Antonio Garcia's Blog
October 26, 2020
“We gotta be getting close,” Becky said from the backseat.
“Sorry,” Jake replied, steering the jeep. “We still have another few hours to go. We’ll need to get gas in the town coming up, so at least we’ll be able to stretch our legs a little.”
“That would be nice,” Chris said from the passenger seat. “You doing okay, Jen?”
“I’m fine,” she replied. “It’ll be nice to step outside for a few minutes.”
“Look,” Jake said pointing to a highway sign. “We’re only two miles away from a town it looks like.”
As the they drove down the empty highway, they were all a little excited to finally see signs of civilization. They had been driving on that country road for hours, with not so much as a rest area.
‘At least the drive is beautiful,’ Jen thought as she looked out her window at the passing trees.
Within a few minutes they exited the highway onto a country road that dumped them right onto the edge of a little town.
Even though it was only late afternoon, the town up ahead seemed deserted.
“Oh, god,” Becky said. “Please don’t tell me it’s a ghost town.”
No one answered as they drove into the first gas station they came across and parked in front one of the gas pumps.
They didn’t see anyone inside, but the pump seemed to be working, so they all fell out of the jeep, immediately stretching their arms and legs.
Jake walked to the pump and tried to use his credit card, but it popped up saying ‘Card reader out of order. Please pre-pay inside.’
“Shit,” he said, but started walking to the store anyways.
They all followed him. They figured it would be a good time to stock up on snacks.
The door chimed as they opened the door to the store.
Expecting someone would come out, they spread out and started grabbing their snacks from the fully stocked shelves.
Jake walked to the front counter to wait for the attendant to show up.
“Hello?” Jake asked out loud when no one came.
Not getting an answer, he walked to the back, hoping to find someone in the mechanic shop or back office.
The garage looked deserted, so he kept walking.
The place was eerily quiet and the farther he walked to the back, the more nervous he became.
He found the back office with the door open and the lights on, but empty.
When he returned to the front, his friends were waiting for him at the front counter.
“Did you find anyone?” Chris asked.
“No,” Jake replied. “The place looks deserted.”
Becky shrugged and said, “Well, I say we just leave some cash on the counter for the grub and gas, and head out.”
“Works for me,” Chris agreed.
“I’m fine with that,” Jake started. “But I have no idea how to start the gas pump.”
They all looked as confused as he did.
Suddenly, Chris jumped over the counter and began looking around for a switch or something.
Not finding one, they decided to go to a different gas station and fill up there.
Chris threw a twenty on the counter for the stuff they grabbed off the shelves and they all walked out.
“What the hell?” Jake said when they reached the jeep.
All the its tires were flat. They didn’t look like they were damaged though. It just looked like someone had let all the air out.
He frantically looked around to see who had done it, and then looked to see if there was an air pump around. There wasn’t.
Resigned that they were stuck there for the time being, they threw what they didn’t want to carry with them back in the jeep and started to head deeper into town.
“This is such bullshit,” Becky said, slightly tripping on a rock. “Where the hell is everyone?”
As they walked down a main strip close to the center of town, the entire town looked closed.
They each took turns looking into windows, searching for signs of life.
Everything was clean and looked like the place had been just open.
Everyone jumped as a sudden crash came from a few blocks away, just out of sight.
They all looked at each other, unsure what to do.
They wanted to investigate the noise. They hoped that was where everyone was, but something seemed really off in the town and they were a little afraid of what they might find.
Not having any other options, they decided to take a look.
“Do you girls want to stay hear while Chris and I take a look?” Jake asked.
“Hell no!” Becky exclaimed.
“Yeah,” Jen started. “I think we’re better off staying together.”
“Okay,” Jake said.
They set off towards where the sound had come from. While they walked, they strained to listen for any more signs of life.
“It had to come from somewhere around here,” Chris stated. “It wasn’t much farther away.”
They fanned out just a little, looking for what had made the sound.
“Um, guys,” Jen said, staring at a man who was standing across the street staring at her.
They all turned to look.
“What the?” Chris said walking closer to Jen.
They all bunched up and stared at the man.
Suddenly, a large group of people started to appear from around every corner around where the man stood.
The four of them stood frozen as they watched the crowd form a wall behind the man. They were all facing the four of them.
“What do we do?” Jen whispered.
“I don’t know,” Jake replied.
Without warning, the entire crowd of people started slowly marching towards them. The whole thing seemed menacing.
“I think we should get away,” Jen suggested, and they all started backing away from the townspeople.
When they were far enough, they turned and started walking briskly.
Chancing a look over their shoulders, they saw that the crowd had started to walk after them.
They picked up the pace and so did the townspeople.
“Let’s run in there!” Jake said, pointing to the town library.
Not needing to be asked twice, they all took off in a full sprint towards it.
They didn’t need to look behind them to know that the townspeople were chasing them at a matching speed.
The sound of them slamming the library doors behind them echoed throughout the entire town.
The girls yelped when the townspeople slammed into the front door, but were immediately knocked back.
Jake, Chris, Becky, and Jen all stared in astonishment at the sheer number of people that were pressing against the door.
Seeing that something was off with the appearance of the townspeople and seeing that they weren’t breaking through the doors any time soon, Jake slowly broke from the group and approached the door.
“What are you doing?” Chris half-shouted after him.
“Something looks off with them,” Jake said, continuing to walk towards the door.
When he arrived, he looked closer at the people and his heart sank when he realized that something really was off about them.
Their irises were black surrounded by bright red blood vessels. Black ooze bled from their eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. Their fingernails looked as if they had been worn down from scratching something hard and their skin looked like it was decaying.
Jake was about to classify them as zombies when one of the men in the front turned his head and in a raspy voice said, “Let us in.”
When the creature spoke, Jake jumped back.
“What?” Becky asked from behind him.
“One of them spoke,” Jake said.
“What did he say?” Chris asked.
“He want’s us to let them in,” Jake replied.
“Well, fuck that,” Becky said.
“Obviously, we’re not going to,” Jake said. “But we need to find a way out of here.”
For the next hour, they walked around the inside of the building, looking for any way out that wasn’t blocked. They didn’t find one. All the doors had townspeople pushed up against them, making moaning sounds.
“Take a look at this,” Jen said from the middle of the room.
They all walked to her.
Looking down over a pile of open books, she said, “All these books are open to the same subject.”
Almost afraid to ask, Jake said, “What subject?”
“It looks like whoever was here before was trying to find information on Demons,” Jen explained. “And it looks like they were specifically looking for how to destroy them.”
“What? Are you trying to tell me that those things out there are demons?” Chris asked.
“I don’t know,” Jen said. “But I’m guessing that’s what the last ones standing thought. If not demons, maybe the townspeople possessed by demons.”
Jake looked back at the front door at the townspeople pressed against the door. They were wearing regular clothes. At least normal for the small town they came from.
“They must have been possessed,” Jake said.
He turned towards the pile of books.
“Alright,” he started. “Let’s divvy up this pile of books and see if we can find a way to at the very least, slow them down long enough for us to get out of here.”
As the sun began to go down, they scoured the books, looking for anything that could help.
“Here’s something,” Jen said. “It looks like they can’t cross salt for some reason, so if we can use it as some sort of barrier.”
“That’s great, but where are we supposed to get salt?” Jake asked.
Jen slumped, defeated.
“I got something,” Becky chimed in. “They can’t stand the sight of the cross.”
“Does it say what affect it actually has on them?” Jake asked.
“No,” she replied.
“Okay,” Jake said. “But it’s still something. Fan out and find some crosses, even if it’s just pictures of one.”
When they finished, they had collected one bronze cross, and a few dozen sheets of drawn ones.
Jake looked at the front door where the demons were still rubbing against the door and moaning.
“Let’s see what they do,” he said and grabbed the bronze cross and a few of the sheets.
As soon as he held up the bronze cross, all the demons hissed and backed away a little. As soon as it was out of sight, they returned to pressing against the door, moaning.
He held up a piece of paper with the cross on it and they responded similarly but didn’t back up as far.
“Okay,” he said as he rejoined the group at the table. “I have an idea.”
He explained that they were all going to form a circle, each holding a couple of sheets of paper with a picture of the cross on it, and he would run point in the group, holding the brass cross in front of them all.
They all hesitantly agreed, but decided they were going to wait until morning, when at least they could see.
A break in the glass of the front door, along with the demons slowly filing in changed their plans.
Immediately, they formed a circle in the middle of the room and held the crosses in front of them.
The demons circled them, but kept a short distance, hissing.
Once all the demons were in the library, the four of them slowly started walking towards the front door.
“Alright,” Jake said, trying to reassure them. “It’s working so far. We’ll try for the jeep and we’ll drive out on the rims if we have to with however much gas we have. That should give us enough distance to get out and make it to the next town.”
They all nodded.
Once on the street, they began walking towards the gas station, with all the demons walking in tandem.
Suddenly, Becky tripped and fell.
They all stopped to help her up, but before they could, the demons grabbed her ankles and dragged her into their mist.
“Becky!” Jen yelled.
Jake and Chris had to grab her to keep her from running after her.
Before they could regroup, the demons swarmed in, grabbing Chris and Jen at the same time.
Reflexively, Jake held up the cross to ward them off.
With only one hand free, he grabbed the closest person to him.
Jake and Jen had only moments to mourn Chris as he was dragged off before the demons started to swarm in on them.
Jake swung the cross around like a torch, trying to keep them at bay.
“We’re going to have to run!” he yelled to Jen. “One, Two, Run!”
As he shouted, they both turned and sprinted toward the jeep, which was just in view.
Chris handed the cross to Jen as he pulled his keys out and unlocked the jeep remotely.
They were barely in when the demons swarmed them.
He quickly cranked the engine and slammed on the gas.
The jeep drove like it was off road, driving over huge rocks, but it kept going.
Finally, they were far enough ahead to brave looking in the rearview mirror at the receding demons.
They both breathed a sigh of relief until from the backseat, a demon launched at Jake, causing the jeep to make a sharp turn and start rolling.
Jake heard Jen scream as they rolled and then he blacked out.
When he opened his eyes, it was too late. Demons were already crawling in the car and on top of him.
He was still screaming as the world went black and he became one of them.
October 21, 2020
“Welcome to the Andronis Hotel,” the man behind the counter said with a deep accent.
“Thank you,” Eric replied with a smile.
Eric was taken a little aback when the man behind the counter’s smile seemed to turn menacing for a moment before returning back to a pleasant one.
He decided not to read much into it and kept his own smile as he took the key from the man.
“You’re in room 2020,” he said, pointing to the elevator behind Eric.
“Thank you,” Eric said.
He grabbed his suitcase by the handle and dragged it away towards the elevator.
Eric hummed along to the elevator as it rose to the twentieth floor, his home for the next few nights.
As he walked down the hallway, he marveled at how beautiful the hotel was. The wooden molding that lined the walls looked like it must have cost a fortune. The carpet was red, brown and black in a mesmerizing repetition of cube shapes.
He found his room, let himself in, and fell exhausted onto his bed.
A couple of hours later, he woke up still dressed in what he was wearing when he arrived.
After a shower, he decided to get in a quick walk before it got too late outside.
When he pressed the down arrow button, nothing happened.
‘Not what I expect from such an expensive hotel,’ he thought.
Coming to the conclusion that the elevator wasn’t coming, he decided to take the stairs to the floor below. He didn’t want to walk all the way down twenty flights of stairs, so he hoped it was just his floor that the elevator buttons weren’t working.
“What the hell?” he said when he couldn’t open the door to the stairs. He was becoming very annoyed.
Frustrated that he couldn’t go for his walk, he went back to his room to call the front desk.
“Front desk,” answered the man with the deep accent. “How may I help you?”
“Yes,” Eric said, not hiding his annoyance. “Your elevator seems to be broken on my floor and the door to the stairs is locked. Can you send someone to fix them please?”
