Tag Archives: fantasy

Halfway House (short story 4K)

When I walk in my building, she is huddled in the back of the hallway, naked. Beaten and discarded, like a rag doll that nobody wants. I spy her right away, there in the darkness in the furthest corner, away from where the other tenants can see her. But I know she’s there. I can even smell her. My senses have become fine tuned over the years and there’s no mistaking the scent of brimstone and a fiery temperament.  I walk over to her and take the sweater off my shoulders, wrapping it around her. She looks up at me with eyes red tinged from the crying. Her pupils seem to implore me to help her. I take her hand and look at the wrist. She has the mark. And she has no one to turn to because of it.

“Mordecai said you’d help,” she barely manages to whisper.

Mordecai, an old friend, always sending me strays. What a guy.

“Come on,” I sigh and lift her up. I help her around to the staircase where I barely manage to navigate her to the third floor, apartment six. We probably look like a pair of junkies stumbling down the hallway. She is weak and her dead weight causes us to shuffle and stumble, but we finally make it into the safety of my apartment.

I sit her on the couch in the living room and go to turn up the thermostat. I casually glance out the window, and that’s when I see them standing in the shadows on the other side of the street. Two men in white-breasted suits. I have often wondered why they dress in such noticeable outfits if they expect not to be seen. But I guess maybe they want you to see them. They want you to be afraid. But I’m not afraid of them. I close the curtains and turn back to my new charge.

I take my sweater back and grab a blanket from the closet, which I promptly wrap around her. I notice her breathing is labored and her skin is quite pale. She’s going to need a doctor soon. The shock is just too great for her. It’s always like this for the new ones. The trauma of real life sets in quickly it seems.

“What’s your name?” I ask her.

“Sky,” she manages to whisper.

“Short name.”

“You wouldn’t be able to pronounce my real name.”

“You’d be surprised. But for now Sky will do. So…. you hungry?”

She looks at me strangely as if I’ve just asked her if her mom’s name is Bill.

“Food?” she asks.

I nod and get up to go to the kitchen. I open up a cabinet. Cans of soup, peaches, apple sauce… yes, that’s it, applesauce. I take a can down and open it. I grab a spoon and carry her very light dinner into the living room for her. She is still on the couch, has hardly moved an inch.

“Here you go.” I hand her the can and spoon. She looks at both as if she doesn’t know which one she wants to eat. Finally, she dips the spoon into the can and brings some of it out. She tastes it cautiously and then swallows it down.

I smile. The new ones always like applesauce. But she eats it too quickly. Soon she begins to cough and choke on the mixture. I pat her on the back and that seems to help a little. But I notice her back is unusually warm. I remove the blanket from her shoulders and take a closer look at her back. She is bleeding, and pretty badly too. I don’t know why I didn’t notice it earlier.

“I’m going to have to get you a doctor.” I pull out my cell and speed dial my friend Carl. He’s a good doctor and doesn’t ask questions.

As I wait for him to pick up the line, the girl drops the can of applesauce and slumps over, sliding off the couch and to the floor.

“Shit,” I exclaim, just as Carl’s voice comes on the line.

“Hello,” his voice says somewhat sleepily though it’s early afternoon.

I get straight to the point. “Carl, I have another one I need you to look at.”

“I’m on the way,” he replies and I hang up on him, already moving to the prone figure of Sky on the floor.

I don’t touch her. I just leave her there in the floor. I don’t even so much as check for a pulse. Healing is not my area of expertise. I am more into the adjustment end of things. I should have an ADJUSTMENT DEPT sign hanging on my door.

The girl shudders, a quick spasm. It startles me and I really want to help, but I know the rules. Wait for the doc. I leave her in the floor and busy myself with the task of preparing the spare bedroom. She is going to need a place to sleep and recuperate.

I finish changing the bed sheets when the knock comes at the door. One knock, then three, and one again. It is the doctor’s code. I go back to the living room and to the front door. When I open it Carl doesn’t say a word in greeting and neither do I. We are beyond such casual formalities.

“That the one?” he asks, looking at the motionless half naked figure on my floor.

“Yeah. She has some serious back lacerations, who knows what else.”

“I’ll need you to make me a cold compress,” he says, as if I’d just told him she has a simple fever. But I do as I’m told and go into the kitchen to prepare what he needs. It doesn’t take me long and soon I’m back in the living room with doctor and patient.

Carl hasn’t wasted much time in the short period I’ve been out of the room. The girl is back on the couch, lying on her stomach and he’s already begun examining her naked, bloody back. I notice her bare skin is of a perfect complexion and unblemished by beauty marks of any kind. The only marks are the wounds just below her shoulder blades. It looks like someone has tried to cut the bones right out of her back.

“Damn,” I exclaim quietly.

Carl looks up at me, a look of worry on his face. “Yeah, this one is pretty bad. It’s been some time since I’ve seen one like this.”

“She must have been out there by herself a long time,” I suggest.

He nods in agreement before returning to his examination. He reaches in his medicine bag and pulls out a small jar. He opens it up and applies a salve like substance to her wounds.

“Generally, this works pretty good,” he explains, “but I think she’s going to need a little more time to heal and rest.” He puts the lid on and closes up the jar, putting it back in his bag. “Are you going to be able to care for her?”

