The Collector

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I was in the middle of a bad break up and a friend of mine invited me to store my things in the basement of the building in which she lived. She had offered for me to stay with her but I declined. More friendships had been dissolved or destroyed by moving in other people’s spaces. I had lost my man; I certainly didn’t want to lose one of my best friends. But I was happy for the space to store my things until I could find a place of my own.

The building had no basement to speak of; that is unless you considered a collection of storage cubicles and cages warehoused in an area that looked like a closed off concrete garage, a basement. There were a total of fourteen sections of cages, one for each floor of the building, and six additional cubicles with three sides made of concrete and gates for the closure. I didn’t give it a second thought as I pulled my car into the gated area marked with my friend’s apartment number to unload the bulk of my belongings. I didn’t plan on being here long. Despite being well lit and fairly open, the space was casually creepy: almost as if it had been intentionally designed that way.

I had other things to tend to. I did not have time to spend agonizing about the feelings elicited from my intended storage space, but something piqued my curiosity.  This was not the time to suddenly be experiencing symptoms of the Sci-Fi investigation gene; for one thing I had seen how on multiple occasions it led to unhappy endings in both sci-fi movies and horror films.

But as I stood looking at the space parallel to mine I saw an old roadster, what would have been considered a sports car in its day. It was clean as if it had been washed and polished recently. The remaining contents of the cage, however, were covered with dust so thick you could germinate seeds. If that wasn’t enough to raise some questions, the fact that the floor seemed to be free of dust and dirt as well, more than bothered me.

Beyond curiosity now I wanted to see what the other cages held. In the cubicle next to me, there were no boxes or containers, but it held a large ebony wood carriage, like the kind that drove the wealthy before cars were invented. It must have been the pride of whoever owned it. It had neither scratch nor scar. It would have been valuable and though obviously quite old it was as clean as if it had never been used. Even the wheels looked as if they had never touched ground. The space around it had neither dirt nor dust, the same as the floor where the roadster was held.

Curious I called my friend.

“Who owns all these antiques that are down here?” I asked when she answered the phone.

“I don’t know. I have never stored anything down there. The space is mine but I don’t have a vehicle and I don’t have many belongings to need extra storage facilities. I was offered the space if I needed it in the future, but I have never used it. In fact I have only been down there once and I never paid any attention to what else was there. The place made me feel uneasy.” She replied

I knew what she meant, but now I wanted to see each cubicle from the beginning. Some sections had small closet like cages only large enough for personal belongings. But in each I noticed some antique item that had been preserved immaculately, despite being surrounded by dust-covered crates, containers, and boxes. Every floor surface was cleaned and polished.

I wondered how they managed to keep the floor, the cars, and other items so clean while the rest of the cage was covered with dust.

The fourteenth floor’s cages, where my friend’s storage space was housed, were closer to the entry gate and seemed to be cleaner and contain more recent treasures. Elaborate sport or luxury cars, art work, motorcycles,   and even jewelry.

I supposed the items were safe enough. Nobody seemed to come in or out at the time I was there. I imaged, like my friend, that nobody even knew or paid attention to what was down there.

I was startled when a handsome older gentleman approached me. He was casually but expensively dressed.

“You seem very interested in my collection,” he said, “might I show you around?”

“How nice of you to offer, do you live in the building?” I asked.

“No, I own the building, and though I have never lived here, I have had many friends who have. Each of these spaces contains a treasure or memento left to me by my friends.” He said and looked nostalgic.

I didn’t feel radars going off so I accepted his offer to tour the facility. In his conversation I learned that he had bought the building as a youth and that money, very old money, from family long ago had allowed him to collect and preserve some of the most interesting things. He seemed to favor cars and such, but admired art and jewelry as well.

He spoke as if he had known the owners of each cage or cubicle personally, and seemed to cherish the memory of each meeting. His list of friends read like a who’s who throughout the centuries, and I was beginning to get the feeling that there was more to him than just a wealthy landlord.

From the twelfth floor cages he showed me a race car owned by a famous driver from the very first Indie 500, from the sixth floor we saw the jewelry of a famous movie star, he had manuscripts and parchments from ancient authors from the third floor, and in the first floor cages he showed me his pride and joy; A golden chariot and sarcophagus, and a selection of gold artifacts.

I was stunned and amazed. In this room there was not a speck of dust or dirt despite all of its surroundings.

“Who are you?” I asked, “It’s is impossible to have known all of these people from living in this building.”

“You are correct. Many did not live here, some lived before the building even existed, but I have collected and stored their things here just the same.  I have sorted and packed the things that had meaning to them, and displayed for my own pleasure the things that were most valuable to me.  As to who I am, well let’s say I walked among the pharaohs and were counted worthy among those who lived back then. Those things are counted the most precious of my belongings.  When the building is too old to house them any longer, my collection and I will move on.

“But how can you outlive the building? That’s impossible!” I said.

“On the contrary, I have already outlived several structures, and some I have simply outgrown. I have had many wives and children, friends and family, all whose treasures I maintain. Though I do not open often those who have no personal connection to me, always I display their most valuable treasure. I have lived many lives of men, and I shall live many more.”

I was not afraid, but suddenly I began to feel as if I did not belong here.

“Will I be doing your collection a disservice to leave my things here?  I have no place to put them presently, and I am not certain how long it will be before they have a home of their own.”

“No, you may leave them here as long as you need. The residents seldom use this space for very long; many move on after a few years, some have left their things behind and never returned for them.”

“Is that why some of the cages are so dusty?”

“Yes, even for them I display their most valuable treasure, but I do not disturb their belongings.  Like the roadster, which belonged to a young aristocrat, he left one day and never came back, no one knew what happened to him. I have managed his belongings for a century but he never returned. His car seemed to be his most favorite belonging. I have preserved it as it was when he purchased it.”

“That seems like such a sad life to have forever, maintaining things from the pasts of others.” I said.

“No, I have had a life of tears and joys, loves and losses. It is my lot. If you wish I will share it with you. A woman like you seems like a valuable asset. You seem like a life of treasure would suit you. You will never want for anything, and in the end though I will lose you, I will maintain the memory of you forever.”

I was flattered. Here was a man who did not know me, offering to care for me and cherish my memory forever, without knowing a thing about me.  I had never known a person like him.

After a year of getting to know him, I removed my car from the storage and gave it to my friend. As he had said, she too got married and moved away. My belongings stayed in the storage which belonged to her apartment, but I no longer needed many of the things I had stored there.  He had begun to fill my life with replacement treasures and only the things given to me by my loved ones mattered anymore. I had a garage sale and sold most of what was stored there, packed the remaining items in strong wooden crates, and pushed them over to the wall. I did not value cars or jewelry, and though I loved art, it was not likely that I would ever own any that was worth anything. I wondered when I was gone, what would be the thing that was of value that he would display.  It would take my lifetime to know.

The Collector, © DJuna Blackmon 2015, All Rights Reserved

Applied Science – On a clear day…

I had heard it said that on a clear day you could see forever.

Well forever is a mighty long fucking time, and living in the negative times we lived in, it was hard enough to have to see as far as next week and if forever looked as bad as it looked now, why would anyone want to see it.

Sure enough that would be a reason for considering suicide.

But just for the hell of it I waited to see if it was true. I looked from the window of our sparsely furnished apt, and waited for a day that was clear. I had stopped going outside months ago. It didn’t seem productive. The air was polluted, the possibility of being exposed to some bacteria or virus that could kill you was great, and on top of that, it was just plain dangerous.

The year was 2055, and I had suffered many illnesses, lost two thirds of my friends and family, and now lived in a small two bedroom apartment. We had discovered the building some years ago. My brother had received an envelope with a description of the building and a package with the keys, combinations, and instructions for getting to and in the building. I had thought that it had come from a nut.

Then my brother was a scientist at a research company and he got lots of weird stuff from people in the mail. But he did not seem to think it was a nut or a joke and guarded the envelope like it was the key to some treasure.

When the difficulties had begun, he did not seem at all surprised and began looking for the building right away. It had two armored entry doors, it was smooth and uneasily scaled, with high sealed windows, and it looked as if it had been built to discourage access. In the times in which we currently lived I could see why, but it was hard to image why someone would have built something like this back in the 1970’s.

My brothers scavenged for food, and my sister and I tried to keep things tidy and sanitary,. which was hard in the filth the city had become. But survival depended on keeping things as clean as we could get them. The cabinets and closets had been filled to the brim with cleaners and disinfectants when we first arrived. I though it odd and assumed the person who had lived here must have been a real germiphobe. But my brother being the scientist had replied, “I doubt that, then they would have used them and the bottles would be empty. These were left here for us.”

I looked at him strangely, but shrugged and accepted his analogy, but how could anyone have known we would need them and why so much. Many days after, I began to appreciate the store of cleaners, especially when they began to get low and we had to find them outside. We boiled the water and collected cleaning supplies when we could find them. Occasionally running across a buried store of supplies in one of the used to be superstores that cluttered the metropolitan areas in the early part of the millennium. We found lots of things there. Dead things, half living things, and even valuable things. We’d bag up what we could find and take it home for sorting. Since I no longer left the house often this became my job. I would keep what we could use and then my brother’s would take what we didn’t need or couldn’t use and trade it with people who could.

On the day that dawned clear, I was cleaning a window high up in the building we called home. I watched as a large ball of flame swallowed up everything, and stood riveted as a storm covered the surface of the land as far as I could see. The last vision was an armada of ships, space ships. I covered my eyes and cowered as if they could see me.

Overcome with fear and despair, I was suddenly filled with the urge to throw myself from the window. Unfortunately at this height in this high-rise building the windows did not open. I slid down and remained sitting in that same spot until my sister returned. When she could not elicit a response from me she grew concerned, and when I finally did speak what I told her made her even more concerned.

“We are all going to die!”

“Yes one day we are all going to die, but not today. What the hell has gotten into you?”

“They said that on a clear day you could see forever so I looked.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about but you’re going to lie down until the boys get back. I won’t have you falling apart now. We have too much to accomplish.”

When my brothers arrived I told them what I saw. My other brother, an ex-soldier, thought I was losing my grip or succumbing to some illness, but my older brother, scientist that he was knelt beside me and asked me to explain to him what I had seen. It was dark outside and I couldn’t show him and I didn’t know when there would be another clear day so I attempted to explain what I had seen.

