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Author Topic: The Road Trip and Other Shorts  (Read 4939 times)

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October 27, 2014, 06:07:06 PM
Reply #50
Flashlight: "Submitted for your approval: the story of Darek Chambers, age 19. A young man who, tired of driving in circles, took off on the ultimate road trip in search of a little adventure. Little does he know that he is about to get more than he bargained for. For at the last turnoff, he made a wrong turn, driving off the map and onto the endless highway of the Twilight Zone..."


Asleep at the wheel, nothing looks quite real
beyond the road, and it starts to feel
as if you're driving right off the map
Drifting across lines to wake up with a snap
A foreboding shroud, the fog wrapped around
the hum of the engine the only sound
And around each bend, anything might lurk
in the nothingness beyond this murk
My eyes so weary, in & out dreams so eerie
driving the night thru fog so dreary
I must've made wrong turn out there
lost in the middle of nowhere
For thru the foggy late night air
was a small town so dusty & bare
Faded sign for this place with no name
not on the map, but here all the same
Should I go back the way I came?
I pondered on that midnight highway
as if I'd turned off on some forgotten byway
The road swallowed by the mists behind
a strange unease in the back of my mind
as I wondered what I would find...

Riding down the highway on such a dreary, foggy night
past the beams things aren't what they seem
Like there was nothing beyond my headlights
it can make you think that it's all a dream

On the road tonight, something doesn't feel right
an eerie site where nothing on my map should be
And it can only happen in twilight
where we see what we wanna see

In this chain of one-horse towns
it was just another link
so small, you'd miss it if you blink
You have lots of time to think
looking at unfamiliar stars
when you haven't seen any cars
Just blank storefronts & bars
eyelids so heavy I was hopin'
that someplace might still be open
The still-life scene I was scopin'
lining an eerie, empty street
No place to crash, even tho I'm beat
after hours, nowhere to stop & eat
Then my tire blew out right there
stuck in a ghost town without a spare
Just the garage was still open where
the mechanic didn't really care
he just got on it right away
Strange, but hey, what can I say?
the place was open this time of day
Though I wanted to be on my way
I went to find someplace to stay

Riding down the highway on such a dreary, foggy night
Trouble, and in my way, that faded road sign
looming out in the fog beyond my headlights
naming a town on my map I couldn't find

In this town tonight, something doesn't feel right
I tried the radio, but all I got was snow
And so I stepped out into the twilight
on a walk for somewhere to go

Outside, tried a payphone, no dialtone
Looked around this ghost town so quaint
Old buildings, dirt roads, peeling paint
and in my tired head, a voice so faint
whispering to me to turn back instead
For this place inspires a certain dread
it made me wonder if I was dead
or if it was all in my head
Then this girl came up to me & said
"You won't believe me, I fear
but the hour is drawing near
when the fog & this town disappear."
At first I couldn't believe my ears
but it sure explained the atmosphere
Somehow, knew I would be trapped here
Now I could see it all too well
haunted ground, you can just tell
any traveler's idea of hell
Time was running out, this was not a game
I had to go back the way I came
or else I'd be doomed to remain
in this place without a name

Even a walk couldn't dispel my sense that foggy night
that nothing in this town is what it seemed
Down the park, after dark, under this streetlight
a warning that this is not all just a dream

In this place tonight, something doesn't feel right
strange sounds out in the gloom
Half-seen shapes out in the twilight
and the feeling of impending doom

Back thru this living ghost town
we ran, hoping I wasn't too late
to avoid this surreal fate
almost out of time to make our escape
But the mechanic did all he could
trying to keep me here for good
left the tire to dig under the hood
Knock on wood, this place is a mirage
gotta get the hell outta Dodge
So I hotwired a pickup by the garage
I don't want to know, I thought
what would happen if we got caught
Could be any second but we were not
The fog was fading more & more
so I had to get back on course
to make it back where I was before
Check the rearview for chase in store
to see the fog was fading away
and behind me was nothing but
endless miles of moonlit highway...

Adrift on this lost highway on such a dreary, foggy night
beyond my headlights' beams, things aren't what they seem
Turned to find an empty seat on the passenger side
I wanted to say we made it, or it was just a dream

But the road tonight still doesn't feel right
trying to find my way back to where I came
Driving onward into the twilight
where reality's just not the same

Endless miles to keep track
Try to find your way back
from a place of sight & sound
Where reality comes unwound
It's where perception starts to bend
Where light & shadow blend
echoing past the vanishing point
of corridors that never end
What's just outside your flashlight's beams
It's the world of nightmares & dreams
And here it's mind over matter
Unlearn or else your mind will shatter
Another dimension, beyond reality
and nothing is ever what it seems to be
Where fact & fiction stand side-by-side
the borderlands, where worlds collide
So step out into the great unknown
to battle the Power on your own
in the Twilight Zone...


Flashlight: "Darek Chambers, age: 19. He headed out on the highway, looking for adventure, and whatever came his way. Now he follows an unknown road, reading unfamiliar signs and trying to find a path to where he was before. Unfortunately, all roads lead to the Twilight Zone..."

-circa 2000 - 03/08/04

This is my own take on the whole Town That Wasn't There tale.  ???
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

November 09, 2014, 04:16:23 PM
Reply #51
Dear Stranger,
It must seem odd to hear from me again
So tell me, friend, how have you been?
A lot's happened since last our paths crossed
too much to make up for all the time we've lost
I don't really know why I waited so long
or where the hell all the time has gone
But at last I've finally caught up with you
and I hope you still want to be friends too

These days, all of my old friends
are nowhere to be found
And sometimes I just wish the tape
of my life could be rewound
Where I've gone, where you've been
all your memories, gone with the wind
A flicker, around the corner half a face
A part of my life, gone without a trace

Tell me, old friend
Where have you been?  Why can't we go back?
After all these years, it's so hard to keep track
Why do old friends always have to go away?
Over the years none of them get to stay
If things were the way they were back in the day
when we had all the time in the world to play
In this life, memories are all we really own
Just faded pictures when you're all alone

These days, all of my old friends
are nowhere to be found
And sometimes I just wish the tape
of my life could be rewound
Where I've gone, where you've been
all your memories, gone with the wind
A flicker, around the corner half a face
A part of my life, gone without a trace

I just can't stand it anymore
Gotta get moving, out the door
To me, it's worth fighting for
I know if I don't go & find
all the friends I left behind
I swear I will lose my mind

Because all of my old friends
are nowhere to be found
And sometimes I just wish the tape
of my life could be rewound
Perhaps some time we'll meet again
I'll always remember until then
Just a flicker, around the corner half a face
And a part of my life that's gone without a trace

-circa 1998 - 05/13/06

Even nowadays, I wonder, why can't the friends you grew up with also be the friends you grow old with?
  :(
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

November 22, 2014, 05:43:03 AM
Reply #52
Digging my heels in the Sands of Time
Every step I take is an uphill climb
Sandblasted by memories, leaves me blind
from visions of everything I left behind
As time takes its toll on another lost soul
I say to myself, I'm just too young to feel so old
All I lost, but the memory still lingers
as the Sands of Time slip thru my fingers
I wanna pause the world & live between the seconds
My life doesn't even feel like my own, instead it...


Seems I'm always ahead of myself
and can't catch up with myself
Leaving myself behind every day
falling farther every step of the way
Watch the world zoom by on all sides
stand still too long & it all collides
I'm lookin' for a way to cheat the wheel
searching for moments of time I can steal
Racing against a clock I can never see
I wanna break the clock & set myself free
The present's still so far ahead of me
let alone the future, just don't give up on me


Treading water against the flow of time
upstream, against leaving it all behind
The world passed me by at the Speed of Life
learned the Winds of Change cut like a knife
So many roads not taken, until I can't decide
Somebody stop the world, I want off this ride
Gone so fast I've run into myself before
I wanna slow down, can't do this anymore
I wanna pause the world & live between the seconds
My life doesn't even feel like my own, instead it...


Seems I'm always ahead of myself
and can't catch up with myself
Leaving myself behind every day
falling farther every step of the way
Watch the world zoom by on all sides
stand still too long & it all collides
I'm lookin' for a way to cheat the wheel
searching for moments of time I can steal
Racing against a clock I can never see
I wanna break the clock & set myself free
The present's still so far ahead of me
let alone the future, just don't give up on me


Time was a face on the water when I was young
and everything used to always take so long
Back then, the clock's hands never seemed to move
but somewhere along the way, time slipped a groove
It's an uphill climb, making up for lost time
the method to my madness, the reason to my rhyme
Before haste made waste of all my days
all swept away by the Winds of Change
I still remember the future, the light as it fades
used to be so bright, I had to wear shades...


As time went by, I embraced the distance
watched the future recede out of my vision
Looking for more shortcuts before I die
can't stay up forever, but I can sure as hell try
Just I'm tired but wired & uninspired
Try to catch up before my time is expired
So sick & tired of being sick & tired
living in fast-forward, burning out my fire
A memory of the future, a dream I want to live
so I just keep on giving all that I can give


Seems I'm always ahead of myself
and can't catch up with myself
Leaving myself behind every day
falling farther every step of the way
Watch the world zoom by on all sides
stand still too long & it all collides
I'm lookin' for a way to cheat the wheel
searching for moments of time I can steal
Racing against a clock I can never see
I wanna break the clock & set myself free
The present's still so far ahead of me
let alone the future, just don't give up on me


-circa 2003 - 04/20/06

The trouble with the horizon is that it's always ahead of you...
  :'(
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

December 09, 2014, 04:58:51 AM
Reply #53
I'll be staggerin' drunk for Christmas
on the couch watching TV
Don't wanna be sober when I try
to put up that tree
I'll be staggerin' drunk for Christmas
so don't wait up for me
I'm off to the pub to pound a few
but I'll be home by 3

I'll be staggerin' drunk for Christmas
and so before I go
I'll have an egg-nog for the road
and hope it doesn't snow
I'll be staggerin' drunk for Christmas
even though I don't know why
If I'm not careful comin' home
I'll get a D U I

I'll be staggerin' drunk for Christmas
I'll be reelin' on my feet
I'll be a one-man Conga line
Don't tell me to take a seat
I'll be staggerin' drunk for Christmas
nose red as a reindeer's
Drink right thru the holidays
Won't be sober 'til New Year's

I'll be staggerin' drunk for Christmas
so just you wait & see
Lose my balance comin' in the door
That's how drunk I'll be
I'll be staggerin' drunk for Christmas
I don't know about you
But I'll be staggerin' drunk for Christmas
if it's the last thing that I doooo-woooo
(hic!)


-circa 2001 - 12/13/02

A country-fried ode to Holiday stress, and one of the most ironic things I've ever written, given that I don't even drink. (But after so many holiday seasons in the Service Sector, I have little trouble understanding why so many do...  :-X )

Seriously, though, folks, please drink and/or drive sensibly, and have a safe & happy holiday, everyone!
  :lol:
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

January 08, 2015, 12:57:03 AM
Reply #54
The last time I went to church,
I understood, beyond all contradiction,
that I did not belong here.
I looked around and saw this was a place for
people who required permission
to do what they they think is right,
or an excuse to do what they know is wrong.
Here, at the intersection of tradition and conformity,
all intentions are twisted awry where they meet.
I could see I was growing into someone
who had my own reasons for living,
hopelessly alien to this place
where the Bronze Age still lingered,
groping for relevance in the Space Age.
Becoming more apparent all the time
that its dogmas hold no answers, then or now.
The past holds much to learn from,
but it is no place to live.
No more than its Language of Debt
offers any future for the living.
I walked away, one foot in front of the other,
seeking my own path...


-01/07/15

The last time I set foot in a church was sometime in the mid 90's, when I was still in high school. By that point, I had come to the realization that I didn't really believe any of the things I claimed to believe, and I simply couldn't play along anymore. Though admitting this to myself proved quite painless, the hardest part was breaking it to my mother, who was very devout, as the main reason I took so long to walk away was because I was more afraid of hurting her than I was was of offending any imaginary beings. In the end, she came to accept it, though I suspect, in her heart, she'll always secretly wish for my return, but at least she respects honesty, and wouldn't want me to just pretend.
  :-X
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

February 14, 2015, 01:48:06 AM
Reply #55
Looking back, that one night seemed to sum up that bleak December of 2002. The Temp Industry, which I had been working in for a good chunk of that year— 12-hour shifts out of town in Springfield, most of the summer enduring it with a grave sinus infection— had petered out on holiday manufacturing just in time for Thanksgiving, so it wasn’t as if I suffered any shortage of time on my hands. Since I had already paid for train tickets months earlier, and had seen for myself that no one was hiring this time of year anyway, I decided to return to my hometown for the Holidays with my roommates.

I suppose we were all going back with our own troubles. Myself, unemployed, with no serious prospects. M—, whose college loan papers had vanished into quarantine in the midst of the Great Anthrax Scare of ’01, never to be seen again, and a University of Oregon loan office that couldn’t be bothered to inform him about such relevant matters until after his loans defaulted, who would ultimately have to work for several years to pay off that debt before he could finally return to school. And B—, whose mother’s cancer had come back out of remission with a vengeance, reducing her to a shadow of her former self in a matter of months. Not only would her own college loans default under her parents’ medical bankruptcy, but she would be coming home to see her mother one last time, knowing full well this would be her family’s last Christmas together.