“I don’t know, Carl. This is a halfway house, not a hospital.”

He nods. “Well, if we have to move her we will, but I’d rather she be stabilized and healed before she’s out there with the dogs.”

“She’s already been out there with the dogs,” I reason.

“That’s true, but she didn’t know what the dogs were then. We want her to know what’s out there before we put her out on her own.”

“Okay, I’ll do the best I can. She can stay here however long it takes.”

“You can always call Nicodemus if you need to,” Carl suggests warily. “He’ll take care of her.”

“Nicodemus is a lecher. He would use her and then throw her back out there.”

“True, but she would be out of your hands and not your responsibility.”

“I don’t think I’ll be calling Nicodemus.”

“Good,” he smiles. “Well, I think that’s it for her back wounds there, let’s get her in the bedroom so she can rest.”

I go to the hall closet and get a new blanket, which we lay out beside the couch. Ever so gently we lift and move her onto it. For the most part she is unconscious, but I believe I hear her whisper “no”. I don’t think it is directed towards us though. I imagine she is in the throes of a bad dream. Hell, she doesn’t even know the half of it.

For hours she doesn’t stir in the bed. She just lies there naked, curled up in a fetal position, as if she’s a child resting in the womb. In a way that isn’t too far off the mark. I step in and check on her every so often, but I know she’ll rest for some time. The salve Carl uses seems to heal well enough, but it sometimes makes you sleep for days on end.

My doctor friend waits around for several hours just to make sure she is going to be okay, and then he too leaves. He doesn’t say goodbye. He knows he’ll be hearing from me again soon. No need saying goodbye when you are just going to say hello again.

I watch television as she sleeps. Surfing through the channels I am always surprised there really isn’t anything worth watching. Between “Nobody Has Any Frigging Talent” and reality shows that look remarkably like plastic supermodels masquerading as real people, I am stupefied over what passes as entertainment. If we are going to have reality TV, why not show us the way it truly is? Pre-teen boys shooting their neighbor for those new Nikes he saw him wearing; a young woman prostituting herself because her boyfriend is too lazy to get a real job; a man OD’s when in a drug induced stupor he accidentally shoots an air pocket into his veins. Another young woman shows up naked and bleeding at an apartment complex and no one notices. This is real life, not who is sleeping with who in a fully furnished house none of the occupants had to work their fingers to the bone to afford. This is why I don’t watch TV.

That and the fact the white suits use it to ask for money to further their cause. They think they have us fooled, standing there in their pulpit, quoting scriptures between pleas for donations. They would like us to think the money is for His work, but they aren’t really affiliated with Him at all. It all goes to hunting us down.

I turn it to the religious channel just to see what they have to say today. There is a man preaching. What he says makes sense. Forgiveness. Redemption. All the good stuff, and then a static flare spreads across the screen. The picture goes away replaced by swirling images of bodies entwined. Not in ecstasy but agony. They writhe and twist as if tortured, mouths open trying to scream but nothing comes out. It doesn’t take one of the prophets to tell me it’s a transmission from someone’s perception of hell. Then the screen blanks out again and returns focused on the street outside the apartment. The two white suits who were there earlier are now joined by a third. The third one grins from the TV screen.

“Why don’t you just send her on down, Rachel? We won’t hurt her, promise.”

He reminds me of a used car salesman, or some guy in a bar who looks my way and sees a big flashing neon sign that says TITS AVAILABLE HERE.

“Yeah right, pervert,” I reply.

“You know we’ll get her eventually. We always do,” he says with a lecherous gleam in his eye. “You know as well I do she can’t stay there forever. Eventually you’ll put her out and we’ll be there to get her. You could save yourself some trouble and just put her out now.”

“Why do you want her so bad? Did you run out of altar boys this week?”

“Oh that was funny. Remind me to laugh when I peel the flesh off your bones and…”

“Oh save it for the bleeding choir indivisible, why don’t you?”

Click! I turn off the television. I know this will go nowhere – just insults after insults hurled at each other. And you think the battle of the sexes is bad.

I get up and go to the window. Yes, all three of them are out there leaning against a storefront wall across the street. They all wave as if signaling a long lost friend. I give them the finger. They always hate the “damn you” connotation that applies.

I head for the bedroom to check on my charge and she still sleeps peacefully. She doesn’t even know anyone has been fighting over her. In fact she doesn’t know much at all. I’m going to have to teach her, and fast.

I am distracted by a knock at the door. I know who it is before I even answer it. Nicholas, the boy from the apartment down the hall. He stops by at least once a day whenever I’m home. I think he must watch my door to see if I come and go. Most people would find this creepy, but if you knew the boy you would find it endearing. I mean it’s no secret he has a crush. I saw it in his eyes the first I met him, and though this may sound bad of me, I sometimes use that to my advantage.

I open the door. “Hi Nicky,” I say. He likes the pet name I’ve given him, makes him blush every time.

