“Never Summer” By: The Reverend — Albius M. Squall

April/Issue #000 — Preludes & Postscripts (Amber Run — I Found)

With little left to say really…he looked up at judgement…truth… “…no wild thing feeling sorry for itself.” There was no laughing in the face of being mocked by the realness of literature, it simply was…in itself, everything “it” was claimed to be.

His eye, reflection of all before him — calm pulled down to the core, Jung had no terms to analyze these timeshe stared. No faces in this place. Just the coldness of never being warm.

He said, “It appears I have pissed you off, and only for that am I sorry.” No voice broke the wind…he was far too cold to speak…in the dark humor even tears eluded him.

The bird flapped its wings, making no other sounds and came close. She twisted and poked forward. Tapping the ground ever closer. His breathing increased as she investigated. He could no longer see her, the focus of looking away toward the mountains could not break the steady clicking and pecking. Warmth flowed and cooled his cheek. He wished for more birds, knowing there were not any…and silently damned his own spirit for refusing to leave.


There is always hope and faith…just as there are wounded people and what they bring with them. Good and evil…right and wrong…conspired doctrines… ridicule… asthmatic gasps of all that is good embroiled within the soul. Something happens in old places; something dark and sinister for the broken: foul and noisome for victims and those in the way. For the good, restoration takes place…all along the same paths…where forests mate with the skyline, clouds slumber through riven skies, all while dark beliefs confide in shadows. The painful pleas are regarded as nightly groans when wind chills through wintry pines. Engines whine through canyons, building, creaking, giving innocence and youth away with each victory as they plummet above and beyond the summits. The rocks here are worn and rotten, unsuitable for climbing, taken over by the science of Boyle’s laws with the deep heat ebbing from earth’s core…the frozen breath of the Northern Witch, tired sins from every hurt…every wrong…left in the soil.

What we bring with us grows…two birds…one stone.

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April/Issue #001 — Goings & Comforts (Seafret — Skimming Stones)

Just because you’re a sailor doesn’t mean you have to talk like one,” Darius said smiling. “Hate this Company gear, too much black.” The black reminded him of his father’s church and empty pews. He hated both, but for different reasons.

“Expletive…expletive…expletive,” Sam smiled throwing his saw over his shoulder. He looked up as the chopper lifted off, “Got a new joke gentlemen. Want to hear it?”

A resounding, “No.” They laughed and checked one another’s gear…the earth rolled back her sounds…the machine was lost in the distance.

“Hulk, Sit Rep, Ospry in at 23 — hundred…no word from their guys,” he saw the question from the slight look, they knew each other perfectly…better than wives. “Just static,” Isaac said in a lowered voice next to Matt’s ear. How a man that big can move so quietly, crazy, Johnboy needed a few lessons with his gum chewing…damn teeth clicking. A look his way, a grin, perfect silence. Thoughts meandered — He thought of her hands…why he was here…yesterday is always so damn far away, “This sucks.”

Mic clicks and checks, hand signaled from Matt, radios silenced. They moved — brotherhood. Memories of angels and home, far away dreams through their gaited walking comforts. Cold. The witch blew her discomforts against undistinguished idle sounds.

Each his own devices, on into darkness. Remembering. Solitudes standing, moving forward into night — toward requirements. Moving away from required responsibilities…oceans away, between home and The Teams. They knew the difficulties, and the lucky ones would be the ones not breathing. “For sure,” he thought. Johnboy checked his HUD: Pandemic eminent. “In and out Chief said, like prom night boys,” He chewed, looking to see if Isaac noticed. He hadn’t. “This is serious…we’re about to be in it,” he thought, “He never misses a chance to bust my — “

:::Snap:::

Radio click from up front…movement.

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April/Issue #002— Switchbacks (Delta S — Deceived)

H e deserved it. No partners in crime. His car whined over Berthoud pass and the piled snow. He lit another cigarette, sipped his drink, and gazed ahead. Down the mountain he let the gears slow his descent. This M5 was the best car he ever owned, and nowwould ever own. He hated the the long extended blind right, he was in a hurry to get to Beaver Street…the only home he had known. Granby was close…nestled in the shadows of mountains…a high desert he missed.

The speakers pounded, despondent industrial kicked out, the rear view mirror shook, vibrating along with the song. How he loathed the Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg crap he had to endure all day. The silly colors of city street sects drove him to drink. Purple, Red and blue lines mired with equally absurd musical interests. These may have been his people…but inwardly he loathed what they had become. At least the latinos knew how to dress sharp, with their finely pressed Dickies…The poor were colorless, his crew from every walk of life, gang, creed, and race. Broke does not differentiate, and neither does the moniker of, “Thug.” We were all hard, and we worked together to get, “Ours.”

Traction control did its job, roughly, “1 am,” he said thinking, “I’m such a damn cliche.” The smoke filled the car and he looked down to crack the window after kicking up the heater.

:::Thud:::

The cliches piled up quickly: He had been looking away to roll down a window to ease the smoke from a blunt, while drinking, then hitting something in the roadway, sliding out, and his headlights rested, pointing sideways into the opposite direction. He reached down for his tire iron. “Here we go.” He set his blunt between his teeth vowing to be the best of this cliche that he could make it. He stopped short of swigging the 151 straight from the bottle, he grabbed his glass, sipped and set the glass on top of the car.

He walked toward the body laying in the road. Patience is his virtue and had always been. He saw them closing the pass shortly after making his way up. No one was coming. He had the time he needed. He stood in front of his car, iron in his right hand. He was a South Paw, but always played things as a righty, threw people off and gave him an edge. He walked up and noticed it was a woman, she was messed up. Reminded him of a guy they rolled a few weeks earlier. He missed the next cliche, rolling matted and freezing hair and skull to one side, her lifeless eyes starred vacantly at him…deep red. It wouldn’t have mattered as he had no concept of red being color-blind. Colors were as absurd as races to him…and so was prison. He angled her head with his foot. Stared into her lifelessness and swung the toothed end into her skull.

:::Shunkkkkk:::

This was getting old. He struggled briefly pulling the metal from her skull. He looked and saw an abandoned car down the side of the hill. “Explains that,” he said going back to the trunk. He dumped the money from the duffle in the back seat knowing if he got pulled over, large amounts of money would be the least of his worries. “Yes sir, don’t mind the 3.5 million in the back seat, got a dead girl in the trunk…hell no I don’t know who she is, yes I hit her with that…yes you do smell ‘The marijuana,’ ‘Yes I am a bit drunk,’ ‘Yes this is an Armani suit…’” It was going to get more real if he got pulled over. He really didn’t care, but he had to make sure his tracks were covered. Then the sky opened for a moment showing the full moon, he could see the spider webbed trees, out of place among evergreens. He placed her in the bag, zipped it, then shut the trunk…the sound echoing. He thought while grabbing his drink… “Priceless.” He walked to the broken guard rail. Looking down at the lights peering up, the music playing eerily alone to a silenced audience. He looked around and noticed the small clothing following the trail…he could see the empty car seat laying next to the battered and overturned Honda… “Damn…”

He threw his empty glass into the car, slammed the steering column. The door shut he put the car in gear and straightened out the car. He looked down and turned up the stereo. He looked in the mirror and saw the silhouette of a man standing where he had just been. He slammed his brakes, the sky sewed herself up, the moon disappeared, and the wind howled white around him. He became lost in the driven snow and began a murderous speed to get home. To get safe…he needed a shower, some more 151, and time to think.

The engine groaned, those German engineered controls kept him steady. He sobered up real quick, the rest of his bottle didn’t touch the sinking pit he had now.

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April/Issue #003 — All the Riven Skies (Vancouver Sleep Clinic — “Collapse”)

Tying knots. Keeping his mind on the shore line…for now the water was glass. Mundane repetitive comforts, his mind wandered. There was no first love with the sea…just a sore hatred. She was a horrible lover…even less so a friend. Like an ex wife she took his money, his time, and pushed away friends…killing them with brokenness, drowning them in her waters…defying any means to restrain her, or float in her waters…the Northern waters only bowed to the Witch when she blew in…and she was coming.

They would be leaving today, despite it being Friday. He had to get away from here…he’d be going alone…the crew ignored his texts. All he got back was a less than cryptic answer from his son, “It’s Friday pops.”

Father Bishop walked down the dock. He has a familiar stride…another thing he didn’t much like. Without looking up he went to talk first, to limit at least one taboo…the old man beat him to it.

“Michael, Sarah sent me down to talk some sense into you. The boats part of your agreement.” He sighed as he looked over the younger man as he tied the nets.

“Well padre, you can kindly remove your foot from my vessel. I’m now leaving on a Friday, been talked to by a priest who tried to step on my boat with his left foot, sent by my ex-wife who thinks she is a fisherman because a woman judge decided we needed to be business partners. You can turn around and tell that lady the real fisherman has to go make money. She can sit on Quickbooks and run all her numbers. No fish, no money. Way it’s always been.”

Bishop sighed, “She said if you leave port, she’ll have the Guard turn you back, and have you arrested.”

“Well,” he said standing up, “That’s just dandy.” He grabbed the mooring line and cast off.

Bishop raised up his cell phone and Michael could see the sheriff walking down the far dock. The old man lowered the phone from his ear. He knew the government would be on him shortly…he was actually looking forward to the weather. He’d get through it, he always did. He finished backing out and turned starboard. Was the only way he could get out without the law getting close. More bad luck…there he said it.

::Horn::

He blasted the the horn once…captains looked on, no one said anything…he kicked up the engine and set the autopilot, he had nets to square away.

:::11 Hours Later:::

He’d lost the Coast Guard…most likely they chose not to follow him…storm served a purpose. The day went from grey to black…the waves crashed over. he turned the bow into the waves and made for the shore he saw on the screen. He’d make it, or he’d be like all the others…

He slammed the throttle to full, The Boat was going down here or on the rocks. He finished pulling on his survival suit, and like an old man had shown him once, he tied floats under his arms, around his waist and he stood out as far on the bow as he could. He could hear the familiar sounds of the ocean and her pounding the shore…the Witch blew around him. The Boat hit ground and he rocked forward into the water swimming with all his might…

High tide, the ship should stay where it’s at when the tide goes back out, he could come salvage in the light. He tore at the shore, his hands frozen…he made his way further from the surf…he rested on the roots of a mighty fallen tree. “Got you too eh old man…” He kept going away from the crashing waves. The sleet turned to powerful snow. His suit would keep him warm for a few minutes…he needed shelter, he needed fire. He crawled against the winter, the wind, and for a moment saw the opening…a shoreline seal hole…maybe an abandoned Inuit shelter…he crawled on his belly.

Instantly the burden of the elements was gone…he crawled to the back and wrestled himself to sitting against the back wall…the roof was a few inches above his head. Definitely man made…he felt around feeling wood, a small stove…and true to Alaskan form, a prepared fire. He instinctively lit the match by touch. He let the match fall dying out…instantly wishing he was anywhere but here…what he saw chilled what was left of his warmth. He scrambled to the opening back into the storm, not looking back.

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May/Issue #004 —Sheeps Clothing (alt-J (∆) — Breezeblocks)

I asked him about his parents, his youth, and how he was raised. He answered, “I was raised by wolves…”

I raised an eyebrow, “Wolves?

He answered back without looking up from the table, continuing to lay down silverware in their proper places, “Yes. Wolves.”

I raised the other eyebrow and stopped pouring drinks. I asked again, “Wolves?

He stopped and looked at everyone else in the room, “Not the kind you cry about. Just wolves.”

He went back to placing and replacing the forks and knives. None of us really moved after that. His parents came into the room smiling.

:::Pleasantries and time, minutes passed, as did people:::

I asked him later, “Are they the wolves?

He said smiling, “I don’t know, are they. If I said so, would I be crying wolf?”