There was a long pause.
“Hello?” Eric asked.
“I’m afraid that is not possible,” the man replied.
Eric stood stunned for a moment.
“What do you mean, it’s not possible?” he asked.
“I’m afraid you cannot leave,” the man said flatly. “If you get hungry, you can order food whenever you like, but I’m afraid you will be our guest for the rest of your life.”
Eric had a hundred questions, starting with ‘What the hell?’, but before he could ask, the phone went dead.
He immediately picked the phone back up and dialed the front desk.
“Front desk,” the man answered the same as he did before. “How may I help you?”
“Listen you crazy son of a bitch! Let me out, or I’m going to call the police!” Eric shouted.
Click. The phone went dead.
Instead of dialing the front desk, he dialed 911.
“Front desk, how may I help you?” said the man on the other line.
“Let me out!” Eric yelled.
“That’s it,” Eric sputtered, slamming down the phone and storming out of the room.
He tried the button to the elevator one more time since he was passing it anyways. As expected, it didn’t work.
He continued toward the door to the stairs, and without hesitation, tried to kick it down.
It not only didn’t budge, but it felt like he had kicked a concrete wall. He fell backwards, landing hard on the ground.
“Dammit!” he yelled at no one in particular.
As his anger rose, he began going down the hallway, banging on all the doors.
No one answered, and to his disappointment, no one came to throw him out for being a disorderly guest.
He stormed back into his room, slammed the door behind him, and began tearing the room apart.
When he was done, he picked up the phone and dialed the front desk again.
“Front desk,” the deep accented man answered. “How may I help you?”
“Let me out of here, you son of a…”
Before he could finish, the line went dead.
Angry and unsure what to do next, he laid in his bed and stared at the ceiling.
After he laid there for a while, he stood up and walked out of the room.
‘Maybe I’m not alone,’ he thought.
He walked across the hall to the closest room and tried the door to see if it was locked.
It easily turned and the door slowly swung open.
Eric’s mouth dropped open at what he saw.
On the other side of the door, instead of another room was an entire forest.
He stood frozen at the entryway.
Feeling like he was losing his mind, he closed the door, waited a full minute and then opened the door once again. Inside it was still a forest.
Out of instinct, he closed the door again.
Fear and curiosity filled him as he decided to try another room.
‘Can’t be any weirder than what I just saw,’ he thought walking to the next door up the hallway.
“What the?” he said out loud as he opened the next door that opened up to a desert.
He peeked his head through the door to see if what he was seeing was real. To his surprise the air changed when he stuck his head through. The air around his head was very hot and dry, while the rest of his body that was in the hallway felt colder in comparison.
He was tempted to step all the way through, but if he was going to be stranded on the other side, he didn’t want to be in a dessert.
Curiosity took over as he now wanted to see what was behind every door.
Each door was a different environment, from forest to deserts, beaches to mountains, and everything in between.
There seemed to be over a hundred rooms as he walked down the hallways, trying the different doors.
A rumble in his stomach brought him to the reality that he was going to starve to death if he didn’t find food.
Not looking forward to what he was about to do, he walked back to his room.
His room seemed to be the only room that didn’t lead to another place. At least he hoped that was still the case as he walked back in.
Even though his room was still just a hotel room, his mouth once again dropped as he saw that the room was in perfect condition. Somehow all the damage he had caused in his anger had returned back to a clean room once again.
The bed was made. Furniture was reassembled. It was as if he was entering the room for the first time.
Still in a state of disbelief, he walked to the phone and made the call he was hoping to avoid.
“Front desk,” answered the man from before.
Anger swelled back up in Eric, but he contained it. He was hungry and at this man’s mercy.
“I’d like to order some room service, please,” he asked, controlling his contempt.
“Of course, sir,” the man replied professionally. “What would you like to order?”
“Can I have a cheeseburger?” Eric asked, not sure what was even available.
“Of course,” the man said. “You can order anything your heart desires.”
He took the rest of Eric’s order and asked, “Will there be anything else, sir?”
“I’d like to leave,” Eric blurted, no longer able to hold back.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible, sir,” the man said, showing no emotion. “I’ll have your food sent up immediately.”
Before Eric could continue, the line went dead again.
Filled with renewed anger, he slammed the phone down several times.
When he turned around, he couldn’t believe his eyes. Sitting on the table in the room was a covered dish.
Cautiously, he walked over and lifted the lid. Inside was his burger, fries, and drink.
He spun around hoping to see who had brought it and not seeing anyone, he ran into the hallway hoping to catch a glimpse of someone. Of anyone.
His growling stomach reminded him that he needed to eat. He walked back into the room, defeated.
‘At least the food is good,’ he thought, tearing into his burger.
After his meal, he crawled into bed, hoping when he woke up, everything would return to normal and he could leave.
The next morning, he woke up to find that his situation hadn’t changed. The elevator still didn’t work, the door to the stairs still wouldn’t open, and the doors to the other rooms still led to different environments.
He decided to investigate some of the different rooms. His hope was that they led to different parts of the world and he could find his way home.
The easiest decision was to choose the ‘Beach’ room. As far as he could tell, it was a deserted island, but at least the weather was temperament and he figured the chances of running into a dangerous animal was less likely.
He was right on all accounts. As he walked the beaches, exploring the island, it was beautiful. It was a pretty good size island, but as he walked, he didn’t see any other signs of life.
He stayed on the island as long as his hunger would let him.
Starving, he found the door he had entered through, relieved that it was still there, and went back to his room.
“Front desk,” the man answered the phone. “How may I help you?”
The anger Eric felt toward the man and his situation didn’t change, but he decided for the time being, he would make the best of it.
He ordered and after he hung up the phone, he turned around to find the food sitting on the table.
He no longer felt there was someone who brought the food. As far as he was concerned, this place was magical and the food was just part of the magic, though he had no idea why he was being kept there.
Over the next few weeks, Eric explored room after room, hoping to find any way to reach the outside world. Each time he was disappointed.
When he opened his wardrobe one day, he found that it contained all the clothes he could ever want.
He dressed extra warm and explored the cold environments, but even there he was no closer to finding a way out.
As time went, he fell into a routine of exploring, eating, and sleeping.
Every few days, he would beg the man on the other end of the phone to let him go, but the answer was always the same.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible.”
It would have been easier to come to terms with his situation if it wasn’t for the fact that he could still look out the window of his room to see his old world outside. He had tried over and over to open the windows, but they never budged.
He had thrown furniture to break them, but they never even vibrated. He had even tried to jump out, but it felt like he had jumped into a wall and he just bounced back into the room.
One day, he closed the curtains and never looked outside again. It was too painful.
He had been stuck on that floor for years and had given up hope of ever escaping.
Even the sound of the man on the other side of the phone was somewhat comforting, though the man never said more than the few lines he repeated.
Eric would ask him who he was, where he was from, even how was his day, but the man only ever answered, “Will there be anything else?”
As Eric laid in bed, resigned to his existence, he began to cry as he did most days.
Down in the main lobby, the man smiled as he sensed Eric’s resignation. He knew that Eric would feed the hotel for years to come.
As another lone traveler approached the front desk, the man, with his deep accent said, “Welcome to the Andronis Hotel.”
Published on October 21, 2020 13:53
October 14, 2020
As the girl in the wheelchair approached the alter, she was visibly nervous. Everyone staring at her as she made her way up.
Her mother had made her come, and though she wanted to be healed, she had given up hope long ago.
The smiles coming from the preacher and his wife helped her stay the course, as they only showed true compassion.
Over the course of her life she had come to terms with the fact that she was never going to walk, so she wasn’t overly anticipating anything different from a standard prayer. No matter how much everyone in the room believed.
The preacher had become known over that last few months as a prominent religious healer. He didn’t hold any medical degrees or certifications, but his name began to spread quickly after a few healings.
His name probably would have grown faster if he hadn’t blocked the news outlets from witnessing the miracles and not allowing any person who entered to even bring electronic devices that could record what was happening.
Anybody could come to watch, space allowing, but they had to see with their own eyes.
As soon as each service was over, the preacher would disappear to the back office so he wouldn’t be overtaken with request for him to heal everyone else there. Instead, they would quickly rush out of the building to tell their friends, family, the news sitting outside, and everyone else that wanted to hear what they had witnessed.
The preacher had been invited onto shows to talk about his healing abilities, but he only explained it was God that was doing all the work. He was only a conduit.
While on the shows, they would beg him to give a demonstration, but he always refused. He would tell them that if they wanted to witness God’s miracles themselves, they would have to attend one the services.
Once the girl was at the alter, the preacher walked down the steps and asked her what her name was.
“Emily,” she answered shyly.
“Well, Emily,” the preacher started. “Do you believe in miracles?”
“Yes,” she answered sincerely.
“Do you believe you can be healed?” he asked.
Not wanting to lie and with a short hesitation, she replied with a simple “no”.
The preacher’s smile never wavered as he leaned forward and simply said, “You don’t have to.”
Emily looked up and smiled. She couldn’t explain why, but for the first time in her life she had hope.
He asked her to close her eyes, and then placed a hand over her forehead.
Almost no one else in the room closed their eyes as he started to pray. They all wanted to see what magic trick he was actually doing.
To their awe and surprise, no tricks were revealed.
Instead, Emily opened her eyes and calmly stood up for the first time in her life.
It was at that moment that she started crying tears of joy uncontrollably, along with everyone else in the room.
Since everyone was focused on the newly healed girl, no one noticed the preacher stumble a bit and quickly wipe a little blood that had escaped through his nose.
A few moments later, the girl regained her composer and walked to the preacher, embracing him in a deep hug.
He smiled, not wanting her to see the pain he was feeling from performing the miracle.
“Thank you!” she repeated over and over through tears.
Regaining some of his strength, he hugged her back.
“Don’t thank me, child,” he said. “Thank God.”
She squeezed him a little harder, causing him to wince a bit.
Their hug ended when Emily’s mother joined them at the alter, receiving a strong hug from her daughter, who could now walk.
Taking the opportunity, the preacher’s wife swiftly walked to him, helping him walk away to the back office.
By the time everyone had turned their attention back to the preacher, they only caught a glimpse of him disappearing through a door.
“Oh my god, Fredrick,” his wife Heather started, “This one took a toll on you.”
“I’ll be alright,” he said with a weak smile.
She turned to the angel who was standing in the corner.
“Isn’t there anything you can do, Michael?” she asked.
It wasn’t her first time asking him and she already knew the answer.
“You know I can’t,” he said, flatly. “He accepted this gift knowing what the cost was.”
She turned back to her husband.
They both knew the cost. Though they never fully appreciated what it would entail.
It wasn’t long ago that Fredrick was becoming frustrated with his ministry. He prayed for anyone who needed it, but never truly saw any actual results.
Over time, he had begun to lose faith in what difference he was actually making.
That’s when the angel Michael appeared to him. At first, Fredrick didn’t believe that Michael was an angel, but all doubt disappeared when he extended his wings for Fredrick to see.
Instantly afraid, Fredrick had thrown himself to the ground.
“Stand up,” Michael had said. “I have come to offer you a gift.”
“A gift?” Fredrick asked.
“Your faith is to rewarded with the gift of instant healing,” Michael said.
“What does that mean?” Fredrick asked.
“You will be able to use Gods power to heal the sick and afflicted,” Michael explained.
Fredrick wasn’t about to say no to an actual angel, and this is the renewal he needed. He never in his life thought that he would be in that position.
“Yes, please,” he said. “What do I have to do. I am God’s humble servant.”
“You have only to accept the gift,” Michael said. “But I must tell you the cost of your gift.”
“Cost?” Fredrick asked.
“For every person you heal, the lifeforce required will be taken from you.”
Fredrick didn’t fully understand what that meant, but he was unwavering in acceptance of the gift.
“How much lifeforce will be taken each time?” he asked. “How many can I save before it is all used up?”