“Hi Rach,” he grins. His baby blue eyes are wide and innocent. He is much like the girl recuperating in my bed, so far untouched by the madness of the world we live. He’s only sixteen, but his good looks are already a hit with the girls I’m sure. If I was younger and of a different preference I would be tempted to be smitten with him myself. But I have this thing with dating guys. I don’t. Maybe it’s the fact I can always tell what the male of the species is thinking. It kind of takes the mystery out of the evening when you know all they are working for is to find out if you wear panties or thong, or if that’s your natural hair color. Nicky isn’t like that though, thank heavens or whoever. Once, about two weeks ago I caught him thinking of kissing me. I guess that wouldn’t be too unpleasant, but I don’t want him getting anymore attached to me than he already is.

“Hey, I was heading out to the store,” he says. “Can I get you anything?”

“I was thinking of doing that myself, Nicky. Must have read my mind.”

“Cool! We could go together!”

“Well, actually I have company and don’t want to leave them by themselves.”

His smile fades for a minute. I know what he thinks. That I have a man over. But then he grins again. “One of them wild nights, huh?”

“No, it’s not like that,” I laugh. “Just a friend.”

“Ahhh,” he says, giving me a wink. “Well, hey I can pick some stuff up for ya at the store. What do you want?”

“Just some milk and applesauce.”

“I should have known. What do you do with all that applesauce anyway, take a bath in it?”

“Now that’s an idea,” I tease, and for a brief moment I catch an image from his head of me naked in a tub of applesauce. So much for innocence.

I watch Nicky from the window as he heads down the street. I notice the men in white are watching him too. One of them detaches himself from the others and begins to follow the boy discretely. In the old days I would have panicked, thinking they were going to hurt him, but I know better now. They have no real interest in anyone other than those in the halfway house. They know Nick is harmless and no threat to them. Still, they like to keep tabs on people I come in contact with. Maybe they think I will secretly call out for reinforcements.

I turn from the window and go to check out my guest. She has managed to kick off the covers and I gently put them back over her, tucking her in. She stirs lightly and murmurs something that sounds like “Father.”

I touch my hand to her cheek. Her skin is so soft and I find myself wishing to lie beside her. To just curl up next to her and forget the world outside. Would she understand? Or would she recoil in shock or shame, already jaded by this world to believe such intimacy was purely a flawed human thing? My fingers linger on her skin a little longer and I find myself bending over top of her sleeping form, drawing myself down to kiss her cheek.

My thoughts are interrupted by the squeal of tires. No not yet, I think. Please not yet. I forget my impossible dreams of affection and jump to my feet. Returning to the living room I take a look out the window. A car is stopped in the middle of the road. The careless driver almost hit a little old lady pushing a grocery cart across the road. I breathe a sigh of relief. There for a minute I believed it was time’s up for Nicky. One of the hardest parts of being who I am is knowing how someone is going to die. I don’t know when. He could very well live to a ripe old age before it happens, or his end could come tomorrow for all we know. It is a shame that my foresight doesn’t extend far enough out of the shadows to give me all the details.

Nicky arrives with the milk and applesauce fifteen minutes later. I let him in and he stands in the living room as I go to get him some money.

“Whoa, did you spill some ketchup?” he exclaims.

I return with the money and see he is looking at a spot on the couch that I missed while cleaning up after my guest. “Yes, dropped the whole bottle,” I lie.

“I get sloppy with my hamburgers too. Mom won’t even let me eat on the couch anymore.”

I smile and hand him the money for my groceries. He looks at it for a moment, and then hands it back. “You know what? Just keep it,” he says.

“No Nicky, I can’t let you buy my stuff for me. You probably work hard for your allowance.”

“Allowance? Did you know how many rocks I had to sell to get that?”

I know he is playing. He doesn’t do that kind of thing, still I act shocked so he will not know I can read his every thought. “Nicky!”

He grins real big and points his finger at me. “Ha, gotcha!”

“You shouldn’t joke about such things,” I mildly admonish him.

“Yeah I know, but it’s good to see that look on your face every now and then. Hey, could I use your bathroom?”

“Sure go ahead.”

As he heads off down the hall, I take a peek into his own grocery bag. Sodas, bread, his mother’s medicine. I drop the money down in there. He can fuss at me later.

I am cleaning the spot on the couch when he screams. It is not a cry of terror, but one of shocked surprise. I run towards the restroom and come to a complete stop in the hallway. “Oh no,” I whisper.

Nicky is standing there in the bathroom doorway his jaw hanging open. In front of him stands my guest, completely naked. She has obviously awakened and healed enough to start exploring her surroundings. This however is not a good time.

I open the hall closet and pull down a sheet to wrap around her. As I approach them, Nicky turns his eyes from her perfectly alluring form to look at me. “Why didn’t you tell me it was this kind of company?” he stammers.

“Because I knew your tongue would fall out of your head,” I explain, wrapping her in the sheet and steering her back into the bedroom. “Go wait in the living room while I put my sister back to bed. She’s sick.”

“Your sister?”

“Yes, now go in the living room. I’ll only be a minute.”

He grudgingly obeys, and I close the bedroom door behind me, so he won’t try to ogle my guest any further.

“We really need to get you some clothes before you go wandering around too much,” I tell her.

She sits down on the edge of the bed and is looking at me with admiration. “You healed me.”

“No, not me. A friend.”

“You’re not my friend?”

“No, I’m not. I’m just here to help you make the transition.”

“Transition from what?”

“All in good time. You will remember gradually. Until then we have to get you prepared.”

“Prepared for what?”