Really? That’s your answer? You’re going to be evasive about it? We’re getting married, and I don’t even know these people…” She looked at him, waiting.

“You’re being overly dramatic.” He said knowing what was next.

She flared up, “I’m being dramatic! WTH!

He answered calmly, looking each person in the table in the eye, “Yes. They were my parents. Yes, they are wolves. It was my childhood they devoured. Death of innocence, nothing grand. We all have dead childhoodsright, becoming men and women. I can just place the time and date.” He looked at his wine, “Do you all know what the Italians say about a wolf, and if it gets into your vineyard?

The few who were left looked on silently as he went on, “If one gets into the grapes, you have to kill it. Especially if it brings its mate. In a couple days they can eat all the grapes, leaving nothing.”

He got up, finished his drink, kissed his future bride on the forehead and walked out onto the verandah. He smiled and greeted his parents.

As the waiters placed the steaks at each place setting she looked up at the server who told her she would bring her fiancé a knife and apologized for its absence.

She watched him through the glass, never knowing, exactly what was running through his mind. God she was angry. He never said much, but when he did, you had to read between the lines. She looked down at his place setting, knocking over her drink, she jumped up running toward the doors. He smiled as he saw her coming. ‘I love you’ fell silently on her vision: between them and the glass.

:::The door swung open:::

He laid in her arms…he whispered, “I just wanted people, just once, to see them both for what they really areand were. I love you so.”

“Please don’t go…”

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May/Issue #005 — Messenger — Ni-chebe-chii (Blue Foundation— Eyes On Fire)

There is a deep respect and reverence criminals have for God. Deeper than Sunday believers…and salted whores. A provocation of the heart, to dispel, a futile purge of every bit of self. A wayward inhibition, a criminals furtive penance. Never taken lightly. Accepted. Before any recollection can be made by the inside of evil. Goodness stood his chance, and as always, was found lacking. They called him Machine. These days he liked to ride through the city. On of all things a bike…simply because he could:

Everything is possible if you are willing to pay the price.

He thought back to the previous years: He looked each man in the eyes. One by one. All four of them. They had come to collect him, but they knew they were dead men. He had sorted them with a look: the boy next store, the alcoholic, the rapist, a brooding son. He never made a sound…they beat on him as oceans beat the shore. Unkind, unrelenting, for the entirety of the tide.

When he returned their favors, he beat their lives out of them; their relatives and wives. Their children. He left them bound. Unable to move enough to lessen their sorrows. He fed them, and watered them…and like all men do, they grew into beasts. When he was all but done with his payments. He let them loose on the world and disappeared. Each went mad with his own demons…until they had forgotten why they cared in the first place.

Everything is possible if you are willing to pay the price.

“Johnathon with the blue Bike! Johnathon with the blue bike!” The lisp-y yell carried across the mid morning city noises. “Johnathon wait. Blue bike!” He seemed out of breath and not much a threat. Johnathon stood and let the man make his way to the meter where he stood. “You Johnathon? Gotta be right. You him?”

“Sure old man,” he looked around waiting for a speeding car, a clack of a gun. Nothing out of the ordinary. “Speak.”

He told me I had to give this to you…and to shake your hand,” he held out a note and his dirty hand. The hand led up to an unkept body, riddled with sewer smells, missing and broken teeth. He smiled and his words were as unkept as his appearance, save for that last line…and to shake your hand.

“Shaking hands is old school, old man. You have a purpose for following long lost ways,” He was older himself, but he still benched over 300. Strong but worn: He had the scars to prove it.

Then a voice spoke next to him, sudden, unexpected, a woman not in white…but pure light, “God does not answer the prayers of unbelievers.”

Johnathon with the blue bike looked at her, unable to look away, “And why are you here…who are you?”

“God said Johnathon would need me today and to tell you before you shake his hand: He sent me little one, because you would call.”

Where stood the old man behind him was the reflective window of a store. The lady shown so white, behind the old man stood Darkness in all its virtues. The noisome creature permeated the space. Pushing and prodding the old man. “Shake his hand…shake it.” “Make the voices stop! Shake my damn hand Johnathon with the blue bike, he won’t stop! Shake my hand!”

Forgetting the woman, transfixed, he reached out to take the old man’s hand. Instantly he was on his knees, keeled over, in all the pain he had ever felt, or seen, or been part of. The note fell beside him, looking up at him, he read it soberly detached: Here is everything you deserve.

He broke under the weight, his physique, his strength, everything atrophied, his beard strung out, he screamed, throwing up, becoming one with the pavement.

Everything is possible if you are willing to pay the price.

“I told you to stay off my friggin sidewalk you piece of crap!” Johnathon watched himself walk by. He swayed as his head throbbed. The White Woman took his arm. “Get him the f — — out of here!”

She smiled helping the old man — up, he stood transfixed in the window. His image was not his own. His teeth were rotted. He was emaciated…his filth made him wretch. He called out, “Dear God. Please help me.”

“He is here Johnathon, He sent me. Come let’s get you cleaned up,” she walked him down the street. The darkness did not follow them. He stood silent, watching the blue bike.

Machine walked between meters, bending down to unlock the tire. Men surrounded him. He buckled as the ax hit his thigh. The bats, and brass knuckles weighed in. The sounds of their complexities echoed on for an eternity. They were writing a message for other Machines…for other men to read.

Johnathon fainted in the park, she helped him to set his back against the bench. She smiled and caressed his cheek, “Still the same sweet boy I remember.”

“I just want my bike,” Johnathon said.

“We can go get your bike in a couple minutes, just rest.” She washed his head with her frock she had dipped in the fountain. His breathing lessened. His heart quickened, then stopped.

Everything is possible if you are willing to pay the price.

A girl pointed, “Mommy look that man’s sleeping.” The young mother reached for her cell phone, dialing 911.

People converged on the scene, the officer said to someone, “Yeah, it’s Johnathon, with the blue bike. Anyone seen his bike?” His radio rambled codes and the officer raced to the corner. He turned his head and told people, “You don’t need to see this.”

The officer found a witness talking to another man, “Yes sir, it was odd. I think that big guy tried to buy his bike or something, it was weird.” The two men shook hands as the cop stepped back to the scene.

He felt bad, thinking about Johnathon. Too much of this type of thing…just no good.

The witness walked over to the Policeman, put out his hand to shake. Doing so he dropped what he was carrying. The officer saw the note and picked it up. Here is everything you deserve. On the other side: Everything is possible if you are willing to pay the price. He told me I had to give this to you…and to shake your hand…”

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August/Issue #006 — Last Rites (Ben Howard — Oats In The Water)

The Reverend dipped the cloth in the wash basin, “Shhhh, let me wipe your brow.” Carefully wrung, the wetness fell into the bowl. He applied the coolness to the patients head, lightly brushing back his hair. The man sighed a relief that helped continue the process. Over the hours Albius held vigil, and between the fevers peaks and valleys, when lucid enough, listened to the man’s ramblings.

“Where was I,” he whispered. Panting, his dry lips smacking for water.

“You were speaking about the church, when you were spying through the floor,” The Reverend studiously wet his brow, forming a slow ceremony between the two: the wetting of his brow, between fevered moments, fluids, and ramblings.

“The church! Oh God the church…my brothers.” He motioned and made sounds and The Reverend held him strongly as he wretched. Again and again he purged. “I never told anyone…

He helped the man back into the bed as comfortable as he could be. He rose and opened the window, letting in the cool night. His sheets were soaked, maybe from the fever, maybe from long lost fears, “What you say is between us. I am god’s emissary. he alone gives all.”

The quiet of the night, the man began his memory, in an instant he was a boy again:

I was a boy. The oldest. My uncle had decided to go into the mountains and no one told us what happened, only that he died. Between the three of us, we thought it a great opportunity to see a dead body. He was our favorite uncle and we didn’t understand the never seeing him again, and his being with God.

The Reverend raised some broth to the man’s lips, “It’s very important on details, when telling your story. god needs to know that you are aware of your sin. Only then can one be absolved.” The man sipped and shuddered, each mouthful a great ordeal and spent strength.

We tried first to walk in to the wake, having found our suits and dressed ourselves. Our father and mother, aunts and family smiling that three young boys were, ‘Trying so hard to be formal.’ We just wanted to see in the coffin. We were refused entry, despite pleading for the food we could smell. Our father was on to us. He rebuked us sending us home. We went home and changed. Elias was wearing a white shirt…

He passed out. The Reverend sighed. He took the soup dumping it in the pot. He walked down the empty halls…past the old woman praying and those wretched screaming babies. He tapped the glass and she sat in her circle, only starring back. She never opened the door. Never engaged in conversation, simply refused to talk. Very uncivilized woman. Amazingly she was always here, awake, and starring at him. Hated that one he did. Especially her friend. He’d seen him before, a few times over the years. They had never spoken either. The Reverend was curious what his name was…he even asked once this past week when they passed in the hall, “Can I get you something? Is there something I do for you? Can I get you something to eat?”

The man said back, “Man lives not on bread alone.”

The Reverend shrugged and moved downstairs to get some more cloths and toiletries.

He returned and found his patient sprawled on the floor, naked and soiled. Taking great care he helped him to the shower, into the chair that served as a toilet, or for whatever purpose needed for the desperately ill. The warm water bathed him and he shook, shivering. The light was hurting his eyes, so he turned them off for him. The melodic music of the water drummed against whatever showers were made of these days…far cry from the wonderful baths of the Romans…the Greeks, they understood water like no other civilization. “Is that too warm he asked?” The man shook his head no. The Reverend was drenched, but he patiently gave the man all the time he needed, “Take your time. We have no where else to be.

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September/Issue #007 — First Comfort (Dustin Tebbutt — Bones)

She came over to repay him for his kindness, for letting her and her children use his guest house, living rent free…to get on her feet. She came late at night when her children were asleep. Opening the door to the side of his house, his dogs looked up sleepily, phased in shadow, by the dimmed porch lights. They lazily laid back down. The youngest puppy kissed her hand as she flowed by.

Earlier she had bathed and took great attention to wear clothing he had commented on, jewelry he said looked great on her, that his late wife had worn…” She’d have wanted someone who cherished them to have them,” he said.

When her youngest had embarrassed her by causing a hole in the wall. He calmly asked the boys, and her daughters as well to come to the hardware store with him. They returned with stomachs full, sodas in hand, and materials for fixing the damage. He walked each child through signing the wood they would place behind the patch. He said, “Anyone can destroy. Anyone. But, not everyone can heal, or fix, or mend.” She felt like she could spend the rest of her life with this man, despite the age, despite his disabilities…he was so much that other younger men weren’t.

Closing the door behind her, she made way through the house. He was in his study, laptop in his lap, pen and paper in hand, writing as he always did. He was voracious about notes, about capturing the moments, “Just a detail of the way we see the world is a precious gift for those around us…a real glimpse of what we hide inside.” She often wondered why he wrote the short items down that he did, but she could see it was a woven fabric. She envied him for this, yet another thing she admired.

The lights were dim, her courage was made, her children were safe for the first time in their lives. She owed him everything, and he would say nothing, “She would have done the same.” There were no pictures of her here, or in his house. She never asked, as damaged as she was, she knew patience, and he gifted her in the perfect moments. So she never forced any questions.

She knelt by his chair and caressed his face. She moved his laptop from his lap and opened herself up to him. With great care he covered her nakedness. He moved himself next to her on the floor and moved the hair that had fallen in front of her face.

“Such a precious and wonderful gift you’ve presented for me here,” he said, “But I cannot accept,” he grabbed her hands and looked her deeply in the eyes. He didn’t caress her body, nor did she feel uncomfortable when her gown fell and he adjusted her modesty. He returned his hands to hers with a steady touch, strong, and deeply wonderful. “I’m no man to accept such things, from someone so pure and beautiful.” She couldn’t speak as her lips trembled and tears crept from the corners of her eyes…her makeup ran. But, she couldn’t take her gaze from his. His grey beard and wisdom shown and he spoke again.

