A Warning (Part Two)

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“If you come through that door you won’t get one step further!,” Jeremy promised the intruder. He cocked the shotgun for emphasis so that the person could hear just what kind of firepower they were up against. The house was totally silent with the only noise coming from the howling wind and occasional thunder, so Jeremy’s threat was clearly audible and soon answered.

Two more successive slams against the door proved that the intruder was either crazy or thought himself bullet proof. The last blow splintered the wood in the center. I realized in that moment that if the shotgun missed or somehow misfired I might be standing in a dark room alone with a maniac. My sweaty palm gripped the 9mm and I braced myself for the next blow. When it didn’t come Jeremy backed up and whispered to me, “We’re going through the kitchen and out the garage door entrance. You go first and I’ll follow.”

“Do you have your keys?” I hoped. Jeremy was many things but organized was not one of them.

“Not on me. We just have to make it outside and across the street to a neighbor.” He motioned for me to hurry.

The few steps from the darkened living room the lamp lit kitchen seemed to take forever. I kept waiting to hear the sound of wood cracking and a man bursting through. I couldn’t imagine what kind of person would want to get into our home so badly or why. I got to the kitchen door that opens to the garage and my heart sank. I had let the garage door down that night. We were trapped.

“Goddamn it!” Jeremy swore.

The wind suddenly picked up and I could hear tree branches scraping the sides of house outside as if the atmosphere was reacting to Jeremy’s mood. The unmistakable sound of glass shattering exploded in our ears. A grey and white streak of fur darted by my legs and into the pantry. Davey must have been hiding in the sunroom. Jeremy pointed the shotgun into the air in front of the doorway and inched forward. I used my cell phone light to shine into the room so he could see to aim -although I wasn’t sure what he’d be aiming at. The top half of a tree had fallen against one side and landed on the house bursting several glass windows in the process. A terrible stench like rotting leaves and animal remains came from the direction of the tree. As lighting flashed across the sky I could see muddy rain water streaming in through the new holes in our windows and dirt strew across the floor from where the tree had knocked over several house plants.

Jeremy drew closer to the scene, as if some macabre curiosity forced him forward. I shined the light for him so he wouldn’t be surprised by anything. A pitiful mew came from the direction of the pantry and caught my attention. Davey was blind and terrified by all these unusual sounds and smells. I followed his distress cry. The fact that a defenseless animal depended on me, lessened my fear. I stuffed the gun into the back of my jeans pocket and hoped there was no way it could spontaneously fire.

Jeremy backed up quickly and I could hear the shuffling sound of something following him. “They’re climbing up the tree!”

They are? How many people are trying to break into our house?”

“There aren’t any people.” He said it so quietly I almost didn’t hear before I could ask what he meant he shouted at me.

“There’s no time!” He ran down the hall to the front door. The lock had recently broken and it couldn’t be opened from the inside. “Back up and cover your ears.”

He took aim and fire exploded from the end of the gun. I’d heard it fired before, I’d even shot it, but that was at an outdoor shooting range and I’d been wearing protective headgear. This time there was nothing protecting me. I wasn’t able to plug up my ears while holding the cat and Davey carved bloody grooves into my chest in an attempt to scramble away from me. Hot tears ran down my cheeks. My chest was on fire and my ears rang. Jeremy’s voice was muffled like he was screaming into a pillow but I could tell from his expression that he was yelling at the top of his lungs. He put all his weight into delivering a kick to the front door. I still didn’t know who or what was attacking us but I turned my attention toward the danger. An awful sense of dread filled me as the shadows in the house drew together and formed a shape. The door gave way and opened enough for us to see that something blocked it from opening completely.

“It’s a tree!” Jeremy said. “It’s blocking the fucking door.”

