Terror in Transition

Click here for the past part.

 

A pool of hot blood steamed before him.  Robert rubbed his eyes.  Half because he could not believe what he saw, and half because there was steam and tears blending in his eyes.

He never thought his son would die like this.  He could still remember swaddling him for the first time, tiny arms fighting furiously against the soft blanket.  The smell of his son’s first massive shit.  Robert had taken time off to be home with his wife during the first few weeks.  Despite the anti-Elf insurgency campaign going on, he had taken the time.

Should he have taken more?   Was there nothing else he could have done?

Now there was nothing left but steam and a stain on the ground.

Tears poured out of his face like a terrible stream.  A constant trickle in the fading moonlight.  It was the dark time before early morning now, when the owls returned to their nests and the birds begin to stir.  A peaceful time.  The wind was chilly as Robert sank to his knees.

What had happened?  What terrible magic had created this moment?  He had never seen something quite like this.  Throughout all the campaigns, all of the guerrilla magics, all the barbarism… Nothing quite like this.

What were Tristan’s last words again?  Robert tried to clear the storm of emotions from the ocean of his mind.

“We are still not alone… There was a strange scream just now, not the men here.  What wa–” 

“…What was that?”  Robert whispered to himself.  The wind stirred in the trees around him again, but differently than before.  It curled around the trees.  The air tightened around him.  It grew thicker, somehow.  Robert felt a great pressure around him as he stood, grasping his sword before him.  He could feel eyes on him again.

He took a deep breath, and began to choke.  He gasped for air again, taking a deep gulp into his lungs and exhaling forcefully and gulping down more air in a desperate attempt to get a breath.  He was filling his lungs with air, but he could not catch his breath.

Something is terribly wrong, I…. I 

He tried to speak but no sound came out, and with each gulp the air was thinner and thinner and no matter how he tried to fill his chest his breath was wasted.  The air had changed.

Things grew darker, fading around his vision from the outside in.  He tried to steady himself with his sword as he stared into the darkening forest around him.  His eyes bulged as he stared straight ahead, seeing but not seeing.  Hearing but not hearing.

Did he see a smile in the darkness?  Did he hear that dry, raspy chuckle?  No.

But he did see smiles, he did hear laughter.

More than one… of… whatever it…

 

Darkness.

 

 

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Pale light.

 

“You need to get the fuck up, Lowman!!”

He sat bolt upright, and opened his mouth to react.  The klaxon blared over the obscenities he now mouthed at his bunkmate.

Fuck you, Kinsey

No, fuck you

Kinsey mouthed back to him with his nasty smile, revealing his missing and yellowed teeth.  He snored with his mouth open, too, filling their small room with the air of a rotten maw.

The captain came over the intercom.

“Attention, crew.  We are not safe yet.  We have been followed past the jump point by two Marauders.  Security staff, report to the cargo bays and assist with evacuation of the civilians.  Everyone else, get to your stations.”

There was a pause.  The ship was filled with silence save for the constant, distant hum of the engines.  The last humans all held their breath.

“I don’t need to remind you what is at stake here.  We all need to stick to our posts, and do our jobs.  Work together.  We will survive.  Someone has to.”  The sounds of a sniffle could be heard.  Someone on the bridge was crying.  The captain stiffened his back, unseen. “Get to the surface.  Evade.  Survive.  As long as we survive, we win.  There is hope.  Don’t give in!”   Robert felt like he had heard this somewhere before, but couldn’t place it.  It didn’t matter anyway.

“Never surrender” The two bunkmates muttered to each other.  Robert and Kinsey exchanged glances, nodded, and finished getting their equipment on.

The klaxon resumed, but it seemed farther away.


 

Cries could be heard coming from the cargo bays, even before they turned down that corridor.  The last children being comforted by the last mothers.  It was an odd sound to load a gun to.

“Make sure you keep trigger discipline this time, Kins.” Robert spat to him.  “We don’t want that shit to happen again.”

“Fuck off.” Kinsey whispered.  “But I understand, I got this.”

Robert felt slightly less better with that assurance.   There wasn’t much that we could do anyway if they got hit head on again, Robert thought.  He looked out the porthole as they walked to the beat of fearful sounds.  He glanced just in time to see the holographic projection pop out and fly next to the ship, it glittered beautifully as it came to life.  The stars at first shone through the projected light, but it became crisp and real.

