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Author: Wayne Cole Page 1 of 7

A Halloween Haunting: Cathy

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week is the third part of my Halloween exercise. What made this story different to write is that I don’t think I’ve ever written from the perspective of a small child before. I kept looking at the words I was using and trying to scale them back. On the other hand I wanted her inner dialog to show that she is more intelligent and aware than her vocabulary lets her express. I’m not sure if I succeeded on that point.

I have been thoroughly enjoying this process and looking forward to sharing the final two perspectives. I had a basic idea in mind when I started, but the story has continued to deepen and grow as it moves along. There are so many angles to the events that no single perspective would have provided and if I’m being honest I would not have thought of if I were not exploring the other perspectives.

  It was a scary night.  The rain poured down outside, and the thunder was so loud the windows kept rattling.  Even our big fluffy dog Jack knew that it was dangerous, so he was hiding under the couch and whining.  Sometimes I think Jack is smarter than daddy.  Instead of hiding like we should have daddy picked me up and tried to calm me down.  Being in his arms did make me feel a little better, but he just didn’t understand.  I had to try to get him to.  “But the Scary Woman comes when it storms.” 

  “We’ve talked about this baby.  The Scary Woman isn’t real.”  Daddy always says that.  He has never seen her.  If he had he would know.

  “But Daddy I’ve seen her.” I try again. I just want to get through to him.  He thinks I made up the Scary Woman with my imagination.  I didn’t though.  I have really seen her.  I see lots of scary people, but she is different.  She keeps coming back.  Always during bad storms.  The other scary people are just out there in the world, but the Scary Woman comes to my house.  I am shaking because of how scared I am.  I know she is coming, but it feels different this time.

  “There, there child.  It’d going to be ok.”  My grandma puts her hand on my shoulder, and I stop shaking.  She can do that.  She makes me all calm even when I’m super scared.  Daddy never sees her or talks to her though.  I keep telling him that he’s being really rude, but all he ever says it that grandma is dead, and I shouldn’t talk about her.  I don’t know what the word dead means, but I’m not going to stop talking about grandma.  I love her and I won’t ignore her like he does.  I look at her and she is smiling.   

  I look back at daddy and stare into his eyes.  I am completely calm now, but I can feel her.  I can’t really explain it, but I just know so I tell him.  “She’s here.”  My voice always sounds weird when grandma is touching me.  I can’t really explain it, but daddy gives me weird looks when I talk.  The Scary Woman is outside our front door though and daddy needed to know that.  He is braver than me so maybe he won’t be scared.  He is going to see her tonight I just know it.  He sets me back down on the floor just in time for a loud banging sound on the front door.  It is her and he is staring at the door.

  “Come on Cathy lets go to your room.  We have some work to do.”  Grandma takes my hand, and we walk to my bedroom.  When she lets go of my hand the fear comes rushing back so I jump on my bed and under the covers for protection.  I know they won’t really protect me.  I can feel the Scary Woman out there still just like I can feel grandma standing over me. 

  “The Scary Woman needs to go away,” I say.

  “Yes she does Cathy dear.  I think she has bothered you long enough.  It’s time I taught you how to call my friend.”

  “Your friend?”

  “Oh yes dear.  When the scary people keep coming it means that they are lost.  If you call him, he will come and get them.”

  “Why don’t you call him?”  I didn’t want to talk to some stranger and daddy says I can’t use the phone unless he is there.  I didn’t want to get in trouble.

  “It has to be you dear.”  She takes my hands and I feel calm again.  She is under the blanket with me, but I don’t remember her crawling in and the blanket isn’t big enough for both of us.  It is covering us both anyway though.  Grandma always tells me not to worry about things like that and with her holding my hands I don’t.  She puts my hands together with my two pointer fingers touching and my two thumbs touching.  They make kind of a diamond shape.  Then she asks me to say some words.  I don’t know what the words are or what they mean.  They sound like gibberish, but I say them.  I can feel this strange sensation running all over me, but grandma is holding my hands so I am calm and still. 

  “You call and I am here to answer.”  The voice came from a man wearing a black suit.  He looked at me for a moment and then smiled.  “Why hello there little miss I don’t believe we have met.”

  “I’m Cathy.  Who are you?”

  “Oh, I’m just a friend of your grandmother’s and now I suppose I’m a friend of yours.  So, what can I do for my new friend?”

  “The Scary Woman is here, and she needs to stop coming here.”

  He turned to look towards the living room.  “Ah I see.  She just ran off into the night.  Don’t worry though I’ll take care of her.”  He looked over at my grandma.  “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you Elizabeth my dear.  She’s almost ready to take your place and when that day comes, I’ll be back for you.”  Then he did some weird heel tapping thing and turned to walk away.  I couldn’t see him anymore through the blanket, but I knew he was gone.

  Daddy came back in the room.  I could hear his footsteps on the floor.  I could never feel him like grandma, the Scary Woman, or my new friend.  “It’s ok now.  The woman at the door is gone.”

  Grandma was still holding my hand, so I was completely calm.  “I know,” I told him.  I did know.  I could feel when she ran away even if my new friend hadn’t told me.  I turned my head to look up at him.  “It’s going to be ok now.  He’s coming to get her.  I called for him.”  I was proud of myself for learning how to take care of problems like the Scary Woman, but my voice sounded all weird again. 

     Grandma let go of my hand and all these emotions rushed back into me.  I was suddenly so tired and just wanted to sleep.  I lay down in my bed ready to fall asleep, but when I blinked my eyes daddy was still standing over me looking really worried.  I was surprised to see him still there but didn’t want him to worry.  “Hi daddy.  I’m not scared anymore.  I am tired though.  Goodnight.”  I rolled over and fell right to sleep knowing the Scary Woman would never bother me again.

A Halloween Haunting: Benjamin

Fiction Fragment Friday

This is part two of my October writing exercise to tell the same story from different perspectives. I now also with this weeks story know what my fifth perspective will be. I know what the last story will be, but I’m not sure which of the two possible perspectives to use for next week and which to save for the week after. Hope you enjoy.

  “Daddy I’m scared.”  The windows rattled under the force of the thunder outside and Benjamin could hear the sound of his dog whining from under the couch.  He picked up his youngest daughter and held her close making eye contact.

  “Cathy baby there’s nothing to be afraid of.  We live in a big house, and it would take a storm five times bigger before we would need to worry.”

  “But the Scary Woman comes when it storms.”

  The Scary Woman.  Benjamin thought that his daughter had outgrown the Scary Woman.  Almost as soon as she could talk, she started telling stories and drawing pictures of an imaginary boogieman she called The Scary Woman.  He had no idea what inspired her, but it gave Cathy nightmares for years.  He hadn’t heard her talk about the Scary Woman in months.  This felt like a huge setback to him.

  “We’ve talked about this baby.  The Scary Woman isn’t real.”

  “But Daddy I’ve seen her.”