“You may think I ‘saved’ you and your children. You saved me,” he sighed not out of longing, just the awareness of truths, “What a wonderful opportunity you offer, but I could never give you what you would someday desire, as beautiful as this moment would be, and could become.” She looked down and he lifted her gaze, “Someday, I would not be enough, you would meet someone who was…”

She whispered, “I’d never…”

He said, “You would, and then I would be jealous, and what we have right now, before it changes, would be gone forever. I want when the day comes, that you find this man, that I can be happy for him, for you: that you found each other.”

Again she was awed, no man she ever knew cared enough to just be a man for her.

She laid in his lap and he held her even after she fell asleep. It was the first time in her life she felt like a woman, ‘Worth far more than rubies,’ she remembered as she listed off to sleep, him caressing her hair. She smiled as she heard him writing…she did love him and she knew he loved her, more than himself.

For the first time in her life, love was enough.

In the morning she woke covered in a knitted quilt. She looked on the corner of the cloth, there was some old writing: For Elisabeth on her special day. She heard her children laughing and playing…dogs yapping and the sound of feet jumping from porches.

He was on the porch with his pipe, with the first look of worry she had ever seen. Her look showed him she saw it. He quieted her with his finger to his lips and slowly pointed to the sky. She looked up and saw the moon in it’s soft morning faded blue sky hue. It was in a million pieces and scattered across the sky. She walked over to him and placed her hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t say anything to the children,” he said. “The news said this a life event. Let them be children for a few moments more.” She looked down and he handed them to her, “These are keys to everything. I’ll show you where everything is, this location is why we moved here, isolated enough, but close enough.”

“Is it going to be that bad,” her voice quivered.

“Yes.” he smoked his pipe and wrote something down on his pad, “Hey Nick want to go get the fishing poles…” The boys smiles sprung, the girls made faces of grossness, she smiled. The forlorn-ed sky was forgotten in it’s silent dance with effigy and gravities well. His pipe billowed clouds and fear was forgotten.

That evening they sat on the dark porch, children slept on a pallet, dogs yawned, and the warm breeze they said would come first crept in. The mountains above them broke the heated winds and strong snow and rains powered off in the distance, “What are they called?” She asked.

“The mountains?” He stopped rocking and looked at her, her silhouette nodded. “Ni-chebe-chii. The Never Summer Mountains”

Her soul chilled, the warmth of being here with him was all that kept her from crying. She realized he had wanted everyone to have one last day.

“That snow, and what comes with it will be here soon.” He puffed his pipe, and between the sweet smell, the warming breeze, and her wine, she was conflicted inside. Much like the day before returning from a vacation, when realness is what you are in for this last moment, only to become a dream the following day. “I have everything you will need. Tomorrow I’m going to show you how to use a gun. Then we will show the children.”

She sipped her wine, she didn’t want this moment to end. They looked at the mountains, the thunder and lightening was odd with snow. The gods swords clashed, all the riven skies…a battle was being lost. She reached her hand out and he held it for her. He smoked, and she was aware he had not written anything all day. “I noticed you didn’t write anything today.”

“My story is soon to be over, I felt it was okay to allow these last moments to be my luxury. Sometimes for these little ones, the memory is better than the reality. I’d rather they remember this day for what they saw it to be, not what I wrote about it.”

They rocked until they felt the chill start in, she carried the youngest to the guest house, the others groggily pushing excited dogs away as they slumbered along the path to their door and off to their beds. She looked and he was still sitting, he waved, “Goto sleep. We’ll get started tomorrow.”

She woke to howling wind and snow. Something loud, but over…

Out the window, picturesque Norman Rockwell Christmas type morning in August: unseasonable, but not uncommon. The children were still sleeping. The dogs were strewn across the yard, in heaps. Her hand went to her mouth to quell screams. She ran around the side of the house, finding him on the porch, still sitting, the wet redness frozen down his body, pooled in displaced circles where they had fallen.

His hand held a picture, she softly took it, ‘Elisabeth 2000’ was across the back. She wondered what to do…then noticed the bloody footprints, the marks on the porch posts…they headed toward the guest house. She ran back and noticed they stopped where the dogs lay…the storm must have covered the sound of what happened. They must have stopped whatever was coming…if she had woken up…she could have helped…

He was too big for her to move, she covered him in the quilt, she knew his Elisabeth would not have minded. She locked the porch door and pulled the shades. On the table she noticed his revolver and a note:

“Here is a map of the house, you have the keys, I have a secret room in the basement. Don’t come out at night. I heard noises and the dogs are getting restless. Not sure if it’s just the weather. I wanted you to have my father’s gun. Just point and pull the trigger. Remember trust no one.”

He knew she wouldn’t trust anyone, but he felt the need to write it.

She found the room, the stores, the bunks, the notes from his beloved Elisabeth. They had put this together for comfort incase of dark times…those times were here and he shared this place with her. Again she was awed. She found his pistols, rifles, and guns. She knew more about him by this one room than anything she saw over the months she stayed here. The pastor had told her he was a good man, he had served America bravely: and he was right. His wife’s notes showed this…

She and the children got comfortable with the guns. Before evening the youngest dog that had run away limped back to the house through the snow. She bandaged him up, showing the children how to clean the wounds. They spent their time moving stores, clothes, blankets, books, anything that might be needed to the room in the basement. The heavy steel door added comforts, the vent was hidden in a flag pole that was in the yard…it had it’s own hand pump…bathrooms and septic she learned from the notebook in the room.

The sun crept over the mountains and disappeared. The moon had no such luck in her broken state. She piecemeal-ed herself over the mountainous horizon. They looked down the mountain they were on at the cluster of driving lights. Everyone was escaping to nowhere. The dog began to growl and she ushered the children to the basement. In the darkness, to conserve on batteries she used the hand crank radio. Her oldest son held the flashlight. The door above, the porch door, creaked open. Steps worked their way down the basement stairs…something clicked in succession…a light knocking…scraping…on the metal door steadily increased from soft to thunderous…stopping then starting…stopping then starting for hours. The children screamed themselves to sleep, the dog whining and barking until he too was exhausted. She sat furthest from the door with the revolver…saying to herself softly, “Point and shoot, point and shoot.”

Off in the distance, he heard the shot, then the other shots. The wind and snow enveloped him. “Ni-chebe-chii,” he thought to himself. He ran as fast as his legs would move.

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October/Issue #008— Distortions (Atrium Carceri)

Grendel walked along the sidewalk, a half skip in Its gait. It looked up at the old oak…remembering what the maker told of the inherent evil nature of trees. Always consumed with unmoving time. Harboring ancient hatreds against vagrant evils. Grendel was a boy once…It remembered the trees on father’s land. Evil things they were. Only good for being cut.

It clambered up and sat on its favorite limb. It loved to watch children sleep. Measuring string, wood, nails, twine…planning was much easier when they didn’t wriggle, “Bobby!” He whispered loudly. “Bobby…

She was wriggling in the sack. It dropped the sack the 15 feet to the ground. The bag was silent. “Shhh,” it said. The sack and its contends complied.

It sat and peered. “Bobby! You have to ask me in remember…say Its name. Then I can come show you a new game.

Grendel?” a groggy voice answered. Music ebbed and echoed from under the door. The dinner party below involved in its own debauchery, oblivious…following other evils.

Yes! Come see Bobby. I’ve got her for you. Come see,” It helped the small boy from his window, taking great care between heights. They’d done this often. Bobby was a very dedicated pupil: apt even. Grendel had learned a few things from this one. Just when one thinks they’ve seen it all.

They stood over the bag, Bobby nudged the ties. “She lives way up, no trees,” he smiled, “How’d you get her in there.

It smiled back, “Same old tricks and treats.

Grendel turned to look at Bobby as Its vision went dark.

It woke to a hard fast kick nudging Its head. It tried to walk but fell, and began crawling…dark matter filled Its gaze. Deep, dark liquid covered the ground…It was dying.

Oh no stumbling off into the darkness with you. Stay and play with us,” Bobby said. “Did you get Grendel’s bag of tricks?” He grabbed Grendel and tied It up in Its bag. Triple knots like he was taught.

Whisper had, she nodded her head, “Yes.” They saw the Tall Man and the Tall Woman approaching. “What do you think they will give?” Bobby shrugged.

Grendel did not know any Tall people…It only knew it hated trees. Now it hated children. What becomes of Grendel?” It said coughing, pained fits of laughing, and holding onto itself in the bag.

Bobby swung the large branch against the bag, “Don’t know…what was to become of Bobby?” His words were harsh and rough.

It laughed and chuckled, “Bobby becomes Grendel. It knows. It is Bobby.

The Tall Man said nothing. He put out his long arm as Bobby dragged Grendel to him. Cold, black holes gazed from their sockets. Whatever was there was empty, the walkway was noisome, permeated with putrid stench.

Whisper spoke, “What will you give me. I brought them both as you asked.”

Bobby turned to run, the tree where it had always been. It did not move. He woke to the strong smell of iron in his nose…he was in the bag with It…no it was a boy…staring lifeless back at him…he was looking at Bobby in the dim shadows of the darkened bag.

Whisper thanked them for her gifts and Grendel heard her running off down the street…penny loafers clicking with each stride. The Tall Woman said something to the Tall Man, her words grinding every nerve of Its ears…all It made out was, “…return to the party.

The night was intermittent between different worlds and consciousness. It was in total darkness now. For a moment It heard a mother and father laughing…debauchery…festivities adult conversations…toward the end…“What is this…someone left a bag.” It felt the zipper coming loose.

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November/Issue #009 — [REDACTED] U.S. Gov. NSA — #217–41AB7 — Pursuant to Executive Orders 13618, 13636, 13587 & 13526 this issue has been entirely [REDACTED] by the National Security Agency in regards to sensitive national security information. Please inquire with your local government representative if you have any questions. — Agent 31b.

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December/Issue #010 — Remote Viewer(Atrium Carceri for Cryo Chamber)

It’s a disembodied entity…if you believe in angels and demons and God and all that shit…it is what it is…just like that dude we took out in Africa four years ago…that guy who wouldn’t die…so happens the sun killed his ass…explain that shit to me…cause our guns didn’t do shit…shit Marcus and his kungfu didn’t stand a chance until hulk opened a hole in the wall…” — Master Chief Donovan Sears said as he hit the table and the foam cups of coffee rippled the extent of his desperation.

Another analyst spoke up, “It’s not the embodied ones I worry about. Those other guys…no joke.” He looked down at the briefing report from April —

Report #217–41AB7:
Remote military viewer sees, “What he can’t unsee? [REDACTED] Nov…[REDACTED]
Done as a repo…[REDACTED]
What do you see [REDACTED]?
I am at these coordinates [REDACTED]. Otorten — mountain in Russia [REDACTED] — do not go there…[REDACTED] Ni-chebe-chii [REDACTED] Confusing coord…[REDACTED].
Assigned [REDACTED] That is not where we sent you to [REDACTED] what do you see [REDACTED]…
It is where the team is…[REDACTED]
What happened to their transport [REDACTED]
They were taken down [REDACTED]
By who [REDACTED]
By what [REDACTED] I’m not sure [REDACTED] something “e… [REDACTED] I can read the name [REDACTED]...t It won’t allow me to say it out loud [REDACTED]
What [REDACTED]…an you write it down [REDACTED].
Yes [REDACTED]…he wrote it down, verified)[REDACTED]
[REDACTED]…e recorder reads it as…[REDACTED] he is silent and passes the note to the Cornel who picks up the phone, “We have an event [REDACTED] yes [REDACTED] contact.”

