battery storage and state-of-the-art hybrid furnace are in the garage. There aren’t even windows down there, Frank, and for a good reason, the basement is where people get murdered,” she fired off in quick succession, her agitation making their choice in a realtor, questionable.

“Julie. It’s okay. I’ll be right back. Please show Gina the bedrooms and I will join you shortly, I promise.”

Julie closed her eyes and took in a slow breath then exhaled lightly to calm herself as her yoga training has taught her.

“Fine… If you want to get murdered in the basement, Frank? That’s fine by me, but you might want to ask your wife if that is fine with her, she said uncrossing her arms and gracefully invited Gina to weigh in.

Frank could see his wife’s brows rise and her lips pinch as if holding back a laugh. Not sure what to make of this, he said nothing and headed back through the kitchen toward the basement door, with it’s industrial bolt cinched into place.

With Frank’s exit, Julie huffed and stormed out from the dining room, leaving Gina to follow, the heels of Julie’s Louboutins stabbing at the travertine tile leaving the clatter of echoes in their wake.  Gina kept up, but was thinking about Julie’s talk of people getting murdered in the basement. It was silly… she knew… but what if Frank did indeed get murdered in the basement?  She would never forgive herself.  She pushed these thoughts from her head and followed Julie up the staircase, her hand sweeping along the curved cherry banister which felt like silk to the touch as she admired the finely tapered rungs with hand carved fluted tops, like tiny hands holding it up from below.

Julie paraded Gina through the two finely appointed guest suites with their private baths fitted with quartzite countertops and glass vessel sinks that with a touch along the counter edge, the vessels lit up from below.  Next, she led Gina down the hallway and surprised her with a concealed sliding door that revealed a laundry room fit for a queen. Further down the hallway they passed a servant staircases that led down to the kitchen and adjacent to the master suite, where Julie stepped aside affording Gina the unobstructed and spectacular view through the floor to ceiling windows looking out over the russet reds and virulent greens of the marshland beyond.

“It’s breathtaking.” Frank is going to die when he sees this view,” Gina said, pulling up her shoulders in such anticipation of surprise.

Julie responded with a quiet ‘hmm’ as if to say, we’ll see about that. “Yes. Isn’t the view delicious,” she muttered as if a compulsory response was needed, her hand reflexively dusting away a fleck from her lapel.

“Speaking of which, where is my husband?” Gina said stepping back from the threshold past Julie to the staircase in hopes of seeing him. When she turned around, Julie was looking at her watch, leaning against the frame of the doorway with her arms folded.

“Well. We might as well get going,” she said pushing off the doorframe.  “I’m afraid this home–as lovely as it is, my dear–is not for you.”

Gina was confused. She hadn’t even stepped into the master suite and loved everything about this home. “But I love this home…. Oh, I know I should never tell a realtor that, but you already know I just love it. Don’t tell Frank I told you,” she said in a hushed whisper.

“You will need not worry about what Frank will think,” Julie commented as she straightened out her Channel jacket and started down the staircase, leaving Gina shocked.

“Wait!” Gina called after her from the top of the stairs, watching Julie take each step in disappointment, a sale gone to waste. “Shouldn’t we wait for Frank to see the Master? That spectacular view?” With no acknowledgement, Gina, having once found Julie’s peculiar personality almost charming, was now ebbing to the point of anger. Who’s the client here, she found herself thinking as she began to follow Julie down the staircase like an abandoned puppy.

Never looking back, Julie walked through the kitchen and dining room to the foyer and looped her finger through the lockbox that rested upon the emerald veins of the Biedermeier console near the entrance, then opening the front door, she ushered Gina to step out and around her so she could lock up the house.

“Stop… Just stop! ” Gina screamed out facing the street with her arms locked straight down by her sides. She spun around to face Julie and stomped past her back into the house.

Julie knew it was pointless to call her back and went about her business of shutting the front door and securing the lockbox in place before returning to the Mercedes glistening in the driveway, cell in hand about to dial her next client.

Gina heard the door shut behind her–the last straw–It’s time to get a new realtor. She stomped through the dining room and kitchen sweeping her hand along the deeply turquoise granite island to the open door leading down into the basement and stood at the top of the staircase, the dim Edison bulb illuminating the unfinished concrete floor below.

“Frank!” she called out. There was no answer.  “Frank!” She called again. A slight crack in her voice this time as she apprehensively started down the staircase, ducking her head below the transom of the ceiling, taking each step slowly until she reached the landing where the souls of her feet felt the crumble of cement pellets while her head was filling with stupid thoughts from Julie. She walked out to the edge of light looking into the pitch of blackness beyond.

“Frank? … Come on…. I want to show you the master,” expecting Frank to jump out from the shadows at any moment. Nervously, she brushed back her hair, crouching slightly with her knees pointing inwards. “It’s not funny, Frank!” Come on. Julie’s has left us…. She even locked us in! We need a new realtor, Frank!”  She felt a cold sweep of air rush by her leaving the smell of dank wetness in her nose. She couldn’t understand why people built basements in the first place. She would never use one let alone go down into one. But here she was.