“That shit ain’t gonna help us this time.” Kinsey muttered.  The step and squeak of their boots quickened together.

“You’re probably right man.  But we gotta try.” Robert said.  “You ready?”

The other squad was already there, and they nodded in silence.  The sweat from their collective brows could probably fill a decent drinking glass.

“Cut the klaxon,” Robert spoke into his radio. He never understood why they kept it going for so damn long.  After about 2 minutes of the noise, one would think that the officers would think everyone had gotten the message.  Not to mention the fear it must give to the poor kids.

He suddenly had a moment of nostalgia as the cargo bay doors whooshed open and the electric corral kicked into gear.  Crackling light held back the huddled masses of desperation surging forward.  One face in the crowd seemed unemotional.  A gray, wizened looking old man stared directly at him before disappearing in the amorphous crowd.

Robert couldn’t help but think of cattle.

 

tales of a travelling salesman final

 

Thanks for reading!

Let me know what you think!  Thanks for sticking with me, friends!

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Bathing Betrayal in Blood

The corpse of his bodyguard stood headless across from him.

The blade materialized into the hand of the carcass, and in one fluid motion it lowered its level and darted toward him.

Robert saw the puppet’s strings now, a slight light in the dark.  The light of the moon gleamed off them as he took a quick breath.

Would it be enough?

Robert pulled his sword back and steeled himself.  The body ran nearly parallel to the ground and its feet moved fast.  Impossibly fast.

Blood spurting from the neck stump, the puppet swung up — then straight forward in a fencing thrust.

Fuck.

Robert had already committed to the upswing, bringing his sword over and down at the wrong angle.

Dropping a foot back in a hard pivot threw out his knee and avoided the thrust of the corpse puppet.  Mostly. The sting in his side was nothing compared to whatever the hell happened to his knee, which screamed at him in agony.

Where is he – 

Another person appeared near him, behind him.

To the right..? 

A blade appeared at his throat, to his dismay.  Then, it fell away.  A limp body collapsed behind him.  Slowly, very slowly he turned to look and saw his son.  Much older than when he last saw him.

“Tristan?”

“I have news, m’ Lord”  He tossed a blade with the flick of his wrist into a bush nearby, and the bush screamed and out slumped the puppeteer.

“… Maybe call a healer first.” Robert grunted.  He stared at the dead puppeteer. an elf with a raven emblazoned on his forehead.  Green eyes staring angrily in death.  A strong glow emanated from Tristan’s hands, snapping tendons and miscellaneous sinew back into place, rippling visibly underneath his skin.  Robert grit his teeth and grunted in agony, to the delight of the darkness around them.  The coppery smell of blood lingered in the air.

Invisible hands rubbed together and ancient lips licked, smacking loudly — but Robert couldn’t hear.

“Thank you.”  Robert when did you learn that?”

“That’s what I wanted to tell you.  The news I mean.”  Tristan grinned just like Robert and more often than Robert.  Normally it irritated Robert.  A laugh came naturally from both.

“I do have other news, sir.” Tristan narrowed his eyes.  Even his curly brown hair looked more serious.

“One half of the Ravens is willing to talk terms.”

They’re willing to talk?  And half?” Robert scoffed.

“They’re not monolithic, sir.  Many groups tire of the fighting and are willing to talk.  Probably half of them want to use this as a ruse to kill some of us.  But the other half of that –”

“So, maybe 1/4 of them is willing to talk?”

“But it is that small group that is important.”

“No…Impossible.”

“It’s exactly who you think it is.  They survived…” He stared intensely and paused, gauging Robert’s response.

“…However”.  Robert exhaled forcefully through his nose in a half laugh.

“However… they want a marriage.  And familial rights to the council.  Seats on the Senate.  Votes.”

Now it was Robert’s turn to pause.

“They seriously are willing to consider this?  What proof do I have?”  Robert rubbed his knee and stood.  A paper rustled, a sealed scroll.  Sealed with a dark wax.  Peace?

The scroll bore the ancient seal of Elven blood.  Something that hasn’t been seen for 30 years.  Describing the terms, concession of all Elven territory in exchange for representation.  A self-defense force for Elves.  Additionally, an illustration was rolled up along with the document.  A skillful hand had drawn a most delicate picture of a rare prize.

An Elven princess.  For Robert’s hand.

“But I am already married.”  Tristan stood silent.

“Father… You know she has been dead for nearly ten years now.”

