Category Archives: Short Fiction

The Thing from the Gutter

The tall wide form lumbered down the dreary dark street as some shrunken giant from tales of old.  A dwarf among his own kind but a giant here not that anyone single person would pay notice as the slick streets were empty.  Only one in three street lights were illuminated to save energy.  They glimmered a dim foul yellowish brown light as they struggled against the gloom of the thick moonless night.  It had rained that day for those of an age that referred to it as such and it felt like it might drip again, but precipitation at night was far less dreadful.  The brick and mortar buildings well over two centuries old slowly crumbled the blackened panes of glass staring out onto the street like great evil eyes watching the night. Only a rare establishment was open for the adventurous young their lighted interiors sending a muddy yellow cast out into the looming pitch.

His body was covered with a thick black duster.  The sheen indicated a leather especially treated for the elements.  His hands and head were fearlessly bare, his feet clad in heavy boots made of the same animal skin caked in a heavy layer of wax.  He kept his attention on his feet.  Each practiced step was carefully placed flat so as to encourage maximum traction.  After all it had rained that day.

The dim street light’s weak rays reflected off the pavement like moonlight off a black sea.  Ripples of grim yellow light flicker fluttering as under a slight breeze each traced but a side wise pattern of rainbow echos.  It was his feet though, that he kept his eyes on as it was the promised bottle at the end of this trip that had encouraged him to take this unplanned journey.  He shook the thing that hung from his left hand, something draped in a thick waxy oil cloth.  The sound of metal rattling and the squeaking squeal of alarmed rodents where a sure sign that his cargo was okay.  It wouldn’t do if what he had promised didn’t arrive alive.

He strode across the street without hesitation.  The ancient traffic sentinel still kept it’s post from insulated cables all though these relics hadn’t fared so well.  Rusty and skeletal the wind no longer stirred them instead blowing through with little resistance. Three of the four stop signs at the intersection had been long removed, not that it mattered for only the very young venture out after sunset anymore.  His long legs keep a steady slow pace as though they wee mechanical.  He didn’t have far to go.

He turned into a dark storefront.  It’s great plate glass panes gritty reflected a grey translucent glow.  The scarred  brick worn front was well into it’s later years.  The flaking mortar was much like the wrinkles of an ancient human face.  This might have occurred to he that walked if he cared to see.  He kept his eyes glued on the pavement.   He was fully well aware how treacherous the world beneath his feet could be.

Two doors stood with thick stainless steel frames that held thick plate glass worn and gritty like the windows through which people once shopped.  The one to the right lead into the dark and vacant business that was once.  This small downtown around once a great city grew had seen far better days.  Many of the spaces intended for retail had long been disused.  Again his eyes stayed on the ground.  His hand grasped the handle on the door to the left beyond which revealed a long flight of stairs.  He took them nearly two at a time hoping for the shelter offered somewhere deep inside.  Four long strides took his long frame across the second floor passed quiet apartment doors to  second flight of stairs.  These bent back upon themselves and covered almost the same deep distance as the first.  His pace quickened. He was close to his goal.

It was at the top where he took a hard left turn down a long dark hall.  It came to an end between two doors.  One was an escape route once for fires but now for most any environmental emergency.  The other a gateway into an apartment.  This apartment held an old friend and a promised bottle.  This bottle was in all probability the only thing that could have brought him out the night after a storm, other than work.  His knuckles rapped hard on the hollow wood three times.

“Took you long enough,” Muttered a shadow revealed as the door swung silently open.

“I had to find them,” The taller replied in a huff, “It took time.”

The shorter shadow grunted stepping back and to the traveler’s right.  He stepped into the dim apartment setting the object he had carried in his hand, still covered in thick wax oil cloth.  The metal rattled and squeaked as it had to support its own weight.

“Close the door,” The shadow fading in the dim light to reveal the resident’s dark features.

“Bitch, bitch,” Muttered the traveler as he pulled the heavy leather duster from his shoulders.  He shook it once with a hard snap drawing a hiss from the resident.  He pulled his leather All Conditions boots from his feet revealing bread wrappers over stocking feet colored white to grimy grey..  The traveler wore a heavy pair of brown canvas overalls partially concealed under a white lab coat.

“May I?” The resident asked.  He reached then thought better of it and instead pointed toward the cage covered under the heavy oil cloth.  The cage squeaked.  This was not a noise of metal but of rodent.

“You promised…” The giant in hiding commented as he pulled his feet free from the bread wrappers.  It was something of a struggle as the plastic was held tight to his calves by thick rubber bands.  The resident watched the struggle only for a few brief moments.  He smiled his lips cracking as if to laugh but no sound came into the world.

“Right,” He said finally disappearing around a corner and into the depths of the apartment.  The longer tall man finally free of the pesky plastic bread wrappers stepped into the living room.  The room was dimly light by a shaft of yellow light from the doorway to his left.  The machine in the window muttered and hissed releasing a dribble of cool freshly filtered air in to the stuffy apartment.  The air  had a thick stale quality that caused one to work up a mouthful of spit and swallow.

“Why haven’t you replaced this?” He asked looking from the window unit over his shoulder into the room that was intended for dining.

“Thomas?” The traveler called out careful not to yell, “This thing isn’t up to code.”

“Yes, yes,” Muttered Thomas as he pressed a fresh bottle into his friends hand, “You say that every time.”

Thomas continued passed the taller man reaching towards the carefully concealed package hidden under the waxy oil cloth.  The traveler made a warning sound causing Thomas to stop and look back with an expression that was almost hurt.

“I brought you the bottle, Did I not?”

He stood straight and looked up at the traveler.  The taller jostled the smaller to the side as he reached for the oil cloth.  A quick tug pulled it free to reveal a wire cage in which there where imprisoned four large rats.  Three were a mangy grey while the fourth was a pristine white with bright eyes.

“You put Morris in with…” Thomas said slowly.

“There is a good chance for weather tonight,” Interrupted the traveler as he slipped the bottle unopened into the left pocket of his lab coat.  It took him a moment to fish the pristine white rat from inside the cage while still keeping the others imprisoned.  He left Morris free to climb up the right sleeve of his lab coat to find its familiar perch on his right shoulder.

“Yes, yes,” Clucked Thomas, “The weather.”

He held the cage up looking at the three that remained.

“Are these mutants?”

“Unlikely,” The traveler answered having freed the bottle.  He studied the label while pursing his lips.

It was a bottle of Bushmil’s Irish Whiskey.  This fact provoked a smile on the travelers face.

“Do you have a clean glass?” Asked the traveler staring at the bottle.

“You know where to look,” Answered Thomas holding the cage high so that he could clearly see the rodents with in.  That answer meant “No.”  They had known each other for many more years than either cared to admit.   The shorter darker man walked into the next room still studying the cages nervous contents.  He still held it high as he walked directly to the far corner.  The taller paler followed watching his feet.  The carpet that covered the floor from wall to wall was pearly white once long ago.  This was apparent from the border around the room from a lonely couple of feet to a good yard in some places.  The rest had turned a dark dirty grey over years of use and a general lack of care.  The traveler paused by a large aquarium the top almost chest high that stood in the near center.  He paused looking down into the glass enclosure cracking the seal on the bottle.

“So what is this about?” He asked taking a sip from the bottle a letting the heat warm his mouth before swallowing, “What did you find?”

“It is really quite strange,” Thomas answered leaving the metal wire cage on the top of a leaning stack of magazines and papers.  The three sewer rats within stirred nervously.

“I was on my way back from Trey’s One Stop this morning,” Thomas began to explain as he rubbed his hands together the back of his left in the palm of his right.  This was a nervous habit he had possessed since at least university.

“The sun hadn’t yet fully cooked away the black,” He explained.  This was a statement about the time.  It was much like saying late morning.

“When I saw this mass in the gutter,” Thomas’ voice had gotten to that quiet calm full of latent expectancy, “I spotted it immediately.”

“Uh-huh,” Grunted the taller paler man pulling a full swallow from the bottle before replacing the cap.