  Before Benjamin could reply a particularly loud thunder struck and the power went out with it.  It was only for a few moments, but the house went completely dark, and Cathy screamed in terror.  He held his daughter tight as she shook.  These were the moments that made him feel most helpless.  Even though he had plenty of experience doing so he just never felt like he knew how to comfort her.  She seemed to always be afraid of something.

  Benjamin met his daughter’s eyes and found the fear gone.  Her face was blank with no expression at all.  When she spoke, her voice came out monotone lacking all emotion.  “She’s here.”  He set his daughter down not wanting to admit how much this had disturbed him.  At that moment there was a loud bank on the door like something had hit it.  Cathy went from blank faced to scared instantly and ran from the living room, down the hall, and slammed the door to her bedroom behind her.  There was another sound at the door and Benjamin went to see what it was.

  As he opened the door a young woman almost fell into the house.  She grabbed wildly at the door frame to steady herself and just barely managed to not fall.  He looked down into her face.  This woman had showed up when his daughter was most afraid and made things worse.  He was angry, but as he looked her up and down, he could see that the woman was drenched and looked exhausted.  “Can I help you?” he asked feeling bad for the girl.  Her head and the front of her clothes were covered in blood like she had been in some sort of accident.  This could be my little girl someday he thought.  If it is I would want someone to help her.

  “Who are you and why are you in my house?”  She sounded angry and he was a little put off by her claim that it was her house.

  “Lady I don’t know who you are, but this is my house.  I’ve lived here for over five years.”  He watched as she looked past him into the house.  He could tell she was taking in the family pictures on the wall and for a moment he worried that she was casing the house to come back and rob it. 

  She looked down at the keys in her hand.  “What’s going on here?”  Her head turned to look over the neighborhood.  She was confused, but the look on her face was unmistakable to him.  It was the same look his ex-wife wore after Cathy had been born.  She was overwhelmed and didn’t think she could deal with it.  She was going to run just like Keri had.  He reached out to stop her, but she was already moving. 

  “Hey, come back, I can help you.” Benjamin yelled after here, but he was pretty sure she hadn’t heard him.  She was moving fast and before he knew it, she was gone.  He rubbed his eyes trying to focus.  It wasn’t like she had just ran, but like after she left the yard she just vanished.  He closed the door and turned back to his living room.  He could see in the corner that Cathy had drawn another picture at some point.  He couldn’t remember seeing her coloring.  Looking down at it even though it wasn’t very details he knew what she had drawn.  It was the woman from the front door.  The clothes were the same color, but more importantly the blood was in all the right spots.  He stood there as minutes passed trying to put it all together. 

  Benjamin knocked on Cathy’s door.  “Honey it’s dad.  Can I come in?”  There was no sound from inside, but the door creaked open.  He stepped in to find Cathy on her bed under the covers.  She was not shaking anymore though; she was sitting up not moving.  He closed the door behind him and wondered for a moment how she could have opened it and gotten back to her bed so quickly.  “It’s ok now.  The woman at the door is gone.”

  “I know.”  The voice was monotone again and sent a shiver up Benjamin’s spine.  He pulled the blanked back and found his daughter sitting very still.  She turned to him with the blank expression on her face.  Her eyes looked like they had rolled back into her head because they were all white with no color.  “It’s going to be ok now.  He’s coming to get her.  I called for him.”  The voice was clear and sounded too mature for his little girl. 

     Her eyes returned to normal, and she laid back down on the bed.  “Hi daddy.  I’m not scared anymore.  I am tired though.  Goodnight.”  He voice was back to normal and there was a cheeriness to it.

A Halloween Haunting: Lisa

Fiction Fragment Friday

I decided to do something new for October. This month every Fiction Fragment Friday is part of the same story, but told from a different character’s point of view. There are five Friday’s in this October so there will be five stories. There are only four characters in the story this week so that is going to present an extra challenge. I have some ideas, but we will see where it goes.

  I pulled the jacket tightly around myself, but it couldn’t stop the wind from ripping right through me.  The rain was coming down so hard it actually stung as it hit my face.  My heavy coat with a hood would have been so much more effective, but I liked the wind breaker better and I never imagined I would be stuck out in a storm.  It was one of many mistakes that night that had led to this miserable situation.  My car sat in a ditch about a mile behind me, but I was almost home.  My eyes stung from the water, but I could see my house at the end of the block.  Thoughts of dry clothes and a warm blanket filled me with hope.  I could deal with the car in the morning.

  I put my key into the front door and tried to turn it, but the lock wouldn’t budge.  I let out a scream of frustration and slammed my fists into the door.  I slumped my head against the door in frustration not sure what to do next so when the door opened, I stumbled and had to grab the frame to keep from falling.  As it was, I found myself staring up into a stranger’s face.  “Can I help you?”

  “Who are you and why are you in my house?”  I watched as his facial expression ran through a gambit of emotions.  At first, he looked annoyed, then as he took in the miserable state I must have presented he became concerned, when I spoke he was confused, but the circle finally completed and came back to annoyed.

  “Lady I don’t know who you are, but this is my house.  I’ve lived here for over five years.”

  As my eyes focused, I could see the living room behind him.  All of the furniture was different.  The walls were lined with pictures of a happy family, and I could the children age between photographs.  The TV was on, but I had never seen one like it.  It was thin and mounted on the wall.  There wasn’t even an antenna coming out of the top of it.  I stepped back into the rain to take in the house.  It was my house, but there was a strange family living in it.  I looked down at my key that hadn’t worked in the door.   “What’s going on here?”  I asked.  It just didn’t make any sense.  I looked to the driveway and didn’t recognize the cars parked in it.  They certainly didn’t look anything like my Cavalier.  Having no idea what to do next I turned an ran back into the storm.

  There was a gas station a few blocks over and I felt like I needed to get out of the storm so I could at least think.  Looking around I couldn’t find any pay phones outside.  I found that extremely odd, but I didn’t have change on me anyway.  I started thinking about who I would call collect for help if I could find one.  Maybe I could get the clerk to let me borrow the station’s phone.  I pulled open the door to the station and stepped inside dripping water all over the floor.  I looked over at the counter and locked eyes with a clerk who looked to be in his fifties.

  “Oh no, not again.”  He looked terrified and was backing away from me.  “Please just leave me alone.”

  “What’s wrong with you?”

  “No, you aren’t real.  You aren’t real.”  He ran out from behind the counter and disappeared into the backroom.

  I was so tired.  It was getting hard to keep moving so I sat down on the gas station floor.  I grabbed a newspaper from by the door not caring that I was going to destroy it with my wet hands.  I looked at the date, but it didn’t make sense.  October 2021.  I did the math in my head and wondered how the paper could be off by 35 years.  Blood dripped from my head onto the paper, and I dropped it in a panic.  I looked down and my clothes were torn and shredded.  When had that happened? 

  I couldn’t stand so I crawled to the stock room door and started banging my fists on it.  “Please help me,” I screamed.

     There was a voice behind me.  “I think thirty-five years is long enough.”  It hurt to turn my head to face the new voice.  It was a man dressed in a black suit.  He was holding his hand out to me.  I reached out and as our hands met the pain faded.  I looked down and my clothes were whole again.  “Come now, it’s time to go.”  Together we walked out the front door of the gas station and the world faded away. 


