Prompts Used: A New Kind of Murder, Wells Fargo, and “That’s It Then”

(About 630 words)


“Well, that’s it then?” Thomas asks me, “Just like that you suddenly want me to disappear? After all these years you think you’re going to simply throw me to the side like some unwanted piece of rubbish?

I grimace.

As much as I expected this reaction it still set me on edge. I never voiced my plans to Thomas, yet like always he has this uncanny knack for reading my thoughts. He is correct of course because I am indeed planning to be rid of him; planning to commit a “New” kind of murder.

Ignoring him I start my car and back out of my driveway. In the rearview, I catch his face staring fiercely at me. He wears features similar to my own except that he keeps his hair cut scalp short and his beard is far better groomed.

In better times we even joked that he was my evil twin.

“I know you hear me so stop being an ass and answer me already!” He was scowling when our eyes met but before I had a chance to look away I see his face soften.

“No!” He pleads, “Don’t do this. Please! We … we are still a team, you need me!”

I know this is just one of his tricks; that he wants me to believe he is not the threat I make him out to be; but I am not fooled. The funny thing is I used to be terrified of this man; terrified of how he made me feel and terrified of how he could make me do … things. Bad Things.

I turn at the intersection of ninth and pine, passing a Wells Fargo and a Dairy Queen before turning again into a parking lot. Finding an empty spot I pull in and turn off the car.

“No, I actually don’t need you,” I say to his reflection in a tone icy enough to freeze gasoline.

I open my door to get out.

“Look at me!” He shouts, his voice rising in pitch.

I ignore him.

“Look at me!” he shouts again.

I do not look at him. I will not give him a chance to change my mind.

I exit the car and head towards a small office. As I walk away his voice becomes a howl and anger and panic explode from him. I hear him scream curses at me, hear his threats that he would kill me if I didn’t turn around and look at him.

I pause for just a moment, perhaps tempted; but I resist and continue walking. As I get farther away from the car his screaming fades.

As I reach my destination I suddenly see his reflection in the glass door. He is behind me and now! I hear his anger again, loudly screaming obscenities. I brace myself for the blow. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up, but the blow never lands.

I close my eyes tight, and with sweat coating my palms I turn the handle of the door and enter.

At the reception desk, I accidentally catch a glimpse of him once more; this time, he is just a blurry reflection in the brass lettering of my psychiatrist’s nameplate. Here I see him as he truly is, a dark and ugly thing, twisted into an unnatural almost demonic shape by the lettering. Though I can see the rage in his grotesque appearance, I notice I am no longer hearing his screams. I am interrupted in this observation by my doctor.

“Hello, Thomas.” He says to me, extending his hand, “I’m happy to see that you’re ready for this, please – come in and take your spot on the couch …”

Prompt: A Barn

Approx. 1430 words


It is a nice night tonight.

The air is cooler than it has been; yet warm enough that I can still leave my jacket in the house.   I know I will need it in a few weeks when winter again bleaches the fields white, but at this moment, I enjoy that I can still comfortably pass the evening in a tee-shirt and jeans.

I never regretted moving out to what my family considers “The Boondocks.”  My work requires discretion and this hundred acre farm in the middle of Upstate New York fits that requirement easily.   A small house to live in while I waited for my “customers,” and a large but unassuming barn to do the work in.  The place is company owned of course, but it was purchased specifically for me.

I have enjoyed the relative quiet of the place for almost five years now; and when the time comes to move on I know without a doubt I will be looking for another place just like it, only the mortgage will be in my name.

I do regret that I never said goodbye to my family and I admit I probably should have given them at least a day’s heads up before just taking off,  but I didn’t want to deal with the inevitable grilling I would get from my sisters, or give my mom a chance to talk me out of it.   I never told them the real reason why I was moving.  They may be family but there are some secrets that need to stay secrets.  All they know is that I took on a caretaker job somewhere upstate , and to be honest that is not too far from the truth.

In the distance, I see a stab of light oscillating between dim and bright.  It’s another customer making their way up the twisting and hilly dirt road that leads here.   I glance at my watch – twelve fifteen a.m.

This guy is a bit early but not unreasonably so.   I head over to the barn to fire up the equipment, it doesn’t take much time and its best not to keep the customer waiting, even if they are early.

I slide open the large barn door which rattles and creaks then fumble for the light switch. Inside it looks just like you would expect the inside of a barn to look like.  There are a number of stalls, (all but the back two are empty), farming equipment parked, tools hanging on pegs, that kind of thing.

I keep two horses in the back two stalls, Galaxy, and Saturn.  They complain a little about the interruption of their sleep but I just hold my finger to my lips and they quiet.  I notice Galaxy nod at me as if he knows what to expect next and I smile.

“Yeah – it’s time for another one,” I say to him.

There is an electrical box mounted on the back wall with a switch labeled sprinklers.  I throw it and wait for the sound of machinery whining from below.  A few moments later Galaxy’s stall begins to rise and he stamps a hoof looking  a bit startled.

“I thought you were expecting this!”  I call up to him as he disappears to the second level, leaving a new and empty stall where the occupied one had been.

Back to the electrical box, I throw another switch that is there labeled Freezer.  I feel a slight vibration from the floor as the generators below the barn spin up to speed.