He looked pensive and stood to look out of the window.

“On the next clear day you must show me where you were looking.” he said.

The other’s looked at him amazed.

“What it is?” my other brother asked, “Is there something to what she saw?”

“I don’t know yet, but I need to see to be certain.” My older brother replied.

It only took two days for it to be clear and sunny again. Which was odd since it had been many months since such atmosphere had existed. My younger brother and sister went out to handle the scavenging and my older brother stayed behind to stare into forever with me. We stood at the recently cleaned window, which I had wiped again to be certain I had created the exact same conditions as before. I pointed in the direction of the clear empty sky. For a moment we saw nothing and I began to doubt my sanity, but my brother stood stark still and waited. He was not disappointed, though what he saw was different than what I had seen two days prior. Today the fireball seemed closer, the super-storms had passed and the Armada seemed to be search for something.

My brother watched a good deal longer than I had been able and when he was done he was calm but pensive again. He took out his computer, which he reserved for emergencies. It ran on stored solar energy from panels we had collected from the roof of buildings no longer in use. He ran a series of calculations on it’s fancy scientific programs. The space into which we were peering was apparently some temporal time gap, moving in several phases, though none the immediate present. After a short time he looked up at me and said, “We have to prepare to leave soon. If we are going to be gone when that fireball hits we will need to be gone in two weeks tops, and far enough away not to be caught in the fallout. The storms are four or five months away.” he said.

He did not talk about the Armada.

In the weeks in which we prepared to depart, I stumbled upon a small cabinet we had never opened. Inside there were a variety of things which I took and put in a back pack. Several vacuum sealed candy bars, a fire arm with the shells, syringes, a list with suggested items to collect among which was antibiotics, first aid supplies, and an envelope with maps and coordinates. I gave the backpack to my other brother. He would most likely know what was to be done with it, and would be able to inspect and verify the safety of the firearm. It was sometimes a good thing to have around when you had someone familiar with how to use one. For others it was dangerous especially if accosted by someone with a desire to take it away. But being a sharp shoot had been one of the benefits of having military training. But hopefully we wouldn’t need it.

Were readied ourselves to leave. Our electric paneled truck had been outfitted to recharge with solar panels, as long as there was sun during the day we’d have power to drive at night. There was no way to be certain of the roads or what we would run into, but my brother seemed confident we would reach our destination no matter what difficulties we might face on the way.

If my brother’s calculations were correct, even if we missed the fire ball we would arrive in Kentucky just in time to find shelter before the storms. Even if we were lucky enough to survive the trip across county, and the coming super cells, my brother said we might still not be among those chosen to leave when the last of mankind were selected to be rescued from our dying planet. I was shock at his revelation.

Apparently the building had been a temporal window for several of the inhabitants of our apartment. The lucky few to understand and heed what they had seen would be there to assist us if and when we arrived. The others were now too old but had followed their directives to make certain the things we needed were in the places we were destined to find them. I shuddered to think now that I realized the gun had been left there intentionally. The person who left it had to be privy to some circumstance that mandated it’s necessity. They must also have known there would be someone who could use it. Because of my fragility, the candies had been included to help control my glucose levels. Though I was not diabetic, my energy was often too low to endure too many activities that required stamina. With maps to guide us and our path laid out for us, we looked upon the place we had called home. It was the last time we would see it.

It was a shame the building would not last the fireball, but it had, my brother believed, served it’s purpose. He never said how he knew this, or explained fully what it was he saw, but one thing was certain, we would arrive at our intended destination. Maybe worse for the wear, but we would live to see a future.

A clear day might have given a vision of what to look forward to, but it did not tell us how to survive to arrive there safely. My brother did not have all the answers, nor were they provided by those who had seen the visions before us. But if he applied all he had learned, and we used our brains as well as our technology, then maybe we would have a fighting chance to be among those who would be the remnant of our world.

What was the point of science if it could not be applied to survival?

Applied Science © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

Couch Potato

 

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My name is Mignon Celestia, and I am a Twenty eight year old neobotanist in a human colony on a planet called Arkellia. I’ve been here for the past five years, but before that I lived with my father on an Arkellian space station. I still live with my parents, which is amazing after all I put them through as a teenager. But after my experiences back then I learned to appreciate them, as well as a lot of other things.

Until I was 12 years old we still lived on earth. My mother and two thirds of the neighborhood called me minion because they claimed I behaved like the spawn of the devil. I was bossy, brash, rude, disrespectful, and a bully; and those were my good qualities. I was a glut, a couch potato, and like many of my human counterparts, I was addicted to carbohydrates, sugars, violence, and media. I preferred my video games, my computer, and my television to live company any day, sitting and consuming junk food.

“You had better stop eating like that or one day your stomach is going to burst.” my mother would tease.

It’s a wonder that I somehow managed to maintain a 4.0 grade point average in school. I wasn’t a dummy. I was mostly just bored out of my skull.

My father was a Neocryptologist. For those of you who don’t know what that is, don’t worry, I didn’t know what he did either. But apparently when I was fourteen years old he spent a lot of his time deciphering communications between alien arrivals (Arkellian) and the scientific community; which was a trip, because during that time no one had known that there was such a thing as alien arrivals. My dad’s primary job was keeping it that way. The government couldn’t be trusted with the responsibility, and the general population was too afraid of everything to even comprehend the importance of the Arkellian’s arrival at that time.

The Arkellians were there to determine if assisting earth with space travel was prudent since humans seemed to have the nasty habit of polluting and destroying their own environment. Species like that usually ended up as nomad class, little better than parasites moving from planet to planet because they couldn’t be trusted to stay on any one world too long for fear that their abusive habits would destroy the host planet. There were others, whom the Arkellian and other important races of aliens kept strict control of every facet of their lives, everything from breeding to eating.

The Arkellians were a very conservative race, they didn’t believe in any form of waste or debauchery. For every ounce of energy used or resource gathered it was required for there to be a replacement. You couldn’t just cut a tree and plant one, you had to have a plan to regulate the level of oxygen replacement while the new tree grew, calculate the solar damage being done to the surrounding area, and even account for the use of every part of the tree from the leaves to the trunk. Everything had to be used. They were this way about everything; water, fuels resources, power and energy, even food.

The Arkellians had come to monitor our behaviors and attempt to teach us to improve our interaction with the planet. They knew it would be some time before we were able to develop the technology necessary to leave our own solar system so they ventured to our world to attempt to augment our thinking to a more planetary one.

It was during this time that I had decided to become a nuisance at school and began spending the majority of my days in the principal’s office. My mother’s solution to this was to send me to live with my father. They were still married so I didn’t understand the need for them to live separately. I loved my father, which might have explained some of my behavior. On the day selected for my move my father sat me down and explained that I would be experiencing something new and that it would be necessary for me to be on my best behavior. In most cases my best didn’t measure up to even the worst of others. I didn’t know what he expected of me.

Twelve hours later I was escorted to a very clinical looking facility. I was given a complete physical, a series of inoculations, given a uniform like my father’s to wear. The suit was made so that all of my bodily functions were monitored.

“My god,” I said, “You’d think they were prepping me for space travel.” I laughed.

My father held his comment until we had reached a room that looked like isolation chambers. He opened the tube and walked in. I followed innocently. When he stood facing me in the tube opposite and had closed the doors he said, “They are.” It was the last thing I heard.

I beat on the glass and screamed, but the effort was wasted. The tube filled with an almost foam like substance which later solidified to a gel like consistency. I could breath but I could not move. He couldn’t hear my screams, his own tube was preparing for departure. In moments we were both in a sleep like stasis preparing for real space travel. In the ship in which we traveled the trip would take months. It was not necessary for us to hurry and the Arkellians would make the best use of the time teaching us and retraining our bodies.

When I woke on board one month later, my body had already been readjusted to the change in atmosphere, but the thing they had not adjusted was my attitude. I was angry and screaming. The young attendant, or at least I took her to be young, communicated my state by computer and moments later my father was escorted to my quarters.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were taking me into space, and who or what are these people?”

“They are Arkellians and they are here to teach us how to make better use of our planets resources.” He went on to explain the state of our planet, our predicament as a planetary race, and how imperative it was for us to change our way of thinking.”

By the time he was discussing our behavior I had nearly tuned him out. I was not going to spend the next six months letting alien creatures tell me what to do. At least that’s what I thought.

The first week I was belligerent, but there was nothing in the room if you wanted to call it that, that I could break. Everything was made of a soft indestructible material. It was comfortable to sit on and to sleep on, yet it was firm enough to serve as a table for my food and drink. Because of my behavior, that was all I got. Three meals with all the necessary elements of things required for taste, aesthetics and nutrition. That meant I hated everything, or at least I thought I did until I tasted it. After which I had a moment from the story ‘Oliver’ asking “please sir may I have some more.”

The Arkellians interpreted this as an insult. They had calculated what was necessary to sustain my ideal body mass, trim off my excess bulk, and provide me with enough energy to maneuver around the ship if I was ever lucky enough to be allowed out of my quarters. They could not fathom that I might want more than this. My meals grew smaller, diet smaller. Though they did not say anything they had made their point.

My father visited me on the second week awake and told me about the Arkellian protocols and way of life. I looked at him in amazement.

“You can’t possibly believe I’m going to deal with this for six months.” I said not wanting to overstep my boundaries too far. It was one thing to backtalk my mother and quite another thing to jeopardize my father’s job.

“I don’t see where you have much choice. Of course you could have behaved at home and not had to be here at all, but since that isn’t the case, I suppose you’ll have to make the best of it.” he responded.

It was like him to throw a jibe in at me when I had to suffer a mess of my own making.

“We are guests more than anything up here, if it’s possible can you try not to say or do anything else that might contribute to the destruction of the earth.” he smiled.

I kept hearing all this talk about wasteful species and failing planet, and all I could think of was how great it would be to watch TV and sit and have a pizza. It showed up, TV for an hour and a single slice of excellent pizza. It had never occurred to me that I had mentally called it up, or that my room was designed to provision me with whatever I wanted as long as I didn’t ask for more than was necessary. I learned this by accident.