Even the train ride itself, rolling through rainy Oregon and Washington, traversing Montana’s majestic Rocky Mountains through Glacier National Park, only in the wee hours of the morning, making a total mockery of the observation cars, all seemed to fit the mood of this dark, overcast journey.

To be sure, each of were welcomed in the company of loved ones, and all of us sought to make the most of our short time there, all too aware of how soon we would return to our precarious situation back in Eugene. There were parties and gifts, long conversations and catching up, and most of us went to see The Two Towers together in the town’s lone theater. There were times when I was actually able to forget my troubles for a time, but even the town itself functioned as a living symbol of uncertainty, having continued to shrink from its ’80’s boomtown status, Eastern Montana’s economy being no kinder to them than it had to any of us.

B—’s father, G—, had also fallen on hard times, but his brother Masons still had his back, offering him a position as the caretaker of the apartment building that also housed their local Lodge. B—’s nephew, J—, was naturally having a hard time about the impending loss of his grandmother, along with all the adult drama a death in the family comes with, so she proposed we spend a night at G—’s apartment. Movies, pizza, and a tour of the Lodge. G— even offered to sponsor me for membership, though I politely declined, still unsure of the future might hold for me, and every once in a while, I wonder how things might have gone if I had the support of some guild or fraternity behind me…

Overall, it was a fun evening, a good old-fashioned Guys Night, but J— still had to go to church with his folks in the morning, and I had my own plans to spend the day with my family, so at least we retired, with G— providing a spare guest bedroom for the night.

And that was when the troubles began. The room itself was fairly large, though rather drafty, its large banks of windows being no match for a Plains winter, still I suffered no shortage of blankets. It was very quiet, with only the occasional gusts of wind for company.

And still I could not sleep.

Though no stranger to insomnia, or even occasional anxiety, I must have set some kind of personal re-cord for all the things I worried about that night. Things I had never seriously worried about before, from situationally-prompted thoughts of cancer and other chronic diseases, to never finding another job and ending up homeless, down to all manner of petty things that I couldn’t even figure out why I was worrying about it at all.

It was as if the very room itself worried, a nexus of nameless and shapeless anxiety, and I would later wonder if that was why, in spite of its stately dimensions, this was perhaps why G— himself didn’t sleep in here. I would later wake up, bleary-eyed, having no idea exactly when I finally lost consciousness, but even fluffy homemade pancakes couldn’t shake off the shadow of unease that followed me around for the rest of day, and would occasionally haunt me at random moments in the months and years after.
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

April 02, 2015, 10:40:15 PM
Reply #56
My life is all unfinished business
days numbered down to the last minute
Always on my way, but never quite there
seems like I never get anywhere
Used to have so much time on my hands
now I'm buried under all these demands
Somehow, my work is never done
in a minute, but never in the long run
Always, I'm down to the last minute
My whole life is unfinished business

Goals & projects piled so high
so backed up, I'm not allowed to die
Running farther & farther behind
trying not to go out of my mind
So many invitations I've declined
too many promises & missed deadlines
Even though it's an uphill climb
I'm still making up for lost time
Yet no matter how far I've gone
always a new horizon to go beyond

My life is all unfinished business
days numbered down to the last minute
Always on my way, but never quite there
seems like I never get anywhere
Used to have so much time on my hands
now I'm buried under all these demands
Somehow, my work is never done
in a minute, but never in the long run
Always, I'm down to the last minute
My whole life is unfinished business

When you're young, time slows & lingers
but then it slips right thru your fingers
No matter how long I linger on it
I just can't quite put my finger on it
I just look at my calendar & groan
even my days off aren't really my own
I know a holding pattern when I see one
happen to be one, my whole life is a rerun
Because no matter how far I get
there's someplace I haven't got to yet

My life is all unfinished business
days numbered down to the last minute
Always on my way, but never quite there
seems like I never get anywhere
Used to have so much time on my hands
now I'm buried under all these demands
Somehow, my work is never done
in a minute, but never in the long run
Always, I'm down to the last minute
My whole life is unfinished business

Forever jumpin' thru the hoops
it's not that I don't care
Always the last to know anything
after all, I just live there


The time you waste can't be replaced
so tired of running the human race
when I just want to live at my own pace
Sometimes it's like I'm being chased
out of every place as it's erased
Fading memories, without a trace
24 hours a day are just not enough
to live my life, never catching up
No matter how far or fast I run
somehow my day is never done

My life is all unfinished business
days numbered down to the last minute
Always on my way, but never quite there
seems like I never get anywhere
Used to have so much time on my hands
now I'm buried under all these demands

When your life's reduced to a grid
trying to figure out just what you did
Looking back on all the things I miss
I wonder if I can go on like this
Always, I'm down to the last minute
My whole life is unfinished business

-circa 1998 - 09/15/05

This one underwent a massive overhaul from the original, especially compared to a lot of the others I reworked back then, and even after all these years, I still see it as a great improvement, much more clearly conveying my feeling of my own life leaving me behind, which has only increased as the years march on.
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

June 22, 2015, 03:57:34 PM
Reply #57
The journey is the destination, and that is the truth.
Actions speak louder than words, and that is the truth.
Freedom is the right of all sentient beings, and that is the truth.
Pursuing your dreams is difficult, but fulfilling, and that is the truth.
Those who have abandoned their own dreams have no purpose in life
but to try to crush other peoples', and that is the truth.
To obtain something, one must give something of equal value...
and that is the law of Equivalent Exchange.

You can't help who you love, and that is the truth.
To be with those you love can be painful at times,
but to be away from them is even more painful, and that is the truth.
Even the deepest scars can be healed, with enough time and love, and that is the truth.
Friendship may not always be easy, but it is worth fighting for, and that is the truth.
A person's true strength emerges protecting that is precious to them, dattebayo.

War... war never changes, and that is the truth.
This world is corrupt, and that is the truth.
Sometimes this world leaves you in despair, and that is the truth.
To be dead is to have neither a past nor a future, and that is the truth.
Warriors should be known by their enemies, and that is the truth.
For the sword that protects, defeat is not an option, and that is the truth, that it is.

No one can save everyone, but one can always strive to protect
what is in front of them, and that is the truth.
A true student of life can turn any ordeal into training, and that is the truth.
There are no shortcuts; to reach a new level takes hard work and guts, and that is the truth.
True strength comes from a need, not a desire, and that is the truth.
Knowing is half the battle, and that is the truth.

Your past is always waiting three steps ahead of you, and that is the truth.
You can make all the excuses you want,
but at at some point you decided how to live your life, and that is the truth.
To bring out that which is best in you,
is to overcome that which is most base, and that is the truth.
The one thing you choose yourself, that is the truth of your universe.

Everything this one learned about life,
was learned from watching too much anime, and that is the truth.



-circa 2004, revised February, 2015

The last year or so, I've been involved in an extensive project, sorting and archiving all of my old notes, and sometimes I stumble across things like this, which I had genuinely forgotten I'd even written. Many year ago, the Green Mile (a forum I'm a long-time member of) got the idea to do a tribute to a poem from Stephen King's Dark Tower series, which is why this refrain of "and that is the truth" might sound a little familiar to some folks. I decided to theme mine "Everything I Know About Life, I Learned From Anime" and just went with it from there. Not all of these are anime references, per se, but it was where the original inspiration for this tribute came from.
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

July 05, 2015, 01:34:06 AM
Reply #58
TABLE OF (DIS)CONTENTS:
0 - Pre(r)amble
I - Articles of Conglomeration
II - Incarceration Proclamation
III - G7 Summit Address
IV - We Have a Scheme
V - America the Pitiful


PRE(R)AMBLE:
We the (Chair)People of the Conglomerate States,
in Order to form a more perfect System,
establish Control, insure domestic Conformity,
provide for Infrastructural Security,
promote Corporate Welfare,
and secure the Benefits of Lobbying to ourselves and our Successors,
do ordain and enforce Multinational Trade Agreements.


I
We hold these Talking Points to be non-negotiable,
that all Labor is born dirt cheap,
imposed by the Market with variable values,
with self-entitlement to others' Livelihoods,
the Taking of Liberties, and the Pursuit of Profit.

That to secure these Powers, Funds shall be raised,
deriving their Authority from the Highest Bidder,
with all Matters of importance decided for them,
that the silence of the Governed shall be the System's Consent.


II
From henceforth, wage-slavery and involuntary servitude,
for which no crime one need be convicted,
shall be expanded to include all the States,
assigned a Poverty wage, and be extended to Everyone.

The Government shall have Power to enforce
all Labor contracts by Fast-Track legislation.
Excessive Bail may be required,
draconian Fines imposed,
and Cruel and Unusual Punishments at a Judge's discretion.
Prisons shall be constructed and filled as needed.


III
Four score and seven Fiscal Seasons ago our Founders brought forth
on this planet a new System, conceived in slavery,
and dedicated to the proposition that all Tender be created Legal.
Now we are engaged in great Social Protest,
testing whether that System,
or any System so conceived, can remain secured.
The world will not record, nor criticize what we say here,
but stay Bought and Paid-For behind closed doors,
for Life is a disposable commodity.

That this System, under Debt, shall have a new birth of Bondage—
buried under a mountain of waste and death—
That this System imposed by the Privileged,
of the Privileged, and for the Privileged,
shall not be reformed for the Common Good of the rest,
one System, under surveillance invisible,
with austerity and injustice for all.


IV
We Have a Scheme:
That all Worker Drones will sit down,
watch and listen to what they are told,
to be the (un)living Embodiment of our (s)creed.

We Have a Scheme:
That someday in our cities, the Ruling Class
and the Servant Class shall never see each other
face-to-face, except when called upon.

We Have a Scheme:
That the blighted and impoverished ghettoes
shall be Gentrified and Developed,
the Huddled Masses cast out for an oasis of Affluence.

We Have a Scheme:
That your children be conditioned to a System
where they are judged solely by the content of their wallets,
and the Brands they choose to spend it on.

We Have a Scheme:
That all the Little People shall squabble amongst themselves,
divided by Skin Color, Culture Clash and Theatrical Politics,
so that the System itself shall remain ever Unassailable.

We Have a Scheme.


V
O pitiful for smoggy skies,
for waves of Roundup grain,
for burning mountains fracking deeds
above the drought-parched plain!
Plutopia! Plutopia! What price we paid for thee,
to drown the screw'd in servitude,
from sea to dying sea... 


-06/29 - 07/03/15
The tired thoughts of a tired mind. Whistle while you work, right?
  :(
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

August 12, 2015, 02:29:02 PM
Reply #59
Charlie couldn’t sit still.

The last hour or so was a total blur to him. As he sat at a desk in the back of the precinct house, he felt a growing sense of dread at how quickly the situation had slipped out of his control. Officer Michaels, as the cops turned out to be, had picked him up, charged him with misdemeanor trespass, and finally left the room after making him tell his story several times. So confounded he had been by events, that he had told everything without a thought of what kind of reaction he would receive, and now he stubbornly stuck to his story because the alternative would be to admit it was all some kind of prank.

No matter how hard he tried, he had been unable to convince Officer Michaels to actually search the house, instead just taking their names and threatening to call Dan’s family.

And Charlie knew that if he couldn’t get them to start taking him seriously, no one ever would search the house. He kept trying to pull himself together, but his thoughts kept circling back to how easily he had let Dan go.

And what would they do when Dan doesn’t come back? Would they suspect me of foul play? Then again, this was my idea... He was certain that Dan’s chances were getting slimmer by the second, and he was stuck here doing absolutely nothing.

Charlie’s morbid cycle of guilty thoughts was interrupted as a new figure walked in. Unlike the cop who spoke with him earlier, this man was dressed in plain clothes, and held a folder in his hand. He shut the door and sat down across the table from Charlie.

“Look, about my story,” said Charlie, “If you’d just search the house—”

“We don’t have much time,” the man told him. “You don’t know how much trouble you’re in. When your friend doesn’t turn up, they’re going to start looking at you. And with the story you’ve told, it’s going to be an open-and-shut case. Now, what were you doing in that house?”

“Why should I tell you?” Charlie demanded. “Nobody’s gonna take me seriously.”

“You’re related to Don and Bev’s family, aren’t you?” he asked.

At first, Charlie didn’t know what to say. Finally, he asked, “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that I take you seriously,” the man replied. “I’m afraid I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Detective Greg Nelson. Grandson of Abraham Nelson.”

“Old Man Nelson…” Charlie thought aloud.

“For now, I’ve convinced the police that you were just snooping in that abandoned house,” Detective Nelson continued briskly, “but even if they search for Dan, we both know they’ll never find him.”

“But if you know about the attic,” Charlie asked, “Why didn’t anyone ever investigate it?”