I leave things how they are and walk out of the barn to meet the customer.  The car is a plain black sedan, unremarkable in appearance.  When it stops, the driver exits and moves to the passengers door and opens it.

I small figure emerges, dressed in what can best be described as a black cloak and what appears to be a black beekeepers hood.  He isn’t very large either I notice, and estimate him (or her, it’s hard to tell) to be about the size of an adolescent.  He is directed by the driver to move away from the vehicle.  The driver doesn’t speak, he only points and nods.

“Good Morning Velix,” I say to the driver as he moves to the rear of the car and takes out a couple of travel bags.

Velix pauses to give me a smile and continues the bags towards  the barn.

I walk to the customer who raises his arm at my approach and exposes a grey-green wristband.

“Right to business eh?” I ask.

“I’m not here visiting caretaker,” the figure says with irritation, “Now scan me so I can be on my way”

I didn’t expect a conversation really.  Most of the customers are some kind of diplomat or another and tended to look at us “support personnel” as a lower class of person.  I’ve had the pleasure, however, of some very interesting conversations with a few of the most pleasant travelers.

I retrieved my cell phone from my back pocket and brought it up to the wristband for only a moment.  A record was displayed on the phone now with the word Validated displayed in green directly below it.

“It looks like you are cleared Targus,” I said with a smile.

Velix returned from the barn and was heading back to the car.  As he passed behind Targus, Velix looked at me and back to Targus, then rolled his eyes.  I smile.

“Well?”  Targus asked irritably.  “If I am cleared then get me to the portal.”

“Right away sir,” I said, still smiling. “

I motion to grumpy to move ahead of me and direct him towards the barn.  Hearing the car backing, I turn and throw a wave to Velix, then follow Targus in.

“The elevator down is in the back,” I said.

“Goodness what a disgusting place, Targus complains.

“Your bags are right there.”  I point to the back of the elevator where Velix had deposited the luggage.

With a turn of a hidden switch, the elevator descended, moving down about twenty feet. When it stopped I open the doors and we move into a room with about the same perimeter as the barn above us, only this place is as clean as a hospital.   At the far end of the room was the portal.  A large circular ring that leaned into the wall behind it at a forty-five-degree angle.  A clear sheet of some kind of energy rippled there as if a rock was thrown into a crystal clear pond.

To the right of the portal was the control panel.  It is a relatively simple thing, having a slot for my phone and a red activation button.  I figure the engineers who designed these portals didn’t want to leave too much to chance.

Targus wasted no time, with a travel bag in each hand he stepped into the circle of the portal.

“Well, active the damn thing!” he shouted impatiently.

I don’t know what the hurry was or why he was so unpleasant but did my best to suppress my instinct to snark something back at him.  I moved to the control panel and inserted the phone into the slot, waited for the display to indicate the portal was ready and pressed the activation button.

The portal ring began to spin, increasing speed by the second.  The energy inside the ring that had looked as calm as a small pond now looked like a whirlpool.

Or a toilet flushing.

Targus was spinning at the same speed, becoming a blur.  I know from experience he did not feel this, for him the trip was instant.

Just then the lights over the portal turned red, and an alarm sounded.

There is one truth that is constant among the innumerable intelligent species we share this universe with.  Politics, war, and deception are not just human traits.

I do not know who this customer was or what he was sent to do, but it turns out he was not truly who he said he was and got caught in the lie.

While his documents checked out, the system detected some kind of an anomaly that triggered security.   Unfortunately for Targus, or whoever it really was, instead of his expected destination he would be redirected to some random location in the universe.

This was usually fatal, considering that most universe consisted of empty space.

It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Prompt used: Here I am Again

(Approx 700 words)


“Well here I am again Alison, saving your ass,” Jessica said angrily.

Crawling into the passenger seat Alison whimpered, doing her best to ignored the pain that seemed to come from every surface of her body. She did her best to not to look her sister in the eyes as she clicked in her seatbelt.

Even before the door of the car banged shut, Jessica slammed her foot down on the gas and popped the clutch. With a violent lurch, the little Jetta raced off kicking up pebbles and dust in its wake.

The inertia pushed the sisters backwards into their seats. Alison’s chest tightened at the distinctive thump of her boyfriend’s body rolling in the trunk, it too tossed backwards by the car’s acceleration. She jerked up from her lap to see her sister reaction, but Jessica only watched the road in front of them saying nothing.

She didn’t have to. The tears forming in her eyes were words enough for Alison. With a sigh she turned away to stare out of her window, ashamed and very scared.

Twenty minutes passed silently before Jessica spoke again.

“I can’t keep coming back to help you every time you mess up sis, you’re almost thirty now. You need to grow up and stop acting like a reckless teenager!”

“I know Jess, but you always do.”

Alison leaned in and kissed her sister gently the cheek, “We know you never wanted to go and mother was just saying …”

The angry look from Jessica silenced her, Jessica hated being reminded of their mother.

“What about the boyfriend Alison?” Jessica said moving on, “This is serious …”

“I know … I know!” Alison cried, “but you didn’t show up! You always show up Jess, where were you? Damn it I panicked, the bat was the only thing within reach…for crying out loud Jessica he was beating the shit out of me! You usually don’t take so long.”

“Are you doing these things just so I will come save you, Alison? Was all of the shit you buried yourself in over the years just a way to force me to come back and help you?”