“I’m bored. I want something interesting to do. My attendant arrived carrying a computer; powerful unlike any I had yet seen. She showed me how to use it and left. It’s desktop had four icons; develop your skills, cultivate interests, historical archives, and challenge your mind. I was intrigued by all except the history section, at least for the moment.

I didn’t have any skills yet, and I wasn’t in the mood for what I thought might be games, so I clicked on ‘cultivate interests. The ceiling became an amphitheater which displayed information about every item I wanted to investigate. When it discussed the cultivation of new plant life for developing planets I was struck. What was a developing planet? I watched as world builders created planets and different species beings worked to create plants to suit the atmosphere and provide for the inhabitants. I watched until I could barely hold my eyes open. The computer shut off automatically, announcing it was time to relax and allow my brain to regenerate.

I was too interested to be angry, and instead instinctively laid back, and asked for a blanket. In moments one was provided. I asked for dinner and it was delivered. I asked for apple pie and was given a slice. But then I pressed my luck requesting ice cream, chocolate and whip cream to put on top. The sensors simply responded that this was not a necessity. Like everything else the Arkellian designed, it understood the difference between a need and a desire. It accepted the idea that dessert might be an acceptable request, but would not allow me to exceed my daily bodily requirements. I could ask for whatever I wanted as long as it didn’t surpass too greatly what I needed but I didn’t get that lesson.

For the moment I decided I would behave so I might see the ship. No point being confined indefinitely to my quarters. I apologized to the attendant, and accepted what was given to me. I participated in requested activities, which they tried to keep interesting, but when it came to food I was never satisfied though I never asked for more again. I tried asking for snacks, but there was nowhere to stash things.

I was slowly diminishing in size. If my father noticed he didn’t say anything. The Arkellians were not fond of vanity, so there were no mirrors around for me to see just how tight and tone I was actually getting. By the time the ship reached the Arkellian space station I had lost the equivalent of 40 lbs which I might have noticed if the gravity on the station wasn’t slightly less/greater than earth atmosphere. Of course the uniform also covered a great deal of what used to be sins.

On the space station we were allowed our own quarters and my own things had arrived. I was stunned to see that none of my own clothes fit. My father suggested I learn to sew, or wear what they wore on the station. I didn’t think sewing would be a quick enough solution though I was not now adverse to learning new things, but I objected to the station uniforms thinking I would look fat and unattractive. All zipped up they were sleek and attractive and though I had not been concerned about it much before I felt pretty.

I attended school with the Arkellian children. They were smart and strong. Though I had no difficulty keeping up, which seemed to amaze them, my tendency to bully did not sit well. Arkellians could be fierce in a fight and I found myself pinned to the floor. The younger Arkellian boy bared his razor sharp teeth and said, “If you had done thus in the history of my people, I would have torn out your throat, but we are civilized, if you plan to stay here I suggest you learn quickly to adapt, or your survival may be shortened.”

I didn’t fight again, but after that I was sullen and ill tempered.

“When can I go back home?” I asked my father when he returned from work one evening.

“It will be some time before I go back, but your mother has asked if she may come here. The Arkellians have agreed to let her visit for one month. If you wish to go when she goes back you may.”

I didn’t like it at home when my father wasn’t there, but things were too different for me to stay here much longer. It took four months for my mother to arrive. She had brought a trunk of my favorite junk foods, but when she saw me she said, “Oh my, look at you so pretty, maybe I should have left this back on earth.”

I couldn’t wait to sit and consume everything she had brought with her. My father was concerned.

“That may not mix well with the way her chemistry has been altered here, maybe you should wait until I can check to see if it will be a problem.” he said.

“Oh for goodness sake, quit tripping dad,” I said reverting back to home behavior. I stuffed my face nonstop watching TV, then more while playing on the computer. I had adjusted to the time limiting of the technology, and found other ways to spark my interests, but food especially junk food was one thing I missed, and I was going to get my fill.

“I keep telling you, you shouldn’t eat like that, one day you’re going to explode.” said my mother

I stopped momentarily, her choice of words felt in some way ominous, but I did not stop eating for long. After an hour I began to feel ill. When it didn’t subside my father went to fetch the station doctor, but before he could return there was a loud rumble in my stomach and an explosion like a small explosive had been ignited and gone off inside a wet enclosure. Never mind that the enclosure had been me.

By the time my father returned I was unconscious. Bits of food and flesh covered everything. My mother was in shock; I was hurried to a stasis chamber and stabilized. My mother and father were both heartbroken. I was their only child and it did not look as if I were going to make it. The Arkellians felt sorry for me and made my parents an offer. They could return to earth and leave me on the station in stasis until such time as they could find a suitable way to let go of me, or they could take me to Arkellia and use available technology to save me. If they made this choice, I would never be able to go back to earth. Sufficient technology did not exist there to repair and maintain what would need to be done to save me. On Arkellia there would also be many other like me who had been in accidents or obtained injuries during conflicts and such, so I would not feel like an outcast.

My father could not bear to leave me. So both my parents sold everything they had, liquidated every ounce of financial holding they had and purchased materials and goods valuable to Arkellia, seeds, metals, medicine, and fabrics and in four months returned with everything to collect my body and travel to Arkellia.

A procedure was performed to give me a cyborg middle. Though I can taste food, I can no longer eat large amounts. I no longer have a stomach or digestive tract, I have a processor which breaks down small amounts and converts them into enough energy to maintain all my functions and the remaining flesh and blood parts of my body. Every day I am required to hook up to the mainframe in our home and allow it to run diagnostics on my systems to make certain they are running correctly.

I finished high school early and went to college with Arkellian girls to become a neobotanist. In the five years I have been on Arkellia I have learned and done more than I ever thought possible, but I sometimes miss the earth. In the history program on my computer I learned the fate of earth, which would in a very short time be destroyed during a galactic war and the survivors would be moved to a series of developed worlds which will have plants I have grown for it.

I looked up and grabbed a fruit from the small tree I had been pruning; I tasted the sweetest apple pear I had ever had. I cut the remaining pear in many slices and handed it to my co-workers. At home I would never have eaten any fruit with such relish, or at all if I was prompted, but now if I could I would finish the entire pear

Though the earth that I have grown up on will never exist again I will have the pleasure of knowing that I have grown plants that may one day make someone look back and long for home, or taste a fruit and think back to a time when they had a world that provided them with everything they ever wanted but gave up everything they had trying to get something they never really needed in the first place.

I guess someone should have told them if they didn’t stop what they were doing they were going to explode, but even if they had, they wouldn’t have listened, I never did.

Couch Potato © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

written-for-30 (3) copy

 

Sun Kings

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Strange extraterrestrials offer humanity an extreme means of escaping a devastating gamma ray pulse capable of destroying all life on Earth.

The giant robotic structure could not be accommodated within the halls of the United Nations building. Nor did it want to be.

The robotic body was twenty-five feet tall, squat and low to the ground, a massive cylinder surrounded in materials making it repel the forces of gravity, holding it above the Earth.

A mighty container for the being held within, there were no holes for entry or exit, nor would any human dare to. The container, made with rock harvested from the lunar surface was altered into a polarized material, capable of blocking radiation.

The creature within still shone with a soft white light. Without the protective shielding, nothing living on the surface of the Earth could withstand its presence. It’s ability to control that polarization made it possible to be in its presence without fear.

The setting was an outdoor courtyard with an oversized tent, made of netting to block the direct and unpleasant radiations of a sun on a world with a weakening ozone layer.

The meeting was held out of doors since the entity held within its containment field complained of claustrophobia inside of buildings away from the light of the sun. The seating arrangements which would accommodate eight hundred people, as comfortable as could be found were arranged with tables, place cards, microphones, and servers who would be waiting upon these envoys of the world’s nations.

Security personnel who did not even bother to hide their presence or their countries of origin swamped the site sweeping for bugs, bombs, and anything that might be a threat to their country’s representatives. Though many of these countries expected to be represented by their countries finest, a few nations feared to send their leader to the event expecting some form of treachery from the alien guest or guests of honor.

But none of these men were as important as the photo of a Black man at the podium today. While the many men here could say they had the responsibility of a nation, Dr., and professor of xenobiology from MIT, Winston Harrison represented a planet to an alien species. He was the scientist responsible for deciphering the alien transmission. How he ended up in the containment field with the alien intelligences representing the Earth was still unknown.

The aliens spent a few days on the moon and then came to Earth on the White House lawn in their containment fields. Dr. Harrison explained what they wanted and set a date and location for this gathering. The containment cylinders floated away without mussing the White House lawn. By the time the F-22’s were overhead the aliens were long gone.

The representatives slowly filed in, looking for their seats. The seating arrangements could not be seen from outside the tent and it would act as ballistic mesh, preventing bullets or bombs, with a series of concrete bunkers around the tent preventing a car-bomb from being driven up.
Not that any of these precautions were necessary, so assured the Professor and his alien hosts who had been dubbed in the media, the Sun Kings. The aliens didn’t seem to mind, so the name stuck. They assured us they came in peace.

As the UN representatives milled toward their seats, their hushed tones and fearful glances toward the unmoving structure revealed their discomfiture. It was only when the US president and the Russian president arrived did the room quiet down.

Both men wearing dark power suits were flanked by aides who they whispered to frantically before the monstrosity moved and indicated it was ready to speak. There were attempts to bring microphones to the object before it responded very quietly, that it didn’t need them. The techs shrugged and ran away.

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.” The voice boomed across the audience and a sound man in the back waved indicating something quieter was in order. “Three months ago, I was chosen as an envoy to a group of extraterrestrials who entered our solar system and requested asylum and respite in our sun.”

The guests looked around trying to discover the source of the voice. “I am within the container you see before you. I am riding in tandem with one of the Sun Kings.”

“These aliens who appeared to be forms of radiant coherent gas clouds came to our attention while they were moved at superluminal speeds through our star system. One of their members broke away and came to Earth sending a stream of prime numbers until we were able to detect and translate the signal.

“The aliens were remarkably intelligent and could learn most of our languages in under a day. Once we were able to communicate we offered them the opportunity to come to Earth and meet with them, discussing the terms of their asylum and path through our solar system. They were stopping here in order to use our sun as a temporary respite, hoping to refuel and recharge within. The second reason for their visit was far more germane to our survival.