The light switched off and she heard the door at the top of the staircase shut.

“You Fucker! That’s not funny, Frank. Turn the light back on!”  There was no answer and fright had taken hold. She was truly scared as more thoughts flooded her mind knowing Frank was taking advantage of it.

She jumped and screamed out when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Reaching up she felt her husband’s hand; a hand she knew was his, the smooth top and callused sides from his craft as a sculptor. She held onto it bringing it down by her side but it seemed too light, no resistance.  Terror gripped her when she realized there was nothing attached to it.

The next scream never left her mouth…

Please visit my WattPad site for more stories in the End Of Days Series and other works

A Sci-Fi Limerick

I have been a contributor on wattpad for several years now.  This site has been invaluable to me as a writer of Sci-Fi, where I can test the waters with potential stories, treatments, character studies and just general fun.  Which brings me to this.  There was a recent competition to write a Sci-Fi Limerick… A first for me and a challenge I could not pass up.  They must have liked it as much as I did because they gave me a great lead in:

We have the “most greatest” honour to host, today, The exceptional @DavidNadas, the Limerick specialist of the group.  Let’s let him entertain us with wit and music.

 

There was an Alien from Venus,

Who came to Earth to greet us,

When he stepped off the ship,

We heard his pants rip,

And out rolled his un-Earthly…

Well… you know.

To see other poems and nursery rhymes click here:  Tevun Krus (#59)

A Time To Krill

HollywoodBefore every surf session I warm up on the beach.  It keeps me loose and responsive when I hit the water.  I’m about to go through a final full edit of my upcoming novel Silversides and below was my warm up exercise. (This short has nothing to do with the novel Silversides)

A first-person Sci-Fi detective named Stasch, titled A Time to Krill

Primal. It was the first word that came to mind when I entered the building, but it was the smell of sour tapioca and human waste that hit me square in the face. It seems that everything we do, for the sake of hygiene, is designed to mask this smell, but Natural Selection is an unrelenting force and this scent stays with us; humanity’s true signature.  I’m convinced it was our key to survival because no predator wanted any part of us and moved onto better smelling prey. I mean why is it that a day old kitten or puppy has enough sense to walk away from its own feces but a human baby would be happy to remain in a pile of it until removed? HA! I never lose this argument at a club, talk’n to the ladies with their designer scents, Eau de CRISPR, but then again they see me as an asshole and leave before I can close the argument. It’s what I need to do in my business. No one wants to hire a nice guy in what I do.

Stepping back outside I took in some fresh air and held my breath before reentering the conservatory (what a joke) then waded through the tide of human husks shuffling under the flickering lights of spent ballasts, their opened smocks and stained thighs as disturbing as seeing their arms curled up before them like human krill. They were staring beyond me, their mouths turned down and opened, sucking in on the pain, the intravenous bots at their sides like lamprey.

When I approached reception the waist-on-up android behind the glowing countertop was happy to great me, its hands folded neatly, the wig plopped on top neither male nor female in style.

“My name is Mauri. May I help you?” it said.

It was an outdated androgynous model made during the height of PC-tarianism and at least a decade old, its lips slightly out of sync with the synth box buried within.

“My name is Stasch. I got a tXT from a…” and I rolled my wrist to glance at the pane on my sleeve. “From a Milo Kee-van-is-tov, I said trying to pronounce it phonetically?”


The android gazed through me searching its DAT. “I’m sorry. We do not seem to have a guest here by that name.”


“Maybe Milo isn’t a guest.” I responded. “Maybe Milo works here.”


The android seemed to freeze as if stuck in a processing loop. “Ah yes. Milo Kivanastov. SubOS Custodian. He no longer works for us.”

“Check again. I received a stream from here, from Milo, early this morning…” glancing again at the pane, “at 04:32 to be exact.”


Another freeze, longer this time.  I couldn’t help but look up to mirrored wall beyond the android as if someone were at the controls.

“Milo’s contract ended with us at 06:00 this morning.”

“How convenient. You mean he was terminated.” I added.

“We try to avoid the phrase, terminated, here at the Lodge,” the android replied with a loving smile and tilt of the head right on queue.


“Can you tell me the SubOS outfit Milo worked for? I would like to apply for the vacancy,” I said knowing that if I asked where I could find Milo I would get a canned response of privacy protection. Which is crap. Nothing is private anymore.

“I do apologize, Mr. Stasch, but our CIS appears to be offline at the moment. Routine maintenance. Please try back later.”

“Never mind. I’ll run my own scrub on Milo,” I answered smartly with a wink to the mirror. My talk was shit, but I might as well make the string-puller sweat for a minute or two. My scrub search on Milo would turn up everything about Milo, but without Milo there would be no payment. I should have dropped this contract right then and there but I had nothing else going on and something bothered me about this one. There was no human activity around me other than the damaged trolling the halls and the android behind the counter was concealing, not something androids are known for.