“Survival.”

I open up the bedroom closet and start rifling through my clothes. “You are a little smaller than me, but hopefully I can find something that won’t swallow you up too much.”

She gets up and comes up behind me. I can feel her breath on my neck. Her close proximity is intoxicating. I hate this. Why does she have to be so beautiful?

“Here, you find something you like,” I stammer. “I have to go explain you to Nicky.”

She is unaware of the effect she has on me. She’ll soon discover she will have that affect on everyone until she learns to hide what she’s been blessed with. These new ones just seem to drip sexuality so much you want to dip them in mud to remove some of that glamour. Problem is I happen to like mud, too.

I leave her to browse my wardrobe while I go to tell Nicky some lie to get him to go home.

“I didn’t know you had a sister,” Nicky says when I tell him she’ll be visiting for a few days. “And she’s hot too!”

“Down boy,” I tell him. “She’s not ready for anyone to be pawing all over her. She had an accident.”

“What happened?”

“She fell.”

“From where?”

“A great height. But I think she’ll be okay.”

“She looks fine to me,” he grins.

“Come on Nicky, please don’t turn out like every other guy I know.”

“I’m sorry, Rach. It’s just ..well…it’s not every day you see a naked girl standing in front of you. It does something to you.”

Tell me about it.

 “Well, she’s not acting like herself. I think the fall dazed her.” I put my hand on his shoulder. “So please behave.”

He sits up straight. I’m not sure if its from what I’ve said or the fact I actually touched him. “No problem,” he says.

“Nicky, you’re going to have to leave us girls to talk, but you can come back tomorrow and visit.”

“Yeah, maybe your sister will be feeling better.”

“Yes, I’m sure she will be.”

He reluctantly gets up, grabs his grocery bag, and walks slowly for the door. He looks almost dejected that he can’t stay. Boys will be boys, I guess.

“Nicky,” I say and he stops. “Thank you for getting my groceries for me.”

This brightens him up a little and he smiles brightly. “Anything for you. Rachel.”

As he leaves, with the door closing behind him, an image comes to me. Nicky hit by a car, his body doing somersaults before crashing down on the vehicle’s windshield. I want to yank back open the door and take him into my arms to protect him somehow. But I know it’s not going to happen today. Still it will happen eventually and that makes me mourn the frailties of mortality.

I feel something stir behind me. My guest has come into the room. “Did he leave?” she asks.

“Yes, he’s gone.”

“He’s going to die, isn’t he?”

“They all do eventually,” I tell her.

“But we don’t?”

“No.”

“Why is that?”

I hesitate for a moment not sure of how much to tell her. “Because we’re angels,” I finally say.

She seems to think on this a moment, and the look on her face tells me she doesn’t find that idea as preposterous as it seems. I know in time she will remember things I would just as soon forget. But for now she appears to accept the one basic truth: We were in heaven, now we’re in hell.

“Halfway House” 2017 Paul D Aronson. 

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Dragon Lake


Follow me to Dragon Lake

the princess waits in gold,

come down from your craggy heights

oh hermit, reknown of old,

a cloak of fairies guide the way

through the woods that part

to the place where she bathes

her lonely broken heart.
You loved her once long ago

when the world seemed young

rubies fell with the rain

and the first love song was sung,

The dragons danced around the shore

heating the lake with flame

and two lovers in the water warmth

whispered each other’s names.
But when evil wizards did conspire

and alchemy took the night

to split asunder all that’s good

and banish away the light,

dragons fled the lover’s lake

and thus you were exposed

before the blackest jealous heart

that withered where it goes.
Spellcast you were to fall asleep

while others took your form

to masquerade and corrupt

the princess that fateful morn,

though she looked with her eyes

all that she saw was you

and her very heart was blinded thus

as they lay into the dew.
The pure of heart sleeps not in spell

and with that you did awake

to find your love, your only love

in the arms of the hero fake,

No explanation was needed then

it was all so plain to see

never trust a princess

“you never cared for me”.
Into the clouds and the heights

you climbed the mountaintop

to rid your heart of the pain

and make the memories stop,

while far below on the lakeshore

veils of disguise disappeared 

revealing to your princess love

she held another near.
Wizards will disrupt young love

that beats within the heart

and she realized this too late

look not with eyes to impart.

and so now she bathes all alone

lamenting what she has done

wishing you’d return to the place

where you and she were one.
Serpents may have left the land

but the flame they brought still burns

The magi were banished long ago

and the lonely heart still yearns.

So come down from your craggy heights

oh hermit, renown of old,

Follow me to dragon lake

where your princess waits in gold. 