They stared at each other.  The moon stared too.

“What…?” Robert’s head suddenly hurt very badly and he had to sit down from the sudden wave of nausea.  Memories of her long black hair in his hands flooded his mind amidst the tears.

“We need to get you to a proper healer.”  Tristan whispered to him as he put Robert’s arm around his shoulder.  “Let us leave this grim place.  Rally the Halharken.”  Tristan now spoke loudly to the scouts gathered around him.

They stood unresponsive to Tristan’s command.  Tristan steadied himself under the weight of his father and prepared to shout again.  Omar stepped forward from the troops with a face as sullen as Robert felt.  He held a scroll in his hand.

“Tristan, step away from Robert.” Omar’s voice was barely a whisper.  Tristan scoffed.

“What?  Rally your troop and prepare to move to the capital.  We do not have time for this.”

Robert was feeling steadier, and stood on his own now.  Shoulder to shoulder with his blood.  He leaned to Tristan and spoke softer than Omar.

“Something is wrong.”

“BY ORDER OF THE KING, RULER OF ALL MEN AND ELF AND HALFBREED.  STEP AWAY FROM LORD LOWMAN.” Omar had drawn his weapon and stepped closer, in unison with the stomps of the Halharken closing their half circle upon them.

“Omar, what is this foolishness?”  Robert spoke as he pulled his sword.  He did not want to hurt his friends, but blood is blood.  He helped raise the man standing next to him.  Now they were back to back as the crowd closed in.

Omar stared, the smell of each others’ sweat could be tasted on the air.  “Robert… I… This scroll came just now by royal courier.  The Kingsguard sent their best hawk to bring this.”  Omar tossed a parchment that had been crumpled up in a ball to Robert’s hand.  Robert read it and paled visibly even in the shadows of the trees.  The shadows tingled with delight.

“Tristan… How can this be?  The King says you are a traitor.  You are collaborating with the Elves in a secret plot?”  Robert turned to face Tristan, who stared at him in confusion.

“NO!  I had just come here on the orders of the Court!  This must be a mistake!”  Everyone’s knuckles tightened on their weapons.

“There is no mistake, child.” Omar grimaced and took his stance.  Robert stared in horror as Tristan began muttering ancient words and his sword glowed with a foreign light.

The light certain Elves could imbue in their blades.

Omar and the Halharken dashed forward together, Robert raised his blade to protect his son against their curved sabers.  Tristan exhaled and the world exploded in ancient light.

Then darkness.  Slight steam rising from the ground around them.  Robert and Tristan stood in a small sea of corpses.  Omar’s face continued to grimace up at them from their feet.

Robert fell to the ground and screamed in a mix of rage and sadness.

Tristan still held his blade up.  “Did you hear that, Father?”

Robert just stared at his dead friend in silence.  His heart now a chunk of dead matter.

“We are still not alone… There was a strange scream just now, not the men here.  What wa–” A large burst of blood sprayed from his mouth onto the back of Robert’s head.

So warm

Tristan fell beside him, his body twitching furiously.  Blood spurted from his ears and nose with each heartbeat.  Steam rose from his body writhing in the dirt, and the steam quickly turned into a thick forceful blast as if a great furnace had opened before him.

 

tales of a travelling salesman final

Click here to read the next part!

 

Sorry it’s been so long

I haven’t written in a long time.

Sorry! Thanks for patience. Had a baby this year, coaching wrestling, and teaching US history. It’s been busy.

Stay tuned though…. I got some interesting ideas saved up that will traumatize and inspire.

Thank you, dear reader, for your patience. Keep it up.

– J

Back to School Games for History!

Hello, fellow educators!

Are you ready to go back to school?  I’m still hoping to binge another sci-fi show or two.

Image result for binge watch

But school is just around the corner and you have to start thinking about fun games and engaging activities for this year’s students 🙂

I thought that I would share these sweet resources that I made and found success with.   They will help ease your pain when it comes to creating a fresh and new back to school activity to engage your history classes.

I call them “History Detective” games!   

They engage the heck out of my high schoolers, but I’ll bet this activity will work just as well in a middle school classroom.

They are way better than regular icebreakers.  It gets the kids working together right off the bat to analyze and understand interesting pictures and primary documents from history.  Some pictures are funny, some pictures are thought provoking.