Fiction Fragment Friday

I honestly don’t know where the inspiration for this week’s story came from. Like many I sat down and started writing with the story developing from the first few lines that came out. I know after I started with the alerts I did a bit of research and focused on what would cause the results that were in the error. It is really one of those weeks where the story kind of wrote itself. It also is one of those weeks where the story could very well be expanded to be part of something much larger.

  I was well into the fifth hour of my shift and almost didn’t notice the warning light start to flash on my monitoring dashboard.  I had done about thirty minutes work of actual work this shift, chatted with coworkers about nothing for a few hours, and was just settling in for my post break nap.  Most people seem to think that all shifts are equal on a generation ship since there is no concept of night or day, but most people are wrong.  The captain is on first shift, and that means the vast majority of the high-ranking command team is also on first shift.  All the important meetings happen then.  Second shift is the up-and-coming crew.  They don’t quite have the rank or seniority to be on first shift, but they are hungry to prove that they are capable of it.  The self-important meetings happen then.  To be fair most of the innovative ideas also come from second shift.  Third shift is the rookies, the burnouts, and people too lazy to have any form of ambition.  I fall squarely in that last category.  With no important meetings, and no real supervision the only thing that is ever asked of me is the bare minimum and to not break anything.  That is why I love being on third shift.  The freedom to do whatever I want and still get paid for it.

  The alert was a low severity warning that the air composition has varied from the standard deviation by point 5 percent on a minimum of three sensors.  Technically I could push the alert off to the next shift as long as it did not increase to a medium severity though doing so would be highly frowned upon.  While I am admittedly very lazy, I am not reckless or incompetent.  When it comes to environmental systems on an enclosed ecosystem there really is no such thing as a low severity warning in my mind.  Things can go badly very quickly, and it takes much longer to recover than it does for the damage to be done.  It would be even harder to recover if everyone was dead.  Just because I didn’t want to do my job didn’t mean I wasn’t as or more capable of doing it than the career minded first and second shifters. 

  I opened the alert and started examining the data.  I was expecting to see a rise in carbon dioxide as that is the normal variant, but it was sitting firmly at point 46 percent.  That was a point higher than normal, but well within the standard variation and not enough to trigger an alert.  The alert was being generated due to an increase of hydrogen.  The standard blend of air is 22.64% Oxygen, 76.90% Nitrogen, and 0.45% Carbon Dioxide.  Hydrogen isn’t supposed to even be in the mix, but there it was and Oxygen was taking a dip to account for it in the percentages.  “What the hell?” I asked myself looking at the numbers.  I switched over to the reporting sensors and found they were all clustered together.  Expanding the range, I could see that nearby sensors were getting close to alerting as well.  This had started at sensor J23 but was spreading from that location. 

  There was no way around it, I would have to go personally inspect the area.  I filled out an incident report will all my findings and logged it.  That way if anything happened the next shift would know what I did going in.  My tablet was tied to the dashboard so if any other alerts popped up, I would still get them while out.  Grabbing my work bag, I headed out from environmental not at all happy to have excitement on my shift.  When it comes to systems keeping everyone on-board alive a boring shift is a good shift, and an eventful shift is something you hope never happens.  I checked the location, and the alerting nodes were in maintenance tunnels.  This meant I was going to be in an even more enclosed area than usual.

  As I arrived at the sensor location the issue became immediately clear to me.  There was a green sludge on the wall and everywhere it touched the iron in the wall was rusting away.  I could see through one of the forming holes that one of the central communication conduits was behind the wall.  There are redundant runs to compensate for any failure of this backbone system, but it was still extremely concerning.  I tapped on my tablet and did a quick check for Hydrogen anywhere else in the ship.  That search would take a while, so I canceled and narrowed it down to only sensors along the redundant run.  What I most feared soon showed up in my search.  They had not yet alarmed, but the same anomalies were found along the redundant run and were increasing.  I reached into my bag and pulled out a test tube.  I needed to get a sample of this green sludge and analyze it.

  When I touched the glass tube to the green sludge it reacted.  The sludge moved on its own to avoid the tube.  It had been spread over the wall, but now it condensed into a small area taking on a much darker shade.  I pulled back startled by the change and that was the only thing that saved my life.  The sludge lashed out forming a sharp looking tendril that aimed for my throat.  There was a sharp hissing sound like a cat warning me to back off.  I stumbled away from what I now recognized to be some sort of creature.  The tendril raised up and I thought it was going to take another swipe at me, but instead it plunged into the data conduit and severed it with one slice.  Alarms flashed red all over my tablet screen as systems failed and attempted to reroute to the secondary paths. 

  I crawled as quickly as I could to the nearest maintenance tunnel hatch and climbed out onto the corridor.  I can’t say that I’m in particularly good shape, but I ran faster than I ever have before towards the tunnel where the secondary feed was located.  We would be severely screwed if it were severed as well.  I opened a communications line to the managers of first and second shifts.  I’m sure they heard heavy breathing that sounded completely inappropriate as I forced their lines open.  “We have a serious emergency here.  I don’t know how else to say this, but something is on the ship, and it just cut one of the central communication conduits.”  I had to pause gasping for air as I reached the hatch and grunted opening it.  “I’m pretty sure there is another working on the other one.  I’m in J45 now to see if I can stop it.”

  A tired voice came back over the line.  “This is Commander Roma.  What do you men by something?”

  “Well Jen this thing looks like some kind of green sludge, but it can move on its own.  It tried to slice my throat and when it missed it slashed the conduit.  Here I’m turning on my camera.”  I could see the wall covered in more green sludge, but the rust was not as bad.  I aimed my tablet at the sludge so they could see it.

  “What the hell is that stuff?”

  “No clue,” I replied.  I grabbed another tube and touched it to the sludge.  Just like before it condensed and lashed out at me.  This time I was expecting it and I held out a wrench to block the blow.  It wrapped around the wrench and pulled it from my hand with more force than I had anticipated.  I ducked at the wrench went flying over my head.  “You getting this?”

  “Oh I’m seeing it.  Security is on the way.”  The voice was Captain Mahatma.  I had not noticed when Commander Roma added him to the chat, so his voice startled me. 

  I thought about the chemical reaction that the sludge had created.  It was pulling the Oxygen from the air, but there was no other source of water.  It had to be providing that.  I reached into my bag and pulled out a container of Sodium Sulfate.  Getting as close as I dared to the creature, I tossed the powder onto the sludge.  The creature let out a horrid wail that could only be taken as a scream of pain.  It shriveled and writhed as it was dried out until finally it fell to the floor.  Looking into my kit I found my empty coffee thermos and carefully scooped the creature into it sealing the lid tight. 

  “Well Mr. Mallory,” the captain chimed in reminding me that the video line was still open.  “It seems your skill may just be wasted on third shift.  Once this is all sorted out, we are going to have to see about getting you some more responsibility.”