“They were moving through our star system in order to warn organic sentient life of an impending gamma ray burst which is due to pass through our solar system in under five years. For those of you unfamiliar with gamma ray bursts, suffice it to say, they are a threat to anything along the path of their radiation stream. The burst which we are to expect has taken place some eight thousand light years from Earth. Two small unstable binary stars now orbit each other at a percentage of the speed of light. Both are small but massive and theoretically, could generate a gamma ray burst of the type described.”

Hands go up in the audience but the robot continues. “According to the Sun Kings, this has already happened, but the light and radiation from that event had not reached us yet. Since you do not appear to be patient people I will take your questions now, with the understanding you may not like the answers you receive.”

“Cody Nadier, DNN Colorado. Professor, can we still call you that?”

“Yes, Mr. Nadier. What is your question?”

“Why should an event that is eight thousand light-years away be of any concern to us, professor. I understand that the speed of light means we won’t be aware of it for another eight thousand years.”

The polarized surface of the robot created a representation of the professor’s face. “Mr. Nadier, what you said would be true, that we would have eight thousand years to worry about this event if the two stars collapsed together, today. What the Sun Kings inform us is the event has already happened seven thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine, point five years ago.”

The carapace of the robot began to glow and a three-dimensional display was able to be seen over the entire courtyard. It showed the perspective of the Sun Kings who were both in the path and outside of it. Tens of thousands of dots move into harm’s way, attempting to rescue species very different from themselves.

“To our human telescopes we would still see them as they were back then because light may be the fastest known phenomenon in the universe, the Sun Kings are able to move faster and communicate far faster than the speed of light. From their perspective, this collapses has already occurred. They have been on a mission of mercy to talk with intelligent species along the radiation path in an effort to save them if they wanted assistance.”

“Benji Crocker, Reuters News Service. Do we have any information to confirm what they have told you thus far? Is it possible they are not telling the truth?”

“While we cannot directly confirm what has been said, we can see features of instability built into that system. Using a projection, we are able to determine with ninety percent accuracy, that in the next two to four years, give or take, something will happen to that binary star that we will be able to see. Our initial estimates say it will be the brightest supernova since the Crab Nebula was formed in 1054 AD.”

The President rose and spoke before even being recognized. “What assurances do we have these aliens are not seeking to take over the Earth?”

“The fact they could have simply taken up residence in the sun and not bothered to tell us anything at all. Once they refueled they would be on their faster-than-light merry way, leaving us none the wiser.”

The president’s assistant whispered in his ear and he continued. “What do they suppose will be the result of this event? Why should we even care about an event so incredibly far away? My team of scientific advisers says it is unlikely to be a threat at that distance.”

“No disrespect to your scientific advisers but when an alien species with the capacity to alter matter at the atomic level, move at faster than light speeds through a universe where as far as we know, the speed of light is the speed limit, can learn every language spoken on Earth in a day and move my living body into mental communion with one of their greatest scientific minds, I am going to err on the side of the species with the most advanced technology in the room.”

The President of Russia stood up before the US President could even get his thoughts together and asked, “Do these beings offer us any solution to our problem or are they just space canaries telling us we are going to die soon? What will happen to the Earth when this gamma ray pulse sweeps over the planet?”

The Professor answered trying to explain this as clearly as he could. “The exact effects vary from planet to planet. But what the Sun Kings are certain of, is our ozone layer already weak and depleted will likely be obliterated within the hour of the radiation sweeping the planet. Any life on the side of the planet where the radiation strikes may receive strong doses of gamma ray radiation capable of killing everything exposed. But that is a short-term problem. The true threat is the long-term loss of the ozone layer. Without it, plants and animals all over the globe will receive lethal doses of radiation from our sun. Plants die. Animals without food will die soon after. Food crops will perish and soon after starvation will sweep the planet. This is certain to be an extinction level event for Humanity.”

The room exploded into chaos. The professor tried to regain control of the room but shouting, arguing and fighting began to break out.

The crystalline structure of the cylinder began to change and soon blazing white light filled the tent, so bright it was impossible to ignore.

“Please be silent.” This voice was omnipresent, filling every corner of the space in a way the professor’s hadn’t. “We understand you are distressed. We have noted your technological level and realize you will be insufficiently prepared even in the five solar years before the event. We are partially to blame and beg your forgiveness. We had not considered there would be organic, intelligent life in this corner of the galaxy. Most of the life we have seen thus far has been inorganically-based and immune to the radiation of the gamma-ray pulse. If your scientists are correct, life on your world will be impossible to sustain. We come bearing a solution but we will only offer it to those willing to participate. Will you hear our offer?”

Everyone returned to their seat hoping the offer being presented would be better than the news they had received thus far.

The more human voice of the Professor returned. “I am being asked to explain the idea because I was, in theory, a proof-of-concept. You see, I was dying. I had an inoperable brain tumor and had only a few more months to live. The Sun Kings offered me the chance to ascend into a form of pure consciousness and become part of their collective of minds.”

The murmurs began but stayed below the threshold of the Professor’s voice. “They are prepared to take the entire human race into their collective mind. It would take just under five years to convert us all, but once they were refueled, we could continue on, trying to warn or save as many organic species as we could.”

The president raised his hand to speak. “Our choices are: die, starving and cold on a rock that will, as my advisers warn me, eventually return to life a few million years from now, or become part of an alien civilization we know nothing about, to leave the Earth and never return to a corporeal existence. Stop me if I said something incorrect.”

“No, Mr. President, you summed it up quite nicely.” The Professor’s voice had dropped to a barely audible whisper.

“I can’t speak for anyone else, the President continued, but I will live and die as a human being. Humans are resourceful. With five years, who knows what we might accomplish? You have already made your choice, professor, the rest of us still have one to make. Can I speak to the Sun King?”
“Certainly,” the great booming voice returned.

“Can you selectively take Humans who want to go with you? Or is it an all or nothing proposition?”

“We can take any one or all of you as you see fit. It is not being forced upon you. Only those who wish to accompany us need do so. We will designate areas where your people can choose to go to be converted. Those of you who do not, may stay with your planet and accept whatever fate befalls you.”

“What if I decide to tell my people not to accompany you? What if I tell them you can’t be trusted, we know nothing about you or what your true motivations may be?”

The Sun King was silent for quite some time before answering,”That is your prerogative. However, we will still offer the same service to any who wish it. We will offer this until twelve hours before the pulse sweeps your world.

Then we will enter the Luminal Space and leave your world behind. You can tell your people whatever you like. We will still offer the service to anyone wishing to leave. Please do not make this decision. Your people deserve to make a choice independent of any social conflicts your perspective may place upon them. Millions may perish that did not need to.”

The meeting ended soon after. World leaders returned to their countries. Some revealed the truth. Others colored it. Some lied outright. The Sun Kings said nothing. They retreated to the sun to recharge their powers with some returning to Earth taking up geosynchronous stations high above the planet barely visible from the ground. Humanity busied itself with the mission of preparing for the end of life as they knew it.

This was the most productive the human race had ever been. Wars dwindled as resources were rerouted into research and development. Vast construction projects took place boring into the surface of the planet’s mountain ranges creating underground caverns and cities. Once the construction began, the Sun Kings dropped digging machines capable of using their powerful energies as boring beams into the mountainsides facilitating the building of these underground cities.

It was clear even with all of these amazing efforts, it would only house approximately thirty percent of the human population. No world leader would relent and tell their people they should go. With less than a year remaining, the Sun Kings returned to Earth and took over every form of media on the planet. Their message was simple.

“Your leaders have done everything possible to save and protect your species and your way of life. That life has come to an end. We can now accurately predict the arrival of the gamma ray pulse down to the second. Though your leaders have done what they think is best for you, we offer you a final alternative. If you desire to live beyond the gamma ray energies arrivals on your world, you have the option to give up your human form and live on as beings of luminous energy within us. You would still be individuals, with your own distinctive characteristics.

But you would also be part of a greater whole, a part of our civilization. We will not force you to do so. You must choose. We will place one thousand and twenty-four of these cylinders on your planet. If you wish to leave with us, travel to one in the coming year and a half. Each cylinder will have a clock capable of telling you how long you have before we leave. No matter where you live on the planet, we will leave you with the choice of escape no more than ten days travel from anyone. If you choose to stay, we understand and wish you well. Be mindful of the time, we shall leave promptly twelve hours before the arrival of the pulse. We will not delay one second beyond that time.”

With their message sent, modern media spun the story as little more than hype until the cylinders arrived all over the planet. They could not be moved once they landed. They could not be damaged or even scratched in any way. All a person had to do was walk up to a cylinder and say “I am ready.” There was a flash of light and a still body was all that remained. If families preferred to take a body away, they were able to, if a person came alone, nothing was left to clean up.

A quiet exodus began. Entire cities cleared out over the remaining year, with fewer and fewer flashes taking place until everyone who wanted to leave was almost gone. The Professor had taken to manipulating his own much smaller cylinder into cities trying to convince the last holdouts to leave the planet. He had the Sun Kings create a more sophisticated cylinder for him, something that could be transformed into a human-like appearance. With this, he traveled to MIT to see his wife who refused to leave.

He found her working in her lab, researching new seed strains which were much more radiation-tolerant. His new body was clearly not Human but articulated enough to move as a human might. His footfalls were unable to be silenced but he wanted her to know he was coming. He had made several attempts already to convince her.

“Hello, Dr. Harrison.” He had spent many months working on the voice modulation, hoping to sound more human than before.

“I told you not to come back.” She appeared to be packing up the last of her samples. “I am heading for the Cheyenne Mountain facility tonight.” Two young soldiers were helping her with the last of her equipment. She waved them off and they wheeled the rest of her gear to the makeshift helipad on the campus.

“Karen, please reconsider. I have seen the energy-wave with my own eyes. The Sun Kings were right. We don’t have much time. We can still be together.”

She turned and walked over to the eight-foot tall man-shaped machine. “Eyes, huh? Do you still have eyes? Do you still have the capacity to see visible light the way I do? Leave me. My husband is dead.”
“I’m right here, baby. In a new body, but I have never left you.”

“How do I know you aren’t some alien trick. You know the government says the Sun Kings are killing people. None of them ever come back to see their loved ones. How do you explain that?” Karen stood in front of the roboform and looked up into its eyes.