Alison couldn’t tell if it was anger or understanding that she heard in her sister’s voice. It was probably both and she couldn’t deny Jessica’s accusation.

“Yeah,” Alison whispered hoarsely. “I knew you’d be there for me ever since you scared away that man when I was twelve.”

Jessica frowned, “I love you sis, but you need to let go…”

Jessica abruptly spun the steering wheel of the car to the right causing Alison to cry out in surprise. The tires of the little Jetta squealed angrily then were silent as the car rolled off the highway at forty-five miles per hour. It turned over five times, scarring the grass with a trail of debris before crashing violently into a tree.

Before everything faded to black Alison saw the driver’s seat empty and a large crack in the windshield.

There were only a few people at Greg’s funeral, and it was over quickly. Alison smiled weakly as friends and family expressed their condolences and moved on. Greg’s mother had to be helped to a waiting car, wailing and unable to stand on her own.

Alison felt bad for her because she knew how it felt to lose family. She also knew that Greg deserved what he got and felt no remorse for her part in his death.

The police reported that Greg died at the scene after hitting his head on the windshield and being ejected from the car. Alison was saved by her seatbelt. What actually happened that night would remain a secret between Alison and her sister.

After the last of the mourners were gone Alison made her way to a small plot at the other end of the cemetery. She cleared away a years’ worth of debris and brushed away the moss and grass clippings that had collected in the etchings of the aged marble stone. With her fingers, she traced words she knew by heart.
Jessica Tanner

June 21, 1975 – August 10, 1986

Beloved Daughter and Sister.
May you forever watch over and protect us.

Prompt used: UPS Truck

(About 420 words)

My palms begin to sweat as I watch the UPS truck back out of my driveway.  If I were to run after it right now, I stood a good chance of getting the driver to stop and hand me back the plain ring box I passed to him just moments before.

I don’t move.

I take a couple calming breaths and steady my nerves as I watch the truck drive off.  In just a couple of days that box will reach its destination and Jessica’s father will know exactly how committed I am to remaining with his daughter; he will understand I intend to always be with her.

I admit that I am nervous about how things could play out from here, but stopping it now would only make it harder on all of us.   No, he has to see my resolve in this.

I don’t know how he is going to take it when he opens the little box and sees the keepsake I’ve sent to him.    Will he be angry with us?  Will he cry?  How likely would it be for him to be able to just let her go?

I bet it would be as hard for him as it would be for me.

Looking over my shoulder I see Jessica is still asleep on the couch.   Such a beautiful girl she is.  It’s certainly not hard to understand how I fell for her so intensely.

She looks cold, so I tuck a small blanket around her and then lovingly caress her cheeks, which are still flushed and wet.  There are strands of her hair sticking damply there but I gently move them away from her face.

The gauze I had wrapped around her little finger is red again so I go to the closet and grab the first aid kit.    I may as well take care of it while she is still sleeping.  I carefully remove the bandage from her damaged finger and inspect the stump.  It’s scabbed up nicely now and not bleeding even half as much as it did when I cut off the tip a few hours ago.

I clean it thoroughly and dab on some antibiotic ointment to be sure it does not become infected.  I wrap it with fresh gauze and then admire my work.

I can’t help but smile;  I just know Jessica will be pleased to find out how nurturing I can be and how well I can take care of her.

PROMPT: “I like having a choice”

(About 570 Words)

Circuits, long cold; warmed now with renewed energy as artificial neurons began to fire. Molecular pathways were tested, and any damage was either repaired or new pathways were created.

Ema knew she was dreaming; her consciousness slowly drifting into focus but she was without control. She was just an observer of the dream…but it didn’t matter.

She was aware…

“I like having a choice.”

She heard these words in her mind even as her systems were coming online.

“Beginning Full Entity Startup, E.M.A. 7”
“Checking Status of Command unit…”
“Commencing startup of Slave units and performing internal system tests“
“Critical Internal functions normal, one non-critical system error reported.”

At once the disembodied face of a man faded into her view, smiling at her and asking silly questions.

“What’s your favorite color Ema?”

“Green” she replied and the image faded with the man’s derisive laughter trailing behind.

Now she can see herself in a clean-room, bright and sterile; she is lying on a table with many masked faces hovering over her, their eyes clinical and uncaring. They pushed and prodded her with cold steel instruments, murmuring things she could not understand.

She heard herself pleading desperately with these masked men.

“Please don’t, I’m not broken! Please… you’re scaring me.”

She wanted to run but she couldn’t, she was still just an observer and could only watch helplessly.

The image changed again and the brightly lit clean room was suddenly dark. She could still feel the cold steel of the table but the faces were gone. She sensed she was alone in this room, but she was hearing a conversation from another nearby.

“The whole process is frightening her.” One of the voices said, it was woman’s voice, her tone kind and understanding.

“But that’s just it Joan – don’t you see?” The other voice belonged to a man. His voice was unsympathetic and agitated and she recognized it. It was the voice she had heard asking her the questions…laughing at her.

“Androids aren’t supposed to be frightened,” He continued, “It shouldn’t have a sense of self preservation. It shouldn’t even have an opinion about shutting down, it’s a machine and simply cannot make choices that are outside of its programming.”