“For the same reason that no one ever searches in there,” Nelson replied. “They refuse to see it. The only reason why I believe it is because Tom Henderson left his car out in front and his ghetto-blaster in upstairs room. I believe he was tired of his college debts, so he decided to go antique-hunting and got lost. I think you know what I mean. Come on. Without a ‘rational explanation’ they’re going to try to pin this on you.”

Charlie didn’t need to be told twice. He let Detective Nelson ‘escort’ him out the door as fast as he could.

* * * *

Becky was sitting on her bed, thinking, when it happened.

Ordinarily, she would be chatting on the phone with her friends or reading a book. Or something. But now all she could do was think.

She sat on the bed, right next to the window. Which she had opened all the way because it was always so chilly in her room. Sometimes, even in the summer, she had to wear a sweatshirt in here.

She was thinking, mostly about how her closet seemed to be a whole lot bigger lately, and her wardrobe much more diverse. She was quite certain that there never used to be a corner in there. She was mostly thinking about whether or not she should go in and actually look around that corner, afraid of what she might find.

In fact, she was just about to go over to the closet, telling herself that this time she wasn’t going to lose her nerve at the last second—

When the door flew open and a young man staggered across the floor, screaming wildly. A young boy dashed along behind him. The young man ran into the wall, turned around, and scrambled back to the door, shutting it soundly and leaning against it, breathing hard.

Becky cried out in surprise, scrambling backwards. She would have fallen right out the open window if she hadn’t hit her head on the top of the window frame. Instead, she caught herself, cursing and completely forgetting her unexpected guests for a moment as she staggered to her feet.

“Where are we?” the boy asked, shoving his large glasses back up his nose.

“Who are you?” Becky demanded, the boy’s words bringing her back to the here and now. “What the hell are you doing in my closet?”

* * * *

Detective Nelson pulled up in front of the house. Neither of them were surprised to see Dan’s car was still parked down the road. Charlie had been secretly hoping he had made it out. Now he felt even worse for his friend.

On the way, Nelson had let him look in the folder he brought with him. The detective had explained that he had never liked the house, and that the fact that it hadn’t sold for years and became so neglected gave him the perfect excuse two years ago to have the house boarded up. He had said it was becoming a hangout for drifters and hobos, though there was scarcely any trace of their presence in there. “Apparently,” Nelson remarked, “even they don’t like that place.”

He said he secretly hoped the house would be torn down in the near future, before anyone else could disappear in it. The police didn’t like the house either, because of all of the unsolved cases connected to it. It seemed that every time the rumors finally died down, someone else disappeared. “I’m warning you, Charlie,” Nelson had told him, “if we fail, they just might railroad you for Dan’s disappearance. They’re scared, and they’ll want this case wrapped up as nicely as possible.”

Detective Nelson had also managed to get Charlie’s gear back, and now they stood before the house. In the shadow of the late afternoon sun, the place looked even more intimidating. Its unbarred door just seemed to be daring them to enter.

“Hey, guys.”

Though spoken timidly, the child’s voice made both of them jump.

“Are you guys going in there?” the little boy asked. He was short and skinny, and held a flashlight in one hand.

“Yeah,” Charlie answered, though he had a sneaking suspicion about this kid. “You live in the house next door, don’t you?”

“Uh-huh,” the boy replied.

“I thought I saw somebody up there earlier, but I wasn’t sure.” Charlie then asked him, “Did you call the cops?”

“Uh-huh,” the boy replied. “I saw you were going in there, and I had to do something.”

“You know something about his house?” Nelson asked.

“Uh-huh,” the boy replied.

“What’s your name?” Nelson demanded.

“Josh,” he replied, then added, “Smith. And if you’re going in there, I’m going with you.”

“No you’re not,” Nelson told him. “Go back home. This is no place for a kid.”

“I have to go,” Josh told him. “My friend’s in there.”

“Who?” Charlie asked.

“His name’s Barry, and I think he’s locked in the closet.”

“Barry Kelly?” Nelson asked, his face unable to decide whether it should turn green or white. Barry had not officially been declared missing yet, but he knew the Kelly family had already started putting up posters. “What was he doing in there?”

“We had a secret club,” Josh replied, looking more nervous by the moment. “Me and Barry and Angie and Vaughn, and some other girl Angie brought. Please don’t tell Mom and Dad.”

“What did you do in there?” Charlie asked.

“We put up a couple posters,” Josh told him, “ ’cause Barry said it made the door look friendlier or something. But we just went up there and drank pop and talked about stuff. See, it was so hot outside, but it’s really cool in that room, no matter how hot it is outside...”

“We know,” said Nelson. “But why do you think he’s in there?”

“ ’Cause Vaughn dared him to go,” said Josh. “He chickened out when we were there, but I think he went back ’cause Vaughn made fun of him.”

“Look,” Detective Nelson told him, “Charlie and I, we’re going in. We’re going to find your friend.” (Though secretly he doubted that.) “We’re going to find out what’s going on in there once and for all. But you’re going to stay outside. Now go home, Josh. You’ve done your part. Now it’s our turn.”

Josh looked like he was going to protest, then turned and walked back toward the house. They made sure that Josh went all the way inside before turning back to the house.

Charlie wanted to back out, to tell Nelson that this was his job, but he knew he couldn’t. As much as he dreaded going back in, he knew he could never live with himself unless he did everything he could for Dan.

“I’m coming...” he said to no one in particular. “Hold on...”

* * * *

Dan sat on Becky’s bed, Barry next to him.

Now that everyone had calmed down, Dan and Barry were explaining what they were doing in her closet.

“…Then I heard these thumping noises,” Barry told them, “like something was being dragged across the floor. It was horrible. It was like I was being chased by something I couldn’t see.”

“Let me get this straight,” said Becky. “You went into an attic in some other town, and you came out in my closet?”

“Yeah, that’s about it,” Dan told her.

“So what happened?” Becky could hardly believe this was happening. Mostly because it confirmed everything she feared. She had been looking for her little brother for the last two days, and the one place she hadn’t looked was starting to seem more and more like the one place he could have gone.

“I thought about hiding,” Barry continued, “but I couldn’t see anyplace good. I was afraid of the furniture. I didn’t trust it.”

“So how did you meet Dan?” Becky asked.

“Before I met him, I found a door,” Barry told them. “It was partway open, so I went in and shut the door behind me. I don’t know how I got there, but I was in some old house. I looked out the window, and I saw it was out on the plains. There was nothing around for miles.”

“Was anyone there?” Dan was starting to get an idea of how this worked.

“Nope,” said Barry. “There was no food or anything, either. After a while, it was getting dark, and I was afraid to stay in that old house. I knew I couldn’t get very far in the middle of nowhere, so I finally decided to go back in and try to find my way back.

“This time, nothing chased me, so I looked in this cabinet. Only inside there was this little boy curled up... at least, it looked like a little boy, but it was all shriveled up and... I think he was dead...”

“No wonder you were freaked out!” Dan remembered when they crashed into each other in there. “I also saw skeletons.”

“Wait!” Becky blurted, trying to control herself. Her heart was pounding hard, but she fought it down. She had to know. “Did the boy have a Star Wars cap?”

Barry thought hard, digging through his memory. That had been the most frightening moment of his life, and the details of the body did not come easy. Finally, he told her, “Yes. He had on a Star Wars hat. I don’t ever want to see that again…”

“Joe. No…” she breathed.

Becky sat for a long moment in silence. She fought back the tears as rational explanations came crashing down around her. This can’t be… this just can’t be… She had been suspicious of her recently expanded closet for the last two days, for this mysterious change had coincided with her little brother’s disappearance.

But she had been too scared to go in, relying exclusively on the clothes from her drawer and all over the floor. The door had a temperamental lock mechanism, and she had always propped the door open before venturing into the walk-in closet. Whose size the realtor seemed to have greatly underestimated when describing the house to her parents. And seemed to have gotten even bigger after her brother vanished…

“You okay?” Dan asked.

“We’re going in,” Becky announced, standing up straight. She had made up her mind. “You guys can wimp out if you want, but that thing ate my little brother, and I’m going to make it pay.”
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

August 24, 2015, 12:04:05 PM
Reply #60
Charlie and Detective Nelson stood before the door, flashlights in hand.

Neither of them knew what to say. Nelson had only looked through the open door at what lay beyond, and Charlie didn’t have the words to explain the inexplicable terror he had felt when he ventured beyond that open door. But now the detective would get to experience it for himself.

“At least the door’s still at the bottom of the stairs,” said Charlie. He had been deathly afraid that it would mysteriously reappear on the doorway, like something out of a horror flick. He looked at the item Nelson had insisted on going back for. “But why did we bring a can of paint?”

“They still teach Greek mythology in school, don’t they?” Nelson asked. “Well, from what you’ve said, this place is something of a labyrinth, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. I guess,” Charlie told him. “But what does that have to do with Greek legends?”

“We don’t want to get lost, do we?” said Nelson. He fished out his pocketknife and used the can-opener to poke a hole in the paint can. “Well, if you recall, Theseus used a ball of yarn to find his way back. We’re going to use a trail of yellow paint. Guess my house’ll have to wait a while.”

“Clever,” said Charlie. “Now let’s get going.”

They stepped through the door, watching the T-joint at the end of the room for any sign of movement.

“Show me where you found the bodies,” Nelson told him.

Charlie led him around the corner to the trunk.

“Damn! It’s locked,” Charlie muttered when he tried to open it. “It was unlocked before.”

“Not to worry,” said Nelson, again taking out his trusty pocketknife. “You learn a lot tricks in the detective trade.”

Though he didn’t feel as confident as he may have sounded. Not in here. Though it only took him a moment to pick the lock, he found it hard to concentrate. He kept expecting the strange sounds Charlie had described to start up at any moment.

Pat, or what was left of him, was still inside.

“My god…” Nelson hissed. “What he must have gone through…”

“Lynn’s in the wardrobe,” Charlie told him flatly. He was now sweating and looking around constantly, waiting for something to happen. “I would have sworn the thing actually tried to close on Dan…”

On the floor in front of the wardrobe were several bones. The wardrobe was also locked, but again Nelson made short work of it with his lockpicking skills. The rest of Lynn’s bones lay in a jumbled heap in the bottom of the wardrobe.

“This… just isn’t… right…” Nelson muttered. “These bones… they’re picked clean… Out in the woods, bones might be weathered like this… but in here…”

Charlie felt a chill. He had been so unnerved by these discoveries that he hadn’t even thought of that. Lynn’s bones hadn’t even been here for six years, and they were white… as if the wardrobe itself had eaten her…

“I hope Dan didn’t try to hide in anything…” Charlie didn’t trust the scenery to begin with. Now he trusted it even less. “What is going on in here? What was your grandfather doing up here?”

“Building,” Nelson replied. “He was a builder, and he took on this house because it was so old. According to my mother, he just went upstairs one night to work on the attic, and never returned. I quite frankly believe the late Mr Donovan saw this room, and refused to ever go upstairs again, and neither did his wife. I talked to her. I guess I was the only person she ever confided in.

“Let’s keep going. As long as the paint lasts, we should look for your friend Dan and Barry. There might still be hope.”

“There has to be,” said Charlie.

They continued around the next corner, finding still more twists and turns to this mysterious place.

Neither of them could fully believe they were doing this. The house should have ended at least fifty feet ago. It made no sense.

“This is crazy,” said Charlie. “It’s like we’re in another world or something…”

“I always thought there was something in here, even when everybody told me to drop it,” Nelson confided. “Could it be we’re the only ones who’ll accept what we see through that door? Do the others really about-face like some kind of knee-jerk reaction?”

“I could see why,” Charlie replied. Talking seemed to take the edge off. A little bit. “Something is definitely wrong with this place.”

“It felt like a cover-up,” Nelson told him, “but now I think most people block this out. I keep thinking it can’t be real… but here I am.”

“But how did it come to be?” Charlie thought aloud. “Was it always here, or did your grampa somehow stumble into it like the Twilight Zone? Whatever it is, I don’t like it. I wish I knew who spray-painted that warning on the front of the house… it’s almost like they knew something…”

“Maybe they did,” said Nelson. “Given that it’s been abandoned for over two years, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to know that others have been in here. There have been several unexplained disappearances in this town in the last three years alone, and now I wonder if any of them had anything to do with that house… Do you hear that?”

Charlie paused, startled. He listened for a moment, finally hearing what Nelson was hearing. Voices. Somewhere up ahead.

“They continue talking,” Nelson whispered. “I don’t think they heard us. Let’s go. Quietly. Be prepared to follow the paint trail if anything goes wrong.”

Making as little sound as they could, they approached the voices. The closer they got, the more it sounded like people having a hushed conversation. Both of them were just starting to be able to make out a few words. It sounded like the voices were just around the corner.

* * * *

Becky held Joe’s baseball bat. She couldn’t get the lock to her father’s gun safe open, or she’d have a shotgun. All the same, she was glad her parents were still on vacation. She still hadn’t figured out how to tell them what happened.

Dan was armed with a sledgehammer from the garage. Barry walked between them with a hammer in one hand, and a length of yarn they had tied to Becky’s bed in the other. Taking his cue from Charlie, Dan had also had them take the door off its hinges, just to be on the safe side.