I dropped a vCard to the android and left.  Let’s see who tugs on my line.

Figuring Milo ran the night stack and was a bit of a scumbag I walked the nearby streets looking for shitholes he might frequent. If I were Milo, I’d want some coffee and a vape and I found one called the Wanda Inn–bamboo shades drawn down tightly with a tilted flickering pink LED OPEN sign in the window. The door handle was sticky and a synthetic gong announced my entrance when I stepped inside. It was beyond dim as if night itself had not yet awakened and the air was crisp against my throat.  Behind the empty counter was a stocky woman, I think, whose arms were almost as big as my own but not as pretty. I placed my hands on the countertop where they could be seen.

“You must be Wanda.” I said in a raspy voice.

“You want coffee, fuckhead?” said Wanda with a raised chin and deep voice, which convinced me she was a he.

“As dark as the lighting in here,” I answered.

Wanda turned and grabbed a mug from the shelf and blew into it to rid the dust then poured a viscous stream of blackness to the brim and sloshed the mug onto the counter in front of me, the burnt smell of chicory an assault on my senses.  I hate chicory.

“Thanks. But not for the coffee,” I said and tapped on my pane to transfer two-hundred DASH to the address chalked onto the mirror behind Wanda and waited until Wanda’s wallet chirped and he looked down to see the transfer. “You ever serve a guy in here by the name of Milo?” I asked. “That would be a yes or no.” and I leaned in a little closer. “But a No and the next two-hundred DASH never reaches you. However, an answer of YES and you need to tell me something I can use.” I then whispered in my best Hollywood DeepOps voice, “But if the information turns out to be shit, I will be back to kick your ass.  And I mean that literally. I will sneak up and give you a swift kick in the ass and disappear before you can get up. You will get pissed-off, but with no one in sight you will move on.  And then a week or so goes by, maybe at a bodega, CryptoTeller or charging station, I give you another swift kick, a little harder this time, and you stay down a little longer because something feels broken.  And this goes on and on until you start to look for me everywhere you go. Trust me, no sane person wants that. Is that understood, Wanda Bergen of 8518 NE Banyan Street? You live just around the corner from here, right? Dirty white stucco duplex, top right corner? Blue awnings, one of which is a little ripped?”

Wanda’s voice was suddenly an octave higher and a little more compliant, but it was probably the promise of the additional two hundred DASH that made him talk.

“Yes… Milo did come in almost every morning… a little after six.”

I raised my brow for Wanda to continue.

“He worked the night shift at the River Lake Lodge. You know… God’s waiting room, two blocks up from here?”

“Was he here this morning?“

No.” Wanda replied. His mouth suddenly dry and he poured a half beer from the tap and took a quick sip, waxing a foam mustache and a lick clean of the tongue.

“Did he ever talk shop with you?” I asked.

“Only that the inmates… I mean the guests,” he said as if I were PC concerned, “were basket cases and once in awhile he would… you know?…. “ Wanda said taking another sip and a lick.

I raised my brow again.  Wanda was a quick study.

“You know…. the pretty ones,” he said with a forced smile.

I understood Wanda’s meaning, but that was not what I was after. “Did he ever tell you anything about the place itself or the people running it?

“Not that I–”

I slammed my fist on the countertop, startling not only Wanda, but also the detritus hibernating in the booths behind me. “Think Wanda.  Was there anything Milo said that made you curious? Anything such as activity happening after hours, strange people coming or going… shipments in or out, missing guests?…. That kind of thing!” I felt like I was getting nowhere so with one hand I opened my vest slightly to reveal the stock of my Russian made tecNIK while my other hand ran my down my face for whatever reason people do that other than it feels right to do it out of frustration.

Wanda took another slug.  He was visibly shaken and just where I wanted him.  

“Well…. he had this hidden chair between some cabinets just off the lobby in a camera dead spot and told me about a conversation he overheard about something called Triplex.”

Another raise of the brow.

“Ah.. I never heard of Triplex.”

“Did he say he knew who was doing the talking?”

“No.  Other than the tin can sitting at the desk he never met anyone who worked there.  They worked in another part of the building he had no access to.”

”Did he ever tell you what was going on in that area?”

“No… I don’t think so.  He said the tin can warned him that if he ever tried to gain access he would be terminated.  The tin-can creeped him out and he needed the job.“

I transferred another two hundred DASH to his account and left.

The sun was making its way over the canyon tops, shrouded in blue haze from the constant fires—La blue as we call it.  I hopped onto my bike and headed home to just below the ruin of scaffolding where the Hollywood sign once stood.  I have lived here as long as I can remember and where my famous grandparents lived before me. I was told this area used to be desirable, where the hillsides were rimed with swank and out-of-sight priced homes of former stars and movie moguls.  But when appSTAR made directors and producers out of everyone and their avatars became the new stars, their human likenesses were reduced to ribbon cutting and signing autographs and could no longer afford to live here. Well that and a few large quakes……

TO BE CONTINUED AT SOME POINT.