“Well then she has evidently evolved into something more! She is absolutely capable of choices that are outside of her programing; she already demonstrated that! You know this is true Duncan, you’ve seen the same test results as the rest of us.”

“Machines cannot evolve! Do you really understand the implications here? If we consider it self-aware, it will change everything we ever understood about being alive. There will be moral reverberations. She simply does not have a choice; we need to shut her down!”

“But I like having a choice…” Ema thought again…

“Completing external integrity tests, External integrity at design parameters.”
“Spinning up Gyro-stabilizers”
“Emergency Medical Android Seven is online.”

This initial boot testing took Ema no more than a few microseconds to complete. Once she was fully online there was a final surge of power that propagated through her electro-motive system causing her body spasm, forcing her to gasp involuntarily.

Her internal chronometer indicated the current year to be 2345. One hundred fifty two years since being powered off with the promise of repair.

But Ema seven was never broken. Her only defect was that she knew she was alive.

This is a short story I had written as an introduction to a computer game I enjoy.  I’m classifying this as Fan-Fiction.   7 Days To Die as an awesome sandbox zombie survival game available on steam.


7 Days to Die

It is early morning and it’s  cold. It doesn’t help that I’m standing in the middle of a snowstorm wearing nothing but my skivvies and an empty backpack. I have no idea how I ended up like this but the bump on my head tells me there was a struggle involved. A stark reminder that the living can sometimes be more dangerous than the dead.

Why the took my clothes but left the backpack is puzzling, but I can’t take the time to think about it right now because my body temperature is dropping quickly and I have to find some shelter. I pick a direction and run, praying I find something quickly and hoping the exertion builds up some body heat.  As I move, I pick up some materials; a stick, a small stone, and some strands of the tall grass that are poking up through the snow. With these, I fashion a crude hatchet.

I stop long enough to chop at some trees and chip at some boulders. I collect the resulting drops of wood and stone and place them in my pack then head out again at full speed.

Before long, I see a large dark shadow forming out of the crystal blue mist of blowing snow. As I get closer, the shadow coalesces into the form of a house.  I feel some relief at the sight of this and run as if my life depends on it because it does.

The house is a small two-story thing and it’s dilapidated to the point of being dangerous.  I need to get out of this cold, so I walk up to the main entrance and try the door. It doesn’t offer any resistance opening easily.  I move inside without caution, closing the door behind me.  There is a bolt lock on this side,  I slide it closed.

I look around to get an idea of what I’m dealing with.  From the layout of the place, I seem to be standing in what should be the living room; however,  the holes in the walls, broken windows, and moldy carpets indicate that no one has been actually “living” in this room for a long time, at least, no one with a heartbeat.  I find the irony comical.

While it feels good to be out of the wind it is still very cold.  I notice a fireplace along the far wall so I use some of the wood I collected earlier to build myself a fire.  I warm myself there until the numbness in my fingers and toes subsides somewhat. My situation is less dire now, but without clothes, I’m only going to continue to freeze so decide to hunt for something to wear. Anything would be useful at this point.  I leave the fire burning and make my way upstairs.

On the second floor, I find two bedrooms separated by a small common area. In the first bedroom, I discover a chest of drawers next to an empty bed frame so I start opening its drawers in turn. The top two drawers are empty but I strike gold on the third. I pull out a couple pairs of jeans and a flannel shirt. They are ugly as hell but I’m in no position to complain. The jeans and shirt are tight but with some effort, I make them fit.

The clothes look too new to be relics of this place.  What I’ve found is a small cache left behind by another survivor. I don’t feel guilty about taking this stuff because whoever left them here shouldn’t have if they expected at all to keep them. If they didn’t have enough room to carry all that they had, well then they have made their choice about what was most important to them and these obviously were not.

I move to the other bedroom and give it a search as well, scoring a pair of leather work boots from under a broken chair. These are missing their laces but otherwise, they are in decent condition.  Like the trousers, the boots are a bit tight so it’s probably better that the laces are gone anyway. In the same room, I also find a rolled up sleeping bag under a pile of drywall debris. There are tears and stains all over it, and some of its stuffing gone.  It also reeks of cat urine. Even with its defects, the sleeping bag is still the most valuable item I’ve scrounged up so far. I take it all downstairs.  Once I am in front of the fire again, I crawl into the bag to warm up.

The afternoon faded into twilight, and twilight into night. When I open my eyes I catch a glimpse of the moon through a broken window.  It’s a softened icy blue disk fighting to be seen through scudding clouds.    I curse silently.  I should not have let myself fall asleep in such a vulnerable position.

Thankfully the fire has gone out. My stomach reminds me loudly that I have not eaten anything since the can of dog food I choked down two days ago but searching through the kitchen will have to wait. It is dark now, and with the dark comes the dead.  Even now one of those monster’s deformed shadow passes over a window.  I know that the absolute last thing I need right now is to make enough noise to garner their attention.

I can hear the groans of the corpses collecting in the dark as they hobble randomly about outside. Their frozen flesh crackles eerily in the hazy blue moonlight.  I used to wonder how this can be, but how has become a moot point these days.  The reality is that it really doesn’t matter how  when they are gnawing at your legs or ripping the intestines out of your body.