“I tell you Robert, I don’t know how I recognized it.  I just did.  I poked it with my mail box key and I swear it responded…like…”

No two men in this lost small coastal town were more different.  Thomas was mostly unemployed.  It was something in his nature that caused him to shy away from bosses though he did have a skill set.  He was well educated, astute and he worked here or there mostly in the underground economy.  The people there didn’t ask questions.  They wanted their business kept private and they made it worth Thomas’ while.  Robert on the other hand worked in both the city and the county’s infrastructure department.  He was a trouble shooter.  This meant that every day one, the other or both gave him a crisis list and otherwise he was his own boss.  It would be hard for an outsider to understand their relationship.  There was something about Thomas that reminded Robert of his days back at the University.   That was when the excitement of learning and discovery over took both of them.  That was before the catastrophe when Climate Change was still the greatest threat.  In essence their relationship and these once and a while weird nightly projects evoked a sense of nostalgia that Robert enjoyed like a potent drug.

“Well let’s see the thing,” Robert prompted.  He unscrewed the cap on the liquor bottle and drew a shot letting it lay on his tongue.  The stinging warm from the first drought had been replaced by a strong sweet grain flavor.  The machine in the window whispered and squeaked.  Thomas had walked out of the room to Roberts left.  Robert though keep his attention focused on the interior of the empty aquarium.  His expression was peaceful and expectant.

“I wasn’t sure what to do with the thing,” Stated Thomas as he walked back into the room holding and ancient green plastic Tupperware bowl.  It had lost its lid long ago.  The crisis had caused all commercial plastic production to cease.  Plastic had become to important for production for profit.  His voice drew Robert’s attention as he replaced the capped bottle back into his right coat pocket.  He glanced into the plastic container as Thomas approached the empty aquarium.

Inside, at the bottom, was a bit of black oily sludge about the size of his palm.  It was frosty and when the light struck it just so it produced a flashing rainbow.

“You froze it?”

“I know what you are going to say,” Thomas clucked, “But I needed to clean out the old experiment from the test tank.”

He nodded at the empty aquarium as he squeezed the Green Tupperware bowl between his palms.

“Believe me, Robert.  This thing is nearly indestructible.”

Robert simply shook his head slowly from side to side.

“You, my friend are a maniac,” He stated finally.  An ancient memory flashed in his mind of an old stasis project Thomas had undertaken in college.  It involved a white rat, a freezer and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.  It was a strange and sweet memory.  The involved shenanigans flashed through Robert”s mind’s eye bring a slight smile to his features.  Thomas rapped his knuckles on the side of the green plastic as he turned it upside down over the open aquarium.  The palm sized bit of black sludge shaped like the bottom of the bowl fell free and landed with a sharp tingling thump on the glass bottom of the aquarium.

“It is still frozen,” Robert observed.

“Patience,” Thomas’ voice had a breathy quality.  He was excited.  There was the possibility of a new fundamental discovery.  This is why he went to college in the first place.  He craved the academic cutting edge.  It was close.

Robert shrugged putting the bottle to his lips.  He was trying to just sip but the spirits effect was starting to take hold.  The bottle had paused at just about the half way point to His lips.  He stared at the smooth chunk of what could only be described as coagulated axle grease.  Soft rainbows fluttered across its surface like the same colors on a slick of oil.  Robert had the distinct feeling or discontent in his stomach.

“I don’t think that thing is alive,” Robert said finally pressing the mouth of the bottle to his lips.  Thomas poked at it with his finger.  Robert swallowed hard.  That last sip might have been a mistake as that intense queasy feeling intensified in his stomach.

“It seems stunned,” Thomas said thoughtfully, “Or a bit sluggish.”

“That’s a mild understatement,” Robert said sarcastically as he twisted the cap back on the bottle of liquor and replaced it back in his coat pocket.  Thomas looked thoughtful and finally pulled the wire cage from the tottering stack of papers and magazines.  He pushed open the door and tipped the cage roughly shaking the three sewer rats from within to with out.  The rats quickly fell from the cage.  If they hadn’t wanted to be on the outside of that metal wire prison the task would have been nigh impossible.  They tumbled an twisted the short distance hitting the glass at the bottom of the aquarium.  Two of the three mangy sewer rats had landed entirely on their feet.  The third had landed on its side.  It bounced the highest and landed the nearest the black oily glob of coagulated axle grease.  There was sudden scramble after which three grey tattered sewer rats paced back and forth near the farther end of the aquarium.

Thomas seemed displeased.  He poked the blob from the gutter with his extended right index finger.  It was still frozen.  Robert’s stomach tingled and flipped a bit as he watched Thomas poke the thing with his bare outstretched finger.

“You ought to be more careful,” Robert said softly, “The thing could be dangerous.”

Morris shuffled nervously on his right shoulder.  Its whiskers fluttering in alarm.

“Yes, yes,” Thomas clucked, his mind distant, “I think I must thaw this thing out…let’s see.”

He muttered as he walked slowly back into a dark room just of to Roberts left.  Thomas didn’t bother to turn on a light.  Robert’s attention refocused on the thing that lay in the bottom of the aquarium.  His stomach flipped and he began to swallow.  He felt as though he might get sick.  He could feel Morris shuffling on his shoulder.  Thomas reappeared in the studio turned laboratory with startling speed.  He carried, among other things, a car battery and a pair of jumper cables. He set the car battery down on the dirty carpet next to his feet.  He shuffled through several pairs of long metal probes carefully taking a few minutes to read the resistor at the base of each.  It took him only a minute or two to make up his mind.  Finally having decided which long metal probes he wanted to use and affixing them to the end of the jumper cables.  They had been adapted for a new purpose.  The thick layers of black electrical tape wrapped around each of the Jerry rigged ends attested to this fact.

Robert had seen this device before.  He shook his head from side to side but remained quiet.  Thomas pulled a thick black rubber glove over each hand before connecting the thick copper clips to the heavy duty car battery.  He touched the probes together producing a thick snapping spark.

“You’re going to start a fire,” Robert warned.

“You say that every time.”

Robert remained quiet.  The point wasn’t worth arguing.  Instead he watched as the largest of the dirty grey sewer rats moved cautiously towards the frozen blob of axle grease.  Its nose worked overtime trying to get some sense of the thing that it and its companions shared the tank with.  The aquarium was nearly as high as Thomas’ shoulders but that did not dissuade the intellectual adventurer.  He moved the probes down towards the blob keeping them a safe distance apart.  The older bolder rat paid the probes no attention.  It’s focus was on the blob of black still icy and still sitting. The long metal probes closed each on the opposite side of the thing that Thomas had found in the gutter.  They had nearly made contact with the surface of the thing when a loud snapping crack sounded accompanied by a bright flash of bluish white light.  Thomas pulled the probes apart reflexively and waited a moment.

“Notice it conducts electricity,” He said thoughtfully.

Robert said nothing.  His mind was focused on fighting off the intense feeling of nausea.  He swallowed several times in a row.  The electricity snapped again accompanied by another flash of blue white light.  The flash briefly illuminated the room.  The light cast everything in blue adding a ghoulish flare.  Robert felt his body begin to normalize,  His gaze now was fixed on that bold older rat that had not strayed away from it’s study of the foreign thing.  It was bolder than I, Robert thought as his friend pulled the probes away and set them carefully on the top of the cage that swayed itself a top the stack of papers and magazines.  He reached down into the aquarium and pressed a single rubber clad finger against the apparent blob of coagulated decayed petroleum.

“Damn,” Thomas muttered, “Its still frozen.”

Morris the white reformed lab rat shuffled nervously on Robert’s shoulder.  Robert felt the top of the imported bottle with the tip of his fingers  Thomas huffed and walked back into the darkened room through a door way to Robert’s left.  Robert turned his head glancing hoping to see Morris.  They had been companions for several years and the calm friendly white rat had offered the man a great deal of comfort over that time.  It was less than a minute by Robert’s reckoning before Thomas reappeared carrying a boxy metallic object and another pair of jumper cables.  The cables this time were untampered with and it should have struck Robert as odd that Thomas owned two pair of these objects.  They were rare and expensive.  Copper had become quite valuable since the incident.

Robert forced his attention back to the largest of the trapped sewer rats.  It had gotten so close to the black greasy blob from the gutter that it could have pressed its nose against it’s frozen surface.  This evoked yet another round of nausea.  It had been some number of months since Robert had strong drink.  He had concluded quietly to himself that this was the cause of his gastric complaining.

“To many amps,” Thomas muttered half to the air and half to Robert, “Let’s try higher voltage.”

Robert still said nothing and watched the older bolder rat as it inspected the thing from the gutter.  Robert would have as on other occasions made some sideways comment about the safety of the home brewed transformer but he remained silent.  His attention on the rat as the probes again neared the thing from the gutter.  Blue light flashed illuminating the clutter of the room in a ghoulish cast.  This normally would have been more than entertaining for Robert.  It was the tangle of electric that danced across the glimmering thing and the startled jump of the nervous rat that held him.  He stared in eerie fascination as the rat found the spot in the aquarium most distant from the tangle of electric claws and the thing that flashed oily rainbows.