After the second corner, the lines of coats in the closet gave way to a long room with visible rafters, much like the one Dan and Barry had been in earlier.

“Remember, Barry,” said Dan, “if we run, drop the yarn. I’m afraid something may try to cut it, and if you try to reel it in, we may lose the other end of it. If we drop it and follow it, we might still have a chance of finding our way back.”

“Just gotta be smarter than the closet,” Becky said with an uneasy laugh. “I’m glad you guys came along. I was so afraid of this place. Even though I kept telling myself otherwise, I was certain my brother went in here… Why didn’t I go sooner?”

She stopped, looking around at her surroundings in horror and frustration.

“You can’t blame yourself,” Dan told her, trying not to sound too patronizing. And wondering what happened to Charlie. Is he still alive? Does he blame himself for what happened to me? What does he think happened to me anyway?… He snapped out of it and turned his attention back to Becky. “If you had gone in by yourself, you might not even be here now. At least working together, we have a chance to solve this mystery.”

“Do you think this place opens up in any other places?” Barry asked. “It’s like a network or something…”

“Yeah! Maybe it’s growing,” Dan theorized. “Becky, when Joe disappeared, your closet got bigger, didn’t it?”

“Yeah…” said Becky. “I think I know where you’re going with this. You mean this place gets bigger with each person it kills?”

“I think the same thing happened at the other houses,” said Dan. “It’s almost like this place is eating them… I would swear that wardrobe had tried to close on me on purpose. Those coats felt like they were moving on their own…”

The thought made him shudder.

“But how can we stop this—”

“Freeze! Drop your weapons and put your hands where I can see them!”

All three of them froze in their tracks. Both Becky and Dan alike screamed. Barry felt his legs buckle, and it took his full force of will to keep his feet.

A shadowy figure was holding both a pistol and flashlight, which he was shining right in their faces.

“Dan…” said the figure standing next to the man with the gun. “Is it really you?”

“Charlie?” Dan couldn’t see through the light, but he was sure he recognized the voice.

“Don’t move!” the other shouted again, re-aimed the gun.

“It’s okay, Nelson,” the second figure told him. “That’s my friend, Dan.”

“Charlie, could you tell him to get that flashlight outta my face?” muttered Dan. “Dammit, you nearly gave me a heart attack.”

“I’m sorry,” the first man apologized. “I just didn’t know what to expect. Until you screamed, I thought you might be… I don’t know.”

“Whatever you thought, I’m not,” said Dan. “Charlie, who is this guy?”

“This is Detective Nelson,” Charlie told him. “The grandson of Old Man Nelson.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Dan.

“Old man who?” Becky demanded.

“The old guy I told you about,” Dan reminded her. “The first guy to disappear in the other house.”

Other house?” Charlie and Nelson asked in unison.

“Yeah,” Dan told them. “This place comes out in her closet.”

“And a house in the middle of nowhere,” Barry added.

“Can you take us to this other house?” Nelson demanded.

“Yeah,” Barry replied, proudly holding the ball of string. “We made a trail.”

“Is your name Barry, by any chance?” asked Nelson.

“Yeah. Why do you want to know?”

“Your family’s worried sick about you,” Nelson told him. “And so is your friend Josh.”

“Barry! You’re alright!”

This time all five of them jumped as Josh stepped around the corner, running up to his friend.

“I was so scared! I thought you died or something! …”

“Dammit! What are you doing here?” Detective Nelson demanded. “I told you to go home! Do you know who dangerous it is in here?”

“We’re still alive,” said Josh.

“And at least eight people are dead,” Nelson pointed out.

“Make that nine,” Becky added darkly. “It also got my little brother.”

“Who are you?” Nelson asked.

“Rebecca Davis,” she told him, “and I—”

From behind them there came a great heavy dragging sound, as if large objects were being hauled around. It was a sound that three of them recognized immediately.

“Let’s save the introductions for later!” said Charlie. “We need to get the hell out of here!”

“Drop the ball!” Dan snapped as they retreated along the path of the yarn.

They ran all the way to Becky’s closet, retreating into the next room and shutting the door behind them.

* * * *

There had been no signs of pursuit after they left the closet, so after a few minutes they had settled down in what had only days before been Joe’s bedroom. Which had of late become a base of operations for their next plan. Detective Nelson decided that the best way to start was by comparing notes.

The six of them spent a couple hours telling all they knew about this strange and ominous phenomenon. Though none of them knew exactly when or how it had started, they all agreed on several things. One: that the place seemed to “grow” every time it “ate” somebody. Two: it was not something of this world, as it clearly defied the laws of time and space as anyone in this room understood them. Three: that something must be done about it.

“Now what do we do?” asked Dan.

“Whatever’s in there is just plain creepy, and it kills people,” said Barry. “We have to destroy it.”

“But how?” Josh demanded.

“I’ve got it!” declared Becky. Mom and Dad are gonna kill me… But it was the only plan she could think of. “We burn it down!”

“That just might work,” said Dan. “You’re a genius, Becky.”

“But what about the other places?” asked Charlie. “Surely it opens into even more houses. What do we do about them?”

“Screw that,” said Dan. “Let’s do what we can.”

“No. Charlie’s right,” said Detective Nelson. “This isn’t just our problem. We have to find a way to cut all of its roots.”

“Roots…” muttered Barry. “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

“But how?” Dan demanded.

“I think I have an idea,” Nelson told them. “It’s really just an extension of your own, Becky. We destroy both of the houses and keep moving on to its other points doing the same. I don’t know if we can destroy this thing— we don’t even know what it is— but we can at least expose its existence to others… Starve it, if you will.”

“Come on,” Becky said, taking out her father’s camping lighter. “I want to try something.”

They went back into her room.

“Look!” Josh gasped.

They saw that the thread tied to her bed reached into the closet, but it had been cut several feet in, and the end was missing.

“Now we’ll never find our way back!” cried Dan.

“Don’t be so certain,” Nelson told him, pointing to the paint can next to the closet door. “I left a trail of my own, remember?”

Sure enough, there were splotches of yellow paint on the floor. They looked as if they had been rubbed by something. But instead of erasing the paint, all it did was smear it around, making an even more visible trail to follow.

Becky took a bottle of nail polish remover from her dresser and went into the closet. The others followed. She dumped some of it on the floor beyond the area she thought of as her closet, then lit it with the lighter.

The polish seemed to burn, but didn’t do any apparent damage.

“Dammit…” she hissed. “How are we going to do this?”

Before anyone could answer, the whole room started shaking. They made a hasty retreat back to Becky’s room to find that this room wasn’t shaking at all. They heard loud scraping and banging noises in the closet. For exactly how long, none of them could tell.

“I think we got its attention,” Dan remarked.

“I think we may have to go with Detective Nelson’s plan,” said Charlie.

“I think you’re right,” said Becky.

* * * *

“Ready?” asked Charlie.

“Ready,” Detective Nelson replied.

“Ready,” Becky echoed.

They had made it back to the other house without incident. They had moved quickly and quietly, following Nelson’s trail with great caution. After a stop at the gas station, they now stood before the house once again.

“Time to say goodbye,” said Nelson.

They all regarded each other for a long moment, having only known each other for but an evening, yet all of them suspected this was a night none of them would forget.

“Barry, Josh, remember,” Nelson told them, “you know nothing of this. Dan, you left the house without incident and went driving around town looking for Charlie. Got it? When you couldn’t find him, you decided to go call the police. Got it?”

“Got it,” Dan replied. “Hey, Charlie, be careful… Do you really have to go along?”

“Yes,” said Charlie. “This thing killed my cousin and his family. I have to see this through.”

“Fine,” said Dan. “I wish I could go with you, but I don’t know how I’d explain it to anybody. If you make it out alive, come back, will ya?”

“You know I will,” Charlie told him. “Goodbye, Dan. I’m glad you’re still alive.”

“Come on,” said Nelson, noting the irony of his situation. “Let’s get going before somebody calls the cops.”

With that, they waved what they knew may very well be a final farewell to each other, then Charlie, Detective Nelson and Becky went into the house, dumping gasoline behind them.

They went all the way up the stairs, and finally emptied it in the attic. There, Detective Nelson lit a match. The room went up almost immediately, but the fire seemed to stop right at the doorway.

“This is going to be the weirdest arson those guys have ever investigated,” said Nelson.

“I wonder what they’ll make of it,” said Charlie.

“Let’s go,” said Becky, glad her parents were still out of town. “We’ve still gotta do my place.”

* * * *

By the time the fire truck arrived at the house, it had burned up to a grand blaze. Dan would later think about how old and rotten everything seemed in there. How everything that strange place touched seemed aged beyond its years. The house didn’t last long at all, according to reports.

Dan came back later, expecting to see a doorway hovering in the air over the rubble, but there was no such thing. It was just empty air.

No skeletons were found in the wreckage, and not a trace remained of the attic.

He wondered how far the three of them would get. How far this strange place reached. How many doors they would need to close. And most of all, if he would ever see Charlie or the others again.
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

August 24, 2015, 12:11:47 PM
Reply #61
The desert sun baked everything to a sweltering shimmer, the highway easily hot enough to fry eggs on, as the bus ground to stop in the middle of nowhere.

The passengers, a mix of tourists just passing through, couldn’t help but stare at the man who stood just outside the door. Bleached denim jacket, pants with multiple pockets, and a wide-brim hat to keep the sun out of his face, shrouding his sunglasses in shadow almost as deep as his stubble. Shrugging a tall camping backpack, rack stacked with all sorts of odds and ends, including a long, tightly-wrapped shape strapped to one side.

Though the thing most eyes lingered on was the bright red gas can he carried with him.

“Sir,” the bus driver, an ageing, balding fellow with a droopy, hang-dog face told him, “you know we’re not allowed to pick up hitchhikers.”

“Sorry,” the stranger told the driver, finally lowering his thumb and reaching his free hand into his jacket pocket, producing a twenty dollar bill. “My car broke down farther up the way, and it’s taken me all day to fetch this can. I’m willing to pay full fare, if that’s what it takes.”

The driver sat there for a long moment, weighing company policy, but unable to ignore the pounding heat pouring on him through the door like an open blast furnace, finally shrugging and accepting the bill as the man stepped aboard, the door closing off the bake oven.

The man, for his part, quietly thanked the driver, then ambled back to the first empty seat he could find, desert heat still radiating off him after his indeterminate march under the sun.

As the bus rolled back into motion, the man kept to himself, offering no introduction, and both the weary, yet determined, set of his face warded off any questions. For the remainder of his passage, he remained silent, even as a pair of kids several seats back held a whispered argument about whether or not the object strapped to his backpack was really a sword, but neither of them found the nerve to ask him.

About fifty or sixty miles down the road, the man stood up and called out for the driver to stop, the bus driver giving him an odd, annoyed look as they rolled to a stop in front of an old dirt road.

“My car’s out there,” the man said as he stepped back out into the golden late afternoon blaze. “Thanks for the lift. Keep the change.”

Driver and passengers alike watched in perplexed silence as he strode out into the desert with only a pair of faded tire-tracks to guide him, all heads turning to follow even as the bus started up again.

It was late afternoon by the time the man reached the end of that obscure track, arriving at a dilapidated circle of trailers, the light fading into orange near the horizon as he took a canteen off his pack and swallowed several swigs of water before putting it back and slowly approaching the trailers.

Furtive, hesitant eyes watched him as he scanned the trailers one by one, finally spotting one at the far end, that elicited a faint gasp from the others as he walked right up to it.

Door boarded up, windows broken, crosses and occult symbols spray-painted all over it, along with a chicken-scratching of Spanish graffiti, most of it religious-sounding. Only one word stood out to the man as he walked up to the front door: maldito. Sprayed in large red letters next to the door.

To what he now knew would be an empty trailer, abandoned just along enough to start to acquire the look, even without this fearful vandalism.

Those same secretive eyes watched in silence as he shrugged off his pack, removing the wrapped object to reveal it as a katana, which he now sheathed at his side, then opened his pack and produced a crowbar. The workmanship barring the door was frantic, panicked, as if the person who did it couldn’t stand to be there any longer than they had to, so the man took little effort removing the hasty barrier. With one last glance over his shoulder, confirming that no one would challenge him, he pulled the door open and crossed the threshold.

Trading the crowbar for a flashlight, which he clipped to his jacket, he stepped into the stifling darkness, both the day’s unchecked heat, and a familiar whiff of decay that always seemed to accompany these shunned places, wrinkled the man’s nose in spite of his stoic expression, which never wavered as he searched the derelict trailer.

Finally, at the far end, in what looked like the stripped-down remains of a small child’s room, a little girl, judging from the décor, he saw what he was looking for.

The closet door had a big white cross painted on it, and a curling poster of Jesus tacked up next to it, the door visibly nailed shut.

“Still not good enough…” the man muttered as he stepped past a minefield of mostly tipped-over glass candleholders littering the floor as he crossed the room. Whipping out the crowbar again, he set to work on the door, muttering, “I’m sorry, niña, I learn of these places too late, but you will at least be avenged…”

So many hoaxes, so many attention-seekers, combined with the rarity of the real thing, that even the internet made for slow hunting.