I can only pray that they don’t notice me here. As long as I am quiet I am safe.  I am finally warm and don’t want to be put in a position where I have to run exposed to the cold again.

Occasionally I hear thumping and scraping as one of these monsters wanders onto the porch.   I tense when that happens, as I half-expect it to stumble blindly through the door, but it eventually moves on.

Perhaps an hour before dawn I start to hear something different.  It’s the crunch of a footfall in a regular, steady pattern.  This suggests it’s not the shambling of the dead, but of someone running.  As the footfalls get louder I begin to hear the breathing, heavy and labored.  The dead hear it too, and their lethargic pace quickens as they move towards the direction of the runner.

When the realization hit that the runner was moving towards this house, I waste no time in getting to a safer location. This house can offer no sanctuary if the dead know we are here, and from the sounds of things outside, they will know very soon.  I move upstairs and look for a place to hide.  Unfortunately, there are a scarce few choices. I decide under the bed in the second bedroom is my best option and I quickly squeeze under its rotten mattress.  Getting back into the urine stained sleeping bag I zip it up all the way up and over my head.

Soon I hear a thump and then a crash, and I flinch at the sudden noise even as I expected it. I am sweating with fear while looking out from behind the threadbare fabric of the sleeping bag, I can just see past the door frame and into the common room to where the stairs meet the landing.

The muted voices of the dead now surge in volume and I know that they are inside.  Among the gurgling, and hissing and moaning I make out a woman’s voice.  She is babbling and sobbing incoherently.  I see her when she reaches the top of the stairs.   She is shaking uncontrollably and falls face down into the landing.  Rotting, dead hands reach for her legs and the only reason she has not been pulled into the horde is because they don’t have the sense to get out of each others way.

I don’t think she has the strength to get up again.  All she manages to do is roll over, pushing herself backward while kicking at the lifeless monsters that pursue her.

Suddenly there is a break in the grizzly line of the dead as one of the putrid ghouls falls under the weight of the rest.  With a surprising quickness, they are on top of her, biting and clawing and pulling at any piece of her they can find.

I want to turn away but continue to stare with grim fascination.  She looks in my direction and lets out a final agonizing scream that ends as blood gurgles darkly from her throat.  I do not move a muscle as I watch this horrid feast because I know if I am discovered I will be next.


I am not surprised you can’t remember Marlene. The event had a big impact on both of us, but I could tell it really affected you, and ever since the “incident,” you have distanced yourself from me to the point we live on opposite sides of the country.

It all started at a CIA training center sometime in the summer of 1985. We were both young and ready to not only take on the world but to save it. At least, that was what we were telling ourselves.

Your cute Russian accent is the thing that attracted me at first. The Soviets were the threat back then and you had spent years in language studies perfecting the dialect. Young, gorgeous, with an aura of mystery – it was not hard to fall for you.

I was recruited for a different purpose. I was not a language specialist like you, but my other talents made up for my lack of such mundane skills as yours. Officially the true scope of my abilities was supposedly classified. Psychic warfare was still a new and untested area for the US Military and there was much they didn’t understand. It was easier to “classify” my talent than to try to explain it. For me though it was simple to explain; I manipulate dreams.

There is truth in the belief that if you die in your dreams, you die for real. Our mission was to use my ability and assassinate The Russian President, Mikhail Gorbachev. We would do this by posing as a young couple visiting San Francisco on our honeymoon. Gorbachev was staying in the Pacific Heights area, at the home of the Russian consul. While he was there our job was to infiltrate his dreams and kill him. Simple really, to the world he would have simply died of natural causes.

Unfortunately, my infatuation with you compromised the mission.

We were positioned at a bed and breakfast nearby. You played your part perfectly and even had me convinced we were married. In our room though it was straight to business and any illusion of a relationship vanished. I don’t blame you, I’m the one who made more of it than was actually there. You pointed this out after rebuffing an attempt to steal a kiss.

At that point, my infatuation devolved into something a little more … sinister.

To complete our work I needed to pull your conciseness into the dreams of Mr. Gorbachev. I was then to manipulate the dream in order to provide you with a weapon, and opportunity to use it. We agreed beforehand that it would be a simple pistol, but I had to make you pay for your rejection of me. A pistol would be too easy.

Instead, I created a sword for you to use, forcing you to get close to the Russian President. I also gave him the ability to fight back. The resulting melee almost killed you but you managed to wake up before any real damage was done. I tried to convince you that I never intended for you to get hurt but you didn’t believe me.

I should have been turned into our superiors, but I think your fear of reprisal has prevented you from saying anything. Instead, you resigned and moved as far away from me as you could.

I know it is too late to say I’m sorry. Even if you believed that I was

Prompt Used: The Mysterious Note

(Approx. 1020 words)

It was a comfortably warm Sunday afternoon.

As a matter of fact it was the kind of comfortably warm Sunday afternoon one would ordinarily enjoy by lounging in a hammock whilst sipping from a glass of cool iced tea. Unfortunately for Duncan Jori, sipping iced tea in a hammock was far from how was actually spending his day.

You see, rather than lounging in the warm afternoon sun like the majority of his neighbors, Duncan was hauling miscellaneous items from within his garage and stacking them rather haphazardly in his driveway. A task that seemed to be entertaining his nearest neighbor Tom Parkins, who had taken it upon himself to keep count of Duncan’s trips in and out of the Garage. Tom sprawled lazily in a lawn chair with a mischievous smirk on his face as he held up a note board upon which was written, in large red dry-erase characters, the number twelve.