“Do they speak,” the voice on the phone asked.

The Remote Viewer responded, “Yes.”

“What do they say…” she calmly asked. The room was silent…an over filled ashtray wisp-ed smoke curling itself in flowery representations…it curled itself over and over…long tendrils of poison everyone would partake in.

The reviewer was in another state, relaxed…the EKG clicked away…the heat, infrared, other wavelength cameras, and sensors monitored his calm — reflexive observations.

“Everything at once…in all languages…it’s more than words.”

Another analyst spoke up looking at other silent figures who sat in the dim-lit room. He looked directly at Sears, a smug glance at the Trident on his fatigues, “You’re not cleared for any of this…”

The woman on the phone spoke over him, “We need you to go back to the April index…Coordinates: 40°5′11″N 105°56′11″W / 40.08639°N 105.93639°W / 40.08639.” The sound of papers rustling and coming to rest echoed from the speaker and off the walls. No one moved…Sears knuckles whitened, still firmly pressed on the table, his muscles tightening. The analyst looked away and toward the Remote Viewer.

The Remote Viewer spoke up, his reading becoming erratic, “They knew I was there last time. They looked right at me and called me by name. I’m not going back out there…”

Sears moved quickly, pulling out his gun and put it to the Remote Viewers head, “The shit you’re not!” He looked at the rest of the room…the Remote Viewer was only responding to questions, “Look superstition, science, whatever this is…We’ve got men down who need support. We need you to go back in damnit!”

The General in the room asked the next question to the woman on the phone, “Tell us what you know. What they’ve confirmed…no more of this conjecture crap.” He looked at the SEAL, “Sit down Chief.” He holstered his gun and shook the table as some of the men in the room flinched…those who did not, had seen worse…but they understood.

She spoke with a firmness that hinted at sexuality, only for the purpose of garnering attention. A hard habit she had refined and used in the presence of many men of power, “There are 293 identified, non-human, entities, we’ve identified in the last 200 years on file…with over 200 unexplained beyond natural physics…and of the remaining most are non-native to earth. Basic worst parts of fairy tales, science fiction, and horror rolled into one…some wicked stuff gentlemen, in our world…We’ve had a handful of close encounters…”

The General stated, “Look. Whenever I walk into a room I have a plan to kill every person in there, succinctly, and with as little effort as possible. We need to know what we’re up against. Do they have any weaknesses?”

She aptly replied, “Uniquely we’ve found heavy water to have a solid effect on many of these anomalies. Although our last encounter, the one now in question, all preparations failed.”

Another analyst asked, “How many did we lose. What was the percentage? The White House wants to know.”

Sears spoke up, “All of them…they were overrun by…by…I can’t explain. It was horrid. Last thing we have is a sit rep with screams.”

“Send him back,” She said.

“Where are you,” The Recorder laying next to the Remote Viewer asked…both were synced in breathing, heart rate, brain waves. It took two to remote view. One acted as the tether, the other as the traveler.

“I am at position second contact: 131,” His eyes rolled back. He clasped the arm rests, nails digging into the foam, slowly whitening, creaking and specks of blood forming at the strength of the cramping of his hands…The Recorder mimicked his response.

The woman on the phone said, “Verify.”

While waiting for a response…noticing the looks, another analyst in a white smock spoke up, “All reviewed positions are logged by the Remote Viewer and tagged. Anyone traveling can find this exact position by this name, whether or not it’s tagged with coordinates…think in four dimensions. Think of the Viewer and the Recorder as a perceived-self, the two become an entangled consciousness.”

“Verified. There are two entities here. They are watching me, they know I’m here,” the calm was gone, and abject fear rose through the sensors as registering levels became unreadable.

She asked what everyone was thinking, “Who are th…”

“It’s the old woman again, and another female, I need to leave, she is staring into my soul,” The Recorder flatlined and doctors began working on her.

“No. You will not leave. Stay where you are. Ask who the second one is…we’ve talked to the old woman before.” She never raised her voice, she led men, and when she spoke her confidence demanded they obey.

“The Northern Witch, the old woman told me. She wants to talk with Sears. Says she remembers him. Please let me leave, the Witch is smiling at me. She is touching my face!

The long cut opened below his left eye…then along his jawline…his vitals began fluctuating.

The General went to speak…The Remote Viewer shuddered and shook…he did not scream…he simply froze. His body became hard as ice…his angst frozen. The last breath vapor that became a rose of smoke mixed with the other smoke in the room.

From the darkness, the far corner, emerged the old woman, she looked at the men, she walked to the table, she smiled at Sears and sat next to him. No one moved…She turned to the SEAL and said, “Hi Donny, we just got done checking in on Sandra.”

“Oh now, now, she’s fine, got the whole host of heaven at her feet. The Witch she’s a hoot, I’m going to clear the earth of you…that’s all, that’s all she conveyed. Think she was going back to play with some more army men.” She smiled and laughed.

The woman on the phone spoke, “What are you…”

“Just a lonely old lady.” She smiled at the nervous men. Sears eyes weakened. They all felt the darkness in the room…the weight of her noisome presence.

“Do you have a name?” The woman’s voice cracked.

“Not one you can pronounce Helen. I just wanted to get acquainted with you all. Let each one of you know I am just a call away. No need for all this fuss in the future.” She got up, and no one moved…the doctors and nurses, the analysts, the general and the SEAL sat dumbfounded and awestruck… “I’m going to use your door this time gentlemen, got a few people to say hello to on the way out. Oh and Donny…” She leaned in close to him. She whispered into his ear. Tears flowed quickly and heavy as she spoke, “Now, now sweety…make a decision. Be quick.” His reddened eyes looked at her…his face wet.

He reached up and ripped the trident from his chest, he placed it softly in her hand, “That my boy, was unexpected. But you got yourself a deal.”

She walked out the door and could be heard exclaiming greetings to everyone she met as her voice trailed off…the room remained still…though the soft sobs of a Navy SEAL could be heard…

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January/Issue #011 — Mama Claudia (Old Dark Hymns —Telegraph Canyon)

I t reached it’s nail across the window sill…saying to no one in particular, “I love the idea of something being born.” It gestured its eyes to heaven…maybe just the ceiling, “…just being new is so wonderful.Though it spoke, and the words were perfectly inflected…the language was just a well written book no one could understand. It was unique to a divine culture…where be it, no comedy…the effect however was not lost on anyone. No one was watching. It was playing. And here be the hint of playmates.

The smell of death had gone into the paint and walls…over months…permeating decay…forever…what had happened here could never be washed…or cleansed. The world soured and become noisome. It was death…there is no amnesia of memory…no ability to reluctantly say what had happened…hadn’t. Pores of sanguine pools would sweat if cold blood, darkness, and pain could perspire under such conditions.
There are no creaky floors in these hospitals…if there were “it” would find them…

She looked up at it staring again at her…appearing from the darkness…only warning is the babies beginning to stir and cry. Shortly: that noisome smell…almost overcomes. The permeating thickness and overwhelming quiet finds its place with the wailing… “Shhhh little one, mama’s got you.” She pats and hugs…rocking in her chair never taking her eye off of it…looking down at the circle of salt she had laid around the nursery…singing softly she sits with the babies behind her…those left behind…still hooked up to wires and tubes…too small to travel…unwanted.

She had her baby given back to her those years ago, this time…these times her promise to God she would keep. He gave her back her boy…she swore to the God of Heaven…to always help babies…no matter the cost. She drove through the mountains…to get to the hospital when He called: the broken moon looking down. Remembering: In 1914, members of the Arapaho tribe were brought to the region in a trip sponsored by the Colorado Mountain Club. The tribe members spent their youth in the area and were asked to offer the Native American names for the various peaks, lakes and other geographic features in the area. They called the range Ni-chebe-chii, which translates to Never No Summer. Locals eventually settled on Never Summer Mountains for the range.
Lay your requests before our Father. He will listen. Do what He asks of you. Show your worth. — She believed.

It looked like an older man…carried a pail each time it stopped by…it started the incessant tapping on the window sill again. “Can I have one today? Just one…” It came, staring at them several times a day…from the darkness she could see its gleaming teeth through that crooked smile.

She knew it didn’t want just one.

She began speaking loudly, “Oh Lord almighty. King of Heaven and earth, I call upon you to protect Your daughter. I am a princess in Your Kingdom. Father God, send the mightiest of Your warriors to protect these babies.

Monday’s are hell it thought. Always have been, always will be it seems.

She sees it is staring…not leaving again, through the glass…rapping long nails on the sill. It just keeps asking, rapping on the sill, whispering echoes in the empty halls and rooms. “Shhhh, little one, mama Claudia has you.” She says this over and over…The baby quieted. She never took her eyes off its face. She spoke the only thing she could in dark times, when and where fear would, and should be. She was not valiant alone.

The scriptures, truths…spoken, invoked unseen strength, resolve which brought a warrior…who stood on the edge of heaven, who he himself at Christ’s beckoning threw fallen angels to hell.

She stood and walked among the crying babies…they began to calm. She turned and began reading aloud the scriptures…

“Galatians 2:16‭-‬20 — Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

“Shhh,” she said to the little one, “Mama’s got you.” She rocked in her chair and prayed. “Evil will not come into this nursery! God bind you and cast you out.” She turned back to the babies, facing it, and sweat poured from her.

It spoke, “No dear. Evil didn’t come into your home…it was invited in…”

The babies all cried…especially when it was near. The other one who came walked in regretted silence…but his smiles were sweet. He held a sword…

It turned to look and said, “I know, I know…I’m leaving.” It said, “Damn you woman. Like clock work here he comes…put it away…I’m moving along.

He was a man once…so was God. He hated these kind the most.

She noticed that it turned again talking to the swordsman. Rapped its nails one last time with a screeching scratch.

The swordsman walked through the halls…He spoke the Voice of Heaven, The proclaimed words of the King, “So go deep into that darkness. An honest voice is louder than a crowd. In our Father’s house are many rooms. ”

He unsheathed his sword and it barred its teeth, huffed, picked up the bucket and continued up to the ward. It cussed and swore under its breath…

It spoke and swore while walking away, “I am eternal!

The Angel said, “So it goes. Aren’t we all…

The old woman. Looked up…Mana fell softly on the floor, its fragrance filling the room…and at her feet was the milk and honey she found each day…she thanked God…the soldier took his knee and spoke kindness and peace to her as she soothed each child. She fed them all and took her place back in the chair…between it and them…he was no man and she knew it…and she knew he didn’t want just one.

The babies all quieted at once…she turned her attention to them again and noticed the bottles of sweet milk at her feet were refilled…the manna had always come since that first night, the milk, the butter, and rich honey was welcomed. She smiled and took to her knees, thanking Father God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. The swordsman took his knees and prayed with her. His hand resting on her shoulder. His eyes trained on the dark corridor, hand ready at his sword, the two eyes stared for a moment then disappeared as they always did.

She wondered about her son and if he was able to get into the house on Beaver Street. She wasn’t going to be coming home…but she figured if he made it to Granby…he’d have come looking for her…he hadn’t.
It stopped the scraping and said again what it always said from the darkness, “Just one. Just one.” It had retreated…speaking from the darkness where she couldn’t see.

The swordsman spoke after him, “It is now written, you shall no longer speak.” The cursing stopped and Mama Claudia tended to her babies.

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February/Issue #012 — Sons of Man (INFIDELIX — Anthem of the Lost)

Sin is the same anywhere you do it…it’s the depletion of moral character…the measurable affect of negative behavior on your social spirit…the recordable losing of ones soul. Whether or not you do it here, or there, pick or choose, or go all in. The parts you accept and don’t turn away from are the weights and restraints that keep you from freedom.