“Most people take quite some time to adjust. It is hard to relearn all of your senses, how to think in your new energy state. Most of them will be months or even years before they are able to fully integrate with the Community.”
“How did you manage so quickly?”

“You always said I was a fucking genius, remember? It’s what you hated about me when I was your student. Your young and impressionable student. You remember the time…”

“Don’t do that. You will never be able to do that with me again. You aren’t my husband, anymore. You’re this, this, thing.” Karen began to weep uncontrollably. “You promised me you would never leave me.” She began to strike the robotic body, flailing wildly against it. Its structure softened becoming softer, like a clay.

Winston took his wife in his malleable arms and held her. “I never would have left you. I would have died on schedule without them. They saved me. Let me save you. Tonight is the last night. By dawn, they will be gone.”

“Will they ever come back to Earth?” Karen began to regain her composure. She wiped her face on her lab coat and took it off, putting some space between her and the now kneeling robot.

“They said it would take them some time because there were several other Organics they knew about and wanted to warn along the way. They told me we could be back in as little as thirty years.”

“My husband died five years ago. I know you think you are Winston but you aren’t. Winston was a body, not a machine-created consciousness. He was flesh, given human frailties by God and you are not him. Please see yourself out.”

“I could make you come with me. Transfer your consciousness even without your permission.”

“I suspected as much. Winston would never do that.”

“You are saying, if I loved you as Winston might, I would leave you to die here on Earth, starving and cold on a planet barely able to support life in thirty-six hours, right? You know what, you’re right, I am not Winston. Winston might have been a genius but he was a human genius with all the failings and frailties a man could have.

“How could he have known an alien race would come to Earth and say ‘Sorry, your lease is up’ and transform his dying body into an immortal god-like one. How could he have known he would one day race a beam of light and win, see radiation and all the hidden mysteries of the Universe? He couldn’t. You are right, your Winston Harrison is dead. But I love you, and if I told you this was the right thing for us, once upon a time you would have believed it and never questioned it.

“Why would you do that now? We still have time. We can get you to the local cylinder in Boston and you can still join us. Join me. Until death do us part. I didn’t die, Karen.”

She looked at the machine, its inorganic lines and nearly featureless face. She listened to the words, the sound, the cadence and the rhythm of its voice and she knew what she had to do. She turned and ran from the building.
Winston did not follow.

No need to walk, he floated down out of a window and down to the ground. He watched the last of the crews and helicopters going up. They were racing daylight. Most would get to their bunker cities in the Appalachians just under the wire. The pilots knew this and flew as fast as they could. The emptied streets spoke in the same voices as a cemetery might, of longing, of hopes long dashed against the shores of time. Winston rose into the sky and began his final flight to the cylinder.

In the street below him, he spotted a single person running and waving. He thought it might have been a person left behind. He had sufficient speed to get whoever it was to the bunker city before they closed the door. A last gesture of humanity before leaving, he mused.

Swooping toward the ground, he recognized the hair and suit. It was Dr. Karen Harrison. “Did you miss your ride, Doctor?”

“No, sir. I was hoping you might be able to give me a lift to see my husband.”

“I think that can be arranged. Hold on tight, we will have to be moving quite fast to beat the deadline.”

Karen smiled and held tightly onto the robotic body. “My husband was known for breaking barriers all the time.”

“Yes, he was. But there was never any place I wanted to be that you weren’t. I could’ve worked at Oxford.”

Karen chuckled, “Do these Sun Kings have an energy equivalent of coffee?”
“Nope, but once you’ve drunk from a star, coffee just doesn’t hold up.”

“Then make sure we get a cup of sunshine, to go.”

“I think I can arrange that. I know someone, who knows someone.”

The last cylinder left the Earth, twelve hours before August 15, 2034 PST. The doctors Harrison dipped through the corona of the Sun on their way out of the solar system, never looking back.

Sun Kings © Thaddeus Howze 2014, All Rights Reserved

written-for-30 (3) copy

A Prelude to Hyde (A story of Hub City)

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I spent all morning asking myself, “What was I doing here?”  It was a 1920’s dance hall converted into a modern event center. Its’ owners had taken great pains to keep it in its’ grand original condition.  Lots of people said he had been there to remember, but most people considered that to be urban legend, nobody had ever been known to live that long despite what ancient government rumors and outdated media propaganda suggested.

Falcón Gionetti was an old world restaurateur, enamored with movie stars, high rolling gamblers, aristocrats, and Mafioso of the past.  He wasn’t a crime boss himself, but it was obvious he admired the lifestyle. Some said that Capone once dined here as well as Hollywood Stars, and dignitaries from around the world. It still boasted lithographs of 20’s movie greats and grand dances with magnificent ball gowns plumed with feathers and lace and glittering with gems and sequins made from sho-nuff real fish scales.

But that was long ago, before Hub City was built. The skeleton of the building was made of some unknown flexible material which withstood the super storms that had leveled the previous territories upon which Hub City was now built; it was safe to say that not much else was left standing, intact.

I watched the echoes of gleaming light from the crystal chandeliers bounce off of the bubbles in the sparkling water as I poured them into plastic champagne glasses.  It was hard for plastic to mimic the elegance of this place. As much as the clients were spending to rent it, you’d think they’d have used real glass.

Working here, it wasn’t hard to daydream about what it must have been like to attend functions in this grand relic from a past I would not have been allowed to participate in. Blacks in the 20’s didn’t attend balls in this hall. They were servers doing just what I was doing now. Only then it was champagne pouring and cocktails.

I had been working here for some months, thinking it was a non-complex way to add a couple of hundred dollars to my monthly income that wouldn’t require much brain power.  Hub city rotations had allowed me to learn many skills associated with management of staff and kitchens, though it was not directly related to restaurants.

What I had not counted on was being promoted to Maître D, and assuming the responsibilities of scheduling and orchestrating the daily activities. It wasn’t time consuming, but it was sometimes very stressful.  Many of the other staff members resented my being promoted after only being employed here for such a short time, but after months of cleaning up scheduling, reorganizing the kitchen, and actually taking the initiative to get to know everyone, I eventually grew to be liked even favored by the staff.

That is of course except for Raymond, a half-black half something else throw back from the 1950’s who claimed to actually have family once connected to the original owners of the place. Which was hard to believe since he seemed to have such difficulty both managing his money and his own personal affairs. The only thing that seemed to have been connected to the past was his way too superior attitude.  He may have been the next in line for Maître D had I not so conveniently shown up to take the position.

I had been here since 10:00 am. The reception for some big wedding wasn’t scheduled until 4:00 PM, but it was my responsibility setting the tables, ushering in the decorators, and making certain each place setting had been poured a glass of sparkling water minutes before the guests were scheduled to arrive. Timing was everything.  But in my reverie I had not noticed the time. It was half past the hour of 4:00 PM, where was everyone? A hundred place settings with sparkling water, each with one cube of ice would not stay sparkling for long.  Water and ice were expensive, extravagant especially in these quantities; fines for waste in Hub city were exorbitant, I didn’t want trouble if the guests arrived late.

I delayed the final tables and the dais, and went to make a phone call.  After a short conversation with the owner, I returned to the ballroom to resume my duties. I was assured by my employer I would not be held accountable for the delay. I filled the last of the glasses and took my station at the front to begin ushering in and seating the guests when they began to arrive.

It was 5:00 PM when the first of the guest began to trickle in. The wait staff and servers including myself had begun to get bored and irritable. I finished an opened bottle of sparkling water and proceeded to seat the first of the guests.  A middle-aged woman in awe of the magnificence of the place looked around as if to discover any item not nailed down that she could collect as a souvenir. I notified the staff to watch her.

Next to arrive were the bridesmaids and groomsmen, a collection of either very fat or very skinny unattractive women, paired with a group of unmemorable gentleman in nicely tailored tuxedos. Had I a greater experience with weddings, I would have mentally prepared myself for the Bride. However a novice in these matters, I was shocked when upon entry, she stomped up to me fuming and announced loudly to the entire room, “This is not sparkling water!”

Embarrassed by her loud unruly behavior, I managed still to feel a bit resentful, having poured all hundred glasses of sparkling water, and feeling rather disrespected and unappreciated for the care given to her tables I responded handing her the bottle, “Yes ma’am, it is, and I’m certain it would still be sparkling had your party arrived at the time you specified.”

Her reply however singed my ruffled feathers. “Look waitress, if you can’t manage water, maybe you should call the owner and see if he can find more competent wait staff.”

I held in my angry response and called for new bottles to be opened, assisting the other wait staff to replace the flattened drinks. What did I care, she was paying by the bottle and would pay the fines for the waste, the owner would make certain of that.

As I poured glasses for the guests I began to experience an intense feeling of being observed, as if two pair of eyes had been following me at each turn. One set connected to a ruggedly handsome and charming middle aged man who seemed oddly menacing below the exterior of his mild mannered countenance.  The other set obscured from view. That made me nervous, timid.

I smiled and thanked the guests for their patience, and maneuvered my way through the tables, inching my way ever closer to the piercing gaze that had continued its observation of me from the moment it set eyes on me to the present.  What was he looking at?

“You stick out like a sore thumb in here.” He said in a matter-of-fact tone.

“That’s funny,” I responded, “I thought I fit right in amongst all this old-world elegance.”

He laughed a wild magnificent sound to hear. “I meant surrounded by all these uncouth, rude and unruly people, I wasn’t referring to the building, although you seem too young to fit in to the time to which these premises belong as well, unless you’re telling me you’re just well-preserved.”

I laughed.

Moments later Bridezilla returned complaining that she had nowhere for her additional guests to sit.  “As much as I am paying, I should at least have seating and food for my additional guests.”

“I am sorry ma’am, but the arrangement was for a hundred guests, as it is we will have to cut your cake remarkably thin in order for each of your guests to have a slice.”

“Look waitress, that is simply not acceptable, I want to speak to the manager.”

“As a matter of fact, ma’am, I am the manager, also the Maître D, so, if you have any complaints you may take them up with me, but be aware, your fees cover the cost of the hall and all extra services including catering, servers, and valet are contracted extras to which you specified at cost per person, and per hour. My employer will not appreciate any breaches of contract, if there are extra guests for whom food and seating have not been arranged it is because you did not specify any in your contract, therefore they were not and will not be accommodated for.” I was losing my patience.