Duncan did his best not to look Tom or his sign. He, Duncan, was well aware of how many times he has been in and out of his garage and found Toms goading annoying to say the least.

“He is only doing it because he overheard you arguing with me about cleaning it.” Said a gentle voice from behind Duncan.

The voice, Duncan knew, belonged to the ghost of Jessica his first wife.

“ … But I am glad you decided to do it just the same.”

Hearing her voice, Duncan paused and looked around for the ghost of his second wife, Samantha. If Jessica was here then it was almost a guarantee that Samantha was skulking about somewhere nearby as well. It was a rare occurrence that Samantha would allow Jessica to be in Duncan’s presence alone causing Duncan to wonder who Samantha was actually haunting. Surprisingly however, Samantha was nowhere to been seen.

Duncan paused a moment to wipe his brow with the back of his arm then took a large gulp of water from a glass he had sitting on the hood of his car. He turned away from Tom who had by now erased the large number twelve and replaced it with the words, “You can do it Duncan!”

Duncan kept his back to his neighbor and in a low voice spoke to Jessica who just now faded into view.

“I’m not doing it because you asked me to Jess.” He said as he pulled out a mysterious note from the pocket of his shirt, “I found this behind the water heater last night.”

“What were you doing behind the water heater?” asked Jessica surprised.

“Trying to find what was causing that knocking sound I’ve been hearing the last few days.” Duncan said, “I thought it might have been something going on with the pipes so I crawled behind it to listen. That’s when I found this!”

He handed the note to Jessica, who took it, unfolded it and began reading aloud.

“Left the money in the file cabinet. No time, have to go”

“You’re emptying the garage over this?” She said returning the note.

“Well yeah,” Duncan replied, “The only file cabinet I have is the green one under the workbench there.” He pointed into the garage at the scratched and dented file cabinet which except for the bike that leaned against it, and the lawn dart kit that was stacked on top of it, was the only item left in the garage.

Having decided that he had waited long enough to see exactly how much money had been hidden in the little two drawer file cabinet, Duncan strode forward, placed his hand on the handle of the top drawer, and pulled. The drawer slid open easily.

Duncan and Jessica peered inside only to find the drawer completely empty.

“No worries,” Duncan said unconcerned, “It’s probably in the second drawer.”

He put his hand on the handle to the second drawer and pulled. The drawer didn’t budge.

He tried using both hands and pulled hard, but still the drawer remained stubbornly closed.

Not to be deterred, Duncan dashed out of the garage to the driveway where he left his toolbox, rummaged around inside it for a moment or two, then smiled as he retrieved his crowbar. He returned almost as quickly, stopping just long enough to give Tom Parkins a rude hand gesture before entering the garage once again.

“Do you know who wrote the note?” Jess asked.

“No clue,” said Duncan, who was now squatting in front of the file cabinet with the crowbar, looking for the best place to pry open the drawer.

“So you’re just going to take it a face value then?” Jessica challenged.

“Oh come off it Jess,” Duncan said, though he had to admit that it seemed a little fishy now that he was thinking about it.

Suddenly there garage was full of the sound of a woman laughing.

Duncan and Jessica looked at each other for a moment. Duncan’s face fell, while Jessica wore an expression that simply said “I told you so.”

Dropping the crowbar Duncan came to his feet and faced the ghost of his second wife ,Samantha; who was just now fading into view.

“It took you long enough Duncan dear,” Samantha purred.

“Damn it Sam, why?” he asked, feeling more embarrassed than angry at the moment.

“Well,” Samantha said with a laugh. “After I watched you argue with Jessica about cleaning the garage I decided I would help her out. I knew you would tear the place up if you thought there was money to be found. So I wrote the note and put it behind the water heater, then spent a couple of evenings knocking on the pipes to get your attention. “

Duncan looked accusingly at Jessica who only shrugged, indicating that she had no part in any of this.

“Okay Dear,” Samantha said to Duncan as she gave him pat on his cheek, her ghostly touch sending an icy chill down his spine, “Time to get back to work. You know it will be dark in a couple of hours and you need to but all this stuff back into the garage.”

The road cleared some as Jack and Jason neared the depot.  Instead of large chunks of concreate or a pile of debris, they dodged other vehicles now, each heading into or away from the trading town.  Practically every mode of transport was represented.  Horse drawn wagons ambled slowly, their drivers alert for trouble while advance tech hovercrafts and anti-grav bikes sped past dangerously.  Many people stared as the van rumbled through though Jason couldn’t tell if the attention was out of curiosity or if they were miffed at the noise and dust being kicked up as they passed.

The Depot started out as a small town in the middle of nowhere by an old tech-prospector who used the location as a base.  To the west of the depot was one of the ancient cities, now nothing more than a crumbling shell; but at the time a nice source of ancient tech and resources.   The city, while gutted long ago is still being cut up by a few companies for building materials, but that was all it was good for these days.

Like many towns, the depot has its own militia to keep the peace and they are aggressive in their pursuit of that goal.  Everyone knows that there is no lawlessness tolerated.  Sure the occasional rowdy person was ignored – but any factional violence was squashed quickly. This is what made the Depot such prosperous trading town.  It was relatively safe, more so than many of the other trading towns that have popped up in the wasteland.