     I could see my long nights of reading, socializing, and naps becoming a thing of the past.  I was not at all happy about that, but I tried to keep it out of my voice.  “Yes Captain.”            

Old Friend

Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story was inspired by a dream. Essentially much of the first paragraph was directly in the dream, but there were no details. It was a vivid enough memory that I just started with that scene and let it take me where it would. Integrating a bus into the story came from another dream. I often have extremely vivid dreams and wake up thinking they would be good concepts for fiction. I don’t often capitalize on them. This time I did. Enjoy.

  My best friend from High School sat next to my bed in the emergency room with a broken nose. As I looked over him, I realized that time had not been kind. Where my hair was still a bright red his was now mostly gray despite us being the same age. There were wrinkle lines all over his face and he looked tired. He held an icepack against his nose, but I could still see a trickle of blood running down his face under it. The look of annoyance was evident, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of the nose or the hour we had been sitting here in awkward silence waiting to talk to a doctor.

  I hate going to the emergency room. I’m sure no one loves the experience, but I am particularly impatient. You check in and then wait to be called. They take you to a room, get your vitals, and then you wait for someone to come talk to you. They run tests and then you wait for results. I glance up at the sign on the wall and see they have an average wait time of four hours to see a doctor. I certainly hope that is not the case for more serious emergencies. The silence has gotten to me, so I finally speak up. “Hell of a day huh?”

  “Yep” He nods but does not go on.

  “You know you don’t have to wait. I’m fine really. You have more reason to be in here than I do.”

  “Not leaving til I get some answers. Haven’t seen you in over twenty years. You step on my bus and all hell breaks loose in a matter of minutes. I find you passed out with blood running from your eyes and ears. That ain’t normal.”

  He isn’t wrong. Minutes after I got onto the bus that morning someone fired a damned rocket launcher at it. Thank god I saw it coming, but still it took all my telekinetic strength to shield the bus and the force of it still tipped us over.  The bus was laying diagonally propped up against the cars it fell onto when the hit squad opened the back door and pointed a flame thrower in. I didn’t have enough strength to make another shield and even if I did my shields don’t hold back heat. Instead, I telekinetically pulled the fuel line and sprayed the man with his own gasoline. He lit up like a Christmas tree. I can still hear the screaming and smell the scent of burning flesh. It sends a shiver down my spine that does not go unnoticed.

  “You, OK?”

  “Yeah, I’ll be fine. I was just thinking about that guy with the malfunctioning flamethrower. I know he was trying to kill us, but still he was a person and that was pretty gruesome.”

  “Yeah, that was messed up.  Pretty sure he was just trying to kill you though.” 

  “Even if that’s true and I’m not saying it is. Flame throwers aren’t exactly precision weapons. Not like the fire would have safely passed by all the other passengers.”        

  “True enough. There’s a lot of things you ain’t sayin though. The guy that came through the front window called you by name.”

  A man armed with the biggest pistol I have ever seen in person had climbed through the busted out front window and yelled for me by name to give up.  That was how Bobby Joe recognized me after all these years. When he tried to grab the man from behind, he got an elbow to the nose for his trouble.  I was exhausted, but there was no way I was going to be captured and taken to some lab to be cut up. They wanted to see how my powers worked I would show them. I held my hands up in a placating gesture at first, then I thrust my right hand forward and with it entered the mercenary’s mind.

  Every mind is unique and has its own defenses.  A normal person typically has defenses I can tear through without any trouble. Someone with strong will might be exceedingly difficult, but I can still generally brute force my way in. This man had training. His defenses presented themselves as walls with mounted guns topped with barbed wire. It was a metaphor, but the way defenses look can tell you a lot about the person. This man believed in power through structure and defeating the enemy with overwhelming firepower. I saw the value in that, but I can also think more subtly. I condensed my mental image as small as possible too tiny for the guns to target. Then as I approached the wall, I looked for cracks. There are always cracks. Finding one I climbed in. I got mental images of this man’s family back home. They didn’t know what he did for a living, and he was terrified that he would lose them if they found out.

  I took his fear and used it to create a scene. He was living out his biggest fear in his mind. His wife calling him a monster. His kids crying and running from him. His own pet dog growling trying to defend his family from him. The crack grew like it was filled with water expanding as it froze. The tiny crack soon burst, and the wall had a huge hole in it. Allowing myself to expand to my normal mental presence I stroll through the breach and into my victim’s mind. In his mind it felt like a half hour of mental combat. In the outside world I thrust my hand up and he almost instantly collapsed to the ground. I could hear the sirens coming in the distance and knew it was time to move. Everything was spinning though. I was so nauseous I threw up there in the bus. I had pushed myself too far and everything went dark as I lost consciousness.

  “Knowing is dangerous,” I say to him. It is true. Everyone I have shared my secret with has been hurt in one way or another. Whoever is hunting me has resources and not just guns. In this day and age hackers are just as powerful at destroying a life as armed soldiers.  They could make you disappear, empty bank accounts, and create evidence of you performing the most heinous crimes. Those were the people that they didn’t just outright kill. I could not let another friend even one I hadn’t seen since high school get involved.

  “I already know somethin. I saw what you did.”

     “No, you didn’t.”  I thrust out my hand and went inside Bobby Joe’s mind. I saw his life over the past twenty years. The ups and the downs. Three children, two marriages, one divorce. Losses, stressors, and joys. There is no better way to know a person than to see inside their mind. There was a stubborn determination to him, and I was still very weak. He had no major defenses though and at this I had become a precise instrument. I left his mind knowing he would be dazed for a few minutes as things came into focus. “Goodbye old friend,” I said as I got up and slipped out the door. I slipped the hospital band off and slid it into my pocket before entering the waiting room. As I walked out of the hospital, I had a moment of regret. It would be nice to have a friend again. Maybe someday. Maybe.

Grandma’s Stories

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s fiction fragment Friday is special. As of this story I have been doing these for one year. That is a big milestone for me and I’m proud to have reached it. I figured I would share some stats from that time.

  • 51 Total Stories with only one week being missed.
  • Over 40,000 words across all stories.
  • Three settings with multiple stories

I have gone through success and loss during this time. This process started when my father’s health issues gave me a reality check and motivated me to start doing something with the time I have. The first year has been about building a catalog of material on this site and pushing myself to make writing a regular part of my week. It has accomplished that.

My goals for this next year will be a bit more lofty.

  • Start submitting stories again to try and get further publishing.
  • Edit and self-published my Ricochet novel.
  • Write another novel during NaNoWriMo.
  • Continue Fiction Fragment Friday without missing a week.

  “Jenni dear, what a pleasant surprise.  Come in.”  The old woman had a genuine smile on her face that extended all the way to her eyes. 

  “Hi, grandma.”  Jenni held up a tiny paper bag.  “I just got back from China, and I have your favorite tea.”

  The old woman reached up and took the bag glancing in it.  “Oh this is so wonderful.”  She pointed a finger to the couch.  “Go ahead and sit down while I make this.  I want to hear all about your trip.”  Jenni moved to the couch and stretched out while her grandmother shuffled off to the kitchen.  She looked around the room at all the pictures on the wall of her grandmother’s own travels.  The constant need to see and experience anything was definitely a trait that she had inherited from her.