Jeremy cursed and gave up on that plan of escape. He turned to see why I’d gone silent and we faced the nightmare together. The mass of black shadows had the vague outline of a man and it might have been my impaired hearing but it sounded like a growl came from it’s center. I could see Jeremy taking aim from the corner of my eye but he didn’t seem to know where to fire. Something like an arm reached out from the swirling mass and long tendrils flexed in my direction. Davey hissed and took a swipe that passed through the arm but caused it to shrink backward.

“You protect this one?” A thin spidery voice asked. I wasn’t sure if it had been spoken aloud or in my head.

“What?”

When the question was repeated I realized it wasn’t being asked of me at all.

Davey bared his fangs and made the fiercest hiss I’d ever heard before turning around in my arms and burying his furry head against my chest.

“Very well,” the voice said. “We will cause no harm.”

Jeremy relaxed the gun beside me. I held my breath as I watched the shadow man withdraw down the hallway and back out of the destroyed window in the sunroom. When it had fully retreated everything went still.

There was no more monstrous wind causing tree limbs to scrape the sides of the house, and no longer any frustrated rumbling from whatever it was that had been trapped in our basement.

Davey leapt from my arms and ran into the sunroom. We both followed and an instant later the lights flickered back on. The giant maple tree in the back yard had completely blown over and crashed into one side of the house shattering several windows . Glass, and mud covered most of the furniture. The light colored carpet in the room was stained with something black and viscous almost like tar.

“What is that?” Jeremy bent down to inspect the semi gelatinous black blob.

“Don’t touch it!” The evidence left behind still gave no indication of what had climbed the tree into our home.

I stared at my cat, who stared back at me as if he could actually see my face. “What happened here?” I asked as if he had the ability to answer. I wondered what he was thinking about. Somehow I knew there was more going on behind those wide green eyes than I’d ever imagined.

I remembered my phone and retrieved it from my back pocket. “My phone’s working now, I’m going to call the police.”

“And tell them what? We were attacked by a shadow?”

“I want to see something.”

I followed him through the house and into the garage. The door was working now and it lifted with a painful slowness. Most of the streetlights had been knocked down by the insane wind but the light in front of our house blinked slowly as it struggled to hold onto it’s tenuous connection to it’s power source.

The houses around us on all sides were gone. The structures themselves had been flattened as if a tornado had touched down on every single one of our neighbors’ homes. In their place trees had grown in an instant, trees that looked as if they’d stood for a hundred years and would stand for a hundred more.

Jeremy wrapped his thick arms around my waist and pulled me close to him. It was hard for my brain to make sense of what I’d seen. “What happened here?” I whispered into his chest.

“I’m not sure, but I think it was a warning.”

A Warning (Part One)

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“Do you have candles anywhere?” Jeremy asked. We were standing in the kitchen, completely dark except for the light attached to his head and my cell phone flashlight. A fierce thunderstorm with gale force winds had knocked our power out.


           “I don’t have any candles.”

          He made a face at me. “Aren’t girls supposed to have that sort of thing? “

I shrugged. “I’ve been using apple scented Airwicks lately.”


           “I think I might have some in the prep room. Can you go down in the basement and check?” He said that last sentence in a deep spooky voice to tease me.

           “I know you can’t see it, but I’m giving you the finger,” I called to him as I made my way to the stairwell.  Famous last words. Of course I’ll go down into the pitch black basement with the creepy maniac who cut our power lines so he could slaughter us in the dark.

           At least I wasn’t alone. My cat Davey dutifully followed me down the stairs. The thunder rumbled just outside the door and the wind howled like a demonic wizard had summoned it from the depths of hell. I’d never heard wind make so much noise. Davey stopped and turned in the direction of the basement window as a tree branch ominously scraped across. Since he’s blind he’s even more sensitive to noise. “It’s okay, I’m right here,” I reassured him.

           The prep room was a closet with shelves of stacked canned goods, dehydrated meat and bottled water. Jeremy wanted to be ready for the total economic collapse or zombie apocalpyse he knew was coming. We had enough food for the two of us for six months and a 50 gallon water container outside. I shined my cell phone flashlight over the batteries, and various tools stored with our food. I found matches but no candles. There was however, an old oil lamp on the shelf.