The Bridezilla looked tearfully at her new husband and pleaded with him to do something.  “Look here lady, you’re spoiling our day and…”

I cut him off mid sentence.

“Excuse me Sir,” and I used the term loosely, “I am not trying to spoil your day, the arrangements for your day were made by your Bride, if she had anticipated changes or additions, she should have conveyed them before today, in these economic times, we do not prepare food or provide accommodations that have not be accounted for in advance, your wife said one hundred and that is what she got, anything outside of what was contracted will not be made available.”

The Bride bounced away with veiled threats under her breath of kicking my ass. Let’s see her try it, with her fat ass in that too tight dress.  I held in a laugh at the comical vision, and turned to see what the pair of eyes viewing the scene had thought. But when I turned to look he was not sitting in his chair. He was speaking with a gentleman in the foyer.  As I looked at him, I noticed something that had apparently been forgotten.

When I went into the kitchen Raymond was sitting on a stool with his foot against a shelf. “There’s trouble here, that man upfront is the police.”

“What kind of trouble?” I asked too shocked to even be surprised that Raymond was engaging in conversation with me.  He looked destroyed, like he’d lost his last bit of cash at the horse races and was preparing to lose his house.  And then I heard it, a scream like one of those you see in those 1920’s mystery thrillers.

I turned to run out but Raymond caught my hand.

“Don’t go out there miss, I’m sorry I know we haven’t gotten along well, but this is going to get ugly, I feel it.”

Something about the look on his face warned me that what he said was true, but how he knew this bothered me only momentarily.   In my few short months working here I had learned that when Raymond said anything about the future or alluded to upcoming events it was better not to question him, he seemed always to be right. That is unless it was some scheme he was working on for himself.

I called the owner instead and warned him that something was up and urged him to hurry down here.

As I was cradling the phone I felt him before I turned to see him there. Raymond eyed him curiously, not exactly with fear, but a mixture of wonder and respect the way you might view a lion in those zoos without bars.  I looked at him again and found my mind envisioning dancing with him in the ballroom with his arms wound tightly about me. It wasn’t like me to daydream about men I saw at events, or men at all for that matter.  I reminded myself that I was here in an employed capacity and shook the daydream out of my head.  I remembered again the thing that had been forgotten earlier.

“Come with me,” he said, I’ll need your help,” and then he looked knowingly at Raymond at  said sideways to him smiling, “and you clairvoyant, you had better make yourself scarce, the agency shouldn’t find you here, they won’t know you by your employment records, but they may recognize you  despite your seasoned appearance.”

Raymond nodded acknowledging his order and returning his smile he stood, collected his things, and departed immediately.

“You should pack up your things and be ready to go when your employer arrives.” He said plainly.

“How did you know I had already spoken to my boss, and why would I be leaving, I thought you needed my help?”  I answered in response to his request, or was it an order?   I suddenly had the feeling of being naked and I could feel the color rising to my cheeks.

“Let’s just say I have a way of knowing certain things about people. Like you for instance, manage your anger well, blush when you are embarrassed, and seem to be able to instinctively read how people feel or appear.” He said in a matter-of-fact manner while looking around the kitchen.

There was that color again.

“And as far as needing your help, I do, and I’ll be leaving with you, but I need to attend to something with the police first. They should not find you back here.”

“What did you mean by clairvoyant and how did you know,” I asked.

“That will have to wait until later. Can you find a simple ball gown here on the premises to borrow?” The man spoke in riddles. Didn’t the police already know I worked here and that I was on the premises? And for whatever should I need with a ball gown?

He looked at me and answered the questions in my mind without blinking, “I meant they shouldn’t find you back here with me and the gown you will need for where we will be going.” He smiled a knowing kind of smile and ushered me out.

I proceeded to the ballroom to await the police and my employer and stopped momentarily at the desk to gather my personal things to stow in the alcove nearest the exit. I suddenly had a feeling I would later need to depart inconspicuously and I wanted my belongings to be where they could easily be reached when the time came.

As requested, I located a ball gown, a fine silk lame gown I wasn’t sure was intended for a figure like mine, curvy, voluptuous.  I also found a fabulous pair of antique slippers.  Once everything had been stowed, I returned to the front to meet the impending arrivals and noticed again that the entry hall drapes had been slightly closed.  I first noticed it when I’d seen the gentleman speaking to the police chief in the foyer, and recalled it a second time when we were speaking in the kitchen.  How had those drapes been closed again, when the staff had aired and opened all the drapes hours before the reception?

Apparently the body of Lysander Archess, a prominent alien official had been found propped up at a table in one of the other ballrooms. That nosy old woman from the wedding reception had been wandering in search of something to lift and had discovered him sitting at the table and spoken. When he did not return her greeting she approached him and found that he was not moving.

In front of him was a plate trimmed in gold, a crystal goblet half filled with what may have been champagne, gold plated flatware, and a silk napkin. When she went to touch him, the head that had been until that point staring straight, fell into the plate. The resulting scream could be heard throughout the building. In her petrified state I guess she had forgotten the lovely place setting as potential souvenirs and ran screaming into the grand ballroom.

The Bridezilla overwrought with attitude, threatened to gather up her guests and leave but at the very moment she was conjuring up enough cheep sentiment to move the hearts and asses of her guests, my boss and the police arrived and refused to let anyone leave before questioning.  I was questioned first.  Detective Peters was the questioning officer.  I assured him that the premises had been thoroughly cleaned just this morning and that no ‘body’ had been there prior to 5:00 pm when the guests began to arrive. In fact,  both the cake and the photographer had gone into that very ballroom upon arrival and the Bride and Groom had taken pictures in the entry way while the cake was being set up for display and consumption.

The police questioned each of the guests one by one. The general consensus was that the gentleman had not arrived with the guests but had been installed there in the last hour. No one admitted to having seen him come in nor were they even certain he was among the wedding guests at all.

The Bridezilla’s father however insisted that he had been at the wedding, and had been a friend of the family for many years. A business associate of Archess, he had been in negotiations with him hours before the wedding. He found it very disturbing that none of his daughter’s guests were willing to come forth with information.  How could no one have seen him arrive?

It was then that I softly mentioned to Detective Peters that someone had partially drawn the foyer drapes after the arrival of the guests.  When he examined the foyer, he also noted that the outer ballroom doors had been closed. That had been done since the discovery of the body to avoid further alarming the guests and to prevent anyone from disturbing possible evidence.

I could feel the penetrating pair of separate gazes as Carlucci entered the room.  Detective Peters nodded his salutations to Carlucci as he crossed the ballroom floor.

“Evening Detective Peters,” he responded as he returned the nod.

I could tell from his mannerisms that he greatly respected this officer. I did not get this impression when he spoke to the police chief. I did not however ponder this long, being suddenly interested in the investigation taking place.

The body’s temperature was still warm as if it had been living only moments before discovery, and despite its severed head had maintained its temperature and avoided blood loss due to having congealed to a taffy-like state. What could have caused such a condition? I was too curious to be revolted by the dead body and peered over the shoulder of Detective Peters directly into the open neck of the body.

Carlucci stared directly into my face and asked, “Ms. Spires is this room exactly as it appeared prior to the arrival of guests?”

I looked around and attempted to notice any changes in the room.  A crystal knob was missing from each of the entry way drape tiebacks, no doubt the 1st souvenirs of our busybody guest which may have answered how the drapes were suddenly closed. This may also have been why the other guests hadn’t noticed his arrival. With the drapes slightly drawn, only those seated directly in the middle of the ballroom would have seen out into the foyer.

 

But this somehow seemed too easy an explanation.  How could anyone have known someone would take the tieback knobs? In addition, the place setting was not among those owned or used on the premises, if it had belonged to the owner I had never seen nor used it and I certainly would not have set out such expensive items so openly at any table among so many questionable guests. In addition to this, no champagne had been delivered for today. Where had the champagne come from?

The police officers questioned each of the staff and made inquiries about staff not present noting several names on the staff roster including Raymond’s.  I told them Raymond had not been scheduled to work today and two others scheduled were out sick.  I wasn’t certain why I suddenly felt inclined to lie, but I had a feeling that it was important not to mention that Raymond had been on the premises, I had yet to get answers to that clairvoyant thing, and I was certain I was protecting him somehow.

I could feel those two pair of eyes watching me again and caught a sideways glance from the pair in the room as he noted my fabrication.  Detective Peters took down the names of those present and allowed my employer to dismissed the staff.  Carlucci motioned me to the door.

I rose to leave, and then turned to Detective Peters, “May I go now?” I asked.

He smiled, “Certainly Ms Spires, we’ll be in touch if we have any further questions.”

I retreated to the alcove and dressed quickly in a storage closet located behind the curtains there, stuffing my work clothes into my bag, and draping my coat gently around my shoulders before passing through the alcove exit doors. A car was waiting for me there.  Carlucci tossed my bag into the compartment and ushered me quickly in. As soon as the door was closed I wanted answers to questions?

“Alright, Ms Spires, may I call you Cassidy?”He continued without waiting for my response “I suppose some explanation is in order.”

Gionetti is rumored to be greater than 200 yrs old, and though there is no documented proof, he is suspected to be an alien that landed on earth during the 1920’s. Though he’s able to manifest human appearance, he has never been able to change the appearance of his eyes, and through some in depth research I believe there are powerful people who have discovered his secret and are interested in the key not only to his longevity but the very nature of his existence.   As for Raymond, he too is not what he seems.  His family is connected to the Gionetti family and through some strange fortune he has inherited both limited longevity and his father’s ability to view the past, the immediate present, and the possible future.

He used to work with the department to hunt down serial killers and such, but got involved with some mob scams trying to make some fast money during the early 20th century and found himself labeled as a snitch. During those turbulent times it was not an ideal reputation to have and he suddenly found himself a target from both directions. The police no longer trusted him and the criminal element felt threatened by his gift, uncertain if he was feeding information to the authorities.  He was forced to go into hiding and might have had to stay there if the super storms hadn’t destroyed this entire area.  He remained here after discovering the family business still partially standing and offered to help Falcon to restore it.  His biggest problem now has been avoiding the Agency, since they have been hunting down and destroying all clairvoyants, fearing their gifts and feeling them too dangerous.”