Unlike the front door, the closet had been nailed down with great vigor— great anger and grief— thus it took a lot more work to tear this door down. Even so, he worked with deliberation, certain that if anyone had the nerve to hinder him in here, they would have shown themselves by now. Of all the places he had done, nothing had ever attacked him from within, still he found the occasional need to intimidate some people on this side of the doors to keep their distance while he took care of business.

Finally, he wrenched the door aside, to find confirmation.

His flashlight’s stark beam playing out over the trappings of a closet too deep to fit in this trailer, already knowing full well the outside wall was flat as the rest of the structure.

“You know the deal,” he said quietly, uncapping the gas can and pouring it on the floor in front of the closet. “We refuse to be your prey…”

He then worked his way back out to the front door, dumping gas all along the way. Back out front, he tossed the can into the trailer, then fetched out a box of matches, lighting one and tossing it into the flames. Still feeling eyes on him, and a growing sense of panic from the other trailers, he bowed his head and crossed himself, as it was all he could think of to do for an encore with this audience.

Wondering vaguely how this tale might go with subsequent tellings he didn’t plan to stick around for. This was his first time doing a trailer, and it only took one backward glance to see why firefighters hated the things. His usual precautions paying triple as the whole thing seemed to go up unnaturally fast.

His work finished here, he shouldered his pack and walked out into the desert sunset, each gust of wind erasing his footprints behind him.


-February 15–6, 2002
-new epilogue: June 17, 2015

A continuation of "The House"— what originally ended up being a four-part series with the cheesy titles "Additions", "Division", "Multiplication" and "Subtraction". Each part got weaker and weaker, much like horror movie sequels. As such, it’s rare for me to ever go beyond the second story— quit while you’re ahead, and all that jazz— but since there has been a recent demand for "the rest of the story" I've decided to give it a shot, and my readers decide for themselves.

I also added a new epilogue, based on an idea from my notes after I wrote the original.
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

December 19, 2015, 09:57:38 PM
Reply #62
Thanksgiving?
I ate a piece of pie and rushed off to check out
people who didn't have enough things to be thankful for yet.
Christmas Eve?
I scanned and bagged everyone else's Christmas presents,
while my family and friends open theirs in another time zone.
New Years?
I'll ring in the new year on a cash register,
and be back to coddle your hangovers in the morning.

Valentines Day?
I catered everyone else's date,
wondering when love became so expensive.
Presidents Day?
I will exchange Dead Presidents
for the luxuries and necessities of the living.
St Patrick's Day?
I made sure to wear green,
so as not to be pinched by random customers.

Easter Sunday?
I will listen to parents and children who are as confused
about the Spring Equinox as all the religions that appropriated it.
Cinco de Mayo?
I will watch Mexicans celebrate the independence of a country
many of them live in virtual exile from as refugees.
Independence Day?
I will hand out hamburgers to everyone who couldn't find a BBQ to attend,
while missing out on the one I was invited to.

Labor Day?
Surprise, surprise, I will spend this Bankers Holiday...
Laboring, what else?
Halloween?
I'll spend that final week listening to people bicker about costumes,
with noplace to go, even if I bothered to get one of my own.
But at least on Veteran's Day
I can be proud to serve
those who already have.

So at the end of each year, we find ourselves asking...
What holiday?

-12/14/15

My holidays are as lame as they are epic.  ???
I've spent Hearthwarming in Thedas, gone deathclaw hunting in a nuclear winter wonderland, dragon hunting in scenic Skyrim, and even spent one very bipolar holiday in the Shivering Isles.  :P Yet this year, it looked like I wasn't going to find any new destinations, as I won't be able to get my hands on Fallout 4 for a long time yet to come. :( But after getting this off my chest, I think I can finally take a creepy woodland holiday in the Sixth Dimension. I'll be sure to tell everyone all about it, after I'm finished writing Tradewinds 20.
  :lol:
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

January 09, 2016, 08:13:27 PM
Reply #63
These are the days...
It's not that life's so short
it's that you're dead for so long
The time you think you can afford
you'll find out that you're dead wrong
The world remains in motion
even when you're standing still
So be careful of the notion
that you've got time to kill


These are the days
The future still looms, the past always lingers
Don't let the present slip thru your fingers
or get tangled in delays
But always be living in the moment
No regrets, another chance you won't get
to come back these ways
Some seeds you sow take years to grow
and some outcomes you may never know
These are the days


These are the days...
And it's so easy to lose track
both in leisure and in haste
But you'll never get it back
so don't let it go to waste
Don't just wait your life away
Time passes faster than it seems
Don't wait until you're old & grey
to start living your dreams


These are the days
The future still looms, the past always lingers
Don't let the present slip thru your fingers
or get tangled in delays
But always be living in the moment
No regrets, another chance you won't get
to come back these ways
Some seeds you sow take years to grow
and some outcomes you may never know
These are the days


These are the days, my friend
Someday they're gonna end
So take your chance, living for today
Go walk the path you choose
Fight, even if you lose
Now is the time, this is the place
These are the days


These are the days
The future still looms, the past always lingers
Don't let the present slip thru your fingers
or get tangled in delays
But always be living in the moment
No regrets, another chance you won't get
to come back these ways
Some seeds you sow take years to grow
and some outcomes you may never know
These are the days


-circa 2006

Funny, I meant to put this up days ago (ironic, too, given the subject matter...  :-X ) as it just seemed a very appropriate note to begin a new year on. Originally inspired by a line of bathroom graffiti, that reminded me of an old folk song. Props to anyone who got the Easter Egg I left in the bridge.  ;)
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

March 19, 2016, 04:30:37 AM
Reply #64
Take the skeleton key, from out of the past
down the rabbit hole & thru the looking glass
Over the rainbow & thru the woods, a hidden door
to boldly go where no one's gone before
Up the downstair, down the hall & around the bend
past the Dreamlands, where the sidewalk ends
Where the ocean meets the sky, set your sights
upon the second star to the right
and straight on 'til the morning light
Places that are bigger on the inside
There & Back Again to the Future
The warp zone, to Choose Your Own Adventure
To explore whatever fate has in store
seeking swords & armor great heroes wore
artifacts from ancient lore & more
to make friendships worth fighting for
Along the way to save the day
in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...


What time is it?
Adventure Time!
As worlds collide
when the stars align

Other worlds than these
and One Ring to rule them all
Train hard to level up
and answer the call

In the Twilight Zone, don't panic
just insert coins to continue
'Til all are One
may the Force by with you


Transform & roll out on the Path of the Beam
Walk the endless Spiral Path to live your dream
in the circle of life, to find a better way
Stop by the shop that wasn't there yesterday
and the Bazaar of the Bizarre for new gear
on your way beyond the Final Frontier
Put to the test in a journey to the west
to take from the rich & give back to the rest
if there's any justice left in this world at all
where they control the horizontal & the vertical
To fight for the User in Shadow War struggles
when the world's been pulled over the eyes of muggles
Find your Will of Fire to light the darkest hour
For with great Courage, Wisdom & Power
always come great responsibility
to fight the good fight, with the sign of the Z
Just don't forget where your towel is
in the Bat Cave, where your cape & cowl is
for this conflict that rages throughout the ages
Because war... war never changes


What time is it?
Adventure Time!
As worlds collide
when the stars align

Other worlds than these
and One Ring to rule them all
Train hard to level up
and answer the call

In the Twilight Zone, don't panic
just insert coins to continue
'Til all are One
may the Force by with you


Here Comes a New Challenger!...

It's One Riot, One Ranger
for the Mysterious Stranger
who laughs in the face of danger
No matter how troublesome
who's all out of bubblegum
So power up & come get some!
Foundations will be shaken
when the Sleeper awakens
So once again, the day is saved
by those who gave & stood brave


What time is it?
Adventure Time!
As worlds collide
when the stars align

Other worlds than these
and One Ring to rule them all
Train hard to level up
and answer the call

And once again, the day is saved
For all that everyone's been thru
Remember, you're never alone
Somewhere, someone's fighting for you

In the Twilight Zone, don't panic
just insert coins to continue
'Til all are One
may the Force by with you...


-12/29/15 - 03/14/16

This has got to be the straight-up nerdiest thing I've ever written. The chorus originally popped into my head while waiting in the theater lobby to see The Force Awakens, and the rest of it just kept piecing itself together at random over the last couple months, just weaving together all of the stuff that's inspired me over the years.  8)
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

March 27, 2016, 06:01:55 PM
Reply #65
Jesús was born in the countryside of Guerrero, Mexico,
to María and José, a carpenter of simple means.
When José's ailing business could no longer afford to pay protection money,
local cartel thugs killed them, and burned down their home to make an example out of them.
After witnessing the murder of his parents, Jesús fled north,
with rumors of the cartel wanting him silenced hounding him every step of the way.

Jesús gambled his meager pocket-money, and his life,
on a treacherous desert crossing, for even without the corrupt guards on his own side of the border,
who wouldn't hesitate to sell him out for cartel bribes, he would still be unwelcome beyond.
Once across, he found he spoke no English, instead scraping out a living
doing work the gringos turned their noses up at,
and did it for dirt-floor, boiled-potato wages.

Jesús was walking down the street one day, when he was stopped by police without explanation,
arrested on dubious misdemeanor charges, held without bail,
and deported back to Guerrero in the back of a truck.
Three days after his return, Jesús was killed in a drive-by shooting,
by the very gang he sought to escape from in the Land of Opportunity.

Jesús died for Free Trade.

Jesús died for our War On Drugs.

Jesús died for dirt-cheap labor.

Jesús died for racial profiling.

Jesús died for immigration politics.

Jesús died for our sins, and he's not coming back.


-03/24-7/16

This one kinda came out of nowhere, one evening at work, when my eyes lit upon the usual Easter-time magazine faire, the title "The Story of Jesus" and I simply decided to tell a more contemporary, and dare I say, much more relevant tale, than stale, rehashed mythology.

(BTW, Tradewinds 20 is currently ~44% complete...)
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

May 15, 2016, 12:03:57 AM
Reply #66
Remember how, in those old Publishers Clearing House commercials,
the Prize Patrol would always pass through some upper-class neighborhood,
and walk up to a well-manicured lawn,
past a car that cost six figures,
to the front door of a mansion,
just to give some elderly gentry another million dollars?

Just once, I'd like to watch their TV crew
walk through some trailer park,
up an old dirt road driveway,
past a car held together with duct tape and bailing twine
to give a million dollars to a single mother
who subscribed just for reading materials for two kids.


-09/22/03

Just a little something I stumbled across, sorting my old notes from yesteryear. Found it still resonates with me, even after all these years...

...Oh, and Tradewinds 20 is now ~56% complete.  8)
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

May 31, 2016, 02:24:42 AM
Reply #67
That's me: Red-Shirt Cadet C
transferred from Company B
killed in Season 3 by an IED
fighting an enemy I couldn't see
And shipped home in secrecy
in a flag-draped box
not even shown on Fox
for fear of dropping stocks
and shocks back home, for show
Because the oil must flow
while at home, the winds blow
Band of bros, Gung-Ho, GI Joe
all fired-up and ready to go
Just didn't know what I got myself into
though, no words for what we've been thru
for those who've only ever seen
Gulf War II on a TV screen
Debating what our sacrifices mean
like war is all just entertainment
Operation Enduring Military Operations
Detour of Duty, flip-flopping explanations
every week for invading other nations
for Military-Industrial & oil corporations
Led by the Fortunate Son Administration
cowardly old men who didn't have to fight
sending other people's kids to hunt down & find
someone else's kids other cowardly old men hide behind
Fighting blind, our only armor hand-crafted
by other grunts who were Poverty Drafted
and laughed at by the war profiteers
clinking glasses of wine, saying "Cheers!"
Raising a toast to Four More Years
of media fears & Hollywood recruitment
substitutes for economic improvement
But no matter who you knew went, make no mistake:
We put ourselves in harm's way for others' sake

-circa May 2006
Just a little something I dug up out of my notes, just barely in time for Memorial Day. Something I wrote while thinking about old friends and classmates of mine who served in one branch or another of the military, trying not to imagine what it would be like to die out there, what would be going through my mind. I count myself fortunate, that everyone I know made it back in one piece. These are dark days for those who serve; a perpetual war machine, with neither endgame, nor exit strategy, and a thousand conspiracy theories about what they're actually even accomplishing out there. Know that we stand behind you, and we're doing everything in power (what little We The People have left) to do something about the Management, that the freedom you defend might still be waiting for you back home.

Dedicated to every soldier who ever laid down their lives on behalf of others, and to all mothers, the loser of every war ever fought...
(BTW, Tradewinds 20 is currently ~62% complete...)
« Last Edit: May 31, 2016, 02:27:05 AM by shadesmaclean »
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

August 11, 2016, 11:22:07 PM
Reply #68
All the world's a stage, but this play is poorly cast
travesty of a tragedy, each more scripted than the last
Everywhere I go, I see nothing but the masks
that everybody always wears, no questions asked
Just going thru the motions, all standing in line
The show must go on, act like everything's just fine
Are we all that afraid to show our real faces?
Talking to each other in empty, hollow phrases
Phony social graces won't let us communicate
To our own feelings we can no longer relate
Just look-alike, sound-alike clones on parade
Tell me, aren't you tired of this charade?