Bare Trees Cry & The Moon Doth Wane

“Bare Trees Cry & The Moon Doth Wane”

Bare trees cry and the moon doth wane

Her heart a whispering trail

Leading the lonely into the black night

On secrets that none may tell

The night owl calls, the lone wolf listens

A howl buried in his throat

The great mistress calls down from the sky

While he shakes his heavy coat

Her red feathers rustle in the night breeze

As she rests on dead branches above

To the forest her call is but a syllable

But to him it’s every confession of love

She says “fly with me tonight my warrior soul”

Her eyes read his nocturnal prayer

“Run with me across the hills my queen

And together we’ll be everywhere”

‘Tis sometimes true creatures of the world

Soar and ride wild with the wind

But all of us love and dream of the day

When we can be as one again

And if you listen to the night when she is at rest

In the quiet sleep while others are frail

Bare trees cry and the moon doth wane

Her heart a whispering trail

© Paul D. Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Morgan’s Plague

​MORGAN’S PLAGUE

    When I came out of the forest clearing into the morning sun, the first thing I noticed was the quiet and absence of people. An RV was parked by a camping spot, but I didn’t see anyone about. Another vehicle, one they used to call a ute, sat alongside the dirt road that led away from the campsites back to the main road and civilization. To break the silence, I shouted a greeting and was answered by the stillness of the day. I thought I heard the sound of birds in the distance somewhere, but I wondered if that was just my imagination, wishing for some other sound besides my own breathing. 

My stomach growled. It had been awhile since I’d eaten.I had run into the woods days ago. I still don’t know why. One minute there was a man talking to me, and then he started choking. I got scared and ran. I didn’t want to be blamed for whatever was happening to him. Whatever his problem was, it seemed to be contagious, because others I slipped past on my way to escape, were also choking, their faces pale and sickly. But now I didn’t see anyone, sick or otherwise. Just the RV in front of me, and common sense told me that where there’s a campsite, there’s generally food. I approached the vehicle cautiously, thinking any minute someone would come out and tell me to get lost. But no one did. And by the time I reached the side, I realized no one was there. The RV had been left abandoned. 

   The door was left open, and as I scrambled up the steps to go inside, I heard something. Voices. I hesitated, suddenly overcome with fear. I listened closely to hear the conversation. It was one-sided, a single desperate voice saying something about an airborne plague affecting the population. I went deeper into the camper in search of the voice’s source, and as I came into a small kitchen area, I found it. A small black and white TV, mounted under a cabinet. Still powered, the image that crackled and flickered was a man in a stained suit looking like he was close to death himself.

   “I don’t think there is an antidote,” he was telling the camera. “If there is, only government officials have it, if in fact they survived the outbreak.” He coughed, and even in black and white I could see he was bringing up blood. “I don’t know if anybody is left, but if someone is out there, I’m at the Channel Ten Studios in Melbourne. Don’t come for me. Everyone here is beyond help. Head for the bush. Maybe the plague can’t survive it out there either.” He looked about ready to cry. “Listen. No one is coming. The British Isles are infected. America suffers the same fate. The plague is highly contagious and passes from person to person. Get out of the cities, flee the towns. Get as far away as you can.” He sighed heavily. “Maybe the plague will lose strength and die out eventually. Until then, stay away from other people.Families, do not stay together! It is certain death. Shit,the cadgers finally did it. Thanks a lot, Mr. Prime Minister.”

   I continued to stare at the TV. The man was just rambling now, verbally blasting government and politics for the deadly plague that seemed to have infected the world. But I felt fine. Why hadn’t I been affected? Was it because I had fled to the forest when I saw people getting sick? My leg began itching and for a brief moment I panicked, thinking the plague was upon me as well. I scratched my leg and prayed it was just that I hadn’t had a bath in a few days. I really needed to wash and get me some brekkie.

   I left the TV with its black and white newsreader no longer blaming the Australian government, but the aborigines and New Zealand. I wandered through the RV looking for something to eat. There was a small refrigerator, but I couldn’t get it open. The owners had put a lock on it, maybe to keep intruders like me out of their grub.

   Under a bed toward the rear of the camper, I found an opened box of bickies. They were dry, but biscuits are biscuits. I ate them quick, just glad to have something to eat. Finishing off the box, I went outside to catch some air and decide what to do next. There was a creek several yards from the RV and I headed for it. The water was sparkling and clear. I didn’t care if it was infected, it still looked cleaner than I felt.  I stepped halfway into the creek and it felt so good around my legs that I sat right down in the middle,and began to splash the water over my head. The water was cool, and I found myself shouting for joy, it felt so refreshing. I didn’t care if anyone heard me. I’d already come to the conclusion I was the only living soul in the vicinity.

   After my creek bath, I decided to head back to the RV as it looked like it might rain. The camper would provide good shelter. The newsreader was still at it, except now he had gotten personal. Racked by guilt and the knowledge that he was going to die soon, he was apologizing to everybody he had ever known. “I was a bad husband, I know I was,” he was saying.

   Why is it when a man gets to the end of his life he finally wakes up to all the horrible things he’s done? If he would have tried to live right the first time we probably wouldn’t even have this plague. I can only imagine that the disease was not only born of pathogens but greed as well.

   The man had stopped his apologies and was reading from something on his desk. “This just in from Gippsland..” He looked up and rolled his eyes. “Yeah right, like there’s anything left in Gippsland.” He laughed under his breath and I realized he was starting to lose it. Any minute now he would be a babbling idiot.

   I decided I would lie down and take a nap. Despite his going mad, the man’s voice soothed me somehow, and so I just lay there on the floor, curled up in a ball, and went to sleep with the sound of his quiet madness in my ear. A short time later,  I awoke to the sound of screaming. Startled out of my sleep, I yelped in surprise, before realizing it was just the yob on the TV again.