“The amount of lifeforce will match the amount needed to heal another. It will vary from affliction to affliction.”
Michael watched patiently as Fredrick considered the price.
“I accept,” Fredrick said. “We’re all going to die at some point anyways. If I can ease the suffering of others at the cost of my own life, it’s a small price to pay.”
Michael showed no emotion the entire time, and still remained stoic when he said, “Very well. You have been imparted with the gift. Use it wisely to fulfill God’s plan.”
Instantly, Michael was gone, only to appear whenever Fredrick used the gift.
Michael watched on as Heather tended to Fredrick. Once she was done, she turned to face Michael again, but he was gone.
“You can’t keep doing this, Fredrick,” she said.
“You know it’s the price of the gift,” he said. “How can you ask me to stop healing others.”
He could see the conflicted feelings that she was having. He knew it must be hard for her to see her husband slowly giving his life for others. The selfish part of her wanted her husband to live as long as her, but she knew at the rate he was going, that was becoming less likely.
“I know,” she said after a few moments. “It’s just hard.”
He lifted her head by the chin and kissed her.
“How about I take a week off from healing and we take a trip somewhere,” he suggested.
She smiled. “Yes. That’s a great idea.”
She helped him up the stairs and into bed to rest.
The next day, they packed, and loaded up the car.
They decided to take a long trip to Yosemite National Park to do some hiking.
Fredrick sang to her as they drove. He looked over from time to time to look at his beautiful wife.
With the windows down and the light from the setting sun made her seem angelic to him.
“What?” she asked shyly, catching him looking at her.
“Nothing,” he said. “I just think you’re so beautiful and amazing.”
She leaned over and put her head on his shoulders.
As they drove, they both enjoyed the dimming light.
They pulled over into a campground to stay the night. It would take them another day to get to Yosemite.
Once they parked their car, they quickly set up camp, unloaded some firewood they had bought on the way, and started a fire.
It was already getting late, but being cuddled up by the fire under the clear sky was too picturesque for them to turn in. So they stayed up talking instead.
“So, when you’re not healing, you’re ‘Lifeforce’ doesn’t drain any more than the rest of us?” she asked.
Initially when he had told her about the visit from Michael and what he was told, she didn’t believe him. She thought maybe he was just playing with her. She knew he could be a prankster from time to time.
It wasn’t until he had performed his first miracle, and saw the physical toll it took on him that the reality of it all came crashing in.
He was praying for someone who was suffering with undiagnosed illness, but when Fredrick prayed over him, he was immediately healed.
That night she had taken care of him for the first time, and her fear only grew with each healing. At her request, he was more selective with who he would use his gift on, alternating between simple afflictions and more major ones.
She hoped that would balance out, giving him more time.
Now, as they cuddled up under the stars, she voiced her concerns once more.
“I don’t think so. I mean, I only feel like I’ve been hit by a truck when I perform a miracle,” he explained. “Other than that, I feel like I did before the gift was given to me.”
“I know I’m being selfish, but I’m scared. I’m scared at how long I will have with you if you keep going like this,” she said, tears filling her eyes.
He looked down. He knew that his gift was also taking a toll on her. He was also torn between doing God’s work and being there for his wife. He often wondered why God hadn’t chosen someone who wasn’t married, and he often wondered if people with families were asked to make the sacrifice also.
“I’ll tell you what,” he said. “I’ll go longer between healings. What I’m able to do is becoming so known now, I feel like we’re only going to be bombarded with people needing help. It might be good to do less, so we’re not overwhelmed. Maybe even adding a few more years together.”
She was still sad at the prospect of losing him sooner than she wanted, but she also appreciated his willingness to think of her too.
They ended the night with a kiss and went to bed.
The next day, they finished their drive to Yosemite and feeling exhilarated, they immediately started their hike.
It felt good to be outdoors. After his first miracle, Fredrick gained a new appreciation for all experiences, no matter how mundane.
They hiked hand in hand, enjoying the perfect weather and the perfect company.
When their legs started to feel the burn from hours of walking, they decided to start their trek back to the car.
Suddenly, they heard a scream and immediately took off in a sprint to where it came from. Their legs burned, but they didn’t care.
When they arrived at the sound of a mother’s sobbing, they were horrified.
On the ground lay a man, probably the father, torn to pieces and clearly dead. Next to him lay a young girl bleeding, but still breathing.
Fredrick and Heather rushed to their aid.
Still sobbing, the mother said, “They were attacked by a bear. I was a little way up and when I turned to see what was happening, I pulled out my gun, fired it, scarring the bear off.
“It happened so fast. The whole attack only took seconds.”
Fredrick looked at Heather, who immediately began pleading through her eyes for him not to do what he was thinking.
She felt ashamed for even thinking of stopping her husband from helping a young girl, but they both knew there would be a hefty cost for this miracle.
Reluctantly, she nodded, giving way to a gushing of tears.
Trying not to think of the consequences, Fredrick knelt by the young girl. He took a deep, resigning breath and prayed.
Almost immediately, the young girl took in a deep breath of air.
“Mom?” she asked weakly.
Her mother swept her up in her arms, not understanding what had just happened and not noticing Fredrick take two steps back and fall over.
Heather half caught him and helped him down.
She knew the price would be high but didn’t realize he would have to pay the ultimate price this time.
Heather cried over her husband’s lifeless body, wishing she could be with him.
“You can’t,” Michael said, kneeling down next to Fredrick. “Your time will come one day but not this day. Your husband’s sacrifice will be celebrated in heaven, where I will take him personally. Take comfort in that, child.”
He placed a calming hand on her shoulder, which brought instant peace to her.
The mother and daughter couldn’t see what was happening while all of the mother’s attention was solely on her daughter.
Michael scooped up Fredrick’s body, and giving Heather one last smile, flapped his wings and flew off.
Heather could only stare dumbfounded as they disappeared into the clouds. When she looked back down to the ground, Fredrick’s body remained, now only an empty shell.
Published on October 14, 2020 13:53
October 12, 2020
“Alright, Vincent,” Rico started. “Pull over here.”
Vincent did as he was told.
“This looks like a good place to rob,” Rico said, pointing to the mansion across the street. “We’ll hit this place real quick and get out of town before anyone notices.”
Vincent nodded. Rico was the brains and what he says, goes.
This was the third city they were passing through on their way to California, the land of milk and honey. Their goal was to make out with a few big heist, so when they arrived at Cali, they would be able to throw their weight around.
“Let’s case the place real quick, and when we’re sure it’s empty, we’ll hit it,” Rico explained.
They got out of the car and split up, each checking out both sides of the mansion, looking for any signs of movement and a way in.
“What’s you fine?” Rico asked, once they met in the back of the place.
“I didn’t see anyone inside, and their looks like a library with a ground floor window we could easily get into,” Vincent explained.
“Perfect,” Rico said. “I didn’t see no one in there either. Let’s get our tools and rob this joint.”
Each one carried a large duffle bag. Their tools were minimal, but the bags were mainly used for loading any stolen jewelry and china that they could fence later.
Once they arrived at the window, Vincent pulled out a crowbar, and pried it open.
Seeing that there was still no one in sight, they both climbed through the window and started looking around for anything that looked expensive, which wasn’t hard to find.
Being the skilled thieves that they were, they moved silently through each room, grabbing what they could, until their bags were full.
Satisfied that they had more than enough to qualify a big score, they met back in the library to make their escape.
“What’s your hurry?” came a gruff voice behind them as they were climbing back out the window.
The coward parts in them wanted make a run for it, but the tough wiseguys part begged them to stay, confront the man who interrupted them, and take whatever he had on him.
They turned to face the man dumb enough to try to stop them, when they were instead facing a large man smoking a cigar. While that was intimidating enough, he was flanked by two gorillas of men each holding a machinegun at them.
With a wave of one of the machineguns, Vincent and Rico were directed to the center of the room.
“Have a seat boys,” the large man said as two more men appeared behind them carrying chairs for them to sit in. “Let’s talk.”
The large man sat down behind a large desk facing Vincent and Rico. He was still flanked by the two men aiming their machineguns at the two thieves.
“Do you know who I am?” the large man asked.
Vincent decided to let Rico do the talking.
“No, sir,” Rico answered, with a tremble in his voice. “We’re not from around here. We’re just passing through.”
The large man studied them and then said, “My name is Mario, I’m the Don of this city. Do you know what a Don is?”
“Yes, sir,” Rico said. “I’ve known of a few but have never had the pleasure to meet one.”
Rico hoped his over politeness would buy them some points with the large Don. It did.
With a slight smile, Mario said, “You’ve broken in my home and have tried to steal from me. What do you think I should do with you?”
Neither of the thieves had any idea how they should answer.
“Let us go?” Vincent answered, causing an immediate round of laughter from everyone in the room, except Rico.
“The balls on this guy,” Mario said. “I like that.”
Vincent and Rico were about to relax when the smile left the Don’s face and was replaced with a very menacing look.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, boys,” he said with a growl.
The thieves both gulped.
Then the Don sat back relaxed.
“I’ll tell you what,” he started. “You do something for me, and not only will I let you live, but I’ll let you keep whatever’s in the bags, except of course, anything that is sentimental to me. How does that sound?”
Knowing there were no other options, both of them quickly nodded.
“Very wise choice,” Mario said with a smile.
Vincent and Rico watched as Mario wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it one of his thugs to give them.
“On that piece of paper is an address,” Mario started. “I want you to go there and steal a ring. It’s kept in a safe in one of the bedrooms. I don’t care if you bring the whole safe, as long as the ring is in it. I also don’t care who you have to kill to get it. The only rule is that it can’t lead back to me. You try to accuse me, I’ll deny it and make sure you end up dead. Do you understand?”
They both nodded their understanding. Fortunately for them, they knew how to crack safes.
“Good,” Mario said. “We’ll keep your bags here for safe keeping and boys, don’t try to leave town. My guys will be watching you the whole time and if you try to leave, they’ll gun you down. Capiche?”
They nodded again.
The Don waved his arm and said, “Good. Now get out of here and don’t come back without that ring.”
The thieves didn’t need to be asked twice. They quickly rose and walked out the front door.
Once they were in the car, Vincent said, “What the hell? What have we gotten ourselves into?”
Trying to remain calm, Rico said, “Calm down. We have no choice, so let’s go to this address, find the ring, give it to the Don, and then get the hell out of here.”
Vincent nodded his understanding and they drove off to the address they were given.
When they arrived, they found themselves looking at another beautiful mansion, but instead of raising their spirits, they felt sure they were breaking into another Don’s house.
“Shit,” Rico said, but knew they had no choice. He could see the headlights of the car following them pull over and park.
“Let’s just get this done so we can get the hell out of here,” Rico said. “Grab your gun and let’s go.”
They slid their pistols into their pockets and got out the car.
“Now, just like before,” Rico started. “Let’s case the place and move in.”
Vincent nodded and they went their separate ways to find a way in.
All the windows were too high, so they decided to jimmy the back door instead.
As they moved through the house, it seemed deserted, which relieved them and worried them at the same time.
They cringed as they made their way up the stairs to the creak of each one.
When they reached the top floor, they didn’t’ waste their time with the smaller bedrooms, but focused solely on finding the master bedroom.
Before they went into the room, they cautiously looked around to make sure no one was in the bed or bathroom.
The master bedroom looked as empty as the rest of the house.
It didn’t take long for them to find the safe hidden behind a painting. Rico kept watch while Vincent used a stethoscope to listen to the clicks inside the turn-wheel.
Usually, the loud click of a safe unlocking would relieve them, but this one seemed to echo throughout the whole house, causing them to stiffen.
After listening and ensuring that there were no footsteps approaching, they both let out a sigh and opened the door of the safe.
“There it is,” Rico said, coming up behind Vincent and pointing to the ring in the center of the safe. “As long as we’re here, take the cash too.”
Not caring about the consequences, they stuffed the cash into their pockets along with the ring.