Thomas pressed on and held the probes letting the suspected new life form absorb the energy in reckless abandon.  It was after several long seconds that the thing had suddenly relaxed .  It took on the appearance of a blob of commercially produced grease.  It was no longer frozen.  Thomas left the probes near the thing, let the electric dance until Robert was about to scream at him.  Then, as if reading His friends mind, Thomas pulled the probes away.  The room flashed dark again.  The sound of the cracking electric ceased.  The thing throbbed as if taking a breath.

Thomas stood still.  A single long metal probe held in each casual rubber encased hand and well apart.  His teeth shown through a wicked smile.  His eyes were fixed on the thing.  Robert’s eyes were driven wide by disbelief. The thing slowly expanded and contracted it’s form relaxing so that it looked like a chunk of soft pudding.  The heating planet and the thick pitch colored pollution that rained down from the sky now most every day had created that thing.  Was such a phenomena even possible?  Could this be something else?

“Could the electricity have produced some vibration?” Robert asked no one in particular.

Morris the rescued white lab rat shifted nervously from side to side on his shoulder.  The black blob glimmered a greasy flashing dark rainbow as it slowly rose and fell with what one could only imagine was something like breathing.  The three grey sewer rats paced back and forth across the far side climbing over one another to avoid closing the distance towards the thing.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Thomas said defensively.

He set the probes so that they hung from both sides of the teetering stack of papers and magazines only half paying attention.  His excitement was visible.  Robert was turning a pale grey as the reality of the thing settled into his mind.  He pulled his hand away from the bottle in the pocket of his lab coat.  The thing moved sliding a thin pseudo-pod towards the far side of the aquarium and then pulling its blob like black pudding form towards the trapped rats.

“I discovered it so I get to name it, right?” Thomas asked clasping his hands together through thick black rubber gloves.

Robert said nothing swallowing the bile that hung about the back of his throat.  The feeling of the need to vomit grew yet he could not take his eyes off of the thing as it again pulled its black greasy glimmering body yet closer to the trapped sewer rats.

“Finally,” Said Thomas his toothy wicked smile hardening, “Vindication.”

He leaned forward hesitantly reaching a hand into the aquarium.  The nameless thing had closed more than half of the distance towards the three sewer rats.  They reacted by trying to bolt around it towards the side of the aquarium nearest Robert.  The largest rat followed by one of the smaller dashed like a grey shadow around the long side to the corner by Robert’s right hand.  The other lone rat moved to the left hand side.

How could something that moved that slow hope to survive in this petroleum tainted world?  It leapt.  A long finger of oily pitch leapt towards the lone rat.  It screamed as the thing caught it.  Robert jumped.  Morris crouched low on his shoulder only his whiskered nose moved.  Robert’s eyes widened to an impossible width.  The thing pulled its body over the rat, flesh bubbling under its oozing body.  The flesh liquefied leaving just bones.  The extended index finger of Thomas’ right hand, still encased in black rubber, pushed through the air towards the thing.

“I don’t know if…” Robert stated to say.

“Come, come Robert.” Thomas responded his eyes unblinking as his wide toothy smile began to press hard exaggerated lines into his face, “It knows me.  I rescued it.  I have fed it.”

Robert snapped his mouth shut looking to the two remaining rats that huddled in the corner just to his right side.  He touched the thing with the tip of his right index finger making a petting motion.  Thomas’ face had frozen in a image somewhere between joy and absolute madness.  The thing paid Thomas no obvious attention.  It instead began to pull it’s oozing black slimy body towards the remaining rats.

“How does it know?” Robert asked the air, “How does it sense the world?”

The thing pulled  away from the slowly liquefying bones of the first victim and was now determined to find the two that remained.  The two rats remaining had begun to panic trying desperately to find some way of scaling the glass walls of the fish tank.  The thing had grown in size.

“My discovery,” Thomas muttered pulling his hands from the inside of the aquarium, “My pet.  It is perfection.”

Robert instinctively shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He then shuffled his feet.   Something about this movement, some arcane sorcery, snapped him back into his right mind.  He stepped back from the aquarium.  The thing moved with startling speed leaping outstretched like a webbed hand.  The larger rat was lucky.  The smaller was not.  It left a piercing high pitched scream as the thing from the gutter caught it.  It’s flesh turning to a thick grey red syrup as the alien product from a polluted environment greedily a sucked it up.  Robert took a step back.  The remaining rat darted to the far corner putting space between it and the predator.

Thomas pulled his hands free from the thick black rubber gloves.  He began to reach his bare right hand towards the thing as it greedily consumed it’s meal.

“Thomas,” Robert said his gaze glued on the hand it’s fingers pressed together as if he were about to stroke a beloved pet.

Thomas made no response.

“Thomas?” Robert repeated the question watching as the hand closed the distance.  The thing had grown noticeably.  It was undeniable.  He pulled his gaze to his friends face.  There he saw what could only be described as insane glee and love.  The moment had been too much for his old friend.

“THOMAS?!” Robert’s voice broke into the air in a loud high pitch.

“It knows me,” Said the wanna be scientist, “I saved it.”

The thing left the second set of steaming bones as they slowly began to turn to jelly.

Robert took another step back increasing the distance between his body and the aquarium.  He pulled his gaze to the face of his companion.  Thomas had always been a bit strange.  Now it appeared that he was gripped by sudden dark irrationality.

Robert gently scrapped Morris from his shoulder and dropped him into the left hand pocket of his lab coat.

Thomas softly pressed the tips of the fingers of his closed hand to the oozing black mass and stroked it once.  The thing leapt on to him grasping his hand..  Thomas’s expression changed to confused fright.  The flesh of his fingers melted and the thing grew climbing up his arm.  He took a clumsy step backwards half stumbling into the tottering stack of papers and magazines.  The stack had been the most unstable and the sudden collision was too much.  It tumbled, the two metal probes still connected to their power sources went as well.  The probes must have connect as there was a loud crack of electric and a sudden burst of flame.  The thing had climbed to his elbow.  Thomas flapped his arm like a great bird and screamed.  The sound was close to hysteria.

That was it.  Robert was done.  He bolted.

His urge to flee was so strong that he forgot his bread wrappers.  He remembered his boots though and hesitated at the bottom of the steps to put them on his feet.  He didn’t bother to close his coat as he found his way into the outside.  A second ear piercing shriek sent shivers up his spine as he began his journey back home through the dark slick streets.  His feet moved quickly as his legs took long strides under the moonless night sky.  He worked to force the mental images of the thing and the sounds of the inhuman scream to the back of this mind.  It was in this region that he could forget.  Robert quickly covered three blocks before pausing and turning around to face the direction in which the apartment building stood.  He stood silently staring waiting for the flames of the fire sparked by the panicking Thomas to burst through the roof or out through a window.  What he saw after a score of minutes passed was nothing.  He did not perceive even a whiff of smoke.  He shivered fighting to maintain something that resembles sanity.

Robert turned away pulling the right side of the heavy leather coat open and glancing down towards the pocket on the same side of his lab coat.  There he spot the familiar whiskered face of Morris.  The sight of the rodent, whiskers wiggling to take in the scents of the world around him always made Robert feel better.  the atmosphere would have worried him any other time.  His feet inside damp boots would have drawn serious concern.  This was also true of the open oily treated over coat.  Tonight though this was far from his mind.  The thing that Thomas had discovered had reconfigured Robert’s priorities.

“I think we are moving,” He spoke in a regular speaking voice to Morris.

“I can find a job anywhere with my skill set,” He continued not leaving much time for the rat to reply.

“Have you ever seen an or the ocean?” He asked the rat.  The Rat simply looked back.  Her was comfortable in the pocket of the lab coat.

“I see,” Robert sounded concerned, “Well I have a cousin that lives outside Seattle.”

He nodded and smiled as his feet took long rhythmic strides out of the down town.  The thick darkness grew as there were no street lights out in the small city outside of the archaic downtown.

“I think I’ll put my two weeks notice in,” Robert stated still watching his small friend, “What do you think about that?”

Morris said nothing, not even a squeak.

“Good,” Robert sounded pleased, “I’m glad you agree.”