On this date, five years ago. Somewhere in NYC, I began to write.

It is hard to believe that five years ago, on this date in a NYC coffee shop on the upper east side, I started my writing career. You can see other frustrated writers around me, but this cozy place became the catalyst for putting pen to paper, or in my case, fingers to keypad.  Since then, my debut novellas, November Seed & From Europa With Love, continue to have steady daily downloads on Amazon and the fan base, spread over eight countries, is still growing.   So thanks to all who support and push me onwards.

For the past few years I have been working on a full-length novel called Silversides which  takes place on Gliese 581 g.  As a new writer, I discovered why only the most seasoned writers leave the planet to tell a story and why most extraterrestrials come to Earth to kick our ass… because when you leave the planet you have to invent everything.   Along the way, I have written out weak characters and developed new ones, dragging along Kulcin who is the protagonist in, From Europa With Love.  Writing is a process of one step forward, two back but I have made some great plot changes with refined twists and developed a new ending the reader will not see coming.  Finally I can see the light at the end of the editing tunnel having received great feedback from Betabooks.co 

I do not follow a linear path and have several other novels in the treatment stage that I am equally excited about, such as: HUM, Suicides Of Spring and Glycerine to name a few.  Recently, I have joined forces with a fellow writer (G+’er) to compile a list of shorts we have written and put out onto various sites, such as: Offworlders.com (my favorite), Wattpad (where one of my shorts made it into their premiere eZine, TEVUN KRUS).and other author/reader sites.  But it is G+ that has taught me to be a better writer because of the  invaluable advice and knowledge learned and shared by such super cool folks.

Red Velvet

ADAPTATION SERIES: Red Velvet

The Giant Red Velvet Mite: Dinothrombium pandorae

 

“Tevis, have you located Newell?”

“He’s out.”

“Who let him out?”

“No one.  He’s part of Ops and has the overrides. But with our EVs in maintenance, he’s out there on foot–”

The pound of the colony commander’s fist on the table startled her; she had always thought of him as cool and calculated.

“What’s he doing out there? He knows we’re into the 220s of the year.”

“He sent a message he was going to see if he can get the beacon back online.”

“Get him on comm for me,” he growled through the clench of his jaw.

Tevis had anticipated this and pushed forward the PTT toggle on the console.

“CQ CQ calling CQ.  This is A1DUP, Alpha-One-Delta-Uniform-Papa.”  There was a faint hiss and crackle coming from the console speaker on her desk.  She turned the volume up.

“Call again.” he said more calmly this time.

Tevis could see the vexing of muscles along his jawline and repeated the call signs.  A second or two passed which seemed like an eternity.

“N2EEC N2EEC, this is AD2DB, Alpha-Delta-Two-Delta-Baker.”  Relieved, Tevis let out a breath between her pursed lips.

The commander reached down and grabbed the call mic from the stand as Tevis pushed forward the PTT toggle once again.

“Newell, let’s not make this a rag chew.  What the fuck-up are you doing out there?”

Tevis released the toggle.

“Trying to get the aerial back online, sir,” Newell said between breaths, “before the KapCo supply shuttle cruises past us for the second time.  If we miss this window, sir, it will be another five days of rations.”

Tevis and the commander could hear Newell’s labored breaths as he trod through the soft sand with a heavy toolkit all of which was taking its toll on him.

“You know we’re in the 220s and what time of day it is.  You had your orientation on the mites … you don’t want to be out there when they get to the surface–”

He snapped his fingers for Tevis to give him the conditions out there.  “I am ordering you back here, immediately, Newell.”

Tevis brought up the ENV panel and swiveled it toward him.  The temperature was up, and the frozen CO2 had already begun to evaporate. It was too late. He tilted his finger for Tevis to push forward the toggle.

“They’re out on the surface, aren’t they, Newell?”

“Yes they are, sir,” he responded, “but I’m double sealed. They aren’t getting in.”

The mites were bleeding to the surface to eat and mate. It has been 247 days since their last migration and the females velvet abdomens were flush with eggs waiting to be fertilized; the males purposeful in finding a host to carry their young. Newell had not been stationed here long enough to see this event before today, but the orientation videos he watched did not prepare him for what he saw now.  When he reached the aerial, it looked as if someone had draped the antenna in red velvet.  The thought of pushing away that many mites to locate the problem made his skin crawl.  He dropped the toolkit to the sand, and the mites began to crawl onto it, the beacon seemed to be a magnet for them, and he was starting to think this was not such a good idea to be out here. His hero mentality had evaporated, and his idea of impressing Tevis seemed secondary at the moment.

“I’ve arrived,” he said through his helmet mic., his tone, regretful.

“What are you seeing, Newell?” The commander asked.