Here is a sample from the World History version of the back-to-school activity:

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The kids first see the pictures, and have to take notes about details that help them form opinions about the origins of the creature or what it is.  You can imagine the giggles this one gets 🙂

Plus, we all know admin loves to see the kids working together and talking about something academic!  Very low prep activity too, all the kids need is paper, pen, and their brains!

And all you need is the projector and a laptop to connect to it 🙂 Plus your awesome and engaging classroom personality, of course!!

Click here for the U.S. History Version!

Click here for the World History version!

What sort of activities do you use to get the kids back in gear for the new year? 

Happy 2018!

Mr. P / Travelling Salesman

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Forbidden Tomes

Click here for the part before.

 

The parchment sealed, Elmyra hobbled outside on tired legs.  Wind breezed cold on her face, forcing her to squint as she walked to the small pigeon coop off to the side of her hut.  Sunshine felt far away.  A fluttering of wings and a bit of twine send the parchment into the sky, and old eyes stare after it.  Ancient eyes.

One pair of eyes belonged to the Elmyra.  The others? Well.

 


 

The bird wasn’t the fastest bird, or the most graceful.  But it was the only bird Elmyra Cairon had.  The others had fallen to the last winter, and she didn’t care to buy more.

She didn’t believe that she would be around much longer.

The bird fluttered along above the treeline, clumsily gaining altitude.  Its yellow-red eyes stared out, blinking quickly.  Were it a human, it would wonder if it was able to make it.  But instinct drove the bird higher.  Farther.  The pigeon may not have been graceful, or fast — but it was old and reliable.

The parchment staggers its stride, but pigeon pride ensures that it reaches its destination just in time.

Finally able to descend, our pigeon makes an exhausted dive down toward the treeline, leaving what was left of the sun disappearing behind the Zephyr Mountains and entering the cool of the shade.  It seemed to breathe a heavy sigh, swooping to land on the arm of a tall and lanky elf.  The man gave a chuckle as he untied the paper from the bird’s quivering leg.

“Ch’arleh, a message came for us.  Judging from the bird, its probably your mother.”

A snort-laugh came from a cave entrance behind the tall elf.  The sound of a sword sliding into a sheath was followed by a whet-stone thudding on a wood table.  Ch’arleh came out, auburn hair pulled into a high ponytail.

“That’s definitely my mother’s bird.”  He picked it up gently and stroked its head.  The bird cooed pleasantly.  “She’s had this thing for as long as I can remember.  Its time is almost up though.”

He set the bird onto a branch, and it sat and stared at him as he took the parchment back into the damp cave.  Ducking to get into the opening, he stood and walked long strides into the mountain.  Candles perched wherever they could, casting dancing shadows over shelves of scroll and tome.  The oaken chair that used to be his father’s waited patiently for him, and he sat with a grunt.  Cracked wax and rustled paper revealed the words with familiar handwriting:

Halharken East of the Zephyrs and travelling Westward.

Among them is one of your cousins from your father’s side and a human noble.

He has some understanding of the arcane. 

Something is not right, son.  Please be careful.  With love,

                                               Your Öntarii

Ch’arleh stared at the parchment for a long time, feeling its rough texture between his fingers.

How much magic did she use to get this information?  

He shook the concern over his mother aside and set his mind to work.  He had little cause to worry for her, considering his plan.  The Halharken have exposed themselves on this side of the Zephyrs during the peace.

“Hmph.  Peace indeed.” He whispered to himself.  Action needed to be taken.  If the Halharken were here, it meant that the Crown was willing to risk exposing itself.  What made this risk worthwhile?

“J’imh!  Send word to the outposts to recall their troops back here.”  Ch’ar shouted into the mouthpiece of a wooden tube that ran from beside his chair, along the ceiling and to the mouth of the cave.  He removed his hair, and let it hang down to his shoulders.  The flickering darkness intensified as the smallest breeze toys with the candles.  A poison breeze that comes from within the cave.  From the shadows themselves.  Ch’arleh smiles to his invisible allies, whispering words that allows their dark energy to flow through him.   Words neither human, elven, or even ancient orc.

He felt electric as his hairs seemed to throb with hungry power, standing on end.   A power no one knew of but him.  Not even his dear, sweet mother.

A fluttering of wings outside disappeared into the darkening woods, calling his Ravens.  Ch’arleh opened a scroll he had read dozens of times before — a scroll that had the language he spoke inscribed in harsh, foul-looking scribbles.  Scribbles that seemed to shift and change to an untrained eye.