As a man walking down the road…becoming a man…finding his way is joined for a time by God and the devil…for different parts of the journey…and the slow progression of growth from both experiences. The deplorable absences between, when left to one’s devices…with no one else to blame, here I am before both good and evil, with neither fully responsible, or as responsible as oneself

:::On Tonight’s Daily News:::
“Welcome viewers — Following the celestial catastrophe regarding our satellite, the Moon, weather catastrophes, looting and rioting and unexplained deaths, the United States Military has enacted a mandatory curfew during nighttime hours. During the past few weeks, law enforcement started the process of culling all criminals incarcerated in America and the other super powers followed suit. Russia, China, and many other nations have completely exterminated anyone of questionable moral natures.”
In a breaking development the ACLU working in conjunction with the “Working Government of America and NATO” has worked out a more humane way to deal with the criminally insane and handicapped. — An insider, and government FEMA official went on record with us last week. Subsequently we have learned he was forcibly removed from his position and his whereabouts are unknown.”
He told us, “Methodically they had emptied out the prisons. The insane we housed in wards in different regions and areas, to systematically be euthanized, however, in the most humane ways of course.”
“And that was how?” The reporter asked the silhouetted figure.
“We ran out of bullets. Humane then went out the window.”
“Are you telling us they were killing American prisoners? How fast did this happen?”
“Quickly. Clubs, hammers…eventually they used slaughter houses as the equipment was already in place to cull cattle. It was a logical plan. The workers were placed under guard and forced to help the military. There are thousands of fields of bodies.”
“And what of the empty FEMA camps we’ve been shown by the government.”
“Of course they are empty.” The trains drop them off…within minutes they’re stripped, and dead…we were handling thousands daily…very efficient.”
:::More at News at 11. Stay tuned.:::

She leaned over and told him. “David, The same story is played out all over…each as equally as here…song unto themselves…as well orchestrated tales. Planned from the beginning and chillingly left up to fate.”

Damn he hated her…nothing they ever do ever shuts her up. He remembered his surgery…on the cheap, just a few years earlier.
He sat and sighed…the television droned on…
No anesthesia, just some straps and a gag, to muffle the screaming. Not even a damn local…said I wouldn’t remember it anyway, waste of funds. Guy was an idiot…he missed severing the connections of his prefrontal lobe…if anything, he was more focused now…didn’t really change anything except his ability to curse multiplied by 10. Transorbital lobotomy, unique experience having an eye popped out.

He laughed and stood up, “Guess it’s time.” In interactions with patients, he refused to use expletives…he destroyed people with verb and adjectives…and when at all possible, which was usually so, with the truth. He had mastered appositives and their nature. He never talked in front of staff, , except this old woman. She was a damn hoot. Reminded him of…someone…or something…yeah cancer, she was like cancer…taking forever to kill someone just because it can. Staff figured he was fine, which resulted in no meds, which dull the mind…he was a planner and needed all his faculties. Besides, he had others he goaded slowly into doing what he needed done.

“Well since my name’s David,” he proclaimed, “I’m the king.”

An old man screamed out, “What makes you in charge!”

“I ’ m k i n g b e c a u s e i t s a y s s o i n t h e b i b l e. So defacto, presidento gentlemen.” He eyes the room and they noticed, the orderlies had left, the doors were locked. Even the soldiers were gone. Through the walls they could hear the banging and noises begin.

The noise was growing as all the patients came from adjoining rooms, looking toward the locked doors. Even the “Well-Wisher” stopped and looked. David hit mute, the wind howled from the North down from Granby. It was not the wind that was fearful, loud, and growing. The increasing noises and wailing grew with the lessening of the light, as the sun dipped below the mountains. The youngest of the mentally damaged looked around bewildered.

David said, “Well Ginger, they locked us in…no getting out unless we go down that hall.” He pointed through the glass to the doors that led to more doors…and possibly freedom.

Whining again the young man asked the same silly question he asked every-time, “Why do you insist on calling me Ginger?”

David, perturbed, and subsequently undeterred by the slamming and banging, the beginning screams of the worried and fearful mentally insane, stopped fiddling with the doors hinge pins and looked the boy in the eyes, “Damnit, I already told you, you have red hair, like the lady on that show. The people on the Island…Skipper too…etc…etc.” He turned back to his task and let the pandemonium of the room unravel around him. He had a door to get through. “Dang what was I thinking.”

David grabbed the oxygen tank set it in the old man’s lap, he rolled him to the door, she was whispering in his ear about life, the precious nature of it…yeah he knew why, to slow him down.

Not because she cared about old people.

The Well-Wisher looked at him and David shrugged, yeah he had time to unravel him and put him back in his bed. David however had decided a “McGiver” was needed for this situation. He stacked all the oxygen tanks around the door. The mentally insane ran around the common areas, screaming and crying…some laughing…some hurting and taking advantage of each other…“Typical,” he thought. He yanked the wires out of a light he found on the nurses station, stripped and wrapped the wires around the tank, walked around the corner, knelt down, shoved the plug into the socket.

The building shook. Ringing in ears gave way to the distant crying of people and babies. David saw him standing at the end of the dark hallway…he was carrying a bucket. She whispered in David’s ear, “Better run…he’ll eat your soul like he ate the others.”

Looking outside David saw the horde of lifeless bodies, ebbing their way toward the hospital. He realized quickly he better move further into the building. “Cafeteria people. Anyone who wants to live follow King David.”

Walking slowly around the burning walls, the openings gave views to disembodied shadows…playing between the swinging lights that carried themselves on the wind, and lit intermittently the destruction and potential compressed oxygen and electricity could unleash.

Those with enough mental capacity, followed David. They walked briskly past the man with the bucket. Hollow holes, where eyes should have been, followed them as they moved past.

“I’ll be seeing you.” It said. The young man whimpered as it looked at him and smiled…those awful teeth, that awful smile. They all looked away except David.

Going through the hospital, they moved past and through surgical rooms…David remembered, yes, he had been a surgeon, a damn good one. But that was before her, and losing them. Back before the “crazy.” Back before “he” went away. David didn’t say anything…but he had a good retort in his head for himself, “Before what…before I went crazy. I didn’t go anywhere. This amazing experience found me brother. Yes, I am a surgeon. Are we…

The explosion echoed through the canyon that followed the Colorado River, on up East, then North where lies the Never Summer Mountains, being worn down by rain, frost, and ice…the crumbling bones of a range that is no longer rising, but succumbed to its inevitable ends. The final stages of demise, of that pouring of effort against gravity…where no longer, would sheer will and techtonic voices reach up the earth — to touch the heavens.
Never Summer — always set where there is sign…when trapping. Make sure to see and visualize what you are hunting. The darkness gave the imagination reign to see what it wanted…No simple case of pareidolia in this experience. Large explosions and smoke signals pave the way for horrid responses. Evil, drug itself out of the shadows, manifesting, roaming, intent on particular purchases. Pareidolia is a psychological response to seeing faces and other significant familiar visions, and everyday items in random places. The moving shadows were not apophenia, they were not random, they had form, they were crawling and creeping toward the hospital…they moved slowly, methodically, with reason…because they were real…which is when people, had any been available to see and measure, would have seen no patterns or connections in unconnected data. They would have seen evil converging…no place for science, maybe a priest — but then again, the church was already represented in a number of ways…

The last room they entered was locked, they again needed keys. “Is there no logic in this damn adventure! How can such a small building have so many damn rooms with locks!” From down the hall, emerging from the soft light of the nurses station…between hanging doors, a man walked up to David, his steps echoing, the sound of the wind, and what was in the darkness outside, mixed with crying babies — the steps became a chaotic metronome. He said to David as they sized each other up, “I know you: You know God. You’re David.”

“Why yes I do, and yes I am,” David said out loud. The others just looked at him…waiting. He fumbled with the locks…the monologue continued in his head. David had found God, and he was viscous about others believing…the man had a sword, which in all honesty, David had seen before. “Not my first rodeo with you guys,” The last one he saw with a sword was years ago…and she was angel: she told him so.

“Who’s he talking to?” A middle-aged patient asked.

David stared at him, his eyes folded to the floor. David, starred at her, she wasn’t talking. She walked off, never taking her eyes off the man. She sat as far back as she could in the shadows.

The man said to David, “The innocent cannot be harmed by these kind…they were the worst of all the creatures…but the innocent could walk among them.”

David did not waver or tarry — He grabbed the simplest mind he could find. An old man named Javier, who really was crazy, he loved Easter and Christmas, and always told people he was 19, and that it was his birthday…the ladies would be bringing him a cake, and occasionally they did. “Hey buddy, it’s my birthday and I need a favor.”

“Anything for a king on his birthday!” Javier said.

“K bud, you’re going to have to go outside through where we came, and find the nurses station at the front desk. Open the emergency exit, go through and look for the keys on the wall by the front entrance. Can you do this for me?”

“Sure I can David, I mean King David. When will they bring your cake? I really do like cake. Sometimes they let me choose!” Javier was beaming.

David didn’t mind Javier, he was what he was…a boy in an old man’s frame. He lined him up and told him the directions the man with the sword whispered. She watched from the shadows, saying nothing. David was pretty sure he was an angel too…but he’d tackle that later, after he was out of this damn place. She was due for some silence…it builds charactershe told him that once.

Javier skipped down the hall, he sang Happy Birthday to himself. Rounding the corner, amid hapless bodies, and survivors gargled screams: They stood and hissed barking obscenities at the man…no matter how many times he asked about the keys, or the birthday cake…they gnawed and spat…his thoughts were clouded as he was of feeble mind…they could could not take him though they wished it…the angel that walked next to him carried a sword…written upon it were the names of the host of heaven…and every truth that had ever been, or ever would be…complete in the simplest of terms…the man whimpered…I must get the keys…I must get the keys…the angel spoke courage and guided him through those before him.

Maybe that is the biggest lie he could muster…David thought…being silent. Simply told through a truth. An evils proclaiming, using the expendable to do a work…God let me go back and he could be saved…so scary if true…so much the life’s work if not…he hated that he was here, that he had to be King…with great power comes great responsibility…he’d rather follow himself, well because he talked with God before…who better right. Right.

“Murderer,” she whispered after the angel left with Javier. The moment he woke in the hospital all those years ago, he was a changed man…vicious in a more primal way. He was no longer a murderer…he was something far worse. He’d be damned if anyone would deny there was a God. He hadn’t forgotten what the Son of Man told him. He would never forget…though she would try to make him.

“King David, What’s wrong with lefty over there?” Johnathon, a former reporter who had severe depression and anorexia said. He always asked obvious questions…but didn’t all reporters do the same thing, liking the sound of their own voices.

David sighed, looked at the old man he had accordingly named, then back at Johnny, “Said a witch took his arm…”

“For what?” He looked wide eyed back at Lefty.

“Some sort of tax…” He had met a witch once…one that likes to hang out with her. They showed up together once. That was an interesting day.

Their women will whisper stories, and their boys will believe fairytales about demons…and witches. He had read that somewhere once…in a book…a long time ago. They waited in silence.

________________________________

March/Issue #013 — Murderer (GUNSHIP — Pink Mist)

His thoughts were random, Denver was a mess, youtube blared over the computer on his dash, “Damascus steel came out of a secret mine…” he was watching more shows about ancient secrets…nothing better to do. He was waiting for his partner while she flirted with the boys in 7/11. His thoughts went intellectual while he watched her mind their eyes, knowing full well she was far worse than any criminal…

Someone taught you that..through action, or inaction…gave or conveyed an expectation of a norm…This is correct, or your form of what is acceptable.