“A whole lot of mites, sir…” he answered.

“Get back here, Newell.  We’ll spray you down, and you can survive in the chamber for 48 hours for quarantine and observation.”

“I’m already here, sir,” he said against his better judgment as he looked down at his chest and legs of his EMU suit swollen with clots of red mites that were crawling upwards toward his helmet.  He swept his hand across the visor, smearing the mites on the Plexiglas, their viscous yellow insides spreading a swath across one eye, just enough to be bothersome like an itch he couldn’t scratch.  He reached down to brush off the lid to the toolkit and flipped it open, the back of the lid crushing fistful of mites that set off a chemical wave through the colony, now agitated and swarming toward the disturbance.

“This is not going well,” Newell said through his mic.

Tevis wanted to grab the handset from the commander; she could hear the pulsing of blood in her ears at the rasp of Newell’s voice. She pushed forward the PTT button in anticipation.

“What’s happening, Newell?”

There was no immediate answer.

“Newell!” shouted the commander into the mic.

“I’m heading back, sir…” said Newell, the shout of the commander getting him to refocus.

“Good. We’ll be ready for you.  When you reach the rim wait for further instruction.”  Tevis released the toggle and she slumped into her chair with relief.

“Let me know when he’s in sight,” the commander said peering out the window and handing the handset to Tevis, then turning, he left without a word.

She waited until he left the room before toggling open the channel to Newell.

“Where are you, Irwin?” Tevis asked using his first name.

It was good to hear her voice, but he was beginning to feel he made a fool of himself.

“I’m still here, Tevis,” he said addressing her by her first name and disregarding her rank.

“I’ll be with you the entire way, Irwin.  Hang in there.  Our SAT will pick you up in another five minutes, and I will guide you in.”

“Thanks, Tevis.”  He needed to focus on her voice and knew that any stray thoughts could open the door to panic.  But It was getting difficult, the smear across his visor had changed, uneven, like a melt. As it was, he had to contort his head in the helmet to see below the distortion, and even that was no benefit for his non-dominant eye.  He was covered in mites, but he knew not to brush them away this time, so he shook his head, which seemed to work for short periods of time before the visor was covered again.  Fortunately, he could see below the distortion to his feet and follow the footsteps he had made getting here, occasionally shaking his head to clear his visor, but it was becoming more frequent, and he was starting to get dizzy from it.

“I have you on SAT, Irwin,” she said with a lift in her voice as she zoomed in on his coordinates, but froze at the site of the red mass surrounding him and pooling from the beacon tower.  She let go of the toggle in time for him not to hear her gasp and could taste the bile in the back of her throat.

It made him feel better that at least she could see him. “Just keep me on track, Tevis… it’s getting hard to see my steps.”

“You got it, Irwin.  You’re heading in the right direction.”

Although the mites were small, only a shirt button in size, the sheer number of them made his knees wobble from the added weight.  Another shake of his head to clear his view and he almost fell over.

Tevis could hear his breathing becoming shallow and faster, and she knew panic might be setting in.  “Slow down your breathing, Irwin.  One step at a time, and breathe in deeper.  I’m right here with you.  We can do this.”

This was the longest conversation with Tevis since his arrival over fifty days ago when he attended her orientation briefing.  He knew she was of Native American heritage and he tried to imagine her face right now, her rounded chin and full lips, her high cheekbones and narrow eyes framed by her raven black hair. He thought his status and lack of social skills would never get her full attention, but here he was, and he had her full attention. Don’t blow this he kept chanting to himself. Don’t blow this…

Tevis tried to keep him focused on her.  “Where are you originally from, Irwin?” She asked while monitoring his progress.

“Ah… um… East Coast… New Jersey….” He replied and almost stopped to answer her.

“Keep your pace up, Irwin.” She said a bit more commanding.  Maybe it was not a good idea to distract him like that.  She knew he seemed to have a thing for her, his nervous glances when the crew was in the canteen together, the crack of his voice when they worked the same shift as he performed telemetry maintenance in and around the control center.  She wanted his safe return.

He was in good shape, taking longer strides and keeping his breathing under control, but he thought he could smell the scent of burning plastic, his mask, so he picked up his pace, stepping on more and more of the mites pooling around him.  Another shake of his head and it dizzied him, dropping him onto one leg where he felt the squish of mites on his knee and gloved palm.  It repulsed him, and he sprang up and shook off the mites from his arm and could see the bright yellow splotches on his suit and glove.

“You okay, Irwin?” she asked with concern.

“Yeah… just got a little dizzy trying to clear my visor.  I will remember to stop next time before I do that.”