The symbols surrounded an image of a particularly evil-looking mask.  He mouthed the words that titled the forbidden paper to himself with a smile:

“Khosst Am’ojaan”

 


 

Robert and Omar smiled at each other and took a swig of their water at the same time.  The plan they devised was perfect.  They finished with just enough time for the sun to retire and for a crescent moon to rise.  With the Halharken keeping guard around the makeshift campground, they both felt comfortable enough to get their rest.  They needed it in the day to come.  Omar fell asleep instantly, soft snores oozing from a wiry beard.

Hours passed, and the sliver of moon crept slowly above.  Robert tossed and turned on the hard ground.  He stood with a frustrated sigh.  Maybe a walk would calm his nerves.

The Halharken were notoriously silent and so Robert did his best to match as he walked.  The night itself seemed to absorb sound, as even the insects held their breath.  He felt lonely even though he knew he was under guard.  Finally, he saw a hooded figure standing next to a thick tree trunk.  Thinking some small talk might just bore him enough to sleep, Robert strode to the silhouette of his guardian.

“A quieter night I have never seen.  And yet I cannot sleep,” Robert softly spoke as he walked up.  “How goes your watch, tracker?”

Silence replied from the leaning figure.  a beat passed and Robert froze where he stood.

“…Tracker?”

More silence.

He kept his distance as he circled around wide, hand on the pommel of his weapon.  A cloud passed over the waning crescent moon, stealing what little light there was.  The hood still obscured the face of the figure as he came to stand in front.  Roberts nerves were frayed and he shouted over his own thundering heart:

“Speak or I will cut you down!”

The figure jerked suddenly, no longer leaning against the thick oak.

“Oh, Gods!  Sir!  I apologize, I must have fallen asleep.”  The man sheepishly admitted.  Robert breathed a sigh of frustrated relief and chuckled as he looked down.

“You scared the iron from my blood!”  Looking back up Robert saw the man’s face.  Young.  Eyes bulging in terror.  Robert’s mouth hung open – unable to speak – as he saw a thin line appear across the youth’s throat.  A thin line grew thicker and began to spray blood as his head rolled from his shoulders.  The head plopped to the ground and rolled enough for the bulging eyes to reflect the light of the moon peeking back out from the clouds.  The body remained standing perfectly upright.

Robert steeled his stomach against the urge to projectile vomit and drew his blade with a practiced hand.  Glances around him revealed no one.  Nothing.  The headless body still stood with an eerie stiffness.

Then it shuddered!

 

tales of a travelling salesman final

 

Thanks for reading!

Until then, read this funny story I wrote about magic in modern times!

 

[WP] Magic is in the process of being rediscovered.  You have just found a protection enchantment that sounds suspiciously like “Hold My Beer”. 

I murmured the words softly to myself:
“Ancient elder gods, I call on thee. Torgath. Shenron. Gibbles. Protect this chalice for me.”
Nothing happened save for a draft flickering my dying candle. Strange. I closed the book softly and retired to my bed.
_________________

The next day some of the anthropology and archeology staff went out to the bar because it was Friday and the only spell we got to work was one to produce a small frog.  
“Man, he’s a friendly lil guy” Professor Stevens said. The frog sat perched on his shoulder, bobbing it’s head to the beat of Journey’s “Seperate Ways”.  
“I think he likes the music” I laughed and shoveled some chips into my mouth. A twinge told me it was time to relieve myself in the dive bar’s dark bathroom.

 “Stevens, can you hold this beer for me? No roofies, please.”  
“Why don’t you ask — what was it — Torgath and something else…” 
“Hah!” I laughed and held my arms up theatrically, beer in one hand.
“Ancient elder gods, I call on thee. Torgath. Shenron. Gibbles. Protect this chalice for me.”
I set the chalice on the bar and started to walk away when I heard someone scream and drop a glass. I looked back and stared at a 8-foot reptilian hominid with black armor standing by my beer and holding a halberd. It used it to push back my friends as it snarled. It looked to me and hissed:
“Ssssssummoner. I will remain here and protect your drink.” It waved a massive scaled hand over the beer and a light white layer of frost encased the glass and some of the bar.  
“And it sssssshall remain cold for you. It issssss sssssafe to attend to your businessssss. I am the sssservant of the elderssss and you, powerful one.”  
The bar was silent except for Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”.  
A massive popping sound filled the air and suddenly the same woman from before screamed again as a giant Koala-man appeared on the opposite end of the bar, clad in gold armor and pointing his sword at me.
“FOOL! You have summoned the minion of Shenron and Gibbles!” I stared in confusion as the reptilian darted across the bar and slammed his halberd into the koala-knight. The impact forced all the bar patrons back with a whooshing wind and immense pressure.  
“The battle for the end times has begun. You have chosen your side.” The knight kicked the reptile back and prepared for his attack.  
“Now fight, Mage!”