  “Grandma how many times did you go to China?”

  The older woman came back into the room with two steaming mugs of tea.  She handed one to Jenni and then sat down in her worn comfy chair.  “Oh dear, it is hard to keep track.  Let’s see I went to Hong Kong twice, I’ve seen the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, and the Three Gorges. So at least five times.”  She took a sip of the tea and let out a contented sigh.

  Jenni took a sip of her own mug.  “That is so amazing.  I bet you have so many stories from your travels.”

  “Oh I do dear.  I’ve met so many interesting people and seen so many sites in my time.  It’s never quite enough though.  You always find yourself wishing you had just a little more time.”

  “Yeah, I can see that.  When I left it felt like I had just gotten there.”

  “You remind me so much of myself at your age Jenni.  I really wonder sometimes how your father turned out the way he did.”

  “Don’t tell me you two are still fighting.”

  “Of course, not dear.  We’d have to be talking to fight.”

  “Grandma!”  She stretched the word out and there was a whining inflection to her tone.  “You need to call him.”

  “No, I don’t.  He has never forgiven me for remarrying after his father died and I can’t forgive him for the way he treated your mother.  She is a good woman, and she deserved more respect.  I raised him better than that.”

  “I’m not going to give up on you two, but I’ll let it go for now.  No need to ruin the whole visit with family drama when I have a vacation to talk about.”

  “I wholeheartedly agree.”  She sat the mug down on top of a saucer on the coffee table.  “Now tell me everything.”

  The conversation went on into the night and it was midnight before Jenni finally headed home.  She was so tired when she got home that she just collapsed in bed without checking any of her messages. Since getting back into the country her phone had synced and there were 23 new voice mails and more texts than she cared to count.   She had not adjusted back to her home time zone well and it showed the next morning when she found herself rushing to avoid being late for work.  Once she was in the office, she had two weeks’ worth of piled up work waiting for her.  Every time she looked at her phone the number of messages made her feel overwhelmed, so she put it off a little longer.

  “Grandma with all your travel how did you adjust to time differences?”  Jenni had gone from work straight over to her grandmother’s house for dinner. 

  “Oh you get used to it, or at-least you get used to not getting used to it.”  She chuckled a bit.  “Something I learned from the Europeans is take naps when you are tired.  That can really help you get through the day.”

  “That’s kind of hard to do in an office.”

  “I suppose it would be.  As a writer that was never a problem of mine.  I spent more time worrying about what male pen name I was going to use to get my books published.  It was a different time back then you know.  My agent couldn’t get my manuscript on a publisher’s desk if they didn’t think I was a man.”

  Jenni shook her head in disgust.  “I don’t know how you put up with it.”

  “Because it was more important to me that people read my work than know who I was.  It’s all about priorities dear and what is truly important to you.  Sure, it bothered me that none of my books had my own name for years, but they were being enjoyed and I was being paid.”

  “Tell me about Grandpa.  Dad always talks about him, but he died when I was too young to remember.”

  “Gerald was a wonderful man.  He was far from perfect though and had plenty of faults.  Your father puts him up on a pedestal and remembers him only through the tinted lenses of love.  That’s where he gets his pigheadedness from.  When Gerald decided he was right about something no amount of arguing or evidence would ever change his mind.  Your father is the exact same way.  Why when he was a boy…”   The night went one with Jenni’s grandmother telling her story after story about her father and grandfather.  When she finally left to head home, she felt like she understood her family much better than when she had arrived.  As much as she had been pressuring her grandmother to make up with her father, she herself had not spoken to him in over a month.  He had not supported her decision to take a job at the law-firm that he represented her mother in the divorce.  He felt like she had betrayed him, and not having his support hurt her in ways she didn’t want to admit.

  Jenni went to her grandmother’s house each night that week.  They shared tea and stories.  Jenni would tell her grandmother about work and the few trips she had taken.  When she finished grandma would share stories of the family.  It made Jenni feel closer to her family than she had felt since her parent’s divorce and she cherished the feeling.  She was starting to understand herself more through the stories as well.  She saw herself in her grandmother, father, and even learned a few things about her own mother.  Finally on the fourth night she got up the courage to listen to her messages.  She started with her friends, but finally hit play on the first message from her father.

  “Hi Jenni, it’s dad.  Give me a call when you get this, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you.”  She started to get worried as she hit the next message.  “Hey Jenni, it’s dad again.  I don’t know if you are screening your calls or what, but I really need to talk to you.  It’s about your grandmother.”  She hit the last message from a week ago.  “Jenni, I didn’t want to do this on a message, but you aren’t giving me any choice.  Your grandmother had a heart attack. She passed away in her sleep.  I’ll text you the funeral arrangements.”  Jenni switched over to her text messages and found not just details, but a link to her grandmother’s obituary on the funeral home website.  The funeral was the day before she came home from China. 

  Confused she left work early to head to her grandmother’s house.  Jenni had her own key and let herself into the house.  It was quieter than she could ever remember.  As she wandered from room to room she found boxes everywhere with her grandmother’s personal items.  Some were labeled to donate, but others had the names of family members.  One box had her name on it.  Jenni nervously sat down and opened the box.  Inside were collections of photographs from her grandmothers’ travels, a travel journal, and various trinkets she had always liked as a kid.  She felt the tear run down her cheek. 

  “I hope I picked the right things for you.”  Jenni was startled by the sound of her dad’s voice from the door.  She rushed to him and hugged him tightly.  The tears turned to sobs as he patted her back.  “There, there baby.  I’m so sorry.  I know you two were close.”

  In her head she heard the words her grandma had spoken again with new light.  “You always find yourself wishing you had just a little more time.” 

  Jenni looked up at her father’s face and could see the pain in it.  He didn’t want to admit how much he was hurting.  “You feel guilty for not patching things up, don’t you?”

  He fought to keep control of his expressions.  “You always think you have more time.  That you can fix things later.  Remember this baby-girl, you don’t always have a later.”

     Jenni pulled away and went into the kitchen.  The plain paper bag of tea was still on the counter and when she opened it, she found that only enough was gone for the portions she had drunk.  She got to work and soon walked back into the living room with two mugs of steaming tea.    She handed him a mug and sat down on the chair.  He sat on the couch in her grandmother’s spot. “Ok dad, I think we have some things we need to talk about.” 

One Bad Morning

Fiction Fragment Friday

This week’s story can be read entirely on it’s own, but it is a sequel to the previous Fiction Fragment Friday Monster Hunters which is noteworthy because it was the very first Fiction Fragment Friday. Next week it will have been a year since I started doing these. I did not set out to write a sequel to that story when I sat down to write this one, but after I got a few paragraphs in I decided that was the direction I wanted to go in.

I plan to proved a year in review post next week with some stats, updates, and plans. I will want to do something special for the story as well, but I have not decided what yet. For this week enjoy One Bad Morning.