The world always feels so unreal
no way to say just how I feel
No words for it— what's the deal?
Read between the lines of flat projection
and take back your 3rd dimension
Don't be told what to dream— Get real

You live just like a puppet, just obey the script
Your identity's been stolen, your soul's been ripped
and burned & sold back to you remixed
Bought it with a smile, you've all been tricked
Reduced to a living parody of yourself
so worried about the talk of everyone else
Trying to be different by all acting alike
thinking another mask will fix your life
But you're just living out a stereotype
believing all the lies, believing all the hype
Your perception's been hijacked, desensitized
Maybe one day you'll wake up & realize
that life has no meaning but what you give it
Your reality is all in the way you live it
If you're sick of this shit, then get with it
Get real, and break thru beyond their limits


The world always feels so unreal
no way to say just how I feel
No words for it— what's the deal?
Read between the lines of flat projection
and take back your 3rd dimension
Don't be told what to dream— Get real

Just living an illusion
lost in the confusion
No matter what you do
don't let them see the real you
Even though it's all up to you
never do what you want to
Come on, why can't you see
that's just no way to be?

I already know how it feels not to feel
I don't want to anymore— so let's get real


The world always feels so unreal
no way to say just how I feel
No words for it— what's the deal?
Read between the lines of flat projection
and take back your 3rd dimension
Don't be told what to dream— Get real

-1999 - revised 09/20/03

For what it's worth, I've always had mixed feelings about this one. While I agree wholeheartedly with what my younger self was trying to say, I'll also admit it ends up sounding somewhat preachy, no matter what I do with it.
  :-\
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

March 12, 2017, 12:53:37 AM
Reply #69
“SOLE SURVIVOR”
From the cockpit of his beached Albatross, Roger Wilco could still see the explosion from around the bend in the shore, flinging debris from beyond the pines and into the sea. The explosion, which must surely have been Erix’s ship, was not what any of them expected, judging from the others’ reaction over the radio.

From the way the others cried out her name, it was Roxy who got caught in the blast, leaving him with the sinking feeling the bounty hunter must have blundered into some kind of trap.

As the noise of the explosion faded, along with the ringing in his ears, the pilot listened in tense anticipation. Far as he could tell, the others were still alive, though whether anyone else was harmed was too incoherent to determine. He watched Max run out into the open to see if there was anything he could do for them.

Thus it was only when he felt a laser gun pressed against the side of his head that he realized he was not alone, that the spectacle outside was not only a booby-trap, but also a diversion.

“Not one word, fat boy,” a soft, menacing voice warned him, “and not one move. You’re my ticket out of here. If you value your life, you’re going to start these engines and haul ass.”

Sweat dripping down Roger’s back at the understanding that he was now all alone with the infamous outlaw they had chased all the way from the island of Yarbo. Found it difficult to make eye contact with his one good eye, grey and intense, even harder to linger on his dead, glassy left, with the trio of scars streaking down that side of his face.

An old wound from the very foe he just acquitted himself of only moments ago.

“It’s not that simple,” the pilot told him, half afraid to speak, but all too well aware of how a lack of cooperation without any explanation might be construed. Though he kept a revolver from his own dimension concealed under the dash, as a last resort, he cursed himself for not arming himself sooner, as it may as well be out on the nose of the plane for all the good it was doing him now. Instead, he struggled not to even look in its general direction, for fear of giving it away. “We took some heavy damage from the storm, and lost both engines.”

“Do you expect me to believe that?” Erix demanded. “Just what kind of fool do you think take me for?”

“No fool, I assure you,” the pilot replied, still struggling to regain his mental footing after being caught unawares like this. Sweating, trying hard not to think about the hidden killswitch concealed among some of the older control switches, which he had installed years ago, as an anti-hijacking measure. And engaged behind everyone else’s backs after they embarked on this ill-fated hunt for the man who now stood behind him. “We’re as stranded as you are.”

“Start the engines now,” Erix repeated, “or I’ll just kill you and figure it out for myself.”

“If you’ve never flown a plane from my world before, you wouldn’t figure it out in time anyway…” Roger sighed, reaching for the controls, relieved that he thought to engage the killswitch before anyone else could board, fearing that even the slightest hint of operability— damage or no damage— might arouse suspicions of sabotage or subterfuge. “As you can see, we’re grounded. Believe it or not, the bounty hunter was looking to capture your ship.”

“That’s rich,” Erix snorted. “Wouldn’t’ve done her any good anyway.”

“Roger, who are you talking to?” a young man’s voice piped up on the radio, for Roger’s mic was still set to voice-activated, and the pilot winced, having no idea how his captor might react.

“But Max is out here…” another voice pointed out.

“Then that means…” There was no mistaking the alarm in Max’s voice as the three companions arrived at the same ominous conclusion.

“Roger,” one of them called out, “is Erix in there?”

For his part, Erix slid his free hand’s index finger across his throat in a gesture the pilot understood all too well.

“I see him!” one of them called out. “He’s inside with him!”

“He means to maroon us…” the other realized aloud.

“Back to the ship!” Max called out.

“Not so fast!” Erix told them, well aware that his previous ruse was at an end. “If you’ve figured out I’m here, then you already know I have a hostage. If you value his life, you won’t show your face anywhere near this plane.”

“The joke’s on you, Erix,” the first voice informed him. “That bird won’t fly anymore.”

“Way ahead of you, Shades” Erix countered, “so don’t get smart with me. I’m taking this man as both insurance, and as my personal pack animal. He looks like he could use the exercise… We’re going to be rounding up some supplies, and then you’re going to let us just walk right out of here, got it?”

“Dammit…” the other muttered.

“Justin, he’s got us right where he wants us,” Shades reminded him.

“But what about…” Max seemed to take some unseen cue to zip his lip.

“You, get up,” Erix commanded. “Slowly, and no funny business. Your life ends at the same time as your usefulness to me, remember that. Your only hope of surviving this is getting me back to civilization, or a working ship out of here.”

Roger doubted that, not just based on Roxy’s accounts of him, but a strong intuition that his first statement was truer than the latter, that even making it that far with him was no guarantee of survival. Despite several hours of elevation and applying cold packs, his leg was still extremely stiff and sore, so there was no hiding the full extent of his injury as he attempted to limp across the cabin at gunpoint, nearly falling on his face once he ran out of modular seats to lean on.

“You’re off to a bad start,” Erix chided him. “Playing gimp will do you no good. After all, if you can’t haul supplies, then your use is at an end as soon as I’m clear of them.”

“Just… just give me a moment…” Roger groaned, seeing something Erix apparently didn’t know about. Wincing in both pain and guilt, unsure how he could face Max after whatever happened next, he turned toward the compartment next to the tiny bathroom near the rear of the plane, telling his captor, “I keep some old military rations in here, in case I ever got stranded…”

Sure enough, Erix was so focused on watching Roger’s every move, he failed to notice the black-and-white panther, still hiding behind some empty cargo crates after being spooked by the explosion, until Bandit reached out with a snarl and slashed Erix’s leg as he moved belatedly to evade him.

“Holy shit!” Erix lost his grip on his power pistol as he staggered back against the cargo door.

As the big cat lunged at Erix again, Roger wasted no time locking himself in the bathroom, while Erix’s second evasion caught his wrist on the door latch, hauling the cargo door back open.

Pouncing again as Erix regained his balance, this time dumping him on the ground outside.

“Bandit!” Max wailed, watching them wrestle on the ground before Erix came out on top, holding one of his now-activated laser claws up to his feline companion’s head. Bandit, seeming to realize the threat, his struggling ceased.

“Good kitty. That’s more like it,” Erix remarked, dragging both of themselves to their feet. That cry, combined with the look on Max’s face, told him everything he needed to know about this one. Which was a good thing for him, since he could now see that they had the Albatross covered from three points, with his back to the sea. “Next, you’re going to toss me some rope to make a leash out of.”

“Take me,” Max said instead, dropping his power pistol and raising his hands. Over six feet tall, and broad-shouldered, with shoulder-length blond hair bound by a headband adorned with an ancestral symbol. Though a swordsman and fighter of much untapped potential, none of his usual confidence was in evidence, his sea-grey eyes fixed on his feline friend.

“Nice try,” Erix taunted. He already understood that killing Bandit would set all three of them off. That for all his previous self-righteous talk, Max would kill him, or die trying. Under other circumstances, that could make for an interesting contest, but here it would be three against one, surrounded, with nothing to even the odds. “But I want to see you squirm, for the way you humiliated me back in Anchor Point. If I can’t have a pack animal, I’ll settle for a meat-shield until I’m clear of you.”

“But Bandit was injured in the crash,” Shades protested, figuring Erix would find out soon enough anyway. Though his sunglasses could make him seem opaque, the rest of his face betrayed his alarm and dismay all too transparently right now. Of more modest stature than his friend, his denim jacket and cargo pants somehow always conveyed an impression of armor, and Erix had already learned, holding him hostage many moons ago, that if nothing else, that gear contained a fair number of concealed weapons and tools.

For now, though, his power pistol drifted groundward in his obvious hesitation.

“Take me instead,” Max repeated.

“But you know he won’t let you live,” Justin pointed out. Short and wiry, with black hair and a quick, narrow face, he held a double-barrel disrupter pistol. Frozen pointed right at Erix, trigger finger straining against a lifetime of experiences that informed every fiber of his being that he needed to pull it, cursing the fact that he couldn’t bring himself to do that to the pilot who saved their lives only hours ago.

“How about I take you instead?” Erix drew his other power pistol to cover Bandit as he pointed at Shades. “We had so much fun last time, didn’t we?”

Shades swallowed hard at that prospect in spite of himself.

Though Erix kept a firm hand on the scruff of Bandit’s neck, the angle prevented him from piercing the big cat directly with his claws, instead keeping the pistol trained on him as he stood the rest of the way up.

“I’m not going to tell you again,” Erix warned them. “Lower your weapons, and prepare to pack. One of you is going to be my new—”

All eyes on Erix, so none of them saw it coming when a box went flying out of the cargo door, hitting Erix across the back of the head, knocking him flat on his face before he could make a move.

“That’s fat man, to you!” Roger blustered as he staggered over to the cargo door. When he nearly tripped over Erix’s other power pistol, he merely scooped it up and appropriated it as his own as he hobbled over. “Nobody hijacks my Albatross!”

For his part, Bandit bolted the second Erix lost his grip, scampering over to Max as fast as his injured paw would allow.

“You killed my client, troublesome as she was…” Roger now stood over Erix, power pistol in hand. “You even tried to kill the rest of my passengers when we’re already stranded in the middle of goddamn nowhere…”

“Roger!” Justin shouted. “Finish him off! Now!”

Raising his own disrupter to do just that, as he feared this pilot lacked the wherewithal to go through with it himself.

Max reached over to retrieve his dropped power pistol.

Just when it looked like the dreaded outlaw Erix was going to die at the hands of some civilian pilot with almost no combat experience to his name, Roger looked over at them, as if realizing for the first time where he was, or what he was doing, and saw Shades facepalm at him.

Thus Erix took Roger completely by surprise when he scissored his legs, tripping him.

Roger howled in agony, landing on his injured leg.

“You’re as soft as the rest of them,” Erix muttered as he snatched up his other gun, pointing it at the pilot while they were still entangled, before Justin could even readjust his aim. “Nobody move!” Rubbing the back of his head with his free hand, still keeping his weapon trained on the pilot. He could feel blood oozing down his torn pantleg, and wanted more than anything to shoot that damn cat, but knew he needed the right moment. “You may not serve as a pack animal, but you’ll still do as a human shield. Now get up.”

“But my leg…” Roger groaned.

“If you can’t get up,” Erix warned him, “your worthless life ends here.”

“Then so does yours,” Max told him. Steadying his power pistol with stern effort. Trying not to think about what just happened to Bandit, lest he pull the trigger too soon and get Roger killed for sure.

“We have you surrounded,” Shades reminded him.

“You can’t shoot all of us at once,” Justin added.

“If I die, I won’t die alone,” Erix assured them, watching Roger struggle back to his feet. “I can take at least one of you with me, and you’ll have no one but yourselves to blame.”

Once the pilot was back on his feet, Erix stepped in close, keeping the pilot between himself and his enemies, to serve as a human shield if they tried anything else.

The others kept their position, remaining spread out, uncomfortably aware that Erix could hide behind his hostage, and still get off shots at them if push came to shove.

“Limp for your life,” Erix ordered as Roger hobbled along. “This is where we part ways. I won’t release him until you turn back for the ship.”

“And just how will you release him?” Shades pressed, ignoring the sweat pouring down his neck with an effort. “Just from you, or also from the world of the living?”

“What’s worthless around here is your word,” Max stated, “and he has no reason to cooperate if you’re just going to kill him anyway.”