I stood frozen in horror as the Golden Koala-Knight lunged foward toward me, low to the ground.  The reptilian was still recovering from being knocked back as I stared at my impending doom.

The loudest ribbet I have ever heard thundered in the enclosed space of the bar.  The Koala and Reptile both froze, and everyone stared as the frog we had summoned before leapt from Professor Stevens’ shoulder and transformed into a frog-hominid.  An immaculate white robe and hood covered it, and the robe seemed to emanate its own light in the dark bar.

“YOU!” Koala and Reptile shouted in unison.

“Yes, me.” Frog croaked.  “End this foolishness or you shall both be banished back into the Hidden Realm.”  Without hesitation both combatants yielded with a bow.  

“Who… Are you?” I sputtered.  The rest of the bar patrons had fled, save for Stevens and I.  It was surprising that no one had stayed videotaping this for Worldstar Hip-hop.

“I am Torgath’s Great Priest.  I know you don’t know who that is, but it doesn’t matter quite yet.  What does matter is that we hold a summit of all of your magical researchers so I can lay out some ground rules for this age of prophecy.  I didn’t do this before because, frankly, you are all inept.  Well, not you.”  He looked at me with those strange sideways eyes.  “You are different, somehow.  Are you descended from elves?”

“What?” I whispered.  “I’m from Florida.” 
“Yes, of course.  Flawreeda.”  The frog chuckled to himself.  “Well, come with me.  He touched my shoulder with one webbed hand and touched his temple with the other.  The world around me seemed to fade away into static, trembling and twitching and then just white surrounded us.  

We appeared in the center court of the Hidden Kingdom, surrounded by animal-peoples and forgotten races.  But I didn’t notice this until I finished vomiting my fish and chips out onto an ancient mosaic that was older than humanity.  

“I’m sorry.”  My apology echoed out to scattered chuckles.  

“It’s nothing, child.”  The Frog-priest waved his hand and the mess vanished with a pop.  

I stood and stared at the impossible gathering of impossible creatures.  I felt dizzy as one immense creature stood with a whoosh of wind, easily 80 feet tall.

“So this is the one who performed the drink protection enchantment?” A loud scoff.  “I cannot sense any magical energy in him.”  

“It doesn’t matter if you can sense it or not” Frog-priest chastised. “He performed the spell and the two great warriors nearly began the end times.  AGAIN.”

Small murmurs erupted into a cacaphony of shouts and questions and statements.

“Kill him!  Prevent the end times!”

“Destroy their world to save ours!”

“Conquer them!”

The Frog-priest waved his hand.  Silence came before he finished its arc.  

“He must face the trials.  We shall see if their world will live.  He is the strongest Mage they have.  He will decide the fate of his world.” I stared in horror.

“Wait, what?”

[WP] After exploring the galaxy for quite some time, humanity finally makes first contact. Turns out science fiction got it wrong: compared to the other races humans are advanced, logical, responsible, long lived pacifists and the galaxy is a massive clusterfuck.

How they managed to become a space-faring civilization was a mystery. Glarkans were a blend of reptile and crustacean with a hefty helping of aggression. I had read the dossiers. I gulped as I stepped off the transport into the musty space station. The first human here. The second through 30th humans were my security detail.

The noise level was that of a souk. A normal one, not like that of Baghdad in the early 2000s.

“No bombs here. Yet.” Chuckling to myself to forget my nervousness. I ate way too much Indian food too.

What did I get myself into?

The noise level dropped as my detail fanned out, flanking my stroll onto their promenade. Strange beasts in the midst of arguments stopped and stared. They whispered. Clicked mandibles. Something not unlike a laugh. Shops closed their windows with a familiar urgency, as familiar as the feeling of rubbing my sidearm.