  I woke up gasping for air in a state of complete panic.  Pressure pushed against my eyes and ears from inside my head.  With great effort I dragged myself out of bead and stumbled to the bathroom.  Opening the medicine cabinet, I fumbled with the boxes and dropped the one I needed into the sink.  With a frustrated sigh I picked it up and grabbed a pill swallowing it without any drink.  Sinuses, allergies, and recurring nightmares are not a good combination for a restful night’s sleep.  Unfortunately, I had quite a bit of experience dealing with this combination.  The sinuses and allergies I had struggled with my whole life, but the nightmares were a recent development.

  Normally I remember my dreams, but these nightmares fade quickly.  I had a sense that it was the same dream recurring every night, but the only thing I could recall after the panic subsided each morning was a number.  The first night the number was seven and each night after it lowered by one like a countdown.  That morning as I looked in the mirror at a tired miserable looking reflection, I didn’t get a number.  Instead as my thoughts cleared, I got a strong sense of the word today.  While the panic had faded with the adrenaline the general anxiety was only growing. 

  Throughout the morning a headache grew that pain killers couldn’t seem to touch.  It started as the pressure behind my eyes migrating to a low throbbing sensation in the front of my head.  As the hours passed the throbbing became a stabbing pain coming in waves of increasing intensity.  My coffee mug fell to the floor and shattered into tiny pieces as a particularly intense wave hit me.  I found myself doubled over on the floor as the pain ebbed and decided it was time to go to an Urgent Care.  With the waves coming faster I didn’t feel that it would be safe to drive myself, so I started downloading a ride sharing app to my phone while cleaning up the mess.  That was when the strongest wave yet hit me and I lost all sense of time as I hit my kitchen floor.

  My doorbell echoed through the house.  I briefly wondered why no one was answering the door before remembering that I lived alone.  The pain was too intense to get to my feet, so I just lay there curled up in the fetal position.  A loud crack came from the living room as my front door was kicked open.  I hoped that whoever it was would pay for the repairs because I didn’t have enough money saved for a new door.  A woman with green hair wearing some sort of brown work jumpsuit strolled into my house.  Behind her came a tall dark-haired man.  They each held what looked to me like a 1950s inspired ray gun in one hand.  The woman also held a tablet of some sort in her left hand. 

  “Alright James the strongest readings are in the kitchen and the bedroom.  I’ll take the bedroom you take the kitchen.”

  The man nodded and headed towards me.  “So help me Lilly if I end up covered in green goo again I’m picking the missions from now on.”

  “Quit your whining, it’s not my fault you waited too long to shower last time.”

  The man whose name was apparently James finally saw me on the kitchen floor and rushed to my side.  My vision was blurring from the pain, but I could hear him muttering, “Please let me be in time for once.” I felt a needle press into my arm.  “Stay with me.  Focus on my voice.”  I tried to do what he said but the pain was so intense.  It felt like my head was going to explode.  “Lilly get in here his head is about to burst.”

  I heard the female voice from my bedroom.  “It’s a nightmare parasite.  Came in through his dreams.”

  “Hold on just a little longer.”  I could feel him squeezing my hand.  “I need that frequency, Lilly.”

  “I’m working on it.  Ok, got it.  7.48325 wavelength so frequency of 41.2”

  I could just barely make out the man standing and pointing his ray gun at me. The pain was too intense for my fear to take the form of words, but a part of me was just grateful that it was about to stop.  A wave of heat washed over my head and I let out an involuntary scream.  Something wet was leaking from my ears and I wondered if my brain had been liquefied.  “Die you bastard,” was the last thing I heard before everything went dark and I once again slipped into unconsciousness.

     Sunlight burned my eyes as I struggled to open them.  My throat felt raw like it would the day after a really good concert when I was younger.  While my head was sore it was a minor pain.  As always, my sinuses and allergies meant that waking up was going to be a miserable process.  Still, I forced myself up and into the bathroom to go through my daily routine.  By the time I made my way to the kitchen I was convinced it had all been a dream.  That was when I stepped in a slippery green goo on my tile floor.  I found myself painfully planted on my floor with my head turned towards my front door.  It was broken and just sat in place at a slight angle to block the entryway.  “I really hope my homeowner’s insurance covers that,” I said to myself.  As I lay rubbed my now sore back, I couldn’t help but notice that where the green good touched my bare foot it was starting to itch.    


Fiction Fragment Friday

This weeks story was inspired by thinking of various enchanted items I have used in gaming. I like to have weird effects and sometimes attribute those effects to mistakes by the wizard creating the item. I started thinking about why items might turn out the way they do and in doing so came up with a whole system in my head for how enchanting could work. This led to the story you are about to read. Enjoy.

  “Well, my young apprentice today we shall begin your enchanting lessons.”  The old wizard pushed open the large wooden door to his lab and stepped through. 

  “Yes Master Arnax.  I’ve been looking forward to it.”

  “Now my girl the first thing to remember is that enchanting is difficult work with many variables.  No matter how good you become you will not always get the result you want.”  He approached a chest in the corner of the room that his apprentice had never seen before.  “This is my personal box of items that came out wrong.  For now, you can have a shelf in it, but we will need to get you your own.”

  “Shelf?  I don’t understand master.”  To Marigold’s surprise the wizard swung his leg over the open lid of the box and started to climb in. 

  “Come now, don’t dawdle.”  The wizard disappeared into the chest.

  As she approached the box Marigold noticed a ladder just inside it.  The chest itself looked like any other treasure chest but opened up to a dimensional pocket.  As she climbed down the ladder everything was dark at first until she was completely inside.  Marigold found herself in a large warehouse with shelves as far as she could see.  Items of all shapes and sizes filled the shelves and she could feel a low pulsing of power.  Her eyes darted everywhere in awe impressed by the sheer magnitude of what she was witnessing.  The dimensional pocket warehouse contained inside the box was easily the largest room she had ever been in.  On the walls and ceiling bright blue crystals as bright as daylight lit the room.  “This is magnificent.”

  “Yes, a magnificent monument to failure.”  He lifted a book from the shelf, and she could hear it purr as he petted it.  “Or in some cases happy little accidents. Come your shelf is down here.”  He walked down one of the aisles to an empty shelf with her name on it.  “You have seen my many successes.  I show you now my failures so you will not get discouraged at your own.  Magic sometimes has a mind of its own and despite your strong will it will express its own desires as you craft.”

  “But master I feel so much power in these items.”

  “Yes, but they do not do what I intended.  That does not mean however that they do not do anything.”  He picked up a chalice.  “Items that have been serving a purpose want to continue that purpose and will defy your will.  I picked up this cup with the intention of enchanting it to provide an unending supply of water for weary travelers.  I did not know that the previous owner only drank wine from it.”  He ran his finger across the rim of the chalice and it filled with a red liquid.  “Instead of water it fills with wine.”  He sipped from the cup.  “Not the effect I was intending, but useful none the less.”

  “I see so if you wanted to enchant a sword for combat you would be better off finding a well used sword than one that had just been freshly forged.”