   “You bastards!” he screamed. “You really did it this time, didn’t you?! Hey, you doing anything this weekend, let’s make a plague. Oh yeah, make sure it’s passed from person to person. And let’s make it so bad victims tear their own flesh off like mad dogs!”

   I have to admit he was acting a bit rabid at this point. I found myself wishing someone would step in and put a bullet to his head. Anything to end his madness and misery. He let out a loud mad laugh and then lapsed into a sigh of silence. When he finally looked back up into the camera, he seemed calmer.

   “You know what’s funny? They named this thing, Morgan’s Plague, after the notoriously brutal bushwhacker Mad Dog Morgan. But get this is, here’s the funny part. It doesn’t even affect dogs.” He laughed. “After all our superiority, all the advances in technology, all the brilliant world thinkers, our own pets outlive us.”

   I shook my head sadly. After all, he was right, the world had brought this on itself. Mankind had forgotten the simple things, and strived to be its own God. I wanted to feel some great sympathy for this man and his world, but all I could offer was a small whimper. And as I brought my hind leg up to scratch behind my ear, the TV went out, its internal battery finally running out of juice.

Story by Paul D Aronson. First draft 2008. Final draft. 2016. All Rights Reserved. 
   

   

The Aliens Have Landed

The Aliens Have Landed

 The night the aliens landed I was roused from my sleep by a loud knock on my door. Coming out of a peaceful dream, I was plunged into chaos and confusion. The pounding was urgent, rapid, and I knew if I didn’t answer the summons my door might just get kicked in by whoever had come to visit at such a late hour. So I jumped out of bed, glancing first at my beloved Marta to make sure I didn’t wake her beautiful slumbering form, slipped into a robe, and went downstairs to get the door.

 Two agents stood on the porch. I knew they were from the agency because they looked near identical: hair combed the same way and of the same length, identical eye color and cheekbones, build and clothing, even down to the way they both stood as if on inspection drill.

 “Lt. Keck?” one of them asked.

 “Yes, I’m Keck.”

 “Your presence is requested at Zero Hour.”

 That’s all he had to say. Zero Hour, unknown to the public, was a secret military base whose express purpose was to contain, interrogate, and possibly house alien life forms. Extraterrestrials, if you prefer, who may one day be captured or found. So far none had. A summons to Zero Hour could only mean one thing. We found something from outer space.

 The drive to the base didn’t take long, but it did afford me a little time to ponder on what may have happened. Perhaps a ship had crashed in a sparsely populated area and been secured before anyone noticed anything strange. Or maybe our government had had an alien held captive for some time, and had been shuttling it from base to base for matters of national security.

 Either way, my presence had been requested I assume because of my previous experience in decoding the satellite signals we had picked up two years ago from deep space; signals that had told us the aliens were on the way and soon to be among us. My other investigative experiences had made me the official standby translator and interrogator, if such a thing were ever needed. Looks like it was…

 If the two agents had been told not to tell me anything, they did their job well, for they were silent the whole trip. My change from robe to agency uniform had apparently silenced them as well, for I barely heard them breathing. That was okay with me, as it gave me time to think and plan out in my head what questions to ask an extraterrestrial. I had mulled on these things since adulthood, planning out the perfect line of questioning, but now that the time of seeing an alien face to face was here, my mind suddenly went into confusion instead of conversation.

 Of course this happened to me with Marta as well. Especially whenever she asked exactly what kind of work I did for the government. She knew better than to ask. She knew I couldn’t tell her, but maybe she kept hoping she would catch me off guard one day and learn everything our nation’s leaders were trying desperately to hide.

 Zero Hour doesn’t look much like a secret facility. In fact, it almost looks like an old shack surrounded by a fence. You could almost imagine that if you opened the door and peered inside you would see someone sitting on a bucket and fishing through the ice. The fence itself was only four feet high with an unlocked gate to walk through. No guards patrolled the fence or even the immediate area. However, if you did manage to reach the door and attempt to open it, you would soon realize nothing could open it. At least not from the outside. And though it looked like a simple wood shack, it was actually titanium steel under the disguise.

 The agents dropped me at the gate and I got out. They didn’t say a word and I didn’t thank them for the ride. I went through the gate and approached the door. I stood there a few moments, allowing the cleverly hidden retina scan to make sure I belonged there, and then the door opened. No one stood in the doorway, and no one sat inside fishing either. Instead, I stepped directly over the threshold and into an elevator that took me a mile under the shack and into the Zero Hour facility.

 When the elevator door opened two armed guards met me. “Please follow me, Lt. Keck,” one of them said, while the other remained at the elevator. I glanced back and saw he was inspecting it, possibly to make sure I didn’t bring anyone else down with me. The guard led me down a thin white corridor toward a locked door at the end. A scanner was mounted beside the door that scanned my fingerprints, and then my eyes, before gliding silently open. The guard didn’t follow me through. Instead I was met by two more agents, those of an obviously higher rank than myself.

 “Lt. Keck,” said one of them, and nodded. “We are glad you are here. Out of the entire agency, it is told you have the most persuasive and relaxing demeanor. We are afraid everyone here has bad interrogation skills.”

 “Who are you interrogating?”

 “An alien,” he replied matter-of-factly.

 “Where did he come from?”

 “The creature won’t tell us.”