           A few minutes later we were sitting at the kitchen table eating hamburger steak with onions by the light of the oil lamp. It was March so the heat hadn’t grown oppressive yet and the scene was almost romantic. A beeping sound followed by a ear shattering siren spoiled the mood. “Is that our security alarm?” I’d clamped my hands over my ears in an attempt to muffle the sound. The alarm had never made more noise than an occasional chirp to let us know it was working.

           “Something must have triggered it..” Jeremy typed a sequence into the panel and it turned off a few seconds later.”

           As he did this outside alarms belonging to our neighbors on both sides of our house started to ring. “What the hell is going on?”

           “Maybe the power outage caused them to malfunction?”

           It was a weak answer but I would have accepted it if it hadn’t been followed up by the banging sound of a door bursting open below us. It had come from the basement where I’d been just moments before.

           Jeremy put a finger to his lips signaling that I should be quiet. “Follow me to the bedroom,” he whispered. “Don’t step on those squeaky floorboards.”

           We tip toed down the hall to the master bedroom where he armed himself with his pump action shotgun. He handed me his 9mm and flipped the switch on the safety. “It’s ready to fire. Just like I taught you at the range, remember?” My hands were shaking so bad when he handed me the gun I nearly dropped it.

           He kissed me on the forehead. “We’ll get through this.” He pulled out his phone to and started to dial 911. “All we have to do is make it until the cops get here.”

           After a few seconds of no one answering I began to worry.

           Jeremy made a face and dialed again. “That’s weird. The call keeps getting dropped.”

           “Let me try mine.” I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and my stomach lurched. No signal. “What are we going to do?”

“First we get out of the house and go to a neighbors to call the police.”

           A loud crash from the basement tore a scream from my throat. Jeremy jumped in front of me and pointed the shotgun down the hallway. “Stay here.” He hissed behind him.

           “Like hell,” I whisper shouted back to him.

           He closed the door to the basement but it didn’t lock from our side. “We need to barricade the door. He put his shotgun down to grab one end of the couch. “Help me with this.”

           We half lifted half slid the couch in front of the door just in time. I could hear heavy footsteps making their way up the carpeted basement stairs. There was a step followed by a dragging thump as if the person walking up the stairs had a lame leg.

           Jeremy stood beside me and pointed his gun at the door. “If anything comes through that door I’ll blow it’s head off. You might want to stand back a little farther because it’s going to be very loud.”

           My entire body shook with nervous anticipation. I head my 9mm in a death grip. I was lucky that I’d started a fire in the fireplace before dinner or we wouldn’t have had any light to see. I might have accidentally hit him instead of the intruder. Although from the sound of it, the man was a plenty big enough target.

           A fist slammed against the door.

Something to Smile About

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“She’s here again,” Shane said as he passed me carrying a plate of steaming pasta. That wasn’t good, the fact that he’d noticed me noticing her.  Then again it was hard not to notice a Golden. Shane had been gay since before Gender Flu and he even stared at her.

I peered into the dining room from the small kitchen window. She sat across from her assigned companion with her back in my direction. The low candle light from the tables cast a golden glow around her. If I believed in the existence of angels I would think she were one. The blonde hair that fell down her back made her more valuable than any other female in the room. I couldn’t see her face but she was looking down at her hands. She wasn’t happy to be at Cha Bella having dinner, or either she wasn’t happy with her companion, it was hard to tell.

The man with her was young for one of those Dating Pool freaks. He frowned at her from across the table and looked as if someone had pissed in his minestrone. If they’d sat at my table I would have pissed in it! This was the third time I’d seen them here, so that must mean she hadn’t conceived yet. Good, there is still time.

Shane sat the pasta down in front of her companion and headed back toward the kitchen.

“Didn’t she order something?” I asked him.