 

He did not explain how he knew Raymond and would only say that he had run across him during some very high profile cases.

He continued, “A criminal element outside of the city who has been attempting for some time to get into Hub City had been blackmailing Gionetti trying to get him to use his influence with prominent wealth to find a way into the city. Although he’s not directly related to crime in the city, many of the rich and powerful respect his influence. Archess was simply a negotiator but I believe he discovered the bargaining tool used to persuade Gionetti and got greedy making him a liability.”

Hub city did not tolerate criminal activity from outside. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of crime in the city, but it was regulated by criminals in the city and outsiders were dealt with severely.

“We’re here, he said changing the subject, “I hope that was a good enough amount of information to appease your appetite, it’s all I can give you for now. “

As we stepped from the car a valet relieved him of the vehicle and a door person escorted us into the magnificent high rise. “Where are we? I asked but he only responded, “Don’t ask any more questions and for goodness sake don’t answer any.”

 

We entered a room filled with stylishly dressed people, and I felt a bit self-conscious about the antiquity of my dress. Truth be told its elegance fit in nicely with its present day counterparts, and on my body itcassidydress

probably drew acclaim it had never experienced before having been worn originally by toothpick thin flappers and debutantes of the 20’s.

One young lady eyed the dress with envy and asked, “Where do I get material to copy that?”

I responded,” In the time machine,” and giggled softly to myself.

“Dance with me,” Carlucci said catching me off guard. “Having fun? Don’t be too brutal, the young rich ladies have a difficult time as it is adapting to young women their own age. It’s  probably quite difficult having someone like you come in wearing what you’re wearing and looking like you’re looking wearing it, taking all of the attention in the room.“

I blushed and allowed him to sweep me around the dance floor.   I could feel the intensity between us increase as we moved from one corner of the room to another.   Simultaneously I felt a feeling of déjà vu and alarm. A gentleman who had been watching for quite some time now walked up to us on the dance floor.

“A woman like you could lead a man around like a sheep to the slaughter,” James Ekyl said and laughed almost wickedly. “May I”, he said taking my hand.

I felt myself being swept away for a second time without having had the opportunity to even consent.  I suddenly felt like a rope during a tug of war between two evenly matched opponents, but my instinct told me not to waiver into the direction of this handsome gentleman who now gracefully maneuvered me around the dance floor.   My instincts were seldom wrong.

He eyed Carlucci and masked a sneer as a smile. If I didn’t know better I’d have thought it was jealousy that fleeted momentarily across his gaze before returning to his all too aloof stare.

“They say you are known by the company that you keep,” he smiled, ‘that makes you, mysterious, intelligent and possibly dangerous.”

From his inference I assumed he was referring to Carlucci who eyed him casually from the edge of the dance floor.

“Sheep are not dangerous,” I answered and smiled provocatively at Carlucci as we floated past his edge of the floor.

He raised an eyebrow but otherwise did not seem perplexed.  As the music changed, James Ekyl lead me back to my escort and made several contrived attempts at flirting with the women at the bar all the while keeping his eyes riveted on Carlucci and me.  Curling my arm in his he swept me from one area of the room to the next, entertaining me with fascinating commentary and anecdotal narratives of the history of Hub City.

Within his casual chatter he included discreet references to Ekyl which told me the reason for my reservations. He’d use any method available to him to establish some relationship that allowed him a greater report with Gionetti and closer access to Raymond.  I attempted to ponder these ideas when a warm sensation caused by his palm at the small of my back began to be quite distracting.

I sultrily eyed Carlucci mentally sizing him up but could only maintain the gaze momentarily foiled by an intensity I had not expected to be there and suddenly I felt flushed.  He smiled acknowledging my failed attempt at seduction and lifted my face to meet that intensity head on. Smiling again he whispered against my cheek, “Careful little lamb, I am not a sheep.”

My head was spinning in circles the entire evening as I was pulled back and forth between the two gentlemen.  I began to notice a lopsided competition between the two, one that seemed desperately irritating to Ekyl but didn’t seem to disturb Carlucci in the least.

“What is it with you two?” I asked curious.

“Nothing, James wants anything he thinks might belong to me, it amuses me, but it’s not serious. Never the less be careful what you say to him. ”

I could feel his hands possessively holding my waist.   I was beginning to feel a level of attraction I had not considered possible.

“Shall we go?” He said.

“Yes,” I found myself answering knowing full well what he was asking.

“Wait here, I won’t be gone long.”

He walked over to Ekyl and they disappeared behind large polished parlor doors.  A short time later he reappeared and silently escorted me to the elevator. He walked with me to the vehicle and quietly drove a short distance before asking, “You don’t mind if we go to my place?”

“No, not at all”, I answered.

His flat was in an area I had never been to in the city. Clean and organized but somewhat tussled as if he frequently left in a rush.  He took my coat then kissed me deeply for several minutes, afterward taking a deep breath.

“I’m sorry; I’ve been waiting all evening to do that.” He said when he had breathed in again several more times.

I realized for the first time this evening that both pair of eyes I felt watching me were viewing me from the same source. Scrutinizing and evaluating like a test subject in an experiment as well as stalking and sizing me up like some large predator anticipating its attack.

“I won’t let them hurt you, but you may need to take this off now,” he said lightly fingering the delicate fabric of the dress, “I can’t be held responsible for what may happen to it if you wear it much longer.” As he said this he slowly slid the straps down my shoulders.

I looked up into his eyes to find a tenderness I had not expected nevertheless it was match by a spirit of urgency that almost made me lightheaded.

I was surprised to find myself at the mercy of a man who was capable of almost anything.  Or maybe I shouldn’t call it mercy.  Had he actually been willing to give me mercy or had I actually been looking for it under the circumstances, that may have been another thing altogether.  Under the influence of whatever thing this was in his spirit, he handled my body with complete abandon.  Each controlled stroke of his hands seemed a desperate insatiable manipulation just short of clawing, had we not been so enraptured I was certain that he could have torn the flesh from my bones.

Sweat streamed from him as he lifted me over and over.  The look in his eyes nearly consumed me.  Each penetration into my physical being seemed like a desperate attempt at connecting to me on a deeper level.  What was he trying to reach, besides orgasm?  My brain was too occupied to be asking these questions, I was being ravished by a man whose spirit was just short of an animal.  As he grew closer to orgasm I could feel a power striving to control him, but whether it was a power trying to escape or him attempting to subdue it at the time I could not tell.

A single hand crept to my throat and grasped me firmly around the neck with gentle but increasing pressure.  My eyes widen and I grew afraid but he did not let me go.  I opened my mouth to scream, but the pressure from his hand increased preventing enough air to escape from my lungs to allow sound.  I clawed desperately at his shoulders and begged him with my eyes to let me go.

At that moment he was at the height of his orgasm, and from his throat came a sound that was a mixture of the howl and a groan.  The sound of it vibrated the walls.  The hand at my throat released the pressure allowing me to intake breath. I gasped and cursed him as waves of orgasm overtook me, shaking my body from head to toe.

“What did you think you were doing?” I scolded with tears running down my cheeks.

He pressed his finger to my lips, his other hand gently stroking my hair and said, “Sh sh sh,  There are many things you do not know about the man you think I am, I would never hurt you but there are limits,  watch what you say.”

This was not a chastisement, but a warning.  My inner instinct told me not to be afraid, but how could that be, how different was he from the man who had been strangling the prostitutes in the street?  What separated him from the madman that was running around murdering unsuspecting women for no apparent reason?

Still I trusted my instinct.  I knew this man was not someone for me to fear, not in the sense that he would harm me nevertheless it was important for me to be very careful. As we lay there still, his spirit now seemed calm and he casually stroked my skin and we talked about the evening, its highlights, and its purpose.

“James will likely come to see you, but you shouldn’t get involved with him.  He’s a genius, but he cannot read minds, he mustn’t see us together too often, and never tell him anything personal, especially about us. He and his brothers are ruthless and dangerous.”

“What do I do if SIX comes to the event center?”I asked in concern.

“Never call him that again, many people know and refer to him that way, but few except his brothers have ever called him that to his face. People have died just being heard making reference to him using that name. Don’t say it again.”

Thoroughly chastised I moved on.  His face wore a snide grin as he noted my lack of acknowledgement to his rebuff and continued my conversation.

To accentuate the point he asked, “Did you hear what I said?”

I obediently answered only, “Yes.”

“He will likely lose interest as long as he believes you have no interest in me.” He then grew quiet and closed his eyes. I could feel the energy growing again. Round two.

A few weeks later James Ekyl (SIX) strode into the event center.  He was wearing his charm like his well tailored suit in the manner of a cultured gentleman, and though I was aware of him I made no effort to make any recollection of him.

After speaking briefly with my boss, he walked directly over to me. “Good afternoon Ms Spires, or May I call you Cassidy?”

The staff buzzed around as if the King had just come back and had decided he was hungry. They busied themselves serving him expensive dainties and cognac in a bottle I had never seen before. He invited me to sit.

“I really do have work to do?” I attempted to decline.

He motioned me to sit and insisted in gesture saying only, “Please.”

“What can I do for you?” I asked as much without feeling as I could muster.

He began to make small talk telling me of his business and himself and at length posed the query he had come to address.  “So how long have you known Carlucci?”

“I don’t know him at all, I attended the party with him as a favor, in fact I met him on the night of the party right here at my job. “

“That’s funny, from the way you danced I assumed you two had known each other much longer and had a much more intimate relationship.”

“Oh no,” I responded,” I don’t have any relationship with him at all. Besides I’m working on my career and seldom have time for relationships of any kind,” I said.

“Really and what are your plans for the future?”

“I plan to be a manager.” I answered.

“What of the city, interested in power eh?”

“No”, I said, “an events manager.”

I could already feel he was beginning to get bored. His initial cat and mouse game had been foiled and as his intrigue waned so did his interest. His final question put the icing on the cake. “What you don’t find men like Carlucci fascinating?”He asked.

“Actually I prefer the marrying type.”

A Prelude to Hyde (A story of Hub City) © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

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Frigid

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Joanne Pendleton was the daughter of a highly financed research geologist. She was a supremely intelligent, highly capable woman. But many said there was something wrong with her. At first glance, she appeared to be cool and reserved, in fact many said she was incapable of feeling at all. Men found her attractive and good company, but not in a way that was warm and fuzzy. Scientists these days didn’t seem to need that sort of thing. Other men found her frigid, a term which was usually applied to women who seemed incapable of physical warmth and attraction. But Joanne was nothing of the sort. Her father blamed the climate in which she was born and the temperament of her mother for his daughter’s behavior.