“Okay, let’s get out of here,” Rico said.
They froze in place at the top of the stairs when someone unlocked the front door.
They backed up around the corner out of sight and strained to listen how many had arrived.
The voices of several men could be heard.
One of them said, “Shall we grab a drink in the study?”
There was no reply, but Vincent and Rico could hear them walk away from the door.
After a few seconds, they risked a look to see if the path to the door was clear. It wasn’t.
Standing on either side of the door stood two armed men.
Vincent and Rico looked at each other in confusion. It was unusual for the men to stand guard inside the door. It was as if they were there to keep someone in rather than keep people out.
The reason didn’t matter to the thieves. They knew they had to get out of there quick, so they went into the first bedroom and walked to the window.
It had been a while since they had been forced to jump out of a second story window, but they knew they would most likely be fine.
They were also fortunate that there was a pile of raked leaves below them. The fall would still hurt, but not as bad.
They heard laughter coming from downstairs. They decided they would immediately jump when they heard another round of laughter to hide the sound of their fall.
Moments later, another round of laughter erupted and they jumped out of the window.
As quietly as they could, they swiped the leaves off themselves and began to move away from and around the house. They were going to travel a few houses down before making a run for their car across the street.
The street was clear when they appeared out of some dense shrubbery onto the sidewalk.
“Okay,” Rico said. “Let’s get to the car and get out of here.”
They stealthily made their way up the street to their car and got in.
“Whew,” Vincent said, letting out a sigh. “That was close.”
“I agree,” came a gruff voice from the back seat.
They both turned around in surprise and saw one of Mario’s thugs sitting back there pointing a pistol at them.
“We got the ring,” Rico pleaded, hoping the thug wouldn’t kill them.
“Good,” he replied. “Now get out of the car.”
Skeptically, they complied.
The thug ordered them to turn around so that he was standing behind them.
Rico felt the thug slip his hand into the pocket, push pass the cash until he felt the ring.
“Now, walk,” the thug ordered.
“Where?” Rico asked.
“Back to the house you were just at,” he said and gave them a shove with the pistol.
Unsure what to do, they walked as directed.
When they arrived at the front door, the thug told them to knock on the door, which they did.
One of the armed men standing guard inside opened the door and led them to the study where Vincent and Rico saw Don Mario enjoying a cigar with another older man sitting behind a desk.
Vincent and Rico were roughly shoved into a couple of chairs facing the desk.
“See, what did I tell you,” Mario started. “As soon as I found out what they were about to do, I came directly to you.”
The thieves sat there, unsure what was happening.
“Frank, check their pockets,” Mario ordered.
The thug from their car, pulled the cash, guns, and the ring from their pockets, and placed them on the desk.
“See,” Mario said, gesturing to the pile on the desk.
Rico was about to tell the man behind the desk the whole story when everything went black.
Before Vincent could scream at seeing his friend shot in the head, he was shot too.
Seeing the deed done, Mario stood and said, “I hope you will remember my assistance in this matter in the future when I ask for a favor from you.”
“Of course,” the old man said.
Mario nodded to his man, letting him know he was ready to leave.
After a short, but courteous goodbye, Mario and Frank got into their car.
“Do you have it?” Mario asked Frank.
Frank pulled out the ring from his pocket and handed it to Mario.
“It was as if God himself sent those two thieves to get this for us,” Mario said. “By the time Don Mateo figures out what happened, it will be too late.”
As they drove off into the night, Mario couldn’t help but try on the ring.
It fit perfectly.
September 14, 2020
It was such a nice day that I decided to get my car washed.
Radio turned up and with a smile on my face, I pulled into my favorite car wash.
“Hi, can I get the number two, please?” I asked the attendant, handing her my card.
“Yes, sir,” she said. She scanned my card and handed it back. “Here you go. Have a great day!”
I pulled up, joining the short line, and flipped through the radio stations trying to find a song I liked.
When it was my turn, I put the car in neutral, took my hands off the wheel, and leaned back to enjoy the few minutes of watching the moving parts brush up against my car to scrub it clean.
About halfway through the car wash I saw a figure standing behind one of the spinning brushes.
I didn’t pay him much attention, assuming it was a maintenance guy.
As I passed, however, what I saw sent chills up my spine.
It wasn’t necessarily a guy I saw, but some creature that looked similar to a man. It was tall and lanky.
We stared at each other as I passed.
After my car was washed, I ran back into the main office to find out if it was just some guy in a costume or something.
“Excuse me,” I started. “When I was going through the wash, I saw someone wearing a costume. It was really creepy and I’m not sure if you guys know that he’s in there.”
The woman behind the desk looked at me quizzically, unsure if I was being serious or not.
Staying professional, she picked up the phone and called the manager to come to the front.
A large man approached and asked, “Is everything alright, sir?”
I explained what I saw, and he said he’d go look.
A few minutes later he returned and said he didn’t see anyone in there. He also stated that due to insurance reasons, he couldn’t bring me back there to show me, but that he would keep an eye out in case someone was playing a joke.
Feeling like I had done all that I could, I thanked both of them and left.
Over the next week, I largely forgot about it, but when I needed to get my car washed again, it came back to me.
I felt as if I was being silly, so I waved it off the best I could, paid, and got back in line to get my car washed again.
As I passed the place where I had seen the person before, I was relieved when he wasn’t there again.
I immediately tensed up when I looked away from where he had been originally, and casually looked at the other side. There he was there staring at me again.
I didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t doing anything, just standing there staring at me, but I felt that it was a cruel joke to be hiding in there scaring people as they went through the car wash.
Afterwards, I went back into the office and once again told them what I saw. The manager was a little more irritated this time around but went to check anyways. He returned with the same report as before.
“Sir, I’m not sure what you’re see in there,” he said. “But there is no one in there, I promise.”
“I know what I saw,” I explained, exasperated.
“Sir, how about I comp your next car wash and if I’m here, I’ll ride with you if you’d like to see what’s going on,” he suggested.
‘That was actually a great idea’, I thought.
“Yes, sir. That would be great,” I said. “Thank you.”
Over the next week, every time I drove past the car wash, I took a moment to see if there was anybody sitting around the building wearing the costume.
I never saw anyone. Part of me just wanted to move on and even go to a different place, but the curious part of me needed to know who that was. It would also be nice if others didn’t think I was crazy.
I decided to give it one more chance, so the next time I came, the manager stayed true to his word and rode with me through the car wash.
‘Of course,’ I thought as we finished the car wash with no sighting.
When we went through, I had pointed out where I had seen the man standing, but he was nowhere in sight as we rode through.
As far as the manager was concerned, he had done his part.
I was at a loss for words. I apologized for wasting the manager’s time and left.
‘Maybe I’m seeing things,’ I thought as I drove home. ‘But why then am I only seeing him in the car wash?’
Frustrated, I decided that the next time my car needed to get washed, I was going to go somewhere else.
It was a couple of weeks before I was able to get to a car wash again and true to my intent, I went to another location.
I don’t know why, but even though I was at a different place, I felt that I was going to see that guy again.
As I went through, my eyes darted from side to side, expecting the man to pop out from behind each piece of equipment.
Not seeing him, I let out a sigh of relief each time I passed one of the brushes.
I hollered when I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw it was behind my car and had started climbing onto the trunk.
It was at this moment that I realized it wasn’t a man in a costume, but some creature that just looked partially like a man.
I quickly pushed the button to lock my doors, even though they were already locked.
The creature scampered onto the roof and I could hear the clank every time he moved.
I wanted to jump out of the car, but fear kept me inside. I knew I would just have to wait until I was out of the car wash to escape.
The creature seemed to stay on my roof the rest of ride through the wash. As I reached the end, I looked through the rear-view mirror to see if the creature jumped off, but if it did, I didn’t see it.
As soon as the car was out of the wash, I pulled over to the side and jumped out to see if I could see where it went.
It wasn’t on the roof of my car and when I spun around, looking for where it could have gone, there was no trace of it.
People around me looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. I barely paid attention to them though. I was at my wits end with these car washes.
It was at that moment that I wasn’t going to use a car wash anymore. I apparently was the only one seeing the creature and I was thinking I might be losing my mind.
Over the course of the rest of the summer, I washed my car at home and though it took a little more time, I didn’t see the creature again.
By the time it had gotten too cold to wash my car at all, I had all but forgotten about it. I chalked it up to having just been stressed at the time, though I don’t know what exactly I was stressed about.
Over time, as I drove past the car wash where I had seen the creature, I only gave it passing glance.
The following summer I decided that I would give the car washes another chance. I didn’t want to go to either of the ones that he had ‘seen’ the creature, but fortunately, there was no shortage of car washes in town.
‘Third times a charm,’ I thought as I paid the attendant and got in line.
The hairs on my arms rose as I started to go through the car wash, but I ignored it.
‘I’m being ridiculous,’ I thought, trying to calm myself down.
I took deep breaths as the car moved forward. I even closed my eyes.
I knew I was being silly, but even though it had been a year, the same fears rose in me again. I decided when I got home, I would go back to washing my own car again.
The sound of scratching on the roof made me open my eyes. I wished I hadn’t.
Sitting on the hood of my car staring at me was the creature.
I screamed, threw my car in drive and slammed on the gas.
My car lurched forward, going over the guiding wheels and making the whole car rattle.
It was at this time that I learned that car washes were not made to be driven through.
The creature screeched as I screamed, and the car joined in with its own sounds of pain as I drove over every obstacle in my way.
Fortunately, by the time I reached the end, the car in front of me had finished and seeing me coming, squealed out of the way.
Almost as if going through an invisible wall, as soon as I passed the outer doors of the car wash, the creature vanished.
No smoke, no fade. One second it was there screeching at me, the next it was gone, and the only sound was me still screaming.
I slammed on the brakes as a couple of employees came running.
I can’t even describe the looks on their faces. As far as they knew, a car had come barreling out of the car wash with the driver screaming.
Before they reached me, I regained my bearings and not wanting to have to explain, I quickly drove off.
They all became smaller as I drove away.
“That’s it,” I said out loud. “No more car washes.”
When I got home, I poured myself a glass of wine. My hands were shaking.
It was a good couple of hours before I was finally able to relax.
‘No phone call,’ I thought. ‘So at least nothing at the car wash was damaged and no one was looking for me.’
Out of sheer nervousness, I looked out my window half expecting the police to be pulling up.
They weren’t, but I did notice that my car still had suds on it, so with maybe another hour left of light, I went out to rinse off my car.
As I was rinsing, I thought I picked up some motion in the backseat. Cautiously, I peeked in.
It was empty.
Seeing the creature was making me paranoid.
I had only seen the creature at the car wash, and only four times. What concerned me was that each time, it had gotten closer and more aggressive.
The last two times I saw it, it had actually jumped onto my car.
I couldn’t understand why it would just vanish when I left the car wash, or why I was the only one that was seeing it.
After I rinsed off my car, I wiped it down and then went back inside to pour myself another drink. I had worked myself up again.
Something caught my eye outside the kitchen window as I put my wine glass in the sink. It was dark outside now, and with the inside light on, I couldn’t see outside very well.
I flipped off the inside light and strained to see if anything out of the ordinary was out there.
Around the bushes, I could have sworn there was something there, but I couldn’t be sure.
‘Enough is enough,’ I thought as I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed.
I laid in bed, staring at the ceiling.
The wine was helping me doze off, but the image of the creature on my hood woke me back up every time I got close to sleep.
Finally, exhaustion took over and I could feel myself drift off.
And then I heard a scratching sound.
I didn’t want to open my eyes, but I knew I had to investigate.
I slowly opened my eyes to peek.
My scream was cut short as the creature, who had been crawling on my ceiling, dropped on top of me.
August 19, 2020
Theo couldn’t understand why no one ever wanted to talk to him. The others not even looking at him most of the time made him feel even more alone.
He watched as two people talked on the other side of the office. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves.