It would be shortly after that that Robert’s long tall form would be swallowed by the dark night.




Wanna Bet?

It was late that dark night thou no real starlight penetrated past the dim city lights. Beneath his toes sprawled the decayed remnants of a once thriving industrial and port city on the Great Lake of Erie.  A gentle breeze blew over the cooling waters and through the city, the great lake had yet to freeze this winter and the chill in the air drew no response from the youthful shadow.  He stood at the edge of the recently re-roofed building from passed the past its bricks laid before the great bank panics of the 1890s, the Great Depression from before the Great Depression.  None of this was taught at school and the youthful shadow was unaware of these dark echoes as his own murky world allowed no further thought or perception.  He stood there swaying hypnotically above the concrete and brick like a morbid dance.

The weak yellow street lights far below casting the narrow fingers of light up towards the unrelenting night left their echos in the odd finger cast shadows hiding the soft footsteps as another had found its way onto the roof and began to slowly stalk towards the strange swaying youth.  This new one was tall and lean towering over the troubled interloper with long arms and large hands.  When it had drawn close enough to see clearly it paused.  Slow thoughtful breaths slipped from and back into the cold night air.  It waited, silently.

Minutes turned into a half hour yet the swaying shadow perched at the edge had neither moved towards safety nor had taken the final leap.

“Its not high enough,” The second taller shadow said in a deep masculine voice.

The youthful shadow started, swaying and jerking dangerously staggering back to a more secure spot on the thick rubber roofing.

“You can’t stop me!” fright running under his words as he moved back into the ready position.

“I’m not trying to stop you,” The new shadow stated.

“Better not.” The younger shadow stated confidently as he resumed the ready to plunge position.  He began to sway again as the icy wet wind breathed its first from over the cold lake.

“Its not high enough.”

The youthful death athlete stepped back again from the edge turning just enough to try and focus on this  insistent irritant.

“I told you you can’t stop me,” the voice, though definitely male, had reached the pitch and tone of a high whine.

“I’m not trying to stop you,” The older shadow insisted, moving closer, “I am simply stating the fact that this building is not high enough.”

There was a long thunderous silence that hung in the air allowing the growing cat call whistle of the strengthening breeze to sound around them.  The taller shade stepped closer though his form and detail still held hidden in deep shadow.

“I’m gonna jump,” The younger steady stepping back to the edge.

“It is a free country.”

The youthful shadow once again began to sway as though attempting to reach some altered state of consciousness.  Maybe he was waiting for some strange voice to call to him.  The beckoning song that had called so many before.

“Not high enough.”

“It is high enough,” The youth said strongly, stills swaying waiting for the call.

“This is only three stories high,” The second shadow said strangely soft, “The Stadtmiller Insurance Building is three doors down, its seven stories high…better odds.”

“I’m planning on taking a header into the roof of that car right there,” The youthful shadow pointed at the street below, “The white one, its an easy target.”

“You’ll probably just break an arm or a leg, unless your really unlucky then you’ll fracture your skull or break your neck,” The shadow said, voice closer, so much so that the jumper startled again stepping away from the edge.

“you can’t stop me!” The younger shadow stepped again to the edge and began to sway, listening for the call.

“How’s your luck been,” The older shadow asked, unmoved, “I mean if you real lucky that might…”

“Don’t come any closer,” The youthful shadow again stepped back from the edge, holding his left hand up palm out.

“I’ll bet you five dollars that your still alive…after you…”

“Five dollars, is that it?” There was something pained and shallow in the sound of the would be jumpers voice.

“Its all I have, so how’s your luck?”

“Its a bet,” The younger shadow stated, taking that final step into the empty air.


It was less than a minute before a loud crunching thump sounded from below.  A car alarm screamed for attention into the night.  No one would come, no one ever did.  The older tall lean shadow stepped towards the edge and leaned forward enough to see clearly.  The younger had made good, his body stopped from colliding with the pavement by an unsuspecting automobile, late model, white.

He waited.

With on a few minutes he could clearly hear a cry of pain from the street below.

“Help,” the voice wound around in sharp shrill pain, “Somebody call 911”

The taller older man leaned out over the edge of destiny glaring at the crushed car roof some distance below.  The young jumper had made good on his word and hit the white colored car.  It must have been the target being the only car of such tone anywhere in sight.

“Call 911”  the pain under his words could be clearly heard.

The taller shadow fished a cell phone from his left back pocket pausing before dailing.

“You owe me five dollars!”

Hobby Humans in Outer Space

It has been asserted by several highly esteemed researchers in the field of UFO studies that first contact happened sometime around 1954 or 55.  It could have been as early as 1952 or as late as 1956 and this contact, diplomatic in nature occurred either at Hurlbert, Wright Paterson or Laughlin airbase and that President Dwight D. Eisenhower was not only aware of said contact but was a key participant.

This is a deception.

It was an operation that involved the entire Intelligence community.  This deception was clever and masterful in its execution.  Why, will become apparent as this expose continues.

First Contact took place at an unnamed coffee shop in Greenich village, the east village.  It was smoke filled and moody when the small group of big nose grays had made their appearance.  They had chosen this location with the full understanding that the beat community was the least like to respond with violence.  These aliens had a rare offer for the inhabitants of that particular coffee shop.  That offer was, any individual who would willing go with them could have these things:

1)  An abundant supply of food, what ever they may wish.

2)  A radio, or television, or any other items for their own entertainment.

3)  Beverages, including alcohol, tobacco or any other things they may want to smoke.

4)  Comfortable furniture and their own private home.

5)  Suitable companions of their own species.

6)  and finally, they would never have to work nor exert themselves in any way for their own sustenance.

It is said that the inhabitants of said coffee shop listened politely and then inquired if poetry would be made available.  The big nosed grays may have traversed the galaxy but they were woefully underdeveloped in the literary and the poetic arts.  They had never heard of such a thing and had no response.  This evoked a predictable reaction from the beatniks in the coffee-house. They ignored the extraterrestrials until the went away.  Reportedly, J. Edgar Hoover’s grand-nephew was at said establishment that evening and filed the report immediately with the Disappeared Files Division of the FBI.

The Big Nosed Greys, named so because, you guessed it, they had big noses, were master merchants and traders.  They could be compared to the Swahili at their peak.  They needed to rethink their strategy and they would not attempt contact again until 1968 in a region of California known as haight ashbury.  The people there were much more inclined to agree to the contract, some reasoned that television had gotten so much better since the 50s and it was that single change in technology that made captivity more appealing to humans.

The Tek Nagh Uur (Big nosed greys) had come up with and idea that they believed would be considered genius, a real money-maker, the craze of the millenia.  That idea was Hobby Humans.  The Tek Hagh Uur had been watching humanity for a long time trying to decide whether or not these strange little beings could be considered intelligent by galactic standards.  They seemed to be self-aware and capable of learning and advanced thought yet the average human possessed less verbal acuity, mathematic knowledge, and a general understanding of science than most other species when they were very young.  The other strange thing was that these seemingly peaceful friendly beings could turn in an instant into a state that provoked unbelievable levels of violence.  Though the evidence was scant there was enough that the Tel Nagh Uur knew they might get into trouble if they used humans for food so they decided instead on hobby humans.  The whole concept is very similar to keeping fish

The government was fully well aware of this.  If fact the department of the interior had worked out a tariff system so that Uncle Sam would get his cut.  This is where the bulk of the funding comes from for the so-called black budget.  There was some attempt at negotiation on the topic of human rights and abstaining from torture but, “For some reason they (the Big Nosed greys) acted like they didn’t believe me” Vice Admiral Rufus Scharman, Exo-Ambassador from the United States. 1964-1976

The beginning,

Tek Nagh Uur began randomly “hiring” people from around the world until the 1970 Recruitment Treaty with the United States which stated that applications could only be taken in Northwestern Ohio, the entire State of West Virgina, South Central Ohio, Western Pennsylvania. the Caribbean, South America. South East Asia, USSR, China, all of Africa South of the Sahara and Greece.  This was quickly followed by the Free Peoples Employment treaty which stated that applicants should be taken only from the western hemisphere as China and the USSR were having a hard enough time keeping people inside their borders.  The Unilateral UN Freedom of Employment treaty eliminated all of the Southern Hemisphere, East Africa and Europe with the exception of  Ireland so by the time the finagaling and dickering had been completed the aliens could only recruit new hires from the State of West Virgina, Northwest and South Central Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, the Caribbean, Ireland and West Africa.  Freelancers though often found many a willingly new employee inside the District of Columbia.  No one paid this any attention.