“She had a side salad but no entree. She said she wasn’t that hungry.” Shane moved on to the ticket window to pick up his next order. There were only two of us working the entire restaurant at a time. Times were hard and only a select group of people could afford to eat so the restaurant had more business than two waiters could handle.

That dickhead probably didn’t want to pay for her dinner. I would fix him. “Want to see something funny?” I moved over to the desert counter and opened the mini fridge to pull out a previously frozen precut piece of tiramisu.

The Chef looked up from his work and glared at me. He knew we had a limited supply of deserts on hand. The tiramisu, like many things was rationed. He shook his head and then  stirred a pot of noodles with his left hand and with his right hand he flipped the handful of tiny shrimp he had frying in the pan. Their was no Sous Chef or Assistant Chef and man was simply too busy to worry about what I did. I was thankful for this. I was also thankful for the fact that he was also responsible for the inventory.

“What are you doing with that?” He knew I was up to something and couldn’t help but smile. He needed his job too badly to do anything against regulations, but he fully supported my attempts to thwart the authority.

“Just watch.” I placed the delicate dessert on a saucer and added a swirl of whip cream and a chocolate covered espresso bean right on top. With one hand on the kitchen door called out to Shane over my shoulder, “This is going to be fun!”

 

 

 

 

Writing fun with friends

So I’ve got my manuscript with one agent and my first 50 pages with another. Besides that I have queries pending with five others. I’ve done the responsible thing and started the outline for book 2 in my planned dystopian trilogy. I’ll have a more definitive answer the next time someone asks me how long it will take to crank out book number two. In the mean time I decided to give myself a break and play a little game with my writer friends.

I’m not sure what the term is for this but we started with one paragraph previously written as a writing prompt and flipped a coin to see who would continue the story first. The person whose turn it was with the story had 3 days to complete their section. We hadn’t yet determined the exact length of sections, but we did decide that the writer would owe a drink to the other two participants if they didn’t finish on time. I won the coin toss and was given the first opportunity to continue the story. I typically use every excuse in the book not to sit down and write but having a deadline helped me focus. I finished my section with a few hours of receiving the first paragraph and by the end of the night the others had each finished a section as well! Before I knew it the writing was back around to me again.

This exercise has turned out to be the highlight of my day for three entire days. I am delighted every time I open my email and see that the story has gotten a little longer! The first round was not more that a few hundred words each so the story still isn’t very long yet but I’m excited about the SciFi direction it’s heading in. I’ve decided to post a little of it here in hopes that others will enjoy it as well.

Untitled SciFi Adventure by Curt Shannon, Logan Grey and Mary Beecroft

(Round 1)

 

Jessie stood by the open window, bathing in the morning sunlight. Once again I marveled at how settled she appeared, despite all she had been through. She had decided to keep her head shaved after the accident – the scar that ran across her skull from ear to ear still pulsed bright red.

She tapped her long fingers on the window sill, then turned to me, frowning.

“When will they let me out of this place?”

“That depends on you,” I said. “It’s common with a brain injury to lose some short term memory. What do you remember from before?”

She turned to look at me. Her cold blue eyes held me with an intensity that only came with years of training. She had seen horrible things and didn’t want to remember them, that much was certain.

“I don’t trust you. You’re not here to help me. You only want information.”

“And what do you want?” I had been trained in interrogation tactics and knew that I had to find some connection with this woman. It was a difficult task becase there was so little known about her. For instance she had several identities and I wasn’t even sure of her planet of origin.

“Do you have a cigarette?”

I reached into my suit jacket and pulled out a pack of camels that were partly crushed. I  managed to find at least one that wasn’t ruined completely and handed it to her along with a lighter from my pants pocket.

Jessie, if that was her real name, didn’t light the cigarette but tore off the paper instead and poured the tobacco into her mouth as if it were a powdered pixie stick. This action left no doubt in my mind–she was from Mars. I found it interesting that she chose to reveal herself in this way. “I take it you haven’t been on Earth for long?”