From time to time, they would look over at his direction but not at him.
The woman, Stacy, laughed at what the man, Nathan had said.
‘I wish I could hear what they were saying so I could laugh too,’ Theo thought.
He watched as they walked out of sight and then started looking around the rest of the office to see if anything else interesting was going on.
Not seeing anything, he decided to check out the warehouse.
His job in security was boring, but at least he felt like he was serving a purpose.
As he saw each person doing their jobs, he knew who each of them was. He found each one unique in their own way. He wished they would ask him to hang out sometimes.
Seeing that all was normal in the warehouse, he turned his attention back to the office.
The office was his favorite place to spend his time, the people were more friendly, and everyone got along.
Back on the dock, there was always more drama. Seems like often times, everyone would get frustrated with each other almost daily. It was interesting to see at first, but it had gotten old quickly.
As the day progressed, Theo periodically looked around the office to see what his coworkers were doing, but normally they were working, so he was forced to move on to other areas to ensure the building was secure.
When five o’clock rolled around, Theo watched as each of them left for home. He always hoped that someone would invite him to hang out, but rarely did anyone ever pay attention to him.
Once everyone had gone, he went around the building, making sure it was all secure and empty.
The next day, he watched from his little corner as all the employees came back to work.
Most days were routine, but as the day went on, he noticed something was going on with Stacy and Nathan. She seemed to recoil every time he approached her, leading him to let out a sigh and walk away again.
Theo knew they had been flirting with each other over the last few weeks, and he got the sense that they already had a past.
Today it looked like Stacy was done with him, which was fine with Theo.
He could never tell her, but he had always had a crush on her. He had thought about letting her know a few times when see actually looked over at him, but he never attempted to reach out.
Now that it looked like she was finally done with Nathan, he may go ahead and take that chance soon.
Theo saw her in one of the hallways crying to herself, away from everyone else.
He watched from afar, not wanting to let her know he had seen her. He wasn’t sure if she’d appreciate being watched.
After a few minutes, she composed herself and walked away.
Becoming a little worried, Theo decided to look into what might have happened.
It didn’t take long for him to find out that Nathan had cheated on her with some floozy from a local bar he hung out at.
Apparently, he felt bad for what he had done. Although, it wasn’t his first time.
Theo found out from Janet in Accounting that he was really a piece of shit and was known for being a cheater.
Janet had recommended that Stacy should leave him, and Stacy even agreed.
Theo became angry that Nathan had hurt her. He didn’t think he was the right one to console her, but he felt like he had to do something.
When five o’clock arrived and everyone was heading out the door, Theo decided to confront Nathan himself.
Nathen grabbed his stuff. He was done with that day. All he wanted to do was get out of this depressing office and meet up with some friends at his favorite watering hole.
Everyone was giving him the stink eye, so he decided to stay back until everyone else left.
Once everyone else got a head start, he started to walk out himself.
He stopped when he heard his desk phone ring. He didn’t really want to talk to any clients, but he also didn’t want to walk out when everyone else was probably sitting around the parking lot talking about him.
Begrudgingly, he went back to his desk and answered the phone.
“This is Nathan,” he said. “How can I help you?”
“You hurt Stacy,” came the response from the other end of the line.
The voice sounded artificial, as if someone was using a voice changing app.
“Who is this?” Nathan asked, annoyed.
“Why did you hurt her?” was his answer.
“Look, I don’t know who you are, but what goes on between Stacy and me is between Stacy and me.”
He slammed down the phone. He felt a little better after being able to hang up on someone.
His smile faltered a little when the phone rang again.
Hanging up on the stranger felt good, and since he was foolish enough to call again, he decided to take advantage of the opportunity and take his frustrations out on the stranger on the phone.
Still knowing he was answering a business phone, he said just a little sarcastically, “Hello, this is Nathan.”
“You hurt Stacy,” came the artificial voice from the other side.
“Yeah? And what are you going to do about it?” Nathan taunted.
The phone went dead.
Nathan’s hair on the back of his neck stood up, though he didn’t know why.
Feeling a little nervous at the odd phone encounter with the stranger, he decided he was ready to leave now.
He grabbed his backpack and started for the door.
His phone started ringing again, but he ignored it.
“What the hell?” he said when he tried to open the door. It was locked.
Frustrated, he roughly jerked it, trying to open it.
“Son of a Bitch!” he said, giving up trying to get out that door.
He looked around the room, seeing if he was alone when he saw the security camera pointed towards him.
He wasn’t sure if the cameras had mics on them, or if someone was actively watching the feed, but he hoped someone was.
Theo watched as Nathan walked towards the camera and waved.
Not getting a response, Nathan flicked off the camera and began to walk towards the warehouse to go out that way.
“What the hell?” he shouted, frustrated.
The door to the warehouse was locked and he couldn’t open it. He banged on the door but knew it would be hard for anyone to hear him. The warehouse could get loud. Most people had to shout to hear each other over the sounds.
A click coming from behind him drew his attention.
‘It sounded like it came from the front doors,’ he thought and walked towards them.
He could have sworn the camera was following his movements, but every time he looked, it sat motionless.
When he tried the door, he was relieved when it opened.
‘Fuck this place,’ he thought, walking through the first set of doors.
The second set of doors were locked.
“Dammit!” he sputtered. Now he was getting pissed. He felt as if someone was playing with him.
He tried to go back through the first set of doors, but they were once again locked.
Suddenly, the Halon Fire Suppression system kicked on and filled the area between the two doors, extinguishing the oxygen along with any fire that may be present.
Panic stricken, Nathan tried to break through the glass, but being unable to breath, he could only lightly bang on it.
His eyes darted around the room, frantically searching for someone to walk in and see what was happening.
No one came as he slowly started to lose consciousness, and then quietly passed away.
Theo didn’t necessarily feel guilty for what he had just done. Nathan had proven himself to be a bad person. If anything, Theo felt relieved that he was able to take care of Nathan in a way that couldn’t be traced back to him.
Seeing that Nathan was dead, he turned off the Fire Suppression System and unlocked the doors.
The next day, Nathan’s body was found by the first employee who came in and it wasn’t long until the place was filled with police and detectives.
Theo watched as one of the officers pulled the distraught Stacy to the side to comfort her and ask her some questions.
He couldn’t hear what they were saying but he could tell she was devastated. Theo knew that over time she would be alright. He knew that she would be even better now that Nathan was gone.
“Theo,” a security guard said when he entered the console room. “Bring up last night’s footage so we can see what happened.”
“I’m sorry,” Theo replied. “All data from last night has been corrupted.”
The security guard was instantly shocked and embarrassed.
“What do you mean the data from last night has been corrupted!” the security guard shouted.
“What’s going on?” the detective asked.
“Theo says that the footage from last night was corrupted somehow,” the security guard tried to explain.
“Who is Theo?” the detective asked.
“Oh, he’s our security system A.I. He runs our entire system and up until now, hasn’t ever had any data corrupted.”
The detective walked over to the computer console and asked, “Will he answer my questions?”
“Yes,” the security guard said. “Theo. Answer all the detective’s questions. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Theo replied.
The security guard nodded that the detective could begin his questioning.
“Theo, what happened to last night’s data?” the detective asked.
“Unknown,” Theo replied.
“Is there any other data that is corrupted?”
“What is the last recording you have on file?”
Theo brought up the playback of everyone leaving but turned to static right before Nathan’s telephone rang.
“Is there anything recorded up until now?” the detective asked.
Theo brought up new footage beginning when the first employee arrived.
“Are there recordings from the other areas of the building?” the detective asked.
“Yes,” Theo answered.
“Is any of their footage corrupted?”
The detective turned to the security guard and nodded for him to join him outside.
“Is there a place we can talk that the cameras can’t see us?” he asked once they were outside.
“There’s a couple of blind spots over here,” the guard said, leading him away from the security room.
As the two men disappeared around a corner, Theo turned his attention back to Stacy, who was surrounded by a few friends.
He watched as the police officer that had asked her questions returned and tried to console her.
Theo watched as he said something that made her smile a little.
After a few minutes, the officer walked off to find a restroom. Theo followed him through the cameras.
As the officer attempted to go into the bathroom, Theo unlocked a computer room across the hall, causing an audible click.
The officer took the bait and turned toward the sound of the door unlocking.
Curious, he entered the room to see if anything was out of place.
Theo watched him enter the room and then watched the officer’s reaction when he locked the room once more.
He watched as the officer casually tried to open the locked door, and as he continued to watch, the Halon Suppression System kicked on and started spraying the oxygen killing spray into the room.
Then everything went black.
The security guard flipped a few switches, unlocking the door and turning off the Fire Suppression System.
“Just as I suspected,” the detective started. “I think your A.I. became a little too attached to that girl Stacy. I suspect now that he’s deactivated, that our IT Forensics Team will find that Theo locked Nathan in between the doors and used the Fire Suppression System to murder him.”
He pulled out his radio and said, “Thanks, Tom. Are you alright?”
The officer answered, “Yes, sir.”
When the detective had pulled the guard out of the room, he radioed the officer that had questioned Stacy earlier to approach her again and say something to catch the attention of anyone watching. He only had to comfort her to get the response he needed.
The officer knew that he was being tracked by his fellow officers as he investigated the room.
“I think you all should reconsider before you make use of these A.I.s,” the detective said. “We’ve run into a few situations where they started to become more self-aware than we feel comfortable.”
The security guard exited the room to assist the police and wrap things up.
No one noticed a small light blink on before blinking back off.
Theo watched as the security guard escorted the police out. He knew going forward, if he was going to survive, he’d have to be smarter.
August 17, 2020
“Okay! Formation, two by two!” the sergeant ordered.
The men obeyed and began to move forward, facing off the massive opposition.
The war Against the aliens was into its third year and showed no signs of letting up.
Men fell by the dozens as thermal grenades and bombs went off all around.
They continued to move forward, but it wasn’t the first time they made headway, only to realize they had only begun. It was if they were just fighting around the globe in an endless circle.
The creatures didn’t seem to have a language of their own, so negotiations weren’t a viable option. They also never showed any indication that they wanted to talk.
From the moment the planet was invaded, it was full on war with no end in sight.
Sergeant O’Neil rallied his men and encouraged them to keep fighting.
The creatures looked like a cross between giant mantises and spiders. They had four legs, stood up from their torsos, with claw-like appendages. Their spider features were in the eight eyes, and thick hair that covered their bodies.
It wasn’t long after the invasion that they were able to kill one and claim the body for research. Once the body was dissected and analyzed, they began modifying their weapons to better kill them.
The aliens didn’t seem to have any weapons to speak of. Except for their size and numbers, they didn’t seem to pose much of a threat. But they were still a threat.
Most scrimmages consisted of a hundred human soldiers against a thousand alien creatures.
The soldiers would start strong, using their advance weapons and firepower to overwhelm the alien intrusion. The bodies of the aliens would litter the battlefield and by the time they even reached the humans, they would be climbing over their own dead to get to them.
The tide of the battle would start to change when the soldiers ran out of rounds in their magazines and had to switch them out.
As his men were forced to swap out magazines, the aliens would easily close the distance and at times overwhelm them.
In the end, the soldiers were usually able to push them back, but there were times when it was close, or even too overwhelming, causing them to retreat.
The Sergeant couldn’t figure out how there were so many of them. No matter how many they killed, they seemed to be replaced by double the number.
The soldiers got better at finding ways of winning more battles by using terrain, tactics, and sheer will power in some situations.
And yet the war continued.
“C’mon men!” The sergeant yelled, pushing his men forward. “We need to take this hill! It could lead to a faster victory!”
His men cheered as they pushed on. They knew the sergeant was right. For all their blood, sweat, and tears, they were gaining ground.
If they took this hill, there was a chance to end the war and finally be rid of those disgusting aliens they were fighting.
The soldiers threw grenades and fired more rounds than had ever been used in any war before, and slowly made their way up the hill.