Tevis continued to monitor his progress, thinking back of her time here.  This marked her third cycle on J147b. She was one of the original team members remaining and knew what the mites could do to a person.  Twenty days after landing here, she had almost lost her life from a bite.  Fortunately, removing her leg before the infection spread saved her.  What no one had known at the time was that had a female mite bitten her, it would have deposited thousands of eggs into her bloodstream.  They knew very little of the mite’s life cycle, and with a reduced budget this year, they did not have the resources to get an exobiologist on site. All they knew was not to go out in the 220s during the mite’s yearly migration to the surface. Maybe if she had let Irwin know she was wearing prosthesis as a result of a bite, he wouldn’t have ventured out.  But why would she, it’s not something you just come out and say to someone upon arrival, and she wanted to keep that part of herself, private.

What troubled her at the moment was the size of the mite field, visible from above.  In the three cycles she has been stationed here, she has never seen this many.  From the view on the SATcam, the soil had turned velvet red and her glance out the window at the crater rim above, confirm what she saw on the screen.

Newell was in sight now.  “I can see the base, Tevis.”

She looked out the window and saw him standing along the rim in a wash of red spilling over the edge into the crater.   She toggled the overhead to notify commander Ricklefs.

Moments later, Ricklefs arrived, he looked out the window and was disturbed by what he saw, the flow of red spilling into the crater toward them.  He grabbed the mic.

“Newell… stay there!” He waved his palm for Tevis to toggle off the mic.  “I can’t let him in.  He will endanger all of us.  You of all people should understand that, Captain?”

Tevis felt the knot tighten in her stomach.  She knew he was right.  There would be no way of separating him from the mass of mites.  “Yes, sir.” She replied.

“Good.  Do what you must.   He turned and left, leaving Tevis to herself.

“Sir, where should I approach? Irwin asked.”

Tevis couldn’t bring herself to answer.

“Sir?  Are you there? Commander? …. Captain?” His voice beginning to rattle.

Tevis toggled on the mic.  “Irwin…” and he heard the death sentence in her tone.

“No… No… You can’t leave me out here!”

“We have no choice, Irwin,” and this time he heard a sharp inward sob. “We can’t open the doors for you.  We have no way of killing them without killing you in the process.  You will have to see if you can wait them out, then we can come out and get you.”

“That’s not true!” He shouted through his mic.  “You can vacuum the hatch and kill them!  Please… don’t leave me here.”

“You are not wearing a pressurized EMU, Irwin. And even if we left one in the hatch there would be no way for you to transfer into it without the mites getting in it with you.  You need to wait them out.”

“I can’t, Tevis… I think my outer suit and visor have been compromised-– I don’t know how much longer it will hold up.”  He began to panic and had been so focused on her voice he had not realized he was in total darkness from the mites covering his helmet.  He shook his head, but couldn’t knock them clear, so he reached up to swipe the visor clean, and the weakened section ripped free, the mites pouring through the gaping hole.

Tevis could hear his screams being choked off in silence.  She swiveled away from the window and began to dry heave, hearing only a hushed rumbling coming through the speakers.  She lifted her head and glanced over hev shoulder, out the window And could see his clotted arms frantically attempt to remove his helmet before toppling into the crater. He started to slide down the face but was halted by a mass of red pushing back. And suddenly he was being passed up to the top of the rim like a mosh pit of fans raising one of their own until he disappeared beyond her view with the drape of red receding with him.

Tevis could feel the phantom burns in her limb and reached up onto the console to shut off the feed from the SATcam and mic.  She stayed there with her hands clutched together and her head resting above her knees and under the shade of her dark hair until she no longer felt nauseous.  Ten minutes had passed before Tevis took a deep breath and sat up.  She pushed her hair behind her ears and wiped her eyes.  Maybe it was time to leave this rock, she thought.

“Captain,” came a voice from behind.

Tevis turned to see the new arrival.  His patchwork indicating he worked in the mining division.

“Commander Ricklefs granted my request to see you.”

“Come in, private.”

He stepped quickly and deliberately toward her and stood at attention.  “I knew Newell, ma’am, ” he said?  “We had arrived together on the same shuttle, and I heard what happened to him.  We all did.  He thought very highly of you, ma’am.”  From his pocket, he pulled out a small sack and stretched out his hand.  “Ma’am, this morning, Newell handed me this and told me that if anything were to happen to him, ma’am, I should give this to you,” he approached Tevis and placed the small sack upon the console desk and stepped back.

She sat staring at it, wondering why he would have ventured out knowing something might happen to him.  The new arrival was stationary.  “Thank you…” she said reading his tag… “Percy.”   He turned on the balls of his feet and left.

She took a minute before picking up the sapphire blue bag, gently untying the knot at the top and sliding its contents onto the table.  From within slipped an intricately carved scorpion, a gypsum blade and a note.  How would he have known this? Then remembered a conversation she had in the canteen not long ago with Newell seated quietly at the end of the table, listening to her saying to the others that she had one cycle to go and couldn’t wait to get back to her home in Carefree, AZ, where the only thing she needed to worry about was a scorpion or two.  She unfolded the note and read it, making her smile through tearful eyes:

“The scorpion was carved from the soft stone found along the rim of the crater, but you will notice there are no segmented lines engraved onto the abdomen or tail.  For your remaining time here, carve a segment line every twenty days, starting from the head to the tail.  Both your time remaining and the carvings should be met at the same time.  Thank you for your kindness – Irwin.”