“You’re not getting past us,” Justin told him as they continued to bar his way past the abandoned seaside lodge, into the woods behind it.

“Which leaves us at an impasse,” Erix admitted. “That bounty hunter wanted me, but you just want to live, right?…”

Erix’s words drifted away from Roger as he thought hard. He could imagine no version of this where he would come out alive, and no serious chance of all three of his passengers surviving whatever happened next. He could leave his life in Erix’s deadly hands, or take it into his own.

Taking one last breath, Roger tried to elbow him, but Erix felt him shift in mid step. He got the foot-long energy blades built into Erix’s glove, right through the chest for his trouble. Puncturing his left lung and piercing his heart.

“So be it, Fat Man.”

This fatal blow turned Roger into a human sandbag, dragging Erix down with him just as surely as if he ducked.

Thus Justin, the quickest on the draw, missed him by a mile as Erix raised his power pistol and shot back, nailing him several times before he hit the ground.

Now trapped in this desperate gamble, Erix turned on Max next, seeing him falter with Bandit in the middle of their shootout, only grazing his shoulder with one energy beam before going down.

Shades thought fast, cutting loose with a barrage of stun shots, looking to avoid killing any of his friends while neutralizing Erix at the same time. But not fast enough, as Erix hit him while he was still tracking Erix’s sudden drop.

Bandit was almost upon him, snarling in inarticulate rage, but Erix shoved Roger’s corpse at the big cat, tripping him up just as he was about to spring. Thus Bandit landed flat on his face in a most unfeline fashion, as Erix whipped out one of his twin laser blades and decapitated him. Kicking the dead cat as he staggered back to his feet.

“Bandit…”

Badly wounded, Max still hung on to his power pistol, struggling to regain his feet, lifting his arm with painful effort, one last thought etched on his face as he raised his head and looked Erix square in the eye. Too slow, too halting; Erix shot first as he pulled the trigger one last time.

Offering the final word: “I told you… Hero’s die y—”

The words caught in his throat as an energy beam pierced his own chest.

For a moment, he could only stare in shock at the ghost who stepped out from around the corner of the abandoned lodge, cloak fluttering over squarish shoulder guards, one of several pieces of light armor she fortified military garb of unknown origin with. Caked with sand and soot from head to foot, her blonde hair blown all to one side in a manner that might have looked cartoonish if it wasn’t for the fire in her violet eyes. Her bulky disrupter pistol, with its wicked-looking bayonet deployed, aimed square at him, barrel smoking.

“But how…”

Erix struggled to raise his gun as the Cyexian bounty hunter put several more rounds in him, his power pistol clunking to the ground as he fell to his knees, then flat on his face.

“The rocks,” the Hunter replied, still keeping a keen eye on him as she strode up. The same rock formations that grounded his ship having clearly shielded her from the worst of the self-destruct charges. “Just barely enough time…”

Then her radio got damaged, so she chose to play dead and move in silence. And apparently took too long getting back. It all happened so fast, even as she was positioning herself.

At point-blank, she shot him with a couple stun shots, to be sure he wasn’t playing possum, then fired up her laser staff and cut his head clean off. She spat in the dirt, the taste of this long-sought victory bitter to her tongue as she surveyed the cost. Though she doubted anyone in this backwater realm could even afford the bounty Erix had racked up, she was dead certain his head would no longer be recognizable by the time she made it anyplace that could be mistaken for civilization anyway.

At this stage more of a personal point than a professional one, Roxy reached down and plucked out his glass eye. She then took his laser swords and energy claws, trophies he would never part with willingly. Proof of the deed, even if no one would honor the bounty for him.

She then punted his severed head into the waves, deciding that the scavengers could have it, a fitting end for one who left so many others for the carrion-birds.

Setting aside this matter, now dead as her nemesis, she turned to Roger, seeing that he had already bled out from wounds she would have no way of saving him from anyway.

“You delivered on all your promises,” she told the pilot. “If anyone failed here, it was I.”

Hearing a groan from off to the side, she perked up, seeing Shades rolling slightly on the ground in a vain effort to move, and rushed over to him.

“Amy… John…” he moaned, trying to sit up, but finding his body no longer wanted to cooperate with him. Tears streaming from behind opaque lenses as his efforts grew steadily weaker. Eyes dimming, even as they filled with a vision of mountains, and a desert sunset beyond, the disappointing sense of being so close, yet so far away. So many close calls, all over the Sixth Dimension, just to fall here, in the middle of nowhere… “I’m sorry…”

“I promise you… Dexter…” Roxy told him, choosing to speak the name his mother gave him, taking his trembling hand. During their flight from Anchor Point, she had added John’s photo, and all of Shades’ search information, to her datapad, just in case she met either of them anywhere in her own travels. “If we ever cross paths, I will tell them that you gave your life protecting your friends.”

Seeing that there was nothing she could do for him anymore, likely not had she been even a couple minutes earlier and had the plane’s First Aid kit right beside her, she stunned him and put him out of his misery. Lifted his namesake sunglasses, closing his eyes before gently lowering the mirrorized lenses back in place. Reflecting that they just somehow belonged there, even in death.

Laboring to stifle her own attempts at hope, she turned to Justin next, finding him already dead.

“If I ever meet this Jesse Fletcher, I’ll kick his ass and let him know why.” She laid both of his disrupter pistols across his chest. “Then I’ll tell him about the real Justin Black…”

Finding Max just as deceased, she bowed her head.

“You were an honorable man, almost to a fault. If there is anything beyond this life, I hope you find peace there that you couldn’t find here…”

Looking about the gravelly beach, the scene of so much death in just a couple short minutes, Roxy took a deep breath before offering them the closest thing she could manage to an apology for those who died fighting.

“Rest easy, knowing you are avenged…”

Finding herself standing all alone on an unknown shore, in an unknown realm, it took her a long moment to regain her focus and decide her next move.
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

March 12, 2017, 12:55:23 AM
Reply #70
Seeing as how the place had offered no response of any sort since their crash landing last night, Roxy turned her attention to the derelict lodge. Now that she could focus on the building itself, she found she didn’t like the way the trees seemed to encroach on the surrounding buildings. Feeling hemmed in on all sides in a way that just didn’t sit right with her.

Log cabin construction, with notched corners that protruded about half a foot on each end, cut flat and flush with each other. Wood shingles growing moss, a few sagging beams, a couple broken windows, and the lingering certainty that any damage was done solely by natural occurrences, such as last night’s storm. Deserted for years, by the look of it.

A deep-hooded porch almost as wide as the front of the lodge, with steps leading up to the entrance. A long, flat hunk of driftwood hung from the eaves above the porch steps, the words Camp Stilton decoratively carved and burned into it. Much to her surprise, the front door was unlocked, letting into the dim mustiness of the interior. Log architecture, matching the exterior to a T, but only a few windows, all them dusty, admitting only limited light from outside, so she switched on the flashlight under the barrel of her disrupter pistol. As the door creaked open with a stuttering grind, announcing her presence louder than she would have preferred, she knew any pretense of stealth was past.

Though Roxy suspected, after the whole explosion part earlier, as well as all the shooting, that anyone holed up in here would surely have flown the coop by now. Along with the total lack of any response at any point since their crash landing last night, the dusty silence only served to confirm her suspicions about the place’s abandonment. Still, she found a moment to wonder why it would bother her so much, what with all of the abandoned places she prowled on her hunts.

Torn between leaving the door open to offer a hasty exit, or shutting it again for an early warning if anyone else tried to enter while she was inside, she settled for the quick exit, as she somehow doubted anyone else would be dropping by here any time soon.

She could also tell from the smell that the roof was every bit as leaky as they had feared, adding to her relief that they didn’t have to abandon ship and stay the night in here. Creaky floorboards made sneaking impossible, raising dust with even small movements. Letting her eyes adjust to the gloom as she made her way past the foyer.

Despite seeing no immediate evidence of illness or contagion, Roxy still whipped out a bandana from her belt pouch— often used to ward off her own smokescreen during raids— to tie over her face. After all, abandoned buildings could also harbor all manner of mold and fungus. Though by no means as foolproof as a respirator or dust mask, it was still better than nothing.

She found the place deserted. As if everyone just packed up and left in a terrible hurry. For her, that was the eeriest part about it.

No barricades or signs of struggle. Either they surrendered without a fight, or someone went to great lengths to clean up afterward. The latter, especially, made little sense if it was all just going to be left to rot in the end anyway. There were a couple broken windows here and there, but all of it looked more like incidental storm damage than the work of vandals or squatters. Much like how all the furnishings were intact and unsoiled by anything more than the occasional roof leak, as well as a general lack of indoor ‘camping’ squalor.

The bathroom, though slightly mildewy, was also in order. Also didn’t look like it had been scrubbed down clean enough to eat off of, either, the best evidence it was not contamination or plague. Reconsidering the matter, she decided she could trust the apparent haste of their departure, that if a sickness was that bad, no one would have bothered to clean up after it on their way out.

The whole place looking to have been hastily abandoned, with no signs of recent visitation. So much left behind, looking largely untampered-with in all the years since. She couldn’t help but wonder, after all this time, how such a viable, if remote, shelter showed no signs of appropriation, even in passing. Figured there had to be a reason, and feared she would find out all too soon, whether she cared to or not.

Beyond the lobby and accompanying bathroom, was a mess hall that occupied most of the lodge, with half a dozen long, wooden tables and matching log benches. To her left was a massive stone fireplace, whose chimney she had spied outside on the way in, and the walls were mounted with a few dusty paintings, as well as old logging and outdoor tools. Looking up at the rafters, a whole level above, she noticed a loft above the lobby portion, with stairs climbing above the door to the adjoining kitchen.

Turning that way, Roxy spotted a bulletin board. Mostly empty, as if a whole bunch of things all got cancelled at once. Might have failed to notice it at all if not for the pair of yellowed papers tacked to the center of it.

The first one had the words MISSING GIRL scrawled across it in big, bold letters. Below that was the name Kelly Edwards, followed by a big blank space. Down at her feet, she very nearly stepped on an old, faded photograph of a little girl with short, dark hair, and a shy-looking expression, with a twinkle of small white gemstone earrings.

Next to the first notice was another one, written in a shaky, frantic-looking hand that struck her as the embodiment of barely-contained panic, advising everyone to stay in the lodge or in their cabins until further notice.

She quickly snapped some pics with her datapad.

Something really bad happened here… Especially the absence of anything about search parties or rescue efforts one would expect for a missing child. This further notice sounding more and more like some sort of evacuation to her, and one grim enough to leave a child behind.

Though likely meant to hold back outright panic, there was still something about the vagueness of it all that bothered her, mostly because it provided no clue if the threat that emptied this place out back then still existed.

Seeing nothing else of interest in this main chamber, she mounted the creaky steps to the loft, finding the structure aged, but of solid craftsmanship. She wasn’t too surprised to find the loft served as an office of sorts, with a table against the wall, and an old-fashioned-looking two-way radio sitting on it. Spread across the wall above the emergency radio was a map.

Shining her light upon it, she read the legend: COMMONWEALTH OF SINOVIA: Peninsula District. As the name suggested, this Camp Stilton was located on the coast, above the ‘shin’ of a boot-shaped peninsula, of what appeared to be a much larger landmass. More land than she had seen in one place in a long time.

With an effort, she pulled her eyes away from the map and reached out to remove it from the wall, deciding it would be wise to take it back to the plane, where she could study it in more detail, and greater security. Even at a glance, she could see signs of hope and cause for concern, but wanted to take a closer look before figuring out her next move.

Just a test, Roxy tried to activate the radio, and was not exactly surprised to when nothing happened. Radio dead, bare bulbs dark. There was probably a generator on the grounds somewhere, but much like those rusty hulks fenced outside, she doubted it would start anymore.

She was about to examine the desk and cabinet, though she doubted she would find anything half as interesting as the map, when she spotted a note left on the table in front of the radio. That leaky roof having splotched it with so much mold, it was all too easy to mistake for more of the water damage to the tabletop, leaving only a couple fragments of it even readable. By far the biggest leak above the table, she noticed, and it was hard not to shake off the paranoid feeling that something was trying to destroy that note, the radio itself long-since useless.

In between the blotches, all she could make out was:

If anyone finds … leave immediat— … —e woods will … radio recep— … no signal fro— … to get the children out … but not to Rannigan’s … last seen — grove — never there bef— … woods have become too dangerous to sear— … —ay Kelly’s parents forgi

Even with all the missing puzzle pieces, Roxy still felt an ominous chill at what she was reading. Something menacing the camp? But what? Whatever happened, it drove them to abandon a child to apparently save the rest, a decision she could not imagine anyone making lightly.

She frowned, putting the note back down and wiping her hand on her pantleg, making another datapad entry of it, then made her way downstairs and back outside, where she nearly kicked a small wooden sign lying on the ground next to the porch steps. As if it was once nailed to the roof support beam at the foot of the steps. She slid the toe of her armored boot under it and flipped it over, exposing faded red letters:

WARNING!
TURN BACK!
DANGER AHEAD!

“Tch…” Figuring it would’ve been all too easy if she found that first.