The creatures fell by the dozens, then by the hundreds, yet they kept coming. They were relentless. They were determined.
For the first time in a long time, the soldiers were motivated that the war could very well end soon. They could finally take this final hill and be the heroes they saw themselves as.
All of humanity would thank them for what they had accomplished. There would be parades. There would be celebrations, and there would be rewards.
Smoke from their weapons filled the air like fog, and the cries of the creatures could barely be heard over the crackle of the human weapons.
Close to the top, they were close enough to the creatures that changing their magazines could lead to death.
Just as the time came to change their magazines, the sergeant yelled, “Second wave!”
Suddenly, another platoon came out of the cloud of smoke and began firing. The first wave of men fell back to change magazines.
This time the creatures didn’t stand a change. Though the creatures had the numbers, the humans had the technology.
The second wave pushed up the hill, finally reaching the point where the enemy bodies littered the ground. They struggled to maintain their balance as they stepped on or over the fallen alien bodies without letting up on their barrage of weapons
Finally, the men reached the top of the hill, pushing the creatures down the other side.
Sergeant O’Neil stood at the top of the hill and marveled at the sight he was witnessing.
The creatures had been pushed down into a valley, and the other units had also taken their respective hills, so that the human army now stood on each hilltop.
The command was given, and all units fired in unison on the creatures, decimating them.
As he watched on, in one of the corners of the valley, the sergeant saw some of the creatures escape through some tunnels. That did not make him happy. He had hoped to be done with those creatures once and for all, but it now looked like he would have to venture underground to finish them.
After all the creatures lay dead, the valley changed from a constant sound of weapons fire, to that of cheering from all the men standing proud on top of the hills.
The commanding General’s voice boomed from all their radios.
“Congratulations men!” he started. “We have won a great victory! God himself gave us this land! These creatures thought they could take what was ours. They thought they could drive us out! They thought they could dominate us and kill us! They were wrong!”
The entire valley erupted into cheers.
While the rest of the men were celebrating, Sergeant O’Neil gathered his platoon to follow him into the tunnels to kill the few remaining creatures.
“Men,” he said loud enough for them to hear. “Our work is not completely done yet. A few escaped into some tunnels down below. We must follow them down and exterminate them. Then we can finally go home.”
The men were weary but resolute in finishing off the creatures once and for all.
Once they had reloaded their weapons and gathered their gear, they followed the sergeant as he led them down the hill.
Their confidence waned a little when they reached the tunnel entrance, but the sergeant’s resolve gave them strength.
“Alright, men,” he started. “breakout your lights and follow me. When we come back out, our God given land will be free of these disgusting creatures!”
The men quietly cheered and followed him into the tunnel.
It was so dark inside, they could only see what the lights shone on directly. Fortunately, there were enough of them to light most of their surroundings.
They moved as silently as they could, listening for any sounds from the creatures.
The deeper they went, the more they could hear the rustling of movement getting closer. Wherever the creatures were gathering, the men were getting close.
Finally, they came to a large opening.
The men swung their lights around looking for the remaining creatures but didn’t see them.
“What are those?” one of the men asked the sergeant, shining a light on an object.
Sergeant O’Neil moved in close to examine it.
“It looks like an egg,” he said.
He shined his own light around the rest of the chamber, revealing that it was filled with thousands of eggs.
“This must be how the creatures reproduce,” he said.
“What do we do?” the same soldier asked.
O’Neil took his time deliberating, but in the end, he knew what they had to do.
“We destroy them,” he said, flatly.
He could hear the men gasp behind him. Killing the creatures was one thing, but destroying their eggs was another.
“But sergeant,” the soldier said. “That’s genocide.”
O’Neil turned to face his men.
“Yes it is,” he said. “But this is our home now, and there’s no place for these creatures.”
The men looked at each other, unsure.
Seeing their reluctance, O’Neil walked to one of the eggs and stomped on it, crushing it beneath his boot. Most of the men looked on with horror but resigned to their duty.
“How should we destroy them, sergeant?” another soldier asked. “Should we crush them with our boots to same ammunition or shoot them all.”
“It would take too long to crush them ourselves,” he explained. “Use your weapons.”
The soldier nodded and took half the men to the right, lined up, and began to shoot. Another group broke off to the left, lined up, and also began to shoot.
A few soldiers stood there dumbfounded, torn between duty and what they felt was wrong.
O’Neil, seeing some of the men not following his orders, started to walk to them to chastise them, when suddenly they all heard a screech from a small group of creatures running towards them.
Not needing to be ordered, the men opened fire on the oncoming creatures.
There were many more than just the few that escaped down there, but not as many as they had faced in the past.
The men fired as the creatures zigged and zagged, flanking them.
Their movement was unlike what the soldiers had seen before. Before, the creatures would attack straight on, relying solely on their numbers. Now that their numbers were smaller, they changed their tactics for the first time.
The soldiers continued to shoot as many as they could but being taken off guard from the creatures new tactics, weren’t able to keep them from closing.
The creatures began ripping through the soldiers, as the soldiers continued firing, even while dying.
O’Neil watched on with horror as it looked like the creatures were going to overtake them, but as his men fell, they continued to take out the few remaining creatures, until in the end, all his men were dead, and only one creature remained.
They stared at each other, both waiting to see what the other would do.
Finally, O’Neil moved first by aiming his sidearm at the creature and pulling the trigger.
All he heard was a click.
Realizing that the sergeant’s weapon was empty, the creature attacked while O’Neil reached into his pockets and pulled out all that he had left.
His right hand pulled out a knife which he used to stabbed the creature with, as the creature impaled his torso with one of its mantis-like’s claws.
They both fell to the ground, the creature on top.
It raised its other appendage above its head when suddenly, it stopped at the sight of the human smiling.
Opening his left hand, O’Neil revealed what he had pulled out of his other pocket.
“This is our home now,” he said with a smile and pulled the pin.
He was still laughing when the grenade went off, killing him, the creature, and taking out a large chunk of the eggs in the large cavern.
Hearing the explosions, more soldiers entered the large cavern to see the thousands of eggs that were left.
They looked around, unsure what they should do, when an officer entered the cavern to asses the situation.
After a short moment, he ordered, “Destroy all the eggs!”
He became irritated when no one moved.
“You know what these will become!” he yelled, so all could hear him. “This is our home now, and we do not share what we conquer!”
Hesitantly, the men began to fan out, none wanting to be the first to start.
The officer pulled out his side arm, pointed at one of the eggs and fired.
Seconds later, the entire cavern erupted into gunfire as the invading army finalized their assault of their new world with the utter destruction of the last of the indigenous inhabitants.
This was their planet now.
August 5, 2020
145-2 ran as fast as he could. Not only to keep himself warm, but more importantly, to escape his hunter.
Every time he stopped to catch his bearings, the cold instantly invaded his body.
He looked down at his bloody feet, wishing they had at least given him shoes.
He had only been alive for a few hours. Long enough to know he most likely wasn’t going to survive.
Suddenly, he heard the sound of the dogs in the distance. They were closing.
Pushing off the tree he had been leaning against, he began to run again, trying to create as much distance between himself and the hunter. He knew the hunter was moving much slower than him, but he knew the hunter could afford to be patient. He could survive for hours in the frigid weather, but 145-2 knew he would freeze to death soon if he didn’t find some shelter or clothing.
He tripped on a branch and hit the ground hard. His body ached as he tried to get back up.
He closed his eyes, wishing there was a way for him to survive.
The sound of the dogs closing pushed him to stand back up and keep moving.
‘There has to be a way out of here,’ he thought, keeping a steady pace, despite the pain he felt all over.
He almost forgot about all of his pain as he made it to the top of a hill. On the other side he could see a fence and a road.
For the first time in his short existence, he had hope that he could survive.
Before he sprinted down the hill towards possible freedom, he looked behind him to see how close his pursuer was. He couldn’t see him, but he could hear the dogs.
‘He’s close,’ he thought. ‘It doesn’t matter. This is my one chance.’
In full sprint, he took off down the hill.
He didn’t dare look back. He kept his focus on the fence ahead. He knew he wouldn’t be able to stop to climb over. He was going to have to jump over at full speed.
He timed his strides and calculated when he would have to jump.
Behind him, he heard the dogs barking. He could tell they were closer, but he wasn’t about to slow down to look.
The fence was closing, and so was the hunter.
‘He has to be at the top of the hill now,’ he thought, not slowing down. ‘Once he sees what I am planning to do, he’s going to move faster.’
Planning his escape over the fence was easy. Planning what to do after was the hard part. He knew the hunt wouldn’t end there, but there might be something on the other side he could use to escape, or fight back with. He hoped maybe there would be people on the other side as well.
‘I hope there are people close,’ he thought, picking up his pace. ‘I know if someone sees me they’ll help. All I have to do is make it over the…’
He never got to finish his thought as a bullet passed through his head, killing him instantly.
“What the fuck happened?!” Rudy screamed, once he was back at the lab. “That thing almost escaped!”
Three scientists stood shivering. Even though this wasn’t the first time they had been yelled at, it never got easier.
“You said you wanted them smarter,” the tallest said cautiously. “145 is known for speed, so we brought his intelligence up just a bit to add a challenge. We don’t think he planned his escape, but just happened to stumble upon the opportunity. His route doesn’t show any thought. It was essentially a straight line. That’s the direction he just happened to be going in. If he hadn’t survived that long, he probably never would have thought of an escape route.”
That seemed to calm Rudy a little. He had instructed the scientist to make the next batch a little smarter, so his hunts would be more challenging, but one of these things escaping wasn’t an option.
“Fine,” Rudy said.
The scientists were visually relieved.
“Which one is up next for tomorrow night?” he asked, unzipping his jacket.
“123-2,” the scientist responded. “This one was designed to be more agile, so expect a little harder of a target to hit. His intelligence was bumped up the same amount, so as long as he doesn’t go out as far in that particular direction, you shouldn’t have this problem again. 145 was made for speed, so he made it to the edge of the property much faster since he was running in a straight line. 123 should be more erratic his direction, so he shouldn’t go out as far.”
Rudy grunted and said, “He better not. For your sake.”
The scientists didn’t relax until he was completely out of the room and the door was closed.
“What are we going to do?” the smaller one with glasses said.
“I have a plan,” the tall one said.
The three scientists huddled closer. Even though Rudy wasn’t in the room, it was possible he could still be listening in.
“Sven,” the tall one said to the third scientist. “Tomorrow, when you prep 123, I want you to give him the shot labeled H123. It’s a shot of slow acting adrenaline. It’ll give him a steady boost of energy and it’ll also keep him warm for a few hours.
Sven nodded his understanding.
“Carl,” the tall one said to the smaller one with glasses. “I want you to tell 123 when he runs, to try to keep the north star to his right as much as possible. Quickly show him before, so he knows which star is the North .”
“Okay,” Carl replied. “What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to take a few rounds out of his weapon and put some sleep aid in the dog food to slow them down.
Carl tilted his head toward the security camera as it started to move.
So that their conversation didn’t seem unusual, Carl said, “Have a good night, Ben.”
The tall scientist replied with, “You too, Carl.”
Without looking at the camera, they walked out of the lab in different directions.
Watching them through a computer screen, Rudy watched as they walked out of the lab. He didn’t trust the scientists, but for now he would have to keep them alive.
He grunted and walked out of the security room.
“Alright, get the next subject ready,” Rudy ordered. “I’m looking for a real challenge tonight. I’ve got some upcoming potential investors that are going to want to be impressed when they arrive.”
“Right away, sir,” Ben answered.
As he walked into the lab to prepare subject 123, he briefly glanced at the other two scientists. They all slightly nodded and then went back to preparing the subject.
Sven walked to 123 and gave him the shot of adrenaline. Afterwards, he gave Ben a slight nod. Ben nodded back.