“Only for about six months I think. But it’s hard to say for sure.”

“It must have been a terrifying experience, the crash I mean.”

She smiled with one side of her face and showed me a bit of teeth dotted with brown tobacco flakes. “What happened before the crash was much worse.”

I looked away, feigning interest in the soldiers filing past the window. Although it would be a stretch to say I’d grown fond of Jessie, I’d found myself admiring her fortitude. But a Martian — she was a goddamn Martian. Her memory might not have been all there, but apparently she hadn’t forgotten their disgusting habits. I breathed out and turned to her with a much practiced look of concern. Not only was I her psychiatrist, I was her interrogator. I had no choice but to play nice.

“Please start from the beginning. Do you remember why you came to Earth?”

She took her time running her tongue across the front of her teeth. “I’m not a spy,” she said at last.

“I didn’t say you were.”

“I’m also not an idiot.” Her smile was even colder than her eyes. “A face,” she said, shifting her gaze out the window again. “It’s the only thing I clearly remember.”

“Someone you knew?”

She shook her head and brought her arms in tight over her chest. “Not even human.”

“Like in those pictures you’ve been drawing?”

She stepped back, out of the sunlight and into the corner. She ran a hand over her scar. “You people have no end to your questions. All these fucking questions. But no one’s really listening. Why won’t you listen?” I didn’t like the sound of her voice — nervous, desperate. This wasn’t like her.

“I’m listening, Jessie.” I moved toward her and set a hand on her shoulder. “You know you can tell me anything.”

“That face, I didn’t escape it.” She grabbed my hand with a strength that startled me. Her eyes flickered to mine. Up close they seemed more than cold, distant. They were terrified. “It followed me here.”

   I opened my mouth but was interrupted by the shrill cry of the facility’s alarm.

Jessie’s eyes darted to the door. I knew I had to stay calm no matter what.

“It might be a false alarm, like the other times.”

Jessie shook her head and said, “No, it’s different this time.”  Now her voice was calm again. Had she known this was going to happen, some kind of precognition? There was so little I had found out about her since she had arrived.  

She tried to slide off the examining table and stand, but instead collapsed in a heap on the floor. Without gravity adjusters, she couldn’t hold up her weight and certainly couldn’t walk. She tried again to stand, but failed. She cried out, a mixture of pain, frustration, and fear that sounds the same in every species.

I could hear people yelling and running outside, among them Professor Klingor. “Michael, open the door. We have to get her out of here.” But Jessie looked up to me and motioned silence, while Klingor banged on the door incessantly.   

Somehow I knew Jessica was telling the truth. I walked to the metal cabinet at the back of the room and stared into the retina scan lock, waiting anxiously for the recognition protocol to kick in.  It finally did and the cabinet door swung open. With shaking hands I found the grav braclets and tossed them to Jessie. She couldn’t raise her arms fast enough to catch them and they clattered on the floor behind her. She turned and shambled over to them.   

I took out the disruptor and set it to max strength.

At that moment, the alarm abruptly stopped. There was only silence beyond the door. I turned and waited.  Was it my imagination or was something happening to the door? The frame groaned as hinges unbuckled and the blue-gray metal of the door seemed to begin collapsing into itself. And beyond the door, I caught a glimpse…

Jessie was right.  It was different this time.

I was about to fire the disruptor when I heard a cry and the sound of shattered plexiglass behind me.  I turned to see Jessica standing at the now-open window, her hand bleeding, the jagged edges of the double-paned plexiglass security window still falling around her. She kicked at a low-hanging shard of glass and it fell, shattering on the floor.

“How did you…?”

“No time to talk.  Time to run.”  She stepped onto the ledge and adjusted the gravbracelets and floated just outside the window. Without thinking I raced to the window and leapt into her arms.

Please visit Mary Beecroft’s blog for travel adventures and reviews: marybeecroft.wordpress.com.

To find out if Curt Shannon dreams of Electric Sheep please stay tuned.