No one falls through the cracks alone. No one completes their own karma, one is a culmination of others…so you see a sinner, or winner…they are that way because of what they were taught…what they are is the road they chose…that was forged as a dry riverbed before they even began…learned that from Jung…

Watching her, he thought she was, “As pretty as pretty gets…” She brought out a perfectly random philosophical nature he could not control…religion and morality…and the lack thereof. God does not forget our sarcasms…our deceits…or our mockery. He does not plan, nor does He employ hatred, or revenge. He only knows vengeance. He only knows the purity of equal response. Herein lies the vindictive nature of man: we ridicule the Greatest of Beings, then beset our own place and haughty delusions of grandeur in the universe with proclaimed non-belief among nonbelievers. Well placed is the game of destruction to call out for destruction with a being who will act in His own time and accept the delayed response as proof of nonexistence. Just because tomorrow will be your end, does not imply that today the mechanism of your demise does not exist. You can say all day, there is no spoon…yet the spoon still exists. There she stands…beautiful, destructive, and proud.

He’d been chasing the memory of an experience — trying to relive a moment that may or may not have existed as it does in his recollections. The memory of a call he could not forget. He was lost in thought, and perfectly aware of her extenuated strides…driving both those boys and himself a bit physically crazy. She knew it…and it made her smile.

“Oh those boys are rocking I tell you. Coming back after I get off work.” She said smiling, knowing it would piss him off. “Got to have some fun if the world’s ending…albeit as slowly as it’s going. Not like we have forever.”

He said, looking over his sunglasses, gesturing his hand in a climatic way to bring in all the surroundings, “Look around, Sarah, did you notice…what, wait for it…forever just started.”

“You and your damn surly attitude. Why talk about such things…” She rolled her eyes and sat down. She abruptly got out, walked around to the drivers side of the patrol car. “Get out, I’m driving.” She eyed him, and stressed the situation, “I’m tired of doing this with you. Get out. NOW.”

“Yeah, fine.” He got out, slammed her shoulder as he went by…The boys inside looked away as he stopped for a moment looking at his reflection in the window, he lightly tapped his index finger on the butt of his gun…they drove in silence to the next few calls. He looked up at the sky, remembering earlier in the day as he read an article:

Scientist @Startswithabang — Luna, however beautiful in the sky she would be, would be doomed. There are two ways Luna could be ultimately destroyed, and it all depends on how far away from Earth she ended up. Every planet has a boundary called the Roche limit. This is the area outside of which smaller bodies can remain whole while orbiting around a larger one — in this case, a moon around a planet. When a body crosses inside the Roche limit, tidal forces rip the body into pieces to form rings. This is how Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune got their rings. If Luna were pushed inside this limit, it would be ripped apart. When a body is inside the Roche limit, it is doomed to continue to fall into the planet. Some things take only minutes, others can take millions of years. Objects outside the Roche limit are doomed to someday fly out into space. The Moon is destined for this fate as it is slowly but surely drifting away from the Earth.

He hadn’t quite wrapped himself around a few billion years being wiped away…and the complete destruction of the moon. With so many cameras pointed up, and no one seeing a thing, there were plenty of suppositions and prognostications. Geologic to an impact…most of the models were inconclusive. The only real understanding was what you saw in the sky…the changing weather, and of course the depravity of men and women.

This morning he had handcuffed the mother, she had just smothered her daughter. Left her son watching cartoons in the living room. The door open…His partner had just checked for a pulse…they had found the little body covered in a blanket, stiff, the beginning smells of death in the room…the thoughts wouldn’t leave his mind. The boys anger when he told him he had to come with him.

There is nothing sacred about death…nothing unifying about the experience of life…it is an ending…a thief…that takes everything anyone had with it…a hoarding agent of demise…unwilling to share, and even crueler that it works with time to steal uneven memories…obscuring them with self-perception, proclamations, and pride. The robbery of life and spirit…no, there is nothing sacred about murder…or murderers…or accomplices…unwilling or compliant. Death, his followers, his devoted…all deserve what they are…but they will continue to consume…all, everything written here will be forgotten…or attributed to other thoughts…

As he walked back to the apartment, alone, waiting for the medical examiner, he had always believed the dead deserved to be guarded, watched over out of respect. It is an odd feeling when a child does not stir, or breath. Her small hand hanging out of the side of the crib, the soft smell of urine…the father in him wanted to change her diaper, but he knew he couldn’t.

“Who does this sort of thing…” he said. They had been fighting and he quietly wiped away tears…Sarah simply said, “Fd up man…fd up.” She walked out as the radio chattered, she eyed him letting him know that professional courtesy police give each other when the other needs a moment, “Got to get outside to get this, static” she said pointing to her ear.

Alone he held back sobs and just stared at the covered body. He started and half fell to the ground pulling his service weapon as the shadows stood up before him, there It stood. It starred at him. Looked at the child, then walked over to his shaking hands. It knelt, and smelled him with the force of a large animal. It breathed him in for a long time as he shook. He eventually closed his eyes and turned his head away, he waited for whatever would come.

“What part of heaven are you willing to give up,” it said to him…it hissed. It waited and said again, while kissing his cheek, “What part of heaven will you give Us…for you?

His mind flashed to the day before, reading his wife’s journal. She thrust it into his hands after he told her he was seeing someone else…that he loved her and the kids…that he was sorry…that he couldn’t keep it in anymore…
“No, you didn’t want to suffer alone!” she had screamed, “You’re narcissistic and wanted to blame your portion on me. I didn’t leave this marriage. You did!”
“We all have our transgressions, some are just more public than others…” she had written in her journal. She made him read all of them after he told her what he had done. She made him coffee, the way he liked it. She told him to keep reading…through his tears he did. He realized the love he’d kept from her, she redirected to writing…to capturing her hurt — a transcription of loneliness.
“How can I say anything about the person you did these things with…without saying I or me, or letting you in on the foundation that was us…it can’t be done…or undone — I’ve known for years. I’ve seen her look at me…through me…seeing what we had and what she wanted that was ours. You were happy not being caught, not being judged, or found lacking.” The pages were covered in tears…it was painful prose…he had caused.

Oh you’ve got secrets,” It mocked…, “I can see ‘her’ and sweet, sweet pain…written in those pages.” It eyed him over and over waiting. A single thumb nail bit deep into his neck, “Speak, or We decide for you. What part of heaven!

“I give it all…I give it all!…I give it all…” he sobbed.

“SAY IT AGAIN!” It screamed. “LOOK AT US!”
Wet fell on his face. Heat, and death, cajoled self-preservation.

“I give it all…” he said to the shadows…he looked into its darkness…and saw through it the child…he was broken.

“What, give all to what?” Sarah said as she rounded the corner. She saw his gun, him slumped against the far wall. She didn’t know to goto him, or not, but in the end decided to step back around the corner, pulling her own gun. “Look, James, I get this is a crappy situation, babies always are; but babe, you have got to chill the f out. I’m going to back the hell out of here, not sure what you’re doing, but I can’t do ‘this’ anymore.” She backed down the hall, meeting the Medical Examiner on his way in. She said loudly, “Bodies back there.”

James stood quickly, holstered his weapon, and dried his eyes…the sweat hiding his tears. He looked back at the body, then to walk out of the room. It grabbed him, deafeningly against the wall, whispering, forcefully like a new lover, “You said it, your heaven is Ours.” It released him and fell back into the natural shadows of the room, becoming themselves again.

The M.E. asked, “What was that? That bang?”

James walked by, “Babies in there.” He didn’t look back.

Sarah stood by the car, her dark brown hair always works…definitely a turn on. She walked up to him and embraced him. She kissed him deeply and passionately, she didn’t care. There they stood together as one, for just that moment, the world didn’t exist. She moved back, her lips next to the indent on his neck, her warm breath, goose bumps and a slight shiver, “Now lover, didn’t that break the tension.” He loosened his embrace…knowing full well he was a failure. Sarah didn’t mind, she was a failure too, she just embraced it — fully:

It was this sadness he found so beautiful.

Sarah smiled at him, threw him the keys, “Got your man-card back, guess you can drive.” He caught them in the air. The next thing he remembered was waking up laying in the gutter. His face wet with blood, water, and the myriad of fluids congregating between the street and sidewalk.

He worked to sit up. Sarah’s body flailed between the two vehicles…screaming, and screaming…a horrid yell he had never heard come from a person…the M.E. had come out of the house. He dropped his bag, pulled a syringe, took a liquid from a vial. James thought how insanely calm he appeared. She wretched as he grabbed her, thrusting the needle into her neck. Her jerking and screams subsided. The M.E. supported her torso, he reached to her radio, and called for a bus. He began rattling off medical jargon.

He saw the slender frame of the shadow come forth after their wreck…collecting bones…he turned away as it passed to her…he did nothing…he reserved no strength to fight for anyone but himself…he was a true narcissist…

He remembered Natalie’s words…every last one. He was her heaven…she had said that… “Oh Jesus he thought.” It was everything he could do to stand. The other driver was gone too. He could tell…some old woman…smiling no less.

The M.E. said, “James, you need to sit man. You’ve got a broken clavicle. Pretty sure your legs out of socket. Sit.”

He thought of philosophy…of Kafka…of the book he tried to write once…he fell as he tried to stand. His arm was numb, his hip popped and he screamed. He looked up, the ambulance arrived and the M.E. shook them off of going to Sarah. She was smiling…starring at him with cold dead eyes…like the baby was…like the old woman.


Nat caressed his hair — “Hey babe, you’re safe. They got your leg back in. Shhhh. Hospitals pretty full, got a plate on your clavicle, but they need to discharge you. Chief’s going to drive us to a pharmacy…he’s going to make sure we get home.” She smiled and was genuine.

“How long…” he asked trying to sit up.

“Four days babe.”

He fell back into darkness. He heard the familiar clanging of police gear, and careful hands moving him into the back of a cruiser. He could feel his little ones, smell them…he felt safe. The drugs were good enough that he only remembered her bringing coffee and the odd noises of packing and drawers.

“Babe, comon, we got to go hun,” her and the kids helped him into of all things, a wheelbarrow. He laughed, half out of humility, and the necessity of his wife…she always did what had to be done:

The necessity to pack came about from a sense that it should be done…similar to nesting…but flight in mammals was a primal action linked to the reptilian brain…
He was reminded of the book he read about a hermit. The day he decided to die, to move from everything earthly…to journey into the unknown and away from man — …“everything I own should be sorted and ready for the journey…even if they would not be accompanying me. Even my own body would be left behind. I decided to bath it…apply some lotions and oils…cut my nails and combed my hair. Sitting on my bed, waiting to the end in my quiet room…I eerily waited in silence…my life not playing back…the loss of unfulfilled dreams did not cause doldrums…I sat and waited as people often do…the next I knew…I knew not that I was gone…and there was nothing weight-able to claim I had been or had gone…other than the lifeless man who sat comfortably on his bed. I stood up, and walked out into the sun, lifeless, lost, and happy.”

The bumping and banging were downright humorous as two toddlers and a petite woman tried to push him through a house to the garage. “Did you get the guns?” He asked through winces and chuckles.

“Yes we got everything that would fit in the Yukon. Even your SWAT gear.” She smiled and helped him into the truck. “They even insisted on the pets.” The kids smiled back.

Johnathon said, “That’s why I’m your favorite daddy.”

Susie said, “Thought I was your favorite.”

Natalie said, “Don’t you know dad’s always tell their kids, that they are their favorite.”

They all laughed and she closed his door. For a moment the silence and aloneness of the situation bit into him. He was unsure if the pain was his shoulder, his hip, or his fear of the shadows he watched his family disappear into and from as they grabbed the last few items.

She got in next to him, “We’ll go to that place near Winter Park, Sol Vista, in that little town,” She looked at him as he groaned. “You okay baby? Are the stitches okay?” She caressed his hair.

“I’m good, not looking forward to the drive. We good on gas?”

“Yes, Johnny was a smart kid and went through the neighbors sheds when they left and got their lawnmower cans,” she smiled at their son…her family was her heaven…and she was his. James was her life. She could look past anything…and she did.