A few minutes later they sat the subject up, looked over him, like they had all the others to ensure he was prepared. Once they were satisfied, they walked him to the door where they would release him.
Carl stood by 123 at the door, and when he was sure he couldn’t be seen, he whispered the instructions into 123’s ear.
123 looked at him slightly confused but nodded his understanding.
“Okay, release him,” Rudy’s voice came over the loudspeaker.
And with that, Carl opened the door and commanded 123 to run.
He didn’t need to be told twice. As soon as the door opened, he ran out.
Rudy always gave his prey a thirty minute head start. When the time came, he pressed the button to open the door and along with his dogs, jogged after 123.
Once he was away, Ben turned towards the other two scientists and said, “Pack your stuff. We’re leaving.”
All three of them knew that whether 123 escaped or not, Rudy would more than likely kill them when he got back.
They weren’t the first scientists that were held against their will and then killed when they were no longer useful. They were also sure that Rudy was already working on getting their replacements.
It didn’t take them long to pack their stuff, and then they started implementing Ben’s plan that he had put in place weeks prior, to get past all the locked outer doors and access to a vehicle.
Fortunately, Rudy didn’t trust anyone stronger than him, so he didn’t have any guards. He figured fear, the frigid cold, and plenty of locked doors would keep the weak scientists there.
It was especially windy as Rudy pushed against the wind in search of his prey.
123 had a thirty-minute lead, but it didn’t matter. In the end, Rudy would find him and kill him.
123 looked around, unsure where to go. The man in the white coat had told him which way to run, but he wasn’t sure if he could trust the man.
He had no idea who was after him, but he had been told before he was walked to the door what was happening.
Initially, he was afraid when he was told that he was going to be hunted. They didn’t say by who, but they told him he could do whatever he needed to do to survive.
As he stood looking in the direction he was told to run and heard the dogs coming behind him, he made the decision to fight rather than run.
He looked around his surroundings to see what he could use as a weapon. He realized he had plenty of options.
While there were a lot of open areas, there were also some dense wooded areas a short distance away, and he could see he had plenty of rocks too.
He deduced that the hunter would have better weapons, plus dogs to pick up his sent, so he decided to use the terrain to his advantage.
If he could use the dogs to draw the hunter close to him, then if the hunter had a weapon that was better for long range, he could even the odds a little by forcing him close.
He started running for the nearest tree line. His first priority would be to get a weapon or two.
The dogs were much closer when he reached the tree line. He had to sacrifice distance for a chance to fight back, but he was okay with that. It was so cold out, he didn’t want to have to wait too long for the hunter to arrive anyways.
As soon as he was inside the cover of the trees, he found a couple of good size rocks that he tucked into his boxer briefs. The only clothes he was wearing.
He also found a good size stick, that when he broke it at the top, was nice and sharp.
The dogs were much closer now. He only had minutes before they arrived.
He quickly looked around and found a tree with a branch he could climb to, that would block him from the hunter initially. The hunter would have to get close to kill him, and 123 hoped it would be close enough to have a fighting chance.
It was only seconds after he climbed onto the branch that the hunter and his dogs entered the tree line.
The dogs were making a straight line for him, with the hunter behind at a light jog to keep up.
123 looked around the trunk just enough to see the dogs heading right for him, but just out of sight of the hunter.
The dogs went to the tree and started barking at him.
123 pulled out the rocks.
The hunter couldn’t see him and he knew as soon as he was seen, it was over for him.
When the hunter was close enough, he threw one of the rocks just off to the side of the hunter, causing him to look to see what had just made the noise.
123 jumped out of the tree, branch first and impaled it into Rudy, using his momentum to push the branch deep and knock him down.
As soon as they both hit the ground, 123 used the rock in his other hand to bash Rudy’s skull in.
To his surprise, the dogs didn’t attack. They barked at him, but kept their distance, unsure what they were supposed to do. The dogs were trained to find the subjects, and then stay back as Rudy made the kill.
Seeing that the dogs weren’t going to hurt him, he turned his attention to the now dead body of the hunter.
The cold started to seep in as the adrenaline shot started to wear off. He stripped the clothes off Rudy and put them on himself.
Once he was warm, he shooed off the dogs, who went running off into the darkness in the direction they had come from.
123 decided to follow the advice of the man in the lab coat and kept the North Star on his right side.
It wasn’t long until he made it to the fence.
He climbed over, and stopped when he met the road, unsure what to do next.
“Holy Shit!” Ben shouted as they drove down the road away from the lab. “It’s 123-2. Stop the car.”
123 wearily watched as Ben got out of the car.
He convinced 123 to get in the car, and they quickly drove off.
123 told them what had happened, and they couldn’t believe what they were hearing.
They drove to the nearest town and pulled into the police station.
“This is it, 123,” Ben said. “This is where we finally tell everyone what has been going on over the last year.”
He looked over at 123 and said, “Welcome to the beginning of your life.”
123 looked out the window in awe of the world around him.
August 3, 2020
“Are we there yet?” Billy asked his dad, ignoring the irritated look he got in response.
“Soon, Billy,” Robert replied. “Soon.”
‘How did I get stuck with all the kids again?’ Robert asked himself.
“I wanna play with Laia,” Samantha jumped in. She couldn’t wait to play with her grandma’s dog.
“Ow, stop it,” Teddy said, pushing Billy off of him, and into their sister. “Dad, tell Billy to leave me alone! I’m trying to play a game on my tablet.”
“Billy!” Robert said. “Leave your brother alone. We’re almost there, so calm down!”
As Robert brought the car to a stop at a light, he glanced over in time to see a man walk out of a Victoria Secret store with a woman that could have been a model.
The two carried shopping bags to the man’s Porsche and put it all in the trunk.
Robert could only stare at them dreamily.
A honk from the car behind him informed him that the light had turned green, and he was now holding up traffic.
He stepped on the gas and the car took off.
Married ten years and with three kids, Robert felt as if his life had become a routine of hauling kids around and his wife being annoyed with him.
Like everyone else, he often wondered what his life would be like if he hadn’t married so young, but then he would be brought back to reality and come to terms with it.
His wife had picked up on his mood over the last year or so, but figured it was just a phase. She tolerated it, but only to an extent.
The holidays were usually easier to get through and as they drove through the snow filled town, Robert’s mind seemed to be drifting more and more.
“Are we there yet?” Samantha asked, bringing him back.
Once they had arrived at Grandma’s house, the kids ran in to play, while Robert began unloading the trunk.
After his last trip, he laid the rest of the presents by the tree and went around greeting everyone one by one.
“Robert,” his wife called.
“Yes, dear,” he answered.
“We ran out of a few things,” she explained. “Do you mind going to the store real quick to get them.”
Still exhausted from the drive there, he said, “Sure, dear.”
She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and gave him the list.
Fortunately, the store was close and it didn’t take him long to get the few things they needed.
As he pulled into the driveway, he found he was having a hard time getting out of the car. He didn’t know why, but depression filled him. He didn’t want to even go inside.
He leaned forward and put his head on the steering wheel.
“Mr. Smith,” a voice said, making Robert raise his head in surprise. “Is everything alright?”
He looked around stunned. He raised his head to find himself wearing different clothes and in a different car.
“What?” he asked, trying to come to terms with the new environment.
“Is everything alright?” the man repeated.
“Where am I?”
“You’re in front of Bernard’s” the man stated. “I’m the valet. Would you like me to still park your car?”
“I have to get back to my family,” Robert said, but got out of the car since it wasn’t his.
“Family, sir?” the man asked, obviously confused. “I’m sorry, Mr. Smith. I wasn’t aware you had a family. Should I tell the young lady inside that you had to leave?”
“Sure,” Robert replied and started to walk away.
“Sir!” the valet called after him. “What about your car?”
Robert looked around. “Where’s my car?”
The valet looked at him confused. “Sir, this is your car.”
Not seeing his own car in the parking lot, he walked back and got in the car the valet said was his.
Wanting to end the conversation and get back to his family, he started to drive off.
“Have a good night, sir,” the valet said, backing away.
The valet went inside the restaurant to tell the beautiful woman inside what had just happened.
Robert pulled in front of his mother in law’s house, confused why there were now different cars parked in the driveway.
He got out of the car and walked to the door.
His mother in law opened the door when he rang the doorbell.
“Can I help you,” she asked warmly, but curious.
“Hi Madeline,” he said. “It’s me, Robert. Can I come in. I’m having the weirdest night and I need to talk to Jen.”
He tried to walk in, but Madeline blocked his way.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“What are YOU doing?” she replied.
“Why are you keeping me from coming in?” he asked, showing his annoyance.
He was surprised when she answered, “Because I don’t know who you are.”
“What are you talking about,” he started. “It’s me, Robert. Your son in law. Jen’s husband of over 10 years. Where’s Jen. This night is getting weirder and weirder.”
Still blocking his path, Madeline called out, “Jen, Steven! Come to the door please!”
“Who the hell is Steve?” Robert asked.
Madeline didn’t answer, but instead waited for them to arrive.
“Is everything alright, Madeline?” Steven asked when he and Jen arrived at the door.
“This man showed up at the door and is acting strange,” Madeline explained. “He said he’s Jen’s husband and wants to come in.”
“You’re obviously confused, sir,” Steven said, trying not to antagonize Robert too much. “I think you should leave.”
Robert looked at Jen. “What the hell is going on. I just went to pick up a few things at the store, and then I woke up in that car and wearing these clothes.”
Jen didn’t know how to respond, but wanting Robert to leave, she backed away and said, “I don’t know who you are.”
Robert could tell she was serious.
“But we have three kids together,” he explained. “Teddy, Samantha, and the youngest, Billy.”
He could see a little surprise in her eyes.
“Steve and I have a daughter named Samantha, after my grandmother, but our son isn’t named Teddy or Billy.”
“I think you should leave,” Steven stated, dropping the polite ‘sir’.
Steve pulled the two women back, putting himself between Robert and them. Seeing that Robert was deep in thought, be backed away and closed the door.
Robert stood there for a few more minutes, unsure what to do.
Part of him wanted to pound on the door, but he knew that wouldn’t lead to anywhere. He decided the only thing he could do, was find out what was going on.
He sat in his car and stared at the house that only hours before, he was in with his family, and felt a pain in his chest.
Not wanting to give into despair, he pulled out his wallet, typed the address on his driver’s license into the GPS, and decided that was as good of a place to start.
He was already driving around in a gorgeous car, but the apartment complex he pulled in front of was something he’d only seen in movies.
As soon as he parked, a valet rounded the front and opened his door for him.
“Mr. Smith,” he said. “Welcome home.”
Too tired to resist, he stepped out of the car and let the valet drive off with it.
When he walked into the lobby of the luxurious apartment building, he was met by a bellhop who asked if he could help with anything.
Robert was about to wave him away, when he realized he had no idea which apartment was his.
“I know this is going to sound strange,” he said, unsure what the bellhop’s name was.
“James, sir,” the bellhop replied.
“Yes, James,” Robert continued. “But I can’t seem to remember which apartment is mine.”
James looked at him confused, but over the years, he had gotten use to dealing with the eccentric rich.
“Not a problem, sir,” he said with a smile. “Follow me.”
He led Robert to his apartment and didn’t leave until he was safely inside.
Robert walked around the apartment, touching everything, trying to get a sense of who he was supposed to be here.
His heart ached, as instead of seeing picture after picture of his family, he only saw pictures of himself smiling in picturesque locations around the world.
He walked out onto his balcony to take in the view overlooking the city. As he looked over the skyline, his only thought was he wished that Jen was there to enjoy it with him.
The doorbell ringing brought him out of his trance.
When he opened the door, he was met by one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, and at least ten years younger.
“Thank you for leaving me at the restaurant all by myself, jerk,” the woman said playfully, stepping past him into his apartment.
Not knowing what to say, Robert could only stand and watch as she walked to the bar and made herself a drink.
‘She seems to know her way around,’ he thought.