 “Can he understand you? Is his language understandable?”

 “Yes his speech is somewhat similar, though a few words don’t match ours. We think maybe he learned it from our satellite broadcasts.”

 “That is possible. I’ve always believed if an alien could communicate or be taught our language, it would be from radio signals or broadcasts he picked up on.”

 “Perhaps. But we need you to get him to talk. National security is very concerned.”

 “Of course Admiral,” I replied, noticing all the badges on his uniform.

 “Walk with me,” he said, as he started down a hallway that ended with two heavy steel doors. “What concerns us greatly is this, Lt. We found his downed craft in a field outside the security perimeter, as if he had been aiming to locate this facility all along. Unfortunately, he had managed to leave his craft and wander into a rural area. We don’t think many citizens saw him, but I believe it’s possible if the news gets out about this extraterrestrial, it will be all over. We have dispatched agents to the area to try and convince citizens it was one of ours, and now we need you to find out why he is here. And more importantly, if he is alone, or are more of his kind coming.”

 “Do you expect more of them?”

 “It is possible. Especially if they realize we have one of them in custody. Just find out everything you can.” He stopped in front of the double doors. “Listen, we are counting on you and your patriotism. I have read your file, and not only are you an excellent agent, you also love this country, indeed the whole planet. Help us preserve its security.”

 “Yes sir, I will.”

 He rapped the metal door with his fist and it opened. On the other side were four more armed guards, and behind them a long table with two chairs on opposite sides. In one of the chairs sat the alien. At first glance I didn’t know what to make of his hairless appearance. I was trying to take everything in – what had happened and what was expected of me, and now this bizarre creature sitting at the table.

 When I moved past the guards and sat down across from him, he seemed to study me in with a slight cocking of his head. It was hard to say because his whole face seemed reflective, like mirrored glass. There were no discernable facial features, except mine were mirrored in his silent visage. I could see no noticeable orifices that indicated he could hear, see, or even speak. His skin was white, almost like mine, except the texture seemed more like rubber than flesh. Perhaps this was why he was uninjured in the crash.

 I lay my hands flat on the table to show I had no weapons. I offered up a smile. “I am Lt. Keck,” I said. “Greetings.”

 The alien didn’t speak.

 “I mean you no harm. I just want to ask you a few questions.”

 He stared back silent, unmoving.

 “Can you understand me?”

 The creature nodded its bulbous head.

 “Can you speak?”

 “Yes,” he weakly replied. His voice sounded hollow and distant. It reminded me of our own satellite transmissions.

 “Do you have a name? Something you are called?”

 He hesitated, as if trying to find words I would understand. “You can call me Usaf.”

 “Ok, Usaf. Can you tell me how you came to be here?”

 “Crashed.”

 “Yes you did.”

 “Shot down.”

 “Oh, I didn’t realize. I wasn’t told that.” I turned around to look at the door. I knew that in another room somewhere close we were being monitored. Typical for those in charge not to divulge all the details.

 “Well, if you were shot down, it was because you entered restricted air space and we had to protect our citizens.”

 “Citizens?”

 “Inhabitants,” I explained. “The species that dominate all life on this planet.”

 This he seemed to understand, and even nodded as if to acknowledge me.

 “So, where are you from?”

 He mumbled something from his non existent lips. I couldn’t quite make it out.

 “Does your planet have a name?”

 He nodded silently.

 I turned to the wall closest to us. I got up and walked over and touched it, trying to keep my eye on him, in case he made an effort to lunge and attack. A panel in the wall slid down to reveal a huge map of stars and the known universe.

 “Can you identify your planet on here?”

 He looked at it from where he sat, leaned forward as if to see it more clearly. And then shook his head back and forth. No.

 “Do you recognize anything at all on here?”

 Again he shook his head. This was going to be difficult for us both. And the alien knew it. I sat back down, feeling a bit dejected. He hung his head, burying his featureless face in his hands. For a moment I thought I heard him exhale a frustrated sigh. Then, he lifted his head, placing his hands to the side of it. I heard a hiss and two thin wisps of vapor shot out the side of his head.

 I jumped in alarm and nearly fell over backwards in my chair. A fissure had opened in his head and his hands were cracking it open as if it were a shell. As he pulled his head apart, I heard him gasp, taking in a deep breath of air. I glanced quickly behind me, and saw the guards had their weapons at the ready and were blocking the door, in case he decided to attempt escape.

 The alien laid the shell fragments of his head on the table and looked at me with a new face. This one had features, and though I expected our first visitors from space to look different, I didn’t think they would be this hideous. The skin on its new face was tight, with wrinkles, lines, and ridges. Most of these lines were around two sunken orbs almost centered to the face. These orbs darted frantically back and forth, taking in the room in a panic. It appeared as if these orbs functioned as my own eyes did, though maybe not as well. A protrusion below the eyes flared in uncertain rhythm, giving me the sense this was how the creature breathed, much like our own species. Another opening appeared below this, revealing rows of jagged teeth, dulled and discolored, possibly by its time in space. The alien licked its lips, if that was in fact what they were.

 “Help,” he uttered, and I could see in his eyes the most extreme trace of fear I’d ever encountered. If we were worried about him, he was more worried about us. The alien was terrified.