A large, obviously mature Glarkan towered into view. Ducking to get through a 12 foot doorway, he bellowed an alien laugh through drooping antennae. My detail flicked their safeties off and raised their rifles, and I hissed at them with a hand, palm down.

“Put those away!” I turned away, knowing they obeyed. The creature was already before us, and the others had vanished. Plates of organic armor were covered in scars and paint, clashing red and yellow and black. It crouched to speak, and we held out our translators to record it’s patterns of clicks and whistles. Similar to insect trills. A grunt thrown in for who knows what reason.

And we waited. It was impatient, and began stomping away the translators finally blooped at us.

“Be-gin. I wonder how you found us in this nebula. Are all of you so small? Why should we listen to you?” [[LAUGHING]] “What technology do you offer?”

I sent a mathematical algorithm in response to this first diplomatic exchange. They just managed to get space flight, so protocol dictates first contact. Easy diplomatic job for the practiced man.

“It’s a science.” I smiled inwardly. The being opened a data pad it had tucked somewhere between exoskeleton and hair. It’s 8 eyes flicked about slightly. The mandible mouth opened and closed, as if about to speak. But the response has to be careful.

“Congratulations for gaining a foothold into space. It is a major step for a civilization to get beyond their gravity well. You are now required to submit to Galactic Law. You are under the protection of the Consortium of Planets. We will be deploying a detachment of the Navy to protect you from possible pirate raids, and to prevent domestic disturbances.

We are also willing to share cultural information about our races, their poetry, art, history and characters. You may submit yours if you wish. Technology will be shared after a grace period of – 134,342 – of your home world’s solar days.

Failure to submit to the law will yield a disciplinary embargo of your planet. Our technology so outmatches yours, we do not need to take aggressive action. You will not be permitted to explore past your own solar system.”

It worked, as usual. I left vast amounts of data for them to peruse. Bylaws, and all the fun details of life within the Consortium. Taxes.

I kind of missed the days when they tried to fight back. But the only display that is needed is to steal their sun. A massive blockade of solar panels suffices to kill a world. Fairly nonviolent.

The large creature seemed to cower a bit. Then as it began to sign the line it shrieked and coiled up, appearing to pounce. The first squad shot their net grenades at the creature and the electricity has no effect on it.

The force pushed it back into the corridor and the smaller versions began to pile out of the closed up shops. Thunder of assault rifles echoed, and my earbuds muffled the sound to protect my hearing. With a thought I relayed to CENTCOM that shit had, indeed, hit the fan.

The high powered assault rifles tore into the creatures. They fell falling forward. Reaching.

The nets on the large one toggled to high heat mode as it regained its footing. Bright orange patchwork sizzled hungrily and brought screams from the alien.

I stepped up to it as the last Glarkan died bleeding green blood and my men reloaded. I placed a stasis field around it. A fine specimen. I plugged into its field a computer program that matched the beings neural waves. So to implant suggestions into it. And time could be manipulated with the stasis field. A minute could be a hundred years of whispers in the darkness.

The blue shield vanished as I stuffed the device stuffed back into my pocket. The 8 eyes of the ancient creature shuddered and were followed by a low hum with a click.

An alien “OK”.

 

Impossible.  Something from another galaxy?  Their technology must be —

“Sir,” A Fleuon broke his train of thought. “We are detecting strange readings from our long-distance sensors.  Oscillating frequencies on radio and sub-space bands.  They seem to be working to mimic neural patterns.”

“What?” I whispered.  Suddenly a voice came from all around, echoing within the CIC.

“Please submit.  We do not wish to rule over another dead galaxy.”  The voice was deep, and resonated in such a way that shook his bones.

“Get the marines ready.  Make sure all torpedo tubes are loaded to bear, and get anything that is space-worthy into the launch bay.  Are communications down?”

“Yes, sir.” They all chimed in.

“Naturally.” I spat into the air.

Suddenly the Fleuons all convulsed violently, some sprayed out green fluid onto their consoles and shook so hard that their tentacles dented metal.  After several moments, they were all slumped over and dead.  I ran to the nearest, and felt that its normally soft body was now stiff.  Definitely dead.

The voice chided him. “We have destroyed your methods of control and communications by attacking the brain waves of those beings that run your ships.  Please do not make us alter the wavelengths of our weapons to your neural frequency.”

I collapsed in my chair, silent.  Alarms flashed on consoles.

“Prepare to be boarded.”

I was as ready as I ever would be.