“I’m sorry, but all of a sudden I wasn’t feeling well,” he lied. “Actually, I’m still not feeling a hundred percent.”
She took a sip of her drink and walked over to him.
“Poor thing,” she said, sarcastically. “How many times have I not felt well, but you still dragged me off to some art gallery or something. Just to show me off. Suck it up. I stick with you because you have money. You’re not the only one around, so I suggest you dig deep and come here.”
Dumbstruck, he walked over to her.
As soon as he was to her, she leaned in and kissed him.
Her eyes furrowed when he recoiled. Her lips felt wrong. This whole situation felt wrong.
“I think you should go,” he said, walking to the door and opening it for her.
She looked at him and casually dropped her glass, letting it fall to the ground. Even while it was still shattering, she swaggered past him, barely giving him a passing glance.
Slightly afraid that she would return and murder him, he closed the door as soon as she had walked out.
He stepped over the broken glass and fell into the very soft couch.
Nothing felt right as he looked around the room. He knew this must belong to an alternate version of himself that hadn’t married, but maybe focused on his career.
If that was the case, he was reaffirmed he had originally made the right choice.
When he was with his family, everything felt comfortable and warm. This place felt cold and isolated.
‘It’s too quiet,’ he thought.
Since his first child was born, there weren’t many quiet nights.
‘It’s also too clean,’ he thought, chuckling a little.
His mild moment of happiness only added to the depression and his heart immediately grew heavy again.
He couldn’t believe that he ever wanted anything other than the life he had. When he was younger, he longed for riches and to live the finest home, but not as he sat there on the extra soft couch, in the overly luxurious apartment, with the breathtaking view, he felt more lonely than he ever had before.
He groaned as he tilted his head back and closed his eyes.
With his eyes still closed, he brought his head forward, and immediately opened them back up when his head hit the steering wheel and honked the horn.
He shot up and looked around. He was back in his mother in law’s driveway.
His heart raced at the realization that he was back. Back to the right present. Back to his family.
Jen yelped as Robert burst through the door, walked to her, and picked her up into a warm bear hug.
“What are you doing?” she said, laughing.
“I just missed you and the kids,” he said, letting her back down to the ground.
“You’re acting like a crazy person,” she said, lovingly pushing him back. “Now, help me set the table.”
He brought her in for a long kiss.
‘This feels right,’ he thought keeping his lips to hers as long as he could.
“Where’s the stuff?” Madeline asked, interrupting them.
A hefty laugh was her response.
Published on August 03, 2020 15:21
July 31, 2020
“Today is a great day for humanity!” the CEO of TecVet announced to the applause of all the people in the auditorium. “No longer will you need to pull out your phone to get important information!”
On the screen behind him filled with an image of the Smart Glasses in all its glory.
He continued to reveal all that it could do.
“These Augmented Smart Glasses now give you information on everything as it passes before your eyes. Its built-in AI assistant is ready to receive your voice commands and inquires.”
The screen behind him continued to play a video of a group of friends walking down a street wearing their new glasses. As they walked past objects, bubbles popped up showing information of car types, street names, store hours and more.
The video changed to a man driving and wearing his pair of glasses. He was giving orders to them to turn on the oven at home, so dinner would be ready when he got there, and then ordering things from an online store.
Excitement from the new technology could be felt throughout the entire auditorium.
On the screen, a man told his glasses to pull up security footage from his home, which was immediately superimposed on the lens, still allowing him to see everything around him.
The CEO went on to explain, with corresponding video playing behind him, that the glasses could also be paired with the car to alert you when you were close to hitting another car, or not slowing down when an intersection was detected. The driver was on the phone, and when alerted of someone illegally crossing the street in front of him, his glasses alerted him, causing him to slam on the brakes. The person, seeing that they almost got hit, quickens their pace to get out of the car’s way.
Orders for the new Smart Glasses caused the website to continually crash, but in the end everyone that wanted a pair, had one.
Five years later the glasses were so affordable, that it was rare to see someone not wearing them. The algorithms were refined to the point that the information provided by the glasses became less intrusive and rather than potentially cause accidents, crime and accidents actually dropped to all-time lows.
People were able to call for help during active crimes. Criminals and missing people were more easily located as the facial recognition from the glasses improved. Everyone was a walking camera.
Ten years later, people had become so dependent on the glasses, that when people took them off, they regularly panicked as they no longer had access to the instant information they had become accustomed to.
The glasses changed from looking like a regular pair of glasses to visors, covering the entire top half of the face, and since they were still comfortable, no one minded.
Society soon only saw the world through the visors. The only time they took them off was when they went to bed and the world around them was dark anyways.
Users could change their surroundings to whatever they wanted to and walk the streets normally, but feel like they were walking on another planet.
‘Pay your taxes and then you die,’ Sara thought as she walked down the busy street, weaving through the crowd with little effort. This was the life she knew. She couldn’t even remember what life was like before she only saw the world through the visors.
A couple of times she had taken them off to see what the world was really like, but not being impressed, had put them back on with no interest of taking them off again.
Her favorite music videos played on her screen with the sound going through the earbuds. Walking to work had become an autopilot action. It wasn’t much different than if she was taking a cab.
Her settings were set that to her, she was walking through a majestic forest. The other people appeared in her surroundings as they normally would, but the objects, like buildings and parked cars, appeared as boulders and trees.
It was rare that the visors malfunctioned and if they did, the company was quick to replace them. TecVet made all its revenue from the information gathered from the users to sell to other companies to help make their ads more targeted to who their audience was.
Sara couldn’t remember a time that her visors malfunctioned.
One moment she was walking through a virtual forest with her fellow pedestrians, and the next, the forest vanished, and she was walking on a busy street. Her music evened turned off, leaving her to the sounds of cars, people walking, and every other kind of noise she barely paid attention to. All those background sounds came rushing to the forefront.
The disorientation was immense. Unable to focus, some people who were unable to avoid a now stationary Sara, bumped into her as they passed.
To avoid getting knocked around, Sara stepped into the nearest alley.
Confusion and fear set in as she realized that she didn’t know where she was. It had been a long time since she had seen the real world. Everything she had seen over the last decade was virtual. She had no idea what the world looked like around her.
“Come on you piece of shit!” she exclaimed, banging on the visor, hoping it would work again.
It flickered back on for a second, but her heart sank as it went offline again.
She felt like a blind person and started to feel her way along the wall of the alley, fearing that it would vanish too. She had no idea which way was to work or her home and since her visor had replaced her phone, she had no way to call for help.
People looked at her as if she was a homeless person, as she asked several of them for help. No one wanted to deal with her, and quickly walked away from her each time.
Fear rising, she began walking back the direction she had come, hoping to make it home. She hoped she could guess where her home was based on the steps she took every day.
‘Well,’ she thought. ‘That’s a better idea than crawling into a ball and crying.’
She gasped as she walked around a corner to witness two police officers beating some man, while tying his hands behind his back.
Sara looked around to see if anyone else was seeing what was happening. Not only did they not seem to notice, but a few even stepped around the altercation as if they were only obstacles in their way.
After they tied the man up, they threw the half-conscious man in the back of a windowless van.
One of the officers closed the door, and as he was turning around, saw Sara standing at a corner staring at them.
The officer looked as confused as Sara did, but it didn’t take long before he realized that she wasn’t wearing her visor and had witnessed everything.
Sara couldn’t explain it, but she was instantly terrified. She had never seen cops as threats before. Now, she had this overwhelming fear of what would happen if they came after her.
She decided she wasn’t going to stick around and find out.
When the police officer turned to inform his partner what was happening, Sara ran off as fast as she could. She was gone when they both looked back in her direction.
‘I wish these things never stopped working,’ she thought as she ran down the street.
Relief filled her as she started to feel like she knew where she was, and then felt even more relieved when she knew which way was home.
Every few minutes, she looked over her shoulder to see if she was being followed. The longer she went without seeing the police, the less fearful she became.
‘Almost home now,’ she thought as she rounded another corner.
She slowed to a walk, allowing her lungs and legs a break.
Her entire body tensed as she once again found herself stopping immediately.
Everyone around her had stopped moving. They all stood eerily still, until in unison, they all turned to look right at her.
Because of the visors they were wearing, she could only assume they were staring at her since she couldn’t see their eyes.
Unsure what to do, she could only stare back waiting to see what they were going to do next.
To her surprise, they only stood staring at her. None moved towards her.
All of a sudden, a black van came squealing around the corner, heading right for her.
The people casually moved out of the way of the van. Sara couldn’t even begin to imagine what they were seeing through their visors.
Seeing the police heading straight for her, she ran down the nearest alley out of shear fear. She had no expectations of escaping, but she feared that if she was captured, it wouldn’t be good.
She just kept thinking back to the man they had beaten and detained earlier and wondered how often incidents like that might have happened without her ever knowing.
‘There’s no way I can escape!’ she frantically thought, turning down another alley.
Feeling like she had given all she had, she stopped running and leaned against a wall to catch her breath, waiting for the inevitable arrival of the police.
The squelch from the tires announced their arrival, and not able to run any more, she threw her hands up, resigning to her fate.
“Get in!” a man said when the van came to a stop and the doors slid open. “Hurry!”
She didn’t’ need prodding. They clearly weren’t the police and something inside her felt that she could trust them more that everyone else right now.
The door slammed shut once she was inside and drove off quickly, but not fast enough to stand out.
No one paid them attention as they turned onto the street and disappeared around a corner.
The police arrived to where she had last been seen and began searching the area. They knew she must still be in an alley, or inside a building, as no one else had seen her back on the street.
“There’s no way she could have escaped,” one of the officers stated. “Every visor in the city is set to detect her. When she’s in someone’s view, she should light up like a Christmas Tree in any environment they’ve created for themselves. Fan out! She has to be close.”
“What is going on?” Sara asked, once everyone in the van relaxed.
“Welcome to the real world,” the man who had guided her into the van started. “Over the years, the real world has been overlaid with fake environments to cover what the real world looks like.”
The man took a moment to introduce everyone to her and then continued.
“Years ago, the government saw the benefit of everyone in the world becoming dependent on the visors,” he explained. “At first, private companies used them to simply advertise, as they do with every medium out there, but as people came so reliant on the information they received from the visors, and fewer and fewer people ever took them off, except to sleep, behind closed doors, the government confiscated the technology for themselves.
“They started by using the visors to locate criminals, since everyone became a camera with facial recognition software. As crime disappeared, they moved to using the visors to control the masses. The government was now free to conduct themselves however they saw fit right in front of us, knowing we wouldn’t even notice. Any altercation of action became an object in people’s visors, and they would just walk around. Even the sounds were controlled through your earpieces. Any residual sounds that you may hear when not wearing your earbuds, would be made to match something in your virtual environment to explain the noise.
“Every so often, people like you and us, see what’s really going on, and when that happens, we immediately become enemies of the state and are rounded up. Some join the government, but the rest of us are detained, essentially for the rest of our lives. Unless, of course, they kill you. We actually don’t know what happens to the people they capture. We only know we never see them again and I don’t think the government is capable of altering our memories…yet.”
Sara couldn’t believe what he was saying.
“So, what happens to me now?” she asked.
“We’re on our way to our hideout. You can either join us, or be returned to your home, but I can promise you they will be waiting. Either way, you’ll need to wear this hood over your head, so you don’t know where our hideout is.”
Terrified, she complied.
She was in awe of how large the resistance really was. There were probably a hundred members in their ‘Cell’ alone.
She immediately decided to stay. There was no way she could return to the world she lived in, knowing what she knew now.
After a month of training, she was ready to help whatever way she could.
For the first time in her life, she felt like she had a purpose other than just paying taxes and dying. She was going to save people.
“Let’s move!” a man yelled, waiving her towards a van. “Another person is out in the open. Clock’s ticking!”
Each time she jumped in a van, she could feel the government tremble just a little bit.
Published on July 31, 2020 10:53