 I wondered to myself what I could do to ease his anxiety. I studied the extraterrestrial the best I could. For the first time I noticed he had the name he gave me emblazoned across the right side of his chest. USAF.

 “You are called usaf?” I reiterated to make him feel at ease.

 “No,” he admitted. “I am Liam.”

 “Then what is usaf?”

 “United States Air Force.”

 This didn’t seem familiar to me. “What does it mean?”

 “Originally it was a combat unit,” he explained.

 This word I understood, and it wasn’t a good one.

 “What about now?”

 “Space exploration.”

 I felt a lump in my throat. This wasn’t good. We had made a mistake in sending out our transmissions all those light years ago. An alien race had discovered them, learned, adapted, and now was reaching out across the stars in search of its naïve creator….us.

“The Aliens Have Landed” by Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Princess Of The Captured Sun (a fairy tale in verse)

Long, long ago during a dynasty long forgotten

lies this tale that I’m about to begin

about the princess of the captured sun,

the one they call Fairamena Bryn.

Now she demanded of her father, the King

that she would never marry or be bethrothed,

save to the man who could capture the sun

and present it before her and the throne.

Her youthful beauty was legendary even then

inspiring suitors and charlatans alike,

who came to the palace in vain attempts

to capture the sun, try as they might.

Even Prince Schez-bala with all his fine gifts

could not meet the Fairamena’s demands,

and the sun herself stayed in the sky

to shine down upon the mountains and land.

There came a King from a land unheard about

and he tried his very best to succeed,

but alas there was no way to capture the sun

so he left to marry another, I believe.

A soothsayer came with a grandiose prediction

of how he would win Fairamena’s love,

but she replied, “not until you bring me the sun

or capture it from the skies above.”

They came and they came, until all men had lost

and none had achieved the prize

of being the one to marry the cute Princess

with the dark, almost almond eyes.

Her father, the King, with grim disappointment

was distressed and much sadly declared,

“my daughter, your demands seem way too great,

no one can snatch the sun from the air.”

But the Princess replied, “I’m sorry father

but I can’t give my heart away to just anyone,

for I have guarded it safely all of these years

so that it too may shine as the sun.

and the man who can capture the sun herself

in all her bright and stunning love,

is the only man who can hold my heart near

and be the one that I have dreamed of.”

“But they have come from far and wide”, said the King

“and it’s impossible to do what you ask,

they’ve tried and they’ve tried, some foolishly

but there’s no way to perform such a task.”

The Princess smiled because she knew somewhere

there was a man who could do this thing,

and she just would not settle for anything less

if her heart were to smile and sing.

Then one fateful day another suitor came calling

from the village of The Princess Bryn’s birth,

and he came bearing gifts with many good wishes

that he’d dug from the very earth.

He’d made pretty bracelets and sparkly anklets

to present to the princess with love,

and he told everyone he met along the way

that he could give her the very sun above.

So brought before the King and the whole court

the man announced, “I am Shakir-badhrou,

I’ve come for the hand of the fair princess

no matter what it is that I must do.”

“But you’re a peasant, not close to royalty”,

the King uttered in his most regal style,

“we know you, you used to make trinkets

of colored glass for the princess as a child.’

‘It will take much more than colored glass baubles

to impress us to give you her hand,

but if you can manage to capture the sun

then I’ve no choice but to declare you her man.”

Shakir smiled, “true, I am but a glassmaker

but love has impressed upon my heart

to stand before the sweet princess here today

with all my soul to impart…”

But the King Interrupted, “enough of these words,

can you do what the princess requires?”

Shakir replied, “I will catch the sun for love

and then show you a beauty even higher.”

They all stepped in the courtyard to watch his attempt

he showed them pieces of pretty painted glass,

until he produced one that was seemingly clear

“Now I will do what you have asked.”

He held out the glass and he captured the sun

within its reflective surface to shine,

“gaze upon this glass where I’ve caught it real

and for a moment it is yours and mine.”

All were astounded for there was the sun

in this piece of glass the peasant had brought

“when you want the sun, just use this glass

as long as it shines, it is caught.”

The court then applauded and the king was surprised

but the princess she gleefully smiled

as if some plan within her heart had worked out

though it had taken quite a little while.

Shakir said, “now behold… beauty herself

much greater than the shining sun”

and he held the glass to Fairamena’s face

“look, there is the most loveliest one.”

And in the glass the Princess saw her reflection

smiling back and fallen in love,

“This man”, she said, “he will be my husband

for he has captured the very sun from above.”

Shakir smiled at his pretty soon-to-be bride

and kneeled close for only her to hear

“my love, finally we no longer will meet in secret

but instead will forever be near.”

“I could never, ever marry anyone but you”

she whispered, “this plan was the only way

to ensure that you and I would be together

instead of Father selecting someone for me someday.”

But the King and the court didn’t hear these things

it was declared, “Shakir’s the one!”

and love beamed proudly from the sweet face

of the Princess of the captured sun.

And so is the case in tales such as these

that we sometimes hate to see the story end

but as we go back to our own little lives

theirs really only starts to begin.

and let me just say as a moral to learn

that if you’re dreaming of romance today

no matter how impossible it may seem to be

love will always find her way…

Poem by Paul D Aronson.

Photo credit unknown.