 

tales of a travelling salesman final

Thanks for reading, friend!

Should I write more about this character?

In the meantime, read this story my grandmother told me.

Probably Just a Bug-Bite

I was working late in a rural school, when the power went out. I was the night janitor, a job I had always enjoyed because of the relative solitude. I could sleep all day and relax for a bit before driving to work. I would bring my headphones and listen to some Silversun Pickups or Andrew Bird while I swept and mopped up the refuse from the day. Every day the halls were left filled with broken pencils and crumpled up papers with forgotten love scribbled inside. Sometimes I read the notes, and chuckled at their eager egos reaching for some strange ideal of romance. Sometimes I just sneaked a quick bowl and zoned out into my work and the music. Each day blended beautifully into the next. Rent was paid, snacks were bought, and small bits of my check I managed to save. I was content with my confident mediocrity.

Until the night the lights went out, I was enjoying the relaxing waves of soft rain on window panes.

The darkness washed down the hallway I was standing in like a splash of obsidian. It’s difficult to describe the feeling I had, but it was not a normal, healthy fear of the dark. I felt… Unnerved. I knew it wasn’t true, but I felt like I was being watched by the inky black that surrounded me and touched by the silence that swarmed and swirled.

I stood still for some time, expecting to hear the backup generators kick on or the clicking drone of emergency lights. But the only thing I heard was a loud metal clanging that shot down the hall and into my bones. Frozen. Reverberations shook my bones. Helpless. I stood as if locked in a dream. I felt like a child, confused. Silence finally began to echo and ring and ring and ring in my ears.

It must have been a dream. I must have fallen asleep. This must have been a dream, right? I don’t even believe myself as I begin to think of how to write this…

The lights finally kicked on as the sound ended, with a hum and a flicker. And I saw I wasn’t alone.

I caught a glimpse of a large hominid whirling away around a corner. Legs were too long, and the arms were longer. Slender. Pallid. Vein-y. I remember the veins. Thick and purple on a skinny frame. I could have sworn I saw them throb hungrily.

Next thing I knew, I was sitting in a chair in a classroom. I felt cold, and I shivered. I felt disoriented and my vision was blurry as a soft lightning flash illuminated the room with the slightest gleam. Slowly getting to my feet, my eyes noticed the room number posted on the board amidst reminders and notes. The room was in that hallway I was in, or that I thought I was in before…

I found my coworker after running outside into the breezy night rain and into another building. I must have looked wild, because he asked if I was OK. I wasn’t. I’m still not.

My partner said the lights never went out.

And it’s been two days, and I thought it was an exhaustion-induced hallucination because I hadn’t been sleeping recently. My dog has been constantly barking at the clouds and the squirrels that have moved into the roof of my home, constantly scratching and squealing.

But now I have a unusual dot where my bicep meets the forearm. Sight bruising, too. As if I had gotten stung or poked.

Now that I look closely, it’s starting to seem infected. The bruising is a dark hue, darker than even when I broke a bone as a child. And the veins are thicker around that dot. And my head… aches. Constant throbbing.

Maybe I should drive to the city hospital, an hour’s drive away. Those big-city doctors will know what this is.

Probably just a bug-bite, mixed with this fever and paranoia.

Yeah. That’s it. Still gonna go check and make sure.

Make sure it’s nothing serious.

“An astronaut in orbit submits an Amazon Prime order (free two day shipping) as a joke, with the address set to the ISS. Amazon does not think this is a joke.”

“Hey, Johnson. Are you sure you are ready for this?”

“Yes sir,” Johnson whispered to hide his trembling voice. “But are you sure this isn’t just a joke?”

“You’re lucky you’re the only one willing to do this, or I would fire you like I fired the other folks who asked. We have a reputation to uphold. Now buckle up, and good luck!” The shipping manager stepped away from the hatch and sealed it shut, as Johnson buckled up.

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A Tale from the Sea

I went out fishing on my boat the other day. Packed everything I needed to be out overnight: some food, chips, water, and of course — beer. I finally got some time off of work, and I intended to make the most of a three day weekend.

I took the 20 footer out into the Gulf of Mexico, loaded to bear with bait and extra thick fishing line. 100 pound test line. I was going to go for the big Kahuna. The day I went out was clear and windless, the sun hot in the sky. I brought my pup out there with me since he loved being on the water. If he got too hot, he would hop in for a swim. Odds are I would join him if I was bored.

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