The Tale,

Hobby humans became all the rage throughout  the Pan galactic Allied Species and Neutral Powers.  It was such a considerable distraction that there was a noticeable decrease in hostile activities and exploration of the frontier.  A strange competition raged between spacefaring species and between individuals with in any given species.  Hobby Humans had become a status symbol and a trend began to develop amongst move extroverted groups.  For instance, The Reptilian’s of Draco Major had a peculiar preference for anti-social and even violent elements of the human species and were avid collectors.  They liked to encourage brawling with in their personal communities and other violent behavior.  Humans have on occasion exhibited an extreme propensity of violence and other dark behaviors on a level that rivaled even what the Reptilians themselves were capable of and this the Reptilians found amusing.  Its is important to note that under normal circumstances Reptilians are known for lacking any detectable sense of humor.  The violent antics of humans, held in glass enclosures, had the Reptilians rolling and so distracted that they, for the most part, ceased their militant activities against their neighbors.  The inhabitants of Draco made every effort to obey the treaties and laws regarding the care of Humans and kept anything that might be considered a weapon by the space faring societies beyond the reach of their employees but it seems that Humans were capable of turning even the most mundane of objects into a lethal weapon.  As reports amongst the Human populations employed in the Draco System rose so did rumors of gambling and gladiatorial contests between humans, much like dog fighting or cock-fighting here on earth.  Investigators from The Pangalatic Council where unable to find any evidence of wrong doing on the part of the inhabitants of Draco.  Needless to say the rumors persist.  I would like you to know dear reader. that there is no evidence this journalist can find to indicate any complaint or concern expressed by any governing body on earth about this controversy.

The Little Greys of Beta Reticuli also had particular preferences amongst the hobby human population.  For them the preference was for individual’s who would be classified as promiscuous or highly sexually active.  This caused some consternation amongst many a scholar until a conclave was held at the University of Betelgeuse to study the matter.  after some three years of research and thought, this esteemed group came to this conclusion:  Being that the little greys, called so because of their short stature, reproduced by cloning ,so it was only natural that they would be curious about other methods of  reproduction.  This inspired the Non-interference with Breeding Act so that no species could legally tamper with the genetic make up of any human group.

The Nordics from the Pleiades prefered the more passive and social groups such as the Rainbow Gathers and Dead Heads.  To the alarm of other species the Nordics did not keep their Hobby Humans in glass containment ares and didn’t really see the Humans as pet like, dangerous nor undesirable.  Close to the same stature and build and similar in appearance as Humans, the Nordics of the Pleiades had to tolerate several quarantines during the ten years after they had established their Free Range Human Program.  The larger society seemed to relax and had started to pull back from its engine of massive economic growth and began to develop a taste for the “Simple Things” in life.  Many scholars worried, that over the long term, the ramifications of unbridled cultural integration could lead to a deevolutionary trend amongst the fair Nordics of the Pleiades.

The Incident,

Possibly the most advanced and developed of the various Peoples who took an interest in the Hobby Humans would be the Blue Beings of Epsilon Indi.  This would be an Andromedan outpost with some 500 million inhabitants.  The Andronmedans had mastered transgalatic flight long before any of the local Peoples had developed writing.  Deeply educated and having,  many thousands of years ago, managed to eliminate many if not all the traits that create discord with in a society.  Particularly Antisocial and or Psychopathic traits.  Though they were known to still occur on rare occasion no one could recall a Blue Being with such traits other than the ones made reference to in the distance past in various academic works.  Many didn’t believe these traits had ever existed.

Enter Tryb Stocard, a middle management employee of Ship Crap Transgalatic Freight.  He and his wife, Syp where well-known and respected Hobby Human enthusiasts whom had been published often in periodicals on the subject.  It was their Daughter, the apple of her father’s eye, around which the controversy started.  The child, upon reaching the age of six, received a hobby human glass environment of her own, in hopes of encouraging her imagination.  With in the passing of a long galactic week Syp began to notice the humans from her child’s, Fryy, Hobby aquarium were disappearing.  This caused Syp some considerable alarm.  Where the human’s escaping?  Heaven forbid, once they get into the walls we’ll never be able to get them out.  She told her husband who blew her concerns off, as husbands were like to do with one sentence, “Human’s aren”t smart enough to get into the walls.”  It wasn’t until later that month that Tryb became concerned when all the human’s had disappeared from his daughters glass containment chamber.  What if they had gotten into the walls?  What kind of trouble could they cause?  What was their rate of reproduction anyways?  Tryb, needless to say, was concerned.

He immediately consulted a pest control agent.  It was while the pest control expert was informing Tryb that his residence was Human free, except for the large main glass chamber, which the agent gestured at.  This drew Tryb’s attention to his prized possession, possibility the healthiest and most realistic artificial Human Habitat on the planet, only to see his beloved daughter Fryy, fish a wiggling and screaming Human from the, dare I say it, aquarium, chew him up and swallow him.

Could it be true,  could his daughter be exhibiting antisocial behavior?  Tryb rushed the specialist from the house and returned to his daughter expeditiously only to find that she had gobbled up a second Human.  Tryb would have to check his home owners insurance later, but now, his darling daughter had turn from sweet and innocent to crazed and violent  There was only one thing to do.  The happy room.  Heavily padded with soothing music and imagery the color scheme revolving around an off pink.  The happy room could modulate even the most disturbed personality bringing them to a calm place.  Assuming that this had been accomplished when the howling stopped Tryb opened the door to the happy room, only to find his daughter in a heightened state of anxiety and anger.  She had become violent.

She became known as Little Agony.  Much more damage could have been done but realistically the world was left intact, hardly dented, except for the local Hobby Human population, which dwindled rapidly.  It seems at some point other blue beings became curious and decided to try a few Humans just to see what they tasted like.  Low and behold humans were sweet and spicey…kind of like candy.  The blue beings couldn’t resist…you know what they say…”You can’t eat just one!”  The greater damage was done to the cultural confidence.  The Blue beings felt that the superior knowledge and understanding of science left them invulnerable to such hideous activities.  This was obviously untrue.  The reality was there was very little exceptional about them, a concept that was most destructive and by 2008 the society had completely collapsed after thriving for millions of years.

Well, That is the way a Culture Crumbles…I guess.

Three toed, Red Eyed, Allegeny Saturday Night

The mountains were so old that they resembled the hunched backs of ancient people, great grand parents, huddled together waiting for the senior center to open. If these mountains had eyes to see and mouths to speak, what stories they could tell. The civic hatchback, second hand though well maintained wandered the aimless mountain roads, dirt and stone rolling under its tires somewhere north and east of pittsburg. It was summer in the moutains, the sun arching low to the west was the harbringer of cool crisp evenings with a view of the stars that would maker an astronomer drool. The driver of the car handled the road well, not slow like a flatlander nor show off quick as teenagers were apt to do. The only sign that this vehicle was from the lowlands being its license plate, Ohio, lorain county. Of all of these things not one impressed Marcia, she sat in the passenger seat trying desperately to act interested and curious but her eyes were the tell, the tell of a mind longing to be somewhere else, anywhere else that had cable television, Wi-fi and Pizza, delivered. This place had none of these things and the truth be told she had been dragging her feet on this trip for nearly eight years, hoping her husband, Greg would one day just stop asking. But Greg, sitting in the drivers seat, was presistant and he did eventually wear her down.

Greg, her husband had been chattering mindlessly for the last two hours and she had been tuning him out for an hour and 59 minutes.  Trees, she thought, her eyes cast out the passenger window of the civic, nothing but trees.  In years past he, her husband had drug her kicking and screaming,  out to the state forest lands some miles south of Lorian.  The places name she had willed beyond her memory and even now as the name of some ancient general began to creep towards her thoughts she forced it back.  A frown faintly fell on her otherwise youthful lips.  The trees as they passed all seemed identical and when combined with the odd humming grind of the unpaved road they held a hypnotic quality.  She’d give anything to see a store made of brick and morter, hell even wood would be acceptable.  There was no place to buy shoes with in a million miles, she thought.  Now you’re being ridiculous, she almost muttered.  No take out, no restaurants, no movie theaters, no playhouse square, she shivered.  What does one do without internet and God how she hoped they had hot water and cable, at least give me cable, she thought clasping her hands in the closest thing an athiest could manage to prayer.