He hated that he needed to get his wife and children to Granby, but their was no other place to go. He still had keys to the old woman’s house. He and Sarah would sneak up when they knew she was gone…yes to sin…to do evil. And now he didn’t know anywhere else to bring them. They’d be safe there…he’d have to explain all he’d done…to them, to himself…not that he could ever explain the why. But, maybe he should keep everything to himself…could they even make it.
Would she even go…if she knew…he decided he’d never share all he’d done.

He had murdered the soul of their relationship…made a deal with darkness before and after he knew it was real…March 14th he lost his morality, his soul, and solidified his faith, knowing there was a God…because he had seen evil Itself. He had failed to know God through His beauty, but instead would know Him through the knowledge that no part of heaven can accompany him to hell and no part of hell can we bring with us to heaven…Lewis said that…Lewis was right.

She pulled out of the driveway, easing between vacant vehicles on highway 70…the roads were deserted…a battleground…they drove alone into twilight of light snow.

________________________________

April/Issue #014 — Separations Hostility (MSMR — All the Things Lost)

They drove up and around a thousand switchbacks. Orders from the Denver office and FEMA command. They’d been bringing “Important” families and officials back to the Air Force Academy for weeks. Now they were looking for Levi, the former President’s son…they all knew Levi…he’d be hiding in plain site, as usual, probably Winter Park, probably the same place—

He was still wrought with the pain of the last time they were sent to find Levi…telling a boy, his father had been murdered…assassinated…and that he did nothing to stop it…that he couldn’t…bigger fish to fry the FBI had said…mouth shut, eyes wide open…Quantico, VA was an invigorating place when he had been there as a younger man…he just now realized the promise and dream of law enforcement is not the same reality of the continuous trade that goes on between good and evil…who are both out to the best of their own endsdespite the other…both are relatively the same…one is sanctioned by society the other not really sanctioned at all…which is really the only difference other than crime, and criminals being better organized. What was happening now was not crime…there were no ends to be had by men…just endings from what he’d seen.

Tornado scars, Berthoud Pass down, everything had been leveled the week before…Microburst is what they called it…the radio started up and his ear hissed, popped from a collection of elevation and poor radio signals…static and a click… “Sir, we have confirmation on SAT, SEAL team three thirty clicks out. They’ve run into similar issues.” He chuckled, “Guy said they were Team FUBAR.”

“Hostiles ?” Leonard asked. He knew the answer.

Car one, Scott chimed in, “Confirmed.”

Leonard thought…The night, if forever, just further proof. From a book he had read some time ago. Those lurking things in darkness. Seem to come with hard times, just gets worse…like tides. He looked at the shattered moon…with her she had brought out the brokenness of this planet…and her people.

The sun rises and sets for everyone. There’s money to be had...Washington must run, and politicians to protect…The way the sun rises and sets is different for everyone. As unfair as death. As the defining moments of timing…the shrewd nature of what we had when we leave all behind. Far more respect for the man that lays bare everything and chooses to be free beforehand. He says honestly to the world and its forces, there is nothing here but me…and if I am taken…nothing to return to — I was, and am now: free.
Mr. Leo as the men called him, even Presidents, was free. He’d left everything for her when he was assigned to Denver. They both knew things were over, but they were friends. He made sure she had weapons. Keys to everything. That she knew where the extras and particulars were. He didn’t mind her new friend had come to be with her. They got along alright…wasn’t personal, just was. They loved each other, and had just fallen out of love. She hugged him, told him he was loved, and mouthed, “Thank you,” when he looked back before driving off. She deserved more he thought, for those years he was away…for even now, choosing service over her. The country needed him, so many younger agents would stay knowing he had…they told him as much. Everyone was given time to situate families, and then return…ninety-two percent return rate for his office. Not bad. Not bad at all.

It was the end of a storm…fingerprints of the microburst were all over…amazing how a storm chooses and picks which trees it will destroy. Some areas left untouched. Inside out tornados pretty similar to their counterparts…indiscriminately destructive. Mr. Leo and his men walked up toward the courts. They had parked a bit down the hill to approach quietly. A former presidents son…nothing really important…important nonetheless…apparently. The boys were laughing and playing basketball…the agents approached with guns ready, but not out…just incase…

Mr. Leo walked toward the basketball courts, like any older gentleman on a stroll, he hacked and coughed a bit, the elevation was getting to him…that all to familiar headache was setting in. Levi held the ball and his friends stepped back as he walked up to the boys, “Sir you need to come with us.”

Levi asked him like one does a friend, “What…why? I’m no one anymore Mr. Leo.”

Another agent touched his ear, immediately the agents from down the hill drove up, with two humvees in tow. “Now sir! We’ve got to go!”

Turning in unison, they raised their weapons at the tree line…young men who moments before were playing a game of basketball retreated to the vehicles and were forced away by the agents. Leo grabbed Levi’s arm and ushered him into a humvee that had just rolled to a stop. They had their package. The others sighted the trees…two fifty caliber guns joined the wait as Leo talked with the Lieutenant who jumped out to usher Levi in…they exchanged greetings and a handshake as another SEAL peered through binoculars…the boys still near the court looked on with nervous laughter…laughter that descended to silence…they heard something coming…thunder without the lightening.

Mr. Leo turned, his watchful eyes still purveying the tree line, “How’s it going today sir?”

“Hulk, Team FUBAR. Formalities aside sir, you’ve got a serious group of unfriendly visitors on their way. We just outran them coming in from Kremmling,” He sighed while watching the same tree line down toward Fraser…the small river was the only noise beside the wind rustling empty branches.

Mr. Leo loved all jokes, sardonic humor was never lost on him, “Got to dig that name.”

Hulk replied, “Worked all morning on it sir. Really took my time with it. Wouldn’t even let the boys help.” He smiled as did Mr. Leo. “We got the call a few hours back, grabbed an Ospry out of Coronado, experienced an event, had to bail out and spent the evening humping out of Kremmling, after a chopper brought us a few things…just made it ahead of the snow.”

“An event?” Mr. Leo questioned.

“Something threw a gun safe through the front windshield of our plane a few miles up. That’s when we became Team FUBAR. Pilot was pretty messed up, got him out, but he expired before we hit the ground.” He kicked the dust a bit with his shoe. He pulled a package of Big League chew out of his front pouch, offering it to Mr. Leo who laughed and shrugged it off with a no-thank you. “You sure, strawberry, best kind sir…biggest bubbles.”

“I’m good.” They both laughed. Hulk, Mr. Leo decided, was trying to calm everyone down before the storm, getting everyone chilled out.

“Situation is, last contact with SATCOM, Pandemic…creepy stuff. It’s everywhere in the past few hours, Europe, Asia, everyone’s gone dark.” A few choice words came out of one humvee, Hulk turned and said to the window, “Sam, when you are funny, I will laugh…your jokes are crap.” He turned his attention back to Mr. Leo. His beard was humorous surrounded by the smell of bubble gum and a grimy face…he was a solid man, ready and eager to engage whatever was coming.

“Pandemic, creepy…so you’re saying…” Mr. Leo had turned his attention back to the tree line. Animals had emerged running past them, the memory of fire and misfortune embedded in their limbic brains. It reminded him of a fire he experienced as a boy. It pushed nature before it, at a feverish pace…just like what they were seeing — Without the flames…

The SEALs locked and loaded in unison, at once the attention of everyone came on board. The other soldier, Darius put the binoculars away and threw a glance toward Hulk, “Yessir, we experienced a supernatural event a few years back in North Africa. Called in to rescue an America pastor and his family from islamic extremists. Looking a lot like that day.” He saw the boys still standing on the courts, “You boys run home, lock your doors.” They took off down the hill, spurred on by the sounds of men checking their weapons.

“What happened,” Mr. Leo asked.

“Just met a guy who wouldn’t die. Took awhile to figure him out,” he hoped up on the side of the humvee and the last run of animals ran past them. He peered toward the tree line, then glanced longingly at the Frasier River, “Johnboy, see if you got anything from anyone.”

“Nothing Chief. Static, I mean Hulk Sir.” He immediately emerged from the humvee and started doing pushups with his one good arm.

Mr. Leo thought to himself, epic humor. “What’s your last orders? Last we heard we were to make contact and get President Hendrix’s son Levi to Granby for extraction. Which I’m gathering is you.”

“Right right sir. We got lucky in Kremmling and found these humvees,” Hulk said kicking the mud from his boots. He appeared sad for just a moment…then carried on.

It was then that under the mud, and the dirt, Mr. Leo saw what was blood and flesh. Caked into the vehicles was a mess. They’d had fought through hell to be here. It’s what real men do Mr. Leo thought to himself, what he would have done. “Casualties?”

“A few, good men,” chuckles from the humvee, “Watch it Sam, I’ll feed your hands to them if you don’t shut it.” He threw his thumb toward the rear, “Johnboy decided to feed one of them.”

An agent turned and told the driver…go, go, go! A series of controlled bursts rang out, the sound of the water and trees were lost…the sound of gunfire engulfed everything.

And they did…thunderous claps and booms of guns rang in the rear as they swerved down from WinterPark…Mr. Leo stayed until the cars were all rolling out. Unimaginable he thought as he fired through the windows and pursuers fell. Some yelled obscenities…others growled…some were not men, some had been men once…they drove faster and got on I70…It was here that the valley was full. A massive horde moved in from three sides, cutting the FBI vehicles off from the Humvees that moved toward Granby. Darius looked back as Mr. Leo emerged and lit a cigarette. He watched and dropped his binoculars as the agents engaged what he still could not classify. Lots of paperwork was all he could think…

…lots of paperwork.

Hulk saved his bullets…they drove on, the FBI did it’s job and slowed down their pursuers. He dumped Mr. Leo from his memory, as he did with all dead men. He wasn’t angry or proud, or full of false bravado, he just didn’t have room for that much pain. Johnboy watched in awe as Hulk blew bubbles and cussed as they peppered his beard. “Check your gear boys.” And they did.