  “Not necessarily.  Intent is put into a sword at forging.  It has a purpose.  If you had to pick between a sword that had sat in storage for years or one that had seen battle then the sword that had seen battle would likely be your better choice.  Assuming the enchantment is one of combat.  If however you wanted a sword to glow brightly to provide light in dark caves the sword that has sat in storage without purpose would be your better choice.  You must always think about what the item has been used for and what your intended purpose it to select the best item for your specific enchantment.:

  “Master if you know to do that why are there so many items in here?”  She turned red for a minute realizing that she was pointing out her teachers failures.  She expected to be chastised but instead he just smiled at her.

  “Because item selection and intent are just two of the variables.  Time of day, your mood, the whims of spirits, and the chaotic nature of magic all play a part as well.”  He picked up a sword and weighed it in his hands.  “Take Gladimeir here.  I enchanted this sword to end a war.  I intended it to be powerful and cut right through armor.  It does exactly that, but it also makes the wielder feel the pain they are inflicting on their enemy.  This weapon could kill a dragon with a single blow, but the wielder would feel the pain the dragon felt as it died.  That makes a man think twice about fighting.  It’s last wielder became a diplomat negotiating many treaties in an effort to not use the sword.”

  Marigold held up a beautiful ballroom dress.  “What about this?  It’s so beautiful.”

  “That it is.  That dress was enchanted for a princess that wanted a dress so beautiful that everyone would be jealous of her.  She did not tell me that was the purpose of the dress when she asked me to enchant it to improve her dancing.  When she took to the ballroom floor all of her potential suitors became overwhelmed with jealousy over her.  The dance became a battlefield as men and women began fighting to the death for the chance to dance with her. 

  “That’s horrible.”

  “That it was, but the princess enjoyed every moment of it.  The dress fed on the jealousy in the room and channeled it into her vanity.  The more violent it got the happier the princess was.  If she were given the choice she would have never taken off the dress.”

  “How did you get it back then.”

  He picked up an arrow and turned it over in his hands.  “A stray arrow struck her.  Strangest thing they never did find anyone carrying a bow among the fighters or guards.”

  She looked at her mentor.  “And what does that arrow do?”

  “Oh this,” he said.  “It always hits its target but misses anything critical.  This arrow will never strike a killing blow.  Also, it can be thrown and will act as if shot by an arrow.”  He smiled at her again.  “Always remember that just because an item doesn’t do what you intended does not mean it does not serve a purpose.”         

Ricochet: Bored

Fiction Fragment Friday

I decided I wanted to write something about my Superhero character Ricochet this week. As someone who cannot sing I have always enjoyed having him sing his own theme songs, but do not see him as being particularly creative. That was all I had going into this story. He had a song stuck in his head and didn’t know why.

“Ricochet, bouncing here and there and everywhere.  I am the Ricochet.”  As I bounced around the city on patrol I hit the button on my communicator to call the man who was my friend, tech support, and president of the Ricochet fan-club. “Lester, how do I have the theme for Gummy Bears stuck in my head when I’ve never even seen the show?”

                “Oh, sorry that might be my fault.  You know how you passed out on the couch last night holding your half-eaten burrito against your chest?”

                “I’m not sure how the burrito part is worth mentioning but yeah.”

                “It’s not I just thought it was adorable.  I took pictures if you want to see I can text them to you.”

                I landed on a roof and walked over to the ledge surveying the town below.  Things had been strangely quiet on patrol lately and I was starting to get stir crazy waiting for something to happen. “I think I’ll pass.  Please don’t upload those to the website.  Could you please get back to why I have the theme for a cartoon I have never seen in my head?”

                “Oh, yeah right, sorry.  I watched a marathon while you were sleeping.  You must have heard it in your sleep.”

                I looked down and saw three armed men in some sort of high-tech armor hop out of a van and rush the front door of C&D Laboratories.  The van seemed to let out a sigh and lifted a bit when they jumped out so I had to assume the armor was heavy.  Their guns looked to be some sort of lasers.  I heard Lester’s voice in my head correcting me that they would be particle riffles and the laser is just for aiming.  We have had that conversation enough times that I think it was finally starting to sink in.  Thinking about Lester I pulled out my phone and took some quick pictures of the trio as they entered the building.  “I’m sending you some pics.  Do these guys look familiar?  I’d really like to know who I’m about to be punching.”  With that I leapt from the building doing a somersault and landing perfectly if I do say so myself and I do since I’m telling this story, in front of the lab.

                “Sorry Ric I ran the pictures through the computer and there are no hits.  They must be new.”

                “Well then I guess it’s time to meet the neighbors.  Ricochet out.”  I hit the button to turn off the communicator.  I needed to focus and that was hard enough as it is.  See when I use my powers, they do something to me.  Kinda like the ultimate sugar rush I get hyper and scatterbrained.  In some ways, it’s kinda like I’m drunk.  Lately I’ve been trying to remind myself to think things through before acting because I’ve jumped in one too many times and made a mess of things.  Sometimes it feels like all I can do is make a mess of things.  It had been two weeks since I had hit anyone though and I needed some action.  With all that in mind I yanked open the door and said, “Hey honey I’m home.  What’s for dinner?”  Then I dove out of the way as three particle riffles turned towards me and destroying the front door.  I glanced outside and saw their getaway van explode as the blasts hit it.  If anyone asks, I totally did that on purpose, and it wasn’t in any way a happy accident.

                “You just made a big mistake hero.”

                I bounced around the lobby dodging the blasts as they pretty much destroyed everything.  “You know that really isn’t surprising.  I kinda make a lot of mistakes, but at-least I look good doing it.  I mean come on grey.  Couldn’t you even spray paint your armor?  A little splash of color or a logo or something?”  I dove towards the guy that seemed to be their leader and hit him in the chest with both feet sending him flying across the lobby.  Jumping around wasn’t just a way to dodge the guns and annoy them.  The more kinetic energy I absorb the stronger I get.  Bouncing helps me do that.  Getting hit really hard does it much faster but isn’t nearly as much fun.  Plus, these guys were using guns that don’t really generate kinetic energy.  I did a backflip and landed between the other two immediately dropping to the ground under their blasts.  As I expected they shot each other trying to hit me and went flying backwards.  I was relieved to see that their armor seemed to have taken the blasts. 

                I picked up one of the guns and snapped it in two over my knee.  The releasing energy tossed me through the air spinning until I slammed into the wall leaving a Ricochet shaped dent in it.  Pulling myself up I let out a groan of pain, but on the positive side I absorbed a ton of kinetic energy from the impact.  Glancing over at the scared receptionist hiding behind her desk I said, “Uhm, I meant to do that.”  She shook her head, and I knew I was not filling her with confidence.  Before I could reply the guy that I had kicked wrapped both arms around me from behind and started to squeeze.  If he had done this moments earlier he might have broken my ribs, but I was stronger after the explosion and my arms were pushing back giving me a bit of breathing room.  I couldn’t quite break the grip though. 