Something about Greg, her husband, she reminded herself, voice snapping her back to the shared reality.  She turned to him blinking, mustering a smile and a sigh.

“Where were you?” he asked, “We’re almost there!”

He sounded excited she noted before giving her carefully composed answer, “I was lost in the trees?”

“It is something, isn’t it,” He seemed happier and more relaxed than she could easily remember,”You missed a family of deer and a wild turkey a ways back, I think?”

Fleas, She thought, infested with fleas, lice or ticks, oh god only knows, “Next time.”

She smiled, it was almost sweet.

“I know you’re gonna like it up here,” He nodded eyes darting back to the curving road, “It should be right around this corner.”

It was his parent’s home.  She hadn’t seen them since the wedding.  They seemed like nice people, the kind you wouldn’t mind having as neighbors but that whole day was something of a blur.  Maybe they were really crazy hillbillies and all that vodka had twisted her preception.  A pang of guilt, sharp, stabbed at ther back of her mind.  That wasn’t very kind she thought, and if I am not careful I’ll make this weekend more miserable then it needs to be.  She shook her head slowly, watching as the long curving road twisted up the side of a mountain far older than she cared to contemplate.

I hope its not some ramshackle shack she thought as images of delapadated, poorly kept buildings ran though her minds eye, the kind that might be seen on the beverly hillbillies or possibility coinhabited by some raccoon or possum or whatever.  She resisted the shuddered that nearly ran up her spine.  She could hear her mother’s voice in the back of her ear saying, “Remember dear, thank you and please. don’t forget to smile and always be nice.”

The car lurched up a steep incline and around a sharp curve into a clearing rich with summer green.  Near the center, at the top of what she guessed would be called a knoll rested a cabin/house combination.  A wide cedar deck wrapped around the foundation of the home, sturdy and comfortable.  She studied the plank sides of the house as she openned the door.  Eighteen inches wide and maybe twenty feet long with a high finnish to keep the outside where it belonged, out.  It looked rustic to her city trained eye but also secure and inviting.  The few widows that were visible were double paned insulated glass and had been recently cleaned.  The strong scent of cedar assaulted her nostrils, overwhelming, exotic and intoxicating.

“This is the back of the house,” Stated Greg motioning to a pick up truck so old and beaten one might wonder whether it ran at all, “Watch your step.”

She was wearing tennis shoes, a type of shoe that caused her to shiver in disgust yet she really understood the wisedom in wearing them.

“Come on,” He beckoned, “Stepping up onto the low deck, “The front door is right around the corner.”

She followed.  Images of toothless old crazy hill people dancing in her mind.  Her steps were slow as she struggled to keep her eyes open.  Please have teeth she muttered to herself over and over until it began to ring in her mind like a mantra.  She and Greg turned the corner, their gaze falling on an older gentleman, gooseneck pipe pressed to his lips as a strong odor of Captain Black wafted through the air.  He wore work pants, the kind that looped over the shoulder, wore faded blue denim with a path on the right knee and a neat blue and white checked flannel shirt.

“I could hear you a mile off,” Stated the old man, dropping the still smouldering pipe in his left pants pocket, “city living is spoiling you.”

The elder’s eyes gleamed with a bright mischievious light, his hair turning more of a chestnut over a short neat beard the color of snow.

“Well Miss Marcia,” He greeted, smiling.  Teeth, she thought spotting the strong white chompers, he has teeth.  She almost blushed as the conflict between shame and joy rattled around her head.  “Mable and I sure are glad you found you way here.”

He stuck out his hand, acceptably dirty, and she clenched it in a strong shake, “Forgive me for being so late.  You know how things can get.”

She had a strong hand shake which drew an appreciative smile from the elder Hanson.  “Why I sure do,” Smiled Greg’s father a glint of scoundle hidden just below the suface, “I remember back in the blizzard of ’66 when the little truck of those flower people…”

“Hippies?” Asked Marcia.

“That’s them,” Continued the elder glint having moved to his eye, “Excepting they was all women, and so cold…So’s I offerred them a place to stay til it all blew over….”

The old man hesistated looking to his son, “That was after your mother died…”

“Come on pop,” interrupted Greg, “Why don’t you show me that new three holer.”

“You go right on in,” Nodded Mr. Hanson grabbing the handle and pulling the door open, “The Misses is in  back… in the kitchen.”

Marcia glanced, working so as not to appear leery of the elder parents of her husband.  The Elder Hanson nodded and smiled still holding the door for her.  Well mannered folk, she thought to herself as she drifted into the front palor of the home, door closing gently behind her.  She moved like a bit of fog or mist driven by a faint breeze, aimless, studying the room, most of the furniture was rustic but finished.  The room was absent of dust, dirt, there wasn’t even a single pair of shoes laying on the floor.  The Room was so highly ordered that she began to worry about the sanity of her erstwhile beloved’s family.  And then it struck her,  Icy fingers clutching her neck and tearing at her spine, her breathing quickened and became shallow, eyes growing wide with undeniable terror, there was no Television.  Her mind reeled like an addict on a four day kick, no History channel, No A&E, No home and Garden….Not even Animal planet and what about Jersey shore or those Desperate housewives.

“Back here honey,” Beckoned a voice pulling Marcia out of her downward spiral, “In the Kitchen…I don’t bite honey.”

How much more can she stand Marcia wondered as she took one unsteady step after another until she crossed the threshold and entered the kitchen.  This room looked lived in unlike the front palor.  It was huge, like two or maybe even three rooms in one.  Ma Hanson, as she was liked to be called leaned over the open oven door carefully basting two golden brown chickens in a dark metal roaster.  The scents were heady,exotic and foriegn.  The kitchen seemed modern, the stove top was clean and without any nicks or dings causing Marcia to believe it was new.  Modern appliances mixed with old copper cookware that looked as if it had been in the family for generations.

Ma Hanson stood up, maybe a half a hand shorter than Marcis, a broad woman who moved as if her left leg was killer stiff, rosey red cheeks and curly grey locks framed her eyes that were nearly as dark as coal and yet bright with light.  She stuck out a hand as she found her way to the kitchen table, “Come on now have a seat,  Its been a long trip.”

“I need to stand a bit,” replied Marcia as she turned slowly taking in the sights of the heart of the house.  Ma Hanson also had all of her teeth thought Marcia a ruinious pang oif guilt stabbing at her, “Just need to stretch my legs.”

Young people always say that, mused Ma Hanson, “Got ta stretch my legs…you get to my age your legs are all stretched out.”

“What age would that be?” Asked Marcia in a dreamy tone, her attention focused on the details around her.  Ma Hansom could have been anywhere from 50 to 80, there was an ambiguity to her apparant age and when she went to carnivals or fairs it was the contest she could always win, “Guess your Age.”  The elder woman began to laugh snapping Marcia from her day dream.  Hand snapped to her lips, “My God I am so sorry.  That was rude, wasn’t it?”

Not at all,” reponded Ma pat the chair next to her, “You just been in the big city too long and its got you all fowled up.  Can I get you anything?”  It took Marcia a long minute to ease herself into the chair Ma Hanson had indicated.

“That Chicken looked good, smelled good too,” Said Marcia slowly with a nod towards the oven and a flinch at the reakization the her words sounds like those of a small child.

“Its rabbit,” corrected Ma, “Old fuzz nuts got lucky yesterday.”

Marcia blinked, images of many childhood pets, fuzzy, warm and helpless flashed through her imagination.  Her roommate in college had a pet rabbit she remembered and after dwelling for a moment said, “Who’s Fuzznuts, the nextdoor neighbor?”

The old woman laughed, it sounded a bit like a heavy rattle,” No darling, Fuzznuts is what I call the Mister.”

The word choice and the attached image sent a shiver down Marcia’s spine and she had been unable to get the images of a line of once fuzzy friendly family pets freshly dressed for dinner from her mind.

“You look a bit peeked,” The old, bright eyed woman leaned forward, tipping her head back to get a clear look, “My, oh my, you surely do.”

“I’ll be alright,” Shuddered Marcia, smiling weakly as Ma Hanson rose from her seat.

“Now don’t you worry, I have something to striaghten you right out,” Ma’s words took on a shoft edge as she walked towards the far cupboards,  She leaned as if somehow her stiff leg would bend better and with one hand on her thigh, pulled a hardwood straightback chair to the end of the high sideboard near the back door, “It must have been the trip, its got you all wrung out, poor thing.”