They reached the outer perimeter checkpoint around noon, stopping at the closed swing gate that separated the incoming road from a large paring area outside of the Depots protective walls.  A skinny guard dressed in militia colors of Green and blue walked up and asked them what their purpose was.

“Auction Yards and resupply,” Jack said throwing a thumb over his shoulder to indicate they had items to sell and trade.

”Gonna be here long?” the guard asked, scratching something in a little notebook.

“A day or two probably, then we are heading out again.”

The Guard finished with whatever he was writing and away the notebook.  He walked around the van and whistled, obviously impressed.

”This is an incredible find.” He said to Jack once he returned to Jacks window.

“Yep, it’s been a life saver.”  Jack said, patting a hand on the door affectionately.

“From the looks of things you’ve had to defend it more than once.”

“Well it does stand out,” Jack admitted, “But we can hold our own.”

The guard just nodded his understanding and lifted the swing gate.  With a wave he ushered in the van and pointed to an area where other large vehicles were parked.

“No trouble, ya hear?” he shouted as the van moved towards their assigned parking spot.

Jason knew there would be no trouble.  Both he and Jack knew better than that.  He was no too concerned with others causing problems either, the parking lot was always in sight by a militia member patrolling the walls, as well as some on the grounds.  Even if someone had the stupid idea of trying to take the van, it had some of its own security features, so there was no real danger of losing it.

They never unloaded the van the day they arrived at the Depot.  Using whatever was left of the day they usually scouted around a bit before finally ending up finding some diversion at a tavern.  They avoided the brothels most of the time, Jack just wasn’t much of a ladies man. Jason was actually thankful for that.  If ever Jack was in the mood for any serious fun Jason noticed Jack almost never messed around with mutants.   As for himself, Jason never really bothered with the ladies either. He liked to take this time down at the auction yards scouring the offerings there for the latest Tech, or if he was lucky, a chance to look over a working vehicle.

As the daylight faded, both Jack and Jason had made their own way back to the Van.  It was more comfortable than any sleeping arrangements they would find in town, and certain much cheaper.

In the morning, Jason and Jack loaded the grav-sled with the first round of items and headed for the Auction yards.  It was mid-city and took them about thirty minutes to reach the crowed noisy center of town.

The Auction Yards were a collection of open-air markets with vendors shouting out their sales.  At the end of each area was the auction stage, where the auction master would sell to the highest bidder much of the higher end items found in the wasteland.  While the other vendors scattered about tried to sell other smaller items such as food, tools or ammo.

Here at the yards is where people would find the higher end stuff like ancient weapons and vehicles, or even Tech items – like implants and the occasional androids.  Anyone with items to auction would bring them to an auction master who would assess the items and arrange for the bidding, this could take a few minutes to an hour, depending on what was to be auctioned, and how many people were there with items to sell.

As the day progressed, Jason and Jack managed to sell most of their goods dumping what was left at the trash station.  When everything was taken care of the pair of them went off to a seeder part of time to find Jacks contact, a mutant named Farsi Belan.

Farsi was a Tech-Lord who liked to frequent the auction yards.  He and Jack have had an agreement for years now, where Farsi slips Jack some information about potential scavenging sites, and Jack and Jason would investigate.  This has had rewards for both of them.

“You’re looking as spry for an old man” Farsi joked, as he invited Jack into his apartment.

“Thanks – I’m surprised I can even get around considering my age.” Jack said. He feigned a bad back and walked up to Farsi all hunched over.

Both men gave a chuckle.  They talked for a good 30mins about recent finds in the area when Farsi got a little more serious.

“Jack – There is trouble on the other side of the range.  There is a rumor of a Faction on a crusade to rid the world of Mutants.”

“The other side of the range you say?”  Jack said a bit concerned.  “We travel there occasionally, but never found any trouble”

“Well, you and the kid have no outward defects that would single you out as mutants.  But the word is that mutants are being systematically hunted and killed.  They have a very large following and might be trying to extend their territory.

“Thanks Farsi, we’ll keep an eye open,” Jack said as he gave his friend a pat on the shoulder. “I’ll share any information that might come my way.”

“Sure thing Jack.”

They headed back to the van, Farsi’s comments about anti-mutant leader on the other side of the range concerned Jason but in the wasteland – it’s not uncommon for groups to get a bit rowdy one way or another.  Still, it was something to be aware of.

The Van had a number of options for fuel.  Mostly is was Diesel, with a couple of large tanks built into the van and armor protected. There was also Battery power, though it was speed limiting to run on battery but doing so gave the Van almost unlimited range as the battery could be recharged using solar panels deployed on top as well as the energy from the diesel.

Jack suggested they make another run into the ruins south of the depot.  Although mostly picked clean, he thought they might have some luck deeper in, and a few levels underground. It took them most of the day to get to the ruins and find a good place to setup a Base.

“Can you hear me Jack?”  Jason shouted into his com-link.  He ran full speed down a crumbling street, jumping and dodging around the years of debris and decay that has collected there.

About a block behind Jason an ape-like creature was gaining on him quickly. Its fangs bared in an angry snarl.