Her mother had waited very late in life to have children, and when she had nearly given up the idea she was on an expedition in Greenland during the coldest part of the season. She was a beauty and had on several occasions drawn the attention of several reputable scientists and even dignitaries. Despite wanting to have children she did not have much interest in men. She found them confusing and overbearing. It was difficult for her having gotten used to being intelligent and independent to have to pretend she was weak and clueless in the presence of men. When she was introduced to Joanne’s father, however, somewhere in her heart she could feel a warmth that sometimes caused her physical pain.

Joanne was born in the Arctic in the middle of winter. She seemed to have a fondness for the cold, and accompanied her parents on many expeditions to some of the coldest regions in the world. She thought ice an amazing structure and by the age of thirteen was formulating complex structures using ice crystals and theorizing about the possible energy uses of water in the future. But when it came to boys, she was very similar to her mother. It wasn’t that she found them confusing or that she thought them overbearing, she just didn’t appear to be able to feel for them. But one winter in Russia, she and her father met a colleague and his son. The boy, fifteen, had an odd appreciation for the cold and was similarly interested in the uses of ice and cold for energy purposes. She was smitten with him immediately, though outwardly no one seemed to notice any difference.

Not until they had gotten close to adulthood had anyone realized how close the two had gotten. Anton asked for her hand in marriage at the age of 21. Her mother had thought it foolish for her to get married at such an early age. Joanne didn’t argue. She had learned long ago that this was a tactic that did not work with her mother. Her Father had learned it as well. Both decided they would wait a year and planned for the wedding anyway like her mother had not objected at all.

Despite her demeanor, Joanne’s mother was thoroughly excited. It was just difficult for her to express it. She participated in every decision from start to finish and when all was done she gave her daughter away with a wry and cynical smile. Anton was nothing like Joanne in demeanor, but their mutual interest was enough to solidify their relationship. For two years they had a whirlwind romance filled marriage. Then Joanne began having misgivings.

“You just need a change of atmosphere,” Anton said.

For the next year he took her to a variety of places; some she enjoyed, others she found debilitating. During a visit to the tropics, they were grounded by a hurricane and were required to remain in their hotel for several days. Joanne found the heat unbearable and grew deathly ill. She’d sat in bed and sweat profusely. She had grown accustomed to the air conditioning, but it had been out now since the storm began and had not been restored.

“I’m afraid,” she confided to Anton, “I think if I do not find a cool place I may melt away.”

Anton laughed and reassured her that this would not be the case. But over the next day he realized that the heat in their room increased. He had several vases collecting the water which seemed to be dripping everywhere. He said it was condensation caused by the moisture in the hotel but couldn’t tell where it was coming from. By the time he realized, Joanne was merely a sliver, a slip of a woman. He gasped in horror and ran to the hotel manager to see what could be done to get the air conditioner back on. He was assured that they were working on it. He ran around in search of some means of cooling the rooms, but by the time he had returned it was too late.

Joanne had evaporated.

In tears Anton collected the condensation and packed it in containers for travel. He was not certain what to tell her parents. When he returned home, he had beautiful jars created for her remains. Joanne’s mother was not upset, though her father had been devastated. She comforted him saying it would be okay as the seasons passed. He mourned terribly for a year and then decided it was time for him to get back to work. But found he did not feel comfortable away from the jars too long. He decided he would go back to Russia where they had met and work on his research there for awhile. With him he took the most beautiful of all the jars to sit in his office and keep him focused and also company on his often long work nights.

One evening on his way home he passed the energy plant, a place they had spent hours talking as youth. It’s entryway had a tiny courtyard with a fountain and a bench. It was cold but he dusted the snow from the bench and sat staring at the tiny fountain. He rose leaving his things and stood looking down into the frozen water. An icy tear flowed down his warm cheek onto the ice. On impulse he grabbed the jar and emptied it into the fountain. She would have wanted it to be that way he thought. He collected his briefcase and the jar and went home. He sat weeping in his sitting room chair until he fell asleep.

Near eleven pm he was awakened by a rapid knock at the door. A naked nearly frozen Joanne walked in.

“You were correct in your assessment my love, that is exactly what I would have wanted. Though I like the cold, I would have preferred a blanket. I wish we had come back immediately after the tropics, then it would not have been an entire year of torture and upset for you. I wish I had been able to communicate with you in some way. Hearing you cry on so many nights has softened me to almost butter, and that one gentle tear has corrected all the difference in my ability to understand feeling. I will never leave you again. But you must promise, no more warm vacations.” she said shivering.

Anton touched her skin, though cool it was true she was living flesh and bone. He called her parents immediately and told them she was alive. Her father was astonished and looked at his wife who said only, “Winter is a season of hibernation and renewal, after which all things regenerate and spring into life anew.” She smiled and kissed him.

Together Joanne and Anton finished his research. He bought her a summer house in the Arctic. She delivered her first baby in the spring in New Zealand. The following three each in a separate season, with a temperament like the time of year in which they were born, with the exception of the little girl born in California in the winter. They all enjoyed the cold, but the baby could tolerate neither extreme cold nor extreme heat.

Joanne learned to live with everything in moderation, and love without limitations.

After winter truly comes the spring.

Frigid © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

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Mind Expansion Explosion

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When I was little I was amazed at how often there seemed to be some terrible horrific industrial accident or local chemical fire. To be sure it was hard living somewhere that there seemed to be and endless number of unsolved accidents, whose cause was not unknown, but should in theory not have developed into the tremendous fatal catastrophes that occurred on way too regular a basis. In industrial towns people expected to have industrial accidents, but this had begun to look more like industrial clumsiness, and if they had not been so severe people might have laughed at how often things “fell down.”

My town was filled with kids who were curious like most towns, but they seemed to grow up with an interest in how things worked and how things were made. Manufacturing boomed, as well as chemical plants, textiles, and steel. As they grew older they became the laborers and engineers that powered the workforce of our town. Big industry tried several times to come in and buy out the factories and businesses that were responsible for the prosperity of our town despite our tendency to have accidents frequently. I, like those kids used to be interested in the beginning too, I wanted to contribute to the workforce that made our town great. That is until I realized that my interest or participation was somehow connected to those incidents.

At about age 12 I began having incredible headaches. One doctor told my mother children didn’t have headaches, some said it was caused by stress, and others said it was due to the change in my biology since puberty. I tried to explain to my mother they were partly caused by the buildup of ideas collecting in my head. The doctor smiled and patted my head and said, “sweet little girl, ideas do not cause headaches.” I rolled my eyes at him and looked impatiently at my mother. I was not a genius by any means, but I was smart enough to know when I was being patronized. I had found that whenever I expended energy doing something productive the headaches seemed to subside. I was good at thinking through complex problems even when I was too inexperienced in my youth to be able to know the solution.

I used to watch the local news and discuss with my parents what things our town claimed were problems but they never seemed to actually work at them. When I first began to suspect my connection it was in regard to an old rusty trundle bridge. Several railroad companies had refused to send their trains across it because it had grown rusty and unsafe. The town claimed it was the federal government’s job to replace it and had applied for land grants and federal subsidies to cover the cost, but the process was lengthy. Meanwhile the bridge remained in disrepair and avoided by the companies that might have meant revenue for the town. I suggested to my father that the steel mill might provide some assistance in exchange for some tax breaks and offers at federal contracts that way they could fix the bridge and still make some money. My father thought it was an idea worth pursuing, though he did not tell me that at the time, he simply said I was very bright and tucked me under the chin, his way of showing affection.

The following week I learned that he had taken my idea and suggested it to his foreman who had then suggested it to their general foreman. It kept going up the chain until the company head had his secretary draft a letter to the federal government requesting just such terms as I had suggested. The federal government was pleased with the proposal, but large steel companies discovered the request and attempted to under bid them. Meanwhile the deal was stalled. I sat thinking hard of a way to resolve the issue without losing the benefit for our town. That night my head hurt so intensely my mother sent me to bed. I lay with my head sandwiched between my hands begging for it to stop. And then I heard it in my head, a mind blowing explosion I was certain that the whole world had to hear.

I ran downstairs. “I thought I sent you to bed?” asked my mother.

“I feel better now.” I said.

“Yes well I’m not taking any chances, school tomorrow you know so back to bed with you,” she said.

I turned to climb the stairs but noticed on the TV screen an instant replay of the bridge being struck by lightning and the trundle falling with its farthest end hanging in the riverbed below. The federal government did not wait for the paperwork to be submitted by the opposing company and gave the contract to the local steel mill which was ready to make repairs immediately having funds and permits previously approved.

I thought that was strange, then later similar events occurred. During the first few incidents no one had known the solution ideas had come from me but as I grew older and more vocal people began to ask questions. When a young man died in a chemical fire caused because the Chemstar factory would not fix a valve relay at my suggestion, the police hauled me in for questioning. I was 18 years old. The valve exploded, the plant caught fire and I was accused of industrial espionage. I was released because I had never been on the premises, only discussed it with a few of the engineers that worked there. One had died in the fire and the other had been at a committee meeting at the time the fire occurred. No one else had known of my suggestion.

After the incident I became more particular about who I shared my information with. I realized the town government didn’t really want to solve the issues. So I began keeping a journal, which later turned out to be a mistake. Whenever I had a headache caused by local trouble I would think really hard about the solution until I got a headache thinking about it and then I would go to bed. When I woke in the morning whatever the problem was had been destroy by some disaster or event and solutions were then sought to rectify them. They never asked me. I sometimes mailed the ideas to researchers or engineers.

What I had not know was that government agents were monitoring mail sent by me as well as following local events. They sent officers to my parent’s home with a warrant giving permission to search my personal premises. They found my journal and sent me to federal prison. Despite the fact that the incidences never stopped they have kept me there close by. I have had headaches quite frequently since having arrived.

The Scientific advisers and research people come by regularly to ask me how I would resolve some local problems. Funny how helping them still seems to make my headaches go away.

Mind Expansion Explosion © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

 

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