Ma thrust the back of the chair against the finished wood of the sideboard and stepped up on the seat with her strong leg.

“Mom,” Marcia sounded alarmed as a woman that could be as old as the mountains with one bad leg stepped up on the chair.  Visions of the woman tottering dropping to the floor, brittle bones snapping caused Marcia to have rise from her chair, voice raising, “MOM!”

Ma Hanson opened the tall door and fingertipped a metal tin out from the top shelf, “You’re a sweet child, you called me Mom.”

She stepped down to the floor with out a totter or wobble and slid the chair back to its place under the far window, “I always wanted a daughter.”

Marcia eased back into her seat, body stiff and unwilling to release the tense grip her nerves held it in.  Ma sat back in the chair next to her looking up and smiling and began to work off the tight lid on the tin.

“Now,” She instructed, Marcia’s curiousity relaxing tight muscles, “This is my little secret, Me and the girls keep these for specail occasions…”

The top opened with a sliding metal popping sound, a strong sweet aroma flood Marcia’s nostrils,” We can’t let the menfolk know because…well…you know, men lack restraint.”

Marcia nodded her agreement leaning tiowards the tin.  The scent was pleasent, a bit like christmas but there was something to it she couldn’t quite put her finger on.

“Is that somekind of cookie?” Asked Marcia leaning curiously forward and eyeing the round balls of brown batter.

“Something like that,” Replied Ma impatiently shaking the tin.  Marcia tentatively reached into the tin and pulled a small brown ball of batter, sticky with sugar and looked at it for a moment.  There was something ancient and familar about it.

“Don’t study it, eat the damn thing,” Ma sounded more impatient than angry.  She niibbled at the bit of batter, sweet and cinnamon.  “Watch,” stated Ma as she demonstrated tossing one of the bits of christmas past into her mouth and chewing it.  Impatienent, squirting air in and out of her nose as though it lost much of the effectiveness it had in youth, or maybe it was so good that she didn’t want to swallow right away, either way Martcia followed suit tossing the confection in her mouth.  She chewed , savored the sweet, nodding her approval.  Ma nodded in return.  It was as Ma swallowed and smiled that the heat struck.  It felt as if her mouth had caught fire.  Her face must have changed colors as MA reacted immediately thrusting the tin at her and shaking it.

“The first one always grabs ya,” She said shaking the tin again, “You better have another one.”

Marcia, staring at Ma through slitted eyes, face still red gasping for air at almost a pant reached into the tin again and Ma followed suit.  Marcia worked the candy between her teeth, face relaxing eyes taking an almost normal posture.

“I don’t know,” Said Ma thoughtfully, “I think maybe you should have one more.”

Marcia swallowed, slightly lightheaded, nodding and picking a third, to which Ma, politely waited before helping herself to a second.  This one tasted just like any sugary homemade doughy christmas candy.  Marcia savored the delicacy speaking around the food in her mouth, “What is this, I think my parents, or grandparents use to make this, I mean is this some old receipe for christmas or something?”

“Bourbon balls,” Stated the old woman, “Made with real storebought bourbon, that’s why the men folk can’t know.  They’d eat this whole tin in one setting.  So it our little secret, right?”

Marcia nodded with a single stab of the finger before reaching for a fourth, “Damn right!”

She stumbled through the forest, uphill of course.  She wasn’t many things but a flat lander was one of those traits  that belonged to her,  no denying it.  She felt the flush of exertion earlier as she followed her Greg past the large menacing propane tank.  They were out to visit little sister.  Marcia mentally mumbled to herself, I thought Ma always wanted a daughter then it turns out that darling Greg has a previously unmentioned younger sister.  Probably some sort of a lunatic they kept out in some shed her thoughts rambled into horror show images causing a shudder to play games with her body.  One foot in front of the other she thought, I’m in worse shape than I feared.  She fended off the picture of a one eyed snarling mutant with thick sharp teeth in a dress one might have placed on a child’s baby doll.  Stop it, she told herself, hearing her voice mutter out drawing her attention out to her husband and his father.

“No kiddin’ old man kerney parted with that twenty gallon copper pot,” Greg sounded surprised, “Pa, how far we got yet?”

The words blurred.  How many of those bourbon balls did she have anyway?  Her feet, always reliable, unerringly followed one after the other still sure.  Was it ten she asked her self, no it couldn’t have been that many…could it?It turned out Ma Hanson was a bawdy and randy old broad.  Surprise surprise thought Marcia, under that quaint elder country lady lay hidden some truly rude humor.  Lets think she told herself, somewhere around bourbon soaked cookie number eight she told that joke about the master tuna fisher man with one finger…How did that go again?  The smile on her face was irrepressable as she desperately tried to remember how that joke went.  And what about the one about the master baiter, oh she almost moaned.  Got to keep it together for she knew full well she was never much of a drinker.

“Just a few more yards or so,” Responded the Elder.

It had all been up hill but that had not bothered Marcia.  She felt too good, too light on her feet to complain.  Normally by now she would be expecting it to be up hill both ways.  It was in the middle of that thought that she caught the first whiff of it.  The strong acrid odor of wood smoke.

“Something Burning,” She Mumbled her gaze returning to the ground, to be sure of her footing.

“Cooking more likily,” Corrected Old Man Hanson.

“Well,” Marcia hummed,”Who be out here cooking on a night like this?”

She was the last to stunble into the clearing.  Covered by a heavy canopy of leaves, there, near the center sat a large round copper pot on a bed of coals.  The copper had discolored from the heat flairing greens and dark reds around the base with a lid, also copper, that latched down tight.

“I knew you’d be coming so I thought I’d make up a batch special,” The elder half smiled, half twinkled at his son.

“That’s mighty kind of you Pa,” returned Greg, her husband.  Marcia paid little attention instead studying the spindly tubing that looped from the top of the pot down to a large crock.  The crock was partailly covered by a lid of wood to protect its precious contents from falling debris.

“I figure there should be better than a quart of fine apple shine,” Smiled the Elder Hanson.

“That’s my favorite,” Greg leaned over the pot trying to get a glimpse of the contents.

“My God,” Marcia exclaimed loudly enough to surprise herself,”you’re making moonshine.”

“She doesn’t miss a trick,” Chortled the Pa Hanson as he began to remove the lid from the crock.

“Mind like a steel trap,” Acknowledged Greg as his father’s laughter faded.

“Well I’ll Be,” Pa Hanson almost spit, “Some one’s been in this…its gone.”

“What?” Greg stammered, “But who would….?”

“You know as well as I do,” the old man shuffled throygh the brush searching for tracks.

“No,” Greg sounded shocked Surprised, “He’s still not around here…”

“Why wouldn’t he be,” Grumbled the elder as he pushed his way through the brush at the far side of the clearing.  Marcia watched, still half bent at the waist as though she couldn’t make uop her mind between studying the still or following the Antics of the old man.

“Damn it,” swore the elder gesturing towards the ground, “There’s his print…”  Greg took the steps necesary to see and verify his father’s claim.

“I’ll be,” said the Son slowly, “I didn’t even know he was still alive.”

“I told him he could take a sip,” The elder shook his head, “He just can’t handle his liqour…Smell that?”

“Yes,”Answered he younger, “It smells like…”

“Piss,” the Elder filled in the last word, “Of all the ingrateful motherless…”

“Who?” Marcia found herself between her husband and father in law, it was as if her feet had somehow became curious all by themselves.

“Abner,” the Elder and younger responded in stereo.  Marcia leaned forward studying the track.  It was a big print, far to large to be human or even a bear for that matter.  She had never seen a bear in the wild but she had a good imagination and that print must have been close to eighteen inches from heel to toe.  Still there was something about that print, something wrong but she just couldn’t put her finger on it.

“Whose Abner?” Asked Marcia not really listening, “Next door neighbor?”

“He’s one of the forest people,” Greg explained drawing a wierd smile from his father.

“Sure stinks down here,” Marcia stated.

“That’s cause the Big bastard pissed back in there,” Explained the elder Hanson.  It must have been the combination of the urine explaination and the realization that the foot print only had three toes that sent Marcia springing back, the borbon and sugar burning her stomach as if it would bore its way out and fall to the ground.  She coughed calmer herself.

“You mean to tell me you got some crippled up hermit wandering these hills,” Her tone held a dark accusation, “Why don’t you help him or something.”

“Help him,” Spat Pa Hanson,pointing towards the empty crock,”Hell, he helps himself.”