                “Really the hug is sweet, but I just don’t feel the same way about you.”  I pulled my head forward and then slammed it back against him.  The pain from hitting his helmet was intense, but it was also more kinetic energy, and I felt the rush deaden the pain.  More than once, I have been surprised by how hurt I am after a fight because with the adrenaline flowing I don’t feel the pain.  The head butt didn’t do any damage to him, but it did catch him off guard enough for me to slip free.  I dropped to the ground and kicked out sweeping his legs out from under him.  The linoleum floor cracked under the impact of his fall.  I moved not giving him a moment to regroup and pulled off his helmet.  My fist stopped an inch from the teenage face in front of me.  I have punched plenty of teenage gangbangers in my time, but I always feel horrible doing it.  Instead, I reached down and pulled what I assumed was the power pack off of the armor.  Since he stopped struggling, I assumed I was correct.

                I could hear sirens approaching so it was time to head out.  I found myself conflicted.  On one hand I got to fight and was riding the high that my powers provided.  On the other hand, I had to fight teenagers again.  Someone needs to reach out and help these kids before they become cannon fodder for villains.  That isn’t really something I’m qualified for though.  I’m just the guy that punches the bad guys.  Most days that is enough.  As I leapt onto the roof across the street, I had to admit that today was not one of those days.      


Fiction Fragment Friday

This is one of those weeks where I really examine my inspiration for the story and don’t really know where it all came from. I had the initial dialogue about mosquitos pop into my head and just started writing. That established this as a team doing a stealth mission. From there the rest just grew organically. I was at the hospital with my dad the day before writing this for a test that was a medical procedure needing to be done in an operating room. I can definitely see some influences in the story from that.

This story feels like a world building exercise. An establishing feel or an introduction to something that could be developed further and be something larger. I have no plans for that at the moment, but you never know what the future may hold.

  “Are mosquitoes supposed to be this big?”

  “Aw that ain’t nothin.  Back home they get twice that size.”

  “Would you two shut up.  This is supposed to be a stealth mission.”

  “Yes sir,” the two men replied far louder than Corporal Sanderson would have liked.  He let out an audible sigh before continuing forward through the forest.  The group moved together with the practiced grace of well-trained operatives who frequently work together.  The Corporal in the lead and one man flanking either side of him slightly back.  They were dressed identically in black tactical gear with their faces obscured by full masks and night vision goggles.  There were no visible weapons, but multiple blades and unique weapons were hidden on each.   

  The Three men approached a ten-foot-tall chain link fence topped with barbed-wire.  Corporal Sanderson motioned to the fence and the man to his right reached up to grab it.  The three men stepped through the fence like there was nothing there and once through the man codenamed Ghost released the fence.  The courtyard on the inside of the fence was very well lit with spotlights roaming across the grounds.  Ghost reached out to take the hand from each of his partners.  With a ripple across them he changed their physical properties to allow visible light to travel through them.  This served to turn the three completely invisible, but also blinded them as light could no longer be stopped by their eyes.  The goggles they wore switched to display infrared and other light spectrum outside of the range of human visibility.  Since the goggles completely enclosed the space between their displays and the wearers eyes they were able to see the displays.  While not a complete picture of the grounds it was enough to safely navigate to the building’s outer walls.  Once there they crouched in a shadow and became visible again.

  The man codenamed AI started to reach out with his abilities.  Under the goggles his eyes turned completely white and the other two had to support him as his consciousness left his body.  He traveled the wireless networks that spread throughout the complex.  First, he searched the databases and building maps to locate their target.  Next, he moved into the security system asking the cameras to loop and unlocking all the doors along their path.  Finally, he introduced a bug into the communication systems to turn the volume down to barely audible.  There were many more direct ways he could have disrupted communications, but they tended to alert the observant to infiltration.  His eyes returned to normal under his goggles.  Turning to his partners he whispered, “Target location acquired and security suppressed.  Ready to move.”

  Ghost reached up and touched the wall.  The three walked through the wall like it was not physically there and once through he released it.  The hallway they entered was lit by bright florescent lights, the walls were a pastel blue, and the tile floor was a bright white with a reflective quality to it. The harsh smell of cleaning chemicals assaulted their noses.  There were signs on the wall providing directions, but the three ignored them following AI’s lead instead as he entered a stairway and let them three floors underground.  The group came out in a hallway that looked almost identical to the one they had come from with one major exception.  This hall had armed guards outside one of the rooms that turned their weapons towards them.

  Corporal Sanderson moved forward fast enough that his movements blurred to both his partners and his targets.  Before either guard could pull the trigger, Sanderson had snapped off the barrels of their riffles with his bare hands.  With precision strikes each guard fell unconscious at his feet with barely more than a grunt.  Lifting each by one hand he carried them through a door that AI was holding open and into a storage room.  Once he left AI closed the door and put his hand over the electronic keypad next to the room.  A clicking sound could be heard at the door locks snapped into place.  He just nodded at the Corporal and together they moved to the door that the guards had been standing in front of. 

  Inside the room a woman lay strapped down on the gurney with an IV in her arm.  The rhythmic beeps of medical monitors filled the room.  The trio could see sutures on the woman’s arms and they suspected there would be more under the hospital gown.  They had been too late to prevent any experimentation, but each swore internally that this woman would not go through more.  AI touched the monitors and after a moment nodded to the others.  They began taking of the leads and sensors, but the monitors continued to happily report consistent and reasonable data as if they were still attached.  Corporal Sanderson wrapped her in a blanket and carefully lifted her into his arms.  Ghost gathered all the physical charts from the room.  There would likely be additional physical copies, but they could only do so much.  AI sat in a chair for a moment and slumped as his eyes turned white again.  After about a minute he sat back up and whispered, “All her records in their systems have been erased. We’re good to go.”

  The trio backtracked reversing all their steps while Corporal Sanderson carried the unconscious woman.  AI undid the security changes he had made and cleared entries from all logs once they were back outside.  The group were soon back in the forest moving towards their waiting extraction van on the highway without any further incidents.  Once on the road fifteen minutes into returning to base the woman finally started to come out of her sedation.  She was groggy and didn’t make much sense at first, but eventually started to become more coherent. 

  “Who are you people?”

  Corporal Sanderson answered her.  “We’re people like you.  We have powers.  Our organization tries to gather and help others like us.  My partners and I had skills that lend themselves to us being a search and rescue team.  There are quite a few agencies and labs out there trying to take people like us apart to figure out how we do the things we do.  When we find out they kidnap someone like they did with you we go in and get you out.  I know this is a lot to process, but the way anesthesia works you might not even remember this conversation and I hate having to repeat it.  Just rest now.  There will be plenty of time for questions later.”

     Jemma was a nurse who could trigger rapid wound healing and immune system reactions in others.  As she glanced at her sutures, she not for the first time wished that her abilities could work on herself.  She knew that the man was right about anesthesia, but when they got wherever they were going she was going to ask her questions and she swore to herself that if she didn’t like the answers it didn’t matter what these people could do, she would not be anyone’s prisoner again.  After all, she thought, a strong immune system reaction against a healthy system would devastate someone no matter how powerful they were.  With that thought comforting her she drifted back to sleep.

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