As she looked up at the shore, toward the plane wreck, she spotted movement, raising her disrupter on pure instinct.

At first she thought some aquatic creatures had dragged a bunch of seaweed ashore with them as they investigated the beach in front of the Albatross, but on closer inspection, she could see they were draping themselves over her fallen companions. She approached the masses of shimmering fronds cautiously, weapon trained on the nearest ones. Her first clear view of the creatures drove home what her subconscious had been way ahead of the curve about: chalk-white corpses festooned with seaweed, molesting the dead in an apparent feeding frenzy.

From their soaking sheen, to their sea-brine smell, there was little doubt where they slithered up from.

One of them, having apparently noticed the bounty hunter’s approach, looked up with rheumy, empty eyes, staring right at her. It parted its blood-streaked lips to reveal rows of needle teeth that did not belong in the mouth of any human being. Letting out an ear-splitting shriek that nearly caused her to fumble her weapon in spite of herself.

Then she opened fire, and that got all of their attention right quick. At first they tried to crawl toward her, flopping and dragging themselves in a way that only made sense once she noticed that none of them had any legs, but once she put a couple of them down, the others shrieked in outrage. Then started flopping back toward the watery grave she was sure they meant to drag the dead into.

Seeing that she had interrupted their frightful feast before it could rightly begin, she immediately set to dragging each of her travel companions’ corpses farther ashore. Stricken with a primal sense of disgust at letting such foul things have them, even in death. Keeping a wary eye on both the fallen ones, which she also beheaded with her laser staff, just to be sure, and one eye on the water, against their almost inevitable return.

As ungainly and awkward as they were on dry land, she had no doubt they would make for much deadlier foes underwater.

One by one, she hauled three old friends and their cat up to the nearest cabin, next to Stilton Lodge, placing each one in a bed. Fairly sure she’d put a strong fear in those creatures, as they failed to reappear in between rounds. Once all four of them were inside, she shut them in, carving their names on the door.

The closest thing to a grave or a tomb she would be able to provide.

Along the way, she had gathered the others’ weapons back at the plane.

“I will do you honor with their use…” she promised them as she walked away from the cabin.

Once back at the plane, she brought Roger aboard, propping him up in the pilot’s seat, figuring this was where he would want to be at the end. Though less than enthusiastic about sharing the cockpit with a corpse, she still felt she had done right by him this one last time. All the same, she still made sure to check that the cargo door lock still worked. Just glad Erix hadn’t blown or carved any holes in the hull or anything.

That covered everyone except Erix, whom she left for the scavengers, but dragged away from the plane to help draw the corpse-things off, as she couldn’t help the intuition that she had not seen the last of them. Now certain she had brought this upon herself, Erix’s head spreading blood in the water, even the knowledge that she had no clue of their existence feeling like a poor excuse in hindsight. Given the foul creatures’ limited mobility on land, she figured she was safe enough as long as she kept the cargo doors locked. All the same, she kept her guard up, and a tool carefully balanced on the door latch, so that anything that disturbed it would make plenty of noise.
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

March 12, 2017, 12:56:41 AM
Reply #71
Only then did she set herself to studying the map.

According to which, they had landed in the Commonwealth of Sinovia, Peninsula District, at Camp Stilton. Most of the map depicting the coast above and below the boot-shaped Woodbine Peninsula, on which Stilton was just past the ‘shin’ of. The rest of what it revealed was less than encouraging.

She stared long at that map, wondering just how big this realm of Sinovia could be.

Farther along the shore, in the direction of Erix’s ship, or what was left of it, appeared to be a settlement marked Rannigan’s Wharf. The nearest location, probably less than a day’s walk from Camp Stilton. Much to her dismay, though, the name was X-ed out in black pen so hard it scratched the paper, with the disconcerting legends Don’t go! and No return! hastily inscribed next to it.

Inland, several locations were marked, though most of it was a big blank space, simply marked as Durwyn Wood. A couple logging mills, officially marked Rigby Millworks and Pickford Mills. As well as a handwritten Ol’ Tobey’s near a road, about halfway between Stilton and the coastline on the other side of the peninsula. A more dubious scribble near the peninsula proper, marked Circle Stones? a little off the beaten path, which put her in mind of several ancient monuments she’d stumbled across in the course of her own journeys.

Along the Woodbine Peninsula itself were marked several small names, each one with a hand-written question mark next to it. The only exception was farther up the coast from the peninsula, near the upper right edge of the map, a town marked Pickford.

That map, as well as the note, had all the feel of having been left as some kind of warning, suggesting that the best course of action would be to put back out to sea. Not much help, in her situation. Even the part scribbled on the sea, with an arrow pointing to the peninsula, and a hastily-scrawled advisory to hug the coast, was not terribly encouraging.

She wondered a moment if she even had the supplies to take the long way around. Though she had seen an inflatable life raft among the emergency gear, without a motor or sails, it would take days to row around that peninsula. All the while waiting for pale white hands to reach up for her…

Even with the most conservative distance estimates, it would surely take more days than she had supplies for, to walk all the way around the peninsula, and the dubious state of the handful of settlements dotting it did nothing to inspire confidence. As much as she would prefer to avoid a long march through the woods, skirting the coast mostly just came across as a series of opportunities for those things to come back after her, whereas she doubted they could follow her very far on land.

Based on the warnings— especially the map— and those creatures, an expedition to Rannigan’s Wharf sounded like a fool’s errand at best, a suicide mission at worst. She might have contemplated trying Rannigan’s Wharf in spite of the warnings, just because it was closer, but now she had seen for herself what likely awaited her over there, as well as along every step of the peninsula shore, she concluded that her best bet was to take the direct approach inland, and hope things went better in this Pickford place.

She had also tried radio, figuring she was close enough to Rannigan’s to send and receive. But ultimately confirmed neither, instead hearing only static, along with what sounded like frogs croaking, and other, less distinct noises. Of course, she had learned in her travels that radio anomalies never portended anything good, and that was the final word on the matter.

Pickford, it is.

She could only hope that it wasn’t as abandoned as everyplace else on the map indicated.

With her finger, she traced a line marked Hwy 13, that ran from Rannigan’s Wharf past Camp Stilton, then cut through the Durwyn Wood, all the way to Pickford. Reminded herself that people built roads, that they always lead somewhere. All she had to do was follow it.

That resolved, she cooked lunch with a camp stove Roger kept onboard for emergencies, pouring him a libation, a cup of some of his finest stash. Toasted him once to send him off, and put the rest back in its compartment. Knowing all too well she would need to keep a clear head if she was going to survive whatever came next out here.

She then turned to sorting out the most critical supplies to include in her pack. Leaving most of the canned goods so she could travel light and make better time with less burdensome foodstuffs, jerky and dried fruit, as well as some sealed military rations. Also leaving the camp stove and most of the fuel gel, taking one can with her, just in case she needed to start a fire in less than ideal circumstances. Packed a couple canteens, as much water as she could reasonably carry.

An assortment of supplies Roger had picked up along the way in many realms. Both a handheld and a clip-on flashlights. One flare gun and a handful of flares. A cargo tarp, rope and utility knives she knew how to build makeshift tents and other useful things out of. Lighters and a waterproof tube of matches, as well as a couple camping dishes and cookware. A bottle of insect repellant Roger picked up while visiting some tropical island, as well as any other odds and ends she thought she might need out there. Loaded up what weapons and ammo she could reasonably carry, left the rest on the plane, figuring anyone else who got stranded out here would surely need it.

Periodically looking out the windows, casting wary glances at the camp, and the woods beyond.

She stood in the cargo door for a long moment, could see the late afternoon sun angling toward evening, daylight wasting. Certain that even she would lose her nerve if she had to enter that forest after sundown. For a long moment, she contemplated staying the night aboard the Albatross, getting a fresh start in the morning, but didn’t care to share the cabin with a corpse, and didn’t have the heart to dump him overboard, either.

Also wasn’t sure how much defense the downed plane would actually offer, if those things came back in greater numbers. She glanced over, near the rocks, to see Erix’s corpse was already gone, those things having dragged his remains out into the sea while she was working. Short on pity, but still shuddered in spite of herself, wondering if someday a seaweed-thing that looked just like him might menace other unfortunate travelers…

Regaining her resolve, she set out to enter the Woods in earnest, as armed and prepared as one could be for the Unknown.

As she passed the lodge, she made a point of stopping by the nearest cabin to offer one final moment of silence for three adventurers of such recent, yet very eventful, acquaintance.

Near the edge of the Camp Stilton grounds, the dirt road that wound through the camp led into the forest proper. Though the trees were already a strong presence in and around the camp, they practically formed a solid wall along the shallow stream at the edge of the grounds, that, according to the map, would bend a little ways downshore of Stilton to empty into the sea near the last big bend before the curve of the peninsula. The covered wooden bridge crossing it striking her as looking more like a tunnel into the woods.

Though the bridge was old and creaky, and slightly warped, it still held, a testament to the craftsmanship of its builders. Little more than a trickle ran beneath it compared to the size of the riverbed, the Amarrack clearly at low ebb, which she could easily cross on foot if the bridge was too frail, she didn’t care to leave any wet footprints so close to her starting point.

On the other side, the tree canopy fairly seemed to lean over the old dirt road on both sides, allowing only a scant, golden-green light to filter down to them through layers of leaves. Scenery she might have found rustic and scenic, if it didn’t feel so ominous. Even here, so close to the shore, the salty, briny smell of the sea became ever more muted, and the pungent, primal scents of the Woods began to take over, the sound of the tide completely lost.

Resisting the temptation to look back, she put one foot forward, then the other.
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

March 12, 2017, 12:58:37 AM
Reply #72
Sorry I took so long posting this; it turned out to require a lot more revision than I originally thought, in order to make it a functional stand-alone story for anyone not acquainted with the Tradewinds series. This little wayside story started out as a horrifying thought I had while writing the early chapters of Tradewinds 20, what might have been had things gone a little differently. Chapter four was probably the trickiest single chapter to write in the rough draft, finding myself as white-knuckled with the pen as any of them with their weapons, repeatedly painting myself into a corner, desperate to avoid a deus ex. But damn, that Erix is a real piece of work, and even I underestimated him, as he just kept turning the ta-bles. Though I’m glad his previous defeat back in Anchor Point didn’t cause any Villain Decay, it also served as a measure of how much the main characters had leveled up since their first battle with him, that they could also keep holding him off until Roxy’s surprise attack broke the stalemate. The rest was a natural extension of following how Roxy handled the remainder of the Camp Stilton scenario on her own, a grim character study of a survivor type.

MAP OF PENINSULA DISTRICT: http://shadesmaclean.deviantart.com/art/Tradewinds-20-Peninsula-District-Map-644739769
-Standing backwards, Scoot.

April 11, 2017, 12:57:27 PM
Reply #73
If you've seen this all before
Give 'em hell!
If you already know the score
Give 'em hell!
If you've been shaken to the core
Pick yourself up off the floor
get back up & stand once more
where others fell
Some things you just can't ignore
Kick down the door & give 'em what-for
if you can't watch this anymore
Give 'em hell!


Stand true, no matter the cost
Give 'em hell!
Ain't about who won or lost
Give 'em hell!
It's about if you stand up or not
Find yourself put on the spot
even if you don't feel so hot
kick & scream & yell
Some battles just have to be fought
Ready or not, show 'em what ya got
Go on & give it your best shot
Give 'em hell!


If they won't let you have your say
Give 'em hell!
But they still want you to pay
Give 'em hell!
Let 'em know you're here to stay
Hell to pay, come what may
If that's how they wanna play
you may as well
Just let 'em know it's not OK
Don't just let them have their way
not with you, not today
Give 'em hell!


If they won't let you have your share
Give 'em hell!
Or they say you don't belong there
Give 'em hell!
Say you're not going anywhere
Just 'cause life ain't fair
never give in to despair
Break the spell
When it seems more than you can bear
speak up if you care, resist if you dare
with your fist in the air
Give 'em hell!


If you live your life with pride
Give 'em hell!
Walk down a path that you decide
Give 'em hell!
Your fighting spirit never died
Standing tall, nothing to hide
Give it all, don't just say you tried
Never can tell
Won't let 'em take you for a ride
after all that you've survived
Keep on fighting 'til you're satisfied
Give 'em hell!

Still fighting on your own side
Tyranny defied, you won't be denied
at the turning of the tide
Give 'em hell!

Give 'em hell!

Give 'em hell!

Give 'em hell!


-Summer 2012, revised April 2017

I didn't try my hand at songwriting until I was in college. Sadly, I have all the musical talent of a stump (Okay, I lied, the stump has more musical talent than me :( (Sad) ), but when a friend of mine tried to start a band, I experimented with writing lyrics. Sadly, nothing ever came of it, as he was never able to get a solid crew together, but I still believe the experience helped me become a better writer.

Something that popped into my head that summer, and just kept growing. 2017 (for, uh, some reason  :o ) seems to be shaping up to be a banner year for protest songs. Perhaps even a *Bruce* Banner year for them, before it's done.
  ::)

-Standing backwards, Scoot.