“Booze is the cure,” Marcia sense of morality had full grasp of her senses, “Booze is all he needs…Humans need work, hope and a purpose.”

“Honey,” Said Greg slowly interrupting her before she got both feet on the soap box, “Abner is a Bigfoot…you know, a Sasquatch.”

Marcia’s expression froze, vision bluring and growing dark before brighteniung to see the elder Hanson nodding affirmative, “Excuse me?”

“He’s a Bigfoot,” Gregg repeated, “Abner’s a Bigfoot.”

Marcia’s world spun a squeaky broken laugh escaping her lips, “So what is he your pet?”

“He not a pet,” Clarified the Elder Hanson, “He’s a bigfoot.”

“With only three toes?” Marcia was smiling expecting some joke was in the works.

“That’s how they come around here, Three toes,” Explained Pa Hanson.  Gregg watched his wife with worry on his feastures.

“And Red eyes I suppose,” Marcia thought she’d play along.

“How did you know?” Pa Hanson seemed surprised, “You got kin in these parts.”

It was like turning on a light, realization, clarity, the old man really believed Abner ,who ever he might be really was a bigfoot.  Gregg had to be playing along, humoring the crazy old man.  Marcia said nothing, turning and walking quickly back down the hill.  It was a shorter trip that the one up the hill.  Her husband and his father were only a few yards behind her.  Crazy fear fingers grabbed her spine and stomach.  She was out in the middle of no where with two possibly three pyschotics.  Calm down she told herself, she was sure Greg wasn’y a pyschotic.  Well mostly sure, she would have to wait until they got back to Lorain and then maybe find an understanding therapist.  Poor Greg, raised out in the country, no telephone or television or stores to shop at, the nearest Mall probably a days drive away.  Simply horrible, most certainly he had too be scarred from such an experience.  Marcia played at being sick.  Ma and Pa Hanson were surprisingly understanding though obviously disappointed.  Greg Made Sure she got comfortably into the car before spending several long minutes saying good bye to his parents.

In no time they in their trusty automobile were driving along the twisting roads on there way home.  It was early night before the moon had risen, this was a specail kind of dark that seemed to even overwhelm the cars headlights.

“I really miss it up here,” Greg said slowly, “Quite beuatiful country that lets you rest.”

“Rest,” Said Marcia, “Funny you would say that.”

“Yeh,” Greg cranked down his window to let the cool mountain air into the cabin, “Why is that.”

“Well,” Marcia continued, also cranking her window down, “I was thinking maybe that’s what your Mom and Dad needed…you know…rest.”

“Uh-huh,” He was only half listening, “They get plenty of rest up here, you can be sure of that.”

“Yah,” The word wandered through the air slow and heavy with doubt.  Marcia felt the need to think through her approach, word choice would be most vital.

“Maybe its not so good for them,” her gaze drifted to the side of the road, be direct but gentle she thought, “To be out here all by themselves.”

“Are you kidding,” Now he was listening, “I give almost anything to be able to live and work up here.  Besides their not all by themselves…there’s the Kerneys, well just the old man now, the Gows, they have lots of children, the McHenrys and Abner…That bugger is practically a constant companion to Pa.

“Honey,” There was something condescending in her voice, “You don’t have to prentend your father has a pet Bigfoot for my sake…I mean really, you are a college graduate.”

“Pretend,” Greg glanced at his wife, “Whose pretending and don’t call Abner a pet…its rude.”

The world between Marcia and Greg grew silent a heavy cool creeping wisp of a breeze struggling to penetrate the thickening air inside the car’s cabin.  The vehicle’s headlights struggling to press through the gathering gloom as it began to carefully wind its way around the first of three steep hills.

“I don’t think its very funny,” Marcia was the first to break the temporary silence.  Her voice stood sharply rigid like jack the ripper’s blade.

“You don’t think what’s funny?” Greg’s tone held a sleepy disinterest.

“You and Your PA’s Joke,” The air from her lips strained around the words “PA’s Joke” so tightly that it drew a sidelong glance from her husband.

The loyal little car half eaten by the night began winding its way around the second hill.

“Have you been drinking?” It would have been a fair question if its superior tone would have been absent.

Marcia turned eyes bright and angry, when with a shrill shriek, she threw herself violently back into her seat, palms pressing against the dash elbows locked.  Greg had the break fully depressed before his attention came back around, elbows locking, hands gripping the wheel, knuckles whitening from the loss of circulation as his gaze came into focus.  There cast half in shadow and half in the bright glow of halogen headlights was what could only be described as some giant ape.  It had frozen much as a deer would have, trapped in the head lights.  The loyal little car came to a complete stop that looked to Greg’s eye to be about a foot shy of making contact with the forest stranger.  Greg blinked his eyes three times in quick succession trying to clear the mud from between his ears.  Marcia screamed again, her body frozen in the crash survival position, her arms  immobile, face twisted with the unreality of the proof of her own eyes.

The Ape like creature turned slowly thick hair matted from the humidity of an approaching storm.  The mass of brown hair covered his entire visible form even down the length of his impossibly long arms.  Its red eyes radiated their own light competeing with the electric lights of the car, his beetle brows pulling low over his eyes, lips curling to reveal teeth that seemed more akin to a babboon than a human.  Marcia screamed again, impossibly loud as though she had never shrieked in the first place.

“Marcia,” Marcia!” Greg yelped yelled trying to calm his wife finally screaming him self, “MARCIA SHUT IT!”

That drew two instant reactions.  Firstly, a hot deadly sudden glowering scowl from his wife.  Second, a collision between the strange beasts two hands and the hood of the car.  The vibration from the impact combined with the rocking of the suspension silenced both he and she and yanked their attention fully forward.  Forward to see the beast leaning over the hood making a careful study of the squabbling couple through narrow bright beat red eyes.

“Is that…?” Marcia was unable to finish her question.  The Man Beast leaning on the hood of their car suffered what only could be described as a spasom before opening its maw wide and unloading the fermented contents of his stomach onto the fresh waxed hood.  The sound of chud splattered in a thick dull roar stole both their words.  It would be so until the beast staggered miserably off the far saide of the road.  Greg pulled his foot from the break, snapping loose first his right then his left hand as the car began to crawl on down the road.

“Shouldn’t go after that thing?” Marcia was the first to break the silence, “You’re a scientist right?”

“Don’t can them a thing,” Greg corrected, “Its Rude.”

“No really,” Marcia half turned in her seat, her body winding up in mockery of a spring, “Shouldn’t you tag it, take a picture, weigh it, get a blood sample or something like that?”

“That’s a job for a Zoologist,” His tone was a peculair combination of condescending and superior, “Im an Areonautical Engineer…totally different field.”

The little car slowly gathered speed as it rounded the third hill.

“But if you did would you be like super famous?” She was not going to let it go.

“Well,” admittedly there was something to what she was saying, but experience won out, “Not me…They can be a little surly in that condition.

“Was that Abner?” her voice cracked, she tried to cover the sound of insanity by clearing her throat.

“Abner doesn’t travel this far north or east.”

“There’s more than one?” she had twisted back around face forward in her seart and visibly began to shrink low.  A chunk of gank blew free from the thick puddle on the hood and impacted the middle of the windshield.

“Shit,” He swore, nose wrinkling up uncomfortably, “Roll up your window will you Baby? We got to keep the stink on the outside.”

Marcia had begun the process of winding the window into the closed position, mumbling and bumbling.

Another wad of half digested goo broke free only to impact the glass windshield.

“I’ve got to tell somebody,” Marcia stated finally, “If I don’t talk about this it will drive me nuts.”

“That’s a bad idea,” Greg Asserted, “And if youy tell Bobby, harriet and what’s her face I’ll deny it.”

“Why do you always do that…her name is Beth, she my friend.”

A gob of gut chow splattered across his field of vision and he swore under his breath, “Telling those three is a sure trip to the happy hotel…follow me.”

“I got to talk to some one,” Her tone bordered on whining.

“Call Coast to Coast am,” He instructed, “They don’t judge and are surprisingly open minded.”

“What?” she sounded less stressed, “What’s that?”

“Its a radio program on in the very early morning,” He added as a large squid shaped piece of partailly digested gut spoo splashed half way accross his field of vision.

“That tears it,” he spat, “We got to find a car wash.”

“In the mountains at this hour?” Marcia was nearing the end of her rope.

“We can’t be that far from Slippery Rock,” He was thinking out loud, “Maybe we can find an all night restraunant while we’re there.”