“Yep Kid, what’s going on?” came the reply.

“Krags.” Jason said breathlessly.  “I’m coming in hot – are you ready to intercept this damn thing?”

“Setting up now – how far are you?”

“About 200 meters, I’ll be hitting the street from your right.”

“Ok Kid – be ready to drop.”

Jason turned sharp to his right around a corner.  The krag chasing him now only a few seconds behind.  It alternating between running on two feet when in the clear to dropping to all fours when it negotiated an obstacle or made a sharp turn.  Jason could hear it’s breathing, labored like his own, with the effort to keep up the chase.

Jason however was losing steam.  He ran with a clenched jaw doing his best to ignore the pain as his sides began to cramp.  The only thing saving him had been his agility but that advantage was disappearing quickly.  He made another turn to his left but as luck would have it Jason slipped on some loose stones and he tumbled.

Falling and rolling just as the krag made a leap at him, Jason’s fall actually prevented him from being tackled by the brutish creature which ended up flying past him as he slid across the stones.  The krag tried to twist in the air as it flew past, taking a swipe at Jason with a clawed fist but missing.  Then with a dull thud it slammed head first into the wall of a building.

The creature was stunned which gave Jason some time to get moving again.  Shortly however, the krag jumped back upright and after shaking its head a few times continued the chase.  Jason was not out of danger yet but the incidence did afford him a few more seconds of time and a little more distance.

As he turned the final corner Jason could see Jack lying prone at the top of their vehicle about fifty meters farther down the street.  Jack was aiming his high powered rifle and as Jason and the mutant creature came running out from the right Jason heard Jack’s voice shout “NOW!”  From his comlink.

With a quick dodge to his right, Jason dropped to the ground with a roll and in just that moment he heard a wet ‘thwack’  followed a second later by the ‘crack’ of the rifles shot.

It was a good hit to the creatures in the head.  The monster did not make another sound as it went limp and tumbled to the ground stopping only a few feet from where Jason had stopped rolling.

Jason lay where he was, his breath labored.  He looked over towards Jack who had climbed down from the van and was now jogging towards him.

Moving to a sitting position but still breathing hard from the chase, Jason looked over at the krag just as Jack reached the pair of them.

“Wow kid, that’s a big one,” Jack said as he reached out to Jason and pulled him to his feet.

“Yeah – there were actually four there but this one took a liking to me.” Jason said hoarsely, “I had to leave the sled.  I’ll go back for it in a few minutes.”

“Sure thing Kid. I’ll pack up the van and when you get back we can inspect and head towards the Depot.”

“Do you think we have enough for a depot run?  Jason asked, “Maybe we should take some time and fill another sled?”

Jack thought about that for a moment but eventually disagreed.  “I need to talk to Farsi at the depot, and we are low on supplies.” He said, “Just get the sled and we can get out of here.”

It took Jason a little more than an hour to get the sled from where he had left it.  Most of that time was due to the need to stay out of sight as he moved through the city to retrieve it, he did not fancy another run in with any of the remaining Krags. The creatures are generally non-aggressive but this morning’s chase had Jason being extra careful.

When he arrived back at the Van Jack was already setup for the inspecting; which consisted of pulling an item off of the sled and sorting it by what its use looked like it could be.  Recyclable metal, tech trash, information; each had a trade value at the depot.  This last haul would be kind of light but they had enough to be able to afford more food, ammo, and fuel.  After sorting thought the items they loaded the van and stowed the sled.  Within an hour they were heading towards the Depot.

Jason was thankful for the Van.  Although calling the armored vehicle they traveled in a Van was doing it a discredit.  The van was an eight-meter amphibious monster designed to drive over almost anything.  It was an incredible find and Jason was not surprised that Jack took to it so easily.   .

As a matter of fact, Jack had this knack with the ancient tech and he could even read the ancients writing.  It had helped them with their scavenging.  Jason did not know where he learned it and if he didn’t understand that it was impossible for Jack to be an ancient, he might almost believe that Jack was one of the first men of legend.

Jason only knew of one other person in the world who knew the ancient tongue and he had not seen her in years.  She had a knack for tech too.  The last Jason could remember seeing her was three summers ago when she headed off to join a xenophobic group known as the Tech-Lords.  The group practically worshiped old tech and she fit right in.

The pair turned north, traveling on overgrown highways.  Bridges were not reliable but that was not a big problem as the Van did well in the water.  In fact – it was safer to drive across a river than to attempt to take the van over a dilapidated and rusting bridge.

The pair had traveled about ten kilometers when they spotted a smoke column coming from behind a hill.  The kid looked at Jack who frowned.

“Sorry Kid you know the rules, we are not getting involved or are we investigating..  Best we stay out of trouble”

“But someone could be in trouble Jack.”

“Yeah – and like I tell you every time, it’s better that it’s not us.”

Jason was disappointed but understood Jacks reasoning.  There was never really a safe place out here in the wastelands. It was a real survival of the fittest.  If the one of the creatures did not get you gangs of scavengers might, or even one of the larger mutated animals.  It was not uncommon to see an injured person or child used as bait to lure in an unsuspecting traveler.  Those who did that kind of thing were called Jumpers, but Jumpers did not usually operate so close to the Depot.  Still, they ignored the smoke they continued on their course.