She picked up the gypsum blade and carved the first two lines into the abdomen and placed the contents back into the sack and sat staring out the window, thinking about Newell and being home.

Image:  “Red Velvet Mite” by Judy Gallagher is licensed under CC-BY 2.0. The image that was resized, cropped to fit required size.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

I started on a triad of shorts, where the idea came from my studies in Ecology, specifically, from The Economy Of Nature by Robert Ricklefs on Species Adaptation.

According to Ricklefs, all species adaptation is driven by their encounter with a variety of environmental factors deriving from one of three sources: 1) Exposure to the Physical and Chemical; 2) Exposure to predators, parasites and prey; 3) And finally, exposure to individuals of the same species.

The first of my shorts addresses the Physical & Chemical aspects of adaptation as is titled, Red Velvet.  My story is based upon the 1962 research of biologists Lloyd Tevis and Irwin Newell of their observations of the Giant Red Velvet mite of the Mojave Desert.  The mites have quite an interesting life cycle, where they migrate to the surface once a year to eat, mate, and for their larvae to find a host.   The story takes place on the exoplanet, J147b, where a new arrival (Newell), is trying to impress his female mentor (Tevis) and gets stranded during the yearly migration of red velvet mites to the surface.  If you have any Arachnophobia tendencies, you may want to stop reading, here.  This short may not be for you…. it will make your skin crawl….

As a writer, the part that really excites me is the etymology and origin of taxonomy. The genus and species of the Giant Red Velvet Mite (Dinothrombium pandorae) is the perfect alien for my story.  Dino, is derived from the Greek word, deinos, meaning terrible and Thrombos, a lump or clot.  This particular species is named after Pandora who was sent by Zeus to bring evil to the human race as a counterbalance of Prometheus, disobeying Zeus, who gave the gift of fire to the humans.

Regrets, but one

END OF DAYS SERIES: Regrets, but one.

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“What word of what I just said didn’t you understand?” Deedle said mocking him as she pulled the handgun from her shoulder bag.

“Deedle…. hold on…. put the gun down,” he pleaded rolling back in his chair with nowhere to go.

With a flick of her thumb, the laser-powered scope turned on, and she raised the red dot until it settled between his eyes.

“Don’t do this, Deedle.  I thought you were coming over here to make amends? It was a long time ago. We’re friends now, right? We’ve done business together.  This is crazy… We’re both going to die in a few hours anyway.  I’m sorry…. don’t do this…”

“I’m not going to give you that luxury… you prick….  You don’t deserve to go out with the rest of humanity.” She took aim.

“WAIT!  Just wait! I didn’t have a choice–”

“NO! I DIDN’T HAVE A CHOICE!” She shouted cutting him off as the red dot bounced along his forehead.  She promised herself she wouldn’t lose control of her emotions over this scumbag and needed to prove to him she was no longer the young impressionable nitwit she had been in those days, new to the jewelry trade and too trusting of shitbags the likes of Donald.

Seeing him here, now, brought back thirty years of anger and sleepless nights of reenacted dreams when he claimed to have lost a piece she had loaned him; it had been her most precious piece, a vintage VCA coral and diamond leaf motif brooch worth a little more than eighty-seven grand…. a fortune to her at the time.

“Tell me, Donald…. and if I sense any bullshit… I swear I’ll blow your fucking head off!” It felt good for her to say that out loud having rehearsed this line over and over in her head during her walk along Fifth Avenue to Donald’s office.

An hour earlier, she and everyone on the planet had received a series of public service emergency alerts that a catastrophic solar flare, ten times the diameter of Earth, was heading toward them and there was no chance of survival.  The Internet had become choked with posts of people making amends and being with those they loved.  There was nothing anyone could do.  Instead of rushing home to Dov, she had sat in her office thinking of any regrets she may have had in her life.  There was one.

“What did you do with that piece I loaned you, Donald?”

He looked at her, feigning confusion.

“Donald!  Answer me!” She shouted and dropped her leg back and took straight aim.

“I sold it!” He blurted out.  “I’m sorry, but I needed the money… “

“To whom?” She demanded.

He was stuttering, looking for an answer that wasn’t there. “No-no one you know… please… put the gun away… we can talk about this.”

“You’re lying to me,” she said calmly.  “You always flick the end of your nose when you lie… just like you did right now.” She took aim down the barrel.

“OK, OK, OK… I gave it to Anna Skylovski… Don’t shoot…” he whimpered.

“You were always such a pussy, Donald. I should have known you’d give it to that slut… I hope the blowjob was worth this bullet in your head,” she said closing one eye just before pulling the trigger and for Donald to thrust his hands in front of his face and turn slightly.  The sound was much quieter than she imagined, a single pop.  She looked up to see a hole in his palm and the tip of his nose missing.