Walker nodded off, dreaming of Africa and the night before —
“Charlie’s in the trees Master Chief,” Sam said.
Hulk whispered back, “Nows not the time for that horse...”
Johnboy cut cut him off, “Sir, serious the trees are moving…we got company.”
Darius piped in, “Go FLIR, Somethings out there…it’s not the only one.” The tree line was moving.
Hulk said, “Okay guys, we’re shooting for the hospital over there, we’ll get in, lock it down and regroup.”
Walker remembered Africa — The soldiers had one of them tied up for them…This was shaping up to be like that night, the one they had in Africa…it gnawed and bit at them, and it could take a punch.
They moved quickly between the buildings as they were pursued, they could hear bipedal and quadrupedal movement. Other noises they couldn’t place but they kept silent. Moving from building to building and vehicle to vehicle.
The snow muffled their journey and the wind helped to hide them as they reached the hospital. Racing inside they heard the first pursuers reach them. Isaac turned and dropped the first few that came in through the blown out wall. Tatt, tatt, tatt. Short controlled bursts. “Hey boss he yelled, these guys are getting back up!”
Hulk yelled, “Fall back, fall back!”
By now they had spent the better part of the night leap frogging between open patches of high desert and trees, the morning was frosting the riven skies with its return. They ran past a room of patients locked in, Psychiatry posted above the door, written in shoe polish, “DO NOT UNLOCK.” Past a man staring at a vending machine, “Hey guys,” he said…Johnboy swore he heard him say something about cake.
They moved into the kitchen area and into another area with double steel doors. Everyone close to the doors pulled them in hard, Johnboy went hero — his fingers slammed in the space of the door. The others pulled the door tightly as he screamed. From outside, powerful hands pulled and tugged at the steel. The handle cut their hands as they did everything they could to not allow it to pull from their grasp.
“Jesus! They’re eating my fingers…” Johnboy screamed. The groans and sounds of others filled the room beyond the door. The sound of babies crying was far off but audible, Johnboy’s screams, and the odd smells of a fresh pot of coffee brewing and soup…all these things muddied the senses.
Hulk reached up and with one final half squat, leveraged yank, brought a screaming Johnboy into the room. He immediately jumped to the handle and reset his foot against the wall, the door creaked shut, but not before one of them fell in with them. Five Navy Seals pulling with all their might were able to get the door shut, Hulk switched the dead bolt, and they collectively stepped back raising all their weapons on the door. Darius hammered whatever it was with all his might. The baying gave way to horrid sounds of licking and slurping…heavy breaths poured from under the door, and Johnboy as he laid there, could see eyes peering back as he starred from the floor.
“I see you…I see you.” It bayed…and the thunder against the door ensued, “I want more!”
Hulk checked his chamber. The others followed suit. “3o minutes until daylight gentlemen. Remember Africa.” He did not lower his weapon and kept it set and ready.
Johnboy wrapped his belt around his wrist. He stood as best he could, bowed up his chest, bit down on the end of the belt as he pulled it tight. He looked at Darius who leaned in with the burning end of the flame thrower igniter, the blue white flame held steady, everyone knew what they needed to do. Johnboy never screamed, the smell of burnt flesh filled the room.
Sam said, “Leave it to Johnboy to ruin BBQ forever.” They all burst out laughing…even Johnboy who was bent over, breathing through clenched teeth. Sam leaned down and said, “You gunna eat that?” He pointed to a pinky that had fallen in with them.
Evil grew quiet as these men erupted in laughter, the commentary and humor died down. Isaac and Matt lifted Johnboy back to his feet, loaded two guns and placed them in reach. They got him against the concrete wall. They were ready.
They noticed they were missing Brando. Outside in the snow, having taken the only route he could, Brando had decided to try and make it to the two humvees he saw at the end of the street. He was cutoff by a man who stood solid against the darkness.
Brando figured this was it, and this was no man. It walked and talked…but something was off…very familiar. “What do they call you,” he said as he stripped off his gear. They stood in the street across from one another. He noticed the nails, and the gleaming teeth, the tonsure shaved top of the head. The frock…whatever it was wanted to be a priest. This was no man of God. There was no religious manner about him. “I’m ready to meet God, you ready?” He was 205 pounds of muscle, ready to go a few rounds. He stretched and popped his neck, no clue what he was up against. But he was unafraid.
“Damn son…you’re committed,” It smiled circling the soldier…knowing full well he’d help him find his maker.
From inside the hospital they heard the shots: Tatt, tatt, tatt. Tatt, tatt, tatt. Tatt, tatt, tatt.Tatt, tatt, tatt.Tatt, tatt, tatt. Then silence. It could only have been Brando. Hulk thought, he emptied his magazine. Good control.
They watched the floor as whatever Darius had beaten began to slowly reform. Darius said, “Oh hell no.” He stepped forward as everyone stepped back and flamed it with the flamethrower. Instantly the sprinklers kicked in. “Well, I didn’t take that into account.”
They stood in the sprinkling water, and like all good SEALs, they welcomed the cold. They were survivors.

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May/Issue #015 — Navah (Crystin — Something I Can Never Have — Cover)

The ugliness of all our moments combined…when we lecture during silent times…wondering why we are where we are…looking in…seeing only the broken and disjointed…never the one inside who caused what you see. People love to delude themselves…to imagine being better than they are…to any extent to be beyond what they really are…far from innocent.

“It is not the Divine right of men to appear human…it is only Divine that they live in service of God’s glory…that’s what His book is about…every word…every page.” He thought long and hard about his mother’s words…why he left…why he had to come home.

He stopped in Winterpark for gas, hating the individual taxes these cities charged people. The trunk took his vision…he changed in the bathroom into his flannel shirt, jeans, boots, going to be a long night…might as well change now, he knew where he could hide the body near the Fraser river. The duffel bag sat frozen in the chilly air, just laying in the trunk…the snow hadn’t followed down the pass…the sky had opened up. He hated the moon…a sad sullen light…a poor mirror he remembered from somewhere…He wasn’t feeling well.

His gaze had gone hazy as he drove down from the pass…through, Winterpark, Tabernash, Fraser and down into Grandby Ranch, before Solvista. First right then another onto Beaver Street he swerved. Down the massively inclined driveway, slamming into Mr. Bear. He slumped and jerked his senses enough to stagger out of the car. Retrieving the bag from the trunk. He slammed it closed. Pushed the driver door walking back, then reaching behind the wooden figure for the spare key…he was not himself…his hand was bleeding from a small cut he got from the woman he’d hit. He knew instinctively he had to cover his tracks…he wasn’t thinking right…his hand hurt, and his head was spinning. It wasn’t the booze or the pot. He wasn’t high anymore. He was feeling sick…he had a fever maybe…he opened the door, and instantly he was hit with the smells of his Mama…she was at work he knew…down in Kremmling…he was home. He tossed the bag to the right, near the stairs.

He looked in the mirror as he slumped in the front door…really unsure why he brought in the bag with the woman in it…looking in the mirror, he was unrecognizable…

“Not the same boy I was last time I looked here…” He said out loud thinking…not a man either. Something worse.

The tragic trade-off of oneself with the aspirations of what-if…the tail-end of the fruitless gains of society. Having it all…really? Not everything he had hoped for…and the transitive nature of his reflection was not lost on him…nor the thud of the bag on the foyer floor…201 Beaver Street, Granby, home…he was homewasn’t this place also hell…but he could barely stand. His hand ached from the cut…a fever had set in…he could barely see…he slumped to a knee, turned his back to the wall and fell against it…sliding down into a heap. His eyes gazed through the glass storm door…he saw the foggy lights of a car…figured it may be police…not much he could do since his arms were cement…his mother had told him about French Polio once…maybe this was that…whatever it was, he was stirred back.

“Hey there young man, would you mind inviting me in,” said an old man who tapped the glass, then tipped his hat and adjusted his glasses.

“Go away old man, I’m not buying any Amway. Don’t need Jesus…” He squared himself against the wall unable to do anything.

“Oh, now son, you look to me in need of both, more so the latter here in the next few minutes,” he smiled and steadied his hand on the latch…but he didn’t come in. “Hurry now…don’t tarry there youngster.” He licked his lips and moved his eyes back and forth steadily, calmly, with an interested gaze.

“Like I said, don’t need your damn cleaning producccctz,” his speech slurred, his head fell to one side, and as he could only look where his gaze fell, he noticed the elbowed movements of “something” moving in the bag… “Jesuusss,” he mouthed.

“Doubtful, very doubtful young man. However if you’d be so kind as to allow me passage in, maybe we can strike a bargain,” he smiled and looked down to his hand on the shiny latch.

Everything the light fell on was bright and shinny, his Mama sure knew how to use lightbulbs…he always took a few out to save…she had them all in…too damn bright he thought. Things had gotten weird, he realized he might be dying, or about to die…fear had set in…he asked the man, “You some demon here for my soul…” Barely able to keep his eyes open.

“No, but thank you for the offer. I am here for you. But that’s a longer discussion than you have at the moment. I can however help you with that.” He pointed, then smiled as the bag slowly zipped open, an extended arm reached through and pulled quickly back into the bag.

“Oh dammnn,” he whimpered, “Yeshh, come in!” And he fell into a darkness as the storm door opened…

When he woke, the old man was kneeling next to him. “Here drink this,” he said.

He pursed his lips and instantly spat out the heavily laden iron taste, “Blood…what the hell is this!”

His eyes were clearing…and the thirst threw him forward…repulsed in his mind…to what he was doing…his body did not respond.

He was in the throws of instinct. Instinct said to drink. But, he managed to stop. Curling on the floor in agony. “What did you do to me! What have you done!”

“Oh it’s not what I’ve done. It’s what you’re going to do for me.” He stood up and looked in the mirror, adjusting his hat. Smiling. “Come now, drink up, being thirsty only makes it worse.” He smiled and pointed to his flask set on the table under the mirror.

He had every part of himself involved in not going for another swallow. And though he had strong fortitude, his hands on their own moved to get him climbing up. It was then he locked eyes with something watching from the shadows of the stairs…it was hershe was supposed to be dead…he’d made sure of it. It was then he noticed the walls…and the room…scratches…and blood…and everything overturned except the mirror, the small table, and the storm door.

She whispered, “I want him back…

He shuddered as the man put his finger up to quiet her, “Now listen here little lady, you had one job. You done your duty, as I did mine. Now off with you before I feed you what you really don’t want to eat.”

He stuttered fighting his urges, “Wwhat are you?”

“Oh no matter on those things now. Now however, you should never put mirrors across from one another, goes with reflective surfaces like glass…really makes my job so much harder…harsher even. Hate reflective doorways.”

His back was against the glass as his hands pulled him up to standing. He caught the glimpse of the Bible sitting on the table. Some of his sense came back to him…he remembered…

The old man looked at his gaze, smiling he said, “Now, boy, you strike yourself into many parts by bringing up the past…I can see it in your eyes. Don’t start invoking heaven into this moment!” He stood taller and stronger than he had looked yet. “I do not have time for your petty reminiscing!”

For the first time in countless years, his Mama’s voice came into his head. Call on God. Anytime, anywhere, and He will send His Angels for you. “Lord God, it’s me. Your Son, I need you.”

The old man stormed into a rage, screaming, the lights blew out in marked cadence, a few at a time as his words blew through the room like wind…the storm door shuddered and banged…then it too shattered. “Damn you boy, and damn your God!” His eyes were hollow and black. And he cast no reflection or shadow as the lights blew out…he became the shadow, he was the darkness.

He was the reflection of the man in front of him…what he had become…what he was…what he was running from.

Those eyes leapt from the darkness toward him, moving quickly up and around the stairs. But both of them stopped short, slinking back and away from a new light that stepped from the darkness…

The figure spoke, it spoke scripture, standing over him as he lay, thirsty, waiting to be devoured, it stood and spoke, light emulating from his hand, “Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people — that they would become a curse and be laid waste — and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.”

“I will not listen to you speak these words here! This place is mine! He is mine! She is mine! The old woman is mine! All of them are mine! You will not silence their cries.” He bayed and screamed from the shadows, from the hallway…down away from the lanterning light of the hand that stood proud and full. He would not come where it shone.

“You are done here, this one is Mine says my King.”

“And what do you say!” He screamed from the darkness.

“I am the servant of the God of Heaven. Go, and speak no more.”

He heard him walk past, not saying a word, grabbing the flask. His lips thirsted, at the rattling of it from the table, he slightly sang and whispered as his breath met the night air, “There’s still time for you young man…still time…still time.” The car door shut and the engine left it’s pounding around the end corners and ebbed away as often engines do with the mountains and her valleys.

The figure leaned down and spoke more scripture over him.
He fell into a calm sleep, slowly, as if in a dream he could see the figure descend down the stairs, his hand raised, with all of glory shining it’s brightness through the darkened hallways…down into the walkout basement. He heard the glass shatter as she moved away from it out toward the small pond and Grandby…he thought, anywhere but here…anywhere but near me.

He heard footsteps and feared, groggy, sick, thirsty…

“Do not fear, so your Father has told you — Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”

He sat next to him in the twilight…shining, speaking scripture, and softly singing a song he could not place, or repeat, but that his heart knew…He stayed holding his hand, the one he had cut. His touch was warm…and soothing. He was soon asleep. It was the first time since he had left years before, that he felt safe.

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June/Issue #016 — Pihoqahiak, The Ever-Wandering One (MISSIO — Bottom Of The Deep Blue Sea)

Coming Soon…

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