FUCK ME!” Donald screamed out as the blood began to gush.  He pulled his bloody hand down and held it, growling through clenched teeth and the bubble of his voice though the tip of his shredded nose.  Beyond him the bullet had exited the picture window, leaving a spider web in the glass.

“Damn! My aim sucks,” she said more to herself than for Donald’s sake.  “Dov insisted I get a gun to protect myself.  He even took me clay shooting, and those fucking orange pigeons went sailing forth unhindered by my bullets… I would have shot you in the balls, Donald, but I now realize you never had any.”  She laughed and raised the gun once more but jumped when the sirens outside screamed out, distracting her long enough for Donald to grab the paperweight from his desk and hurl it, striking her in the forehead and knocking her onto the floor.

She was lying there, still holding the gun when Donald launched over the desk onto her, his good hand pinning the gun to the carpet.

“You stupid bitch,” he screamed inches from her face.  She felt the warmth of his bloodied forearm on her throat as the drip from his nose landed her cheek.  He began to press down.

Her free hand was clutched to the brooch that had come loose from the fall, the long gold pin held in her fingers.  She jabbed him in the temple and felt the pin bend when it hit bone.

He roared out and rolled over onto his back, and Deedle staggered up onto her Jimmy Choos, the gun still hot in her hands.  She wiped her cheek, straightened her suit and brushed the flip of her hair to the side while the sirens outside continued at a deafening pitch.  The end was coming.

Donald pushed himself up against the front of his desk, defeated.  “Get it over with. Do it.  Do me the favor of not having to see your fucking face as my last image. DO IT!

Deedle raised the gun and held it steady, the red dot settling between his eyes.  She was breathing heavily, and her head ached.  She looked into his eyes that were filled with hatred, and she began to laugh.  She was laughing so hard it drew Donald in as he closed his eyes and laughed achingly with her.

She wanted to pull the trigger, but the reservoir of revenge felt half full, and she didn’t want this to end, on his terms, so she lowered the gun and pulled the trigger and miraculously hit his knee.  A black dot appeared on his pant leg, and he screamed out once more, a primordial guttural, “FUCK YOU” through threads of red spittle tethered from his bloodied lips.

The reservoir had drained, and she raised the gun, held her breath, and pulled the trigger.  Another pop and beyond the sights of the barrel a black dot appeared on his forehead as if that was all that bullets did was to create black dots.  A crimson ribbon began to drip between his eyes and along his nose where it bowed like a strand of silk onto his chest.

“No, Donald… Fuck You,” she said under her breath and lobbed the gun into his lap.

She was smiling to herself in the mirrored walls of the elevator, primping and wiping his blood from her face and throat until the courtesy ping of the elevator notified her she had reached the lobby.   The doors opened, and she stepped out onto the worn marble floors with the echo of her heels the only sounds she heard as she walked toward the revolving doors that opened to the street.

Everything seemed so surreal; it was a beautiful day with not a soul in sight.  Everyone who was, were where he or she needed to be.  Deedle walked Fifth Avenue toward her Upper East Side apartment, not drawn in by the windows of Christian Louboutin or lured through the open doors of St. Patrick’s by the sobering choir of voices within.  She walked past Bergdorf’s without admiring the window displays and was amazed not to see crowds gathered around the Apple Store.  Why couldn’t it always be like this?  She thought to herself as she headed along the park with the dogwoods in bloom and over the wall in the fields beyond, horses with tiaras were grazing on the chartreuse of grass — their handsome cab owners having set them free.  She couldn’t remember the last time she walked home from work and took note of all the shops and cafes she had never been to or had known to exist.

With the crosstown walk behind her, she stopped to admire the tower of her apartment building and the duplex apartment at the top, a symbol of her success.  She thought back to the countless dinner parties out on the terrace, her love of the kitchen and cooking, the smells of fresh biscotti on the oven sheets with Dov always stealing one before they cooled.  She had some great times there, and those thoughts filled her with happiness.

It felt odd opening her own door to the lobby, where Kevin was not there to greet her with his infectious smile, eager to carry her packages no matter how small.  She entered the to its emptiness, where the elevator door at the far end of the lobby was openly awaiting her, an NYC rarity.  She rode up in silence to the penthouse floor and stepping out, the door to her apartment opened before she could remove her key.  Standing in the doorway was Dov in his tuxedo holding two glasses of champagne.

Noticing the bruise on her forehead and smear of blood on her cheek, throat, and blouse, he asked nonchalantly, “Tough day at the Batcave, Batgirl?”

“You should see the other guy…” she huffed and dropped her bag to the floor as she reached for her glass and kissed him hard on the lips.  “Come on Batman…. we’ve got some messing around to do before the world ends. Hopefully, this solar flare thing is not fake news, or I will have some serious explaining to do in the morning….”

 

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